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Page 369


Mary Maloney called upon me the next morning, as I
had requested her to do. The girl, she said, had shared
her own bed, and had risen apparently refreshed and cheerful.
Hugh, who came home after midnight, had been inclined
to oppose the acceptance of the new tenant, until she
explained to him the “rights of it,” whereupon he had
acquiesced. She thought there would not be much difficulty
in procuring work, as the busy season for tailors and
sempstresses was coming on; and, meantime, she herself
would attend to buying the linen and other materials for
my new shirts.

Having furnished the money for this purpose, and added
a small sum for the girl's support until she was able to
earn something, I considered that nothing more could be
done until my knowledge of her story gave me other means
of assisting her. I was naturally curious to learn more about
her, but my occupation during the days immediately succeeding
the fire prevented my promised visit, and very
soon other events occurred to delay it still further.

Mrs. Deering returned from her summer residence on
the Sound during the first week of October, and I was not
long in discovering the fact and calling upon her. She
had corresponded with Miss Haworth during the summer,
and gave, without my asking, an outline of the latter's
journey, adding that she was now on her way home. If
I had not already betrayed myself to Miss Deering's detective


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eye, I must certainly have done it then. I felt and
expressed altogether too much happiness for a young gentleman
to manifest in regard to the return of a young lady,
without some special cause. I was perfectly willing that
she should suspect my secret, so long as its disclosure was
reserved for the one who had the first right to hear it.

From that day my walks at leisure times extended beyond
Fourteenth Street. I watched the house in Gramercy
Park, until observed (detected, I fancied) by Mr.
Tracy Floyd, who tossed me an insolent half-recognition
as he passed. In a week, however, there was evidence of
Miss Haworth's arrival. I did not see her, but there was
no mistaking the character of the trunks which were unloaded
from an express-wagon at the door.

I allowed two days to elapse before calling. It was a
compromise between prudence and impatience. The event
was of too much importance to hazard an unsatisfactory
issue. Not that I intended declaring my love, or consciously
permitting it to be expressed in my words and
actions; but I felt that in thus meeting, after an absence
of some months, there would be something either to flatter
my hope or discourage it wholly.

I dressed myself and took my way across Union Square
and up Fourth Avenue, with considerable trepidation of
mind. I was aware that my visit was sanctioned by the
liberal conventionalism of the city, and, moreover, I had
her permission to make it, — yet the consciousness of
the secret I carried troubled me. My heart throbbed
restlessly as when, three or four years before, I had carried
my poem of the “Unknown Bard” to the newspaper
office. But I never thought of turning back this time.

I was so fortunate as to find Miss Haworth at home and
Mr. Floyd out. The latter, I suspect, had not credited me
with boldness enough for the deed, and had therefore taken
no precautions against guarding the beauty and the fortune
which he was determined to possess.


Page 371

I looked around the sumptuous parlor while awaiting
Miss Haworth's appearance, and recognized in the pictures,
the bronzes, the elegant disposition of furniture and ornaments,
the evidence of her taste. It was wealth, not coarse,
glaring, and obtrusive, but chastened and ennobled by culture.
Thank God! I whispered to myself, money is her
slave, not her deity.

The silken rustling on the stairs sent a thousand tremors
along my nerves, but I steadily faced the door by which
she would enter, and advanced to meet her as soon as I
saw the gray gleam of her dress. How bright and beautiful
she was! — not flashing and dazzling as one accustomed
to conquest, but with a soft, subdued lustre, folding
in happy warmth the heart that reverently approached her.
Her face had caught a bloom and her eye an added clearness
from the breezes of the Northwest; I dared not
take to myself the least ray of her cheerful brightness.
But I did say — for I could not help it — that I was very
glad to see her again, and that i had often thought of her
during the long summer.

“You must have found it long, indeed,” she said, “not
being allowed to escape from the city. I am afraid I have
hardly deserved my magnificent holiday, except by enjoying
it. You, who could have described the shores of Lake
Superior and the cliffs and cataracts of the Upper Mississippi,
ought to have had the privilege of seeing them rather
than myself.”

“No, no!” I exclaimed. “The capacity to enjoy gives
you the very highest right. And I am sure that you can
also describe. Do you remember your promise, when I had
the pleasure of meeting you in the Exhibition Rooms? You
were to tell me about all you should see.”

“Was it a promise? Then I must try to deserve my
privilege in that way. But here is something better
than description, which I have brought back with me.”

She took a portfolio from the table and drew out a number


Page 372
of photographic views. The inspection of these required
explanations on her part, and she was unconsciously led
to add her pictures to those of the sun. I saw how truly
she had appreciated and how clearly remembered the
scenes of her journey; our conversation became frank,
familiar, and in the highest degree delightful to me. A
happy half-hour passed away, and I had entirely forgotten
the proprieties, to the observance of which I had mentally
bound myself, when the servant announced, —

“Mr. Penrose!”

I started, and, from an impulse impossible to resist,
looked at Miss Haworth. I fancied that an expression
of surprise and annoyance passed over her face, — but it
was so faint that I could not be certain. My conversation
with her concerning him, at Deering's “very sociable”
party, recurred to my mind, and I awaited his entrance
with a curious interest. There was nothing in the manner
of her reception, however, to enlighten me. She was
quietly self-possessed, and as cordial as their previous
social intercourse required.

On the other hand, Penrose, I thought, was not quite at
ease. I had not seen him before, since his return from Saratoga,
and was prepared for the quick glance of surprise
with which he regarded me. The steady, penetrating expression
of his eyes, as we shook hands, drew a little color
into my face; he was so skilful in reading me that I feared
my secret was no longer safe. For this very reason I determined
to remain, and assume a more formal air, in the
hope of deceiving him. Besides, I was desirous to study,
if possible, the degree and character of his acquaintance
with Miss Haworth.

“Ah! these are souvenirs of your trip, I suppose,” he
said, glancing at the photographs as he rolled a heavy velvet
chair towards the table and took his seat. “I only
heard of your arrival this evening, from Mrs. Deering, and
hoped that I would be the first to compliment you on your


Page 373
daring; but Mr. Godfrey, I see, has deprived me of that

To my surprise, a light flush ran over Miss Haworth's
face, and she hesitated a moment, as if uncertain what reply
to make. It was but for a moment; she picked up some
of the photographs and said, —

“Have you ever seen these views of Lake Pepin?”

“No,” he answered, running over them like a pack of
cards; “superb! magnificent! By Jove, I shall have to
make the trip myself. But I would rather see a photograph
of Lake George. What a pity we can't fix heroic deeds as
well as landscapes!”

“Mr. Penrose,” Miss Haworth remarked, with an air of
quiet dignity, “I would rather, if you please, not hear any
further allusion to that.”

“Pardon me, Miss Haworth,” he said, bowing gravely;
“I ought to have known that you are as modest as you are
courageous. I will be silent, of course, but you cannot forbid
me the respect and admiration I shall always feel.”

What did they mean? Something of which I was ignorant
had evidently taken place, and her disinclination to
hear it discussed prevented me from asking a question. My
interest in the conversation increased, although the pause
which ensued after Penrose's last words hinted to me that
the subject must be changed. I was trying to think of a
fresh topic, when he resumed, with his usual easy adroitness,

“I don't suppose I ever did a really good deed in my
life, Miss Haworth, — that is, with deliberate intention.
One does such things accidentally, sometimes.”

“Don't believe him!” said I. “He likes to be thought
worse than he really is.”

“If that is true, I should call it a perverted vanity,” Miss
Haworth remarked.

“You are quite right,” Penrose replied to her, “but it is
not true. I have no mind to be considered worse than I


Page 374
am, but to be considered better implies hypocrisy on my
part. I might compromise for my lack of active goodness,
as most people do, by liberal contributions to missions and
tract-societies, and rejoice in a saintly reputation. But
where would be the use? It would only be playing a more
tiresome rôle in the great comedy. Because I am not the
virtuous hero, I need not necessarily be the insidious villain
of the plot. The walking gentleman suits me better. I
know all the other characters, but they are my `kyind
friends,' — I treat them with equal politeness, avoid their
fuss and excitement, and reach the dénouement without
tearing my hair or deranging my dress.”

He spoke in a gay, rattling tone, as if not expecting that
his assertions would be believed. Miss Haworth smiled at
the part he assumed, but said nothing.

“What will you do when the play is over?” I asked.

“Come, Godfrey, don't bring me to bay. Everything on
this planet repeats itself once in twenty-eight thousand years.
In the mean time, I may go on a starring tour (pardon the
pun, Miss Haworth, it is n't my habit) through the other
parts of the universe. Why should one be brought up with
a serious round turn at every corner? It should be the
object of one's life to escape the seriousness of Life.”

“Death is the most serious aspect of Life,” I said, “and
it is not well that we should turn our faces away from it.”

I could not talk lightly on subjects of such earnest import.
Death and ruin had too recently touched my own
experience. I began to tell the story of the crushed fireman,
and Penrose, though at first he looked bored, finally
succumbed to the impression of the death-scene. I found
myself strangely moved as I recounted the particulars, and
it required some effort to preserve the steadiness of my
voice. When I closed there were tears in Miss Haworth's
lovely eyes. Penrose drew a long breath and exclaimed, —
“That was a grand exit.”

Then his face darkened, and he became silent and moody.


Page 375

I heard the street-door open, and suspecting that it was
Mr. Tracy Floyd, whom I had no desire to meet, rose to
take leave. Penrose followed my example, saying, as he
lightly touched Miss Haworth's hand, —

“Do not misunderstand me if I have failed to respect
your delicacy of feeling. I assure you I meant to express
no empty, formal compliment.”

“The case has been greatly magnified, I have no doubt,”
she answered. “I simply obeyed a natural impulse, which,
I am sure, any other person would have felt, and it is not
agreeable to me to have a reputation for heroism on such
cheap terms.”

I presume my face expressed my wonder at these words,
for she smiled with eyes still dewy from the tears I had
called forth — a warm, liquid, speaking smile, which I answered
with a tender pressure of her hand. The next
moment, frightened at my own boldness, and tingling with
rosy thrills of passion, I turned to meet Mr. Floyd at the

Penrose greeted him with a cool, off-hand air of superiority,
and I answered his amazed stare with the smallest
and stiffest fragment of a bow. We were in the street before
he had time to recover.

We turned into and walked down Fourth Avenue side
by side. I made some remarks about the night and the
weather, to which Penrose did not reply. His head was
bent, and he appeared to be busy with his own thoughts.
Presently, however, he took hold of my arm with a fierce
grasp, and exclaimed, —

“John, did you mention it to her? And did she allow
you to speak of it?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What was it? You
and she were speaking in riddles. I know nothing more
than that she did something which you admire, but which
she does not wish to have mentioned.”

“And you really don't know? That girl is a trump, John


Page 376
Godfrey. She saved a man's life at the risk of her own, a
fortnight ago.”

“Is it possible?” I exclaimed. “Where? How?”

“At Lake George. They were there on their return
from the Northwest. The season was nearly over, you
know, and there were not many persons at the hotel, but I
had the story from Welford, our next-door neighbor in
Chambers Street, who was one of them. It seems that she
had gone off alone, strolling along the shore, and as the
day was clear and hot, had taken a seat somewhere under
a tree, near the water, beside a little point of rock. One
of the Irish waiters went into the lake for a bath, and
whether he got beyond his depth and could n't swim, or
whether the coldness of the water gave him the cramp, I
don't know, but the fact is he went down. Up he came
again, splashing and strangling; she heard the noise,
sprang upon the rock, and saw the fellow as he went down
the second time. Another girl would have stood and
screeched, but she walked straight into the lake — think
of it, by Jove! — until the water reached her chin. She
could see his body on the bottom, and perhaps he, too, saw
her white dress near him, for he stretched out his arm towards
her. She shut her eyes, plunged under and just caught
him by the tip of a finger. Good God, if she had lost her
balance! His hand closed on hers with a death-grip. She
drew him into shallower water, then, by main force, — big
and heavy as he was, — upon the sand, threw his clothes
over his body, and stuck her parasol into the ground to
keep the sun off his head. There was a scene at the hotel
when she walked in, drowned and dripping from head to
foot, and called the landlord to the rescue. The man was
saved, and I hear there was no end to his gratitude. The
other young ladies, Welford says, thought it very romantic
and predicted a marriage, until they found it was an Irish
waiter, when they turned up their noses and said, `How
could she do such a thing?'”


Page 377

Penrose closed his story with a profane exclamation
which I will not repeat. The noble, heroic girl! I was
filled with pride and admiration — it was honor but to love
her, it would be bliss unspeakable to win her!

“It was gloriously done!” I cried. “There is nobody
like her.” I quite forgot that I was betraying myself.

“John,” said Penrose, “come into the square. You and
I must have an explanation. You love Isabel Haworth,
and so do I!”

“Good God, Alexander! Are you serious?”

“Serious?” he echoed, with a savage intensity which
silenced me. We entered the eastern gate of the oval enclosure,
which, at that hour, was almost deserted. Two or
three footsteps only crushed the broad gravel-paths. The
leaves were falling, at intervals, from the trees, and the
water gurgled out of the pipes in the middle of the basin.
I followed him to the central circle, where he stopped,
turned, and faced me. His eyes shone upon me with a
strong, lambent gleam, out of the shadows of the night. I
was chilled and bewildered by the unexpected disclosure
of our rivalry, and nerved myself to meet his coming words,
the purport of which I began to forebode.

“John Godfrey,” he said at last, in a low voice, which,
by its forced steadiness, expressed the very agitation it
should have concealed, — “John Godfrey, there is no use
in trying to disguise the truth from each other. You would
soon discover that I love Isabel Haworth, and I prefer telling
you now. You and I have been friends, but if you are
as much in earnest as I take you to be, we are from this
time forth rivals, — perhaps enemies.”

He paused. I tried to reflect whether this hostile relation
— for so his words presented it — was indeed inevitable.

“Towards another man,” he continued, “I should not be
so frank. But I am ready to show you my hand, because I
have determined to win the game in spite of you. I have


Page 378
told you that I am intensely selfish, and what my nature
demands that it must have. You are in my way, and unless
you prove yourself the stronger, I shall crush you down.
I don't know what claims you make to the possession of
this girl, — but it is not necessary to measure claims. I
admit none except my own. When Matilda recommended
her to me as an eligible match, I kept away from her, having
no mind for matches de convenance, — least of all, of Matilda's
making; but little by little I learned to know her.
I saw, not her fortune, but a rare and noble woman, — such
a woman as I have been waiting for, — welcome to me as
Morning to Night. She is my Eos, — my Aurora.”

The stern defiance of his voice melted away, and he
pronounced the last words with a tender, tremulous music,
which showed to me how powerfully his heart was moved
by the thought of her. But was she not all this to me —
and more? Not alone my future fortune, but compensation
for a disappointed past? Yes: I felt it, as never before,
and grew desperate with the knowledge, that, whatever the
issue might be, at least one of us was destined to be unhappy

“You say nothing,” he said, at last. “I repeat to you
I shall win her. Will you relinquish the field? or will you
follow a vain hope, and make us enemies? I have given
you fair warning, and want your decision.”

“You shall have it at once, Alexander,” I replied. “I
will be equally frank. Like you, I admit no claims except
my own. This is a matter in which your fortune, your
superior advantages of person and social culture give you
no additional right. It takes more than your own will to
achieve success: you seem to leave her out of the account.
So long as she has not spoken against me, I also may hope.
I will not relinquish the field. You say I love her, and
you ask me to act as if my love were a farce! Rivals we
must be: it cannot be helped; but I will try not to become
your enemy.”


Page 379

He laughed. “I warn you,” he said, “not to depend on
your ideal of human generosity and magnanimity. If you
are fortunate, — I simply accept your own supposition, for
the moment, — you would not feel hostility towards me.
Oh, no! the fortunate can easily be generous. But don't
imagine that I should play Pythias to your Damon in that
case, or that you will be any more inclined to do it for me
when the case is reversed. No; let us face the truth. One
of us will never forgive the other.”

“It may be as you say,” I answered, sadly. “Would to
God it had not happened so!”

“Cousin John,” cried Penrose, suddenly, seizing me by
the hand, “I know the world better than you do. I know
that love, nine times out of ten, can be kindled and made
to burn by the breath of the stronger nature that craves it.
I am cool-headed, and know how to play my powers, —
yes, my passions, if need be. You say I leave her out of
the account, but it is only because I believe her affections
to be free. The question is, which of us shall first catch
and hold them? I shall succeed, because I most need to
be successful. Think what a cold, isolated existence is
mine, — how few human beings I can even approach, —
and of those few what a miracle that one forces me to love
her! See, then, how all the brightness of my life hangs
on this chance. Give up the rivalry, John; it is not life
or death with you; you have friends; you will have fame;
yours is a nature to form new ties easily; you will find sunshine
somewhere else without trying to rob me of mine!”

My feelings were profoundly touched by his appeal, and
possibly some romantic idea of generosity may have weakened
my resolution for a moment. My heart, however, reasserted
its right, reminding me that love cancels all duties
except its own. Possibly — and the thought stung me with
a sharp sense of joy — I was speaking for her life as well
as mine. But, whether or not, I dared not yield merely
because his trumpet sounded a boast of triumph; I must
stand and meet the onset.


Page 380

“Alexander,” I said, “ask me anything but this. When
Isabel Haworth tells me with her own lips that she cannot
love me, I will stand back and pray God to turn her heart
to you. But, loving her as I do, that love, uncertain as is
its fortune, binds me to sacred allegiance. While it lasts,
I dare not and will not acknowledge any other law. If it
meets its counterpart in her, I will not fear the powers you
may bring to move her, — she is mine, though all the world
were in league with you. I shall employ no arts; I shall
take no unfair advantage; but if God has meant her for
me, I shall accept the blessing when He chooses to place
it in my hands.”

Penrose stood silent, with folded arms. It was some
time before he spoke, and when he did so, it was with a
voice singularly changed and subdued. “I might have
known it would end so,” he said; “there is another strength
which is as stubborn as mine. I have more reason to fear
you than I supposed. It is to be a fight, then; better, perhaps,
with you than with another. Hereafter we shall meet
with lances in rest and visors down. Give me your hand,
John, — it may be we shall never shake hands again.”

Out of the night flashed a picture of the wild dell in
Honeybrook, and the dark-eyed boy, first stretching out a
cousin's hand to me from his seat on the mossy log. Was
the picture also in his mind that our hands clung to each
other so closely and so long? I could have sobbed for
very grief and tenderness, if my heart had not been held
by a passion too powerful for tears.

We walked side by side down Broadway. Neither spoke
a word until we parted with a quiet “Good-night!” at the
corner of Bleecker Street. There was but one contingency
which might bring us together again as we were of old, —
disappointment to both.