We linger too long, no doubt, beside this paltry rivulet of life that

flowed through the garden of the Pyncheon House. But we deem it

pardonable to record these mean incidents and poor delights, because

they proved so greatly to Clifford's benefit. They had the earth-smell

in them, and contributed to give him health and substance. Some of his

occupations wrought less desirably upon him. He had a singular

propensity, for example, to hang over Maule's well, and look at the

constantly shifting phantasmagoria of figures produced by the agitation

of the water over the mosaic-work of colored pebbles at the bottom. He

said that faces looked upward to him there,--beautiful faces, arrayed

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in bewitching smiles,--each momentary face so fair and rosy, and every

smile so sunny, that he felt wronged at its departure, until the same

flitting witchcraft made a new one. But sometimes he would suddenly

cry out, "The dark face gazes at me!" and be miserable the whole day

afterwards. Phoebe, when she hung over the fountain by Clifford's

side, could see nothing of all this,--neither the beauty nor the

ugliness,--but only the colored pebbles, looking as if the gush of the

waters shook and disarranged them. And the dark face, that so troubled

Clifford, was no more than the shadow thrown from a branch of one of

the damson-trees, and breaking the inner light of Maule's well. The

truth was, however, that his fancy--reviving faster than his will and

judgment, and always stronger than they--created shapes of loveliness

that were symbolic of his native character, and now and then a stern

and dreadful shape that typified his fate.

On Sundays, after Phoebe had been at church,--for the girl had a

church-going conscience, and would hardly have been at ease had she

missed either prayer, singing, sermon, or benediction,--after

church-time, therefore, there was, ordinarily, a sober little festival

in the garden. In addition to Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe, two

guests made up the company. One was the artist Holgrave, who, in spite

of his consociation with reformers, and his other queer and

questionable traits, continued to hold an elevated place in Hepzibah's

regard. The other, we are almost ashamed to say, was the venerable

Uncle Venner, in a clean shirt, and a broadcloth coat, more respectable

than his ordinary wear, inasmuch as it was neatly patched on each

elbow, and might be called an entire garment, except for a slight

inequality in the length of its skirts. Clifford, on several

occasions, had seemed to enjoy the old man's intercourse, for the sake

of his mellow, cheerful vein, which was like the sweet flavor of a

frost-bitten apple, such as one picks up under the tree in December. A

man at the very lowest point of the social scale was easier and more

agreeable for the fallen gentleman to encounter than a person at any of

the intermediate degrees; and, moreover, as Clifford's young manhood

had been lost, he was fond of feeling himself comparatively youthful,

now, in apposition with the patriarchal age of Uncle Venner. In fact,

it was sometimes observable that Clifford half wilfully hid from

himself the consciousness of being stricken in years, and cherished

visions of an earthly future still before him; visions, however, too

indistinctly drawn to be followed by disappointment--though, doubtless,

by depression--when any casual incident or recollection made him

sensible of the withered leaf.