Barriers Burned Away
E. P. Roe
Part 5 out of 9
It was clearly evident to him that he had no hold upon her life
whatever, and how to gain any he did not see. He became more and more
"She must have a heart, or I could not love her so; but it is so incased
in ice I fear I can never reach it."
That something was wrong with Dennis any friend who cared for him at
all might see. The Bruders did, and, with the quick intuitions of
woman, Mrs. Bruder half guessed the cause. Mr. Bruder, seeing
preoccupation and sometimes weary apathy in Dennis's face, would say,
"Mr. Fleet is not well."
Then, as even this slight notice of his different appearance seemed
to give pain, Mr. Bruder was patiently and kindly blind to his pupil's
Dennis faithfully kept up all his duties on Sunday as during the week;
but all was now hard work. Some little time after the unlucky morning
which he could never think of without an expression of pain, he went
to his mission class as usual. He heard his boys recite their lessons,
said a few poor lame words in explanation, and then leaned his head
listlessly and wearily on his hand. He was startled by hearing a sweet
voice say, "Well, Mr. Fleet, are you not going to welcome a new laborer
into your corner of the vineyard?"
With a deep flush he saw that Miss Winthrop was in charge of the class
next to him, and that he had been oblivious to her presence nearly an
hour. He tried to apologize. But she interrupted him, saying: "Mr.
Fleet, you are not well. Any one can see that."
Then Dennis blushed as if he had a raging fever, and she was perplexed.
The closing exercises of the school now occupied them and then they
walked out together.
"Mr. Fleet," she said, "you never accepted my invitation. We have not
seen you at our house. But perhaps your circle of friends is so large
that you do not wish to add to it."
Dennis could not forbear a smile at the suggestion, but he said, in
apology, "I do not visit any one, save a gentleman from whom I am
"Do you mean to say that you have no friends at all in this great city?"
"Well, I suppose that is nearly the truth; that is, in the sense you
use the term. My teacher and his wife--"
"Nonsense! I mean friends of one's own age, people of the same culture
and status as yourself. I think we require such society, as truly as
we need food and air. I did not mean those whom business or duty brought
you in contact with, or who are friendly or grateful as a matter of
"I have made no progress since my introduction to society at Miss
Brown's," said Dennis.
"But you had the sincere and cordial offer of introduction," said Miss
Winthrop, looking a little hurt.
"I feel hardly fit for society," said Dennis, all out of sorts with
himself. "It seems that I can only blunder and give pain. But I am
indeed grateful for your kindness."
Miss Winthrop looked into his worn, pale face, and instinctively knew
that something was wrong, and she felt real sympathy for the lonely
young man, isolated among thousands. She said, gently but decidedly:
"I did mean my invitation kindly, and I truly wished you to come. The
only proof you can give that you appreciate my courtesy is to accept
an invitation for to-morrow evening. I intend having a little musical
Quick as light flashed the thought, "Christine will be there." He said,
promptly: "I will come, and thank you for the invitation. If I am
awkward, you must remember that I have never mingled in Chicago society,
and for a long time not in any."
She smiled merrily at him, and said, "Don't do anything dreadful, Mr.
He caught her mood, and asked what had brought her down from her
theological peak to such a valley of humiliation as a mission school.
"You and Miss Ludolph" she answered, seriously. "Between you, you gave
me such a lesson that afternoon at Miss Brown's that I have led a
different life ever since. Christine made all as dark as despair, and
against that darkness you placed the fiery Cross. I have tried to cling
to the true cross ever since. Now He could not say to me, 'Inasmuch
as ye did it not.' And oh!" said she, turning to Dennis with a smile
full of the light of Heaven, "His service is so very sweet! I heard
last week that teachers were wanted at this mission school, so I came,
and am glad to find you a neighbor."
Dennis's face also kindled at her enthusiasm, but after a moment grew
"I do not always give so lifeless a lesson as to-day," he said, in a
"Mr. Fleet, you are not well. I can see that you look worn and greatly
wearied. Are you not in some way overtaxing yourself?"
Again that sensitive flush, but he only said: "I assure you I am well.
Perhaps I have worked a little hard. That is all."
"Well, then, come to our house and play a little tomorrow evening,"
she answered from the platform of a street car, and was borne away.
Dennis went to his lonely room, full of self-reproach.
"Does she find Christ's service so sweet, and do I find it so dull and
hard? Does human love alone constrain me, and not the love of Christ?
Truly I am growing weak. Every one says I look ill. I think I am, in
body and soul, and am ceasing to be a man; but with God's help I will
be one--and what is more, a Christian. I thank you, Miss Winthrop; you
have helped me more than I have helped you. I will accept your
invitation to go out into the world. I will no longer mope, brood, and
perish in the damp and shade of my own sick fancies. If I cannot win
her, I can at least be a man without her;" and he felt better and
stronger than he had done for a long time. The day was breaking again.
In accordance with a custom that was growing with him ever since the
memorable evening when Bill Cronk befriended him, he laid the whole
matter before his Heavenly Father, as a child tells an earthly parent
all his heart. Then he added one simple prayer, "Guide me in all
The next day was brighter and better than its forerunners. "For some
reason I feel more like myself," he thought. After the excitement and
activity of a busy day, he said, "I can conquer this, if I must."
But when he had made his simple toilet, and was on his way to Miss
Winthrop's residence, his heart began to flutter strangely, and he
knew the reason. Miss Winthrop welcomed him most cordially, and put
him at his ease in a moment, as only a true lady can. Then she turned
to receive other guests. He looked around. Christine was not there;
and his heart sank like lead. "She will not be here," he sighed. But
the guests had not ceased coming, and every new arrival caused a flutter
of hopes and fears. He both longed and dreaded to meet her. At last,
when he had almost given up seeing her, suddenly she appeared, advancing
up the parlor on her father's arm. Never had she seemed so dazzlingly
beautiful. He was just then talking to Mr. Winthrop, and for a few
moments that gentleman was perplexed at his incoherent answers and the
changes in his face. Having paid their respects to the daughter, Mr.
and Miss Ludolph came toward Mr. Winthrop, and of course Dennis had
to meet them. Having greeted them warmly, Mr. Winthrop said, "Of course
you do not need an introduction to Mr. Fleet."
Dennis had shrunk a little into the background, and at first they had
not noticed him. Mr. Ludolph said, good-naturedly, "Glad to see you,
Mr. Fleet, and will be still more glad to hear your fine voice."
But Christine merely bowed as to one with whom her acquaintance was
slight, and turned away. At first Dennis had blushed, and his heart
had fluttered like a young girl's; but, as she turned so coolly away,
his native pride and obstinacy were aroused.
"She shall speak to me and do me justice," he muttered. "She must
understand that I spoke unconsciously on that miserable morning, and
am not to be blamed. As I am a man, I will speak boldly and secure
recognition." But as the little company mingled and conversed before
the music commenced, no opportunity offered. He determined to show
her, however, that he was no country boor, and with skill and taste
made himself agreeable.
Christine furtively watched him. She was surprised to see him, as the
idea of meeting him in society as an equal had scarcely been suggested
before. But when she saw that he greeted one after another with grace
and ease, and that all seemed to enjoy his conversation, so that a
little knot of Miss Winthrop's most intelligent guests were about him
at last, she felt that it would be no great condescension on her part
to be a little more affable. In her heart, though, she had not forgiven
the unconscious words that had smitten to the ground her ambitious
Then again, his appearance deeply interested her. A suppressed
excitement and power, seen in the glow and fire of his dark eyes, and
felt in his tones, stirred her languid pulses.
"He is no vapid society-man," she said to herself; and her artist eye
was gratified by the changes in his noble face.
"Look at Fleet," whispered her father; "could you believe he was
sweeping the store the other day? Well, if we don't find out his worth
and get what we can from him, the world will. We ought to have had him
up to sing before this, but I have been so busy since your illness
that it slipped my mind."
Miss Winthrop now led Christine to the piano, and she played a classical
piece of music in faultless taste. Then followed duets, solos, quartets,
choruses, and instrumental pieces, for nearly all present were musical
amateurs. Under the inspiration of this soul-stirring art, coldness
and formality melted away, and with jest and brilliant repartee,
alternating with song, there gathered around Miss Winthrop's piano
such a group as could never grace the parlors of Miss Brown. Sometimes
they would carry a new and difficult piece triumphantly through; again
they would break down, with much laughter and good-natured rallying.
Dennis, as a stranger, held back at first; but those who remembered
his singing at the tableau party were clamorous to hear him again, and
they tested and tried his voice during the evening in many and varied
ways. But he held his own, and won greener laurels than ever. He did
his very best, for he was before one whom he would rather please than
all the world; moreover, her presence seemed to inspire him to do
better than when alone. Christine, like the others, could not help
listening with delight to his rich, clear tenor, and Mr. Ludolph was
undisguised in his admiration.
"I declare, Mr. Fleet, I have been depriving myself of a good deal of
pleasure. I meant to have you up to sing with us before, but we have
been under such a press of business of late! But the first evening I
am disengaged you must surely come."
Christine had noticed how quietly and almost indifferently Dennis had
taken the many compliments showered on him before, but now, when her
father spoke, his face flushed, and a sudden light came into his eyes.
Dennis had thought, "I can then see and speak to her." Every now and
then she caught his eager, questioning, and almost appealing glance,
but he made no advances. "He thinks I am angry because of his keen
criticism of my picture. For the sake of my own pride, I must not let
him think that I care so much about his opinion;" and Christine resolved
to let some of the ice thaw that had formed between them. Moreover,
in spite of herself, when she was thrown into his society, he greatly
interested her. He seemed to have just what she had not. He could meet
her on her own ground in matters of taste, and then, in contrast with
her cold, negative life, he was so earnest and positive. "Perhaps papa
spoke for us both," she thought, "and I have been depriving myself of
a pleasure also, for he certainly interests while most men only weary
Between ten and eleven supper was announced; not the prodigal abundance
under which the brewer's table had groaned, but a dainty, elegant
little affair, which inspired and promoted social feeling, though the
"spirit of wine" was absent. The eye was feasted as truly as the palate.
Christine had stood near Dennis as the last piece was sung, and he
turned and said in a low, eager tone, "May I have the pleasure of
waiting on you at supper?"
She hesitated, but his look was so wistful that she could not well
refuse, so with a slight smile she bowed assent, and placed the tips
of her little gloved hand on his arm, which so trembled that she looked
inquiringly and curiously into his face. It was very pale, as was ever
the case when he felt deeply. He waited on her politely but silently
at first. She sat in an angle, somewhat apart from the others. As he
stood by her side, thinking how to refer to the morning in the
show-room, she said: "Mr. Fleet, you are not eating anything, and you
look as if you had been living on air of late--very unlike your
appearance when you so efficiently aided me in the rearrangement of
the store. I am delighted that you keep up the better order of things."
Dennis's answer was quite irrelevant.
"Miss Ludolph," he said, abruptly, "I saw that I gave you pain that
morning in the show-room. If you only knew how the thought has pained
Christine flushed almost angrily, but said, coldly, "Mr. Fleet, that
is a matter you can never understand, therefore we had better dismiss
But Dennis had determined to break the ice between them at any risk,
so he said, firmly but respectfully: "Miss Ludolph, I did understand
all, the moment I saw your face that day. I do understand how you have
felt since, better than you imagine."
His manner and words were so assured that she raised a startled face
to his, but asked coldly and in an indifferent manner, "What can you
know of my feelings?"
"I know," said Dennis, in a low tone, looking searchingly into her
face, from which cool composure was fast fading--"I know your dearest
hope was to be among the first in art. You staked that hope on your
success in a painting that required a power which you do not possess."
Christine became very pale, but from her eyes shone a light before
which most men would have quailed. But Dennis's love was so true and
strong that he could wound her for the sake of the healing and life
he hoped to bring, and he continued--"On that morning this cherished
hope for the future failed you, not because of my words, but because
your artist eye saw that my words were true. You have since been
"What right have _you_--you who were but a few days since--who are a
stranger--what right have you to speak thus to me?"
"I know what you would say, Miss Ludolph," he answered, a slight flush
coming into his pale face. "Friends may be humble and yet true. But
am I not right?"
"I have no claim on your friendship," said Christine, coldly. "But,
for the sake of argument, grant that you are right, what follows?" and
she looked at him more eagerly than she knew. She felt that he had
read her very soul and was deeply moved, and again the superstitious
feeling crept over her, "That young man is in some way connected with
Dennis saw his power and proceeded rapidly, for he knew they might be
interrupted at any moment; and so they would have been had anything
less interesting than eating occupied the attention of others.
"I saw in the picture what in your eyes and mine would be a fatal
defect--the lack of life and true feeling--the lack of power to live.
I did not know who painted it, but felt that any one who could paint
as well as that, and yet leave out the soul, as it were, had not the
power to put it in. No artist of such ability could willingly or
ignorantly have permitted such a defect."
Christine's eyes sank, their fire faded out, and her face had the
pallor of one listening to her doom. This deeper feeling mastered the
momentary resentment against the hand that was wounding her, and she
forgot him, and all, in her pain and despair.
In a low, earnest tone Dennis continued: "But since I have come to
know who the artist is, since I have studied the picture more fully,
and have taken the liberty of some observation"--Christine hung on
his lips breathlessly, and Dennis spoke slowly, marking the effect of
every word--"I have come to the decided belief that the lady who painted
that picture can reach the sphere of true and highest art."
The light that stole into Christine's face under his slow, emphatic
words was like a rosy dawn in June; and the thought flashed through
Dennis's mind, "If an earthly hope can so light up her face, what will
be the effect of a heavenly one?"
For a moment she sat as one entranced, looking at a picture far off
in the future. His words had been so earnest and assured that they
seemed reality. Suddenly she turned on him a look as grateful and happy
as the former one had been full of pain and anger, and said: "Ah, do
not deceive me, do not flatter. You cannot know the sweetness and power
of the hope you are inspiring. To be disappointed again would be death.
If you are trifling with me I will never forgive you," she added, in
sudden harshness, her brow darkening.
"Nor should I deserve to be forgiven if I deceived you in a matter
that to you is so sacred."
"But how--how am I to gain this magic power to make faces feel and
live on canvas?"
"You must believe. You yourself must feel."
She looked at him with darkening face, and then in a sudden burst of
passion said: "I don't believe; I can't feel. All this is mockery,
"No!" said Dennis, in the deep, assured tone that ever calms and secures
attention. "This is not mockery. I speak the words of truth and
soberness. You do not believe, but that is not the same as cannot. And
permit me to contradict you when I say you _do_ feel. On this subject so
near your heart you feel most deeply--feel as I never knew any one feel
before. This proves you capable of feeling on other and higher subjects,
and what you feel your trained and skilful hand can portray. You felt on
the evening of that miserable day, and sang as I never heard you sing
before. Your tones then would move any heart, and my tears fell with the
rain in sympathy: I could not help it."
Her bosom rose and fell tumultuously, and her breath came hard and
"Oh, if I could believe you were right!"
"I know I am right," he said, so decidedly that again hope grew rosy
and beautiful in her face.
"Then again," he continued, eagerly, "see what an advantage you have
over the most of us. Your power of imitation is wonderful. _You can copy
anything you see._"
"Good-evening, Miss Ludolph. Where have you been hiding? I have twice
made the tour of the supper-room in my search," broke in the voluble
Mr. Mellen. Then he gave Dennis a cool stare, who acted as if
unconscious of his presence. An expression of disgust flitted across
Christine's face at the interruption, or the person--perhaps both--
and she was about to shake him off that Dennis might speak further,
when Miss Winthrop and others came up, and there was a general movement
back to the parlors.
"Why, Christine, what is the matter?" asked her friend. "You look as
if you had a fever. What has Mr. Fleet been saying?"
"Oh, we have had an argument on my hobby, art, and of course don't
agree, and so got excited in debate."
Miss Winthrop glanced keenly at them and said, "I would like to have
heard it, for it was Greek meeting Greek."
"To what art or _trade_ did Mr. Fleet refer?" asked Mr. Mellen, with an
insinuation that all understood.
"One that you do not understand," said Christine, keenly.
The petted and spoiled millionaire flushed angrily a moment, and then
said with a bow: "You are right, Miss Ludolph. Mr. Fleet is acquainted
with one or two arts that I have never had the pleasure of learning."
"He has at least learned the art of being a gentleman," was the sharp
The young man's face grew darker, and he said, "From the _sweeping_
nature of your remarks, I perceive that Mr. Fleet is high in your
"A poor pun made in poorer taste," was all the comfort he got from
Dennis was naturally of a very jealous disposition where his affections
were concerned. His own love took such entire possession of him that
he could not brook the interference of others, or sensibly consider
that they had the same privilege to woo, and win if possible, that he
had. Especially distasteful to him was this rich and favored youth,
whose presence awakened all his combativeness, which was by no means
Mr. Mellen's most inopportune interruption and covert taunts provoked
him beyond endurance. His face was fairly white with rage, and for a
moment he felt that he could stamp his rival out of existence. In the
low, concentrated voice of passion he said, "If Mr. Mellen should lose
his property, as many do, I gather from his remarks that he would still
keep up his idea of a gentleman on charity."
Mr. Mellen flushed to the roots of his hair, his hands clenched. In
the flashing eyes and threatening faces of the young men those
witnessing the scene foresaw trouble. A light hand fell on Dennis's
arm, and Miss Winthrop said, "Mr. Fleet, I wish to show you a picture,
and ask your judgment in regard to it."
Dennis understood the act, and in a moment more his face was crimson
"Miss Winthrop, you ought to send me home at once. I told you I was
unfit for society. Somehow I am not myself. I humbly ask your pardon."
"So sincere a penitent shall receive absolution at once. You were
greatly provoked. I trust you for the future."
"You may," was the emphatic answer. After that pledge Mr. Mellen might
have struck him and received no more response than from a marble statue.
Mr. Mellen also took a sober second thought, remembering that he was
in a lady's parlor. He walked away with his ears tingling, for the
flattered youth had never had such an experience before. The few who
witnessed the scene smiled significantly, as did Christine half
contemptuously; but Miss Winthrop soon restored serenity, and
the remaining hours passed away in music and dancing. Christine did not
speak to Dennis again--that is, by word of mouth--but she thought of
him constantly, and their eyes often met;--on his part that same eager,
questioning look. She ever turned hers at once away. But his words
kept repeating themselves continually, especially his last sentence,
when the unlucky Mr. Mellen had broken in upon them--"You can copy
anything you see."
"How noble and expressive of varied feeling his face is!" she thought,
watching it change under the playful badinage of Miss Winthrop.
"How I would like to copy it! Well, you can--'You can copy anything
you see.'" Then like a flash came a suggestion--"You can make him
love you, and copy feeling, passion, life--from the _living_ face.
Whether I can believe or feel, myself, is very doubtful. This I can
do: he himself said so. I cannot love, myself--I must not; I do not
wish to now, but perhaps I can inspire love in him, and then make his
face a study. As to my believing, he can never know how utterly
impossible his faith is to me."
Then conscience entered a mild protest against the cruelty of the
project. "Nonsense!" she said to herself; "most girls flirt for sport,
and it is a pity if I cannot with such a purpose in view. He will soon
get over a little puncture in his heart after I have sailed away to
my bright future beyond the sea, and perhaps Susie will comfort him;"
and she smiled at the thought. Dennis saw the smile and was entranced
by its loveliness. How little he guessed the cause!
Having resolved, Christine acted promptly. When their eyes again met,
she gave him a slight smile. He caught it instantly and looked
bewildered, as if he could not believe his eyes. Again, when a little
later, at the urgent request of many, he sang alone for the first time,
and again moved his hearers deeply by the real feeling in his tones,
he turned from the applause of all, with that same questioning look,
to her. She smiled an encouragement that she had never given him before.
The warm blood flooded his face instantly. All thought that it was the
general chorus of praise. Christine knew that she had caused it, and
surprise and almost exultation came into her face. "I half believe he
loves me now," she said. She threw him a few more kindly smiles from
time to time, as one might throw some glittering things to an eager
child, and every moment assured her of her power.
"I will try one more test," she said, and by a little effort she lured
to her side the offended Mr. Mellen, and appeared much pleased by his
attention. Then unmistakably the pain of jealousy was stamped on
Dennis's face, and she was satisfied. Shaking off the perplexed Mr.
Mellen again, she went to the recess of a window to hide her look of
"The poor victim loves me already," she said. "The mischief is done.
I have only to avail myself of what exists from no fault of mine, and
surely I ought to; otherwise the passion of the infatuated youth will
be utterly wasted, and do no one any good."
Thus in a somewhat novel way Christine obtained a new master in
painting, and poor Dennis and his love were put to use somewhat as a
human subject might be if dissected alive.
THE TWO HEIGHTS
Dennis went home in a strange tumult of hopes and fears, but hope
predominated, for evidently she cared little for Mr. Mellen. "The ice
is broken at last," he said. It was, but he was like to fall through
into a very cold bath, though he knew it not. He was far too excited
to sleep, and sat by his open window till the warm June night grew
pale with the light of coming day.
Suddenly a bright thought struck him; a moment more and it became an
earnest purpose. "I think I can paint something that may express to
her what I dare not put in words."
He immediately went up into the loft and prepared a large frame, so
proportioned that two pictures could be painted side by side, one
explanatory and an advance upon the other. He stretched his canvas
over this, and sketched and outlined rapidly under the inspiration of
his happy thought.
Christine came with her father to the store, as had been her former
custom, and her face had its old expression. The listless, disappointed
look was gone. She passed on, not appearing to see him while with her
father, and Dennis's heart sank again. "She surely knew where to look
for me if she cared to look," he said to himself. Soon after he went
to the upper show-room to see to the hanging of a new picture.
"I am so glad your taste, instead of old Schwartz's mathematics, has
charge of this department now," said a honeyed voice at his side. He
was startled greatly.
"What is the matter? Are you nervous, Mr. Fleet? I had no idea that
a lady could so frighten you."
He was blushing like a girl, but said, "I have read that something
within, rather than anything without, makes us cowards."
"Ah, then you confess to a guilty conscience?" she replied, with a
twinkle in her eye.
"I do not think I shall confess at all till I have a merciful
confessor," said Dennis, conscious of a deeper meaning than his light
words might convey.
"'The quality of mercy is not strained,' therefore it is unfit for my
use. I'll none of it, but for each offence impose unlimited penance."
"But suppose one must sin?"
"He must take the consequences then. Even your humane religion teaches
that;" and with this parting arrow she vanished, leaving him too excited
to hang his picture straight.
It all seemed a bewildering dream. Being so thoroughly taken by surprise
and off his guard, he had said far more than he meant. But had she
understood him? Yes, better than he had himself, and laughed at his
answers with their covert meanings.
She spent the next two days in sketching and outlining his various
expressions as far as possible from memory. She would learn to catch
those evanescent lines--that something which makes the human face
eloquent, though the lips are silent.
Dennis was in a maze, but he repeated to himself jubilantly again,
"The ice is broken." That evening at Mr. Bruder's he asked for studies
"Vy, dat is out of season," said Mr. Bruder, with a laugh.
"No, now is just the time. It is a nice cool subject for this hot
weather. Please oblige me; for certain reasons I wish to be able to
paint ice perfectly."
Arctic scenery was Mr. Bruder's forte, on which he specially prided
himself. He was too much of a gentleman to ask questions, and was
delighted to find the old zest returning in his pupil. They were soon
constructing bergs, caves, and grottoes of cold blue ice. Evening after
evening, while sufficient light lasted, they worked at this study.
Dennis's whole soul seemed bent on the formation of ice. After a month
of labor Mr. Bruder said, "I hope you vill get over dis by fall, or
ve all freeze to death."
"One of these days I shall explain," said Dennis, smiling.
The evening of the second day after the little rencounter in the
show-room, Mr. Ludolph sat enjoying his cigar, and Christine was at
the piano playing a difficult piece of music.
"Come, father," she said, "here is a fine thing just from Germany.
There is a splendid tenor solo in it, and I want you to sing it for
"Pshaw!" said her father, "why did I not think of it before?" and he
rang the bell. "Here, Brandt, go down to the store, and if Mr. Fleet
is there ask him if he will come up to my rooms for a little while."
Brandt met Dennis just starting for his painting lesson, but led him
a willing captive, to give Christine instruction unconsciously.
She, whose strategy had brought it all about, smiled at her success.
It was not her father's tenor she wanted, but Dennis's face; and her
father should unknowingly work her will. The girl had learned so much
from the wily man of the world that she was becoming his master.
Dennis came and entered with a thrill of delight what was to him
enchanted ground. Mr. Ludolph was affable, Christine kind, but she
looked more than she said.
Dennis sang the solo, after one or two efforts, correctly. Then Mr.
Ludolph brought out a piece of music that he wished to try; Christine
found others; and before they knew it the evening had passed. Quite
a knot of delighted listeners gathered in the street opposite. This
Christine pointed out to her father with evident annoyance.
"Well, my dear," he said, "hotel life in a crowded city renders escape
from such things impossible."
But a purpose was growing in her mind of which she spoke soon after.
Throughout the evening she had studied Dennis's face as much as she
could without attracting notice, and the thought grew upon her that
at last she had found a path to the success she so craved.
"You seem to have gone to work with your old interest," said her father,
as he came out of his room the next morning and found Christine at her
"I shall try it again," she said, briefly.
"That is right," said he. "The idea of being daunted by one partial
failure! I predict for you such success as will satisfy even your
"We shall see," she said. "I hope, too." But she would not have her
father know on what grounds. He might regard the experiment as a
dangerous one for herself as well as for Dennis, and she decided to
keep her plan entirely secret.
She now came to the store daily, and rarely went away without giving
Dennis a smile or word of recognition. But he noticed that she ever
did this in a casual manner, and in a way that would not attract
attention. He also took the hint, and never was obtrusive or
demonstrative, but it was harder work for his frank nature. When
unobserved, his glances grew more ardent day by day. So far from
checking these, she encouraged them, but, when in any way he sought
to put his feelings into words, she changed the subject instantly and
decidedly. This puzzled him, for he did not understand that looks could
be painted, but not words. The latter were of no use to her. But she
led him on skilfully, and, from the unbounded power his love gave her,
played upon his feelings as adroitly as she touched her grand piano.
Soon after the company at Miss Winthrop's, she said to him, "You
received several invitations the other evening, did you not?"
"Accept them. Go into society. It will do you good."
Thus he soon found himself involved in a round of sociables, musicales,
and now and then a large party. Christine was usually present, radiant,
brilliant, the cynosure of all eyes, but ever coolly self-possessed.
At first she would greet him with distant politeness, or pretend not
to see him at all, but before the evening was over would manage to
give him a half-hour in which she would be kind and even gentle at
times, but very observant. Then for the rest of the evening he would
find no chance to approach. It appeared that she was deeply interested
in him, enjoyed his society, and was even becoming attached to him,
but that for some reason she determined that no one should notice this,
and that matters should only go so far. Poor Dennis could not know
that he was only her unconscious instructor in painting, paid solely
in the coin of false smiles and delusive hopes. At times, though, she
would torture him dreadfully. Selecting one of her many admirers, she
would seem to smile upon his suit, and poor Dennis would writhe in all
the agonies of jealousy, for he was very human, and had all the normal
feeling of a strong man. She would then watch his face grow pale and
his manner restless, as quietly and critically as an entomologist
regards the struggles of an insect beneath his microscope. Again, she
would come to him all grace and sweetness, and his fine face would
light up with hope and pleasure. She would say honeyed nothings, but
study him just as coolly in another aspect.
Thus she kept him hot and cold by turns--now lifting him to the pinnacle
of hope, again casting him down into the valley of fear and doubt.
What she wanted of him was just what she had not--feeling, intense,
varied feeling, so that, while she remained ice, she could paint as
if she felt; and with a gifted woman's tact, and with the power of one
loved almost to idolatry, she caused every chord of his soul, now in
happy harmony, now in painful discord, to vibrate under her skilful
touch. But such a life was very wearing, and he was failing under it.
Moreover, he was robbing himself of sleep in the early morning, that
he might work on his picture in the loft of the store, for which he
asked of poor Mr. Bruder nothing but ice.
Mrs. Bruder worried over him continually.
"You vork too hart. Vat shall we do for you? Oh, my fren, if you love
us do not vork so hart," she would often say. But Dennis would only
smile and turn to her husband in his insatiable demand for painted
ice. At last Mr. Bruder said, "Mr. Fleet, you can paint ice, as far
as I see, as veil as myself."
Then Dennis turned around short and said, "Now I want warm rosy light
and foliage; give me studies in these."
"By de hammer of Thor, but you go to extremes."
"You shall know all some day," said Dennis, entering on his new tasks
with increasing eagerness.
But day by day he grew thinner and paler. Even Christine's heart
sometimes relented; for, absorbed as she was in her own work and
interests, she could not help noticing how sadly he differed from the
vigorous youth who had lifted the heavy pictures for her but a few
short weeks ago. But she quieted herself by the thought that he was
a better artistic subject, and that he would mend again when the cool
"Where shall we go for the two hot months?" asked her father the morning
after the Fourth.
"I have a plan to propose," replied Christine. "Suppose we go to
"What!" said her father, dropping his knife and fork, and looking at
her in astonishment. "Go to all the expense of furnishing a house,
when we do not expect to stay here much more than a year? We should
hardly be settled before we left it."
"Listen to me patiently till I finish, and then I will abide by your
decision. But I think you will give me credit for having a slight turn
for business as well as art. You remember Mr. Jones's beautiful house
on the north side, do you not? It stands on ---- Street, well back,
surrounded by a lawn and flowers. There is only one other house on the
block. Well, Mr. Jones is embarrassed, and his house is for sale. From
inquiry I am satisfied that a cash offer would obtain the property
cheaply. The furniture is good, and much of it elegant. What we do not
want--what will not accord with a tasteful refurnishing--can be sent
to an auction-room. At comparatively slight expense, if you can spare
Mr. Fleet to help me during the time when business is dull, I can make
the house such a gem of artistic elegance that it will be noted
throughout the city, and next fall some rich snob, seeking to vault
suddenly into social position, will give just what you are pleased to
ask. In the meantime we have a retired and delightful home.
"Moreover, father," she continued, touching him on his weak side, "it
will be a good preparation for the more difficult and important work
of the same kind awaiting me in my own land."
"Humph!" said Mr. Ludolph, meditatively, "there is more method in your
madness than I imagined. I will think of it, for it is too important
a step to be taken hastily."
Mr. Ludolph did think of it, and, after attending to pressing matters
in the store, went over to see the property. A few days afterward he
came up to dinner and threw the deed for it into his daughter's lap.
She glanced it over, and her eyes grew luminous with delight and
"See how comfortable and happy I will make you in return for this
kindness," she said.
"Oh, come," replied her father, laughing, "that is not the point. This
is a speculation, and your business reputation is at stake."
"I will abide the test," she answered, with a significant nod.
Christine desired the change for several reasons. There was a room in
the house that would just suit her as a studio. She detested the
publicity of a hotel. The furnishing of an elegant house was a form
of activity most pleasing to her energetic nature, and she felt a very
strong wish to try her skill in varied effect before her grand effort
in the Ludolph Hall of the future.
But in addition to these motives was another, of which she did not
speak to her father. In the privacy of her own home she could pursue
that peculiar phase of art study in which she was absorbed. Her life
had now become a most exciting one. She ever seemed on the point of
obtaining the power to portray the eloquence of passion, feeling, but
there was a subtile something that still eluded her. She saw it daily,
and yet could not reproduce it. She seemed to get the features right,
and yet they were dead, or else the emotion was so exaggerated as to
suggest weak sentimentality, and this of all things disgusted her.
Every day she studied the expressive face of Dennis Fleet, the
mysterious power seemed nearer her grasp. Her effort was now gaining
all the excitement of a chase. She saw before her just what she wanted,
and it seemed that she had only to grasp her pencil or brush, and place
the fleeting expressions where they might always appeal to the sympathy
of the beholder. Nearly all her studies now were the human face and
form, mainly those of ladies, to disarm suspicion. Of course she took
no distinct likeness of Dennis. She sought only to paint what his face
expressed. At times she seemed about to succeed, and excitement brought
color to her cheek and fire to her eye that made her dazzlingly
beautiful to poor Dennis. Then she would smile upon him in such a
bewitching, encouraging way that it was little wonder his face lighted
up with all the glory of hope.
If once more she could have him about her as when rearranging the
store, and, without the restraint of curious eyes, could play upon his
heart, then pass at once to her easel with the vivid impression of
what she saw, she might catch the coveted power, and become able to
portray, as if she felt, that which is the inspiration of all the
highest forms of art--feeling.
That evening, Dennis, at Mr. Ludolph's request, came to the hotel to
try some new music. During the evening Mr. Ludolph was called out for
a little time. Availing himself of the opportunity, Dennis said, "You
seem to be working with all your old zest and hope."
"Yes," she said, "with greater hope than ever before."
"Won't you show me something that you are doing?"
"No, not yet. I am determined that when you see work of mine again the
fatal defect which you pointed out shall be absent."
His eyes and face became eloquent with the hope she inspired. Was her
heart, awakening from its long winter of doubt and indifference,
teaching her to paint? Had she recognized the truth of his assurance
that she must feel, and then she could portray feeling? and had she
read in his face and manner that which had created a kindred impulse
in her heart? He was about to speak, the ice of his reserve and prudence
fast melting under what seemed good evidence that her smiles and
kindness might be interpreted in accordance with his longings. She saw
"With all your cleverness, Mr. Fleet, I may prove you at fault, and
become able to portray what I do not feel or believe."
"You mean to say that you work from your old standpoint merely?" asked
Dennis, feeling as if a sunny sky had suddenly darkened.
"I do not say that at all, but that I do not work from yours."
"And yet you hope to succeed?" "I think I am succeeding."
Perplexity and disappointment were plainly written on his face. She,
with a merry and half-malicious laugh, turned to the piano, and sung:
From Mount Olympus' snowy height
The gods look down on human life:
Beneath contending armies fight;
All undisturbed they watch the strife.
Dennis looked at her earnestly, and after a moment said, "Will you
please play that accompaniment again?"
She complied, and he sang:
Your Mount Olympus' icy peak
Is barren waste, by cold winds swept:
Another height I gladly see,
Where God o'er human sorrow wept.
She turned a startled and almost wistful face to him, for he had given
a very unexpected answer to her cold, selfish philosophy, which was
so apt and sudden as to seem almost inspired.
"Do you refer to Christ's weeping over Jerusalem?" she asked.
She sat for a little time silent and thoughtful, and Dennis watched
her keenly. Suddenly her brow darkened, and she said, bitterly:
"Delusion! If He had been a God He would not have idly wept over sorrow.
He would have banished it."
Dennis was about to reply eagerly, when Mr. Ludolph entered, and music
was resumed. But it was evident that Dennis's lines had disturbed the
fair sceptic's equanimity.
Dennis returned to his room greatly perplexed. There was something in
Christine's actions which he could not understand. From the time of
their first conversation at Miss Winthrop's, she had evidently felt
and acted differently. If her heart remained cold and untouched, if
as yet neither faith nor love had any existence therein, what was the
inspiring motive? Why should deep discouragement change suddenly to
Then again her manner was equally inexplicable. From that same evening
she gave him more encouragement than he had even hoped to receive for
months, but yet he made no progress. She seemed to enjoy meeting him,
and constantly found opportunity to do so. Her eyes were continually
seeking his face, but there was something in her manner in this respect
that puzzled him more than anything else. She often seemed looking at
his face, rather than at _him_. At first Christine had been furtive
and careful in her observations, but as the habit grew upon her, and
her interest increased, she would sometimes gaze so steadily that poor
Dennis was deeply embarrassed. Becoming conscious of this, she would
herself color slightly, and be more careful for a time.
In her eagerness for success, Christine did not realize how dangerous
an experiment she was trying. She could not look upon such a face as
Dennis Fleet's, eloquent with that which should never fail to touch
a woman's heart with sympathy, and then forget it when she chose.
Moreover, though she knew it not, in addition to her interest in him
as an art study, his strong, positive nature affected her cool, negative
one most pleasantly. His earnest manifested feeling fell like sunlight
on a heart benumbed with cold.
Thus, under the stimulus of his presence, she found that she could
paint or sketch to much better purpose than when alone. This knowledge
made her rejoice in secret over the opportunity she could now have,
as Dennis again assisted her in hanging pictures, and affixing to the
walls ornaments of various kinds.
Coming to him one morning in the store, she said, "I am going to ask
a favor of you again."
Dennis looked as if she were conferring the greatest of favors. His
face always lighted up when she spoke to him.
"It is very kind of you to ask so pleasantly for what you can command,"
"To something of the same effect you answered before, and the result
was the disagreeable experience at Miss Brown's."
Dennis's brow contracted a little, but he said, heroically, "I will
go to Miss Brown's again if you wish it."
"How self-sacrificing you are!" she replied, with a half-mischievous
"Not as much so as you imagine," he answered, flushing slightly.
"Well, set your mind at rest on that score. Though not very merciful,
as you know, I would put no poor soul through that ordeal again. In
this case you will only have to encounter one of the tormentors you
met on that occasion, and I will try to vouch for her better behavior."
Then she added, seriously: "I hope you will not think the task beneath
you. You do not seem to have much of the foolish pride that stands in
the way of so many Americans, and then"--looking at him with a pleading
face--"I have so set my heart upon it, and it would be such a
disappointment if you were unwilling!"
"You need waste no more ammunition on one ready to surrender at
discretion," he said.
"Very well; then I shall treat you with all the rigors of a prisoner
of war. I shall carry you away captive to my new castle on the north
side and put you at your old menial task of hanging pictures and
decorating in various ways. As eastern sovereigns built their palaces
and adorned their cities by the labors of those whom the fortunes of
war threw into their hands, so your skill and taste shall be useful
to me; and I, your head task-mistress," she added, with her insinuating
smile, "will be ever present to see that there is no idling, nothing
but monotonous toil. Had you not better have stood longer in the
Dennis held out his hands in mock humility and said: "I am ready for
my chains. You shall see with what fortitude I endure my captivity."
"It is well that you should show it somewhere, for you have not done
so in your resistance. But I parole you on your honor, to report at
such times as I shall indicate and papa can spare you;" and with a
smile and a lingering look that seemed, as before, directed to his
face rather than himself, she passed out.
That peculiar look often puzzled him, and at times he would go to a
glass and see if there was anything wrong or unusual in his appearance.
But now his hopes rose higher than ever. She had been very gracious,
certainly, and invited intimate companionship. Dennis felt that she
must have read his feelings in his face and manner, and, to his
ingenuous nature, any encouragement seemed to promise all he hoped.
For a week after this he scarcely saw her, for she was very busy making
preliminary arrangements for the occupation of her new home. But one
afternoon she suddenly appeared, and said, with affected severity,
"Report to-mor-row at nine A.M."
Dennis bowed humbly. She gave him a pleasant smile over her shoulder,
and passed away as quickly as she had come. It seemed like a vision
to him, and only a trace of her favorite perfume (which indeed ever
seemed more an atmosphere than a perfume) remained as evidence that
she had been there.
At five minutes before the time on the following day he appeared at
the new Ludolph mansion. From an open window Christine beckoned him
to enter, and welcomed him with characteristic words--"In view of your
foolish surrender to my power, remember that you have no rights that
I am bound to respect."
"I throw myself on your mercy."
"I have already told you that I do not possess that trait; so prepare
for the worst."
She was dressed in some light summer fabric, and her rounded arms and
neck were partially bare. She looked so white and cool, so
self-possessed, and, with all her smiles, so devoid of warm human
feeling, that Dennis felt a sudden chill at heart. The ancient fable
of the sirens occurred to him. Might she not be luring him on to his
own destruction? At times he almost hoped that she loved him; again,
something in her manner caused him to doubt everything. But there were
not, as in the case of Ulysses and his crew, friendly hands to bind
and restrain, or to put wax in his ears, and soon the music of her
voice, the strong enchantment of the love she had inspired, banished
all thought of prudence. His passion was now becoming a species of
intoxication, a continued and feverish excitement, and its influence
was unhappy on mind and body. There was no rest, peace, or assurance
in it, and the uncertainty, the tantalizing inability to obtain a
definite satisfying word, and yet the apparent nearness of the prize,
wore upon him. Sometimes, when late at night he sat brooding over his
last interview, weighing with the nice scale of a lover's anxiety her
every look and even accent, his own haggard face would startle him.
Then again her influence was not morally good, and his interest declined
in everything save what was connected with her.
Conscience at times told him that he was more bent on gaining her love
for himself than in winning it for God. He satisfied himself by trying
to reason that when he had won her affection his power for good would
be greater, and thus, while he ever sought to look and suggest his own
love in nameless little ways, he made less and less effort to remind
her of a better love than even his. Moreover, she never encouraged any
approach to sacred themes, sometimes repelling it decidedly, and so,
though he would scarcely acknowledge it, the traitorous fear sprung
up, that in speaking of God's love he might mar his chances of speaking
of his own.
In the retirement of his own room, his reveries grew longer, and his
prayers shorter and less inspired by faith and earnestness. At the
mission school, Susie Winthrop noticed with regret that the lesson was
often given in a listless, preoccupied manner; and even the little
boys themselves missed something in the teacher once so interesting
and animated. From witnessing his manner when with Christine, Miss
Winthrop had more than suspected his secret for some time, and she
felt at first a genuine sympathy for him, believing his love to be
hopeless. From the first she had found Dennis very fascinating, but
when she read his secret in his ardent glances toward Christine, she
became conscious that her interest was rather greater than passing
acquaintance warranted, and, like the good, sensible girl that she
was, fought to the death the incipient fancy. At first she felt that
he ought to know that Christine was pledged to a future that would
render his love vain. But her own feelings made her so exceedingly
sensitive that it was impossible to attempt so difficult and delicate
a task. Then, as Christine seemed to smile upon him, she said to
herself: "After all, what is their plan, but a plan, and to me a very
chimerical one? Perhaps Mr. Fleet can give Christine a far better
chance of happiness than her father's ambition. And, after all, these
are matters in which no third person can interfere." So, while remaining
as cordial as ever, she prudently managed to see very little of Dennis.
As we have seen, under Christine's merry and half-bantering words (a
style of conversation often assumed with him), even the thought of
caution vanished. She led him over the moderately large and partially
furnished house. There were women cleaning, and mechanics at work on
some of the rooms. As they passed along she explained the nature of
the decorations she wished. They consisted largely of rich carvings
in wood, and unique frames.
"I wish you to help me design these, and see that they are properly
put up, and to superintend the fresco-painters and mechanics in general.
Indeed, I think you are more truly my prime-minister than my captive."
"Not less your captive," said Dennis, with a flush.
She gave him a bewildering smile, and then studied its effect upon
him. He was in Elysium, and his eyes glowed with delight at her presence
and the prospect before him. At last she led him into two large
apartments on the second floor that opened into each other, and said,
"These are my rooms; that yonder is my studio," as was evident from
the large easel with canvas prepared upon it.
They at once had to Dennis all the sacredness of a shrine.
"I intend to make these rooms like two beautiful pictures," said
Christine, "and here shall be the chief display of your taste."
Dennis could scarcely believe his ears, or realize that the cold,
beautiful girl who a few short months ago did not notice him now
voluntarily gave him such opportunities to urge his suit. The success
that a man most covets seemed assured, and his soul was intoxicated
with delight. He said, "You intimated that my tasks might be menial,
but I feel as I imagine a Greek artist must have done, when asked to
decorate the temple of a goddess."
"I think I told you once before that your imagination overshadowed
your other faculties."
Her words recalled the painted girl whom she by a strange coincidence
so strongly resembled. To his astonishment he saw the same striking
likeness again. Christine was looking at him with the laughing, scornful
expression that the German lady bent upon the awkward lover who kneeled
at her feet. His face darkened in an instant.
"Have I offended you?" she asked, gently; "I remember now you did not
admire that picture."
"I liked everything about it save the expression of the girl's face.
I think you will also remember that I said that such a face should be
put to nobler uses."
Christine flushed slightly, and for a moment was positively afraid of
him. She saw that she must be more careful, for she was dealing with
one of quick eye and mind. At the same time her conscience reproached
her again. The more she saw of him the more she realized how sincere
and earnest he was; how different from ordinary society-men, to whom
an unsuccessful suit to a fair lady is a mere annoyance. But she was
not one to give up a purpose readily for the sake of conscience or
anything else, and certainly not now, when seemingly on the point of
success. So she said, with a slight laugh, "Do not compare me to any
of those old pagan myths again;" and having thus given a slight reason,
or excuse, for her unfortunate expression, she proceeded to beguile
him more thoroughly than ever by the subtile witchery of smiles,
glances, and words, that might mean everything or nothing.
"You seem to have a study on your easel there," said Dennis, as they
stood together in the studio. "May I see it?"
"No," said she; "you are to see nothing till you see a triumph in the
portrayal of feeling and lifelike earnestness that even your critical
eye cannot condemn."
She justly feared that, should he see her work, he might discover her
plan; for, however she might disguise it, something suggesting himself
entered into all her studies.
"I hope you will succeed, but doubt it."
"Why?" she asked, quickly.
"Because we cannot portray what we cannot feel. The stream cannot rise
higher than its fountain." Then he added, with heightened color and
some hesitation, "I fear--your heart is still sleeping"; and he watched
with deep anxiety how she would take the questioning remark.
At first she flushed almost angrily; but, recovering self-possession
in a moment, she threw upon him an arch smile, suggesting all that a
lover could wish, and said: "Be careful, Mr. Fleet; you are seeking
to penetrate mysteries that we most jealously guard. You know that in
the ancient temple there was an inner sanctuary which none might enter."
"Yes, _one_ might," said Dennis, significantly.
With her long lashes she veiled the dark blue eyes that expressed
anything but tender feeling, and yet, so shaded, they appeared as a
lover would wish, and in a low tone she answered, "Well, he could not
enter when he would, only when permitted."
She raised her eyes quickly to see the effect; and she did see an
effect that she would have given thousands to be able to transfer to
His face, above all she had ever seen, seemed designed to express
feeling, passion; and his wearing life had made it so thin, and his
eyes were so large and lustrous, that the spiritual greatly
predominated, and she felt as if she could almost see the throbs of
the strong, passionate heart.
Apart from her artistic purposes, contact with such warm, intense life
had for Christine a growing fascination. She had not realized that in
kindling and fanning this flame of honest love to sevenfold power and
heat, she might be kindled herself. When, therefore, she saw the face
of Dennis Fleet eloquent with the deepest, strongest feeling that human
features can portray, another chord than the artistic one was touched,
and there was a low, faint thrill of that music which often becomes
the sweetest harmony of life.
"And at some time in the future may I hope to enter?" he asked,
She threw him another smile over her shoulder as she turned to her
easel--a smile that from a true woman would mean, You may, but which
from many would mean nothing, and said, vaguely, "What is life without
hope?" and then, as matters were going too fast and far, decisively
changed the subject.
Seated at her easel she painted eagerly and rapidly, while he measured
the space over and around the fireplace with a view to its
ornamentation. She kept the conversation on the general subject of
art, and, though Dennis knew it not, every glance at his face was that
of a portrait-painter.
Dennis went back to the store in a maze of hopes and fears, but hope
predominated. Christine could not be indifferent and treat him as she
did, if she had a particle of sincerity, and with a lover's faith he
would not believe her false, though he knew her to be so faulty.
"At any rate," he said to himself, "in this new arrangement I have all
the opportunity a man could ask, and if I cannot develop her plainly
manifested interest into something more decisive by such companionship,
I may as well despair;" and he determined to avail himself of every
advantage within his reach in making the most of what he deemed a rare
stroke of fortune. His greatly increased salary enabled him to dress
with that taste and even elegance so pleasing to a lady's eye, and he
had withal acquired that ease and grace of manner which familiarity
with the best society bestows.
It is also well to tell the reader that after some hesitation Dennis
had confided his feelings to his mother, and received from her the
warmest sympathy. To Ethel Fleet's unworldly nature, that he should
fall in love with and marry his employer's daughter seemed eminently
fitting, with just a spice of beautiful romance. And it was her son's
happiness and Christine's beauty that she thought of, not Mr. Ludolph's
money. In truth, such was her admiration for her son, she felt that
with all her wealth the young lady would receive a greater honor than
she conferred. Though Dennis wrote with the partiality of a lover, he
could not so portray Christine's character but that his mother felt
the deepest anxiety, and often sighed in sad foreboding of serious
trouble in the future.
From Mrs. Fleet's knowledge of her son's passion, Christine, though
she knew it not, received another advantage of incalculable value.
Dennis had painted an excellent little cabinet likeness of her, and
sent it to his mother. In the quiet of the night she would sit down
before that picture, and by her strong imagination summon her ideal
of Christine, and then lead her directly to Christ, as parents brought
their children of old. Could such prayers and faith be in vain? Faith
is often sorely tried in this world, but never tried in vain.
Day after day Dennis went to Mr. Ludolph's new home during the morning
hours, and Christine's spell worked with bewildering and increasing
power. While she tortured him with many doubts and fears, his hope
grew to be almost a certainty that he had at last made a place for
himself in her heart. Sometimes the whole story of his love trembled
on his lips, but she never permitted its utterance. That she determined
should be reserved for the climax. He usually met her alone, but noticed
that in the presence of others she was cool and undemonstrative. Mr.
Ludolph rarely saw them together, and, when he did, there was nothing
in his daughter's manner to awaken suspicion. This perfectly acted
indifference in the presence of others, and equally well acted regard
when alone, often puzzled Dennis sorely. But at last he concluded:
"She is wiser than I. She knows that I am in no condition now to make
proposals for her hand; therefore it is better that there should be
no recognized understanding between us;" and he resolved to be as
prudent as she. Then again she would so awaken his jealousy and fears
that he would feel that he must know his fate--that anything was better
than such torturing uncertainty.
As for Christine, two processes were going on in her mind--one that
she recognized, and one that she did not.
Her artistic aims were clear and definite. In the first place she meant
perfectly to master the human face as it expressed emotions, especially
such as were of a tender nature; and in the second place she intended
to paint a picture that in itself would make her famous. She chose a
most difficult and delicate subject--of the character she had ever
failed in--a declaration of love.
When Dennis began to work again in her presence, the picture was well
In a grand old hall, whose sides were decorated with armor and weapons,
a young man stood pleading his cause with a lady whose hand he held.
The young girl's face was so averted that only a beautiful profile was
visible, but her form and attitude were grace itself. The lovers stood
in an angle of the hall near an open window, through which was seen
a fine landscape, a picture within a picture. But Christine meant to
concentrate all her power and skill on the young knight's face. This
should be eloquent with all the feeling and passion that the human
face could express, and she would insure its truthfulness to life
by copying life itself--the reality. Dennis Fleet was the human victim
that she was offering on the altar of her ambition.
Much of the picture was merely in outline, but she finished the form
and features of the suppliant in all save the expression, and this she
meant to paint from his face whenever she was in the right mood and
could bring matters to a crisis.
After he had been coming to the house two or three times a week for
nearly a month she felt that she was ready for the final scene, and
yet she dreaded it, she had staked so much hope upon it. It also
provoked her to find that she was really afraid of him. His was such
a strong, sincere nature, that she felt increasingly the wrong of
trifling with it. In vain she tried to quiet herself by saying, "I do
not care a straw for him, and he will soon get over his infatuation
on discovering the truth."
But she had a lesson to learn as well as he, for as we have intimated,
unrecognized as yet, there was a process going on in her mind that in
time would make strange havoc in her cold philosophy. Her heart's long
winter was slowly breaking up; her girlish passion, intense as it was
foolish, proved that she had a heart. Everything had been against her.
Everything in her experience and education, and especially in her
father's strong character and prejudices, had combined to deaden and
to chill her; and had these influences continued, she would undoubtedly
have become as cold and hard as some whom we find in advanced life
with natures like the poles, where the ice gathers year after year,
but never melts.
But in Dennis Fleet she met a nature as positive as she was becoming
negative. He was so warm and earnest that when she commenced to fan
his love into a stronger flame for purely artistic purposes, as she
vowed to herself, some sparks of the sacred fire fell on the cold altar
of her own heart and slowly began to kindle.
But this awakening would not now be that of a child, but of a _woman_.
Therefore, Mr. Ludolph, beware!
But she had yet much to learn in the hard, strange school of experience
before she would truly know herself or her own needs.
Success in art, however, was still her ruling passion. And though
strange misgivings annoyed and perplexed her, though her respect for
Dennis daily increased, and at times a sudden pity and softness made
her little hands hesitate before giving an additional wrench to the
rack of uncertainty upon which she kept him; still, she would not for
the world have abandoned her purpose, and such compunctions were as
yet but the little back eddies of the strong current.
One day, in the latter part of August, Christine felt herself in the
mood to give the finishing touch to the principal figure in her picture.
The day was somewhat hazy, the light subdued and favorable for artistic
work. Though she had prolonged Dennis's labors, to his secret delight
and great encouragement, she could not keep him employed much longer.
She sent for him to come over in the afternoon. "Some brackets,
carvings, and pictures had come for her studio, and she wished him to
put them up," she said, coolly, as he entered.
He had come glowing with hope and almost assurance, for, the last time
they had parted, she had dismissed him with unusual kindness. But here
was one of those capricious changes again that he could not understand.
She took her seat at her easel, saying, with a nod and a smile, "I can
direct you here, for I am in a mood for work this afternoon."
He bowed quietly and went on with his task. Her rather cool reception
oppressed him, and the tormenting question presented itself, for the
hundredth time, "Can she in any degree feel as I do?" He longed to
settle the matter by plain, straightforward action.
Her maid knocked at the door, saying, "The mail, mademoiselle."
A dainty note was handed her, which seemed decidedly pleasing, and
Dennis noticed as she read it that she wore on her finger a solitaire
diamond that he had not seen before. His latent jealousy was aroused.
She saw that her spell was working, and smiled. Soon she said: "Mr.
Fleet, you seem very grave. What is the matter?"
He answered, curtly, "Nothing."
She looked at him with a pretty, pained surprise. At the same time her
heart smote her. His face was so pale and thin, and indicated such
real suffering, that she pitied him more than ever. But she would have
suffered much herself for the sake of success, and she was not one to
hesitate long over the suffering of another. She compressed her lips
as she said, mentally: "Art is first, and these transient feelings are
secondary. There is little in the world but that has cost some one
deeply." She did not know how profound a truth this was.
After a few moments Dennis said, in a tone that had a jealous tinge,
"Miss Ludolph, your correspondent seems to interest you deeply."
"And you also, I think," she replied, with an arch smile; "and you
will be interested still more when you have read this;" and she offered
him the note.
"I have no right--do not think me prying," said he, flushing.
"I give the right. You know a lady can give many rights--if she
chooses," she added, significantly.
He looked at her eagerly.
Her eyes fell consciously, and her cheeks glowed with excitement, for
she felt that the critical moment had come. But instantly her proud,
resolute nature aroused as never before, and she determined to make
the most of the occasion, let the consequences be what they might.
Therefore she worked eagerly and watched him closely. Never had she
been so conscious of power. She felt inspired, capable of placing on
the canvas anything she chose. If in this mood she could succeed in
bringing into his face just the expression she desired, she could catch
it and fix it forever, and with it make a laurel (not a hymeneal)
wreath for her own brow. But what could Dennis know of all this? To
him the glowing cheek and eyes so lustrous told a different tale; and
hope--sweet, exquisite, almost assured--sprang up in his heart.
And he meant that it should be assured. He would speak that day if it
were possible, and _know_ his happiness, instead of fondly believing and
hoping that all was sure. Then he would be as prudent and patient as she
desired. Thus Christine was destined to have her wish fulfilled.
She continued: "The note is from a special friend of yours; indeed I
think you form a little mutual-admiration society, and you are spoken
of, so I think you had better read it."
"I shall not read the note," said Dennis; "but you may tell me, if you
choose, what you think the writer will have no objection to my knowing."
"And do you mean to suggest that you do not know who wrote the note?
I can inform you that you are to be invited to a moonlight sail and
musicale on the water. Is not that a chance for romance?"
"And will _you_ go?" asked Dennis, eagerly.
"Yes, if _you_ will," she said, in a low tone, giving him a sidelong
This was too much for Dennis, the manner more than the words, and taken
together they would have led any earnest man to committal. He was about
to speak eagerly, but she was not quite ready.
"Moreover," she continued, quickly, while Dennis stood before her with
cheeks alternately hot and pale, "this special friend who invites you
will be there. Now don't pretend ignorance of her name."
"I suppose you mean Miss Winthrop," said Dennis, flushing.
"Ah, you blush, do you? Well, it is my turn to ask pardon for seeming
He drew a few steps nearer to her, and the expression she had so longed
to see came into his face. She looked at him earnestly with her whole
soul in her eyes. She would photograph him on memory, if possible. For
a moment or two he hesitated, embarrassed by her steady gaze, and
seemingly at a loss for words. Then, in a low, deep tone he said, "You,
better than any one, know that I have no cause to blush at the mention
of Miss Winthrop's name."
She did not answer, but was painting rapidly. He thought this was due
to natural excitement expressing itself in nervous action. But she did
not discourage him, and this he felt was everything. With his heart
in his eyes and tones, he said: "Oh, Christine, what is the use of
wearing this transparent mask any longer? Your quick woman's eye
has seen for weeks the devoted love I cherish for you. I have heard much
of woman's intuitions. Perhaps you saw my love before I recognized it
myself, since your grace and beauty caused it to grow unconsciously
while I was your humble attendant. But, Christine, believe me, if you
will but utter in words what I fondly believe I have read in your
kindly glances and manner, though so delicately veiled--if you will
give me the strength and rest which come of assured hope--I know that
not far in the future I shall be able to place at your feet more than
mere wealth. I, too, hope to be an artist, and you have been my chief
inspiration. I could show you a picture now that would tell more of
what I mean than can my poor words. There is a richer and happier world
than you have yet known, and oh, how I have prayed that I might lead
you into it!" and in words of burning eloquence he proceeded to tell
the story of his love.
She heard him as in a dream. She understood his words, remembered them
afterward, but so intent was she on her darling purpose that she heeded
them not. His voice sounded far away, and every power of mind and body
was concentrated to transfer his expression to the canvas before her.
Even he, blinded as he was by his emotions, occupied by the long pent-up
torrent of feeling that he was pouring into her unheeding ear, wondered
at her strange, dazzling beauty and peculiar manner.
After speaking a moment or two, the blur over his eyes and the confusion
of his mind began to pass away, and he was perplexed beyond measure
at the way she was receiving the open declaration of his love. She was
painting through it all, not with the nervous, random stroke of one
who sought to hide excitement and embarrassment in occupation. She was
working earnestly, consciously, with precision, and, what was strangest
of all, she seemed so intent upon his face that his words, which would
have been such music to any woman that loved, were apparently unheard.
He stopped, but the break in his passionate flow of language was
"Christine, listen to me!" he cried, in an agony of fear and perplexity.
The tone of his appeal might have stirred a marble bosom to pity, but
she only raised her left hand deprecatingly as if warding off an
interruption, while she worked with intense eagerness with her right.
"Christine!" a frown contracted her brow for a second, but she worked
He looked at her as if fearing she had lost her reason, but there was
no madness in her swift, intelligent strokes. Then like a flash the
thought came to him: "It is my face, not myself, that she wants! This,
then, has been the secret of her new hope as an artist. She would not
feel, as I told her she must, but she would call out and copy my
emotion; and this scene, which means life or death to me, is to her
but a lesson in art, and I am no more than the human subject under the
surgeon's knife. But surely no anatomist is so cruel as to put in his
lancet before the man is dead."
Every particle of color receded from his face, and he watched her
manner for the confirmation of his thought.
Her face was indeed a study. A beautiful smile parted her lips, her
eyes glowed with the exultation of assured and almost accomplished
success, and she looked like an inspired priestess at a Greek oracle.
But a bitterness beyond words was filling his heart.
A few more skilful strokes, and she threw down her brush, crying in
ecstatic tones, "Eureka! Eureka!" as she stood before the painting in
rapt admiration. In an instant he stood by her side. With all the pride
of triumph she pointed to the picture, and said: "Criticise that, if
you can! Deny that there is soul, life, feeling there, if you dare!
Is that painting but a 'beautiful corpse'?"
Dennis saw a figure and features suggesting his own, pleading with all
the eloquence of true love before the averted face of the maiden in
the picture. It was indeed a triumph, having all the power of the
He passed his hand quickly across his forehead, as if to repel some
terrible delusion, while yet he whispered its reality to himself, in
silent, despairing confession: "Ah, my God! How cold she must be when
she can see any one look like that, and yet copy the expression as
from a painted face upon the wall!"
Then, his own pride and indignation rising, he determined at once to
know the truth; whether he held any place in her heart, or whether the
picture was all, and he nothing.
Drawing a step nearer, as if to examine more closely, he seized a brush
of paint and drew it over the face that had cost both him and Christine
so much, and then turned and looked at her.
For a moment she stood paralyzed, so great seemed the disaster. Then
she turned on him in fury. "How dare you!" she exclaimed.
Only equal anger, and the consciousness of right, could have sustained
any man under the lightning of her eyes.
"Rather, let me ask, how dare you?" he replied, in the deep,
concentrated voice of passion; and lover and lady stood before the
ruined picture with blazing eyes. In the same low, stern voice he
continued, "I see the secret of your artistic hope now, Miss Ludolph,
but permit me to say that you have made your first and last success,
and there in that black stain, most appropriately black, is the result."
She looked as if she could have torn him to atoms.
"You have been false," he continued. "You have acted a lie before me
for weeks. You have deceived in that which is most sacred, and with
sacrilegious hands have trifled with that which every true man regards
She trembled beneath his stern, accusing words. Conscience echoed them,
anger and courage were fast deserting her in the presence of the aroused
and more powerful spirit of her wronged lover. But she said, petulantly,
"Nonsense! You know well that half the ladies of the city would have
flirted with you from mere vanity and love of power; my motive was
infinitely beyond this."
Until now this had almost seemed sufficient reason to excuse her action,
but she distrusted it even to loathing as she saw the look of scorn
come out on his noble face.
"And is that your best plea for falsehood? A moment since I loved you
with a devotion that you will never receive again. But now I despise
"Sir!" she cried, her face scarlet with shame and anger, "leave this
"Yes, in a moment, and never again to enter it while Christine Ludolph
is as false in character as she is beautiful in person. But before I
go, you, in your pride and luxury, shall hear the truth for once. Not
only have you been false, but you have been what no true woman ever
can be--cruel as death. Your pencil has been a stiletto with which you
have slowly felt for my heart. You have dipped your brush in human
suffering as if it were common paint. Giotto stabbed a man and
mercifully took him off by a few quick pangs, that he might paint his
dying look. You, more cruel, accomplish your purpose by slow,
remorseless torture. Merciful Heaven only knows what I have suffered
since you smiled and frowned on me by turns, but I felt that if I could
only win your love I would gladly endure all. You falsely made me
believe that I had won it, and yet all the while you were dissecting
my heart, as a surgeon might a living subject. And now what have you
to offer to solace the bitterness of coming years? Do you not know
that such deeds make men bad, faithless, devilish? Never dream of
success till you are changed utterly. Only the noble in deed and in
truth can reach high and noble art."
She sat before the disfigured picture with her face bowed in her hands.
She thought he was gone, but still remained motionless like one doomed.
A few moments passed and she was startled by hearing his voice again.
It was no longer harsh and stern, but sad, grave, and pitiful. "Miss
Ludolph, may God forgive you."
She trembled. Pride and better feeling were contending for the mastery.
After a few moments she sprang up and reached out her hands; but he
was gone now in very truth.
THE TWO PICTURES
When Christine saw that Dennis was not in the room, she rushed to a
window only in time to see his retreating form passing down the street.
For a moment she felt like one left alone to perish on a sinking wreck.
His words, so assured in their tones, seemed like those of a prophet.
Conscience echoed them, and a chill of fear came over her heart. What
if he were right? What if she had let the one golden opportunity of
her life pass? Even though she had stolen her inspiration from him
through guile and cruelty, had he not enabled her to accomplish more
than in all her life before? To what might he not have led her, if she
had put her hand frankly and truthfully in his? There are times when
to those most bewildered in mazes of error light breaks, clear and
unmistakable, defining right and wrong with terrible distinctness.
Such an hour was this to Christine. The law of God written on her heart
asserted itself, and she trembled at the guilty thing she saw herself
to be. But there seemed no remedy save in the one she had driven away,
never to return, as she believed. After a brief but painful revery she
exclaimed: "But what am I thinking of? What can he or any man of this
land be to me?"
Then pride, her dominant trait, awoke as she recalled his words.
"He despises me, does he? I will teach him that I belong to a sphere
he cannot touch--the poor infatuated youth! And did he dream that I,
Christine Ludolph, could give him my hand? He shall learn some day
that none in this land could receive that honor, and none save the
proudest in my own may hope for it. The idea of my giving up my ancient
and honorable name for the sake of this unknown Yankee youth."
Bold, proud words that her heart did not echo.
But pride and anger were now her controlling impulses, and with the
strong grasp of her resolute will she crushed back her gentler and
better feelings, and became more icy and hard than ever.
By such choice and action, men and women commit moral suicide.
With a cold, white face, and a burnished gleam in her eyes, she went
to the easel and commenced painting out the ominous black stain.
"I'll prove him a false prophet also. I will be an artist without
passing through all his sentimental and superstitious phases that have
so amused me during the past weeks. I have seen his lovelorn face too
often not to be able to reproduce it and its various expressions."
Her strokes were quick and almost fierce.
"Mrs. Dennis Fleet, ha! ha! ha!" and her laugh was as harsh and
discordant as the feeling that prompted it.
Again, a little later: "He despises me! Well, he is the first man that
ever dared to say that;" and her face was flushed and dark with anger.
Dennis at first walked rapidly from the scene of his bitter
disappointment, but his steps soon grew slow and feeble. The point of
endurance was passed. Body and mind acting and reacting on each other
had been taxed beyond their powers, and both were giving way. He felt
that they were, and struggled to reach the store before the crisis
should come. Weak and trembling, he mounted the steps, but fell fainting
across the threshold. One of the clerks saw him fall and gave the
alarm. Mr. Ludolph, Mr. Schwartz, and others hastened to the spot.
Dennis was carried to his room, and a messenger was despatched for Dr.
Arten. Ernst, with flying feet, and wild, frightened face, soon reached
his home in De Koven Street, and startled his father and mother with
The child feared that Dennis was dead, his face was so thin and white.
Leaving the children in Ernst's care, both Mr. and Mrs. Bruder, prompted
by their strong gratitude to Dennis, rushed through the streets as if
distracted. Their intense anxiety and warm German feeling caused them
to heed no more the curious glances cast after them than would a man
swimming for life note the ripple he made.
When Dennis regained consciousness, they, and Mr. Ludolph and Dr.
Arten, were around him. At first his mind was confused, and he could
not understand it all.
"Where am I?" he asked, feebly, "and what has happened?"
"Do not be alarmed; you have only had a faint turn," said the doctor.
"Oh, Mr. Fleet, you vork too hart, you vork too hart; I knew dis vould
come," sobbed Mrs. Bruder.
"Why, his duties in the store have not been so onerous of late," said
Mr. Ludolph, in some surprise.
"It is not der vork in der store, but he vork nearly all night too.
Den he haf had trouble, I know he haf. Do he say no vort about him?"
Dennis gave Mrs. Bruder a sudden warning look, and then, through the
strong instinct to guard his secret, roused himself.
"Is it anything serious, doctor?" he asked.
The physician looked grave, and said, "Your pulse and whole appearance
indicate great exhaustion and physical depression, and I also fear
that fever may set in."
"I think you are right," said Dennis. "I feel as if I were going to
be ill. My mind has a tendency to wander. Mr. Ludolph, will you permit
me to go home? If I am to be sick, I want to be with my mother."
Mr. Ludolph looked inquiringly at the doctor, who said significantly,
in a low tone, "I think it would be as well."
"Certainly, Fleet," said his employer; "though I hope it is only a
temporary indisposition, and that you will be back in a few days. You
must try and get a good night's rest, and so be prepared for the journey
in the morning."
"With your permission I will go at once. A train leaves now in an hour,
and by morning I can be at home."
"I scarcely think it prudent," began the doctor.
"Oh, certainly not to-night," said Mr. Ludolph, also.
"Pardon me, I must go at once," interrupted Dennis, briefly and so
decidedly that the gentlemen looked at each other and said no more.
"Mr. Bruder," he continued, "I must be indebted to you for a real proof
of your friendship. In that drawer you will find my money. The key is
in my pocketbook. Will you get a carriage and take me to the depot at
once? and can you be so kind as to go on home with me? I cannot trust
myself alone. Mrs. Bruder, will you pack up what you think I need?"
His faithful friends hastened to do his bidding.
"Mr. Ludolph, you have been very kind to me. I am sorry this has
occurred, but cannot help it. I thank you gratefully, and will now
trespass on your valuable time no longer."
Mr. Ludolph, feeling that he could be of no further use, said: "You
will be back in a week, Fleet. Courage. Good-by."
Dennis turned eagerly to the doctor and said: "Can you not give me
something that will reduce the fever and keep me sane a little longer?
I know that I am going to be delirious, but would reach the refuge of
A prescription was given and immediately procured, and the doctor went
away shaking his head.
"This is the way people commit suicide. They know no more about, or
pay no more heed to, the laws of health than the laws of China. Here
is the result: This young fellow has worked in a way that would break
down a cast-iron machine, and now may never see Chicago again."
But Dennis might have worked even in his intense way for months and
years without serious harm, had not a fair white hand kept him on the
rack of uncertainty and fear.
Not work, but worry, makes havoc of health.
In the gray dawn Ethel Fleet, summoned from her rest, received her
son, weak, unconscious, muttering in delirium, and not recognizing
even her familiar face. He was indeed a sad, painful contrast to the
ruddy, buoyant youth who had left her a few short months before,
abounding in hope and life. But she comforted herself with the thought
that neither sin nor shame had brought him home.
We need not dwell on the weary weeks that followed. Dennis had every
advantage that could result from good medical skill and the most
faithful nursing. But we believe that his life lay rather in his
mother's prayers of faith. In her strong realization of the spiritual
world she would go continually into the very presence of Jesus, and
say, "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick"; or, like parents of old, she
would seem by her importunity to bring the Divine Physician to his
Mr. Bruder, too, insisted on remaining, and watched with the unwearied
faithfulness of one who felt that he owed to Dennis far more than life.
It was indeed touching to see this man, once so desperate and depraved,
now almost as patient and gentle as the mother herself, sitting by his
unconscious friend, often turning his eyes heavenward and muttering
in deep guttural German as sincere a prayer as ever passed human lips,
that Dennis might be spared.
The hand of God seemed about to take him from them, but their strong,
loving faith laid hold of that hand, and put upon it the restraint
that only reverent, believing prayer can. Dennis lived. After many
days delirium ceased, and the confused mind became clear. But during
his delirium Ethel and Mr. Bruder learned from the oft-repeated words,
"Cruel, cruel Christine!" the nature of the wound that had nearly
destroyed his life.
Mr. Ludolph was late in reaching his home on the evening after Dennis
was taken sick. Christine sat in the dusk on the ivy-shaded piazza,
awaiting him. He said, abruptly, "What have you been doing to Fleet,
For a second her heart stood still, and she was glad the increasing
gloom disguised her face. By a great effort she replied, in a cool,
matter-of-fact tone: "I do not understand your question. Mr. Fleet was
here this afternoon, and gave some finishing touches to my studio. I
do not think I shall need him any more."
Her quiet, indifferent voice would have disarmed suspicion itself.
"It is well you do not, for he seems to have received some 'finishing
touches' himself. He fell across the threshold of the store in a dead
faint, and has gone home, threatened with a serious illness."
Even her resolute will could not prevent a sharp, startled exclamation.
"What is the matter?" said her father, hastily; "you are not going to
faint also, are you?"
"No," said Christine, quietly again; "but I am tired and nervous, and
you told your news so abruptly! Why, it seemed but a moment ago he was
here at work, and now he is dangerously ill. What an uncertain stumbling
forward in the dark life is!"
This was a style of moralizing peculiarly distasteful to Mr.
Ludolph--all the more repugnant because it seemed true, and brought
home in Dennis's experience. Anything that interfered with his plans
and interests, even though it might be God's providence, always angered
him. And now he was irritated at the loss of one of his best clerks,
just as he was becoming of great value; so he said, sharply: "I hope
you are not leaning toward the silly cant of mysterious providence.
Life is uncertain stumbling only to fools who can't see the chances
that fortune throws in their way, or recognize the plain laws of health
and success. This young Fleet has been putting two days' work in one
for the past four months, and now perhaps his work is done forever,
for the doctor looked very grave over him."
Again the shadow of night proved most friendly to Christine. Her face
had a frightened, guilty look that it was well her father did not see,
or he would have wrung from her the whole story. She felt the chill
of a terrible dread at heart. If he should die, her conscience would
give a fearful verdict against her. She stood trembling, feeling almost
powerless to move.
"Come," said her father, sharply, "I am hungry and tired."
"I will ring for lights and supper," said Christine hastily, and then
fled to her own room.
When she appeared, her father was sitting at the table impatiently
awaiting her. But her face was so white, and there was such an
expression in her eyes, that he started and said, "What is the matter?"
His question irritated her, and she replied as sharply as he had spoken.
"I told you I was tired, and I don't feel well. I have been a month
in constant effort to get this house in order, and I am worn out, I
He looked at her keenly, but said more kindly, "Here, my dear, take
this wine"; and he poured out a glass of old port.
She drank it eagerly, for she felt she must have something that would
give her life, warmth, and courage. In a way she could not understand,
her heart sank within her.
But she saw her father was watching her, and knew she must act
skillfully to deceive him. Rallied and strengthened by the generous
wine, her resolute will was soon on its throne again, and Mr. Ludolph
with all his keen insight was no match for her. In a matter-of-fact
tone she said:
"I do not see how we have worked Mr. Fleet to death. Does he charge
anything of the kind?7'
"Oh, no! but he too seems possessed with the idea of becoming an artist.
That drunken old Bruder, whom he appears to have reformed, was giving
him lessons, and after working all day he would study much of the night
and paint as soon as the light permitted in the morning. He might have
made something if he had had a judicious friend to guide him" ("And
such you might have been," whispered her conscience), "but now he drops
away like untimely fruit."
"It is a pity," said she, coolly, and changed the subject, as if she
had dismissed it from her mind.
Mr. Ludolph believed that Dennis was no more to his daughter than a
The next morning Christine rose pale and listless.
Her father said, "I will arrange my business so that we can go off on
a trip in a few days."
When left alone she sat down at her easel and tried to restore the
expression that had so delighted her on the preceding day. But she
could not. Indeed she was greatly vexed to find that her tendency was
to paint his stern and scornful look, which had made a deeper impression
on her mind than any she had even seen on his face, because so
unexpected and novel. She became irritated with herself, and cried,
fiercely: "Shame on your weakness! You are unworthy of your blood and
ancestry. I will reproduce that face as it was before he so insolently
destroyed it;" and she bent over her easel with an expression not at
all in harmony with her work. Unconsciously she made a strange contrast,
with her severe, hard face and compressed lips, to the look of love
and pleading she sought to paint. For several days she wrought with
resolute purpose, but found that her inspiration was gone.
At last she threw down her brush in despair, and cried: "I cannot catch
it again. The wretch either smiles or frowns upon me. I fear he was
right: I have made my first and last success;" and she leaned her head
sullenly and despairingly on her hand. Again the whole scene passed
before her, and she dwelt upon every word, as she was beginning often
to do now, in painful revery. When she came to the words, "I too mean
to be an artist. I could show you a picture that would tell you far
more of what I mean than can my poor words" she started up, and, hastily
arraying herself for the street, was soon on her way to the Art
No one heeded her movements there, and she went directly upstairs to
his room. Though simple and plain, it had unmistakably been the abode
of a gentleman and a person of taste. It was partially dismantled, and
in disorder from his hasty departure, and she found nothing which
satisfied her quest there. She hastened away, glad to escape from a
place where everything seemed full of mute reproach, and next bent her
steps to the top floor of the building. In a part half-filled with
antiquated lumber, and seldom entered, she saw near a window facing
the east an easel with canvas upon it. She was startled at the throbbing
of her heart.
"It is only climbing these long stairs," she said; but her words were
belied by the hesitating manner and eager face with which she approached
and removed the covering from the canvas.
She gazed a moment and then put out her hand for something by which
to steady herself. His chair was near, and she sank into it, exclaiming:
"He has indeed painted more than he--more than any one--could put into
words. He has the genius that I have not. All here is striking and
original;" and she sat with her eyes riveted to a painting that had
revealed to her--herself.
Here was the secret of Dennis's toil and early work. Here were the
results of his insatiable demand for the incongruous elements of ice
Side by side were two emblematic pictures. In the first there opened
before Christine a grotto of ice. The light was thin and cold but very
clear. Stalactites hung glittering from the vaulted roof. Stalagmites
in strange fantastic forms rose to meet them. Vivid brightness and
beauty were on every side, but of that kind that threw a chill on the
beholder. All was of cold blue ice, and so natural was it that the eye
seemed to penetrate its clear crystal. To the right was an opening in
the grotto, through which was caught a glimpse of a summer landscape,
a vivid contrast to the icy cave.
But the main features of the picture were two figures. Sleeping on a
couch of ice was the form of a young girl. The flow of the drapery,
the contour of the form, was grace itself, and yet all was ice. But
the face was the most wonderful achievement. Christine saw her own
features, as beautiful as in her vainest moments she had ever dared
to hope. So perfect was the portrait that the delicate blue veins
branched across the temple in veiled distinctness. It was a face that
lacked but two things, life and love; and yet in spite of all its
beauty the want of these was painfully felt--all the more painfully,
even as a lovely face in death awakens a deeper sadness and regret.
One little icy hand grasped a laurel wreath, also of ice. The other
hand hung listless, half open, and from it had dropped a brush that
formed a small stalagmite at her side.
Bending over her in most striking contrast was the figure of a young
man, all instinct with life, power, and feeling. Though the face was
turned away, Dennis had suggested his own form and manner. His left
hand was extended toward the sleeping maiden, as if to awaken her,
while with the right he pointed toward the opening through which was
seen the summer landscape, and his whole attitude indicated an eager
wish to rescue her. This was the first picture.
The second one was still more suggestive. At the entrance of the grotto,
which looked more cold than ever, in its partial shadow, Christine saw
herself again, but how changed! She now had a beauty which she could
not believe in--could not understand.
The icy hue and rigidity were all gone. She stood in the warm sunlight,
and seemed all warmth and life. Her face glowed with feeling, yet was
full of peace.
Instead of the barren ice, flowers were at her feet, and fruitful trees
bent over her. Birds were seen flitting through their branches. The
bended boughs, her flowing costume, and the tress of golden hair lifted
from her temple, all showed that the summer wind was blowing.
Everything, in contrast with the frozen, death-like cave, indicated
life, activity. Near her, a plane-tree, which in nature's language is
the emblem of genius, towered into the sky; around its trunk twined
the passion-flower, meaning, in Flora's tongue, "Holy love"; while
just above her head, sipping the nectar from an open blossom, was a
bright-hued butterfly, the symbol of immortality. By her side stood
the same tall, manly form, with face still averted. He was pointing,
and her eyes, softened, and yet lustrous and happy, were following
where a path wound through a long vista, in alternate light and shadow,
to a gate, that in the distance looked like a pearl. Above and beyond
it, in airy outline, rose the walls and towers of the Holy City, the
For a long time she sat in rapt attention. Moment by moment the
paintings in their meaning grew upon her. At last her eyes filled with
tears, her bosom rose and fell with an emotion most unwonted, and in
low tones she murmured: "Heavenly delusion! and taught with the logic
I most dearly love. Oh, that I could believe it! I would give ten
thousand years of the life I am leading to know that it is true. Is
there, can there be a path that leads through light or shade to a final
and heavenly home? If this is true, in spite of all my father's keen
and seemingly convincing arguments, what a terrible mistake our life
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