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Page 443


The Sunday which followed was the happiest day I had
known for many months. I awoke with a clear head and
a strong sense of hunger in my stomach, and after making
myself as presentable as my worn and dusty garments would
allow, went down with Bob to breakfast with the workman
and his wife. The good people received me civilly, and
asked no embarrassing questions. Bob, I surmised, had
explained to them my appearance in his own way. So,
when the meal was over, he remarked, —

“I guess I sha'n't go to church to-day. You won't want
to go out, John, and I 'll keep you company.”

I should gladly have accompanied him, humbled and
penitent, to give thanks for the change in my fortunes, uncertain
though it still was, but for the fear that my appearance,
so little like that of a decent worshipper, would draw
attention to me. For Bob's sake I stayed at home, and he
for mine.

The time was well-spent, nevertheless. Confession is a
luxury, when one is assured beforehand of the sympathy
of the priest, and his final absolution. In the little back
bedroom, Bob sitting with his pipe at the open window, I
told him my story, from the day I had last seen him on the
scaffold in Honeybrook, to the meeting of two nights before.
I could not explain to him the bearing of my intellectual
aims on the events of my life: he would not have
understood it. But the episodes of my love touched our


Page 444
common nature and would sufficiently account, in his view,
for my late recklessness. I therefore confined myself to
those and to such other facts as I supposed he would easily
grasp, since he must judge me, mainly, by external circumstances.

When I had finished, I turned towards him and said, —
“And now, Bob, what do you think of me?”

“Jest what I always did. There 's nothin' you 've done
that one of us hard-fisted fellows might n't do every day,
and think no more about it, — onless it 's cuttin' stick without
settlin' for your board, and borrowin' from a needy
friend when you have n't the means o' payin' him. But you
did n't know that when you borrowed, — I 'll take my oath
on it. Your feelin's always was o' the fine, delicate kind, —
mine 's sort o' coarse-grained alongside of 'em, — and it
seems to me you 've worried yourself down lower than
you 'd had any need to ha' gone. When a man thinks he 's
done for, and it 's all day with him, he 'll step into the fire
when he might just as easy step out of it. I s'pose, though,
there 's more expected of a man, the more brains he has,
and the higher he stands before the world. I might swear
in moderation, for instance, and no great harm, while a
minister would be damned if he was to say `damned' anywheres
but in his pulpit.”

“But you see, Bob, how I have degraded myself!”

“Yes, I don't wonder you feel so. Puttin' myself in
your place, I can understand it, and 't would n't be the
right thing, s'posin' the case was mine. The fact is, John,
we 've each one of us got to take our share of the hard
knocks. There 's a sayin' among us that a man 's got to
have a brickbat fall on his head once't in his life. Well
— when you know it 's the rule, you may as well grin and
bear it, like any other man. I know it comes hard, once't
in a while — Lord God, some things is hard!”

Bob pronounced these last words with an energy that
startled me. His pipe snapped in his fingers, and falling


Page 445
on the floor, was broken into a dozen pieces. “Blast the
pipe!” he exclaimed, kicking them into a corner. Then
he arose, filled a fresh pipe, lighted it, and quietly resumed
his seat.

“What would you do now,” I asked, “if you were in my

“Forgit what can't be helped, and take a fresh start.
Let them fellows alone you 've been with. That Brandagee
must be as sharp as a razor; I can see you 're no
match for him. You seem to ha' been doin' well enough,
until you let him lead you; why not go back to the rest of
it, leavin' him out o' the bargain? That editor now, — Clarendon,
— I 'd go straight to him, and if I had to eat a
mouthful or so o' humble pie, why, it 's of my own bakin'!”

I reflected a few minutes and found that Bob was right.
Of all men whom I knew, and who were likely to aid me,
I had the greatest respect for Mr. Clarendon, and could
approach him with the least humiliation. I decided to make
the attempt, and told Bob so.

“That 's right,” said he. “And I tell you what, — it 's
the rule o' life that you don't git good-luck in one way
without payin' for it in another. I 've found that out, to
my cost. And the Bible is right, that the straight road and
the narrow one is the best, though it 's hard to the feet.
The narrower the road, the less a man staggers in it. You
seem, oftentimes, to be doin' your duty for nothin', — worse
than that, gettin' knocks for doin' it, — but it 's my belief
that you 'll find out the meanin', if you wait long enough.
There 's that girl down in Upper Samaria, — you must ha'
been awfully cut up about her, and no wonder, but did n't
it turn out best, after all?”

Bob's simple philosophy was amply adequate to my
needs. Without understanding my more complex experience
of life, he offered me a sufficient basis to stand upon.
Perhaps the thought passed through my mind that it was
easy for his coarse, unimpressionable nature to keep the


Page 446
straight path, and to butt aside, with one sturdy blow, the
open front of passions which approached me by a thousand
stealthy avenues. I doubted whether keen disappointment
— positive suffering — empowered him to speak with equal
authority; but these surmises, even if true, could not
weaken the actual truth of his words. His natural, unconscious
courage shamed out of sight the lofty energy
upon which I had prided myself.

I was surprised, also, at the practical instinct which enabled
him to comprehend circumstances so different from
his own, and to judge of men from what I revealed of their
connection with my history. It occurred to me that the
faculty of imagination, unless in its extreme potency, is a
hindrance rather than an aid to the study of human nature.
I felt assured that Bob would have correctly read the
characters of every one of my associates in one fourth of
the time which I had required.

It was arranged that I should make my call upon Mr.
Clarendon the very next day. Bob offered me one of his
shirts, and would have added his best coat, if there had
been any possibility of adapting its large outline to my
slender shoulders. He insisted that, whether or not my
application were successful, I should share his room until
I had made a little headway. I agreed, because I saw that
a refusal would have pained him.

I own that my sensations were not agreeable as I rang
the bell at Mr. Clarendon's door. It was necessary to hold
down my pride with a strong hand, — a species of self-control
to which I had not latterly been accustomed. When
I found myself, a few minutes afterward, face to face with
the editor in his library, the quiet courtesy of his greeting
reassured me. It was not so difficult to make the plunge,
as I did, in the words, somewhat bitterly uttered, —

“Another edition of the prodigal son, Mr. Clarendon.”

He smiled with a frank humor, in which there was no
trace of derision. “And you have come to me for the
fatted calf, I suppose?” he said.


Page 447

“Oh, a very lean one will satisfy me. Or a chicken, if
there is no calf on hand.”

“You must have been feeding on husks with a vengeance,
in that case, Mr. Godfrey. If I ask for your story,
believe me it is not from intrusive curiosity.”

I was sure of that, and very willingly confessed to him
all that it was necessary for him to know. In fact, he
seemed to know it in advance, and his face expressed neither
surprise nor condemnation. His eyes seemed rather to
ask whether I was strong enough to keep aloof from those
excitements, and I gratefully responded to the considerate,
fatherly interest which prompted his questions.

The result of our interview was that I was reinstated in
my employment, — in a somewhat lower position than formerly,
it is true, and with a slightly diminished salary; but
it was more than I had any reason to expect. Mr. Clarendon
made his kindness complete by offering me a loan for
my immediate necessities, which I declined in a burst of
self-denying resolution. I was sorry for it, upon reflecting,
after I had left the house, that Swansford might be suffering
through my neglect, and my acceptance of the offer
would have enabled me to relieve him.

This reflection was so painful that I determined to draw
upon Bob's generosity for the money, and, until his return,
employed myself in commencing a magazine story, of a much
more cheerful and healthy tone than my recent productions.
Bob was later than usual, and his footstep, as he ascended
the stairs, was so slow and heavy that I hardly recognized
it. He came bending into the room with a weight on his
shoulders, which proved to be — the trunk I had left behind
me at Mrs. De Peyster's!

“I thought you might want it, John, so I jest come up
by way o' Bleecker Street, and fetched it along,” said he.

“But how did she happen to let you take it? Oh, I see,
Bob, you have paid my debt!”

“Yes; it 's better you 'd owe it to me than to her. I
know you 'll pay me back ag'in, and she don't.”


Page 448

Bob's view of the matter was so simple and natural that
I did not embarrass him with my thanks. But I could not
now ask for a further loan, and poor Swansford must wait
a few days longer.

While Bob was smoking his evening pipe, I told him of
the fortunate result of my visit to Mr. Clarendon.

“I knowed it,” was his quiet comment. “Now we 'll
take a fresh start, John, — your head aginst my hands.
One heat don't win, you know; it 's the best two out o'

“Then, Bob!” I exclaimed, in a sudden effusion of passion,
— “I 've lost where I most wanted to win. What
are head and hands together beside the heart! Bob, did
you ever love a woman?”

“I 'm a man,” he answered, in a stern voice. After a
few long whiffs, he drew his shirt-sleeve across his brow.
I am not sure but it touched his eyes.

“John,” he began again, “there 's somethin' queer about
this matter o' love. I 've thought, sometimes, that the
Devil is busy to keep the right men and women apart, and
bring the wrong ones together. It goes with the rest of us
as it 's gone with you. When I told you that you must
grin and bear, t 'other night, I was n't preachin' what I
don't practise myself. There was a little girl I knowed.
last summer, over in Jersey, that I 'd ha' given my right
hand for. I thought, at one time, she liked me, but jest
when my hopes was best, she went off between two
days” —

“What?!” I exclaimed.

“Took herself away, without sayin' good-bye to anybody.
Ha'n't been heard of from that day to this. Her
aunt had a notion that she must ha' gone to New York, and
I first come here, as much as for anything else, hopin' I
might git on the track of her. I tell you, John, many 's
the night I 've walked the streets, lookin' into the girls'
faces, in mortal fear o' seein' hers among 'em. It may n't


Page 449
be so bad as that, you know, but a fellow can't help thinkin'
the worst.”

I was thunderstruck by the singular fancy which forced
itself into my mind. If it were true, should I mention it?
— should I relieve the torture of doubt only by the worse
torture of reality? I looked at Bob's calm, sad, rugged
face, and saw there the marks of a strength which I might
trust; but it was with a hesitating, trembling voice that I
said, —

“Did she live in Hackettstown, Bob?”

He started, turned on me a pair of intense, shining eyes,
which flashed the answer to my question. The hungry inquiry
of his face forced the name from my lips, —

“Jane Berry.”

“Where is she, John? What is she?”

The questions were uttered under his breath, yet they
had the power of a cry. I saw the task I had brought upon
myself, and braced my heart for a pain almost as hard to
inflict as to endure. His eyes, fixed upon me, read the
struggle, and interpreted its cause. He groaned, and laid
his head upon the window-sill, but only for a moment. I
could guess the pang that rent his warm, brave, faithful
heart, and the tears he held back from his own eyes came
into mine.

Then, as rapidly as possible, — for I saw his eagerness
and impatience, — I told him how and where I had first
met Jane Berry, repeated to him her confession to me, and
explained the mystery of her disappearance. I did not
even conceal that passage where I had shamefully put off
the character of helper and essayed that of tempter, because
there might be a sad consolation in this evidence that
her virtue, though wrecked, had not gone down forever.
Though lost to him, she was not wholly lost to herself.

When I had finished, he drew a long breath and exclaimed,
in a low voice, “Thank God, I know all now!
Poor foolish girl, she 's paid dear enough for her folly.


Page 450
What ought to be done is past my knowledge, savin' this
one thing, that she must be found, — must be, I say, and
you 'll help me, John?”

“I will, Bob, — here 's my hand on it. We 'll go to
Mary Maloney at once.”

In half an hour we were in Gooseberry Alley. It was
little the Irishwoman could tell, but that little was encouraging.
She had seen Jane Berry but once since her departure,
and that, fortunately, within the past month. Jane
had come to her house, “quite brisk and chirrupin',” she said;
had inquired for me, and seemed very much disappointed
that Mary was ignorant of my whereabouts; said she had
been successful in getting work, that she was doing very
well, and would never forget how she had been helped; but
did not give her address, nor say when she would return.
Mary confessed that she had not pressed her to repeat her
visit soon; “you know the raison, Mr. Godfrey,” she remarked.

The next day, I went with Bob to the Bowery establishment
where I had first procured work for the unfortunate
girl; but neither there, nor at other places of the kind,
could we gain any information. Bob, however, at my request,
wrote to her aunt in New Jersey, stating that he had
discovered that Jane was supporting herself by her trade,
and that he hoped soon to find her. I judged this step
might prepare the way for her return; it was the only manner
in which we could help her now. I did not despair of
our finding her hiding-place, sooner or later. In fact, I accepted
the task as an imperative duty, for I had driven her
away. Bob, also, was patient and hopeful; he performed
his daily labor steadily, and never uttered a word of complaint.
But he sighed wearily, and muttered in his sleep,
so long as I shared his bed.

Thanks to his forethought, I put on the feelings with the
garments of respectability. My return to the Wonder office
was hailed with delight by the honest Lettsom, and


Page 451
even with mild pleasure by the melancholy Severn. My
mechanical tasks even became agreeable by contrast with
exhaustive straining after effect, or the production of those
advertising verses, which I never wrote without a sense of
degradation. I was familiar with the routine of my duties,
and gave from the start — as I had resolved to give — satisfaction.
Mr. Clarendon, it appeared, had only intended
to test my sincerity in his new offer of terms; for, at the
close of the week, I found myself established on the old

No sooner was the money in my pocket than I hastened
to Mrs. Very's, palpitating with impatience to make atonement
to Swansford. The servant-girl who answered the
door informed me, not only that he was in, but that he
never went out now. He had been very sick; the doctor
would n't let him play on the piano, and it made him worse;
so now he was at it from morning till night.

I heard the faint sounds of the instrument coming down
from the attic, as soon as I had entered the door. The
knowledge of him, sick, lonely, and probably in want of
money, sent a sharp pain to my heart. As I mounted the
last flight of steps, I distinguished his voice, apparently
trying passages of a strange, and melody, repeating them
with slight variations, and accompanying them with sustaining
chords which struck my ear like the strokes of a
muffled bell.

He was so absorbed that he did not notice my entrance.
When I called out his name, he turned his head and looked
at me with a feeble, melancholy smile, without ceasing his
performance. I laid the money on one end of the piano,
and described my conduct in harsh terms, and begged his
forgiveness; but still he played on, smiling and nodding
from time to time, as if to assure me that he heard and forgave,
while the absorbed, mysterious gleam deepened in his
sunken eyes. I began to doubt whether he was aware of
my presence, when the muffled bells tolling under his fin


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gers seemed to recede into the distance, sinking into the
mist of golden hills, farther and fainter, until they died in
the silence of the falling sky. Then he turned to me and
spoke, —

“Godfrey, was n't it Keats who said, `I feel the daisies
already growing over me'? You heard those bells; they
were tolling for me, or, rather, for that in me which laments
the closing of a useless life, a thwarted destiny. What is
there left to me now but to write my own dirge? And
who is there to charge me with presumption if I flatter my
dreary departure from life by assigning to myself the fame
of which I dreamed? Fame is but the echo of achievement,
and I have sung into the empty space which sends no
echo back. Listen! I celebrate myself — I give the `meed
of one melodious tear' to my own grave! No artist ever
passed away in such utter poverty as that, I think.”

He commenced again, and after an introduction, in the
fitful breaks and dissonances of which I heard the brief expression
of his life, fell into a sad, simple melody. There
were several stanzas, but I only remember the following: —

“His golden harp is silent now,
And dust is on his laurelled brow:
His songs are hushed, his music fled,
And amaranth crowns his starry head:
Toll! toll! the minstrel 's dead!”[1]

Twice he sang the dirge, as if there were a mad, desperate
enjoyment in the idea; then, as the final chords flickered
and trembled off into the echoless space, his hands
slipped from the keys, and, with a long sigh, his head
dropped on his breast. I caught him in my arms, and my


Page 453
heart stood still with the fear that his excitement had made
the song prophetic, and he was actually dead. I laid him
on the bed, loosened his collar, and bathed his brow, and
after a few minutes he opened his eyes.

“Godfrey,” he said, “it 's kind of you to come. You see
there is n't much left of me. You and I expected something
else in the old days, but — any change carries a hope
with it.”

Regret or reproach on my part availed nothing. What
was still possible, I resolved to do. When Swansford had
somewhat recovered his strength, I left him and sought
Mrs. Very. That estimable and highly genteel woman
shed tears as she recounted the particulars of his illness,
and hailed as a godsend my proposal to return to my old
quarters — now fortunately vacant — in her house. I then
hastened to Stanton Street, packed my trunk, and awaited
Bob's return. He had not a word to say against my plan,
and, moreover, offered his own help if it should be necessary.

Thus I found myself back again at the starting-point of
three years before; but, ah me! — the sentimental, eager,
inexperienced youth of that period seemed to be no relation
of mine.


In searching among my papers for some relic of poor Swansford, I came
upon a crumpled leaf, upon one side of which is written, —

“3 shirts  18 
5 handkerchiefs  10 
3 pr. socks 
37 cts.” 

while in pencil, on the opposite side, is the stanza I have quoted, with the
exception of the refrain, —