Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY Post by :nickco Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :862

Click below to download : The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY (Format : PDF)

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY

HOLGRAVE, plunging into his tale with the energy and absorption
natural to a young author, had given a good deal of action to
the parts capable of being developed and exemplified in that
manner. He now observed that a certain remarkable drowsiness
(wholly unlike that with which the reader possibly feels himself
affected) had been flung over the senses of his auditress.
It was the effect, unquestionably, of the mystic gesticulations
by which he had sought to bring bodily before Phoebe's perception
the figure of the mesmerizing carpenter. With the lids drooping
over her eyes,--now lifted for an instant, and drawn down again
as with leaden weights,--she leaned slightly towards him, and
seemed almost to regulate her breath by his. Holgrave gazed at
her, as he rolled up his manuscript, and recognized an incipient
stage of that curious psychological condition which, as he had
himself told Phoebe, he possessed more than an ordinary faculty
of producing. A veil was beginning to be muffled about her,
in which she could behold only him, and live only in his thoughts
and emotions. His glance, as he fastened it on the young girl,
grew involuntarily more concentrated; in his attitude there was
the consciousness of power, investing his hardly mature figure
with a dignity that did not belong to its physical manifestation.
It was evident, that, with but one wave of his hand and a
corresponding effort of his will, he could complete his mastery
over Phoebe's yet free and virgin spirit: he could establish an
influence over this good, pure, and simple child, as dangerous,
and perhaps as disastrous, as that which the carpenter of his
legend had acquired and exercised over the ill-fated Alice.

To a disposition like Holgrave's, at once speculative and active,
there is no temptation so great as the opportunity of acquiring
empire over the human spirit; nor any idea more seductive to a young
man than to become the arbiter of a young girl's destiny. Let us,
therefore, --whatever his defects of nature and education, and in
spite of his scorn for creeds and institutions,--concede to the
daguerreotypist the rare and high quality of reverence for another's
individuality. Let us allow him integrity, also, forever after to
be confided in; since he forbade himself to twine that one link more
which might have rendered his spell over Phoebe indissoluble.

He made a slight gesture upward with his hand.

"You really mortify me, my dear Miss Phoebe!" he exclaimed,
smiling half-sarcastically at her. "My poor story, it is but
too evident, will never do for Godey or Graham! Only think of
your falling asleep at what I hoped the newspaper critics would
pronounce a most brilliant, powerful, imaginative, pathetic, and
original winding up! Well, the manuscript must serve to light
lamps with;--if, indeed, being so imbued with my gentle dulness,
it is any longer capable of flame!"

"Me asleep! How can you say so?" answered Phoebe, as unconscious
of the crisis through which she had passed as an infant of the
precipice to the verge of which it has rolled. "No, no! I consider
myself as having been very attentive; and, though I don't remember
the incidents quite distinctly, yet I have an impression of a vast
deal of trouble and calamity,--so, no doubt, the story will prove
exceedingly attractive."

By this time the sun had gone down, and was tinting the clouds
towards the zenith with those bright hues which are not seen
there until some time after sunset, and when the horizon has
quite lost its richer brilliancy. The moon, too, which had long
been climbing overhead, and unobtrusively melting its disk into
the azure,--like an ambitious demagogue, who hides his aspiring
purpose by assuming the prevalent hue of popular sentiment,--now
began to shine out, broad and oval, in its middle pathway. These
silvery beams were already powerful enough to change the character
of the lingering daylight. They softened and embellished the aspect
of the old house; although the shadows fell deeper into the angles
of its many gables, and lay brooding under the projecting story,
and within the half-open door. With the lapse of every moment,
the garden grew more picturesque; the fruit-trees, shrubbery, and
flower-bushes had a dark obscurity among them. The commonplace
characteristics--which, at noontide, it seemed to have taken a
century of sordid life to accumulate--were now transfigured by
a charm of romance. A hundred mysterious years were whispering
among the leaves, whenever the slight sea-breeze found its way
thither and stirred them. Through the foliage that roofed the
little summer-house the moonlight flickered to and fro, and fell
silvery white on the dark floor, the table, and the circular bench,
with a continual shift and play, according as the chinks and wayward
crevices among the twigs admitted or shut out the glimmer.

So sweetly cool was the atmosphere, after all the feverish day,
that the summer eve might be fancied as sprinkling dews and
liquid moonlight, with a dash of icy temper in them, out of a
silver vase. Here and there, a few drops of this freshness
were scattered on a human heart, and gave it youth again, and
sympathy with the eternal youth of nature. The artist chanced
to be one on whom the reviving influence fell. It made him
feel--what he sometimes almost forgot, thrust so early as he
had been into the rude struggle of man with man--how youthful
he still was.

"It seems to me," he observed, "that I never watched the coming
of so beautiful an eve, and never felt anything so very much
like happiness as at this moment. After all, what a good world
we live in! How good, and beautiful! How young it is, too, with
nothing really rotten or age-worn in it! This old house, for
example, which sometimes has positively oppressed my breath
with its smell of decaying timber! And this garden, where the
black mould always clings to my spade, as if I were a sexton
delving in a graveyard! Could I keep the feeling that now
possesses me, the garden would every day be virgin soil, with the
earth's first freshness in the flavor of its beans and squashes;
and the house!--it would be like a bower in Eden, blossoming with
the earliest roses that God ever made. Moonlight, and the
sentiment in man's heart responsive to it, are the greatest of
renovators and reformers. And all other reform and renovation,
I suppose, will prove to be no better than moonshine!"

"I have been happier than I am now; at least, much gayer," said
Phoebe thoughtfully. "Yet I am sensible of a great charm in this
brightening moonlight; and I love to watch how the day, tired as
it is, lags away reluctantly, and hates to be called yesterday
so soon. I never cared much about moonlight before. What is there,
I wonder, so beautiful in it, to-night?"

"And you have never felt it before?" inquired the artist, looking
earnestly at the girl through the twilight.

"Never," answered Phoebe; "and life does not look the same, now
that I have felt it so. It seems as if I had looked at everything,
hitherto, in broad daylight, or else in the ruddy light of a
cheerful fire, glimmering and dancing through a room. Ah, poor
me!" she added, with a half-melancholy laugh. "I shall never be
so merry as before I knew Cousin Hepzibah and poor Cousin
Clifford. I have grown a great deal older, in this little time.
Older, and, I hope, wiser, and,--not exactly sadder,--but, certainly,
with not half so much lightness in my spirits! I have given them
my sunshine, and have been glad to give it; but, of course, I
cannot both give and keep it. They are welcome, notwithstanding!"

"You have lost nothing, Phoebe, worth keeping, nor which it was
possible to keep," said Holgrave after a pause. "Our first youth
is of no value; for we are never conscious of it until after it is
gone. But sometimes--always, I suspect, unless one is exceedingly
unfortunate--there comes a sense of second youth, gushing out of
the heart's joy at being in love; or, possibly, it may come to
crown some other grand festival in life, if any other such there
be. This bemoaning of one's self (as you do now) over the first,
careless, shallow gayety of youth departed, and this profound
happiness at youth regained,--so much deeper and richer than that
we lost,--are essential to the soul's development. In some cases,
the two states come almost simultaneously, and mingle the sadness
and the rapture in one mysterious emotion."

"I hardly think I understand you," said Phoebe.

"No wonder," replied Holgrave, smiling; "for I have told you a
secret which I hardly began to know before I found myself giving
it utterance. remember it, however; and when the truth becomes
clear to you, then think of this moonlight scene!"

"It is entirely moonlight now, except only a little flush of
faint crimson, upward from the west, between those buildings,"
remarked Phoebe. "I must go in. Cousin Hepzibah is not quick
at figures, and will give herself a headache over the day's
accounts, unless I help her."

But Holgrave detained her a little longer.

"Miss Hepzibah tells me," observed he, "that you return to the
country in a few days."

"Yes, but only for a little while," answered Phoebe; "for I look
upon this as my present home. I go to make a few arrangements,
and to take a more deliberate leave of my mother and friends.
It is pleasant to live where one is much desired and very useful;
and I think I may have the satisfaction of feeling myself so here."

"You surely may, and more than you imagine," said the artist.
"Whatever health, comfort, and natural life exists in the house
is embodied in your person. These blessings came along with you,
and will vanish when you leave the threshold. Miss Hepzibah, by
secluding herself from society, has lost all true relation with
it, and is, in fact, dead; although she galvanizes herself into
a semblance of life, and stands behind her counter, afflicting
the world with a greatly-to-be-deprecated scowl. Your poor
cousin Clifford is another dead and long-buried person, on whom
the governor and council have wrought a necromantic miracle.
I should not wonder if he were to crumble away, some morning,
after you are gone, and nothing be seen of him more, except a
heap of dust. Miss Hepzibah, at any rate, will lose what little
flexibility she has. They both exist by you."

"I should be very sorry to think so," answered Phoebe gravely.
"But it is true that my small abilities were precisely what they
needed; and I have a real interest in their welfare,--an odd
kind of motherly sentiment,--which I wish you would not laugh at!
And let me tell you frankly, Mr. Holgrave, I am sometimes
puzzled to know whether you wish them well or ill."

"Undoubtedly," said the daguerreotypist, "I do feel an interest
in this antiquated, poverty-stricken old maiden lady, and this
degraded and shattered gentleman,--this abortive lover of the
beautiful. A kindly interest, too, helpless old children that
they are! But you have no conception what a different kind of
heart mine is from your own. It is not my impulse, as regards
these two individuals, either to help or hinder; but to look on,
to analyze, to explain matters to myself, and to comprehend the
drama which, for almost two hundred years, has been dragging
its slow length over the ground where you and I now tread. If
permitted to witness the close, I doubt not to derive a moral
satisfaction from it, go matters how they may. There is a
conviction within me that the end draws nigh. But, though
Providence sent you hither to help, and sends me only as a
privileged and meet spectator, I pledge myself to lend these
unfortunate beings whatever aid I can!"

"I wish you would speak more plainly," cried Phoebe, perplexed
and displeased; "and, above all, that you would feel more like
a Christian and a human being! How is it possible to see people
in distress without desiring, more than anything else, to help
and comfort them? You talk as if this old house were a theatre;
and you seem to look at Hepzibah's and Clifford's misfortunes,
and those of generations before them, as a tragedy, such as I
have seen acted in the hall of a country hotel, only the present
one appears to be played exclusively for your amusement. I do
not like this. The play costs the performers too much, and the
audience is too cold-hearted."

"You are severe," said Holgrave, compelled to recognize a degree
of truth in the piquant sketch of his own mood.

"And then," continued Phoebe, "what can you mean by your
conviction, which you tell me of, that the end is drawing near?
Do you know of any new trouble hanging over my poor
relatives? If so, tell me at once, and I will not leave them!"

"Forgive me, Phoebe!" said the daguerreotypist, holding out his
hand, to which the girl was constrained to yield her own." I am
somewhat of a mystic, it must be confessed. The tendency is in my
blood, together with the faculty of mesmerism, which might have
brought me to Gallows Hill, in the good old times of witchcraft.
Believe me, if I were really aware of any secret, the disclosure
of which would benefit your friends,--who are my own friends,
likewise,--you should learn it before we part. But I have no
such knowledge."

"You hold something back!" said Phoebe.

"Nothing,--no secrets but my own," answered Holgrave. "I can
perceive, indeed, that Judge Pyncheon still keeps his eye on
Clifford, in whose ruin he had so large a share. His motives
and intentions, however are a mystery to me. He is a determined
and relentless man, with the genuine character of an inquisitor;
and had he any object to gain by putting Clifford to the rack,
I verily believe that he would wrench his joints from their sockets,
in order to accomplish it. But, so wealthy and eminent as he is,
--so powerful in his own strength, and in the support of society
on all sides,--what can Judge Pyncheon have to hope or fear from
the imbecile, branded, half-torpid Clifford?"

"Yet," urged Phoebe, "you did speak as if misfortune were impending!"

"Oh, that was because I am morbid!" replied the artist. "My mind
has a twist aside, like almost everybody's mind, except your own.
Moreover, it is so strange to find myself an inmate of this old
Pyncheon House, and sitting in this old garden--(hark, how Maule's
well is murmuring!)--that, were it only for this one circumstance,
I cannot help fancying that Destiny is arranging its fifth act
for a catastrophe."

"There." cried Phoebe with renewed vexation; for she was by
nature as hostile to mystery as the sunshine to a dark corner.
"You puzzle me more than ever!"

"Then let us part friends!" said Holgrave, pressing her hand. "Or,
if not friends, let us part before you entirely hate me. You, who
love everybody else in the world!"

"Good-by, then," said Phoebe frankly. "I do not mean to be angry
a great while, and should be sorry to have you think so. There
has Cousin Hepzibah been standing in the shadow of the doorway,
this quarter of an hour past! She thinks I stay too long in the
damp garden. So, good-night, and good-by."

On the second morning thereafter, Phoebe might have been seen, in
her straw bonnet, with a shawl on one arm and a little carpet-bag
on the other, bidding adieu to Hepzibah and Cousin Clifford. She
was to take a seat in the next train of cars, which would transport
her to within half a dozen miles of her country village.

The tears were in Phoebe's eyes; a smile, dewy with affectionate
regret, was glimmering around her pleasant mouth. She wondered
how it came to pass, that her life of a few weeks, here in this
heavy-hearted old mansion, had taken such hold of her, and so
melted into her associations, as now to seem a more important
centre-point of remembrance than all which had gone before.
How had Hepzibah--grim, silent, and irresponsive to her overflow
of cordial sentiment--contrived to win so much love? And Clifford,
--in his abortive decay, with the mystery of fearful crime upon
him, and the close prison-atmosphere yet lurking in his breath,
--how had he transformed himself into the simplest child, whom
Phoebe felt bound to watch over, and be, as it were, the providence
of his unconsidered hours! Everything, at that instant of farewell,
stood out prominently to her view. Look where she would, lay her
hand on what she might, the object responded to her consciousness,
as if a moist human heart were in it.

She peeped from the window into the garden, and felt herself
more regretful at leaving this spot of black earth, vitiated with
such an age-long growth of weeds, than joyful at the idea of again
scenting her pine forests and fresh clover-fields. She called
Chanticleer, his two wives, and the venerable chicken, and threw
them some crumbs of bread from the breakfast-table. These being
hastily gobbled up, the chicken spread its wings, and alighted
close by Phoebe on the window-sill, where it looked gravely into
her face and vented its emotions in a croak. Phoebe bade it be
a good old chicken during her absence, and promised to bring it
a little bag of buckwheat.

"Ah, Phoebe!" remarked Hepzibah, "you do not smile so naturally
as when you came to us! Then, the smile chose to shine out; now,
you choose it should. It is well that you are going back, for
a little while, into your native air. There has been too much
weight on your spirits. The house is too gloomy and lonesome;
the shop is full of vexations; and as for me, I have no faculty
of making things look brighter than they are. Dear Clifford has
been your only comfort!"

"Come hither, Phoebe," suddenly cried her cousin Clifford, who
had said very little all the morning. "Close!--closer!--and look
me in the face!"

Phoebe put one of her small hands on each elbow of his chair, and
leaned her face towards him, so that he might peruse it as carefully
as he would. It is probable that the latent emotions of this parting
hour had revived, in some degree, his bedimmed and enfeebled faculties.
At any rate, Phoebe soon felt that, if not the profound insight of a
seer, yet a more than feminine delicacy of appreciation, was making
her heart the subject of its regard. A moment before, she had known
nothing which she would have sought to hide. Now, as if some secret
were hinted to her own consciousness through the medium of another's
perception, she was fain to let her eyelids droop beneath Clifford's
gaze. A blush, too,--the redder, because she strove hard to keep it
down,--ascended bigger and higher, in a tide of fitful progress,
until even her brow was all suffused with it.

"It is enough, Phoebe," said Clifford, with a melancholy smile.
"When I first saw you, you were the prettiest little maiden in the
world; and now you have deepened into beauty. Girlhood has passed into
womanhood; the bud is a bloom! Go, now--I feel lonelier than I did."

Phoebe took leave of the desolate couple, and passed through the
shop, twinkling her eyelids to shake off a dew-drop; for--considering
how brief her absence was to be, and therefore the folly of being
cast down about it--she would not so far acknowledge her tears as
to dry them with her handkerchief. On the doorstep, she met the
little urchin whose marvellous feats of gastronomy have been
recorded in the earlier pages of our narrative. She took from the
window some specimen or other of natural history,--her eyes being
too dim with moisture to inform her accurately whether it was a
rabbit or a hippopotamus,--put it into the child's hand as a
parting gift, and went her way. Old Uncle Venner was just coming
out of his door, with a wood-horse and saw on his shoulder; and,
trudging along the street, he scrupled not to keep company with
Phoebe, so far as their paths lay together; nor, in spite of his
patched coat and rusty beaver, and the curious fashion of his
tow-cloth trousers, could she find it in her heart to outwalk him.

"We shall miss you, next Sabbath afternoon," observed the street
philosopher." It is unaccountable how little while it takes some
folks to grow just as natural to a man as his own breath; and,
begging your pardon, Miss Phoebe (though there can be no offence
in an old man's saying it), that's just what you've grown to me!
My years have been a great many, and your life is but just
beginning; and yet, you are somehow as familiar to me as if I
had found you at my mother's door, and you had blossomed,
like a running vine, all along my pathway since. Come back
soon, or I shall be gone to my farm; for I begin to find these
wood-sawing jobs a little too tough for my back-ache."

"Very soon, Uncle Venner," replied Phoebe.

"And let it be all the sooner, Phoebe, for the sake of those
poor souls yonder," continued her companion. "They can never
do without you, now,--never, Phoebe; never--no more than if one
of God's angels had been living with them, and making their dismal
house pleasant and comfortable! Don't it seem to you they'd be in
a sad case, if, some pleasant summer morning like this, the angel
should spread his wings, and fly to the place he came from? Well,
just so they feel, now that you're going home by the railroad!
They can't bear it, Miss Phoebe; so be sure to come back!"

"I am no angel, Uncle Venner," said Phoebe, smiling, as she offered
him her hand at the street-corner. "But, I suppose, people never
feel so much like angels as when they are doing what little good
they may. So I shall certainly come back!"

Thus parted the old man and the rosy girl; and Phoebe took the
wings of the morning, and was soon flitting almost as rapidly
away as if endowed with the aerial locomotion of the angels to
whom Uncle Venner had so graciously compared her.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE
SEVERAL days passed over the Seven Gables, heavily and drearilyenough. In fact (not to attribute the whole gloom of sky andearth to the one inauspicious circumstance of Phoebe's departure),an easterly storm had set in, and indefatigably apply itself tothe task of making the black roof and walls of the old house lookmore cheerless than ever before. Yet was the outside not half socheerless as the interior. Poor Clifford was cut off, at once,from all his scanty resources of enjoyment. Phoebe was not there;nor did the sunshine fall upon the floor. The garden, with itsmuddy walks, and
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIII - ALICE PYNCHEON The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIII - ALICE PYNCHEON

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIII - ALICE PYNCHEON
THERE was a message brought, one day, from the worshipful GervaysePyncheon to young Matthew Maule, the carpenter, desiring his immediatepresence at the House of the Seven Gables."And what does your master want with me?" said the carpenter toMr. Pyncheon's black servant. "Does the house need any repair?Well it may, by this time; and no blame to my father who builtit, neither! I was reading the old Colonel's tombstone, no longerago than last Sabbath; and, reckoning from that date, the househas stood seven-and-thirty years. No wonder if there should bea job to do on the roof.""Don't know what massa wants,"
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT