His present phase, as a daguerreotypist, was of no more importance in
his own view, nor likely to be more permanent, than any of the
preceding ones. It had been taken up with the careless alacrity of an
adventurer, who had his bread to earn. It would be thrown aside as
carelessly, whenever he should choose to earn his bread by some other
equally digressive means. But what was most remarkable, and, perhaps,
showed a more than common poise in the young man, was the fact that,
amid all these personal vicissitudes, he had never lost his identity.
Homeless as he had been,--continually changing his whereabout, and,
therefore, responsible neither to public opinion nor to
individuals,--putting off one exterior, and snatching up another, to be
soon shifted for a third,--he had never violated the innermost man, but
had carried his conscience along with him. It was impossible to know
Holgrave without recognizing this to be the fact. Hepzibah had seen
it. Phoebe soon saw it likewise, and gave him the sort of confidence
which such a certainty inspires. She was startled, however, and
sometimes repelled,--not by any doubt of his integrity to whatever law
he acknowledged, but by a sense that his law differed from her own. He
made her uneasy, and seemed to unsettle everything around her, by his
lack of reverence for what was fixed, unless, at a moment's warning, it
could establish its right to hold its ground.
Then, moreover, she scarcely thought him affectionate in his nature.
He was too calm and cool an observer. Phoebe felt his eye, often; his
heart, seldom or never. He took a certain kind of interest in Hepzibah
and her brother, and Phoebe herself. He studied them attentively, and
allowed no slightest circumstance of their individualities to escape
him. He was ready to do them whatever good he might; but, after all,
he never exactly made common cause with them, nor gave any reliable
evidence that he loved them better in proportion as he knew them more.
In his relations with them, he seemed to be in quest of mental food,
not heart-sustenance. Phoebe could not conceive what interested him so
much in her friends and herself, intellectually, since he cared nothing
for them, or, comparatively, so little, as objects of human affection.
Always, in his interviews with Phoebe, the artist made especial inquiry
as to the welfare of Clifford, whom, except at the Sunday festival, he
"Does he still seem happy?" he asked one day.
"As happy as a child," answered Phoebe; "but--like a child, too--very
"How disturbed?" inquired Holgrave. "By things without, or by thoughts
"I cannot see his thoughts! How should I?" replied Phoebe with simple
piquancy. "Very often his humor changes without any reason that can be
guessed at, just as a cloud comes over the sun. Latterly, since I have
begun to know him better, I feel it to be not quite right to look
closely into his moods. He has had such a great sorrow, that his heart
is made all solemn and sacred by it. When he is cheerful,--when the
sun shines into his mind,--then I venture to peep in, just as far as
the light reaches, but no further. It is holy ground where the shadow