Clifford, except for Phoebe's More active instigation would ordinarily

have yielded to the torpor which had crept through all his modes of

being, and which sluggishly counselled him to sit in his morning chair

till eventide. But the girl seldom failed to propose a removal to the

garden, where Uncle Venner and the daguerreotypist had made such

repairs on the roof of the ruinous arbor, or summer-house, that it was

now a sufficient shelter from sunshine and casual showers. The

hop-vine, too, had begun to grow luxuriantly over the sides of the

little edifice, and made an interior of verdant seclusion, with

innumerable peeps and glimpses into the wider solitude of the garden.

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Here, sometimes, in this green play-place of flickering light, Phoebe

read to Clifford. Her acquaintance, the artist, who appeared to have a

literary turn, had supplied her with works of fiction, in pamphlet

form,--and a few volumes of poetry, in altogether a different style and

taste from those which Hepzibah selected for his amusement. Small

thanks were due to the books, however, if the girl's readings were in

any degree more successful than her elderly cousin's. Phoebe's voice

had always a pretty music in it, and could either enliven Clifford by

its sparkle and gayety of tone, or soothe him by a continued flow of

pebbly and brook-like cadences. But the fictions--in which the

country-girl, unused to works of that nature, often became deeply

absorbed--interested her strange auditor very little, or not at all.

Pictures of life, scenes of passion or sentiment, wit, humor, and

pathos, were all thrown away, or worse than thrown away, on Clifford;

either because he lacked an experience by which to test their truth, or

because his own griefs were a touch-stone of reality that few feigned

emotions could withstand. When Phoebe broke into a peal of merry

laughter at what she read, he would now and then laugh for sympathy,

but oftener respond with a troubled, questioning look. If a tear--a

maiden's sunshiny tear over imaginary woe--dropped upon some melancholy

page, Clifford either took it as a token of actual calamity, or else

grew peevish, and angrily motioned her to close the volume. And wisely

too! Is not the world sad enough, in genuine earnest, without making a

pastime of mock sorrows?

With poetry it was rather better. He delighted in the swell and

subsidence of the rhythm, and the happily recurring rhyme. Nor was

Clifford incapable of feeling the sentiment of poetry,--not, perhaps,

where it was highest or deepest, but where it was most flitting and

ethereal. It was impossible to foretell in what exquisite verse the

awakening spell might lurk; but, on raising her eyes from the page to

Clifford's face, Phoebe would be made aware, by the light breaking

through it, that a more delicate intelligence than her own had caught a

lambent flame from what she read. One glow of this kind, however, was

often the precursor of gloom for many hours afterward; because, when

the glow left him, he seemed conscious of a missing sense and power,

and groped about for them, as if a blind man should go seeking his lost

eyesight.