(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

The Penny family was English, except for a Welsh ancestor whose blood cropped out from time to time among his descendants. Those who showed the Welsh strain were called black Pennys by their relatives in an attempt to describe the mental makeup of individuals to whom it was applied. Howat was the first black Penny in more than a hundred years; the last one had been burned to death as a heretic by Queen Elizabeth, long before the family had emigrated to the Colonies.

Living at Myrtle Forge, on the edge of the Pennsylvania Wilderness, Howat Penny was far more interested in the deep woods than he was in becoming an ironmaster. Nor did the appearance of Ludowika Winscombe make him any more satisfied or contented with his life.

Ludowika Winscombe, the young Polish wife of an elderly British envoy, had been left at the Penny home while her husband traveled through the Colonies on the king’s business. Before long, Howat Penny fell in love with her. Ludowika warned him, however, that she was a practical person who felt it was best that she remain married to her husband rather than to run away with a young frontiersman. Howat stubbornly told her that she would have to marry him, for he would permit nothing to stand in the way of their happiness.

Winscombe returned ill to Myrtle Forge, and Howat Penny found himself acting as Winscombe’s nurse. It was an ironic situation filled with tension. Howat Penny waited for the old man to die. Ludowika was torn between two desires. She wanted Howat Penny, but she hated to face a life with him in the wilderness. The climax came late one night while Howat and Ludowika sat by the sick man’s bed while Winscombe made a gallant effort to remain alive. Howat and Ludowika dared not even look at each other for fear of what they might see behind each other’s eyes. Early in the morning, the old man died. As they faced each other in the gray dawn, Howat and Ludowika realized that she was destined to remain with him in Pennsylvania and never to see London again.

Three generations later, the Welsh Penny blood again appeared in the person of Howat’s great-grandson, Jasper. By that time the forge, which had been the beginning of the Penny fortune, had been replaced by a great foundry with many furnaces. Jasper Penny was a rich man, steadily growing richer by supplying the tremendous amounts of iron needed for the new railroads in the United States.

Jasper Penny had never married. Like his great-grandfather Howat, he was a man of great passions whose energies were spent in building up his foundry and fortune. He was still painfully reminded, however, of his earlier indiscretions with a woman who had borne him an illegitimate daughter. The woman hounded Jasper for money, and he found it easier to give her money than to refuse her demands.

He saw very little of Eunice, his daughter, for he...

(The entire section is 1177 words.)