Clifford sat at the window with Hepzibah, watching the neighbors as
they stepped into the street. All of them, however unspiritual on
other days, were transfigured by the Sabbath influence; so that their
very garments--whether it were an old man's decent coat well brushed
for the thousandth time, or a little boy's first sack and trousers
finished yesterday by his mother's needle--had somewhat of the quality
of ascension-robes. Forth, likewise, from the portal of the old house
stepped Phoebe, putting up her small green sunshade, and throwing
upward a glance and smile of parting kindness to the faces at the
arched window. In her aspect there was a familiar gladness, and a
holiness that you could play with, and yet reverence it as much as
ever. She was like a prayer, offered up in the homeliest beauty of
one's mother-tongue. Fresh was Phoebe, moreover, and airy and sweet in
her apparel; as if nothing that she wore--neither her gown, nor her
small straw bonnet, nor her little kerchief, any more than her snowy
stockings--had ever been put on before; or, if worn, were all the
fresher for it, and with a fragrance as if they had lain among the
The girl waved her hand to Hepzibah and Clifford, and went up the
street; a religion in herself, warm, simple, true, with a substance
that could walk on earth, and a spirit that was capable of heaven.
"Hepzibah," asked Clifford, after watching Phoebe to the corner, "do
you never go to church?"
"No, Clifford!" she replied,--"not these many, many years!"
"Were I to be there," he rejoined, "it seems to me that I could pray
once more, when so many human souls were praying all around me!"
She looked into Clifford's face, and beheld there a soft natural
effusion; for his heart gushed out, as it were, and ran over at his
eyes, in delightful reverence for God, and kindly affection for his
human brethren. The emotion communicated itself to Hepzibah. She
yearned to take him by the hand, and go and kneel down, they two
together,--both so long separate from the world, and, as she now
recognized, scarcely friends with Him above,--to kneel down among the
people, and be reconciled to God and man at once.
"Dear brother," said she earnestly, "let us go! We belong nowhere. We
have not a foot of space in any church to kneel upon; but let us go to
some place of worship, even if we stand in the broad aisle. Poor and
forsaken as we are, some pew-door will be opened to us!"
So Hepzibah and her brother made themselves, ready--as ready as they
could in the best of their old-fashioned garments, which had hung on
pegs, or been laid away in trunks, so long that the dampness and mouldy
smell of the past was on them,--made themselves ready, in their faded
bettermost, to go to church. They descended the staircase
together,--gaunt, sallow Hepzibah, and pale, emaciated, age-stricken
Clifford! They pulled open the front door, and stepped across the
threshold, and felt, both of them, as if they were standing in the
presence of the whole world, and with mankind's great and terrible eye
on them alone. The eye of their Father seemed to be withdrawn, and
gave them no encouragement. The warm sunny air of the street made them
shiver. Their hearts quaked within them at the idea of taking one