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Page 202


A fortnight after my introduction into Mrs. Very's domestic
circle, Mr. and Mrs. Gamble redeemed their promise
of coming to tea. The important event was announced
at dinner on the previous day, and little else was spoken
of until the appointed evening came. Mrs. Very informed
us, with a solemn air, that we should assemble in the parlor
instead of the basement dining-room: Mr. Gamble, as a
member of her family, should be treated just as well as
if he were her own brother (“son,” I thought, would have
been more appropriate), and the Winches should see what
her behavior was, as compared with theirs. They might
hurt her, if they liked: thank Fortune, her house was well-known,
and her boarders stood by her faithful.

“Yes,” said Mr. Mortimer, with becoming gravity, “we
must give Gamble a lift, now he 's in trouble. Old Winch
keeps his deposits in our bank, but I won't let that stand
between me and what 's right.”

Mrs. Mortimer bent her stiff neck assentingly.

We were all seated in the parlor when the bell rang.
Mrs. Very triumphantly issued into the hall and received
the interesting couple, while we waited in silent expectation
until the usual rustling up and down stairs should announce
that the bride had adjusted her toilette. Then she
entered, dark, full, and voluptuous in her form, and resplendent
in a dead golden-colored silk. Mr. Gamble, beside
her, dwindled into a very commonplace individual, as he


Page 203
no doubt was. He was cordially, if somewhat stiffly, congratulated
— for the Very idea of gentility was too conscious
of itself to be easy — by his old friends, and the
bride received the same with an added tint of gracious
deference. She, however, understood the interest of her
position, and determined to enjoy it.

“Oh, I have heard of you all, from Harry!” she exclaimed,
shaking hands with everybody, even myself, to
whom she said, — “So, you have fallen heir to his room!
Don't you let him in, if he ever repents of his bargain and
wants to come back!”

Then she cast a loving, mischievous glance at her husband,
who was radiant with pride at the gay fascination of
her manner. “Now you see, Laura, from what company
you have taken me away,” he said, with a semicircular
bow which embraced Mrs. Very, Mrs. Mortimer, and Miss
Tatting. “It was a hard struggle, I assure you.” And he
heaved a mock sigh.

“You can't make us believe that,” said Miss Tatting,
tapping him on the arm with a large green fan.

This is a fair specimen of the conversation during tea.
It was not very intellectual, I admit, but it was quite a
pleasant and entertaining change from our usual routine,
and I enjoyed it amazingly. Mrs. Gamble was the life of
the company. Being privileged to give the tone of the
evening, she did so with a will, and it was astonishing how
much fun and laughter we produced from the most trifling
themes. After her departure we were all loud in our expressions
of admiration. It was decided, without a dissenting
voice, that Mrs. Very's family circle would henceforth
espouse the cause of the Gambles against the Winches.

About the middle of May, however, we were surprised by
a rumor that the unnatural father had been led, either by
policy or penitence, to relent, and that Mr. Gamble would
shortly give up his situation in the soap-boiling establishment,
to take an important post in Winch & Son's shoestore.


Page 204
I know not whether Mrs. Very or the Mortimers
were most flattered by this news: either party was sure
that their countenance of the match had something to do
with it. The climax to the general satisfaction was given
by a package of notes which came, a few days afterwards,
stating that Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Winch requested the
pleasure of our company, on Thursday evening, at their
residence, No. 322 Columbia Street.

There was no difficulty in comprehending the nature of
this event. Mr. Winch, having made up his mind to do
the proper thing, intended to do it in the proper way,
crushing gossip and family estrangement with the same
blow. The temptation to attend the ball was too great to
be resisted, and our inveterate hostility to the Winches
came therefore to a sudden end.

When the evening arrived, we marched across the Grand-Street
region, like a well-ordered family, Mrs. Very taking
Mr. Mortimer's other arm, Miss Tatting Swansford's, and
Miss Dunlap mine. A waiter, in white cotton gloves, whom
I at first took for Winch junior, received us at the door,
and ushered us up-stairs to our respective dressing-rooms.
Here were various other gentlemen, giving the finishing
touch to their scented and glistening hair, and drawing on
their new white kids. I imitated their movements, and
tried my best to appear at ease and au fait to such occasions.
When we descended to the parlor, Mr. Gamble
came forward at once to greet us, and presented us with a
respectful flourish to the obdurate Winch père, who looked
imposing in his blue coat with gilt buttons, buff Marseilles
vest, and high white cravat. Mrs. Winch, dark, like her
daughter, but shrivelled, which the latter was not, stood
beside her lord, in black satin, evidently as happy as she
could well be. The reconciliation, in fact, was supposed to
be mainly her work.

We, as the son-in-law's friends, received conspicuous attention.
Mrs. Gamble welcomed us like old acquaintances,


Page 205
and glided hither and thither with a lazy grace, as she
strove to stir up and blend us with the other social elements
of which the party was composed. This was not
difficult in the case of my companions, and I resolved, in
my ignorance of New York habits, to imitate them in everything.
Accordingly, when Mrs. Gamble asked me if I
should not like to be introduced to a young lady “of a literary
turn,” in whom I might discover “a congenial spirit,”
I acquiesced with enthusiasm, and soon found myself seated
beside Miss Levi, a remarkable girl, with very black hair
and eyebrows, and a prominent nose. Her forehead was
so low, that, at a distance, it looked like a white stripe over
her eyebrows. She wore a dress which not merely showed
her shoulders, but the upper undulations of her bosom, so
that, whenever she bent forward, my gaze fell into a wonderful
twilight region, which caused me to blush with the
sense of having committed an impropriety.

“Mrs. Gamble tells me you are a poet, Mr. Godfrey,”
she said. (How had Mrs. Gamble learned that so soon?)

“Oh, I write a little,” I modestly answered.

“How charming! I doat on poetry. Won't you repeat
to me some of yours?”

I was rather taken aback at this proposition, but, taking
it for granted that Miss Levi knew the ways of society
better than myself, I repeated to her, in a low voice, and
with some confusion, the last song I had written.

“It is beautiful!” she exclaimed, fixing her large, jet-black
eyes upon me with a power I could scarcely endure
to meet. “Beautiful! You must have been inspired —
does she live in the city?”

“Who?” I asked, feeling that my face sufficiently betrayed

“How can you ask `who?' Mr. Godfrey? Ah, you
poets are a sad class of men. I 'm afraid you are all inconstant;
tell me, do you think you can be faithful to her?”

Some imp prompted me to reply, “I never had any
doubt of it before this evening.”


Page 206

“Oh, Mr. Godfrey!” she exclaimed, “that is too bad!
Now I know you are not in earnest.” But she looked at
me very much as if she would like me to insist that I was.
I could not carry the farce any further, so endeavored to
change the subject by asking, “Do you write, Miss Levi?”

“I ought not to tell you,” she answered; “but I can

Our talk was here interrupted, probably on the brink of
sweet intellectual disclosures, by the sound of the piano.
It was Swansford, whom Mrs. Gamble had persuaded to
favor the company with one of his compositions. He gave,
to my surprise, the very song I had just repeated to Miss
Levi, with a tender and beautiful melody of his own. This
generosity touched me, — for generosity it really was, when
he might have sung his own words. He looked towards
me and smiled, at the close, seeing my gratitude in my

Shortly afterwards I was released from Miss Levi, who
took Swansford's place, and sang, “You 'll Remember Me,”
in a piercing voice. Various songs of the same class followed,
and, even with my own uncultured taste, I could
easily understand the look of distress on Swansford's face.

The double parlor was crowded, and it was not long before
the songs gave way to the music of two violins and a
harp, stationed under Mr. Winch's portrait, between the
front windows. The carpets had been taken up, so that
everybody expected dancing. Having a slight familiarity
with quadrilles, from the “gatherings” in Upper Samaria,
I secured Miss Dunlap, as the partner with whom I should
be least embarrassed, and, after that, was kept well supplied
through the efforts of the Gambles and young Winch.
When the waltz came, I withdrew to a corner and watched
the softly whirling pairs, conspicuous among whom were
the hero and heroine of the evening. It was delightful to
see the yielding grace with which she trusted herself to his
arm, drifting like a swan on the eddies of a stream, while


Page 207
her hands lay clasped on his shoulder, and her large, dark
eyes lifted themselves to his. Happy pair! If I were he,
and she were Amanda! — but I ground the thought between
my teeth, and stifled the impatience of my heart.

Towards midnight we marched down to a room in the
basement, where a superb supper was arranged. Mrs. Very
supposed that it must have cost fifty dollars, and she was
capable of forming an opinion. There were oysters, salads,
patés, jellies, brandy-peaches, and bon-bons, with tea, coffee,
ices, and champagne. I now discovered that I had a natural
taste for these luxuries, and was glad to see that Swansford
partook of them with a relish equal to my own. The iced
champagne, which I had never before tasted, seemed to me
the nectar of the gods. Young Winch filled my glass as
often as it was emptied, for a few short, jolly speeches were
made and a great many toasts drunk. The ladies filtered
away before we knew it, and we were first aroused from our
delightful revelry by Mr. Mortimer, who came, hat in hand,
to announce that the Misses Tatting and Dunlap were waiting
for us.

On the way home I confided to the latter my interview
with Miss Levi, and had it on my tongue's end to tell her
about Amanda. I longed to pour out my heart to a sympathizing
ear, and would probably have done it, had Hester
Street been a little farther off.

On reaching the attic I went into Swansford's room for
a little chat, before going to bed. He was highly excited.
He looked up at the lithographs of Mendelssohn and Beethoven,
shook his fist, and cried, “Oh, you grand old Trojans,
did you ever have to endure what I have? I don't believe
it! You had those around who knew what you were, and
what your art is, but I, — see here, Godfrey! This is the
insane, idiotic stuff that people go into ecstasies about.”

He sat down to the piano, played a hideous, flashy accompaniment,
and sang, with extravagant voice and gesture, one
of the sentimental songs to which we had been treated.


Page 208
I threw myself back on his bed, in convulsions of laughter.

“My words are poor enough,” he continued, “but what
do you say to these: —

“`When ho-hollow hearts shall wear a mask,
'T will break your own to see-he-hee,
In such a mo-homent, I but ask
That you 'll remember — that you 'll re-MEM-ber
— you 'll re—ME-HE-HEM—be-e-e-r me!'
— oh, and the young ladies turn up their eyes like ducks
in a thunder-storm, at that, and have no ear for the splendid
passion of `Adelaïda'! It 's enough to make one despise
the human race. I could grind out such stuff by the bushel;
why not take my revenge on the fools in this way? Why
not give them the absurdest satire, which they shall suck
down as pure sentiment? I 'll laugh at them, and they 'll
pay me for it! Come, Godfrey, give me some nonsense
which will pass for a fashionable song; I 'm in the humor
for a bit of deviltry to-night.”

“Agreed!” I cried, springing from the bed. I eagerly
caught at the idea, for it seemed like a personal discharge
of my petty spite against Miss Levi. I took a pencil and
the back of a music-sheet, and, as sense was not material
to the composition, in a short time produced the following:

“Away, my soul! This withered hand
No more may sing of joy:
The roses redden o'er the land
Which autumn gales destroy;
But when my hopes shall shine as fair
As bowers beneath the hill,
I 'll bid the tempest hear my prayer,
And dream you love me still!
“The sky is dark: no stars intrude
To bind the brow of day.
Oh, why should love, so wildly wooed,
Refuse to turn away?
The lark is loud, the wind is high,
And Fate must have her will:
Ah, nought is left me but to die,
And dream you love me still!”


Page 209

“The very thing!” exclaimed Swansford, wiping away
tears of the laughter which had twice interrupted my reading.
“I 've got the melody; give me the candle, and we 'll have
the whole performance.”

He sang it over and over with the purest, most rollicking
relish introducing each time new and fantastic ornaments,
until the force of burlesque could no farther go. My intense
enjoyment of the fun kept up his inspiration, and the
melody, with its preposterous accompaniment, was fairly
written before our merry mood began to decline. The
piece was entitled “A Fashionable Song,” and we decided
that it should be offered to a publisher the very next day.

It was late when I awoke, and in the practical reaction
from the night's excitement I thought very little of the
matter until the sound of Swansford's piano recalled it.
He met me, smiling, as he said, “Our song is really not a
bad thing of its kind, though the kind is low enough. But,
of course, we need never be known as the authors.”

He put on his hat, and went out, with the manuscript in
his hand. I accompanied him as far as the Park, in order
to make a call, to which I did not attach any particular
hope, (I had been too often disappointed for that!) but in
fulfilment of a promise. Among the new acquaintances I
had made at the Winch ball, was a Mr. Lettsom, who was
acting as a law reporter for various daily papers. In the
course of a little conversation which I had with him, I
mentioned my wish to obtain literary employment of some
kind, and asked whether he knew of any vacancy. He informed
me that reporting was the surest resource for a
young man who was obliged to earn his living by his pen.
Most of the prominent editors, he said, had begun life either
as reporters or printers, and there could be no better school
in which to make one's talent ready and available.

Something in Mr. Lettsom's plainness, both of face and
manner, inspired me with confidence in his judgment, and
I eagerly accepted his invitation to call upon him at the


Page 210
office of the Daily Wonder, where I hoped, at least, to hear
something that would put me on the right track.

I found him in the fourth story of the building, at a little
desk in the corner of a room filled with similar desks, at
which other gentlemen were either writing or inspecting
enormous files of newspapers. A large table in the centre
of the room was covered with maps, dictionaries, and books
of reference. There was not much conversation, except
when a man with smutty hands, a paper cap on his head,
and a newspaper tied around his waist, came in and said,
“Hurry up with that foreign news copy! It 's time the
Extra was out!” To me the scene was both strange and
imposing. This was the Delphic cave whence was uttered
the daily oracular Voice, which guided so many thousands
of believing brains; these were the attendant priests, who
sat in the very adytum of the temple and perhaps assisted
in the construction of the sentences of power.

There was nothing oracular about Mr. Lettsom. With
his thin face, sandy eyebrows, and quiet voice, he was as
ordinary a man in appearance as one will meet in a day's
travel. He seemed, and no doubt was, incapable of enthusiasm;
but there was a mixture of frankness, kindness, and
simple good-sense in him which atoned for the absence of
any loftier faculty. I had no claim whatever upon his
good offices; he scarcely knew more of me that my name,
and had only asked me to step in to him at an hour when
he should have a little leisure for talk. I was, therefore,
quite overcome, when, after the first greetings, he said, —

“I have been making inquiries this morning, at the
newspaper offices. It is a pity I did not meet you sooner,
as the Anniversaries, when extra work is always needed,
are nearly over; but there may be a chance for you here.
It depends upon yourself, if Mr. Clarendon, the chief editor
of the Wonder, is satisfied to try you. An insignificant
post, and poorly paid, at first, — but so are all beginnings.
So many young men come to the city with high expectations,


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that there would be no difficulty in getting any number
of full-grown editors and critics, while the apprentices'
places are rarely in demand. I tell you this beforehand.
We will now call on Mr. Clarendon.”

Before I could recover my breath, we were in the sacred
presence, in a small adjoining room. Mr. Clarendon sat at
a library table, which rested on a countless array of drawers.
He was writing rapidly on long, narrow slips of paper,
which he numbered and transferred from his right to
his left hand as they were finished. He must have heard
our entrance, but neither lifted his head nor noticed us in
any way until Mr. Lettsom announced, —

“This is Mr. Godfrey, the young gentleman about whom
I spoke to you this morning.”

“Very well, Lettsom,” — and the latter left the room.
Mr. Clarendon bowed in an abstracted way, pointed with
the top of his quill to a chair on the other side of the table,
and resumed his writing.

He was a man of middle age, good presence, and with
an expression of penetration, shrewdness, and decision in
his distinctly moulded features. His head was massive and
finely formed; the hair, once light-brown, was now almost
wholly gray, and the eyes of that rich golden-bronze tint
which is as beautiful as it is rare. Although his frame was
large, I was struck by the smallness, whiteness, and symmetry
of his hand.

I took the seat indicated, and waited for him to speak.
He wrote half of one of his slips, and then, having apparently
finished a paragraph, said, without looking up, —

“So, you want to try your hand at newspaper work?”

I assented, stating that I was willing to perform any kind
of literary labor of which I might be capable.

“You have never done anything of the sort, I suppose.
Have you ever written for publication?”




Page 212

The few poems and the accepted story seemed very insignificant
now, — but they were all I had. I mentioned

“That is hardly a recommendation,” he said, resuming
his writing; “rather the reverse. We want a plain style,
exact adherence to facts, and above all — quickness. You
may have these qualities, nevertheless. Let us see.”

He turned over a pile of newspapers at his right hand,
selected, almost at random, the Baltimore American, and
handed it to me, saying, “You will find the city-news on
the third page. Look over it and tell me if you see anything
of sufficient importance to copy.”

“Nothing, unless it is this — `Conflagration at Fell's
Point,'” I answered, after rapidly running my eye up and
down the columns.

“Now go to yonder table — you will find pen and paper
there — and condense this half-column account into fifteen
lines, giving all the material facts.”

How lucky it is, I thought, as I prepared to obey, that I
went through such a thorough course of amplification and
condensation at the Honeybrook Academy! My mind instantly
reverted to the old drill, and resumed something of
its mechanical dexterity. In fifteen or twenty minutes I
had performed the work, Mr. Clarendon, in the mean time,
writing steadily and silently on his narrow slips.

“It is done, sir,” I said, venturing to interrupt him.

“Bring it here.”

I handed him both the original article and my abbreviated
statement. He compared them, as it seemed to me,
by a single glance of the eye. Such rapidity of mental action
was little short of the miraculous.

“Fairly done, for a beginner,” he then remarked. “I
will try you, Mr. Godfrey. This will be the kind of work
I shall first give you. You will make blunders and omissions,
until you are better broken to the business. Six
dollars a week is all you are worth now; will that satisfy


Page 213

Satisfy? It was deliverance! It was a branch of Pactolus,
bursting at my feet, to bear me onward to all golden
possibilities! I blundered forth both my assent and gratitude,
which Mr. Clarendon, having completed his article, cut
short by conducting me to the larger room, where he presented
me to one of the gentlemen whom he addressed as
Mr. Severn, saying, “Mr. Godfrey is to be set at condensing
the miscellaneous. He will come here at ten o'clock
to-morrow morning. Have an eye to him now and then.”

Mr. Severn, who had a worn and haggard look, was evidently
glad to learn that I was to relieve him of some of
his duties. His reception was mildly cordial, and I was a
little surprised that he betrayed no more curiosity to know
who or what I was.

Overflowing with joy at my unexpected good fortune, I
hastened back to Mrs. Very's to communicate the happy
news to Swansford. But I was obliged to control my impatience
until late in the afternoon. When at last I heard
his step coming up the stairs, I threw open my door and
beckoned him in. He, too, seemed no less excited than
myself. Flinging his hat upon my bed, he cried out,
“Godfrey!” at the same instant that I cried —

“Swansford! such news! hurrah!”

“Hurrah!” he echoed, but his face fell. “Why, who
told you?”

“Who told me?” I asked, in surprise; “why, it happened
to me!”

What happened to you? Good God!” he exclaimed in
sudden alarm, “you have not gone and sold the song to
somebody else?”

In the tumult of my thoughts, I had forgotten all about
the song. With a hearty laugh at the comical expression
on Swansford's face, I pushed him into a chair and triumphantly
told him my story.

“I congratulate you, Godfrey,” he said, giving me his
hand. “This is a lucky day for both of us. I thought I


Page 214
should astonish you, but there 's not much chance of that,
now, and I 'm heartily glad of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me tell my story. When I left you at the Park
Gate, I started to go down to Kettlewell's, but, by the time
I had reached the Astor House, it occurred to me, that, as
he deals in just such sentimental songs as we have burlesqued,
I should have but a small chance of doing anything
with him. Besides, I dislike the man, although he
published my compositions when no one else would. So I
turned about and went up street to Mackintosh, who 's at
least a gentlemanly fellow. I produced the song, first told
him what it was, saw that he thought the idea a good one,
and then sang it as well as I could. There was another
gentleman in the store, and they both laughed like the
deuce when I wound up with the grand final cadenza.
Mackintosh, I think, would have taken the song, but the
other gentleman came up, clapped his hand on my shoulder,
and said, `I must have that. I 'll buy it, out and out.
Joe shall sing it this very night!' I did n't know who he
was, but Mackintosh then introduced him to me as Bridger,
of Bridger's Minstrels. `What 's your price, copyright and
all?' he asked. Thinking it was a joke, I retorted with,
`A hundred dollars.' `Fifty,' said he. `No, a hundred,' I
answered, keeping up the fun. `Well — split the difference.
Say the word, and here 's your money.' `Seeing
it 's you' — I began to say, but before I had finished there
were seventy-five dollars in my hand, — here they are! —
— and Bridger was writing a bill of sale, including the
copyright. Mackintosh opened his eyes, but I pretended
to take the matter coolly, though I hardly knew whether I
was standing on my head or heels. But what a shame and
humiliation! Seventy-five dollars for a burlesque to be
sung by Ethiopian Minstrels!”

“There 's neither shame nor humiliation about it!” I
protested. “It 's grand and glorious! Only think, Swansford,
— ten weeks' board each for an hour's work!”


Page 215

I think of years of work, and not an hour of appreciative
recognition,” said he, relapsing into sudden gloom.

But my sunshine was too powerful for his shadow. I
insisted on crowning this dies mirabilis with an Olympian
banquet in the best oyster-cellar of the Bowery, and carried
my point. We had broiled oysters, a little out of season,
and a bottle of champagne, though Swansford would
have preferred ale, as being so much cheaper. I was in a
splendid mood, and again carried my point.

This ravishing dawn of prosperity melted my soul, and
there, in the little stall, scarcely separated from roystering
and swearing bullies on either side, I whispered to Swansford
my love for Amanda and my dreams of the future
which we should share.

He bent down his head and said nothing, but I saw a
tear drop into his wine.

We rose and walked silently homewards, arm in arm.