From the inertness, or what we may term the vegetative character, of

his ordinary mood, Clifford would perhaps have been content to spend

one day after another, interminably,--or, at least, throughout the

summer-time,--in just the kind of life described in the preceding

pages. Fancying, however, that it might be for his benefit

occasionally to diversify the scene, Phoebe sometimes suggested that he

should look out upon the life of the street. For this purpose, they

used to mount the staircase together, to the second story of the house,

where, at the termination of a wide entry, there was an arched window,

of uncommonly large dimensions, shaded by a pair of curtains. It


opened above the porch, where there had formerly been a balcony, the

balustrade of which had long since gone to decay, and been removed.

At this arched window, throwing it open, but keeping himself in

comparative obscurity by means of the curtain, Clifford had an

opportunity of witnessing such a portion of the great world's movement

as might be supposed to roll through one of the retired streets of a

not very populous city. But he and Phoebe made a sight as well worth

seeing as any that the city could exhibit. The pale, gray, childish,

aged, melancholy, yet often simply cheerful, and sometimes delicately

intelligent aspect of Clifford, peering from behind the faded crimson

of the curtain,--watching the monotony of every-day occurrences with a

kind of inconsequential interest and earnestness, and, at every petty

throb of his sensibility, turning for sympathy to the eyes of the

bright young girl!

If once he were fairly seated at the window, even Pyncheon Street would

hardly be so dull and lonely but that, somewhere or other along its

extent, Clifford might discover matter to occupy his eye, and

titillate, if not engross, his observation. Things familiar to the

youngest child that had begun its outlook at existence seemed strange

to him. A cab; an omnibus, with its populous interior, dropping here

and there a passenger, and picking up another, and thus typifying that

vast rolling vehicle, the world, the end of whose journey is everywhere

and nowhere; these objects he followed eagerly with his eyes, but

forgot them before the dust raised by the horses and wheels had settled

along their track.

As regarded novelties (among which cabs and

omnibuses were to be reckoned), his mind appeared to have lost its

proper gripe and retentiveness. Twice or thrice, for example, during

the sunny hours of the day, a water-cart went along by the Pyncheon

House, leaving a broad wake of moistened earth, instead of the white

dust that had risen at a lady's lightest footfall; it was like a summer

shower, which the city authorities had caught and tamed, and compelled

it into the commonest routine of their convenience. With the

water-cart Clifford could never grow familiar; it always affected him

with just the same surprise as at first. His mind took an apparently

sharp impression from it, but lost the recollection of this

perambulatory shower, before its next reappearance, as completely as

did the street itself, along which the heat so quickly strewed white

dust again. It was the same with the railroad. Clifford could hear

the obstreperous howl of the steam-devil, and, by leaning a little way

from the arched window, could catch a glimpse of the trains of cars,

flashing a brief transit across the extremity of the street. The idea

of terrible energy thus forced upon him was new at every recurrence,

and seemed to affect him as disagreeably, and with almost as much

surprise, the hundredth time as the first.