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Page 430


If the manner of life I have just described had come
upon me naturally, through some radical deficiency of principle,
I should have carelessly and easily adapted myself to
it. I have known men who were always cheerful under
similar embarrassments, and who enjoyed as well as admired
the adroitness of their expedients of relief. Such are
the true Zingari of a high civilization, who pitch the tent,
light the camp-fire, and plunder the hen-roost, in the midst
of great cities. They are born with the brown blood in
their veins, and are drawn together by its lawless instinct.

I, however, had been pushed out of that sphere of order
in which my nature properly belonged, partly by the shock
of cruel disappointments and partly by the revolt of appetites
common to every young man whose blood is warm and
whose imagination is lively. When the keen edge of the
former and the rampant exultation of the latter began to
be dulled, there was no satisfaction left to me, except in
forgetfulness of my former self. I heard, from time to time,
the whispers of duty and the groans of conscience, and felt
that if the two antagonistic powers within me were allowed
to come together in a fresh struggle, the result would be —
Despair. With my present knowledge I see that such a
struggle was inevitable, — that a crisis was embraced in the
very nature of my disease, — but then I only craved peace,
and eagerly swallowed every moral narcotic which promised
to bring it.

There were already symptoms of Spring, when my month


Page 431
in the attic drew to an end. Days of perfect sunshine and
delicious air fell upon the city, mellowing its roaring noises,
softening into lilac and violet the red vistas of its streets,
touching its marbles with golden gleams, and coaxing the
quick emerald of the grass to its scattered squares. Most
unhappy were such days to me, for the tender prophecies
of the season forced my thoughts to the future, and into
that blank I could not look without dismay.

By this time my condition was indeed wretched. My
single suit of clothes grew shabby from constant wear, and
my two shirts, even with the aid of paper-collars, failed to
meet the requirements of decency. I had previously been
scrupulously neat in my dress, but now I was more than
slovenly, and I saw the reflection of this change in the
manners of my associates. My degradation expressed itself
in my garments, and covered me from head to foot,
touching the surface of my nature in every point as they
touched my skin.

For another month's rent of my lodging I depended on
the six dollars which I was to receive for three poems inspired
by the new dentrifice. The arrangement with the
proprietor of this article had been made by Brandagee, who
stated that he had a contract for furnishing the literature.
He took to himself some credit for allowing me a portion
of the work. I was anxious to meet him before evening,
as Miles had a bill of some two dollars against me, and the
most important debt must be first paid; but I visited all
of Brandagee's usual haunts in vain. Tired at last, and
quite desperate, I betook myself to the Cave and awaited
his coming.

Any combination of circumstances which one specially
fears, is almost sure to occur. My account at the Ichneumon
was settled, as I had anticipated, and there was not
enough left for the advance on my lodgings. Brandagee
was in an ill-humor, and paid no attention to my excited
representations of my condition.


Page 432

“I tell you what, Godfrey!” he exclaimed; “it 's ridiculous
to make a fuss about such trifles when one of the
best-planned schemes ever set a-foot is frustrated. Do
you know that the Oracle is laid out, stark and stiff? The
next number will be the last, and I 've a mind to leave one
side blank, as a decent shroud to spread over its corpse.
Babcock swears he 's sunk three thousand dollars, as if a
paper must n't always sink five in the beginning to gain
twenty-five in the end! If he had kept it up one year, as
I insisted upon his doing, it would have proved a fortune
for him and all of us.”

I was not surprised at this announcement, nor was I particularly
grieved, since the emoluments promised to me at
the start had never been forthcoming. After a few potations,
Brandagee recovered his spirits, and made merry
over the demise of his great scheme. He proposed substituting
the title of “Catacombs” for the Cave of Trophonius,
and declared his intention of having a funeral
inscription placed over the chimney-piece.

“Du Moulin,” he said, — “you know him, — the author
of `La Fille Egarée,' — always buried his unsuccessful
works in the family cemetery. I spent a week with him
once, at his chateau near Orleans, and he took me to see
the place. There they were in a row, mixed together, —
the children of the brain and the children of the body.
First Elise, a little daughter; then `Henriette,' a novel,
with `still-born,' on the tombstone; then his son Adolphe,
and then the tragedy of `Memnon,' the failure of which
he ascribed to the jealousy of a rival author, so he had
inscribed on the stone, `assassiné!' But only one impersonation
of my plan dies with the Oracle, — there must be
another avatar! There is no reason under heaven why I
should not be as successful here as Fiorentino in Paris. I
shall have to adopt his tactics, — work through the papers
already established instead of setting up a new one. I am
tolerably sure of the Monitor and the Avenger, and I might


Page 433
have the Wonder also, if you had not been such a fool as
to give up your place on it, Godfrey.”

“It was your representations that led me to do it!” I
angrily retorted.

“Come, come, don't charge me with your own greenness!
If a fellow takes my assertions for his guide, he 'll have a
devilish zigzag to run. I suspect you 've been trying to
strike a diagonal between morality and enjoyment, and
have spoiled yourself for either. But it may be possible
to get back your place: I always thought Old Clarendon
had a sort of patronizing liking for you.”

I knew what Brandagee's object was, — for what use he
designed me, and feared the consummate dexterity of his
tongue. There was something utterly repulsive to me in
the idea of going back and humiliating myself before Mr.
Clarendon, in order to insinuate articles intended to extort
black-mail, — for Brandagee's “great” scheme meant nothing
else, — into the columns of his paper. Yet, after what
had happened, I no longer felt sure of myself.

For the first time in my life, I deliberately resolved to
escape at once from my self-loathing and from this new
temptation, by the intoxication of wine. In all my previous
indulgence, — even when surrounded by a reckless and
joyously-excited company, — I had never lost the control
of brain or body. Some protecting instinct either held me
back from excess, or neutralized its effects. I knew the
stages of exhilaration, of confidence, of tenderness, and of
boastful vanity, — but further than those vestibules, I had
never entered the House of Circe.

I ordered a bottle of Sauterne — my favorite wine —
and began to drink. I fancy Brandagee guessed the secret
of this movement, and believed that it would deliver me
the more easily into his hands. But I cannot be sure; my
recollection of the commencement of the evening is made
indistinct by the event with which it closed. There were,
at first, two other persons present, — Mears and one of the


Page 434
comic writers, — and I do not know precisely at what hour
they left, but I know that Brandagee waited until then to
commence his attack.

I finished one bottle and was half-way down the second
before I felt any positive effect from the beverage. Then,
although my feet and hands glowed, and the humming of
the quickened blood in my veins was audible in my ears,
my mind seemed to brood, undisturbed and stern, above
the tumult. The delicate flavor of the wine faded on my
palate; a numbness, resembling a partial paralysis, crept
over my body, — but in my brain the atmosphere grew
more quiet, sober, and gloomy. The mysterious telegraph
which carries the commands of the will to the obedient
muscles seemed to be out of order, — I had lost, not the
power, but the knowledge of using it. I sat like the Enchanted
Prince, half marble, and my remaining senses
grew keener from their compression. My mental vision
turned inwards and was fixed upon myself with wonderful
sharpness and power. Brandagee commenced his promises
and persuasions, deceived by my silence, and not
dreaming how little I heeded them. I heard his voice,
thrust far away by the intentness of my thoughts, and
nodded or assented mechanically from time to time. To
talk — much less discuss the matter with him — was impossible.

I was in a condition resembling catalepsy rather than
intoxication. While perfectly aware of external sounds
and sights, I was apparently dead to them in that luminous
revelation of my own nature which I was forced to read.
I saw myself as some serene-eyed angel might have seen,
with every white virtue balanced by its shadowed vice,
every deviation from the straight, manly line of life laid
bare in a blaze of light, I recognized what a part vanity
had played in my fortunes, — with what cowardice I had
shrunk from unwelcome truths, instead of endeavoring to
assimilate their tonic bitterness, — and, above all, how contemptible


Page 435
had been the results of indulgence compared
with the joyous release I had anticipated. It was a passionless,
objective survey, which overlooked even the fluctuations
of my feelings, and curiously probed the very
wounds it gave.

I saw, further, that I had been miserably weak in allowing
three circumstances — important as was their bearing
on my happiness — to derange the ordered course of my
life, and plunge me into ruin. For a youth whose only
gifts were a loving heart, a sanguine temperament, and an
easy, fluent power of expression, I had not been unsuccessful.
I rather wondered now, perceiving my early ignorance,
that so few obstacles had been thrown in my way.
I supposed that I had performed marvels of energy, but
here I had failed in the first test of my strength as a man.
If Isabel Haworth had unjustly repulsed me, I had since
then justified her act a hundred times. Fool and coward,
— aspiring to be author, lover, man; yet flinging aside, at
the start, that patience without which either title is impossible!

I saw clearly, I say, what I had become — but my clairvoyance
went no further. There was the void space whence
I had torn my belief in human honesty and affection, and
close beside it that more awful chamber, once bright with
undoubting reliance on The Father and His Wisdom, but
now filled with a twilight which did not dare to become
darkness. How was I to restore these shattered faiths, and,
through them, my shattered life? This was the question
which still mocked me. It seemed that I was condemned
to behold myself forever in a mirror the painful brightness
of which blinded me to everything else.

I had placed my elbows on the table and rested my face
on my hands while undergoing this experience. It was
late in the night. I had ceased to hear Brandagee's voice,
or even to think of it, when, little by little, its tones, in conversation
with some one else, forced themselves upon my


Page 436

“I tell you it 's trying to shirk your agreement,” he said,
“when I 've done my part. I 've almost made your fortune

“Not as I knows on, you ha 'n't!” replied another voice,
which I recognized as belonging to Miles. “It 'ardly pays
me. Leastways the profits on the gents you brings 'ere
don't begin to pay for your drinks any longer. It won't do,
Mr. Brandagee.”

“Why, this one here has put six dollars into your pocket

“Can't 'e 'ear you?” whispered Miles.

“No: he 's drunk as a loon. Godfrey!”

He called in a low tone, then louder, — “Godfrey!” I
do not believe I could have answered, if I had tried. My
jaws were locked.

“They 'd spend more if you 'd pay 'em more,” Miles continued.
“I 'eard y'r bargain about the tooth-powder that
day Dr. What's-'is-name was 'ere — five dollars apiece, it
was, and you gives 'im there two, and puts three in your
hown pocket. Them three 'd be spent 'ere, if you hacted
fairly. Besides, it was n't understood that you were to
come and drink free, hevery day. I would n't ha' made
that sort of a bargain; I knows 'ow much you can 'old.”

Brandagee laughed and said, — “Well, well, I shall not
come so often in future. Perhaps not at all. There 's a
good fellow going to open in Spring Street, and he thinks
of calling his place the Ornithorhyncus paradoxus, — the
name you would n't have, Miles. If he does, it 's likely we
shall go there.”

Miles hemmed and coughed; he evidently disliked this
suggestion. “There goes the door,” he said, — “somebody
for the bar. Come out and we 'll 'ave a brandy together
before you go.”

The disclosure of Brandagee's meanness which I had
just heard scarcely excited a ripple of surprise or indignation
on the fixed, glassy surface of my consciousness.


Page 437
Wearied with the contemplation of my own failure, all my
faculties united themselves in a desperate craving for help,
until this condition supplanted the former and grew to the
same intensity.

Presently Brandagee rose and went into the bar-room,
and I was left alone. In the silence my feeling became a
prayer. I struggled to find the trace of some path which
might lead me out of the evil labyrinth, — but I could not
think or reason: it was blind, agonizing groping in the

Suddenly, I knew not how or where, a single point of
light shot out of the gloom. It revealed nothing, but I
trembled lest I was deceived by my own sensations, and
was beginning to hope in vain. Far away, — somewhere
in remote space, it seemed, — I heard the faint sound of a
footstep. I could count its regular fall, like the beating of
a slow, strong pulse; I waited breathlessly, striving to hold
back the dull, rapid throb of my heart, lest I should lose
the sound. But the sense of light grew, spreading out in
soft radiations from the starry point, and, as it grew, the
sound of the footsteps seemed to draw nearer. A strange
excitement possessed me. I lifted my head from my
hands, placed a hollow palm behind my ear, and threw
my whole soul into that single sense. Still I heard the
sound, — distant, but clearly audible in its faintly ringing
beat, and clung to it as if its cessation were the beginning
of deeper disgrace, and its approach that of a regenerated

It could not have been two minutes — but an age of suspense
was compressed into the brief period — while I thus
sat and listened. A voice within me cried out, “It is for
me! Do not let it pass, — rise and go to meet it!” My
marble enchantment was broken; I sprang to my feet,
seized my hat, and hastened out of the Cave. Miles and
Brandagee, with each a steaming glass in hand, were
lounging against the bar. The latter called to me as I


Page 438
passed, but I paid no heed to him. Both of them laughed
as the street-door closed behind me.

It was a cool, windless, starry night. The bells were
striking midnight, and I set my teeth and clenched my fists
with impatience for the vibration of the last stroke to cease
that I might listen again for the footstep. One such sound,
indeed, I heard between the strokes, — a man coming down
the opposite side of the street, but it was not the step I
awaited: it was too light and quick. When he had gone
by and only the confused sounds of the night, far or near,
stirred the air, I caught again the familiar footfall. It
appeared to be approaching Crosby Street from Broadway,
through the next cross-street below. I was sure it was
the same: there was no mistaking the strong, slow, even
march, slightly ringing on the flagged sidewalk. What
would it bring to me?

Nearer and nearer, — but I could not advance to meet
it. I waited, with fast-beating heart, under the lamp, and
counted every step until I felt that the next one would
bring the man into view. It came, — he was there! He
made two steps forward, as if intending to keep the cross-street,
— paused, and presently turned up the sidewalk
towards me. My eyes devoured his figure, but there was
nothing about it which I recognized. A strong, broad-shouldered
man, moderately tall, with his head bent forward
as if in meditation, and his pace as regular as the tick
of a watch. Once he lifted his head and looked towards
me, and I saw the outline of a bushy whisker on each side
of his face.

In three seconds more he would pass me. I stood motionless,
in the middle of the sidewalk, awaiting his coming.
One step, — two, — three, and he was upon me. He cast
a quick glance towards me, swerved a little from his
straight course, and strode past. “Fool! fool!” I cried to
myself, bitterly. As I did so, the foostep paused. I
turned and saw him also turn and step rapidly back


Page 439
towards me. His head was lifted and he looked keenly
and curiously into my face.

“Why, John — John Godfrey, is it you?”

He had me by both hands before the words were out of
his mouth. One clear view of that broad, homely, manly
face in the lamplight, and I cried, in a voice full of joy and
tears, —

“Bob Simmons! Dear old friend, God has sent you to
save me!”

Bob Simmons, my boyish comrade, whom I had almost
forgotten! In the Providence which led him to me at that
hour and in that crisis of my fortunes, my fears of a blind
Chance, or a baleful, pursuing Fate, were struck down forever.
Light came back to the dusky chamber of my heart,
and substance to the void space. I prefer not to think that
my restoration to health was already assured by the previous
struggle through which my mind had passed, — that
from the clearer comprehension of myself, I should have
worked up again by some other path. It is pleasant to
remember that the hand of a brother-man lent its strength
to mine, and to believe that it was the chosen instrument
of my redemption from evil ways.

My excited, almost hysterical condition was incomprehensible
to Bob. I saw the gladness in his eyes change to
wonder and tender sympathy. The next instant, I thought,
he must see the debasement which was written all over me.

“Bob,” I said, “don't leave me, now that I have found
you again!” There was a noise of footsteps in the bar-room
of the Ichneumon: Brandagee was coming. Still
holding the hand of my friend, I hurried him up the street.

“Where do you live, John?” he asked.

“Nowhere! I am a vagabond. Oh, Bob, you carried me
once in your arms when I fell out of the apple-tree; give
me your hand, at least, now, when I need your help so
much more than then!”

Bob said nothing, but his hard fingers crushed mine in


Page 440
a long grasp. Then he took my arm, and resuming his
steady stride, bore me with him through Prince Street into
the Bowery, and a long distance down Stanton Street.
Finally he stopped before a house, — one of a cheaply-built,
uniform block, — opened the door with a night-key,
and drew me after him. After some dark groping up staircases,
I found myself in a rear room. He found a match,
lighted a candle, and I saw a small, modest apartment,
befitting, in its simple appointments, the habits of a laboring
man, but really luxurious in contrast to the shabby attic
in which I had been housed.

“There!” he exclaimed, “these is my quarters, sich as
they are. None too big, but you 're welcome to your share
of 'em. It 's a long time, John, since you and me slept
together at th' old farm. Both of us is changed, but I 'd
ha' knowed you anywheres.”

“It is a long time, Bob. I wish I could go back to it
again. Do you recollect what you said to me when we
were boys, just thinking of making our start in the world?
It was my head against your hands; look, now, to what my
head has brought me!”

Partly from shame and self-pity, partly also from the
delayed effect of the wine I had drunk, I burst into tears.
Poor Bob was inexpressibly grieved. He drew me to the
little bed, sat down beside me, put his arm around me, and
tried to comfort me in the way which first occurred to his
simple nature, by diminishing the force of the contrast.

“Never mind, John,” he said. “My hands ha'n't done
nothin' yit worth mentionin'. I a'n't boss, only foreman, —
a sort o' head-journeyman, you know. There 's the stuff in
you for a dozen men like me.”

I laid my head upon his shoulder with the grateful sense
of reliance and protecting strength which, I imagine, must
be the bliss of a woman's heart when she first feels herself
clasped by the arms of the man she loves. Presently I
grew calm again, and commenced the confession of my life,


Page 441
which, from beginning to end, I was determined that Bob
should hear. But I had not made much progress in it, before
I felt that I was growing deathly faint and sick, and
my words turned to moans of distress.

Bob poured some water on a towel and bathed my head,
then helped me to undress and laid me in his bed. I remember
only that, some time afterwards, he lay down beside
me; that, thinking me asleep, he tenderly placed his hand
on my brow and smoothed back my ruffled hair; that a
feeling of gratitude struck, like a soft, sweet pang, through
the sensation of my physical wretchedness, — and then a
gray blank succeeded.

When I awoke, it was daylight. I turned on my pillow,
saw that Bob had gone and that the rolling curtain had
been drawn down before the window. My head was pierced
with a splitting pain; my eyelids fell of their own accord,
and I sank again into a restless sleep.

It must have been afternoon when a light footstep aroused
me. There was a plain, pleasant-faced woman in the room,
who came forward to the bedside, at the movement I made.

“Where 's Bob?” I asked.

“He went off early to his work, sir. But you 're to keep
still and rest; he 'll be back betimes, this evenin.' And I
've a cup o' tea ready for you, and a bit o' toast.”

She brought them, placed them on a stand by the bedside,
and left the room. I was still weak and feverish, but
the refreshment did me good, and my sleep, after that, was
lighter and more healthful. It was a new, delicious sensation,
to feel that there was somebody in the world who
cared for me.

It was nearly dark when Bob came softly into the room.
I stretched out my hand towards him, and the honest fellow
was visibly embarrassed by the look of gratitude and love
I fixed on his face.

“You 're comin' round, finely!” he cried, in a cheery
voice. “I would n't ha' left you, at all, John, but for the


Page 442
work dependin' on me; it 's that big buildin' down in Cortlandt
Street, right-hand side. But to-morrow 's Sunday,
as good luck will have it, and so we can spend the whole
day together.”

Bob brought me some more tea, and would have gone
out for oysters, “patridges,” and various other delicacies
which he suggested, if I had allowed him. His presence,
however, was what I most craved. After the morbid intellectual
atmosphere I had breathed for the last few months,
there was something as fresh and bracing as mountain
breezes in the simple, rude commingling of purely moral
and physical elements in his nature. The course of his
life was set, from his very birth, and rolled straight forward,
untroubled by painful self-questioning. If a temptation
assailed him, he might possibly yield to it for a moment,
but the next he would recover his balance. An influence
of order flowed from him into me, and my views of life
began to arrange themselves in accordance with it.

He was boarding, he informed me, with a married fellow-workman,
whose wife it was that I had seen. He had been
in New York since the previous autumn; it was the best
place for his trade and he intended remaining. The day
before one of the journeymen had been married; there
was a family party at the bride's home, in Jersey City; he
had been invited, and was on his way back when he met
me in Crosby Street.

“Did you think of me?” I asked. “Had you a presentiment
that you would meet an old friend?”

“Not a bit of it. I was thinkin' of — well, no matter.
I no more expected to come across you, John, than — than
Adam. But I 'm real glad it turned out so.”