"It is enough, Phoebe," said Clifford, with a melancholy smile. "When
I first saw you, you were the prettiest little maiden in the world; and
now you have deepened into beauty. Girlhood has passed into womanhood;
the bud is a bloom! Go, now--I feel lonelier than I did."
Phoebe took leave of the desolate couple, and passed through the shop,
twinkling her eyelids to shake off a dew-drop; for--considering how
brief her absence was to be, and therefore the folly of being cast down
about it--she would not so far acknowledge her tears as to dry them
with her handkerchief. On the doorstep, she met the little urchin
whose marvellous feats of gastronomy have been recorded in the earlier
pages of our narrative. She took from the window some specimen or
other of natural history,--her eyes being too dim with moisture to
inform her accurately whether it was a rabbit or a hippopotamus,--put
it into the child's hand as a parting gift, and went her way. Old
Uncle Venner was just coming out of his door, with a wood-horse and saw
on his shoulder; and, trudging along the street, he scrupled not to
keep company with Phoebe, so far as their paths lay together; nor, in
spite of his patched coat and rusty beaver, and the curious fashion of
his tow-cloth trousers, could she find it in her heart to outwalk him.
"We shall miss you, next Sabbath afternoon," observed the street
philosopher. "It is unaccountable how little while it takes some folks
to grow just as natural to a man as his own breath; and, begging your
pardon, Miss Phoebe (though there can be no offence in an old man's
saying it), that's just what you've grown to me! My years have been a
great many, and your life is but just beginning; and yet, you are
somehow as familiar to me as if I had found you at my mother's door,
and you had blossomed, like a running vine, all along my pathway since.
Come back soon, or I shall be gone to my farm; for I begin to find
these wood-sawing jobs a little too tough for my back-ache."
"Very soon, Uncle Venner," replied Phoebe.
"And let it be all the sooner, Phoebe, for the sake of those poor souls
yonder," continued her companion. "They can never do without you,
now,--never, Phoebe; never--no more than if one of God's angels had
been living with them, and making their dismal house pleasant and
comfortable! Don't it seem to you they'd be in a sad case, if, some
pleasant summer morning like this, the angel should spread his wings,
and fly to the place he came from? Well, just so they feel, now that
you're going home by the railroad! They can't bear it, Miss Phoebe; so
be sure to come back!"