These influences hastened the development of emotions that might
not otherwise have flowered so soon. Possibly, indeed, it had been
Holgrave's purpose to let them die in their undeveloped germs.
"Why do we delay so?" asked Phoebe. "This secret takes away my
breath! Let us throw open the doors!"
"In all our lives, there can never come another moment like this!"
said Holgrave. "Phoebe, is it all terror?--nothing but terror? Are
you conscious of no joy, as I am, that has made this the only
point of life worth living for?"
"It seems a sin," replied Phoebe, trembling, "to think of joy at
such a time!"
"Could you but know, Phoebe, how it was with me, the hour before
you came!" exclaimed the artist. "A dark, cold, miserable hour!
The presence of yonder dead man threw a great black shadow over
everything; he made the universe, so far as my perception could
reach, a scene of guilt, and of retribution more dreadful than the
guilt. The sense of it took away my youth. I never hoped to feel
young again! The world looked strange, wild, evil, hostile;--my
past life, so lonesome and dreary; my future, a shapeless gloom,
which I must mould into gloomy shapes! But, Phoebe, you crossed
the threshold; and hope, warmth, and joy came in with you! The
black moment became at once a blissful one. It must not pass
without the spoken word. I love you!"
"How can you love a simple girl like me?" asked Phoebe, compelled
by his earnestness to speak. "You have many, many thoughts, with
which I should try in vain to sympathize. And I,--I, too,--I have
tendencies with which you would sympathize as little. That is less
matter. But I have not scope enough to make you happy."
"You are my only possibility of happiness!" answered Holgrave. "I
have no faith in it, except as you bestow it on me!"
"And then--I am afraid!" continued Phoebe, shrinking towards
Holgrave, even while she told him so frankly the doubts with which
he affected her. "You will lead me out of my own quiet path. You
will make me strive to follow you, where it is pathless. I cannot
do so. It is not my nature. I shall sink down and perish!"
"Ah, Phoebe! " exclaimed Holgrave, with almost a sigh, and a smile
that was burthened with thought. "It will be far otherwise than as
you forbode. The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at
ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient
limits. I have a presentiment that, hereafter, it will be my lot
to set out trees, to make fences,--perhaps, even, in due time, to
build a house for another generation,--in a word, to conform
myself to laws, and the peaceful practice of society. Your poise
will be more powerful than any oscillating tendency of mine."
"I would not have it so!" said Phoebe, earnestly.
"Do you love me?" asked Holgrave. "If we love one another, the
moment has room for nothing more. Let us pause upon it, and be
satisfied. Do you love me, Phoebe?"
"You look into my heart," said she, letting her eyes drop. "You
know I love you!"
And it was in this hour, so full of doubt and awe, that the one
miracle was wrought, without which every human existence is a
blank. The bliss, which makes all things true, beautiful, and
holy, shone around this youth and maiden. They were conscious of
nothing sad nor old. They transfigured the earth, and made it Eden
again, and themselves the two first dwellers in it. The dead man,
so close beside them, was forgotten. At such a crisis, there is no
death; for immortality is revealed anew, and embraces everything
in its hallowed atmosphere.
But how soon the heavy earth-dream settled down again!