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Page 306


I saw very little of Penrose for some weeks after our
first meeting. He was much occupied with his arrangements
for entering the mercantile firm with the beginning
of the coming year, and these arrangements obliged him
to revisit Philadelphia in the mean time. Matilda — or,
rather, Mr. Edmund Shanks — invited me to dine with
them at the St. Nicholas, but pitched upon a day when my
duties positively prevented my acceptance of the invitation.
This was no cause of regret, for I was not drawn
towards my cousin, and could not forgive the two fingers of
her husband. For Penrose I retained much of the old attachment,
but his nature was so different from mine that
the innermost chamber of my heart remained closed at his
approach. I doubted whether it ever would open.

One evening in December he called upon me in Bleecker
Street. However I might reason against his haughtiness,
his proud, disdainful air when he was absent, one
smile from those superb lips, one gentler glance from those
flashing eyes disarmed me. There was a delicate flattery,
which I could not withstand, in the fact that this demigod (in
a physical sense), with his air of conscious power, became
human for me, — for me, alone, of all his acquaintances
whom I knew, laid aside his mask. Nothing made me respect
myself so much as the knowledge that he respected

“You have a very passable den, John,” he remarked,
darting a quick, keen glance around my room; “rather a


Page 307
contrast to our bed in Dr. Dymond's garret. How singularly
things turn out, to be sure! Which of us would have
suspected this that night when the Doctor made me share
sheets with you? Yet, I had a notion then that you would
be mixed up somehow with my life.”

“You were very careful not to give me any hint of it,”
I answered, laughing.

“I was right. Even if you are sure that an impression
is a prophetic instinct, not a mere whim, it is best to wait
until it proves itself. Then you are safe, in either case.
There is no such element of weakness as superfluous frankness.
I don't mean that it would have done any harm, in
our case, but when I deliberately give myself a rule I like
to stick to it. Only one man in a hundred will suspect that
you have an emotion when you don't express it. You are
thus, without any trouble, master of the ninety-nine, and
can meet the hundredth with your whole strength.”

“Are you frank now?” I asked.

“John,” said he, gravely, “don't, I beg of you, play at
words with me. I will confess to you that I should become
morally blâsé if I could not, once in a year or so, be utterly
candid with somebody. I 'm glad you give me the chance,
and if I recommend my rule to you, don't turn it against
me. You are not the innocent boy I knew in Honeybrook,
—I can see that, plainly, —but you are an innocent man,
compared with myself. I hope there will always be this
difference between us.”

“I can't promise that, Alexander,” I said, “but I will
promise that there shall be no other difference.”

He took my hand, gave it a squeeze, and then, resuming
his usual careless tone, said, “By the bye, I must not forget
one part of my errand. Shanks is to give a little dinner
at Delmonico's next Saturday, — ten or a dozen persons
in all, — and he wants you to be one of the party. Now,
don't look so blank; I want you to come. Matilda has
been reading your book, and she has persuaded Shanks


Page 308
(who knows no more about poetry than he does about
horses, though he buys both) that you are a great genius.
You can bother him, and bring him to your feet in ten sentences,
if you choose. The dinner will be something superb,
— between ourselves, ten dollars par couvert, without
the wine, — and I have private orders from Matilda not to
accept your refusal, on any pretext.”

I frankly told Penrose that I did not like Shanks, but
would accept the invitation, if he insisted upon it, rather
than appear ungracious. I stipulated, however, that we
should have neighboring seats, if possible.

When the time arrived, I took an omnibus down Broadway,
in no very festive humor. I anticipated a somewhat
more solemn and stiff repetition of Mrs. De Peyster's board
and its flat, flippant conversation. The servant conducted
me to a private parlor on the second floor, where I found
the host and most of the guests assembled. Matilda welcomed
me very cordially as “Cousin Godfrey,” and Shanks
this time gave me his whole hand with an air of deference
which I did not believe to be real. Knowing Matilda's
critical exactness, I had taken special pains to comply with
the utmost requirements of custom, in the matter of dress
and manners, and if my demeanor was a little more stiff
than usual, I am sure that was no disparagement in the eyes
of the others. My apprenticeship at Mrs. De Peyster's
table had done me good service; I could see by Penrose's
eyes that I acquitted myself creditably.

The remaining guests arrived about the same time. We
were presented to each other with becoming formality, and
I made a mechanical effort to retain the names I heard, for
that evening, at least. They were only important to me
for the occasion, for I neither expected nor cared to see
any of them again. I noticed that there were three ladies
besides Matilda, but merely glanced at them indifferently
until the name “Miss Haworth” arrested my attention.
Then I recollected the violet eyes, the low white brow,


Page 309
and the rippling light-brown hair. Seeing a quick recognition
in her face, I bowed and said, “I have already had
the pleasure, I believe.”

At these words, a gentleman standing near her, to whom
I had not yet been introduced, turned and looked at me
rather sharply. She must have noticed the movement, for
she said to me, with (I thought) a slight embarrassment in
her tone, “My brother, Mr. Floyd.”

Mr. Floyd bowed stiffly, without offering me his hand.
I was amazed to find that he could be the brother of Miss
Haworth, — so different, not only in name but in feature.
I looked at them both as I exchanged the usual commonplaces
of an incipient acquaintance, and was more and more
convinced that there could be no relationship between
them. His face struck me as mean, cunning, and sensual;
hers frank, pure, and noble. It was a different type of face
from that of any woman I remembered, yet the strong impression
of having once seen it before returned to my mind.
I was surprised at myself for having paid so little attention
to her when we first met in Mr. Clarendon's house.

Though her voice had that calm, even sweetness which
I have always considered to be the most attractive quality
in woman, it was not in the least like Amanda Bratton's.
Hers would have sounded thin and hard after its full, melting,
tremulous music. It belonged as naturally to the
beauty of her lips as tint and pearly enamel to a sea-shell.
Her quiet, unobtrusive air was allied to a self-possession
almost beyond her years, — for she could not have been
more than twenty. Though richly and fashionably dressed,
she had chosen soft, neutral colors, without a glitter or
sparkle, except from the sapphires in her ears and at her
throat. I was not yet competent to feel a very enthusiastic
admiration, but I was conscious that the sight of her filled
me with a pleasant sense of comfort and repose.

“Isabel,” said Mrs. Shanks, tapping Miss Haworth's
shoulder with her fan, “on a servi. Will you take Mr.
Godfrey's arm?”


Page 310

I bowed and crooked my elbow, and we followed the
other ladies into the adjoining room. The touch of the
gloved hand affected me singularly; I know not what soft,
happy warmth diffused itself through my frame from that
slight point of contact. The magnetism of physical nearness
never before affected me so delicately yet so powerfully.

Matilda seated the guests according to her own will, and
with her usual tact. Her brother's future partners were
her own supporters, while Shanks was flanked by their
wives. Miss Haworth was assigned to the central seat on
one side of the oval table, between Penrose and myself,
with Mr. Floyd and two other young fashionables facing us.
The table was resplendent with cut-glass and silver, and
fragrant with gorgeous piles of tropical flowers and fruit,
the room dazzling with the white lustre of gas, and the accomplished
French servants glided to and fro with stealthy
elegance. The devil of Luxury within me chuckled and
clapped his hands with delight. If Life would furnish me
with more such dinners, I thought, I might find it tolerably

The dinner was a masterpiece of art. Both the natural
harmonies and the conventional stipulations were respected.
We had oysters and Chablis, turtle-soup succeeded by
glasses of iced punch, fish and sherry, and Rüdesheimer,
Clicquot, Burgundy, Lafitte, and liqueurs in their proper
succession, accompanying the wondrous alternation of
courses. Hitherto, I had been rather omniverous in my
tastes, — only preferring good things to bad, — but now I
perceived that even the material profession of cooking had
its artistic ideal.

The conversation, as was meet, ran mostly upon the
dishes which were placed before us. Mr. Shanks developed
an immense amount of knowledge in this direction,
affirming that he had given special directions for a single
clove of garlic to be laid for five minutes on a plate with


Page 311
certain cotelettes en papillotes, under a glass cover; that the
canvas-back ducks should be merely carried through a hot
kitchen, which was cooking enough for them; and that the
riz de veau would have been ruined if he had not procured,
with great difficulty, a particular kind of pea which only
grew in the neighborhood of Arras. The Lafitte, he said,
was “the '34, — from the lower part of the hill; Delmonico
won't acknowledge that he has it, unless you happen to
know, and even then it 's a great favor to get a few bottles.”

“Many persons can't tell the '34 from the '46,” said one
of the partners, setting the rim of his glass under his nostrils
and sniffing repeatedly; “but you notice the difference
in the bouquet.

It really seemed to me that this voluptuous discussion
of the viands as they appeared, — this preliminary tasting,
this lingering enjoyment of the rare and peculiar qualities,
this prelusive aroma of the vine, tempering yet fixing its
flavor, — constituted an æsthetic accompaniment which balanced
the physical task of the meal and called upon the
brain to assist the stomach. I drank but sparingly of the
wines, however, being warned by the growing flush on the
faces of the three young gentlemen opposite, and restrained
by the sweet, sober freshness of Miss Haworth's cheek, at
my side.

As the conversation grew riotous in tone, and laughter
and repartee (mostly of a stupid character, but answering
the purpose as well as the genuine article) ruled the table,
my gentle neighbor seemed to encourage my attempts to
withdraw from the noisy circle of talk and establish a quiet
tête à tête between our two selves. Penrose was occupied
with one of his partners and Matilda with the other; Mr.
Floyd was relating the last piece of scandal, with the corrections
and additions of his neighbors, and each and all
so absorbed in their several subjects that we were left in
comparative privacy.


Page 312

“Have you long known my cousin, Mrs. Shanks?” I

“Only familiarly since last summer, when we were at
Long Branch together. We had met before, in society,
once or twice, but one never makes acquaintances in that

“Do you think we can ever say that we are truly acquainted
with any one?” said I.

“Why not?” she asked, after a look in which I read a
little surprise at the question.

I felt that my words had been thrown to the surface from
a hidden movement of dislike to the society present, which
lurked at the bottom of my mind. They shot away so suddenly
and widely from my first question that some explanation
was necessary; yet I could not give the true one.
She waited for my answer, and I was compelled to a partial

“I believe,” I said, “that the word `acquainted' put the
question into my head. I have been obliged to reverse my
first impressions so often that it seems better not to trust
them. And I have really wondered whether men can truly
know each other.”

“Perhaps nearly as well as they can know themselves,”
said she. “When I see some little vanity, which is plain
to every one except its possessor, I fancy that the same
thing may very easily be true of myself.”

“You, Miss Haworth!” I exclaimed.

“I as well as another. You do not suppose that I consider
myself to be without faults.”

“No, of course not,” I answered, so plumply and earnestly
that she smiled, looking very much amused. But
the fact is, I had made a personal application of her first
remark, and answered for myself rather than for her. Perceiving
this, I could not help smiling in turn.

“I confess,” I said, “that I have mine, but I try to conceal
them from others.”


Page 313

“And you would be very angry if they were detected?”

“Yes, I think I would.”

“Yet all your friends may know them, nevertheless,”
said she, “and keep silent towards you as you towards them.
Do you think universal candor would be any better? For
my part, I fancy it would soon set us all together by the

“Just what I told you, John,” said Penrose, striking in
from the other side. “Candor is weakness.”

“I begin to think so, too,” I remarked gloomily. “Deceit
seems to be the rule of the world; I find it wherever
I turn. If the outside of the sepulchre shows the conventional
whitewash, it makes no difference how many skeletons
are inside.”

I took up a little glass toy which stood before me, filled,
apparently, with green oil. It slid down my throat like a
fiery, perfumed snake.

“Penrose!” cried Mr. Floyd, “is that the Chartreuse before

“No,” said the former, turning the bottle, “it 's Cura

“Ah, that reminds me,” — cried Mr. Shanks, commencing
a fresh story, which I did not care to hear. The old feeling
of sadness and depression began to steal over me, and
the loud gayety of the table became more hollow and distasteful
than ever.

“Mr. Godfrey,” said Miss Haworth, a little timidly.

I looked up. Her clear violet eyes were fixed upon me
with a disturbed expression, and there may have been, for
a second, a warmer tinge on her cheek, as she addressed
me, —

“I am afraid you misunderstood me. I think a candid
nature is the highest and best. I only meant that there is
no use in constantly reminding our friends, or they us, of
little human weaknesses. We may be candid, certainly,
without ceasing to be charitable.”


Page 314

“Yes, we may be,” I said, “but who is? Where is there
a nature which may be relied upon, first and forever? I
once thought the world was full of such, but I am cured of
my folly.”

The trouble in her eyes deepened. “I am sorry to hear
you say so,” she said, in a low voice, and began mechanically
pulling to pieces a bunch of grapes.

My bitter mood died in an instant. I felt that my words
were not only false in themselves, but false as the utterance
of my belief. There were, there must be, truth and honor
in men and women; I was true, and was there no other
virtue in the world than mine? I could have bitten my
tongue for vexation. To retract my expressions on the
spot, — and I now perceived how positively they had been
made, — would prove me to be a whimsical fool, and Miss
Haworth must continue to believe me the negatist I seemed.
In vain I tried to console myself with the thought that it
made no difference. A deeper instinct told me that it did,
— that the opinion of a pure-hearted girl was not a thing
to be lightly esteemed. I had flattered myself on the social
tact I had acquired, but my first serious conversation told
me what a bungler I still was, in allowing the egotism of
a private disappointment to betray itself and misrepresent
my nature to another.

While these thoughts flashed through my mind, Penrose
had commenced a conversation with Miss Haworth.
Glancing around the table, I encountered Matilda's dark
eyes. “Cousin Godfrey!” she called to me, “how do you
vote? — shall we stay or go? Edmund always sits with
his head in a cloud, at home, and very often Aleck with
him; so I think if we open the door and let down the windows,
the atmosphere will be endurable, — only you gentlemen
generally prefer to banish us. I don 't believe it 's
any good that you say or do when you get rid of us.”

“Stay,” said I. “There will be no cloud from my lips.
Why should you not keep your seats, and let the gentlemen
withdraw, if there must be a division?”


Page 315

“Gallantly spoken, cousin. But I see that Edmund has
the consent of his neighbors, and is puffing to make up for
lost time. I congratulate you on your wives, gentlemen:
I thought I was the only veteran present. Isabel! they
are not driving you away, I hope?”

“Oh, no!” said Miss Haworth, who had risen from her
seat; “but father is home from the Club by this time, and
he always likes to have a little music before going to bed.
Tracy, will you please see if the carriage is waiting?”

Mr. Floyd put his head out of the window and called,
“James!” “Here, sir!” came up from the street, and
Miss Haworth, giving a hand to Matilda and her husband,
and leaving a pleasant “Good-night!” for the rest of us,
collectively, glided from the room. Mr. Shanks escorted
her to her carriage.

This little interruption was employed by the company as
an opportunity to change their places at the table. A sign
from Matilda called me to an empty chair beside her.

“I 'm so glad you 're a poet, Cousin Godfrey,” she said,
— “the first in our family; and I assure you we have need
of the distinction to balance the mésalliance, — you know
all about it from Aleck, though you 're not near enough
related to be hurt by it as we were. I think we shall come
to New York to live: Edmund prefers it, and one gets
tired of Philadelphia in the long run. We have plenty of
style there, to be sure; but our set is very much the same
from year to year. Here, it may be a little too free, too —
qu' est ce que c' est? easy of entrance, — but there 's a deal
more life and variety. Don't you think so? but, of course,
you gentlemen are never so particular. Society would fall
into ruin, if it was n't for us.

“It 's very well you save society, for you ruin individuals,”
I remarked.

“Hear that, Aleck!” she exclaimed; “I did n't think it
was in him. You have certainly been giving him lessons
in your own infidelity. He will spoil you, Cousin Godfrey.”


Page 316

Penrose looked at me and laughed. “I 'm glad you are
a match for 'Till, John,” he said. “If I 've taught you, the
pupil surpasses the teacher.”

Much more of this badinage followed. My apprenticeship
to words and phrases gave me an advantage in the
use of it, and I was reckless enough to care little what I
said, so that my words had some point and brilliancy.
Penrose was more than a match for me, but he considerately
held back and allowed me to triumph over the others.
It was as he predicted; I brought Mr. Edmund Shanks to
my feet in ten sentences. He called me “Cousin Godfrey,”
and said, repeatedly, in a somewhat thick voice, “If
you only smoked, you would be a trump.”

“He 'll come to that after a while; he can't have all the
virtues at once,” remarked Mr. Floyd. I liked neither the
tone nor the look of the man: a sneer seemed to lurk
under his light, laughing air. He was one of the two or
three who had lighted their cigars, and substituted brandy
and ice for the soft, fragrant wines of Bordeaux. A sharp
retort rose to my tongue, but I held it back from an instinct
which told me that he would welcome an antagonism I had

It was near midnight when the guests separated, and as
we descended in a body to the street, we found the three
coachmen asleep on their boxes.

“Are you not going to get in, Aleck?” said Matilda, as
Penrose slammed the door.

“No; I am going to walk with Godfrey. Good-night!”

Mr. Floyd joined us, smoking his cigar, humming opera-tunes
and commenting freely upon the company, as we
walked up Broadway. When we reached the corner of
Howard Street, he muttered something about an engagement,
and turned off to the left.

Penrose laughed as he gave utterance to certain surmises,
in what seemed to me a very cold-blooded manner.
He took my arm as he added: “I don't know that Floyd


Page 317
is any worse than most of the young New Yorkers; but
he 's rather a bore to me, and I 'm glad to get rid of him.
I see so much of the class that I grow tired of it, — yet I
suppose I belong to it myself.”

“Not in character, Alexander!” I protested: “you have
talent, and pride, and principle!”

“None too much of either, unless it be pride,” he said.
“Take care you don't overrate me. I can be intensely
selfish, and you may discover the fact, some day. Whatever
I demand with all the force of my nature I must
have, and will trample down anything and anybody that
comes between. You have only seen the mother's blood
in me, John. There is a good deal of my father's, and it is

I saw the dark knitting of his brows in the lamplight,
and strove to turn aside the gloomy introversion of his
mood. “How is it,” I asked, “that this Floyd is a brother
of Miss Haworth?”

“Step-brother, by marriage,” he answered. “He is in
reality no relation. Old Floyd was a widower with one
son when he married the widow Haworth, — some ten
years ago, I believe: Matilda knows all about it, — and
the boy and girl called themselves brother and sister.
The old man has a stylish house on Gramercy Park, but
he 's an inveterate stock-jobber, and has failed twice in the
last five years. I suspect she keeps up the establishment.”


“She 's an heiress. Two thirds of her father's property
were settled on her, — some hundreds of thousands, I 've
been told. No wonder Floyd would like to marry her.”

“He? Is it possible?” I exclaimed.

“That 's the gossip; and it is possible. He is no relation,
as I have said, but I fancy she has a mind of her own.
She seems to be a nice, sensible girl. What do you think?
You saw much more of her than I did.”

“Sensible, — yes,” said I, slowly, for I had in fact not


Page 318
decided what I thought of her, — “so far as I could judge;
and almost beautiful. But her face puzzles me: I seem to
have seen it already, yet —”

Penrose interrupted me. “I know what you mean. I
saw it, also, and was bothered for two minutes. The
engraving of St. Agnes, from somebody's picture, in Goupil's
window. It is very like her. Here is the St. Nicholas;
won't you come in? Then good-night, old fellow, and
a clear head to you in the morning!”

Yes; that was it! I remembered the picture, and as I
walked homeward alone, along the echoing pavement, I
murmured to myself, —

“The shadows of the convent-towers
Slant down the snowy sward,
Still creeping with the creeping hours
That lead me to my Lord.”

I don't know what strange, poetic whim possessed me,
that I should have made the purchase of the engraving
my first business on Monday morning.