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Page 284


When the first bitterness of my humiliation and disappointment
had subsided, and the conviction penetrated my
mind that it might still be possible for me to take a moderate
delight in life, I found that I had quite broken loose
from my youthful moorings and was more or less adrift,
both in faith and morals. I do not mean that I was guilty
of actual violations of my early creed; my life was so far
correct, through the negative virtue of habit; but I was in
that baseless condition where a strong current — not much
matter from what side it came — might have carried me far
enough to settle the character of my future life. I have
always considered it a special blessing that so much of my
time was given to responsible and wearying labor in those
days. I retained my position on the Wonder, because I had
not sufficient energy to seek an easier situation, and no desire
to try new associations. The variety of my work prevented
steady thought, and I found less difficulty in escaping
from the contemplation of my wrongs. Not yet, however,
was I able to congratulate myself on the treachery which
had released my heart from a mistaken bond.

I attended Mrs. Yorkton's receptions quite regularly for
some weeks. As the steady summer heats came on, her
bower was partly deserted, the artists and authors having
gone into the rural districts and taken many of the “appreciative
sympathizers” with them. Miss Levi departed,
early in July, for “old Long Island's sea-girt shore” (as she


Page 285
remarked). I afterwards discovered that she meant Fire
Island. It was at once a relief and a regret to me, when
she left. I began to enjoy the sham skirmishes of sentiment
in which we indulged, especially as there was no likelihood
of either being damaged by the pastime; and, on
the other hand, I was a little afraid of her bewildering
glances, which seemed to increase in frequency and power
of fascination every time we met.

Brandagee did not again attend. He left the city, soon
after our acquaintance commenced, for a tour of the watering-places,
and his sharp, saucy, brilliant letters from
Newport and Saratoga took the place of his dramatic criticisms
in the columns of the Wonder. I prevailed on
Swansford to accompany me, on two occasions, and Mrs.
Yorktown was very grateful. Music, she said, had not yet
been represented in her society, and she was delighted to
be able to present what she called “The Wedded Circle
of the Arts,” although certain that Mrs. Mallard would be
furious when she should hear of it. The thinness of the
attendance during the dog-days gave me an opportunity to
cultivate Mr. Yorkton's acquaintance, and the modest little
man soon began to manifest a strong attachment for me.

“Bless you, Mr. Godfrey!” he said, I don't know how
many times, “I s'pose I 'm of no consequence to you Genusses,
but I do like to exchange a friendly word with a
body. These is all distinguished people, and I 'm proud
to entertain 'em. It does credit to Her — I can see that.
I 'm told you can't find sich another Galaxy of Intellex,
not in New-York. A man in my position has a right to be
proud o' that.”

Although he often referred to his position in the same
humble manner, I never ascertained what it was. When I
ventured to put forth a delicate reconnoissance, he looked
at his wife, as if expecting a warning glance, and I then
surmised that she had prohibited him from mentioning the


Page 286

I made but little progress in my literary career during
this time. Not more than seventy-five copies of my book
had been sold, and although the publisher did not seem to
be at all surprised at this result, I confess I was. Nevertheless,
when I read it again in my changed mood, sneering
at myself for the under-current of love and tenderness
which ran through it, — recalling the hopes with which I
had written, and the visions of happiness it was to herald,
— I found there was not left sufficient pride in my performance
to justify me in feeling sensitive because it had failed.
I contributed two or three stories to “The Hesperian,” but
early in the fall Mr. Jenks became bankrupt, and the magazine
passed into other hands. My principal story was
published the month this disaster occurred, and it has not
been decided to this day, I believe, which party was responsible
for the payment. All I understand of the matter
is that the payment was never made.

My increased salary, nevertheless, suggested the propriety
of living in a somewhat better style than Mrs. Very's
domestic circle afforded. It was hard to part from my daily
companionship with Swansford, but he generously admitted
the necessity of the change in my case, and I faithfully
promised that we should still see each other twice or thrice
a week. It was more difficult to escape from Mrs. Very.
“It 's an awful breaking up of the family,” said she, “and
I did n't think you 'd serve me so. I 've boarded you
reasonable, though I say it. I may not be Fashionable,”
(giving a loud sniff at the word,) “but I 'm Respectable,
and that 's more!”

At dinner, that day, she made the announcement of my
departure in a pleasant voice and with a smiling face. But
the constrained vexation broke out in her closing words, —
“There 's some that stands by me faithful, and some that

Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer expressed their regret in phrases
which the Complete Letter-Writer could not have improved,


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while Miss Tatting, in whom Impulsiveness waged
a continual war with Conventionality, came plumply forth
with her real sentiments.

“I see how it is,” said she; “you are getting up in the
world, and Hester Street is too much out of the way. It 's
natural in you, and I don't blame you a bit. I 've often
said it would turn out so, — have n't I, Martha?”

This was to Miss Dunlap, who glanced at me with a
stealthy look of reproach, as she murmured, “Yes, aunt.”

I knew that I was a monster of ingratitude in Mrs.
Very's eyes, a fortunate man in the Mortimers', and a
proud one in those of Miss Tatting and her niece. My
last dinner in Hester Street was therefore constrained and
uncomfortable, and I made all haste to evacuate the familiar
attic room. My new residence was the elegant boarding-house
of Mrs. De Peyster, in Bleecker Street, west of
Broadway. Here I paid six dollars a week for a fourth-story
room back, furnished with decayed elegance, having
a grate for winter, a mosquito-net for summer, and a small
mahogany cabinet and bookcase for all seasons. The latter,
in fact, was the lure which had fascinated me, on the
day when Mrs. De Peyster, waiting in state in the parlor
below, sent me up-stairs with the chambermaid to inspect
the room.

When my effects had been transferred to these new quarters,
and I had arranged my small stock of books on the
shelves, placed my manuscript in the drawers of the cabinet,
and seated myself with Wordsworth in an arm-chair
at the open window, I seemed to be enveloped at once in
an atmosphere of superior gentility. The backyards embraced
in my view were not only more spacious than those
under Swansford's window in Hester Street, but the board-partitions
between them were painted, and a row of grapearbors
hid the lower stories of the opposite block. From
one of the open windows below me arose the sound of a
piano. It was not a favorable post for reading enthusiastic


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lines about celandines and daffodils, and I frankly admit
that I found Wordsworth rather tame.

This was during the half hour before dinner. When the
bell rang, I descended, not to the basement, but to the
back-parlor, where Mrs. De Peyster introduced me to my
neighbor at the foot of the table, Mr. Renwick, a clerk in
an importing house down town. He was a younger, taller,
and more elegant variety of the Mortimer type: correctness
was his prominent characteristic. There was also a
young married couple, a family consisting of father, mother,
and two daughters, and four gentlemen of various ages,
all bearing the same stamp of unimpeachable propriety.
The dinner was a much more solemn affair than at Mrs.
Very's. Thin morsels of fish succeeded the soup, and the
conversation, commencing with the roast and vegetables,
in a series of tentative skirmishes, only became fairly
established towards the close of the meal.

Mr. Renwick, oblivious of my presence for the first ten
minutes after the introduction, suddenly startled me by
saying, —

“I see that Erie went up at the Second Board, to-day.”

“Indeed?” I remarked, feeling that a slight expression
of surprise would not be out of place; though what “Erie”
was, and why it should go up at the Second Board, was a
mystery to me.

“Yes. Five eighths,” said he. Then, as if conscious
that he had done his duty, he became silent again until the
close of the dessert, when, warming up over a slice of water-melon,
he observed, in a lower and more confidential tone, —

“I should n't wonder if the balance of Exchange were
on our side before Christmas.”

“What reasons have you for thinking so?” I asked at

“Crops. I always keep the run of them.

“They are very fine, I suppose,” I ventured to say, with
fear and trembling.


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“You mean here? Yes. And I see that the prospects
of Pork are flattering. Everything combines, you know.”

I did n't know in the least, but of course I nodded and
looked wise, and said I was glad to hear it. Of all talk I
had ever heard, this seemed to me to be the most dreadfully
soulless. I looked up the table and listened. The
two girls were talking with the young wife about a wonderful
poplin at Stewart's, — silver gray with green sprigs;
the gentlemen were discussing the relative speed of Scalpel
and Oriana, and the heavy mother was lamenting to
the attentive Mrs. De Peyster that they had been obliged
to leave Newport before the regatta came off, “on account
of Mr. Yarrow's business, — the firm never can spare him
for more than a month at a time.”

How I longed for the transparent pretension of the table
in Hester Street, constantly violating the rules of its own
demonstrative gentility! For my easy chat with Swansford,
for Miss Dunlap's faded sentiment, Miss Tatting's fearless
impulsiveness, and even Mrs. Very's stiffly stereotyped
phrases! There, the heavy primitive cooking was digested
by the help of lively nothings of talk and the peristaltic
stimulus of laughter: here, the respectably dressed viands,
appearing in their conventional order of procession, were
received with a stately formality which seemed to repel their
attempts at assimilation. “Erie” and the “balance of
exchange” mixed, somehow, with the vanilla-flavored blanc
and lay heavy on my stomach: the prospect of Mr.
Renwick's neighborhood embarrassed and discouraged me,
but I could not see that any advantage would be gained by
changing my place at the table.

After dinner I hurried across to my old quarters, for the
relief of Swansford's company. He laughed heartily at my
description of the genteel society into which I was now
introduced, and said, —

“Ah, Godfrey, you 'll find as I have done that Art spoils
you for life. It is the old alternative of God or Mammon:


Page 290
you can't serve two masters. Try it, if you like, but I
see how it will end. I have made my choice, and will
stick to it until I die: you think you have made yours,
but you have not. You are getting further from Art
every day,”

I resented this opinion rather warmly, because I felt
a suspicion of its truth. I protested that nothing else but
Literature was now left me to live for. It was true I had
seemed to neglect it of late, but he, Swansford, knew the
reason, and ought to be the last man to charge me with
apostasy to my lofty intellectual aims. He half smiled, in
his sweet, sad way, and gave me his hand.

“Forgive me, Godfrey,” he said; “I did n't mean as
much as you supposed. I was thinking of that single-hearted
devotion to Art, of which few men are capable,
and which, God knows, I should not wish you to possess,
unless you were sure that you were destined to reach the
highest place. Most authors and artists live in the border
land, and make excursions from time to time over the
frontier, but there are few indeed who build their dwellings
on the side turned away from the world!”

“I understand you now, Swansford,” I answered, “and
you are right. I am not destined to be one of the highest;
don't think that I ever imagined it. I am cast alone on the
world. I have been cheated and outraged, as you know.
I see Life before me, offering other — lower modes of enjoyment,
I will not deny; but where else shall I turn for
compensation? Suppose I should achieve fame as an author?
I have a little already, and I feel that even the
highest would not repay me for what I have lost. I shall
not reject any other good the gods provide me. I 've tried
purity and fidelity of heart, to no purpose. I don't say that
I 'll try the opposite, now, but you could n't blame me if I

“Come, Godfrey,” said he, “I 've written a voluntary
for the organist of St. Barnaby's. He paid me to-day, and


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I have two dollars to spare. We 'll go out and have a little
supper together.”

Which we did, and in the course of which we put the
World on its trial, heard all the arguments on either side,
rendered (without leaving our seats) a verdict of “Guilty,”
and invoked the sentence which we were powerless to inflict.
What should I have done without that safety-valve
of Swansford's friendship?

By-and-by I grew more accustomed to my life in Bleecker
Street. I found that Mr. Renwick could talk about Mrs.
Pudge and the drama, as well as Erie and the Second
Board; and that Mr. Blossom, the very same gentleman
who had bet ten dollars on Scalpel at the Long Island
races, was an enthusiastic admirer of Tennyson. He had
a choice library of the English Poets in his room, and occasionally
lent me volumes. I learned to read Wordsworth
at my window, to the accompaniment of the fashionable
redowa on the first-floor piano, and after many days
there dawned upon my brain the conviction that there was
another kind of poetry than Tom Moore's and Felicia Hemans's.

I grew tolerably skilful in the performance of my labor
for the Wonder, having fallen into an unconscious imitation
of Brandagee's smart, flashy style, which gave piquancy to
my descriptions and reports. Mr. Clarendon was quite
satisfied with my performance, though he let fall a word of
warning. “This manner,” he said, “is very well for your
present department, but, if you want to advance, you must
not let it corrupt you entirely.”

Thus the summer and part of the autumn passed away,
without bringing any occurrence worthy of being recorded.
Towards the end of October, however, a sudden and most
unexpected pleasure came to cheer me.

I had gone into the St. Nicholas Hotel on some errand
connected with my newspaper labors, and was passing out
again through the marble-paved lobby, when a gentleman


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suddenly arose from the row of loungers on the broad, carpet-covered
stalls, and stepped before me. A glance of his
dark, questioning eyes seemed to satisfy him; he seized my
hand, and exclaimed, —

“John Godfrey, is this really you?”

Penrose! my cousin! I had not forgotten him, although
our correspondence, after languishing for a few months,
had died a natural death before I left Reading. For two
years I had heard no word of him, and, since my bitter
experience of the past summer, had reckoned it as one of
the improbable possibilities of life that we should ever meet
again. His boyish beauty had ripened into an equally
noble manhood. He was taller and stronger limbed, without
having lost any of his grace and symmetry. A soft,
thick moustache hid the sharp, scornful curve of his upper
lip, and threw a shade over the corners of his mouth, and
the fitful, passionate spirit which once shot from his eyes
had given place to a full, steady ray of power. As I looked
at him, I felt proud that the same blood ran in our veins.

We sought out a vacant corner in the reading-room and
sat down together. He looked once more into my eyes
with an expression of honest affection, which warmed the
embers of my school-boy feeling for him in an instant.

“We should not have lost sight of each other, John,” he
said. “It was more my fault than yours, I think; but I
never forgot you. I could scarcely believe my eyes when
we met, just now. Yours is a face that would change more
than mine. There is not much of the boy left in it. Come,
give me your history since you left Dr. Dymond's.”

I complied, omitting the most important episode. Penrose
heard the story with keen interest, interrupting me
only with an ejaculation of “The old brute!” when I related
my uncle's management of my inheritance.

“Now,” said he, when I had finished, “you shall have
my story. There is very little of it. I was twenty, you
may remember, when I left the Doctor's school, and went


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into my uncle's office. I had no expectation of ever receiving
any assistance from my father, and worked like a young
fellow who has his fortune to make. I believe I showed
some business capacity; at least my uncle thought so; and
after I came of age my father found it prudent to make an
outside show of reconciliation. Matilda insists that the
Cook had a hand in it, but I prefer not to believe it. If
she had, I rather think she was disappointed at the result;
for, when my father died, a year ago, he only left her the
legal third. The rest was divided between Matilda and
myself. I 'm sure I expected to be cut off with a shilling,
but it seems his sense of justice came back to him at the
last. His fortune was much less than everybody supposed,
— barely a hundred thousand — and I have my suspicions
that the Cook laid away an extra share in her own name
before his death. It makes no difference to me now; we
are well rid of her. Matilda was married a month ago,
and, though I can't say that I particularly admire the
brother-in-law she has selected for me, I am satisfied that
she is out of the hands of that woman.”

“Are you living in New York, Alexander?” I asked.

“Not now; but I may fix my home here, very soon. I
shall have another motive, old fellow, now that I know you
are here. I have a chance of getting into a firm down
town, if my little capital can be stretched to meet the sum
demanded. I have luxurious tastes, — they are in the
Hatzfeld blood, are they not? — and I could not be content
to sit down at my age, with my two thousand a year.
I suppose I shall marry some day, and then I must have
ten thousand.”

It did not surprise me to hear Penrose speak slightingly
of a fortune which, to me, would have been a splendid competence.
It belonged to his magnificent air, and any stranger
could have seen that he would certainly acquire whatever
his ambition might select as being necessary to his
life. I never knew a man who, without genius, so impressed


Page 294
every one with a belief in his powers of commanding

As I stretched out my hand to say good-bye, he grasped
me by the arm, and said, “You must see Matilda. She is
in her private parlor, and I think Shanks, her husband,
will be at home by this time.”

I had no very strong desire to make the acquaintance of
my other cousin, and I suppose Penrose must have read
the fact in my face, for he remarked, as we were mounting
the stairs, “Now I remember, there was something
in one of Matilda's letters which was not very flattering to
you. But I have told her of our friendship since, and I
know that she will be really glad to see you. She has not
a bad heart, when you once get down to it; though it seems
to me, sometimes, to be as grown over with selfish habits
and affections as a ship's hull with barnacles.”

When we entered the private parlor on the third floor, I
perceived an elegant figure seated at the window.

“'Till,” said Penrose, “come here and shake hands with
our cousin, John Godfrey!”

“R-really?” she exclaimed, with as much surprise as
was compatible with a high-bred air, and the next moment
rustled superbly across the room.

“How do you do, cousin?” she said, giving me a jewelled
hand. “Are you my cousin, Mr. Godfrey? Aleck
explained it all to me once how you found out the relationship,
somewhere in a wild glen, was n't it? It was quite
romantic, I know, and I envied him at the time. You
have the Hatzfeld eyes, certainly, like us. I 'm sure I 'm
very glad to make your acquaintance.”

I expressed my own gratification with as much show of
sincerity as I could command. Matilda Shanks was a tall,
fine-looking woman, though by no means so handsome as
her brother. Her eyes and hair were dark, like his, but
her face was longer, and some change in the setting of the
features, almost too slight to be defined, substituted an expression


Page 295
of weakness for the strength of his. She must
have been twenty-seven, but appeared to be two or three
years older, — a result, probably, of the tutorship she had
assumed on her step-mother's behalf.

“Well, 'Till,” said Penrose, when we had seated ourselves
in a triangular group, “do you find him presentable?”

Her eyes had already carefully gone over my person
from head to foot. “Très comme il faut,” she answered;
“but I took your word for that, beforehand, Aleck.”

“You must know, Godfrey, that Matilda is a perfect
dragon in regard to dress, manners, and all the other requisites
of social salvation. It 's a piece of good luck to pass
muster with her, I assure you. I have not succeeded

She was beginning to put in an affected disclaimer when
Mr. Shanks entered the room. I saw his calibre at the
first glance. The wide trousers, flapping around the thin
legs; the light, loose coat, elegantly fitting at the shoulders
and just touching its fronts on the narrow ground of a
single button; the exquisite collar, the dainty gloves and
patent-leather boots, and the gold-headed switch, all proclaimed
the fashionable young gentleman, while the dull,
lustreless stare of the eyes, the dark bands under them,
and the listless, half-closed mouth, told as plainly of shallow
brains and dissipated habits. He came dancing up to his
wife, put one arm around her neck and kissed her.

She lifted up her hand and gave his imperial a little
twitch, by way of returning the caress, and then said, “Edmund,
my cousin, Mr. Godfrey.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Edmund, hastily thrusting an eye-glass
into his left eye and turning towards me. Retaining his
hold of the switch with two fingers, he graciously presented
me with the other two, as he drawled out, “Very happy,

I was vexed at myself afterwards that I gave him my
whole hand. I know of no form of vulgarity so offensive


Page 296
as this offering of a fractional salutation. None but a snob
would ever be guilty of it.

A conversation about billiards and trotting-horses ensued,
and I broke away in the midst of it, after promising to dine
with the Shanks at an early day.