"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
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
"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."