Barriers Burned Away
E. P. Roe
Part 6 out of 9
Then her thoughts reverted to the artist.
"What have I done in driving him away with contempt in his heart for
me? I can no more affect haughty superiority to the man who painted
those pictures. Though he could not be my lover, what a friend he might
have been! I fear I shall never find his equal. Oh, this world of chaos
and confusion! What is right? What is best? _What is truth?_ He might
have taught me. But the skilful hand that portrayed those wonderful
scenes may soon turn to dust, and I shall go to my grave burdened with
the thought that I have quenched the brightest genius that will ever
shine upon me;" and she clasped her hands in an agony of regret.
Then came the thought of securing the pictures. Dropping a veil over
her red eyes, she went down and got some large sheets of paper, and
by fastening them together made a secure covering. Then she carried
the light frame with the canvas to the second floor, and, summoning
Ernst, started homeward with her treasure. The boy obeyed with
reluctance. Since the time she had surprised him out of his secret in
regard to the strawberries, he had never liked her, and now he felt
that in some way she was the cause of the sickness of his dearest
friend. Christine could not bear the reproach of his large, truthful
eyes, and their walk was a silent one. At parting she handed him a
banknote, but he shook his head.
"Have you heard from Mr. Fleet?" she asked, with a flush.
The boy's lip quivered at the mention of that name, and he answered,
hastily: "Fader wrote moder Mr. Fleet was no better. I fear he die;"
and in an agony of grief he turned and ran sobbing away.
From under her veil Christine's tears were falling fast also, and she
entered her elegant home as if it had been a prison.
The next day was the Sabbath, and a long, dreary one it was to
Christine. But late in the afternoon Susie Winthrop came with a pale,
"Oh, Christine, have you heard the news?" she exclaimed.
Christine's heart stood still with fear, but by a great effort she
said, composedly, "What news?"
"Mr. Fleet has gone home very ill; indeed, he is not expected to live."
For a moment she did not answer, and when she did it was with a voice
unnaturally hard and cold: "Have you heard what is the matter?"
Miss Winthrop wondered at her manner, but replied, "Brain fever, I am
"Is he delirious?" asked Christine, in a low tone.
"Yes, all the time. Ernst, the little office-boy, told me he did not
know his own mother. It seems that the boy's father is with Mrs. Fleet,
helping take care of him."
Christine's face was averted and so colorless that it seemed like
"Oh, Christine, don't you care?" said Susie, springing up and coming
"Why should I care?" was the quick answer.
Susie could not know that it was in reality but an incoherent cry of
pain--the blind, desperate effort of pride to shield itself. But the
tone checked her steps and filled her face with reproach.
"Perhaps you have more reason to care than you choose to admit," she
Christine flushed, but said, coldly: "Of course I feel an interest in
the fate of Mr. Fleet, as I do in that of every passing acquaintance.
I feel very sorry for him and his friends"; but never was sympathy
expressed in a voice more unnaturally frigid.
Susie looked at her keenly, and again saw the tell-tale flush rising
to her cheek. She was puzzled, but saw that her friend had no confidence
to give, and she said, with a voice growing somewhat cold also: "Well,
really, Christine, I thought you capable of seeing as much as the rest
of us in such matters, but I must be mistaken, if you only recognized
in Dennis Fleet a passing acquaintance. Well, if he dies I doubt if
either you or I look upon his equal again. Under right influences he
might have been one of the first and most useful men of his day. But
they need not tell me it was overwork that killed him. I know it was
trouble of some kind."
Christine was very pale, but said nothing; and Susie, pained and
mystified that the confidence of other days was refused, bade her
friend a rather cold and abrupt adieu.
Left alone, Christine bowed her white face in her hands and sat so
still that it seemed as if life had deserted her. In her morbid state
she began to fancy herself the victim of some terrible fatality. Her
heart had bounded when Susie Winthrop was announced, believing that
from her she would gain sympathy; but in strange perversity she had
hidden her trouble from her friend, and permitted her to go away in
coldness. Christine could see as quickly and as far as any, and from
the first had noted that Dennis was very interesting to her friend.
Until of late she had not cared, but now for some reason the fact was
not pleasing, and she felt a sudden reluctance to speak to Susie of
Now that she was alone a deeper sense of isolation came over her than
she had ever felt before. Her one confidential friend had departed,
chilled and hurt. She made friends but slowly, and, having once become
estranged, from her very nature she found it almost impossible to make
the first advances toward reconciliation.
Soon she heard her father's steps, and fled to her room to nerve herself
for the part she must act before him. But she was far from successful;
her pale face and abstracted manner awakened his attention and his
surmises as to the cause. Having an engagement out, he soon left her
to welcome solitude; for when she was in trouble he was no source of
help or comfort.
Monday dragged wearily to a close. She tried to work, but could not.
She took up the most exciting book she could find, only to throw it
down in despair. Forever before the canvas or the page would rise a
pale thin face, at times stern and scornful, again full of reproach,
and then of pleading.
Even at night her rest was disturbed, and in dreams she heard the
mutterings of his delirium, in which he continually charged her with
his death. At times she would take his picture from its place of
concealment, and look at it with such feelings as would be awakened
by a promise of some priceless thing now beyond reach forever. Then
she would become irritated with herself, and say, angrily: "What is
this man to me? Why am I worrying about one who never could be much
more to me living than dead? I will forget the whole miserable affair."
But she could not forget. Tuesday morning came, but no relief. "Whether
he lives or dies he will follow me to my grave!" she cried. "From the
time I first spoke to him there has seemed no escape, and in strange,
unexpected ways he constantly crosses my path!"
She felt that she must have some relief from the oppression on her
spirit. Suddenly she thought of Ernst, and at once went to the store
and asked if he had heard anything later. He had not, but thought that
his mother would receive a letter that day.
"I want to see your father's picture, and will go home that way, if
you will give me the number."
The boy hesitated, but at last complied with her wish.
A little later Christine knocked at Mr. Bruder's door. There was no
response, though she heard a stifled sound within. After a little she
knocked more loudly. Then the door slowly opened, and Mrs. Bruder stood
before her. Her eyes were very red, and she held in her hand an open
letter. Christine expected to find more of a lady than was apparent
at first glance in the hard-working woman before her, so she said, "My
good woman, will you tell Mrs. Bruder I would like to see her?"
"Dis is Mrs. Bruder," was the answer.
Then Christine noticed the letter, and the half-effaced traces of
emotion, and her heart misgave her; but she nerved herself to say, "I
came to see your husband's picture."
"It is dere," was the brief reply.
Christine began to expatiate on its beauty, though perhaps for the
first time she looked at a fine picture without really seeing it. She
was at a loss how to introduce the object of her visit, but at last
said, "Your husband is away?"
"He is taking care of one of my father's--of Mr. Fleet, I am told.
Have you heard from him as to Mr. Fleet's health?"
"Dis is Miss Ludolph?"
"You can no read Sherman?"
"Oh, yes, I can. German is my native tongue."
"Strange dot him should be so."
"Der Shermans haf hearts."
Christine flushed deeply, but Mrs. Bruder without a word put her
husband's letter into her hand, and Christine read eagerly what,
translated, is as follows:
"MY DEAR WIFE--Perhaps before this reaches you our best friend, our
human savior, will be in heaven. There is a heaven, I believe as I
never did before; and when Mrs. Fleet prays the gate seems to open,
and the glory to stream right down upon us. But I fear now that not
even her prayers can keep him. Only once he knew her; then he smiled
and said, 'Mother, it is all right,' and dropped asleep. Soon fever
came on again, and he is sinking fast. The doctor shakes his head and
gives no hope. My heart is breaking. Marguerite, Mr. Fleet is not dying
a natural death; he has been slain. I understand all his manner now,
all his desperate hard work. He loved one above him in wealth--none
could be above him in other respects--and that one was Miss Ludolph.
I suspected it, though till delirious, he scarcely ever mentioned her
name. But now I believe she played with his heart--the noblest that
ever beat--and then threw it away, as if it were a toy instead of the
richest offering ever made to a woman. Proud fool that she was; she
has done more mischief than a thousand such frivolous lives as hers
can atone for. I can write no more; my heart is breaking with grief
As Christine read she suffered her veil to drop over her face. When
she looked up she saw that Mrs. Bruder's gaze was fixed upon her as
upon the murderer of her best friend. She drew her veil closer about
her face, laid the letter down, and left the room without a word. She
felt so guilty and miserable on her way home that it would scarcely
have surprised her had a policeman arrested her for the crime with
which her own conscience, as well as Mr. Bruder's letter, charged her;
and yet her pride revolted at it all.
"Why should this affair take so miserable a form with me?" she said.
"To most it ends with a few sentimental sighs on one side, and as a
good joke on the other. All seems to go wrong of late, and I am destined
to have everything save happiness and the success upon which I set my
heart. There is no more cruel mockery than to give one all save the
very thing one wants; and, in seeking to grasp that, I have brought
down upon myself this wretched, blighting experience. On this chaotic
world! The idea of there being a God! Why, I could make a better world
myself!" and she reached her home in such a morbid, unhappy state,
that none in the great city need have envied the rich and flattered
girl. Mechanically she dressed and came down to dinner.
During the afternoon Ernst, while out on an errand, had slipped home
and heard the sad news. He returned to Mr. Ludolph's office crying.
To the question, "What is the matter?" he had answered, "Oh, Mr. Fleet
is dying; he is dead by dis time!"
Mr. Ludolph was sadly shocked and pained, for as far as he could like
anybody besides himself and daughter, he had been prepossessed in favor
of his useful and intelligent clerk, and he was greatly annoyed at the
thought of losing him. He returned full of the subject, and the first
words with which he greeted Christine were, "Well, Fleet will hang no
more pictures for you, and sing no more songs."
She staggered into a chair and sat before him pale and panting, for
she thought he meant that death had taken place.
"Why, what is the matter?" cried he.
She stared at him gaspingly, but said nothing.
"Here, drink this," he said, hastily pouring out a glass of wine.
She took it eagerly. After a moment he said: "Christine, I do not
understand all this. I was merely saying that my clerk, Mr. Fleet, was
The point of endurance and guarded self-control was past, and she
cried, half-hysterically: "Am I never to escape that man? Must every
one I meet speak to me as if I had murdered him?"
Then she added, almost fiercely: "Living or dead, never speak to me
of him again! I am no longer a child, but a woman, and as such I insist
that his name be dropped between us forever!"
Her father gave a low exclamation of surprise, and said, "What! was
he one of the victims?" (this being his term for Christine's rejected
"No," said she; "I am the victim. He will soon be at rest, while I
shall be tormented to the grave by--" She hardly knew what to say, so
mingled and chaotic were her feelings. Her hands clenched, and with
a stamp of her foot she hastily left the room.
Mr. Ludolph could hardly believe his eyes. Could this passionate,
thoroughly aroused woman be his cold, self-contained daughter? He could
not understand, as so many cannot, that such natures when aroused are
tenfold more intense than those whom little things excite. A long and
peculiar train of circumstances, a morbid and overwrought physical
condition, led to this outburst from Christine, which was as much a
cause of surprise to herself afterward as to her father. He judged
correctly that a great deal had occurred between Dennis and herself
of which he had no knowledge, and again his confidence in her was
At first he determined to question her and extort the truth. But when,
an hour later, she quietly entered the parlor, he saw at a glance that
the cold, proud, self-possessed woman before him would not submit to
the treatment accepted by the little Christine of former days. The
wily man read from her manner and the expression of her eye that he
might with her consent lead, but could not command without awakening
a nature as imperious as his own.
He was angry, but he had time to think. Prudence had given a decided
voice in favor of caution.
He saw what she did not recognize herself, that her heart had been
greatly touched, and in his secret soul he was not sorry now to
believe that Dennis was dying.
"Father," said Christine, abruptly, "how soon can we start on our
"Well, if you particularly wish it," he replied, "I can leave by the
evening train to-morrow."
"I do wish it very much," said Christine, earnestly, "and will be
After an evening of silence and constraint they separated for the
Mr. Ludolph sat for a long time sipping his wine after she had gone.
"After all it will turn out for the best," he said. "Fleet will probably
die, and then will be out of the way. Or, if he lives, I can easily
guard against him, and it will go no further. If she had been bewitched
by a man like Mr. Mellen, the matter would have been more difficult.
"In truth," he continued, after a little, "now that her weak woman's
heart is occupied by an impossible lover, there is no danger from
possible ones;" and the man of the world went complacently to his rest,
believing that what he regarded as the game of life was entirely in
his own hands.
The next evening the night express bore Christine from the scene of
the events she sought to escape; but she was to learn, in common with
the great host of the sinning and suffering, how little change of place
has to do with change of feeling. We take memory and character with
us from land to land, from youth to age, from this world to the other,
from time through eternity. Sad, then, is the lot of those who ever
carry the elements of their own torture with them.
It was Christine's purpose, and she had her father's consent, to make
a long visit in New York, and, in the gayety and excitement of the
metropolis, to forget her late wretched experience.
As it was still early in September, they resolved to stop at West Point
and participate in the gayest season of that fashionable watering-place.
At this time the hotels are thronged with summer tourists returning
homeward from the more northern resorts. Though the broad piazzas of
Cozzens's great hotel were crowded by the _elite_ of the city, there was
a hum of admiration as Christine first made her round on her father's
arm; and in the evening, when the spacious parlor was cleared for
dancing, officers from the post and civilians alike eagerly sought
her hand, and hundreds of admiring eyes followed as she swept through
the mazes of the dance, the embodiment of grace and beauty. She was
very gay, and her repartee was often brilliant, but a close observer
would have seen something forced and unnatural in all. Such an observer
was her father. He saw that the sparkle of her eyes had no more heart
and happiness in it than that of the diamonds on her bosom, and that
with the whole strength of her resolute nature she was laboring to
repel thought and memory. But, as he witnessed the admiration she
excited on every side, he became more determined than ever that his
fair daughter should shine a star of the first magnitude in the
_salons_ of Europe. At a late hour, and wearied past the power
of thought, she gladly sought refuge in the blank of sleep.
The next morning they drove out early, before the sun was high and
warm. It was a glorious autumn day. Recent rains had purified the
atmosphere, so that the unrivalled scenery of the Hudson stood out in
clear and grand outline.
As Christine looked about her she felt a thrill of almost delight--the
first sensation of the kind since that moment of exultation which
Dennis had inspired, but which he had also turned to the bitterness
of disaster and humiliation. She was keenly alive to beauty, and she
saw it on every side. The Ludolph family had ever lived among the
mountains on the Rhine, and the heart of this latest child of the race
yearned over the rugged scenery before her with hereditary affection,
which had grown stronger with each successive generation.
The dew, like innumerable pearls, gemmed the grass in the park-like
lawn of the hotel, and the slanting rays of the sun flecked the
luxuriant foliage. Never before had this passion for the beautiful in
nature been so gratified, and all the artist feeling within her awoke.
On reaching the street the carriage turned southward, and, after passing
the village of Highland Falls, entered on one of the most beautiful
drives in America. At times the road led under overarching forest-trees,
shaded and dim with that delicious twilight which only myriads of
fluttering leaves can make. Again it would wind around some bold
headland, and the broad expanse of the Hudson would shine out dotted
with white sails. Then through a vista its waters would sparkle,
suggesting an exquisite cabinet picture. On the right the thickly-wooded
mountains rose like emerald walls, with here and there along their
base a quiet farmhouse. With kindling eye and glowing cheeks she drank
in view after view, and at last exclaimed, "If there were only a few
old castles scattered among these Highlands, this would be the very
perfection of scenery."
Her father watched her closely, and with much satisfaction.
"After all, her wound is slight," he thought, "and new scenes and
circumstances will soon cause her to forget."
Furtively, but continually, he bent his eyes upon her, as if to read
her very soul. A dreamy, happy expression rested on her face, as if
a scene were present to her fancy even more to her taste than the one
her eyes dwelt upon. In fact she was living over that evening at Miss
Winthrop's, when Dennis had told her that she could reach truest and
highest art--that she could feel--could copy anything she saw; and
exhilarated by the fresh morning air, inspired by the scenery, she
felt for the moment, as never before, that it might all be true.
Was he who gave those blissful assurances also exerting a subtile,
unrecognized power over her? Certainly within the last few weeks she
had been subject to strange moods and reveries. But the first dawning
of a woman's love is like the aurora, with its strange, fitful flashes.
The phenomena have never been satisfactorily explained.
But, as Mr. Ludolph watched complacently and admiringly, her expression
suddenly changed, and a frightened, guilty look came into her face.
The glow upon her cheeks gave place to extreme pallor, and she glanced
nervously around as if fearing something, then caught her father's
eye, and was conscious of his scrutiny. She at once became cold and
self-possessed, and sat at his side pale and quiet till the ride ended.
But he saw from the troubled gleam of her eyes that beneath that calm
exterior were tumult and suffering. Few in this life are so guilty and
wretched as not to have moments of forgetfulness, when the happier
past comes back and they are oblivious of the painful present. Such
a brief respite Christine enjoyed during part of her morning ride. The
grand and swiftly varying scenery crowded her mind with pleasant images,
which had been followed by a delicious revery. She felt herself to be
a true priestess of Nature, capable of understanding and interpreting
her voices and hidden meanings--of catching her evanescent beauty and
fixing it on the glowing canvas. The strong consciousness of such power
was indeed sweet and intoxicating. Her mind naturally reverted to him
who had most clearly asserted her possession of it.
"He, too, would have equal appreciation of this scenery," she said to
Then came the sudden remembrance, shrivelling her pretty dreams as the
lightning scorches and withers.
"_He--he is dead!--he must be by this time!_"
And dread and guilt and something else which she did not define, but
which seemed more like a sense of great loss, lay heavy at her heart.
No wonder her father was perplexed and provoked by the sad change in
her face. At first he was inclined to remonstrate and put spurs to her
pride. But there was a dignity about the lady at his side, even though
she was his daughter, that embarrassed and restrained him. Moreover,
though he understood much and suspected far more--more indeed than the
truth--there was nothing acknowledged or tangible that he could lay
hold of, and she meant that it should be so. For reasons she did not
understand she felt a disinclination to tell her troubles to Susie
Winthrop, and she was most resolute in her purpose never to permit her
father to speak on the subject.
If Mr. Ludolph had been as coarse and ignorant as he was hard and
selfish, he would have gone to work at the case with sledge-hammer
dexterity, as many parents have done, making sad, brutal havoc in
delicate womanly natures with which they were no more fit to deal than
a blacksmith with hair-springs. But though he longed to speak, and
bring his remorseless logic to bear, Christine's manner raised a barrier
which a man of his fine culture could not readily pass.
She joined her father at a late breakfast, smiling and brilliant, but
her gayety was clearly forced. The morning was spent in sketching, she
seeming to crave constant occupation or excitement.
In the afternoon father and daughter drove up the river to the military
grounds to witness a drill. Mr. Ludolph did his best to rally Christine,
pointing out everything of interest. First, the grand old ruin of Fort
Putnam frowned down upon them. This had been the one feature wanting,
and Christine felt that she could ask nothing more. Her wonder and
admiration grew as the road wound along the immediate bluff and around
the plain by the river fortifications. But when she stood on the piazza
of the West Point Hotel, and looked up through the Highlands toward
Newburgh, tears came to her eyes, and she trembled with excitement.
From her recent experiences her nerves were morbidly sensitive. But
her father could only look and wonder, she seemed so changed to him.
"And is the Rhine like this?" she asked.
"Well, the best I can say is, that to a German and a Ludolph it seems
just as beautiful," he replied.
"Surely," said she, slowly and in half-soliloquy, "if one could live
always amid such scenes as these, the Elysium of the gods or the heaven
of the Christians would offer few temptations."
"And among just such scenes you shall live after a short year passes,"
he answered, warmly and confidently. But with anger he missed the
wonted sparkle of her eyes when these cherished plans were broached.
In bitterness Christine said to herself: "A few weeks since this thought
would have filled me with delight. Why does it not now?"
Silently they drove to the parade-ground. At the sally-port of the
distant barracks bayonets were gleaming. There was a burst of martial
music, then each class at the Academy--four companies--came out upon
the grassy plain upon the double-quick. Their motions were light and
swift, and yet so accurately timed that each company seemed one perfect
piece of mechanism. A cadet stood at a certain point with a small color
flying. Abreast of this their advance was checked as suddenly as if
they had been turned to stone, and the entire corps was in line. Then
followed a series of skilful manoeuvres, in which Christine was much
interested, and her old eager manner returned.
"I like the army," she exclaimed; "the precision and inflexible routine
would just suit me. I wish there was war, and I a man, that I might
enter into the glorious excitements."
Luxurious Mr. Ludolph had no tastes in that direction, and, shrugging
his shoulders, said: "How about the hardships, wounds, and chances of
an obscure death? These are the rule in a campaign; the glorious
excitements the exceptions."
"I did not think of those," she said, shrinking against the cushions.
"Everything seems to have so many miserable drawbacks!"
The pageantry over, the driver turned and drove northward through the
most superb scenery.
"Where are we going?" asked Christine.
"To the cemetery," was the reply.
"No, no! not there!" she exclaimed, nervously.
"Nonsense! Why not?" remonstrated her father.
"I don't wish to go there!" she cried, excitedly. "Please turn around."
Her father reluctantly gave the order, but added, "Christine, you
certainly indulge in strange moods and whims of late."
She was silent a moment, and then she began a running fire of questions
about the Academy, that left no space for explanations.
That evening she danced as resolutely as ever, and by her beauty and
brilliant repartee threw around her many bewildering spells that even
the veterans of the Point could scarcely resist.
But when alone in her own room she looked at her white face in the
mirror, and murmured in tones full of unutterable dread and remorse,
"He is dead--he must be dead by this time!"
Christine had a peculiar experience while at West Point. She saw on
every side what would have brought her the choicest enjoyment, had her
mind been at rest. To her artist nature, and with her passion and power
for sketching, the Highlands on the Hudson were paradise. But though
she saw in profusion what once would have delighted her, and what she
now felt ought to be the source of almost unmingled happiness, she was
still thoroughly wretched. It was the old fable of Tantalus repeating
itself. Her sin and its results had destroyed her receptive power. The
world offered her pleasures on every side; she longed to enjoy them,
but could not, for her heart was preoccupied--filled and overflowing
with fear, remorse, and a sorrow she could not define.
A vain, shallow girl might soon have forgotten such an experience as
Christine had passed through. Such a creature would have been
sentimental or hysterical for a little time, according to temperament,
and then with the old zest have gone to flirting with some new victim.
There are belles so weak and wicked that they would rather plume
themselves on the fact that one had died from love of them. But in
justice to all such it should be said that they rarely have mind enough
to realize the evil they do. Their vanity overshadows every other
faculty, and almost destroys those sweet, pitiful, unselfish qualities
which make a true woman what a true man most reverences next to God.
Christine was proud and ambitious to the last degree, but she had not
this small vanity. She did not appreciate the situation fully, but she
was unsparing in her self-condemnation.
If Dennis had been an ordinary man, and interested her no more than
had other admirers, and had she given him no more encouragement, she
would have shrugged her shoulders over the result and said she was
very sorry he had made such a fool of himself.
But as she went over the past (and this now she often did), she saw
that he was unusually gifted; nay, more, the picture she discovered
in the loft of the store proved him possessed of genius of a high
order. And such a man she had deceived, tortured, and even killed!
This was the verdict of her own conscience, the assertion of his own
lips. She remembered the wearing life of alternate hope and fear she
had caused him. She remembered how eagerly he hung on her smiles and
sugared nothings, and how her equally causeless frowns would darken
all the world to him. She saw day after day how she had developed in
a strong, true heart, with its native power to love unimpaired, the
most intense passion, and all that her own lesser light might burn a
little more brightly. Then, with her burning face buried in her hands,
she would recall the bitter, shameful consummation. Worse than all,
waking or sleeping, she continually saw a pale, thin face, that even
in death looked upon her with unutterable reproach. In addition to the
misery caused by her remorse, there was a deeper bitterness still.
Within the depths of her soul a voice told her that the picture was
true; that he might have awakened her, and led her out into the warmth
and light of a happy life--a life which she felt ought to be possible,
but which as yet had been but a vague and tantalizing dream. Now the
world seemed to her utter chaos--a place of innumerable paths leading
nowhere; and her own hands had broken the clew that might have brought
her to something assured and satisfactory. She was very wretched, for
her life seemed but a little point between disappointment on one side
and the blackness of death and nothingness on the other. The very
beauty of the landscapes about her often increased her pain. She felt
that a few weeks ago she would have enjoyed them keenly, and found in
their transference to canvas a source of unfailing pleasure. With a
conscious blush she thought that if he were present to encourage, to
stimulate her, by the very vitality of his earnest, loving nature, she
would be in the enjoyment of paradise itself. In a word, she saw the
heaven she could not enter.
To the degree that she had mind, heart, conscience, and an intense
desire for true happiness, she was unhappy. Dress, dancing, the passing
admiration of society, the pleasures of a merely fashionable life,
seemed less and less satisfactory. She was beyond them, as children
outgrow their toys, because she had a native superiority to them, and
yet they seemed her best resource. She had all her old longing to
pursue her art studies, and everything about her stimulated her to
this, but her heart and hand appeared paralyzed. She was in just that
condition, mental and moral, in which she could do nothing well.
And so the days passed in futile efforts to forget--to drown in almost
reckless gayety--the voices of conscience and memory. But she only
remembered all the more vividly; she only saw the miserable truth all
the more clearly. She suffered more in her torturing consciousness
than Dennis in his wild delirium.
After they had been at the hotel about a week, Mr. Ludolph received
letters that made his speedy return necessary. On the same day the
family of his old New York partner arrived at the house on their return
from the Catskills. Mrs. Von Brakhiem gladly received Christine under
her care, feeling that the addition of such a bright star would make
her little constellation one of the most brilliant in the fashionable
The ladies of the house were now immersed in the excitement of an
amateur concert. Mrs. Von Brakhiem, bent upon shining among the
foremost, though with a borrowed lustre, assigned Christine a most
prominent part. She half shrank from it, for it recalled unpleasant
memories; but she could not decline without explanations, and so entered
into the affair with a sort of recklessness.
The large parlors were filled with chairs, which were soon occupied,
and it was evident that in point of attraction elegant toilets would
vie with the music. Christine came down on her father's arm, dressed
like a princess, and, though her diamonds were few, such were their
size and brilliancy that they seemed on fire. Every eye followed Mrs.
Von Brakhiem's party, and that good lady took half the admiration to
A superior tenor, with an unpronounceable foreign name, had come up
from New York to grace the occasion. But personally he lacked every
grace himself, his fine voice being the one thing that redeemed him
from utter insignificance in mind and appearance. Nevertheless he was
vain beyond measure, and made the most of himself on all occasions.
The music was fine, for the amateurs, feeling that they had a critical
audience, did their best. Christine chose three brilliant, difficult,
but heartless pieces as her contribution to the entertainment (she
would not trust herself with anything else); and with something
approaching reckless gayety she sought to hide the bitterness at her
heart. Her splendid voice and exquisite touch doubled the admiration
her beauty and diamonds had excited, and Mrs. Von Brakhiem basked in
still stronger reflected light. She took every opportunity to make it
known that she was Miss Ludolph's chaperon.
After her first effort, the "distinguished" tenor from New York opened
his eyes widely at her; at her second, he put up his eyeglass in
something like astonishment; and the close of her last song found him
nervously rummaging a music portfolio in the corner.
But for Christine the law of association had become too strong, and
the prolonged applause recalled the evening at Miss Brown's when the
same sounds had deafened her, but when turning from it all she had
seen Dennis Fleet standing in rapt attention, his lips parted, his
eyes glowing with such an honest admiration that even then it was worth
more to her than all the clamor. Then, by the same law of association,
she again saw that eager, earnest face, changed pale, dead--dead!--and
she the cause. Regardless of the compliments lavished upon her, she
buried her face in her hands and trembled from head to foot.
But the irrepressible tenor had found what he wanted, and now came
forward asking that Miss Ludolph would sing a duet with him.
She lifted a wan and startled face. Must the torturing similarity and
still more torturing contrast of the two occasions be continued? But
she saw her father regarding her sternly--saw that she was becoming
the subject of curious glances and whispered surmises. Her pride was
aroused at once, and, goaded on by it, she said, "Oh, certainly; I am
not feeling well, but it does not signify."
"And den," put in the tenor, "dis is von grand occazeon to _you_, for it
is so unfrequent dat I find any von vorthy to sing dis style of music
"What is the music?" asked Christine, coldly.
To her horror she found it the same selection from Mendelssohn that
she had sung with Dennis.
"No," she said, sharply, "I cannot sing that."
"Pardon me, my daughter, you can sing it admirably if you choose,"
interposed her father.
She turned to him imploringly, but his face was inflexible, and his
eyes had an incensed look. For a moment she, too, was angry. Had he
no mercy? She was about to decline coldly, but her friends were very
urgent and clamorous--"Please do," "Don't disappoint us," echoing on
every side. The tenor was so surprised and puzzled at her insensibility
to the honor he had conferred, that, to prevent a scene she could not
explain, she went to the piano as if led to the stake.
But the strain was too great upon her in her suffering state. The
familiar notes recalled so vividly the one who once before had sung
them at her side that she turned almost expecting to see him--but saw
only the vain little animated music-machine, who with many contortions
was producing the harmony. "Just this mockery my life will ever be,"
she thought; "all that I am, the best I can do, will always be connected
with something insignificant and commonplace. The rich, impassioned
voice of the _man_ who sang these words, and who might have taught me to
sing the song of a new and happier life, I have silenced forever."
The thought overpowered her. Just then her part recurred, but her voice
died away in a miserable quaver, and again she buried her face in her
hands. Suddenly she sprang from the piano, darted through the low-cut
open window near, and a moment later ordered her startled maid from
the room, turned the key, and was alone.
Her father explained coldly to the astonished audience and the
half-paralyzed tenor (who still stood with his mouth open) that his
daughter was not at all well that evening, and ought not to have
appeared at all. This Mrs. Von Brakhiem took up and repeated with
endless variations. But the evidences of sheer mental distress on the
part of Christine had been too clear, and countless were the whispered
surmises of the fashionable gossips in explanation.
Mrs. Von Brakhiem herself, burning with curiosity, soon retired, that
she might receive from her lovely charge some gushing confidences,
which she expected, as a matter of course, would be poured into what
she chose to regard as her sympathizing ear. But she knocked in vain
at Christine's door.
Later Mr. Ludolph knocked. There was no answer.
"Christine!" he called.
After some delay a broken voice answered, "You cannot enter--I am not
well--I have retired."
He turned on his heel and strode away, and that night drank more brandy
and water than was good for him.
As for Christine, warped and chilled though her nature had been, she
was still a woman, she was still young, and, though she knew it not,
she had heard the voice which had spoken her heart into life. Through
a chain of circumstances for which she was partly to blame, she had
been made to suffer as she had not believed was possible. The terrible
words of Mr. Bruder's letter rang continually in her ears--"Mrs. Fleet
is not dying a natural death; he has been, slain."
For many long, weary days the conviction had been growing upon her
that she had indeed slain him and mortally wounded herself. Until
to-night she had kept herself outwardly under restraint, but now the
long pent-up feeling gave way, and she sobbed as if her heart would
break--sobbed till the power to weep was gone. If now some kind,
judicious friend had shown her that she was not so guilty as she deemed
herself; that, however, frightful the consequences of such acts, she
was really not to blame for what she did not intend and could not
foresee; more than all, if she could only have known that her worst
fears about Dennis were not to be realized, and that he was now
recovering, she might at once have entered on a new and happier life.
But there was no such friend, no such knowledge, and her wounded spirit
was thrown back upon itself.
At last, robed as she had been for the evening, she fell asleep
from sheer exhaustion and grief--for grief induces sleep.
The gems that shone in her dishevelled hair; that rose and fell as at
long intervals her bosom heaved with convulsive sobs, like the fitful
gusts of a storm that is dying away; the costly fabrics she wore--made
sad mockery in their contrast with the pale, tear-stained, suffering
face. The hardest heart might have pitied her--yes, even the wholly
ambitious heart of her father, incensed as he was that a plebeian
stranger of this land should have caused such distress.
When Christine awoke, her pride awoke also. With bitterness of spirit
she recalled the events of the past evening. But a new phase of feeling
now began to manifest itself.
After her passionate outburst she was much calmer. In this respect the
unimpeded flow of feeling had done her good, and, as intimated, if
kindness and sympathy could now have added their gentle ministrations,
she might have been the better for it all her life. But, left to
herself, she again yielded to the sway of her old and worst traits.
Chief among these was pride; and under the influence of this passion
and the acute suffering of her unsoothed, unguided spirit, she began
to rebel in impotent anger. She grew hard, cynical, and reckless. Her
father's lack of sympathy and consideration alienated her heart even
from him. Left literally alone in the world, her naturally reserved
nature shut itself up more closely than ever. Even her only friend,
Susie Winthrop, drifted away. One other, who might have been--But she
could think of him only with a shudder now. All the rest seemed
indifferent, or censorious, or, worse still, to be using her, like
Mrs. Von Brakhiem and even her own father, as a stepping-stone to their
personal ambition. Christine could not see that she was to blame for
this isolation. She did not understand that cold, selfish natures,
like her own and her father's, could not surround themselves with warm,
generous friends. She saw only the fact. But with flashing eyes she
resolved that her heart's secrets should not be pried into a
hair-breadth further; that she would be used only so far as she chose.
She would, in short, "face out" the events of the past evening simply
and solely on the ground that she had not been well, and permit no
questions to be asked.
Cold and self-possessed, she came down to a late breakfast. Mrs. Von
Brakhiem, and others who had been introduced, joined her, but nothing
could penetrate through the nice polished armor of her courteous
reserve. Her father looked at her keenly, but she coolly returned his
When alone with her soon afterward, he turned and said, sharply, "What
does all this mean?"
She looked around as if some one else were near.
"Were you addressing me?" she asked, coldly.
"Yes, of course I am," said her father, impatiently.
"From your tone and manner, I supposed you must be speaking to some
"Nonsense! I was speaking to you. What does all this mean?"
She turned on him an indescribable look, and after a moment said in
a slow, meaning tone, "Have you not heard my explanation, sir?"
Such was her manner, he felt he could as easily strike her as say
Muttering an oath, he turned on his heel and left her to herself.
The next morning her father bade her "Good-by." In parting he said,
meaningly, "Christine, beware!"
Again she turned upon him that peculiar look, and replied in a low,
firm tone: "That recommendation applies to you, also. Let us both
beware, lest we repent at leisure."
The wily man, skilled in character, was now thoroughly convinced that
in his daughter he was dealing with a nature very different from his
wife's--that he was now confronted by a spirit as proud and imperious
as his own. He clearly saw that force, threatening, sternness would
not answer in this case, and that if he carried his points it must be
through skill and cunning. By some means he must ever gain her consent
His manner changed. Instinctively she divined the cause; and hers did
not. Therefore father and daughter parted as father and daughter ought
never to part.
After his departure she was to remain at West Point till the season
closed, and then accompany Mrs. Von Brakhiem to New York, where she
was to make as long a visit as she chose;--and she chose to make a
long one. In the scenery, and the society of the officers at West
Point, and the excitements of the metropolis, she found more to occupy
her thoughts than she could have done at Chicago. She went deliberately
to work to kill time and snatch from it such fleeting pleasures as she
They stayed in the country till the pomp and glory of October began
to illumine the mountains, and then (to Christine's regret) went to
the city. There she entered into every amusement and dissipation that
her tastes permitted, and found much pleasure in frequent visits to
the Central Park, although it seemed tame and artificial after the
wild grandeur of the mountains. It was well that her nature was so
high-toned that she found enjoyment in only what was refined or
intellectual. Had it been otherwise she might soon have taken, in her
morbid, reckless state, a path to swift and remediless ruin, as many
a poor creature all at war with happiness and truth has done. And thus
in a giddy whirl of excitement (Mrs. Von Brakhiem's normal condition)
the days and weeks passed, till at last, thoroughly satiated and jaded,
she concluded to return home, for the sake of change and quiet, if
nothing else. Mrs. Von Brakhiem parted with her regretfully. Where
would she find such another ally in her determined struggle to be
talked about and envied a little more than some other pushing, jostling
votaries of fashion?
In languor or sleep Christine made the journey, and in the dusk of a
winter's day her father drove her to their beautiful home, which from
association was now almost hateful to her. Still she was too weary to
think or suffer much. They met each other very politely, and their
intercourse assumed at once its wonted character of high-bred courtesy,
though perhaps it was a little more void of manifested sympathy and
affection than before.
Several days elapsed in languid apathy, the natural reaction of past
excitement; then an event occurred which most thoroughly aroused her.
Mr. Ludolph had hoped to hear on his return that Dennis was dead. That
would end all difficulties. Mr. Schwartz did not know;--he was not at
last accounts. Ernst was summoned. With a bright, hopeful face he
stated that his mother had just received a letter saying Dennis was
a little better. He was much surprised at his employer's heavy frown.
"He will live," mused Mr. Ludolph; "and now shall I permit him to
return to my employ, or discharge him?"
His brow contracted in lines of thought that suggested shrewdness,
cunning, nothing manly, and warily he judged.
"If I do not take him, he will go to Mr. French with certainty. He had
better return, for then both he and Christine will be more thoroughly
under my surveillance.
"Curses on Christine's waywardness! There may be no resisting her, and
my best chance will be in managing him. This I could not do if he were
in the store of my rival;" and so for unconscious Dennis this
important question was decided.
At last, as we have said, his delirium ceased, and the quiet light of
reason came into his eyes. He looked at his mother and smiled, but was
too weak even to reach out his hand.
The doctor, coming in soon after, declared danger past, and that all
depended now on good nursing. Little fear of his wanting that!
"Ah, mine Gott be praised! mine Gott be praised!" exclaimed Mr. Bruder,
who had to leave the room to prevent an explosion of his grateful,
happy feelings that might have proved too rude a tempest for Dennis
in his weak state. He was next seen striding across the fields to a
neighboring grove, ejaculating as he went. When he returned his eyes
shone with a great peace and joy, and he had evidently been with Him
who had cast out the demon from his heart.
Day after day Dennis rallied. Unlike poor Christine, he had beneath
him the two strongest levers, love and prayer, and steadily they lifted
him up to health and strength and comparative peace. At last he was
able to sit up and walk about feebly, and Mr. Bruder returned rejoicing
to his family. As he wrung Dennis's hand at parting, he said, in rather
a hoarse voice: "If any von tell me Gott is not goot and heareth not
prayer, den I tell him he von grand heathen. Oh! but we vill velcome
you soon. Ve vill haf de grandest supper, de grandest songs, de
grandest--" but just here Mr. Bruder thought it prudent to pull his
big fur cap over his eyes, and make a rush for the stage.
As if by tacit understanding, Christine's name had not been mentioned
during Dennis's recovery. But one evening, after the little girls had
been put to bed, and the lamp shaded, he sat in the dimly lighted room,
looking fixedly for a long time at the glowing embers. His mother was
moving quietly about, putting away the tea-things, clearing up after
the children's play; but as she worked she furtively watched him. At
last coming to his side she pushed back the hair that seemed so dark
in contrast with the thin, white face and said, gently, "You are
thinking of Miss Ludolph, Dennis."
He had some blood yet, for that was not the glow of the fire that
suffused his cheek; but he only answered, quietly, "Yes, mother."
Do you think you can forget her?"
"I don't know."
"Prayer is a mighty thing, my son."
"But perhaps it is not God's will that I should ever win her," said
"Then surely it is not yours, my child."
"No, mother," said Dennis, with bowed head and low tone, "but yet I
am human and weak."
"You would still wish that it were His will?"
"Yes; I could not help it."
"But you would submit?"
"Yes, with His help I would," firmly.
"That is sufficient, my boy; I have such confidence in God that I know
this matter will result in a way to secure you the greatest happiness
in the end."
But after a little time he sighed, wearily, "Yet how hard it is to
wait till the great plan is worked out!"
Solemnly she quoted-"God will render to every man according to his
deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory
and honor and immortality, eternal life."
Braced by the stirring words of inspiration, strengthened by his
mother's faith, he looked up after a moment and said, earnestly, "At
any rate I will try to be a _man in your sense of the word_, and that is
saying a great deal."
She beamed at him through her spectacles over her knitting-needles;
and he thought, as he gazed fondly at her, that in spite of her quaint,
old-fashioned garb, and homely occupation, she appeared more truly a
saint than any painted on cathedral windows.
He soon noticed that his mother had grown feeble, and he determined
to take her with him on his return, believing that, by his care, and
the wise use of tonics, he could restore her to her wonted strength.
His increased salary now justified the step.
Early in November his physician said he might return to business if
he would be prudent. He gladly availed himself of the permission, for
he longed to be employed again.
The clerks all welcomed him warmly, for his good-nature had disarmed
jealousy at his rapid rise. But in the greeting of Mr. Ludolph he
missed something of the cordiality he expected.
"Perhaps she has told him," thought he; and at once his own manner
became tinged with a certain coldness and dignity. He determined that
both father and daughter should think of him only with respect.
At the Bruders' the millennium came with Dennis. Metaphorically the
fatted calf was killed; their plain little room was trimmed with
evergreens, and when he entered he was greeted by such a jubilant,
triumphant chorus of welcomes as almost took away his breath. What
little he had left was suddenly squeezed out of him; for Mrs. Bruden,
dropping her frying-pan and dish-cloth, rushed upon him, exclaiming,
"Ah! mine fren! mine fren! De goot Gott be praised;" and she gave him
an embrace that made his bones ache.
Mr. Bruder stalked about the room repeating with explosive energy,
like minute-guns, "Praise Gott! Praise Gott!" Ernst, his great eyes
dimmed with happy tears, clung to Dennis's hand, as if he would make
sure, by sense of touch as well as sight, that he had regained his
beloved teacher. The little Bruders were equally jubilant, though from
rather mixed motives. Dennis's arrival was very well, but they could
not keep their round eyes long off the preparations for such a supper
as never before had blessed their brief career.
"Truly," thought Dennis, as he looked around upon the happy family,
and contrasted its appearance with that which it had presented when
he first saw it, "my small investment of kindness and effort in this
case has returned large interest. I think it pays to do good."
The evening was one of almost unmingled happiness, even to his sore,
disappointed heart, and passed into memory as among the sunniest places
of his life.
He found a pleasant little cottage over on the West side, part of which
he rented for his mother and sisters.
With Mr. Ludolph's permission he went after them, and installed them
in it. Thus he had what he had needed all along--a home, a resting-place
for body and soul, under the watchful eye of love.
About this time Dr. Arten met him, stared a moment, then clapped him
on the back in his hearty way, saying, "Well, well, young man! you
have cause to be thankful, and not to the doctors, either."
"I think I am," said Dennis, smiling.
Suddenly the doctor looked grave, and asked in a stern voice, "Are you
a heathen, or a good Christian?"
"I hope not the former," replied Dennis, a little startled.
"Then don't go and commit suicide again. Don't you know flesh and blood
can only stand so much? When an intelligent young fellow like you goes
beyond that, he is committing suicide. Bless your soul, my ambitious
friend, the ten commandments ain't all the law of God. His laws are
also written all over this long body of yours, and you came near paying
a pretty penalty for breaking them. You won't get off the second time."
"You are right, doctor; I now see that I acted very wrongly."
"'Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.' I am rich enough to give
sound advice," said the brusque old physician, passing on.
"Stop a moment, doctor," cried Dennis, "I want you to see my mother."
"What is the matter with her? She been breaking the commandments, too?"
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Dennis. "She is not a bit of a heathen."
"I am not so sure about that. I know many eminent saints in the church
who will eat lobster salad for supper, and then send for the doctor
and minister before morning. There is a precious twaddle about
'mysterious Providence.' Providence isn't half so mysterious as people
make out. The doctor is expected to look serious and sympathetic, and
call their law-breaking and its penalty by some outlandish Latin name
that no one can understand. I give 'em the square truth, and tell 'em
they've been breaking the commandments."
Dennis could not forbear smiling at the doctor's rough handling of
humbug, even in one of its most respectable guises. Then, remembering
his mother, he added, gravely: "I am truly anxious about my mother,
she has grown so feeble. I want, and yet dread, the truth."
The bantering manner of the good old doctor changed at once, and he
said, kindly, "I'll come, my boy, within a few days, though I am nearly
run off my feet."
He went off, muttering, "Why don't the people send for some of the
youngsters that sit kicking up their heels in their offices all day?"
Dennis soon fell into the routine of work and rapidly grew stronger.
But his face had acquired a gravity, a something in expression that
only experience gives, which made him appear older by ten years. All
trace of the boy had gone, and his countenance was now that of the
man, and of one who had suffered.
As soon as he recovered sufficient strength to act with decision, he
indignantly tried to banish Christine's image from his memory. But he
found this impossible. Though at times his eyes would flash, in view
of her treatment, they would soon grow gentle and tender, and he found
himself excusing and extenuating, by the most special pleadings, that
which he had justly condemned.
One evening his mother startled him out of a long revery, in which he
had almost vindicated Christine, by saying, "A very pleasant smile has
been gradually dawning on your face, my son."
"Mother," replied he, hesitatingly, "perhaps I have judged Miss Ludolph
"Your love, not your reason, has evidently been pleading for her."
"Well, mother, I suppose you are right."
"So I suppose the Divine love pleads for the weak and sinful," said
Mrs. Fleet, dreamily.
"That is a very pleasant thought, mother, for sometimes it seems that
my love could make black white."
"That the Divine love has done, but at infinite cost to itself."
"Oh that my love at any cost to itself could lead her into the new
life of the believer!" said Dennis, in a low, earnest tone.
"Your love is like the Divine in being unselfish, but remember the
vital differences and take heed. God _can_ change the nature of the
imperfect creature that He loves. You cannot. His love is infinite
in its strength and patience. You are human. The proud, selfish,
unbelieving Miss Ludolph (pardon mother's plain words) could not make
you happy. To the degree that you were loyal to God, you would be
unhappy, and I should surely dread such a union. The whole tone of
your moral character would have to be greatly lowered to permit even
"But, mother," said Dennis, almost impatiently, "in view of my
unconquerable love, it is nearly the same as if I were married to her
"No, my son, I think not. I know your pretty theory on this subject,
but it seems more pretty than true. Marriage makes a vital difference.
It is the closest union that we can voluntarily form on earth, and is
the emblem of the spiritual oneness of the believer's soul with Christ.
We may be led through circumstances, as you have been, to love one
with whom we should not form such a union. Indeed, in the true and
mystic meaning of the rite, you could not marry Christine Ludolph. The
Bible declares that man and wife shall be one. Unless she changes,
unless you change (and that God forbid), this could not be. You would
be divided, separated in the deepest essentials of your life here, and
in every respect hereafter. Again, while God loves every sinful man
and woman, He does not take them to His heart till they cry out to Him
for strength to abandon the destroying evil He hates. There are
no unchanged, unrenewed hearts in heaven."
"Oh, mother, how inexorable is your logic!" said Dennis, breathing
"Truth in the end is ever more merciful than falsehood," she answered,
After a little, he said, with a heavy sigh, "Mother, you are right,
and I am very weak and foolish."
She looked at him with unutterable tenderness. She could not crush out
all hope, and so whispered, as before: "Prayer is mighty, my child.
It is not wrong for you to love. It is your duty, as well as privilege,
to pray for her. Trust your Heavenly Father, do His will, and He will
solve this question in the very best way."
Dennis turned to his mother in sudden and passionate earnestness, and
said: "Your prayers are mighty, mother, I truly believe. Oh, pray
for her--for my sake as well as hers. Looking from the human side, I am
hopeless. It is only God's almighty power that can make us, as you
say, truly one. I fear that now she is only a heartless, fashionable
girl. Yet, if she is only this, I do not see how I came to love her
as I do. But my trust now is in your prayers to God."
"And in your own also: the great Father loves you, too, my son. If He
chooses that the dross in her character should be burned away, and
your two lives fused, there are in His providence just the fiery trials,
just the circumstances that will bring it about." (Was she unconsciously
uttering a prophecy?) "The crucible of affliction, the test of some
great emergency, will often develop a seemingly weak and frivolous
girl into noble life, where there is real gold of latent worth to be
"Christine Ludolph is anything but weak and frivolous," said he. "Her
character is strong, and I think most decided in its present bent. But
as you say, if the Divine Alchemist wills it, He can change even the
dross to gold, and turn unbelief to faith."
Hope, Christine! There is light coming, though as yet you cannot see
it. There are angels of mercy flying toward you, though you cannot
hear the rustle of their wings. The dark curtain of death and despair
can never shut down upon a life linked to heaven by such true, strong
prayer. And yet the logical results of wrong-doing will work themselves
out, sin must be punished and faith sorely tried.
Dennis heard incidentally that Christine was absent on a visit to New
York, but he knew nothing of the time of her return.
He now bent himself steadily and resolutely to the mastering of his
business, and under Mr. Bruder's direction resumed his art studies,
though now in such moderation as Dr. Arten would commend.
He also entered on an artistic effort that would tax his powers and
genius to the very utmost, of which more anon.
By the time Christine returned, he was quite himself again, though
much paler and thinner than when he first entered the store.
After Christine had been at home nearly a week, her father, to rouse
her out of her listlessness, said one morning: "We have recently
received quite a remarkable painting from Europe. You will find it in
the upper show-room, and had better come down to-day to see it, for
it may be sold soon. I think you would like to copy one or two figures
The lassitude from her New York dissipation was passing away, and her
active nature beginning to assert itself again. She started up and
said, "Wait five minutes and I will get sketching materials and go
down with you."
By reason of her interdict, made at West Point, so earnestly, and
indeed fiercely, and confirmed by her manner, her father had never
mentioned the name of Dennis Fleet. The very fact that no one had
spoken of him since that dreadful day when tidings came in on every
side that he could not live was confirmation in her mind that he was
She dreaded going to the store, especially for the first time, for
everything would irresistibly remind her of him whom she could not
think of now without a pang. But as the ordeal must come, why, the
sooner it was over the better. So a few moments later her hand was on
her father's arm, and they were on their way to the Art Building as
in happier days.
Mr. Ludolph went to his office, and Christine, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, ascended to the upper show-room, and at once
sought to engage every faculty in making the sketch her father had
suggested. Since Dennis was not, as she believed, either on the earth
or elsewhere, she tried to take up life again as it had been before
he came, and to act as if he had never been.
Hopeless task! In that familiar place, where they had begun the
rearrangement of the store, everything spoke of him. She saw his glowing
cheeks; again his dark, eager eyes followed her every movement and
interpreted her wishes even before she could speak. Some of the pictures
on the walls his hands had handled, and in her strong fancy his lithe
form seemed moving the ladder to take them down again, while she, with
heart and mind at rest, looked with growing curiosity and interest on
her humble helper.
What changes had occurred within a short half-year! She shuddered at
the thought that one who was then so instinct with life and happiness
could now be dust and nothingness, and she the cause.
Association and conscience were again too powerful. She was becoming
nervous and full of a strange unrest, so she concluded to finish her
sketch at another time. As she was gathering up her materials she heard
some one enter the room.
She was in such a morbid, unstrung state that the least thing startled
her. But imagine if you can her wonder and terror as she saw Dennis
Fleet--the dead and buried, as she fully believed--enter, carrying a
picture as of old, and looking as of old, save that he was paler and
thinner. Was it an apparition? or, as she had read, had she dwelt so
long on this trouble that her mind and imagination were becoming
disordered and able to place their wild creations before her as
Her sketching materials fell clattering to the floor, and after one
sharp exclamation of alarm she stood as if transfixed, with parted
lips and dilated eyes, panting like a frightened bird.
If a sculptor had wished to portray the form and attitude of one
startled by the supernatural, never could he have found a more fitting
model than Christine at this moment.
As she had been seated a little on one side Dennis had not seen her
at first; but, on recognizing her so unexpectedly, he was scarcely
less startled than she, and the valuable picture he was carrying nearly
met sudden destruction. But he had no such reason as Christine for the
continuance of his surprise, and, at once recovering himself, he set
the picture against the wall.
This made the illusion still more strange and terrible to Christine.
There was the dead before her, doing just as she had been
imagining--just what he had done at her bidding months before.
Dennis was greatly puzzled by her look of alarm and distress. Then he
thought that perhaps she feared he would break out in bitter and angry
invectives again, and he advanced toward her to assure her of the
Slowly and instinctively she retreated and put up her hands with a
"She cannot endure the sight of me," thought he, but at once he said,
with dignified courtesy: "Miss Ludolph, you have nothing to fear from
me, that you should regard me in that manner. You need not shrink as
if from contagion. We can treat each other as courteous strangers, at
"I--I--I--thought you were dead!" she gasped, in a loud whisper.
Dennis's cheek grew paler than it had been in all his sickness, and
then as suddenly became dark with anger. His eyes were terrible in
their indignation as he advanced a few paces almost fiercely. She
trembled violently and shrunk further away.
"You thought I was dead?" he asked, sternly.
"Ye-e-s," in the same unnatural whisper.
"What!" he exclaimed, in short and bitter emphasis, "do you mean to
say that you never cared even to ask whether I lived or died in my
long, weary illness?--that you were so supremely indifferent to my
fate that you could not articulate one sentence of inquiry? Surely
this is the very sublimity of heartlessness; this is to be callous
beyond one's power of imagination. It seems to me that I would feel
as much interest as that in any human being I had once known. If even
a dog had licked my hand in good-will, and afterward I had seen it,
wounded or sick, creep off into covert, the next time I passed that
way I would step aside to see whether the poor creature had lived or
died. But after all the wealth of affection that I lavished upon you,
after toiling and almost dying in my vain effort to touch your marble
heart, you have not even the humanity to ask if I am above ground!"
The illusion had now passed from Christine's mind, and with it her
alarm. The true state of the case was rapidly dawning upon her, and
she was about to speak eagerly; but in his strong indignation he
continued, impetuously: "You thought I was dead! The wish probably was
father to the thought. My presumption deserved no better fate. But
permit me to tell you, though all unbidden, I did not die. With God's
blessing I expect to live to a good old age, and intend that but few
years shall pass before my name is as well known and honored as the
ancient one of Ludolph;" and he turned on his heel and strode from the
IF HE KNEW!
For a little time after Dennis's angry tread died away, Christine sat
almost paralyzed by surprise and deeper emotion. Her mind, though
usually clear and rapid in its action, was too confused to realize the
truth. Suddenly she sprang up, gathered together her sketching
materials, and drawing a thick veil over her face sped through the
store, through the streets, to the refuge of her own room. She must
Hastily throwing aside her wrappings, she began to walk up and down
in her excitement. Her listlessness was gone now in very truth, and
her eye and cheek glowed as never before. As if it had become the great
vivifying principle of her own life, she kept repeating continually
in a low, ecstatic tone, "He lives! he lives! he is not dead; his blood
is not upon my conscience!"
At last she sat down in her luxurious chair before the window to think
it all over--to commune with herself--often the habit of the reserved
and solitary. From the disjointed sentences she let fall, from the
reflection of her excited face in yonder glass, we gather quite
correctly the workings of her mind. Her first words were, "Thank heaven!
thank something or other, I have not blotted out that true, strong
Again--"What untold wretchedness I might have saved myself if I had
only asked the question, in a casual way, 'How is Mr. Fleet?' Christine
Ludolph, with all your pride and imagined superiority, you can be very
"How he hates and despises me now! little wonder!"
"But if he knew!"
"Knew what? Why could you not ask after him, as after any other sick
man? You have had a score or so of offers, and did not trouble yourself
as to the fate of the lovelorn swains. Seems to me your conscience has
been very tender in this case. And the fact that he misjudges you,
thinks you callous, heartless, and is angry, troubles you beyond
"When before were you so sensitive to the opinion of clerks and
trades-people, or even the proudest suitors for your hand? But in this
case you must cry out, in a tone of sentimental agony, 'Oh, if he only
Her face in yonder mirror has a strange, introverted expression, as
if she were scanning her own soul. Her brow contracts with thought and
Gradually a warm, beautiful light steals into her face, transforming
it as from the scowl of a winter morning into a dawn of June; her eyes
become gentle and tender. A rich color comes out upon her cheeks,
spreads up her temples, mantles her brow, and pours a crimson torrent
down her snowy neck. Suddenly she drops her burning face into her
hands, and hides a vision one would gladly look longer upon. But see,
even her little ears have become as red as coral.
The bleakest landscape in the world brightens into something like
beauty when the sun shines upon it. So love, the richer, sweeter light
of the soul, make the plainest face almost beautiful; but when it
changed Christine Ludolph's faultless, yet too cold and classical,
features into those of a loving woman's, it suggested a beauty scarcely
A moment later there came a faint whisper: "I fear--I almost fear I
love him." Then she lifted a startled, frightened face and looked
timidly around as if, in truth, walls had ears.
Reassured by the consciousness of solitude, her head dropped on her
wrist and her revery went forward. Her eyes became dreamy, and a
half-smile played upon her lips as she recalled proof after proof of
his affection, for she knew the cruel words of the last interview were
the result of misunderstanding.
But suddenly she darted from her seat and began pacing the room in the
"Mocked again!" she cried; "the same cruel fate! my old miserable
experience in a new aspect! With everything within my reach, save the
one thing I want, I possess the means of all kinds of happiness except
that which makes me happy. In every possible way I am pledged to a
career and future in which he can take no part. Though my heart is
full of the strangest, sweetest chaos, and I do not truly understand
myself, yet I am satisfied that this is not a school-girl's fancy. But
my father would regard it as the old farce repeated. Already he suspects
and frowns upon the matter. I should have to break with him utterly
and forever. I should have to give up all my ambitious plans and
towering hopes of life abroad. A plain Mrs. in this city of shops is
a poor substitute for a countess's coronet and a villa on the Rhine."
Her cheek flushed, and her lip curled.
"That indeed would be the very extravagance of romance, and how could
I, least of all, who so long have scoffed at such things, explain my
action? These mushroom shopkeepers, who were all nobodies the other
day, elevate their eyebrows when a merchant's daughter marries her
father's clerk. But when would the wonder cease if a German lady of
rank followed suit?
"Then again my word, my honor, every sacred pledge I could give, forbids
"Would to heaven I had never seen him, for this unfortunate fancy of
mine must be crushed in its inception; strangled before it comes to
master me as it has mastered him."
After a long and weary sigh she continued: "Well, everything is
favorable for a complete and final break between us. He believes me
heartless and wicked to the last degree. I cannot undeceive him without
showing more than he should know. I have only to avoid him, to say
nothing, and we drift apart.
"If we could only have been friends he might have helped me so much!
but that now is clearly impossible--yes, for both of us.
"Truly one of these American poets was right:
"'For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these--It
might have been.'
"But thanks to the immortal gods, as the pious heathen used to say,
his blood is not on my hands, and this has taken a mountain off my
heart. Thus relieved I can perhaps forget all the miserable business.
Fate forbids that I, as it has forbidden that many another high-born
woman, should marry where she might have loved."
If Christine's heart was wronged, her pride was highly gratified by
this conclusion. Here was a new and strong resemblance between herself
and the great. In mind she recalled the titled unfortunates who had
"loved where they could not marry," and with the air and feeling of
a martyr to ancestral grandeur she pensively added her name to the
With her conscience freed from its burden of remorse, with the
knowledge, so sweet to every woman, that she might accept this happiness
if she would, in spite of her airs of martyrdom, the world had changed
greatly for the better, and with the natural buoyancy of youth she
reacted into quite a cheerful and hopeful state.
Her father noticed this on his return to dinner in the evening, and
sought to learn its cause. He asked, "How did you make out with your
"I made a beginning," she answered, with some little color rising to
"Perhaps you were interrupted?"
"Why did you not tell me that Mr. Fleet had recovered?" she asked,
"Why, did you think he was dead?"
Mr. Ludolph indulged in a hearty laugh (he knew the power of ridicule).
"Well, that is excellent!" he said. "You thought the callow youth had
died on account of your hardness of heart; and this explains your
rather peculiar moods and tenses of late. Let me assure you that a
Yankee never dies from such a cause."
Mr. Ludolph determined if possible to break down her reserve and let
in the garish light, which he knew to be most fatal to all romantic
fancies, that ever thrive best in the twilight of secrecy. But she was
on the alert now, and in relief of mind had regained her poise and the
power to mask her feeling. So she said in a tone tinged with cold
indifference, "You may be right, but I had good reason to believe to
the contrary, and, as I am not altogether without a conscience, you
might have saved much pain by merely mentioning the fact of his
"But you had adjured me with frightful solemnity never to mention his
name again," said her father, still laughing.
Christine colored and bit her lip. She had forgotten for the moment
this awkward fact.
"I was nervous, sick, and not myself that day, and every one I met
could speak of nothing but Mr. Fleet."
"Well, really," he said, "in the long list of the victims that you
have wounded if not slain, I never supposed my clerk and quondam
man-of-all-work would prove so serious a case."
"A truce to your bantering, father! Mr. Fleet is humble only in station,
not in character, not in ability. You know I have never been very
tender with the 'victims,' as you designate them, of the Mellen stamp;
but Mr. Fleet is a man, in the best sense of the word, and one that
I have wronged. Now that the folly is past I may as well explain to
you some things that have appeared strange. I think I can truly say
that I have given those gentlemen who have honored, or rather annoyed
me, by their unwished-for regard, very little encouragement. Therefore,
I was not responsible for any follies they might commit. But for
artistic reasons I did encourage Mr. Fleet's infatuation. You remember
how I failed in making a copy of that picture. In my determination to
succeed, I hit upon the rather novel expedient of inspiring and copying
the genuine thing. You know my imitative power is better than my
imagination, and I thought that by often witnessing the expression of
feeling and passion, I might learn to portray it without the
disagreeable necessity of passing through any such experiences myself.
But the experiment, as you know, did not work well. These living
subjects are hard to manage, and, as I have said, I am troubled by a
Mr. Ludolph's eyes sparkled, and a look of genuine admiration lighted
up his features.
"Brava!" he cried; "your plan was worthy of you and of your ancestry.
It was a real stroke of genius. You were too tender-hearted, otherwise
it would have been perfect. What are the lives of a dozen such young
fellows compared with the development and perfection of such a woman
as you bid fair to be?"
Christine had displayed in this transaction just the qualities that
her father most admired. But even she was shocked at his callousness,
and lifted a somewhat startled face to his.
"Your estimate of human life is rather low," she said.
"Not at all. Is not one perfect plant better than a dozen imperfect
ones? The gardener often pulls up the crowding and inferior ones to
throw them about the roots of the strongest, that in their death and
decay they may nourish it to the highest development. The application
of this principle is evident. They secure most in this world who have
the skill and power to grasp most."
"But how about the rights of others? Conscious men and women are not
"Let them be on their guard then. Every one is for himself in this
world. That can be plainly seen through the thin disguises that some
try to assume. After all, half the people we meet are little better
than summer weeds."
Christine almost shuddered to think that the one bound to her by closest
ties cherished such sentiments toward the world, and probably, to a
certain extent, toward herself, but she only said, quietly: "I can
hardly subscribe to your philosophy as yet, though I fear I act upon
it too often. Still it does not apply to Mr. Fleet. He is gifted in
no ordinary degree, and doubtless will stand high here in his own land
in time. And now, as explanation has been made, with your permission
we will drop this subject out of our conversation as before."
"Well," said Mr. Ludolph to himself, between sips of his favorite Rhine
wine, "I have gained much light on the subject to-night, and I must
confess that, even with my rather wide experience, the whole thing is
a decided novelty. If Christine were only less troubled with conscience,
over-fastidiousness, or whatever it is--if she were more moderate in
her ambition as an artist, and could be satisfied with power and
admiration, as other women are--what a star she might become in the
fashionable world of Europe! But, for some reason, I never feel sure
of her. Her spirit is so wilful and obstinate, and she seems so full
of vague longing after an ideal, impossible world, that I live in
constant dread that she may be led into some folly fatal to my ambition.
This Fleet is a most dangerous fellow. I wish I were well rid of him;
still, matters are not so bad as I feared--that is, if she told me the
whole truth, which I am inclined to doubt. But I had better keep him
in my employ during the few months we still remain in this land, as
I can watch over him, and guard against his influence better than if
he were beyond my control. But no more promotion or encouragement does
he get from me."
Janette, Christine's French maid, passed the open door. The thought
struck Mr. Ludolph that he might secure an ally in her.
The unscrupulous creature was summoned, and agreed for no very large
sum to become a spy upon Christine, and report anything looking toward
friendly relations with Dennis Fleet.
"The game is still in my hands," said the wary man. "I will yet steer
my richly-freighted argosy up the Rhine. Here's to Christine, the belle
of the German court!" and he filled a slender Venetian glass to the
brim, drained it, and then retired.
Christine, on reaching her room, muttered to herself: "He now knows
all that I mean he ever shall. We are one in our ambition, if nothing
else, and therefore our relations must be to a certain degree
confidential and amicable. And now forget you have a conscience, forget
you have a heart, and, above all things, forget that you have ever
seen or known Dennis Fleet."
Thus the influence of a false education, a proud, selfish, ambitious
life, decided her choice. She plunged as resolutely into the whirl of
fashionable gayety about her as she had in the dissipations of New
York, determined to forget the past, and kill the time that must
intervene before she could sail away to her brilliant future in Germany.
But she gradually learned that, if conscience had robbed her of peace
before, something else disturbed her now, and rendered her efforts
futile. She found that there was a principle at work in her heart
stronger even than her resolute will. In spite of her purpose to the
contrary, she caught herself continually thinking of Dennis, and
indulging in strange, delicious reveries in regard to him.
At last she ceased to shun the store as she had done at first, but with
increasing frequency found some necessity for going there.
After the interview in the show-room, Dennis was driven to the bitter
conclusion that Christine was utterly heartless, and cared not a jot
for him. His impression was confirmed by the fact that she shunned the
store, and that he soon heard of her as a belle and leader in the
ultra-fashionable world. He, too, bitterly lamented that he had ever
seen her, and was struggling with all the power of his will to forget
her. He fiercely resolved that, since she wished him dead, she should
become dead to him.
Almost immediately after his return he had discovered that the two
emblematical pictures had been removed from the loft over the store.
He remembered that he had spoken of them to Christine, and from Ernst
he gathered that she herself had taken them away. It was possible, he
believed, that she had made them the subject of ridicule. At best she
must have destroyed them in order to blot out all trace of a
disagreeable episode. Whatever may have been their fate, they had, as
he thought, failed in their purpose, and were worthless to him, and
he was far too proud to make inquiries.
As the weeks passed on, he apparently succeeded better than she. There
was nothing in her character, as she then appeared, that appealed to
anything gentle or generous. She seemed so proud, so strong and resolute
in her choice of evil, so devoid of the true womanly nature, as he had
learned to reverence it in his mother, that he could not pity, much
less respect her, and even his love could scarcely survive under such
When she began coming to the store again, though his heart beat thick
and fast at her presence, he turned his back and seemed not to see
her, or made some errand to a remote part of the building. At first
she thought this might be accident, but she soon found it a resolute
purpose to ignore her very existence. By reason of a trait peculiar
to Christine, this was only the more stimulating. She craved all the
more that which was seemingly denied.
Accustomed to every gratification, to see all yield to her wishes, and
especially to find gentlemen almost powerless to resist her beauty,
she came to regard this one stern, averted face as infinitely more
attractive than all the rest in the world.
"That he so steadily avoids me proves that he is anything but
indifferent," she said to herself one day.
She condemned her visits to the store, and often reproached herself
with folly in going; but a secret powerful magnetism drew her thither
in spite of herself.
Dennis, too, soon noticed that she came often, and the fact awakened
a faint hope within him. He learned that his love was not dead, but
only chilled and chained by circumstances and his own strong will.
True, apart from the fact of her coming, she gave him no encouragement.
She was as distant and seemingly oblivious of his existence as he of
hers, but love can gather hope from a marvellously little thing.
But one day Christine detected her father watching her movements with
the keenest scrutiny, and after that she came more and more rarely.
The hope that for a moment had tinged the darkness surrounding Dennis
died away like the meteor's transient light.
He went into society very little after his illness, and shunned large
companies. He preferred to spend his evenings with his mother and in
study. The Winthrops were gone, having removed to their old home in
Boston, and he had not formed very intimate acquaintances elsewhere.
Moreover, his limited circle, though of the best and most refined, was
not one in which Christine often appeared.
But one evening his cheek paled and his heart fluttered as he saw her
entering the parlors of a lady by whom he had been invited to meet a
few friends. For some little time he studiously avoided her, but at
last his hostess, with well-meant zeal, formally presented him.
They bowed very politely and very coldly. The lady surmised that
Christine did not care about the acquaintance of her father's clerk,
and so brought them no more together. But Christine was pained by
Dennis's icy manner, and saw that she was thoroughly misunderstood.
When asked to sing, she chose a rather significant ditty:
"Ripple, sparkle, rapid stream,
Let your dancing wavelets gleam
Quiveringly and bright;
Children think the surface glow
Reaches to the depth below,
Hidden from the light.
"Human faces often seem
Like the sparkle of the stream,
In the social glare;
Some assert, in wisdom's guise,
(Look they not with children's eyes?)
All is surface there."
As she rose from the piano her glance met his with something like
meaning in it, he imagined. He started, flushed, and his face became
full of eager questioning. But her father was on the watch also, and,
placing his daughter's hand within his arm, he led her into the front
parlor, and soon after they pleaded another engagement and vanished
No chance for explanation came, and soon a new and all-absorbing anxiety
filled Dennis's heart, and the shadow of the greatest sorrow that he
had yet experienced daily drew nearer.
THE GATES OPEN
At Dennis's request, Dr. Arten called and carefully inquired into Mrs.
Fleet's symptoms. Her son stood anxiously by awaiting the result of
the examination. At last the physician said, cheerily: "There is no
immediate occasion for alarm here. I am sorry to say that your mother's
lungs are far from strong, but they may carry her through many
comfortable years yet. I will prescribe tonics, and you may hope for
the best. But mark this well, she must avoid exposure. A severe cold
might be most serious in its consequences."
How easy to say, "Do not take cold!" How many whose lives were at stake
have sought to obey the warning, but all in vain! Under Dr. Arten's
tonics, Mrs. Fleet grew stronger, and Dennis rejoiced over the
improvement. But, in one of the sudden changes attendant on the breaking
up of winter, the dreaded cold was taken, and it soon developed into
For a few days she was very ill, and Dennis never left her side. In
the intervals of pain and fever she would smile at him and whisper:
"The harbor is near. This rough weather cannot last much longer."
"Mother, do not leave us; we cannot spare you," ever pleaded her son.
Contrary to her expectations, however, she rallied, but continued in
a very feeble state. Dennis was able to resume his duties in the store,
and he hoped and tried to believe that the warm spring and summer days
soon to come would renew his mother's strength. But every day she grew
feebler, and Dr. Arten shook his head.
The Bruders were very kind, and it was astonishing how much Mrs. Bruder,
though burdened with her large family, found time to do. If Mrs. Fleet
had been her own mother she could not have bestowed upon her more
loving solicitude. Mr. Bruder was devotion itself. He removed his easel
to an attic-room in Mrs. Fleet's house; and every hour of Dennis's
absence heard him say: "Vat I do for you now? I feel no goot unless
I do someding."
Some little time after Mrs. Fleet was taken sick a mystery arose. The
most exquisite flowers and fruits were left at the house from time to
time, marked in a bold, manly hand, "For Mrs. Fleet." But all efforts
to discover their source failed.
The reader will guess that Christine was the donor, and Dennis hoped
it--though, he admitted to himself, with little reason.
Mrs. Fleet had not much pain. She seemed gently wafted as by an ebbing
tide away from time and earth, Kindly but firmly she sought to prepare
Dennis's mind for the change soon to take place. At first he could not
endure its mention, but she said, earnestly: "My son, I am not dying.
I am just entering on the true, real, eternal life--a life which is
as much beyond this poor feeble existence as the sun is brighter than
a glow-worm. I shall soon clasp my dear husband to my heart again,
and, oh, ecstasy! I shall soon in reality see the Saviour whom I now
see almost continually in vision."
Then again she would turn toward her earthly treasures with unutterable
yearning and tenderness.
"Oh, that I could gather you up in my arms and take you all with me!"
she would often exclaim. Many times during the day she would call the
little girls from their play and kiss their wondering faces.
One evening Dennis came home and found a vase of flowers with a green
background of mint at his mother's bedside. Their delicate fragrance
greeted him as soon as he entered. As he sat by her side holding her
hand, he said, softly: "Mother, are not these sprays of mint rather
unusual in a bouquet? Has the plant any special meaning? I have noticed
it before mingled with these mysterious flowers."
She smiled and answered, "When I was a girl its language was, 'Let us
be friends again.'"
"Do you think--can it be possible that _she_ sends them?" said he, in a
low, hesitating tone.
"Prayer is mighty, my son."
"And have you been praying for her all this time, mother?"
"Yes, and will continue to do so to the last."
"Oh, mother! I have lost hope. My heart has been full of bitterness
toward her, and I have felt that God was against it all."
"God is not against her learning to know Him, which is life. Jesus has
loved her all the time, and she has wronged Him more than she has you."
Dennis bowed his head on his mother's hand, and she felt hot tears
fall upon it. At last he murmured: "You are indeed going to heaven
soon, dear mother, for your language is not of earth. When will such
a spirit dwell within me?"
"Again remember your mother's words," she answered, gently; "prayer
"Mother," said he, with a sudden earnestness, "do you think you can
pray for us in heaven?"
"I know of no reason to the contrary."
"Then I know you will, and the belief will ever be a source of hope
Mrs. Fleet was now passing through the land of Beulah. To her strong
spiritual vision, the glories of the other shore seemed present, and
at times she thought that she really heard music; again it would seem
as if her Saviour had entered the plain little room, as He did the
humble home at Bethany.
Her thoughts ran much on Christine. One day she wrote, feebly:
"Would Miss Ludolph be willing to come and see a dying woman?
Mr. Bruder carried it, but most unfortunately Christine was out, so
that her maid, ever on the alert to earn the price of her treachery,
received it. It was slightly sealed. She opened it, and saw from its
contents that it must be given to Mr. Ludolph. He with a frown committed
it to the flames.
"I have written to her," she whispered to her son in the evening, "and
think she will come to see me."
Dennis was sleepless that night, through his hope and eager expectation.
The following day, and the next passed, and she came not.
"I was right," exclaimed he, bitterly. "She is utterly heartless. It
was not she who sent the flowers. Who that is human would have refused
such a request! Waste no more thought upon her, for she is unworthy,
and it is all in vain." "No!" said Mrs. Fleet in sudden energy. "It
is not in vain. Have I not prayed again and again? and shall I doubt
"Your faith is stronger than mine," he answered, in deep despondency.
"God's time is not always ours," she answered, gently.
But an angry fire lurked in Dennis's eyes, and he muttered to himself
as he went to his room: "She has snapped the last slender cord that
bound me to her. I could endure almost anything myself, but that she
should refuse to visit my dying mother proves her a monster, with all
As he was leaving the house in the morning, his mother whispered,
gently, "Who was it that said, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what
"Ah, but she does know," said he, bitterly. "I can forgive nearly
everything against myself, but not slights to you."
"The time will come when you will forgive everything, my son."
"Not till there is acknowledgment and sorrow for the wrong," answered
he, sternly. Then with a sudden burst of tenderness he added: "Good-by,
darling mother. I will try to do anything you wish, even though it is
impossible;" but his love, through Janette's treachery, suffered the
deepest wound it had yet received.
Christine of her own accord had almost decided to call upon Mrs. Fleet,
but before she could carry out her purpose while hastily coming
downstairs one day, she sprained her ankle, and was confined to her
room some little time.
She sent Janette with orders for the flowers, who, at once surmising
their destination, said to the florist that she was Miss Ludolph's
confidential maid, and would carry them to those for whom they were
designed. He, thinking it "all right," gave them to her, and she took
them to a Frenchman in the same trade whom she knew, and sold them at
half-price, giving him a significant sign to ask no questions. To the
same market she brought the fruit; so from that time they ceased as
mysteriously as they had appeared at Mrs. Fleet's bedside.
But Dennis was so anxious, and his mother was now failing so rapidly,
that he scarcely noted this fact. The warm spring days seemed rather
to enervate than to strengthen her. He longed to stay with her
constantly, but his daily labor was necessary to secure the comforts
needful to an invalid. Every morning he bade her a most tender adieu,
and during the day often sent Ernst to inquire how she was.
One evening Christine ventured to send Janette on the same errand and
impatiently awaited her return. At last she came, appearing as if
flushed and angry.
"Whom did you see?" asked Christine, eagerly.
"I saw Mr. Fleet himself."
"Well, what did he say?"
"He bite his lip, frown, and say, 'Zere is no answer,' and turn on his
heel into ze house."
It was now Christine's turn to be angry. "What!" she exclaimed, "does
his Bible teach him to forget and forgive nothing? Can it be that he,
like the rest of them, believes and acts on only such parts as are to
"I don't know nothing about him," said the maid, "only I don't want
to go zere again."
"You need not," was the brief reply.
After a long, bitter revery, she sighed: "Ah, well, thus we drift
apart. But it is just as well, for apart we must ever be."
One morning early in May Mrs. Fleet was very weak, and Dennis left her
with painful misgivings. During the morning he sent Ernst to see how
she was, and he soon returned, with wild face, crying, "Come home
Breaking abruptly from his startled customer, Dennis soon reached his
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