"Me asleep! How can you say so?" answered Phoebe, as unconscious of the

crisis through which she had passed as an infant of the precipice to

the verge of which it has rolled. "No, no! I consider myself as having

been very attentive; and, though I don't remember the incidents quite

distinctly, yet I have an impression of a vast deal of trouble and

calamity,--so, no doubt, the story will prove exceedingly attractive."

By this time the sun had gone down, and was tinting the clouds towards

the zenith with those bright hues which are not seen there until some

time after sunset, and when the horizon has quite lost its richer

brilliancy. The moon, too, which had long been climbing overhead, and

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unobtrusively melting its disk into the azure,--like an ambitious

demagogue, who hides his aspiring purpose by assuming the prevalent hue

of popular sentiment,--now began to shine out, broad and oval, in its

middle pathway. These silvery beams were already powerful enough to

change the character of the lingering daylight. They softened and

embellished the aspect of the old house; although the shadows fell

deeper into the angles of its many gables, and lay brooding under the

projecting story, and within the half-open door. With the lapse of

every moment, the garden grew more picturesque; the fruit-trees,

shrubbery, and flower-bushes had a dark obscurity among them. The

commonplace characteristics--which, at noontide, it seemed to have

taken a century of sordid life to accumulate--were now transfigured by

a charm of romance. A hundred mysterious years were whispering among

the leaves, whenever the slight sea-breeze found its way thither and

stirred them. Through the foliage that roofed the little summer-house

the moonlight flickered to and fro, and fell silvery white on the dark

floor, the table, and the circular bench, with a continual shift and

play, according as the chinks and wayward crevices among the twigs

admitted or shut out the glimmer.

So sweetly cool was the atmosphere, after all the feverish day, that

the summer eve might be fancied as sprinkling dews and liquid

moonlight, with a dash of icy temper in them, out of a silver vase.

Here and there, a few drops of this freshness were scattered on a human

heart, and gave it youth again, and sympathy with the eternal youth of

nature. The artist chanced to be one on whom the reviving influence

fell. It made him feel--what he sometimes almost forgot, thrust so

early as he had been into the rude struggle of man with man--how

youthful he still was.

"It seems to me," he observed, "that I never watched the coming of so

beautiful an eve, and never felt anything so very much like happiness

as at this moment. After all, what a good world we live in! How good,

and beautiful! How young it is, too, with nothing really rotten or

age-worn in it! This old house, for example, which sometimes has

positively oppressed my breath with its smell of decaying timber! And

this garden, where the black mould always clings to my spade, as if I

were a sexton delving in a graveyard! Could I keep the feeling that now

possesses me, the garden would every day be virgin soil, with the

earth's first freshness in the flavor of its beans and squashes; and

the house!--it would be like a bower in Eden, blossoming with the

earliest roses that God ever made. Moonlight, and the sentiment in

man's heart responsive to it, are the greatest of renovators and

reformers. And all other reform and renovation, I suppose, will prove

to be no better than moonshine!"