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Page 491


Did ever such a summer shine upon the earth? Did
the shadow-broidery of trees ever deepen into the perfect
canopy of shade, the bud open into the blossom, May ripen
to June, with such a sweet, glowing, unbroken transition?
Never, at least, had I seen the same diamond sparkle on
the waves of the harbor, in my morning walks on the Battery,
or the same mellow glory of sunset over Union Square,
in returning from interviews which grew dearer and happier
with every repetition. Even the coming separation
could not rob the season of its splendor: day after day the
sun shone, and the breezes blew, and the fresh leaves whispered
to one burden, — joy, joy, joy!

And day by day there came to me a truer and holier
knowledge of Isabel's nature. It seemed, indeed, that I
had never known a woman before, in the beautiful harmony
which binds and reconciles her apparent inconsistencies, so
that courage may dwell side by side with timidity, exaction
with bounty, purity with knowledge. The moral enigmas
which had perplexed me found in her their natural solution,
and she became at once my protecting and forgiving conscience.
I thought, then, that she surpassed me in everything,
but her truer instinct prefigured my own maturer
development. Love can seldom exist without a balance of
compensations, and I have lived to know — and to be
grateful for the knowledge — that I am her help and stay,
as she is mine.


Page 492

Fortunately for myself, she was not a woman of genius,
to overpower my proper ambition, or bend it to her will.
Such may consort with the gentle, yielding, contented persons
of our sex who supply that repose which is the coveted
complement of the restless quality. Genius is always hermaphroditic,
adding a male element to the woman and a
female to the man. In Isabel, the strong sentiment of justice
and the noble fearlessness with which she obeyed its
promptings, were also the sterling attributes of her own
sex, and they but made her womanly softness rarer and
lovelier. Her admirable cultivation gave her an apparent
poise of character and ripeness of judgment, which protected,
not obscured, the fresh, virgin purity of her feelings.
My sentimental phantom of inconstancy vanished when I
compared my shallow emotion for Amanda with this perfect
passion in which I lived and moved and had my being.
Now, for the first time, I knew what it was to love.

I have said that a separation was approaching. Her
summer was to be spent, as usual, in the country, — the
greater part of it with Mrs. Deering, at Sachem's Head, —
which gave me the promise of an occasional brief visit.
Isabel's mother, in her will, had expressed the desire — it
was not worded as a command — that she would not marry
before her twenty-first birthday. Her fortune, until then,
was in the hands of trustees, of whom Mr. Floyd was one,
and from her eighteenth year she was allowed the use of
the annual income. Until now, her step-father had drawn
it in her name, and she had allowed him to use the greater
portion of it in his private speculations. Of course his consent
to her marriage was not to be expected, and she decided
not to mention her betrothal until she should come
into the possession of her property, in the following October.

We were discussing these prosaic matters, — not during
the second interview, be it understood, nor even the tenth,
— and I had confessed the trouble of mind which her fortune
had caused me, when she playfully asked, —


Page 493

“What were the dimensions of this terrible bugbear?
Taking your misgivings, John, and the eagerness of certain
others, one would suppose it to be a question of millions.
Tell me, candidly, what is presumed to be my market

“I don't know, precisely,” I answered; “Penrose said —
some hundreds of thousands!”

“Penrose!” She paused, and an expression of disappointment
passed over her face. “I would rather he had
not said it. I did not think him selfish, — in that way.
There is a mocking spirit in him which repels me, but I detected
noble qualities under it, at the last. I could have
accepted and honored him as a friend, if he had permitted
me. But to come back to the important subject, — he was
wrong, and your trouble might have been diminished by
two thirds, or three fourths, if you had known it. I am not
the heiress of romance.”

“So much the better!” I cried. “Neither are you the
lady of romance, `in gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls.'”

“You must hear the fact, John. My whole fortune is but
eighty thousand dollars, which, in New York, I believe, is
only considered to be a decent escape from poverty.
Having never enjoyed the possession of it, I feel that it
scarcely yet exists for me. I should value a tithe of it far
more, if it were earned by my own exertions, and this is
one reason why I yield so readily to your scornful independence
of me. I can enter into your feeling, for it is
also mine.”

I was really relieved that the disproportion between our
fortunes was reduced by so much, — though, for that matter,
eighty thousand seemed as unattainable as eight hundred
thousand. All I could aim at was the system of steady,
moderately remunerative labor upon which I had entered,
and the prospect of gradual improvement which it held
forth. I would, at least, not be an idle pensioner upon Isabel's
means. This resolution gave me new vigor, infused


Page 494
life into my performance of mechanical duties, and made
my services, as I soon discovered, of increased value, — for
the increased reward followed.

Our parting was the beginning of a correspondence in
which we still drew closer to each other, in the knowledge
of reciprocal want, and the expression of the deeper sympathies
born of absence. Our letters were long and frequent,
and then came, to interrupt them, the brief, delicious
visits, when I stole away for a Sabbath beside the blue water,
and Mrs. Deering managed that we should be left alone
to the extreme limit which Conventionality permitted.
Thus the bright summer wore away, nor once betrayed the
promise of its joyous opening.

It was the 9th of September, I recollect, — for in one
month, to a day, Isabel would become sole mistress of her
fortune, — that, on going down to the Wonder office at the
usual hour, I found a large, awkward-looking letter upon
my desk. The postmark was Reading, and I thought I
recognized my uncle's cramped, heavy hand in the configuration
of the words, — “Mr. John Godfrey.” I opened it
with some curiosity to know the occasion of this unexpected
missive, and read as follows: —

Respd. Nephew, — I take my Pen in hand to inform
you that Me and your aunt Peggy are injoying good Health
and Those Blessings which the Lord Vouchsafes to us. It
is a long Time since we have heard anything of you, but
suppose you are still ingaged in the same Occupation as at
first, and hence direct accordingly, hoping these few Lines
may come Safely to hand.

“It has been a fine Summer, for the crops. The grass
has grown for the Cattle and the herb for the Service of
man (Psalms 104, 14,) and the Butter market is well supplied.
Prices will be coming down, but I trust you have
Found that wealth is not increased by price (Ditto 44, 12,)


Page 495
and that Riches profit not in the day of wrath (Proverbs
11, 4). My business has Expanded, and I have reason to
be Thankful that I have so far escaped the Snares which
were laid for me as in a Trap (Job 18). Although I was
Compassed about, Praise be to the Lord, I have escaped.

“And this is the Reason why I write to you these few
lines. I might say to you Judge not that ye be not Judged
(Matthew 7, 1) if I was sure that your ears are not closed
in Stubbornness. I might Charge you as being one that
looketh on outward Appearance (Samuel 16, 7) but I will
not imitate your Behaviour to a man of your own Kin.
Sufficient unto the day is the Evil thereof, and as there is
a time for all things, (Eccl. 3) I hope your time for Acknowledgement
has come. I have waited for my Justification.
A long Time, it may seem to you, because you were
rash to suspect evil, but it has Been longer to me, because
I had to Bear your suspicion. With great wrestlings have
I wrestled, and I have Prevailed (Genesis 30, 8). It is
not good to be Rash, or to speak out of the Stirrings up of
the sinful Heart. It has been a sore Tribulation to your
aunt Peggy, though not rightfully to be laid at My door.

“Their Snares have failed and I am at last Able to realize
— which, since the Road has changed, as I suppose
you have seen by the Newspapers, is a proper punishment,
showing that the Counsels of the wicked is Deceit (Proverbs
12, 5). And you will See, much as you would not
Believe it at the time, that Sixhundredfold was below the
Mark, which was all I Promised, but will Act upright, and
it shall be even Shares to the Uttermost farthing. I prayed
to the Lord on my Bended knees that night, that He would
make my word Good, and let me not be Humbled, but it
is more than 2 years before He would allow it to come to
Pass, which I did not Count upon, and it is all the Better
for waiting. The new Survey was Made more than a year
ago, but Purchasers did not depend on the second change
until there was some Cuttings and Bridges. Besides, the


Page 496
others went about Crying it down, for Disappointment and
Spite, which had an effect on the Market, and so I would
not Realize until the thing was sure. You see now that it
was not Necessary to suspicion me of acting dishonest, and
to Breed up strife in the household. Where Strife is,
there is confusion (James 3, 16), and you Magnified your
own opinions at the time, but Blessed is the man that maketh
the Lord his trust and respecteth not the Proud (Proverbs
40, 4).

“I write these few Lines to inform you that Things are
now fixed, as I said before, and may be Put into your own
hands whenever you like. I Remind you that a Recpt. in
full is necessary for the Justification of my name, though
not aware of Evil reports, which might have been Expected
after the manner in which you Went away from my doors.
Your aunt bids me say that things may be Taken back between
Relations, and This should not be a matter too hard
for judgement, between blood and blood (Deuteronomy
17, 8). Therefore it Rests with yourself on what footing we
should stand. I will not bear Malice for past injustice, but
hope that you will acknowledge the lesser Truth, and yet
be Led to accept the Greater.

“If you come soon, Let me know the day beforehand
that all things may be Prepared. Your aunt says the spare
bedroom on the second story, if he will Take it, which I
repeat also for my own part — though the House is sold,
by reason of Retiring from business, we have not Moved
away. Our Congregation has been blessed with a great
Awakening and increase of members, and we expect to
build a Large Church in the spring. The town is growing,
houses go up wonderful fast, and Business improves
all the time. Himpel has prospered, being known as an
upright God-fearing Man, and the talents I leave in his
hands, Remaining Silent Pardner, will not be tied up in a

“Hoping these few Lines may reach you Safely, and


Page 497
find you injoying good Health, and waiting for an answer
whether you will come, no more at Present from

“Your uncle to command,

Amos Woolley.

Two things were evident from this somewhat incoherent
epistle, — that my uncle had finally “realized” his venture
in the coal-land speculation, and was ready to pay my share
of the investment; and secondly, that he had keenly felt
the force of my accusations and desired a reconciliation.
The matter had almost passed out of my mind during the
eventful two years which had elapsed since my last visit to
Reading. I had given up my little inheritance as lost, and
never dreamed that it might yet be restored to me. My
own experience, in the mean time, disposed me to judge
more leniently of my uncle's unauthorized use of the money,
— especially now that his scheme had succeeded. Success
has a wonderful moral efficacy. I could also imagine how
his pride of righteousness had been wounded by my words,
— how they would come back to his mind and pull him
down when he would fain have exalted himself, and thus
become a perpetual thorn to his conscience.

Moreover, in looking back to the days of my life in Reading,
I was able to read his character more intelligently.
I saw that he was sincere, and that his apparent hypocrisy
was simply the result of narrowness and ignorance. He
had not sufficient intellect to be liberal, nor sufficient moral
force to be consistent. In most of the acts of his life, he
doubtless supposed himself to be right, and if, in this one
instance, he had yielded to a strong temptation, his ultimate
intention was honest. I was willing to concede that he
never meant to defraud me, — nay, that he was even unaware
of the fraudulent construction which might be put
upon his act.

The same day I dispatched the following answer: —


Page 498
Dear Uncle,

“The news contained in your letter of the 7th was quite
unexpected, but none the less welcome, for your sake as
well as my own. While I still think that the disposal of
my little property ought to have been left to myself, I
cheerfully acquit you of any intention to do me wrong, and
to show that I not only bear no malice, but am willing to
retract my hasty insinuations against your character, I will
accept your proffered hospitality when I visit Reading.
You may expect me within the next four or five days.

“Reserving all further information concerning my own
fortunes until we meet, I subscribe myself, with an affectionate
greeting for Aunt Peggy, your nephew,

John Godfrey.

Mr. Clarendon, whose fatherly interest in my career was
renewed, and to whom I had confided much of my early
history, promptly and generously seconded my wishes. I
remained only long enough to write to Isabel, and to find
Bob Simmons and tell him that he must spend his next
Sunday evening elsewhere than in my attic in Hester
Street. Then I set out for Reading, by way of Philadelphia.

There was an accident on the road, which so delayed the
evening train that it was between nine and ten o'clock before
I arrived. Knowing that my uncle was already in bed,
I went to the Mansion House and engaged quarters for the
night. The host conducted me to a narrow room, which
was only fitted for repose and privacy when the adjoining
chambers happened to be vacant. One of these communicated
with mine by a door in the partition, which, though
locked, was so shrunk at the top and bottom that it no
more kept out sound than a sieve. I was both fatigued
from the journey and excited by my visit to the old place;
so I threw myself at once into bed, and lay there, unable
to sleep, meditating on the changes of the past two or three


Page 499

Perhaps half an hour had gone by, when footsteps and
rustling noises passed my door, a key was turned, and the
same noises entered the adjoining chamber.

“Open the window — I won't have my dresses smoked!”
exclaimed a voice which sent a nervous shock through my

“You did n't used to be so damned particular,” was the
brutal answer. And now I recognized the pair.

“Well, — never mind about this. I sha'n't wear it again,”
said she, in a bitter, compressed voice. “I 've told you already,
Mr. Rand, that I 've always been used to having
money when I want it, — and I want it now. You 've
cheated Pa out of enough to keep me in dresses for a lifetime,
and you must make it up to me.

“How the devil am I to get it?” he exclaimed, with a
short, savage laugh.

“I don't know and I don't care. You and Mulford were
very free to put everything into Old Woolley's pocket. If
you will be a fool, don't think that I am going to suffer for

“I wish that soft-headed Godfrey had run away with
you, before I ever set eyes on your confounded face. You
damned cat! Who 'd think, to hear you purring before
folks, and rubbing your back affectionately against everybody's
feet, that you could hiss, and spit, and scratch?”

“I wish he had!” she exclaimed. “Godfrey will be
Old Woolley's heir.”

I was first made aware that I had burst into a loud,
malicious laugh, by the sudden, alarmed silence, followed
by low whispers, in the next room. They were themselves
my avengers. Now, indeed, I saw from what a fate I had
been mercifully saved, and blessed the Providence which
had dealt the blow. There was no more audible conversation
between my neighbors that night. They must have
discovered afterwards, from my name on the hotel register,
who it was that overheard their amiable expressions. I


Page 500
saw them, next morning, from the gentlemen's end of the
breakfast-table, as they came down together, serene and
smiling, she leaning affectionately on his arm. Let them
go! The world, no doubt, considers them a happy and
devoted pair.

Nothing in the old grocery was changed except Bolty,
who now wore a clean shirt and a pen at his ear, and kept
his mouth mostly shut. He had two younger assistants in
the business, but still reserved to himself the service of
favorite customers. When he saw me entering the door,
he jumped over the counter with great alacrity.

“Why, Mr. Godfrey!” he cried, “this is a surprise. Not
but what I had a hint of it, when your letter came, — by
yisterday mornin's mail. Glad to see you in My Establishment,
— one o' my fust customers, — ha, ha! Did you notice
the sign? I guess not, — you was n't lookin' up.”

I was obliged, perforce, to follow Bolty out upon the
pavement, and notice the important fact that “Woolley
&” was painted out, and “Leopold” painted in; so that
now the sign read, — and, I was sure would continue to
read, for a great many years to come, — “Leopold Himpel's
Grocery Store.

I determined that no trace of what had passed between
us should be visible in my manner towards my uncle and
aunt. I even gave the latter a kiss when we met, which
brought forth a gush of genuine tears. There was, of
course, a mutual sense of embarrassment at first, but as
both parties did their best to overcome it, we were soon
sitting together and talking as pleasantly and familiarly as
if our relations had never been disturbed.

When Aunt Peggy had withdrawn to the kitchen to look
after her preparations for dinner, Uncle Amos gave me a
long and very circumstantial history of his speculation.
There was a great deal which I could not clearly understand
at the time, but which has since then been elucidated
by my own experience in matters of business.


Page 501

The original scheme had indeed offered a very tempting
prospect of success. Several large tracts of coal-land had
been purchased for a comparatively insignificant sum, on
account of their remoteness from lines of transportation.
The plan of the new railroad which was to give them a
sudden and immense increase of value, had not yet been
made public, but the engineering scout employed by the
capitalists had made his report. He was an acquaintance
of Mulford, who had formerly been concerned with my
uncle in some minor transactions. This, however, was to
be a grand strike, promising a sure fortune to each.

After the charter for the road had been obtained, and
the preliminary surveys were made, the aforesaid tracts of
land might have been sold at triple or quadruple their cost.
This, however, did not satisfy the speculators, whose appetites
were only whetted by their partial success. Then a
period of financial disturbance ensued: some of the capitalists
interested in the road became embarrassed, and the
work stopped. The coal-lands fell again in value, and the
prospective fortunes dwindled in proportion. Up to this
time the lands had been held as a joint-stock investment,
my uncle's share being one fifth; but now there was a
nominal dissolution of partnership, at the instance of Mulford,
Bratton, and the Rands, each receiving his share of
the property, to be held thenceforth in his own name, and
disposed of at his own individual pleasure. My uncle was
no match for his wily associates. After a series of manœuvres
which I will not undertake to explain, they succeeded
in foisting upon him a tract lying considerably aside from
the proposed line of the road, and divided from it (a
fact of which he was not aware) by a lofty spur of the

When he discovered the swindle, he gave himself up for
lost. The others held, it seemed, the only tracts likely to
be profitable at some future day, while his, though it might
be packed with anthracite, was valueless, because inaccessible.


Page 502
He visited the spot, however, toiled over his two
square miles of mountain and forest, and learned one or
two circumstances which gave him a slight degree of comfort
and encouraged him to wait. In eighteen months
from that time the first projected road was still in abeyance,
while the trains of the Delaware and Lackawanna
were running within a mile of his property! There were
facilities for building, at little cost, a short connecting
branch: a golden radiance shone over the useless wilderness,
and he had finally “realized,” for something more
than tenfold his investment.

“Now,” said Uncle Amos, wiping his fat forehead with a
bandanna handkerchief, — for the narrative was long, intricate,
and exciting, — “now, you can easy calculate what
your share amounts to. I 've allowed you interest every
year, and interest on that again, as if it had been regularly
put out, and you 'll find that it comes, altogether, to within
a fraction of twenty thousand dollars. I 'll say square
twenty thousand, because you can then invest it in a lump:
there 's less temptation to split and spend. The money 's
in the Bank, and you can have a check for 't this minute.
If you 've felt sore and distrustful about it all this while,
don't forget what I've gone through with, that had all the
risk and responsibility.”

“We will think no more of what has gone by, uncle,” I
said. “I will take your advice. The money shall be
invested as it is: I look on it still as the legacy of my father
and mother, and to diminish it would seem to diminish the
blessing that comes with it.”

“That 's right, John! I 'm glad that you have grown to
be a man, and can see things in the true light. Ah, if you
would but see all the Truth!”

“I do,” said I. “I know what you mean, Uncle. I have
learned my own weakness and foolishness, and the strength,
wisdom, and mercy of God.”

He seemed comforted by these words, if not wholly convinced


Page 503
that my feet were in the safe path. At dinner his
prayer was not against “them which walk in darkness,” but
a grateful acknowledgment for undeserved bounties, in
which I joined with a devout heart.

I completely won Aunt Peggy by confiding to her my
betrothal and approaching marriage. The next day, before
leaving for my return to new York, she brought me a
parcel wrapped in tissue-paper, saying, —

“I want to send something to her, but I can't find anything
nice except this, which Aunt Christina gave me for
my weddin'. It 's not the fashion, now, I know, but folks
says the same things come round every twenty-five or
thirty years, and so I expect this will turn up again soon.
I hope she 'll like it.”

She unfolded the paper and produced a tortoise-shell
comb, the top of which was a true-lover's-knot, in open filigree,
rising nearly six inches above the teeth. I smothered
my amusement, as best I could, under profuse thanks,
and went away leaving Aunt Peggy proud of her nephew.