فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Daguerreotypist

Clifford went to sleep early in the evening, as children usually do. He was always tired, but not by physical exercise. It seemed like he needed a lot of energy to do very simple things. While he slept, Phoebe was free to do whatever she wanted. This freedom was necessary for her health. She needed to get out of the house and breathe fresh air because the air inside was unhealthy for her.

As time went by Phoebe changed. She was not as carefree and cheerful as she had been in the past. She began to understand Clifford more, and her eyes became darker and their expression deeper.

Holgrave, the daguerreotypist, was the only young person Phoebe knew and talked to. He told her many things about himself. He was twenty-two years old and came from a poor family. He had already worked as a school teacher, a salesman and an editor of a country newspaper. He had also traveled to parts of Europe - Italy, France and Germany. His present job was, in his opinion, a temporary one. For him it was only a way to earn money to be able to live. Phoebe recognized Holgrave’s strong personality, as Hepzibah had done. It was difficult not to. But he did not like or respect traditions and felt that new ideas should take their place. And this sometimes worried Phoebe.

Phoebe noticed that he was interested in Hepzibah and Clifford, and he studied them carefully.

“Is Clifford still happy?” he asked Phoebe one day.

“He’s as happy as a child,” answered Phoebe. “But like a child, he’s easily disturbed.”

“Disturbed by what?” asked Holgrave.

“I can’t see his thoughts,” said Phoebe. “His mood changes without any reason, just as a cloud comes over the sun. But I don’t think it’s right to search in his mind.”

“I would!” answered Holgrave excitedly.

“Why?” asked Phoebe. “What’s Clifford to you?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing!” answered the young man, smiling. “This is such a strange world with such strange people. Look at Judge Pyncheon! Clifford! And look at this gloomy old house. It’s ugly and unhealthy. It should be burnt!”

“Burnt!” exclaimed Phoebe, visibly disturbed. “Then why do you live in it?”

“Oh, I’m studying it. To me, this house represents a terrible past. And I’m living in it so that I can learn to hate it. Do you know the story of Maule the wizard, and his curse on your ancestor?”

“Yes, of course,” said Phoebe. “I’ve heard it several times. My father told me about it when I was a child and cousin Hepzibah has spoken about it two or three times in the short time that I’ve been here. She believes that all the bad luck of the Pyncheons began with that curse.”

“I believe it, too,” said Holgrave seriously, and looked up at the roof. “Think about it! Under these seven gables over hundreds of years, there has been misery, suspicion, conflict and strange death. Old Colonel Pyncheon wanted to cultivate a family here, but the many generations of the Pyncheon family are all touched by madness.”

“You aren’t very polite about my family,” said Phoebe.

“But the truth is as I say! The curse lives on and Colonel Pyncheon is with us again. Do you remember the daguerreotype I showed you of Judge Pyncheon? He’s very similar to his ancestor. You know, I’m writing a history of the Pyncheon family and I’m going to publish it in a magazine.”

“Really?” asked Phoebe, who was surprised.

“Yes, do you want to hear it?” Holgrave asked.

“Well, yes, if it’s not too long or boring!” she replied.

Holgrave went to get a notebook and started reading it out aloud to Phoebe. It was a long story about beautiful Alice Pyncheon and her meeting with a descendant of the Maule family who put a mysterious spell over her. It seems that she was a victim of this spell and died mysteriously at a young age. In the story Holgrave also talked about a hidden map and a deed for land in the eastern part of Maine. Phoebe listened but her eyes were heavy and they began to close.

Holgrave looked over at Phoebe and closed his notebook.

“Miss Phoebe! You’re sleeping!” he exclaimed.

“Me sleeping? Oh, no! I listened to all of your story. It’s full of trouble and tragedy,” she answered.

By this time the sky was dark and there was a big moon. In the silver light of the moon the house looked less cold and gloomy. A gentle wind was blowing the plants in the garden, playing games with the moonlight.

“What a beautiful evening!” Holgrave said.

“Yes, but I must go home now and help cousin Hepzibah with her work,” said Phoebe.

“Miss Hepzibah told me you’re going to the country tomorrow.”

“Only for a few days. My cousins need me here. I feel that this is my home now.”

“Yes, you’re the only light in this gloomy house. Miss Hepzibah has lost all contact with society. She’s already dead. And your cousin Clifford is, too. If you go away, neither will survive. They both exist because of you, Phoebe.”

“How very sad,” said Phoebe slowly. “But I want to help them as much as possible. You know, Mr Holgrave, sometimes I think that you don’t like them and don’t care about them.”

“You don’t understand. I do care about Miss Hepzibah and Clifford, but not in the way you do. I don’t want to help them but I don’t want to hurt them either. I only want to watch them, to study them, to understand the tragic life that has gone on in this cursed house for almost two hundred years. I’m only a spectator, but I feel the end is near for them.”

“I’d understand if you spoke more clearly,” said Phoebe, who was disturbed. “And I wish you were more of a human being. How can you watch people suffer without wanting to help and comfort them? This old house is like a theater for you, and Hepzibah and Clifford are the actors of a tragedy. I don’t like this, Mr Holgrave!”

“Forgive me, Phoebe,” he said, taking her hand, “but I’m attracted by the occult.”

“You said the end is near. Do you know something that you’re not telling me?”

“I know nothing, but I see that Judge Pyncheon still keeps an eye on Clifford. He has already done a lot to ruin the poor man’s life. The judge is a mystery to me. He’s clever and powerful, but I don’t know what he wants from Clifford.”

“I don’t understand you, Mr Holgrave,” said Phoebe. “It’s time for me to go. Goodnight!”

“Goodnight, my friend,” he answered.

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