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Page 405


One of the first results of the vagabond life into which
I was rapidly drifting was a dislike for the steady, ordered,
respectable circles of society. I looked, with a contempt
which, I now suspect, must have been half envy, on the
smooth, prosperous regularity of their ways, and only felt
myself at ease among my clever, lawless associates, or
among those who were poor and rude enough to set aside
conventionalities. Thus it happened that I visited Mary
Maloney much more frequently at this time than formerly.
Jane Berry had been promoted, and was allowed to work
at home, and I found a great pleasure in the society of two
women who knew nothing of me — and would probably
believe nothing — but good. They were both ignorant,
and they looked up to me for counsel, and listened to my
words with a manifest reverence, which, to a man of my
years, was a most delicate flattery.

Sometimes I went in the early evening, with a few
ounces of tea, or some other slight gift, as my excuse, but
oftenest in the afternoons, when Hugh was sure to be
absent. The silence of this growing bully, and the glances
which he shot at me out of his bold eyes, were not encouragements
to conversation in his presence. I fancied him
to be one of those natures, at once coarse and proud, who
bear an obligation almost as restively as if it were an

After a while, however, I detected a change in Mary


Page 406
Maloney's manner towards me. She no longer met me
with the same hale, free welcome when I came: her
tongue, wont to run only too fast, halted and stumbled;
I could see, although she strove to hide it, that my presence
was a constraint, yet could not guess why it should
be so. This was annoying, not only on account of the old
familiarity between us, but because I had a hearty liking
for Jane Berry, who was almost the only person living in
whose fate I was earnestly interested.

The latter, since the night when she had confided to me
her history, no longer met me with a shy, blushing face,
but showed a frank, fearless pleasure in my society. My
visits seemed to cheer and encourage her, and with the
growing sense of security, her hopeful spirit returned.
She would soon be ready, I believed, to think of going
back to the little New Jersey village.

It was near Christmas, — I remember trying to fix upon
some appropriate, inexpensive gift for the only two female
friends left to me, as I walked by the gayly decorated
shops in Broadway, — when I turned, one afternoon, into
Gooseberry Alley. I met Mary Maloney at the door of
the tenement-house, with her bonnet on, and a basket of
laundered linen in her hand.

“What! — going away, Mary?” I said. “I was about to
pay you a visit.”

She put down her basket on the floor of the passage,
and looked at me with a troubled expression. “Miss
Jenny 's at home,” she said at last, with an air of hesitation,
“but I s'pose, sir, you would n't want to see her, and me
not there?”

“Why not?” I answered, laughing. “She 's not afraid
of me, nor you either, Mary. Have I grown to be dangerous
all at once?”

“Sure, and it is n't that, Mr. Godfrey. Would you mind
comin' a bit down the strate wi' me? I 'd like to spake
with you for a minute, jist.”


Page 407

“Oh, certainly,” I said, turning and walking in advance
between the gutter and the wall, until I reached the broader
sidewalk of Sullivan Street. Here she joined me with her
basket, and, when we were beyond hearing of any stragglers
in the Alley, halted.

“I 'm a widow, Mr. Godfrey,” she said, “and, askin' y'r
pardon, sir, nigh old enough to be the mother o' you.
There 's been somethin' I 've been a-wantin' to say to you,
but it is n't a thing that 's aisy said; — howsiver, I 've spoke
to the praste about it, and he says as you 're a proper young
man and my intentions is right, it 's no sin, naither shame,
but rather a bounden juty, sir, — and I hope you 'll take
it so. It may n't seem right for me to go fornenst you,
bein' so beholden to your goodness, and I wud n't if there
was any way to help it.”

Here she paused, as if expecting a reply. I had no idea,
however, of the communication so solemnly preluded, and
would have laughed outright but for the grave expression
of her face. “I understand that, Mary,” I said; “now tell
me the rest.”

“It 's about Miss Jenny, sir. The neighbors knowed of
her comin', and who brought her, all along o' Feeny's bein'
roused up in the night, and their tongues was n't idle, you
may think. Girls wantin' sewin' a'n't to be picked up in
the strates o' midnights, and though I knowed it was all
right because you said so, it was n't quare, considerin', that
folks should talk. You may think it 'd make little difference,
anyhow, among us poor bodies; but we have our carrackters
as well as our betters. Well — when they saw
how handy and stiddy she was at her needle, they seemed
to give me the rights of it; but now it 's all t' other way,
along o' you comin' so fraiquently, sir, — and I 'm sure
you 're welcome, ivery time, — and as for me, I 'm an honest
woman, and nobody can say a word fornenst me, barrin'
they lie,— but things is said, sir, as is n't agrayable to hear
and hardly dacent to repate. Maybe you can guess 'em.”


Page 408

“What!” I exclaimed, “do they charge Jane Berry
with being a mistress of mine? I suppose that is what
you mean. You know, Mary, that it is a lie.”

“I know, sir,” she answered, “but my word goes for
nothin' aginst appairances. Feenys takes my part, and
says if it 's so, it 's unbeknowns to me, — which would be
true if the t' other thing was, — but, in course, that don't
stop their tongues. You see, sir, I can't bring it over my
heart to tell her, — she 's a dacent, kindly, lovin' little body
as iver was; but she 'll find it out to her sorra.”

“Well,” said I, “rather than that you and she should
be annoyed and slandered in this way, I must give up my
visits. Is there anything else I can do to satisfy those

“There was somethin' else I had on my mind, and there 's
no use o' makin' two bites at a cherry,” said she, with a
curious misapplication of the proverb. But her face grew
red and her voice dropped to a whisper. I began to fear
— absurd as the thought was — that she also had been
implicated in those amiable reports.

“It 's harder to tell,” she said at last, wiping her face
with her apron, “but maybe you 'll know what I mane,
without my sayin' too much. I 'm thinkin' o' Hugh. I 've
seen, plainly enough, that somethin 's the matter wi' the
lad, iver since she come into the house. If he 's an honest
likin' to her, it is n't to be thought that she 'll take up wi'
the likes o' him, — though there a'n't a stouter and wholesomer
boy o' his age in New York, — and if he has n't, it 's
worse. He can't keep the eyes of him off her, and the
temper of him 's jist ruint intirely. Maybe I 'm doin'
wrong, bearin' witness aginst my own boy, but if you could
hear him swear sometimes, sir, and grind his teeth in his
slape, as I do, layin' awake and thinkin' what 's to be

The widow's words threw a quick, strong light on Hugh's
behavior. She was keener-sighted than I, and she had


Page 409
placed the whole situation clearly before me. Evidently,
she relied upon me to relieve both her and Jane Berry
from its certain distress, its possible danger, — and she must
not be disappointed.

“Mary,” I said, after a moment's reflection, “I am so
surprised by all this that I must take time to think it over.
You were quite right to tell me, and I give you my word
that I will not stop until the matter is set right.”

“Thank ye, sir!” she gratefully exclaimed. “I knowed
you had the knowlidge and the willin' heart.”

Then she went on down Sullivan Street, while I turned
in the opposite direction, intending to go into Washington
Square and turn the subject over in my mind, as I had
promised. I was profoundly vexed, — not that I cared for
the suspicions of that Irish pack, but on Jane Berry's account.
Of course she must leave Gooseberry Alley without
delay, and my principal task was to find a pretext for
removing her.

What was the thought that suddenly caused me to stop,
and then hurried me back the way I came? As this is
to be an impartial history, it must be told; but I can best
tell it by relating what followed. Every detail of the scene
remains fresh and vivid in my memory.

I reëntered Gooseberry Alley, and in another moment
knocked at the door of Mary Maloney's lodgings. It was
opened, as I expected, by Jane Berry, and I carefully
closed it behind me as I entered, lest any of the Feenys
might be eavesdropping. Jane had taken her work to the
window of the little kitchen, where there was more light
of an afternoon, and briskly resumed her needle after admitting
me. I noticed how fine and glossy her hair was
where the light touched it.

“Mary 's not at home,” she said, as I took a seat.

“I know it, Jane, and that is the reason why I have come
to see you. I met her in the street.”

I was embarrassed how to proceed further. She looked
up with a wondering expectancy, and forced me to go on.


Page 410

“I have heard something,” I said, “which I am afraid
will be very disagreeable news to you. I would not come
to trouble you with it, if I did not think it was necessary.”

She became so pale and frightened all at once that I
saw what she suspected, and hastened to allay her fears.

“I know what you are thinking of, Jane; but it is not
that. The woman has not found you out, — nay, I am sure
she has ceased looking for you by this time. It is something
which you could not have imagined, — something
which affects myself as well as you. My visits, it seems,
have been noticed by the poor, ignorant fools who live in
these houses, and they can only explain them in their own
coarse way. I see you don't understand me yet; I must
say, then, that neither of us is considered as virtuous as
the people think we should be.”

“Oh, Mr. Godfrey!” she cried, “and I 've brought this
on you! I 'm sure it must have been Mary who told you;
she has n't seemed to me like the same woman for a week
past, but I thought she might have troubles of her own.
I felt that something was n't right, but I never thought of
that! She don't believe it, surely?”

“She does not,” I said; “but this wicked gossip spares
her none the more for that. She is a good, kind-hearted
woman, and must not be allowed to suffer on account of it.”

“No, no, — I 'd rather tell her everything; but, then,
it would n't help, after all. I ought n't to stay here since
the story is believed; what can I do, if I leave?”

“Make the story true,” I said.

Yes, those were my very words. What wonder if she
did not understand them, — if her look of innocent bewilderment
caused my wanton eyes to drop, and a sting of remorseful
shame to strike through my heart? They were
said, however, and could not be recalled, and I saw that her
mind, in another moment, would comprehend their meaning.
So I crushed down the rising protest of my better
self, and repeated, —


Page 411

“Make the story true. If we try to be good, we get no
credit for it, and it is no worse to be what they say we are
than to have them believe so.”

She still looked at me incredulously, though the color
was deepening on her cheek and creeping down over her
slender throat. “Mr. Godfrey,” she said at last, in a low,
fluttering voice, “you are not saying what you really think?”

“It is true!” I exclaimed. “Look at the thing yourself;
your life is ruined, and so is mine. Everything goes wrong
with me, — doing right has brought me nothing but misfortune.
You are more to be pitied than blamed, yet the
villain who ruined you is a respectable member of society,
no doubt, while you are condemned as long as you live.
You see how unjust is the judgment of the world, — at any
rate, I do, and I have ceased to care for it. If we unite
our lives, we may be some comfort to each other. I can
make enough money to keep you from want, and that is
probably all you would ever have, if your friends were to
take you back again. You may be sure, also, that I would
be both kind and faithful.”

The poor girl changed color repeatedly while I was uttering
these cruel words. I thought she was deliberating
whether to accept my proposition; but her heart, shallow
as were its emotions, was still too deep for my vision to
fathom. She was too agitated to speak; her lips moved
to inaudible words, and her eyes looked an unintelligible
question. I stooped down and took her hand; it was
trembling, and she drew it gently out of my grasp. But the
words were again repeated, and this time I heard them, —

“Do you love me?”

I felt, by a sudden flash of instinct, all that the question
implied. In that moment, I became the arbiter of her fate.
There was an instant's powerful struggle between the Truth
and the Lie; but, thank God, I was not yet wholly debased.

“No,” I said, “I will not deceive you, Jane. I do not
love you. Love! I have had enough of loving. Yes, —


Page 412
you may know the whole truth; I love as you do, — one
who is lost to me, and through no fault of mine. What is
left to me, — to either of us?”

She had covered her face with her hands, and was weeping
passionately. I knew for whom her tears were shed,
and how unavailingly, — but her grief was less than mine,
by as much as the difference in the depth of our natures.
I felt no movement of pity for her, because I had ceased to
feel it for myself.

I waited until her sobs ceased, and then took her hand
again. “Come, Jane,” I said, “it does no good to remember
him. I, too, will try to forget her who has cast
me off, and perhaps you and I may come to love each other
after a while. But we need n't make any pretence in the
beginning, because we both know better.”

Again she released her hand, but this time with a quick,
impulsive motion. She rose from her seat and retreated
a step from me. Her face was very pale, and her eyes
wide with a new and unexpected expression. “Don't say
anything more, Mr. Godfrey!” she cried; “I am afraid of
you! Oh, is all the good you 've done for me to go for nothing?
I 'll never believe this was in your mind when you
picked me up, and set me on my feet, and put me in the
right way again. I 've been praying God every night to
bless you; you seemed to me almost like one of His angels,
and it 's dreadful to see the Bad Spirit looking out of
your eyes, and putting words into your mouth. I don't
complain because what you 've said to me hurts me; I 've
no right to expect anything else, — but it 's because you 've
said it. Oh, Mr. Godfrey, don't say that it 's my fault, —
that helping me has put such things into your head; please,
don't say that! It would be the worst punishment of all!”

The intensity of her face, the piercing earnestness of her
voice and words, struck me dumb. It came to my ear like
the cry of a soul in agony, and I saw that I had here indeed
blasphemously tampered with a soul's immortal interests.


Page 413
The selfish logic by which I had endeavored to persuade
her fell into dust before the simple protest of her
heart. I was too unskilled in the tactics of vice to renew
the attack, even had I been unprincipled enough to desire
it. But, in truth, I stood humiliated before her, sensible
only of the fact that she would never more respect me. I
had been an Angel to her artless fancy; henceforth I should
be a Devil.

She waited for an answer to her last question, and what
little comfort there might be in my reply she should have.

“Jane,” I said, “you are not accountable for what I have
been saying. You are far better than I am. I was honest
in trying to help you, — this was not in my mind, — but I
won't answer for myself any longer. You are right to be
afraid of me: I will go!”

I turned as I said these words, and left the room. As
I flung the door behind me, I saw her standing by the window,
with her eyes following me. I fancied, also, that I
heard her once more utter my name, but, even if it were
true, I was in no mood to prolong the interview. As I
opened the outer door hastily, I caught a glimpse of Mrs.
Feeny dodging into the room on the other side of the passage.

On my way down Sullivan Street I remembered that I
had done nothing towards relieving Mary Maloney of her
trouble. But I soon dismissed the subject from my mind,
resolved to let the two women settle it between themselves.
Once in my room, I wrote a venomous sketch for the next
number of the Oracle, and passed my evening, as usual, at
the Ichneumon.

Two days afterwards the bells reminded me that it was
Christmas morn; I had forgotten the day. I threw open
my window, and listened to the musical clang, which came
to my ears, crisp and sweet, through the frosty air. Having
now more time at my disposal I had resumed my German
studies, and the lines of Faust returned to my mind, —


Page 414
“Then seemed the breath of Heavenly Love to play
Upon my brow, in Sabbath silence holy;
And filled with mystic presage, tolling slowly,
The church-bell boomed, and joy it was to pray.”
Alas! I had unlearned the habit, and the beautiful day of
Christian jubilee awoke but a dull reverberation in my
heart. A Merry Christmas! Who would speak the words
to me, not as a hollow form, but as a heart-felt wish?

There was a knock at my door. Mary Maloney entered
and gave me the festive salutation. It came as a response
to my thought, and touched my heart with a grateful softness.
She carried a thin package in her hand, and said,
as she laid it on the table, —

“I 've brought a Christmas for you to-day, Mr. Godfrey.
It 's Miss Jenny's doin', and I don't mind tellin' you now,
since she's left, that she sat up the biggest part of a night to
get it ready. You see, sir, when I brought home your weskit,
o' Wednesday, to fix the button, I said it would n't bear
much more wearin', and you ought, by rights, to git y'rself
a new one. With that she up and said she 'd like to make
one herself, as a Christmas for you, and might she kape it
and take the pattern. So she bought the stuff and hoped
you 'd like it, and indade it 's a nate piece o' wurrk, as you
may see.”

I cast scarcely a glance at the waistcoat, so eager was I
to hear what had become of Jane Berry. But Mary either
could not, or would not, give me any satisfactory news.

“When I come home, t' other evenin',” she said, “I saw
she 'd been cryin', and I mistrusted you 'd been havin' a
talk with her, so I would n't add to her trouble by any
words o' my own. And that was the night she finished the
weskit. So next mornin' she went out airly and I did n't
see her till nigh noon, when she had her things ready to
laive. Says she, `Mary, I 'm goin' away, but I sha' n't forgit
you;' and says I, `Naither will I forgit you, and I wish
you hearty good luck, and where are you goin', for I expect


Page 415
to see you between whiles;' — but, says she, `It 's best you
don't come,' and `I 'll always know where to find you,' and
so she went off. Sure my heart ached wi' the thought of
her, and it 's ached since, along o' Hugh. He won't believe
I dunno where she is, and glowers at me like a wild
baste, and stays away o' nights, till I 'm fearful, when
there 's the laist noise in the house, it may be his blessed
body brought home on a board.”

I noticed, now, the haggard, anxious expression of the
Irishwoman's face, and tried to encourage her with the assurance
that Hugh was but a boy, and would soon forget
his disappointment. But she clasped her hands and
sighed, and there was a memory of Hugh's father in her
fixed eyes.

After she had left the room, I picked up and inspected
the present. It was of plain, sober-colored material, but
very neatly and carefully made. I turned out the pockets
and examined the lining, hoping to find some note or token
conveying a parting message. There was nothing,
and after a few inquiries, made to satisfy my remaining
fragment of a conscience, I gave up the search for Jane

During the holiday week another incident occurred, —
trifling in itself, but it excited a temporary interest in my
mind. I had possession of one of the Oracle's passes to
the Opera, and, at the close of the performance was slowly
surging out through the lobby, with the departing crowd,
when a familiar female voice, just in front of me, said, —

“But you men are such flatterers, — all of you.”

“Present company excepted,” replied another familiar
voice, with a coarse, silly laugh.

If the thick coils of black hair, dropping pomegranate
blossoms, had not revealed to me the lady, the flirt of a
scarlet fan over her olive shoulder made the recognition
sure. It was Miss Levi, of course, leaning on the arm of
— could I believe my eyes? — Mr. Tracy Floyd. I kept


Page 416
as close to the pair as possible, without running the risk
of being recognized, and cocked my ear to entrap more of
their conversation. Eavesdropping in a crowd, I believe,
is not dishonorable.

“It is a pleasure to hear music, under the guidance of
such an exquisite taste as yours,” remarked Miss Levi.

“Ah, you think I know something about it, then?” said
her companion. “Deuced glad to hear it; Bell always
used to snub me, — but a fellow may know as much as other
people, without trying to show off all the time.”

“Certainly; that is my idea of what a gentleman should
be, — but how few such we meet!” Her voice was low
and insinuating, and the pomegranate blossoms bent
towards his shoulder. I knew, as well as if I had stood
before them, that all the power of her eyes was thrown
upon his face. I could see the bit of his neck behind his
whisker grow red with pleasure, as he straightened his
head and stroked his moustache.

There was a puff of cold air from the outer door, and
she drew up the hood of her cloak. Somehow, it would
catch in the wilderness of hair and flowers, and his assistance
was required to adjust it to her head. Then they
scuttled into the street, in a high state of mutual good-humor.

Is it possible, I asked myself, that he has been caught in
the trap he laid for me? If so, I can afford to forgive him.