University of Virginia Library

Search this document 



Page 454


Mr. Clarendon need not have feared that I might relapse
into evil habits; every hour I could spare from my
duties was devoted to the service of my dying friend. Since
I had neglected and thoughtlessly injured him, I now resolved
that no moment of his brief life should reproach me
after its close. He was too feeble to deny me this satisfaction;
and I saw, with a mournful pleasure, that no other
hand was so welcome as mine, no other voice could so
quickly bring the light back into his fading eyes. Bob insisted
on relieving me, now and then, of my nightly watches,
and I was surprised, not only at the gentleness and tenderness
of his ministrations, but at Swansford's grateful acceptance
of them. It almost seemed as if the latter had
sent his Art in advance, into the coming life, and was content
with human kindness and sympathy for the few days
of this which remained.

The seeds of his disease were no doubt born with him,
and their roots had become so intertwined with those of his
life that only a professional eye could distinguish between
the two. The impression left by my first visit was that he
could not live twenty-four hours, but weeks had come and
gone, and his condition fluctuated between the prospect
of speedy death and the delusive hope of final recovery.
There were times, even, when himself was deceived and
would talk cheerily of the future. Neither of us knew how
contradictory were these appearances, and that they should
have prepared us for the opposite results.


Page 455

One evening in the beginning of May, when Swansford's
weakness and depression had reached a point whence it
seemed impossible for him to rally, he beckoned me to his
bedside. His voice was so faint that the words died away
in whispers, but his face was troubled, and I saw from the
expression of his eyes that he had a communication to make.
I therefore administered a stimulating potion, and begged
him to remain quiet until he felt its effects. Presently he
was able to point to the upper drawer of his bureau, and
ask me to bring him a package I should find in the right-hand
corner. It was a heavy roll of paper, carefully tied
and sealed. I laid it beside him on the bed, and he felt
and fondled it with his white, wasted fingers.

“Here it is, Godfrey,” he whispered, at last. “My symphony!
I meant to have held it in my arms, in my coffin,
and let it go to dust with the heart and the brain which
created it; but now it seems that my life is there, not here,
in my body. I might be killing something, you see, that
had a right to live. God knows: but there is another reason.
It belongs to her, Godfrey. Every note is part of a
history which she alone can understand. Let her read it.
I honor her too much to speak or write to her while I live,
but there is no infidelity in her listening to the voice of the
dead. Keep it until you have buried me: then give it into
her hands.”

“You have my sacred word, Swansford,” I said; “but
you must tell me who she is — where I shall find her.”

“It is written there, I think. But you know her.”

I feared his mind was wandering. Taking the package
I held it to the light, and, after some search, discovered,
feebly written in pencil, the words: “Mrs. Fanny Deering,
from C. S.” Of all the surprises of my life, this seemed the

“Swansford!” I cried, — “is it really she?”

“Yes, Godfrey; don't ask me anything more!”

He closed his eyes, as if to enforce silence. After a


Page 456
while he seemed to sleep, and I leaned back in the rocking-chair
which Mrs. Very had kindly provided for the
watchers, busying my brain with speculations. I felt, more
deeply than ever, the tragic close of Swansford's disappointed
existence. She whom he had loved — whom he
still loved with the despairing strength of a broken heart
— who, I was sure, might silence, but could not forget the
early memories which linked her to him — was here, within
an hour's call of the garret where he lay dying. He was
already within the sanctifying shadow of the grave, and the
word, the look of tender recognition which she might anticipate
beyond, could, in all honor and purity, be granted to
him now. I would go to her — would beg her to see him
once more — to give one permitted consecration of joy to
his sad remnant of life. I knew that he did not dream of
such an interview, — probably did not desire it, — and
therefore it was best to keep my design secret.

In the morning Swansford had rallied a little, but it was
evident that his life barely hung by a thread. I trembled
with anxiety during the day, as I performed those mechanical
tasks which were now more than ever necessary, for
his sake, and hastened rapidly back at evening, to find him
still alive, and in Bob's faithful charge. Then I set out,
at once, for Mr. Deering's residence, in Fourteenth Street.

As I approached the house, my step slackened and I fell
to meditating, not only on my errand, which I felt to be a
matter of some delicacy, but on Mrs. Deering's apparent
intimacy with Isabel Haworth. It will be remembered
that I had not seen the former since the night of my mysterious
repulse. I should no doubt have gone to her, as
soon as Custom permitted, but for my ruinous and reckless
course of life: she might possess the key to the treatment
I had received, or, if not, could procure it. There was the
hope of final knowledge in the present renewal of my acquaintance,
and thus my own happiness suggested it, no
less than my friend's.


Page 457

I was but a few paces from the house when the door
opened and a gentleman came out. I recognized Penrose
at the first glance, and I saw that he also recognized me,
before he reached the bottom of the steps. His appearance
in the house of Isabel Haworth's friend started a thousand
fierce suspicions in my breast. He had won, — he
was the fortunate suitor — possibly the caluminator to whom
I owed my disgrace! I stopped and would have turned,
but he was already upon me.

“Cousin John,” he said, and there was a tone in his voice
which forced me to stand still and listen, though I could
not take his offered hand, “where have you been? I tried
to find you, at the old place, but your landlady almost turned
me out of doors for asking. I thought you had anticipated
me in clearing the field. Come, don't glower at me in that
way, man! we can shake hands again.”

He took mine by force.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“That we are both floored. Floyd told me you had received
your walking-papers long ago, and so I pushed on
— to get mine. You were right, John; I did leave her out
of the account, in my calculations. But I never saw all
that I had lost until the moment of losing it. There, that 's
enough; we need n't mention her any more. I 'll write to
Matilda to-morrow to find a brace of elegantly finished
machines, with the hinges of their tongues, knees, and
ankles well oiled, — warranted to talk, dance, sit in a carriage,
lounge at the opera, and do all other things which
patent ladies may of right do. You shall have one, and
I 'll take the other.”

He laughed — a low, bitter laugh of disappointment.

“Alexander,” I said, “I did not know of this before. I
held back my hand because I feared that you were my
fortunate rival. Now I give it to you, with my heart, if
you will take it after I have said one more word. I have
not ceased, and will not cease to love Isabel Haworth.


Page 458
Something has come between us which I cannot yet understand,
but, with God's help, I will remove it, and it may be
— I scarcely hope, Alexander, but it may be — that her
heart shall answer to mine. Now, will you take my

He looked at me, a moment, in silence. Then I felt my
hand locked in a firm grasp, which drew me nearer, until
our faces almost touched. His eyes read mine, and his lip
trembled as he spoke, —

“God bless you, John! I was right to fear you, but it is
too late to fear you now, and needless to hate you. I can't
wish you success, — that would be more than human. But
since she is lost to me there is less pain in the knowledge
that you should win her than another. If it comes I shall
not see it. I am going away, and it will be some comfort
to think of you still as my friend.”

“Going away?” I repeated; “you will leave New York
— give up your business?”

“No; my excuse is also my necessity. Dunn and Deering
have had an agency in San Francisco for two years
past, and it is now to be made a branch, under my charge.
The matter was talked of before, and I should probably
have been there already, but for — well, for her. We
understand each other now, and nothing more need be
said. Try to think kindly of me, John, though you may
not like the selfish and arbitrary streak I have inherited
from my father; let the natures of our mothers, only,
speak to each other in us!”

I had kept his hand in mine while he spoke. Little by
little I was growing to understand his powerful, manly
nature, mixed of such conflicting elements, and, in that
comprehension, to feel how powerless were his coveted
advantages of beauty, energy, and fortune, in the struggle
for happiness. Again I turned to my own past history
with shame. The three men nearest to me — Penrose,
Swansford, and Bob Simmons — were equally unfortunate,


Page 459
yet each courageously met his destiny, while I alone had
acted the part of a coward and a fool. I saw how shallow
had been my judgment, how unjust my suspicions, and the
old, boyish affection for my cousin came back to my heart.

“Alexander,” I said, “I will remember you as a brother.
If I ever thought unkindly of you, it was because I did
not know you truly. God bless and keep you!”

He was gone, and I stood at the door. Our meeting
had given me strength and courage, and I sought at once
an interview with Mrs. Deering.

She entered the room with a colder and statelier air
than I had before noticed in her. I felt, however, only the
solemn importance of my errand, and the necessity of communicating
it without delay. I therefore disregarded her
somewhat formal gesture, inviting me to be seated, stepped
nearer to her, and said, —

“Mrs. Deering, you will pardon me if I commit an indiscretion
in what I have to say. It concerns a very dear
friend of mine who was once a friend of yours, — Charles

She started slightly, and seemed about to speak, but I
went on.

“He is lying on his death-bed, Mrs. Deering. He may
have but a day — nay, perhaps only an hour — to live. He
placed in my charge a musical work of his own composition,
to be delivered to you after his death; but I have
come now, unknown to him, to tell you that I believe no
greater blessing could be granted to his last moments than
the sight of your face and the sound of your voice. I need
not say anything more than this. If your heart inclines
you to fulfil my wish, — mine, remember, not his, — I am
ready to conduct you. If not, he will never know that I
have spoken it.”

Her cold dignity was gone; pale and trembling, she
leaned upon the back of a chair. Her voice was faint
and broken. “You know what he is — was — to me?”
she said.


Page 460

“I knew it last night for the first time, and then only
because he thought he was dying. I come to you at the
command of my own conscience, and the rest must be left
to yours.”

“I will go!” she exclaimed; “it cannot be wrong now.
God, who sees my soul, knows that I mean no wrong!”

“No, Mrs. Deering; since you have so decided, let me
say to you that my poor friend's life of suffering and
despair would have been ignobly borne for your sake, had
you refused this last, pious act of consolation.”

She grasped my hand in hers, crying, through her starting
tears, — “Thank you, Mr. Godfrey! You have acted
as a true friend to him and me. Let us go at once!”

Her carriage was ordered, and in a quarter of an hour
we were on the way to Hester Street. She leaned back in
the corner, silent, with clasped hands, during the ride, and
when we reached the door was so overcome by her agitation
that I was almost obliged to lift her from the carriage.
I conducted her first to my own room, and then entered
Swansford's, to prepare him for the interview.

He had been sleeping, and awoke refreshed; his voice
was weak, but clear, and his depressed, unhappy mood
seemed to be passing away. I sat down beside him on the
bed, and took his hand in mine.

“Swansford,” I said, “if you could have one wish fulfilled
now, what would it be? If, of all persons you have
ever known, one might come to visit you, whom would you

A bright, wistful gleam flitted over his face a moment
and then died out. “No one,” he sighed.

“But there is some one, Swansford, — one who waits
your permission to come to you. Will you admit her?”


His voice was like a cry, and such a wild, eager, wondering
expression flashed into his features that I beckoned to
Bob and we stole out of the room. Then I opened the


Page 461
door for Mrs. Deering, and closed it softly behind her,
leaving them alone.

Do you ask what sacred phrases of tenderness, what confession
of feelings long withheld, what reciprocal repentance
and forgiveness, were crowded into that interview?
I would not reveal them if I knew. There are some
experiences of human hearts, in which God claims the
exclusive right of possession, and I will not profanely venture
into their sanctities.

Bob and I sat together in my room, talking in low tones,
until more than an hour had passed. Then we heard the
door of Swansford's room move, and I stepped forward to
support Mrs. Deering's tottering steps. I placed her in
a chair, and hastened to ascertain Swansford's condition
before accompanying her to her home. His wasted face
reposed upon the pillow in utter, blissful exhaustion; his
eyes were closed, but tears had stolen from under the lids
and sparkled on his white cheeks.

“Swansford,” I said, kneeling beside him, “do you forgive
me for what I have done?”

He smiled with ineffable sweetness, gently drew my head
nearer, and kissed me.

When I left Mrs. Deering at her door, she said to me, —
“I must ask your forgiveness, Mr. Godfrey: I fear I have
done you injustice in my thoughts. If it is so, and the
fancies I have had are not idle, I will try to save you
from” —

She paused. Her words were incomprehensible, but
when I would have begged an explanation, she read the
question in my face before it was uttered, and hastily exclaimed,
as she gave me her hand, — “No, no; not to-night.
Leave me now, if you please; but I shall expect to see
you every day while — he lives.”

As I walked homewards, pondering on the event of the
evening, it was easy to perceive a connection between the
formal air with which Mrs. Deering had received me and


Page 462
her parting words. I surmised that she had heard something
to my disadvantage, either from Miss Haworth, or
from the same source as the latter, and thus the clue I
sought seemed about to be placed in my hand. I should
no longer be the victim of a mysterious, intangible hostility,
but, knowing its form, could arm myself to overcome it.
Hope stole back into my heart, and set the suppressed
pulses of love to beating.

From the close of that interview Swansford's condition
seemed to be entirely changed. The last drop of bitterness
was washed out of his nature; he was calm, resigned, and
happy. He allowed me to send a message to his mother
and sisters, which he had previously refused, and lingered
long enough to see them at his bedside. He had insisted
on being laid in an unmarked grave, among the city's poor,
but now he consented that his body should be taken to his
Connecticut home and placed beside its kindred. The
last few days of his life were wholly peaceful and serene.

“He 's an angel a'ready,” Bob said, and so we all felt.
The decay of his strength became so regular towards the
close that the physician was able to predict the hour when
it would cease. We, who knew it, were gathered together,
around the unconscious sufferer, who had asked to be raised
and supported, in almost a sitting posture. His eyes wandered
from one face to another, with a look too far removed
from earth to express degrees of affection. All at once
his lips moved, and he began to sing: —

“His songs are hushed, his music fled,
And amaranth crowns —”

There his voice stopped, and his heart stopped with it.

I went to Connecticut with his family, and saw the last
rites performed in the green little church-yard among the
hills. Then I left his cheated hopes, his thwarted ambition,
his shattered life to moulder there, believing that Divine
Mercy had prepared a compensation for him in the eternal


Page 463

Mrs. Deering's explanation, delayed by my constant attendance
during the last days, and the solemn duties which
followed, came at last; but it was not so satisfactory as I
had hoped. All that I could clearly ascertain was that
Miss Haworth had heard something — knew, indeed, the
latter had declared to Mrs. Deering — to my prejudice,
and had prohibited all mention of my name. Mrs. Deering
naturally trusted to her friend's judgment, and my
absence from a house where I had been so cordially received,
confirmed her in the belief that her own vague
suspicions must have a basis in reality. It was not necessary,
she said, to mention them; she had heard nothing,
knew nothing, except that Miss Haworth considered me
unworthy of her acquaintance. She was now convinced
that there was a mistake somewhere, and it should be her
duty to assist in clearing up the mystery.

Mrs. Deering also informed me of another circumstance
which had occurred some weeks before. Miss Haworth had
left her step-father's house very suddenly, and gone alone
to Boston, where she had relatives. It was rumored —
but on what grounds nobody knew — that when she returned,
it would not be to Gramercy Park. There must
have been some disturbance, for she, Mrs. Deering, her
most intimate friend, would otherwise have heard from her.
She was on the point of writing, to inquire into the truth
of the rumor, when my visit, and the excitement and preoccupation
of her mind with Swansford's fate, had driven
the subject from her thoughts. Now, however, she would
lose no time. If the story were true, she would offer Miss
Haworth a temporary home in her own house.

During these conversations, it was natural that my extreme
anxiety to ascertain the nature of my presumed
offence, and to be replaced, if possible, in Miss Haworth's
good opinion, should betray its true cause. I knew that
Mrs. Deering read my heart correctly, and added her hopes
to mine, although the subject was not openly mentioned


Page 464
between us. She was never weary of recounting the noble
womanly virtues of her friend, nor was I ever weary of
listening. The two women had been educated in the same
school, and were familiar with the circumstances of each
other's lives. I thus made good progress in the knowledge
of my beloved, even though she was absent and estranged.

While Mrs. Deering was waiting for an answer from
Boston, Penrose sailed for California. The evening before
his departure we spent together. Upon one subject there
was a tacit understanding of silence, but on all others we
were free and candid as brothers. With him went a portion
of my life which I resolved must be renewed in the future,
but when or how was as indefinite as the further course of
my own fortunes.