It must not be supposed that the life of a personage naturally so

active as Phoebe could be wholly confined within the precincts of the

old Pyncheon House. Clifford's demands upon her time were usually

satisfied, in those long days, considerably earlier than sunset. Quiet

as his daily existence seemed, it nevertheless drained all the

resources by which he lived. It was not physical exercise that

overwearied him,--for except that he sometimes wrought a little with a

hoe, or paced the garden-walk, or, in rainy weather, traversed a large

unoccupied room,--it was his tendency to remain only too quiescent, as

regarded any toil of the limbs and muscles. But, either there was a


smouldering fire within him that consumed his vital energy, or the

monotony that would have dragged itself with benumbing effect over a

mind differently situated was no monotony to Clifford. Possibly, he

was in a state of second growth and recovery, and was constantly

assimilating nutriment for his spirit and intellect from sights,

sounds, and events which passed as a perfect void to persons more

practised with the world. As all is activity and vicissitude to the

new mind of a child, so might it be, likewise, to a mind that had

undergone a kind of new creation, after its long-suspended life.

Be the cause what it might, Clifford commonly retired to rest,

thoroughly exhausted, while the sunbeams were still melting through his

window-curtains, or were thrown with late lustre on the chamber wall.

And while he thus slept early, as other children do, and dreamed of

childhood, Phoebe was free to follow her own tastes for the remainder

of the day and evening.

This was a freedom essential to the health even of a character so

little susceptible of morbid influences as that of Phoebe. The old

house, as we have already said, had both the dry-rot and the damp-rot

in its walls; it was not good to breathe no other atmosphere than that.

Hepzibah, though she had her valuable and redeeming traits, had grown

to be a kind of lunatic by imprisoning herself so long in one place,

with no other company than a single series of ideas, and but one

affection, and one bitter sense of wrong. Clifford, the reader may

perhaps imagine, was too inert to operate morally on his

fellow-creatures, however intimate and exclusive their relations with


But the sympathy or magnetism among human beings is more subtile

and universal than we think; it exists, indeed, among different classes

of organized life, and vibrates from one to another. A flower, for

instance, as Phoebe herself observed, always began to droop sooner in

Clifford's hand, or Hepzibah's, than in her own; and by the same law,

converting her whole daily life into a flower fragrance for these two

sickly spirits, the blooming girl must inevitably droop and fade much

sooner than if worn on a younger and happier breast. Unless she had

now and then indulged her brisk impulses, and breathed rural air in a

suburban walk, or ocean breezes along the shore,--had occasionally

obeyed the impulse of Nature, in New England girls, by attending a

metaphysical or philosophical lecture, or viewing a seven-mile

panorama, or listening to a concert,--had gone shopping about the city,

ransacking entire depots of splendid merchandise, and bringing home a

ribbon,--had employed, likewise, a little time to read the Bible in her

chamber, and had stolen a little more to think of her mother and her

native place--unless for such moral medicines as the above, we should

soon have beheld our poor Phoebe grow thin and put on a bleached,

unwholesome aspect, and assume strange, shy ways, prophetic of

old-maidenhood and a cheerless future.