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Page 216


The next day commenced for me a new life — a life of
responsible, regulated labor, and certain, if moderate reward.
It was not difficult to resume the harness, for my
temporary freedom had not been sufficiently enjoyed to
tempt me to prolong it. My life already possessed a serious
direction, leading, I fondly believed, to that home of
my own creation which my poor mother had foreseen upon
her death-bed. This hope was stronger at that time than
any literary aspirations. Indeed, I would have sacrificed
the latter without much regret, provided another and more
speedy path to wealth and distinction had presented itself.
But my mind had received its bent from my cheaply won
triumphs at the Honeybrook Academy, and I had too little
experience of life to know how easily a young and plastic
nature accommodates itself to different forms of training.

I took my appointed desk in the editorial room of the
Daily Wonder, and commenced my allotted labor of “condensing
the miscellaneous.” I was so anxious to give satisfaction
that no paper — even the most insignificant country
sheet — passed through my hands without being carefully
inspected. I sat at my desk from ten to twelve hours a
day, selecting, condensing, and polishing my items, until
Smeaton, the foreman of the composing-room, — the man
with smutty hands and paper cap, — informed me, as he
took my slips, “You do pile up the Miscellaneous in an
awful way; half of that will be crowded out of to-night's


Page 217

Not a fire, murder, railroad disaster, daring burglary,
shocking accident, tragic occurrence, curious phenomenon
or singular freak of nature, escaped my eyes; and I was
beginning to congratulate myself on my expertness, when,
on the third day, I received a most unexpected humiliation.
I had overlooked the result of an election to fill a vacancy
in the Fourth Congressional District of Tennessee, — a
circumstance which my colleagues who “condensed the
miscellaneous” for the Marvel, the Monitor, and the Avenger,
had all duly commemorated, thus distancing the Wonder
for that day. Mr. Clarendon's wrath was both strong and
freely expressed. It would have been still more severe,
Mr. Severn informed me, but for the lucky chance that the
“city editor,” in reporting a fire in Broome Street, had obtained
both the amount of insurance and the names of the
companies, which were not mentioned in the rival dailies,
and thereby partly compensated my oversight. I found
that the rivalry extended to the smallest details in the composition
of a paper, and was felt as keenly by the subordinates
of the establishment as by the principals. There was
an eager comparison of the various journals every morning,
and while the least advantage of the Wonder in point of
news was the subject of general rejoicing, so the most insignificant
shortcoming seemed to be felt by each as a personal
grievance. I very soon caught the infection, and
became as sensitive a partisan as the rest.

There was a marked change in Mr. Jenks's manner
towards me when he discovered my new position. My
short story with the unmistakable moral was accepted with
some flattering remarks, to the effect that I was already
improving in style, and he thought he could afford to pay
me ten dollars instead of five. He called me back when I
was leaving his office, adding in a careless way, “Of course
you know Mr. Withering, the literary critic of the Wonder.
I wish you would just call his attention to the June number
of `The Hesperian.' Here is an extra copy for him.”


Page 218

On Saturday afternoon I received the stipulated six dollars,
which I felt had been well earned. This sum was
sufficient to pay my board and all other necessary expenses,
thus making me independent of literature and its scanty,
uncertain returns. I was already so fortunate as to possess
an occupation and a taste; the narrow bounds of my life
were satisfactorily filled. I not only felt but saw that
others recognized in me a new importance. Even Mr.
Mortimer, identifying me with the Wonder, seemed to take
it for granted that I was the depository of much secret
intelligence, in matters of current gossip, politics, or finance.
The demand for my opinion on these matters created the
supply, and it was astonishing how soon my words, until
now shy, hesitating, and painfully self-distrustful, became
assured and oracular. Rand's opinion, as to the necessity
of certain metals, either in face or pocket, seemed about to
be justified.

When I returned home that evening, a new delight
awaited me. Mrs. Very handed me a letter, addressed to
“Mr. John Godfrey,” in a coarse, awkward hand, which
puzzled me a little until I noticed the post-mark, “Cardiff,”
in one corner. Then I rushed up to my room, locked the
door, and tore open the envelope with trembling haste. A
delicate enclosure, of silky pink paper, and redolent of
patchouly, dropped out; but I resolutely inspected the
rough husk before feasting my heart on the honeyed kernel.
This was Dan's letter: —

“Respected Friend, I recd. your favor in which you informed
me that you was getting on so well and gave the
other as you directed. Thought it best to wait for the
other's answer, though there is no particular news. Sep
Bratton goes to The Buck every day, and there 's high
goings on between him and the squire. Your friend Mr.
Rand was there again. People say the squire is speculating
about Pottsville, and will cut up pretty fat some day, which


Page 219
is no business of mine, but thought you might like to hear.
We are all well, and mother and Sue says remember me to
him. I guess Ben and her is satisfied with one another,
but you need not say I told you. There is a mistress at
the school this summer, a right smart young woman, her
name is Lavina Wilkins. And hoping these few lines will
find you enjoying good health, I remain,

“Yours, respectfully,

Daniel Yule.

This letter was almost like the touch of Dan's broad,
honest hand; it brought a breeze from the valley with it
and a burst of sunshine, in which I beheld the pond, the
shaded foot-path, and the lonely bank beside the old hemlock-tree.
With a sigh of yearning tenderness I stretched
forth my empty arms and murmured, “Dear Amanda!”
Then I kissed the fragrant pink of the little note, and
gloated over my own name, traced in fine Italian hand.
The words looked so smooth, so demure, so gently calm —
in short, so like herself! My heart thrilled with joy as I
deciphered, on the fairy seal of sky-blue wax, scarcely
larger than a three-cent piece, the words “toujours fidèle.
After this, I had no more power of abstinence. The coming
joy must be tasted.

Her letter was very short in comparison with mine, — so
short, indeed, that after three readings I knew it by heart,
and could repeat it to myself as I walked down Chatham
Street. I can still recall it, word by word.

“Dear John,” (there were volumes of withheld confession
for me in that one adjective): —

“How pleased I was to get your beautiful letter! Ma
was not at home, so I was alone and could read it undisturbed,
fancying you were near me. Do you really think
of me so much? Do I always seem present to you? I
can scarcely believe it yet, although you say it, and I feel
in my heart that you are true. I am not afraid that when


Page 220
you get to be a great writer, you will forget me or any of us.
Oh, it is a bliss to find one upon whom we can rely! You
may imagine how much I have thought about you since
you left. It was so sudden, and I was so bewildered by what
you said, and I cannot remember what I said or did. But
I do not forget any of your words. They cannot be unsaid,
can they? Tell me truly, now, do you wish it could be so?
— but no, I will not ask the question. We were at Carterstown
last Sunday, and Mr. Perego preached from the text
— Love is strong as death, Jealousy cruel as the grave. I
wished you could only have heard it! How some people
can be so jealous is past my comprehension: they can't
have much faith, it seems to me.

“Oh, your letter was so beautiful! so poetic! I am quite
ashamed to send you my prose in return. I have not your
gift of expressing myself, and you must imagine all that I
am not able to say. Do not ask too much of me. I am
afraid you do not know all my deficiencies, and perhaps I
had better stop now, lest I might disclose them to your
gaze. Don't you think, with me, that speech is not necessary,
where people understand each other's feelings? I
could be silent for years, if fate required it, not but what
there is a great consolation in the interchange of thoughts.
Your description of your life in New York was very interesting,
and I want to hear more of it; but now I must say
good-bye, for fear of interruption. I cannot repeat, even
with the pen, your words at the close of your letter, but you
won't care about it now, will you?

A. B.
“P. S. — Oh, do not write very often — not more than
once in two or three months. It would be dreadful if Pa
or Ma or Sep should find it out. They all think I am a
child with no mind of my own. And I cannot look Dan
Yule in the face: he must suspect something, and what if
he should get drunk and tell! Not that he drinks, but we
can't tell what may happen, and I am so frightened for fear
our poor, harmless letters should fall into somebody's hands.


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“N. B. — I have received the Hesperian through the
Post-office. Sep brought it, but he did not know your
hand. How lucky! Leonora's Dream is lovely!

How easily I read, in those artless, timid sentences, her
shy, pure, yet steadfastly faithful maiden heart! Even my
own tumultuous utterances of passion lost their eloquence,
beside the soft serenity of her voice. The tender playfulness
with which she avoided repeating the fond epithets I
had used, quite charmed me. Love had donned a witching,
coquettish mask, well knowing that his own immortal
eyes shone through it. I was completely happy, but an
instinct told me not to intrude my joy on Swansford's mysterious
sorrow: so, that night, I kept my room and wrote
another poem.

My life now assumed a somewhat monotonous sameness.
For months I strictly performed my appointed duties, increasing
my circle of acquaintances but slightly, and acquiring
no experiences which seem worthy of being recorded.
My nature, apparently, was resting from the excitements of
the previous year, and its rapid, partly enforced development
was followed by a long period of repose. Little by
little, however, I was gaining in knowledge of life, in self-reliance,
and in power of discriminating between the true
and the false, in men and things; but in all these particulars
I suspect I was still behind most young men of my
own age. Certainly I saw not yet the out-cropping of the
grosser elements of human nature which a great city brings
to light, yet I began to feel a dim conviction that there was
something, that my own innocence and ignorance were
exceptional, and that, whether in the way of observation
or experience, I had much to learn.

About the beginning of winter, Mr. Clarendon, after
informing me that he considered me tolerably well broken
to the harness, and expressing his satisfaction with my
punctual, steady habits of work, raised my salary to ten


Page 222
dollars a week. I was by this time able to do “the Miscellaneous”
much more rapidly, and was frequently called
upon, in addition, to write short items about the weather,
the appearance of the city on particular occasions, or such
other indefinite subjects as might be safely intrusted to a
new hand. Thus I became more and more, in my own
estimation, an integral part of the Daily Wonder, but fortunately
did not feel the loss of the individuality which it

The increase of my salary, added to an occasional windfall
from “The Hesperian,” enabled me now to set about gratifying
a secret desire which I had long cherished. This
was nothing less than to publish a volume. Swansford, who
had great faith in my abilities, advised me to this step; but
no persuasion was necessary to convince me of its expediency.
As the author of a popular book, I believed that
Squire Bratton would bow his haughty crest before me,
and Uncle Amos approach me with a penitent confession
of misdemeanor. Instead of running at the stirrup, as I
had been doing, it was a bold leap into the saddle. Raised
thus, a head and shoulders above the “heartless, unheeding
crowd,” I should spatter instead of being spattered. It was
an enticing idea, and I had scarcely patience to wait for its

In another respect, however, Swansford was perverse,
and his perverseness greatly annoyed me. Our “Fashionable
Song” proved to be very popular. It was published
as the composition of Bridger (of Bridger's Minstrels), and
he, of course, received all the fame. It was even reported
in the papers that his commission on the sale, he being
owner of the copyright, amounted to more than a thousand
dollars. I was furious when I read this to Swansford, but
he only smiled, in his melancholy way, as he remarked, —

“He is welcome to the money, and his success with that
stuff reconciles me to my share of the pay. He would
give a hundred dollars for another, Mackintosh tells me.”


Page 223

“Don't do it!” I cried, eagerly. “A hundred dollars
and half the gains of the copyright will be little enough.
Think what we have lost on the first one!”

“You forget, Godfrey, how glad we were to get it. Why,
we should have been satisfied with one tenth of the sum.
But I wrote the thing in a freak of disgust, which I have
outlived, thank God! Why should I allow such themes to
enter my brain at all? The time is too short, the mission
too solemn, for this profane trifling.”

“But, Swansford,” I cried, “you surely don't mean that
you will not write another, if I furnish the words?”

“Yes,” said he, gravely, and lowering his voice almost to
a whisper; “I am writing a symphony. It will be my first
effort at a work which might be worthy to offer to those
two Masters yonder, if they were alive. The first movement
is finished — wait — sit down — don't interrupt me!”

He took his seat at the piano, drew up his coat-sleeves,
turned back his wristbands, and commenced playing. It
was a sad, monotonous theme, based, for the most part, on
low, rumbling chords, which reminded me, more than anything
else, of distant thunder on the horizon of a summer
night. A certain phrase, running into the higher notes,
and thence descending by broad, lingering intervals, was
several times repeated. The general effect of the composition
was weird and mystic; I felt that I did not fully comprehend
its meaning.

Swansford at last ceased and turned towards me with
excited eyes. “There!” he cried; “I have carried it so
far, but beyond that there is a confusion which I cannot yet
unravel. This is only the presentiment of the struggle;
its reality is to come. I feel what it should be, but when
my mind tries to grasp it, I encounter cloud instead of form.
Oh, if I were sure of reaching it at last, I would gladly
give sweat, blood, and agony!”

He covered his face with his hands, and bent forward
over the piano. I recognized and envied in him the presence
of a consuming artistic passion. Involuntarily, I asked


Page 224
myself whether my love of literature possessed me with the
same intensity, and was obliged to confess that it did not.
I was a lover, not a worshipper. I was not strong enough
to spurn an avenue of success, though it did not point to
the highest goal. But I was at least capable of fitting reverence
for Swansford's loftier and more delicately constituted
nature, and made no further reference, then, to the
offer he had received.

When I returned to the subject, a few days afterwards, I
found him as stubborn as ever. My share of the money
which we might earn so easily would have enabled me at
once to publish my volume; and as I was conscious of no
special degradation in the first instance, so I could not for
the life of me feel that a repetition of the joke would be a
flagrant offence against either his art or mine. My representations
to this effect were useless. He was completely
absorbed in his symphony, and filled with a rapt, devotional
spirit, which, by contrast with my position, made me seem
a tempter, assailing him with evil suggestions. I was silent,
and Bridger did not get his second song.

During the winter my circle of experience was considerably
enlarged. A small portion of the “complimentary”
privileges of the Wonder fell to my share, and I made acquaintance
with lectures, concerts, the drama, and the opera.
Swansford sometimes accompanied me to the latter,
and from him I learned the character and significance of
works which had else impressed me with a vague, voluptuous,
unintelligent delight. In my leisure hours I undertook
the task of preparing my poems for publication. I had too
great a liking for my own progeny to reject any of them,
but, even then, there were not more than enough to form a
thin volume of a hundred and twenty pages. The choice
of a title puzzled me exceedingly. I hesitated for a long
time between “The Wind-Harp” and “Æolian Harmonies,”
until Swansford informed me that both were equally
suggestive of monotonous effect. Then I went to the opposite
extreme of simplicity, and adopted “First Poems, by


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John Godfrey,” — which the publisher, who was to lend me
his imprint (I paying all the expenses of printing and binding
and receiving half the proceeds of the sales), rejected
as fatal to success. It would never do, he said, to announce
First Poems”; nobody would buy them; I must presuppose
that the public was familiar with my productions;
many persons bought, simply to show that they kept up
with the current literature, and the word “First” would
tell them the whole story. Why not say “Leonora's
Dream,” (he saw that was the name of the leading poem,)
“and Other Poems”? And so it was settled.

During all this time I had tried to gratify Amanda's wish
with regard to the correspondence. It was hard, very hard,
to endure three months' silence, but as she begged it for
her sake, I tried to quiet my impatient heart and console
myself with the knowledge of our mutual constancy. Her
letters were short, but precious beyond computation. Her
expressions were none the less sweet that they were constantly
repeated; did not I, also, repeat over and over,
without the possibility of exhausting their emphasis, my
own protestations of unalterable love? I communicated
my good fortune, with sure predictions of the bright future
it heralded, but kept back, as a delicious surprise, the secret
of my intended publication, and another plan which
was to follow it. As it was now evident that the book
could not be given to the world before May, and my
twenty-first birthday occurred in June, I determined to
steal a few days for a visit and present myself and my fame
at the same time. I should come into possession of my
legacy, and it would therefore be necessary to make a journey
to Reading.

How my dreams expanded and blossomed in the breath
of the opening spring! Love, Manhood, and Money, —
though the last was less than it had once seemed to me, —
how boundless was the first and how joyous the second!