"You are my only possibility of happiness!" answered Holgrave. "I have
no faith in it, except as you bestow it on me!"
"And then--I am afraid!" continued Phoebe, shrinking towards Holgrave,
even while she told him so frankly the doubts with which he affected
her. "You will lead me out of my own quiet path. You will make me
strive to follow you where it is pathless. I cannot do so. It is not
my nature. I shall sink down and perish!"
"Ah, Phoebe!" exclaimed Holgrave, with almost a sigh, and a smile that
was burdened with thought.
"It will be far otherwise than as you forebode. The world owes all its
onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines
himself within ancient limits. I have a presentiment that, hereafter,
it will be my lot to set out trees, to make fences,--perhaps, even, in
due time, to build a house for another generation,--in a word, to
conform myself to laws and the peaceful practice of society. Your
poise will be more powerful than any oscillating tendency of mine."
"I would not have it so!" said Phoebe earnestly.
"Do you love me?" asked Holgrave. "If we love one another, the moment
has room for nothing more. Let us pause upon it, and be satisfied. Do
you love me, Phoebe?"
"You look into my heart," said she, letting her eyes drop. "You know I
And it was in this hour, so full of doubt and awe, that the one miracle
was wrought, without which every human existence is a blank. The bliss
which makes all things true, beautiful, and holy shone around this
youth and maiden. They were conscious of nothing sad nor old. They
transfigured the earth, and made it Eden again, and themselves the two
first dwellers in it. The dead man, so close beside them, was
forgotten. At such a crisis, there is no death; for immortality is
revealed anew, and embraces everything in its hallowed atmosphere.
But how soon the heavy earth-dream settled down again!
"Hark!" whispered Phoebe. "Somebody is at the street door!"
"Now let us meet the world!" said Holgrave. "No doubt, the rumor of
Judge Pyncheon's visit to this house, and the flight of Hepzibah and
Clifford, is about to lead to the investigation of the premises. We
have no way but to meet it. Let us open the door at once."
But, to their surprise, before they could reach the street door,--even
before they quitted the room in which the foregoing interview had
passed,--they heard footsteps in the farther passage. The door,
therefore, which they supposed to be securely locked,--which Holgrave,
indeed, had seen to be so, and at which Phoebe had vainly tried to
enter,--must have been opened from without. The sound of footsteps was
not harsh, bold, decided, and intrusive, as the gait of strangers would
naturally be, making authoritative entrance into a dwelling where they
knew themselves unwelcome. It was feeble, as of persons either weak or
weary; there was the mingled murmur of two voices, familiar to both the