"You are right, Phoebe," rejoined Holgrave. "Doubtless you are right."

Yet the artist did not feel the horror, which was proper to Phoebe's

sweet and order-loving character, at thus finding herself at issue with

society, and brought in contact with an event that transcended ordinary

rules. Neither was he in haste, like her, to betake himself within the

precincts of common life. On the contrary, he gathered a wild

enjoyment,--as it were, a flower of strange beauty, growing in a

desolate spot, and blossoming in the wind,--such a flower of momentary

happiness he gathered from his present position. It separated Phoebe

and himself from the world, and bound them to each other, by their

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exclusive knowledge of Judge Pyncheon's mysterious death, and the

counsel which they were forced to hold respecting it. The secret, so

long as it should continue such, kept them within the circle of a

spell, a solitude in the midst of men, a remoteness as entire as that

of an island in mid-ocean; once divulged, the ocean would flow betwixt

them, standing on its widely sundered shores. Meanwhile, all the

circumstances of their situation seemed to draw them together; they

were like two children who go hand in hand, pressing closely to one

another's side, through a shadow-haunted passage. The image of awful

Death, which filled the house, held them united by his stiffened grasp.

These influences hastened the development of emotions that might not

otherwise have flowered so. Possibly, indeed, it had been Holgrave's

purpose to let them die in their undeveloped germs. "Why do we delay

so?" asked Phoebe. "This secret takes away my breath! Let us throw

open the doors!"

"In all our lives there can never come another moment like this!" said

Holgrave. "Phoebe, is it all terror?--nothing but terror? Are you

conscious of no joy, as I am, that has made this the only point of life

worth living for?"

"It seems a sin," replied Phoebe, trembling, "to think of joy at such a

time!"

"Could you but know, Phoebe, how it was with me the hour before you

came!" exclaimed the artist. "A dark, cold, miserable hour! The

presence of yonder dead man threw a great black shadow over everything;

he made the universe, so far as my perception could reach, a scene of

guilt and of retribution more dreadful than the guilt. The sense of it

took away my youth. I never hoped to feel young again! The world

looked strange, wild, evil, hostile; my past life, so lonesome and

dreary; my future, a shapeless gloom, which I must mould into gloomy

shapes! But, Phoebe, you crossed the threshold; and hope, warmth, and

joy came in with you! The black moment became at once a blissful one.

It must not pass without the spoken word. I love you!"

"How can you love a simple girl like me?" asked Phoebe, compelled by

his earnestness to speak. "You have many, many thoughts, with which I

should try in vain to sympathize. And I,--I, too,--I have tendencies

with which you would sympathize as little. That is less matter. But I

have not scope enough to make you happy."