The House of the Seven Gables HTML version

14. Phoebe's Good-By
HOLGRAVE, plunging into his tale with the energy and absorption natural to a young
author, had given a good deal of action to the parts capable of being developed and
exemplified in that manner. He now observed that a certain remarkable drowsiness
(wholly unlike that with which the reader possibly feels himself affected) had been flung
over the senses of his auditress. It was the effect, unquestionably, of the mystic
gesticulations by which he had sought to bring bodily before Phoebe's perception the
figure of the mesmerizing carpenter. With the lids drooping over her eyes,--now lifted for
an instant, and drawn down again as with leaden weights,--she leaned slightly towards
him, and seemed almost to regulate her breath by his. Holgrave gazed at her, as he rolled
up his manuscript, and recognized an incipient stage of that curious psychological
condition which, as he had himself told Phoebe, he possessed more than an ordinary
faculty of producing. A veil was beginning to be muffled about her, in which she could
behold only him, and live only in his thoughts and emotions. His glance, as he fastened it
on the young girl, grew involuntarily more concentrated; in his attitude there was the
consciousness of power, investing his hardly mature figure with a dignity that did not
belong to its physical manifestation. It was evident, that, with but one wave of his hand
and a corresponding effort of his will, he could complete his mastery over Phoebe's yet
free and virgin spirit: he could establish an influence over this good, pure, and simple
child, as dangerous, and perhaps as disastrous, as that which the carpenter of his legend
had acquired and exercised over the ill-fated Alice.
To a disposition like Holgrave's, at once speculative and active, there is no temptation so
great as the opportunity of acquiring empire over the human spirit; nor any idea more
seductive to a young man than to become the arbiter of a young girl's destiny. Let us,
therefore, --whatever his defects of nature and education, and in spite of his scorn for
creeds and institutions,--concede to the daguerreotypist the rare and high quality of
reverence for another's individuality. Let us allow him integrity, also, forever after to be
confided in; since he forbade himself to twine that one link more which might have
rendered his spell over Phoebe indissoluble.
He made a slight gesture upward with his hand.
"You really mortify me, my dear Miss Phoebe!" he exclaimed, smiling half-sarcastically
at her. "My poor story, it is but too evident, will never do for Godey or Graham! Only
think of your falling asleep at what I hoped the newspaper critics would pronounce a
most brilliant, powerful, imaginative, pathetic, and original winding up! Well, the
manuscript must serve to light lamps with;--if, indeed, being so imbued with my gentle
dulness, it is any longer capable of flame!"
"Me asleep! How can you say so?" answered Phoebe, as unconscious of the crisis
through which she had passed as an infant of the precipice to the verge of which it has