A nature like Phoebe's has invariably its due influence, but is seldom

regarded with due honor. Its spiritual force, however, may be

partially estimated by the fact of her having found a place for

herself, amid circumstances so stern as those which surrounded the

mistress of the house; and also by the effect which she produced on a

character of so much more mass than her own. For the gaunt, bony

frame and limbs of Hepzibah, as compared with the tiny lightsomeness of

Phoebe's figure, were perhaps in some fit proportion with the moral

weight and substance, respectively, of the woman and the girl.

To the guest,--to Hepzibah's brother,--or Cousin Clifford, as Phoebe


now began to call him,--she was especially necessary. Not that he could

ever be said to converse with her, or often manifest, in any other very

definite mode, his sense of a charm in her society. But if she were a

long while absent he became pettish and nervously restless, pacing the

room to and fro with the uncertainty that characterized all his

movements; or else would sit broodingly in his great chair, resting his

head on his hands, and evincing life only by an electric sparkle of

ill-humor, whenever Hepzibah endeavored to arouse him. Phoebe's

presence, and the contiguity of her fresh life to his blighted one, was

usually all that he required. Indeed, such was the native gush and play

of her spirit, that she was seldom perfectly quiet and undemonstrative,

any more than a fountain ever ceases to dimple and warble with its

flow. She possessed the gift of song, and that, too, so naturally, that

you would as little think of inquiring whence she had caught it, or

what master had taught her, as of asking the same questions about a

bird, in whose small strain of music we recognize the voice of the

Creator as distinctly as in the loudest accents of his thunder. So long

as Phoebe sang, she might stray at her own will about the house.

Clifford was content, whether the sweet, airy homeliness of her tones

came down from the upper chambers, or along the passageway from the

shop, or was sprinkled through the foliage of the pear-tree, inward

from the garden, with the twinkling sunbeams. He would sit quietly,

with a gentle pleasure gleaming over his face, brighter now, and now a

little dimmer, as the song happened to float near him, or was more

remotely heard. It pleased him best, however, when she sat on a low

footstool at his knee.

It is perhaps remarkable, considering her temperament, that Phoebe

oftener chose a strain of pathos than of gayety. But the young and

happy are not ill pleased to temper their life with a transparent

shadow. The deepest pathos of Phoebe's voice and song, moreover, came

sifted through the golden texture of a cheery spirit, and was somehow

so interfused with the quality thence acquired, that one's heart felt

all the lighter for having wept at it. Broad mirth, in the sacred

presence of dark misfortune, would have jarred harshly and irreverently

with the solemn symphony that rolled its undertone through Hepzibah's

and her brother's life. Therefore, it was well that Phoebe so often

chose sad themes, and not amiss that they ceased to be so sad while she

was singing them.