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Page 465


Through all the period of agitation which I have just
described I adhered faithfully to my work, and in spite of
the demands upon my purse for poor Swansford's necessisities
(and they were gladly answered), I slowly recovered
my lost position of independence. Bob's generous loan
was returned, I was free of other debt, and possessed once
more an assured and sufficient income. Those months of
vagabondage seemed like a dark, uneasy dream, in the
steady light of resolution which now filled my life; it was
as if a sultry haze in which the forms of Good and Evil
were blended, and the paths of order and of license become
an inextricable labyrinth, had been blown away, leaving
the landscape clearer than ever before. I will not say
that all temptations died, or no longer possessed a formidable
power; but I was able to recognize them under whatever
mask they approached, and patient to wait for the day
when each conditional sin of the senses should resolve itself
into a permitted bounty.

On one subject alone I was not patient, and my disappointment
was extreme when Mrs. Deering informed me
that she had received a letter from Boston stating only
that the rumor was true, — Miss Haworth would not return
to her step-father's house in Gramercy Park. She would
accept her friend's invitation when she came back to New
York, — probably in a fortnight, or thereabouts. There
was a hint, it was true, of further confidences, when they
should meet. I begged Mrs. Deering to write again, and


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ask, at least, an explanation of the mystery in which I was
concerned. It was her right, I insisted, since she now permitted
me to cal myself her friend.

Four days afterwards, on returning to my lodgings late
at night, after the completion of my editorial labors, I found
a small note upon my table. It was addressed in a woman's
hand, which struck my eye as familiar, although it was not
Mrs. Deering's, and I had long since ceased to receive
notes from any other lady, — even from Adeliza Choate. I
opened it carelessly and read: —

“I have judged you unjustly, and treated you rudely,
Mr. Godfrey. If I have not forfeited the right to make
reparation, or you have not lost the desire to receive it,
will you call upon me to-morrow evening, at Mrs. Deering's,
and oblige

Isabel Haworth.

I am not certain what I did during the next ten minutes
after reading this note; but I have a dim recollection of
sinking on my knees at the bedside, and bowing my head
on the coverlet, as my mother had taught me to do when a
little boy. The work for which I had been trying to arm
myself was already done. It mattered not now who was
the enemy, nor what the weapon he had used against me;
she confessed her injustice, — confessed it fully, directly,
and honorably, as became her nature. The only prayer to
which I could bend my mind, before yielding to sleep that
night, was, “God, give me Isabel Haworth!”

The next morning I wrote the single line, —

“I will come.

John Godfrey,” —

and carried it to Fourteenth Street myself, unwilling to
trust the fate of the message to other hands. That day
was the longest of my life. It was hard to force my mind
into its habitual harness, and go over the details of a new
sugar-refinery which was to be described for the morrow's


Page 467
paper, when my imagination was busy with the rippled hair
and the soft violet eyes I had so long missed.

Let me overlook the memory of that gnawing impatience
and hasten forward to the evening. At the earliest moment
permitted by the habits of society, I presented myself
at Mrs. Deering's door, and sent my name to Miss Haworth.
I had not long to wait; she came into the room taller, it
seemed to me, and more imposing in her presence, — but
it was only the queenly air of right and justice which enveloped
her. The sweet, frank face was pale, but firm,
and the eyes did not droop or waver an instant, as they met
my gaze. I forgot everything but the joy of seeing her
again, of being restored to her society, and went forward
to meet her, as if nothing had occurred since our last

But she stopped and held me, by some subtle influence,
from giving her the hand I was about to extend. “Wait,
if you please, Mr. Godfrey,” she said. “Before I can allow
you to meet me as a friend, — even if you are generous
enough to forgive, unexplained, the indignity with which I
have treated you, — you must hear how far I have suffered
myself to be misled by representations and appearances to
do cruel wrong to your character as a man.”

She stood so firm and resolute before me, bending her
womanly pride to the confession of injustice with a will so
noble that my heart bowed down at her feet and did her
homage. It was enough; I would spare her the rest of her
voluntary reparation.

“Miss Haworth,” I said, “let it end here. You have already
admitted that you judged me wrongly, and I ask no
more. I do not seek to know what were your reasons for
denying me the privilege of your — acquaintance; it is
enough to know that they are now removed.”

“It is not enough!” she exclaimed. “I claim to be accountable
for every act of my life. You have a right to
demand an explanation; you would demand it from a gentleman,


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and I am not willing to shelter myself under that
considerate sentiment towards our sex which would spare
me a momentary humiliation, by depriving me of the opportunity
of satisfying my sense of justice. Be candid, Mr.
Godfrey, and confess that the unexplained wrong would
rest uneasily in your memory.”

Her sense of truth struck deeper than my instinct of the
moment. I felt that she was right; it was better that
everything should be told now, and the Past made clear,
for the sake of the Future.

“It is true,” I said. “I am ready to hear all that you
consider necessary to be told.”

She paused a moment, but not from hesitation. She
was only considering how to begin. When she spoke, her
voice was calm and steady, and I felt that the purpose
which prompted her was but the natural suggestion of her

“I believe that one's instincts are generally true, and
therefore I presume you already suspect that my step-brother,
Mr. Tracy Floyd, is no friend of yours?”

I bowed in assent.

“Although I had no reason to attach much weight to
Mr. Floyd's opinions, I will admit that other circumstances
had shaken my faith, for a time, in the sincerity and honesty
of men; that I was — perhaps morbidly — suspicious,
and hence his insinuations in regard to yourself, though not
believed, disposed me to accept other causes for belief. They
assumed to be based on certain circumstances which he
had discovered, and, therefore, when another circumstance,
seeming to confirm them most positively, came under my
own observation, I did believe. It was a shallow, hasty,
false judgment, — how false, I only discovered a few weeks
ago. I am ashamed of myself, for the truth bids me honor
you for the very act which I interpreted to your shame.”

Her words were brave and noble, but I did not yet understand
their application. I felt my cheeks glow and my


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heart throb with happiness at hearing my own praise from
her lips. She paused again, but I would not interrupt her

“You may remember,” she continued, “having called
upon me, shortly after my return from the Northwest.
Mr. Penrose was there at the same time, and you left the
house together. My step-brother came into the room as
you were taking leave. He was already in the habit of
making depreciative remarks when your name happened
to be mentioned; but on that evening he seemed particularly
exasperated at your visit. It is not necessary for
me to repeat all that he said, — the substance of it was
that your habits of life rendered you unfit for the society
of ladies, — that he, being, by the relation between our
parents, permitted to look upon himself as my protector,
warned me that any appearance of friendship towards you,
on my part, would occasion me embarrassment, if not injury.
I could not reconcile his assertion with the impression
of your character which I had derived from my previous
acquaintance with you; but, as I said before, Mr.
Godfrey, I had had unpleasant experiences of human selfishness
and hypocrisy, — my situation, indeed, seemed to
expose me to such experiences, — and I became doubtful
of my own judgment. Then came a singular chance, — in
which, without my will, I played the spy upon your actions,
and saw, as I supposed, the truth of all Mr. Floyd had

My eyes were fixed upon her face, following her words
with breathless interest. Not yet could I imagine the act
or acts to which she referred. I saw, however, that the
coming avowal required an effort of courage, and felt,
dimly, that the honor and purity of her woman's nature
were called upon to meet it.

“You have saved a woman,” she said, “and it should not
be hard for me to render simple justice to a man. I passed
Washington Square one evening, Mr. Godfrey, when you


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were there to hear the story of an unfortunate girl. I saw
you endeavoring to help and console her, — supporting her
with your arm, — but I could hear neither your words nor
hers. I trusted only to the evidence of my eyes, and they
confirmed all that I had heard against you.”

“What!” I exclaimed, “how was it possible?”

“I was in my carriage, bound on an errand which took
me to the corner opposite the lamp under which you stood.
As the coachman pulled up his horses, you moved away
under the trees, as if fearful of being observed. The
duplicity of your nature (as I took it to be) seemed to me
all the darker and more repulsive from your apparent frankness
and honesty; I was tired of similar discoveries, and
I resolved, from that moment that I would know you no
longer. It is my habit to act upon impulse, and I seized
the first opportunity which occurred, — with what injustice,
what rudeness I did not suspect until I learned the truth.
I have tried to be as swift to atone as I was to injure, but
you were not to be found; I knew not where a word from
me might reach you until I received Mrs. Deering's last

“Miss Haworth!” I cried, “say no more! you have
acted nobly, — generously. I never accused you in my
heart, — never.” The next word would have betrayed my
passion. I held it back from my lips with a mighty effort,
but took her hand, bent my head over it and kissed it.
When I looked up her eyes drooped, and the clear lines
of her face were overspread with a wonderful softness and

“Tell me only,” I said, “how you learned anything more;
who gave you an account of my interview with” —

I paused involuntarily. Her eyes were lifted steadily to
mine, and she completed the unfinished sentence, —

“Jane Berry. From whom could I learn her story but
from herself? She has told me all. It was she who went
in my behalf to search for you.”


Page 471

It was my turn to drop my eyes. Had Jane Berry indeed
told her all? No, it could not be; for in that case
Miss Haworth might not have been so anxious to make
reparation. She now overvalued as much as she had
before undervalued my nature. What I seemed, in her
pure, just eyes, I guessed with pain, as I remembered what
I had been. But the mystery was not yet entirely clear;
I thrust back the memory of my shame, and questioned her
again, —

“How did you meet Jane Berry?”

To my surprise, Miss Haworth seemed embarrassed what
answer to give. She was silent a moment, and a light,
rosy flush came into her face. Then she said, —

“Is it not enough, Mr. Godfrey, that I have met her? —
that I am trying to help her, as my duty bids me?”

In what followed, I obeyed an irresistible impulse.
Whence it came, I cannot tell; I was hurried along by
a leap of the heart, so rapid that there was no time left
to ask whither it was precipitating me. But the love
nourished so long and sweetly, assailed by rivalry, suddenly
hurled back, half held in check by the efforts of
an immature will, and outraged by evil courses, now reasserted
its mastery over me, filled and penetrated my being
with its light and warmth, shone from my eyes, and trembled
on my tongue. I was powerless to stay its expression.
All thought of the disparity of our condition, of the contrast
between her womanly purity and nobility and my unworthiness
as a man, vanished from my mind. I only felt
that we stood face to face, heart before heart, and from the
overbrimming fulness of mine, I cried, —

“I know what you think, Miss Haworth, — how kindly
you judge me. I know, still better, how little claim I have
to be honored in your thoughts, and yet I dare, — how shall
I say it? — dare to place myself where only your equal in
truth and in goodness ought to stand! I should give you
time to know me better before telling you, as I must, that


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I love you, — love you! Not first now, but long before
I seemed to have lost you, and ever since, in spite of its
hopelessness. I cannot thank you without betraying what
is in my heart. I did not think to say this to-night; I came,
too happy in the knowledge that you called me back, to
dream of asking more, but your presence brings to my
lips the words that may banish me forever. I ask nothing;
love cannot be begged. I have no reason to hope; yet,
Isabel Haworth, I love you, and believe that you will pardon
if you cannot bless!”

A silence followed my words. I stood with bent head,
as if awaiting a blow, while the gas-light fluttered and hummed
in the chandelier above us. Presently a soft voice —
my heart stood still, listening to its perfect music — stole
upon the hush of the room.

“I knew it already.”

“Then,” — but I did not finish the sentence. Our eyes
met, and tremulous stars of twilight glimmered through the
violet of hers. Our hands met, and of themselves drew us
together; drunken and blinded with happiness, I felt the
sweetness of her lips yield itself, unshrinkingly, to mine.
Then my arms folded themselves about her waist, her hands
clasped my neck, my cheek caressed the silken, rippled
gold of her temples, and I sighed, from the depth of a
grateful soul, — “Oh, thank God! thank God!”

She felt the touch of the tear that sparkled on her hair.
Once more I pressed my lips to her pure brow, and whispered,
— “Tell me, is it true, Isabel?”

She lifted her head and smiled, as we tried to see each
other's hearts in the dim mirror of either's eyes.

“I knew it,” she repeated, “but I also knew something
more. Oh, it is blessed to find rest at last!”

Then she slipped from my arms, and sank into a chair,
covering her face with her hands. I knelt down beside
her, caressing her lovely head. “I thought I had lost you,”
she murmured; “I did not venture to hope that you would
forgive me so easily.”


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“Darling!” I exclaimed, taking her hand in mine, — “I
never accused you. I knew that something had crept between
us, which I could not remove until I should discover
its nature. Until to-night I have been ignorant of your
reason for my dismissal. Had I suspected, — had you
given me a chance” —

“Ah,” she interrupted me, “you will understand my
abruptness now! It was because I loved you, then, John,
that I felt outraged and humiliated — that I resolved never
to see you again. You, of all the young men I knew, seemed
to me earnest and sincere; I trusted in you, from the start,
and just as I began to hope — as you hoped, John — came
this blow to both of us. It could not have cost you more
to bear than it cost me to inflict. Are you sure you have
pardoned me?”

“Isabel!” was all the reply I could make, except that
wonderful speech of the silent, meeting lips.

My bliss was too pure, too perfect to be long enjoyed
without disturbance. Her maidenly courage, her frank
and fearless confession of reciprocal love, filled me with a
double trust and tenderness; but it also recalled, ere long,
the shrinking, evasive silence of the false-hearted Amanda.
That pitiful episode of my life must be confessed — nor
that alone. I would not wrong the noble confidence of my
darling by allowing her to think me better than I was, —
or, rather, had been; for now the highest virtue, the sternest
self-denial, seemed little to pay in return for my blessing.
Ah, had I found it but to lose it again? This under-current
of thought drove nearer and nearer the surface,
clouding the golden ether I breathed, infusing its bitter
drop into the nectar of my joy.

“Isabel,” I said, “I dare not win the fortune of my life
so easily. I have been weak and sinful; you must first
hear my story, and then decide whether it is fitting that I
should stand beside you. I owe it to you to complete your
knowledge of myself.”


Page 474

“I expected nothing less from you, John,” she said. “It
is just: nothing in either's experience should be obscure to
the other. You give me the Present, you promise me the
Future, and I therefore have a right to the Past.”

She spoke so firmly and cheerfully that my heart was
reassured. I would postpone the confession until our next
meeting, and indulge myself, for this one sacred evening,
in the perfect sweetness of my bliss. But another reflection
perversely arose to trouble me, — how should my poverty
consort with her wealth? How should I convince —
not her, but the unbelieving world — of the pure, unselfish
quality of my affection? Neither would I speak of this;
but she saw the shadow of the thought pass over my face,
and archly asked, —

“What else?”

“I will tell you,” I said. “Your place in the world is
above mine. I cannot make a ladder of my love, and
mount to the ease and security which it is a man's duty to
create for himself. Whatever your fortune may be, you
must allow me to achieve mine. The difference between
us is an accident which my heart does not recognize, —
would to God there were only this difference! — but I dare
not take advantage of the equality of love, to escape a
necessity, which it is best, for your sake as well as my own,
that I should still accept. You understand me, Isabel?”

“Perfectly,” she answered, smiling. “Not for the world's
sake, but for your own, I agree to your proposal. An idle
life would not make you happy, and I ought to be glad, on
my part, that my little fortune has not kept us apart. So
far, it has rather been my misfortune. It has drawn to me
the false love, and now it shall not be allowed to rob me
of the true. Do not let this thing come between our hearts.
If it were yours, you would share it with me and I should
freely enjoy what it brings; but a man is proud where a
woman would be humble, and your pride is a part of yourself,
and I love you as you are!”


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“God grant that I may deserve you!” was all I could
say. A softer and holier spirit of tenderness descended
upon my heart. Now, indeed, might my mother rejoice
over me, in her place amid the repose of heaven.

Presently there was a gentle knock at the door, and a
familiar voice said, — “May I come in?”

It was Mrs. Deering, whose face brightened as she looked
from one to the other. She said nothing, but took Isabel
in her arms and kissed her tenderly. Then she gave me
her hand, and I felt sympathy and congratulation in its

“It is cruel in me to interrupt you,” she said, when we
were all seated, — “but do you know how long I have left
you alone? An hour and three quarters, by my watch, and
I was sure, Isabel, that you had long ago finished making
your amende. Mr. Godfrey, I believe this girl is capable
of accepting a challenge. I should think her a man, in her
courage and sense of right, if she had not proved herself
such a dear, good, faithful woman-friend to me. Then, I
was afraid, Mr. Godfrey, that you might slip away before I
could tell you that I know the cause of Isabel's misunderstanding,
and thank you, as a woman, for what you did.
And we have been to see Mary Maloney this afternoon, and
have heard your praises without end.”

“But Jane Berry!” I exclaimed, to cover my confusion;
“where is she? I must see her again.”

“I have found a quiet place for her, in Harlem,” Isabel
replied. “But, before you see her, you must know how I
became acquainted with her and her story. Only, not tonight,
John, pray; to-morrow, — you will come again tomorrow?”

“To-morrow, and every day, until the day when I shall
cease to come, because I shall cease to go.”

Mrs. Deering laughed and clapped her hands gleefully.
“I see how it is!” she cried; “I shall lose the use of my
parlor, from this time forth; but the interviews must be


Page 476
limited to two hours. At the end of that time I shall make
my appearance, watch in hand. Now, good-night, Mr.
Godfrey, — good-night, and God bless you!”

A quick, warm pressure of the hand, and she stole out
of the room.

“She has told me all,” said Isabel, turning to me, “and
we have played the symphony, and wept over it together.
It is a little wild and incoherent, but there is the beat of a
breaking heart in it from beginning to end. You were a
true friend to him, John; how I have wronged you!”

“I have wronged myself,” I exclaimed; “but we will
talk no more of that now. My dear Isabel — my dear
wife, in the sight of Heaven, say once more that you love
me, and I will keep the words in my ear and in my heart
until we meet again!”

She laid her arms about my neck, she looked full in my
face with her brave and lovely eyes, and said, — “I love
you, — you only, now and forever.” Then, heart to heart,
and lip to lip, our beings flowed together, and the man's
nature in me received the woman's, and thenceforth was
truly man.

“Stay!” she whispered, when I would have left, — “stay,
one moment!” She glided from the room, but returned
almost immediately, with a slip of crumpled paper in her

“Here” she said, holding it towards me, — “this separated
us, this brought us together again. It can do no further
harm or service. Let me burn it, and with it the memory
— for both of us — of the evening when it was written.”

I looked at it, and read, with indescribable astonishment,
the words, — “Miss Haworth informs Mr. Godfrey that
her acquaintance with him has ceased.” It was the very
note I had received that evening in Gramercy Park!

“Isabel! what does this mean?” I cried, in amazement.


Page 477

She smiled, lighted one end of the paper at the gas-burner,
watched it slowly consume, and threw its black,
shrivelling phantom into the grate.

“It belongs to the story,” she said; — “you shall hear
everything to-morrow. Now good-night!”