"No," said Dolly slowly; "and I cannot show it to you, either, Mr. St. Leger. It is like the golden water in the story in the Arabian Nights, which was at the top of a hill, and people went up the hill to get it; but on the way so many strange voices sounded in their ears that they were tempted to look round; and if they looked round they were turned to stone. So the way was marked with stones."
"And nobody got the golden water?"
"Yes. At last one went up, who being forewarned, stopped her ears and never looked round. She got to the top and found the golden water. We in these times give it another name. It is the water of life."
"What are you talking about, Dolly?" said her mother.
"Must one go up the hill with one's ears stopped now, to get the wonderful water?" Lawrence asked. Dolly nodded.
"And when you have got it—what then?"
"Then you have got it," said Dolly. "It is the water of life. And you have done with this dry wilderness that mother is complaining of, and you are recommending."
Lawrence stroked and pulled his moustache, as he might have done if a lady had spoken to him in polite Sanscrit. Rupert looked gravely out of the carriage window. Neither answered, and nobody spoke another word, till Mrs. Copley exclaimed, "There's Leipzig!"
"Looks sort o' peaceful now," remarked Rupert.
"Peaceful? Why, ain't the place quiet?" Mrs. Copley asked anxiously.
"Quiet enough," said Lawrence; "but there was a time, not so long ago, when it wasn't exactly so."
"When was that?"
"When all the uniforms of Europe were chasing through it," said Dolly; "some chased and some chasing; when the country was covered with armies; when a half a million of men or so fought a long battle here, and the suburbs of Leipzig were full of dead and wounded and sick and starving; there was not much peace then in or out of the city; though there was some rejoicing."
"Oh," said Mrs. Copley, "you mean"——
"When Napoleon was beaten here, mother."
"War's a mean thing!" said Rupert.
"That's not precisely the view civilised peoples take of it," said Lawrence with a slight sneer.
"True, though," said Dolly.
"Mean?" said Lawrence. "Do you think it was a mean thing for Germany to rise up and cast out the power that had been oppressing her? or for the other powers of Europe to help?"
"No; but very mean for the side that had given the occasion."
"That's as you look at it," said Lawrence.
"No, but how God looks at it. You cannot possibly think," said Dolly slowly, going back to her old childish expression,—"that He likes it."
Lawrence could not help smiling at this very original view. "Very few people that make war ask that question," he said.
"God will ask them, though," said Dolly, "why they did not. I think few people ask that question, Mr. St. Leger, about anything."
"It is not usual, except for a little saint here and there like you," he allowed.
"And yet it is the only question. There is nothing else to be asked about a matter; almost nothing else. If that is settled, it is all settled."
"If we were only all saints," Lawrence put in.
"Why are not we?"
"I don't know. I suppose everybody is not cut out for such a vocation."
"Everybody ought to be a saint."
"Do you mean that?" cried Rupert. "I thought,—I mean, I thought it was a special gift."
"Yes," said Dolly with a smile at him; "but God gives it to every one that wants it. And when the King comes, Mr. St. Leger, He will gather His saints to Him, and none others; don't yon want to be counted among them then?—I do!"
I don't know what had wrought up Dolly to this sudden burst; but she dropped her veil upon eyes all alight, while some soft dripping tears were falling from them like diamonds. Every one knows the peculiar brilliancy of a sunlit shower; and the two young men remained fairly dazzled. Rupert, however, looked very grave, while the other wore a cloud on his brow.
Dolly was as matter-of-fact as possible when she came out from under her veil again; and declared she should not go to a hotel in Dresden, but take a lodging.
"Why?" Lawrence enquired.
"Cheaper. And pleasanter. And much quieter. We shall probably have to stay several days in Dresden. We must get letters there."
"But you do not know where to go to find lodgings."
"Yes, I do. Or I shall. I hope so. I have sent for the address of the woman with whom Lady Brierley had lodgings a whole winter."
"Where do you expect to receive this address?"
"In Leipzig, I hope."
"Really, Dolly, you take a good deal upon you, considering how old you are," said her mother. "Don't you think Mr. St. Leger knows best?"
"No, mother, not for you and me. Oh, he can go to a hotel. He will, of course."
However, this Mr. St. Leger did not desire. He was obliged to do it, nevertheless. The letter was found at Leipzig, the lodgings were found in Dresden, but not roomy enough to hold them all. Mrs. Copley and her daughter and their attendant Rupert were very comfortably accommodated; and to Dolly's great joy found themselves alone. Frau Wetterhahn was all obligingness, hearing Lady Brierley's name, and made them right welcome. This Frau Wetterhahn! She was the most lively, active, capable, talkative, bright-eyed, good-humoured, free and easy little woman that you can imagine. She was really capable, and cooked them a nice supper. Dolly had unpacked a few things, and felt herself at home, and the three sat down comfortably to their meal.
"Now, mother, dear," said Dolly, "this is pleasant!"
"Well," said Mrs. Copley, "I think it is. If you only hadn't sent Lawrence away!"
"He couldn't stay, mother. Frau Wetterhahn sent him away—not I. Change will be good for him. And for me too. I am going to make believe we are at home for a little while. And you are going to see the Green vaults; and I am going to see everything. And these rooms are so cosy!"
"Aren't you going to see the Green vaults too?"
"Indeed, I hope so. But we may have to wait a day or two, dear mother; that will be good, and you can have a rest."
"I'm sure I'm glad of it," said Mrs. Copley. "I am just tired of riding, and more tired yet of seeing everlasting new things. I am aching for something I've seen before in my life."
"Well, here's a cup of coffee, mother."
Mrs. Copley tasted.
"If you think that's like anything I used to have at home, I'm sorry for you!" she said with a reproachful look.
"Don't you like it? I do. I like it because it is different. But I think it is very good, mother. And look—here is some delicious bread."
"It's like no bread I ever saw till I came to Germany. Oh, mercy! why must folks have so many ways? I wonder how things will be at Venice!"
"Stranger than ever, mother, I'm afraid."
"Then I shall get tired of it. Isn't this a very roundabout way that we are going to Venice—round this way by Dresden?"
"Why, yes, mother, of course; but the Green vaults are here, and you were bound to see the Green vaults."
"I wouldn't have come, if I had known it was so far," said Mrs. Copley.
But she relished her supper, and was not nervous, and slept well; and Dolly was somewhat in hopes that Dresden was not a bad move after all. They had to wait, as she said, for letters, and for the sight of the glories that had attracted them hither. Several days passed by.
They passed in delights, for Dolly. Two mornings were spent in the great picture gallery. Mrs. Copley's desires and expectations having focussed upon the Green vaults, were hardly able to see anything else clearly; indeed, she declared that she did not think the wonderful Madonna was so very wonderful after all; no woman could stand upon clouds in that way, and as she was a woman, she did not see why the painter did not exhibit her in a possible situation; and those little angels at the foot of the picture—where was the other half of them supposed to be? she did not like half of anything. But Dolly dreamed in rapture, before this and many another wonder of art. Mrs. Copley made processions round the rooms constantly, drawing, of course, St. Leger with her; she could not be still. But Dolly would stop before a picture and be immoveable for half an hour, drinking in pleasure and feeding upon knowledge; and Rupert generally took post behind her and acted as body-guard. What he made of the show, I do not know. Dolly asked him how he liked it? He said, "first-rate."
"Well, what do you think of it, Rupert?" Dolly asked gaily.
"Well, I guess I don't just see into it," was the dubious answer. "If these are likenesses of folks, they ain't like my folks."
"Oh, but they are not likenesses; most of them are not."
"What are they, then? and what is the good of 'em, if they don't mean anything?"
"They are out of people's imagination; as the painter imagined such and such persons might have looked, in such situations."
"How the painter imagined they might have looked!" cried Rupert.
"Yes. And they mean a great deal; all that was in the painter's mind."
"I don't care a red cent how a man fancies somebody looked. I'd like the real thing, if I could get it. I'd go some ways to see how the mother of Christ did look; but you say that ain't it?"
"No," said Dolly, smiling.
Rupert surveyed the great picture again.
"Don't you think it is beautiful, Rupert?" Dolly pursued, curious to know what went on in his thoughts.
"I've seen as handsome faces—and handsomer," he said slowly; "and I like flesh and blood a long sight better than a painting, anyhow."
"Handsome?" said Dolly. "Oh, it is not that—it is so much more!"——
"What is it, Miss Dolly?" said Lawrence, just then coming up behind her. "I should like to hear your criticism. Do put it in words."
"That's not easy; and it is not criticism. But I'll tell you how it seems to me; as the painting, not of anybody's features, but of somebody's nature, spirit. It is a painting of the spiritual character."
"Mental traits can be expressed in words, though," said Lawrence. "You'll go on, I hope?"
"I cannot," said Dolly. "It is not the lovely face, Mr. Babbage; it is thought and feeling, love and purity, and majesty—but the majesty of a person who has no thought of herself."
Dolly could not get out of that one room; she sat before the Raphael, and then stood fixed before the "Notte" or the "Magdalene" of Correggio; and would not come away. Rupert always attended on her, and Mrs. Copley as regularly made progresses through the rooms on Lawrence's arm, till she declared herself tired out. They were much beholden to Lawrence and his good offices these days, more than they knew; for it was past the season when the gallery was open to the public, and entrance was obtained solely by the influence of St. Leger's mediation and money; how much of the latter they never knew. Lawrence was a very good escort also; his address was pleasant, and his knowledge of men and things sufficient for useful purposes; he knew in general what was what and who was who, and was never at a loss. Rupert followed the party like a faithful dog, ready for service and with no opportunity to show it; Lawrence held the post of leader and manager now, and filled it well. In matters of art, however, I am bound to say, though he could talk more, he knew as little as Rupert himself.
"What is to be done to-morrow?" he asked, in the evening of that second day.
"We haven't got our letters yet," said Mrs. Copley. "I can't see why they don't come."
"So the Green vaults must wait. What else shall we do?"
"Oh," said Dolly, "might we not go to the gallery again?"
"Another day?" cried her mother. "Why, you have been there two whole mornings, child. Ain't that enough?"
"Mother, I could go two months, I think."
"Then you'd catch your death," said Mrs. Copley. "That inner room is very chill now. For my part, I do not want to see another picture again in days and days. My head swims with looking at them. I don't see what you find in the old things."
Dolly could not have told. She sighed, and it was agreed that they would drive about the city and its environs next day; Lawrence assuring them that it was one of the pleasantest towns in Germany. But the next morning early came the letters from Mr. Copley; one to his wife and one to Dolly.
Dolly read them both and pondered them; and was unsatisfied. They were rather cheerful letters; at the same time Mr. Copley informed his wife and daughter that he could not join them in Dresden; nor at any rate before they got to Venice. So much was final; but what puzzled and annoyed Dolly yet more than this delay was the amount of money he remitted to her. To her, for Mrs. Copley, as an invalid, it was agreed, should not be burdened with business. So the draft came in the letter to Dolly; and it was not half large enough. Dolly kept the draft, gave the letter to her mother to read, and sat in a mazed kind of state, trying to bring her wits to a focus upon this condition of affairs.
What was her father thinking of? It is one thing to be short of funds at home, in one's own country and in one's own house; it is bad enough even there; what is it when one is in a strange land and dependent upon the shelter of other people's houses, for which an equivalent must be paid in money? and when one is obliged to travel from one place to another, and every mile of the way demands another equivalent in money? Mr. Copley had sent a little, but Dolly knew it would by no means take them to Venice. What did he intend? or what did he expect her to do? Apply to Lawrence? Never! No, not under any pressure or combination that could be brought to bear. He would demand an equivalent too; or worse, think that it was guaranteed, if she made such an application. How could Mr. Copley place his child in such a predicament? And then Dolly's head went down in her hands, for the probable answer crushed her. He never would, he never could, but for yielding to unworthy indulgences; becoming entangled in low pleasures; taken possession of by the influence of unprincipled men. Her father!—Dolly felt as if her heart would break or her head burst with its burden of pain,—"Oh, a father never should let his child feel ashamed for him!" was the secret cry down in the depths of her heart. Dolly would not speak it out ever, even to herself, but it was there, all the same; and it tortured her, with a nameless, exquisite torture, under which she mentally writhed, without being able to get the least relief. Every surge of the old love and reverence broke on those sharp rocks of pain more hopelessly. "O father!—O father!" she cried silently, with a pitiful vain appeal which could never be heard.
And then the practical question came back, taking away her breath. What was she to do? If they did not stay too long in Dresden they would have enough money to pay their lodging-bill and go, she calculated, half the way to Venice. What then? And if Mr. Copley met them in Venice, according to promise, who would assure her that he would then come provided with the necessary funds? and what if he failed to come?
Dolly started up, feeling that she could not sit any longer thinking about it; her nerves were getting into a hard knot. She would not think; she busied herself in making her mother and herself ready for their morning's excursion. And Lawrence came with a carriage; and they set off. It was a lovely day, and certainly the drive was all it had promised; and Dolly barred off thought, and would look and enjoy and talk and make others enjoy; so the first part of the day passed very well. Dolly would make no arrangements for the afternoon, and Mrs. Copley was able for no more that day.
But when the early dinner was over, Dolly asked Rupert to walk with her. Rupert was always ready, and gave a delighted assent.
"Are you going out again? and to leave me all alone?" said Mrs. Copley.
"You will be lying down, mother dear; you will not want me; and I have business on hand, that I must attend to."
"I don't see what business," said Mrs. Copley fretfully; "and you can't do anything here, in a strange place. You'd better get Mr. St. Leger to do it for you."
"He cannot do my work," said Dolly lightly.
"But you had better wait and take him along, Dolly. He knows where to go."
"So do I, mother. I want Rupert this time, and not Mr. St. Leger. You sleep till I come back."
Dolly had said she meant business, but at first going out things did not look like it. She went slowly and silently along the streets, not attending much to what she was passing, Rupert thought; till they arrived at an open spot from which the view of the river, with the bridge and parts of the town, could be enjoyed; and there Dolly sat down on a step, and still without speaking to Rupert, bent forward leaning on her knees, and seemed to give herself up to studying the beautiful scene. She saw it; the river, the picturesque bridge, the wavy, vine-clad hills, the unfamiliar buildings of the city, the villas scattered about on the banks of the Elbe; she saw it all under a clear heaven and a sunny light which dressed everything in hues of loveliness; and her face was fixed the while in lines of grave thought and gave back no reflection of the beauty. It had beauty enough of its own, Rupert thought; who, I must say, paid little heed to the landscape and watched his companion instead. The steady, intent, sweet eyes, how much grave womanliness was in them; how delicate the colour was on the cheek, and how tender were the curves of the lips; while the wilful, clustering curly hair gave an almost childish setting to the features whose expression was so very un-childish. For it was exceedingly grave. Dolly did see the lovely landscape, and it made her feel alone and helpless. There was nothing wonted or familiar; she seemed to herself somehow cast away in the Saxon capital. And truly she was all alone. Lawrence she could not apply to, her mother must not even be talked to; she knew nobody else. Her father had let her come on this journey, had sent her forth, and now left her unprovided even for the barest necessities. No doubt he meant that she should be beholden to Mr. St. Leger, to whom he could return the money by and by. "Or not at all," thought Dolly bitterly, "if I would give him myself instead. O father, could you sell me!" Then came the thought of the entanglements and indulgences which had brought Mr. Copley to do other things so unlike himself; and Dolly's heart grew too full. She could not bear it; she had borne up and fought it out all the morning; now feeling and truth must have a minute for themselves; her head went down on her hands and she burst into quiet sobs.
Quiet, but deep. Rupert, looking on in dismayed alarm, saw that this outbreak of pain had some deep grounded cause; right or wrong, it came from Dolly's very heart, and her whole nature was trembling. He was filled with a great awe; and in this awe his sympathy was silent for a time; but he could not leave the girl to herself too long.
"Miss Dolly," he said in a pause of the sobs, "I thought you were such a Christian?"
Dolly started, lifted her quivering, tearful face, and looked straight at him. "Yes," she said,—"what then?"
"I always thought religious folks had something to comfort them."
"Don't think they haven't," said Dolly. But there she broke down again, and it was a storm of a rain shower that poured from her eyes this time. She struggled to get the better of it, and as soon as she could she sat up again, brushing the tears right and left with her hands and speaking in a voice still half choked.
"Don't think they haven't! If I had not that, my heart would just break and be done with it. But being a Christian does not keep one from suffering—sometimes." Her voice failed.
"What is the matter? No, I don't mean that you should tell me that; only—can't I do something?"
"No, thank you; nobody can. Yes, you are doing a great deal, Rupert; you are the greatest comfort to me. I depend upon you."
Rupert's eyes glistened. He was silent for sheer swelling of heart. He gulped down something—and went on presently.
"I was thinkin' of something my old mother used to say. I know I've heard her say it, lots o' times. I don't know what the trouble is, that's a fact—so maybe I hadn't oughter speak; but she used to say that nothing could happen to Christians that would do 'em any real hurt."
"I know," said Dolly, wondering to herself how it could be true; "the Bible says so."—And then conscience rebuked her. "And it is true," she said, lifting up her head; "everything is true that the Bible says, and that is true; and it says other things"——
"What?" said Rupert; more for her sake, I confess, than for his own.
"It says—'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is staid upon Thee;' I was reading it this morning. You see I must be a very poor Christian, or I should not have doubted a minute. But even a Christian, and the best, must be sorry sometimes for things he cannot help," said Dolly.
"Then you were not troubled about yourself just now?" said Rupert.
"Yes, I was! I was indeed, in spite of all those words and a great many others. I believe I forgot them."
"I should think, if God gives people promises, He would like them to be trusted," said Rupert "That's what we do."
Dolly looked at him again as if he had said something that struck her; and then she got up, and taking his arm, set off this time at a business pace. She knew, she said, where to find what she wanted; however, she had gone out of her way, and it cost her some trouble and time to get to the place. It was a store of artists' materials, among other things; and here Dolly made careful purchases of paper, colours, and camel's-hair pencils. Rupert was reassured as to a suspicion that had crossed him, that part of Dolly's trouble might have been caused by want of means; seeing that she was buying articles of amusement with a free hand. Then Dolly went straight home.
All the rest of that afternoon she sat drawing. The next two days, the weather was unfavourable for going out, and she sat at her work persistently, whenever she was not obliged to be reading to her mother or attending upon her. The day following the long-planned visit to the Green vaults was made. In the evening Lawrence came to see them.
"Well, Mrs. Copley; tired?"—he began.
"I don't know which part of me's most tired," said the lady; "my eyes, or my head, or my feet."
"Did it pay, after all?"
"Pay! I wouldn't have missed it for a year's length of life! It went ahead of all I ever thought of or dreamt of. It was most like Aladdin's lamp—or what he saw, I mean, when he went down into fairyland. I declare, it was just as good."
"Only that you could not put things in your pockets. What would you have brought, Mrs. Copley, if it had been safe and allowable? The famous egg?"
"Mercy, no, Mr. St. Leger! I shouldn't have a minute's peace of my life, for fear I should lose it again."
"That's about how they say the first owner felt. They tell of him, that a lady once coaxed him to let her have the egg in her hand; and she kept it in her hand; and the prince forgot; and she drove back to Dresden with it."
"Where was he, the prince?"
"At some hunting castle, I believe. It was night before he found out his loss; and then he booted and spurred in hot haste and rode to Dresden in the middle of the night to fetch the egg from the lady again."
"What's the use of things that give folks so much trouble?" said Rupert.
"A matter of taste!" said Lawrence, shrugging his shoulders. "But I am glad to have been through those rooms myself; and I never should, but for you, Mrs. Copley. I suppose there is hardly the like to be seen anywhere else."
"What delicious things there were in the ivory room," said Dolly. "Those drunken musicians, mother, of Albert Duerer; and some of the vases; how beautiful they were!"
"I did not see the musicians," said Mrs. Copley. "I don't see how drunken musicians, or drunken anything, could be pretty. Odd taste, I think."
"Then perhaps you didn't like the piece with the fallen angels?" said Rupert. "That beat me!"
"How could there be peace with the fallen angels?" Mrs. Copley asked scornfully. At which, however, there was a great burst of laughter. "I liked best of all the room where the egg was, I believe. But the silver room was magnificent."
"I liked the ivory better than the silver, mother."
"Who does it all belong to?" Rupert asked.
"The reigning house of Saxony," Lawrence answered.
"The whole of it?"
"And that big picture gallery into the bargain?"
"That's bein' grasping, for any one family to have so much," was Rupert's conclusion.
"Well, you see," said Lawrence, "we get the good of it, and they have the care."
"I don't see how we get the good of it," said Mrs. Copley. "I suppose if I had one of those golden birds, now, with the eyes of diamonds; or one of those wonderfully chased silver caskets; I should have enough to keep me in comfort the rest of my life. I think things are queer, somehow. One single one of those jewels that lie heaped up there, and I should want for nothing more in this world. And there they lie and nobody has 'em."
"Do you want for anything now, mother dear?" asked Dolly. She was busy at a side table, arranging something in a little frame, and did not look up from her work.
"I should think I did!" was Mrs. Copley's rejoinder. "What don't I want, from breath up?"
"Here you have had one wish fulfilled to-day—you have seen the Green vaults—and now we are going to Venice to fulfil another wish—what would you have?"
"I don't like to think I am going away from here. I like Dresden best of all the places we've been in. And I would like to go through the Green vaults—but why they are called so, I cannot conceive—about once every month. I would never get tired."
"So you would like to settle in Dresden?" said Lawrence. "I don't think it would be safe to let you go through the Green vaults often, Mrs. Copley; you would certainly be tempted too much for your principles. Miss Dolly, we had better get her away. When do we go, by the by?"
Instead of answering, Dolly rose up and brought him something to look at; a plain little oval frame of black wood within which was a head in light water colours.
"Mrs. Copley!" exclaimed Lawrence.
"Is it like?"
"Striking! capital. I'm not much of a judge of painting in general, but I know a friend's face when I see it; and this is to the life. To the life! Graceful, too. Where did you get it?"
"I got the paper and the paints at a little shop in—I forget the name of the strasse;—and mother was here to my hand. Ecco!"
"You don't mean you did it?" said Lawrence, while the others crowded near to look.
"I used to amuse myself with that kind of thing when I was at school, and I had always a knack at catching likenesses. I am going to try you, Rupert, next."
"Ah, try me!" cried Lawrence. "Will you? and we will stay in Dresden till it is done."
"Suppose I succeed," said Dolly softly,—"will you get me orders?"
"Yes. To paint likenesses, like this, in miniature. I can take ivory, but I would not waste ivory on this one. I'll do yours on ivory if you like."
"But orders?" said Lawrence, dumbfounded.
"Yes," said Dolly, nodding, "orders; and for as high pay as you think I can properly ask. Hush! say nothing to mother"——
"Is that like me?" Mrs. Copley asked, after studying the little picture.
"Capitally like you!" Lawrence cried.
"Then I've changed more'n I thought I had, that's all. I don't think I care about your painting me any more, Dolly, if that's the best you can do."
"Why, Mrs. Copley," said Lawrence, "it's beautiful. Exactly your turn of the head, and the delicate fresh colour in your cheeks. It's perfect!"
"Is it?" said Mrs. Copley in a modified tone. "So that's what you've been fussing about, Dolly, these two days. Well, take Mr. St. Leger next. I want to see what you'll make of him. She won't flatter you," the lady went on; "that's one thing you may lay your account with; she won't flatter you. But if we're going away, you won't have much chance; and, seems to me, we had better settle which way we are going."
Lawrence did not take up this hint. He sat gazing at the little miniature, which was in its way very lovely. The colours were lightly laid in, the whole was rather sketchy; but the grace of the delineation was remarkable, and the likeness was perfect; and Dolly had shown a true artist's eye in her choice of position and point of view.
"I did not know you had such a wonderful talent," he remarked.
Dolly made no answer.
"You'll do me next?"
"If you like my conditions."
"I do not understand them," he said, looking up at her.
"I want orders," Dolly said almost in a whisper.
"Orders? To paint things like this? For money? Nonsense, Dolly!"
"As you please, Mr. St. Leger; then I will stay here a while and get work through Frau Wetterhahn. She wants me to paint her."
"You never will!"
"As a favour then?"
Dolly lifted her eyes and smiled at the young man; a smile that utterly and wholly bewitched him. Wilful? yes, he thought it was wilful, but sweet and arch, and bright with hope and purpose and conscious independence; a little defiant, a great deal glad.
"Paint me," said he hastily, "and I'll give you anything you like."
Dolly nodded. "Very well," said she; "then you may talk with mother about our route."
Lawrence did talk with Mrs. Copley; and the result of the discussion was that the decision and management of their movements was finally made over to him. Whether it happened by design or not, the good lady's head was quite confused among the different plans suggested; she could understand nothing of it, she said; and so it all fell into Lawrence's hand. I think that was what he wanted, and that he had views of his own to gratify; for Dolly, who had been engaged with other matters this time, expressed some surprise a day or two after they set out, at finding herself again in Weimar.
"Going back the way we came?" she cried.
"Only for a little distance—a few stages," explained Lawrence; "after that it will be all new."
Dolly did not much care, nor know enough to correct him if he was going wrong; she gave herself up to hopeful enjoyment of the constantly varying new scenes and sights. Mrs. Copley, on the contrary, seemed able to enjoy nothing beyond the shortening of the distance between her and Venice. If she had known how much longer than was necessary Lawrence had made it!
So it happened that they were going one day down a pleasant road which led along a river valley, when an exclamation from Dolly roused her mother out of a half nap. "What is it?" she asked.
"Mother, such a beautiful, beautiful old church! Look—see how it sits up there grandly on the rock."
"Very inconvenient, I should think," said Mrs. Copley, giving a glance out of the carriage window. "I shouldn't think people would like to mount up there often."
"I believe," said Lawrence, also looking out now, "that must be a famous old church—isn't this Limburg?—yes. It is the cathedral at Limburg; a very fine specimen of its style, Miss Dolly, they say."
"What is the style? it's beautiful! Gothic?"
"No,—aw—not exactly. I'm not learned myself, really, in such matters. I hardly know a good thing when I see it—never studied antiquities, you know; but this is said, I know, to be a very good thing."
"How old? It does not look antiquated."
"Oh, it has been repaired and restored. But it is not Gothic, so it dates further back; what they call the Transition style."
"It is very noble," said Dolly. "Is it as good inside as outside?"
"Don't know, I declare; I suppose so. We might go in and see; let the horses feed and Mrs. Copley take a rest."
This proposition was received with such joy by Dolly that it was at once acted upon. The party sought out an inn, bespoke some luncheon, and arranged for Mrs. Copley's repose. But chancing to hear from Lawrence that the treasures of art and value in the church repositories were both rich and rare, she gave up the promised nap and joined the party who went to the dome. After the Dresden Green vaults, she said, she supposed nothing new could be found; but she would go and see. So they went all together. If Lawrence had guessed to what this chance visit would lead! But that is precisely what people can never know.
Dolly was in a condition of growing delight, which every step increased. Before the great front of the cathedral she stood still and looked up, while Rupert and Mrs. Copley turned their backs and gazed out upon the wide country view. Lawrence, as usual when he could, attended upon Dolly.
"I did not know you were so fond of this kind of thing," he remarked, seeing a little enviously her bright, interested eyes.
"It lifts me almost off my feet!" said Dolly. "My soul don't seem big enough to take it all in. How grand, how grand!—Whose statues are those?"
"On each side?" said Lawrence, who had been collecting information. "That on the one hand is Heinrich von Isenburg, the founder; and the other is the architect, but nobody knows his name. It is lost. St. George is on the top there."
"Well," said Dolly, "he is just as well off as if it hadn't been lost!"
"Who? the architect? How do you make that out? He loses all the glory."
"How does he lose it? Do you think," said Dolly, smiling, "he would care, in the other world, to know that you and I liked his work?"
"The other world!" said St. Leger.
"You believe in it, don't you?"
"Yes, certainly; but you speak as if"——
"As if I believed in it!" said Dolly merrily. "You speak as if you didn't."
"I do, I assure you; but what is fame then?"
"Nothing at all," said Dolly.—"Just nothing at all; if you mean people's admiration or applause given when we have gone beyond reach of it."
"Beyond reach of it!" said Lawrence, echoing her words again. "Miss Dolly, do you think it is no use to have one's name honoured by all the world for ages after we have lived?"
"Very good for the world," said Dolly, with a spice of amusement visible again.
"And nothing to the man?"
"What should it be to the man?" said Dolly, seriously enough now. "Mr. St. Leger, when a man has got beyond this world with its little cares and interests, there will be just one question for him,—whether he has done what God put him here to do; and there will be just one word of praise that he will care about,—the 'Well done!'—if he may have it,—from those lips."
Dolly began quietly, but her colour flushed and her lip trembled as she went on, and her eye sparkled through a sudden veil of tears. Lawrence was silenced by admiration, and almost forgot what they were talking about.
"But don't you think," he began again, as Dolly moved towards the church door, "that the one thing—I mean, the praise here,—will be a sort of guaranty for the praise there?"
"No," said Dolly. "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God—often, often." She pushed open the door and went in. Only a little way in; there she stood still, arrested by all the glory and the beauty that met her eye. The nobleness of form, the wealth of colour, the multiplied richness of both, almost bewildered her at first entering. Pillars, arches, vaultings, niches, galleries, arcades—a wilderness of harmonised form; and every panel and fair space filled with painting. She could not see details yet; she was lost in the greatness of the whole.
"Whom has Mrs. Copley picked up?" asked Lawrence in an undertone. After all, if the architect's posthumous fame had depended on him, it would not have been worth much effort. Mrs. Copley, it may be mentioned, had passed on while Dolly and St. Leger had stood talking outside; and now she was seen in the distance the centre of a group of lively talkers; at least there was one lady who was free to exercise her gifts in that way. Lawrence and Dolly slowly advanced, even Dolly's attention taken for a moment from the church by this extraordinary combination. Yes, Mrs. Copley had found acquaintances. The talker was a lady of about her own age; a gentleman stood near, a little behind was a younger lady, while Rupert balanced the group on the other side.
"There's something uncommon over yonder," whispered Lawrence. "Do you see that blond girl? not blond neither, for her hair isn't; but what an exquisite colour!—and magnificent figure. Do you know her?"
"No," said Dolly,—"I think not. Yet I do. Who can it be? I do not know the one talking to mother."
"And this is she?" the elder lady was saying as Dolly now came up, looking at her with a smiling face. "It's quite delightful to meet friends in the midst of a wilderness so; like the print of a man's foot on the sands in a desert; for really, in the midst of strange people one feels cast away. She's handsomer than you were, Mrs. Copley. My dear, do you know your old schoolfellow?"
"Christina Thayer!" exclaimed Dolly, as the other young lady came forward; and there was a joyful recognition on both sides.
"Who is your friend?" Mrs. Thayer next went on. "Won't you introduce him?—St. Leger? Don't I know your father? Ernest Singleton St. Leger?—Yes! Why, he was a great beau of mine once, a good while ago, you know," she added, nodding. "You might not think it, but he was. Oh, I know him very well; I know him like a book. You must be my friend. Christina, this is Mr. St. Leger; my old friend's son.—Mr. Thayer."
Mr. Thayer was nothing remarkable. But Christina had fulfilled the promise of her girlhood, and developed into a magnificent beauty. Her skin showed the richest, clear, creamy white tints, upon which in her cheeks and lips the carmine lay like rose leaves. Her hair was light brown and abundant, features regular, eyes sweet; she was one of those fair, full, stately, placid Saxon types of beauty, which are not very common in America and remarkable anywhere. Her figure was roundly and finely developed, rather stately and slow moving; which characteristic harmonised with all the rest of her. The two girls were as unlike each other as possible. It amused and half fascinated Lawrence to watch the contrast. It seemed to be noon of a summer day in the soul of Christina, a still breadth of light without shadow; there was a murmur of content in her voice when she spoke, and a ripple of content in her laugh when she laughed. But the light quivered on Dolly's lip, and gleamed and sparkled in her brown eyes, and light and shadow could flit over her face with quick change; they did so now.
Meanwhile people had forgotten the old cathedral. Christina seemed unaffectedly glad at the meeting with her friend of the school days.
"I'm so delighted," she said, drawing Dolly a little apart. "Where are you? where do you come from, I mean? How come you to be here?"
"We come from Dresden; we are on our way"——
"You are living in London, aren't you? I heard that. It's too good to meet you so! for Europe is full of people, no doubt, but there are very few that I care for. Oh, tell me where you are going?"
"And further south? you are going on into Italy?"
"Yes, I think so."
"That's delightful. Oh, there's nothing like Italy! It is not your wedding journey, Dolly?"—with a glance at the very handsome young man who was standing in waiting a few paces off.
"What are you thinking of!" cried Dolly. "Christina, we are travelling for mother's health."
"Oh, well, I didn't suppose it; but it might be, you know; it will be, before you know it. It isn't mine, either; though it only wants two things of it. Oh, I want to tell you all about myself, Dolly, and I want to show you somebody; I have got somebody to show, you see. You will come and make us a visit, will you not? Oh, you must! I must have you."
"You said it wanted only two things of being your wedding journey? What things?"
"The presence of the gentleman, and the performance of the ceremony." And as Christina said it, a delicate peach-blossom bloom ripened in her cheeks; you could hardly say that she blushed. "Oh, the gentleman is somewhere, though he is not here," she went on, with that ripple of laughter; "and the ceremony is somewhere in the distance, too. I want you to see him, Dolly. I am proud of him. I think everything in the world of him."
"I suppose I may know his name?"
"Christina," cried Mrs. Thayer, "where are you? My dear, we cannot stand here and talk all the afternoon; our friends have got to see the church. Isn't it a delicious old place? Just go round and examine things; I could stay here for ever. Every little place where there is room for it is filled with the quaintest, queerest, charmingest paintings. Where there is room for it, there is a group; and where there is not a group, there is an apostle or a saint; and where there is not room for that, there is something else, which this unintelligible old guide will explain to you. And think—for years and years it has held the richest collection—oh, just wait and see! it is better than the church itself. My dear, the riches of its treasures are incalculable. Fancy, a mitre, a bishop's mitre, you know, so heavy with precious stones that the good man cannot bear it on his head but a few minutes; over three thousand pearls and precious stones in it; and the work, oh, the work of it is wonderful! just in the finest Renaissance"——
"We have just come from the Green vaults at Dresden," put in Mrs. Copley. "I suppose that goes ahead of everything else."
"Oh, my dear, I don't know; I don't see how anything can be superior to the show here. Is Mr. St. Leger fond of art?"
"Fonder of nature," Mr. St. Leger confesses with a bow.
"Nature,—well, come to see us at Naples. We have got a villa not far from there—you'll all come and stay with us. Oh, we cannot let you off; it is such a thing to meet with one's own people from home. You will certainly want to see us, and we shall want to see you. Venice, oh yes, after you have seen Venice, and then we shall be at home again; we just set off on this journey to use up the time until the 'Red Chief' could come to Naples. We are going back soon, and we'll be all ready to welcome you. And Mr. St. Leger, of course. Mr. St. Leger, I could tell you a great deal about your father. He and I flirted dreadfully once; and, you know, if flirting is properly carried on, one always has a little sneaking kindness for the people one has flirted with."
"No more than that?" said St. Leger with a polite smile.
"Why, what would you have? after one has grown old, you know. You would not have me in love with him! Here is my husband and my daughter. Don't you have a kindness for the people you flirt with?"
"I must not say anything against flirting, in the present company"—— Lawrence began.
"No, of course you mustn't. We all flirt, at a certain age. How are young people to get acquainted with one another and find out what they would like? You never buy cheese without tasting it, you know, not in England. Just as well call things by their right names. I don't think anybody ought to deny flirting; it's nature; we must do it. Christina flirts, I know, in the most innocent way, with everybody; not as I did; she has her own style; and your daughter does it too, Mrs. Copley. I can see it in her eyes. Ah me, I wish I was young again! And what a place to flirt in such an old church is!"
"O mamma!" came from Christina.
"Very queer taste, I should say," remarked Mrs. Copley.
"It isn't taste; it is combination of circumstances," Mrs. Thayer, smiling, went on. "You see if I don't say true. My dear, such a place as this is full of romance, full! Just think of the people that have been married here; why, the first church was built here in 814; imagine that!"
"Enough to keep one from flirting for ever," said Dolly, on whom the lady's eye fell as she ended her sentence.
"Just go in and see those jewels and hear the stories," said Mrs. Thayer, nodding at her. "That old woman will tell you stories enough, if you can understand her; Christina had to translate for me; but, my dear, there's a story there fit to break your heart; about a blood jasper. It is carved; Mr. Thayer says the carving is very fine, and I suppose it is; but all I thought of was the story. My dear, the stone is all spotted with dark stains, and they are said to be the stains of heart's blood. Oh, it is as tragical as can be. You see, the carver, or stone-cutter,—the young man who did the work,—loved his master's daughter—it's a very romantic story—and she"——
"Flirted?" suggested St. Leger.
"Well, I am afraid she did; but it is the old course of things; her father thought she might look higher, you know, and she did; married the richest nobleman in Verona; and the young man had been promised her if he did his work well, and the work is magnificently done; but he was cheated; and he drove a sharp little knife into his heart. Christina, what was the old master's name?"
"I forget, mamma."
"You ought not to forget; you will want to tell the story. Of course I have forgotten; I did not understand it at the time, and I never remember anything besides; but he was very famous, and everybody wanted the things he did, and he could not execute all the commissions he got; and this young man was his best favourite pupil."
"How came the stains upon the stone?" asked Lawrence. "Did it bleed for sympathy?"
"I don't know; I have forgotten. Oh yes! the stone was in his hand, you know."
"And it was sympathy?" said Lawrence quite gravely, though Dolly could not keep her lips in order.
"No, it was the blood. Go in and you'll see it, and all the rest. And there—— Where are you going? to Venice? We are going on to Cologne and then back to Rome. We shall meet in Rome? You will stay in Venice for a few weeks, and then be in Rome about Christmas; and then we will make arrangements for a visit from you all. Oh yes, we must have you all."
Lawrence accompanied the lady to the door, and Christina following with Dolly earnestly begged for the meeting in Rome, and that Dolly would spend Christmas with her. "I have so much to tell you," she said; "and my—the gentleman I spoke of—will meet us in Rome; and he will spend Christmas with us; and I want you to see him. I admire Mr. St. Leger, very much!" she added in a confidential whisper.
"Mr. St. Leger is nothing to me," said Dolly steadily, looking in her friend's face. "He is father's secretary, and is taking care of us till my father can come."
"Oh, well, if he is not anything to you now, perhaps—you never know what will be," said Christina. "He is very handsome! Don't you like him? I long to know how you will like—Mr. Rayner."
"Who is he?" said Dolly, by way of saying something.
"Didn't I tell yon? He is first officer on board the 'Red Chief,' one of our finest vessels of war; it is in the Mediterranean now; and we expect him to come to us at Christmas. Manage to be at Rome then, do, dear; and afterwards you must all come and make us a visit at our villa, near Naples, and we'll show you everything."
"Christina," said Mrs. Thayer, when she and her daughter and her husband were safe in the privacy of their carriage, "that is a son of the rich English banker, St. Leger; they are very rich. We must be polite to him."
"You are polite to everybody, mamma."
"But you must be polite to him."
"I'll try, mamma—if you wish it."
"I wish it, of course. You never know how useful such an acquaintance may be to you. Is he engaged to that girl?"
"I think not, mamma. She says not."
"That don't prove anything, though."
"Yes, it does, with her. Dolly Copley was always downright—not like the rest."
"Every girl thinks it is fair to fib about her lovers. However, I thought he looked at you, Christina, not exactly as if he were a bound man."
"He is too late," said the girl carelessly. "I am a bound woman."
"Well, be civil to him," said her mother. "You never know what people may do."
"I don't care, mamma. Mr. St. Leger's doings are of no importance to me."
Mrs. Thayer was silent now; and her husband remarked that Mr. St. Leger could not do better than pick up that pretty, wise-eyed little girl.
"Wise-eyed! she is that, isn't she?" cried Christina. "She always was. She is grown up wonderfully pretty."
"She is no more to be compared to you, than—well, never mind," said Mrs. Thayer. "I hope we shall see more of them at Christmas. Talk of eyes,—Mr. St. Leger's eyes are beautiful. Did you notice them?"
Dolly on her side had seen the party descend the rocks, looking after them with an odd feeling or mixture of feelings. The meeting with her school friend had brought up sudden contrasts never so sharply presented to her before. The gay carelessness of those old times, the warm shelter of her Aunt Hal's home, the absolute trust in her father and mother,—where was all that now? Dolly saw Christina's placid features and secure gaiety, saw her surrounded and sheltered by her parents' arms, strong to guard and defend her; and she seemed to herself lonely. It fell to her to guard and defend her mother; and her father? what was he about?—There swept over her an exceeding bitter cry of desolateness, unuttered, but as it were the cry of her whole soul; with again that sting of pain which seemed unendurable, how can a father let his child be ashamed of him! She turned away that St. Leger might not see her face; she felt it was terribly grave; and betook herself now to the examination of the church.
And the still beauty and loftiness of the place wrought upon her by and by with a strange effect. Wandering along among pillars and galleries and arcades, where saints and apostles and martyrs looked down upon her as out of past ages, she seemed to be surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses." They looked down upon her with grave, high sympathy, or they looked up with grave, high love and trust; they testified to work done and dangers met, and suffering borne, for Christ,—and to the glory awaiting them, and to which they then looked forward, and which now they had been enjoying—how long? What mattered the little troubled human day, so that heaven's long sunshine set in at the end of it? And that sun "shall no more go down." Dolly roved on and on, going from one to another sometimes lovely sometimes stern old image; and gradually she forgot the nineteenth century, and dropped back into the past, and so came to take a distant and impartial view of herself and her own life; getting a better standard by which to measure the one and regulate the other. She too could live and work for Christ. What though the work were different and less noteworthy; what matter, so that she were doing what He gave her to do? Not to make a noise in the world, either by preaching or dying; not to bear persecution; just to live true and shine, to comfort and cheer her mother, to reclaim and save her father, to trust and be glad! Yes, less than that latter would not do full honour to her Master or His truth; and so much as that He would surely help her to attain. Dolly wandered about the cathedral, and mused, and prayed, and grew quiet and strong, she thought; while her mother was viewing the church treasures with Mr. St. Leger, Dolly excused herself, preferring the church.
"Dolly, Dolly," said Mrs. Copley when at last she came away, "you don't know what you have lost."
"It is not so much as I have gained, mother."
"I'm glad we have seen it, Mr. St. Leger; and I'm glad we have done with it! I don't want to see any more sights till we get to Venice. Where are the Thayers going, Dolly?"
"To Cologne, mother, and to Nice and Mentone, they said."
"I wish they were coming to Venice. How fat Christina has grown!"
"O mother! She is a regular beauty—she could not do with less flesh; she ought not to lose an ounce of it. She is not fat. She is perfect. Is she not, Mr. St. Leger?"
Lawrence assented that Miss Thayer had the symmetry of a beautiful statue.
"Too fat," said Mrs. Copley. "If she is a statue now, what will she be by and by? I don't like that sort of beauties. Her face wants life."
"It does not want sweetness," said Lawrence. "It is a very attractive face."
"I am glad we stopped here, if it was only for the meeting them," said Mrs. Copley. "But I can't see how you could miss all those diamonds and gold and silver things, Dolly. They were just wonderful."
"All the Green vaults did not give me the pleasure this old church did, mother."
"You and your friend are the most perfect contrast," remarked Lawrence as they were driving away. "She is repose in action—and you are activity in repose."
"That sounds well," Dolly answered after a pause. "I am trying to think whether there is any meaning in it."
"Certainly; or I hope so. She is placidity itself; one wonders if she could be anything but placid; while you"——
"Never mind about me," said Dolly hastily. "I am longing to know whether mother will like Venice."
"Oh, I like everything."
Which was the blissful truth. Even anxiety did not prevent its being the truth; perhaps anxiety even at times put a keener edge upon enjoyment; Dolly fled from troublesome thoughts to the beauties of a landscape, the marvels of a piece of mediaeval architecture, the bewitchment of a bit of painting from an old master's hand; and tasted, and lingered, and tasted over again in memory, all the beauty and the marvel and the bewitchment. Lawrence smiled to himself at the thought of what she would find in Venice.
"There's one thing I don't make out," Rupert broke in.
"Only one?" said Lawrence. But the other was too intent to heed him.
"It bothers me, why the people that could build such a grand church, couldn't make better houses for themselves."
"Ah!" said Lawrence. "You manage that better in America?"
"If we didn't—I'd emigrate! We don't have such splendid things as that old pile of stones,"—looking back at the dome,—"but our farmhouses are a long sight ahead of this country."
"I guess, Rupert," Dolly remarked now, "the men that built the dome did not build the farmhouses."
"Who built the dome, as you call it, then? But I don't see any dome; there's only a nest of towers."
"The nobles built the great cathedrals."
"And if you went through one of their houses," said Lawrence, "you would not think they neglected number one. You never saw anything like an old German schloss in America."
"Then the nobles had all the money?"
"Pretty much so. Except the rich merchants in some of the cities; and they built grand churches and halls and the like, and made themselves happy with magnificence at home in other ways; not architecture."
"I am glad I don't belong here," said Rupert. "But don't the people know any better?"
"Than to let the grand folks have it all their own way?"
"They were brought up to it," said Lawrence. "That's just what they like."
"I expect they'll wake up some day," said Rupert. Which observation Lawrence did not think worthy of answer; as it was ahead of the time and of him equally.
They made no unnecessary delay now in going on to Venice. I think Lawrence had had a secret design to see some one of the great gaming watering-places; and they had come back to the banks of the Rhine on purpose. But, however, both Dolly and her mother were in such haste that he could not induce them by any motive of curiosity or interest to stop. Dolly indeed had a great horror of those places, and did not want, she said, to see how beautiful they were. She hoped for her father's coming to them in Venice; and Mrs. Copley with the nervous restlessness of an invalid had set her mind on that goal, and would not look at anything short of it. So they only passed through Wiesbaden and went on.
But Dolly did want to see Switzerland. When the party came to the lake of Constance, however, Mrs. Copley declined that proposal. Everybody went to Switzerland, she said; and she did not care about it. The hope would have fallen through, only that Lawrence, seeing Dolly's disappointment, proposed taking a route through the Tyrol. Comparatively few people went there, he assured Mrs. Copley; and furthermore, that it was as good a way to Venice as any other. Mrs. Copley gave consent; and to Dolly's immeasurable and inexpressible satisfaction through the Tyrol they went. Nothing could spoil it, even although Mrs. Copley every day openly regretted her concession and would have taken it back if she could. The one of them was heartily sorry, the other as deeply contented, when finally the plains of Lombardy were reached.
It was evening and rainy weather when they came to the last stage of their journey, and left the carriage of which Mrs. Copley had grown so weary.
"What sort of a place is this?" she asked presently.
"Not much of a place," said Lawrence. "We will leave it as fast as possible."
"Well, I should hope so. What are these things? and is that a canal?"
"We should call it a canal in our country," said Rupert; "but there there'd be something at the end of it."
"But what are those black things?" Mrs. Copley repeated. "Do you want me to get into one of them? I don't like it."
"They are gondolas, mother; Venetian gondolas. We must get into one, if we want to go to Venice."
"Where is Venice?" said Mrs. Copley, looking over the unpromising landscape.
"I don't know," said Dolly, laughing, "but Mr. St. Leger knows. We shall be there in a little while mother, if you'll only get in."
"I don't like boats. And I never saw such boats as those in my life," said Mrs. Copley, holding back. "I would rather keep the carriage and go on as we came; though all my bones are aching. I would rather go in the carriage."
"But you cannot, mother; there are no carriages here. The way is by water; and boats are the only vehicles used in Venice. We may as well get accustomed to them."
"Why, surely you knew that before."
"I didn't. I knew there were things to go on the canals; I never knew they were such forlorn-looking things; but I supposed there were carriages to go in the streets. Are there no carts either? How is the baggage going?"
"There are no streets, mother. The ways are all water ways, and the carriages are gondolas; and it is just as lovely as it can be. Come, let us try it."
"What are the houses built on?"
"Mother, suppose you get in, and we'll talk as we go along. We had better get out of the rain; don't you think so? It is falling quite fast."
"I had rather be in the rain than in the sea. Dolly, if it isn't too far, I'll walk."
"It is too far, dear mother. You could not do that. It is a long way yet."
Lawrence stood by, biting his lips between impatience and a sense of the ridiculous; and withal admiring the tender, delicate patience of the girl who gently coaxed and reasoned and persuaded, and finally moved Mrs. Copley to suffer herself to be put in the gondola, on the forward deck of which Rupert had been helping the gondoliers to stow some of the baggage. Dolly immediately took her place beside her mother; the two young men followed, and the gondola pushed off. Mrs. Copley found herself comfortable among the cushions, felt that the motion of the gondola was smooth, assured herself that it would not turn over; finally felt at leisure to make observations again.
"We can't see anything here," she remarked, peering out first on one side, then on the other.
"There is nothing to see," said Lawrence, "but the banks of the canal."
"Very ugly banks, too. Are we going all the way by water now?"
"All the way, to our hotel door."
"Do the boatmen know where to go?"
"Yes. Have no fear."
"Why don't they have streets in Venice?"
"Mother, don't you remember, the city is built on sand banks, and the sea flows between? The only streets possible are like this. Could anything be better? This motion will not fatigue you; and are not your cushions comfortable?"
"The sea, Dolly?" cried Mrs. Copley, catching the word. "You never told me that. If the sea comes in, it must be rough sometimes."
"No, mother; it is a shallow level for miles and miles, covered at high tide by a few feet of water, and at low tide bare. Venice is built on the sand banks of islands which rise above this level."
"What ever made people choose such a ridiculous place to build a city, when there was good ground enough?"
"The good ground was not safe from enemies, mother, dear. The people fled to these sand islands for safety."
"Enemies! What enemies?"
So the history had to be further gone into; in the midst of which Mrs. Copley burst out again.
"I'm so tired of this canal!—just mud banks and nothing else. How much longer is it to last?"
"We shall come to something else by and by. Have patience," said Lawrence.
But the patience of three of them was tried, before they fairly emerged from the canal, and across a broader water saw the lines of building and the domes of Venice before them.
"You'll soon be out of the gondola now, mother, dear," said Dolly delightedly. For the rain clouds had lifted a little, and the wide spread of the lagoon became visible, as well as the dim line of the city; and Dolly's heart grew big. Mrs. Copley's was otherwise.
"I'll never get into one again," she said, referring to the gondolas. "I don't like it. I don't feel as if I was anywhere. There's another,—there's two more. Are they all painted black?"
"It is the fashion of Venetian gondolas."
"Well! there is nothing like seeing for yourself. I always had an idea gondolas were something romantic and pretty. Is the water deep here?"
"No, very shallow," Lawrence assured her.
"It looks just as if it was deep. I wouldn't have come to Venice if I had known what a forlorn place it is."
But who shall tell the different impression on Dolly's mind, when the city was really reached and the gondola entered one of those narrow water-ways between rows of palaces. The rain had begun to come down again, it is true; a watery veil hung over the buildings, drops plashed busily into the canal; there were no beautiful effects of sunlight and shadow; and Lawrence himself declared it was a miserable coming to Venice. But Dolly was in a charmed state. She noted eagerly every strange detail; bridges, boats, people; was hardly sorry for the rain, she found so much to delight her in spite of it.
"What's our man making such noises for?" cried Mrs. Copley.
"Just to give warning before he turns a corner," Lawrence explained, "lest he should run against another gondola."
"What would happen then? Is the water deep enough to drown? It would be horrid water to be drowned in!" said Mrs. Copley shuddering.
"No danger, mother; we are not going to try it," Dolly said soothingly.
"Nobody is ever drowned in Venetian canals," said Lawrence. "They will carry us safe to our hotel, Mrs. Copley; never fear."
"But hasn't the water risen?" she exclaimed presently.
"It is up to the steps of that house there."
"It is up to all the steps, mother, so that people can get into their gondolas at their very door; don't you see?"
"It goes ahead of everything!" exclaimed Rupert, who had scarce spoken. "It's like being in a fairy story."
"I can't see much beside water," said Mrs. Copley. "Water above and water below. It must be unhealthy. And I thought Venice had such beautiful old palaces. I don't see any of 'em."
"We have passed several of them," said Lawrence.
"I can see nothing but black walls—except those queer painted sticks; what are they for?"
"To the gondolas in waiting."
"What are they painted so for?"
"The colours belonging to the family arms."
"The family to whom the house belongs."
"Dolly," said Mrs. Copley, "we shall not want to stay here long. We might go on and try Rome. Mrs. Thayer says spring-time is the best at Naples."
"It will all look very different, Mrs. Copley, when you see it by sunlight," said Lawrence. "Wait a little."
Dolly would have enjoyed every inch of the way, if her mother would have let her. To her eyes the novel strangeness of the scene was entrancing. Not beautiful, certainly; not beautiful yet; by mist and rain and darkness how should it be? but she relished the novelty. The charmed stillness pleased her; the gliding gondolas; the but half revealed houses and palaces; the odd conveyance in which she herself was seated; the wonderful water-ways, the strange cries of the gondoliers. It was not half spoiled for her, as it was; and she trusted the morning would bring for her mother a better mood.
Something of a better mood was produced that evening when Mrs. Copley found herself in a warm room, before a good supper. But the next morning it still rained. Dark skies, thick atmosphere, a gloomy outlook upon ways where no traveller for mere pleasure was to be seen; none but people bent on business of one sort or another. Yet everything was delightful to Dolly's eyes; the novelty was perfect, the picturesqueness undeniable. What she could see of the lagoon, of the vessels at anchor, the flying gondolas, the canals and the bridges over them, and the beautiful Riva, put Dolly in a rapture. Her eye roved, her heart swelled. "O mother!" she exclaimed, "if father would only come!"
"What then?" said Mrs Copley dismally. "He would take us away, I hope."
"Oh, but not until we have seen Venice."
"I have seen Venice enough to content me. It is the wettest place I was ever in my life."
"Why, it rains, mother. Any place is wet when it rains."
"This would be wet at all times. I think the ground must have sunk, Dolly; people would never have built in the water so. The ground must have sunk."
"No, mother; I guess not. It has been always just so."
"What made them build here then, when there is all the earth beside? What did they take to the water for? And what are the houses standing on, any way?"
"Islands, mother, between which these canals run. I told you before."
"I should think the people hadn't any sense."
And nothing would tempt Mrs. Copley out that day. Of course Dolly must stay at home too, though she would most gladly have gone about through the rainy, silent city, in one of those silent gondolas, and feed her eyes at every step. However, she made herself and made her mother as comfortable as she could; got out her painting and worked at Rupert's portrait, which was so successful that Lawrence begged she would begin upon him at once.
"You know the conditions," she said.
"I accept them. Finish one of me so good as that, and I will send it to my mother and ask her what she will give for it."
"But not tell her?"——
"I find," said Dolly slowly, "that it is a very great compliment for a lady to paint a gentleman's likeness."
"She has to give so much attention to the lines of his face. I shouldn't like to paint some people. But I'll do anybody, for a consideration."
"Your words are not flattering," said Lawrence, "even if your actions are."
"No," said Dolly. "Compliments are not in my way."
And though she made a beginning upon St. Leger's picture, and studied the lines of his face accordingly, he did not feel flattered. Dolly's clear, intelligent eyes looked at him as steadily and as unmovedly as if he had been a Titian.
The next day brought a change. If Dolly had watched from her balcony with interest the day before, now she was breathless with what she found. The sun was shining bright, a breeze was rippling the waters of the lagoon, and gently fluttering a sail and a streamer here and there; the beautiful water was enlivened with vessels of all kinds and of many lands, black gondolas darted about; and the buildings lining the shores of the lagoon stood to view in their beauty and magnificence and variety before Dolly's eye; the Doge's palace, here and there a clock tower, here and there the bridge over a side canal. "O mother!" she cried, "we have seen nothing like this! nothing like this!"
"I am glad it don't rain at least," said Mrs. Copley. "But it can't be healthy here, Dolly; it must be damp."
And when they all met at breakfast, and plans for the day began to be discussed, she declared that she did not want to see anything.
"Not St. Mark's?" said Lawrence.
"What is St. Mark's? It is just a church. I am sure we have seen churches enough."
"There is only one St. Mark's in the world."
"I don't care if there were a dozen. Is it better than the church we went to see—at that village near Wiesbaden?"
"Limburg? Much better."
"Well—that will do for me."
"There is the famous old palace of the Doges; and the Bridge of Sighs, Mrs. Copley, and the prisons."
"Prisons? You don't think I want to go looking at prisons, do you? Why should I? what's in the prisons?"
"Not much. There has been, first and last, a good deal of misery in them."
"And you think that is pleasant to look at?"
Dolly could not help laughing, and confessed she would like to see the prisons.
"Well, you may go," said her mother. "I don't want to."
Lawrence saw that Dolly's disappointment was like to be bitter.
"I'll tell you what I'll show you, Mrs. Copley, if you'll trust yourself to go out," he said. "I have got a commission from my mother which must take me into one of the wonderful shops of curiosities here. You never saw such a shop. Old china, of the rarest, and old furniture of the most delightful description, and old curiosities of art out of decayed old palaces, caskets, vases, trinkets, mirrors, and paintings."
Mrs. Copley demurred. "Can we go there in a carriage?"
"No such thing to be had, except a gondola carriage. Come! you will like it. Why, Mrs. Copley, the streets are no broader than very narrow alleys. Carriages would be of no use."
Mrs. Copley demurred, but was tempted. The gondola went better by day than in the night. Once out, Lawrence used his advantage and took the party first to the Place of St. Mark, where he delighted Dolly with a sight of the church. Mrs. Copley was too full of something else to admire churches. She waited and endured, while Dolly's eyes and mind devoured the new feast given to them. They went into the church, up to the roof, and came out to the Piazza again.
"It is odd," said Dolly—"I see it is beautiful; I see it is magnificent; more of both than I can say; and yet, it does not give me the feeling of respect I felt for that old dome at Limburg."
"But," said Lawrence; "that won't do, you know. St. Mark's and Limburg! that opinion cannot stand. What makes you say so?"
"I don't know," said Dolly. "I have a feeling that the people who built that were more in earnest than the people who built this."
"More in earnest? I beg your pardon!" said Lawrence. "What can you mean? I should say people were in earnest enough here, to judge by the riches of the place. Just see the adornment everywhere, and the splendour."
"Yes," said Dolly, "I see. It is partly that. Though there was adornment, and riches too, at the other place. But the style of it is different. Those grave old towers at Limburg seemed striving up into the sky. I don't see any striving here; in the building, I mean."
"Why, there are pinnacles enough," said Lawrence, in comical inability to fathom her meaning, or answer her.
"Yes," said Dolly; "and domes; but the pinnacles do not strive after anything, and the cupolas seem to settle down like great extinguishers upon everything like striving."
Lawrence laughed, and thought in his own mind that Dolly was a little American, wanting culture, and knowing nothing about architecture.
"What is that great long building?" Mrs. Copley now inquired.
"That, mother?—that is the palace of the Doges. Where is the Bridge of Sighs?"
They went round to look at it from the Ponte della Paglia. Nearer investigation had to be deferred, or, Dolly saw, it would be too literally a bridge of sighs to them that morning. They turned their backs on the splendours, ecclesiastical and secular, of the Place of St. Mark, and proceeded to the store of second-hand curiosities St. Leger had promised Mrs. Copley, the visit to which could no longer be deferred. Dolly was in a dream of delight all the way. Sunlight on the old palaces, on the bridges over the canals, on the wonderful carvings of marbles, on the strange water-ways; sunlight and colour; ay, and shadow and colour too, for the sun could not get in everywhere. Between the beauty and picturesqueness, and the wealth of old historic legend and story clustering about it everywhere, Dolly's dream was entrancing.
"I do not know half enough about Venice," she remarked by the way. "Rupert, we must read up. As soon as I can get the books," she added with a laugh.
However, Dolly was susceptible to more than one sort of pleasure; and when the party had reached the Jew's shop, she was perhaps as much pleased though not so much engrossed as her mother. For Mrs. Copley, figuratively speaking, was taken off her feet. This was another thing from the Green vaults and the treasure chamber of Limburg; here the wonders and glories were not unattainable, if one had the means to reach them, that is; and not admiration only, but longing, filled Mrs. Copley's mind.
"I must have that cabinet," she said. "I suppose we can do nothing till your father comes, Dolly. Do write and tell him to bring plenty of money along, for I shall want some. Such a chance one does not have often in one's life. And that cup! Dolly, I must have that cup; it's beyond everything I ever did see!"
"Mother, look at this ivory carving."
"That's out of my line," said Mrs. Copley with a slight glance. "I should call that good for nothing, now. What's the use of it? But, O Dolly, see this sideboard!"
"You don't want that, mother."
"Why don't I? The price is not so very much."
"Think of the expense of getting it home."
"There is no such great difficulty in that. You must write your father, Dolly, to send if he does not come, at once. I should not like to leave these things long. Somebody else might see them."
"Hundreds have seen them already, Mrs. Copley," said Lawrence. "There's time enough."
"I'd rather not trust to that."
"What things do you want, dear mother, seriously? Anything?"
Dolly's voice carried a soft insinuation that her mother's wanting anything there was a delusion; Mrs. Copley flamed out.
"Do you think I am coming into such a place as this, Dolly, and going to let the chance slip? I must have several of these things. I'll tell you. This cup—that isn't much. Now that delicious old china vase—I do not know what china it is, but I'll find out; there is nothing like it, I don't believe, in all Boston. I have chosen that sideboard; that is quite reasonable. You would pay quite as much in Boston, or in London, for a common handsome bit of cabinet-maker's work; while this is—just look at it, Dolly; see these drawers, see these compartments—that's for wine and cordials, you know"——
"We don't want wine and cordials," said Dolly.
"See the convenience and the curiousness of these arrangements; and look at the inlaying, child! It's the loveliest thing I ever saw in my life. Oh, I must have that! And it would be a sin to leave this screen, Dolly. Where ever do you suppose that came from?"
"Eastern work," said Lawrence.
"What eastern work?"
"Impossible for me to say. Might have belonged to the Great Mogul, by the looks of it. Do you admire that, Mrs. Copley?"
"How should it come here?"
"Here? the very place!" said Lawrence. "What was there rare or costly in the world, that did not find its way to Venice and into the palaces of the old nobles?"
"But how came it here?"
"Into this curiosity shop? The old nobles went to pieces, and their precious things went to auction; and good Master Judas or Master Levi bought them."
"And these things were in the palaces of the old nobles?"
"Many of them. Perhaps all of them. I should say, a large proportion."
"That makes them worth just so much the more."
"You need not tell Master Levi that. And you have admired so much this morning, Mrs. Copley, if you will take my advice, it will be most discreet to come away without making any offer. Do not let him think you have any purpose of buying. I am afraid he will put on a fearful price, if you do."
Whether Lawrence meant this counsel seriously, or whether it was a feint to get Mrs. Copley safely out of the shop, Dolly was uncertain; she was grateful to Lawrence all the same. No doubt he had seen that she was anxious. He had been in fact amused at the elder lady not more than interested for the younger one; Dolly's delicate attempts to draw off her mother from thoughts of buying had been so pretty, affectionate, and respectful in manner, sympathising, and yet steady in self-denial. Mrs. Copley was hard to bring off. She looked at Lawrence, doubtful and antagonistic, but his suggestion had been too entirely in her own line not to be appreciated. Mrs. Copley looked and longed, and held her tongue; except from exclamations. They got out of the shop at last, and Dolly made a private resolve not to be caught there again if she could help it.
In the afternoon she devoted herself to painting Lawrence's picture. Her first purpose had been to take a profile or side view of him; but St. Leger declared, if the likeness was for his mother she would never be satisfied if the eyes did not look straight into her eyes; so Dolly had to give that point up; and accordingly, while she studied him, he had full and equal opportunity to study her. It was a doubtful satisfaction. He could rarely meet Dolly's eyes, while yet he saw how coolly they perused him, how calmly they studied him as an abstract thing. He wanted to see a little shyness, a little consciousness, a little wavering, in those clear, wise orbs; but no! Dolly sat at her work and did it as unconcernedly as if she were five years old, to all appearance; with as quiet, calm poise of manner and simplicity of dignity as if she had been fifty. But how pretty she was! Those eyes of hers were such an uncommon mingling of childhood and womanhood, and so lovely in cut and colour and light; and the mouth was the most mobile thing ever known under that name, and charming in every mood of rest or movement. The whole delicate face, the luxuriant brown hair, the little hands, the supple, graceful figure, Lawrence studied over and over again; till he felt it was not good for him.
"Painting a person must make you well acquainted with him," he began after a long silence, during which Dolly had been very busy.
"Outside knowledge," said Dolly.
"Does not the outside always tell something of what is within?"
"Something," Dolly allowed in the same tone.
"What do you see in me?"
"Mrs. St. Leger will know, when she gets this."
"What you see in me?"
"Well, no—perhaps not."
"Couldn't you indulge me and tell me?"
"Why should I?"
"Out of kindness."
"I do not know whether it would be a kindness," said Dolly slowly.
"You see, Dolly, a fellow can't stand everything for ever! I want to know what you think of me, and what my chances are. Come! I've been pretty patient, it strikes me. Speak out a bit."
Mrs. Copley was lying down to rest, and Rupert had left the room. The pair were alone.
"What do you want me to say, Mr. St. Leger?"
"Tell me what you see in me."
"What would be the good of that? I see an Englishman, to begin with."
"You see that in me?"
"I am glad, but I didn't know it. Is that an advantage in your eyes?"
"Am I an Englishwoman?"
"Not a bit of it," said Lawrence, "nor like it. I never saw an English girl the least like you. But you might grow into it, Dolly, don't you think?"
She lifted her face for an instant and gave him a flashing glance of fun.
"Won't you try, Dolly?"
"I think I would just as lieve be an American."
"Why? America is too far off."
"Very good when you get there," said Dolly contentedly.
"But not better than we have on our side?"
"Well, you have not all the advantages on your side," said Dolly, much occupied with her drawing.
"Go on, and tell me what we have not."
"I doubt the wisdom."
"I beg the favour."
"It would not please you. In the first place, you would not believe me. In the second place, you would reckon an advantage what I reckon a disadvantage."
"What do you mean?" said Lawrence, very curious and at the same time uneasy. Dolly tried to get off, but he held her to the point. At last Dolly spoke out.
"Mr. St. Leger, women have a better time in my country."
"A better time? Impossible. There are no homes in the world where wives and daughters are better cared for or better loved. None in the world!"
"Ah," said Dolly, "they are too well cared for."
"How do you mean?"
"Too little free."
"Free?" said Lawrence. "Is that what you want?"
"And not quite respected enough."
"Dolly, you bewilder me. What ever did you see or hear to make you think our women are not respected?"
"I dare say it is a woman's view," said Dolly lightly. But Lawrence eagerly begged her to explain or give an instance of what she meant.
"I have not seen much, you know," said Dolly, painting away. "But I heard a gentleman once, at his own dinner-table, and when there was company present—I was not the only visitor—I heard him tell his wife that the soup was nasty."
And Dolly glanced up to see how Lawrence took it. She judiciously did not tell him that the house was his own father's, and the gentleman in question Mr. St. Leger himself. Lawrence was silent at first. I presume the thing was not so utterly unfamiliar as that he should be much shocked; while he did perceive that here was some difference of the point of view between Dolly's standpoint and his own, and was not ready to answer. Dolly glanced up at him significantly: still Lawrence did not find words.
"That didn't mean anything!" at last he said. Dolly glanced at him again.
"I suppose the soup wasn't good. Why not say so?"
"No reason why he should not say so, at a proper time and place."
"It didn't mean any harm, Dolly."
"I suppose not."
"Then what's the matter?"
"It is not the way we do," said Dolly. "In America, I mean. Not when we are polite."
"Do you think husband and wife ought to be polite to each other—in that way?"
"In what way?"
"That they should not call things by their right names?"
Here Dolly lifted her sweet head and laughed; a merry, ringing, musical, very much amused laugh.
"Ah, you see you are an Englishman," she said. "That is the way you will speak to your wife."
"I will never speak to you, Dolly, in any way you don't like."
"No" said Dolly gravely, and returning to her work.
"Aren't you ever going to give me a little bit of encouragement?" said he. "I have been waiting as patiently as I could. May I tell my mother who did the picture, when I send it?"
"Say it was done by a deserving young artist, in needy circumstances; but no names."
"But that's not true, Dolly. Your father is as well off as ever he was; his embarrassments are only temporary. He is not in needy circumstances."
"I said nothing about my father. Here, Mr. St. Leger—come and look at it."
The finished likeness was done with great truth and grace. Dolly's talent was an extraordinary one, and had not been uncultivated. She had done her best in the present instance, and the result was a really delicious piece of work. Lawrence saw himself given to great advantage; truly, delicately, characteristically. He was delighted.
"I will send it right off," he said. "Mamma has nothing of me half so good."
"Ask her what she thinks it is worth."
"And I want you to paint a duplicate of this, for me; for myself."
"A duplicate!" cried Dolly. "I couldn't."
"Another likeness of me then, in another view. Set your own price."
"But I shall never make my fortune painting you," said Dolly. "You must get me some other customers; that is the bargain."
"What notion is this, Dolly? It is nonsense between me and you. Why not let things be settled? Let us come to an understanding, and give up this ridiculous idea of painting for money;—if you are in earnest."
"I am always in earnest. And we are upon an excellent understanding, Mr. St. Leger. And I want money. The thing is as harmonious as possible."
Lawrence could get no more satisfaction from Dolly. She left him, and went and stood at the window of her mother's room, looking out. The sunset landscape was glorious. Bay and boats, shipping, palaces, canals and bridges, all coloured in such wonderful colours, brilliant in such marvellous lights and shades, as northern lands do not know, though they have their own. Yet she looked at it sadly. It was Venice; but when would her father come? All her future seemed doubtful and cloudy; and the sunshine which is merely external does not in some moods cast even a reflection of brightness upon one's inner world. If her father would come, and Lawrence would go—if her father would come and be his old self—but what large "ifs" these were. Dolly's eyes grew misty. Then her mother woke up.
"What are you looking at, Dolly?"
"The wonderful sunset, mother. Oh, it is so beautiful! Do come here and see the colours on the sails of the boats."
"When do you think your father will be here?"
"Oh, soon, I hope. He ought to be here soon."
"Did you tell him I would want money to buy things? I must not lose that sideboard."
"There was no need to write about that. He can always get money, if he chooses, as well here as in London. If he has it, that is; but you know, mother"——
"I know," Mrs. Copley interrupted, "that is all nonsense. He has it. He always did have it. He has been spending it in other ways lately; that's what it is. Getting his own pleasure. Now it is my turn."
"You shall have it, dear mother, if I can manage it. You are nicely to-day, aren't you? Venice agrees with you. I'm so glad!"
"I think everything would go right, Dolly, if you would just tell Mr. St. Leger that you will have him. I don't like such humming and hawing about anything. He really has waited long enough. If you would tell him that, now, or tell me, then he would lend me the money I want to get those things. I am afraid of losing them. Dolly, when you know you are going to say yes, why not say it? I believe I should get well then, right off. You would be safe too, any way."
Dolly sighed imperceptibly, and made no answer.
"You don't half appreciate Mr. St. Leger. He's just a splendid young man. I don't believe there's such another match for you in all England. You should have seen how keen Mrs. Thayer was to know all about him. Wouldn't she like him for her daughter, though! and she is handsome enough, according to some taste. I wish, Dolly, you'd have everything fixed and square before we meet the Thayers again; or you cannot tell what may happen. He may slip through your fingers yet."
Dolly made as little answer as possible. And further, she contrived for a few days to keep her mother from the curiosity shops. It could be done only by staying persistently within doors; and Dolly shut herself up to her painting, and made excuses. But she found this was telling unfavourably on her mother's spirits, and so on her nerves and health; and she began to go out again, though chafing at her dependence on Lawrence, and longing for her father exceedingly.
He came at last; and Dolly to her great relief thought he looked well; though certainly not glad to be in Venice.
"How's your mother?" he asked her when they were alone.
"I think she will be well now, father; now that you have come. And I have so wanted you!"
"I have no doubt she could have got along just as well without me till she went to Sorrento, if she had only thought so."
"I don't think she could. And I could not, father. I do not like to be left so much to Mr. St. Leger's care."
"He likes it. How has he behaved?"
"He has behaved very well."
"Then what's the matter?"
"I don't want him to think he has a right to take care of us."
"He has the right, if I give it to him. And you know you mean to give him the right, Dolly, in permanence. What's the use of fighting shy about it? Oh, girls, girls! You must have your way, I suppose. Well, now I'm here to look after you."
And the business of sight-seeing was carried on from that time with unabating activity. They went everywhere, and still Mr. Copley found new things for them to see. Mrs. Copley took him into the curiosity shops, but as surely he took her out of them, with not much done in the way of purchases. Dolly enjoyed everything during the first week or two. She would have enjoyed it hugely, only that the lurking care about her father was always present to her mind. She was not at rest. Mr. Copley seemed well and cheery; active and hearty as usual; yet Dolly detected something hollow in the cheer and something forced in the activity. She thought him restless and uneasy, in spite of all the gaiety.
One day after an excursion of some length the party had turned into a restaurant to refresh themselves. Chocolate and coffee had been brought; and then Mr. Copley exclaimed, "Hang it! this won't do. Have you drunk nothing but slops all this while, Lawrence?" And he ordered the waiter to bring a flask of Greek wine. Dolly's heart leaped to her mouth.
"Oh no, father!" she said pleadingly, laying her hand on his.
"Oh no, what, my child?"
"No wine, please, father!" There was more intensity in Dolly's accents than perhaps anybody knew but Mr. Copley; he had the key; and the low quaver in Dolly's voice did not escape him. He answered without letting himself meet her eyes.
"Why not? Hasn't Lawrence given you any vino dolce since you have been in foreign parts? One can get good wine in Venice; and pure."
"If one knows where to go for it," added St. Leger. "So I am told."
"You have not found out by experience yet? We will explore together."
"Not for wine, father?" murmured Dolly.
"Yes, for wine. Wine is one of the good things. What do you think grapes grow for, eh? Certainly, wine is a good thing, if it is properly used. Eh, Lawrence?"
"I have always thought so, sir."
"Cheer your mother up now, Dolly. I believe it would do her lots of good. Here it is. We'll try."
Dolly flushed with pain and anxiety. Yet here, how could she speak plainly? Her father was opening the bottle, and the waiter was setting the glasses.
"We have it on good authority, Miss Dolly," Lawrence said, looking at her, and not sure how far he might venture, "that wine 'maketh glad the heart of man.'"
"And on the same authority we have it that 'wine is a mocker.'"
"What will you do with contradictory authority?"
"They are not contradictory, those two words," said Dolly. "It is deceitful; it gets hold of a man, and then he cannot get loose from it. You know, Mr. St. Leger, what work it does."
"Not good wine," said her father, tossing off his glass. "That's fair; nothing extra. I think we can find better. Letitia, try it; I have a notion it will do you good;—ought to have been tried before."
And he filled his wife's glass, and then Dolly's, and then Rupert's. Dolly felt as nearly desperate as ever in her life. Her father had the air of a man who has broken through a slight barrier between him and comfort. Mrs. Copley sipped the wine. Lawrence looked observingly from one face to another. Then Dolly stretched out her hand and laid it upon Rupert's glass.
"Please stand by me, Rupert!" she begged.
"I will!" said the young man, smiling. "What do you want me to do?"
"Do as I do."
Dolly lifted her glass and poured the contents of it into the nearly emptied chocolate jug. Rupert immediately followed her example.
"What's that for?" said her father, frowning.
"It's waste," added her mother. "I call that waste."
"Don't make yourself ridiculous, Dolly!" Mr. Copley went on. "My child, the world has drunk wine ever since before you were born, and it will go on drinking it after you are dead. What is the use of trying to change what cannot be changed? What can you do?"
"Father, I will not help a bad cause."
"How is it a bad cause, Miss Dolly?" said Lawrence now. "It is a certain pleasure,—but what harm?"
"Do you ask me that?" said she, with a look of her clear, womanly eyes, which it was not very pleasant to meet.
"Well, of course, if people misuse the thing,"—— he began.
"Do they often misuse it, Mr. St. Leger?"
"Well, yes; perhaps they do."
"Go on. What are the consequences, when they misuse it?"
"When people drink too much bad brandy of course—but wine like this never hurt anybody."
Dolly thought, it had hurt her that day; but she could not trust her voice to say it. Her lips trembled, her beautiful eyes filled, she was obliged to wait. And how, there before her father whom the fruit of the vine had certainly hurt grievously, and before Mr. St. Leger who knew as much and had seen it, could she put the thing in words? Her father had chosen his time cruelly. And where was his promise? Dolly fought and swallowed and struggled with herself; and tried to regain command of voice.
"It's a narrow view, ray dear," said Mr. Copley, filling his glass again, to Dolly's infinite horror; "a narrow view. Well-bred people do not hold it. It is always a mistake to set yourself against the world. The world is generally right."
"O father, do you think so?"
"Not a doubt of it," said Mr. Copley, sipping the wine and looking from one to another of the faces in the little group. "Dolly is a foolish girl, Rupert; do not let her persuade you."
"It certainly is not the wine that is to be condemned," said Lawrence, "but the immoderate use of it. That's all."
"What do you call immoderate use of it?" Rupert asked now, putting the question in Dolly's interest.
"More than your head can bear," said Lawrence. "Keep within that limit, and you're all right."
"Suppose your neighbour cannot bear what you can?" said Dolly, looking at him. "And suppose your example tempts him?"
"It's his business to know what he can take," said Lawrence. "It isn't mine."
"But suppose he is drawn on by your example, and drinks more than he can bear? What follows, Mr. St. Leger?"
Dolly's voice had a pathetic clang which touched Rupert, and I think embarrassed Lawrence.
"If he is so unwise, of course he suffers for it. But as I said, that is his business."
"And not yours?"
"Of course not!" Mr. Copley broke in. "Dolly, you do not understand the world. How can I tell St. Leger how much he is to drink? or he tell me how much I must? Don't be absurd, child! You grow a little absurd, living alone."