For an instant after entering the room, the guest stood still,

retaining Hepzibah's hand instinctively, as a child does that of the

grown person who guides it. He saw Phoebe, however, and caught an

illumination from her youthful and pleasant aspect, which, indeed,

threw a cheerfulness about the parlor, like the circle of reflected

brilliancy around the glass vase of flowers that was standing in the

sunshine. He made a salutation, or, to speak nearer the truth, an

ill-defined, abortive attempt at curtsy. Imperfect as it was, however,

it conveyed an idea, or, at least, gave a hint, of indescribable grace,

such as no practised art of external manners could have attained. It

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was too slight to seize upon at the instant; yet, as recollected

afterwards, seemed to transfigure the whole man.

"Dear Clifford," said Hepzibah, in the tone with which one soothes a

wayward infant, "this is our cousin Phoebe,--little Phoebe

Pyncheon,--Arthur's only child, you know. She has come from the

country to stay with us awhile; for our old house has grown to be very

lonely now."

"Phoebe--Phoebe Pyncheon?--Phoebe?" repeated the guest, with a strange,

sluggish, ill-defined utterance. "Arthur's child! Ah, I forget! No

matter. She is very welcome!"

"Come, dear Clifford, take this chair," said Hepzibah, leading him to

his place. "Pray, Phoebe, lower the curtain a very little more. Now

let us begin breakfast."

The guest seated himself in the place assigned him, and looked

strangely around. He was evidently trying to grapple with the present

scene, and bring it home to his mind with a more satisfactory

distinctness. He desired to be certain, at least, that he was here, in

the low-studded, cross-beamed, oaken-panelled parlor, and not in some

other spot, which had stereotyped itself into his senses. But the

effort was too great to be sustained with more than a fragmentary

success. Continually, as we may express it, he faded away out of his

place; or, in other words, his mind and consciousness took their

departure, leaving his wasted, gray, and melancholy figure--a

substantial emptiness, a material ghost--to occupy his seat at table.

Again, after a blank moment, there would be a flickering taper-gleam in

his eyeballs. It betokened that his spiritual part had returned, and

was doing its best to kindle the heart's household fire, and light up

intellectual lamps in the dark and ruinous mansion, where it was doomed

to be a forlorn inhabitant.

At one of these moments of less torpid, yet still imperfect animation,

Phoebe became convinced of what she had at first rejected as too

extravagant and startling an idea. She saw that the person before her

must have been the original of the beautiful miniature in her cousin

Hepzibah's possession. Indeed, with a feminine eye for costume, she

had at once identified the damask dressing-gown, which enveloped him,

as the same in figure, material, and fashion, with that so elaborately

represented in the picture. This old, faded garment, with all its

pristine brilliancy extinct, seemed, in some indescribable way, to

translate the wearer's untold misfortune, and make it perceptible to

the beholder's eye. It was the better to be discerned, by this

exterior type, how worn and old were the soul's more immediate

garments; that form and countenance, the beauty and grace of which had

almost transcended the skill of the most exquisite of artists. It

could the more adequately be known that the soul of the man must have

suffered some miserable wrong, from its earthly experience. There he

seemed to sit, with a dim veil of decay and ruin betwixt him and the

world, but through which, at flitting intervals, might be caught the

same expression, so refined, so softly imaginative, which

Malbone--venturing a happy touch, with suspended breath--had imparted

to the miniature! There had been something so innately characteristic

in this look, that all the dusky years, and the burden of unfit

calamity which had fallen upon him, did not suffice utterly to destroy

it.