Excerpts from Chapter 14, "Phoebe's Goodbye," of The House of the Seven
Gables, which focus on Phoebe.
. . . 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.
"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!"
"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. (Chapter