Ester Ried Yet Speaking
Part 4 out of 5
"What in thunder are you talking about?"
"Your committee," said Mr. Durant, politely ignoring the manner of the
questioner. "You must call them together, you know, to plan your work.
Where shall it be, and when?"
"I ain't got no committee; and I ain't got no place to meet nobody; and
I don't know what in thunder you're after."
Then came Mrs. Roberts to the rescue:--
"Why, Mr. Bolton, you can meet at our society parlor, you know; it is
the very place, and will be so convenient for Miss Dennis."
"What's to meet, and what's to do?" said Dick, defiantly. "I ain't going
to meet nobody."
"Why, it is just to hang mottoes and banners, and trim the room for the
Anniversary. Of course you'll help; I would have the meeting arranged
there by all means."
"Very well," said Mr. Durant, quickly, as though he had received the
answer from the chairman himself. "Now as to time; you ought to come
together to-morrow evening if you could; there is a good deal to do."
"Mr. Bolton, couldn't you come up at six o'clock for once? Then you
could get your work all done before the time for our social. I can
arrange for Annie Powell to be there at that time; and, Mr. Durant,
doesn't Morris Burns work for you? Could he be present at six o'clock?
Then I don't see but your meeting is nicely planned. You can be there at
six, can't you, Mr. Bolton?"
"I tell you I don't know nothin' what you are talking about."
Nimble Dick, who was rarely anything but good-natured, was surprised by
the bewilderments of the situation into being almost as fierce as Dirk
Colson was habitually; the gaping amazement of his boon companions
seeming to add to his irritation.
"But you will," said his teacher, cheerily. "It is an easy matter to
explain; Miss Dennis knows all about such things; and I'm going to help,
though they haven't honored me with an appointment."
At a sign from the lady, Mr. Durant stepped back to his platform and
"The chairman of the Committee on Decoration desires me to say that his
committee is called together to-morrow evening, at the Young Men's
Social Parlors, No. 76 East Fifty-fifth Street, at six o'clock, _sharp_,
as the chairman has another engagement at seven."
"I had to coin a name for the place of meeting," he said to Mrs. Roberts
afterwards. "I beg your pardon if it was wrong; but Ried has been giving
me glowing accounts of that room, and you said something about its being
a social parlor, didn't you?"
"It is a good name," said Mrs. Roberts. "We have awkwardly called it the
'new room.' I am glad it is christened. I will have some curtains hung
through the centre to-morrow, to make parlors instead of parlor of it; I
can see how a second room can be made useful in several ways."
Thus was the bewildering committee willed into existence; the chairman
thereof being still so dumbfounded with his position that he did not
rouse until the laughing boys, by whom he was surrounded, began to take
in some of the fun of the situation, and to assault him right and left
with mock congratulations, ill-suppressed groans, hisses, and the like.
Then he turned towards them with new-born dignity that would have fitted
Dirk Colson, and said:--
"If you fellows don't shut up, and behave yourselves something like
decent for the rest of the time, I'll chaw half a dozen of you into
mincemeat as soon as we are out of this!"
"HAD HIS EXPERIMENT BEEN TOO SEVERE?"
Dr. Everett was driving rapidly through the city; at least, as rapidly
as the crowded character of the street would permit. He was out on
professional duty, and had just been congratulating himself that his
regular calls were now made for the day, and unless something special
intervened he should have a couple of hours free for the alleys.
That meant professional duty, too, and of the very hardest character,
one would suppose, as it brought him in contact not only with sickness
in some of its most repulsive forms, but with abject poverty as well,
and too often with loathsome forms of sin; yet he went about this work
with a zest that his regular practice did not furnish. This was
something done solely for Jesus' sake, and with an eye that was
manifestly single to His glory.
He had already selected his alley, and was planning how, when his horses
were safely stabled, he could make a cross-cut to it, when his eyes were
held by two persons who were ascending together the stairway that led to
one of the public halls. His face darkened as he watched them.
Apparently they were engrossed with each other, and took no notice of
him; but there were reasons why he specially desired to keep them in
view. A network of carriages and wagons such as is common to crowded
thoroughfares blocked his path just then, and prolonged his opportunity
to watch the two.
They made their way in a very leisurely manner up the long staircase,
letting others, more in haste, pass them continually; yet presently they
joined the group who were passing up tickets of entrance.
The doctor signalled a policeman, and entered into conversation:--
"What is going on in Seltzer Hall?"
"Well, sir, there's a kind of a concert, I guess. They play on goblets,
they say--just common glass goblets--and make fine music."
"An afternoon entertainment?"
"Yes, sir, as a kind of introduction, you know; they expect to get a
crowd for evening by the means."
"Do you know where tickets are to be had?"
The policeman indicated a bookstore at his left by a gesture from his
thumb, and said, "Right here," and offered to secure some at once. He
knew Dr. Everett; many of the policemen did.
His offer was accepted with thanks, and the doctor presently wound his
way out from the network with two green tickets in his pocket. His plans
for the afternoon had been suddenly changed. Instead of spending the
time in Sewell alley, he had decided to attend a musical exhibition, the
instruments being goblets!
He must make all speed now, so he left the crowded street and dodged
through several byways to the stables.
No use to keep his horses. "She would be afraid to drive through such
crowds," he explained to himself, "and I should be afraid to leave the
Rushing out from the stables he caught just the right street-car, and
in a short space of time was ringing at Mr. Roberts' door.
Gracie Dennis was in the hall, dressed for the street.
"Ah," said the doctor, "I am either fortunate or unfortunate, I wonder
which? I had set my heart on having you for a companion to what I fancy
may be a unique entertainment. Is there another engagement in the way?
I know this is a most unconventional method, but a doctor is never sure
of his time."
But Gracie Dennis felt too well acquainted with Dr. Everett, and was too
young and ready for enjoyment to be disturbed about conventionality. She
merrily declared her willingness to be taken to whatever entertainment
the doctor had to propose. Mrs. Roberts was out with her husband on
business connected with church matters, and she had only intended to
walk a square or two for her health.
On the way the doctor was distrait, Gracie having most of the talking to
do herself. The truth was, he was trying to recall the faces of the
people he had seen crowding into the hall, to make sure that he was not
taking Gracie among people whom he would not care to have her meet.
Apparently the couple whose movements had changed all his afternoon
plans were not a sufficient guarantee of respectability. However, his
face cleared as he recalled one and another, as being in the crowd
seeking admission; they might not be of the class with whom Gracie was
accustomed to mingle, but they were respectable people.
Gracie was in a merry mood. She understood enough of the doctor's busy
life to feel sure that this sudden resolve to be entertained was quite
out of his ordinary line, and that of itself served to mark the hour as
"He feels the need of a little every-day fun," she told herself, "and
I'll help him to have it if I can. Poor man! it must be doleful to go
among sick and dying people all the time."
They were late at the hall; the concert was well under way; but there
were plenty of vacant seats. Dr. Everett swept his eye over the room;
then indicated to the usher just which seat he would have. It was one
which commanded a view of the young man and woman who seemed to have
such a mysterious influence over his plans.
He was relieved to find quite early in the entertainment that it really
was unique, and, in its way, well worth hearing. Had the surroundings
been agreeable he could easily have given himself up to enjoyment.
However, they had been seated but a few moments, when he saw by Gracie's
startled eyes that she had seen and recognized at least one of the
couple at their left. Professor Ellis, in his usual faultless attire,
lounged gracefully on the seat in such a manner that his side-face was
distinct; he rested a well-shaped arm on the back of the seat next him,
and his delicately gloved hand almost, if not quite, touched the
shoulder of his companion.
Both he and the lady at his side gave extremely little attention to the
entertainment in progress. Apparently they had come thither for purposes
of conversation. They kept up a continuous murmur of talk, interspersed
at intervals with rippling laughter, and really seemed so entirely
absorbed in each other as to have at times forgotten that the hall was
public, and that the attention of many was being turned toward them. The
girl was pretty, extremely so, with an entirely different style of
beauty from Gracie Dennis; and a certain indescribable something in her
face and manner would have told even the most casual observer that she
moved in a different circle. It was not her dress, unless that was a
little too pronounced for the place and hour; but quite young ladies in
good society sometimes make a similar mistake.
Neither was her manner objectionable to the degree that you could have
pointed to any one thing as offensive; yet you would have been sure, had
you watched her, that she was without the pale of what we call society.
Gracie Dennis watched her with a kind of fascination;--becoming at last
so absorbed with the watching, and the apparently troubled thoughts
which grew out of it, that she gave but slight attention to Dr.
Everett's occasional remarks, nor seemed to observe that at last he
lapsed into total silence.
Once, during the hour, the young woman glanced casually in their
direction, and the careless nod, and free and easy smile with she
acknowledged Dr. Everett's presence, drew a startled glance from Gracie
to rest on him for a moment.
"Now I wish I had my horses," the doctor said, as at last they made
their way down the aisle. "I have a mile's drive up town to take, and I
think the exercise might be good for you."
Gracie caught at the suggestion, and begged to be allowed to remain in
the bookstore below while he went for the horses.
"I want a ride, and I want to talk with you," she said, simply.
As this was precisely what he wanted, he went for the horses without
Meantime, Gracie, in one of the windows of the bookstore, was supposed
to be employed in examining a late book, but in reality gave much
attention to the couple who were crossing the street, or rather waiting
for an opportunity to do so.
They seemed in no haste, but were conspicuous, even in the crowded
street, for their interest in each other. More than one policeman
regarded them narrowly, as Professor Ellis stood with head bent toward
the lady, engaged in eager and animated conversation. It was just the
attitude of absorbed interest with which he had so often listened to
Gracie; not on the street, it is true, but in some crowded parlor, and
it had flattered her. It made her frown to-day. They were starting now
to make the disagreeable crossing. He had taken his companion's hand,
preparatory to a leap over a muddy curbing; but Gracie could see that
there was a pressure of it that was unnecessary, and, for the street,
peculiar; his face, too, was distinctly visible, and the expression on
it was what Gracie had seen before, but certainly she supposed no other
Altogether it was probably well for Professor Ellis' peace of mind that
he did not turn at that moment, and get a glimpse of the young lady in
the bookstore. Instead he took his lady away, and they were lost in the
Dr. Everett, making all haste with his horses, had still time for
anxious thought. Had his experiment been too severe on Gracie? Was it
possible that her interest in the man was such that the afternoon's
experience had been mixed with pain as well as with disgust? He could
not believe it possible that the pure-hearted young girl cared for such
a man as Professor Ellis! Yet there had been a look on her face when she
saw those two which startled and hurt him.
When fairly seated in his carriage he did not speak until they had
threaded the maze of wagons and reached clear ground. Even then he only
said, "Now for speed," and gave the horses their desire, until crowds
and business were left behind, and they were driving down a broad
avenue, lined on either side with stately yet quiet-looking homes. Then
he drew rein, and obliged the horses to walk; he had by this time
resolved on probing the wound, if there was one.
"I wish I knew just how much of a villain that man is." These were the
somewhat startling words which broke his silence.
"What man?" Yet the very tones of Gracie's voice indicated that she knew
of whom he was speaking.
"That man, Ellis! Professor, I think he is called. I have reason to be
very suspicious of him. By the way, Miss Gracie, I think he is an
acquaintance of yours. Have you confidence in him?"
How promptly and indignantly such a question would have received an
affirmative answer two months before! What should she say now?
"In what respect?" she faltered, more for the purpose of gaining time
than because she did not understand the question.
"Well, in any respect I am almost prepared to say. I have not the honor
of the man's acquaintance; but whatever I hear about him, or see in him,
I dislike and distrust. Just at present his ways are specially disturbing.
You noticed him this afternoon, I think! The young girl in his company
belongs to my Sabbath-school. I have a deep interest in her, partly
because she is the sort of girl who is always more or less in danger
in this wicked world, and partly because she is capable of strongly
influencing another, who is a special _protege_ of mine."
"Who is the girl?" Gracie's manner was abrupt, and her voice
constrained. It was evident that she was making great effort to control
herself, and appear indifferent to all parties.
The doctor took no notice of her constraint.
"Her name is Mason. Hester Mason. She attends the Packard Place
Sabbath-school, which you know I superintend. She is motherless, and
worse than fatherless; is a clerk in one of the Fourth Avenue stores,
and is, or was, inclined to be what is called gay. I do not know that
that term conveys any special meaning to you; in young men I think they
call the same line of conduct 'fast.' I hope and believe that you would
not well understand either term; yet, I think, possibly, that watching
her this afternoon in a public hall will give you some conception of the
stretch that there is between yourself and her."
"SOME PEOPLE ARE HARD TO WARN."
Had Dr. Everett desired in a few words to show Gracie the gulf between
herself and the man who had been the girl's companion for the afternoon,
perhaps he could not have formed his sentence better.
She shivered visibly, and the doctor drew the carriage-wraps more
carefully about her, while he continued:--
"I would not want to give you a wrong estimate of Hester Mason, nor lead
you to imagine for a moment that I believe a girl who serves behind a
counter cannot be a true lady. I wanted, rather, to explain to you that
her opportunities had been limited. She means to be a good girl, I
think: in fact, I may say I have the utmost confidence in her
intentions. She is not a Christian, but a few weeks ago I had her name
on my note-book as one who was almost persuaded, She has been fighting
the question of personal religion for some time,--her special
stumbling-block being that she is quick-witted, and has quite a clear
idea of how Christians ought to live, and can find very few who seem to
her to be living what they profess. However, as I say, I have been very
hopeful of her until within a few weeks, when she came in contact with
this man, and I tremble for the result. He is constant in his
attentions, and she is evidently flattered and dazed."
"How long has he known her? How did he become acquainted?" Abrupt
questions still, asked in that curiously repressed voice.
The doctor's face was growing very grave and stern. He feared that there
was a real wound here.
"Inadvertently, Miss Dennis, it seems that both you and I are to blame,
or, at least, are involved in the acquaintance. Do you remember a little
incident which occurred in a streetcar some six weeks ago? A young
woman, in leaving the car, dropped a package, which you noticing, called
our attention to, and pointed out the person crossing the street, and
Professor Ellis announced his willingness to overtake her and return the
package, as he was about to leave the car. Miss Mason was the person in
question, and Professor Ellis presumed on that very slight introduction
to cultivate an acquaintance. I have learned that he quoted my name in
connection with the incident, and since that day has been on terms of
exceeding intimacy with Hester."
Gracie was surprised out of her reserve.
"I remember the incident perfectly: but the girl I saw this afternoon
cannot be the one who was on the car."
"Yes; she was in holiday attire to-day, and in her working garb when you
saw her momentarily on the car. I remember a feeling of regret that
Professor Ellis should have so promptly volunteered to do your errand:
yet I did not know what I dreaded. I simply shrank from the man, and
wanted others to do so."
"Dr. Everett, what is his motive in showing her attention?"
"I wish I knew. I can tell you what I greatly fear: That it is to play
with the human heart; to see to what extent he can gain power over it.
And in this case certainly it is a most cruel thing. The girl has no
friends, no father or mother to advise with or help her. She is bright
and pretty, and is being shown glimpses of a world that seems to her
like fairyland. She is dazzled, and one cannot blame her, for she has
neither carefully-formed judgment nor trustworthy friends to lean upon.
Miss Dennis, you can judge from her manner this afternoon what is her
knowledge of the customs of polite society. I do not think she has an
idea that she was conspicuous, save for her beauty and the fine
appearance of her attendant. She is not one to shrink from what she
would consider legitimate public admiration, and this you can see but
adds to her danger."
"But, Dr. Everett, you do not think,--you cannot mean that he intends to
pay her special attention; that he means anything beyond the desire to
give her a little pleasure?"
"Well," said the doctor, speaking slowly, but with firmness, "you may
judge, Miss Dennis, what I think,--what any honorable person thinks,--of
a man who bestows in public the sort of attentions which we saw this
afternoon, You would have been insulted by them. The only reason that
this poor girl was not, is because she does not know any better.
"Did you observe the flashing of a peculiarly set ring on her finger? I
have reason to fear that it belongs to him and that she believes
herself specially honored in being asked to wear it."
Poor Gracie's cheeks were flaming now. She had not observed the ring,
but she knew it well, and for one brief evening had worn it herself, and
then had returned it to the owner with the assurance that she could not
bring herself to wear it without her father's consent. She remembered
what a wound she had felt herself bestowing when he had looked at her
with those expressive, reproachful eyes, and replied that if she felt
toward him as he did to her, she would not allow even a _father_ to
come between them. And he had actually given that ring into the keeping
of this girl!
They rode on in silence, the doctor giving a hint to the horses that
they might go as fast as they chose. He was in great doubt and pain of
heart. Could it be possible that this carefully-shielded young girl was
caught in the toils of a man whom he believed to be an unprincipled
If so, had he been unnecessarily cruel in his revelations? Ought he to
take her home, or drive further, and give her time to recover herself?
Could he have understood what was passing in her mind he would have
known better what next to say. The simple truth was this: Before she
came to Mrs. Roberts' the child had believed herself to be a martyr to
the unreasonable prejudices of her stepmother. She had been led to feel
that her father had turned against her, solely because of his wife's
influence over him, and that the wife was piqued because Professor Ellis
had not paid her sufficient attention in the days of her maidenhood.
This, the professor had succeeded in teaching Gracie to feel, was the
sole charge against him. He was, therefore, an ill-used man, and
therefore her heart went out towards him in sympathy.
It had not been at first a stronger feeling than this; but flattered by
his attentions, so much more marked and polished than had ever been
offered to the young girl before, she had taught herself to believe
that, but for her father's bitterness, she could be to Professor Ellis
what he delicately and vaguely assured her no one else could, and fill a
place that hitherto in his lonely life had been left void. She had not
engaged herself to him; indeed, he had never, in actual words, asked her
to do so; but to the young and innocent and well-trained there is a
language which speaks as clearly as words, and is held as sacred.
Gracie had allowed herself to be looked upon as one who was held by
_others_ from being more to Professor Ellis than she was; who might
always, perhaps, be held back,--for she had resolved in her own sad
heart that she would never marry against her father's consent, no, not
if she were twice of age.
Of late, strange reflections had come to her. She had measured Professor
Ellis with other men, Christian men, and he had appeared at a
disadvantage. Also she had measured herself by the side of other
Christian workers, and herself had appeared at a disadvantage. A vague
unrest and dissatisfaction with her Christian experience were growing on
her. Moreover, she was growing interested in those boys, as she had not
believed that it would be possible for her to be interested when she
first saw them. She began to believe that some of them, at least, would
be saved. She wanted to help save them, and to help others. Her
martyrdom dwindled rapidly into insignificance, until there would pass
entire days in which she did not once remember that she as an unhappy
At last, but a week or two before this afternoon, she had taken her
affairs in hand, and tried to look steadily at them. The result of her
hours of thought and prayer was that she was bound to Professor Ellis.
That is, provided there should come a time in the dim and distant future
when her father should give his consent, it would be her duty and her
pleasure, because of what had passed between them, to marry him. Still,
she began to feel less amazed at her father's opinion of him, less angry
about it. She began to say to herself, softly and pitifully: "Poor,
lonely man! he has no one to be his friend. He is not a Christian, and
that is what makes so great a difference between him and others. It is
that which papa misses, but I must not desert him; I must pray for him
all the time, and work for his conversion; then he will grow to be the
sort of man whom papa can like, and everything will be right." And while
she said it, she was dimly conscious of a feeling of satisfaction over
the thought that she was very young, and that it would be a long,
_long_ time yet before anything could be settled; and that,
meantime, it certainly was not right for her to have anything to do with
Professor Ellis, only to pray for him; and that perhaps her father would
allow her to carry out a project that was under delightful discussion in
the Roberts family, namely, to remain in the city as a pupil in the
famous Green Lawn School. And she did not know, foolish little thing,
that so far even as her heart was concerned everything was wrong.
Perhaps it would be difficult for me to explain to you--that is, if you
do not understand without explanation--what a turmoil she was thrown
into by this afternoon's experience. She was far from realizing as yet
that the uppermost feeling even now was not wounded love, but wounded
pride; of what poor stuff she had been making a hero! Nothing had ever
opened her eyes like this before. Was it possible that she had spent
entire evenings with a man who stooped to set in unpleasant, even
suspicious light, not his own character only, but that of an ignorant
It would not do to plead a lack of knowledge in excuse for him; he might
be ignorant of the ways of the Christian world, but no one understood
better the rules which governed society. During part of the afternoon
she had been very angry with the girl, but after listening to Dr.
Everett it began to dawn upon her that her friend had been playing with
the ignorance of a girl who probably trusted him fully. You are to
understand that Gracie Dennis was the sort of girl who would be made
very angry by such a suspicion. The glow on her cheeks was not all
caused by the fresh air of the spring day.
"Dr. Everett," she said at last, breaking the silence, "what do you
think he means by asking the girl to wear that ring, or by letting her
wear it? Does he--do you suppose that he has engaged himself to her?"
"I wish I knew what he meant!" Dr. Everett said again, a surge of
indignation rushing over him. "If he really meant anything so honorable
as that, it would be bad enough business for poor Hester; but, as I
said, I distrust the man utterly; and from my experience with the world
I have reason. From your knowledge of him, Miss Dennis, could you
suppose him to be honest and earnest in his attentions to that girl?"
It was a very plain question. It meant more to Dr. Everett than even
Gracie saw, but she saw enough to know that she was admitting an
intimacy that made her blush; however, she answered steadily,--
"No, I cannot think that he is honest or honorable."
"So I fear. Witness this afternoon. Gentlemen do not parade their
friendships before the public gaze, and that man knows it."
The doctor's voice was _very_ stern. He was sure now that there was a
wound, and that it was being probed; he believed in making thorough
work, even with wounds; there would be more hope of genuine healing
Gracie's next question--if her companion had but known it--was a
singular one: "Why have not people who are her friends warned her
against him, and held her back from making such a false step, if she
does it in ignorance?"
Oh, Gracie Dennis! How are warnings sometimes received, even by
carefully-trained girls, who have every reason to trust the love that
would shield them?
"Some people are very hard to warn," said the doctor. "I have tried it,
and I have a friend who has tried to help her; but the poor girl, you
must remember, has not been brought up in a Christian atmosphere--has
never had a Christian friend who came with the authority of
relationship. If she had a good father the way would be made so plain.
As it is, can't you see how naturally she distrusts the rest of us, in
favor of the man who makes special professions of friendship? I am not
surprised at Hester, I am only sorry for her."
Had the doctor been carefully informed as to all the circumstances
connected with Gracie's intimacy with the professor, he could not have
chosen words which would have touched her conscience more. Had not her
good father tenderly and patiently warned her? and had she not chosen to
blind her eyes to all his words, and believe rather in Professor Ellis
than in him?
"PART OF THE GREAT WELL-TO-DO WORLD."
"I must call at this house," the doctor said, suddenly drawing rein
before a quiet little house at the foot of a wide lawn. "The gatekeeper
of this American castle has a sick child whom I have promised to see.
Can you hold the horses, Miss Dennis, or shall I tie them? This is a
quiet spot, and they are gentle."
"I am not afraid of anything," Gracie said, eyes aglow as well as
cheeks. And the doctor went into the house wondering whether Professor
Ellis, if he could see her now, would not be afraid of her.
Once inside he gave a start of surprise, almost of dismay, for the face
which appeared at the open door of the sick-room belonged to Joy
"You here?" he said, trying to control the disturbed element in his
She answered quietly:--
"I came out by street-car. Did you drive?"
"Yes,"' he said, abruptly, "but I am not alone. How is the child?" and
he went forward at once to his professional duties, leaving her to
wonder over his manner.
It was peculiar, certainly. Joy Saunders was used to abruptness from
this man, but there was a quality in it to-day that she did not
recognize. She went and looked out of the window, and saw Gracie Dennis
holding the horses, saw her red, red cheeks, and flashing eyes, and the
peculiar, haughty poise of her head, with which the stepmother at home
was well acquainted.
She did not know this Gracie Dennis save by reputation. Once Dr. Everett
had asked her to call at Mrs. Roberts', and had made her feel as though
she were foolishly conventional in declining to do so. "How is she ever
to know you, according to the rules which trammel society? There ought
to be some way arranged for Christians to be free from trammels." This
had been his comment; but he had not asked her again, and she had never
met Mrs. Roberts, nor yet Gracie Dennis. Yet she knew her very well, and
had watched her often as she passed. She knew instantly who she was now,
as she sat there in her haughty beauty, checking with determined hand
the impatience of those horses. Oh, she knew more than this! It was very
apparent now why Dr. Everett was peculiarly abrupt, and--well,
yes--embarrassed. She had almost thought that was the name of the
feeling, only it had seemed so absurd. And then Joy Saunders held her
meek little head high, and told herself that he need not fear her
presence; she could go as she had come, in the street-car.
The doctor came towards her now, speaking rapidly, as usual:--
"Joy, the child is very sick. There ought to be an experienced person
here to-night. Not you; I am sorry you came up. Do you think your mother
would come? Will you ride down with me? I have Miss Dennis in the
carriage, but it is quite large enough for three, you know."
Then Joy had turned away her head, holding it high, and said:--
"No, thank you; I am going down in the street-car."
And that blundering doctor drew on his gloves, saying to himself, "I
don't know but that is best," and went out, only waiting to say to
"Will you ask your mother about it? I will see her as soon as I can get
around. I wish you would go directly home from here--will you?"
Then he lifted his hat to her, and sprang into his carriage and rode
away with Gracie Dennis; and Joy Saunders waited for the next yellow
car, and climbed into it, and told herself all the way down town that
she wished she had stayed at the little house and watched all night by
the sick child.
The thoughts that Dr. Everett had given to the entire matter were few.
They ran somewhat after this fashion:--
"Joy here! and I'm afraid of the fever, from all I have heard. I shall
take her home as soon as possible. How will that poor little girl in the
carriage manage with a new acquaintance just now, I wonder?
"I am afraid it will be quite a strain. Still, I can do the talking, and
let her be quiet. The main point is that I hoped she might have a
suggestion to make about Hester. If she could rouse herself to try to
save that girl it would be the best thing she could do. If she only knew
it, Joy is the one who could help her in that direction or any other."
As they dashed down the avenue, he was still occupied in wishing that he
had urged Joy to ride, and thus forced an acquaintance between her and
the pretty girl at his side. He was not very patient with what he called
the "trammels" of society. When there were two people so fitted to enjoy
and help one another, as were Joy Saunders and Gracie Dennis, he held it
to be a waste in Christian economy that they should not know each other.
Too much occupied with his thoughts and his driving to give heed to
passers-by, he lost the careful bow that young Ried had for them as they
drew near the city's whirl again. Gracie did not; she returned it, with
a slightly-heightened color in her cheeks, and wondered if that young
man knew Professor Ellis, and what he thought of him, and what he
thought of her for being acquainted with him.
Sometimes it seems to me a real pity that on occasion there could not
be some way of looking into one another's thoughts. So many
misunderstandings might thus be saved. For instance, there was Ried, who
went on his way with a clouded brow. Where had Dr. Everett been? and
why was Gracie Dennis with him? Was it probable that he had been riding
for pleasure? The bare suggestion astonished the young man. He found that
he had never before given room to the thought that Dr. Everett took time
for pleasure! Allowing this to be the case, why had he not taken Joy
Saunders with him? Such a proceeding would have seemed altogether
natural, though the honest-hearted young fellow admitted to himself
that, had he been taking a ride for pleasure, the companion of his
choice would not have been Joy Saunders. It was certainly a bewildering
world. So trying did young Ried find his thoughts on that evening that
he actually set himself deliberately to learn whether the ride was the
result of chance or design. The consequence was that he learned not only
of the ride, but of the afternoon entertainment at Seltzer Hall, with
glass goblets for instruments. This increased his astonishment, and did
not lessen the gloom on his face.
But the two in the carriage, unconscious of the gloomy young man, or of
the sad-hearted young girl riding in a street-car, were almost silent
during the homeward ride, until just as they turned into the avenue that
led to Mr. Roberts' door. Then Grace said:--
"Dr. Everett, I should like to know that girl. There are some things
that I ought to say to her, and if I had a chance I would try to say
them in a way to help her."
"I will manage it," said Dr. Everett, speaking in a quick, relieved
tone. He felt encouraged for Hester now, and greatly relieved about
Gracie. She might be wounded, but she was made of the material of which
he had hoped. She was not going to die herself, nor fold her hands and
see others ruined, merely because she had been deceived.
He bade her a cheery "Good afternoon!" and drove away, feeling that,
although he had been obliged to give up Sewell Alley, good work had been
accomplished. He believed now that he understood the situation.
He was right about one thing: Gracie Dennis had not the slightest idea
of dying. Her mood was better expressed, half an hour later, when she
stood at the parlor window, and returned a low, lingering bow from
Professor Ellis, with a haughty stare from flashing eyes, looking out
from an erect and motionless head.
* * * * *
Dirk Colson's brain was in a whirl. He had an important question to
settle. In his pocket were two blue tickets, promising to admit him to
the largest and finest hall in the city to hear the great temperance
orator. Dirk knew very little about orators, but he had heard of John B.
Gough, and everything he had heard made him wish to have a glimpse of
him. You will remember that Dirk was an imitator. He had heard that Mr.
Gough was also, and down deep in his heart the boy had an ambition to
hear the man. Now was his unexpected opportunity. Of course, he was
going, but the perplexing thing was, what to do with that other ticket.
There was Mart? Oh, yes, to be sure, he had not forgotten her; but what
a strange thing it would be to take her to a lecture! He had never taken
her anywhere in his life. She had nothing to wear, though he remembered
at that moment that the mother had, by earnest effort, succeeded in
getting her shawl out of pawn.
There was one incentive for taking her; it would please Mrs. Roberts.
Dirk studied the thing for some time, to try to discover why she should
care, and had finally given up the problem as too great for him. Yet he
was sure she cared; there had been a wistful light in her eyes when she
said, "I thought possibly you might like to take that sister with the
golden hair," that he saw and interpreted. It took him three days to
decide what he should say, supposing he made up his mind to ask her.
Several people were at work helping him, though he knew nothing about
that. Mrs. Roberts remarked one evening to young Ried that she wished
she knew a way to induce Dirk Colson to take his sister, without
actually asking him to do so. She fancied that, besides the advantage
which might possibly directly follow an evening spent in that way, it
would suggest new thoughts to the brother.
The young man caught at the suggestion, and wanted to help carry it out.
It was not an easy thing to do. He had not grown intimate with Dirk
Colson; in fact, that misguided young fellow rather resented any attempt
at intimacy. He was, however, acquainted with Sallie Calkins; the
numerous trips he had made to their room during Mark's illness had
brought him into such constant and pleasant contact with Sallie and her
brother that they looked upon him as a tried friend. Sallie, he knew,
was a friend of the shy, golden-haired sister. So one evening he went to
call at the Calkins room, with a vague hope of helping indirectly in
bringing to pass Mrs. Roberts' desires.
To Sallie he made known the wish that Dirk would take his sister to the
lecture, and secured from her a promise to help the scheme along,
provided it developed.
After he went away, Sallie sat long at her sewing, making all alone, by
a dim light, one of the most heroic little sacrifices that was ever
offered "in His name." To fully understand it, you must know that Mark
Calkins had recovered sufficiently to take his place in the office where
Dr. Everett had secured him an opening, and an employment that would
enable him to sit, most of the time, thereby giving his injured limb a
chance to rest. Also, Mark had been admitted to the Monday evening
gatherings, and was distinguishing himself there by his skill in reading
and writing. Of course, he had received two tickets, and equally of
course, being the boy he was, he had planned to take Sallie with him to
the lecture. Great was Sallie's prospective pleasure! The event of her
lifetime it was to be. To walk with Mark through the crowded streets,
both neatly dressed; to walk boldly forward with the throng, and present
their tickets of admittance to the great hall; hitherto seen only from
the outside; to move down the long aisles as those who had a right, and
select their seats unquestioned by police; in short, to be like other
people--part of the great well-to-do world,--this was Sallie's joy!
She had washed and mended her best calico dress; she had sewed buttons
on the pretty cape, according to Mrs. Roberts' directions; she had tried
on the neat bonnet which had been manufactured for her by Mrs. Roberts'
own fingers, and, altogether, Sallie had probably gotten, during these
two days, more enjoyment out of Gough's lecture than many others, who
had heard him a dozen times, ever secured. I do not think it any wonder
that, as she rocked and sewed, and thought out her great thought, there
fell tears on the work she was doing.
"FOR YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT MAY COME."
This was the thought: Suppose Dirk Colson should want to take his
sister. Sallie did not believe it in the least probable; she had not
that amount of faith in Dirk Colson; but suppose he should, Mart could
not go, for the reason that she would have nothing to wear.
And here was Sallie's pretty cape, which would cover the worst of her
dress, and her pretty bonnet, which she knew would make a picture of
Mart; but if she lent them it meant staying at home to Sallie.
_Could_ she do it? Could she bear to think of such a thing? What
would Mark say? What would he do with his other ticket?
Would she be likely ever to have another chance to go to that wonderful
hall, and be like other folks?
But _Mart_ had never been anywhere in her life.
"And I," said poor Sallie, catching her breath with a sob, "have been
often for a walk on the brightest streets, and looked in at the shop
windows, and everything. I 'most know I will help her to go if I can."
Young Ried had no conception of the sacrifice for which he had asked.
It is little wonder, surely, that Sallie's voice faltered that same
evening, as she explained to Mart, who had slipped in for a bit of talk,
that if ever she wanted to go anywhere very bad, she was to let Sallie
know, and she should have her cape and bonnet to wear. Then she had
anxiously planned for her a way to mend her dress, so that it would look
quite well under the cape, and she had even urged:--
"Now do, Mart, if anybody should want you to go don't say you won't; but
take your chance, for you don't know what may come."
Also she bore with patience Mart's scornful laugh, and emphatic
statement that no chances ever came to her, and nobody ever wanted her
to go anywhere. As she talked she grew interested and eloquent; urged
earnestly that Mart should embrace the first opportunity to go
somewhere, and wear her new cape and bonnet. At the same time she was
silent about the lecture. Suppose no chance should come? Then it would
be doubly hard to Mart to have had the possibility suggested. The same
delicate reasoning had held her from dwelling on her own prospects. Some
people would have been very much astonished over the amount of delicate
consideration for the feelings of others which could be found in that
Dirk loitered strangely over his meagre dinner the next afternoon. It
was late, for he had secured a position at last in one of the printing
offices, and was apt to take his meals at any hour when it happened to
be convenient to do without him at the office. He had only been three
days at work, and Mart had taken little notice of the new departure,
except to remark grimly that it would not last; but to Sallie she had
boasted that Dirk had gone to work as hard as anybody. If somebody could
only have told Dirk that his sister ever boasted of him it might have
helped him much during these days.
"What are you hanging around for? You've got all there will be to eat in
this house to-day, and it is time you were off." This was the ungracious
manner in which the sister took note of his lingering. She was painfully
afraid that he had already grown weary of regular employment, and the
fear made her voice gruffer than usual.
His reply amazed her; in fact, it amazed himself:--
"Mart, I've got tickets to a show,--a nice place,--and I want you to go
"Humph!" said Mart, "that is a likely story!"
Then he grew earnest, displayed his treasures, and urged her
acceptance--quite astonished with himself the while. _Did_ he
really want her to go, he wondered, or did he want to please Mrs.
You would have been interested, an hour later, to have seen Mart skip up
the rickety stairs leading to the Calkins abode. You would probably have
thought that she endangered life or limb by her rapid movements; but
Mart was used to such staircases, and the news she had to communicate
"There's a chance!" she said, breathless with speed and eagerness;
"Sallie Calkins, there's a chance, and you'd never guess how. Dirk he
wants me to go to a show with him this very night! He's got tickets. It
is a big show,--where all the grand folks go. It is in the very biggest
hall in this city, and Dirk he says I am to go. Sallie Calkins, do you
mean it, truly, that I am to wear your lovely new bonnet and cape? Do
you suppose I can really go anywhere? I don't known why Dirk wants me to
so bad, but he coaxed and coaxed."
Poor Sallie! She stooped quickly to pick up a pin from the floor, so
that Mart might not get a glimpse of her eyes with the sudden tears in
them. Yet, as she stooped, she made her final, grand sacrifice--Mart
Then she entered with entire abandon into the preparations. Not only her
bonnet and cape, but her shoes--new ones that Mark had bought her with
his first earnings after his illness--were to attend the lecture.
She rejoiced over the excellent fit of the shoes. She did more than
this. As Mart watched the process of buttoning them, and remarked
complacently that she shouldn't wonder if Dirk would buy her a pair some
day, when he earned money enough, she kept her lip from curling with an
incredulous sneer. You will remember that she had not the slightest
faith in Dirk.
Neither must I forget that there was another thing to lend--her comb, in
order that Mart's wonderful yellow hair might be for once reduced to
something like order. And at the risk of leading you to think that
Sallie was altogether too "aesthetic" for her position in life, I shall
have to confess that this was her hardest bit of sacrifice; her comb was
so new and so pretty!
However, it did its duty on Mart's tawny locks, and the transforming
effect was marvellous. In fact, when all was ready, the cape adjusted,
the hat which Mrs. Roberts had shown her how to wear set on the yellow
head, Sallie said not a word, but went to the packing-box in the corner
which served as a treasure cupboard, and drew forth the one possession
about which she had been utterly silent--a little hand-glass which Mark
had brought her one winter evening just before he was hurt. A cheap,
little, ugly glass, which you would have turned from in disgust, saying
that it made your nose awry, and your chin protrude and your eyes
squint, and was altogether horrid; but, held before Mart's glowing face,
what a secret did it reveal! Mart looked, and was silent, too; and went
home in a hushed frame of mind to wait for Dirk. Home was deserted. The
mother had dragged her wearied body out for a day of "light" work. The
time had gone by when she was able to do any that people called heavy.
Where the father was, none of the family knew, and their chief hope
concerning him was that he would stay away as long as possible.
I find myself longing to give you an idea of what that elegant,
brilliantly lighted hall, with its brilliant audience, was to this girl,
and being unable to do it.
When people live so far below us that our every-day experiences are to
them like a day at the World's Fair, it is very hard indeed to describe
how our special treats affect them.
It is a treat to everybody to hear Gough. How then can I tell you what
it was to this girl and her brother? Dirk listened; he must have
listened well, for long afterward he was able to repeat entire
paragraphs, and to imitate the manner of the great orator with
remarkable skill;--yet at the time he would have seemed to a close
watcher to have been absorbed in another way. He looked at Mart somewhat
as he had on that Sabbath when his acquaintance with Mrs. Roberts began.
But the thought which had dimly haunted him that day blossomed on this
evening. Certainly Mart looked like Mrs. Roberts! It might be folly to
think so; doubtless the fellows would make no end of fun of him if he
should ever tell them so, which he meant to take excellent care not to
do; but the fact remained, that in Sallie's bonnet and cape, and, above
all, with the waves of hair floating about her, there was a look which
instantly and strongly reminded him of that lady.
There was another listener at the lecture who was unexpectedly present.
Part of poor Sallie's trial had been to tell her brother, who had been
radiant for a week over the prospect of taking her, that she had with
her own hand put away the blessing. How would Mark take it? Dirk's
forlorn-looking sister was no favorite of his. I think it would have
been very difficult to have convinced him that there was a trace of Mrs.
Roberts in her face.
But such curious creatures are we that it actually hurt Sallie to see
how quietly he took the great sad news of her sacrifice. After the first
start of surprise, he seemed preoccupied, and she could almost have
thought that he did not hear her explanation. She had much ado to keep
back the tears, but she had made a special little feast for him that
evening, with a white cloth on the table, and a cup of actual tea, and
the cup set in a saucer. She was not going to spoil the scene with
tears; so after a little she said, cheerily:--
"Now you have a chance to do something nice for somebody. Who will you
take on your ticket?"
"I was thinking," he answered, slowly. "You know it is a temperance
lecture, and it is by a wonderful man. The fellows in the shop have been
talking about him all day, and they say you just can't help
_thinking_ when he gets agoing; and I was just thinking, What if we
could get _him_ to go, and he would listen, and get to thinking."
There are no italics that will give you an idea of the peculiar emphasis
which the boy put on the pronouns. Sallie understood; that "he" could
mean but one person in the world. But her brother must have answered the
look on her face, for she spoke no word.
"Sometimes they _do_, Sallie. There was old Pete, you know."
Oh, yes, Sallie knew old Pete; every body in that alley knew him; a
notorious drunkard once, of the sort which people, even good Christian
people, are apt to pronounce hopeless; yet now he wore a neat suit of
clothes every day, and brought home twenty pounds of flour at one time
in a sack, and bought his coal by the barrel. Wonderful things
occasionally happened in that alley.
"Yes," said Sally, "that is true; and old Pete wasn't much like him."
The tone spoke volumes. It would have almost angered her, even now, to
have had it hinted that old Pete was superior to that father, though
hardly a person acquainted with the two but would have said that there
was more hope for old Pete, even in his miserable past, than for this
How they managed it, those two: the difficult task of getting him
persuaded to go, find then the more difficult task of keeping him
sufficiently sober to get there, would make a story in itself. I fancy
there are many such stories in real life which will never get told. The
probabilities are, if they were, some wise critic would pronounce them
unnatural and sensational.
Suffice it to say that the task was accomplished, and among the most
attentive listeners to the great speaker that evening was Sallie's
father, while she sat at home and mended a badly torn jacket, and cried
now and then, and was glad and sorry and proud and frightened and
hopeful by turns all that long evening.
I am not sure but it was better for her that she sat at home. I don't
know just what she might have done had she been in the hall to see her
father, at the close of the meeting, shamble forward with the crowd, and
sign his name to the total abstinence pledge.
She might have screamed out in her excitement, or she might have
fainted; for although there were those who said--some with a sneer, and
some with a sigh--that "signing the pledge would not amount to anything;
the miserable fellow could not keep a pledge to save his life!" Sally
would have thought nothing of the kind. She had faith in her father's
It is a wonderful stimulus to have some one who believes in us.
"WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH?"
"Do you know," said Mrs. Roberts, addressing Gracie Dennis, who, with
young Ried, had waited in the hall for her to join them (they were ready
for the lecture, and were to take up Mr. Roberts on the way): "Do you
know that I have a desire which I see no way of realizing? If Mr. Colson
should bring his sister with him to-night I should like so much to get
possession of her and bring her home with me! But I have been planning
all day, and see no possible excuse for such an apparently wild
I want you to notice how naturally Mrs. Roberts said "Mr. Colson"; she
never talked about Dirk under any other name; she even taught herself to
_think_ of him as "Mr. Colson." Consequently, when she spoke the
name in his presence, there was not a trace of unnaturalness in tone or
manner. The others tried in vain to follow her example. Dr. Everett
could not speak of him in this way without slight hesitation and a touch
of embarrassment. "The truth is," said he, "I think _Dirk_ all the
week, and on the Sabbath I find it impossible to reach up to 'Mr.
Colson' without an effort." There was no touch of "reaching up" or
reaching down, about Mrs. Roberts' talk with her pupils. It is possible
that this is one link in the chain of influence which she was weaving
Gracie Dennis' face expressed curiosity, and when they were seated in
the carriage, she referred to the cause:--
"But Flossy, I cannot imagine why you should want to do such a thing. It
will certainly be too late to-night to try to get acquainted with her. I
should think some time when you could have an unbroken evening would be
the better for experimenting."
"For some sorts of experimenting it would," Mrs. Roberts answered,
smiling quietly; "my experiment, in part at least, was to see how the
pink room might impress her."
When Gracie took refuge in that name her hostess knew she was not only
much excited, but a trifle disapproving; at such times she made haste to
change the subject.
It happened that the thing for which she had been planning, shaped
itself so naturally as to give not the slightest color or premeditation
to the act.
When Dirk and his sister worked their way through the dense crowds to
the open air they discovered that it was raining heavily. For almost the
first time in her life the fact struck terror to Mart Colson's soul!
Ordinarily no duck could have been more indifferent to a rain storm than
herself. On this evening she gave vent to her dismay in short,
"Sallie's bonnet!" "And cape!" This last, after a moment's thought. "And
shoes!" she added, as the magnitude of her troubles grew upon her.
Drawn up close to the sidewalk stood a carriage and a pair of horses
that Dirk could not help giving admiring attention to, despite the rain.
A fine horse always held his attention. No thought of the occupants of
the carriage came to him, not even after a head leaned forward and a
hand beckoned; of course it was beckoning to somebody else. Then a clear
He started quickly forward; there was but one person who ever said "Mr.
Colson," and besides, that voice belonged only to one.
"I want your sister to go home with me. It is raining so hard that she
ought not to walk, and I should like very much to have her stay with me
to-night. Won't you ask her to, please?"
If Mrs. Roberts had been asking a favor, instead of conferring one, her
voice could not have been sweeter and more winning.
Dirk went back to his sister, too much bewildered by the state of
affairs even to express surprise. "Mart," he said, "she wants you."
A quick spring to the sidewalk, and young Ried was standing beside Mart.
"It is raining so hard," he explained, "Mrs. Roberts would be very glad
if you would come."
And Mart, thinking of nothing at all, save Sallie's bonnet and cape and
shoes, turned toward the waiting carriage.
Mr. Ried had his umbrella raised, and carefully shielded the bonnet,
assisting its wearer to enter the carriage with as much courtesy as he
had bestowed on Gracie Dennis but a few moments before. Not a movement
was lost on the watching Dirk.
When the door was closed and the goodnights had been said,--Mrs. Roberts
leaning from the carriage again for that purpose,--and when the horses
had dashed around the corner, he still occupied his position on the
curbstone, gazing down the street, gazing at nothing unless he saw a
reflection of his own bewildered thoughts.
"Come!" said a policeman who knew him, and was therefore suspicious,
"What are you hanging about here for? Move on!"
"Humph!" said Dirk, as he slowly took his hands out of his pockets, eyes
still fixed on the corner where the carriage had turned, "what if I
Something in his eye would have told Mrs. Roberts, had she been there,
that he meant more than moving down the street; though that he presently
did, regardless of wind and rain.
Meantime the bonnet and cape in the carriage stepped somewhat into the
background, and the girl who wore them allowed herself once more to
think of her individuality, and to wonder at her position. She sat bolt
upright on the edge of the soft, gray seat, and gazed about her as well
as she could by the glimmer of the street lamps. She in a carriage! Mart
Colson sitting on a back seat, beside a grand lady, and rolling down the
avenue! Who would have supposed that such a thing could have happened to
Sallie Calkins' bonnet? Mrs. Roberts recognized the bonnet and cape with
a smile of satisfaction. She had studied much over the possibilities of
this girl's costume. Was it probable that she had anything suitable to
wear to a lecture? She had passed the cellar where the girl lived but
once, and had had but one glimpse of her; yet these glimpses had been
enough to render it highly improbable that she had any street costume.
Then, had Mrs. Roberts canvassed the possibilities of getting a
street-suit for her, there were apparently insurmountable difficulties
in the way. She was too utterly unacquainted with the ground to venture.
Besides, there were reasons for believing that anything of value would
find its way from that cellar to a pawnbroker's in a very short space of
Having spent hours over many different schemes, and rejected each one as
liable to bring disaster, Mrs. Roberts was obliged to betake herself to
prayer. If the watching Saviour wanted her to work through the medium of
this lecture on this particular child of His, He could certainly see
that she was present; could furnish her with clothes to wear, either
through herself or some other of His servants. She would wait and watch.
Not once had she thought of Sallie Calkins and the new bonnet that her
own fingers had helped to fashion; yet here it was beside her on the
head of this girl, toward whom she was drawn! The fact made Mrs. Roberts
She said almost nothing to the startled prisoner at her side, beyond a
murmured, "So glad you let me carry you home with me!" Then she drew a
bright-colored wrap about her, and left her to her amazement, while the
eager tongues of the rest of the party talked continuously.
By the way, you are not acquainted with the pink room, I think? You
should see it before it is invaded for the night. Large, it is. I think
little people sometimes have a peculiar fondness for large rooms; Mrs.
Roberts had. The walls were tinted with what might be called a
suggestion of pink, with just a touch of sunset gold about the
The carpet was soft and rich; it gave back no sound of footfall. It was
strewn with pink buds; some just opening into beauty, some half-blown.
Accustomed to the sight of elegant carpets as you are, you would almost
have stooped to pick one of these buds, they looked so real. The curtains
to the windows were white, but lined with rose pink; they were looped
back with knots of pink ribbons. The bed was a marvel of pink and white
drapery; so was the dressing-bureau. The easy-chairs were upholstered in
soft grays with a pinkish tinge; and the tidies, lavishly displayed,
were all of pink and white. There was nothing conventional about the
room. A professional would have been shocked by some of its
appointments. Many a lady of wealth, accustomed to having things as
"they" decree, would have been more than doubtful over the pink ribbons
and the profusion of white drapery. Aside from the carpet, and a choice
picture or two, there was nothing especially expensive about the
furnishings. It was simply a room in which Mrs. Roberts had allowed her
own sweet little fancies to take her captive.
The gas was lighted; the door was ajar into a toilet-room; a lavish
display of great, beautiful towels could be seen as you peeped in, and
various touches told of an expected guest. Flowers were blossoming on
the mantel, and a tiny vase which stood on a bracket near the
toilet-stand held a single rose of a peculiar hue and perfume, which had
blossomed for this hour. At least, Mrs. Roberts thought so.
Into this room, in all its purity and beauty, went Sallie Calkins'
bonnet and cape and her strong, new, thick shoes; and the wearer thereof
pushed the bonnet away from her flushed face, and stood and looked about
Down stairs they discussed in curious tones--not her, but the mistress
of the mansion.
"Flossy, I do think you are too queer for anything! Why don't you have
her go to Katy's room? Katy is away for the night, you know, and I'm
sure her room is as neat and pretty as can be. Imagine what a contrast
it would be to anything that she has ever seen! Mr. Ried, you ought to
see the room into which she has been put. There isn't a more elegant one
in the house. Some of its furnishings are so delicate that I hardly like
to touch them. What sort of a disease is it that has taken Mrs. Roberts,
do you suppose, to send her there? Flossy, she will get no rest
to-night; she will be afraid of that immaculate bed."'
This, of course, was Gracie Dennis.
Mr. Roberts looked from her to his wife,--his face smiling, curious, yet
with a sort of at-rest expression.
"What do you hope to accomplish, Flossy?" He asked the question as one
who was pleased to watch a new experiment, yet felt sure that the
experimenter had an end to attain which would justify any measures that
she might take. Mr. Roberts had believed in his wife when he chose her
from all others; but he was learning to believe in her in a peculiar
sense, as one led by a hand that made no mistakes.
She turned to answer his question; her face bright, yet half puzzled:--
"I am not sure that I can explain to you what I hoped for," she said; "I
caught the idea from Mr. Ried."
"From me!" and the young man thus mentioned looked so astonished and
incredulous that Gracie laughed.
"He is sure he never thought of anything so wild," she said, gayly.
"Flossy, you must find a better excuse than that."
"Yet it was something that he said. Do you remember telling me, not long
ago, about your sister's idea that all the world had lost its place
because of sin; that God intended everything here to be beautiful, and
all life to be bright with joy, and that Satan had gotten hold of men's
lives, and was trying to ruin them, and that every beautiful creation
was God's picture to the world of what his intention had been? I'm
telling it poorly; but it made a very deep impression. This girl's face,
you know, is beautiful. It is what God meant some faces to
be; at least, I mean he has given her the frame for a face of beauty. I
have a vague, half-understood sort of wish to give her a glimpse of
harmony; something that will fit her golden hair and lovely complexion;
and see what she will think of God's idea, and whether she will
understand that it is sin which has spoiled it, and whether she is
willing to serve the author of her ruin. I don't believe I am making
myself plain, but I know what I mean, at least."
"If we do not, I think it must be because you have caught a thought from
God, that we are not able to reach up to."
It was Mr. Roberts who made this reply. Something in his wife's
experiment had deeply moved him.
As for Mr. Ried, his face lighted, as it always did, at the mention of
his sister's name.
"Sometimes I almost think that it is Ester still at work, and that He
lets her work through this woman."
It was what he said to Gracie Dennis in an aside. Mrs. Roberts had
already gone to see in person to the comfort of her guest.
"O LORD, TAKE DIRK, TOO!"
She found her standing before the mirror. By reason of the fact that she
understood no pretty trick of braid or curl, her long yellow hair hung
just as Nature had made it, with no waves or ripples save those which
had grown with its growth. It fell about her now like a sunset cloud.
She had taken from the vase near at hand a rose, which she had pushed in
among the masses of hair, with no knowledge as to how it should be
arranged, or, indeed, thought; yet the effect was something which made
Mrs. Roberts give an involuntary start of admiration.
Still it was evident that, though apparently gazing at herself, she was
thinking away beyond herself. It is doubtful if at that moment she saw
the flower, or her own reflection, or knew that she was looking. Her
eyes had the faraway expression which one sometimes sees in great power
on faces like hers. She turned as Mrs. Roberts, having softly knocked
and received no answer, softly entered, and her first words indicated
the intensity of her thought, whatever it was:--
"Dirk has _got_ to go there!"
"Go where?" asked Mrs. Roberts, startled out of the words she meant to
speak; startled by the hint of power in the voice and manner.
"Of whom are you thinking, my dear girl? and where do you want him to
"I'm thinking about Dirk, ma'am; I thought about him all the evening;
the man made me; and I've made up my mind; he's _got_ to go to
I suppose I cannot give you an idea of the force in her voice. It was as
though a resolution, from which there could be no appeal, had been
taken, and the person resolving felt her own power to accomplish. It was
altogether an unexpected answer to Mrs. Roberts. She did not know
whether to be half-frightened or to laugh.
She sat down in one of the easy-chairs to study the girl, and consider
what answer to make. Mart, meantime, turned back to the survey of
herself in the mirror, or to the survey of whatever she saw there, and
"I never knew much about heaven. You may guess that, if you have ever
been in our alley. Only lately, Sallie Calkins she's been telling me
what you told her; and I had a kind of notion that you must know what
you was talking about, and that it was for rich folks and grand folks
like you; but the man told about that Madge, you know, to-night--an
awful drunkard and swearer, and all that--how she reformed and went to
heaven. Dirk ain't no drunkard; but he will be. Everybody says he will,
because father is such an awful one. Mother, she's never had no hope of
him. She says father didn't drink till he was most twenty, and then he
begun; and she's looking for Dirk to begin, and I haven't thought he
could help it either. What if he doesn't care for it much yet? He will,
it's likely. I've never told nobody that, not even Sallie, and I've been
mad at mother every time she said any such thing; but all the time I've
been expecting him to begin; and I know well enough, when once they
_begin_, how it goes on. But that man to-night told things that made
a difference. He says that God can keep them from wanting to drink, and
help them right straight along; and that they can go to heaven as well
as the next one. I've wanted nice things for Dirk all my life; but I
never saw no way to get them, and it made me mad. To-night I saw a way,
but I never had no kind of a notion how heaven looked till I come into
this room, and see the light and the flowers and the shine, and another
room spread out there in the glass: and now I know, and Dirk shall go!"
Mrs. Roberts was in no mood for laughing, the tears were dropping slowly
on the flower she held in her hand. Mart saw in the glass just then a
sight which seemed to add to her surprise. She turned wondering eyes on
"What are you crying for?" she asked. "Don't spoil the flower; it is
like the one Dirk bought me once. He said you sent it to me. I kept it
most a week. I took it over to Sallie's, and she got fresh water for it
every day, somehow; and it was then she begun to tell me what you said
about heaven, and I thought if God had made such flowers as that for
you, it was likely he had made a heaven for you; but I didn't believe it
was for Dirk till to-night, and I didn't have no kind of a notion how it
looked till just now. Do you _believe_ what that man said--that
folks like Dirk can go? Of course, if Madge went, why Dirk would have a
_right_. He is bad just because he _has_ to be. He never had
no chance to be anything else; and he ain't very bad, anyhow--nothing to
compare with some." Her voice was almost fierce in its earnestness; she
was beginning to resent the creeping doubt that Mrs. Roberts' silence
Careful words must be spoken now. What if this awakening soul should be
turned aside! No wonder that the unspoken words were prayers.
"Dirk has a _right_ to go to heaven," she said, steadily, sweetly;
"there is not the shadow of a doubt as to his right. No one in the
world--not Satan himself--can deprive him of it; and it is not only his
_right_, but his duty to go."
"Then he shall!"
I wish I could give you an idea of the strength in the girl's voice. It
almost carried conviction with it to Mrs. Roberts' heart.
"Come and sit down," she said, and she drew her towards one of the low
cushions. If Mart sat on that, her head would be just where a gentle
hand could stroke the masses of hair.
"Let me talk with you about this. You are mistaken in one thing. Dirk is
very bad. He is bad enough to shut him out of heaven forever."
The girl started, and tried to fling off the caressing hand.
"So are you," said the gentle voice.
"Oh, _me_! Don't talk about me! Whoever said I wasn't bad? Let me
go; I want to go home. I don't care how hard it rains."
"And so am I," continued the gentle voice.
The girl on the cushion ceased struggling to free herself from the
caressing touch, and remained motionless.
"Let me tell you of something that we have each done a great many times.
We have been asked and urged and coaxed day after day, and year after
year, to accept an invitation to go to this very heaven, and we have
paid no attention at all; and this, after Jesus Christ had given His
life to make a way for us to go. Is not that being bad?"
"Dirk he never had no invitation--never heard anything about it."
"Yes, he has," speaking with quiet firmness. "The Lord Jesus Christ told
me to invite him, and I have done so a great many times, and he has made
no answer; and Sallie Calkins has invited you, and you have treated it
in just the same way."
"I didn't believe it."
"Isn't that being bad? What has He ever done that you should refuse to
believe His word, when He died an awful death to prove to you that He
was in earnest?"
"You said Dirk had a _right_ to go."
"So he has. Jesus Christ has given him a right, if he will. I have
invited you to my house, and asked you to spend the night in this room,
and sleep in this bed. Has any person a right to keep you from doing
"No." An emphatic nod of the head, and a lingering, almost loving look
at the white bed behind her.
"Then cannot you truthfully say that you have a _right_ to be here?
My dear girl, it is so faint an illustration of what Jesus Christ has
done to give you a right to heaven, that I almost wonder at your
understanding it. But can you imagine something of how I should have
felt had I urged you to come to me night after night, for weeks and
years, and you had turned from me with no answer, or else with scorn?"
"You wouldn't have kept on asking me." Mart spoke with the assurance of
one who had firm faith in her statement.
"No, I presume I should not. I would have said after the third or fourth
invitation, 'If she really will not have anything to do with me I cannot
help it,' and I should have tried to forget you. This is one of the many
differences between Christ and me. He waits, and asks, and _asks_.
How long will you keep Him waiting?"
I have given you only the beginning of the conversation. It was long ere
it was concluded.
Down stairs Mr. Ried waited as long as he could, curious to know the
result of Mart's first impressions. Then he went away, and Gracie went
to her room, and the house settled into quiet, and Mr. Roberts, in the
library, waited for his wife, while she told over again, with tender
words and simple illustrations, the "old, old story," so fitted to the
wants of the world.
How many times has there been a like result.
It was midnight when they knelt together, the fair child of luxury and
the child of poverty; but the Saviour, who intercedes for both, bent His
ear, and heard again the cry of a groping soul, seeking Him out of
darkness, and held out His loving, never-failing arms, able to reach
down to her depth, and received her to himself. Who can tell that story?
Who can describe how heaven seemed to the girl just then?
It was not what Mrs. Roberts had expected. I cannot even say that it was
what she had hoped for. Her faith had not reached to such a height at
all. She could hardly have put into words what she hoped. When she
ventured to try to tell it to the friends in the parlor, and to you, I
doubt whether you understood. She thought to get a hold on the girl; to
show her something of God's beauty and love, as it shone through
herself; to make her long after something her life did not give, and to
gradually lead her to seek after satisfaction in Christ. A long
process--something that should unfold gradually, with many discouraging
drawbacks, and some days that would look like utter failures. She had
schooled herself to be prepared for this, but she had not looked for Him
to exert His mighty power to save in a moment. How it had touched her to
find a soul, hungry, not for itself, but for a brother, I shall not
attempt to tell. The first words she said, after she went back to her
waiting husband, a little after midnight, were these:--
"He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. I
think that is what is the matter with the world to-day. I wonder if He
would not be pleased with one who could throw herself at His feet with a
childlike abandon of faith, and expect wonders, yes, and
impossibilities, just as a child feels that _anything_ can be done
by father? God has shamed my faith to-night. It is as though I had asked
for a crumb of bread, and he gave me the entire loaf. That girl
up-stairs has not heard of Him before as a Saviour for _her_; has
never thought of such a thing, or, at least, dreamed of its possibility,
and yet she has given herself to Him. And Evan, what do you think were
the first words she said? 'O Lord, take Dirk, too!' She is on her knees
at this moment praying for him. If you could have seen her face when it
first dawned upon her that she could tell God about him, and ask for His
mighty power to be exerted in his behalf, it would have been a picture
for your lifetime. Oh, Evan, Evan, why can we not expect great things of
"AN AWFUL PROBLEM"
Isn't it strange, the ways the Lord takes to answer prayers?
Much prayer had been made for Dirk Colson, but few had thought of his
sister. Sallie Calkins, it is true, had come with trembling steps into
the light of Christ's love, and had immediately desired to have Mart
enjoy it with her, but was very trembling and doubting as to her ability
to reach Mart, or to influence her in the right direction. She sent the
bonnet and cape to the lecture with a prayer, but she did not look for
the prayer to be answered. Verily, He has to be content with faith "less
than a grain of mustard-seed."
Was the rest of the story an answer to prayer? We are to remember that
He has strange ways. Events startling enough in their import followed
each other in rapid succession. In the first place, Dirk's father, poor,
wrecked man, returned no more. Whether he had wandered among the network
of railroads which lined the southern portion of the city, and lost his
life there, or whether he had fallen into the river, or just how he had
disappeared, could not be discovered. There were three men killed by an
accident on the road one night, but their disfigured bodies were buried
before Dirk heard of it. There was a man seen struggling in the water
off the lower wharf one evening, but he sank before help could reach
him, and his body was not recovered. There were half a dozen men killed
by a boiler explosion, but that was not heard of in time to look into
it. There were so many ways in which the wreck might have gone out of
life and left no sign. They were safe in supposing that he was
intoxicated, and that was about all they could be perfectly sure of,
concerning him; that, and the fact that he came no more. Of course,
there was no such search for him as is made for the man of
respectability and position. To one who had some idea of the worth of a
soul, it was pitiful to see what a tiny ripple this disappearance made
on the surface of life.
A moment of startled questioning by those who lived in the immediate
neighborhood; a few women with aprons thrown over their heads
congregating in groups around the pump, or before the door of the
bakery; a crowd of dirty children, stopping their play for a moment, and
speaking lower;--then the tide of noisy, fighting, swearing life went
One was gone out from it. Whither? None knew, few cared; and there were
such crowds and _crowds_ left, how could he be missed?
One missed him,--an abused, insulted, downtrodden woman. One whom, years
before, he had promised to love and cherish until death parted them, and
had broken the vows almost as soon as taken, and never renewed them
again. Yet that woman wept bitter tears over his absence; watched for
him, listened nightly for his staggering footsteps; rose up from her
heap of straw in the corner in the middle of the night, and set wide
open the cellar door, and listened to the angry voices floating down to
her from some drunken brawl further up the street, if, perchance, she
might hear _his_; listened, and held her breath, and quivered all
over with hope and fear: then crept back to her miserable bed, covered
her head with the ragged quilt, and cried herself into a few hours of
"She is crying herself to death about him!" Mart said. There was
surprise mingled with awe in her voice.
She told it to Dirk, and the two stood thoughtfully for a moment looking
out at the one window. They carefully avoided looking at each other.
They did not understand. To them there was simply relief in the father's
absence. They had no trace of love for him in their hearts. The word
"father" meant nothing to them but misery. Still there was that in them
which respected the mother's grief; they tried to shield her. Dirk, of
his own thoughtfulness, brought home a bit of tea in a paper, and bought
half a pint of milk at the corner bakery; and Mart took lessons of
Sallie, and made a delicate slice of toast, and borrowed Sallie's one
cup and saucer to serve the tea in. She was disappointed that the mother
cried, and could hardly drink the tea. She was even almost vexed that
the mother said with tears that "poor Jock always did like tea so
_much_, and she had always thought that maybe if he could have had
it hot and strong he would not have taken to the drink."
Mart had no faith in this, no belief that anything in her father's past
life could have kept him from the drink; but she held herself silent,
and let the tears have their way. All the time she had in her heart one
great solemn regret. There was one who would have helped her father;
would and could have saved him, even from rum. What if she, his
daughter, had known the Lord Jesus, and could have taken the miserable
father to Him and had him transformed! Mart had no doubt about
_His_ power to do it. An unanswerable argument had been given her.
No infidel need try to assail her now.
But the father! Why had everybody kept silence, and let him sink away?
Why had not she known Christ? Why had she not listened to Sallie but a
week before? Why had not Dirk learned the way and saved his father? An
awful problem! Mart's life must henceforth be shadowed by it.
Meantime what was Mrs. Roberts to do for this new-born soul? How was she
to help her, and, through her, to help her brother?
She, in her elegant home, sat down to study this problem.
Life at East Fifty-fifth Street was so far removed from life in the
alley that she knew nothing about the missing father. Days passed, and,
busy with many claims of society, she had made no movement toward
helping the girl, and knew as yet no way to do it; yet she carried her
on her heart. Monday evening came and went, and still she had been
detained from any effort.
One afternoon her thoughts shaped themselves into action. She would go
and see Mart. She would get Dirk to protect her in her journey down the
alley; also, in accomplishing this, she would accomplish another thing.
She would call on Dirk at his place of business. The chief of the office
was a Christian man; yet she had reason to believe that he knew less
about Dirk, and cared much less for him, than he did for his little dog,
who sat in the window and barked at passers-by.
She had no difficulty in securing attention. Ladies were not often
admitted, but a card bearing the name "Mrs. Evan Roberts" was sufficient
passport among any of the business men of the city.
Mr. Stone was more than ready, he was eager to serve her. What could he
do for the elegantly-dressed lady whose carriage waited at the door,
while she came in person among the bales and boxes? Her business must be
It was. Could she speak with Mr. Colson just for a moment? She would not
detain him long; but she wished to make an appointment with him for the
"Mr. Colson!" The chief and his perplexed assistant looked at each other
thoughtfully, and shook their heads. There was no such person connected
with their establishment. She must have the wrong number.
No; she was positive.
"He told me only three days ago that he was in your employ. He is on the
third floor, I believe."
The gentlemen looked at each other again.
"Colson!" repeated Mr. Stone. "There is certainly a mistake. Briggs is
in charge on the third floor front, and Dickson has the back rooms. No,
Mrs. Roberts, we have no such name among our men, I am positive."
But Mrs. Roberts gently held her ground. She was sure she was not
mistaken, for she had talked with him about his work and the different
men. He was in Mr. Briggs' department, she felt quite sure. He was not a
foreman, she explained, but quite a young man; had been there but a few
weeks, and Dr. Everett was the one who had interested himself in
securing the place.
Light of some sort began to dawn on the perplexed faces of the
"Can she mean black Dirk, do you suppose?" questioned the elder, looking
hard at his associate.
Then came the sweet voice of the visitor.
"Oh, no; he is not a colored gentleman. His name is Colson,--Mr. Derrick
"That is the one," said the gentleman, quickly. Should he laugh or be
It took but a moment after that to summon "Mr. Derrick Colson." Black he
was, certainly, not only by reason of his naturally dark skin, but
because of the grimy work, whatever it was, which fell to his lot. His
big apron was soiled with ink and oil, and daubed with bits of dark
color which seemed not to be either.
He came forward with his usual shambling gait, and an additional shade
of sullenness apparent on his face, but it glowed a swarthy red when he
recognized the lady.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Colson," she said, and she held forth her
His own went forward to meet it; then drew suddenly back.
"It is not clean enough," he said; "there's ink or something on it."'
But the lavender kids were not withdrawn.
"Never mind the ink; a little honest soil never hurt anybody," and the
rough, dark hand was taken in her own.
Then occurred a few moments' chat; at least the lady chatted with easy
familiarity. She referred to the "Social Parlors," to the "Monday
Evenings," to Miss Dennis' "Musicale," to half a dozen themes about
which the bewildered gentlemen within hearing knew nothing.
Could it be that the low-voiced, gentle lady was trying to give
_them_ a lesson as well as to talk with Dirk? Finally she made an
appointment for the next afternoon. Would his employer be so kind as to
excuse him for an hour, if convenient? Certainly, it would be convenient
to please Mrs. Evan Roberts.
Dirk was very much embarrassed. He blushed and stammered, and did not
know how to answer any of the kindnesses; but there were two things
during the interview which gave Mrs. Roberts more pleasure than you,
perhaps, are able to understand.
One was, that at sight of her he had suddenly snatched off the paper cap
which he wore, and the other, that having set it again on his head as he
turned from her, he glanced back from the door, and, in answer to her
bow and smile, lifted the ugly little cap with an air that was an exact
imitation of young Ried, and yet so well done that you would not have
thought of it as an imitation.
Mrs. Roberts could have clapped her hands; but she did not. Instead she
"I am very glad that Mr. Colson is in the employ of a Christian
gentleman. He is greatly in need of help from all Christian sources, and
I am sure there is that in him which will respond to judicious effort."
Then she let the bewildered man attend her to her carriage, and went her
* * * * *
But there were plans being laid for her at that moment of which she knew
To-morrow she would go and see the golden-haired girl. In a
neatly-packed basket she had certain things, among them a bonnet and a
sack that she knew would fit the hair and face, and she believed would
give Mart pleasure. If only she could contrive a natural way to give
them to her, and there could be planned ways of keeping them safe from
the pawnbroker's grasp. All this time she knew nothing of the fact that
the hand which had grasped for years to furnish the pawnbroker was
stilled forever. It had not once occurred to Dirk to tell her. It is a
solemn fact that in this greater excitement he had actually forgotten
it! As for the "Christian employer," he did not know of it to tell. He
had not so much as known whether black Dirk had a father or not. He was
simply a street rough, whom Dr. Everett was trying experiments with; and
because there was an unusual pressure on the office, and poor help was
better than none, he was helping the experiment.
However, when Dirk went home from the office that night he remembered
that the father was gone.
Mart met him at the door, a look of solemn determination on her face.
"Dirk," she said, "_she's_ going; as sure as you live, she's going.
She's been bad all the afternoon. Sallie says that Mark's doctor will
come to see her,--she knows he will, and Mark shall go for him as soon
as he comes home; but I don't mean to wait for no doctor. I want
_her_ to come. _She_ knows the way, and I want mother to be
told it right, so there won't be no mistake. You go for her, Dirk, right
off straight. There ain't any time to lose, for I tell you now she's
_going_. She's been failing all along, you know, and she has just
cried herself down. Dirk, will you go for _her_ as fast as you
The confusion of pronouns might have bewildered you. They did not Dirk.
"_Her_" meant to him exactly what it did to Mart. He could not
think how it could possibly mean any other person. But this was
astounding news about his mother! It was one thing to have a father
disappear, whom he had simply feared, until he had learned to hate; it
was quite another thing to talk about the going away of the only one who
had ever tried to mend his clothes, and who had sat up nights to wash
them when she could.
He strode past Mart into the wretched room, and looked at the bed in the
The mother was asleep, but on her face was a strange change--a something
that he had never seen there before, worn and sunken as it always was.
It made him understand Mart's fears.
"I'll go," he said huskily, and rushed from the house.
"_Her_" carriage was just rolling down the avenue as his swift feet
cleared the alley. He knew the horses. He was a little ahead of them;
but it was not probable that the driver would stop for him.
"Won't you stop that carriage?" he said in breathless haste to a
policeman at the corner; "I've got to speak to the lady that's in it."
"I'll be quite likely to, no doubt!" said the policeman, in quiet irony.
"What rascality are you up to now, Dirk? _Can't_ you be decent for
a few days?"
But Dirk was trying to free himself from the detaining hand, and threw
up one arm in a sort of despairing gesture to the coachman. Mr. Roberts
caught the signal, recognized the face, and in another moment the horses
stood restlessly by the curb-stone, and Dirk, his embarrassment gone,
told his brief story rapidly.
"Father went off a spell ago, and never came back; and mother, she is
sickly, and it set her crying; and she's _going_, Mart thinks, and
I guess it's so; and Mart wants you to come and show her the way. She
said you knew how, and you would come."
"MAY SHE GO WITH ME?"
Of course she went. And, of course, now that the truth was known, much
was done. Dr. Everett was summoned. The wretched bed, with its
distressing rags, were turned out together, and a comfortable one took
its place. Broths and teas and jellies and physical comfort of every
kind were furnished, and the doctor did his best to battle with the
disease that long years of want and misery had fastened upon their
victim. It was all too late, of course. It was true, what Mr. Roberts
sadly said, that half of the effort, expended years or even months
before, might have saved the poor, tortured life; but now!
How awful those "too lates" are! Isn't it a wonder that we ever take the
risk of having one ring in our ears forever? There was one thing over
which some of these Christian workers shed tears of joy.
"_I_ am too late," said Dr. Everett, "but my Master has as much
power to-day as ever. He can save her."
And He did. The poor, tired woman, who years before had remembered an
old story well enough to name her one daughter "Martha," in memory of
the one who "loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus," roused her dull
heart at the mention of His name, and listened while the wonderful story
was told her that He loved not only Martha and her sister, but her own
poor, sinful, wrecked self; loved her enough to reach after her, and
call and wait, and prepare for her a home in His glory.
Dear! Why has not some one come with the news before? Surely she would
have listened during these long, sad years. Well, they made the way
plain. Neither was it a difficult thing to do. The woman was weary and
travel-stained and afraid, and longed for nothing so much as a place of
refuge. She knew that she was a sinner; she knew that she was, and had
been for many a year, powerless to help herself. Why should she not hail
with joy the story of a great and willing Helper?
"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." She opened her
eyes with a gleam of eagerness to hear the words. "Weary?"' Yes, indeed!
"Heavy laden?" Who more so? If the call was not for her, whom
_could_ it mean? What else? Why, what, but the glorious old story,
"I will give you rest?" What wonder that she closed her eyes and smiled!
What wonder that the first words after that were: "I'll come; show me
how." And He showed her how.
"Dirk," the sister said, when the mother had gone the last and only
restful journey of her life, "Dirk, _she_ went to heaven; and I'm
going. I've been wanting to tell you for more than a week, but I didn't
know how. _He_ asked me to, and I'm going. Now _you_ must.
'Cause we never had a good time here, and she'll kind of expect it in
heaven, and be looking out for you; she always looked out for you,
Then did Dirk lose his half-sullen self-control, and great tears rolled
down his dark cheeks.
But the sister shed no tears. She had serious business to attend to.
Dirk must go to heaven now without fail.
* * * * *
One day there was an unusual scene in the alley. It was no uncommon
thing to see a coffin carried out from there, but on this day there was
a hearse, and a minister in Dr. Everett's carriage, and Dirk and his
sister, in neat apparel, came out together and were seated in Mr.
Roberts' carriage; and all the boys of the Monday-evening Class walked
arm in arm after the slow-moving carriages; and the children of the
alley stopped their placing and their fighting, and the women stood
silent in doorways, and took, most of them, their very first lesson in
the proprieties of life.
"She's got a ride in a carriage at last, poor soul!" said one, thinking
of the worn-out body in the coffin; and another said: "I wonder what
poor old Jock would think of all this?"
But the scene made its impression, and left its lesson. I think the
voices of some of them were lower during the rest of the day because of
What next? It was the question that filled Mrs. Roberts' thoughts.
Something must be done for Dirk and Mart. That fearful alley was no
place for human beings; certainly not for these two. But what to do with
them was a question not easily answered.
Various plans were proposed. Sallie Calkins' two rooms were much better
than the cellar in which the Colson family had lived; and there was a
chance to rent a room next to Sallie's, with a closet opening from it
for Dirk. How would it do to have them board with Sallie? The suggestion
came first from Gracie Dennis, and sounded reasonable. Mrs. Roberts was
almost ashamed to dislike it as much as she did. Sallie's neat rooms
were _home_ now. The father, for this length of time at least, held
to his pledge; and son and daughter were radiant over him. He had gone
to work, and already the two rooms were taking on an air of greater
comfort because of the little things that he proudly brought home.
Sallie was doing her part wisely. The table was regularly laid now, with
a white cloth and knives and forks; and two new cups and plates had been
added to the dishes. Would it be wise to invade this home just at this
juncture and introduce boarders? Mrs. Roberts did not believe that it
would. It was not as though the father had an established character, and
stood ready to shield his children; they were still acting the
protective, and he had but too recently risen from the depths where Dirk
and Mart had laughed and jeered at him. Besides, the rooms were located
in that dreadful alley; and, do what she would, Mrs. Roberts could not
feel that that dangerously-beautiful face could find a safe
abiding-place in that alley. Some other way must be thought of.
Their immediate future was arranged through the intervention of a house
agent; for even that dreary and desolate cellar had its agent, who was
eager to secure his rent. He was unwise enough to undertake to interview
Mrs. Roberts as she descended from her carriage, not long after it had
followed Mart's mother to the grave.
He considered this effort of his a special stroke of business energy. He
wanted to be patient with the poor, he said; there wasn't an agent in
the city who waited for them oftener than he did; but business was
business, and it stood to reason that he could not depend on a fellow
like Dirk. It had been bad enough when the mother was there, but he
couldn't think of such a thing as risking it now. What was he to
understand? Did she mean to rent the room for them, and for how long?
Because it was his duty to look out for the future.
What would be more natural than for Mrs. Roberts, with those two young
things looking on, to say that of course she would be responsible for
the rent as long as they lived in the room? Thus reasoned the house
Instead of which, Mrs. Roberts turned toward Dirk, her face flushed over
the hardness of a man who could stop a boy and girl on such business on
their way from their mother's grave, and said:--
"If I were in your place, Mr. Colson, I should not rent these rooms at
all. They are not suited to your sister's needs. I am sure you can do
The agent was disgusted. "_Mr._ Colson," indeed! The disreputable
young scamp whom nobody trusted. He would show this silly woman a fact
"Business is business" he repeated, doggedly. "Either they must take the
room, and pay the rent in advance, or else they must hustle out this
very night." He had waited now three days after time for decency's sake,
and more than that he couldn't and wouldn't do.
Dirk stood looking from one to the other; the red coming and going on
his swarthy face. Here was responsibility! He had not thought of it
before. The mother was not there to count out the hoarded rent with
trembling fingers, and save the wretched home to them for another month.
She would never be there again. He had nothing with which to pay rent;
he had nowhere to move. Yet _she_ had called him Mr. Colson, and
seemed to expect him to act for himself and Mart.
It was she who answered the agent, but she spoke to Dirk.
"Very well; I suppose you are quite as willing to leave here to-night as
at any time? If I were you, I would leave immediately. Let your sister
come home with me for the night, and until you have time to make other
Mr. Roberts had been summoned to a bank meeting, and had sent Ried to
attend his wife. He came forward now, from the carriage where he had
stood waiting, and laid a hand on Dirk's arm.
"And you come home with me to-night, Colson," he said in a cordial tone,
such as he might have used with any young friend; "then we shall have a
chance to talk things over and make plans."
"That is nice," Mrs. Roberts said, quickly, rejoicing in her heart over
Ried's promptness to act. "Then you can get away from this wretched
place at once. Mr. Roberts will see to the removal of your goods,
whatever you need, and the agent can call on him in the morning. That
will be the simplest way to settle it all. May she go with me?"
A slight, caressing movement of a gloved hand on the girl's arm
accompanied this question.
Mart was silent with bewilderment. When had Dirk ever before been asked
what _she_ might do, or might not do? At first she was half
inclined to scorn the suggestion. Then, suddenly, it came to her with a
sense of relief and protection: she was not alone; it was Dirk's
business to think of and care for her. Would he do it?
As for Dirk, no wonder that his face was deeply flushed. New thoughts
were struggling in his heart. _He_ was to decide for Mart; he was
the head of the home now. Mrs. Roberts waited anxiously. She longed
exceedingly to rouse in the boy, who was already grown to the stature of
a man, a sense of responsibility.
A moment more, and he had shaken himself free from the spell which
seemed to bind him.
"We'll do as you say." He spoke with the air of a man who had assumed
his proper place and taken up his duties. "Mart, you go along with her,
and I'll see about things to-morrow."
And Mart, for the first time in her life, received and obeyed in silence
a direction from her brother.
Possibly Mrs. Roberts may have been mistaken, but she thought that much
had been accomplished that day.
Yet none of them realized whereunto this thing would grow.
Mrs. Roberts, when she ushered Mart that evening into the pink room
again, and showed her how to manage the hot and cold water, and which
bell to ring if she needed anything, and in every imaginable way treated
her as a guest, whom it was pleasant to serve, had really no plans just
then--no hobby to ride--but simply acted out the dictates of her heart.
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