"It cannot be, Hepzibah!--it is too late," said Clifford with deep

sadness. "We are ghosts! We have no right among human beings,--no

right anywhere but in this old house, which has a curse on it, and

which, therefore, we are doomed to haunt! And, besides," he continued,

with a fastidious sensibility, inalienably characteristic of the man,

"it would not be fit nor beautiful to go! It is an ugly thought that I

should be frightful to my fellow-beings, and that children would cling

to their mothers' gowns at sight of me!"

They shrank back into the dusky passage-way, and closed the door. But,

going up the staircase again, they found the whole interior of the

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house tenfold more dismal, and the air closer and heavier, for the

glimpse and breath of freedom which they had just snatched. They could

not flee; their jailer had but left the door ajar in mockery, and stood

behind it to watch them stealing out. At the threshold, they felt his

pitiless gripe upon them. For, what other dungeon is so dark as one's

own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!

But it would be no fair picture of Clifford's state of mind were we to

represent him as continually or prevailingly wretched. On the

contrary, there was no other man in the city, we are bold to affirm, of

so much as half his years, who enjoyed so many lightsome and griefless

moments as himself. He had no burden of care upon him; there were none

of those questions and contingencies with the future to be settled

which wear away all other lives, and render them not worth having by

the very process of providing for their support. In this respect he

was a child,--a child for the whole term of his existence, be it long

or short. Indeed, his life seemed to be standing still at a period

little in advance of childhood, and to cluster all his reminiscences

about that epoch; just as, after the torpor of a heavy blow, the

sufferer's reviving consciousness goes back to a moment considerably

behind the accident that stupefied him. He sometimes told Phoebe and

Hepzibah his dreams, in which he invariably played the part of a child,

or a very young man. So vivid were they, in his relation of them, that

he once held a dispute with his sister as to the particular figure or

print of a chintz morning-dress which he had seen their mother wear, in

the dream of the preceding night. Hepzibah, piquing herself on a

woman's accuracy in such matters, held it to be slightly different from

what Clifford described; but, producing the very gown from an old

trunk, it proved to be identical with his remembrance of it. Had

Clifford, every time that he emerged out of dreams so lifelike,

undergone the torture of transformation from a boy into an old and

broken man, the daily recurrence of the shock would have been too much

to bear. It would have caused an acute agony to thrill from the

morning twilight, all the day through, until bedtime; and even then

would have mingled a dull, inscrutable pain and pallid hue of

misfortune with the visionary bloom and adolescence of his slumber.

But the nightly moonshine interwove itself with the morning mist, and

enveloped him as in a robe, which he hugged about his person, and

seldom let realities pierce through; he was not often quite awake, but

slept open-eyed, and perhaps fancied himself most dreaming then.