The guest leaned back in his chair. Mingled in his countenance with a
dreamy delight, there was a troubled look of effort and unrest. He was
seeking to make himself more fully sensible of the scene around him;
or, perhaps, dreading it to be a dream, or a play of imagination, was
vexing the fair moment with a struggle for some added brilliancy and
more durable illusion.
"How pleasant!--How delightful!" he murmured, but not as if addressing
any one. "Will it last? How balmy the atmosphere through that open
window! An open window! How beautiful that play of sunshine! Those
flowers, how very fragrant! That young girl's face, how cheerful, how
blooming!--a flower with the dew on it, and sunbeams in the dew-drops!
Ah! this must be all a dream! A dream! A dream! But it has quite
hidden the four stone walls!"
Then his face darkened, as if the shadow of a cavern or a dungeon had
come over it; there was no more light in its expression than might have
come through the iron grates of a prison-window--still lessening, too,
as if he were sinking farther into the depths. Phoebe (being of that
quickness and activity of temperament that she seldom long refrained
from taking a part, and generally a good one, in what was going
forward) now felt herself moved to address the stranger.
"Here is a new kind of rose, which I found this morning in the garden,"
said she, choosing a small crimson one from among the flowers in the
vase. "There will be but five or six on the bush this season. This is
the most perfect of them all; not a speck of blight or mildew in it.
And how sweet it is!--sweet like no other rose! One can never forget
"Ah!--let me see!--let me hold it!" cried the guest, eagerly seizing
the flower, which, by the spell peculiar to remembered odors, brought
innumerable associations along with the fragrance that it exhaled.
"Thank you! This has done me good. I remember how I used to prize this
flower,--long ago, I suppose, very long ago!--or was it only yesterday?
It makes me feel young again! Am I young? Either this remembrance is
singularly distinct, or this consciousness strangely dim! But how kind
of the fair young girl! Thank you! Thank you!"
The favorable excitement derived from this little crimson rose afforded
Clifford the brightest moment which he enjoyed at the breakfast-table.
It might have lasted longer, but that his eyes happened, soon
afterwards, to rest on the face of the old Puritan, who, out of his
dingy frame and lustreless canvas, was looking down on the scene like a
ghost, and a most ill-tempered and ungenial one. The guest made an
impatient gesture of the hand, and addressed Hepzibah with what might
easily be recognized as the licensed irritability of a petted member of