Although 15 years or so older than Junior, Selena shared the same Feb. 10 birthdate, and so he called her "Twin," which she adored—and not only because it was considerable improvement over "Slimy," which the neighborhood kids called her. Twin was unattractive, like the aunt she lived with, and to suddenly have this lively young man, who took three stairs at a bound, dropping into her life, was a salvation. Twin and Aunt Betsy soon were spoiling Junior even more than his mother had.
In Aunt Betsy's house he was known as Billy, and he was to keep his bedroom there for the next quarter of a century. All the time he moved with kings and movie stars and ruled the world of tennis, he would come back to 519 Hansberry, place his latest trophy beside the rubber plant with the porcelain birds balanced on the branches, and entertain Twin and Aunt Betsy with tales of the world while they served him a succession of steak dinners, with ice cream.
Back in 1908, however, when Tilden first lived with the Heys, he still spent much time at Overleigh, walking over every evening to be with his mother. He graduated from Germantown in 1910, thin but not gawky, and still growing. He was the class poet and tennis captain, and although he had no interest whatsoever in commerce, he dutifully followed his father's bidding and entered the Wharton School of Business at Penn.
Tilden hated his studies and never made his mark at college. In the spring of his freshman year his life began to fall apart when his mother suffered a stroke and lay near death. At the end, May 2, 1911, he sat outside her door through the night, crying uncontrollably, by his own account "utterly in shock." Her dying plainly shattered him and he grew so jittery that Saint Vitus' dance was suspected; finally, his father had him withdraw from school for a year to rest his nerves.
When Herbert's first son, his second child, was born in 1913, he named the boy William Tatem Tilden III. It was an unusual thing for a brother to do—in effect, appropriating his brother's name. William T. Tilden III agrees that his father must have known by then that Junior would never have any children himself. The poor boy was floundering badly. He had lost the anchor of his sacred mother; he was trapped in a college discipline he could not stand; he understood, surely, that he was a homosexual. He was nearly friendless—he literally repelled some people—and he was ravaged by nervousness. He was sad, confused, lost.
The situation worsened, then collapsed in the summer of 1915, when his father fell ill with kidney trouble. He was brought back to Overleigh from the Union League, where he had taken residence after Linie died. On the morning of July 29, with his two sons at his bed, William T. Tilden Sr. died, age 60, and was buried next to his wife and his mother and his three babies in the plot he had bought at Ivy Hill.
Herbert, his father's friend and associate, was as staggered by his death as Junior had been by their mother's. Late that summer, Herbert got away to the seashore, Cape May, N.J., but he caught a cold swimming, and it turned into pneumonia. His resistance was low. Five days later, Sept. 22, 1915, Herbert died at Overleigh at the age of 29 at seven in the morning.
Two days later, Junior watched as his brother was lowered into his grave at the foot of his father's, where the soil was still turned. "The second bereavement, striking with such suddenness, has aroused profound sympathy for the family," the Inquirer wrote. Junior Tilden, 22 years old, was the family.
Tilden fell deeper into mourning. He left Penn a semester short of graduation and seems, for some time, to have done nothing more than sit in his room at Aunt Betsy's and listen to his records. Apparently Selena Hey dared advise her cousin but twice in her life, and this was the first occasion. She told him that he could not go on drifting, that he must look beyond 519 Hansberry Avenue or he would be caught in the same trap as she, living out all his days as a companion to an old woman. Maybe he would have overcome the inertia himself in due time. Maybe he needed Twin to prod him. Whatever, he took her advice, and early in 1916 he set out on his mission. Junior gave his life over to tennis. He was then ranked 70th in the country, and that summer he was defeated in straight sets in the first round at Forest Hills. Only four years later, Big Bill Tilden was champion of the world.
It was another two decades before Twin ventured to again give her cousin advice. This time, late in the 1930s, he came to visit her in Yorkshire when he was touring as a pro. Painfully, as politely as she could, Twin warned him that his homosexuality was becoming more apparent, that he must be more guarded. Furious, Tilden shot to his feet, glared at Twin, and stormed out of the house, never to say another word to her as long as she lived.