Becoming habituated to her companionship, Clifford readily showed how

capable of imbibing pleasant tints and gleams of cheerful light from

all quarters his nature must originally have been. He grew youthful

while she sat by him. A beauty,--not precisely real, even in its

utmost manifestation, and which a painter would have watched long to

seize and fix upon his canvas, and, after all, in vain,--beauty,

nevertheless, that was not a mere dream, would sometimes play upon and

illuminate his face. It did more than to illuminate; it transfigured

him with an expression that could only be interpreted as the glow of an

exquisite and happy spirit. That gray hair, and those furrows,--with


their record of infinite sorrow so deeply written across his brow, and

so compressed, as with a futile effort to crowd in all the tale, that

the whole inscription was made illegible,--these, for the moment,

vanished. An eye at once tender and acute might have beheld in the man

some shadow of what he was meant to be. Anon, as age came stealing,

like a sad twilight, back over his figure, you would have felt tempted

to hold an argument with Destiny, and affirm, that either this being

should not have been made mortal, or mortal existence should have been

tempered to his qualities. There seemed no necessity for his having

drawn breath at all; the world never wanted him; but, as he had

breathed, it ought always to have been the balmiest of summer air. The

same perplexity will invariably haunt us with regard to natures that

tend to feed exclusively upon the Beautiful, let their earthly fate be

as lenient as it may.

Phoebe, it is probable, had but a very imperfect comprehension of the

character over which she had thrown so beneficent a spell. Nor was it

necessary. The fire upon the hearth can gladden a whole semicircle of

faces round about it, but need not know the individuality of one among

them all. Indeed, there was something too fine and delicate in

Clifford's traits to be perfectly appreciated by one whose sphere lay

so much in the Actual as Phoebe's did. For Clifford, however, the

reality, and simplicity, and thorough homeliness of the girl's nature

were as powerful a charm as any that she possessed. Beauty, it is

true, and beauty almost perfect in its own style, was indispensable.

Had Phoebe been coarse in feature, shaped clumsily, of a harsh voice,

and uncouthly mannered, she might have been rich with all good gifts,

beneath this unfortunate exterior, and still, so long as she wore the

guise of woman, she would have shocked Clifford, and depressed him by

her lack of beauty. But nothing more beautiful--nothing prettier, at

least--was ever made than Phoebe. And, therefore, to this man,--whose

whole poor and impalpable enjoyment of existence heretofore, and until

both his heart and fancy died within him, had been a dream,--whose

images of women had more and more lost their warmth and substance, and

been frozen, like the pictures of secluded artists, into the chillest

ideality,--to him, this little figure of the cheeriest household life

was just what he required to bring him back into the breathing world.

Persons who have wandered, or been expelled, out of the common track of

things, even were it for a better system, desire nothing so much as to

be led back. They shiver in their loneliness, be it on a mountain-top

or in a dungeon. Now, Phoebe's presence made a home about her,--that

very sphere which the outcast, the prisoner, the potentate,--the wretch

beneath mankind, the wretch aside from it, or the wretch above

it,--instinctively pines after,--a home! She was real! Holding her

hand, you felt something; a tender something; a substance, and a warm

one: and so long as you should feel its grasp, soft as it was, you

might be certain that your place was good in the whole sympathetic

chain of human nature. The world was no longer a delusion.