"Can it be?" whispered Holgrave.
"It is they!" answered Phoebe. "Thank God!--thank God!"
And then, as if in sympathy with Phoebe's whispered ejaculation, they
heard Hepzibah's voice more distinctly.
"Thank God, my brother, we are at home!"
"Well!--Yes!--thank God!" responded Clifford. "A dreary home,
Hepzibah! But you have done well to bring me hither! Stay! That parlor
door is open. I cannot pass by it! Let me go and rest me in the arbor,
where I used,--oh, very long ago, it seems to me, after what has
befallen us,--where I used to be so happy with little Phoebe!"
But the house was not altogether so dreary as Clifford imagined it.
They had not made many steps,--in truth, they were lingering in the
entry, with the listlessness of an accomplished purpose, uncertain what
to do next,--when Phoebe ran to meet them. On beholding her, Hepzibah
burst into tears. With all her might, she had staggered onward beneath
the burden of grief and responsibility, until now that it was safe to
fling it down. Indeed, she had not energy to fling it down, but had
ceased to uphold it, and suffered it to press her to the earth.
Clifford appeared the stronger of the two.
"It is our own little Phoebe!--Ah! and Holgrave with, her" exclaimed
he, with a glance of keen and delicate insight, and a smile, beautiful,
kind, but melancholy. "I thought of you both, as we came down the
street, and beheld Alice's Posies in full bloom. And so the flower of
Eden has bloomed, likewise, in this old, darksome house to-day."