Barriers Burned Away
E. P. Roe
Part 7 out of 9
mother's side. Mr. and Mrs. Bruder were sobbing at the foot of the
bed, and the girls were pleading piteously on either side--"Oh, mother!
please don't go away!"
"Hush!" said Dennis, solemnly. Awed by his manner, all became
comparatively silent. He bent over the bed, and said, "Mother, you are
The voice of her beloved son rallied the dying woman's wandering mind.
After a moment she recognized him, smiled faintly, and whispered: "Yes,
I think I am--kiss me--good-by. Bring--the children. Jesus--take
care--my little--lambs. Good-by--true--honest friends--meet me--heaven.
Dennis--these children--your charge--bring them home--to me. Pray for
_her_. I don't know--why--she seems very--near to me. Farewell--my
good--true--son--mother's blessing--God's blessing--ever rest--on you."
Her eyes closed, and she fell into a gentle sleep.
"She vake no more in dis vorld," said Mrs. Bruder, in an awed tone.
Mr. Bruder, unable to control his feelings any longer, hurried from
the room. His wife, with streaming eyes, silently dressed the little
girls, and took them home with her, crying piteously all the way for
Pale, tearless, motionless, Dennis sat, hour after hour holding his
mother's hand. He noted that her pulse grew more and more feeble. At
last the sun in setting broke through the clouds that had obscured it
all day, and filled the room with a sudden glory.
To Dennis's great surprise, his mother's eyes opened wide, with the
strange, far-off look they ever had when she was picturing to herself
the unknown world.
Her lips moved. He bent over her and caught the words: "Hark! hear!--It
never was so sweet before. See the angels--thronging toward me--they
never came so near before."
Then a smile of joy and welcome lighted up her wan features, and she
whispered, "Oh, Dennis, husband--are we once more united?"
Suddenly there was a look of ecstasy such as her son had never seen
on any human face, and she cried almost aloud, "Jesus--my Saviour!"
and received, as it were, directly into His arms, she passed from
We touch briefly on the scenes that followed. Dennis took the body of
his mother to her old home, and buried it under the wide-spreading elm
in the village churchyard, where as a happy child and blooming maiden
she had often sat between the services. It was his purpose to remove
the remains of his father and place them by her side as soon as he
could afford it.
His little sisters accompanied him east, and he found a home for them
with a sister of his mother, who was a good, kind, Christian lady.
Dennis's salary was not large, but sufficient to insure that his sisters
would be no burden to his aunt, who was in rather straitened
circumstances. He also arranged that the small annuity should be paid
for their benefit.
It was hard parting from his sisters, whose little hearts seemed
breaking at what appeared to them to be a new bereavement.
"How can I leave them!" he exclaimed, with tears falling fast from his
"They are children," said his aunt, soothingly, "and will forget their
troubles in a few days."
And so it proved; but Dennis, with a sore heart, and feeling very
lonely, returned to Chicago.
When at last Christine got out again, she learned from Ernst at the
store that Dennis's mother had died, and that he had taken the remains
and his sisters east. In his sorrow he seemed doubly interesting to
"How I wish it were in my power to cheer and comfort him!" she sighed,
"and yet I fear my ability to do this is less than that of any one
else. In very truth he seems to despise and hate me now. The barriers
between us grow stronger and higher every day. How different it all
might have been if--. But what is the use of these wretched 'ifs'?
What is the use of resisting this blind, remorseless fate that brings
happiness to one and crushes another?"
Wearily and despondingly she rode back to the elegant home in which
she found so little enjoyment.
Whom should she met there but Mrs. Von Brakhiem from New York, bound
westward with a gay party on a trip to the Rocky Mountains and
California? They had stopped to spend a few days in Chicago, and were
determined to take Christine on with them. Her father strongly seconded
the plan. Though Christine surmised his motive, she did not care to
resist. Since she would soon be separated from Dennis forever, the
less she saw of him the less would be the pain. Moreover, her sore and
heavy heart welcomed any change that would cause forgetfulness; and
so it was speedily arranged.
Mrs. Von Brakhiem and her party quite took possession of the Ludolph
mansion, and often made it echo with gayety.
On the evening of the day that Dennis buried his mother, Ernst went over
at Mr. Ludolph's request to carry a message. He found the house
the scene of a fashionable revel. There were music and dancing in the
parlors, and from the dining-room the clink of glasses and loud peals
of laughter proved that this was not Christine's ideal of an
entertainment as she had portrayed it to her father on a former
occasion. In truth, she had little to do with the affair; it was quite
impromptu, and Mr. Ludolph and Mrs. Von Brakhiem were responsible for
But Ernst could not know this, and to him it seemed shocking. The
simple funeral service taking place on that day in the distant New
England village had never been absent from his thoughts a moment. Since
early morning he had gone about with his little face composed to
His simple, warm-hearted parents felt that they could only show proper
respect for the occasion by the deepest gloom. Their rooms were arranged
in stiff and formal manner, with crape here and there. All unnecessary
work ceased, and the children, forbidden to play, were dressed in
mourning as far as possible, and made to sit in solemn and dreadful
state all day. It would not have surprised Ernst if the whole city had
gone into mourning. Therefore the revelry at the Ludolph mansion seemed
to him heartless and awful beyond measure, and nearly the first things
he told Dennis on the latter's return was that they had had "a great
dancing and drinking party, the night of the funeral, at Mr. Ludolph's."
Then, trying to find some explanation for what seemed to him such a
strange and wicked thing, he suggested, "Perhaps they meant it for a
Poor little Ernst's ideas of the world, outside of his home, had been
gathered from a very low neighborhood.
He also handed Dennis a letter that Mr. Ludolph requested should be
given him on his return. It read as follows:
"CHICAGO, May 6, 1871.
"I have been compelled to supply your place in your absence: therefore
your services will be no longer needed at this store. Inclosed you
will find a check for the small balance still due you,
Dennis's brow grew very dark, and in bitter soliloquy he said, half
aloud, as he strode up and down his little room in great agitation:
"And so it all ends! The girl at whose side my mother would have watched
in the most dangerous and loathsome of diseases; the woman of ice whom
I sought to melt and render human by as warm, true love as ever man
lavished on one who rewarded his affection--this beautiful monster
will not even visit my mother when dying; she holds a revel on the day
of the funeral; and now, through her influence no doubt, I am robbed
of the chance of winning honest bread. She cannot even endure the sight
of the man who once told her the unvarnished truth. Poor as you deem
me, Christine Ludolph, with God's help not many years shall pass before
it will be condescension on my part to recognize you."
He would not even go to the store again. The Bruders, having heard
what had occurred, took Ernst away also; but Dennis soon found him a
better situation elsewhere.
The day on which Dennis returned, Christine was speeding in a palace-car
toward the Rocky Mountains, outwardly gay, determined to enjoy herself
and carry out her reckless purpose to get the most possible out of
life, cost what it might.
If she had been a shallow girl, thoughtless and vain, with only mind
enough to take in the events of the passing moment, she might have
bought many fleeting pleasures with her abundant wealth. But this she
was not, with all her faults, and wherever she went, in the midst of
gayest scenes, and in the presence of the grandest and most inspiring
scenery, thought and memory, like two spectres that no spell could lay,
haunted her and robbed her of peace and any approach to happiness.
Though possessing the means of gratifying every whim, though restrained
by no scruples from doing what she chose, she felt that all around
were getting more from life than she.
During her absence she experienced a sudden and severe attack of
illness. Her friends were much alarmed about her, and she far more
about herself. All her old terror returned. In one respect she was
like her mother; she had no physical courage, but shrank with
inexpressible dread from danger, pain, and death. Again the blackness
of darkness gathered round her, and not one in the gay pleasure party
could say a word to comfort her.
She recovered, and soon regained her usual health, but her
self-confidence was more thoroughly shaken. She felt like one in a
little cockle-shell boat out upon a shoreless ocean. While the
treacherous sea remained calm, all might be well, but she knew that
a storm would soon arise, and that she must go down, beyond remedy.
Again she had been taught how suddenly, how unexpectedly, that storm
Dennis resolved at once to enter on the career of an artist. He sold
to Mr. French, at a moderate price, some paintings and sketches he had
made. He rented a small room that became his studio,
sleeping-apartment--in brief, his home, and then went to work with all
the ordinary incentives to success intensified by his purpose to reach
a social height that would compel Christine to look upward if their
acquaintance were renewed.
Disappointment in love is one of the severest tests of character in
man or woman. Some sink into weak sentimentality, and mope and languish;
some become listless, apathetic, and float down the current of existence
like driftwood. Men are often harsh and cynical, and rail at the sex
to which their mothers and sisters belong. Sometimes a man inflicts
a wellnigh fatal wound and leaves his victim to cure it as best she
may. From that time forth she may be like the wronged Indian, who slays
as many white men as he can. Not a few, on finding they cannot enter
the beautiful paradise of happy love, plunge into imbruting vice, and
drown not only their disappointment but themselves in dissipation.
Their course is like that of some who deem that the best way to cure
a wound or end a disease is to kill the patient as soon as possible.
If women have true metal in them (and they usually have) they become
unselfishly devoted to others, and by gentle, self-denying ways seek
to impart to those about them the happiness denied to themselves.
But with all manly young men the instinct of Dennis is perhaps the
most common. They will rise, shine, and dazzle the eyes that once
looked scornfully or indifferently at them.
As he worked patiently at his noble calling this smaller ambition was
gradually lost in the nobler, broader one, to be a true artist and a
During his illness some gentlemen of large wealth and liberality, who
wished to stimulate and develop the native artistic talent of their
city, offered a prize of two thousand dollars for the finest picture
painted during the year, the artist also having the privilege of selling
On his return after his illness Dennis heard of this, and determined
to be one of the competitors. He applied to Mr. Cornell, who had the
matter in charge, for permission to enter the lists, which that
gentleman granted rather doubtfully. He had known Dennis only as a
critic, not as an artist. But having gained his point, Dennis went
earnestly to work on the emblematic painting he had resolved upon, and
with what success the following chapters will show.
His mother's sickness and death, of course, put a complete shop to his
artistic labors for a time, but when entering on his new career, he
gave himself wholly to this effort.
The time for exhibition and decision was fixed--Saturday morning October
SUSIE WINTHROP APPEARS AGAIN
Our story passes rapidly over the scenes and events of the summer and
fall of '71. Another heavy blow fell upon Dennis in the loss of his
old friend and instructor, Mr. Bruder.
By prayer and effort, his own and others, he was saved morally and
spiritually, but he had been greatly shattered by past excess. He was
attacked by typhoid fever, and after a few days' illness died. Recovery
from this disease depends largely upon strength and purity of
constitution. But every one of the innumerable glasses of liquor that
poor Bruder had swallowed had helped to rob him of these, and so there
was no power to resist.
Under her husband's improved finances, Mrs. Bruder had removed to
comfortable lodgings in Harrison Street, and these she determined to
keep if possible, dreading for the sake of her children the influences
a crowded tenement house. Dennis stood by her, a stanch and helpful
friend; Ernst was earning a good little sum weekly, and by her needle
and washtub the patient woman continued the hard battle of life with
fair prospects of success.
Dennis's studio was on the south side, at the top of a tall building
overlooking the lake. Even before the early summer sun rose above the
shining waves he was at his easel, and so accomplished what is a fair
day's work before many of his profession had left their beds. Though
he worked hard and long, he still worked judiciously. Bent upon
accomplishing what was almost impossible within the limited time
remaining, he determined that, with all his labor, Dr. Arten should
never charge him with suicidal tendencies again. Therefore he trained
himself mentally and morally for his struggle as the athlete trains
He believed in the truth, too little recognized among brain-workers,
that men can develop themselves into splendid mental conditions, wherein
they can accomplish almost double their ordinary amount of labor.
The year allotted to the competitors for the prize to be given in
October was all too short for such a work as he had attempted, and
through his own, his mother's, and Mr. Bruder's illness, he had lost
a third of the time, but in the careful and skilful manner indicated
he was trying to make it up. He had a long conversation with shrewd
old Dr. Arten, who began to take a decided interest in him. He also
read several books on hygiene. Thus he worked under the guidance of
reason, science, Christian principle, instead of mere impulse, as is
too often the case with genius.
In the absorption of his task he withdrew utterly from society, and,
with the exception of his mission class, Christian worship on the
Sabbath, and attendance on a little prayer-meeting in a neglected
quarter during the week, he permitted no other demands upon his time
His pictures had sold for sufficient to provide for his sisters and
enable him to live, with close economy, till after the prize was given,
and then, if he did not gain it (of which he was not at all sure), his
painting would sell for enough to meet future needs.
And so we leave him for a time earnestly at work. He was like a ship
that had been driven hither and thither, tempest-tossed and in danger.
At last, under a clear sky and in smooth water, it finds its true
bearings, and steadily pursues its homeward voyage.
The Christine whom he had first learned to love in happy
unconsciousness, while they arranged the store together, became a
glorified, artistic ideal. The Christine whom he had learned to know
as false and heartless was now to him a strange, fascinating, unwomanly
creature, beautiful only as the Sirens were beautiful, that he might
wreck himself body and soul before her unpitying eyes. He sought to
banish all thought of her.
Christine returned about midsummer. She was compelled to note, as she
neared her native city, that of all the objects it contained Dennis
Fleet was uppermost in her thoughts. She longed to go to the store and
see him once more, even though it should be only at a distance, with
not even the shadow of recognition between them. She condemned it all
as folly, and worse than vain, but that made no difference to her
heart, which would have its way.
Almost trembling with excitement she entered the Art Building the next
day, and glanced around with a timidity that was in marked contrast
to her usual cold and critical regard. But, as the reader knows, Dennis
Fleet was not to be seen. From time to time she went again, but neither
he nor Ernst appeared. She feared that for some reason he had gone,
and determined to learn the truth. Throwing off the strange timidity
and restraint that ever embarrassed her where he was concerned, she
said to Mr. Schwartz one day: "I don't like the way that picture is
hung. Where is Mr. Fleet? I believe he has charge of that department."
"Why, bless you! Miss Ludolph," replied Mr. Schwartz, with a look of
surprise, "Mr. Ludolph discharged him over two months ago."
"Discharged him! what for?"
"For being away too much, I heard," said old Schwartz, with a shrug
indicating that that might be the reason and might not.
Christine came to the store but rarely thereafter, for it had lost its
chief element of interest. That evening she said to her father, "You
have discharged Mr. Fleet?"
"Yes," was the brief answer.
"May I ask the reason?"
"He was away too much."
"That is not the real reason," she said, turning suddenly upon him.
"Father, what is the use of treating me as a child? What is the use
of trying to lock things up and keep them from me? I intend to go to
Germany with you this fall, and that is sufficient."
With a courtly smile Mr. Ludolph replied, "And I have lived long enough,
my daughter, to know that what people _intend_, and what they _do_ are
two very different things."
She flushed angrily and said: "It was most unjust to discharge him as
you did. Do you not remember that he offered his mother's services as
nurse when I was dreading the smallpox?"
"You are astonishingly grateful in this case," said her father, with
a meaning that Christine understood too well; "but, if you will read
the records of the Ludolph race, you will find that its representatives
have often been compelled to do things somewhat arbitrarily. Since you
have been gone, I have received letters announcing the death of my
brother and his wife. I am now Baron Ludolph!"
But Christine was too angry and too deeply wounded to note this
information, which at one time would have elated her beyond measure.
She coldly said, "It is a pity that noblemen are compelled to aught
but noble deeds"; and, with this parting arrow, she left him.
Even her father winced, and then with a heavy frown said, "It is well
that this Yankee youth has vanished; still, the utmost vigilance is
Again he saw the treacherous maid and promised increased reward if she
would be watchful, and inform him of every movement of Christine.
In the unobtrusive ways that her sensitive pride permitted, Christine
tried to find out what had become of Dennis, but vainly. She offered
her maid a large reward if she would discover him, but she had been
promised a larger sum not to find him, and so did not. The impression
was given that he had left the city, and Christine feared, with a
sickening dread, that she would never see him again. But one evening
Mr. Cornell stated a fact in a casual way that startled both Mr. and
He was calling at their house, and they were discussing the coming
exhibition of the pictures which would compete for the prize.
"By the way, your former clerk and porter is among the competitors;
at least he entered the lists last spring, but I have lost sight of
him since. I imagine he has given it up, and betaken himself to tasks
more within the range of his ability."
The eyes of father and daughter met, but she turned to Mr. Cornell,
and said, coolly, though with a face somewhat flushed, "And has Chicago
so much artistic talent that a real genius has no chance here?"
"I was not aware that Mr. Fleet was a genius," answered Mr. Cornell.
"I think that he will satisfy you on that point, and that you will
hear from him before the exhibition takes place."
Mr. Ludolph hastily changed the subject, but he had forebodings as to
Christine went to her room, and thought for a long time; suddenly she
arose, exclaiming, "He told me his story once on canvas; I will now
tell him mine."
She at once stretched the canvas on a frame for a small picture, and
placed it on an easel, that she might commence with dawn of day.
During the following weeks she worked scarcely less earnestly and
patiently than Dennis. The door was locked when she painted, and before
she left the studio the picture was hidden.
She meant to send it anonymously, so that not even her father should
know its authorship. She hoped that Dennis would recognize it.
When she was in the street her eyes began to have an eager, wistful
look, as if she was seeking some one. She often went to galleries, and
other resorts of artists, but in vain, for she never met him, though
at times the distance between them was less than between Evangeline
and her lover, when she heard the dip of his oar in her dream. Though
she knew that if she met him she would probably give not one encouraging
glance, yet the instinct of her heart was just as strong.
Mr. Ludolph told the maid that she must find out what Christine was
painting, and she tried to that degree that she wakened suspicion.
On one occasion Christine turned suddenly on her, and said: "What do
you mean? If I find you false--if I have even good reason to suspect
you--I will turn you into the street, though it be at midnight!"
And the maid learned, as did Mr. Ludolph, that she was not dealing
with a child.
During Monday, October 2, Dennis was employed all the long day in
giving the finishing touches to his picture. It was not worked up as
finely as he could have wished; time did not permit this. But he had
brought out his thought vividly, and his drawings were full of power.
On the following Saturday the prize would be given.
In the evening he walked out for air and exercise. As he was passing
one of the large hotels, he heard his name called. Turning, he saw on
the steps, radiant with welcome, his old friend, Susie Winthrop. Her
hand was on the arm of a tall gentleman, who seemed to have eyes for her
only. But in her old impulsive way she ran down the steps, and
gave Dennis a grasp of the hand that did his lonely heart good. Then,
leading him to the scholarly-looking gentleman, who was gazing through
his glasses in mild surprise, she said: "Professor Leonard, my husband,
Mr. Fleet. This is the Dennis Fleet I have told you about so often."
"Oh-h," said the professor, in prolonged accents, while a genial light
shone through his gold spectacles. "Mr. Fleet, we are old acquaintances,
though we have never met before. If I were a jealous man, you are the
only one I should fear."
"And we mean to make you wofully jealous to-night, for I intend to
have Mr. Fleet dine with us and spend the evening. Wo, I will take no
excuse, no denial. This infatuated man will do whatever I bid him, and
he is a sort of Greek athlete. If you do not come right along I shall
command him to lay violent hands on you and drag you ignominiously in."
Dennis was only too glad to accept, but merely wished to make a better
"I have just come from my studio," he said.
"And you wish to go and divest yourself of all artistic flavor and
become commonplace. Do you imagine I will permit it? No! so march in
as my captive. Who ever heard of disputing the will of a bride? This
man" (pointing up to the tall professor) "never dreams of it."
Dennis learned that she was on her wedding trip, and saw that she was
happily married, and proud of her professor, as he of her.
With feminine tact she drew his story from him, and yet it was but a
meagre, partial story, like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out,
for he tried to be wholly silent on his love and disappointment. But
in no respect did he deceive Mrs. Leonard. Her husband went away for
a little time. In his absence she asked, abruptly, "Have you seen Miss
"No!" said Dennis, with a tell-tale flush. Seeing her look of sympathy,
and knowing her to be such a true friend, the impulsive young man gave
his confidence almost before he knew it. She was just the one to inspire
trust, and he was very lonely, having had no one to whom he could speak
his deeper feelings since his mother died.
"Miss Ludolph wronged me in a way that a man finds it hard to forget
or forgive," he said, in a low, bitter tone; "but I should have tried
to do both had she not treated my mother most inhumanly;" and he told
his story over again with Hamlet in.
Mrs. Leonard listened with breathless interest, and then said: "She
is a strange girl, and that plan of making you her unconscious model
is just like her, though it was both cruel and wicked. And yet Mr.
Fleet, with shame for my sex I admit it, how many would have flirted
with you to the same degree from mere vanity and love of excitement!
I have seen Miss Ludolph, and I cannot understand her. We are no longer
the friends we once were, but I cannot think her utterly heartless.
She is bent upon becoming a great artist at any cost, and I sometimes
think she would sacrifice herself as readily as any one else for this
purpose. She looks to me as if she had suffered, and she has lost much
of her old haughty, cold manner, save when something calls it out.
Even in the drawing-room she was abstracted, as if her thoughts were
far away. You are a man of honor, and it is due that you should know
the following facts. Indeed I do not think that they are a secret any
longer, and at any rate they will soon be known. If Mr. Ludolph were
in Germany he would be a noble. It is his intention to go there this
fall, and take his wealth and Christine with him, and assert his
ancestral titles and position. Christine could not marry in this land
without incurring her father's curse, and I think she has no disposition
to do that--her ambition is fully in accord with his."
"Yes," said Dennis, bitterly, "and where other women have hearts, she
has ambition only."
The professor returned and the subject was dropped.
Dennis said, on taking his leave: "I did not expect to show any one
my picture till it was placed on exhibition with the others, but, if
you care to see it, you may to-morrow. Perhaps you can make some
suggestions that will help me."
They eagerly accepted the invitation, and came the following morning.
Dennis watched them with much solicitude. When once they understood
his thought, their delight and admiration knew no bounds. The professor
turned and stared at him as if he were an entirely different person
from the unpretending youth who had been introduced on the preceding
"If you do not get the prize," he said, sententiously, "you have a
great deal of artistic talent in Chicago."
"'A Daniel come to judgment!'" cried his wife.
SUGGESTIVE PICTURES AND A PRIZE
At last the day of the exhibition dawned. Dennis had sent his picture,
directed to Mr. Cornell, with his own name in an envelope nailed to
its back. No one was to know who the artists were till after the
decision was given. Christine had sent hers also, but no name whatever
was in the envelope attached to it.
At an early hour, the doors were thrown open for all who chose to come.
The committee of critics had ample time given them for their decision,
and at one o'clock this was to be announced.
Although Dennis went rather early, he found that Christine was there
before him. She stood with Professor and Mrs. Leonard, Mr. Cornell,
and her father, before his picture, fie could only see her side face,
and she was glancing from the printed explanation in the catalogue to
the painting. Mrs. Leonard was also at her side, seeing to it that no
point was unnoted. Christine's manner betrayed intense interest and
excitement, and with cause, for again Dennis had spoken to her deepest
soul in the language she best loved and understood.
As before, she saw two emblematic pictures within one frame merely
separated by a plain band of gold.
The first presented a chateau of almost palatial proportions, heavy,
ornate, but stiff and quite devoid of beauty. It appeared to be the
abode of wealth and ancestral greatness.
Everything about the place indicated lavish expenditure. The walks and
trees were straight and formal, the flowers that bloomed here and
there, large and gaudy. A parrot hung in a gilded cage against a column
of the piazza. No wild songsters fluttered in the trees, or were on
the wing. Hills shut the place in and gave it a narrow, restricted
appearance, and the sky overhead was hard and brazen. On the lawn stood
a graceful mountain ash, and beneath it were two figures. The first
was that of a man, and evidently the master of the place. His appearance
and manner chiefly indicated pride, haughtiness, and also sensuality.
He had broken a spray from the ash-tree, and with a condescending air
was in the act of handing it to a lady, in the portraiture of whom
Dennis had truly displayed great skill. She was very beautiful, and
yet there was nothing good or noble in her face. Her proud features
showed mingled shame and reluctance to receive the gift in the manner
it was bestowed, and yet she was receiving it. The significance of the
mountain ash is "Grandeur." The whole scene was the portrayal, in the
beautiful language of art, of a worldly, ambitious marriage, where the
man seeks mere beauty, and the woman wealth and position, love having
It possessed an eloquence that Christine could not resist, and she
fairly loathed the alliance she knew her father would expect her to
make after their arrival in Germany, though once she had looked forward
to it with eagerness as the stepping-stone to her highest ambition.
The second picture was a beautiful contrast. Instead of the brazen
glare of the first, the air was full of glimmering lights and shades,
and the sky of a deep transparent blue. Far up a mountain side, on an
overhanging cliff, grew the same graceful ash-tree, but its branches
were entwined with vines of the passion-flower that hung around in
slender streamers. On a jutting rock, with precarious footing, stood
a young man reaching up to grasp a branch, his glance bold and hopeful,
and his whole manner full of daring and power. He had evidently had
a hard climb to reach his present position; his hat was gone; his dress
was light and simple and adapted to the severest effort.
But the chief figure in this picture also was that of a young girl who
stood near, her right hand clasping his left, and steadying and
sustaining him in his perilous footing. The wind was in her golden
hair, and swept to one side her light, airy costume. Her pure, noble
face was lilted up toward _him_, rather than toward the spray he sought
to grasp, and an eager, happy light shone from her eyes. She had
evidently climbed _with_ him to their present vantage-point, and now her
little hand secured and strengthened him as he sought to grasp, for her,
success and prosperity joined with unselfish love. The graceful
wind-flowers tossed their delicate blossoms around their feet, and above
them an eagle wheeled in its majestic flight.
Below and opposite them on a breezy hillside stood a modern villa, as
tasteful in its architecture as the former had been stiff and heavy.
A fountain played upon the lawn, and behind it a cascade broke into
silver spray and mist. High above this beautiful earthly home, in the
clear, pure air rose a palace-like structure in shadowy, golden outline,
indicating that after the dwelling-place of time came the grander, the
perfect mansion above.
Christine looked till her eyes were blinded with tears, and then dropped
her veil. In the features of the lady in each case she had not failed
to trace a faint likeness, sufficient to make it clear to herself. She
said in a low, plaintive tone, with quivering lips, "Mr. Fleet painted
"Yes," said Mrs. Leonard, looking at her with no little wonder and
By a great effort Christine recovered herself and said, "You know how
deeply fine paintings always affect me."
Dennis of course knew nothing of Christine's feelings. He could only
see that his picture had produced a profound effect on her, and that
she had eyes for nothing else. But he overheard Mr. Cornell say, "It
is indeed a remarkable painting"
"Do you know its author?" asked Mr. Ludolph, with a heavy frown.
"No, I do not. It is still a mystery"
"Will it take the prize, do you think?"
"I am not at liberty to give an opinion as yet," replied Mr. Cornell,
with a smile. "There is another picture here, almost if not quite as
fine, though much smaller and simpler;" and he took Mr. Ludolph off
to show him that.
Dennis was now recognized by Mrs. Leonard and her husband, who came
forward and greeted him cordially, and they started on a tour of the
gallery together. Though his heart beat fast, he completely ignored
Christine's presence, and responded coldly to Mr. Ludolph's slight bow.
Christine, on being aware of his presence, furtively devoured him with
her eyes. The refining influences of his life were evident in his face
and bearing, and she realized her ideal of what a man ought to be.
Eagerly she watched till he should discover her painting where it hung
opposite his own, and at last she was amply rewarded for all her toil.
He stopped suddenly and stood as if spellbound.
The picture was very simple, and few accessories entered into it. Upon
a barren rock of an island stood a woman gazing far out at sea, where
in the distance a ship was sailing _away_. Though every part had been
worked up with exquisite finish, the whole force and power of the
painting lay in the expression of the woman's face, which was an
indescribable mingling of longing and despair. Here also Christine had
traced a faint resemblance to herself, though the woman was middle-aged
and haggard, with famine in her cheeks.
As Dennis looked and wondered, the thought flashed into his mind, "Could
_she_ have painted that?" He turned suddenly toward her and was
convinced that she had done so; for she was looking at him with
something of the same expression, or at least he fancied so. She blushed
deeply and turned hastily away. He was greatly agitated, but in view of
the eyes that were upon him controlled himself and remained outwardly
Mr. Ludolph also was convinced that his daughter had painted the
picture, and he frowned more heavily than before. He turned a dark
look on her, and found her regarding Dennis in a manner that caused
him to grind his teeth with rage. But he could only sit down and watch
the course of events.
The people were now thronging in. The gentlemen who made up the prize,
with their committee of award, of which Mr. Cornell was chairman, were
also present. Most critically they examined each picture till at last
their choice narrowed down to the two paintings above described. But
it soon became evident that their choice would fall upon the larger
one, and Dennis saw that he was to be the victor. To his surprise
Christine seemed utterly indifferent as to the result of their decision.
He could not know that the prize had no place in her thoughts when she
painted her picture. She had found her reward in its effect on him.
At one o'clock Mr. Cornell came forward and said: "Ladies and gentlemen,
and especially do I address that group of liberal citizens who are so
generously seeking to encourage art in our great and prosperous city,
it gives me pleasure to inform you that your munificence has brought
forth rich fruit, for here are many paintings that would do credit to
any gallery. We hesitated a little time between two very superior
pictures, but at last we have decided that the larger one is worthy
of the prize. The smaller picture is one of great merit; its treatment
is unusually fine, though the subject is not new.
"The two emblematic pictures in some parts show crude and hasty work;
indeed some minor parts are quite unfinished. The artist evidently has
not had sufficient time. But the leading features are well wrought
out, and the power and originality of the entire effort so impress us
that, as I have said, we render our decision in its favor. That all
may know our verdict to be fair, we state on our honor that we do not
know by whom a single painting present was executed. Dr. Arten, as the
largest contributor toward the prize, you are appointed to bestow it.
On the back of the picture you will find an envelope containing the
name of the artist, whom we all shall delight to honor."
Amid breathless expectation, Dr. Arten stepped forward, took down the
envelope, and read in a loud, trumpet-voice--
"Will Dennis Fleet come forward?" cried Dr. Arten. Very pale, and
trembling with excitement, Dennis stepped out before them all.
"Take heart, my young friend; I am not about to read your
death-warrant," said the doctor, cheerily. "Permit me to present you
with this check for two thousand dollars, and express to you what is
of more value to the true artist, our esteem and appreciation of your
merit. May your brush ever continue to be employed in the presentation
of such noble, elevating thoughts."
And the good doctor, quite overcome by this unusual flight of eloquence,
blew his nose vigorously and wiped from his spectacles the moisture
with which his own eyes had bedewed them.
Dennis responded with a low bow, and was about to retire; but his few
friends, and indeed all who knew him, pressed forward with their
Foremost among these were the professor and his wife. Tears of delight
fairly shone in Mrs. Leonard's eyes as she shook his hand again and
again. Many others also trooped up for an introduction, till he was
quite bewildered by strange names, and compliments that seemed stranger
Suddenly a low, well-known voice at his side sent a thrill to his heart
and a rush of crimson to his face.
"Will Mr. Fleet deign to receive my congratulations also?"
He turned and met the deep blue eyes of Christine Ludolph lifted timidly
to his. But at once the association that had long been uppermost in
regard to her--the memory of her supposed treatment of his
mother--flashed across him, and he replied, with cold and almost stately
courtesy, "The least praise or notice from Miss Ludolph would be a
most unexpected favor."
She thought from his manner that he might as well have said
"unwelcome favor," and with a sad, disappointed look she turned away.
Even in the excitement and triumph of the moment, Dennis was oppressed
by the thought that he had not spoken as wisely as he might. Almost
abruptly he broke away and escaped to the solitude of his own room.
He did not think about his success. The prize lay forgotten in his
pocketbook. He sat in his arm-chair and stared apparently at vacancy,
but in reality at the picture that he was sure Christine had painted.
He went over and over again with the nicest scrutiny all her actions
in the gallery, and now reproached himself bitterly for the repelling
answer he had given when she spoke to him. He tried to regain his old
anger and hardness in view of her wrongs to him and his, but could
not. The tell-tale picture, and traces of sorrow and suffering in her
face in accord with it, had disarmed him. He said to himself, and half
believed, that he was letting his imagination run away with his reason,
but could not help it. At last he seized his hat and hastened to the
hotel where Mrs. Leonard was staying. She at once launched out into
a eulogistic strain descriptive of her enjoyment of the affair.
"I never was so proud of Chicago," she exclaimed. "It is the greatest
city in the world. Only the other day her streets were prairies. I
believe my husband expected to find buffalo and Indians just outside
the town. But see! already, by its liberality and attention to art,
it begins to vie with some of our oldest cities. But what is the matter?
You look so worried."
"Oh, nothing," said Dennis, coming out of his troubled, abstracted
With her quick intuition, Mrs. Leonard at once divined his thoughts,
and said soon after, when her husband's back was turned: "All I can
say is, that she was deeply, most deeply affected by your picture, but
she said nothing to me, more than to express her admiration. My friend,
you had better forget her. They sail for Europe very soon; and, besides,
she is not worthy of you."
"I only wish I could forget her, and am angry with myself but I cannot,"
he replied, and soon after said "good-night."
Wandering aimlessly through the streets, he almost unconsciously made
his way to the north side, where the Ludolph mansion was situated. Then
a strong impulse to Go to it came over him, and for the first time
since the far-off day when, stunned and wounded by his bitter
disappointment, he had gone away apparently to die, he found himself
at the familiar place. The gas was burning in Mr. Ludolph's library.
He went around on the side street (for the house was on a corner), and
a light shone from what he knew to be Christine's studio. She
undoubtedly was there. Even such proximity excited him strangely, and
in his morbid state he felt that he could almost kiss the feeble rays
that shimmered out into the darkened street. In his secret soul he
utterly condemned his folly, but promised himself that he would be
weak no longer after that one night. The excitements of the day had
thrown him off his balance.
Suddenly he heard, sweet and clear, though softened by distance and
intervening obstacles, the same weird, pathetic ballad that had so
moved him when Christine sang it at Le Grand Hotel, on the evening
after he had pointed out the fatal defect in her picture. At short
intervals, kindred and plaintive songs followed.
"There is nothing exultant or hopeful about those strains," he said
to himself. "For some reason she is not happy. Oh, that I might have
one frank conversation with her and find out the whole truth! But it
seems that I might just as well ask for a near look at yonder star
that glimmers so distantly. For some reason I cannot believe her so
utterly heartless as she has seemed; and then mother has prayed. Can
it all end as a miserable dream?"
Late at night the music ceased, and the room was darkened.
Little dreamed Christine that her plaintive minstrelsy had fallen on
so sympathetic an ear, and that the man who seemingly had repelled her
slightest acquaintance had shivered long hours in the cold, dark street.
So the divine Friend waits and watches, while we, in ignorance and
unbelief, pay no heed. Stranger far, He waits and watches when we know,
but yet, unrelenting, ignore His presence.
With heavy steps, Dennis wearily plodded homeward. He was oppressed
by that deep despondency which follows great fatigue and excitement.
In the southwest he saw a brilliant light. He heard the alarm-bells,
and knew there was a fire, but to have aroused him that night it
must have come scorchingly close. He reached his dark little room, threw
himself dressed on the couch, and slept till nearly noon of the next
When he awoke, and realized how the first hours of the Sabbath had
passed, he started up much vexed with himself, and after a brief
retrospect said: "Such excitements as those of yesterday are little
better than a debauch, and I must shun them hereafter. God has blessed
and succeeded me, and it is but a poor return I am making. However my
unfortunate attachment may end, nothing is gained by moping around in
the hours of night. Henceforth let there be an end of such folly."
He made a careful toilet and sat down to his Sabbath-school lesson.
To his delight he again met Mrs. Leonard, who came to visit her
old mission class. She smiled most approvingly, and quoted, "He that is
faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."
He went home with her, and in the evening they all went to church
He cried unto the Lord for strength and help, and almost lost
consciousness of the service in his earnest prayer for true manhood
and courage to go forward to what he feared would be a sad and lonely
life. And the answer came; for a sense of power and readiness to do
God's will, and withal a strange hopefulness, inspired him. Trusting
in the Divine strength, he felt that he could meet his future now,
whatever it might be.
Again the alarm-bells were ringing, and there was a light on the
"There seems to be a fire over there in the direction of my poor German
friend's house. You remember Mrs. Bruder. I will go and call on them,
I think. At any rate I should call, for it is owing to her husband
that I won the prize;" and they parted at the church-door.
Christine had left the picture-gallery soon after Dennis's abrupt
departure. Her gay friends had tried in vain to rally her, and rather
wondered at her manner, but said, "She is so full of moods of late,
you can never know what to expect."
Her father, with a few indifferent words, left her for his place of
business. His hope still was to prevent her meeting Dennis, and to
keep up the estrangement that existed.
Christine went home and spent the long hours in bitter revery, which
at last she summed up by saying, "I have stamped out his love by my
folly, and now his words, 'I despise you,' express the whole wretched
truth." Then clenching her little hands she added, with livid lips and
a look of scorn: "Since I can never help him (and therefore no one)
win earthly greatness, I will never be the humble recipient of it from
another. Since his second picture cannot be true of my experience,
neither shall the first."
And she was one to keep such a resolve. The evening was spent, as we
know, in singing alone in her studio, this being her favorite, indeed
her only way, of giving expression to her feelings. Very late she
sought her bed to find but little sleep.
The day of rest brought no rest to her, suggested no hope, no sacred
privilege of seeking Divine help to bear up under life's burdens. To
her it was a relic of superstition, at which she chafed as interfering
with the usual routine of affairs. She awoke with a headache, and a
long miserable day she found it. Sabbath night she determined to have
sleep, and therefore took an opiate and retired early.
Mr. Ludolph sat in his library trying to construct some plan by which
Christine could be sent to Germany at once.
When Dennis reached the neighborhood of the fire he found it much
larger than he supposed, and when he entered Harrison Street, near
Mrs. Bruder's home, he discovered that only prompt action could save
the family. The streets were fast becoming choked with fugitives and
teams, and the confusion threatened to develop into panic and wide
spread danger. The fire was but a block away when he rushed upstairs
to the floor which the Bruders occupied. From the way in which blazing
brands were flying he knew that there were was not a moment to spare.
He found Mrs. Bruder startled, anxious, but in no way comprehending
"Quick!" cried Dennis. "Wake and dress the children--pack up what you
can lay your hands on and carry--you have no time to do anything more."
"Ah! mine Gott! vat you mean?"
"Do as I say--there's no time to explain. Here, Ernst, help me;" and
Dennis snatched up one child and commenced dressing it before it could
fairly wake. Ernst took up another and followed his example. Mrs.
Bruder, recovering from her bewilderment, hastily gathered a few things
together, saying in the meantime, "Surely you don't dink our home burn
"Yes, my poor friend, in five minutes more we must all be out of this
"Oh, den come dis minute! Let me save de schilder;" and, throwing a
blanket around the youngest, the frightened woman rushed downstairs,
followed by Ernst and his little brother, while Dennis hastened with
the last child and the bundle.
Their escape was none too prompt, for the blazing embers were falling
to such a degree in the direct line of the fire as to render that
position very perilous. But though their progress was necessarily slow,
from the condition of the streets, the breadth of the fire was not
great at this spot, and they soon reached a point to the west and
windward that was safe. Putting the family in charge of Ernst, and
telling them to continue westward, Dennis rushed back, feeling that
many lives depend upon stout hands and brave hearts that night. Moreover
he was in that state of mind which made him court rather than shun
He had hardly left his humble friends before Mrs. Bruder stopped, put
her hand on her heart and cried: "Oh, Ernst! Oh, Gott forgive me! dot
I should forget him--your fader's picture. I must go back."
"Oh, moder, no! you are more to us than the picture" The woman's eyes
were wild and excited, and she cried, vehemently: "Dot picture saved
mine Berthold life--yes, more, more, him brought back his artist soul.
Vithout him ve vould all be vorse dan dead. I can no live vidout him.
Stay here"; and with the speed of the wind the devoted wife rushed
back to the burning street, up the stairs, already crackling and
blazing, to where the lovely landscape smiled peacefully in the dreadful
glare, with its last rich glow of beauty. She tore it from its
fastenings, pressed her lips fervently against it, regained the street,
but with dress on fire. She staggered forward a few steps in the hot
stifling air and smoke, and then fell upon her burden. Spreading her
arms over it, to protect it even in death, the mother's heart went out
in agony toward her children.
"Ah, merciful Gott! take care of dem," she sighed, and the prayer and
the spirit that breathed it went up to heaven together.
BARON LUDOLPH LEARNS THE TRUTH
With eyes ablaze with excitement, Dennis plunged into the region just
before the main line of fire, knowing that there the danger would be
greatest. None realized the rapidity of its advance. At the door of
a tenement-house he found a pale, thin, half-clad woman tugging at a
"Madam," cried Dennis, "you have no time to waste over that burden if
you wish to escape."
"What is the use of escaping without it?" she answered, sullenly. "It
is the only way I have of making a living."
"Give it to me then, and follow as fast as you can." Shouldering what
meant to the poor creature shelter, clothing, and bread, he led the
way to the southeast, out of the line of fire. It was a long, hard
struggle, but they got through safely.
"How can I ever pay you?" cried the grateful woman.
But he did not stay to answer, and now determined to make his way to
the west and windward of the fire, as he could then judge better of
the chances of its spreading. He thought it safer to go around and back
of the flames, as they now seemed much wider, and nearer the south
branch of the Chicago River.
He found that he could cross the burned district a little to the
southwest, for the small wooden houses were swept so utterly away that
there were no heated, blazing ruins to contend with. He also saw that
he could do better by making quite a wide circuit, as he thus avoided
streets choked by fugitives. Beaching a point near the river on the
west side of the fire, he climbed a high pile of lumber, and then
discovered to his horror that the fire had caught in several places
on the south side, and that the nearest bridges were burning.
To those not familiar with the topography of the city, it should be
stated that it is separated by the Chicago River, a slow, narrow stream,
into three main divisions, known as the south, the north, and the west
By a triumph of engineering, the former mouth of this river at the
lake is now its source, the main stream being turned back upon itself,
and dividing into two branches at a point a little over half a mile
from the lake, one flowing to the southwest into the Illinois, and the
other from the northwest into the main stream.
The south division includes all the territory bounded on the east by the
lake, on the north by the main river and on the west by the south
branch. The north division includes the area bounded on the east by
the lake, on the south by the main river, and on the west by the north
branch, while the west division embraces all that part of the city
west of the two branches. The fire originated in De Koven Street, the
southeastern part of the west side, and it was carried steadily to the
north and east by an increasing gale. The south side, with all its
magnificent buildings, was soon directly in the line of the fire.
When Dennis saw that the flames had crossed the south branch, and were
burning furiously beyond, he knew that the best part of the city was
threatened with destruction. He hastened to the Washington Street
tunnel, where he found a vast throng, carrying all sorts of burdens,
rushing either way. He plunged in with the rest, and soon found himself
hustled hither and thither by a surging mass of humanity. A little
piping voice that seemed under his feet cried: "O mamma! mamma! Where
are you? I'm gettin' lost."
"Here I am, my child," answered a voice some steps in advance and
Dennis saw a lady carrying another child; but the rushing tide would
not let her wait--all, in the place where they were wedged, being
carried right along. Stooping down, he put the little girl on his
shoulder where she could see her mother, and so they pressed on.
Suddenly, in the very midst of the tunnel, the gas ceased, by reason
of the destruction of the works, and utter darkness filled the place.
There was a loud cry of consternation, and then a momentary and dreadful
silence, which would have been the preface of a fatal panic, had not
Dennis cried out, in a ringing voice, "All keep to the right!"
This cry was taken up and repeated on every hand, and side by side,
to right and left, the two living streams of humanity, with steady
tramp! tramp! rushed past each other.
When they emerged into the glare of the south side Dennis gave the
child to its mother and said, "Madam, your only chance is to escape
in that direction," pointing northwest.
He then tried to make his way to the hotel where Professor and Mrs.
Leonard were staying, but it was in the midst of an unapproachable sea
of fire. If they had not escaped some little time before, they had
already perished. He then tried to make his way to the windward toward
his own room. His two thousand dollars and all his possessions were
there, and the instinct of self-preservation caused him to think it
was time to look after his own. But progress was now very difficult.
The streets were choked by drays, carriages, furniture, trunks, and
every degree and condition of humanity. Besides, his steps were often
stayed by thrilling scenes and the need of a helping hand. In order
to make his way faster he took a street nearer the fire, from which
the people had mostly been driven. As he was hurrying along with his
hat drawn over his eyes to avoid the sparks that were driven about
like fiery hail, he suddenly heard a piercing shriek. Looking up he
saw the figure of a woman at the third story window of a fine mansion
that was already burning, though not so rapidly as those in the direct
line of the fire. He with a number of others stopped at the sound.
"Who will volunteer with me to save that woman?" cried he.
"Wal, stranger, you can reckon on this old stager for one," answered
a familiar voice.
Dennis turned and recognized his old friend, the Good Samaritan.
"Why, Cronk," he cried, "don't you know me? Don't you remember the
young man you saved from starving by suggesting the snow-shovel
"Hello! my young colt. How are you? give us yer hand. But come, don't
let's stop to talk about snow in this hell of a place with that young
filly whinnying up there."
"Right!" cried Dennis. "Let us find a ladder and rope; quick--"
At a paint-shop around the corner a ladder was found that reached to
the second story, and some one procured a rope.
"A thousand dollars," cried another familiar voice, "to the man who
saves that woman!"
Looking round, Dennis saw the burly form of Mr. Brown, the brewer, his
features distorted by agony and fear; then glancing up he discovered
in the red glare upon her face that the woman was no other than his
daughter. She had come to spend the night with a friend, and, being
a sound sleeper, had not escaped with the family.
"Who wants yer thousand dollars?" replied Bill Cronk's gruff voice.
"D'ye s'pose we'd hang out here over the bottomless pit for any such
trifle as that? We want to save the gal."
Before Cronk had ended his characteristic speech, Dennis was half-way
up the ladder. He entered the second story, only to be driven back by
fire and smoke.
"A pole of some kind!" he cried.
The thills of a broken-down buggy supplied this, but the flames had
already reached Miss Brown. Being a girl of a good deal of nerve and
physical courage, however, she tore off her outer clothing with her
own hands. Dennis now passed her the rope on the end of the buggy-thill
and told her to fasten it to something in the room that would support
her weight, and lower herself to the second story. She fastened it,
but did not seem to know how to lower herself. Dennis tried the rope,
found it would sustain his weight; then, bringing into use an art
learned in his college gymnasium, he over-handed rapidly till he stood
at Miss Brown's side. Drawing up the rope he fastened her to it and
lowered her to the ladder, where Bill Cronk caught her, and in a moment
more she was in her father's arms, who at once shielded her from
exposure with his overcoat. Dennis followed the rope down, and had
hardly got away before the building fell in.
"Is not this Mr. Fleet?" asked Miss Brown.
"How can we ever repay you?"
"By learning to respect honest men, even though they are not rich,
"Did you know who it was when you saved me?"
"Mr. Fleet, I sincerely ask your pardon."
But before Dennis could reply they were compelled to fly for their
Mr. Brown shouted as he ran, "Call at the house or place of business
of Thomas Brown, and the money will be ready."
But Thomas Brown would have found it hard work to rake a thousand
dollars out of the ashes of either place the following day. The riches
in which he trusted had taken wings.
Cronk and Dennis kept together for a short distance, and the latter
saw that his friend had been drinking. Their steps led them near a
large liquor-store which a party of men and boys were sacking. One of
these, half intoxicated, handed Bill a bottle of whiskey, but as the
drover was lifting it to his lips Dennis struck it to the ground. Cronk
was in a rage instantly.
"What the ---- did you do that for?" he growled.
"I would do that and more too to save your life. If you get drunk
to-night you are a lost man," answered Dennis, earnestly.
"Who's a-goin' ter get drunk, I'd like ter know? You feel yer oats too
much to-night. No man or horse can kick over the traces with me;" and
he went off in the unreasoning anger of a half-drunken man. But he
carried all his generous impulses with him, for a few minutes after,
seeing a man lying in a most dangerous position, he ran up and shook
him, crying, "I say, stranger, get up, or yer ribs will soon be
"Lemme 'lone," was the maudlin answer. "I've had drink 'nuff. 'Tain't
"Hi, there!" cried a warning voice, and Cronk started back just in
time to escape a blazing wall that fell across the street. The stupefied
man he had sought to arouse was hopelessly buried. Cronk, having got
out of danger, stood and scratched his head, his favorite way of
"That's just what that young critter Fleet meant. What a cussed ole
mule I was to kick up so! Ten chances to one but it will happen to me
afore mornin'. Look here, Bill Cronk, you jist p'int out of this fiery
furnace. You know yer failin', and there's too long and black a score
agin you in t'other world for you to go to-night;" and Bill made a bee
line for the west side.
Struggling off to windward through the choked streets for a little
distance, Dennis ascended the side stairs of a tall building, in order
to get more accurately the bearings of the fire. He now for the first
time realized its magnitude, and was appalled. It appeared as if the
whole south side must go. At certain points the very heavens seemed
on fire. The sparks filled the air like flakes of fiery snow, and great
blazing fragments of roofs, and boards from lumber yards, sailed over
his head, with the ill-omened glare of meteors. The rush and roar of
the wind and flames were like the thunder of Niagara, and to this awful
monotone accompaniment was added a Babel of sounds--shrieks, and shouts
of human voices, the sharp crash of falling buildings, and ever and
anon heavy detonations, as the fire reached explosive material. As he
looked down into the white upturned faces in the thronged streets, it
seemed to him as if the people might be gathering for the last great
day. Above all the uproar, the court-house bell could be heard, with
its heavy, solemn clangor, no longer ringing alarm, but the city's
But he saw that if he reached his own little room in time to save
anything he must hasten. His course lay near the Art Building, the
place so thronged with associations to him. An irresistible impulse
drew him to it. It was evident that it must soon go, for an immense
building to the southwest, on the same block, was burning, and the
walls were already swaying.
Suddenly a man rushed past him, and Mr. Ludolph put his pass key in
the side door.
"Mr. Ludolph, it is not safe to enter," said Dennis.
"What are you doing here with your ill-omened face?" retorted his old
employer, turning toward him a countenance terrible in its expression.
As we have seen, anything that threatened Mr. Ludolph's interests,
even that which most men bow before, as sickness and disaster, only
awakened his anger; and his face was black with passion and distorted
The door yielded, and he passed in.
"Come back, quick, Mr. Ludolph, or you are lost!" cried Dennis at the
"I will get certain papers, though the heavens fall!" yelled back the
infuriated man, with an oath.
Dennis heard an awful rushing sound in the air. He drew his hat over
his face as he ran, crouching. Hot bricks rained around him, but
fortunately he escaped.
When he turned to look, the Art Building was a crushed and blazing
ruin. Sweet girlish faces that had smiled upon him from the walls,
beautiful classical faces that had inspired his artist soul, stern
Roman faces, that had made the past seem real, the human faces of gods
and goddesses that made mythology seem not wholly a myth, and the white
marble faces of the statuary, that ever reminded him of Christine,
were now all blackened and defaced forever. But not of these he thought,
as he shudderingly covered his eyes with his hands to shut out the
vision; but of that terrible face that in the darkness had yelled
defiance to Heaven.
"CHRISTINE, AWAKE! FOR YOUR LIFE!"
Dennis was too much stunned and bewildered to do more than instinctively
work his way to the windward as the only point of safety, but the fire
was now becoming so broad in its sweep that to do this was difficult.
The awful event he had witnessed seemed partially to paralyze him; for
he knew that the oath, hot as the scorching flames, was scarcely uttered
before Mr. Ludolph's lips were closed forever. He and his ambitious
dream perished in a moment, and he was summoned to the other world to
learn what his proud reason scoffed at in this.
For a block or more Dennis was passively borne alone by the rushing
mob. Suddenly a voice seemed to shout almost in his ear, "The north
side is burning!" and he started as from a dream. The thought of
Christine flashed upon him, perishing perhaps in the flames. He
remembered that now she had no protector, and that he for the moment
had forgotten her; though in truth he had never imagined that she could
be imperilled by the burning of the north side.
In an agony of fear and anxiety he put forth every effort of which he
was capable, and tore through the crowd as if mad. There was no way
of getting across the river now save by the La Salle Street tunnel.
Into this dark passage he plunged with multitudes of others. It was
indeed as near Pandemonium as any earthly condition could be. Driven
forward by the swiftly pursuing flames, hemmed in on every side, a
shrieking, frenzied, terror-stricken throng rushed into the black
cavern. Every moral grade was represented there. Those who led abandoned
lives were plainly recognizable, their guilty consciences finding
expression in their livid faces. These jostled the refined and delicate
lady, who, in the awful democracy of the hour, brushed against thief
and harlot. Little children wailed for their lost parents, and many
were trampled underfoot. Parents cried for their children, women
shrieked for their husbands, some praying, many cursing with oaths as
hot as the flames that crackled near. Multitudes were in no other
costumes than those in which they had sprung from their beds. Altogether
it was a strange, incongruous, writhing mass of humanity, such as the
world had never looked upon, pouring into what might seem, in its
horrors, the mouth of hell.
As Dennis entered the utter darkness, a confused roar smote his ear
that might have appalled the stoutest heart, but he was now oblivious
to everything save Christine's danger. With set teeth he put his
shoulder against the living mass and pushed with the strongest till
he emerged into the glare of the north side. Here, escaping somewhat
from the throng, he made his way rapidly to the Ludolph mansion, which
to his joy he found was still considerably to the windward of the fire.
But he saw that from the southwest another line of flame was bearing
down upon it.
The front door was locked, and the house utterly dark. He rang the
bell furiously, but there was no response. He walked around under the
window and shouted, but the place remained as dark and silent as a
tomb. He pounded on the door, but its massive thickness scarcely
admitted of a reverberation.
"They must have escaped," he said; "but, merciful heaven! there must
be no uncertainty in this case. What shall I do?"
The windows of the lower story were all strongly guarded and hopeless,
but one opening on the balcony of Christine's studio seemed practicable
if it could be reached. A half-grown elm swayed its graceful branches
over the balcony, and Dennis knew the tough and fibrous nature of this
tree. In the New England woods of his early home he had learned to
climb for nuts like a squirrel, and so with no great difficulty he
mounted the trunk and dropped from an overhanging branch to the point
he sought. The window was down at the top, but the lower sash was
fastened. He could see the catch by the light of the fire. He broke
the pane of glass nearest it, hoping that the crash might awaken
Christine, if she were still there. But after the clatter died away
there was no sound. He then noisily raised the sash and stepped in.
What a rush of memories came over him as he looked around the familiar
place! There was the spot on which he had stood and asked for the love
that he had valued more than life. There stood the easel on which,
through Christine's gifted touch, his painted face had pleaded with
scarcely less eloquence, till he blotted it out with his own hand. In
memory of it all his heart again failed him, and he sighed, "She will
never love me."
But there was no time for sentiment. He called loudly: "Miss Ludolph,
awake! awake! for your life!"
There was no answer. "She must be gone," he said. The front room,
facing toward the west, he knew to be her sleeping-apartment. Going
through the passage, he knocked loudly, and called again; but in the
silence that followed he heard his own watch tick, and his heart beat.
He pushed the door open with the feeling of one profaning a shrine,
and looked timidly in. Even in that thrilling hour of peril and anxiety,
his eye was enraptured by the beauty of the room. Not only was it
furnished with the utmost luxuriance, but everything spoke of a quaint
and cultured taste, from the curious marble clock and bronze on the
mantel, even to the pattern of the Turkey carpet on which the glare
of the fire, as it glinted through the shutters, played faintly. One
of the most marked features, however, was an exquisite life-size statue
of Diana at the foot of the bed, grasping her bow with one hand, and
in the act of seizing an arrow with the other, as if aroused to
self-defence. When Dennis first saw it, he was so startled by its
lifelike attitude that he stepped back into the passage. But, with all
the beauty of the room, it was utterly pagan; not a single thing
suggested Christian faith or a knowledge of the true God. With the
exception of its modern air, it might just as well have been the
resting-place of a Greek or Roman maiden of rank.
Reassured, he timidly advanced again, and then for the first time,
between the two marble statuettes holding back the curtains of the
bed, saw Christine, but looking more white and deathlike than the
She lay with her face toward him. Her hair of gold, unconfined, streamed
over the pillow; one fair round arm, from which her night-robe had
slipped back, was clasped around her head, and a flickering ray of
light, finding access at the window, played upon her face and neck
with the strangest and most weird effect.
So deep was her slumber that she seemed dead, and Dennis, in his
overwrought state, thought that she was. For a moment his heart stood
still, and his tongue was paralyzed. A distant explosion aroused him.
Approaching softly he said, in an awed whisper (he seemed powerless
to speak louder), "Miss Ludolph!--Christine!"
But the light of the coming fire played and flickered over the still,
white face, that never before had seemed so strangely beautiful.
"Miss Ludolph!--Oh, Christine, awake!" cried Dennis, louder.
To his wonder and unbounded perplexity, he saw the hitherto motionless
lips wreathe themselves into a lovely smile, but otherwise there was
no response, and the ghostly light played and flickered on, dancing
on temple, brow, and snowy throat, and clasping the white arm in wavy
circlets of gold. It was all so weird and strange that he was growing
superstitious, and losing faith in his own senses. He could not know
that she was under the influence of an opiate, and that his voice of
all others could, like a faint echo, find access to her mind so deeply
sunk in lethargy.
But a louder and nearer explosion, like a warning voice, made him
wholly desperate; and he roughly seized her hand, determining to dispel
the illusion, and learn the truth at once.
Christine's blue eyes opened wide with a bewildered stare; a look of
the wildest terror came into them, and she started up and shrieked,
Then turning toward the as yet unknown invader, she cried, piteously:
"Oh, spare my life! Take everything; I will give you anything you ask,
only spare my life."
She evidently thought herself addressing a ruthless robber.
Dennis retreated toward the door the moment she awakened; and this
somewhat reassured her.
In the firm, quiet tone that always calms excitement he replied, "I
only ask you to give me your confidence, Miss Ludolph, and to join
with me, Dennis Fleet, in my effort to save your life."
"Dennis Fleet! Dennis Fleet! save my life! Oh, ye gods, what does it
all mean?" and she passed her hand in bewilderment across her brow,
as if to brush away the wild fancies of a dream.
"Miss Ludolph, as you love your life arouse yourself and escape! The
city is burning!"
"I don't believe it!" she cried, in an agony of terror and anger.
"Leave the room! How dare you! You are not Dennis Fleet; he is a white
man, and you are black! You are an impostor! Leave quick, or my father
will come and take your life! Father! father!"
Dennis without a word stepped to the window, tore aside the curtain,
threw open the shutters, and the fire filled the room with the glare
of noonday. At that moment an explosion occurred which shook the very
earth. Everything rattled, and a beautiful porcelain vase fell
crashing to the floor.
Christine shrieked and covered her face with her hands.
Dennis approached the bedside, and said in a gentle, firm tone that
she knew to be his: "Miss Ludolph, I _am_ Mr. Fleet. My face is
blackened through smoke and dust, as is every one's out in the streets
to-night. You know something of me, and I think you know nothing
dishonorable. Can you not trust me? Indeed you must; your life depends
"Oh, pardon me, Mr. Fleet!" she cried, eagerly. "I am not worthy of
this, but now that I know you, I do trust you from the depth of my
"Prove it then by doing just as I bid you," he replied, in a voice so
firm and prompt that it seemed almost stern. Retreating to the door,
he continued: "I give you just five minutes in which to make your
toilet and gather a light bundle of your choicest valuables. Dress in
woollen throughout, and dress warmly. I will see that the servants are
aroused. Your father is on the south side, and cannot reach you. You
must trust in God and what I can do for you."
"I must trust to you _alone_," she said. "Please send my maid to me."
Mr. Ludolph had sipped his wine during the evening, and his servants
had sipped, in no dainty way, something stronger, and therefore had
not awakened readily. But the uproar in the streets had aroused them,
and Dennis found them scuttling down the upper stairs in a half-clad
state, each bearing a large bundle, which had been made up without
regard to _meum_ and _tuum_.
"Och, murther! is the world burning up?" cried the cook.
"Be still, ye howlin' fool," said the cool and travelled maid. "It's
only von big fire!"
"Go to your mistress and help her, quick!" cried Dennis.
"Go to my meestress! I go to de street and save my life."
"Oh, Janette!" cried Christine. "Come and help me!"
"I am meeserable zat I cannot. I must bid mademoiselle quick adieu,"
said the heartless creature, still keeping up the veneer of French
Dennis looked through the upper rooms and was satisfied that they were
empty. Suddenly a piercing shriek from Christine sent him flying to
her room. As he ran he heard her cry, "Oh, Mr. Fleet! come! help!"
To go back a little (for on that awful night events marched as rapidly
as the flames, and the experience of years was crowded into hours, and
that of hours into moments), Christine had sought as best she could
to obey Dennis's directions, but she was sadly helpless, having been
trained to a foolish dependence on her maid. She had accomplished but
little when she heard a heavy step in the room. Looking up, she saw
a strange man regarding her with an evil eye.
"What do you want?" she faltered.
"You, for one thing, and all you have got, for another," was the brutal
"Leave this room!" she cried, in a voice she vainly tried to render
"Not just yet," he answered, with a satanic grin. She sought to escape
by him with the loud cry that Dennis heard, but the ruffian planted
his big grimy hand in the delicate frill of her night-robe where it
clasped her throat, and with a coarse laugh said: "Not so fast, my
Trembling and half fainting (for she had no physical courage), she
cried for Dennis, and never did knightly heart respond with more brave
and loving throb to the cry of helpless woman than his. He came with
almost the impetus of a thunderbolt, and the man, startled, looked
around, and catching a glimpse of Dennis's blazing eyes, dropped his
hold on Christine, and shrank and cowered from the blow he could not
avert. Before his hand could instinctively reach the pistol it sought,
there was a thud, and he fell like a log to the floor. Then, springing
upon him, Dennis took away his weapons, and, seizing him by the collar
of his coat, dragged him backward downstairs and thrust him into the
street. Pointing his own pistol at him, he said, "If you trouble us
again, I will shoot you like a dog!"
The villain slunk off, and finding some kindred spirits sacking a
liquor-store not far off, he joined the orgy, seeking to drown his
rage in rum, and he succeeded so effectually that he lay in the gutter
soon after. The escaping multitude trampled over him, and soon the
fire blotted out his miserable existence, as it did that of so many
who rendered themselves powerless by drink.
When Dennis returned he found Christine panting helplessly on a chair.
"Oh, dress! dress!" he cried. "We have not a moment to spare."
The sparks and cinders were falling about the house, a perfect storm
of fire. The roof was already blazing, and smoke was pouring down the
At his suggestion she had at first laid out a heavy woollen dress and
Scotch plaid shawl. She nervously sought to put on the dress, but her
trembling fingers could not fasten it over her wildly throbbing bosom.
Dennis saw that in the terrible emergency he must act the part of a
brother or husband, and springing forward he assisted her with the
dexterity he had learned in childhood.
Just then a blazing piece of roof, borne on the wings of the gale,
crashed through the window, and in a moment the apartment, that had
seemed like a beautiful casket for a still more exquisite jewel, was
Hastily wrapping Christine in the blanket shawl, he snatched her,
crying and wringing her hands, into the street.
Holding his hand she ran two or three blocks with all the speed her
wild terror prompted; then her strength began to fail, and she pantingly
cried that she could run no longer. But this rapid rush carried them
out of immediate peril, and brought them into the flying throng pressing
their way northward and westward. Wedged into the multitude they could
only move on with it in the desperate struggle forward. But fire was
falling about them like a meteoric shower.
Suddenly Christine uttered a sharp cry of pain. She had stepped on a
burning cinder, and then realized for the first time, in her excitement,
that her feet were bare.
"Oh, what shall I do?" she cried piteously, limping and leaning heavily
on Dennis's arm.
"Indeed, Miss Ludolph, from my heart I pity you."
"Can you save me? Oh, do you think you can save me?" she moaned, in
an agony of fear.
"Yes, I feel sure I can. At any rate I shall not leave you;" and taking
her a little out of the jostling crowd he kneeled and bound up the
burned foot with his handkerchief. A little further on they came to
a shoe-store with doors open and owners gone. Almost carrying Christine
into it, for her other foot was cut and bleeding, he snatched down a
pair of boy's stout gaiters, and wiping with another handkerchief the
blood and dust from her tender little feet, he made the handkerchiefs
answer for stockings, and drew the shoes on over them.
In the brief moment so occupied, Christine said, with tears in her
eyes: "Mr. Fleet, how kind you are! How little I deserve all this!"
He looked up with a happy smile, and she little knew that her few words
amply repaid him.
There was a crash in the direction of the fire. With a cry of fear,
Christine put out her hands and clung to him.
"Oh, we shall perish! Are you not afraid?"
"I tremble for you, Miss Ludolph."
"Not for yourself?"
"No! why should I? I am safe. Heaven and mother are just beyond this
"I would give worlds for your belief."
"Come, quick!" cried he, and they joined the fugitives, and for a
half-hour pressed forward as fast as was possible through the choked
streets, Dennis merely saying an encouraging word now and then. Suddenly
she felt herself carried to one side, and falling to the ground with
him. In a moment he lifted her up, and she saw with sickening terror
an infuriated dray-horse plunging through the crowd, striking down
men, women, and children.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, gently, passing his arm around her and helping
her forward, that they might not lose a single step.
"Awful! Awful!" she said, in a low, shuddering tone.
The dreadful scenes and the danger were beginning to overpower her.
A little further on they reached an avenue to the northwest through
which Dennis hoped to escape. But they could make but little headway
through the dense masses of drays, carriages, and human beings, and
at last everything came to a deadlock. Their only hope was to stand
in their place till the living mass moved on again.
Strange, grotesque, and sad beyond measure were the scenes by which
they were surrounded. By the side of the aristocratic Christine, now
Baroness Ludolph, stood a stout Irishwoman, hugging a grunting,
squealing pig to her breast. A little in advance a hook-nosed spinster
carried in a cage a hook nosed parrot that kept discordantly crying,
"Polly want a cracker." At Dennis's left a delicate lady of the highest
social standing clasped to her bare bosom a babe that slept as
peacefully as in the luxurious nursery at home. At her side was a
little girl carrying as tenderly a large wax doll. A diamond necklace
sparkled like a circlet of fire around the lady's neck. Her husband
had gone to the south side, and she had had but time to snatch this
and her children. A crowd of obscene and profane rowdies stood just
behind them, and with brutal jest and coarse laughter they passed
around a whiskey-bottle. One of these roughs caught a glimpse of the
diamond necklace, and was putting forth his blackened hand to grasp
it, when Dennis pointed the captured pistol at him and said, "This is
The fellow slunk back.
Just before them was a dray with a corpse half covered with a blanket.
The family sat around crying and wringing their hands, and the driver
stood in his seat, cursing and gesticulating for those in advance to
move on. Some moments passed, but there was no progress. Dennis became
very anxious, for the fire was rapidly approaching, and the sparks
were falling like hail. Every few moments some woman's dress was ablaze,
or some one was struck by the flying brands, and shrieks for help were
heard on every side. Christine, being clad in woollen, escaped this
peril in part. She stood at Dennis's side trembling like a leaf, with
her hands over her face to shut out the terrible sights.
At last the driver, fearing for his life, jumped off his dray and left
all to their fate. But a figure took his place that thrilled Dennis's
heart with horror.
There on the high seat stood Susie Winthrop--rather Mrs. Leonard. The
light of insanity glowed in her eyes; her long hair swept away to the
north, and turning toward the fiery tempest she bent forward as if
looking for some one. But after a moment she sadly shook her head, as
if she had sought in vain. Suddenly she reached out her white arms
toward the fire, and sang, clear and sweet above the horrid din:
"O burning flakes of fiery snow,
Bury me too, bury me deep;
My lover sleeps thy banks below;
Fall on me, that I may sleep!"
At this moment a blazing brand fell upon the horses' heads; they
startled forward, and the crazed lady fell over on the corpse below.
The animals being thoroughly terrified turned sharp around on the
sidewalk, and tore their way right toward the fire, trampling down
those in their track, and so vanished with their strangely assorted
Dennis, fearing to stay any longer where he was, determined to follow
in their wake and find a street leading to the north less choked, even
though it might be nearer the fire, and so with his trembling companion
he pressed forward again.
Two blocks below he found one comparatively clear, but in terrible
proximity to the conflagration. Indeed, the houses were burning on
each side, but the street seemed clear of flame. He thought that by
swiftly running they could get through. But Christine's strength was
fast failing her, and just as they reached the middle of the block a
tall brick building fell across the street before them! Thus their
only path of escape was blocked by a blazing mass of ruins that it
would have been death to cross.
They seemed hemmed in on every side, and Dennis groaned in agony.
Christine looked for a moment at the impassable fiery barrier, then
at Dennis, in whose face and manner she read unutterable sympathy for
herself, and the truth flashed upon her.
With a piercing shriek she fainted dead away in his arms.
ON THE BEACH
In the situation of supreme peril described in the last chapter, Dennis
stood a second helpless and hopeless. Christine rested a heavy burden
in his arms, happily unconscious. Breathing an agonized prayer to
heaven, he looked around for any possibility of escape. Just then an
express-wagon was driven furiously toward them, its driver seeking his
way out by the same path that Dennis had chosen. As he reached them
the man saw the hopeless obstruction, and wheeled his horses. As he
did so, quick as thought, Dennis threw Christine into the bottom of
the wagon, and, clinging to it, climbed into it himself. He turned
her face downward from the fire, and, covering his own, he crouched
beside her, trusting all now to God.
The driver urged his horses toward the lake, believing that his only
chance. They tore away through the blazing streets. The poor man was
soon swept from his seat and perished, but his horses rushed madly on
till they plunged into the lake.
At the sound of water Dennis lifted his head and gave a cry of joy.
It seemed that the hand of God had snatched them from death. Gently
he lifted Christine out upon the sands and commenced bathing her face
from the water that broke in spray at his feet. She soon revived and
looked around. In a voice full of awe and wonder she whispered, "Ah!
there is another world and another life, after all."
"Indeed there is, Miss Ludolph," said Dennis, supporting her on his
arm and bending over her, "but, thanks to a merciful Providence, you
are still in this one."
"How is it?" she said, with a bewildered air. "I do not understand.
The last I remember, we were surrounded by fire, you were despairing,
and it seemed that I died."
"You fainted, Miss Ludolph. But God as by a miracle brought us out of
the furnace, and for the present we are safe." After she had
sufficiently rallied from her excessive exhaustion and terror, he told
her how they escaped.
"I see no God in it all," she said; "only a most fortunate opportunity,
of which you, with great nerve and presence of mind, availed yourself.
To you alone, again and again this dreadful night, I owe my life."
"God uses us as His instruments to do His will. The light will come
to you by and by, and you will learn a better wisdom."
"In this awful conflagration the light has come. On every side I see
as in letters of fire, 'There is no God.' If it were otherwise these
scenes would be impossible. And any being permitting or causing the
evils and crimes this dreadful night has witnessed, I shall fear and
hate beyond the power of language to express."
She uttered these words sitting on the sands with multitudes of others,
her face (from which Dennis had washed the dust and smoke) looking in
the glare so wan and white that he feared, with a sickening dread,
that through exposure, terror, or some of the many dangers by which
they were surrounded, she might pass into the future world with all
her unbelief and spiritual darkness. He yearned over her with a
solicitude and pity that he could not express. She seemed so
near--indeed he could feel her form tremble, as she kneeled beside
her, and supported her by his arm--and yet, in view of her faithless
state, how widely were they separated! Should any one of the many
perils about them quench the little candle of her life, which even now
flickered faintly, where in the wide universe could he hope to meet
her again? God can no doubt console His children and make up to them
every loss, but the passionate heart, with its intense human love,
clings to its idol none the less. Dennis saw that the fire would
probably hem them in on the beach for the remainder of the night and
the following day. He determined therefore in every way possible to
beguile the weary, perilous hours, and, if she would permit it, to
lead her thoughts heavenward. Hence arose from time to time
conversations, to which, with joy, he found Christine no longer averse.
Indeed, she often introduced them.
Chafing her hands, he said in accents of the deepest sympathy, "How
I pity you, Miss Ludolph! It must indeed be terrible to possess your
thoughtful mind, to realize these scenes so keenly, and yet have no
faith in a Divine Friend. I cannot explain to you the mystery of
evil--why it came, or why it exists. Who can? I am but one of God's
little children, and only know with certainty that my Heavenly Father
loves and will take care of me."
"How do you know it?" she asked, eagerly.
"In several ways. Mainly because I feel it."
"It all seems so vague and unreal," she sighed, dreamily. "There is
nothing certain, assured. There is no test by which I can at once know
"That does not prevent the truth from existing. That some are blind
is no proof that color does not exist."
"But how can you be sure there is a God? You never saw Him."
"I do not see the heat that scorches us, but I feel it, and know it
"But I feel the heat the same as yourself, and I have no consciousness
of a Divine Being."
"That does not take away my consciousness that He is my Saviour and
Friend. As yet you are spiritually dead. If you were physically dead,
you would not feel the heat of this fire."
"Oh, it is all mystery--darkness," she cried, piteously.
The sun had now risen quite above the waters of the lake, but seen
through the lurid smoke which swept over its face, it seemed like one
of the great red cinders that were continually sailing over their
heads. In the frightful glare, the transition from night to day had
scarcely been noted. The long, narrow beach was occupied by thousands
of fugitives, who were hemmed in on every side. On the south was the
river, skirted with fire, while opposite, on the west, the heat was
almost intolerable; on the east were the cold waves of the lake, and
on the north a burning pier that they could not cross. Their only hope
was to cling to that narrow line where fire and water mingled, and
with one element to fight the other. Here again was seen the mingling
of all classes which the streets and every place of refuge witnessed.
Judges, physicians, statesmen, clergymen, bankers, were jostled by
roughs and thieves. The laborer sat on the sand with his family, side
by side with the millionaire and his household. The poor debauched
woman of the town moaned and shivered in her scant clothing, at a slight
remove from the most refined Christian lady. In the unparalleled
disaster, all social distinctions were lost, levelled like the beach
on which the fugitives cowered. From some groups was heard the voice
of prayer; from others, bitter wailings and passionate cries for lost
members of the family; others had saved quantities of vile whiskey,
if nothing else, and made the scene more ghastly by orgies that seemed
not of earth. Added to the liquor were the mad excitement and
recklessness which often seize the depraved classes on such occasions.
They committed excesses that cannot be mentioned-these drunken, howling,
fighting wretches. Obscene epithets and words fell around like blows.
And yet all were so occupied with their own misfortunes, sufferings,
and danger, as scarcely to heed their neighbors, unless these became
Upon this heterogeneous mass of humanity the fire rained down almost
as we imagine it to have fallen upon the doomed cities of the plain,
and the hot breath of the flames scorched the exposed cheek and crisped
even eyebrows and hair. Sparks, flakes, cinders, pieces of roof, and
fiery pebbles seemed to fill the air, and often cries and shrieks
announced that furniture and bedding which had been dragged thither,
and even the clothing of women and children, were burning. Added to
all the other terrors of the scene was the presence of large numbers
of horses and cattle, snorting and plunging in their fright and pain.
But the sound that smote Dennis's heart with the deepest commiseration
was the continuous wail of helpless little children, many of them
utterly separated from parents and friends, and in the very agony of
He greatly dreaded the effect of these upon Christine, knowing how,
in the luxurious past, she had been shielded from every rough
experience. But she at length rallied into something like composure.
Her constitution was elastic and full of vitality, and after escaping
from immediate danger she again began to hope. Moreover, to a degree
that even she could not understand, his presence was a source of
strength and courage, and her heart clung to him with desperate
earnestness, believing him the sole barrier against immediate death,
and (what she dreaded scarcely less) a lonely, wretched existence,
should her life be spared.
Though he never lost sight of her for a moment, and kept continually
wetting her hair and person, he found time to render assistance to
others, and, by carrying his hat full of water here and there,
extinguished many a dangerous spark. He also, again and again, snatched
up little children from under the trampling hoofs of frightened horses.
As she watched him, so self-forgetful and fearless, she realized more
and more vividly that he was sustained and animated by some mighty
principle that she knew nothing of, and could not understand. The
impression grew upon her that he was right and she wrong. Though it
all remained in mystery and doubt, she could not resist the logic of
true Christian action.
But as the day advanced the flames grew hotter, and their breath more
withering. About noon Dennis noticed that some shanties on the sand
near them were in danger of catching fire and perilling all in that
vicinity. Therefore he said, "Miss Ludolph, stay here where I leave
you for a little time, so that I may know just where to find you."
"Oh, do not leave me!" she pleaded: "I have no one in the wide world
to help me except you."
"I shall not be beyond call. You see those shanties there; if possible
we must keep them from burning, or the fire will come too near for
safety." Then, starting forward, he cried, "Who will volunteer to keep
the fire back? All must see that if those buildings burn we shall be
Several men stepped forward, and with hats and anything that would
hold water they began to wet the old rookeries. But the fiery storm
swooped steadily down on them, and their efforts were as futile as if
they had tried to beat back the wind. Suddenly a mass of flame
leaped upon the buildings, and in a moment they were all ablaze.
"Into the lake, quick!" cried Dennis, and all rushed for the cool
Lifting Christine from the sand, and passing his arm around her
trembling, shivering form, he plunged through the breakers, and the
crowd pressed after him. Indeed they pushed him so far out in the cold
waves that he nearly lost his footing, and for a few moments Christine
lost hers altogether, and added her cries to those of the
terror-stricken multitude. But pushing in a little nearer the shore,
he held her firmly and said with the confidence that again inspired
hope: "Courage, Miss Ludolph. With God's help I will save you yet."
Even as she clung to him in the water, she looked into his face. He
was regarding her so kindly, so pitifully, that a great and generous
impulse, the richest, ripest fruit of her human love, throbbed at her
heart, and faltered from her lips--"Mr. Fleet, I am not worthy of
this risk on your part. If you will leave me you can save your own
life, and your life is worth so much more than mine!"
True and deep must have been the affection that could lead Christine
Ludolph to say such words to any human being. There was a time when,
in her creed, all the world existed but to minister to her. But she
was not sorry to see the look of pained surprise which came into
Dennis's face and to hear him say, very sadly: "Miss Ludolph, I did
not imagine that you could think me capable of that. I had the good
fortune to rescue Miss Brown last night, at greater peril than this,
and do you think I would leave you?"
"You are a true knight, Mr. Fleet," she said, humbly, "and the need
or danger of every defenceless woman is alike a sacred claim upon you."
Dennis was about to intimate that, though this was true in knightly
creed, still among all the women in the world there might be a
preference, when a score of horses, driven before the fire, and goaded
by the burning cinders, rushed down the beach, into the water, right
among the human fugitives.
Again went up the cry of agony and terror. Some were no doubt stricken
down not to rise again. In the melee Dennis pushed out into deeper
water, where the frantic animals could not plunge upon him. A child
floated near, and he snatched it up. As soon as the poor brutes became
quiet, clasping Christine with his right arm and holding up the child
with the other, he waded into shallow water.
The peril was now perhaps at its height, and all were obliged to wet
their heads, to keep even their hair from singeing. Those on the beach
threw water on each other without cessation. Many a choice bit of
property--it might be a piano, or an express-wagon loaded with the
richest furs and driven to the beach as a place of fancied security--now
caught fire, and added to the heat and consternation.
When this hour of extreme danger had passed, standing with the cold
billows of the lake breaking round him, and the billows of fire still
rolling overhead, Dennis began to sing in his loud, clear voice:
"Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the billows near me roll,
While the tempest still is high."
Voice after voice joined in, some loud and strong, but others weak and
trembling--the pitiful cry of poor terror-stricken women to the only
One who it seemed could help them in their bitter extremity. Never
before were those beautiful words sung in such accents of clinging,
touching faith. Its sweet cadence was heard above the roar of the
flames and the breakers.
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