"How prettily you express this sentiment!" said the artist. "I can

understand the feeling, without possessing it. Had I your

opportunities, no scruples would prevent me from fathoming Clifford to

the full depth of my plummet-line!"

"How strange that you should wish it!" remarked Phoebe involuntarily.

"What is Cousin Clifford to you?"

"Oh, nothing,--of course, nothing!" answered Holgrave with a smile.

"Only this is such an odd and incomprehensible world! The more I look

at it, the more it puzzles me, and I begin to suspect that a man's

bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom. Men and women, and


children, too, are such strange creatures, that one never can be

certain that he really knows them; nor ever guess what they have been

from what he sees them to be now. Judge Pyncheon! Clifford! What a

complex riddle--a complexity of complexities--do they present! It

requires intuitive sympathy, like a young girl's, to solve it. A mere

observer, like myself (who never have any intuitions, and am, at best,

only subtile and acute), is pretty certain to go astray."

The artist now turned the conversation to themes less dark than that

which they had touched upon. Phoebe and he were young together; nor

had Holgrave, in his premature experience of life, wasted entirely that

beautiful spirit of youth, which, gushing forth from one small heart

and fancy, may diffuse itself over the universe, making it all as

bright as on the first day of creation. Man's own youth is the world's

youth; at least, he feels as if it were, and imagines that the earth's

granite substance is something not yet hardened, and which he can mould

into whatever shape he likes. So it was with Holgrave. He could talk

sagely about the world's old age, but never actually believed what he

said; he was a young man still, and therefore looked upon the

world--that gray-bearded and wrinkled profligate, decrepit, without

being venerable--as a tender stripling, capable of being improved into

all that it ought to be, but scarcely yet had shown the remotest

promise of becoming. He had that sense, or inward prophecy,--which a

young man had better never have been born than not to have, and a

mature man had better die at once than utterly to relinquish,--that we

are not doomed to creep on forever in the old bad way, but that, this

very now, there are the harbingers abroad of a golden era, to be

accomplished in his own lifetime. It seemed to Holgrave,--as doubtless

it has seemed to the hopeful of every century since the epoch of Adam's

grandchildren,--that in this age, more than ever before, the moss-grown

and rotten Past is to be torn down, and lifeless institutions to be

thrust out of the way, and their dead corpses buried, and everything to

begin anew.