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THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES

by NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTORY NOTE
AUTHOR'S PREFACE

I. THE OLD PYNCHEON FAMILY
II. THE LITTLE SHOP-WINDOW
III. THE FIRST CUSTOMER
IV. A DAY BEHIND THE COUNTER
V. MAY AND NOVEMBER
VI. MAULE'S WELL
VII. THE GUEST
VIII. THE PYNCHEON OF TO-DAY
IX. CLIFFORD AND PHOEBE
X. THE PYNCHEON GARDEN
XI. THE ARCHED WINDOW
XII. THE DAGUERREOTYPIST
XIII. ALICE PYNCHEON
XIV. PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY
XV. THE SCOWL AND SMILE
XVI. CLIFFORD'S CHAMBER
XVII. THE FLIGHT OF TWO OWLS
XVIII. GOVERNOR PYNCHEON
XIX. ALICE'S POSIES
XX. THE FLOWER OF EDEN
XXI. THE DEPARTURE
INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES.

IN September of the year during the February of which Hawthorne had
completed "The Scarlet Letter he began The House of the Seven Gables."
Meanwhilehe had removed from Salem to Lenoxin Berkshire County
Massachusettswhere he occupied with his family a small red wooden house
still standing at the date of this editionnear the Stockbridge Bowl.

I sha'n't have the new story ready by November,he explained
to his publisheron the 1st of Octoberfor I am never good for
anything in the literary way till after the first autumnal frost,
which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination that it does
on the foliage here about me-multiplying and brightening its hues.
But by vigorous application he was able to complete the new work
about the middle of the January following.

Since research has disclosed the manner in which the romance is
interwoven with incidents from the history of the Hawthorne family
The House of the Seven Gableshas acquired an interest apart
from that by which it first appealed to the public. John Hathorne


(as the name was then spelled)the great-grandfather of Nathaniel
Hawthornewas a magistrate at Salem in the latter part of the
seventeenth centuryand officiated at the famous trials for
witchcraft held there. It is of record that he used peculiar
severity towards a certain woman who was among the accused;
and the husband of this woman prophesied that God would take
revenge upon his wife's persecutors. This circumstance doubtless
furnished a hint for that piece of tradition in the book which
represents a Pyncheon of a former generation as having persecuted
one Maulewho declared that God would give his enemy "blood to drink."
It became a conviction with The Hawthorne family that a curse had been
pronounced upon its memberswhich continued in force in the time of
The romancer; a conviction perhaps derived from the recorded prophecy
of The injured woman's husbandjust mentioned; andhere again
we have a correspondence with Maule's malediction in The story.
Furthermorethere occurs in The "American Note-Books" (August 27
1837)a reminiscence of The author's familyto the following effect.
Philip Englisha character well-known in early Salem annalswas among
those who suffered from John Hathorne's magisterial harshnessand he
maintained in consequence a lasting feud with the old Puritan official.
But at his death English left daughtersone of whom is said to have
married the son of Justice John Hathornewhom English had declared
he would never forgive. It is scarcely necessary to point out how
clearly this foreshadows the final union of those hereditary foes
the Pyncheons and Maulesthrough the marriage of Phoebe and Holgrave.
The romancehoweverdescribes the Maules as possessing some of the
traits known to have been characteristic of the Hawthornes: for example
so long as any of the race were to be found, they had been marked out
from other men--not strikingly, nor as with a sharp line, but with an
effect that was felt rather than spoken of--by an hereditary
characteristic of reserve.Thuswhile the general suggestion
of the Hawthorne line and its fortunes was followed in the romance
the Pyncheons taking the place of The author's family
certain distinguishing marks of the Hawthornes were assigned
to the imaginary Maule posterity.

There are one or two other points which indicate Hawthorne's
method of basing his compositionsthe result in the main
of pure inventionon the solid ground of particular facts.
Allusion is madein the first chapter of the "Seven Gables
to a grant of lands in Waldo County, Maine, owned by the
Pyncheon family. In the American Note-Books" there is an entry
dated August 121837which speaks of the Revolutionary general
Knoxand his land-grant in Waldo Countyby virtue of which the
owner had hoped to establish an estate on the English plan
with a tenantry to make it profitable for him. An incident of
much greater importance in the story is the supposed murder of
one of the Pyncheons by his nephewto whom we are introduced as
Clifford Pyncheon. In all probability Hawthorne connected with
thisin his mindthe murder of Mr. Whitea wealthy gentleman
of Salemkilled by a man whom his nephew had hired. This took
place a few years after Hawthorne's gradation from college
and was one of the celebrated cases of the dayDaniel Webster
taking part prominently in the trial. But it should be observed
here that such resemblances as these between sundry elements in
the work of Hawthorne's fancy and details of reality are only
fragmentaryand are rearranged to suit the author's purposes.

In the same way he has made his description of Hepzibah Pyncheon's
seven-gabled mansion conform so nearly to several old dwellings
formerly or still extant in Salemthat strenuous efforts have
been made to fix upon some one of them as the veritable edifice
of the romance. A paragraph in The opening chapter has perhaps
assisted this delusion that there must have been a single original


House of the Seven Gablesframed by flesh-and-blood carpenters;
for it runs thus:-

Familiar as it stands in the writer's recollection--for it has
been an object of curiosity with him from boyhoodboth as a
specimen of the best and stateliest architecture of a long-past
epochand as the scene of events more full of interest perhaps
than those of a gray feudal castle--familiar as it standsin its
rusty old ageit is therefore only the more difficult to imagine
the bright novelty with which it first caught the sunshine."

Hundreds of pilgrims annually visit a house in Salembelonging
to one branch of the Ingersoll family of that placewhich is
stoutly maintained to have been The model for Hawthorne's
visionary dwelling. Others have supposed that the now vanished
house of The identical Philip Englishwhose bloodas we have
already noticedbecame mingled with that of the Hawthornes
supplied the pattern; and still a third buildingknown as the
Curwen mansionhas been declared the only genuine establishment.
Notwithstanding persistent popular beliefThe authenticity of
all these must positively be denied; although it is possible that
isolated reminiscences of all three may have blended with the
ideal image in the mind of Hawthorne. Heit will be seen
remarks in the Prefacealluding to himself in the third person
that he trusts not to be condemned for "laying out a street that
infringes upon nobody's private rights... and building a house
of materials long in use for constructing castles in the air."
More than thishe stated to persons still living that the house of
the romance was not copied from any actual edificebut was simply a
general reproduction of a style of architecture belonging to colonial days
examples of which survived into the period of his youthbut have since
been radically modified or destroyed. Hereas elsewherehe exercised
the liberty of a creative mind to heighten the probability of his pictures
without confining himself to a literal description of something he had seen.

While Hawthorne remained at Lenoxand during the composition
of this romancevarious other literary personages settled or
stayed for a time in the vicinity; among themHerman Melville
whose intercourse Hawthorne greatly enjoyedHenry JamesSr.
Doctor HolmesJ. T. HeadleyJames Russell LowellEdwin P.
WhippleFrederika Bremerand J. T. Fields; so that there was
no lack of intellectual society in the midst of the beautiful
and inspiring mountain scenery of the place. "In the afternoons
nowadays he records, shortly before beginning the work, this
valley in which I dwell seems like a vast basin filled with golden
Sunshine as with wine;" andhappy in the companionship of his
wife and their three childrenhe led a simplerefinedidyllic
lifedespite the restrictions of a scanty and uncertain income.
A letter written by Mrs. Hawthorneat this timeto a member of
her familygives incidentally a glimpse of the scenewhich may
properly find a place here. She says: "I delight to think that
you also can look forthas I do nowupon a broad valley and a
fine amphitheater of hillsand are about to watch the stately
ceremony of the sunset from your piazza. But you have not this
lovely lakenorI supposethe delicate purple mist which folds
these slumbering mountains in airy veils. Mr. Hawthorne has
been lying down in the sun shineslightly fleckered with the
shadows of a treeand Una and Julian have been making him look
like the mighty Panby covering his chin and breast with long
grass-bladesthat looked like a verdant and venerable beard."
The pleasantness and peace of his surroundings and of his modest
homein Lenoxmay be taken into account as harmonizing with the
mellow serenity of the romance then produced. Of the workwhen
it appeared in the early spring of 1851he wrote to Horatio Bridge


these wordsnow published for the first time:


`The House of the Seven Gables' in my opinion, is better than
`The Scarlet Letter:' but I should not wonder if I had refined
upon the principal character a little too much for popular
appreciation, nor if the romance of the book should be somewhat
at odds with the humble and familiar scenery in which I invest it.
But I feel that portions of it are as good as anything I can hope
to write, and the publisher speaks encouragingly of its success.

From Englandespeciallycame many warm expressions of praise
--a fact which Mrs. Hawthornein a private lettercommented on as
the fulfillment of a possibility which Hawthornewriting in boyhood
to his motherhad looked forward to. He had asked her if she would
not like him to become an author and have his books read in England.

G. P. L.
PREFACE.

WHEN a writer calls his work a Romanceit need hardly be observed
that he wishes to claim a certain latitudeboth as to its fashion
and materialwhich he would not have felt himself entitled to
assume had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form
of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity
not merely to the possiblebut to the probable and ordinary course
of man's experience. The former--whileas a work of artit must
rigidly subject itself to lawsand while it sins unpardonably so
far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart--has
fairly a right to present that truth under circumstancesto a
great extentof the writer's own choosing or creation. If he think
fitalsohe may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring
out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the shadows of the
picture. He will be wiseno doubtto make a very moderate use of
the privileges here statedandespeciallyto mingle the Marvelous
rather as a slightdelicateand evanescent flavorthan as any
portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public.
He can hardly be saidhoweverto commit a literary crime even if
he disregard this caution.

In the present workthe author has proposed to himself--but with
what successfortunatelyit is not for him to judge--to keep
undeviatingly within his immunities. The point of view in which
this tale comes under the Romantic definition lies in the attempt
to connect a bygone time with the very present that is flitting
away from us. It is a legend prolonging itselffrom an epoch now
gray in the distancedown into our own broad daylightand bringing
along with it some of its legendary mistwhich the readeraccording
to his pleasuremay either disregardor allow it to float almost
imperceptibly about the characters and events for the sake of a
picturesque effect. The narrativeit may beis woven of so
humble a texture as to require this advantageandat the same
timeto render it the more difficult of attainment.

Many writers lay very great stress upon some definite moral
purposeat which they profess to aim their works. Not to be
deficient in this particularthe author has provided himself
with a moral--the truthnamelythat the wrong-doing of one
generation lives into the successive onesanddivesting itself
of every temporary advantagebecomes a pure and uncontrollable


mischief; and he would feel it a singular gratification if this
romance might effectually convince mankind--orindeedany one
man--of the folly of tumbling down an avalanche of ill-gotten gold
or real estateon the heads of an unfortunate posteritythereby
to maim and crush themuntil the accumulated mass shall be
scattered abroad in its original atoms. In good faithhowever
he is not sufficiently imaginative to flatter himself with the
slightest hope of this kind. When romances do really teach
anythingor produce any effective operationit is usually
through a far more subtile process than the ostensible one.
The author has considered it hardly worth his whiletherefore
relentlessly to impale the story with its moral as with an iron
rod--orratheras by sticking a pin through a butterfly
--thus at once depriving it of lifeand causing it to stiffen
in an ungainly and unnatural attitude. A high truthindeed
fairlyfinelyand skilfully wrought outbrightening at every
stepand crowning the final development of a work of fiction
may add an artistic glorybut is never any truerand seldom
any more evidentat the last page than at the first.

The reader may perhaps choose to assign an actual locality to the
imaginary events of this narrative. If permitted by the historical
connection--whichthough slightwas essential to his plan--the
author would very willingly have avoided anything of this nature.
Not to speak of other objectionsit exposes the romance to an
inflexible and exceedingly dangerous species of criticismby
bringing his fancy-pictures almost into positive contact with
the realities of the moment. It has been no part of his object
howeverto describe local mannersnor in any way to meddle
with the characteristics of a community for whom he cherishes
a proper respect and a natural regard. He trusts not to be
considered as unpardonably offending by laying out a street that
infringes upon nobody's private rightsand appropriating a lot of
land which had no visible ownerand building a house of materials
long in use for constructing castles in the air. The personages
of the tale--though they give themselves out to be of ancient
stability and considerable prominence--are really of the author's
own makingor at all eventsof his own mixing; their virtues can
shed no lustrenor their defects redoundin the remotest degree
to the discredit of the venerable town of which they profess to be
inhabitants. He would be gladthereforeif-especially in the
quarter to which he alludes-the book may be read strictly as a
Romancehaving a great deal more to do with the clouds overhead
than with any portion of the actual soil of the County of Essex.

LENOXJanuary 271851.

THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I. The Old Pyncheon Family
HALFWAY down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands
a rusty wooden housewith seven acutely peaked gablesfacing
towards various points of the compassand a hugeclustered
chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house
is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm-treeof wide circumference
rooted before the dooris familiar to every town-born child by
the title of the Pyncheon Elm. On my occasional visits to the
town aforesaidI seldom failed to turn down Pyncheon Street


for the sake of passing through the shadow of these two antiquities
--the great elm-tree and the weather-beaten edifice.

The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like
a human countenancebearing the traces not merely of outward
storm and sunshinebut expressive alsoof the long lapse of
mortal lifeand accompanying vicissitudes that have passed
within. Were these to be worthily recountedthey would form a
narrative of no small interest and instructionand possessing
moreovera certain remarkable unitywhich might almost seem
the result of artistic arrangement. But the story would include
a chain of events extending over the better part of two centuries
andwritten out with reasonable amplitudewould fill a bigger
folio volumeor a longer series of duodecimosthan could prudently
be appropriated to the annals of all New England during a similar
period. It consequently becomes imperative to make short work
with most of the traditionary lore of which the old Pyncheon House
otherwise known as the House of the Seven Gableshas been the
theme. With a brief sketchthereforeof the circumstances
amid which the foundation of the house was laidand a rapid
glimpse at its quaint exterioras it grew black in the prevalent
east wind--pointingtoohere and thereat some spot of more
verdant mossiness on its roof and walls--we shall commence the
real action of our tale at an epoch not very remote from the
present day. Stillthere will be a connection with the long
past--a reference to forgotten events and personagesand to
mannersfeelingsand opinionsalmost or wholly obsolete
--whichif adequately translated to the readerwould serve
to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the
freshest novelty of human life. Hencetoomight be drawn a
weighty lesson from the little-regarded truththat the act of
the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce
good or evil fruit in a far-distant time; thattogether with
the seed of the merely temporary cropwhich mortals term
expediencythey inevitably sow the acorns of a more enduring
growthwhich may darkly overshadow their posterity.

The House of the Seven Gablesantique as it now lookswas not
the first habitation erected by civilized man on precisely the same
spot of ground. Pyncheon Street formerly bore the humbler appellation
of Maule's Lanefrom the name of the original occupant of the soil
before whose cottage-door it was a cow-path. A natural spring of
soft and pleasant water--a rare treasure on the sea-girt peninsula
where the Puritan settlement was made--had early induced Matthew
Maule to build a hutshaggy with thatchat this pointalthough
somewhat too remote from what was then the centre of the village.
In the growth of the townhoweverafter some thirty or forty
yearsthe site covered by this rude hovel had become exceedingly
desirable in the eyes of a prominent and powerful personagewho
asserted plausible claims to the proprietorship of this and a
large adjacent tract of landon the strength of a grant from the
legislature. Colonel Pyncheonthe claimantas we gather from
whatever traits of him are preservedwas characterized by an
iron energy of purpose. Matthew Mauleon the other handthough
an obscure manwas stubborn in the defence of what he considered
his right; andfor several yearshe succeeded in protecting the
acre or two of earth whichwith his own toilhe had hewn out
of the primeval forestto be his garden ground and homestead.
No written record of this dispute is known to be in existence.
Our acquaintance with the whole subject is derived chiefly from
tradition. It would be boldthereforeand possibly unjust
to venture a decisive opinion as to its merits; although it
appears to have been at least a matter of doubtwhether Colonel
Pyncheon's claim were not unduly stretchedin order to make it


cover the small metes and bounds of Matthew Maule. What greatly
strengthens such a suspicion is the fact that this controversy
between two ill-matched antagonists --at a periodmoreover
laud it as we maywhen personal influence had far more weight
than now--remained for years undecidedand came to a close only
with the death of the party occupying the disputed soil. The mode
of his deathtooaffects the mind differentlyin our day
from what it did a century and a half ago. It was a death that
blasted with strange horror the humble name of the dweller in
the cottageand made it seem almost a religious act to drive
the plough over the little area of his habitationand obliterate
his place and memory from among men.

Old Matthew Maulein a wordwas executed for the crime of
witchcraft. He was one of the martyrs to that terrible delusion
which should teach usamong its other moralsthat the influential
classesand those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the
peopleare fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever
characterized the maddest mob. Clergymenjudgesstatesmen--the
wisestcalmestholiest persons of their day stood in the inner
circle round about the gallowsloudest to applaud the work of
bloodlatest to confess themselves miserably deceived. If any
one part of their proceedings can be said to deserve less blame
than anotherit was the singular indiscrimination with which
they persecutednot merely the poor and agedas in former
judicial massacresbut people of all ranks; their own equals
brethrenand wives. Amid the disorder of such various ruin
it is not strange that a man of inconsiderable notelike Maule
should have trodden the martyr's path to the hill of execution
almost unremarked in the throng of his fellow sufferers. But
in after dayswhen the frenzy of that hideous epoch had subsided
it was remembered how loudly Colonel Pyncheon had joined in the
general cryto purge the land from witchcraft; nor did it fail
to be whisperedthat there was an invidious acrimony in the
zeal with which he had sought the condemnation of Matthew Maule.
It was well known that the victim had recognized the bitterness
of personal enmity in his persecutor's conduct towards himand
that he declared himself hunted to death for his spoil. At the
moment of execution--with the halter about his neckand while
Colonel Pyncheon sat on horsebackgrimly gazing at the scene
Maule had addressed him from the scaffoldand uttered a prophecy
of which historyas well as fireside traditionhas preserved
the very words. "God said the dying man, pointing his finger,
with a ghastly look, at the undismayed countenance of his enemy,
--God will give him blood to drink!" After the reputed wizard's
deathhis humble homestead had fallen an easy spoil into Colonel
Pyncheon's grasp. When it was understoodhoweverthat the
Colonel intended to erect a family mansion-spaciousponderously
framed of oaken timberand calculated to endure for many generations
of his posterity over the spot first covered by the log-built hut
of Matthew Maulethere was much shaking of the head among the
village gossips. Without absolutely expressing a doubt whether
the stalwart Puritan had acted as a man of conscience and integrity
throughout the proceedings which have been sketchedthey
neverthelesshinted that he was about to build his house over
an unquiet grave. His home would include the home of the dead
and buried wizardand would thus afford the ghost of the latter
a kind of privilege to haunt its new apartmentsand the chambers
into which future bridegrooms were to lead their bridesand where
children of the Pyncheon blood were to be born. The terror and
ugliness of Maule's crimeand the wretchedness of his punishment
would darken the freshly plastered wallsand infect them early
with the scent of an old and melancholy house. Whythen--while
so much of the soil around him was bestrewn with the virgin forest


leaves--why should Colonel Pyncheon prefer a site that had
already been accurst?

But the Puritan soldier and magistrate was not a man to be turned
aside from his well-considered schemeeither by dread of the
wizard's ghostor by flimsy sentimentalities of any kindhowever
specious. Had he been told of a bad airit might have moved him
somewhat; but he was ready to encounter an evil spirit on his own
ground. Endowed with commonsenseas massive and hard as blocks
of granitefastened together by stern rigidity of purposeas with
iron clampshe followed out his original designprobably without
so much as imagining an objection to it. On the score of delicacy
or any scrupulousness which a finer sensibility might have taught him
the Colonellike most of his breed and generationwas impenetrable.
He therefore dug his cellarand laid the deep foundations of his
mansionon the square of earth whence Matthew Mauleforty years
beforehad first swept away the fallen leaves. It was a curious
andas some people thoughtan ominous factthatvery soon after
the workmen began their operationsthe spring of waterabove
mentionedentirely lost the deliciousness of its pristine quality.
Whether its sources were disturbed by the depth of the new cellar
or whatever subtler cause might lurk at the bottomit is certain
that the water of Maule's Wellas it continued to be called
grew hard and brackish. Even such we find it now; and any old
woman of the neighborhood will certify that it is productive of
intestinal mischief to those who quench their thirst there.

The reader may deem it singular that the head carpenter of the new
edifice was no other than the son of the very man from whose dead
gripe the property of the soil had been wrested. Not improbably he
was the best workman of his time; orperhapsthe Colonel thought
it expedientor was impelled by some better feelingthus openly
to cast aside all animosity against the race of his fallen antagonist.
Nor was it out of keeping with the general coarseness and matter-of-fact
character of the agethat the son should be willing to earn an honest
pennyorrathera weighty amount of sterling poundsfrom the purse
of his father's deadly enemy. At all eventsThomas Maule became the
architect of the House of the Seven Gablesand performed his duty so
faithfully that the timber framework fastened by his hands still
holds together.

Thus the great house was built. Familiar as it stands in the writer's
recollection--for it has been an object of curiosity with him from
boyhoodboth as a specimen of the best and stateliest architecture
of a longpast epochand as the scene of events more full of human
interestperhapsthan those of a gray feudal castle--familiar as
it standsin its rusty old ageit is therefore only the more
difficult to imagine the bright novelty with which it first caught
the sunshine. The impression of its actual stateat this distance
of a hundred and sixty yearsdarkens inevitably through the picture
which we would fain give of its appearance on the morning when the
Puritan magnate bade all the town to be his guests. A ceremony of
consecrationfestive as well as religiouswas now to be performed.
A prayer and discourse from the Rev. Mr. Higginsonand the outpouring
of a psalm from the general throat of the communitywas to be made
acceptable to the grosser sense by aleciderwineand brandy
in copious effusionandas some authorities averby an oxroasted
wholeor at leastby the weight and substance of an oxin more
manageable joints and sirloins. The carcass of a deershot within
twenty mileshad supplied material for the vast circumference of a
pasty. A codfish of sixty poundscaught in the bayhad been dissolved
into the rich liquid of a chowder. The chimney of the new house
in shortbelching forth its kitchen smokeimpregnated the whole air
with the scent of meatsfowlsand fishesspicily concocted with


odoriferous herbsand onions in abundance. The mere smell of such
festivitymaking its way to everybody's nostrilswas at once an
invitation and an appetite.

Maule's Laneor Pyncheon Streetas it were now more decorous to
call itwas throngedat the appointed houras with a congregation
on its way to church. Allas they approachedlooked upward at
the imposing edificewhich was henceforth to assume its rank among
the habitations of mankind. There it rosea little withdrawn from
the line of the streetbut in pridenot modesty. Its whole visible
exterior was ornamented with quaint figuresconceived in the
grotesqueness of a Gothic fancyand drawn or stamped in the
glittering plastercomposed of limepebblesand bits of glass
with which the woodwork of the walls was overspread. On every side
the seven gables pointed sharply towards the skyand presented the
aspect of a whole sisterhood of edificesbreathing through the
spiracles of one great chimney. The many latticeswith their small
diamond-shaped panesadmitted the sunlight into hall and chamber
whileneverthelessthe second storyprojecting far over the base
and itself retiring beneath the thirdthrew a shadowy and thoughtful
gloom into the lower rooms. Carved globes of wood were affixed under
the jutting stories. Little spiral rods of iron beautified each of
the seven peaks. On the triangular portion of the gablethat fronted
next the streetwas a dialput up that very morningand on which
the sun was still marking the passage of the first bright hour in a
history that was not destined to be all so bright. All around were
scattered shavingschipsshinglesand broken halves of bricks;
thesetogether with the lately turned earthon which the grass
had not begun to growcontributed to the impression of strangeness
and novelty proper to a house that had yet its place to make among
men's daily interests.

The principal entrancewhich had almost the breadth of a
church-doorwas in the angle between the two front gablesand
was covered by an open porchwith benches beneath its shelter.
Under this arched doorwayscraping their feet on the unworn
thresholdnow trod the clergymenthe eldersthe magistrates
the deaconsand whatever of aristocracy there was in town or
county. Thithertoothronged the plebeian classes as freely as
their bettersand in larger number. Just within the entrance
howeverstood two serving-menpointing some of the guests to
the neighborhood of the kitchen and ushering others into the
statelier rooms--hospitable alike to allbut still with a
scrutinizing regard to the high or low degree of each. Velvet
garments sombre but richstiffly plaited ruffs and bands
embroidered glovesvenerable beardsthe mien and countenance
of authoritymade it easy to distinguish the gentleman of worship
at that periodfrom the tradesmanwith his plodding airor the
laborerin his leathern jerkinstealing awe-stricken into the
house which he had perhaps helped to build.

One inauspicious circumstance there waswhich awakened a hardly
concealed displeasure in the breasts of a few of the more punctilious
visitors. The founder of this stately mansion--a gentleman noted
for the square and ponderous courtesy of his demeanorought surely
to have stood in his own halland to have offered the first welcome
to so many eminent personages as here presented themselves in honor
of his solemn festival. He was as yet invisible; the most favored
of the guests had not beheld him. This sluggishness on Colonel
Pyncheon's part became still more unaccountablewhen the second
dignitary of the province made his appearanceand found no more
ceremonious a reception. The lieutenant-governoralthough his
visit was one of the anticipated glories of the dayhad alighted
from his horseand assisted his lady from her side-saddleand


crossed the Colonel's thresholdwithout other greeting than that
of the principal domestic.

This person--a gray-headed manof quiet and most respectful
deportment --found it necessary to explain that his master still
remained in his studyor private apartment; on entering which
an hour beforehe had expressed a wish on no account to be disturbed.

Do not you see, fellow,said the high-sheriff of the county
taking the servant asidethat this is no less a man than the
lieutenant-governor? Summon Colonel Pyncheon at once! I know that
he received letters from England this morning; and, in the perusal
and consideration of them, an hour may have passed away without his
noticing it. But he will be ill-pleased, I judge if you suffer him
to neglect the courtesy due to one of our chief rulers, and who may
be said to represent King William, in the absence of the governor
himself. Call your master instantly.

Nay, please your worship,answered the manin much perplexity
but with a backwardness that strikingly indicated the hard and
severe character of Colonel Pyncheon's domestic rule; "my master's
orders were exceeding strict; andas your worship knowshe
permits of no discretion in the obedience of those who owe him
service. Let who list open yonder door; I dare notthough the
governor's own voice should bid me do it!"

Pooh, pooh, master high sheriff!cried the lieutenant-governor
who had overheard the foregoing discussionand felt himself high
enough in station to play a little with his dignity. "I will take
the matter into my own hands. It is time that the good Colonel came
forth to greet his friends; else we shall be apt to suspect that he
has taken a sip too much of his Canary winein his extreme deliberation
which cask it were best to broach in honor of the day! But since he
is so much behindhandI will give him a remembrancer myself!"

Accordinglywith such a tramp of his ponderous riding-boots as
might of itself have been audible in the remotest of the seven
gableshe advanced to the doorwhich the servant pointed out
and made its new panels reecho with a loudfree knock. Then
looking roundwith a smileto the spectatorshe awaited a
response. As none camehoweverhe knocked againbut with the
same unsatisfactory result as at first. And nowbeing a trifle
choleric in his temperamentthe lieutenant-governor uplifted the
heavy hilt of his swordwherewith he so beat and banged upon the
doorthatas some of the bystanders whisperedthe racket might
have disturbed the dead. Be that as it mightit seemed to produce
no awakening effect on Colonel Pyncheon. When the sound subsided
the silence through the house was deepdrearyand oppressive
notwithstanding that the tongues of many of the guests had already
been loosened by a surreptitious cup or two of wine or spirits.

Strange, forsooth!--very strange!cried the lieutenant-governor
whose smile was changed to a frown. "But seeing that our host
sets us the good example of forgetting ceremonyI shall likewise
throw it asideand make free to intrude on his privacy."

He tried the doorwhich yielded to his handand was flung wide
open by a sudden gust of wind that passedas with a loud sigh
from the outermost portal through all the passages and apartments
of the new house. It rustled the silken garments of the ladies
and waved the long curls of the gentlemen's wigsand shook the
window-hangings and the curtains of the bedchambers; causing
everywhere a singular stirwhich yet was more like a hush.
A shadow of awe and half-fearful anticipation--nobody knew


whereforenor of what--had all at once fallen over the company.

They throngedhoweverto the now open doorpressing the
lieutenant-governorin the eagerness of their curiosityinto
the room in advance of them. At the first glimpse they beheld
nothing extraordinary: a handsomely furnished roomof moderate
sizesomewhat darkened by curtains; books arranged on shelves;
a large map on the walland likewise a portrait of Colonel
Pyncheonbeneath which sat the original Colonel himselfin an
oaken elbow-chairwith a pen in his hand. Lettersparchments
and blank sheets of paper were on the table before him. He
appeared to gaze at the curious crowdin front of which stood
the lieutenant-governor; and there was a frown on his dark and
massive countenanceas if sternly resentful of the boldness that
had impelled them into his private retirement.

A little boy--the Colonel's grandchildand the only human being
that ever dared to be familiar with him--now made his way among
the guestsand ran towards the seated figure; then pausing
halfwayhe began to shriek with terror. The companytremulous
as the leaves of a treewhen all are shaking togetherdrew
nearerand perceived that there was an unnatural distortion in
the fixedness of Colonel Pyncheon's stare; that there was blood
on his ruffand that his hoary beard was saturated with it.
It was too late to give assistance. The iron-hearted Puritan
the relentless persecutorthe grasping and strong-willed man was
dead! Deadin his new house! There is a traditiononly worth
alluding to as lending a tinge of superstitious awe to a scene
perhaps gloomy enough without itthat a voice spoke loudly among
the gueststhe tones of which were like those of old Matthew
Maulethe executed wizard--"God hath given him blood to drink!"

Thus early had that one guest--the only guest who is certain
at one time or anotherto find his way into every human dwelling
--thus early had Death stepped across the threshold of the House
of the Seven Gables!

Colonel Pyncheon's sudden and mysterious end made a vast deal
of noise in its day. There were many rumorssome of which have
vaguely drifted down to the present timehow that appearances
indicated violence; that there were the marks of fingers on his
throatand the print of a bloody hand on his plaited ruff; and
that his peaked beard was dishevelledas if it had been fiercely
clutched and pulled. It was averredlikewisethat the lattice
windownear the Colonel's chairwas open; and thatonly a few
minutes before the fatal occurrencethe figure of a man had been
seen clambering over the garden fencein the rear of the house.
But it were folly to lay any stress on stories of this kindwhich
are sure to spring up around such an event as that now related
and whichas in the present casesometimes prolong themselves
for ages afterwardslike the toadstools that indicate where the
fallen and buried trunk of a tree has long since mouldered into
the earth. For our own partwe allow them just as little
credence as to that other fable of the skeleton hand which the
lieutenant- governor was said to have seen at the Colonel's throat
but which vanished awayas he advanced farther into the room.
Certain it ishoweverthat there was a great consultation and
dispute of doctors over the dead body. One--John Swinnerton
by name--who appears to have been a man of eminenceupheld it
if we have rightly understood his terms of artto be a case of
apoplexy. His professional brethreneach for himselfadopted
various hypothesesmore or less plausiblebut all dressed out
in a perplexing mystery of phrasewhichif it do not show a
bewilderment of mind in these erudite physicianscertainly causes


it in the unlearned peruser of their opinions. The coroner's
jury sat upon the corpseandlike sensible menreturned an
unassailable verdict of "Sudden Death!"

It is indeed difficult to imagine that there could have been
a serious suspicion of murderor the slightest grounds for
implicating any particular individual as the perpetrator.
The rankwealthand eminent character of the deceased must
have insured the strictest scrutiny into every ambiguous
circumstance. As none such is on recordit is safe to assume
that none existed Tradition--which sometimes brings down truth
that history has let slipbut is oftener the wild babble of the
timesuch as was formerly spoken at the fireside and now congeals
in newspapers--tradition is responsible for all contrary averments.
In Colonel Pyncheon's funeral sermonwhich was printedand is
still extantthe Rev. Mr. Higginson enumeratesamong the many
felicities of his distinguished parishioner's earthly career
the happy seasonableness of his death. His duties all performed
--the highest prosperity attained--his race and future generations
fixed on a stable basisand with a stately roof to shelter them
for centuries to come--what other upward step remained for this
good man to takesave the final step from earth to the golden
gate of heaven! The pious clergyman surely would not have uttered
words like these had he in the least suspected that the Colonel
had been thrust into the other world with the clutch of violence
upon his throat.

The family of Colonel Pyncheonat the epoch of his deathseemed
destined to as fortunate a permanence as can anywise consist with
the inherent instability of human affairs. It might fairly be
anticipated that the progress of time would rather increase and
ripen their prosperitythan wear away and destroy it. Fornot only
had his son and heir come into immediate enjoyment of a rich estate
but there was a claim through an Indian deedconfirmed by a subsequent
grant of the General Courtto a vast and as yet unexplored and
unmeasured tract of Eastern lands. These possessions--for as such
they might almost certainly be reckoned--comprised the greater part
of what is now known as Waldo Countyin the state of Maineand were
more extensive than many a dukedomor even a reigning prince's
territoryon European soil. When the pathless forest that still
covered this wild principality should give place--as it inevitably
mustthough perhaps not till ages hence--to the golden fertility
of human cultureit would be the source of incalculable wealth
to the Pyncheon blood. Had the Colonel survived only a few weeks
longerit is probable that his great political influenceand
powerful connections at home and abroadwould have consummated
all that was necessary to render the claim available. Butin
spite of good Mr. Higginson's congratulatory eloquencethis
appeared to be the one thing which Colonel Pyncheonprovident
and sagacious as he washad allowed to go at loose ends. So far
as the prospective territory was concernedhe unquestionably
died too soon. His son lacked not merely the father's eminent
positionbut the talent and force of character to achieve it:
he couldthereforeeffect nothing by dint of political interest;
and the bare justice or legality of the claim was not so apparent
after the Colonel's deceaseas it had been pronounced in his
lifetime. Some connecting link had slipped out of the evidence
and could not anywhere be found.

Effortsit is truewere made by the Pyncheonsnot only then
but at various periods for nearly a hundred years afterwards
to obtain what they stubbornly persisted in deeming their right.
Butin course of timethe territory was partly regranted to more
favored individualsand partly cleared and occupied by actual


settlers. These lastif they ever heard of the Pyncheon title
would have laughed at the idea of any man's asserting a right--on
the strength of mouldy parchmentssigned with the faded autographs
of governors and legislators long dead and forgotten--to the lands
which they or their fathers had wrested from the wild hand of
nature by their own sturdy toil. This impalpable claimtherefore
resulted in nothing more solid than to cherishfrom generation to
generationan absurd delusion of family importancewhich all along
characterized the Pyncheons. It caused the poorest member of the
race to feel as if he inherited a kind of nobilityand might yet
come into the possession of princely wealth to support it. In the
better specimens of the breedthis peculiarity threw an ideal grace
over the hard material of human lifewithout stealing away any truly
valuable quality. In the baser sortits effect was to increase the
liability to sluggishness and dependenceand induce the victim of a
shadowy hope to remit all self-effortwhile awaiting the realization
of his dreams. Years and years after their claim had passed out of
the public memorythe Pyncheons were accustomed to consult the
Colonel's ancient mapwhich had been projected while Waldo County
was still an unbroken wilderness. Where the old land surveyor had
put down woodslakesand riversthey marked out the cleared spaces
and dotted the villages and townsand calculated the progressively
increasing value of the territoryas if there were yet a prospect of
its ultimately forming a princedom for themselves.

In almost every generationneverthelessthere happened to be
some one descendant of the family gifted with a portion of the
hardkeen senseand practical energythat had so remarkably
distinguished the original founder. His characterindeedmight
be traced all the way downas distinctly as if the Colonel himself
a little dilutedhad been gifted with a sort of intermittent
immortality on earth. At two or three epochswhen the fortunes
of the family were lowthis representative of hereditary qualities
had made his appearanceand caused the traditionary gossips of
the town to whisper among themselvesHere is the old Pyncheon
come again! Now the Seven Gables will be new-shingled!From father
to sonthey clung to the ancestral house with singular tenacity of
home attachment. For various reasonshoweverand from impressions
often too vaguely founded to be put on paperthe writer cherishes
the belief that manyif not mostof the successive proprietors of
this estate were troubled with doubts as to their moral right to
hold it. Of their legal tenure there could be no question; but old
Matthew Mauleit is to be fearedtrode downward from his own age
to a far later oneplanting a heavy footstepall the wayon the
conscience of a Pyncheon. If sowe are left to dispose of the
awful querywhether each inheritor of the property-conscious of
wrongand failing to rectify it--did not commit anew the great
guilt of his ancestorand incur all its original responsibilities.
And supposing such to be the casewould it not be a far truer
mode of expression to say of the Pyncheon familythat they
inherited a great misfortunethan the reverse?

We have already hinted that it is not our purpose to trace down
the history of the Pyncheon familyin its unbroken connection
with the House of the Seven Gables; nor to showas in a magic
picturehow the rustiness and infirmity of age gathered over the
venerable house itself. As regards its interior lifea large
dim looking-glass used to hang in one of the roomsand was fabled
to contain within its depths all the shapes that had ever been
reflected there--the old Colonel himselfand his many descendants
some in the garb of antique babyhoodand others in the bloom of
feminine beauty or manly primeor saddened with the wrinkles of
frosty age. Had we the secret of that mirrorwe would gladly sit
down before itand transfer its revelations to our page. But there


was a storyfor which it is difficult to conceive any foundation
that the posterity of Matthew Maule had some connection with the
mystery of the looking-glassand thatby what appears to have
been a sort of mesmeric processthey could make its inner region
all alive with the departed Pyncheons; not as they had shown themselves
to the worldnor in their better and happier hoursbut as doing
over again some deed of sinor in the crisis of life's bitterest
sorrow. The popular imaginationindeedlong kept itself busy
with the affair of the old Puritan Pyncheon and the wizard Maule;
the curse which the latter flung from his scaffold was remembered
with the very important additionthat it had become a part of the
Pyncheon inheritance. If one of the family did but gurgle in his
throata bystander would be likely enough to whisperbetween jest
and earnestHe has Maule's blood to drink!The sudden death of a
Pyncheonabout a hundred years agowith circumstances very similar
to what have been related of the Colonel's exitwas held as giving
additional probability to the received opinion on this topic. It was
consideredmoreoveran ugly and ominous circumstancethat Colonel
Pyncheon's picture--in obedienceit was saidto a provision of his
will--remained affixed to the wall of the room in which he died.
Those sternimmitigable features seemed to symbolize an evil influence
and so darkly to mingle the shadow of their presence with the sunshine
of the passing hourthat no good thoughts or purposes could ever
spring up and blossom there. To the thoughtful mind there will be no
tinge of superstition in what we figuratively expressby affirming
that the ghost of a dead progenitor--perhaps as a portion of his own
punishment--is often doomed to become the Evil Genius of his family.

The Pyncheonsin brieflived alongfor the better part of two
centurieswith perhaps less of outward vicissitude than has
attended most other New England families during the same period
of time. Possessing very distinctive traits of their ownthey
nevertheless took the general characteristics of the little
community in which they dwelt; a town noted for its frugal
discreetwell-orderedand home-loving inhabitantsas well as
for the somewhat confined scope of its sympathies; but in which
be it saidthere are odder individualsandnow and then
stranger occurrencesthan one meets with almost anywhere else.
During the Revolutionthe Pyncheon of that epochadopting the
royal sidebecame a refugee; but repentedand made his reappearance
just at the point of time to preserve the House of the Seven Gables
from confiscation. For the last seventy years the most noted
event in the Pyncheon annals had been likewise the heaviest
calamity that ever befell the race; no less than the violent
death--for so it was adjudged--of one member of the family by
the criminal act of another. Certain circumstances attending
this fatal occurrence had brought the deed irresistibly home to
a nephew of the deceased Pyncheon. The young man was tried and
convicted of the crime; but either the circumstantial nature of
the evidenceand possibly some lurking doubts in the breast of
the executiveor" lastly--an argument of greater weight in a
republic than it could have been under a monarchy--the high
respectability and political influence of the criminal's connections
had availed to mitigate his doom from death to perpetual imprisonment.
This sad affair had chanced about thirty years before the action
of our story commences. Latterlythere were rumors (which few
believedand only one or two felt greatly interested in) that
this long-buried man was likelyfor some reason or otherto be
summoned forth from his living tomb.

It is essential to say a few words respecting the victim of this
now almost forgotten murder. He was an old bachelorand possessed
of great wealthin addition to the house and real estate which
constituted what remained of the ancient Pyncheon property.


Being of an eccentric and melancholy turn of mindand greatly given
to rummaging old records and hearkening to old traditionshe had
brought himselfit is averredto the conclusion that Matthew Maule
the wizardhad been foully wronged out of his homesteadif not out
of his life. Such being the caseand hethe old bachelorin
possession of the ill-gotten spoil--with the black stain of blood
sunken deep into itand still to be scented by conscientious nostrils
--the question occurredwhether it were not imperative upon him
even at this late hourto make restitution to Maule's posterity.
To a man living so much in the pastand so little in the present
as the secluded and antiquarian old bachelora century and a
half seemed not so vast a period as to obviate the propriety of
substituting right for wrong. It was the belief of those who knew
him bestthat he would positively have taken the very singular
step of giving up the House of the Seven Gables to the representative
of Matthew Maulebut for the unspeakable tumult which a suspicion
of the old gentleman's project awakened among his Pyncheon relatives.
Their exertions had the effect of suspending his purpose; but it
was feared that he would performafter deathby the operation of
his last willwhat he had so hardly been prevented from doing in
his proper lifetime. But there is no one thing which men so
rarely dowhatever the provocation or inducementas to bequeath
patrimonial property away from their own blood. They may love other
individuals far better than their relatives--they may even cherish
dislikeor positive hatredto the latter; but yetin view of death
the strong prejudice of propinquity revivesand impels the testator
to send down his estate in the line marked out by custom so immemorial
that it looks like nature. In all the Pyncheonsthis feeling had the
energy of disease. It was too powerful for the conscientious scruples
of the old bachelor; at whose deathaccordinglythe mansion-house
together with most of his other richespassed into the possession of
his next legal representative.

This was a nephewthe cousin of the miserable young man who
had been convicted of the uncle's murder. The new heirup to
the period of his accessionwas reckoned rather a dissipated youth
but had at once reformedand made himself an exceedingly respectable
member of society. In facthe showed more of the Pyncheon quality
and had won higher eminence in the worldthan any of his race since
the time of the original Puritan. Applying himself in earlier manhood
to the study of the lawand having a natural tendency towards office
he had attainedmany years agoto a judicial situation in some
inferior courtwhich gave him for life the very desirable and
imposing title of judge. Laterhe had engaged in politicsand
served a part of two terms in Congressbesides making a considerable
figure in both branches of the State legislature. Judge Pyncheon
was unquestionably an honor to his race. He had built himself a
country-seat within a few miles of his native townand there spent
such portions of his time as could be spared from public service in
the display of every grace and virtue--as a newspaper phrased it
on the eve of an election--befitting the Christianthe good citizen
the horticulturistand the gentleman.

There were few of the Pyncheons left to sun themselves in the
glow of the Judge's prosperity. In respect to natural increase
the breed had not thriven; it appeared rather to be dying out.
The only members of the family known to be extant werefirst
the Judge himselfand a single surviving sonwho was now travelling
in Europe; nextthe thirty years' prisoneralready alluded to
and a sister of the latterwho occupiedin an extremely retired
mannerthe House of the Seven Gablesin which she had a life-estate
by the will of the old bachelor. She was understood to be wretchedly
poorand seemed to make it her choice to remain so; inasmuch as
her affluent cousinthe Judgehad repeatedly offered her all the


comforts of lifeeither in the old mansion or his own modern
residence. The last and youngest Pyncheon was a little country-girl
of seventeenthe daughter of another of the Judge's cousins
who had married a young woman of no family or propertyand died
early and in poor circumstances. His widow had recently taken
another husband.

As for Matthew Maule's posterityit was supposed now to be extinct.
For a very long period after the witchcraft delusionhowever
the Maules had continued to inhabit the town where their progenitor
had suffered so unjust a death. To all appearancethey were a quiet
honestwell-meaning race of peoplecherishing no malice against
individuals or the public for the wrong which had been done them;
or ifat their own firesidethey transmitted from father to child
any hostile recollection of the wizard's fate and their lost patrimony
it was never acted uponnor openly expressed. Nor would it have
been singular had they ceased to remember that the House of the
Seven Gables was resting its heavy framework on a foundation that
was rightfully their own. There is something so massivestable
and almost irresistibly imposing in the exterior presentment of
established rank and great possessionsthat their very existence
seems to give them a right to exist; at leastso excellent a
counterfeit of rightthat few poor and humble men have moral
force enough to question iteven in their secret minds. Such is
the case nowafter so many ancient prejudices have been overthrown;
and it was far more so in ante-Revolutionary dayswhen the aristocracy
could venture to be proudand the low were content to be abased.
Thus the Maulesat all eventskept their resentments within their
own breasts. They were generally poverty-stricken; always plebeian
and obscure; working with unsuccessful diligence at handicrafts;
laboring on the wharvesor following the seaas sailors before
the mast; living here and there about the townin hired tenements
and coming finally to the almshouse as the natural home of their old
age. At lastafter creepingas it werefor such a length of time
along the utmost verge of the opaque puddle of obscuritythey had
taken that downright plunge whichsooner or lateris the destiny
of all familieswhether princely or plebeian. For thirty years
pastneither town-recordnor gravestonenor the directory
nor the knowledge or memory of manbore any trace of Matthew
Maule's descendants. His blood might possibly exist elsewhere;
herewhere its lowly current could be traced so far backit had
ceased to keep an onward course.

So long as any of the race were to be foundthey had been
marked out from other men--not strikinglynor as with a sharp
linebut with an effect that was felt rather than spoken of--by
an hereditary character of reserve. Their companionsor those
who endeavored to become suchgrew conscious of a circle round
about the Mauleswithin the sanctity or the spell of whichin
spite of an exterior of sufficient frankness and good-fellowship
it was impossible for any man to step. It was this indefinable
peculiarityperhapsthatby insulating them from human aid
kept them always so unfortunate in life. It certainly operated
to prolong in their caseand to confirm to them as their only
inheritancethose feelings of repugnance and superstitious terror
with which the people of the towneven after awakening from their
frenzycontinued to regard the memory of the reputed witches.
The mantleor rather the ragged cloakof old Matthew Maule had
fallen upon his children. They were half believed to inherit
mysterious attributes; the family eye was said to possess strange
power. Among other good-for-nothing properties and privileges
one was especially assigned them--that of exercising an influence
over people's dreams. The Pyncheonsif all stories were true
haughtily as they bore themselves in the noonday streets of their


native townwere no better than bond-servants to these plebeian
Mauleson entering the topsy-turvy commonwealth of sleep.
Modern psychologyit may bewill endeavor to reduce these
alleged necromancies within a systeminstead of rejecting
them as altogether fabulous.

A descriptive paragraph or twotreating of the seven-gabled
mansion in its more recent aspectwill bring this preliminary
chapter to a close. The street in which it upreared its venerable
peaks has long ceased to be a fashionable quarter of the town;
so thatthough the old edifice was surrounded by habitations of
modern datethey were mostly smallbuilt entirely of woodand
typical of the most plodding uniformity of common life. Doubtless
howeverthe whole story of human existence may be latent in each
of thembut with no picturesquenessexternallythat can attract
the imagination or sympathy to seek it there. But as for the old
structure of our storyits white-oak frameand its boards
shinglesand crumbling plasterand even the hugeclustered
chimney in the midstseemed to constitute only the least and
meanest part of its reality. So much of mankind's varied experience
had passed there--so much had been sufferedand somethingtoo
enjoyed--that the very timbers were oozyas with the moisture
of a heart. It was itself like a great human heartwith a life
of its ownand full of rich and sombre reminiscences.

The deep projection of the second story gave the house such a
meditative lookthat you could not pass it without the idea that
it had secrets to keepand an eventful history to moralize upon.
In frontjust on the edge of the unpaved sidewalkgrew the
Pyncheon Elmwhichin reference to such trees as one usually
meets withmight well be termed gigantic. It had been planted
by a great-grandson of the first Pyncheonandthough now
fourscore years of ageor perhaps nearer a hundredwas still in
its strong and broad maturitythrowing its shadow from side to
side of the streetovertopping the seven gablesand sweeping the
whole black roof with its pendant foliage. It gave beauty to the
old edificeand seemed to make it a part of nature. The street
having been widened about forty years agothe front gable was
now precisely on a line with it. On either side extended a ruinous
wooden fence of open lattice-workthrough which could be seen
a grassy yardandespecially in the angles of the building
an enormous fertility of burdockswith leavesit is hardly an
exaggeration to saytwo or three feet long. Behind the house
there appeared to be a gardenwhich undoubtedly had once been
extensivebut was now infringed upon by other enclosuresor shut
in by habitations and outbuildings that stood on another street.
It would be an omissiontriflingindeedbut unpardonable
were we to forget the green moss that had long since gathered
over the projections of the windowsand on the slopes of the
roof nor must we fail to direct the reader's eye to a cropnot
of weedsbut flower-shrubswhich were growing aloft in the air
not a great way from the chimneyin the nook between two of the
gables. They were called Alice's Posies. The tradition wasthat
a certain Alice Pyncheon had flung up the seedsin sportand that
the dust of the street and the decay of the roof gradually formed
a kind of soil for themout of which they grewwhen Alice had
long been in her grave. However the flowers might have come there
it was both sad and sweet to observe how Nature adopted to herself
this desolatedecayinggustyrusty old house of the Pyncheon
family; and how the even-returning summer did her best to gladden
it with tender beautyand grew melancholy in the effort.

There is one other featurevery essential to be noticedbut
whichwe greatly fearmay damage any picturesque and romantic


impression which we have been willing to throw over our sketch of
this respectable edifice. In the front gableunder the impending
brow of the second storyand contiguous to the streetwas a
shop-doordivided horizontally in the midstand with a window
for its upper segmentsuch as is often seen in dwellings of a
somewhat ancient date. This same shop-door had been a subject
of No slight mortification to the present occupant of the august
Pyncheon Houseas well as to some of her predecessors. The matter
is disagreeably delicate to handle; butsince the reader must
needs be let into the secrethe will please to understandthat
about a century agothe head of the Pyncheons found himself
involved in serious financial difficulties. The fellow (gentleman
as he styled himself) can hardly have been other than a spurious
interloper; forinstead of seeking office from the king or the
royal governoror urging his hereditary claim to Eastern lands
he bethought himself of no better avenue to wealth than by cutting
a shop-door through the side of his ancestral residence. It was
the custom of the timeindeedfor merchants to store their goods
and transact business in their own dwellings. But there was
something pitifully small in this old Pyncheon's mode of setting
about his commercial operations; it was whisperedthatwith his
own handsall beruffled as they werehe used to give change for
a shillingand would turn a half-penny twice overto make sure
that it was a good one. Beyond all questionhe had the blood of
a petty huckster in his veinsthrough whatever channel it may have
found its way there.

Immediately on his deaththe shop-door had been lockedbolted
and barredanddown to the period of our storyhad probably
never once been opened. The old countershelvesand other
fixtures of the little shop remained just as he had left them.
It used to be affirmedthat the dead shop-keeperin a white
wiga faded velvet coatan apron at his waistand his ruffles
carefully turned back from his wristsmight be seen through the
chinks of the shuttersany night of the yearransacking his till
or poring over the dingy pages of his day-book. From the look
of unutterable woe upon his faceit appeared to be his doom to
spend eternity in a vain effort to make his accounts balance.

And now--in a very humble wayas will be seen--we proceed to
open our narrative.

II The Little Shop-Window

IT still lacked half an hour of sunrisewhen Miss Hepzibah
Pyncheon--we will not say awokeit being doubtful whether the
poor lady had so much as closed her eyes during the brief night
of midsummer--butat all eventsarose from her solitary pillow
and began what it would be mockery to term the adornment of her
person. Far from us be the indecorum of assistingeven in
imaginationat a maiden lady's toilet! Our story must therefore
await Miss Hepzibah at the threshold of her chamber; only presuming
meanwhileto note some of the heavy sighs that labored from her
bosomwith little restraint as to their lugubrious depth and
volume of soundinasmuch as they could be audible to nobody save
a disembodied listener like ourself. The Old Maid was alone in
the old house. Aloneexcept for a certain respectable and orderly
young manan artist in the daguerreotype linewhofor about
three months backhad been a lodger in a remote gable--quite a
house by itselfindeed--with locksboltsand oaken bars on


all the intervening doors. Inaudibleconsequentlywere poor
Miss Hepzibah's gusty sighs. Inaudible the creaking joints of
her stiffened kneesas she knelt down by the bedside. And
inaudibletooby mortal earbut heard with all-comprehending
love and pity in the farthest heaventhat almost agony of prayer
--now whisperednow a groannow a struggling silence--wherewith
she besought the Divine assistance through the day Evidentlythis
is to be a day of more than ordinary trial to Miss Hepzibahwho
for above a quarter of a century gone byhas dwelt in strict
seclusiontaking no part in the business of lifeand just as
little in its intercourse and pleasures. Not with such fervor
prays the torpid recluselooking forward to the coldsunless
stagnant calm of a day that is to be like innumerable yesterdays.

The maiden lady's devotions are concluded. Will she now issue
forth over the threshold of our story? Not yetby many moments.
Firstevery drawer in the tallold-fashioned bureau is to be
openedwith difficultyand with a succession of spasmodic jerks
thenall must close againwith the same fidgety reluctance.
There is a rustling of stiff silks; a tread of backward and
forward footsteps to and fro across the chamber. We suspect Miss
Hepzibahmoreoverof taking a step upward into a chairin order
to give heedful regard to her appearance on all sidesand at full
lengthin the ovaldingy-framed toilet-glassthat hangs above
her table. Truly! wellindeed! who would have thought it! Is all
this precious time to be lavished on the matutinal repair and
beautifying of an elderly personwho never goes abroadwhom
nobody ever visitsand from whomwhen she shall have done her
utmostit were the best charity to turn one's eyes another way?

Now she is almost ready. Let us pardon her one other pause; for it
is given to the sole sentimentorwe might better say--heightened
and rendered intenseas it has beenby sorrow and seclusion--to the
strong passion of her life. We heard the turning of a key in a small
lock; she has opened a secret drawer of an escritoireand is probably
looking at a certain miniaturedone in Malbone's most perfect style
and representing a face worthy of no less delicate a pencil. It was
once our good fortune to see this picture. It is a likeness of a
young manin a silken dressing-gown of an old fashionthe soft
richness of which is well adapted to the countenance of reverie
with its fulltender lipsand beautiful eyesthat seem to
indicate not so much capacity of thoughtas gentle and voluptuous
emotion. Of the possessor of such features we shall have a right
to ask nothingexcept that he would take the rude world easily
and make himself happy in it. Can it have been an early lover of
Miss Hepzibah? No; she never had a lover--poor thinghow could she?
--nor ever knewby her own experiencewhat love technically means.
And yether undying faith and trusther freshremembrance
and continual devotedness towards the original of that miniature
have been the only substance for her heart to feed upon.

She seems to have put aside the miniatureand is standing again
before the toilet-glass. There are tears to be wiped off. A few
more footsteps to and fro; and hereat last--with another pitiful
sighlike a gust of chilldamp wind out of a long-closed vault
the door of which has accidentally been setajar--here comes Miss
Hepzibah Pyncheon! Forth she steps into the duskytime-darkened
passage; a tall figureclad in black silkwith a long and shrunken
waistfeeling her way towards the stairs like a near-sighted person
as in truth she is.

The sunmeanwhileif not already above the horizonwas
ascending nearer and nearer to its verge. A few cloudsfloating
high upwardcaught some of the earliest lightand threw down its


golden gleam on the windows of all the houses in the streetnot
forgetting the House of the Seven Gableswhich--many such sunrises
as it had witnessed--looked cheerfully at the present one. The
reflected radiance served to showpretty distinctlythe aspect
and arrangement of the room which Hepzibah enteredafter
descending the stairs. It was a low-studded roomwith a beam
across the ceilingpanelled with dark woodand having a large
chimney-pieceset round with pictured tilesbut now closed by
an iron fire-boardthrough which ran the funnel of a modern stove.
There was a carpet on the floororiginally of rich texture
but so worn and faded in these latter years that its once brilliant
figure had quite vanished into one indistinguishable hue. In the
way of furniturethere were two tables: oneconstructed with
perplexing intricacy and exhibiting as many feet as a centipede;
the othermost delicately wroughtwith four long and slender
legsso apparently frail that it was almost incredible what a
length of time the ancient tea-table had stood upon them. Half a
dozen chairs stood about the roomstraight and stiffand so
ingeniously contrived for the discomfort of the human person
that they were irksome even to sightand conveyed the ugliest
possible idea of the state of society to which they could have
been adapted. One exception there washoweverin a very
antique elbow-chairwith a high backcarved elaborately in oak
and a roomy depth within its armsthat made upby its spacious
comprehensivenessfor the lack of any of those artistic curves
which abound in a modern chair.

As for ornamental articles of furniturewe recollect but twoif
such they may be called. One was a map of the Pyncheon territory
at the eastwardnot engravedbut the handiwork of some skilful
old draughtsmanand grotesquely illuminated with pictures of Indians
and wild beastsamong which was seen a lion; the natural history
of the region being as little known as its geographywhich was
put down most fantastically awry. The other adornment was the
portrait of old Colonel Pyncheonat two thirds lengthrepresenting
the stern features of a Puritanic-looking personagein a skull-cap
with a laced band and a grizzly beard; holding a Bible with one hand
and in the other uplifting an iron sword-hilt. The latter object
being more successfully depicted by the artiststood out in far
greater prominence than the sacred volume. Face to face with this
pictureon entering the apartmentMiss Hepzibah Pyncheon came
to a pause; regarding it with a singular scowla strange
contortion of the browwhichby people who did not know her
would probably have been interpreted as an expression of bitter
anger and ill-will. But it was no such thing. Shein factfelt
a reverence for the pictured visageof which only a far-descended
and time-stricken virgin could be susceptible; and this forbidding
scowl was the innocent result of her near-sightednessand an
effort so to concentrate her powers of vision as to substitute a
firm outline of the object instead of a vague one.

We must linger a moment on this unfortunate expression of poor
Hepzibah's brow. Her scowl--as the worldor such part of it as
sometimes caught a transitory glimpse of her at the windowwickedly
persisted in calling it--her scowl had done Miss Hepzibah a very
ill officein establishing her character as an ill-tempered old maid;
nor does it appear improbable thatby often gazing at herself in a
dim looking-glassand perpetually encountering her own frown with
its ghostly sphereshe had been led to interpret the expression
almost as unjustly as the world did. "How miserably cross I look!"
she must often have whispered to herself; and ultimately have fancied
herself soby a sense of inevitable doom. But her heart never frowned.
It was naturally tendersensitiveand full of little tremors and
palpitations; all of which weaknesses it retainedwhile her visage


was growing so perversely sternand even fierce. Nor had Hepzibah
ever any hardihoodexcept what came from the very warmest nook in
her affections.

All this timehoweverwe are loitering faintheartedly on the
threshold of our story. In very truthwe have an invincible
reluctance to disclose what Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon was about to do.

It has already been observedthatin the basement story of the
gable fronting on the streetan unworthy ancestornearly a
century agohad fitted up a shop. Ever since the old gentleman
retired from tradeand fell asleep under his coffin-lidnot only
the shop-doorbut the inner arrangementshad been suffered to
remain unchanged; while the dust of ages gathered inch-deep over
the shelves and counterand partly filled an old pair of scales
as if it were of value enough to be weighed. It treasured itself
uptooin the half-open tillwhere there still lingered a base
sixpenceworth neither more nor less than the hereditary pride
which had here been put to shame. Such had been the state and
condition of the little shop in old Hepzibah's childhoodwhen
she and her brother used to play at hide-and-seek in its forsaken
precincts. So it had remaineduntil within a few days past.

But Nowthough the shop-window was still closely
curtained from the public gazea remarkable change had taken
place in its interior. The rich and heavy festoons of cobweb
which it had cost a long ancestral succession of spiders their
life's labor to spin and weavehad been carefully brushed away
from the ceiling. The countershelvesand floor had all been
scouredand the latter was overstrewn with fresh blue sand. The
brown scalestoohad evidently undergone rigid disciplinein an
unavailing effort to rub off the rustwhichalas! had eaten
through and through their substance. Neither was the little old
shop any longer empty of merchantable goods. A curious eye
privileged to take an account of stock and investigate behind the
counterwould have discovered a barrelyeatwo or three barrels
and half ditto--one containing flouranother applesand a third
perhapsIndian meal. There was likewise a square box of
pine-woodfull of soap in bars; alsoanother of the same size
in which were tallow candlesten to the pound. A small stock of
brown sugarsome white beans and split peasand a few other
commodities of low priceand such as are constantly in demand
made up the bulkier portion of the merchandise. It might have
been taken for a ghostly or phantasmagoric reflection of the old
shopkeeper Pyncheon's shabbily provided shelvessave that some
of the articles were of a description and outward form which
could hardly have been known in his day. For instancethere was
a glass pickle-jarfilled with fragments of Gibraltar rock; not
indeedsplinters of the veritable stone foundation of the famous
fortressbut bits of delectable candyneatly done up in white
paper. Jim Crowmoreoverwas seen executing his world-renowned
dancein gingerbread. A party of leaden dragoons were galloping
along one of the shelvesin equipments and uniform of modern cut;
and there were some sugar figureswith no strong resemblance to
the humanity of any epochbut less unsatisfactorily representing
our own fashions than those of a hundred years ago. Another
phenomenonstill more strikingly modernwas a package of lucifer
matcheswhichin old timeswould have been thought actually to
borrow their instantaneous flame from the nether fires of Tophet.

In shortto bring the matter at once to a pointit was
incontrovertibly evident that somebody had taken the shop and
fixtures of the long-retired and forgotten Mr. Pyncheonand
was about to renew the enterprise of that departed worthywith


a different set of customers. Who could this bold adventurer be?
Andof all places in the worldwhy had he chosen the House of
the Seven Gables as the scene of his commercial speculations?

We return to the elderly maiden. She at length withdrew her eyes
from the dark countenance of the Colonel's portraitheaved a sigh
--indeedher breast was a very cave of Aolus that morning--and
stept across the room on tiptoeas is the customary gait of elderly
women. Passing through an intervening passageshe opened a door
that communicated with the shopjust now so elaborately described.
Owing to the projection of the upper story--and still more to the
thick shadow of the Pyncheon Elmwhich stood almost directly in
front of the gable--the twilightherewas still as much akin to
night as morning. Another heavy sigh from Miss Hepzibah! After a
moment's pause on the thresholdpeering towards the window with
her near-sighted scowlas if frowning down some bitter enemyshe
suddenly projected herself into the shop. The hasteandas it were
the galvanic impulse of the movementwere really quite startling.

Nervously--in a sort of frenzywe might almost say--she began to
busy herself in arranging some children's playthingsand other
little wareson the shelves and at the shop-window. In the aspect
of this dark-arrayedpale-facedladylike old figure there was a
deeply tragic character that contrasted irreconcilably with the
ludicrous pettiness of her employment. It seemed a queer anomaly
that so gaunt and dismal a personage should take a toy in hand;
a miraclethat the toy did not vanish in her grasp; a miserably
absurd ideathat she should go on perplexing her stiff and sombre
intellect with the question how to tempt little boys into her premises!
Yet such is undoubtedly her object. Now she places a gingerbread
elephant against the windowbut with so tremulous a touch that it
tumbles upon the floorwith the dismemberment of three legs and its
trunk; it has ceased to be an elephantand has become a few bits of
musty gingerbread. Thereagainshe has upset a tumbler of marbles
all of which roll different waysand each individual marble
devil-directedinto the most difficult obscurity that it can find.
Heaven help our poor old Hepzibahand forgive us for taking a ludicrous
view of her position! As her rigid and rusty frame goes down upon its
hands and kneesin quest of the absconding marbleswe positively
feel so much the more inclined to shed tears of sympathyfrom the
very fact that we must needs turn aside and laugh at her. For
here--and if we fail to impress it suitably upon the readerit
is our own faultnot that of the themehere is one of the truest
points of melancholy interest that occur in ordinary life. It was
the final throe of what called itself old gentility. Alady--who
had fed herself from childhood with the shadowy food of aristocratic
reminiscencesand whose religion it was that a lady's hand soils
itself irremediably by doing aught for bread--this born lady
after sixty years of narrowing meansis fain to step down from
her pedestal of imaginary rank. Povertytreading closely at her
heels for a lifetimehas come up with her at last. She must earn
her own foodor starve! And we have stolen upon Miss Hepzibah
Pyncheontoo irreverentlyat the instant of time when the
patrician lady is to be transformed into the plebeian woman.

In this republican countryamid the fluctuating waves of our social
lifesomebody is always at the drowning-point. The tragedy is enacted
with as continual a repetition as that of a popular drama on a holiday
andneverthelessis felt as deeplyperhapsas when an hereditary
noble sinks below his order. More deeply; sincewith usrank is the
grosser substance of wealth and a splendid establishmentand has no
spiritual existence after the death of thesebut dies hopelessly along
with them. Andthereforesince we have been unfortunate enough to
introduce our heroine at so inauspicious a juncturewe would entreat


for a mood of due solemnity in the spectators of her fate. Let us behold
in poor Hepzibahthe immemoriallady--two hundred years oldon this
side of the waterand thrice as many on the other--with her antique
portraitspedigreescoats of armsrecords and traditionsand her
claimas joint heiressto that princely territory at the eastward
no longer a wildernessbut a populous fertility--borntooin
Pyncheon Streetunder the Pyncheon Elmand in the Pyncheon House
where she has spent all her days--reduced. Nowin that very house
to be the hucksteress of a cent-shop.


This business of setting up a petty shop is almost the only
resource of womenin circumstances at all similar to those of
our unfortunate recluse. With her near-sightednessand those
tremulous fingers of hersat once inflexible and delicateshe
could not be a seamstress; although her samplerof fifty years
gone byexhibited some of the most recondite specimens of
ornamental needlework. A school for little children had been
often in her thoughts; andat one timeshe had begun a review
of her early studies in the New England Primerwith a view to
prepare herself for the office of instructress. But the love of
children had never been quickened in Hepzibah's heartand was
now torpidif not extinct; she watched the little people of the
neighborhood from her chamber-windowand doubted whether she
could tolerate a more intimate acquaintance with them. Besides
in our daythe very A B C has become a science greatly too abstruse
to be any longer taught by pointing a pin from letter to letter.
A modern child could teach old Hepzibah more than old Hepzibah
could teach the child. So--with many a colddeep heart-quake
at the idea of at last coming into sordid contact with the world
from which she had so long kept aloofwhile every added day of
seclusion had rolled another stone against the cavern door of her
hermitage--the poor thing bethought herself of the ancient shop-window
the rusty scalesand dusty till. She might have held back a little
longer; but another circumstancenot yet hinted athad somewhat
hastened her decision. Her humble preparationsthereforewere
duly madeand the enterprise was now to be commenced. Nor was
she entitled to complain of any remarkable singularity in her fate;
forin the town of her nativitywe might point to several little
shops of a similar descriptionsome of them in houses as ancient
as that of the Seven Gables; and one or twoit may bewhere a
decayed gentlewoman stands behind the counteras grim an image
of family pride as Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon herself.


It was overpoweringly ridiculous--we must honestly confess it
--the deportment of the maiden lady while setting her shop in
order for the public eye. She stole on tiptoe to the window
as cautiously as if she conceived some bloody-minded villain to
be watching behind the elm-treewith intent to take her life.
Stretching out her longlank armshe put a paper of pearl
buttonsa jew's-harpor whatever the small article might be
in its destined placeand straightway vanished back into the dusk
as if the world need never hope for another glimpse of her. It
might have been fanciedindeedthat she expected to minister to
the wants of the community unseenlike a disembodied divinity
or enchantressholding forth her bargains to the reverential and
awe-stricken purchaser in an invisible hand. But Hepzibah had no
such flattering dream. She was well aware that she must ultimately
come forwardand stand revealed in her proper individuality; but
like other sensitive personsshe could not bear to be observed
in the gradual processand chose rather to flash forth on the
world's astonished gaze at once.


The inevitable moment was not much longer to be delayed. The
sunshine might now be seen stealing down the front of the opposite



housefrom the windows of which came a reflected gleamstruggling
through the boughs of the elm-treeand enlightening the interior
of the shop more distinctly than heretofore. The town appeared
to be waking up. A baker's cart had already rattled through the
streetchasing away the latest vestige of night's sanctity with the
jingle-jangle of its dissonant bells. A milkman was distributing
the contents of his cans from door to door; and the harsh peal of a
fisherman's conch shell was heard far offaround the corner. None
of these tokens escaped Hepzibah's notice. The moment had arrived.
To delay longer would be only to lengthen out her misery. Nothing
remainedexcept to take down the bar from the shop-doorleaving
the entrance free--more than free--welcomeas if all were household
friends--to every passer-bywhose eyes might be attracted by the
commodities at the window. This last act Hepzibah now performed
letting the bar fall with what smote upon her excited nerves as a
most astounding clatter. Then--as if the only barrier betwixt herself
and the world had been thrown downand a flood of evil consequences
would come tumbling through the gap--she fled into the inner parlor
threw herself into the ancestral elbow-chairand wept.

Our miserable old Hepzibah! It is a heavy annoyance to a writer
who endeavors to represent natureits various attitudes and
circumstancesin a reasonably correct outline and true coloring
that so much of the mean and ludicrous should be hopelessly mixed
up with the purest pathos which life anywhere supplies to him.
What tragic dignityfor examplecan be wrought into a scene
like this! How can we elevate our history of retribution for the
sin of long agowhenas one of our most prominent figureswe
are compelled to introduce--not a young and lovely womannor even
the stately remains of beautystorm-shattered by affliction--but
a gauntsallowrusty-jointed maidenin a long-waisted silk gown
and with the strange horror of a turban on her head! Her visage is
not evenugly. It is redeemed from insignificance only by the
contraction of her eyebrows into a near-sighted scowl. Andfinally
her great life-trial seems to bethatafter sixty years of idleness
she finds it convenient to earn comfortable bread by setting up a
shop in a small way. Neverthelessif we look through all the
heroic fortunes of mankindwe shall find this same entanglement
of something mean and trivial with whatever is noblest in joy or
sorrow. Life is made up of marble and mud. Andwithout all
the deeper trust in a comprehensive sympathy above uswe might
hence be led to suspect the insult of a sneeras well as an
immitigable frownon the iron countenance of fate. What is
called poetic insight is the gift of discerningin this sphere
of strangely mingled elementsthe beauty and the majesty which
are compelled to assume a garb so sordid.

III The First Customer

MISS HEPZIBAH PYNCHEON sat in the oaken elbow-chairwith her
hands over her facegiving way to that heavy down-sinking of the
heart which most persons have experiencedwhen the image of hope
itself seems ponderously moulded of leadon the eve of an enterprise
at once doubtful and momentous. She was suddenly startled by the
tinkling alarum--highsharpand irregular--of a little bell.
The maiden lady arose upon her feetas pale as a ghost at cock-crow;
for she was an enslaved spiritand this the talisman to which she
owed obedience. This little bell--to speak in plainer terms
--being fastened over the shop-doorwas so contrived as to vibrate
by means of a steel springand thus convey notice to the inner regions


of the house when any customer should cross the threshold. Its ugly
and spiteful little din (heard now for the first timeperhapssince
Hepzibah's periwigged predecessor had retired from trade) at once set
every nerve of her body in responsive and tumultuous vibration. The
crisis was upon her! Her first customer was at the door!

Without giving herself time for a second thoughtshe rushed into
the shoppalewilddesperate in gesture and expressionscowling
portentouslyand looking far better qualified to do fierce battle
with a housebreaker than to stand smiling behind the counterbartering
small wares for a copper recompense. Any ordinary customerindeed
would have turned his back and fled. And yet there was nothing fierce
in Hepzibah's poor old heart; nor had sheat the momenta single
bitter thought against the world at largeor one individual man or
woman. She wished them all wellbut wishedtoothat she herself
were done with themand in her quiet grave.

The applicantby this timestood within the doorway. Coming
freshlyas he didout of the morning lighthe appeared to have
brought some of its cheery influences into the shop along with him.
It was a slender young mannot more than one or two and twenty
years oldwith rather a grave and thoughtful expression for his
yearsbut likewise a springy alacrity and vigor. These qualities
were not only perceptiblephysicallyin his make and motions
but made themselves felt almost immediately in his character.
A brown beardnot too silken in its texturefringed his chin
but as yet without completely hiding it; he wore a short mustache
tooand his darkhigh-featured countenance looked all the better
for these natural ornaments. As for his dressit was of the
simplest kind; a summer sack of cheap and ordinary material
thin checkered pantaloonsand a straw hatby no means of the
finest braid. Oak Hall might have supplied his entire equipment.
He was chiefly marked as a gentleman--if suchindeedhe made
any claim to be--by the rather remarkable whiteness and nicety
of his clean linen.

He met the scowl of old Hepzibah without apparent alarm
as having heretofore encountered it and found it harmless.

So, my dear Miss Pyncheon,said the daguerreotypist--for it
was that sole other occupant of the seven-gabled mansion-- "I am
glad to see that you have not shrunk from your good purpose.
I merely look in to offer my best wishesand to ask if I can
assist you any further in your preparations."

People in difficulty and distressor in any manner at odds with the
worldcan endure a vast amount of harsh treatmentand perhaps be
only the stronger for it; whereas they give way at once before the
simplest expression of what they perceive to be genuine sympathy.
So it proved with poor Hepzibah; forwhen she saw the young man's
smile--looking so much the brighter on a thoughtful face--and heard
his kindly toneshe broke first into a hysteric giggle and then
began to sob.

Ah, Mr. Holgrave,cried sheas soon as she could speakI
never can go through with it Never, never, never I wish I were
dead, and in the old family tomb, with all my forefathers! With
my father, and my mother, and my sister. Yes, and with my brother,
who had far better find me there than here! The world is too chill
and hard,--and I am too old, and too feeble, and too hopeless!

Oh, believe me, Miss Hepzibah,said the young man quietly
these feelings will not trouble you any longer, after you are
once fairly in the midst of your enterprise. They are unavoidable


at this moment, standing, as you do, on the outer verge of your
long seclusion, and peopling the world with ugly shapes, which
you will soon find to be as unreal as the giants and ogres of a
child's story-book. I find nothing so singular in life, as that
everything appears to lose its substance the instant one actually
grapples with it. So it will be with what you think so terrible.

But I am a woman!said Hepzibah piteously. "I was going to say
a lady--but I consider that as past."

Well; no matter if it be past!answered the artista strange
gleam of half-hidden sarcasm flashing through the kindliness of
his manner. "Let it go You are the better without it. I speak
franklymy dear Miss Pyncheon! for are we not friends? I look
upon this as one of the fortunate days of your life. It ends an
epoch and begins one. Hithertothe life-blood has been gradually
chilling in your veins as you sat aloofwithin your circle of
gentilitywhile the rest of the world was fighting out its battle
with one kind of necessity or another. Henceforthyou will at
least have the sense of healthy and natural effort for a purpose
and of lending your strength be it great or small--to the united
struggle of mankind. This is success--all the success that
anybody meets with!"

It is natural enough, Mr. Holgrave, that you should have ideas
like these,rejoined Hepzibahdrawing up her gaunt figure with
slightly offended dignity. "You are a mana young manand brought
upI supposeas almost everybody is nowadayswith a view to seeking
your fortune. But I was born a lady. and have always lived one;
no matter in what narrowness of meansalways a lady."

But I was not born a gentleman; neither have I lived like one,
said Holgraveslightly smiling; "somy dear madamyou will
hardly expect me to sympathize with sensibilities of this kind;
thoughunless I deceive myselfI have some imperfect
comprehension of them. These names of gentleman and lady had
a meaningin the past history of the worldand conferred
privilegesdesirable or otherwiseon those entitled to bear
them. In the present--and still more in the future condition
of society-they implynot privilegebut restriction!"

These are new notions,said the old gentlewomanshaking her
head. "I shall never understand them; neither do I wish it."

We will cease to speak of them, then,replied the artistwith
a friendlier smile than his last oneand I will leave you to
feel whether it is not better to be a true woman than a lady.
Do you really think, Miss Hepzibah, that any lady of your family
has ever done a more heroic thing, since this house was built,
than you are performing in it to-day? Never; and if the Pyncheons
had always acted so nobly, I doubt whether an old wizard Maule's
anathema, of which you told me once, would have had much weight
with Providence against them.

Ah!--no, no!said Hepzibahnot displeased at this allusion to
the sombre dignity of an inherited curse. "If old Maule's ghost
or a descendant of hiscould see me behind the counter to-day.
he would call it the fulfillment of his worst wishes. But I thank
you for your kindnessMr. Holgraveand will do my utmost to be
a good shop-keeper."

Pray dosaid Holgraveand let me have the pleasure of being
your first customer. I am about taking a walk to the seashore,
before going to my rooms, where I misuse Heaven's blessed sunshine


by tracing out human features through its agency. A few of those
biscuits, dipt in sea-water, will be just what I need for breakfast.
What is the price of half a dozen?


Let me be a lady a moment longer,replied Hepzibahwith a manner
of antique stateliness to which a melancholy smile lent a kind of grace.
She put the biscuits into his handbut rejected the compensation.
A Pyncheon must not, at all events under her forefathers' roof,
receive money for a morsel of bread from her only friend!


Holgrave took his departureleaving herfor the momentwith
spirits not quite so much depressed. Soonhoweverthey had
subsided nearly to their former dead level. With a beating heart
she listened to the footsteps of early passengerswhich now
began to be frequent along the street. Once or twice they seemed
to linger; these strangersor neighborsas the case might be
were looking at the display of toys and petty commodities in
Hepzibah's shop-window. She was doubly tortured; in partwith
a sense of overwhelming shame that strange and unloving eyes
should have the privilege of gazingand partly because the idea
occurred to herwith ridiculous importunitythat the window was
not arranged so skilfullynor nearly to so much advantageas it
might have been. It seemed as if the whole fortune or failure of
her shop might depend on the display of a different set of articles
or substituting a fairer apple for one which appeared to be specked.
So she made the changeand straightway fancied that everything was
spoiled by it; not recognizing that it was the nervousness of the
junctureand her own native squeamishness as an old maidthat
wrought all the seeming mischief.


Anonthere was an encounterjust at the door-stepbetwixt two
laboring menas their rough voices denoted them to be. After
some slight talk about their own affairsone of them chanced to
notice the shop-windowand directed the other's attention to it.


See here!cried he; "what do you think of this? Trade seems to
be looking up in Pyncheon Street!"


Well, well, this is a sight, to be sure!exclaimed the other.
In the old Pyncheon House, and underneath the Pyncheon Elm! Who
would have thought it? Old Maid Pyncheon is setting up a cent-shop!


Will she make it go, think you, Dixey;said his friend. "I don't
call it a very good stand. There's another shop just round the
corner."


Make it go!cried Dixeywith a most contemptuous expression
as if the very idea were impossible to be conceived. "Not a bit
of it! Whyher face--I've seen itfor I dug her garden for her
one year--her face is enough to frighten the Old Nick himselfif
he had ever so great a mind to trade with her. People can't stand
itI tell you! She scowls dreadfullyreason or noneout of pure
ugliness of temper."


Well, that's not so much matter,remarked the other man.
These sour-tempered folks are mostly handy at business, and
know pretty well what they are about. But, as you say, I don't
think she'll do much. This business of keeping cent-shops is
overdone, like all other kinds of trade, handicraft, and bodily
labor. I know it, to my cost! My wife kept a cent-shop three
months, and lost five dollars on her outlay.


Poor business!responded Dixeyin a tone as if he were shaking
his head--"poor business."



For some reason or othernot very easy to analyzethere had
hardly been so bitter a pang in all her previous misery about the
matter as what thrilled Hepzibah's heart on overhearing the above
conversation. The testimony in regard to her scowl was frightfully
important; it seemed to hold up her image wholly relieved from the
false light of her self-partialitiesand so hideous that she dared
not look at it. She was absurdly hurtmoreoverby the slight and
idle effect that her setting up shop--an event of such breathless
interest to herself--appeared to have upon the publicof which
these two men were the nearest representatives. A glance; a passing
word or two; a coarse laugh; and she was doubtless forgotten before
they turned the corner. They cared nothing for her dignityand just
as little for her degradation. Thenalsothe augury of ill-success
uttered from the sure wisdom of experiencefell upon her half-dead
hope like a clod into a grave. The man's wife had already tried the
same experimentand failed! How could the bornlady the recluse of
half a lifetimeutterly unpractised in the worldat sixty years of
age--how could she ever dream of succeedingwhen the hardvulgar
keenbusyhackneyed New England woman had lost five dollars on her
little outlay! Success presented itself as an impossibilityand the
hope of it as a wild hallucination.

Some malevolent spiritdoing his utmost to drive Hepzibah mad
unrolled before her imagination a kind of panoramarepresenting
the great thoroughfare of a city all astir with customers. So many
and so magnificent shops as there were! Groceriestoy-shops
drygoods storeswith their immense panes of plate-glasstheir
gorgeous fixturestheir vast and complete assortments of
merchandisein which fortunes had been invested; and those
noble mirrors at the farther end of each establishmentdoubling
all this wealth by a brightly burnished vista of unrealities! On
one side of the street this splendid bazaarwith a multitude of
perfumed and glossy salesmensmirkingsmilingbowing
and measuring out the goods. On the otherthe dusky old House
of the Seven Gableswith the antiquated shop-window under its
projecting storyand Hepzibah herselfin a gown of rusty black
silkbehind the counterscowling at the world as it went by!
This mighty contrast thrust itself forward as a fair expression
of the odds against which she was to begin her struggle for a
subsistence. Success? Preposterous! She would never think of it
again! The house might just as well be buried in an eternal fog
while all other houses had the sunshine on them; for not a foot
would ever cross the thresholdnor a hand so much as try the door!

Butat this instantthe shop-bellright over her headtinkled
as if it were bewitched. The old gentlewoman's heart seemed to be
attached to the same steel springfor it went through a series of
sharp jerksin unison with the sound. The door was thrust open
although no human form was perceptible on the other side of the
half-window. Hepzibahneverthelessstood at a gazewith her
hands claspedlooking very much as if she had summoned up an evil
spiritand were afraidyet resolvedto hazard the encounter.

Heaven help me!she groaned mentally. "Now is my hour of need!"

The doorwhich moved with difficulty on its creaking and rusty
hingesbeing forced quite opena square and sturdy little urchin
became apparentwith cheeks as red as an apple. He was clad
rather shabbily (butas it seemedmore owing to his mother's
carelessness than his father's poverty)in a blue apronvery
wide and short trousersshoes somewhat out at the toesand a
chip hatwith the frizzles of his curly hair sticking through
its crevices. A book and a small slateunder his armindicated


that he was on his way to school. He stared at Hepzibah a moment
as an elder customer than himself would have been likely enough
to donot knowing what to make of the tragic attitude and queer
scowl wherewith she regarded him.

Well, child,said shetaking heart at sight of a personage so
little formidable--"wellmy childwhat did you wish for?"

That Jim Crow there in the window,answered the urchinholding
out a centand pointing to the gingerbread figure that had attracted
his noticeas he loitered along to school; "the one that has not a
broken foot."

So Hepzibah put forth her lank armandtaking the effigy from
the shop-windowdelivered it to her first customer.

No matter for the money,said shegiving him a little push
towards the door; for her old gentility was contumaciously
squeamish at sight of the copper coinandbesidesit seemed
such pitiful meanness to take the child's pocket-money in exchange
for a bit of stale gingerbread. "No matter for the cent. You are
welcome to Jim Crow."

The childstaring with round eyes at this instance of liberality
wholly unprecedented in his large experience of cent-shopstook
the man of gingerbreadand quitted the premises. No sooner had
he reached the sidewalk (little cannibal that he was!) than Jim
Crow's head was in his mouth. As he had not been careful to
shut the doorHepzibah was at the pains of closing it after him
with a pettish ejaculation or two about the troublesomeness of
young peopleand particularly of small boys. She had just placed
another representative of the renowned Jim Crow at the window
when again the shop-bell tinkled clamorouslyand again the door
being thrust openwith its characteristic jerk and jardisclosed
the same sturdy little urchin whoprecisely two minutes agohad
made his exit. The crumbs and discoloration of the cannibal feast
as yet hardly consummatedwere exceedingly visible about his mouth.

What is it now, child?asked the maiden lady rather impatiently;
did you Come back to shut the door?

No,answered the urchinpointing to the figure that had just
been put up; "I want that other Jim. Crow"

Well, here it is for you,said Hepzibahreaching it down; but
recognizing that this pertinacious customer would not quit her On
any other termsso long as she had a gingerbread figure in her
shopshe partly drew back her extended handWhere is the cent?

The little boy had the cent readybutlike a true-born Yankee
would have preferred the better bargain to the worse. Looking
somewhat chagrinedhe put the coin into Hepzibah's handand
departedsending the second Jim Crow in quest of the former one.
The new shop-keeper dropped the first solid result of her commercial
enterprise into the till. It was done! The sordid stain of that
copper coin could never be washed away from her palm. The little
schoolboyaided by the impish figure of the negro dancerhad wrought
an irreparable ruin. The structure of ancient aristocracy had been
demolished by himeven as if his childish gripe had torn down the
seven-gabled mansion. Now let Hepzibah turn the old Pyncheon
portraits with their faces to the walland take the map of her
Eastern territory to kindle the kitchen fireand blow up the flame
with the empty breath of her ancestral traditions! What had she to
do with ancestry? Nothing; no more than with posterity! No lady


nowbut simply Hepzibah Pyncheona forlorn old maidand keeper
of a cent-shop!

Neverthelesseven while she paraded these ideas somewhat
ostentatiously through her mindit is altogether surprising what
a calmness had come over her. The anxiety and misgivings which
had tormented herwhether asleep or in melancholy day-dreams
ever since her project began to take an aspect of solidityhad
now vanished quite away. She felt the novelty of her position
indeedbut no longer with disturbance or affright. Now and then
there came a thrill of almost youthful enjoyment. It was the
invigorating breath of a fresh outward atmosphereafter the
long torpor and monotonous seclusion of her life. So wholesome
is effort! So miraculous the strength that we do not know of!
The healthiest glow that Hepzibah had known for years had come
now in the dreaded crisiswhenfor the first timeshe had
put forth her hand to help herself. The little circlet of the
schoolboy's copper coin--dim and lustreless though it waswith
the small services which it had been doing here and there about
the world --had proved a talismanfragrant with goodand
deserving to be set in gold and worn next her heart. It was
as potentand perhaps endowed with the same kind of efficacy
as a galvanic ring! Hepzibahat all eventswas indebted to its
subtile operation both in body and spirit; so much the more
as it inspired her with energy to get some breakfastat which
still the better to keep up her courageshe allowed herself an
extra spoonful in her infusion of black tea.

Her introductory day of shop-keeping did not run onhowever
without many and serious interruptions of this mood of cheerful
vigor. As a general ruleProvidence seldom vouchsafes to
mortals any more than just that degree of encouragement which
suffices to keep them at a reasonably full exertion of their
powers. In the case of our old gentlewomanafter the excitement
of new effort had subsidedthe despondency of her whole life
threatenedever and anonto return. It was like the heavy mass
of clouds which we may often see obscuring the skyand making
a gray twilight everywhereuntiltowards nightfallit yields
temporarily to a glimpse of sunshine. Butalwaysthe envious
cloud strives to gather again across the streak of celestial azure.

Customers came inas the forenoon advancedbut rather slowly;
in some casestooit must be ownedwith little satisfaction
either to themselves or Miss Hepzibah; noron the wholewith
an aggregate of very rich emolument to the till. A little girl
sent by her mother to match a skein of cotton threadof a peculiar
huetook one that the near-sighted old lady pronounced extremely
likebut soon came running backwith a blunt and cross message
that it would not doandbesideswas very rotten! Thenthere
was a palecare-wrinkled womannot old but haggardand already
with streaks of gray among her hairlike silver ribbons; one of
those womennaturally delicatewhom you at once recognize as worn
to death by a brute--probably a drunken brute--of a husbandand
at least nine children. She wanted a few pounds of flourand
offered the moneywhich the decayed gentlewoman silently rejected
and gave the poor soul better measure than if she had taken it.
Shortly afterwardsa man in a blue cotton frockmuch soiledcame
in and bought a pipefilling the whole shopmeanwhilewith the
hot odor of strong drinknot only exhaled in the torrid atmosphere
of his breathbut oozing out of his entire systemlike an
inflammable gas. It was impressed on Hepzibah's mind that this
was the husband of the care-wrinkled woman. He asked for a paper
of tobacco; and as she had neglected to provide herself with the
articleher brutal customer dashed down his newly-bought pipe and


left the shopmuttering some unintelligible wordswhich had the
tone and bitterness of a curse. Hereupon Hepzibah threw up her
eyesunintentionally scowling in the face of Providence!


No less than five personsduring the forenooninquired for
ginger-beeror root-beeror any drink of a similar brewage
andobtaining nothing of the kindwent off in an exceedingly
bad humor. Three of them left the door openand the other two
pulled it so spitefully in going out that the little bell played
the very deuce with Hepzibah's nerves. A roundbustling
fire-ruddy housewife of the neighborhood burst breathless into
the shopfiercely demanding yeast; and when the poor gentlewoman
with her cold shyness of mannergave her hot customer to understand
that she did not keep the articlethis very capable housewife took
upon herself to administer a regular rebuke.


A cent-shop, and No yeast!quoth she; "that will never do!
Who ever heard of such a thing? Your loaf will never riseno
more than mine will to-day. You had better shut up shop at once."


Well,said Hepzibahheaving a deep sighperhaps I had!


Several timesmoreoverbesides the above instanceher lady-like
sensibilities were seriously infringed upon by the familiar
if not rudetone with which people addressed her. They evidently
considered themselves not merely her equalsbut her patrons and
superiors. NowHepzibah had unconsciously flattered herself with
the idea that there would be a gleam or haloof some kind or
otherabout her personwhich would insure an obeisance to her
sterling gentilityorat leasta tacit recognition of it.
On the other handnothing tortured her more intolerably than when
this recognition was too prominently expressed. To one or two rather
officious offers of sympathyher responses were little short of
acrimonious; andwe regret to sayHepzibah was thrown into a
positively unchristian state of mind by the suspicion that one of
her customers was drawn to the shopnot by any real need of
the article which she pretended to seekbut by a wicked wish to
stare at her. The vulgar creature was determined to see for
herself what sort of a figure a mildewed piece of aristocracy
after wasting all the bloom and much of the decline of her life
apart from the worldwould cut behind a counter. In this
particular casehowever mechanical and innocuous it might be at
other timesHepzibah's contortion of brow served her in good stead.


I never was so frightened in my life!said the curious customer
in describing the incident to one of her acquaintances. "She's a
real old vixentake my word of it! She says littleto be sure;
but if you could only see the mischief in her eye!"


On the wholethereforeher new experience led our decayed
gentlewoman to very disagreeable conclusions as to the temper
and manners of what she termed the lower classeswhom heretofore
she had looked down upon with a gentle and pitying complaisance
as herself occupying a sphere of unquestionable superiority.
Butunfortunatelyshe had likewise to struggle against a bitter
emotion of a directly opposite kind: a sentiment of virulence
we meantowards the idle aristocracy to which it had so recently
been her pride to belong. When a ladyin a delicate and costly
summer garbwith a floating veil and gracefully swaying gown
andaltogetheran ethereal lightness that made you look at her
beautifully slippered feetto see whether she trod on the dust
or floated in the air--when such a vision happened to pass through
this retired streetleaving it tenderly and delusively fragrant
with her passageas if a bouquet of tea-roses had been borne along



--then againit is to be fearedold Hepzibah's scowl could no
longer vindicate itself entirely on the plea of near-sightedness.

For what end,thought shegiving vent to that feeling of
hostility which is the only real abasement of the poor in presence
of the rich--"for what good endin the wisdom of Providence
does that woman live? Must the whole world toilthat the palms
of her hands may be kept white and delicate?"

Thenashamed and penitentshe hid her face.

May God forgive me!said she.

DoubtlessGod did forgive her. Buttaking the inward and
outward history of the first half-day into considerationHepzibah
began to fear that the shop would prove her ruin in a moral and
religious point of viewwithout contributing very essentially
towards even her temporal welfare.

IV A Day Behind the Counter

TOWARDS noonHepzibah saw an elderly gentlemanlarge and
portlyand of remarkably dignified demeanorpassing slowly
along on the opposite side of the white and dusty street. On
coming within the shadow of the Pyncheon Elmhe stoptand
(taking off his hatmeanwhileto wipe the perspiration from his
brow) seemed to scrutinizewith especial interestthe dilapidated
and rusty-visaged House of the Seven Gables. He himselfin a
very different stylewas as well worth looking at as the house.
No better model need be soughtnor could have been foundof
a very high order of respectabilitywhichby some indescribable
magicnot merely expressed itself in his looks and gesturesbut
even governed the fashion of his garmentsand rendered them all
proper and essential to the man. Without appearing to differ
in any tangible wayfrom other people's clothesthere was yet a
wide and rich gravity about them that must have been a characteristic
of the wearersince it could not be defined as pertaining either
to the cut or material. His gold-headed canetoo--a serviceable
staffof dark polished wood--had similar traitsandhad it chosen
to take a walk by itselfwould have been recognized anywhere as a
tolerably adequate representative of its master. This character
--which showed itself so strikingly in everything about himand the
effect of which we seek to convey to the reader--went no deeper
than his stationhabits of lifeand external circumstances.
One perceived him to be a personage of marked influence and authority;
andespeciallyyou could feel just as certain that he was opulent
as if he had exhibited his bank accountor as if you had seen him
touching the twigs of the Pyncheon ElmandMidas-liketransmuting
them to gold.

In his youthhe had probably been considered a handsome man;
at his present agehis brow was too heavyhis temples too bare
his remaining hair too grayhis eye too coldhis lips too closely
compressedto bear any relation to mere personal beauty. He would
have made a good and massive portrait; better nowperhapsthan at
any previous period of his lifealthough his look might grow
positively harsh in the process of being fixed upon the canvas.
The artist would have found it desirable to study his faceand prove
its capacity for varied expression; to darken it with a frown
--to kindle it up with a smile.


While the elderly gentleman stood looking at the Pyncheon House
both the frown and the smile passed successively over his countenance.
His eye rested on the shop-windowand putting up a pair of gold-bowed
spectacleswhich he held in his handhe minutely surveyed Hepzibah's
little arrangement of toys and commodities. At first it seemed not to
please him--nayto cause him exceeding displeasure--and yetthe
very next momenthe smiled. While the latter expression was yet on
his lipshe caught a glimpse of Hepzibahwho had involuntarily bent
forward to the window; and then the smile changed from acrid and
disagreeable to the sunniest complacency and benevolence. He bowed
with a happy mixture of dignity and courteous kindlinessand pursued
his way.

There he is!said Hepzibah to herselfgulping down a very bitter
emotionandsince she could not rid herself of ittrying to drive
it back into her heart. "What does he think of itI wonder? Does it
please him? Ah! he is looking back!"

The gentleman had paused in the streetand turned himself half
aboutstill with his eyes fixed on the shop-window. In facthe
wheeled wholly roundand commenced a step or twoas if designing
to enter the shop; butas it chancedhis purpose was anticipated
by Hepzibah's first customerthe little cannibal of Jim Crowwho
staring up at the windowwas irresistibly attracted by an elephant
of gingerbread. What a grand appetite had this small urchin!
--Two Jim Crows immediately after breakfast!--and now an elephant
as a preliminary whet before dinner. By the time this latter purchase
was completedthe elderly gentleman had resumed his wayand turned
the street corner.

Take it as you like, Cousin Jaffrey.muttered the maiden lady
as she drew backafter cautiously thrusting out her headand
looking up and down the street--"Take it as you like! You have
seen my little shop--window. Well!--what have you to say?--is
not the Pyncheon House my ownwhile I'm alive?"

After this incidentHepzibah retreated to the back parlorwhere
she at first caught up a half-finished stockingand began knitting
at it with nervous and irregular jerks; but quickly finding herself
at odds with the stitchesshe threw it asideand walked hurriedly
about the room. At length she paused before the portrait of the
stern old Puritanher ancestorand the founder of the house. In
one sensethis picture had almost faded into the canvasand hidden
itself behind the duskiness of age; in anothershe could not but
fancy that it had been growing more prominent and strikingly
expressiveever since her earliest familiarity with it as a child.
Forwhile the physical outline and substance were darkening away
from the beholder's eyethe boldhardandat the same time
indirect character of the man seemed to be brought out in a kind of
spiritual relief. Such an effect may occasionally be observed in
pictures of antique date. They acquire a look which an artist
(if he have anything like the complacency of artists nowadays)
would never dream of presenting to a patron as his own
characteristic expressionbut whichneverthelesswe at once
recognize as reflecting the unlovely truth of a human soul. In
such casesthe painter's deep conception of his subject's inward
traits has wrought itself into the essence of the pictureand is
seen after the superficial coloring has been rubbed off by time.

While gazing at the portraitHepzibah trembled under its eye.
Her hereditary reverence made her afraid to judge the character
of the original so harshly as a perception of the truth compelled
her to do. But still she gazedbecause the face of the picture


enabled her--at leastshe fancied so--to read more accuratelyand
to a greater depththe face which she had just seen in the street.

This is the very man!murmured she to herself. "Let Jaffrey
Pyncheon smile as he willthere is that look beneath! Put on him
a skull-capand a bandand a black cloakand a Bible in one
hand and a sword in the other--then let Jaffrey smile as he
might--nobody would doubt that it was the old Pyncheon come
again. He has proved himself the very man to build up a new house!
Perhapstooto draw down a new curse!"

Thus did Hepzibah bewilder herself with these fantasies of the old
time. She had dwelt too much alone--too long in the Pyncheon House
--until her very brain was impregnated with the dry-rot of its timbers.
She needed a walk along the noonday street to keep her sane.

By the spell of contrastanother portrait rose up before her
painted with more daring flattery than any artist would have
ventured uponbut yet so delicately touched that the likeness
remained perfect. Malbone's miniaturethough from the same
originalwas far inferior to Hepzibah's air-drawn picture
at which affection and sorrowful remembrance wrought together.
Softmildlyand cheerfully contemplativewith fullred lips
just on the verge of a smilewhich the eyes seemed to herald
by a gentle kindling-up of their orbs! Feminine traitsmoulded
inseparably with those of the other sex! The miniaturelikewise
had this last peculiarity; so that you inevitably thought of the
original as resembling his motherand she a lovely and lovable
womanwith perhaps some beautiful infirmity of characterthat
made it all the pleasanter to know and easier to love her.

Yes,thought Hepzibahwith grief of which it was only the more
tolerable portion that welled up from her heart to her eyelids
they persecuted his mother in him! He never was a Pyncheon!

But here the shop-bell rang; it was like a sound from a remote
distance--so far had Hepzibah descended into the sepulchral
depths of her reminiscences. On entering the shopshe found
an old man therea humble resident of Pyncheon Streetand
whomfor a great many years pastshe had suffered to be a kind
of familiar of the house. He was an immemorial personagewho
seemed always to have had a white head and wrinklesand never
to have possessed but a single toothand that a half-decayed one
in the front of the upper jaw. Well advanced as Hepzibah was
she could not remember when Uncle Venneras the neighborhood
called himhad not gone up and down the streetstooping a
little and drawing his feet heavily over the gravel or pavement.
But still there was something tough and vigorous about him
that not only kept him in daily breathbut enabled him to fill
a place which would else have been vacant in the apparently
crowded world. To go of errands with his slow and shuffling gait
which made you doubt how he ever was to arrive anywhere; to saw a
small household's foot or two of firewoodor knock to pieces an
old barrelor split up a pine board for kindling-stuff; in summer
to dig the few yards of garden ground appertaining to a low-rented
tenementand share the produce of his labor at the halves; in winter
to shovel away the snow from the sidewalkor open paths to the
woodshedor along the clothes-line; such were some of the essential
offices which Uncle Venner performed among at least a score of families.
Within that circlehe claimed the same sort of privilegeand probably
felt as much warmth of interestas a clergyman does in the range of
his parishioners. Not that he laid claim to the tithe pig; but
as an analogous mode of reverencehe went his roundsevery morning
to gather up the crumbs of the table and overflowings of the dinner-pot


as food for a pig of his own.

In his younger days--forafter allthere was a dim tradition that
he had beennot youngbut younger--Uncle Venner was commonly
regarded as rather deficientthan otherwisein his wits. In
truth he had virtually pleaded guilty to the chargeby scarcely
aiming at such success as other men seekand by taking only that
humble and modest part in the intercourse of life which belongs to
the alleged deficiency. But nowin his extreme old age--whether it
were that his long and hard experience had actually brightened him
or that his decaying judgment rendered him less capable of fairly
measuring himself--the venerable man made pretensions to no little
wisdomand really enjoyed the credit of it. There was likewiseat
timesa vein of something like poetry in him; it was the moss or
wall-flower of his mind in its small dilapidationand gave a charm
to what might have been vulgar and commonplace in his earlier and
middle life. Hepzibah had a regard for himbecause his name was
ancient in the town and had formerly been respectable. It was a still
better reason for awarding him a species of familiar reverence that
Uncle Venner was himself the most ancient existencewhether of man
or thingin Pyncheon Streetexcept the House of the Seven Gables
and perhaps the elm that overshadowed it.

This patriarch now presented himself before Hepzibahclad in an
old blue coatwhich had a fashionable airand must have accrued
to him from the cast-off wardrobe of some dashing clerk. As for
his trousersthey were of tow-clothvery short in the legs
and bagging down strangely in the rearbut yet having a suitableness
to his figure which his other garment entirely lacked. His hat had
relation to no other part of his dressand but very little to the
head that wore it. Thus Uncle Venner was a miscellaneous old gentleman
partly himselfbutin good measuresomebody else; patched together
tooof different epochs; an epitome of times and fashions.

So, you have really begun trade,said he--" really begun trade!
WellI'm glad to see it. Young people should never live idle in
the worldnor old ones neitherunless when the rheumatize gets
hold of them. It has given me warning already; and in two or
three years longerI shall think of putting aside business and
retiring to my farm. That's yonder--the great brick houseyou
know--the workhousemost folks call it; but I mean to do my
work firstand go there to be idle and enjoy myself. And I'm
glad to see you beginning to do your workMiss Hepzibah!"

Thank you, Uncle Vennersaid Hepzibahsmiling; for she always
felt kindly towards the simple and talkative old man. Had he been
an old womanshe might probably have repelled the freedomwhich
she now took in good part. "It is time for me to begin work
indeed! Orto speak the truthI have just begun when I ought
to be giving it up."

Oh, never say that, Miss Hepzibah!answered the old man. "You
are a young woman yet. WhyI hardly thought myself younger than
I am nowit seems so little while ago since I used to see you playing
about the door of the old housequite a small child! Oftenerthough
you used to be sitting at the thresholdand looking gravely into the
street; for you had always a grave kind of way with you--a grown-up
airwhen you were only the height of my knee. It seems as if I saw
you now; and your grandfather with his red cloakand his white wig
and his cocked hatand his canecoming out of the houseand stepping
so grandly up the street! Those old gentlemen that grew up before the
Revolution used to put on grand airs. In my young daysthe great
man of the town was commonly called King; and his wifenot Queen
to be surebut Lady. Nowadaysa man would not dare to be called


King; and if he feels himself a little above common folkshe only
stoops so much the lower to them. I met your cousinthe Judge
ten minutes ago; andin my old tow-cloth trousersas you see
the Judge raised his hat to meI do believe! At any ratethe Judge
bowed and smiled!"

Yes,said Hepzibahwith something bitter stealing unawares
into her tone; "my cousin Jaffrey is thought to have a very
pleasant smile!"

And so he hasreplied Uncle Venner. "And that's rather remarkable
in a Pyncheon; forbegging your pardonMiss Hepzibahthey never
had the name of being an easy and agreeable set of folks. There
was no getting close to them. But NowMiss Hepzibahif an old
man may be bold to askwhy don't Judge Pyncheonwith his great
meansstep forwardand tell his cousin to shut up her little shop
at once? It's for your credit to be doing somethingbut it's not
for the Judge's credit to let you!"

We won't talk of this, if you please, Uncle Venner,said Hepzibah
coldly. "I ought to sayhoweverthatif I choose to earn bread
for myselfit is not Judge Pyncheon's fault. Neither will he deserve
the blame added she more kindly, remembering Uncle Venner's privileges
of age and humble familiarity, if I shouldby and byfind it
convenient to retire with you to your farm."

And it's no bad place, either, that farm of mine!cried the old
man cheerilyas if there were something positively delightful in
the prospect. "No bad place is the great brick farm-house
especially for them that will find a good many old cronies there
as will be my case. I quite long to be among themsometimes
of the winter evenings; for it is but dull business for a
lonesome elderly manlike meto be noddingby the hour together
with no company but his air-tight stove. Summer or winter
there's a great deal to be said in favor of my farm! Andtake it
in the autumnwhat can be pleasanter than to spend a whole day
on the sunny side of a barn or a wood-pilechatting with somebody
as old as one's self; orperhapsidling away the time with a
natural-born simpletonwho knows how to be idlebecause even
our busy Yankees never have found out how to put him to any use?
Upon my wordMiss HepzibahI doubt whether I've ever been so
comfortable as I mean to be at my farmwhich most folks call
the workhouse. But you--you're a young woman yet--you never
need go there! Something still better will turn up for you.
I'm sure of it!"

Hepzibah fancied that there was something peculiar in her
venerable friend's look and tone; insomuchthat she gazed into
his face with considerable earnestnessendeavoring to discover
what secret meaningif anymight be lurking there. Individuals
whose affairs have reached an utterly desperate crisis almost
invariably keep themselves alive with hopesso much the more
airily magnificent as they have the less of solid matter within
their grasp whereof to mould any judicious and moderate expectation
of good. Thusall the while Hepzibah was perfecting the scheme
of her little shopshe had cherished an unacknowledged idea that
some harlequin trick of fortune would intervene in her favor.
For examplean uncle--who had sailed for India fifty years before
and never been heard of since--might yet returnand adopt her to
be the comfort of his very extreme and decrepit ageand adorn her
with pearlsdiamondsand Oriental shawls and turbansand make
her the ultimate heiress of his unreckonable riches. Or the member
of Parliamentnow at the head of the English branch of the family
--with which the elder stockon this side of the Atlantichad held


little or no intercourse for the last two centuries--this eminent
gentleman might invite Hepzibah to quit the ruinous House of the
Seven Gablesand come over to dwell with her kindred at Pyncheon
Hall. Butfor reasons the most imperativeshe could not yield to
his request. It was more probablethereforethat the descendants
of a Pyncheon who had emigrated to Virginiain some past generation
and became a great planter there--hearing of Hepzibah's destitution
and impelled by the splendid generosity of character with which their
Virginian mixture must have enriched the New England blood--would
send her a remittance of a thousand dollarswith a hint of repeating
the favor annually. Or--andsurelyanything so undeniably just
could not be beyond the limits of reasonable anticipation--the great
claim to the heritage of Waldo County might finally be decided in
favor of the Pyncheons; so thatinstead of keeping a cent-shop
Hepzibah would build a palaceand look down from its highest tower
on hilldaleforestfieldand townas her own share of the
ancestral territory.

These were some of the fantasies which she had long dreamed about;
andaided by theseUncle Venner's casual attempt at encouragement
kindled a strange festal glory in the poorbaremelancholy chambers
of her brainas if that inner world were suddenly lighted up with gas.
But either he knew nothing of her castles in the air--as how should he?
--or else her earnest scowl disturbed his recollectionas it might a
more courageous man's. Instead of pursuing any weightier topic
Uncle Venner was pleased to favor Hepzibah with some sage counsel in
her shop-keeping capacity.

Give no credit!--these were some of his goldenmxims--"Never
take paper-money. Look well to your change! Ring the silver on
the four-pound weight! Shove back all English half-pence and base
copper tokenssuch as are very plenty about town! At your leisure
hoursknit children's woollen socks and mittens! Brew your own
yeastand make your own ginger-beer!"

And while Hepzibah was doing her utmost to digest the hard little
pellets of his already uttered wisdomhe gave vent to his final
and what he declared to be his all-important adviceas follows:-


Put on a bright face for your customers, and smile pleasantly as
you hand them what they ask for! A stale article, if you dip it
in a good, warm, sunny smile, will go off better than a fresh one
that you've scowled upon.

To this last apothegm poor Hepzibah responded with a sigh so
deep and heavy that it almost rustled Uncle Venner quite away
like a withered leaf--as he was--before an autumnal gale.
Recovering himselfhoweverhe bent forwardandwith a good
deal of feeling in his ancient visagebeckoned her nearer to him.

When do you expect him home?whispered he.

Whom do you mean?asked Hepzibahturning pale.

Ah? you don't love to talk about it,said Uncle Venner. "Well
well! we'll say no morethough there's word of it all over town.
I remember himMiss Hepzibahbefore he could run alone!"

During the remainder of the daypoor Hepzibah acquitted herself
even less creditablyas a shop-keeperthan in her earlier efforts.
She appeared to be walking in a dream; ormore trulythe vivid
life and reality assumed by her emotions made all outward
occurrences unsubstantiallike the teasing phantasms of a
half-conscious slumber. She still respondedmechanically


to the frequent summons of the shop-bellandat the demand of
her customerswent prying with vague eyes about the shop
proffering them one article after anotherand thrusting aside
--perverselyas most of them supposed--the identical thing
they asked for. There is sad confusionindeedwhen the spirit
thus flits away into the pastor into the more awful futureor
in any mannersteps across the spaceless boundary betwixt its
own region and the actual world; where the body remains to guide
itself as best it maywith little more than the mechanism of
animal life. It is like deathwithout death's quiet privilege
--its freedom from mortal care. Worst of allwhen the actual duties
are comprised in such petty details as now vexed the brooding soul
of the old gentlewoman. As the animosity of fate would have it
there was a great influx of custom in the course of the afternoon.
Hepzibah blundered to and fro about her small place of business
committing the most unheard-of errors: now stringing up twelve
and now seventallow-candlesinstead of ten to the pound; selling
ginger for Scotch snuffpins for needlesand needles for pins;
misreckoning her changesometimes to the public detrimentand
much oftener to her own; and thus she went ondoing her utmost
to bring chaos back againuntilat the close of the day's labor
to her inexplicable astonishmentshe found the money-drawer almost
destitute of coin. After all her painful trafficthe whole proceeds
were perhaps half a dozen coppersand a questionable ninepence which
ultimately proved to be copper likewise.

At this priceor at whatever priceshe rejoiced that the day had
reached its end. Never before had she had such a sense of the
intolerable length of time that creeps between dawn and sunset
and of the miserable irksomeness of having aught to doand of
the better wisdom that it would be to lie down at oncein sullen
resignationand let lifeand its toils and vexationstrample over
one's prostrate body as they may! Hepzibah's final operation was
with the little devourer of Jim Crow and the elephantwho now
proposed to eat a camel. In her bewildermentshe offered him
first a wooden dragoonand next a handful of marbles; neither
of which being adapted to his else omnivorous appetiteshe
hastily held out her whole remaining stock of natural history in
gingerbreadand huddled the small customer out of the shop. She
then muffled the bell in an unfinished stockingand put up the
oaken bar across the door.

During the latter processan omnibus came to a stand-still under
the branches of the elm-tree. Hepzibah's heart was in her mouth.
Remote and duskyand with no sunshine on all the intervening
spacewas that region of the Past whence her only guest might
be expected to arrive! Was she to meet him. now?

Somebodyat all eventswas passing from the farthest interior of
the omnibus towards its entrance. A gentleman alighted; but it was
only to offer his hand to a young girl whose slender figurenowise
needing such assistancenow lightly descended the stepsand made
an airy little jump from the final one to the sidewalk. She rewarded
her cavalier with a smilethe cheery glow of which was seen
reflected on his own face as he reentered the vehicle. The girl
then turned towards the House of the Seven Gablesto the door of
whichmeanwhile--not the shop-doorbut the antique portal--the
omnibus-man had carried a light trunk and a bandbox. First giving
a sharp rap of the old iron knockerhe left his passenger and
her luggage at the door-stepand departed.

Who can it be?thought Hepzibahwho had been screwing her
visual organs into the acutest focus of which they were capable.
The girl must have mistaken the house.She stole softly into


the hallandherself invisiblegazed through the dusty side-lights
of the portal at the youngbloomingand very cheerful face
which presented itself for admittance into the gloomy old
mansion. It was a face to which almost any door would have
opened of its own accord.

The young girlso freshso unconventionaland yet so orderly
and obedient to common rulesas you at once recognized her to
bewas widely in contrastat that momentwith everything about
her. The sordid and ugly luxuriance of gigantic weeds that grew
in the angle of the houseand the heavy projection that overshadowed
herand the time-worn framework of the door--none of these things
belonged to her sphere. Buteven as a ray of sunshinefall into
what dismal place it mayinstantaneously creates for itself a
propriety in being thereso did it seem altogether fit that the
girl should be standing at the threshold. It was no less evidently
proper that the door should swing open to admit her. The maiden
lady herselfsternly inhospitable in her first purposessoon began
to feel that the door ought to be shoved backand the rusty key be
turned in the reluctant lock.

Can it be Phoebe?questioned she within herself. "It must be
little Phoebe; for it can be nobody else--and there is a look
of her father about hertoo! But what does she want here? And
how like a country cousinto come down upon a poor body in
this waywithout so much as a day's noticeor asking whether
she would be welcome! Well; she must have a night's lodging
I suppose; and to-morrow the child shall go back to her mother."

Phoebeit must be understoodwas that one little offshoot of the
Pyncheon race to whom we have already referredas a native of
a rural part of New Englandwhere the old fashions and feelings
of relationship are still partially kept up. In her own circle
it was regarded as by no means improper for kinsfolk to visit one
another without invitationor preliminary and ceremonious warning.
Yetin consideration of Miss Hepzibah's recluse way of lifea letter
had actually been written and despatchedconveying information of
Phoebe's projected visit. This epistlefor three or four days past
had been in the pocket of the penny-postmanwhohappening to have
no other business in Pyncheon Streethad not yet made it convenient
to call at the House of the Seven Gables.

No--she can stay only one night,said Hepzibahunbolting the
door. "If Clifford were to find her hereit might disturb him!"

V May and November

PHOEBE PYNCHEON slepton the night of her arrivalin a chamber
that looked down on the garden of the old house. It fronted
towards the eastso that at a very seasonable hour a glow of
crimson light came flooding through the windowand bathed the
dingy ceiling and paper-hangings in its own hue. There were
curtains to Phoebe's bed; a darkantique canopyand ponderous
festoons of a stuff which had been richand even magnificent
in its time; but which now brooded over the girl like a cloud
making a night in that one cornerwhile elsewhere it was
beginning to be day. The morning lighthoweversoon stole
into the aperture at the foot of the bedbetwixt those faded
curtains. Finding the new guest there--with a bloom on her
cheeks like the morning's ownand a gentle stir of departing


slumber in her limbsas when an early breeze moves the foliage
--the dawn kissed her brow. It was the caress which a dewy
maiden--such as the Dawn isimmortally--gives to her sleeping
sisterpartly from the impulse of irresistible fondnessand
partly as a pretty hint that it is time now to unclose her eyes.

At the touch of those lips of lightPhoebe quietly awokeand
for a momentdid not recognize where she wasnor how those heavy
curtains chanced to be festooned around her. Nothingindeed
was absolutely plain to herexcept that it was now early morning
and thatwhatever might happen nextit was properfirst of all
to get up and say her prayers. She was the more inclined to devotion
from the grim aspect of the chamber and its furnitureespecially
the tallstiff chairs; one of which stood close by her bedside
and looked as if some old-fashioned personage had been sitting there
all nightand had vanished only just in season to escape discovery.

When Phoebe was quite dressedshe peeped out of the window
and saw a rosebush in the garden. Being a very tall oneand of
luxuriant growthit had been propped up against the side of the
houseand was literally covered with a rare and very beautiful
species of white rose. A large portion of themas the girl
afterwards discoveredhad blight or mildew at their hearts; but
viewed at a fair distancethe whole rosebush looked as if it had
been brought from Eden that very summertogether with the mould
in which it grew. The truth wasneverthelessthat it had been
planted by Alice Pyncheon--she was Phoebe's great-great-grand-aunt
--in soil whichreckoning only its cultivation as a garden-plat
was now unctuous with nearly two hundred years of vegetable decay.
Growing as they didhoweverout of the old earththe flowers
still sent a fresh and sweet incense up to their Creator; nor could
it have been the less pure and acceptable because Phoebe's young
breath mingled with itas the fragrance floated past the window.
Hastening down the creaking and carpetless staircaseshe found
her way into the gardengathered some of the most perfect of the
rosesand brought them to her chamber.

Little Phoebe was one of those persons who possessas their
exclusive patrimonythe gift of practical arrangement. It
is a kind of natural magic that enables these favored ones to
bring out the hidden capabilities of things around them; and
particularly to give a look of comfort and habitableness to any
place whichfor however brief a periodmay happen to be their
home. A wild hut of underbrushtossed together by wayfarers
through the primitive forestwould acquire the home aspect by
one night's lodging of such a womanand would retain it long
after her quiet figure had disappeared into the surrounding shade.
No less a portion of such homely witchcraft was requisite to
reclaimas it werePhoebe's wastecheerlessand dusky
chamberwhich had been untenanted so long--except by spiders
and miceand ratsand ghosts--that it was all overgrown with
the desolation which watches to obliterate every trace of man's
happier hours. What was precisely Phoebe's process we find it
impossible to say. She appeared to have no preliminary design
but gave a touch here and another there; brought some articles of
furniture to light and dragged others into the shadow; looped up
or let down a window-curtain; andin the course of half an hour
had fully succeeded in throwing a kindly and hospitable smile over
the apartment. N o longer ago than the night beforeit had
resembled nothing so much as the old maid's heart; for there was
neither sunshine nor household fire in one nor the otherand
Save for ghosts and ghostly reminiscencesnot a guestfor many
years gone byhad entered the heart or the chamber.


There was still another peculiarity of this inscrutable charm.
The bedchamberNo doubtwas a chamber of very great and varied
experienceas a scene of human life: the joy of bridal nights
had throbbed itself away here; new immortals had first drawn
earthly breath here; and here old people had died. But--whether
it were the white rosesor whatever the subtile influence might
be--a person of delicate instinct would have known at once that
it was now a maiden's bedchamberand had been purified of all
former evil and sorrow by her sweet breath and happy thoughts.
Her dreams of the past nightbeing such cheerful oneshad
exorcised the gloomand now haunted the chamber in its stead.

After arranging matters to her satisfactionPhoebe emerged from
her chamberwith a purpose to descend again into the garden.
Besides the rosebushshe had observed several other species of
flowers growing there in a wilderness of neglectand obstructing
one another's development (as is often the parallel case in human
society) by their uneducated entanglement and confusion. At the
head of the stairshowevershe met Hepzibahwhoit being still
earlyinvited her into a room which she would probably have called
her boudoirhad her education embraced any such French phrase.
It was strewn about with a few old booksand a work-basketand a
dusty writing-desk; and hadon one sidea large black article of
furnitureof very strange appearancewhich the old gentlewoman
told Phoebe was a harpsichord. It looked more like a coffin than
anything else; andindeed--not having been played uponor opened
for years--there must have been a vast deal of dead music in it
stifled for want of air. Human finger was hardly known to have
touched its chords since the days of Alice Pyncheonwho had
learned the sweet accomplishment of melody in Europe.

Hepzibah bade her young guest sit downandherself taking a
chair near bylooked as earnestly at Phoebe's trim little figure
as if she expected to see right into its springs and motive secrets.

Cousin Phoebe,said sheat lastI really can't see my way
clear to keep you with me.

These wordshoweverhad not the inhospitable bluntness with
which they may strike the reader; for the two relativesin a talk
before bedtimehad arrived at a certain degree of mutual
understanding. Hepzibah knew enough to enable her to appreciate
the circumstances (resulting from the second marriage of the
girl's mother) which made it desirable for Phoebe to establish
herself in another home. Nor did she misinterpret Phoebe's
characterand the genial activity pervading it--one of the most
valuable traits of the true New England woman--which had
impelled her forthas might be saidto seek her fortunebut with
a self-respecting purpose to confer as much benefit as she could
anywise receive. As one of her nearest kindredshe had naturally
betaken herself to Hepzibahwith no idea of forcing herself on
her cousin's protectionbut only for a visit of a week or two
which might be indefinitely extendedshould it prove for the
happiness of both.

To Hepzibah's blunt observationthereforePhoebe replied as frankly
and more cheerfully.

Dear cousin, I cannot tell how it will be,said she. "But I really
think we may suit one another much better than you suppose."

You are a nice girl,--I see it plainly,continued Hepzibah; "and
it is not any question as to that point which makes me hesitate.
ButPhoebethis house of mine is but a melancholy place for a


young person to be in. It lets in the wind and rainand the Snow
tooin the garret and upper chambersin winter-timebut it never
lets in the sunshine. And as for myselfyou see what I am--a dismal
and lonesome old woman (for I begin to call myself oldPhoebe)
whose temperI am afraidis none of the bestand whose spirits
are as bad as can be I cannot make your life pleasantCousin Phoebe
neither can I so much as give you bread to eat."

You will find me a cheerful little, bodyanswered Phoebesmiling
and yet with a kind of gentle dignity. "and I mean to earn my bread.
You know I have not been brought up a Pyncheon. A girl learns many
things in a New England village."

Ah! Phoebe,said Hepzibahsighingyour knowledge would do
but little for you here! And then it is a wretched thought that
you should fling away your young days in a place like this.
Those cheeks would not be so rosy after a month or two. Look
at my face!andindeedthe contrast was very striking--"you see
how pale I am! It is my idea that the dust and continual decay
of these old houses are unwholesome for the lungs."

There is the garden,--the flowers to be taken care of,observed
Phoebe. "I should keep myself healthy with exercise in the open air."

And, after all, child,exclaimed Hepzibahsuddenly risingas if
to dismiss the subjectit is not for me to say who shall be a guest
or inhabitant of the old Pyncheon House. Its master is coming.

Do you mean Judge Pyncheon?asked Phoebe in surprise.

Judge Pyncheon!answered her cousin angrily. "He will hardly
cross the threshold while I live! Nono! ButPhoebeyou shall
see the face of him I speak of."

She went in quest of the miniature already describedand
returned with it in her hand. Giving it to Phoebeshe watched
her features narrowlyand with a certain jealousy as to the mode
in which the girl would show herself affected by the picture.

How do you like the face?asked Hepzibah.

It is handsome!--it is very beautiful!said Phoebe admiringly.
It is as sweet a face as a man's can be, or ought to be. It has
something of a child's expression,--and yet not childish,--only one
feels so very kindly towards him! He ought never to suffer
anything. One would bear much for the sake of sparing him toil
or sorrow. Who is it, Cousin Hepzibah?

Did you never hear,whispered her cousinbending towards her
of Clifford Pyncheon?

Never. I thought there were no Pyncheons left, except yourself
and our cousin Jaffrey,answered Phoebe. "And yet I seem to
have heard the name of Clifford Pyncheon. Yes!--from my father
or my mother. but has he not been a long while dead?"

Well, well, child, perhaps he has!said Hepzibah with a sad
hollow laugh; "butin old houses like thisyou knowdead
people are very apt to come back again! We shall see. And
Cousin Phoebesinceafter all that I have saidyour courage
does not fail youwe will not part so soon. You are welcome
my childfor the presentto such a home as your kinswoman
can offer you."


With this measuredbut not exactly cold assurance of a
hospitable purposeHepzibah kissed her cheek.

They now went below stairswhere Phoebe--not so much assuming
the office as attracting it to herselfby the magnetism of
innate fitness--took the most active part in preparing breakfast.
The mistress of the housemeanwhileas is usual with persons
of her stiff and unmalleable caststood mostly aside; willing
to lend her aidyet conscious that her natural inaptitude would
be likely to impede the business in hand. Phoebe and the fire
that boiled the teakettle were equally brightcheerfuland
efficientin their respective offices. Hepzibah gazed forth
from her habitual sluggishnessthe necessary result of long
solitudeas from another sphere. She could not help being
interestedhoweverand even amusedat the readiness with
which her new inmate adapted herself to the circumstances
and brought the housemoreoverand all its rusty old appliances
into a suitableness for her purposes. Whatever she didtoo
was done without conscious effortand with frequent outbreaks of
songwhich were exceedingly pleasant to the ear. This natural
tunefulness made Phoebe seem like a bird in a shadowy tree;
or conveyed the idea that the stream of life warbled through her
heart as a brook sometimes warbles through a pleasant little dell.
It betokened the cheeriness of an active temperamentfinding joy
in its activityandthereforerendering it beautiful; it was a
New England trait--the stern old stuff of Puritanism with a gold
thread in the web.

Hepzibah brought out Some old silver spoons with the family
crest upon themand a china tea-set painted over with grotesque
figures of manbirdand beastin as grotesque a landscape.
These pictured people were odd humoristsin a world of their
own--a world of vivid brilliancyso far as color wentand still
unfadedalthough the teapot and small cups were as ancient as
the custom itself of tea-drinking.

Your great-great-great-great-grandmother had these cups, when
she was married,said Hepzibah to Phoebe."She was a
Davenportof a good family. They were almost the first teacups
ever seen in the colony; and if one of them were to be broken
my heart would break with it. But it is Nonsense to speak so
about a brittle teacupwhen I remember what my heart has gone
through without breaking."

The cups--not having been usedperhapssince Hepzibah's
youth--had contracted no small burden of dustwhich Phoebe
washed away with so much care and delicacy as to satisfy even
the proprietor of this invaluable china.

What a nice little housewife you. areexclaimed the latter
smilingand at the Same time frowning so prodigiously that the
smile was sunshine under a thunder-cloud. "Do you do other
things as well? Are you as good at your book as you are at
washing teacups?"

Not quite, I am afraid,said Phoebelaughing at the form of
Hepzibah's question. "But I was schoolmistress for the little
children in our district last summerand might have been so still."

Ah! 'tis all very well!observed the maiden ladydrawing herself
up. "But these things must have come to you with your mother's
blood. I never knew a Pyncheon that had any turn for them."

It is very queerbut not the less truethat people are generally


quite as vainor even more soof their deficiencies than of their
available gifts; as was Hepzibah of this native inapplicability
so to speakof the Pyncheons to any useful purpose. She regarded
it as an hereditary trait; and soperhapsit wasbut unfortunately
a morbid onesuch as is often generated in families that remain
long above the surface of society.

Before they left the breakfast-tablethe shop-bell rang sharply
and Hepzibah set down the remnant of her final cup of teawith
a look of sallow despair that was truly piteous to behold. In cases
of distasteful occupationthe second day is generally worse than
the first. we return to the rack with all the soreness of the
preceding torture in our limbs. At all eventsHepzibah had fully
satisfied herself of the impossibility of ever becoming wonted to
this peevishly obstreperous little bell. Ring as often as it might
the sound always smote upon her nervous system rudely and suddenly.
And especially nowwhilewith her crested teaspoons and antique
chinashe was flattering herself with ideas of gentilityshe felt
an unspeakable disinclination to confront a customer.

Do not trouble yourself, dear cousin!cried Phoebestarting
lightly up. "I am shop-keeper today."

You, child!exclaimed Hepzibah. "What can a little country girl
know of such matters?"

Oh, I have done all the shopping for the family at our village
store,said Phoebe. "And I have had a table at a fancy fairand
made better sales than anybody. These things are not to be learnt;
they depend upon a knack that comesI suppose added she,
smiling, with one's mother's blood. You shall see that I am
as nice a little saleswoman as I am a housewife!"

The old gentlewoman stole behind Phoebeand peeped from the
passageway into the shopto note how she would manage her
undertaking. It was a case of some intricacy. A very ancient
womanin a white short gown and a green petticoatwith a string
of gold beads about her neckand what looked like a nightcap
on her headhad brought a quantity of yarn to barter for the
commodities of the shop. She was probably the very last person
in town who still kept the time-honored spinning-wheel in constant
revolution. It was worth while to hear the croaking and hollow
tones of the old ladyand the pleasant voice of Phoebemingling
in one twisted thread of talk; and still better to contrast their
figures--so light and bloomy--so decrepit and dusky--with only
the counter betwixt themin one sensebut more than threescore
yearsin another. As for the bargainit was wrinkled slyness
and craft pitted against native truth and sagacity.

Was not that well done?asked Phoebelaughingwhen the
customer was gone.

Nicely done, indeed, child!answered Hepzibah."I could not
have gone through with it nearly so well. As you sayit must be
a knack that belongs to you on the mother's side."

It is a very genuine admirationthat with which persons too shy
or too awkward to take a due part in the bustling world regard
the real actors in life's stirring scenes; so genuinein fact
that the former are usually fain to make it palatable to their
self-loveby assuming that these active and forcible qualities
are incompatible with otherswhich they choose to deem higher
and more important. ThusHepzibah was well content to acknowledge
Phoebe's vastly superior gifts as a shop-keeper'--she listened


with compliant earto her suggestion of various methods whereby
the influx of trade might be increasedand rendered profitable
without a hazardous outlay of capital. She consented that the
village maiden should manufacture yeastboth liquid and in cakes;
and should brew a certain kind of beernectareous to the palate
and of rare stomachic virtues; andmoreovershould bake and
exhibit for sale some little spice-cakeswhich whosoever tasted
would longingly desire to taste again. All such proofs of a
ready mind and skilful handiwork were highly acceptable to the
aristocratic hucksteressso long as she could murmur to herself
with a grim smileand a half-natural sighand a sentiment of
mixed wonderpityand growing affection-


What a nice little body she is! If she only could be a lady;
too--but that's impossible! Phoebe is no Pyncheon. She takes
everything from her mother.

As to Phoebe's not being a ladyor whether she were a lady or
noit was a pointperhapsdifficult to decidebut which could
hardly have come up for judgment at all in any fair and healthy
mind. Out of New Englandit would be impossible to meet with
a person combining so many ladylike attributes with so many
others that form no necessary (if compatible) part of the
character. She shocked no canon of taste; she was admirably in
keeping with herselfand never jarred against surrounding
circumstances. Her figureto be sure--so small as to be almost
childlikeand so elastic that motion seemed as easy or easier to
it than restwould hardly have suited one's idea of a countess.
Neither did her face--with the brown ringlets on either sideand
the slightly piquant noseand the wholesome bloomand the
clear shade of tanand the half dozen frecklesfriendly
remembrances of the April sun and breeze--precisely give us a
right to call her beautiful. But there was both lustre and depth in
her eyes. She was very pretty; as graceful as a birdand graceful
much in the same way; as pleasant about the house as a gleam of
sunshine falling on the floor through a shadow of twinkling leaves
or as a ray of firelight that dances on the wall while evening is
drawing nigh. Instead of discussing her claim to rank among ladies
it would be preferable to regard Phoebe as the example of feminine
grace and availability combinedin a state of societyif there
were any suchwhere ladies did not exist. There it should be
woman's office to move in the midst of practical affairsand to
gild them allthe very homeliest--were it even the scouring of
pots and kettles--with an atmosphere of loveliness and joy.

Such was the sphere of Phoebe. To find the born and educated
ladyon the other handwe need look no farther than Hepzibah
our forlorn old maidin her rustling and rusty silkswith her
deeply cherished and ridiculous consciousness of long descent
her shadowy claims to princely territoryandin the way of
accomplishmenther recollectionsit may beof having formerly
thrummed on a harpsichordand walked a minuetand worked an
antique tapestry-stitch on her sampler. It was a fair parallel
between new Plebeianism and old Gentility.

It really seemed as if the battered visage of the House of the
Seven Gablesblack and heavy-browed as it still certainly looked
must have shown a kind of cheerfulness glimmering through its
dusky windows as Phoebe passed to and fro in the interior.
Otherwiseit is impossible to explain how the people of the
neighborhood so soon became aware of the girl's presence. There
was a great run of customsetting steadily infrom about ten o'
clock until towards noon--relaxingsomewhatat dinner-time
but recommencing in the afternoonandfinallydying away a half


an hour or so before the long day's sunset. One of the stanchest
patrons was little Ned Higginsthe devourer of Jim Crow and the
elephantwho to-day signalized his omnivorous prowess by
swallowing two dromedaries and a locomotive. Phoebe laughed
as she summed up her aggregate of sales upon the slate; while
Hepzibahfirst drawing on a pair of silk glovesreckoned over
the sordid accumulation of copper coinnot without silver
intermixedthat had jingled into the till.

We must renew our stock, Cousin Hepzibah!cried the little
saleswoman. "The gingerbread figures are all goneand so are
those Dutch wooden milkmaidsand most of our other playthings.
There has been constant inquiry for cheap raisinsand a great
cry for whistlesand trumpetsand jew's-harps; and at least a
dozen little boys have asked for molasses-candy. And we must
contrive to get a peck of russet appleslate in the season as
it is. Butdear cousinwhat an enormous heap of copper!
Positively a copper mountain!"

Well done! well done! well done!quoth Uncle Vennerwho had
taken occasion to shuffle in and out of the shop several times
in the course of the day. "Here's a girl that will never end
her days at my farm! Bless my eyeswhat a brisk little soul!"

Yes, Phoebe is a nice girl!said Hepzibahwith a scowl of
austere approbation. "ButUncle Venneryou have known the
family a great many years. Can you tell me whether there ever
was a Pyncheon whom she takes after?"

I don't believe there ever was,answered the venerable man.
At any rate, it never was my luck to see her like among them,
nor, for that matter, anywhere else. I've seen a great deal of
the world, not only in people's kitchens and back-yards but at
the street-corners, and on the wharves, and in other places
where my business calls me; and I'm free to say, Miss Hepzibah,
that I never knew a human creature do her work so much like one
of God's angels as this child Phoebe does!

Uncle Venner's eulogiumif it appear rather too high-strained
for the person and occasionhadneverthelessa sense in which
it was both subtile and true. There was a spiritual quality in
Phoebe's activity. The life of the long and busy day--spent in
occupations that might so easily have taken a squalid and ugly
aspect--had been made pleasantand even lovelyby the
spontaneous grace with which these homely duties seemed to
bloom out of her character; so that laborwhile she dealt with
ithad the easy and flexible charm of play. Angels do not toil
but let their good works grow out of them; and so did Phoebe.

The two relatives--the young maid and the old one--found time
before nightfallin the intervals of tradeto make rapid advances
towards affection and confidence. A recluselike Hepzibah
usually displays remarkable franknessand at least temporary
affabilityon being absolutely corneredand brought to the point
of personal intercourse; like the angel whom Jacob wrestled with
she is ready to bless you when once overcome.

The old gentlewoman took a dreary and proud satisfaction in
leading Phoebe from room to room of the houseand recounting
the traditions with whichas we may saythe walls were
lugubriously frescoed. She showed the indentations made by the
lieutenant-governor's sword-hilt in the door-panels of the
apartment where old Colonel Pyncheona dead hosthad received
his affrighted visitors with an awful frown. The dusky terror of


that frownHepzibah observedwas thought to be lingering ever
since in the passageway. She bade Phoebe step into one of the
tall chairsand inspect the ancient map of the Pyncheon territory
at the eastward. In a tract of land on which she laid her finger
there existed a silver minethe locality of which was precisely
pointed out in some memoranda of Colonel Pyncheon himselfbut
only to be made known when the family claim should be recognized
by government. Thus it was for the interest of all New England
that the Pyncheons should have justice done them. She toldtoo
how that there was undoubtedly an immense treasure of English
guineas hidden somewhere about the houseor in the cellaror
possibly in the garden.

If you should happen to find it, Phoebe,said Hepzibahglancing
aside at her with a grim yet kindly smilewe will tie up the
shop-bell for good and all!

Yes, dear cousin,answered Phoebe; "butin the mean timeI hear
somebody ringing it!"

When the customer was goneHepzibah talked rather vaguely
and at great lengthabout a certain Alice Pyncheonwho had
been exceedingly beautiful and accomplished in her lifetime
a hundred years ago. The fragrance of her rich and delightful
character still lingered about the place where she had lived
as a dried rosebud scents the drawer where it has withered
and perished. This lovely Alice had met with some great and
mysterious calamityand had grown thin and whiteand gradually
faded out of the world. Buteven nowshe was supposed to
haunt the House of the Seven Gablesanda great many times
--especially when one of the Pyncheons was to die--she had
been heard playing sadly and beautifully on the harpsichord.
One of these tunesjust as it had sounded from her spiritual
touchhad been written down by an amateur of music; it was so
exquisitely mournful that nobodyto this daycould bear to
hear it playedunless when a great sorrow had made them know
the still profounder sweetness of it.

Was it the same harpsichord that you showed me?inquired Phoebe.

The very same,said Hepzibah. "It was Alice Pyncheon's
harpsichord. When I was learning musicmy father would never
let me open it. Soas I could only play on my teacher's
instrumentI have forgotten all my music long ago."

Leaving these antique themesthe old lady began to talk about
the daguerreotypistwhomas he seemed to be a well-meaning
and orderly young manand in narrow circumstancesshe had
permitted to take up his residence in one of the seven gables.
Buton seeing more of Mr. Holgraveshe hardly knew what to
make of him. He had the strangest companions imaginable; men
with long beardsand dressed in linen blousesand other such
new-fangled and ill-fitting garments; reformerstemperance
lecturersand all manner of cross-looking philanthropists;
community-menand come-outersas Hepzibah believedwho
acknowledged no lawand ate no solid foodbut lived on the
scent of other people's cookeryand turned up their noses at
the fare. As for the daguerreotypistshe had read a paragraph
in a penny paperthe other dayaccusing him of making a speech
full of wild and disorganizing matterat a meeting of his
banditti-like associates. For her own partshe had reason to
believe that he practised animal magnetismandif such things
were in fashion nowadaysshould be apt to suspect him of studying
the Black Art up there in his lonesome chamber.


But, dear cousin,said Phoebeif the young man is so
dangerous, why do you let him stay? If he does nothing worse,
he may set the house on fire!

Why, sometimes,answered HepzibahI have seriously made
it a question, whether I ought not to send him away. But, with
all his oddities, he is a quiet kind of a person, and has such
a way of taking hold of one's mind, that, without exactly liking
him (for I don't know enough of the young man), I should be
sorry to lose sight of him entirely. A woman clings to slight
acquaintances when she lives so much alone as I do.

But if Mr. Holgrave is a lawless person!remonstrated Phoebe
a part of whose essence it was to keep within the limits of law.

Oh!said Hepzibah carelessly--forformal as she wasstill
in her life's experienceshe had gnashed her teeth against human
law--"I suppose he has a law of his own!"

VI MAULE'S WELL

AFTER an early teathe little country-girl strayed into the
garden. The enclosure had formerly been very extensivebut was
now contracted within small compassand hemmed aboutpartly
by high wooden fencesand partly by the outbuildings of houses
that stood on another street. In its centre was a grass-plat
surrounding a ruinous little structurewhich showed just enough
of its original design to indicate that it had once been a
summer-house. A hop-vinespringing from last year's root
was beginning to clamber over itbut would be long in covering
the roof with its green mantle. Three of the seven gables either
fronted or looked sidewayswith a dark solemnity of aspect
down into the garden.

The blackrich soil had fed itself with the decay of a long
period of time; such as fallen leavesthe petals of flowers
and the stalks and seed--vessels of vagrant and lawless plants
more useful after their death than ever while flaunting in the sun.
The evil of these departed years would naturally have sprung up
againin such rank weeds (symbolic of the transmitted vices of
society) as are always prone to root themselves about human
dwellings. Phoebe Sawhoweverthat their growth must have
been checked by a degree of careful laborbestowed daily and
systematically on the garden. The white double rose-bush had
evidently been propped up anew against the house since the
commencement of the season; and a pear-tree and three damson-trees
whichexcept a row of currant-bushesconstituted the only varieties
of fruitbore marks of the recent amputation of several superfluous
or defective limbs. There were also a few species of antique
and hereditary flowersin no very flourishing conditionbut
scrupulously weeded; as if some personeither out of love or
curiosityhad been anxious to bring them to such perfection as
they were capable of attaining. The remainder of the garden
presented a well-selected assortment of esculent vegetables
in a praiseworthy state of advancement. Summer squashes almost
in their golden blossom; cucumbersnow evincing a tendency to
spread away from the main stockand ramble far and wide; two
or three rows of string-beans and as many more that were about
to festoon themselves on poles; tomatoesoccupying a site so


sheltered and sunny that the plants were already giganticand
promised an early and abundant harvest.

Phoebe wondered whose care and toil it could have been that had
planted these vegetablesand kept the soil so clean and orderly.
Not surely her cousin Hepzibah'swho had no taste nor spirits
for the lady-like employment of cultivating flowersand--with
her recluse habitsand tendency to shelter herself within the
dismal shadow of the house--would hardly have come forth under
the speck of open sky to weed and hoe among the fraternity of
beans and squashes.

It being her first day of complete estrangement from rural
objectsPhoebe found an unexpected charm in this little nook
of grassand foliageand aristocratic flowersand plebeian
vegetables. The eye of Heaven seemed to look down into it
pleasantlyand with a peculiar smileas if glad to perceive
that natureelsewhere overwhelmedand driven out of the dusty
townhad here been able to retain a breathing-place. The spot
acquired a somewhat wilder graceand yet a very gentle onefrom
the fact that a pair of robins had built their nest in the
pear-treeand were making themselves exceed ingly busy and happy
in the dark intricacy of its boughs. Beestoo--strange to say
--had thought it worth their while to come hitherpossibly from
the range of hives beside some farm-house miles away. How many
aerial voyages might they have madein quest of honeyor
honey-ladenbetwixt dawn and sunset! Yetlate as it now was
there still arose a pleasant hum out of one or two of the
squash-blossomsin the depths ofwich these bees were plying
their golden labor. There was one other object in the garden
which Nature might fairly claim as her inalienable property
in spite of whatever man could do to render it his own. This was
a fountainset round with a rim of old mossy stonesand paved
in its bedwith what appeared to be a sort of mosaic-work of
variously colored pebbles. The play and slight agitation of
the waterin its upward gushwrought magically with these
variegated pebblesand made a continually shifting apparition
of quaint figuresvanishing too suddenly to be definable. Thence
swelling over the rim of moss-grown stonesthe water stole away
under the fencethrough what we regret to call a gutterrather
than a channel. Nor must we forget to mention a hen-coop of very
reverend antiquity that stood in the farther corner of the garden
not a great way from the fountain. It now contained only Chanticleer
his two wivesand a solitary chicken. All of them were pure
specimens of a breed which had been transmitted down as an heirloom
in the Pyncheon familyand were saidwhile in their primeto
have attained almost the size of turkeysandon the score of
delicate fleshto be fit for a prince's table. In proof of
the authenticity of this legendary renownHepzibah could have
exhibited the shell of a great eggwhich an ostrich need hardly
have been ashamed of. Be that as it mightthe hens were now
scarcely larger than pigeonsand had a queerrustywithered
aspectand a gouty kind of movementand a sleepy and melancholy
tone throughout all the variations of their clucking and cackling.
It was evident that the race had degeneratedlike many a noble
race besidesin consequence of too strict a watchfulness to keep
it pure. These feathered people had existed too long in their
distinct variety; a fact of which the present representatives
judging by their lugubrious deportmentseemed to be aware.
They kept themselves aliveunquestionablyand laid now and
then an eggand hatched a chicken; not for any pleasure of their
ownbut that the world might not absolutely lose what had once
been so admirable a breed of fowls. The distinguishing mark of
the hens was a crest of lamentably scanty growthin these latter


daysbut so oddly and wickedly analogous to Hepzibah's turban
that Phoebe--to the poignant distress of her consciencebut
inevitably --was led to fancy a general resemblance betwixt these
forlorn bipeds and her respectable relative.

The girl ran into the house to get some crumbs of bread
cold potatoesand other such scraps as were suitable to the
accommodating appetite of fowls. Returningshe gave a peculiar
callwhich they seemed to recognize. The chicken crept through
the pales of the coop and ranwith some show of livelinessto
her feet; while Chanticleer and the ladies of his household regarded
her with queersidelong glancesand then croaked one to another
as if communicating their sage opinions of her character. So wise
as well as antiquewas their aspectas to give color to the idea
not merely that they were the descendants of a time-honored
racebut that they had existedin their individual capacity
ever since the House of the Seven Gables was foundedand were
somehow mixed up with its destiny. They were a species of tutelary
spriteor Banshee; although winged and feathered differently
from most other guardian angels.

Here, you odd little chicken!said Phoebe; "here are some nice
crumbs for you!"

The chickenhereuponthough almost as venerable in appearance
as itsmother--possessingindeedthe whole antiquity of its
progenitors in miniature--mustered vivacity enough to flutter
upward and alight on Phoebe's shoulder.

That little fowl pays you a high compliment!said a voice
behind Phoebe.

Turning quicklyshe was surprised at sight of a young manwho
had found access into the garden by a door opening out of
another gable than that whence she had emerged. He held a hoe
in his handandwhile Phoebe was gone in quest of the crumbs
had begun to busy himself with drawing up fresh earth about the
roots of the tomatoes.

The chicken really treats you like an old acquaintance,
continued he in a quiet waywhile a smile made his face
pleasanter than Phoebe at first fancied it. "Those venerable
personages in the cooptooseem very affably disposed. You are
lucky to be in their good graces so soon! They have known me much
longerbut never honor me with any familiaritythough hardly a
day passes without my bringing them food. Miss Hepzibah
I supposewill interweave the fact with her other traditions
and set it down that the fowls know you to be a Pyncheon!"

The secret is,said Phoebesmilingthat I have learned how
to talk with hens and chickens.

Ah, but these hens,answered the young man--"these hens of
aristocratic lineage would scorn to understand the vulgar language
of a barn-yard fowl. I prefer to think--and so would Miss Hepzibah
--that they recognize the family tone. For you are a Pyncheon?"

My name is Phoebe Pyncheon,said the girlwith a manner of
some reserve; for she was aware that her new acquaintance could
be no other than the daguerreotypistof whose lawless propensities
the old maid had given her a disagreeable idea. "I did not know
that my cousin Hepzibah's garden was under another person's care."

Yes,said HolgraveI dig, and hoe, and weed, in this black


old earth, for the sake of refreshing myself with what little
nature and simplicity may be left in it, after men have so long
sown and reaped here. I turn up the earth by way of pastime.
My sober occupation, so far as I have any, is with a lighter
material. In short, I make pictures out of sunshine; and, not to
be too much dazzled with my own trade, I have prevailed with Miss
Hepzibah to let me lodge in one of these dusky gables. It is like
a bandage over one's eyes, to come into it. But would you like to
see a specimen of my productions?

A daguerreotype likeness, do you mean?asked Phoebe with less reserve;
forin spite of prejudiceher own youthfulness sprang forward to meet
his. "I don't much like pictures of that sort--they are so hard and
stern; besides dodging away from the eyeand trying to escape altogether.
They are conscious of looking very unamiableI supposeand therefore
hate to be seen."

If you would permit me,said the artistlooking at Phoebe
I should like to try whether the daguerreotype can bring out
disagreeable traits on a perfectly amiable face. But there
certainly is truth in what you have said. Most of my likenesses
do look unamiable; but the very sufficient reason, I fancy, is,
because the originals are so. There is a wonderful insight in
Heaven's broad and simple sunshine. While we give it credit only
for depicting the merest surface, it actually brings out the secret
character with a truth that no painter would ever venture upon,
even could he detect it. There is, at least, no flattery in my
humble line of art. Now, here is a likeness which I have taken
over and over again, and still with no better result. Yet the
original wears, to common eyes, a very different expression.
It would gratify me to have your judgment on this character.

He exhibited a daguerreotype miniature in a morocco case.
Phoebe merely glanced at itand gave it back.

I know the face,she replied; "for its stern eye has been
following me about all day. It is my Puritan ancestorwho hangs
yonder in the parlor. To be sureyou have found some way of
copying the portrait without its black velvet cap and gray beard
and have given him a modern coat and satin cravatinstead of his
cloak and band. I don't think him improved by your alterations."

You would have seen other differences had you looked a little
longer,said Holgravelaughingyet apparently much struck.
I can assure you that this is a modern face, and one which you
will very probably meet. Now, the remarkable point is, that the
original wears, to the world's eye,--and, for aught I know, to his
most intimate friends,--an exceedingly pleasant countenance,
indicative of benevolence, openness of heart, sunny good-humor,
and other praiseworthy qualities of that cast. The sun, as you see,
tells quite another story, and will not be coaxed out of it, after
half a dozen patient attempts on my part. Here we have the man,
sly, subtle, hard, imperious, and, withal, cold as ice. Look at
that eye! Would you like to be at its mercy? At that mouth! Could
it ever smile? And yet, if you could only see the benign smile
of the original! It is so much the More unfortunate, as he is a
public character of some eminence, and the likeness was intended
to be engraved.

Well, I don't wish to see it any more,observed Phoebeturning
away her eyes. "It is certainly very like the old portrait. But my
cousin Hepzibah has another picture--a miniature. If the original
is still in the worldI think he might defy the sun to make him
look stern and hard."


You have seen that picture, then!exclaimed the artistwith an
expression of much interest. "I never didbut have a great
curiosity to do so. And you judge favorably of the face?"

There never was a sweeter one,said Phoebe. "It is almost too
soft and gentle for a man's."

Is there nothing wild in the eye?continued Holgraveso earnestly
that it embarrassed Phoebeas did also the quiet freedom with which
he presumed on their so recent acquaintance. "Is there nothing dark
or sinister anywhere? Could you not conceive the original to have been
guilty of a great crime?"

It is nonsense,said Phoebe a little impatientlyfor us to talk
about a picture which you have never seen. You mistake it for
some other. A crime, indeed! Since you are a friend of my
cousin Hepzibah's, you should ask her to show you the picture.

It will suit my purpose still better to see the original,replied
the daguerreotypist coolly. "As to his characterwe need not
discuss its points; they have already been settled by a competent
tribunalor one which called itself competent. Butstay! Do not
go yetif you please! I have a proposition to make you."

Phoebe was on the point of retreatingbut turned backwith
some hesitation; for she did not exactly comprehend his manner
althoughon better observationits feature seemed rather to be
lack of ceremony than any approach to offensive rudeness. There
was an odd kind of authoritytooin what he now proceeded to
sayrather as if the garden were his own than a place to which
he was admitted merely by Hepzibah's courtesy.

If agreeable to you,he observedit would give me pleasure to
turn over these flowers, and those ancient and respectable fowls,
to your care. Coming fresh from country air and occupations,
you will soon feel the need of some such out-of-door employment.
My own sphere does not so much lie among flowers. You can trim
and tend them, therefore, as you please; and I will ask only the
least trifle of a blossom, now and then, in exchange for all the
good, honest kitchen vegetables with which I propose to enrich Miss
Hepzibah's table. So we will be fellow-laborers, somewhat on the
community system.

Silentlyand rather surprised at her own compliancePhoebe
accordingly betook herself to weeding a flower-bedbut busied
herself still more with cogitations respecting this young man
with whom she so unexpectedly found herself on terms approaching
to familiarity. She did not altogether like him. His character
perplexed the little country-girlas it might a more practised
observer; forwhile the tone of his conversation had generally
been playfulthe impression left on her mind was that of gravity
andexcept as his youth modified italmost sternness. She
rebelledas it wereagainst a certain magnetic element in the
artist's naturewhich he exercised towards herpossibly without
being conscious of it.

After a little whilethe twilightdeepened by the shadows of
the fruit-trees and the surrounding buildingsthrew an obscurity
over the garden.

There,said Holgraveit is time to give over work! That last
stroke of the hoe has cut off a beanstalk. Good-night, Miss Phoebe
Pyncheon! Any bright day, if you will put one of those rosebuds in


your hair, and come to my rooms in Central Street, I will seize the
purest ray of sunshine, and make a picture of the flower and its
wearer.He retired towards his own solitary gablebut turned his
headon reaching the doorand called to Phoebewith a tone which
certainly had laughter in ityet which seemed to be more than half
in earnest.

Be careful not to drink at Maule's well!said he. "Neither drink
nor bathe your face in it!"

Maule's well!answered Phoebe. "Is that it with the rim of
mossy stones? I have no thought of drinking there--but why not?"

Oh,rejoined the daguerreotypistbecause, like an old lady's
cup of tea, it is water bewitched!

He vanished; and Phoebelingering a momentsaw a glimmering
lightand then the steady beam of a lampin a chamber of the
gable. On returning into Hepzibah's apartment of the houseshe
found the low-studded parlor so dim and dusky that her eyes
could not penetrate the interior. She was indistinctly aware
howeverthat the gaunt figure of the old gentlewoman was sitting
in one of the straight-backed chairsa little withdrawn from the
windowthe faint gleam of which showed the blanched paleness
of her cheekturned sideways towards a corner.

Shall I light a lamp, Cousin Hepzibah?she asked.

Do, if you please, my dear child,answered Hepzibah. "But put
it on the table in the corner of the passage. My eyes are weak;
and I can seldom bear the lamplight on them."

What an instrument is the human voice! How wonderfully
responsive to every emotion of the human soul! In Hepzibah's
toneat that momentthere was a certain rich depth and moisture
as if the wordscommonplace as they werehad been steeped in
the warmth of her heart. Againwhile lighting the lamp in the
kitchenPhoebe fancied that her cousin spoke to her.

In a moment, cousin!answered the girl. "These matches just
glimmerand go out."

Butinstead of a response from Hepzibahshe seemed to hear the
murmur of an unknown voice. It was strangely indistincthowever
and less like articulate words than an unshaped soundsuch as would
be the utterance of feeling and sympathyrather than of the intellect.
So vague was itthat its impression or echo in Phoebe's mind was
that of unreality. She concluded that she must have mistaken some
other sound for that of the human voice; or else that it was
altogether in her fancy.

She set the lighted lamp in the passageand again entered the
parlor. Hepzibah's formthough its sable outline mingled with the
duskwas now less imperfectly visible. In the remoter parts of
the roomhoweverits walls being so ill adapted to reflect light
there was nearly the same obscurity as before.

Cousin,said Phoebedid you speak to me just now?

No, child!replied Hepzibah.

Fewer words than beforebut with the same mysterious music in
them! Mellowmelancholyyet not mournfulthe tone seemed to
gush up out of the deep well of Hepzibah's heartall steeped in


its profoundest emotion. There was a tremor in ittoothat
--as all strong feeling is electric--partly communicated itself
to Phoebe. The girl sat silently for a moment. But soonher senses
being very acuteshe became conscious of an irregular respiration
in an obscure corner of the room. Her physical organization
moreoverbeing at once delicate and healthygave her a perception
operating with almost the effect of a spiritual mediumthat somebody
was near at hand.

My dear cousin,asked sheovercoming an indefinable reluctance
is there not some one in the room with us?

Phoebe, my dear little girl,said Hepzibahafter a moment's
pauseyou were up betimes, and have been busy all day. Pray go
to bed; for I am sure you must need rest. I will sit in the parlor
awhile, and collect my thoughts. It has been my custom for more
years, child, than you have lived!While thus dismissing herthe
maiden lady stept forwardkissed Phoebeand pressed her to her
heartwhich beat against the girl's bosom with a stronghigh
and tumultuous swell. How came there to be so much love in this
desolate old heartthat it could afford to well over thus abundantly?

Goodnight, cousin,said Phoebestrangely affected by Hepzibah's
manner. "If you begin to love meI am glad!"

She retired to her chamberbut did not soon fall asleepnor then
very profoundly. At some uncertain period in the depths of night
andas it werethrough the thin veil of a dreamshe was
conscious of a footstep mounting the stairs heavilybut not with
force and decision. The voice of Hepzibahwith a hush through
itwas going up along with the footsteps; andagainresponsive
to her cousin's voicePhoebe heard that strangevague murmur
which might be likened to an indistinct shadow of human utterance.

VII The Guest

WHEN Phoebe awoke--which she did with the early twittering
of the conjugal couple of robins in the pear-tree--she heard
movements below stairsandhastening downfound Hepzibah
already in the kitchen. She stood by a windowholding a book
in close contiguity to her noseas if with the hope of gaining
an olfactory acquaintance with its contentssince her imperfect
vision made it not very easy to read them. If any volume could
have manifested its essential wisdom in the mode suggested
it would certainly have been the one now in Hepzibah's hand;
and the kitchenin such an eventwould forthwith have streamed
with the fragrance of venisonturkeyscaponslarded partridges
puddingscakesand Christmas piesin all manner of elaborate
mixture and concoction. It was a cookery bookfull of innumerable
old fashions of English dishesand illustrated with engravings
which represented the arrangements of the table at such banquets
as it might have befitted a nobleman to give in the great hall
of his castle. Andamid these rich and potent devices of the
culinary art (not one of whichprobablyhad been testedwithin
the memory of any man's grandfather)poor Hepzibah was seeking
for some nimble little titbitwhichwith what skill she had
and such materials as were at handshe might toss up for breakfast.

Soonwith a deep sighshe put aside the savory volumeand
inquired of Phoebe whether old Speckleas she called one of the


henshad laid an egg the preceding day. Phoebe ran to see
but returned without the expected treasure in her hand. At that
instanthoweverthe blast of a fish-dealer's conch was heard
announcing his approach along the street. With energetic raps at
the shop-windowHepzibah summoned the man inand made purchase
of what he warranted as the finest mackerel in his cartand as
fat a one as ever he felt with his finger so early in the season.
Requesting Phoebe to roast some coffee--which she casually observed
was the real Mochaand so long kept that each of the small berries
ought to be worth its weight in gold--the maiden lady heaped fuel
into the vast receptacle of the ancient fireplace in such quantity
as soon to drive the lingering dusk out of the kitchen. The country-girl
willing to give her utmost assistanceproposed to make an Indian cake
after her mother's peculiar methodof easy manufactureand which
she could vouch for as possessing a richnessandif rightly
prepareda delicacyunequalled by any other mode of breakfast-cake.
Hepzibah gladly assentingthe kitchen was soon the scene of
savory preparation. Perchanceamid their proper element of smoke
which eddied forth from the ill-constructed chimneythe ghosts of
departed cook-maids looked wonderingly onor peeped down the great
breadth of the fluedespising the simplicity of the projected meal
yet ineffectually pining to thrust their shadowy hands into each
inchoate dish. The half-starved ratsat any ratestole visibly
out of their hiding-placesand sat on their hind-legssnuffing the
fumy atmosphereand wistfully awaiting an opportunity to nibble.

Hepzibah had no natural turn for cookeryandto say the truth
had fairly incurred her present meagreness by often choosing to
go without her dinner rather than be attendant on the rotation of
the spitor ebullition of the pot. Her zeal over the fire
thereforewas quite an heroic test of sentiment. It was touching
and positively worthy of tears (if Phoebethe only spectatorexcept
the rats and ghosts aforesaidhad not been better employed than
in shedding them)to see her rake out a bed of fresh and glowing
coalsand proceed to broil the mackerel. Her usually pale cheeks
were all ablaze with heat and hurry. She watched the fish with
as much tender care and minuteness of attention as if--we know
not how to express it otherwise--as if her own heart were on the
gridironand her immortal happiness were involved in its being
done precisely to a turn!

Lifewithin doorshas few pleasanter prospects than a neatly
arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. We come to it
freshlyin the dewy youth of the dayand when our spiritual
and sensual elements are in better accord than at a later period;
so that the material delights of the morning meal are capable of
being fully enjoyedwithout any very grievous reproacheswhether
gastric or conscientiousfor yielding even a trifle overmuch to
the animal department of our nature. The thoughtstoothat run
around the ring of familiar guests have a piquancy and mirthfulness
and oftentimes a vivid truthwhich more rarely find their way into
the elaborate intercourse of dinner. Hepzibah's small and ancient
tablesupported on its slender and graceful legsand covered with
a cloth of the richest damasklooked worthy to be the scene and
centre of one of the cheerfullest of parties. The vapor of the broiled
fish arose like incense from the shrine of a barbarian idolwhile
the fragrance of the Mocha might have gratified the nostrils of a
tutelary Laror whatever power has scope over a modern breakfast-table.
Phoebe's Indian cakes were the sweetest offering of all--in their
hue befitting the rustic altars of the innocent and golden age--or
so brightly yellow were theyresembling some of the bread which was
changed to glistening gold when Midas tried to eat it. The butter
must not be forgotten--butter which Phoebe herself had churned
in her own rural homeand brought it to her cousin as a propitiatory


gift--smelling of clover-blossomsand diffusing the charm of
pastoral scenery through the dark-panelled parlor. All thiswith
the quaint gorgeousness of the old china cups and saucersand the
crested spoonsand a silver cream-jug (Hepzibah's only other article
of plateand shaped like the rudest porringer)set out a board at
which the stateliest of old Colonel Pyncheon's guests need not have
scorned to take his place. But the Puritan's face scowled down out
of the pictureas if nothing on the table pleased his appetite.

By way of contributing what grace she couldPhoebe gathered
some roses and a few other flowerspossessing either scent or
beautyand arranged them in a glass pitcherwhichhaving long
ago lost its handlewas so much the fitter for a flower-vase.
The early sunshine--as fresh as that which peeped into Eve's bower
while she and Adam sat at breakfast there--came twinkling through
the branches of the pear-treeand fell quite across the table.
All was now ready. There were chairs and plates for three.
A chair and plate for Hepzibah--the same for Phoebe--but what
other guest did her cousin look for?

Throughout this preparation there had been a constant tremor in
Hepzibah's frame; an agitation so powerful that Phoebe could see
the quivering of her gaunt shadowas thrown by the firelight on the
kitchen wallor by the sunshine on the parlor floor. Its manifestations
were so variousand agreed so little with one anotherthat the girl
knew not what to make of it. Sometimes it seemed an ecstasy of
delight and happiness. At such momentsHepzibah would fling out
her armsand infold Phoebe in themand kiss her cheek as tenderly
as ever her mother had; she appeared to do so by an inevitable impulse
and as if her bosom were oppressed with tendernessof which she must
needs pour out a littlein order to gain breathing-room. The next
momentwithout any visible cause for the changeher unwonted joy
shrank backappalledas it wereand clothed itself in mourning;
or it ran and hid itselfso to speakin the dungeon of her heart
where it had long lain chainedwhile a coldspectral sorrow took
the place of the imprisoned joythat was afraid to be enfranchised
--a sorrow as black as that was bright. She often broke into a
littlenervoushysteric laughmore touching than any tears could be;
and forthwithas if to try which was the most touchinga gush of
tears would follow; or perhaps the laughter and tears came both
at onceand surrounded our poor Hepzibahin a moral sensewith a
kind of paledim rainbow. Towards Phoebeas we have saidshe was
affectionate--far tenderer than ever beforein their brief acquaintance
except for that one kiss on the preceding night--yet with a Continually
recurring pettishness and irritability. She would speak sharply to her;
thenthrowing aside all the starched reserve of her ordinary manner
ask pardonand the next instant renew the just-forgiven injury.

At lastwhen their mutual labor was all finishedshe took
Phoebe's hand in her own trembling one.

Bear with me, my dear child,she cried; "for truly my heart is
full to the brim! Bear with me; for I love youPhoebethough
I speak so roughly. Think nothing of itdearest child! By and by
I shall be kindand only kind!"

My dearest cousin, cannot you tell me what has happened?asked Phoebe
with a sunny and tearful sympathy. "What is it that moves you so?"

Hush! hush! He is coming!whispered Hepzibahhastily wiping
her eyes. "Let him see you firstPhoebe; for you are young and rosy
and cannot help letting a smile break out whether or no. He always
liked bright faces! And mine is old nowand the tears are hardly dry
on it. He never could abide tears. There; draw the curtain a little


so that the shadow may fall across his side of the table! But let there
be a good deal of sunshinetoo; for he never was fond of gloomas some
people are. He has had but little sunshine in his life--poor Clifford
--andohwhat a black shadow. Poorpoor Clifford!"

Thus murmuring in an undertoneas if speaking rather to her
own heart than to Phoebethe old gentlewoman stepped on tiptoe
about the roommaking such arrangements as suggested
themselves at the crisis.

Meanwhile there was a step in the passage-wayabove stairs.
Phoebe recognized it as the same which had passed upwardas
through her dreamin the night-time. The approaching guest
whoever it might beappeared to pause at the head of the staircase;
he paused twice or thrice in the descent; he paused again at the foot.
Each timethe delay seemed to be without purposebut rather from
a forgetfulness of the purpose which had set him in motionor as if
the person's feet came involuntarily to a stand-still because the
motive-power was too feeble to sustain his progress. Finally
he made a long pause at the threshold of the parlor. He took hold
of the knob of the door; then loosened his grasp without opening it.
Hepzibahher hands convulsively claspedstood gazing at the entrance.

Dear Cousin Hepzibah, pray don't look so!said Phoebetrembling;
for her cousin's emotionand this mysteriously reluctant step
made her feel as if a ghost were coming into the room. "You really
frighten me! Is something awful going to happen?"

Hush!whispered Hepzibah. "Be cheerful! whatever may happen
be nothing but cheerful!"

The final pause at the threshold proved so longthat Hepzibah
unable to endure the suspenserushed forwardthrew open the
doorand led in the stranger by the hand. At the first glance
Phoebe saw an elderly personagein an old-fashioned dressing-gown
of faded damaskand wearing his gray or almost white hair of an
unusual length. It quite overshadowed his foreheadexcept when
he thrust it backand stared vaguely about the room. After a very
brief inspection of his faceit was easy to conceive that his footstep
must necessarily be such an one as that whichslowly and with as
indefinite an aim as a child's first journey across a floorhad just
brought him hitherward. Yet there were no tokens that his physical
strength might not have sufficed for a free and determined gait. It
was the spirit of the man that could not walk. The expression of his
countenance--whilenotwithstanding it had the light of reason in it
--seemed to waverand glimmerand nearly to die awayand feebly to
recover itself again. It was like a flame which we see twinkling among
half-extinguished embers; we gaze at it more intently than if it were
a positive blazegushing vividly upward--more intentlybut with
a certain impatienceas if it ought either to kindle itself into
satisfactory splendoror be at once extinguished.

For an instant after entering the roomthe guest stood still
retaining Hepzibah's hand instinctivelyas a child does that
of the grown person who guides it. He saw Phoebehowever
and caught an illumination from her youthful and pleasant aspect
whichindeedthrew a cheerfulness about the parlorlike the
circle of reflected brilliancy around the glass vase of flowers
that was standing in the sunshine. He made a salutationor
to speak nearer the truthan ill-definedabortive attempt at
curtsy. Imperfect as it washoweverit conveyed an ideaor
at leastgave a hintof indescribable gracesuch as no practised
art of external manners could have attained. It was too slight to
seize upon at the instant; yetas recollected afterwardsseemed


to transfigure the whole man.

Dear Clifford,said Hepzibahin the tone with which one
soothes a wayward infantthis is our cousin Phoebe,--little
Phoebe Pyncheon,--Arthur's only child, you know. She has come
from the country to stay with us awhile; for our old house has
grown to be very lonely now.

Phoebe--Phoebe Pyncheon?--Phoebe?repeated the guestwith
a strangesluggishill-defined utterance. "Arthur's child! Ah
I forget! No matter. She is very welcome!"

Come, dear Clifford, take this chair,said Hepzibahleading him
to his place. "PrayPhoebelower the curtain a very little more.
Now let us begin breakfast."

The guest seated himself in the place assigned himand looked
strangely around. He was evidently trying to grapple with the
present sceneand bring it home to his mind with a more
satisfactory distinctness. He desired to be certainat least
that he was herein the low-studdedcross-beamedoaken-panelled
parlorand not in some other spotwhich had stereotyped itself
into his senses. But the effort was too great to be sustained with
more than a fragmentary success. Continuallyas we may express
ithe faded away out of his place; orin other wordshis mind
and consciousness took their departureleaving his wastedgray
and melancholy figure--a substantial emptinessa material
ghost--to occupy his seat at table. Againafter a blank moment
there would be a flickering taper-gleam in his eyeballs. It
betokened that his spiritual part had returnedand was doing its
best to kindle the heart's household fireand light up intellectual
lamps in the dark and ruinous mansionwhere it was doomed to
be a forlorn inhabitant.

At one of these moments of less torpidyet still imperfect
animationPhoebe became convinced of what she had at first
rejected as too extravagant and startling an idea. She saw that
the person before her must have been the original of the beautiful
miniature in her cousin Hepzibah's possession. Indeedwith a
feminine eye for costumeshe had at once identified the damask
dressing-gownwhich enveloped himas the same in figurematerial
and fashionwith that so elaborately represented in the picture.
This oldfaded garmentwith all its pristine brilliancy extinct
seemedin some indescribable wayto translate the wearer's untold
misfortuneand make it perceptible to the beholder's eye. It was
the better to be discernedby this exterior typehow worn and
old were the soul's more immediate garments; that form and
countenancethe beauty and grace of which had almost transcended
the skill of the most exquisite of artists. It could the more
adequately be known that the soul of the man must have suffered
some miserable wrongfrom its earthly experience. There he
seemed to sitwith a dim veil of decay and ruin betwixt him
and the worldbut through whichat flitting intervalsmight be
caught the same expressionso refinedso softly imaginative
which Malbone--venturing a happy touchwith suspended breath
--had imparted to the miniature! There had been something so
innately characteristic in this lookthat all the dusky years
and the burden of unfit calamity which had fallen upon himdid
not suffice utterly to destroy it.

Hepzibah had now poured out a cup of deliciously fragrant coffee
and presented it to her guest. As his eyes met hershe seemed
bewildered and disquieted.


Is this you, Hepzibah?he murmured sadly. thenmore apart
and perhaps unconscious that he was overheardHow changed!
how changed! And is she angry with me? Why does she bend
her brow so?

Poor Hepzibah! It was that wretched scowl which time and her
near-sightednessand the fret of inward discomforthad rendered
so habitual that any vehemence of mood invariably evoked it. But
at the indistinct murmur of his words her whole face grew tender
and even lovelywith sorrowful affection; the harshness of her
features disappearedas it werebehind the warm and misty glow.

Angry! she repeated; angry with youClifford!"

Her toneas she uttered the exclamationhad a plaintive and really
exquisite melody thrilling through ityet without subduing a certain
something which an obtuse auditor might still have mistaken for asperity.
It was as if some transcendent musician should draw a soul-thrilling
sweetness out of a cracked instrumentwhich makes its physical imperfection
heard in the midst of ethereal harmony--so deep was the sensibility that
found an organ in Hepzibah's voice!

There is nothing but love, here, Clifford,she added--"nothing
but love! You are at home!"

The guest responded to her tone by a smilewhich did not half
light up his face. Feeble as it washoweverand gone in a
momentit had a charm of wonderful beauty. It was followed
by a coarser expression; or one that had the effect of coarseness
on the fine mould and outline of his countenancebecause there
was nothing intellectual to temper it. It was a look of appetite.
He ate food with what might almost be termed voracity; and seemed
to forget himselfHepzibahthe young girland everything else
around himin the sensual enjoyment which the bountifully spread
table afforded. In his natural systemthough high-wrought and
delicately refineda sensibility to the delights of the palate
was probably inherent. It would have been kept in checkhowever
and even converted into an accomplishmentand one of the thousand
modes of intellectual culturehad his more ethereal characteristics
retained their vigor. But as it existed nowthe effect was painful
and made Phoebe droop her eyes.

In a little while the guest became sensible of the fragrance of
the yet untasted coffee. He quaffed it eagerly. The subtle
essence acted on him like a charmed draughtand caused the opaque
substance of his animal being to grow transparentorat least
translucent; so that a spiritual gleam was transmitted through it
with a clearer lustre than hitherto.

More, more!he criedwith nervous haste in his utteranceas if
anxious to retain his grasp of what sought to escape him. "This is
what I need! Give me more!"

Under this delicate and powerful influence he sat more erect
and looked out from his eyes with a glance that took note of what
it rested on. It was not so much that his expression grew more
intellectual; thisthough it had its sharewas not the most
peculiar effect. Neither was what we call the moral nature so
forcibly awakened as to present itself in remarkable prominence.
But a certain fine temper of being was now not brought out in
full reliefbut changeably and imperfectly betrayedof which it
was the function to deal with all beautiful and enjoyable things.
In a character where it should exist as the chief attributeit
would bestow on its possessor an exquisite tasteand an enviable


susceptibility of happiness. Beauty would be his life; his
aspirations would all tend toward it; andallowing his frame and
physical organs to be in consonancehis own developments
would likewise be beautiful. Such a man should have nothing to
do with sorrow; nothing with strife; nothing with the martyrdom
whichin an infinite variety of shapesawaits those who have the
heartand willand conscienceto fight a battle with the world.
To these heroic temperssuch martyrdom is the richest meed in the
world's gift. To the individual before usit could only be a grief
intense in due proportion with the severity of the infliction. He
had no right to be a martyr; andbeholding him so fit to be happy
and so feeble for all other purposesa generousstrongand noble
spirit wouldmethinkshave been ready to sacrifice what little
enjoyment it might have planned for itself--it would have flung
down the hopesso paltry in its regard--if thereby the wintry
blasts of our rude sphere might come tempered to such a man.

Not to speak it harshly or scornfullyit seemed Clifford's nature
to be a Sybarite. It was perceptibleeven therein the dark old
parlorin the inevitable polarity with which his eyes were
attracted towards the quivering play of sunbeams through the
shadowy foliage. It was seen in his appreciating notice of the
vase of flowersthe scent of which he inhaled with a zest almost
peculiar to a physical organization so refined that spiritual
ingredients are moulded in with it. It was betrayed in the
unconscious smile with which he regarded Phoebewhose fresh
and maidenly figure was both sunshine and flowers--their essence
in a prettier and more agreeable mode of manifestation. Not less
evident was this love and necessity for the Beautifulin the
instinctive caution with whicheven so soonhis eyes turned
away from his hostessand wandered to any quarter rather than
come back. It was Hepzibah's misfortune--not Clifford's fault.
How could he--so yellow as she wasso wrinkledso sad of
mienwith that odd uncouthness of a turban on her headand
that most perverse of scowls contorting her brow--how could he
love to gaze at her? Butdid he owe her no affection for so
much as she had silently given? He owed her nothing. A nature
like Clifford's can contract no debts of that kind. It is--we
say it without censurenor in diminution of the claim which it
indefeasibly possesses on beings of another mould--it is always
selfish in its essence; and we must give it leave to be soand
heap up our heroic and disinterested love upon it so much the
morewithout a recompense. Poor Hepzibah knew this truthor
at leastacted on the instinct of it. So long estranged from
what was lovely as Clifford had beenshe rejoiced--rejoiced
though with a present sighand a secret purpose to shed tears
in her own chamber that he had brighter objects now before his
eyes than her aged and uncomely features. They never possessed
a charm; and if they hadthe canker of her grief for him would
long since have destroyed it.

The guest leaned back in his chair. Mingled in his countenance
with a dreamy delightthere was a troubled look of effort and
unrest. He was seeking to make himself more fully sensible of
the scene around him; orperhapsdreading it to be a dream
or a play of imaginationwas vexing the fair moment with a
struggle for some added brilliancy and more durable illusion.

How pleasant!--How delightful!he murmuredbut not as if
addressing any one. "Will it last? How balmy the atmosphere
through that open window! An open window! How beautiful that play
of sunshine! Those flowershow very fragrant! That young girl's
facehow cheerfulhow blooming!--a flower with the dew on it
and sunbeams in the dew-drops! Ah! this must be all a dream!


A dream! A dream! But it has quite hidden the four stone walls"

Then his face darkenedas if the shadow of a cavern or a
dungeon had come over it; there was no more light in its expression
than might have come through the iron grates of a prison window-still
lesseningtooas if he were sinking farther into the depths. Phoebe
(being of that quickness and activity of temperament that she seldom
long refrained from taking a partand generally a good onein what
was going forward) now felt herself moved to address the stranger.

Here is a new kind of rose, which I found this morning in the
garden,said shechoosing a small crimson one from among the
flowers in the vase. "There will be but five or six on the bush
this season. This is the most perfect of them all; not a speck of
blight or mildew in it. And how sweet it is!--sweet like no other
rose! One can never forget that scent!"

Ah!--let me see!--let me hold it!cried the guesteagerly seizing
the flowerwhichby the spell peculiar to remembered odors
brought innumerable associations along with the fragrance that
it exhaled. "Thank you! This has done me good. I remember how
I used to prize this flower--long agoI supposevery long
ago!--or was it only yesterday? It makes me feel young again!
Am I young? Either this remembrance is singularly distinctor
this consciousness strangely dim! But how kind of the fair young
girl! Thank you! Thank you!"

The favorable excitement derived from this little crimson rose
afforded Clifford the brightest moment which he enjoyed at the
breakfast-table. It might have lasted longerbut that his eyes
happenedsoon afterwardsto rest on the face of the old Puritan
whoout of his dingy frame and lustreless canvaswas looking
down on the scene like a ghostand a most ill-tempered and
ungenial one. The guest made an impatient gesture of the hand
and addressed Hepzibah with what might easily be recognized as
the licensed irritability of a petted member of the family.

Hepzibah!--Hepzibah!cried he with no little force and
distinctnesswhy do you keep that odious picture on the wall?
Yes, yes!--that is precisely your taste! I have told you, a
thousand times, that it was the evil genius of the house!--my evil
genius particularly! Take it down, at once!

Dear Clifford,said Hepzibah sadlyyou know it cannot be!

Then, at all events,continued hestill speaking with some
energypray cover it with a crimson curtain, broad enough to
hang in folds, and with a golden border and tassels. I cannot
bear it! It must not stare me in the face!

Yes, dear Clifford, the picture shall be covered,said Hepzibah
soothingly. "There is a crimson curtain in a trunk above stairs--a
little faded and moth-eatenI'm afraid--but Phoebe and I will do
wonders with it."

This very day, remembersaid he; and then addedin a low
self-communing voiceWhy should we live in this dismal house
at all? Why not go to the South of France?--to Italy?--Paris,
Naples, Venice, Rome? Hepzibah will say we have not the
means. A droll idea that!

He smiled to himselfand threw a glance of fine sarcastic
meaning towards Hepzibah.


But the several moods of feelingfaintly as they were marked
through which he had passedoccurring in so brief an interval of
timehad evidently wearied the stranger. He was probably
accustomed to a sad monotony of lifenot so much flowing in a
streamhowever sluggishas stagnating in a pool around his feet.
A slumberous veil diffused itself over his countenanceand had an
effectmorally speakingon its naturally delicate and elegant
outlinelike that which a brooding mistwith no sunshine in it
throws over the features of a landscape. He appeared to become
grosser--almost cloddish. If aught of interest or beauty--even
ruined beauty--had heretofore been visible in this manthe beholder
might now begin to doubt itand to accuse his own imagination of
deluding him with whatever grace had flickered over that visage
and whatever exquisite lustre had gleamed in those filmy eyes.

Before he had quite sunken awayhoweverthe sharp and peevish tinkle
of the shop-bell made itself audible. Striking most disagreeably on
Clifford's auditory organs and the characteristic sensibility of his
nervesit caused him to start upright out of his chair.

Good heavens, Hepzibah! what horrible disturbance have we
now in the house?cried hewreaking his resentful impatience
--as a matter of courseand a custom of old--on the one person
in the world that loved him." I have never heard such a hateful
clamor! Why do you permit it? In the name of all dissonance
what can it be?"

It was very remarkable into what prominent relief--even as if
a dim picture should leap suddenly from its canvas--Clifford's
character was thrown by this apparently trifling annoyance.
The secret wasthat an individual of his temper can always
be pricked more acutely through his sense of the beautiful and
harmonious than through his heart. It is even possible--for similar
cases have often happened--that if Cliffordin his foregoing life
had enjoyed the means of cultivating his taste to its utmost
perfectibilitythat subtile attribute mightbefore this period
have completely eaten out or filed away his affections. Shall we
venture to pronouncethereforethat his long and black calamity
may not have had a redeeming drop of mercy at the bottom?

Dear Clifford, I wish I could keep the sound from your ears,
said Hepzibahpatientlybut reddening with a painful suffusion
of shame. "It is very disagreeable even to me. Butdo you know
CliffordI have something to tell you? This ugly noise--pray run
Phoebeand see who is there!--this naughty little tinkle is nothing
but our shop-bell!"

Shop-bell!repeated Cliffordwith a bewildered stare.

Yes, our shop-bell,said Hepzibaha certain natural dignity
mingled with deep emotionnow asserting itself in her manner.
For you must know, dearest Clifford, that we are very poor.
And there was no other resource, but either to accept assistance
from a hand that I would push aside (and so would you!) were
it to offer bread when we were dying for it,--no help, save from
him, or else to earn our subsistence with my own hands! Alone,
I might have been content to starve. But you were to be given
back to me! Do you think, then, dear Clifford,added shewith
a wretched smilethat I have brought an irretrievable disgrace
on the old house, by opening a little shop in the front gable?
Our great-great-grandfather did the same, when there was far less
need! Are you ashamed of me?

Shame! Disgrace! Do you speak these words to me, Hepzibah?


said Clifford--not angrilyhowever; for when a man's spirit has
been thoroughly crushedhe may be peevish at small offencesbut
never resentful of great ones. So he spoke with only a grieved
emotion. "It was not kind to say soHepzibah! What shame can
befall me now?"

And then the unnerved man--he that had been born for enjoyment
but had met a doom so very wretched--burst into a woman's passion
of tears. It was but of brief continuancehowever; soon leaving
him in a quiescentandto judge by his countenancenot an
uncomfortable state. From this moodtoohe partially rallied
for an instantand looked at Hepzibah with a smilethe keen
half-derisory purport of which was a puzzle to her.

Are we so very poor, Hepzibah?said he.

Finallyhis chair being deep and softly cushionedClifford fell
asleep. Hearing the more regular rise and fall of his breath (which
howevereven theninstead of being strong and fullhad a feeble kind
of tremorcorresponding with the lack of vigor in his character)
--hearing these tokens of settled slumberHepzibah seized the opportunity
to peruse his face more attentively than she had yet dared to do. Her
heart melted away in tears; her profoundest spirit sent forth a moaning
voicelowgentlebut inexpressibly sad. In this depth of grief and
pity she felt that there was no irreverence in gazing at his altered
agedfadedruined face. But no sooner was she a little relieved than
her conscience smote her for gazing curiously at himnow that he was
so changed; andturning hastily awayHepzibah let down the curtain
over the sunny windowand left Clifford to slumber there.

VIII The Pyncheon of To-day

PHOEBEon entering the shopbeheld there the already familiar
face of the little devourer--if we can reckon his mighty deeds
aright--of Jim Crowthe elephantthe camelthe dromedaries
and the locomotive. Having expended his private fortuneon the
two preceding daysin the purchase of the above unheard-of
luxuriesthe young gentleman's present errand was on the part
of his motherin quest of three eggs and half a pound of raisins.
These articles Phoebe accordingly suppliedandas a mark of
gratitude for his previous patronageand a slight super-added
morsel after breakfastput likewise into his hand a whale! The
great fishreversing his experience with the prophet of Nineveh
immediately began his progress down the same red pathway of
fate whither so varied a caravan had preceded him. This
remarkable urchinin truthwas the very emblem of old Father
Timeboth in respect of his all-devouring appetite for men and
thingsand because heas well as Timeafter ingulfing thus
much of creationlooked almost as youthful as if he had been
just that moment made.

After partly closing the doorthe child turned backand mumbled
something to Phoebewhichas the whale was but half disposed
ofshe could not perfectly understand.

What did you say, my little fellow?asked she.

Mother wants to knowrepeated Ned Higgins more distinctlyhow
Old Maid Pyncheon's brother does? Folks say he has got home.

My cousin Hepzibah's brother?exclaimed Phoebesurprised at


this sudden explanation of the relationship between Hepzibah and
her guest." Her brother! And where can he have been?"

The little boy only put his thumb to his broad snub-nosewith
that look of shrewdness which a childspending much of his
time in the street. so soon learns to throw over his features
however unintelligent in themselves. Then as Phoebe continued
to gaze at himwithout answering his mother's messagehe took
his departure.

As the child went down the stepsa gentleman ascended them
and made his entrance into the shop. It was the portlyand
had it possessed the advantage of a little more heightwould have
been the stately figure of a man considerably in the decline of
lifedressed in a black suit of some thin stuffresembling
broadcloth as closely as possible. A gold-headed caneof rare
Oriental woodadded materially to the high respectability of
his aspectas did also a neckcloth of the utmost snowy purity
and the conscientious polish of his boots. His darksquare
countenancewith its almost shaggy depth of eyebrowswas
naturally impressiveand wouldperhapshave been rather stern
had not the gentleman considerately taken upon himself to
mitigate the harsh effect by a look of exceeding good-humor and
benevolence. Owinghoweverto a somewhat massive accumulation
of animal substance about the lower region of his facethe look
wasperhapsunctuous rather than spiritualand hadso to speak
a kind of fleshly effulgencenot altogether so satisfactory as he
doubtless intended it to be. A susceptible observerat any rate
might have regarded it as affording very little evidence of the
general benignity of soul whereof it purported to be the outward
reflection. And if the observer chanced to be ill-naturedas well
as acute and susceptiblehe would probably suspect that the smile
on the gentleman's face was a good deal akin to the shine on his
bootsand that each must have cost him and his boot-black
respectivelya good deal of hard labor to bring out and
preserve them.

As the stranger entered the little shopwhere the projection of
the second story and the thick foliage of the elm-treeas well as
the commodities at the windowcreated a sort of gray mediumhis smile
grew as intense as if he had set his heart on counteracting the whole
gloom of the atmosphere (besides any moral gloom pertaining to
Hepzibah and her inmates) by the unassisted light of his countenance.
On perceiving a young rose-bud of a girlinstead of the gaunt presence
of the old maida look of surprise was manifest. He at first knit his
brows; then smiled with more unctuous benignity than ever.

Ah, I see how it is!said he in a deep voice--a voice which
had it come from the throat of an uncultivated manwould have
been gruffbutby dint of careful trainingwas now sufficiently
agreeable--"I was not aware that Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon had
commenced business under such favorable auspices. You are her
assistantI suppose?"

I certainly am,answered Phoebeand addedwith a little air
of lady-like assumption (forcivil as the gentleman was
he evidently took her to be a young person serving for wages)
I am a cousin of Miss Hepzibah, on a visit to her.

Her cousin?--and from the country? Pray pardon me, then,said
the gentlemanbowing and smilingas Phoebe never had been
bowed to nor smiled on before; "in that casewe must be better
acquainted; forunless I am sadly mistakenyou are my own
little kinswoman likewise! Let me see--Mary?--Dolly?--Phoebe?


--yesPhoebe is the name! Is it possible that you are Phoebe
Pyncheononly child of my dear cousin and classmateArthur?
AhI see your father nowabout your mouth! Yesyes! we must
be better acquainted! I am your kinsmanmy dear. Surely you must
have heard of Judge Pyncheon?"

As Phoebe curtsied in replythe Judge bent forwardwith the
pardonable and even praiseworthy purpose--considering the
nearness of blood and the difference of age--of bestowing on his
young relative a kiss of acknowledged kindred and natural
affection. Unfortunately (without designor only with such
instinctive design as gives no account of itself to the intellect)
Phoebejust at the critical momentdrew back; so that her highly
respectable kinsmanwith his body bent over the counter and his
lips protrudedwas betrayed into the rather absurd predicament
of kissing the empty air. It was a modern parallel to the case of
Ixion embracing a cloudand was so much the more ridiculous
as the Judge prided himself on eschewing all airy matterand
never mistaking a shadow for a substance. The truth was--and it
is Phoebe's only excuse--thatalthough Judge Pyncheon's
glowing benignity might not be absolutely unpleasant to the
feminine beholderwith the width of a streetor even an
ordinary-sized roominterposed betweenyet it became quite
too intensewhen this darkfull-fed physiognomy (so roughly
beardedtoothat no razor could ever make it smooth) sought to
bring itself into actual contact with the object of its regards.
The manthe sexsomehow or otherwas entirely too prominent in
the Judge's demonstrations of that sort. Phoebe's eyes sankand
without knowing whyshe felt herself blushing deeply under his
look. Yet she had been kissed beforeand without any particular
squeamishnessby perhaps half a dozen different cousinsyounger
as well as older than this dark-brownedgrisly-bearded
white-neck-clothedand unctuously-benevolent Judge! Thenwhy
not by him?

On raising her eyesPhoebe was startled by the change in Judge
Pyncheon's face. It was quite as strikingallowing for the
difference of scaleas that betwixt a landscape under a broad
sunshine and just before a thunder-storm; not that it had the
passionate intensity of the latter aspectbut was coldhard
immitigablelike a day-long brooding cloud.

Dear me! what is to be done now?thought the country-girl to
herself." He looks as if there were nothing softer in him than
a rocknor milder than the east wind! I meant no harm! Since he
is really my cousinI would have let him kiss meif I could!"

Thenall at onceit struck Phoebe that this very Judge Pyncheon
was the original of the miniature which the daguerreotypist had
shown her in the gardenand that the hardsternrelentless look
now on his facewas the same that the sun had so inflexibly
persisted in bringing out. Was itthereforeno momentary mood
buthowever skilfully concealedthe settled temper of his life?
And not merely sobut was it hereditary in himand transmitted
downas a precious heirloomfrom that bearded ancestorin
whose picture both the expression andto a singular degreethe
features of the modern Judge were shown as by a kind of prophecy?
A deeper philosopher than Phoebe might have found something very
terrible in this idea. It implied that the weaknesses and defects
the bad passionsthe mean tendenciesand the moral diseases which
lead to crime are handed down from one generation to anotherby a
far surer process of transmission than human law has been able to
establish in respect to the riches and honors which it seeks to
entail upon posterity.


Butas it happenedscarcely had Phoebe's eyes rested again on
the Judge's countenance than all its ugly sternness vanished; and
she found herself quite overpowered by the sultrydog-day heat
as it wereof benevolencewhich this excellent man diffused out
of his great heart into the surrounding atmosphere--very much
like a serpentwhichas a preliminary to fascinationis said
to fill the air with his peculiar odor.

I like that, Cousin Phoebe!cried hewith an emphatic nod of
approbation. "I like it muchmy little cousin! You are a good
childand know how to take care of yourself. A young
girl--especially if she be a very pretty one--can never be too
chary of her lips."

Indeed, sir,said Phoebetrying to laugh the matter offI did
not mean to be unkind.

Neverthelesswhether or no it were entirely owing to the
inauspicious commencement of their acquaintanceshe still acted
under a certain reservewhich was by no means customary to her
frank and genial nature. The fantasy would not quit herthat the
original Puritanof whom she had heard so many sombre traditions
--the progenitor of the whole race of New England Pyncheonsthe
founder of the House of the Seven Gablesand who had died so
strangely in it--had now stept into the shop. In these days of
off-hand equipmentthe matter was easily enough arranged. On his
arrival from the other worldhe had merely found it necessary to
spend a quarter of an hour at a barber'swho had trimmed down the
Puritan's full beard into a pair of grizzled whiskersthen
patronizing a ready-made clothing establishmenthe had exchanged
his velvet doublet and sable cloakwith the richly worked band
under his chinfor a white collar and cravatcoatvestand
pantaloons; and lastlyputting aside his steel-hilted broadsword
to take up a gold-headed canethe Colonel Pyncheon of two centuries
ago steps forward as the Judge of the passing moment!

Of coursePhoebe was far too sensible a girl to entertain this
idea in any other way than as matter for a smile. Possiblyalso
could the two personages have stood together before her eye
many points of difference would have been perceptibleand perhaps
only a general resemblance. The long lapse of intervening years
in a climate so unlike that which had fostered the ancestral
Englishmanmust inevitably have wrought important changes in
the physical system of his descendant. The Judge's volume of
muscle could hardly be the same as the Colonel's; there was
undoubtedly less beef in him. Though looked upon as a weighty
man among his contemporaries in respect of animal substance
and as favored with a remarkable degree of fundamental development
well adapting him for the judicial benchwe conceive that the
modern Judge Pyncheonif weighed in the same balance with his
ancestorwould have required at least an old-fashioned fifty-six
to keep the scale in equilibrio. Then the Judge's face had lost
the ruddy English hue that showed its warmth through all the
duskiness of the Colonel's weather-beaten cheekand had taken
a sallow shadethe established complexion of his countrymen.
If we mistake notmoreovera certain quality of nervousness
had become more or less manifesteven in so solid a specimen
of Puritan descent as the gentleman now under discussion.
As one of its effectsit bestowed on his countenance a quicker
mobility than the old Englishman's had possessedand keener
vivacitybut at the expense of a sturdier somethingon which
these acute endowments seemed to act like dissolving acids.
This processfor aught we knowmay belong to the great system


of human progresswhichwith every ascending footstepas it
diminishes the necessity for animal forcemay be destined
gradually to spiritualize usby refining away our grosser
attributes of body. If soJudge Pyncheon could endure a century
or two more of such refinement as well as most other men.

The similarityintellectual and moralbetween the Judge and
his ancestor appears to have been at least as strong as the
resemblance of mien and feature would afford reason to anticipate.
In old Colonel Pyncheon's funeral discourse the clergyman absolutely
canonized his deceased parishionerand openingas it werea vista
through the roof of the churchand thence through the firmament
aboveshowed him seatedharp in handamong the crowned choristers
of the spiritual world. On his tombstonetoothe record is highly
eulogistic; nor does historyso far as he holds a place upon its page
assail the consistency and uprightness of his character. So also
as regards the Judge Pyncheon of to-dayneither clergymannor legal
criticnor inscriber of tombstonesnor historian of general or local
politicswould venture a word against this eminent person's sincerity
as a Christianor respectability as a manor integrity as a judge
or courage and faithfulness as the often-tried representative of his
political party. Butbesides these coldformaland empty words
of the chisel that inscribesthe voice that speaksand the pen that
writesfor the public eye and for distant time--and which inevitably
lose much of their truth and freedom by the fatal consciousness of so
doing--there were traditions about the ancestorand private diurnal
gossip about the Judgeremarkably accordant in their testimony.
It is often instructive to take the woman'sthe private and domestic
view of a public man; nor can anything be more curious than the
vast discrepancy between portraits intended for engraving and the
pencil-sketches that pass from hand to hand behind the original's back.

For example: tradition affirmed that the Puritan had been greedy
of wealth; the Judgetoowith all the show of liberal expenditure
was said to be as close-fisted as if his gripe were of iron. The
ancestor had clothed himself in a grim assumption of kindliness
a rough heartiness of word and mannerwhich most people took to be
the genuine warmth of naturemaking its way through the thick and
inflexible hide of a manly character. His descendantin compliance
with the requirements of a nicer agehad etherealized this rude
benevolence into that broad benignity of smile wherewith he shone
like a noonday sun along the streetsor glowed like a household
fire in the drawing-rooms of his private acquaintance. The Puritan
--if not belied by some singular storiesmurmuredeven at this
dayunder the narrator's breath--had fallen into certain
transgressions to which men of his great animal development
whatever their faith or principlesmust continue liableuntil
they put off impurityalong with the gross earthly substance that
involves it. We must not stain our page with any contemporary
scandalto a similar purportthat may have been whispered
against the Judge. The Puritanagainan autocrat in his own
householdhad worn out three wivesandmerely by the remorseless
weight and hardness of his character in the conjugal relation
had sent themone after anotherbroken-heartedto their graves.
Here the parallelin some sortfails. The Judge had wedded but
a single wifeand lost her in the third or fourth year of their
marriage. There was a fablehowever--for such we choose to
consider itthoughnot impossiblytypical of Judge Pyncheon's
marital deportment--that the lady got her death-blow in the honeymoon
and never smiled againbecause her husband compelled her to serve him
with coffee every morning at his bedsidein token of fealty to her
liege-lord and master.

But it is too fruitful a subjectthis of hereditary resemblances


--the frequent recurrence of whichin a direct lineis truly
unaccountablewhen we consider how large an accumulation of
ancestry lies behind every man at the distance of one or two
centuries. We shall only addthereforethat the Puritan--so
at leastsays chimney-corner traditionwhich often preserves
traits of character with marvellous fidelity--was boldimperious
relentlesscrafty; laying his purposes deepand following them
out with an inveteracy of pursuit that knew neither rest nor
conscience; trampling on the weakandwhen essential to his
endsdoing his utmost to beat down the strong. Whether the
Judge in any degree resembled himthe further progress of our
narrative may show.

Scarcely any of the items in the above-drawn parallel occurred
to Phoebewhose country birth and residencein truthhad left
her pitifully ignorant of most of the family traditionswhich
lingeredlike cobwebs and incrustations of smokeabout the rooms
and chimney-corners of the House of the Seven Gables. Yet there
was a circumstancevery trifling in itselfwhich impressed her
with an odd degree of horror. She had heard of the anathema flung
by Maulethe executed wizardagainst Colonel Pyncheon and his
posterity--that God would give them blood to drink--and likewise
of the popular notionthat this miraculous blood might now and
then be heard gurgling in their throats. The latter scandal
--as became a person of senseandmore especiallya member of
the Pyncheon family--Phoebe had set down for the absurdity which
it unquestionably was. But ancient superstitionsafter being
steeped in human hearts and embodied in human breathand passing
from lip to ear in manifold repetitionthrough a series of
generationsbecome imbued with an effect of homely truth.
The smoke of the domestic hearth has scented them through and
through. By long transmission among household factsthey grow
to look like themand have such a familiar way of making themselves
at home that their influence is usually greater than we suspect.
Thus it happenedthat when Phoebe heard a certain noise in Judge
Pyncheon's throat--rather habitual with himnot altogether
voluntaryyet indicative of nothingunless it were a slight
bronchial complaintoras some people hintedan apoplectic
symptom--when the girl heard this queer and awkward ingurgitation
(which the writer never did hearand therefore cannot describe)
she very foolishly startedand clasped her hands.

Of courseit was exceedingly ridiculous in Phoebe to be
discomposed by such a trifleand still more unpardonable to
show her discomposure to the individual most concerned in it.
But the incident chimed in so oddly with her previous fancies
about the Colonel and the Judgethatfor the momentit seemed
quite to mingle their identity.

What is the matter with you, young woman?said Judge Pyncheon
giving her one of his harsh looks. "Are you afraid of anything?"

Oh, nothingsir--nothing in the world!" answered Phoebewith
a little laugh of vexation at herself. "But perhaps you wish to
speak with my cousin Hepzibah. Shall I call her?"

Stay a moment, if you please,said the Judgeagain beaming
sunshine out of his face. "You seem to be a little nervous this
morning. The town airCousin Phoebedoes not agree with your
goodwholesome country habits. Or has anything happened to
disturb you?--anything remarkable in Cousin Hepzibah's family?
--An arrivaleh? I thought so! No wonder you are out of sorts
my little cousin. To be an inmate with such a guest may well
startle an innocent young girl!"


You quite puzzle me, sir,replied Phoebegazing inquiringly at
the Judge. "There is no frightful guest in the housebut only a
poorgentlechildlike manwhom I believe to be Cousin Hepzibah's
brother. I am afraid (but yousirwill know better than I) that
he is not quite in his sound senses; but so mild and quiet he
seems to bethat a mother might trust her baby with him; and
I think he would play with the baby as if he were only a few
years older than itself. He startle me!--Ohno indeed!"

I rejoice to hear so favorable and so ingenuous an account of
my cousin Clifford,said the benevolent Judge. "Many years ago
when we were boys and young men togetherI had a great affection
for himand still feel a tender interest in all his concerns.
You sayCousin Phoebehe appears to be weak minded. Heaven
grant him at least enough of intellect to repent of his past sins!"

Nobody, I fancy,observed Phoebecan have fewer to repent of.

And is it possible, my dearrejoined the Judgewith a
commiserating look that you have never heard of Clifford
Pyncheon?--that you know nothing of his history? Well, it is all
right; and your mother has shown a very proper regard for the good
name of the family with which she connected herself. Believe
the best you can of this unfortunate person, and hope the best!
It is a rule which Christians should always follow, in their
judgments of one another; and especially is it right and wise
among near relatives, whose characters have necessarily a degree
of mutual dependence. But is Clifford in the parlor? I will just
step in and see.

Perhaps, sir, I had better call my cousin Hepzibah,said Phoebe;
hardly knowinghoweverwhether she ought to obstruct the entrance
of so affectionate a kinsman into the private regions of the house.
Her brother seemed to be just falling asleep after breakfast; and
I am sure she would not like him to be disturbed. Pray, sir, let
me give her notice!

But the Judge showed a singular determination to enter unannounced;
and as Phoebewith the vivacity of a person whose movements
unconsciously answer to her thoughtshad stepped towards the door
he used little or no ceremony in putting her aside.

No, no, Miss Phoebe!said Judge Pyncheon in a voice as deep
as a thunder-growland with a frown as black as the cloud
whence it issues." Stay you here! I know the houseand know
my cousin Hepzibahand know her brother Clifford likewise.--nor
need my little country cousin put herself to the trouble of
announcing me!"--in these latter wordsby the byethere were
symptoms of a change from his sudden harshness into his
previous benignity of manner. "I am at home herePhoebeyou
must recollectand you are the stranger. I will just step in
thereforeand see for myself how Clifford isand assure him and
Hepzibah of my kindly feelings and best wishes. It is rightat
this juncturethat they should both hear from my own lips how
much I desire to serve them. Ha! here is Hepzibah herself!"

Such was the case. The vibrations of the Judge's voice had
reached the old gentlewoman in the parlorwhere she satwith
face avertedwaiting on her brother's slumber. She now issued
forthas would appearto defend the entrancelookingwe must
needs sayamazingly like the dragon whichin fairy talesis
wont to be the guardian over an enchanted beauty. The habitual
scowl of her brow was undeniably too fierceat this momentto


pass itself off on the innocent score of near-sightedness; and it
was bent on Judge Pyncheon in a way that seemed to confoundif not
alarm himso inadequately had he estimated the moral force of a
deeply grounded antipathy. She made a repelling gesture with her
handand stood a perfect picture of prohibitionat full length
in the dark frame of the doorway. But we must betray Hepzibah's
secretand confess that the native timorousness of her character
even now developed itself in a quick tremorwhichto her own
perceptionset each of her joints at variance with its fellows.


Possiblythe Judge was aware how little true hardihood lay behind
Hepzibah's formidable front. At any ratebeing a gentleman of
steady nerveshe soon recovered himselfand failed not to approach
his cousin with outstretched hand; adopting the sensible precaution
howeverto cover his advance with a smileso broad and sultrythat
had it been only half as warm as it lookeda trellis of grapes might
at once have turned purple under its summer-like exposure. It may
have been his purposeindeedto melt poor Hepzibah on the spot
as if she were a figure of yellow wax.


Hepzibah, my beloved cousin, I am rejoiced!exclaimed the Judge
most emphatically. "Nowat lengthyou have something to live for.
Yesand all of uslet me sayyour friends and kindredhave more
to live for than we had yesterday. I have lost no time in hastening
to offer any assistance in my power towards making Clifford comfortable.
He belongs to us all. I know how much he requires--how much he used
to require--with his delicate tasteand his love of the beautiful.
Anything in my house--picturesbookswineluxuries of the table
--he may command them all! It would afford me most heartfelt
gratification to see him! Shall I step inthis moment?"


No,replied Hepzibahher voice quivering too painfully to allow
of many words. "He cannot see visitors!"


A visitor, my dear cousin!--do you call me so?cried the Judge
whose sensibilityit seemswas hurt by the coldness of the phrase.
Nay, then, let me be Clifford's host, and your own likewise.
Come at once to my house. The country air, and all the conveniences,
--I may say luxuries,--that I have gathered about me, will do wonders
for him. And you and I, dear Hepzibah, will consult together,
and watch together, and labor together, to make our dear Clifford
happy. Come! why should we make more words about what is both a
duty and a pleasure on my part? Come to me at once!


On hearing these so hospitable offersand such generous
recognition of the claims of kindredPhoebe felt very much in
the mood of running up to Judge Pyncheonand giving himof
her own accordthe kiss from which she had so recently shrunk
away. It was quite otherwise with Hepzibah; the Judge's smile
seemed to operate on her acerbity of heart like sunshine upon
vinegarmaking it ten times sourer than ever.


Clifford,said she--still too agitated to utter more than an
abrupt sentence--"Clifford has a home here!"


May Heaven forgive you, Hepzibah,said Judge Pyncheon
--reverently lifting his eyes towards that high court of equity
to which he appealed--"if you suffer any ancient prejudice or
animosity to weigh with you in this matter. I stand here with an
open heartwilling and anxious to receive yourself and Clifford
into it. Do not refuse my good offices--my earnest propositions
for your welfare! They are suchin all respectsas it behooves
your nearest kinsman to make. It will be a heavy responsibility
cousinif you confine your brother to this dismal house and



stifled airwhen the delightful freedom of my country-seat is
at his command."

It would never suit Clifford,said Hepzibahas briefly as before.

Woman!broke forth the Judgegiving way to his resentmentwhat
is the meaning of all this? Have you other resources? Nay, I suspected
as much! Take care, Hepzibah, take care! Clifford is on the brink of
as black a ruin as ever befell him yet! But why do I talk with you,
woman as you are? Make way!--I must see Clifford!

Hepzibah spread out her gaunt figure across the doorand seemed
really to increase in bulk; looking the more terriblealsobecause
there was so much terror and agitation in her heart. But Judge
Pyncheon's evident purpose of forcing a passage was interrupted
by a voice from the inner room; a weaktremulouswailing voice
indicating helpless alarmwith no more energy for self-defence
than belongs to a frightened infant.

Hepzibah, Hepzibah!cried the voice; "go down on your knees
to him! Kiss his feet! Entreat him not to come in! Ohlet him
have mercy on me! Mercy! mercy!"

For the instantit appeared doubtful whether it were not the
Judge's resolute purpose to set Hepzibah asideand step across
the threshold into the parlorwhence issued that broken and
miserable murmur of entreaty. It was not pity that restrained him
forat the first sound of the enfeebled voicea red fire kindled
in his eyesand he made a quick pace forwardwith something
inexpressibly fierce and grim darkening forthas it wereout of
the whole man. To know Judge Pyncheon was to see him at that moment.
After such a revelationlet him smile with what sultriness he would
he could much sooner turn grapes purpleor pumpkins yellowthan
melt the iron-branded impression out of the beholder's memory. And
it rendered his aspect not the lessbut more frightfulthat it
seemed not to express wrath or hatredbut a certain hot fellness
of purposewhich annihilated everything but itself.

Yetafter allare we not slandering an excellent and amiable man?
Look at the Judge now! He is apparently conscious of having erred
in too energetically pressing his deeds of loving-kindness on persons
unable to appreciate them. He will await their better moodand hold
himself as ready to assist them then as at this moment. As he draws
back from the dooran all-comprehensive benignity blazes from his
visageindicating that he gathers Hepzibahlittle Phoebeand
the invisible Cliffordall threetogether with the whole world
besidesinto his immense heartand gives them a warm bath in its
flood of affection.

You do me great wrong, dear Cousin Hepzibah!said hefirst
kindly offering her his handand then drawing on his glove
preparatory to departure. "Very great wrong! But I forgive it
and will study to make you think better of me. Of courseour
poor Clifford being in so unhappy a state of mindI cannot think
of urging an interview at present. But I shall watch over his
welfare as if he were my own beloved brother; nor do I at all
despairmy dear cousinof constraining both him and you to
acknowledge your injustice. When that shall happenI desire no
other revenge than your acceptance of the best offices in my power
to do you."

With a bow to Hepzibahand a degree of paternal benevolence
in his parting nod to Phoebethe Judge left the shopand went
smiling along the street. As is customary with the richwhen


they aim at the honors of a republiche apologizedas it were
to the peoplefor his wealthprosperityand elevated station
by a free and hearty manner towards those who knew him; putting
off the more of his dignity in due proportion with the humbleness
of the man whom he salutedand thereby proving a haughty
consciousness of his advantages as irrefragably as if he had
marched forth preceded by a troop of lackeys to clear the way.
On this particular forenoonso excessive was the warmth of Judge
Pyncheon's kindly aspectthat (suchat leastwas the rumor
about town) an extra passage of the water-carts was found essential
in order to lay the dust occasioned by so much extra sunshine!

No sooner had he disappeared than Hepzibah grew deadly white
andstaggering towards Phoebelet her head fall on the young
girl's shoulder.

O Phoebe!murmured shethat man has been the horror of my
life! Shall I never, never have the courage,--will my voice never
cease from trembling long enough to let me tell him what he is?

Is he so very wicked?asked Phoebe. "Yet his offers were
surely kind!"

Do not speak of them,--he has a heart of iron!rejoined Hepzibah.
Go, now, and talk to Clifford! Amuse and keep him quiet! It would
disturb him wretchedly to see me so agitated as I am. There, go,
dear child, and I will try to look after the shop.

Phoebe went accordinglybut perplexed herselfmeanwhilewith
queries as to the purport of the scene which she had just witnessed
and also whether judgesclergymenand other characters of that
eminent stamp and respectabilitycould reallyin any single
instancebe otherwise than just and upright men. A doubt of this
nature has a most disturbing influenceandif shown to be a fact
comes with fearful and startling effect on minds of the trimorderly
and limit-loving classin which we find our little country-girl.
Dispositions more boldly speculative may derive a stern enjoyment
from the discoverysince there must be evil in the worldthat a
high man is as likely to grasp his share of it as a low one. A wider
scope of viewand a deeper insightmay see rankdignityand
stationall proved illusoryso far as regards their claim to human
reverenceand yet not feel as if the universe were thereby tumbled
headlong into chaos. But Phoebein order to keep the universe in its
old placewas fain to smotherin some degreeher own intuitions
as to Judge Pyncheon's character. And as for her cousin's testimony
in disparagement of itshe concluded that Hepzibah's judgment
was embittered by one of those family feuds which render hatred
the more deadly by the dead and corrupted love that they
intermingle with its native poison.

IX Clifford and Phoebe

TRULY was there something highgenerousand noble in the
native composition of our poor old Hepzibah! Or else--and it
was quite as probably the case--she had been enriched by
povertydeveloped by sorrowelevated by the strong and solitary
affection of her lifeand thus endowed with heroismwhich
never could have characterized her in what are called happier
circumstances. Through dreary years Hepzibah had looked
forward--for the most part despairinglynever with any
confidence of hopebut always with the feeling that it was her


brightest possibility--to the very position in which she now found
herself. In her own behalfshe had asked nothing of Providence
but the opportunity of devoting herself to this brotherwhom she
had so loved--so admired for what he wasor might have been
--and to whom she had kept her faithalone of all the world
whollyunfalteringlyat every instantand throughout life.
And herein his late declinethe lost one had come back out of
his long and strange misfortuneand was thrown on her sympathy
as it seemednot merely for the bread of his physical existence
but for everything that should keep him morally alive. She had
responded to the call. She had come forward--our poorgaunt
Hepzibahin her rusty silkswith her rigid jointsand the
sad perversity of her scowl-- ready to do her utmost; and with
affection enoughif that were allto do a hundred times as much!
There could be few more tearful sights--and Heaven forgive us
if a smile insist on mingling with our conception of it!--few
sights with truer pathos in themthan Hepzibah presented on that
first afternoon.

How patiently did she endeavor to wrap Clifford up in her great
warm loveand make it all the world to himso that he should
retain no torturing sense of the coldness and dreariness without!
Her little efforts to amuse him! How pitifulyet magnanimous
they were!

Remembering his early love of poetry and fictionshe unlocked
a bookcaseand took down several books that had been excellent
reading in their day. There was a volume of Popewith the Rape
of the Lock in itand another of the Tatlerand an odd one of
Dryden's Miscellaniesall with tarnished gilding on their covers
and thoughts of tarnished brilliancy inside. They had no success
with Clifford. Theseand all such writers of societywhose new
works glow like the rich texture of a just-woven carpetmust be
content to relinquish their charmfor every readerafter an age
or twoand could hardly be supposed to retain any portion of it
for a mind that had utterly lost its estimate of modes and
manners. Hepzibah then took up Rasselasand began to read of
the Happy Valleywith a vague idea that some secret of a contented
life had there been elaboratedwhich might at least serve
Clifford and herself for this one day. But the Happy Valley
had a cloud over it. Hepzibah troubled her auditormoreoverby
innumerable sins of emphasiswhich he seemed to detectwithout
any reference to the meaning; norin factdid he appear to take
much note of the sense of what she readbut evidently felt the
tedium of the lecturewithout harvesting its profit. His sister's
voicetoonaturally harshhadin the course of her sorrowful
lifetimecontracted a kind of croakwhichwhen it once gets
into the human throatis as ineradicable as sin. In both sexes
occasionallythis lifelong croakaccompanying each word of joy
or sorrowis one of the symptoms of a settled melancholy; and
wherever it occursthe whole history of misfortune is conveyed
in its slightest accent. The effect is as if the voice had been
dyed black; or--if we must use a more moderate simile--this
miserable croakrunning through all the variations of the voice
is like a black silken threadon which the crystal beads of speech
are strungand whence they take their hue. Such voices have put
on mourning for dead hopes; and they ought to die and be buried
along with them!

Discerning that Clifford was not gladdened by her efforts
Hepzibah searched about the house for the means of more exhilarating
pastime. At one timeher eyes chanced to rest on Alice Pyncheon's
harpsichord. It was a moment of great peril; for--despite the
traditionary awe that had gathered over this instrument of music


and the dirges which spiritual fingers were said to play on it--the
devoted sister had solemn thoughts of thrumming on its chords for
Clifford's benefitand accompanying the performance with her voice.
Poor Clifford! Poor Hepzibah! Poor harpsichord! All three would have
been miserable together. By some good agency--possiblyby the
unrecognized interposition of the long-buried Alice herself--the
threatening calamity was averted.

But the worst of all--the hardest stroke of fate for Hepzibah to
endureand perhaps for Cliffordtoo was his invincible distaste
for her appearance. Her featuresnever the most agreeableand
now harsh with age and griefand resentment against the world for
his sake; her dressand especially her turban; the queer and quaint
mannerswhich had unconsciously grown upon her in solitude--such
being the poor gentlewoman's outward characteristicsit is no great
marvelalthough the mournfullest of pitiesthat the instinctive
lover of the Beautiful was fain to turn away his eyes. There was no
help for it. It would be the latest impulse to die within him. In
his last extremitythe expiring breath stealing faintly through
Clifford's lipshe would doubtless press Hepzibah's handin
fervent recognition of all her lavished loveand close his eyes
--but not so much to dieas to be constrained to look no longer
on her face! Poor Hepzibah! She took counsel with herself what
might be doneand thought of putting ribbons on her turban; but
by the instant rush of several guardian angelswas withheld from
an experiment that could hardly have proved less than fatal to
the beloved object of her anxiety.

To be briefbesides Hepzibah's disadvantages of personthere
was an uncouthness pervading all her deeds; a clumsy something
that could but ill adapt itself for useand not at all for ornament.
She was a grief to Cliffordand she knew it. In this extremity
the antiquated virgin turned to Phoebe. No grovelling jealousy
was in her heart. Had it pleased Heaven to crown the heroic
fidelity of her life by making her personally the medium of
Clifford's happinessit would have rewarded her for all the past
by a joy with no bright tintsindeedbut deep and trueand
worth a thousand gayer ecstasies. This could not be. She
therefore turned to Phoebeand resigned the task into the young
girl's hands. The latter took it up cheerfullyas she did
everythingbut with no sense of a mission to performand
succeeding all the better for that same simplicity.

By the involuntary effect of a genial temperamentPhoebe soon
grew to be absolutely essential to the daily comfortif not the
daily lifeof her two forlorn companions. The grime and
sordidness of the House of the Seven Gables seemed to have
vanished since her appearance there; the gnawing tooth of the
dry-rot was stayed among the old timbers of its skeleton frame;
the dust had ceased to settle down so denselyfrom the antique
ceilingsupon the floors and furniture of the rooms below--or
at any ratethere was a little housewifeas light-footed as the
breeze that sweeps a garden walkgliding hither and thither to
brush it all away. The shadows of gloomy events that haunted
the else lonely and desolate apartments; the heavybreathless
scent which death had left in more than one of the bedchambers
ever since his visits of long ago--these were less powerful than
the purifying influence scattered throughout the atmosphere of the
household by the presence of one youthfulfreshand thoroughly
wholesome heart. There was no morbidness in Phoebe; if there
had beenthe old Pyncheon House was the very locality to ripen
it into incurable disease. But now her spirit resembledin its
potencya minute quantity of ottar of rose in one of Hepzibah's
hugeiron-bound trunksdiffusing its fragrance through the


various articles of linen and wrought-lacekerchiefscaps
stockingsfolded dressesglovesand whatever else was treasured
there. As every article in the great trunk was the sweeter for the
rose-scentso did all the thoughts and emotions of Hepzibah and
Cliffordsombre as they might seemacquire a subtle attribute of
happiness from Phoebe's intermixture with them. Her activity of
bodyintellectand heart impelled her continually to perform the
ordinary little toils that offered themselves around herand to
think the thought proper for the momentand to sympathize--now
with the twittering gayety of the robins in the pear-treeand now
to such a depth as she could with Hepzibah's dark anxietyor the
vague moan of her brother. This facile adaptation was at once the
symptom of perfect health and its best preservative.

A nature like Phoebe's has invariably its due influencebut is
seldom regarded with due honor. Its spiritual forcehowevermay
be partially estimated by the fact of her having found a place for
herselfamid circumstances so stern as those which surrounded
the mistress of the house; and also by the effect which she
produced on a character of so much more mass than her own. For
the gauntbony frame and limbs of Hepzibahas compared with
the tiny lightsomeness of Phoebe's figurewere perhaps in some
fit proportion with the moral weight and substancerespectively
of the woman and the girl.

To the guest--to Hepzibah's brother--or Cousin Cliffordas
Phoebe now began to call him--she was especially necessary.
Not that he could ever be said to converse with heror often
manifestin any other very definite modehis sense of a charm
in her society. But if she were a long while absent he became
pettish and nervously restlesspacing the room to and fro with
the uncertainty that characterized all his movements; or else
would sit broodingly in his great chairresting his head on his
handsand evincing life only by an electric sparkle of ill-humor
whenever Hepzibah endeavored to arouse him. Phoebe's presence
and the contiguity of her fresh life to his blighted onewas usually
all that he required. Indeedsuch was the native gush and play
of her spiritthat she was seldom perfectly quiet and
undemonstrativeany more than a fountain ever ceases to dimple
and warble with its flow. She possessed the gift of songand
thattooso naturallythat you would as little think of inquiring
whence she had caught itor what master had taught heras of
asking the same questions about a birdin whose small strain of
music we recognize the voice of the Creator as distinctly as in
the loudest accents of his thunder. So long as Phoebe sangshe
might stray at her own will about the house. Clifford was
contentwhether the sweetairy homeliness of her tones came
down from the upper chambersor along the passageway from
the shopor was sprinkled through the foliage of the pear-tree
inward from the gardenwith the twinkling sunbeams. He would
sit quietlywith a gentle pleasure gleaming over his face
brighter nowand now a little dimmeras the song happened to
float near himor was more remotely heard. It pleased him best
howeverwhen she sat on a low footstool at his knee.

It is perhaps remarkableconsidering her temperamentthat
Phoebe oftener chose a strain of pathos than of gayety. But the
young and happy are not ill pleased to temper their life with a
transparent shadow. The deepest pathos of Phoebe's voice and
songmoreovercame sifted through the golden texture of a
cheery spiritand was somehow so interfused with the quality
thence acquiredthat one's heart felt all the lighter for having
wept at it. Broad mirthin the sacred presence of dark
misfortunewould have jarred harshly and irreverently with the


solemn symphony that rolled its undertone through Hepzibah's
and her brother's life. Thereforeit was well that Phoebe so
often chose sad themesand not amiss that they ceased to be so
sad while she was singing them.

Becoming habituated to her companionshipClifford 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 realeven in its utmost manifestationand which a
painter would have watched long to seize and fix upon his canvas
andafter allin vain--beautyneverthelessthat was not a
mere dreamwould 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 hairand those furrows
--with their record of infinite sorrow so deeply written across
his browand so compressedas with a futile effort to crowd
in all the talethat the whole inscription was made illegible
--thesefor the momentvanished. An eye at once tender and
acute might have beheld in the man some shadow of what he was
meant to be. Anonas age came stealinglike a sad twilight
back over his figureyou would have felt tempted to hold an
argument with Destinyand affirmthat either this being
should not have been made mortalor 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;
butas he had breathedit 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
Beautifullet their earthly fate be as lenient as it may.

Phoebeit is probablehad 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 itbut need not know the
individuality of one among them all. Indeedthere 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 Cliffordhoweverthe realityand simplicity
and thorough homeliness of the girl's nature were as powerful a
charm as any that she possessed. Beautyit is trueand beauty
almost perfect in its own stylewas indispensable. Had Phoebe
been coarse in featureshaped clumsilyof a harsh voiceand
uncouthly manneredshe might have been rich with all good gifts
beneath this unfortunate exteriorand stillso long as she
wore the guise of womanshe would have shocked Cliffordand
depressed him by her lack of beauty. But nothing more beautiful
--nothing prettierat least--was ever made than Phoebe. And
thereforeto this man--whose whole poor and impalpable enjoyment
of existence heretoforeand until both his heart and fancy died
within himhad been a dream--whose images of women had more and
more lost their warmth and substanceand been frozenlike the
pictures of secluded artistsinto 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 wanderedor been expelledout of the common track of
thingseven were it for a better systemdesire nothing so much
as to be led back. They shiver in their lonelinessbe it on a
mountain-top or in a dungeon. NowPhoebe's presence made a home
about her--that very sphere which the outcastthe prisonerthe
potentate--the wretch beneath mankindthe wretch aside from it
or the wretch above it--instinctively pines after--a home! She
was real! Holding her handyou felt something; a tender something;


a substanceand a warm one: and so long as you should feel its
graspsoft as it wasyou might be certain that your place was good
in the whole sympathetic chain of human nature. The world was no
longer a delusion.

By looking a little further in this directionwe might suggest an
explanation of an often-suggested mystery. Why are poets so apt
to choose their matesnot for any similarity of poetic endowment
but for qualities which might make the happiness of the rudest
handicraftsman as well as that of the ideal craftsman of the spirit?
Becauseprobablyat his highest elevationthe poet needs no human
intercourse; but he finds it dreary to descendand be a stranger.

There was something very beautiful in the relation that grew up
between this pairso closely and constantly linked togetheryet
with such a waste of gloomy and mysterious years from his birthday
to hers. On Clifford's part it was the feeling of a man naturally
endowed with the liveliest sensibility to feminine influencebut
who had never quaffed the cup of passionate loveand knew that it
was now too late. He knew itwith the instinctive delicacy that
had survived his intellectual decay. Thushis sentiment for Phoebe
without being paternalwas not less chaste than if she had been
his daughter. He was a manit is trueand recognized her as a
woman. She was his only representative of womankind. He took
unfailing note of every charm that appertained to her sexand
saw the ripeness of her lipsand the virginal development of her
bosom. All her little womanly waysbudding out of her like
blossoms on a young fruit-treehad their effect on himand
sometimes caused his very heart to tingle with the keenest thrills
of pleasure. At such moments--for the effect was seldom more than
momentary--the half-torpid man would be full of harmonious life
just as a long-silent harp is full of soundwhen the musician's
fingers sweep across it. Butafter allit seemed rather a
perceptionor a sympathythan a sentiment belonging to himself
as an individual. He read Phoebe as he would a sweet and simple
story; he listened to her as if she were a verse of household
poetrywhich Godin requital of his bleak and dismal lothad
permitted some angelthat most pitied himto warble through the
house. She was not an actual fact for himbut the interpretation
of all that he lacked on earth brought warmly home to his conception;
so that this mere symbolor life-like picturehad almost the
comfort of reality.

But we strive in vain to put the idea into words. No adequate
expression of the beauty and profound pathos with which it
impresses us is attainable. This beingmade only for happiness
and heretofore so miserably failing to be happy--his tendencies
so hideously thwartedthatsome unknown time agothe delicate
springs of his characternever morally or intellectually strong
had given wayand he was now imbecile--this poorforlorn
voyager from the Islands of the Blestin a frail barkon a
tempestuous seahad been flungby the last mountain-wave of
his shipwreckinto a quiet harbor. Thereas he lay more
than half lifeless on the strandthe fragrance of an earthly
rose-bud had come to his nostrilsandas odors willhad
summoned up reminiscences or visions of all the living and
breathing beauty amid which he should have had his home. With
his native susceptibility of happy influenceshe inhales the
slightethereal rapture into his souland expires!

And how did Phoebe regard Clifford? The girl's was not one of
those natures which are most attracted by what is strange and
exceptional in human character. The path which would best have
suited her was the well-worn track of ordinary life; the


companions in whom she would most have delighted were such
as one encounters at every turn. The mystery which enveloped
Cliffordso far as it affected her at allwas an annoyance
rather than the piquant charm which many women might have found
in it. Stillher native kindliness was brought strongly into play
not by what was darkly picturesque in his situationnor so much
evenby the finer graces of his characteras by the simple
appeal of a heart so forlorn as his to one so full of genuine
sympathy as hers. She gave him an affectionate regardbecause
he needed so much loveand seemed to have received so little.
With a ready tactthe result of ever-active and wholesome
sensibilityshe discerned what was good for himand did it.
Whatever was morbid in his mind and experience she ignored;
and thereby kept their intercourse healthyby the incautious
butas it wereheaven-directed freedom of her whole conduct.
The sick in mindandperhapsin bodyare rendered more darkly
and hopelessly so by the manifold reflection of their disease
mirrored back from all quarters in the deportment of those about
them; they are compelled to inhale the poison of their own breath
in infinite repetition. But Phoebe afforded her poor patient a
supply of purer air. She impregnated ittoonot with a wild-flower
scent--for wildness was no trait of hers--but with the perfume
of garden-rosespinksand other blossoms of much sweetnesswhich
nature and man have consented together in making grow from summer
to summerand from century to century. Such a flower was Phoebe
in her relation with Cliffordand such the delight that he
inhaled from her.

Yetit must be saidher petals sometimes drooped a littlein
consequence of the heavy atmosphere about her. She grew more
thoughtful than heretofore. Looking aside at Clifford's face
and seeing the dimunsatisfactory elegance and the intellect
almost quenchedshe would try to inquire what had been his life.
Was he always thus? Had this veil been over him from his birth?
--this veilunder which far more of his spirit was hidden than
revealedand through which he so imperfectly discerned the actual
world--or was its gray texture woven of some dark calamity?
Phoebe loved no riddlesand would have been glad to escape the
perplexity of this one. Neverthelessthere was so far a good
result of her meditations on Clifford's characterthatwhen her
involuntary conjecturestogether with the tendency of every
strange circumstance to tell its own storyhad gradually taught
her the factit had no terrible effect upon her. Let the world
have done him what vast wrong it mightshe knew Cousin Clifford
too well--or fancied so--ever to shudder at the touch of his thin
delicate fingers.

Within a few days after the appearance of this remarkable
inmatethe routine of life had established itself with a good
deal of uniformity in the old house of our narrative. In the
morningvery shortly after breakfastit was Clifford's custom
to fall asleep in his chair; norunless accidentally disturbed
would he emerge from a dense cloud of slumber or the thinner mists
that flitted to and frountil well towards noonday. These hours
of drowsihead were the season of the old gentlewoman's attendance
on her brotherwhile Phoebe took charge of the shop; an arrangement
which the public speedily understoodand evinced their decided
preference of the younger shopwoman by the multiplicity of their
calls during her administration of affairs. Dinner overHepzibah
took her knitting-work--a long stocking of gray yarnfor her
brother's winter wear--and with a sighand a scowl of affectionate
farewell to Cliffordand a gesture enjoining watchfulness on
Phoebewent to take her seat behind the counter. It was now the
young girl's turn to be the nurse--the guardianthe playmate


--or whatever is the fitter phrase--of the gray-haired man.

X The Pyncheon Garden

CLIFFORDexcept for Phoebe's More active instigation would
ordinarily have yielded to the torpor which had crept through all
his modes of beingand which sluggishly counselled him to sit
in his morning chair till eventide. But the girl seldom failed
to propose a removal to the gardenwhere Uncle Venner and the
daguerreotypist had made such repairs on the roof of the ruinous
arboror summer-housethat it was now a sufficient shelter from
sunshine and casual showers. The hop-vinetoohad begun to
grow luxuriantly over the sides of the little edificeand made
an interior of verdant seclusionwith innumerable peeps and
glimpses into the wider solitude of the garden.

Heresometimesin this green play-place of flickering light
Phoebe read to Clifford. Her acquaintancethe artistwho
appeared to have a literary turnhad supplied her with works
of fictionin pamphlet form--and a few volumes of poetryin
altogether a different style and taste from those which Hepzibah
selected for his amusement. Small thanks were due to the books
howeverif the girl's readings were in any degree more
successful than her elderly cousin's. Phoebe's voice had always
a pretty music in itand could either enliven Clifford by its
sparkle and gayety of toneor soothe him by a continued flow
of pebbly and brook-like cadences. But the fictions--in which
the country-girlunused to works of that natureoften became
deeply absorbed--interested her strange auditor very little
or not at all. Pictures of lifescenes of passion or sentiment
withumorand pathoswere all thrown awayor worse than
thrown awayon Clifford; either because he lacked an experience
by which to test their truthor 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 sympathybut oftener respond with
a troubledquestioning look. If a tear--a maiden's sunshiny tear
over imaginary woe--dropped upon some melancholy pageClifford
either took it as a token of actual calamityor else grew
peevishand angrily motioned her to close the volume. And
wisely too! Is not the world sad enoughin genuine earnest
without making a pastime of mock sorrows?

With poetry it was rather better. He delighted in the swell and
subsidence of the rhythmand the happily recurring rhyme. Nor
was Clifford incapable of feeling the sentiment of poetry--not
perhapswhere it was highest or deepestbut where it was most
flitting and ethereal. It was impossible to foretell in what
exquisite verse the awakening spell might lurk; buton raising
her eyes from the page to Clifford's facePhoebe would be made
awareby the light breaking through itthat a more delicate
intelligence than her own had caught a lambent flame from what
she read. One glow of this kindhoweverwas often the
precursor of gloom for many hours afterward; becausewhen the
glow left himhe seemed conscious of a missing sense and
powerand groped about for themas if a blind man should go
seeking his lost eyesight.

It pleased him moreand was better for his inward welfarethat
Phoebe should talkand make passing occurrences vivid to his


mind by her accompanying description and remarks. The life of
the garden offered topics enough for such discourse as suited
Clifford best. He never failed to inquire what flowers had
bloomed since yesterday. His feeling for flowers was very
exquisiteand seemed not so much a taste as an emotion; he was
fond of sitting with one in his handintently observing itand
looking from its petals into Phoebe's faceas if the garden flower
were the sister of the household maiden. Not merely was there
a delight in the flower's perfumeor pleasure in its beautiful
formand the delicacy or brightness of its hue; but Clifford's
enjoyment was accompanied with a perception of lifecharacter
and individualitythat made him love these blossoms of the
gardenas if they were endowed with sentiment and intelligence.
This affection and sympathy for flowers is almost exclusively a
woman's trait. Menif endowed with it by naturesoon lose
forgetand learn to despise itin their contact with coarser things
than flowers. Cliffordtoohad long forgotten it; but found it
again nowas he slowly revived from the chill torpor of his life.

It is wonderful how many pleasant incidents continually came to
pass in that secluded garden-spot when once Phoebe had set
herself to look for them. She had seen or heard a bee thereon
the first day of her acquaintance with the place. And often
--almost continuallyindeed--since thenthe bees kept coming
thitherHeaven knows whyor by what pertinacious desirefor
far-fetched sweetswhenno doubtthere were broad clover-fields
and all kinds of garden growthmuch nearer home than this. Thither
the bees camehoweverand plunged into the squash-blossomsas if
there were no other squash-vines within a long day's flightor as
if the soil of Hepzibah's garden gave its productions just the very
quality which these laborious little wizards wantedin order to
impart the Hymettus odor to their whole hive of New England honey.
When Clifford heard their sunnybuzzing murmurin the heart of
the great yellow blossomshe looked about him with a joyful sense
of warmthand blue skyand green grassand of God's free air in
the whole height from earth to heaven. After allthere need be
no question why the bees came to that one green nook in the dusty
town. God sent them thither to gladden our poor Clifford. They
brought the rich summer with themin requital of a little honey.

When the bean-vines began to flower on the polesthere was
one particular variety which bore a vivid scarlet blossom.
The daguerreotypist had found these beans in a garretover one
of the seven gablestreasured up in an old chest of drawers
by some horticultural Pyncheon of days gone bywho doubtless
meant to sow them the next summerbut was himself first sown
in Death's garden-ground. By way of testing whether there were
still a living germ in such ancient seedsHolgrave had planted
some of them; and the result of his experiment was a splendid
row of bean-vinesclamberingearlyto the full height of the
polesand arraying themfrom top to bottomin a spiral
profusion of red blossoms. Andever since the unfolding of the
first buda multitude of humming-birds had been attracted
thither. At timesit seemed as if for every one of the hundred
blossoms there was one of these tiniest fowls of the air--a
thumb's bigness of burnished plumagehovering and vibrating
about the bean-poles. It was with indescribable interestand
even more than childish delightthat Clifford watched the
humming-birds. He used to thrust his head softly out of the
arbor to see them the better; all the whiletoomotioning
Phoebe to be quietand snatching glimpses of the smile upon her
faceso as to heap his enjoyment up the higher with her sympathy.
He had not merely grown young;--he was a child again.


Hepzibahwhenever she happened to witness one of these fits of
miniature enthusiasmwould shake her headwith a strange
mingling of the mother and sisterand of pleasure and sadness
in her aspect. She said that it had always been thus with Clifford
when the humming-birds came--alwaysfrom his babyhood--and
that his delight in them had been one of the earliest tokens by
which he showed his love for beautiful things. And it was a
wonderful coincidencethe good lady thoughtthat the artist
should have planted these scarlet-flowering beans--which the
humming-birds sought far and wideand which had not grown in
the Pyncheon garden before for forty years--on the very summer
of Clifford's return.

Then would the tears stand in poor Hepzibah's eyesor overflow
them with a too abundant gushso that she was fain to betake
herself into some cornerlest Clifford should espy her agitation.
Indeedall the enjoyments of this period were provocative of
tears. Coming so late as it didit was a kind of Indian summer
with a mist in its balmiest sunshineand decay and death in its
gaudiest delight. The more Clifford seemed to taste the happiness
of a childthe sadder was the difference to be recognized. With
a mysterious and terrible Pastwhich had annihilated his memory
and a blank Future before himhe had only this visionary and
impalpable Nowwhichif you once look closely at itis nothing.
He himselfas was perceptible by many symptomslay darkly behind
his pleasureand knew it to be a baby-playwhich he was to
toy and trifle withinstead of thoroughly believing. Clifford saw
it may bein the mirror of his deeper consciousnessthat he was
an example and representative of that great class of people whom
an inexplicable Providence is continually putting at cross-purposes
with the world: breaking what seems its own promise in their
nature; withholding their proper foodand setting poison before
them for a banquet; and thus--when it might so easilyas one
would thinkhave been adjusted otherwise--making their existence
a strangenessa solitudeand torment. All his life longhe had
been learning how to be wretchedas one learns a foreign
tongue; and nowwith the lesson thoroughly by hearthe could
with difficulty comprehend his little airy happiness. Frequently
there was a dim shadow of doubt in his eyes. "Take my hand
Phoebe he would say, and pinch it hard with your little
fingers! Give me a rosethat I may press its thornsand prove
myself awake by the sharp touch of pain!" Evidentlyhe desired
this prick of a trifling anguishin order to assure himselfby
that quality which he best knew to be realthat the gardenand
the seven weather-beaten gablesand Hepzibah's scowland Phoebe's
smilewere real likewise. Without this signet in his fleshhe
could have attributed no more substance to them than to the empty
confusion of imaginary scenes with which he had fed his spirit
until even that poor sustenance was exhausted.

The author needs great faith in his reader's sympathy; else he
must hesitate to give details so minuteand incidents apparently
so triflingas are essential to make up the idea of this
garden-life. It was the Eden of a thunder-smitten Adamwho had
fled for refuge thither out of the same dreary and perilous
wilderness into which the original Adam was expelled.

One of the available means of amusementof which Phoebe
made the most in Clifford's behalfwas that feathered society
the hensa breed of whomas we have already saidwas an
immemorial heirloom in the Pyncheon family. In compliance with
a whim of Cliffordas it troubled him to see them in confinement
they had been set at libertyand now roamed at will about the
garden; doing some little mischiefbut hindered from escape by


buildings on three sidesand the difficult peaks of a wooden
fence on the other. They spent much of their abundant leisure
on the margin of Maule's wellwhich was haunted by a kind of
snailevidently a titbit to their palates; and the brackish
water itselfhowever nauseous to the rest of the worldwas so
greatly esteemed by these fowlsthat they might be seen tasting
turning up their headsand smacking their billswith precisely
the air of wine-bibbers round a probationary cask. Their generally
quietyet often briskand constantly diversified talkone to
anotheror sometimes in soliloquy--as they scratched worms out
of the richblack soilor pecked at such plants as suited their
taste--had such a domestic tonethat it was almost a wonder
why you could not establish a regular interchange of ideas about
household mattershuman and gallinaceous. All hens are well
worth studying for the piquancy and rich variety of their manners;
but by no possibility can there have been other fowls of such odd
appearance and deportment as these ancestral ones. They probably
embodied the traditionary peculiarities of their whole line of
progenitorsderived through an unbroken succession of eggs; or
else this individual Chanticleer and his two wives had grown to
be humoristsand a little crack-brained withalon account of
their solitary way of lifeand out of sympathy for Hepzibah
their lady-patroness.

Queerindeedthey looked! Chanticleer himselfthough stalking
on two stilt-like legswith the dignity of interminable descent in
all his gestureswas hardly bigger than an ordinary partridge; his
two wives were about the size of quails; and as for the one chicken
it looked small enough to be still in the eggandat the same
timesufficiently oldwitheredwizenedand experiencedto have
been founder of the antiquated race. Instead of being the youngest
of the familyit rather seemed to have aggregated into itself the
agesnot only of these living specimens of the breedbut of all
its forefathers and foremotherswhose united excellences and oddities
were squeezed into its little body. Its mother evidently regarded
it as the one chicken of the worldand as necessaryin factto
the world's continuanceorat any rateto the equilibrium of the
present system of affairswhether in church or state. No lesser
sense of the infant fowl's importance could have justifiedeven
in a mother's eyesthe perseverance with which she watched over
its safetyruffling her small person to twice its proper sizeand
flying in everybody's face that so much as looked towards her hopeful
progeny. No lower estimate could have vindicated the indefatigable
zeal with which she scratchedand her unscrupulousness in digging
up the choicest flower or vegetablefor the sake of the fat earthworm
at its root. Her nervous cluckwhen the chicken happened to be
hidden in the long grass or under the squash-leaves; her gentle
croak of satisfactionwhile sure of it beneath her wing; her note
of ill-concealed fear and obstreperous defiancewhen she saw her
arch-enemya neighbor's caton the top of the high fence--one
or other of these sounds was to be heard at almost every moment
of the day. By degreesthe observer came to feel nearly as much
interest in this chicken of illustrious race as the mother-hen did.

Phoebeafter getting well acquainted with the old henwas
sometimes permitted to take the chicken in her handwhich was
quite capable of grasping its cubic inch or two of body. While
she curiously examined its hereditary marks--the peculiar speckle
of its plumagethe funny tuft on its headand a knob on each
of its legs--the little bipedas she insistedkept giving her a
sagacious wink. The daguerreotypist once whispered her that
these marks betokened the oddities of the Pyncheon familyand
that the chicken itself was a symbol of the life of the old house
embodying its interpretationlikewisealthough an unintelligible


oneas such clews generally are. It was a feathered riddle; a
mystery hatched out of an eggand just as mysterious as if the
egg had been addle!

The second of Chanticleer's two wivesever since Phoebe's
arrivalhad been in a state of heavy despondencycausedas it
afterwards appearedby her inability to lay an egg. One day
howeverby her self-important gaitthe sideways turn of her
headand the cock of her eyeas she pried into one and another
nook of the garden--croaking to herselfall the whilewith
inexpressible complacency--it was made evident that this
identical henmuch as mankind undervalued hercarried something
about her person the worth of which was not to be estimated either
in gold or precious stones. Shortly afterthere was a prodigious
cackling and gratulation of Chanticleer and all his familyincluding
the wizened chickenwho appeared to understand the matter quite as
well as did his sirehis motheror his aunt. That afternoon Phoebe
found a diminutive egg--not in the regular nestit was far too
precious to be trusted there--but cunningly hidden under the
currant-busheson some dry stalks of last year's grass. Hepzibah
on learning the facttook possession of the egg and appropriated
it to Clifford's breakfaston account of a certain delicacy of
flavorfor whichas she affirmedthese eggs had always been famous.
Thus unscrupulously did the old gentlewoman sacrifice the continuance
perhapsof an ancient feathered racewith no better end than to
supply her brother with a dainty that hardly filled the bowl of a
tea-spoon! It must have been in reference to this outrage that
Chanticleerthe next dayaccompanied by the bereaved mother of
the eggtook his post in front of Phoebe and Cliffordand delivered
himself of a harangue that might have proved as long as his own pedigree
but for a fit of merriment on Phoebe's part. Hereuponthe offended
fowl stalked away on his long stiltsand utterly withdrew his notice
from Phoebe and the rest of human natureuntil she made her peace
with an offering of spice-cakewhichnext to snailswas the
delicacy most in favor with his aristocratic taste.

We linger too longno doubtbeside 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 themand contributed to give him health and
substance. Some of his occupations wrought less desirably upon him.
He had a singular propensityfor exampleto 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 facesarrayed in bewitching smiles--each momentary
face so fair and rosyand every smile so sunnythat he felt
wronged at its departureuntil the same flitting witchcraft made
a new one. But sometimes he would suddenly cry outThe dark
face gazes at me!and be miserable the whole day afterwards.
Phoebewhen 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 pebbleslooking as if the
gush of the waters shook and disarranged them. And the dark
facethat so troubled Cliffordwas no more than the shadow
thrown from a branch of one of the damson-treesand breaking
the inner light of Maule's well. The truth washowever
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 characterand now and then a stern
and dreadful shape that typified his fate.

On Sundaysafter Phoebe had been at church--for the girl had


a church-going conscienceand would hardly have been at ease
had she missed either prayersingingsermonor benediction
--after church-timethereforethere wasordinarilya sober
little festival in the garden. In addition to CliffordHepzibah
and Phoebetwo guests made up the company. One was the artist
Holgravewhoin spite of his consociation with reformersand
his other queer and questionable traitscontinued to hold an
elevated place in Hepzibah's regard. The otherwe are almost
ashamed to saywas the venerable Uncle Vennerin a clean shirt
and a broadcloth coatmore respectable than his ordinary wear
inasmuch as it was neatly patched on each elbowand might be
called an entire garmentexcept for a slight inequality in the
length of its skirts. Cliffordon several occasionshad seemed
to enjoy the old man's intercoursefor the sake of his mellow
cheerful veinwhich was like the sweet flavor of a frost-bitten
applesuch 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; andmoreoveras Clifford's young
manhood had been losthe was fond of feeling himself comparatively
youthfulnowin apposition with the patriarchal age of Uncle
Venner. In factit was sometimes observable that Clifford half
wilfully hid from himself the consciousness of being stricken in
yearsand cherished visions of an earthly future still before him;
visionshowevertoo indistinctly drawn to be followed by
disappointment--thoughdoubtlessby depression--when any casual
incident or recollection made him sensible of the withered leaf.

So this oddly composed little social party used to assemble under
the ruinous arbor. Hepzibah--stately as ever at heartand yielding
not an inch of her old gentilitybut resting upon it so much the more
as justifying a princess-like condescension--exhibited a not ungraceful
hospitality. She talked kindly to the vagrant artistand took sage
counsel--lady as she was--with the wood-sawyerthe messenger of
everybody's petty errandsthe patched philosopher. And Uncle Venner
who had studied the world at street-cornersand other posts equally
well adapted for just observationwas as ready to give out his
wisdom as a town-pump to give water.

Miss Hepzibah, ma'am,said he onceafter they had all been
cheerful togetherI really enjoy these quiet little meetings
of a Sabbath afternoon. They are very much like what I expect
to have after I retire to my farm!

Uncle Vennerobserved Clifford in a drowsyinward toneis always
talking about his farm. But I have a better scheme for him, by and by.
We shall see!

Ah, Mr. Clifford Pyncheon!said the man of patchesyou may
scheme for me as much as you please; but I'm not going to give
up this one scheme of my own, even if I never bring it really to
pass. It does seem to me that men make a wonderful mistake in
trying to heap up property upon property. If I had done so, I
should feel as if Providence was not bound to take care of me;
and, at all events, the city wouldn't be! I'm one of those people
who think that infinity is big enough for us all--and eternity
long enough.

Why, so they are, Uncle Venner,remarked Phoebe after a pause;
for she had been trying to fathom the profundity and appositeness
of this concluding apothegm. "But for this short life of oursone
would like a house and a moderate garden-spot of one's own."

It appears to me,said the daguerreotypistsmilingthat Uncle


Venner has the principles of Fourier at the bottom of his wisdom;
only they have not quite so much distinctness in his mind as in
that of the systematizing Frenchman.

Come, Phoebe,said Hepzibahit is time to bring the currants.

And thenwhile the yellow richness of the declining sunshine
still fell into the open space of the gardenPhoebe brought out
a loaf of bread and a china bowl of currantsfreshly gathered
from the bushesand crushed with sugar. Thesewith water--but
not from the fountain of ill omenclose at hand--constituted all
the entertainment. MeanwhileHolgrave took some pains to establish
an intercourse with Cliffordactuatedit might seementirely
by an impulse of kindlinessin order that the present hour
might be cheerfuller than most which the poor recluse had spent
or was destined yet to spend. Neverthelessin the artist's deep
thoughtfulall-observant eyesthere wasnow and thenan
expressionnot sinisterbut questionable; as if he had some other
interest in the scene than a strangera youthful and unconnected
adventurermight be supposed to have. With great mobility of
outward moodhoweverhe applied himself to the task of enlivening
the party; and with so much successthat even dark-hued Hepzibah
threw off one tint of melancholyand made what shift she could
with the remaining portion. Phoebe said to herself--"How pleasant
he can be!" As for Uncle Venneras a mark of friendship and
approbationhe readily consented to afford the young man his
countenance in the way of his profession--not metaphorically
be it understoodbut literallyby allowing a daguerreotype of
his faceso familiar to the townto be exhibited at the entrance
of Holgrave's studio.

Cliffordas the company partook of their little banquetgrew to
be the gayest of them all. Either it was one of those up-quivering
flashes of the spiritto which minds in an abnormal state are
liableor else the artist had subtly touched some chord that made
musical vibration. Indeedwhat with the pleasant summer
eveningand the sympathy of this little circle of not unkindly
soulsit was perhaps natural that a character so susceptible as
Clifford's should become animatedand show itself readily
responsive to what was said around him. But he gave out his
own thoughtslikewisewith an airy and fanciful glow; so that
they glistenedas it werethrough the arborand made their
escape among the interstices of the foliage. He had been as
cheerfulno doubtwhile alone with Phoebebut never with such
tokens of acutealthough partial intelligence.

Butas the sunlight left the peaks of the Seven Gablesso did
the excitement fade out of Clifford's eyes. He gazed vaguely and
mournfully about himas if he missed something preciousand missed
it the more drearily for not knowing precisely what it was.

I want my happiness!at last he murmured hoarsely and
indistinctlyhardly Shaping out the words. "Manymany years
have I waited for it! It is late! It is late! I want my happiness!"

Alaspoor Clifford! You are oldand worn with troubles that
ought never to have befallen you. You are partly crazy and partly
imbecile; a ruina failureas almost everybody is--though some
in less degreeor less perceptiblythan their fellows. Fate has
no happiness in store for you; unless your quiet home in the old
family residence with the faithful Hepzibahand your long summer
afternoons with Phoebeand these Sabbath festivals with Uncle
Venner and the daguerreotypistdeserve to be called happiness!
Why not? If not the thing itselfit is marvellously like it


and the more so for that ethereal and intangible quality which
causes it all to vanish at too close an introspection. Take it
thereforewhile you may Murmur not--question not--but make
the most of it!

XI The Arched Window

FROM the inertnessor what we may term the vegetative
characterof his ordinary moodClifford would perhaps have
been content to spend one day after anotherinterminably--or
at leastthroughout the summer-time--in just the kind of life
described in the preceding pages. Fancyinghoweverthat it
might be for his benefit occasionally to diversify the scene
Phoebe sometimes suggested that he should look out upon the
life of the street. For this purposethey used to mount the
staircase togetherto the second story of the housewhereat
the termination of a wide entrythere was an arched windowof
uncommonly large dimensionsshaded by a pair of curtains. It
opened above the porchwhere there had formerly been a balcony
the balustrade of which had long since gone to decayand been
removed. At this arched windowthrowing it openbut keeping
himself in comparative obscurity by means of the curtain
Clifford had an opportunity of witnessing such a portion of the
great world's movement as might be supposed to roll through one
of the retired streets of a not very populous city. But he and
Phoebe made a sight as well worth seeing as any that the city
could exhibit. The palegraychildishagedmelancholyyet
often simply cheerfuland sometimes delicately intelligent aspect
of Cliffordpeering from behind the faded crimson of the curtain
--watching the monotony of every-day occurrences with a kind of
inconsequential interest and earnestnessandat every petty
throb of his sensibilityturning for sympathy to the eyes of
the bright young girl!

If once he were fairly seated at the windoweven Pyncheon
Street would hardly be so dull and lonely but thatsomewhere or
other along its extentClifford might discover matter to occupy
his eyeand titillateif not engrosshis observation. Things
familiar to the youngest child that had begun its outlook at
existence seemed strange to him. A cab; an omnibuswith its
populous interiordropping here and there a passengerand
picking up anotherand thus typifying that vast rolling vehicle
the worldthe end of whose journey is everywhere and nowhere;
these objects he followed eagerly with his eyesbut forgot them
before the dust raised by the horses and wheels had settled along
their track. As regarded novelties (among which cabs and
omnibuses were to be reckoned)his mind appeared to have lost
its proper gripe and retentiveness. Twice or thricefor example
during the sunny hours of the daya water-cart went along by
the Pyncheon Houseleaving a broad wake of moistened earth
instead of the white dust that had risen at a lady's lightest
footfall; it was like a summer showerwhich the city authorities
had caught and tamedand compelled it into the commonest
routine of their convenience. With the water-cart Clifford could
never grow familiar; it always affected him with just the same
surprise as at first. His mind took an apparently sharp impression
from itbut lost the recollection of this perambulatory shower
before its next reappearanceas completely as did the street
itselfalong which the heat so quickly strewed white dust again.
It was the same with the railroad. Clifford could hear the


obstreperous howl of the steam-devilandby leaning a little
way from the arched windowcould catch a glimpse of the trains
of carsflashing a brief transit across the extremity of the
street. The idea of terrible energy thus forced upon him was
new at every recurrenceand seemed to affect him as disagreeably
and with almost as much surprisethe hundredth time as the first.

Nothing gives a sadder sense of decay than this loss or
suspension of the power to deal with unaccustomed thingsand
to keep up with the swiftness of the passing moment. It can
merely be a suspended animation; forwere the power actually
to perishthere would be little use of immortality. We are less
than ghostsfor the time beingwhenever this calamity befalls us.

Clifford was indeed the most inveterate of conservatives. All
the antique fashions of the street were dear to him; even such
as were characterized by a rudeness that would naturally have
annoyed his fastidious senses. He loved the old rumbling and
jolting cartsthe former track of which he still found in his
long-buried remembranceas the observer of to-day finds the
wheel-tracks of ancient vehicles in Herculaneum. The butcher's
cartwith its snowy canopywas an acceptable object; so was
the fish-cartheralded by its horn; solikewisewas the
countryman's cart of vegetablesplodding from door to door
with long pauses of the patient horsewhile his owner drove a
trade in turnipscarrotssummer-squashesstring-beansgreen
peasand new potatoeswith half the housewives of the neighborhood.
The baker's cartwith the harsh music of its bellshad a pleasant
effect on Cliffordbecauseas few things else didit jingled the
very dissonance of yore. One afternoon a scissor-grinder chanced
to set his wheel a-going under the Pyncheon Elmand just in front
of the arched window. Children came running with their mothers'
scissorsor the carving-knifeor the paternal razoror anything
else that lacked an edge (exceptindeedpoor Clifford's wits)
that the grinder might apply the article to his magic wheeland
give it back as good as new. Round went the busily revolving
machinerykept in motion by the scissor-grinder's footand wore
away the hard steel against the hard stonewhence issued an intense
and spiteful prolongation of a hiss as fierce as those emitted by
Satan and his compeers in Pandemoniumthough squeezed into smaller
compass. It was an uglylittlevenomous serpent of a noise
as ever did petty violence to human ears. But Clifford listened
with rapturous delight. The soundhowever disagreeablehad very
brisk life in itandtogether with the circle of curious children
watching the revolutions of the wheelappeared to give him a more
vivid sense of activebustlingand sunshiny existence than he had
attained in almost any other way. Neverthelessits charm lay
chiefly in the past; for the scissor-grinder's wheel had hissed
in his childish ears.

He sometimes made doleful complaint that there were no
stage-coaches nowadays. And he asked in an injured tone what
had become of all those old square-topped chaiseswith wings
sticking out on either sidethat used to be drawn by a
plough-horseand driven by a farmer's wife and daughter
peddling whortle-berries and blackberries about the town.
Their disappearance made him doubthe saidwhether the
berries had not left off growing in the broad pastures and
along the shady country lanes.

But anything that appealed to the sense of beautyin however
humble a waydid not require to be recommended by these old
associations. This was observable when one of those Italian boys
(who are rather a modern feature of our streets) came along with


his barrel-organand stopped under the wide and cool shadows
of the elm. With his quick professional eye he took note of the
two faces watching him from the arched windowandopening his
instrumentbegan to scatter its melodies abroad. He had a
monkey on his shoulderdressed in a Highland plaid; andto
complete the sum of splendid attractions wherewith he presented
himself to the publicthere was a company of little figures
whose sphere and habitation was in the mahogany case of his
organand whose principle of life was the music which the Italian
made it his business to grind out. In all their variety of
occupation--the cobblerthe blacksmiththe soldierthe lady
with her fanthe toper with his bottlethe milkmaid sitting by
hercow--this fortunate little society might truly be said to
enjoy a harmonious existenceand to make life literally a dance.
The Italian turned a crank; andbehold! every one of these small
individuals started into the most curious vivacity. The cobbler
wrought upon a shoe; the blacksmith hammered his ironthe soldier
waved his glittering blade; the lady raised a tiny breeze with
her fan; the jolly toper swigged lustily at his bottle; a scholar
opened his book with eager thirst for knowledgeand turned his
head to and fro along the page; the milkmaid energetically drained
her cow; and a miser counted gold into his strong-box--all at the
same turning of a crank. Yes; andmoved by the self-same impulse
a lover saluted his mistress on her lips! Possibly some cynic
at once merry and bitterhad desired to signifyin this
pantomimic scenethat we mortalswhatever our business or
amusement--however serioushowever trifling--all dance to
one identical tuneandin spite of our ridiculous activity
bring nothing finally to pass. For the most remarkable aspect
of the affair wasthatat the cessation of the musiceverybody
was petrified at oncefrom the most extravagant life into a dead
torpor. Neither was the cobbler's shoe finishednor the blacksmith's
iron shaped out; nor was there a drop less of brandy in the toper's
bottlenor a drop more of milk in the milkmaid's pailnor one
additional coin in the miser's strong-boxnor was the scholar a
page deeper in his book. All were precisely in the same condition
as before they made themselves so ridiculous by their haste to toil
to enjoyto accumulate goldand to become wise. Saddest of all
moreoverthe lover was none the happier for the maiden's granted
kiss! Butrather than swallow this last too acrid ingredient
we reject the whole moral of the show.

The monkeymeanwhilewith a thick tail curling out into
preposterous prolixity from beneath his tartanstook his station
at the Italian's feet. He turned a wrinkled and abominable little
visage to every passer-byand to the circle of children that soon
gathered roundand to Hepzibah's shop-doorand upward to the
arched windowwhence Phoebe and Clifford were looking down.
Every momentalsohe took off his Highland bonnetand performed
a bow and scrape. Sometimesmoreoverhe made personal application
to individualsholding out his small black palmand otherwise
plainly signifying his excessive desire for whatever filthy
lucre might happen to be in anybody's pocket. The mean and low
yet strangely man-like expression of his wilted countenance;
the prying and crafty glancethat showed him ready to gripe
at every miserable advantage; his enormous tail (too enormous to
be decently concealed under his gabardine)and the deviltry of
nature which it betokened--take this monkey just as he was
in shortand you could desire no better image of the Mammon of
copper coinsymbolizing the grossest form of the love of money.
Neither was there any possibility of satisfying the covetous
little devil. Phoebe threw down a whole handful of cents
which he picked up with joyless eagernesshanded them over
to the Italian for safekeepingand immediately recommenced


a series of pantomimic petitions for more.

Doubtlessmore than one New-Englander--orlet him be of what
country he mightit is as likely to be the case--passed by
and threw a look at the monkeyand went onwithout imagining
how nearly his own moral condition was here exemplified. Clifford
howeverwas a being of another order. He had taken childish
delight in the musicand smiledtooat the figures which it
set in motion. Butafter looking awhile at the long-tailed imp
he was so shocked by his horrible uglinessspiritual as well as
physicalthat he actually began to shed tears; a weakness which
men of merely delicate endowmentsand destitute of the fiercer
deeperand more tragic power of laughtercan hardly avoid
when the worst and meanest aspect of life happens to be
presented to them.

Pyncheon Street was sometimes enlivened by spectacles of more
imposing pretensions than the aboveand which brought the multitude
along with them. With a shivering repugnance at the idea of personal
contact with the worlda powerful impulse still seized on Clifford
whenever the rush and roar of the human tide grew strongly audible
to him. This was made evidentone daywhen a political procession
with hundreds of flaunting bannersand drumsfifesclarions
and cymbalsreverberating between the rows of buildingsmarched
all through townand trailed its length of trampling footsteps
and most infrequent uproarpast the ordinarily quiet House of the
Seven Gables. As a mere object of sightnothing is more deficient
in picturesque features than a procession seen in its passage through
narrow streets. The spectator feels it to be fool's playwhen he can
distinguish the tedious commonplace of each man's visagewith the
perspiration and weary self-importance on itand the very cut of his
pantaloonsand the stiffness or laxity of his shirt-collarand the
dust on the back of his black coat. In order to become majesticit
should be viewed from some vantage pointas it rolls its slow and
long array through the centre of a wide plainor the stateliest
public square of a city; for thenby its remotenessit melts all
the petty personalitiesof which it is made upinto one broad mass
of existence--one great life--one collected body of mankindwith
a vasthomogeneous spirit animating it. Buton the other hand
if an impressible personstanding alone over the brink of one of
these processionsshould behold itnot in its atomsbut in its
aggregate--as a mighty river of lifemassive in its tideand
black with mysteryandout of its depthscalling to the kindred
depth within him--then the contiguity would add to the effect.
It might so fascinate him that he would hardly be restrained from
plunging into the surging stream of human sympathies.

So it proved with Clifford. He shuddered; he grew pale; he threw
an appealing look at Hepzibah and Phoebewho were with him at
the window. They comprehended nothing of his emotionsand
supposed him merely disturbed by the unaccustomed tumult. At
lastwith tremulous limbshe started upset his foot on the
window-silland in an instant more would have been in the
unguarded balcony. As it wasthe whole procession might have
seen hima wildhaggard figurehis gray locks floating in
the wind that waved their banners; a lonely beingestranged
from his racebut now feeling himself man againby virtue of
the irrepressible instinct that possessed him. Had Clifford
attained the balconyhe would probably have leaped into the
street; but whether impelled by the species of terror that
sometimes urges its victim over the very precipice which he
shrinks fromor by a natural magnetismtending towards the
great centre of humanityit were not easy to decide. Both
impulses might have wrought on him at once.


But his companionsaffrighted by his gesture--which was that
of a man hurried away in spite of himself--seized Clifford's
garment and held him back. Hepzibah shrieked. Phoebeto whom
all extravagance was a horrorburst into sobs and tears.

Clifford, Clifford! are you crazy?cried his sister.

I hardly know, Hepzibah,said Clifforddrawing a long breath.
Fear nothing,--it is over now,--but had I taken that plunge, and
survived it, methinks it would have made me another man!

Possiblyin some senseClifford may have been right. He needed
a shock; or perhaps he required to take a deepdeep plunge into
the ocean of human lifeand to sink down and be covered by its
profoundnessand then to emergesoberedinvigoratedrestored
to the world and to himself. Perhaps againhe required nothing
less than the great final remedy--death!

A similar yearning to renew the broken links of brotherhood with
his kind sometimes showed itself in a milder form; and once it
was made beautiful by the religion that lay even deeper than
itself. In the incident now to be sketchedthere was a touching
recognitionon Clifford's partof God's care and love towards
him--towards this poorforsaken manwhoif any mortal could
might have been pardoned for regarding himself as thrown aside
forgottenand left to be the sport of some fiendwhose
playfulness was an ecstasy of mischief.

It was the Sabbath morning; one of those brightcalm Sabbaths
with its own hallowed atmospherewhen Heaven seems to diffuse
itself over the earth's face in a solemn smileno less sweet than
solemn. On such a Sabbath mornwere we pure enough to be its
mediumwe should be conscious of the earth's natural worship
ascending through our frameson whatever spot of ground we stood.
The church-bellswith various tonesbut all in harmonywere
calling out and responding to one another--"It is the Sabbath!
--The Sabbath!--Yea; the Sabbath!"--and over the whole city the
bells scattered the blessed soundsnow slowlynow with livelier
joynow one bell alonenow all the bells togethercrying
earnestly--"It is the Sabbath!" and flinging their accents afar
offto melt into the air and pervade it with the holy word.
The air with God's sweetest and tenderest sunshine in itwas
meet for mankind to breathe into their heartsand send it forth
again as the utterance of prayer.

Clifford sat at the window with Hepzibahwatching the neighbors
as they stepped into the street. All of themhowever unspiritual
on other dayswere transfigured by the Sabbath influence; so that
their very garments--whether it were an old man's decent coat well
brushed for the thousandth timeor a little boy's first sack and
trousers finished yesterday by his mother's needle--had somewhat
of the quality of ascension-robes. Forthlikewisefrom the
portal of the old house stepped Phoebeputting up her small
green sunshadeand throwing upward a glance and smile of parting
kindness to the faces at the arched window. In her aspect there
was a familiar gladnessand a holiness that you could play with
and yet reverence it as much as ever. She was like a prayer
offered up in the homeliest beauty of one's mother-tongue.
Fresh was Phoebemoreoverand airy and sweet in her apparel;
as if nothing that she wore--neither her gownnor her small
straw bonnetnor her little kerchiefany more than her snowy
stockings--had ever been put on before; orif wornwere all
the fresher for itand with a fragrance as if they had lain


among the rose-buds.

The girl waved her hand to Hepzibah and Cliffordand went up the
street; a religion in herselfwarmsimpletruewith a substance
that could walk on earthand a spirit that was capable of heaven.

Hepzibah,asked Cliffordafter watching Phoebe to the corner
do you never go to church?

No, Clifford!she replied--"not these manymany years!"

Were I to be there,he rejoinedit seems to me that I could pray
once more, when so many human souls were praying all around me!

She looked into Clifford's faceand beheld there a soft natural
effusion; for his heart gushed outas it wereand ran over at his
eyesin delightful reverence for Godand kindly affection for his
human brethren. The emotion communicated itself to Hepzibah. She
yearned to take him by the handand go and kneel downthey two
together--both so long separate from the worldandas she now
recognizedscarcely friends with Him above--to kneel down among
the peopleand be reconciled to God and man at once.

Dear brother,said she earnestlylet us go! We belong
nowhere. We have not a foot of space in any church to kneel
upon; but let us go to some place of worship, even if we stand
in the broad aisle. Poor and forsaken as we are, some pew-door
will be opened to us!

So Hepzibah and her brother made themselvesready--as ready
as they could in the best of their old-fashioned garmentswhich
had hung on pegsor been laid away in trunksso long that the
dampness and mouldy smell of the past was on them--made themselves
readyin their faded bettermostto go to church. They descended
the staircase together--gauntsallow Hepzibahand paleemaciated
age-stricken Clifford! They pulled open the front doorand stepped
across the thresholdand feltboth of themas if they were standing
in the presence of the whole worldand with mankind's great and
terrible eye on them alone. The eye of their Father seemed to be
withdrawnand gave them no encouragement. The warm sunny air of
the street made them shiver. Their hearts quaked within them at
the idea of taking one step farther.

It cannot be, Hepzibah!--it is too late,said Clifford with deep
sadness. "We are ghosts! We have no right among human beings--no
right anywhere but in this old housewhich has a curse on itand
whichthereforewe are doomed to haunt! Andbesides he continued,
with a fastidious sensibility, inalienably characteristic of the man,
it would not be fit nor beautiful to go! It is an ugly thought that
I should be frightful to my fellow-beingsand that children would
cling to their mothers' gowns at sight of me!"

They shrank back into the dusky passage-wayand closed the door.
Butgoing up the staircase againthey found the whole interior
of the house tenfoldmore dismaland the air closer and heavier
for the glimpse and breath of freedom which they had just snatched.
They could not flee; their jailer had but left the door ajar in
mockeryand stood behind it to watch them stealing out. At the
thresholdthey felt his pitiless gripe upon them. Forwhat other
dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable
as one's self!

But it would be no fair picture of Clifford's state of mind were
we to represent him as continually or prevailingly wretched. On


the contrarythere was no other man in the citywe are bold to
affirmof so much as half his yearswho enjoyed so many
lightsome and griefless moments as himself. He had no burden
of care upon him; there were none of those questions and
contingencies with the future to be settled which wear away all
other livesand render them not worth having by the very process
of providing for their support. In this respect he was a child
--a child for the whole term of his existencebe it long or short.
Indeedhis life seemed to be standing still at a period little
in advance of childhoodand to cluster all his reminiscences about
that epoch; just asafter the torpor of a heavy blowthe sufferer's
reviving consciousness goes back to a moment considerably behind
the accident that stupefied him. He sometimes told Phoebe and
Hepzibah his dreamsin which he invariably played the part of a
childor a very young man. So vivid were theyin his relation
of themthat he once held a dispute with his sister as to the
particular figure or print of a chintz morning-dress which he
had seen their mother wearin the dream of the preceding night.
Hepzibahpiquing herself on a woman's accuracy in such matters
held it to be slightly different from what Clifford described;
butproducing the very gown from an old trunkit proved to be
identical with his remembrance of it. Had Cliffordevery time
that he emerged out of dreams so lifelikeundergone the torture
of transformation from a boy into an old and broken manthe
daily recurrence of the shock would have been too much to bear.
It would have caused an acute agony to thrill from the morning
twilightall the day throughuntil bedtime; and even then would
have mingled a dullinscrutable pain and pallid hue of misfortune
with the visionary bloom and adolescence of his slumber. But the
nightly moonshine interwove itself with the morning mistand
enveloped him as in a robewhich he hugged about his personand
seldom let realities pierce through; he was not often quite awake
but slept open-eyedand perhaps fancied himself most dreaming then.

Thuslingering always so near his childhoodhe had sympathies
with childrenand kept his heart the fresher therebylike a
reservoir into which rivulets were pouring not far from the
fountain-head. Though preventedby a subtile sense of propriety
from desiring to associate with themhe loved few things better
than to look out of the arched window and see a little girl driving
her hoop along the sidewalkor schoolboys at a game of ball.
Their voicesalsowere very pleasant to himheard at a distance
all swarming and intermingling together as flies do in a sunny room.

Clifford woulddoubtlesshave been glad to share their sports.
One afternoon he was seized with an irresistible desire to blow
soap-bubbles; an amusementas Hepzibah told Phoebe apartthat
had been a favorite one with her brother when they were both
children. Behold himthereforeat the arched windowwith an
earthen pipe in his mouth! Behold himwith his gray hairand
a wanunreal smile over his countenancewhere still hovered a
beautiful gracewhich his worst enemy must have acknowledged
to be spiritual and immortalsince it had survived so long!
Behold himscattering airy spheres abroad from the window into
the street! Little impalpable worlds were those soap-bubbles
with the big world depictedin hues bright as imaginationon the
nothing of their surface. It was curious to see how the passers-by
regarded these brilliant fantasiesas they came floating down
and made the dull atmosphere imaginative about them. Some stopped
to gazeand perhapscarried a pleasant recollection of the
bubbles onward as far as the street-corner; some looked angrily
upwardas if poor Clifford wronged them by setting an image of
beauty afloat so near their dusty pathway. A great many put out
their fingers or their walking-sticks to touchwithal; and were


perversely gratifiedno doubtwhen the bubblewith all its
pictured earth and sky scenevanished as if it had never been.

At lengthjust as an elderly gentleman of very dignified presence
happened to be passinga large bubble sailed majestically down
and burst right against his nose! He looked up--at first with a
sternkeen glancewhich penetrated at once into the obscurity
behind the arched window--then with a smile which might be
conceived as diffusing a dog-day sultriness for the space of
several yards about him.

Aha, Cousin Clifford!cried Judge Pyncheon. "What! still
blowing soap-bubbles!"

The tone seemed as if meant to be kind and soothingbut yet had
a bitterness of sarcasm in it. As for Cliffordan absolute palsy
of fear came over him. Apart from any definite cause of dread
which his past experience might have given himhe felt that native
and original horror of the excellent Judge which is proper to a
weakdelicateand apprehensive character in the presence of
massive strength. Strength is incomprehensible by weaknessand
thereforethe more terrible. There is no greater bugbear than
a strong-willed relative in the circle of his own connections.

XII The Daguerreotypist

IT must not be supposed that the life of a personage naturally so
active as Phoebe could be wholly confined within the precincts
of the old Pyncheon House. Clifford's demands upon her time
were usually satisfiedin those long daysconsiderably earlier
than sunset. Quiet as his daily existence seemedit nevertheless
drained all the resources by which he lived. It was not physical
exercise that overwearied him--for except that he sometimes
wrought a little with a hoeor paced the garden-walkorin
rainy weathertraversed a large unoccupied room--it was his
tendency to remain only too quiescentas regarded any toil of
the limbs and muscles. Buteither there was a smouldering fire
within him that consumed his vital energyor the monotony that
would have dragged itself with benumbing effect over a mind
differently situated was no monotony to Clifford. Possiblyhe
was in a state of second growth and recoveryand was constantly
assimilating nutriment for his spirit and intellect from sights
soundsand events which passed as a perfect void to persons more
practised with the world. As all is activity and vicissitude to
the new mind of a childso might it belikewiseto a mind that
had undergone a kind of new creationafter its long-suspended life.

Be the cause what it mightClifford commonly retired to rest
thoroughly exhaustedwhile the sunbeams were still melting
through his window-curtainsor were thrown with late lustre
on the chamber wall. And while he thus slept earlyas other
children doand dreamed of childhoodPhoebe was free to
follow her own tastes for the remainder of the day and evening.

This was a freedom essential to the health even of a character
so little susceptible of morbid influences as that of Phoebe.
The old houseas we have already saidhad both the dry-rot
and the damp-rot in its walls; it was not good to breathe no other
atmosphere than that. Hepzibahthough she had her valuable and
redeeming traitshad grown to be a kind of lunatic by imprisoning


herself so long in one placewith no other company than a single
series of ideasand but one affectionand one bitter sense of
wrong. Cliffordthe reader may perhaps imaginewas too inert
to operate morally on his fellow-creatureshowever intimate and
exclusive their relations with him. But the sympathy or magnetism
among human beings is more subtile and universal than we think;
it existsindeedamong different classes of organized lifeand
vibrates from one to another. A flowerfor instanceas Phoebe
herself observedalways began to droop sooner in Clifford's hand
or Hepzibah'sthan in her own; and by the same lawconverting
her whole daily life into a flower fragrance for these two sickly
spiritsthe blooming girl must inevitably droop and fade much sooner
than if worn on a younger and happier breast. Unless she had now
and then indulged her brisk impulsesand breathed rural air in a
suburban walkor ocean breezes along the shore--had occasionally
obeyed the impulse of Naturein New England girlsby attending
a metaphysical or philosophical lectureor viewing a seven-mile
panoramaor listening to a concert--had gone shopping about the
cityransacking entire depots of splendid merchandiseand bringing
home a ribbon--had employedlikewisea little time to read the
Bible in her chamberand had stolen a little more to think of her
mother and her native place--unless for such moral medicines as the
abovewe should soon have beheld our poor Phoebe grow thin and put
on a bleachedunwholesome aspectand assume strangeshy ways
prophetic of old-maidenhood and a cheerless future.

Even as it wasa change grew visible; a change partly to be
regrettedalthough whatever charm it infringed upon was repaired
by anotherperhaps more precious. She was not so constantly
gaybut had her moods of thoughtwhich Cliffordon the whole
liked better than her former phase of unmingled cheerfulness;
because now she understood him better and more delicately
and sometimes even interpreted him to himself. Her eyes looked
largerand darkerand deeper; so deepat some silent moments
that they seemed like Artesian wellsdowndowninto the
infinite. She was less girlish than when we first beheld her
alighting from the omnibus; less girlishbut more a woman.

The only youthful mind with which Phoebe had an opportunity
of frequent intercourse was that of the daguerreotypist.
Inevitablyby the pressure of the seclusion about themthey had
been brought into habits of some familiarity. Had they met under
different circumstancesneither of these young persons would
have been likely to bestow much thought upon the otherunless
indeedtheir extreme dissimilarity should have proved a principle
of mutual attraction. Bothit is truewere characters proper
to New England lifeand possessing a common groundtherefore
in their more external developments; but as unlikein their
respective interiorsas if their native climes had been at
world-wide distance. During the early part of their acquaintance
Phoebe had held back rather more than was customary with her frank
and simple manners from Holgrave's not very marked advances.
Nor was she yet satisfied that she knew him wellalthough they
almost daily met and talked togetherin a kindfriendlyand what
seemed to be a familiar way.

The artistin a desultory mannerhad imparted to Phoebe
something of his history. Young as he wasand had his career
terminated at the point already attainedthere had been enough
of incident to fillvery creditablyan autobiographic volume.
A romance on the plan of Gil Blasadapted to American society
and mannerswould cease to be a romance. The experience of
many individuals among uswho think it hardly worth the telling
would equal the vicissitudes of the Spaniard's earlier life; while


their ultimate successor the point whither they tendmay be
incomparably higher than any that a novelist would imagine for
his hero. Holgraveas he told Phoebe somewhat proudlycould
not boast of his originunless as being exceedingly humblenor
of his educationexcept that it had been the scantiest possible
and obtained by a few winter-months' attendance at a district
school. Left early to his own guidancehe had begun to be
self-dependent while yet a boy; and it was a condition aptly
suited to his natural force of will. Though now but twenty-two
years old (lacking some monthswhich are years in such a life)
he had already beenfirsta country schoolmaster; next
a salesman in a country store; andeither at the same time or
afterwardsthe political editor of a country newspaper. He had
subsequently travelled New England and the Middle Statesas a
peddlerin the employment of a Connecticut manufactory of
cologne-water and other essences. In an episodical way he had
studied and practised dentistryand with very flattering success
especially in many of the factory-towns along our inland streams.
As a supernumerary officialof some kind or otheraboard a
packet-shiphe had visited Europeand found meansbefore his
returnto see Italyand part of France and Germany. At a later
period he had spent some months in a community of Fourierists.
Still more recently he had been a public lecturer on Mesmerism
for which science (as he assured Phoebeandindeedsatisfactorily
provedby putting Chanticleerwho happened to be scratching near
byto sleep) he had very remarkable endowments.

His present phaseas a daguerreotypistwas of no more importance
in his own viewnor likely to be more permanentthan any of the
preceding ones. It had been taken up with the careless alacrity of
an adventurerwho had his bread to earn. It would be thrown aside
as carelesslywhenever he should choose to earn his bread by some
other equally digressive means. But what was most remarkableand
perhapsshowed a more than common poise in the young manwas the
fact thatamid all these personal vicissitudeshe had never lost
his identity. Homeless as he had been--continually changing his
whereaboutandthereforeresponsible neither to public opinion
nor to individuals--putting off one exteriorand snatching up
anotherto be soon shifted for a third--he had never violated
the innermost manbut had carried his conscience along with him.
It was impossible to know Holgrave without recognizing this to be
the fact. Hepzibah had seen it. Phoebe soon saw it likewise
and gave him the sort of confidence which such a certainty inspires.
She was startled. howeverand sometimes repelled--not by any doubt
of his integrity to whatever law he acknowledgedbut by a sense that
his law differed from her own. He made her uneasyand seemed to
unsettle everything around herby his lack of reverence for what
was fixedunlessat a moment's warningit could establish its
right to hold its ground.

Thenmoreovershe scarcely thought him affectionate in his nature.
He was too calm and cool an observer. Phoebe felt his eyeoften;
his heartseldom or never. He took a certain kind of interest in
Hepzibah and her brotherand Phoebe herself. He studied them
attentivelyand allowed no slightest circumstance of their
individualities to escape him. He was ready to do them whatever
good he might; butafter allhe never exactly made common cause
with themnor gave any reliable evidence that he loved them better
in proportion as he knew them more. In his relations with them
he seemed to be in quest of mental foodnot heart-sustenance.
Phoebe could not conceive what interested him so much in her friends
and herselfintellectuallysince he cared nothing for themor
comparativelyso littleas objects of human affection.


Alwaysin his interviews with Phoebethe artist made especial
inquiry as to the welfare of Cliffordwhomexcept at the Sunday
festivalhe seldom saw.

Does he still seem happy?he asked one day.

As happy as a child,answered Phoebe; "but--like a childtoo
--very easily disturbed."

How disturbed?inquired Holgrave. "By things withoutor by
thoughts within?"

I cannot see his thoughts! How should I?replied Phoebe with
simple piquancy. "Very often his humor changes without any
reason that can be guessed atjust as a cloud comes over the
sun. Latterlysince I have begun to know him betterI feel it
to be not quite right to look closely into his moods. He has had
such a great sorrowthat his heart is made all solemn and sacred
by it. When he is cheerful--when the sun shines into his mind
--then I venture to peep injust as far as the light reaches
but no further. It is holy ground where the shadow falls!"

How prettily you express this sentiment!said the artist. "I can
understand the feelingwithout possessing it. Had I your opportunities
no scruples would prevent me from fathoming Clifford to the full depth
of my plummet-line!"

How strange that you should wish it!remarked Phoebe
involuntarily. "What is Cousin Clifford to you?"

Oh, nothing,--of course, nothing!answered Holgrave with a smile.
Only this is such an odd and incomprehensible world! The more I look
at it, the more it puzzles me, and I begin to suspect that a man's
bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom. Men and women, and children,
too, are such strange creatures, that one never can be certain that he
really knows them; nor ever guess what they have been from what he
sees them to be now. Judge Pyncheon! Clifford! What a complex riddle
--a complexity of complexities--do they present! It requires intuitiv
e sympathy, like a young girl's, to solve it. A mere observer, like
myself (who never have any intuitions, and am, at best, only subtile
and acute), is pretty certain to go astray.

The artist now turned the conversation to themes less dark than
that which they had touched upon. Phoebe and he were young
together; nor had Holgravein his premature experience of life
wasted entirely that beautiful spirit of youthwhichgushing
forth from one small heart and fancymay diffuse itself over the
universemaking it all as bright as on the first day of creation.
Man's own youth is the world's youth; at leasthe feels as if it
wereand imagines that the earth's granite substance is something
not yet hardenedand which he can mould into whatever shape he
likes. So it was with Holgrave. He could talk sagely about the
world's old agebut never actually believed what he said; he was
a young man stilland therefore looked upon the world--that
gray-bearded and wrinkled profligatedecrepitwithout being
venerable--as a tender striplingcapable of being improved into
all that it ought to bebut scarcely yet had shown the remotest
promise of becoming. He had that senseor inward prophecy
--which a young man had better never have been born than not
to haveand a mature man had better die at once than utterly
to relinquish--that we are not doomed to creep on forever in
the old bad waybut thatthis very nowthere are the harbingers
abroad of a golden erato be accomplished in his own lifetime.
It seemed to Holgrave--as doubtless it has seemed to the hopeful


of every century since the epoch of Adam's grandchildren--that
in this agemore than ever beforethe moss-grown and rotten Past
is to be torn downand lifeless institutions to be thrust out of
the wayand their dead corpses buriedand everything to begin anew.

As to the main point--may we never live to doubt it!--as to the
better centuries that are comingthe artist was surely right.
His error lay in supposing that this agemore than any past or
future oneis destined to see the tattered garments of Antiquity
exchanged for a new suitinstead of gradually renewing themselves
by patchwork; in applying his own little life-span as the measure
of an interminable achievement; andmore than allin fancying
that it mattered anything to the great end in view whether he
himself should contend for it or against it. Yet it was well for
him to think so. This enthusiasminfusing itself through the
calmness of his characterand thus taking an aspect of settled
thought and wisdomwould serve to keep his youth pureand
make his aspirations high. And whenwith the years settling
down more weightily upon himhis early faith should be modified
by inevitable experienceit would be with no harsh and sudden
revolution of his sentiments. He would still have faith in man's
brightening destinyand perhaps love him all the betteras he
should recognize his helplessness in his own behalf; and the
haughty faithwith which he began lifewould be well bartered
for a far humbler one at its closein discerning that man's best
directed effort accomplishes a kind of dreamwhile God is the
sole worker of realities.

Holgrave had read very littleand that little in passing through
the thoroughfare of lifewhere the mystic language of his books
was necessarily mixed up with the babble of the multitudeso
that both one and the other were apt to lose any sense that might
have been properly their own. He considered himself a thinker
and was certainly of a thoughtful turnbutwith his own path
to discoverhad perhaps hardly yet reached the point where an
educated man begins to think. The true value of his character
lay in that deep consciousness of inward strengthwhich made
all his past vicissitudes seem merely like a change of garments;
in that enthusiasmso quiet that he scarcely knew of its existence
but which gave a warmth to everything that he laid his hand on;
in that personal ambitionhidden--from his own as well as other
eyes--among his more generous impulsesbut in which lurked a
certain efficacythat might solidify him from a theorist into
the champion of some practicable cause. Altogether in his culture
and want of culture--in his crudewildand misty philosophy
and the practical experience that counteracted some of its
tendencies; in his magnanimous zeal for man's welfareand his
recklessness of whatever the ages had established in man's behalf;
in his faithand in his infidelity. in what he hadand in what
he lacked--the artist might fitly enough stand forth as the
representative of many compeers in his native land.

His career it would be difficult to prefigure. There appeared to
be qualities in Holgravesuch asin a country where everything
is free to the hand that can grasp itcould hardly fail to put
some of the world's prizes within his reach. But these matters
are delightfully uncertain. At almost every step in lifewe meet
with young men of just about Holgrave's agefor whom we anticipate
wonderful thingsbut of whomeven after much and careful inquiry
we never happen to hear another word. The effervescence of youth
and passionand the fresh gloss of the intellect and imagination
endow them with a false brilliancywhich makes fools of themselves
and other people. Like certain chintzescalicoesand ginghams
they show finely in their first newnessbut cannot stand the sun


and rainand assume a very sober aspect after washing-day.

But our business is with Holgrave as we find him on this particular
afternoonand in the arbor of the Pyncheon garden. In that point
of viewit was a pleasant sight to behold this young manwith so
much faith in himselfand so fair an appearance of admirable
powers--so little harmedtooby the many tests that had tried
his metal--it was pleasant to see him in his kindly intercourse
with Phoebe. Her thought had scarcely done him justice when it
pronounced him cold; orif sohe had grown warmer now. Without
such purpose on her partand unconsciously on hisshe made the
House of the Seven Gables like a home to himand the garden a
familiar precinct. With the insight on which he prided himself
he fancied that he could look through Phoebeand all around her
and could read her off like a page of a child's story-book. But
these transparent natures are often deceptive in their depth; those
pebbles at the bottom of the fountain are farther from us than we
think. Thus the artistwhatever he might judge of Phoebe's capacity
was beguiledby some silent charm of hersto talk freely of what
he dreamed of doing in the world. He poured himself out as to
another self. Very possiblyhe forgot Phoebe while he talked to
herand was moved only by the inevitable tendency of thoughtwhen
rendered sympathetic by enthusiasm and emotionto flow into the
first safe reservoir which it finds. Buthad you peeped at them
through the chinks of the garden-fencethe young man's earnestness
and heightened color might have led you to suppose that he was making
love to the young girl!

At lengthsomething was said by Holgrave that made it apposite
for Phoebe to inquire what had first brought him acquainted with
her cousin Hepzibahand why he now chose to lodge in the desolate
old Pyncheon House. Without directly answering herhe turned
from the Futurewhich had heretofore been the theme of his
discourseand began to speak of the influences of the Past.
One subjectindeedis but the reverberation of the other.

Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?cried hekeeping up
the earnest tone of his preceding conversation. "It lies upon the
Present like a giant's dead body In factthe case is just as if a
young giant were compelled to waste all his strength in carrying
about the corpse of the old gianthis grandfatherwho died a
long while agoand only needs to be decently buried. Just think
a momentand it will startle you to see what slaves we are to
bygone times--to Deathif we give the matter the right word!"

But I do not see it,observed Phoebe.

For example, then,continued Holgrave: "a dead manif he
happens to have made a willdisposes of wealth no longer his own;
orif he die intestateit is distributed in accordance with the
notions of men much longer dead than he. A dead man sits on all
our judgment-seats; and living judges do but search out and repeat
his decisions. We read in dead men's books! We laugh at dead men's
jokesand cry at dead men's pathos! We are sick of dead men's
diseasesphysical and moraland die of the same remedies with
which dead doctors killed their patients! We worship the living
Deity according to dead men's forms and creeds. Whatever we seek
to doof our own free motiona dead man's icy hand obstructs us!
Turn our eyes to what point we maya dead man's whiteimmitigable
face encounters themand freezes our very heart! And we must be
dead ourselves before we can begin to have our proper influence
on our own worldwhich will then be no longer our worldbut the
world of another generationwith which we shall have no shadow of
a right to interfere. I ought to have saidtoothat we live in


dead men's houses; asfor instancein this of the Seven Gables!"

And why not,said Phoebeso long as we can be comfortable in them?

But we shall live to see the day, I trust,went on the artist
when no man shall build his house for posterity. Why should
he? He might just as reasonably order a durable suit of clothes,
--leather, or guttapercha, or whatever else lasts longest,
--so that his great-grandchildren should have the benefit of them,
and cut precisely the same figure in the world that he himself does.
If each generation were allowed and expected to build its own houses,
that single change, comparatively unimportant in itself, would imply
almost every reform which society is now suffering for. I doubt
whether even our public edifices--our capitols, state-houses,
court-houses, city-hall, and churches,--ought to be built of such
permanent materials as stone or brick. It were better that they
should crumble to ruin once in twenty years, or thereabouts, as a
hint to the people to examine into and reform the institutions which
they symbolize.

How you hate everything old!said Phoebe in dismay. "It makes
me dizzy to think of such a shifting world!"

I certainly love nothing mouldy,answered Holgrave. "Nowthis
old Pyncheon House! Is it a wholesome place to live inwith its
black shinglesand the green moss that shows how damp they are?
--its darklow-studded rooms--its grime and sordidnesswhich are
the crystallization on its walls of the human breaththat has been
drawn and exhaled here in discontent and anguish? The house ought
to be purified with fire--purified till only its ashes remain!"

Then why do you live in it?asked Phoebea little piqued.

Oh, I am pursuing my studies here; not in books, however,
replied Holgrave. "The housein my viewis expressive of that
odious and abominable Pastwith all its bad influencesagainst
which I have just been declaiming. I dwell in it for a while
that I may know the better how to hate it. By the byedid you
ever hear the story of Maulethe wizardand what happened
between him and your immeasurably great-grandfather?"

Yes, indeed!said Phoebe; "I heard it long agofrom my father
and two or three times from my cousin Hepzibahin the month
that I have been here. She seems to think that all the calamities
of the Pyncheons began from that quarrel with the wizardas you
call him. And youMr. Holgrave look as if you thought so too!
How singular that you should believe what is so very absurdwhen
you reject many things that are a great deal worthier of credit!"

I do believe it,said the artist seriously; "not as a superstition
howeverbut as proved by unquestionable factsand as exemplifying
a theory. Nowsee: under those seven gablesat which we now look
up--and which old Colonel Pyncheon meant to be the house of his
descendantsin prosperity and happinessdown to an epoch far beyond
the present--under that roofthrough a portion of three centuries
there has been perpetual remorse of consciencea constantly defeated
hopestrife amongst kindredvarious miserya strange form of death
dark suspicionunspeakable disgrace--allor most of which calamity
I have the means of tracing to the old Puritan's inordinate desire to
plant and endow a family. To plant a family! This idea is at the
bottom of most of the wrong and mischief which men do. The truth is
thatonce in every half-centuryat longesta family should be
merged into the greatobscure mass of humanityand forget all about
its ancestors. Human bloodin order to keep its freshnessshould


run in hidden streamsas the water of an aqueduct is conveyed in
subterranean pipes. In the family existence of these Pyncheons
for instance--forgive mePhoebe. but Icannot think of you as
one of them--in their brief New England pedigreethere has been
time enough to infect them all with one kind of lunacy or another."

You speak very unceremoniously of my kindred,said Phoebe
debating with herself whether she ought to take offence.

I speak true thoughts to a true mind!answered Holgravewith a
vehemence which Phoebe had not before witnessed in him. "The truth
is as I say! Furthermorethe original perpetrator and father of
this mischief appears to have perpetuated himselfand still walks
the street--at leasthis very imagein mind and body--with the
fairest prospect of transmitting to posterity as rich and as wretched
an inheritance as he has received! Do you remember the daguerreotype
and its resemblance to the old portrait?"

How strangely in earnest you are!exclaimed Phoebelooking at
him with surprise and perplexity; half alarmed and partly inclined
to laugh. "You talk of the lunacy of the Pyncheons; is it contagious?"

I understand you!said the artistcoloring and laughing.
I believe I am a little mad. This subject has taken hold of
my mind with the strangest tenacity of clutch since I have lodged
in yonder old gable. As one method of throwing it off, I have
put an incident of the Pyncheon family history, with which I
happen to be acquainted, into the form of a legend, and mean
to publish it in a magazine.

Do you write for the magazines?inquired Phoebe.

Is it possible you did not know it?cried Holgrave. "Wellsuch
is literary fame! Yes. Miss Phoebe Pyncheonamong the multitude
of my marvellous gifts I have that of writing stories; and my name
has figuredI can assure youon the covers of Graham and Godey
making as respectable an appearancefor aught I could seeas any
of the canonized bead-roll with which it was associated. In the
humorous lineI am thought to have a very pretty way with me;
and as for pathosI am as provocative of tears as an onion.
But shall I read you my story?"

Yes, if it is not very long,said Phoebe--and added laughingly
--"nor very dull."

As this latter point was one which the daguerreotypist could not
decide for himselfhe forthwith produced his roll of manuscript
andwhile the late sunbeams gilded the seven gablesbegan to read.

XIII Alice Pyncheon

THERE was a message broughtone dayfrom the worshipful Gervayse
Pyncheon to young Matthew Maulethe carpenterdesiring his immediate
presence at the House of the Seven Gables.

And what does your master want with me?said the carpenter to
Mr. Pyncheon's black servant. "Does the house need any repair?
Well it mayby this time; and no blame to my father who built
itneither! I was reading the old Colonel's tombstoneno longer
ago than last Sabbath; andreckoning from that datethe house


has stood seven-and-thirty years. No wonder if there should be
a job to do on the roof."

Don't know what massa wants,answered Scipio. "The house is
a berry good houseand old Colonel Pyncheon think so tooI
reckon;--else why the old man haunt it soand frighten a poor
niggaAs he does?"

Well, well, friend Scipio; let your master know that I'm coming,
said the carpenter with a laugh. "For a fairworkmanlike job
he'll find me his man. And so the house is hauntedis it? It will
take a tighter workman than I am to keep the spirits out of the
Seven Gables. Even if the Colonel would be quiet he added,
muttering to himself, my old grandfatherthe wizardwill be pretty
sure to stick to the Pyncheons as long as their walls hold together."

What's that you mutter to yourself, Matthew Maule?asked
Scipio. "And what for do you look so black at me?"

No matter, darky.said the carpenter. "Do you think nobody
is to look black but yourself? Go tell your master I'm coming;
and if you happen to see Mistress Alicehis daughtergive Matthew
Maule's humble respects to her. She has brought a fair face from
Italy--fairand gentleand proud--has that same Alice Pyncheon!"

He talk of Mistress Alice!cried Scipioas he returned from his
errand. "The low carpenter-man! He no business so much as to look
at her a great way off!"

This young Matthew Maulethe carpenterit must be observed
was a person little understoodand not very generally liked
in the town where he resided; not that anything could be alleged
against his integrityor his skill and diligence in the handicraft
which he exercised. The aversion (as it might justly be called)
with which many persons regarded him was partly the result of
his own character and deportmentand partly an inheritance.

He was the grandson of a former Matthew Mauleone of the early
settlers of the townand who had been a famous and terrible
wizard in his day. This old reprobate was one of the sufferers
when Cotton Matherand his brother ministersand the learned
judgesand other wise menand Sir William Phippsthe sagacious
governormade such laudable efforts to weaken the great enemy
of soulsby sending a multitude of his adherents up the rocky
pathway of Gallows Hill. Since those daysno doubtit had
grown to be suspected thatin consequence of an unfortunate
overdoing of a work praiseworthy in itselfthe proceedings
against the witches had proved far less acceptable to the
Beneficent Father than to that very Arch Enemy whom they were
intended to distress and utterly overwhelm. It is not the less
certainhoweverthat awe and terror brooded over the memories
of those who died for this horrible crime of witchcraft. Their
gravesin the crevices of the rockswere supposed to be incapable
of retaining the occupants who had been so hastily thrust into them.
Old Matthew Mauleespeciallywas known to have as little hesitation
or difficulty in rising out of his grave as an ordinary man in
getting out of bedand was as often seen at midnight as living
people at noonday. This pestilent wizard (in whom his just punishment
seemed to have wrought no manner of amendment) had an inveterate
habit of haunting a certain mansionstyled the House of the
Seven Gablesagainst the owner of which he pretended to hold
an unsettled claim for ground-rent. The ghostit appears--with
the pertinacity which was one of his distinguishing characteristics
while alive--insisted that he was the rightful proprietor of the


site upon which the house stood. His terms werethat either the
aforesaid ground-rentfrom the day when the cellar began to be dug
should be paid downor the mansion itself given up; else hethe
ghostly creditorwould have his finger in all the affairs of the
Pyncheonsand make everything go wrong with themthough it should
be a thousand years after his death. It was a wild storyperhaps
but seemed not altogether so incredible to those who could remember
what an inflexibly obstinate old fellow this wizard Maule had been.

Nowthe wizard's grandsonthe young Matthew Maule of our story
was popularly supposed to have inherited some of his ancestor's
questionable traits. It is wonderful how many absurdities were
promulgated in reference to the young man. He was fabledfor example
to have a strange power of getting into people's dreamsand regulating
matters there according to his own fancypretty much like the
stage-manager of a theatre. There was a great deal of talk among
the neighborsparticularly the petticoated onesabout what they
called the witchcraft of Maule's eye. Some said that he could look
into people's minds; othersthatby the marvellous power of this
eyehe could draw people into his own mindor send themif he
pleasedto do errands to his grandfatherin the spiritual world;
othersagainthat it was what is termed an Evil Eyeand possessed
the valuable faculty of blighting cornand drying children into
mummies with the heartburn. Butafter allwhat worked most to the
young carpenter's disadvantage wasfirstthe reserve and sternness
of his natural dispositionand nextthe fact of his not being a
church-communicantand the suspicion of his holding heretical tenets
in matters of religion and polity.

After receiving Mr. Pyncheon's messagethe carpenter merely
tarried to finish a small jobwhich he happened to have in hand
and then took his way towards the House of the Seven Gables.
This noted edificethough its style might be getting a little out
of fashionwas still as respectable a family residence as that
of any gentleman in town. The present ownerGervayse Pyncheon
was said to have contracted a dislike to the housein consequence
of a shock to his sensibilityin early childhoodfrom the sudden
death of his grandfather. In the very act of running to climb
Colonel Pyncheon's kneethe boy had discovered the old Puritan
to be a corpse. On arriving at manhoodMr. Pyncheon had visited
Englandwhere he married a lady of fortuneand had subsequently
spent many yearspartly in the mother countryand partly in various
cities on the continent of Europe. During this periodthe family
mansion had been consigned to the charge of a kinsmanwho was
allowed to make it his home for the time beingin consideration
of keeping the premises in thorough repair. So faithfully had this
contract been fulfilledthat nowas the carpenter approached the
househis practised eye could detect nothing to criticise in its
condition. The peaks of the seven gables rose up sharply; the shingled
roof looked thoroughly water-tight; and the glittering plaster-work
entirely covered the exterior wallsand sparkled in the October sun
as if it had been new only a week ago.

The house had that pleasant aspect of life which is like the
cheery expression of comfortable activity in the human countenance.
You could seeat oncethat there was the stir of a large family
within it. A huge load of oak-wood was passing through the gateway
towards the outbuildings in the rear; the fat cook--or probably it
might be the housekeeper--stood at the side doorbargaining for
some turkeys and poultry which a countryman had brought for sale.
Now and then a maid-servantneatly dressedand now the shining
sable face of a slavemight be seen bustling across the windows
in the lower part of the house. At an open window of a room in the
second storyhanging over some pots of beautiful and delicate


flowers--exoticsbut which had never known a more genial sunshine
than that of the New England autumn--was the figure of a young
ladyan exoticlike the flowersand beautiful and delicate as
they. Her presence imparted an indescribable grace and faint witchery
to the whole edifice. In other respectsit was a substantial
jolly-looking mansionand seemed fit to be the residence of a
patriarchwho might establish his own headquarters in the front
gable and assign one of the remainder to each of his six children
while the great chimney in the centre should symbolize the old
fellow's hospitable heartwhich kept them all warmand made a
great whole of the seven smaller ones.

There was a vertical sundial on the front gable; and as the
carpenter passed beneath ithe looked up and noted the hour.

Three o'clock!said he to himself. "My father told me that dial
was put up only an hour before the old Colonel's death. How
truly it has kept time these seven-and-thirty years past! The
shadow creeps and creepsand is always looking over the
shoulder of the sunshine!"

It might have befitted a craftsmanlike Matthew Mauleon being
sent for to a gentleman's houseto go to the back doorwhere
servants and work-people were usually admitted; or at least to
the side entrancewhere the better class of tradesmen made
application. But the carpenter had a great deal of pride and
stiffness in his nature; andat this momentmoreoverhis heart
was bitter with the sense of hereditary wrongbecause he
considered the great Pyncheon House to be standing on soil
which should have been his own. On this very sitebeside
a spring of delicious waterhis grandfather had felled the
pine-trees and built a cottagein which children had been born
to him; and it was only from a dead man's stiffened fingers that
Colonel Pyncheon had wrested away the title-deeds. So young
Maule went straight to the principal entrancebeneath a portal
of carved oakand gave such a peal of the iron knocker that you
would have imagined the stern old wizard himself to be standing
at the threshold.

Black Scipio answered the summons in a prodigioushurry; but showed
the whites of his eyes in amazement on beholding only the carpenter.

Lord-a-mercy! what a great man he be, this carpenter fellow.
mumbled Scipiodown in his throat. "Anybody think he beat on
the door with his biggest hammer!"

Here I am!said Maule sternly. "Show me the way to your
master's parlor."

As he stept into the housea note of sweet and melancholy music
thrilled and vibrated along the passage-wayproceeding from one
of the rooms above stairs. It was the harpsichord which Alice Pyncheon
had brought with her from beyond the sea. The fair Alice bestowed most
of her maiden leisure between flowers and musicalthough the former
were apt to droopand the melodies were often sad. She was of
foreign educationand could not take kindly to the New England modes
of lifein which nothing beautiful had ever been developed.

As Mr. Pyncheon had been impatiently awaiting Maule's arrival
black Scipioof courselost no time in ushering the carpenter
into his master's presence. The room in which this gentleman sat
was a parlor of moderate sizelooking out upon the garden of
the houseand having its windows partly shadowed by the foliage
of fruit-trees. It was Mr. Pyncheon's peculiar apartment


and was provided with furniturein an elegant and costly style
principally from Paris; the floor (which was unusual at that day)
being covered with a carpetso skilfully and richly wrought that
it seemed to glow as with living flowers. In one corner stood a
marble womanto whom her own beauty was the sole and
sufficient garment. Some pictures--that looked oldand had a
mellow tinge diffused through all their artful splendor--hung on
the walls. Near the fireplace was a large and very beautiful
cabinet of ebonyinlaid with ivory; a piece of antique furniture
which Mr. Pyncheon had bought in Veniceand which he used
as the treasure-place for medalsancient coinsand whatever
small and valuable curiosities he had picked up on his travels.
Through all this variety of decorationhoweverthe room showed
its original characteristics; its low studits cross-beamits
chimney-piecewith the old-fashioned Dutch tiles; so that it was
the emblem of a mind industriously stored with foreign ideas
and elaborated into artificial refinementbut neither larger
norin its proper selfmore elegant than before.

There were two objects that appeared rather out of place in this
very handsomely furnished room. One was a large mapor
surveyor's planof a tract of landwhich looked as if it had
been drawn a good many years agoand was now dingy with smoke
and soiledhere and therewith the touch of fingers. The other
was a portrait of a stern old manin a Puritan garbpainted
roughlybut with a bold effectand a remarkably strong
expression of character.

At a small tablebefore a fire of English sea-coalsat Mr.
Pyncheonsipping coffeewhich had grown to be a very favorite
beverage with him in France. He was a middle-aged and really
handsome manwith a wig flowing down upon his shoulders; his coat
was of blue velvetwith lace on the borders and at the button-holes;
and the firelight glistened on the spacious breadth of his waistcoat
which was flowered all over with gold. On the entrance of Scipio
ushering in the carpenterMr. Pyncheon turned partly roundbut
resumed his former positionand proceeded deliberately to finish
his cup of coffeewithout immediate notice of the guest whom he
had summoned to his presence. It was not that he intended any
rudeness or improper neglect--whichindeedhe would have
blushed to be guilty of--but it never occurred to him that a
person in Maule's station had a claim on his courtesyor would
trouble himself about it one way or the other.

The carpenterhoweverstepped at once to the hearthand turned
himself aboutso as to look Mr. Pyncheon in the face.

You sent for me,said he. "Be pleased to explain your business
that I may go back to my own affairs."

Ah! excuse me,said Mr. Pyncheon quietly. "I did not mean to
tax your time without a recompense. Your nameI thinkis Maule
--Thomas or Matthew Maule--a son or grandson of the builder
of this house?"

Matthew Maule,replied the carpenter--"son of him who built
the house--grandson of the rightful proprietor of the soil."

I know the dispute to which you allude,observed Mr. Pyncheon
with undisturbed equanimity. "I am well aware that my grandfather
was compelled to resort to a suit at lawin order to establish
his claim to the foundation-site of this edifice. We will not
if you pleaserenew the discussion. The matter was settled at the
timeand by the competent authorities--equitablyit is to be


presumed--andat all eventsirrevocably. Yetsingularly enough
there is an incidental reference to this very subject in what I am
now about to say to you. And this same inveterate grudge--excuse
meI mean no offence--this irritabilitywhich you have just shown
is not entirely aside from the matter."

If you can find anything for your purpose, Mr. Pyncheon,said
the carpenterin a man's natural resentment for the wrongs done
to his blood, you are welcome to it.

I take you at your word, Goodman Maule,said the owner of
the Seven Gableswith a smileand will proceed to suggest a
mode in which your hereditary resentments--justifiable or
otherwise--may have had a bearing on my affairs. You have
heard, I suppose, that the Pyncheon family, ever since my
grandfather's days, have been prosecuting a still unsettled
claim to a very large extent of territory at the Eastward?

Often,replied Maule--and it is said that a smile came over his
face--"very often--from my father!"

This claim,continued Mr. Pyncheonafter pausing a moment
as if to consider what the carpenter's smile might mean
appeared to be on the very verge of a settlement and full
allowance, at the period of my grandfather's decease. It was well
known, to those in his confidence, that he anticipated neither
difficulty nor delay. Now, Colonel Pyncheon, I need hardly say,
was a practical man, well acquainted with public and private
business, and not at all the person to cherish ill-founded hopes,
or to attempt the following out of an impracticable scheme. It is
obvious to conclude, therefore, that he had grounds, not apparent
to his heirs, for his confident anticipation of success in the
matter of this Eastern claim. In a word, I believe,--and my legal
advisers coincide in the belief, which, moreover, is authorized,
to a certain extent, by the family traditions,--that my grandfather
was in possession of some deed, or other document, essential to
this claim, but which has since disappeared.

Very likely,said Matthew Maule--and againit is saidthere
was a dark smile on his face--"but what can a poor carpenter
have to do with the grand affairs of the Pyncheon family?"

Perhaps nothing,returned Mr. Pyncheonpossibly much!

Here ensued a great many words between Matthew Maule and
the proprietor of the Seven Gableson the subject which the
latter had thus broached. It seems (although Mr. Pyncheon had
some hesitation in referring to stories so exceedingly absurd in
their aspect) that the popular belief pointed to some mysterious
connection and dependenceexisting between the family of the
Maules and these vast unrealized possessions of the Pyncheons.
It was an ordinary saying that the old wizardhanged though he
washad obtained the best end of the bargain in his contest with
Colonel Pyncheon; inasmuch as he had got possession of the great
Eastern claimin exchange for an acre or two of garden-ground.
A very aged womanrecently deadhad often used the metaphorical
expressionin her fireside talkthat miles and miles of the
Pyncheon lands had been shovelled into Maule's grave; whichby
the byewas but a very shallow nookbetween two rocksnear
the summit of Gallows Hill. Againwhen the lawyers were making
inquiry for the missing documentit was a by-word that it would
never be foundunless in the wizard's skeleton hand. So much
weight had the shrewd lawyers assigned to these fablesthat (but
Mr. Pyncheon did not see fit to inform the carpenter of the fact)


they had secretly caused the wizard's grave to be searched. Nothing
was discoveredhoweverexcept thatunaccountablythe right hand
of the skeleton was gone.

Nowwhat was unquestionably importanta portion of these
popular rumors could be tracedthough rather doubtfully and
indistinctlyto chance words and obscure hints of the executed
wizard's sonand the father of this present Matthew Maule. And
here Mr. Pyncheon could bring an item of his own personal
evidence into play. Though but a child at the timehe either
remembered or fancied that Matthew's father had had some job
to perform on the day beforeor possibly the very morning of
the Colonel's deceasein the private room where he and the
carpenter were at this moment talking. Certain papers belonging
to Colonel Pyncheonas his grandson distinctly recollectedhad
been spread out on the table.

Matthew Maule understood the insinuated suspicion.

My father,he said--but still there was that dark smilemaking
a riddle of his countenance--"my father was an honester man
than the bloody old Colonel! Not to get his rights back again
would he have carried off one of those papers!"

I shall not bandy words with you,observed the foreign-bred
Mr. Pyncheonwith haughty composure. "Nor will it become me
to resent any rudeness towards either my grandfather or myself.
A gentlemanbefore seeking intercourse with a person of your
station and habitswill first consider whether the urgency of
the end may compensate for the disagreeableness of the means.
It does so in the present instance."

He then renewed the conversationand made great pecuniary
offers to the carpenterin case the latter should give information
leading to the discovery of the lost documentand the consequent
success of the Eastern claim. For a long time Matthew Maule is
said to have turned a cold ear to these propositions. At last
howeverwith a strange kind of laughhe inquired whether Mr.
Pyncheon would make over to him the old wizard's
homestead-groundtogether with the House of the Seven Gables
now standing on itin requital of the documentary evidence so
urgently required.

The wildchimney-corner legend (whichwithout copying all its
extravagancesmy narrative essentially follows) here gives an
account of some very strange behavior on the part of Colonel
Pyncheon's portrait. This pictureit must be understoodwas
supposed to be so intimately connected with the fate of the
houseand so magically built into its wallsthatif once it
should be removedthat very instant the whole edifice would
come thundering down in a heap of dusty ruin. All through the
foregoing conversation between Mr. Pyncheon and the carpenter
the portrait had been frowningclenching its fistand giving
many such proofs of excessive discomposurebut without
attracting the notice of either of the two colloquists. And
finallyat Matthew Maule's audacious suggestion of a transfer
of the seven-gabled structurethe ghostly portrait is averred to
have lost all patienceand to have shown itself on the point of
descending bodily from its frame. But such incredible incidents
are merely to be mentioned aside.

Give up this house!exclaimed Mr. Pyncheonin amazement at
the proposal. "Were I to do somy grandfather would not rest
quiet in his grave!"


He never has, if all stories are true,remarked the carpenter
composedly. "But that matter concerns his grandson more than it
does Matthew Maule. I have no other terms to propose."

Impossible as he at first thought it to comply with Maule's
conditionsstillon a second glanceMr. Pyncheon was of
opinion that they might at least be made matter of discussion.
He himself had no personal attachment for the housenor any
pleasant associations connected with his childish residence in it.
On the contraryafter seven-and-thirty yearsthe presence of his
dead grandfather seemed still to pervade itas on that morning
when the affrighted boy had beheld himwith so ghastly an
aspectstiffening in his chair. His long abode in foreign parts
moreoverand familiarity with many of the castles and ancestral
halls of Englandand the marble palaces of Italyhad caused him
to look contemptuously at the House of the Seven Gables
whether in point of splendor or convenience. It was a mansion
exceedingly inadequate to the style of living which it would be
incumbent on Mr. Pyncheon to supportafter realizing his
territorial rights. His steward might deign to occupy itbut never
certainlythe great landed proprietor himself. In the event of
successindeedit was his purpose to return to England; norto
say the truthwould he recently have quitted that more congenial
homehad not his own fortuneas well as his deceased wife's
begun to give symptoms of exhaustion. The Eastern claim
once fairly settledand put upon the firm basis of actual
possessionMr. Pyncheon's property--to be measured by miles
not acres--would be worth an earldomand would reasonably
entitle him to solicitor enable him to purchasethat elevated
dignity from the British monarch. Lord Pyncheon!--or the Earl of
Waldo!--how could such a magnate be expected to contract his
grandeur within the pitiful compass of seven shingled gables?

In shorton an enlarged view of the businessthe carpenter's
terms appeared so ridiculously easy that Mr. Pyncheon could
scarcely forbear laughing in his face. He was quite ashamed
after the foregoing reflectionsto propose any diminution of
so moderate a recompense for the immense service to be rendered.

I consent to your proposition, Maule,cried he." Put me in
possession of the document essential to establish my rights
and the House of the Seven Gables is your own!"

According to some versions of the storya regular contract to
the above effect was drawn up by a lawyerand signed and sealed
in the presence of witnesses. Others say that Matthew Maule was
contented with a private written agreementin which Mr. Pyncheon
pledged his honor and integrity to the fulfillment of the terms
concluded upon. The gentleman then ordered winewhich he and
the carpenter drank togetherin confirmation of their bargain.
During the whole preceding discussion and subsequent formalities
the old Puritan's portrait seems to have persisted in its shadowy
gestures of disapproval; but without effectexcept thatas Mr.
Pyncheon set down the emptied glasshe thought be beheld his
grandfather frown.

This sherry is too potent a wine for me; it has affected my brain
already,he observedafter a somewhat startled look at the picture.
On returning to Europe, I shall confine myself to the more delicate
vintages of Italy and France, the best of which will not bear
transportation.

My Lord Pyncheon may drink what wine he will, and wherever he


pleases,replied the carpenteras if he had been privy to Mr.
Pyncheon's ambitious projects. "But firstsirif you desire tidings
of this lost documentI must crave the favor of a little talk with
your fair daughter Alice."

You are mad, Maule!exclaimed Mr. Pyncheon haughtily; and now
at lastthere was anger mixed up with his pride. "What can my
daughter have to do with a business like this?"

Indeedat this new demand on the carpenter's partthe proprietor
of the Seven Gables was even more thunder-struck than at the cool
proposition to surrender his house. There wasat leastan
assignable motive for the first stipulation; there appeared to be
none whatever for the last. NeverthelessMatthew Maule sturdily
insisted on the young lady being summonedand even gave her
father to understandin a mysterious kind of explanation--which
made the matter considerably darker than it looked before--that
the only chance of acquiring the requisite knowledge was through
the clearcrystal medium of a pure and virgin intelligencelike
that of the fair Alice. Not to encumber our story with Mr. Pyncheon's
scrupleswhether of conscienceprideor fatherly affection
he at length ordered his daughter to be called. He well knew that
she was in her chamberand engaged in no occupation that could not
readily be laid aside; foras it happenedever since Alice's name
had been spokenboth her father and the carpenter had heard the sad
and sweet music of her harpsichordand the airier melancholy of her
accompanying voice.

So Alice Pyncheon was summonedand appeared. A portrait of this
young ladypainted by a Venetian artistand left by her father
in Englandis said to have fallen into the hands of the present
Duke of Devonshireand to be now preserved at Chatsworth; not on
account of any associations with the originalbut for its value
as a pictureand the high character of beauty in the countenance.
If ever there was a lady bornand set apart from the world's vulgar
mass by a certain gentle and cold statelinessit was this very Alice
Pyncheon. Yet there was the womanly mixture in her; the tenderness
orat leastthe tender capabilities. For the sake of that redeeming
qualitya man of generous nature would have forgiven all her pride
and have been contentalmostto lie down in her pathand let Alice
set her slender foot upon his heart. All that he would have required
was simply the acknowledgment that he was indeed a manand a
fellow-beingmoulded of the same elements as she.

As Alice came into the roomher eyes fell upon the carpenter
who was standing near its centreclad in green woollen jacket
a pair of loose breechesopen at the kneesand with a long
pocket for his rulethe end of which protruded; it was as proper
a mark of the artisan's calling as Mr. Pyncheon's full-dress
sword of that gentleman's aristocratic pretensions. A glow of
artistic approval brightened over Alice Pyncheon's face; she was
struck with admiration--which she made no attempt to conceal--of
the remarkable comelinessstrengthand energy of Maule's figure.
But that admiring glance (which most other menperhapswould
have cherished as a sweet recollection all through life) the
carpenter never forgave. It must have been the devil himself
that made Maule so subtile in his preception.

Does the girl look at me as if I were a brute beast?thought he
setting his teeth. "She shall know whether I have a human spirit;
and the worse for herif it prove stronger than her own!"

My father, you sent for me,said Alicein her sweet and harp-like
voice. "Butif you have business with this young manpray let me


go again. You know I do not love this roomin spite of that Claude
with which you try to bring back sunny recollections."


Stay a moment, young lady, if you please!said Matthew Maule.
My business with your father is over. With yourself, it is now to begin!


Alice looked towards her fatherin surprise and inquiry.


Yes, Alice,said Mr. Pyncheonwith some disturbance and
confusion. "This young man--his name is Matthew Maule--professes
so far as I can understand himto be able to discoverthrough
your meansa certain paper or parchmentwhich was missing long
before your birth. The importance of the document in question
renders it advisable to neglect no possibleeven if improbable
method of regaining it. You will therefore oblige memy dear Alice
by answering this person's inquiriesand complying with his lawful
and reasonable requestsso far as they may appear to have the
aforesaid object in view. As I shall remain in the roomyou need
apprehend no rude nor unbecoming deportmenton the young man's
part; andat your slightest wishof coursethe investigation
or whatever we may call itshall immediately be broken off."


Mistress Alice Pyncheon,remarked Matthew Maulewith the
utmost deferencebut yet a half-hidden sarcasm in his look
and tonewill no doubt feel herself quite safe in her father's
presence, and under his all-sufficient protection.


I certainly shall entertain no manner of apprehension, with my
father at hand,said Alice with maidenly dignity. "Neither do I
conceive that a ladywhile true to herselfcan have aught to
fear from whomsoeveror in any circumstances!"


Poor Alice! By what unhappy impulse did she thus put herself at once
on terms of defiance against a strength which she could not estimate?


Then, Mistress Alice,said Matthew Maulehanding a chair
--gracefully enoughfor a craftsmanwill it please you only
to sit down, and do me the favor (though altogether beyond a
poor carpenter's deserts) to fix your eyes on mine!


Alice compliedShe was very proud. Setting aside all advantages
of rankthis fair girl deemed herself conscious of a power
--combined of beautyhighunsullied purityand the preservative
force of womanhood--that could make her sphere impenetrable
unless betrayed by treachery within. She instinctively knew
it may bethat some sinister or evil potency was now striving
to pass her barriers; nor would she decline the contest. So Alice
put woman's might against man's might; a match not often equal
on the part of woman.


Her father meanwhile had turned awayand seemed absorbed in
the contemplation of a landscape by Claudewhere a shadowy
and sun-streaked vista penetrated so remotely into an ancient
woodthat it would have been no wonder if his fancy had lost
itself in the picture's bewildering depths. Butin truth
the picture was no more to him at that moment than the blank
wall against which it hung. His mind was haunted with the many
and strange tales which he had heardattributing mysterious if
not supernatural endowments to these Maulesas well the grandson
here present as his two immediate ancestors. Mr. Pyncheon's long
residence abroadand intercourse with men of wit and fashion
--courtiersworldingsand free-thinkers--had done much towards
obliterating the grim Puritan superstitionswhich no man of New
England birth at that early period could entirely escape. But



on the other handhad not a whole Community believed Maule's
grandfather to be a wizard? Had not the crime been proved? Had
not the wizard died for it? Had he not bequeathed a legacy of
hatred against the Pyncheons to this only grandsonwhoas it
appearedwas now about to exercise a subtle influence over the
daughter of his enemy's house? Might not this influence be the
same that was called witchcraft?

Turning half aroundhe caught a glimpse of Maule's figure in
the looking-glass. At some paces from Alicewith his arms
uplifted in the airthe carpenter made a gesture as if directing
downward a slowponderousand invisible weight upon the maiden.

Stay, Maule!exclaimed Mr. Pyncheonstepping forward. "I forbid
your proceeding further!"

Pray, my dear father, do not interrupt the young man,said Alice
without changing her position. "His effortsI assure youwill
prove very harmless."

Again Mr. Pyncheon turned his eyes towards the Claude. It was then
his daughter's willin opposition to his ownthat the experiment
should be fully tried. Henceforththereforehe did but consent
not urge it. And was it not for her sake far more than for his own
that he desired its success? That lost parchment once restored
the beautiful Alice Pyncheonwith the rich dowry which he could
then bestowmight wed an English duke or a German reigning-prince
instead of some New England clergyman or lawyer! At the thought
the ambitious father almost consentedin his heartthatif the
devil's power were needed to the accomplishment of this great object
Maule might evoke him. Alice's own purity would be her safeguard.

With his mind full of imaginary magnificenceMr. Pyncheon heard
a half-uttered exclamation from his daughter. It was very faint
and low; so indistinct that there seemed but half a will to shape
out the wordsand too undefined a purport to be intelligible.
Yet it was a call for help!--his conscience never doubted it;--and
little more than a whisper to his earit was a dismal shriek
and long reechoed soin the region round his heart! But this time
the father did not turn.

After a further intervalMaule spoke.

Behold your daughter.said he.

Mr. Pyncheon came hastily forward. The carpenter was standing
erect in front of Alice's chairand pointing his finger towards
the maiden with an expression of triumphant powerthe limits of
which could not be definedasindeedits scope stretched
vaguely towards the unseen and the infinite. Alice sat in an
attitude of profound reposewith the long brown lashes drooping
over her eyes.

There she is!said the carpenter. "Speak to her!"

Alice! My daughter!exclaimed Mr. Pyncheon. "My own Alice!"

She did not stir.

Louder!said Maulesmiling.

Alice! Awake!cried her father. "It troubles me to see you thus! Awake!"

He spoke loudlywith terror in his voiceand close to that


delicate ear which had always been so sensitive to every discord.
But the sound evidently reached her not. It is indescribable what
a sense of remotedimunattainable distance betwixt himself and
Alice was impressed on the father by this impossibility of
reaching her with his voice.

Best touch hersaid Matthew Maule "Shake the girland roughly
too! My hands are hardened with too much use of axesawand plane
--else I might help you!"

Mr. Pyncheon took her handand pressed it with the earnestness
of startled emotion. He kissed herwith so great a heart-throb in
the kissthat he thought she must needs feel it. Thenin a gust of
anger at her insensibilityhe shook her maiden form with a violence
whichthe next momentit affrighted him to remember. He withdrew
his encircling armsand Alice--whose figurethough flexiblehad
been wholly impassive--relapsed into the same attitude as before these
attempts to arouse her. Maule having shifted his positionher face
was turned towards him slightlybut with what seemed to be a reference
of her very slumber to his guidance.

Then it was a strange sight to behold how the man of conventionalities
shook the powder out of his periwig; how the reserved and stately
gentleman forgot his dignity; how the gold-embroidered waistcoat
flickered and glistened in the firelight with the convulsion of rage
terrorand sorrow in the human heart that was beating under it.

Villain!cried Mr. Pyncheonshaking his clenched fist at Maule.
You and the fiend together have robbed me of my daughter. Give her
back, spawn of the old wizard, or you shall climb Gallows Hill in
your grandfather's footsteps!

Softly, Mr. Pyncheon!said the carpenter with scornful
composure. "Softlyan it please your worshipelse you will spoil
those rich lace ruffles at your wrists! Is it my crime if you have
sold your daughter for the mere hope of getting a sheet of yellow
parchment into your clutch? There sits Mistress Alice quietly
asleep. Now let Matthew Maule try whether she be as proud as
the carpenter found her awhile since."

He spokeand Alice respondedwith a softsubduedinward
acquiescenceand a bending of her form towards himlike the
flame of a torch when it indicates a gentle draught of air.
He beckoned with his handandrising from her chair--blindly
but undoubtinglyas tending to her sure and inevitable centre
--the proud Alice approached him. He waved her backand
retreatingAlice sank again into her seat.

She is mine!said Matthew Maule. "Mineby the right of the
strongest spirit!"

In the further progress of the legendthere is a longgrotesque
and occasionally awe-striking account of the carpenter's incantations
(if so they are to be called)with a view of discovering the lost
document. It appears to have been his object to convert the mind
of Alice into a kind of telescopic mediumthrough which Mr. Pyncheon
and himself might obtain a glimpse into the spiritual world.
He succeededaccordinglyin holding an imperfect sort of intercourse
at one removewith the departed personages in whose custody the so
much valued secret had been carried beyond the precincts of earth.
During her tranceAlice described three figures as being present
to her spiritualized perception. One was an ageddignified
stern-looking gentlemanclad as for a solemn festival in grave
and costly attirebut with a great bloodstain on his richly


wrought band; the secondan aged manmeanly dressedwith a
dark and malign countenanceand a broken halter about his neck;
the thirda person not so advanced in life as the former two
but beyond the middle agewearing a coarse woollen tunic and
leather breechesand with a carpenter's rule sticking out of
his side pocket. These three visionary characters possessed a
mutual knowledge of the missing document. One of themin truth
--it was he with the blood-stain on his band--seemedunless his
gestures were misunderstoodto hold the parchment in his immediate
keepingbut was prevented by his two partners in the mystery from
disburdening himself of the trust. Finallywhen he showed a
purpose of shouting forth the secret loudly enough to be heard
from his own sphere into that of mortalshis companions struggled
with himand pressed their hands over his mouth; and forthwith
--whether that he were choked by itor that the secret itself was
of a crimson hue --there was a fresh flow of blood upon his band.
Upon thisthe two meanly dressed figures mocked and jeered at the
much-abashed old dignitaryand pointed their fingers at the stain.

At this junctureMaule turned to Mr. Pyncheon.

It will never be allowed,said he. "The custody of this secret
that would so enrich his heirsmakes part of your grandfather's
retribution. He must choke with it until it is no longer of any
value. And keep you the House of the Seven Gables! It is too
dear bought an inheritanceand too heavy with the curse upon it
to be shifted yet awhile from the Colonel's posterity."

Mr. Pyncheon tried to speakbut--what with fear and passion--could
make only a gurgling murmur in his throat. The carpenter smiled.

Aha, worshipful sir!--so you have old Maule's blood to drink!
said he jeeringly.

Fiend in man's shape! why dost thou keep dominion over my child?
cried Mr. Pyncheonwhen his choked utterance could make way. "Give
me back my daughter. Then go thy ways; and may we never meet again!"

Your daughter!said Matthew Maule. "Whyshe is fairly mine!
Neverthelessnot to be too hard with fair Mistress AliceI will
leave her in your keeping; but I do not warrant you that she shall
never have occasion to remember Maulethe carpenter."

He waved his hands with an upward motion; andafter a few
repetitions of similar gesturesthe beautiful Alice Pyncheon
awoke from her strange trance. She awoke without the slightest
recollection of her visionary experience; but as one losing herself
in a momentary reverieand returning to the consciousness of
actual lifein almost as brief an interval as the down-sinking
flame of the hearth should quiver again up the chimney. On
recognizing Matthew Mauleshe assumed an air of somewhat cold
but gentle dignitythe ratheras there was a certain peculiar
smile on the carpenter's visage that stirred the native pride of
the fair Alice. So endedfor that timethe quest for the lost
title-deed of the Pyncheon territory at the Eastward; northough
often subsequently renewedhas it ever yet befallen a Pyncheon
to set his eye upon that parchment.

Butalas for the beautifulthe gentleyet too haughty Alice!
A power that she little dreamed of had laid its grasp upon her
maiden soul. A willmost unlike her ownconstrained her to do
its grotesque and fantastic bidding. Her father as it provedhad
martyred his poor child to an inordinate desire for measuring his
land by miles instead of acres. Andthereforewhile Alice


Pyncheon livedshe was Maule's slavein a bondage more humiliating
a thousand-foldthan that which binds its chain around the body.
Seated by his humble firesideMaule had but to wave his hand; and
wherever the proud lady chanced to be--whether in her chamberor
entertaining her father's stately guestsor worshipping at church
--whatever her place or occupationher spirit passed from beneath
her own controland bowed itself to Maule. "Alicelaugh!"--the
carpenterbeside his hearthwould say; or perhaps intensely will
itwithout a spoken word. Andeven were it prayer-timeor at a
funeralAlice must break into wild laughter. "Alicebe sad!"--and
at the instantdown would come her tearsquenching all the mirth
of those around her like sudden rain upon a bonfire. "Alicedance."
--and dance she wouldnot in such court-like measures as she had
learned abroadbut Some high-paced jigor hop-skip rigadoon
befitting the brisk lasses at a rustic merry-making. It seemed to
be Maule's impulsenot to ruin Alicenor to visit her with any
black or gigantic mischiefwhich would have crowned her sorrows
with the grace of tragedybut to wreak a lowungenerous scorn upon
her. Thus all the dignity of life was lost. She felt herself too
much abasedand longed to change natures with some worm!

One eveningat a bridal party (but not her own; forso lost from
self-controlshe would have deemed it sin to marry)poor Alice
was beckoned forth by her unseen despotand constrainedin her
gossamer white dress and satin slippersto hasten along the street
to the mean dwelling of a laboring-man. There was laughter and
good cheer within; for Matthew Maulethat nightwas to wed
the laborer's daughterand had summoned proud Alice Pyncheon
to wait upon his bride. And so she did; and when the twain were
oneAlice awoke out of her enchanted sleep. Yetno longer
proud--humblyand with a smile all steeped in sadness--she
kissed Maule's wifeand went her way. It was an inclement
night; the southeast wind drove the mingled snow and rain into
her thinly sheltered bosom; her satin slippers were wet through
and throughas she trod the muddy sidewalks. The next day a
cold; soona settled cough; anona hectic cheeka wasted form
that sat beside the harpsichordand filled the house with music!
Music in which a strain of the heavenly choristers was echoed! Oh;
joy For Alice had borne her last humiliation! Ohgreater joy! For
Alice was penitent of her one earthly sinand proud no more!

The Pyncheons made a great funeral for Alice. The kith and kin
were thereand the whole respectability of the town besides.
Butlast in the processioncame Matthew Maulegnashing his
teethas if he would have bitten his own heart in twain--the
darkest and wofullest man that ever walked behind a corpse! He
meant to humble Alicenot to kill her; but he had taken a woman's
delicate soul into his rude gripeto play with--and she was dead!

XIV Phoebe's Good-By

HOLGRAVEplunging into his tale with the energy and absorption
natural to a young authorhad 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 effectunquestionablyof 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 instantand drawn down again
as with leaden weights--she leaned slightly towards himand
seemed almost to regulate her breath by his. Holgrave gazed at
heras he rolled up his manuscriptand recognized an incipient
stage of that curious psychological condition whichas he had
himself told Phoebehe possessed more than an ordinary faculty
of producing. A veil was beginning to be muffled about her
in which she could behold only himand live only in his thoughts
and emotions. His glanceas he fastened it on the young girl
grew involuntarily more concentrated; in his attitude there was
the consciousness of powerinvesting his hardly mature figure
with a dignity that did not belong to its physical manifestation.
It was evidentthatwith but one wave of his hand and a
corresponding effort of his willhe could complete his mastery
over Phoebe's yet free and virgin spirit: he could establish an
influence over this goodpureand simple childas dangerous
and perhaps as disastrousas that which the carpenter of his
legend had acquired and exercised over the ill-fated Alice.

To a disposition like Holgrave'sat 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 educationand 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 integrityalsoforever 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 storyit is but
too evidentwill never do for Godey or Graham! Only think of
your falling asleep at what I hoped the newspaper critics would
pronounce a most brilliantpowerfulimaginativepatheticand
original winding up! Wellthe manuscript must serve to light
lamps with;--ifindeedbeing so imbued with my gentle dulness
it is any longer capable of flame!"

Me asleep! How can you say so?answered Phoebeas unconscious
of the crisis through which she had passed as an infant of the
precipice to the verge of which it has rolled. "Nono! I consider
myself as having been very attentive; andthough I don't remember
the incidents quite distinctlyyet I have an impression of a vast
deal of trouble and calamity--sono doubtthe story will prove
exceedingly attractive."

By this time the sun had gone downand was tinting the clouds
towards the zenith with those bright hues which are not seen
there until some time after sunsetand when the horizon has
quite lost its richer brilliancy. The moontoowhich had long
been climbing overheadand unobtrusively melting its disk into
the azure--like an ambitious demagoguewho hides his aspiring
purpose by assuming the prevalent hue of popular sentiment--now
began to shine outbroad and ovalin its middle pathway. These
silvery beams were already powerful enough to change the character
of the lingering daylight. They softened and embellished the aspect
of the old house; although the shadows fell deeper into the angles
of its many gablesand lay brooding under the projecting story
and within the half-open door. With the lapse of every moment
the garden grew more picturesque; the fruit-treesshrubberyand
flower-bushes had a dark obscurity among them. The commonplace


characteristics--whichat noontideit seemed to have taken a
century of sordid life to accumulate--were now transfigured by
a charm of romance. A hundred mysterious years were whispering
among the leaveswhenever the slight sea-breeze found its way
thither and stirred them. Through the foliage that roofed the
little summer-house the moonlight flickered to and froand fell
silvery white on the dark floorthe tableand the circular bench
with a continual shift and playaccording as the chinks and wayward
crevices among the twigs admitted or shut out the glimmer.

So sweetly cool was the atmosphereafter all the feverish day
that the summer eve might be fancied as sprinkling dews and
liquid moonlightwith a dash of icy temper in themout of a
silver vase. Here and therea few drops of this freshness
were scattered on a human heartand gave it youth againand
sympathy with the eternal youth of nature. The artist chanced
to be one on whom the reviving influence fell. It made him
feel--what he sometimes almost forgotthrust so early as he
had been into the rude struggle of man with man--how youthful
he still was.

It seems to me,he observedthat I never watched the coming
of so beautiful an eve, and never felt anything so very much
like happiness as at this moment. After all, what a good world
we live in! How good, and beautiful! How young it is, too, with
nothing really rotten or age-worn in it! This old house, for
example, which sometimes has positively oppressed my breath
with its smell of decaying timber! And this garden, where the
black mould always clings to my spade, as if I were a sexton
delving in a graveyard! Could I keep the feeling that now
possesses me, the garden would every day be virgin soil, with the
earth's first freshness in the flavor of its beans and squashes;
and the house!--it would be like a bower in Eden, blossoming with
the earliest roses that God ever made. Moonlight, and the
sentiment in man's heart responsive to it, are the greatest of
renovators and reformers. And all other reform and renovation,
I suppose, will prove to be no better than moonshine!

I have been happier than I am now; at least, much gayer,said
Phoebe thoughtfully. "Yet I am sensible of a great charm in this
brightening moonlight; and I love to watch how the daytired as
it islags away reluctantlyand hates to be called yesterday
so soon. I never cared much about moonlight before. What is there
I wonderso beautiful in itto-night?"

And you have never felt it before?inquired the artistlooking
earnestly at the girl through the twilight.

Never,answered Phoebe; "and life does not look the samenow
that I have felt it so. It seems as if I had looked at everything
hithertoin broad daylightor else in the ruddy light of a
cheerful fireglimmering and dancing through a room. Ahpoor
me!" she addedwith a half-melancholy laugh. "I shall never be
so merry as before I knew Cousin Hepzibah and poor Cousin
Clifford. I have grown a great deal olderin this little time.
OlderandI hopewiserand--not exactly sadder--butcertainly
with not half so much lightness in my spirits! I have given them
my sunshineand have been glad to give it; butof courseI
cannot both give and keep it. They are welcomenotwithstanding!"

You have lost nothing, Phoebe, worth keeping, nor which it was
possible to keep,said Holgrave after a pause. "Our first youth
is of no value; for we are never conscious of it until after it is
gone. But sometimes--alwaysI suspectunless one is exceedingly


unfortunate--there comes a sense of second youthgushing out of
the heart's joy at being in love; orpossiblyit may come to
crown some other grand festival in lifeif any other such there
be. This bemoaning of one's self (as you do now) over the first
carelessshallow gayety of youth departedand this profound
happiness at youth regained--so much deeper and richer than that
we lost--are essential to the soul's development. In some cases
the two states come almost simultaneouslyand mingle the sadness
and the rapture in one mysterious emotion."

I hardly think I understand you,said Phoebe.

No wonder,replied Holgravesmiling; "for I have told you a
secret which I hardly began to know before I found myself giving
it utterance. remember ithowever; and when the truth becomes
clear to youthen think of this moonlight scene!"

It is entirely moonlight now, except only a little flush of
faint crimson, upward from the west, between those buildings,
remarked Phoebe. "I must go in. Cousin Hepzibah is not quick
at figuresand will give herself a headache over the day's
accountsunless I help her."

But Holgrave detained her a little longer.

Miss Hepzibah tells me,observed hethat you return to the
country in a few days.

Yes, but only for a little while,answered Phoebe; "for I look
upon this as my present home. I go to make a few arrangements
and to take a more deliberate leave of my mother and friends.
It is pleasant to live where one is much desired and very useful;
and I think I may have the satisfaction of feeling myself so here."

You surely may, and more than you imagine,said the artist.
Whatever health, comfort, and natural life exists in the house
is embodied in your person. These blessings came along with you,
and will vanish when you leave the threshold. Miss Hepzibah, by
secluding herself from society, has lost all true relation with
it, and is, in fact, dead; although she galvanizes herself into
a semblance of life, and stands behind her counter, afflicting
the world with a greatly-to-be-deprecated scowl. Your poor
cousin Clifford is another dead and long-buried person, on whom
the governor and council have wrought a necromantic miracle.
I should not wonder if he were to crumble away, some morning,
after you are gone, and nothing be seen of him more, except a
heap of dust. Miss Hepzibah, at any rate, will lose what little
flexibility she has. They both exist by you.

I should be very sorry to think so,answered Phoebe gravely.
But it is true that my small abilities were precisely what they
needed; and I have a real interest in their welfare,--an odd
kind of motherly sentiment,--which I wish you would not laugh at!
And let me tell you frankly, Mr. Holgrave, I am sometimes
puzzled to know whether you wish them well or ill.

Undoubtedly,said the daguerreotypistI do feel an interest
in this antiquated, poverty-stricken old maiden lady, and this
degraded and shattered gentleman,--this abortive lover of the
beautiful. A kindly interest, too, helpless old children that
they are! But you have no conception what a different kind of
heart mine is from your own. It is not my impulse, as regards
these two individuals, either to help or hinder; but to look on,
to analyze, to explain matters to myself, and to comprehend the


drama which, for almost two hundred years, has been dragging
its slow length over the ground where you and I now tread. If
permitted to witness the close, I doubt not to derive a moral
satisfaction from it, go matters how they may. There is a
conviction within me that the end draws nigh. But, though
Providence sent you hither to help, and sends me only as a
privileged and meet spectator, I pledge myself to lend these
unfortunate beings whatever aid I can!


I wish you would speak more plainly,cried Phoebeperplexed
and displeased; "andabove allthat you would feel more like
a Christian and a human being! How is it possible to see people
in distress without desiringmore than anything elseto help
and comfort them? You talk as if this old house were a theatre;
and you seem to look at Hepzibah's and Clifford's misfortunes
and those of generations before themas a tragedysuch as I
have seen acted in the hall of a country hotelonly the present
one appears to be played exclusively for your amusement. I do
not like this. The play costs the performers too muchand the
audience is too cold-hearted."


You are severe,said Holgravecompelled to recognize a degree
of truth in the piquant sketch of his own mood.


And then,continued Phoebewhat can you mean by your
conviction, which you tell me of, that the end is drawing near?
Do you know of any new trouble hanging over my poor
relatives? If so, tell me at once, and I will not leave them!


Forgive me, Phoebe!said the daguerreotypistholding out his
handto which the girl was constrained to yield her own." I am
somewhat of a mysticit must be confessed. The tendency is in my
bloodtogether with the faculty of mesmerismwhich might have
brought me to Gallows Hillin the good old times of witchcraft.
Believe meif I were really aware of any secretthe disclosure
of which would benefit your friends--who are my own friends
likewise--you should learn it before we part. But I have no
such knowledge."


You hold something back!said Phoebe.


Nothing,--no secrets but my own,answered Holgrave. "I can
perceiveindeedthat Judge Pyncheon still keeps his eye on
Cliffordin whose ruin he had so large a share. His motives
and intentionshowever are a mystery to me. He is a determined
and relentless manwith the genuine character of an inquisitor;
and had he any object to gain by putting Clifford to the rack
I verily believe that he would wrench his joints from their sockets
in order to accomplish it. Butso wealthy and eminent as he is
--so powerful in his own strengthand in the support of society
on all sides--what can Judge Pyncheon have to hope or fear from
the imbecilebrandedhalf-torpid Clifford?"


Yet,urged Phoebeyou did speak as if misfortune were impending!


Oh, that was because I am morbid!replied the artist. "My mind
has a twist asidelike almost everybody's mindexcept your own.
Moreoverit is so strange to find myself an inmate of this old
Pyncheon Houseand sitting in this old garden--(harkhow Maule's
well is murmuring!)--thatwere it only for this one circumstance
I cannot help fancying that Destiny is arranging its fifth act
for a catastrophe."


There.cried Phoebe with renewed vexation; for she was by



nature as hostile to mystery as the sunshine to a dark corner.
You puzzle me more than ever!

Then let us part friends!said Holgravepressing her hand. "Or
if not friendslet us part before you entirely hate me. Youwho
love everybody else in the world!"

Good-by, then,said Phoebe frankly. "I do not mean to be angry
a great whileand should be sorry to have you think so. There
has Cousin Hepzibah been standing in the shadow of the doorway
this quarter of an hour past! She thinks I stay too long in the
damp garden. Sogood-nightand good-by."

On the second morning thereafterPhoebe might have been seenin
her straw bonnetwith a shawl on one arm and a little carpet-bag
on the otherbidding adieu to Hepzibah and Cousin Clifford. She
was to take a seat in the next train of carswhich would transport
her to within half a dozen miles of her country village.

The tears were in Phoebe's eyes; a smiledewy with affectionate
regretwas glimmering around her pleasant mouth. She wondered
how it came to passthat her life of a few weekshere in this
heavy-hearted old mansionhad taken such hold of herand so
melted into her associationsas now to seem a more important
centre-point of remembrance than all which had gone before.
How had Hepzibah--grimsilentand irresponsive to her overflow
of cordial sentiment--contrived to win so much love? And Clifford
--in his abortive decaywith the mystery of fearful crime upon
himand the close prison-atmosphere yet lurking in his breath
--how had he transformed himself into the simplest childwhom
Phoebe felt bound to watch overand beas it werethe providence
of his unconsidered hours! Everythingat that instant of farewell
stood out prominently to her view. Look where she wouldlay her
hand on what she mightthe object responded to her consciousness
as if a moist human heart were in it.

She peeped from the window into the gardenand felt herself
more regretful at leaving this spot of black earthvitiated with
such an age-long growth of weedsthan joyful at the idea of again
scenting her pine forests and fresh clover-fields. She called
Chanticleerhis two wivesand the venerable chickenand threw
them some crumbs of bread from the breakfast-table. These being
hastily gobbled upthe chicken spread its wingsand alighted
close by Phoebe on the window-sillwhere it looked gravely into
her face and vented its emotions in a croak. Phoebe bade it be
a good old chicken during her absenceand promised to bring it
a little bag of buckwheat.

Ah, Phoebe!remarked Hepzibahyou do not smile so naturally
as when you came to us! Then, the smile chose to shine out; now,
you choose it should. It is well that you are going back, for
a little while, into your native air. There has been too much
weight on your spirits. The house is too gloomy and lonesome;
the shop is full of vexations; and as for me, I have no faculty
of making things look brighter than they are. Dear Clifford has
been your only comfort!

Come hither, Phoebe,suddenly cried her cousin Cliffordwho
had said very little all the morning. "Close!--closer!--and look
me in the face!"

Phoebe put one of her small hands on each elbow of his chairand
leaned her face towards himso that he might peruse it as carefully
as he would. It is probable that the latent emotions of this parting


hour had revivedin some degreehis bedimmed and enfeebled faculties.
At any ratePhoebe soon felt thatif not the profound insight of a
seeryet a more than feminine delicacy of appreciationwas making
her heart the subject of its regard. A moment beforeshe had known
nothing which she would have sought to hide. Nowas if some secret
were hinted to her own consciousness through the medium of another's
perceptionshe was fain to let her eyelids droop beneath Clifford's
gaze. A blushtoo--the redderbecause she strove hard to keep it
down--ascended bigger and higherin a tide of fitful progress
until even her brow was all suffused with it.


It is enough, Phoebe,said Cliffordwith a melancholy smile.
When I first saw you, you were the prettiest little maiden in the
world; and now you have deepened into beauty. Girlhood has passed into
womanhood; the bud is a bloom! Go, now--I feel lonelier than I did.


Phoebe took leave of the desolate coupleand passed through the
shoptwinkling her eyelids to shake off a dew-drop; for--considering
how brief her absence was to beand therefore the folly of being
cast down about it--she would not so far acknowledge her tears as
to dry them with her handkerchief. On the doorstepshe met the
little urchin whose marvellous feats of gastronomy have been
recorded in the earlier pages of our narrative. She took from the
window some specimen or other of natural history--her eyes being
too dim with moisture to inform her accurately whether it was a
rabbit or a hippopotamus--put it into the child's hand as a
parting giftand went her way. Old Uncle Venner was just coming
out of his doorwith a wood-horse and saw on his shoulder; and
trudging along the streethe scrupled not to keep company with
Phoebeso far as their paths lay together; norin spite of his
patched coat and rusty beaverand the curious fashion of his
tow-cloth trouserscould she find it in her heart to outwalk him.


We shall miss you, next Sabbath afternoon,observed the street
philosopher." It is unaccountable how little while it takes some
folks to grow just as natural to a man as his own breath; and
begging your pardonMiss Phoebe (though there can be no offence
in an old man's saying it)that's just what you've grown to me!
My years have been a great manyand your life is but just
beginning; and yetyou are somehow as familiar to me as if I
had found you at my mother's doorand you had blossomed
like a running vineall along my pathway since. Come back
soonor I shall be gone to my farm; for I begin to find these
wood-sawing jobs a little too tough for my back-ache."


Very soon, Uncle Venner,replied Phoebe.


And let it be all the sooner, Phoebe, for the sake of those
poor souls yonder,continued her companion. "They can never
do without younow--neverPhoebe; never--no more than if one
of God's angels had been living with themand making their dismal
house pleasant and comfortable! Don't it seem to you they'd be in
a sad caseifsome pleasant summer morning like thisthe angel
should spread his wingsand fly to the place he came from? Well
just so they feelnow that you're going home by the railroad!
They can't bear itMiss Phoebe; so be sure to come back!"


I am no angel, Uncle Venner,said Phoebesmilingas she offered
him her hand at the street-corner. "ButI supposepeople never
feel so much like angels as when they are doing what little good
they may. So I shall certainly come back!"


Thus parted the old man and the rosy girl; and Phoebe took the
wings of the morningand was soon flitting almost as rapidly



away as if endowed with the aerial locomotion of the angels to
whom Uncle Venner had so graciously compared her.

XV The Scowl and Smile

SEVERAL days passed over the Seven Gablesheavily and drearily
enough. In fact (not to attribute the whole gloom of sky and
earth to the one inauspicious circumstance of Phoebe's departure)
an easterly storm had set inand indefatigably apply itself to
the task of making the black roof and walls of the old house look
more cheerless than ever before. Yet was the outside not half so
cheerless as the interior. Poor Clifford was cut offat once
from all his scanty resources of enjoyment. Phoebe was not there;
nor did the sunshine fall upon the floor. The gardenwith its
muddy walksand the chilldripping foliage of its summer-house
was an image to be shuddered at. Nothing flourished in the cold
moistpitiless atmospheredrifting with the brackish scud of
sea-breezesexcept the moss along the joints of the shingle-roof
and the great bunch of weedsthat had lately been suffering from
droughtin the angle between the two front gables.

As for Hepzibahshe seemed not merely possessed with the east
windbut to bein her very persononly another phase of this
gray and sullen spell of weather; the east wind itselfgrim and
disconsolatein a rusty black silk gownand with a turban of
cloud-wreaths on its head. The custom of the shop fell off
because a story got abroad that she soured her small beer and
other damageable commoditiesby scowling on them. It isperhaps
true that the public had something reasonably to complain of in
her deportment; but towards Clifford she was neither ill-tempered
nor unkindnor felt less warmth of heart than alwayshad it
been possible to make it reach him. The inutility of her best
effortshoweverpalsied the poor old gentlewoman. She could
do little else than sit silently in a corner of the room
when the wet pear-tree branchessweeping across the small
windowscreated a noon-day duskwhich Hepzibah unconsciously
darkened with her woe-begone aspect. It was no fault of
Hepzibah's. Everything--even the old chairs and tablesthat had
known what weather was for three or four such lifetimes as her
own--looked as damp and chill as if the present were their worst
experience. The picture of the Puritan Colonel shivered on the
wall. The house itself shiveredfrom every attic of its seven
gables down to the great kitchen fireplacewhich served all the
better as an emblem of the mansion's heartbecausethough built
for warmthit was now so comfortless and empty.

Hepzibah attempted to enliven matters by a fire in the parlor.
But the storm demon kept watch aboveandwhenever a flame was
kindleddrove the smoke back againchoking the chimney's
sooty throat with its own breath. Neverthelessduring four days
of this miserable stormClifford wrapt himself in an old cloak
and occupied his customary chair. On the morning of the fifth
when summoned to breakfasthe responded only by a broken-hearted
murmurexpressive of a determination not to leave his bed. His
sister made no attempt to change his purpose. In factentirely
as she loved himHepzibah could hardly have borne any longer
the wretched duty--so impracticable by her few and rigid faculties
--of seeking pastime for a still sensitivebut ruined mind
critical and fastidiouswithout force or volition. It was at
least something short of positive despairthat to-day she might


sit shivering aloneand not suffer continually a new grief
and unreasonable pang of remorseat every fitful sigh of her
fellow sufferer.

But Cliffordit seemedthough he did not make his appearance
below stairshadafter allbestirred himself in quest of
amusement. In the course of the forenoonHepzibah heard a note
of musicwhich (there being no other tuneful contrivance in the
House of the Seven Gables) she knew must proceed from Alice
Pyncheon's harpsichord. She was aware that Cliffordin his
youthhad possessed a cultivated taste for musicand a
considerable degree of skill in its practice. It was difficult
howeverto conceive of his retaining an accomplishment to
which daily exercise is so essentialin the measure indicated by
the sweetairyand delicatethough most melancholy strain
that now stole upon her ear. Nor was it less marvellous that the
long-silent instrument should be capable of so much melody.
Hepzibah involuntarily thought of the ghostly harmoniesprelusive
of death in the familywhich were attributed to the legendary
Alice. But it wasperhapsproof of the agency of other than
spiritual fingersthatafter a few touchesthe chords seemed
to snap asunder with their own vibrationsand the music ceased.

But a harsher sound succeeded to the mysterious notes; nor was
the easterly day fated to pass without an event sufficient in
itself to poisonfor Hepzibah and Cliffordthe balmiest air
that ever brought the humming-birds along with it. The final
echoes of Alice Pyncheon's performance (or Clifford'sif his
we must consider it) were driven away by no less vulgar a
dissonance than the ringing of the shop-bell. A foot was heard
scraping itself on the thresholdand thence somewhat ponderously
stepping on the floor. Hepzibah delayed a momentwhile muffling
herself in a faded shawlwhich had been her defensive armor in
a forty years' warfare against the east wind. A characteristic
soundhowever--neither a cough nor a hembut a kind of rumbling
and reverberating spasm in somebody's capacious depth of chest;
--impelled her to hurry forwardwith that aspect of fierce
faint-heartedness so common to women in cases of perilous
emergency. Few of her sexon such occasionshave ever looked
so terrible as our poor scowling Hepzibah. But the visitor
quietly closed the shop-door behind himstood up his umbrella
against the counterand turned a visage of composed benignity
to meet the alarm and anger which his appearance had excited.

Hepzibah's presentiment had not deceived her. It was no other
than Judge Pyncheonwhoafter in vain trying the front door
had now effected his entrance into the shop.

How do you do, Cousin Hepzibah?--and how does this most inclement
weather affect our poor Clifford?began the Judge; and wonderful
it seemedindeedthat the easterly storm was not put to shameor
at any ratea little mollifiedby the genial benevolence of his
smile. "I could not rest without calling to askonce more
whether I can in any manner promote his comfortor your own."

You can do nothing,said Hepzibahcontrolling her agitation as
well as she could." I devote myself to Clifford. He has every
comfort which his situation admits of."

But allow me to suggest, dear cousin,rejoined the Judge you
err,--in all affection and kindness, no doubt, and with the very
best intentions,--but you do err, nevertheless, in keeping your
brother so secluded. Why insulate him thus from all sympathy
and kindness? Clifford, alas! has had too much of solitude. Now


let him try society,--the society, that is to say, of kindred and
old friends. Let me, for instance, but see Clifford, and I will
answer for the good effect of the interview.

You cannot see him,answered Hepzibah. "Clifford has kept his
bed since yesterday."

What! How! Is he ill?exclaimed Judge Pyncheonstarting with
what seemed to be angry alarm; for the very frown of the old
Puritan darkened through the room as he spoke. "NaythenI
must and will see him! What if he should die?"

He is in no danger of death,said Hepzibah--and addedwith
bitterness that she could repress no longernone; unless he shall
be persecuted to death, now, by the same man who long ago
attempted it!

Cousin Hepzibah,said the Judgewith an impressive earnestness
of mannerwhich grew even to tearful pathos as he proceeded
is it possible that you do not perceive how unjust, how unkind,
how unchristian, is this constant, this long-continued bitterness
against me, for a part which I was constrained by duty and conscience,
by the force of law, and at my own peril, to act? What did I do,
in detriment to Clifford, which it was possible to leave undone?
How could you, his sister,--if, for your never-ending sorrow, as it
has been for mine, you had known what I did,--have, shown greater
tenderness? And do you think, cousin, that it has cost me no pang?
--that it has left no anguish in my bosom, from that day to this,
amidst all the prosperity with which Heaven has blessed me?--or that
I do not now rejoice, when it is deemed consistent with the dues of
public justice and the welfare of society that this dear kinsman,
this early friend, this nature so delicately and beautifully
constituted,--so unfortunate, let us pronounce him, and forbear
to say, so guilty,--that our own Clifford, in fine, should be given
back to life, and its possibilities of enjoyment? Ah, you little
know me, Cousin Hepzibah! You little know this heart! It now throbs
at the thought of meeting him! There lives not the human being
(except yourself,--and you not more than I) who has shed so many
tears for Clifford's calamity. You behold some of them now.
There is none who would so delight to promote his happiness!
Try me, Hepzibah! --try me, cousin! --try the man whom you have
treated as your enemy and Clifford's! --try Jaffrey Pyncheon,
and you shall find him true, to the heart's core!

In the name of Heaven,cried Hepzibahprovoked only to
intenser indignation by this outgush of the inestimable tenderness
of a stern nature--"in God's namewhom you insultand whose
power I could almost questionsince he hears you utter so many
false words without palsying your tongue--give overI beseech
youthis loathsome pretence of affection for your victim! You hate
him! Say solike a man! You cherishat this momentsome black
purpose against him in your heart! Speak it outat once!--or
if you hope so to promote it betterhide it till you can triumph
in its success! But never speak again of your love for my poor
brother. I cannot bear it! It will drive me beyond a woman's
decency! It will drive me mad! Forbear. Not another word!
It will make me spurn you!"

For onceHepzibah's wrath had given her courage. She had spoken.
Butafter allwas this unconquerable distrust of Judge Pyncheon's
integrityand this utter denialapparentlyof his claim to stand
in the ring of human sympathies--were they founded in any just
perception of his characteror merely the offspring of a woman's
unreasonable prejudicededuced from nothing?


The Judgebeyond all questionwas a man of eminent respectability.
The church acknowledged it; the state acknowledged it. It was denied
by nobody. In all the very extensive sphere of those who knew him
whether in his public or private capacitiesthere was not an
individual--except Hepzibahand some lawless mysticlike the
daguerreotypistandpossiblya few political opponents--who would
have dreamed of seriously disputing his claim to a high and honorable
place in the world's regard. Nor (we must do him the further justice
to say) did Judge Pyncheon himselfprobablyentertain many or very
frequent doubtsthat his enviable reputation accorded with his
deserts. His consciencethereforeusually considered the surest
witness to a man's integrity--his conscienceunless it might be
for the little space of five minutes in the twenty-four hoursor
now and thensome black day in the whole year's circle--his
conscience bore an accordant testimony with the world's laudatory
voice. And yetstrong as this evidence may seem to bewe should
hesitate to peril our own conscience on the assertionthat the
Judge and the consenting world were rightand that poor Hepzibah
with her solitary prejudice was wrong. Hidden from mankind
--forgotten by himselfor buried so deeply under a sculptured
and ornamented pile of ostentatious deeds that his daily life
could take no note of it--there may have lurked some evil and
unsightly thing. Naywe could almost venture to sayfurther
that a daily guilt might have been acted by himcontinually
renewedand reddening forth afreshlike the miraculous
blood-stain of a murderwithout his necessarily and at every
moment being aware of it.

Men of strong mindsgreat force of characterand a hard texture
of the sensibilitiesare very capable of falling into mistakes of
this kind. They are ordinarily men to whom forms are of paramount
importance. Their field of action lies among the external phenomena
of life. They possess vast ability in graspingand arrangingand
appropriating to themselvesthe bigheavysolid unrealitiessuch
as goldlanded estateoffices of trust and emolumentand public
honors. With these materialsand with deeds of goodly aspectdone
in the public eyean individual of this class builds upas it were
a tall and stately edificewhichin the view of other people
and ultimately in his own viewis no other than the man's character
or the man himself. Beholdthereforea palace! Its splendid halls
and suites of spacious apartments are floored with a mosaic-work
of costly marbles; its windowsthe whole height of each roomadmit
the sunshine through the most transparent of plate-glass; its high
cornices are gildedand its ceilings gorgeously painted; and a
lofty dome--through whichfrom the central pavementyou may gaze
up to the skyas with no obstructing medium between--surmounts the
whole. With what fairer and nobler emblem could any man desire to
shadow forth his character? Ah! but in some low and obscure nook
--some narrow closet on the ground-floorshutlocked and bolted
and the key flung away--or beneath the marble pavementin a
stagnant water-puddlewith the richest pattern of mosaic-work
above--may lie a corpsehalf decayedand still decayingand
diffusing its death-scent all through the palace! The inhabitant
will not be conscious of itfor it has long been his daily breath!
Neither will the visitorsfor they smell only the rich odors which
the master sedulously scatters through the palaceand the incense
which they bringand delight to burn before him! Now and then
perchancecomes in a seerbefore whose sadly gifted eye the
whole structure melts into thin airleaving only the hidden nook
the bolted closetwith the cobwebs festooned over its forgotten
dooror the deadly hole under the pavementand the decaying
corpse within. Herethenwe are to seek the true emblem of the
man's characterand of the deed that gives whatever reality it


possesses to his life. Andbeneath the show of a marble palace
that pool of stagnant waterfoul with many impuritiesand
perhapstinged with blood--that secret abominationabove which
possiblyhe may say his prayerswithout remembering it--is this
man's miserable soul!

To apply this train of remark somewhat more closely to Judge
Pyncheon. We might say (without in the least imputing crime to
a personage of his eminent respectability) that there was enough
of splendid rubbish in his life to cover up and paralyze a more
active and subtile conscience than the Judge was ever troubled
with. The purity of his judicial characterwhile on the bench;
the faithfulness of his public service in subsequent capacities;
his devotedness to his partyand the rigid consistency with which
he had adhered to its principlesorat all eventskept pace with
its organized movements; his remarkable zeal as president of a
Bible society; his unimpeachable integrity as treasurer of a widow's
and orphan's fund; his benefits to horticultureby producing two
much esteemed varieties of the pear and to agriculturethrough
the agency of the famous Pyncheon bull; the cleanliness of his
moral deportmentfor a great many years past; the severity with
which he had frowned uponand finally cast offan expensive
and dissipated sondelaying forgiveness until within the final
quarter of an hour of the young man's life; his prayers at
morning and eventideand graces at meal-time; his efforts in
furtherance of the temperance cause; his confining himselfsince
the last attack of the goutto five diurnal glasses of old sherry
wine; the snowy whiteness of his linenthe polish of his boots
the handsomeness of his gold-headed canethe square and roomy
fashion of his coatand the fineness of its materialandin
generalthe studied propriety of his dress and equipment; the
scrupulousness with which he paid public noticein the street
by a bowa lifting of the hata nodor a motion of the hand
to all and sundry of his acquaintancesrich or poor; the smile
of broad benevolence wherewith he made it a point to gladden the
whole world--what room could possibly be found for darker traits
in a portrait made up of lineaments like these? This proper face
was what he beheld in the looking-glass. This admirably arranged
life was what he was conscious of in the progress of every day.
Then might not he claim to be its result and sumand say to
himself and the communityBehold Judge Pyncheon there?

And allowing thatmanymany years agoin his early and
reckless youthhe had committed some one wrong act--or that
even nowthe inevitable force of circumstances should
occasionally make him do one questionable deed among a
thousand praiseworthyorat leastblameless ones--would you
characterize the Judge by that one necessary deedand that
half-forgotten actand let it overshadow the fair aspect of a
lifetime? What is there so ponderous in evilthat a thumb's
bigness of it should outweigh the mass of things not evil which
were heaped into the other scale! This scale and balance system
is a favorite one with people of Judge Pyncheon's brotherhood.
A hardcold manthus unfortunately situatedseldom or never
looking inwardand resolutely taking his idea of himself from
what purports to be his image as reflected in the mirror of
public opinioncan scarcely arrive at true self-knowledge
except through loss of property and reputation. Sickness will
not always help him do it; not always the death-hour!

But our affair now is with Judge Pyncheon as he stood confronting
the fierce outbreak of Hepzibah's wrath. Without premeditation
to her own surpriseand indeed terrorshe had given ventfor
onceto the inveteracy of her resentmentcherished against this


kinsman for thirty years.

Thus far the Judge's countenance had expressed mild forbearance
--grave and almost gentle deprecation of his cousin's unbecoming
violence--free and Christian-like forgiveness of the wrong inflicted
by her words. But when those words were irrevocably spokenhis look
assumed sternnessthe sense of powerand immitigable resolve; and
this with so natural and imperceptible a changethat it seemed as
if the iron man had stood there from the firstand the meek man not
at all. The effect was as when the lightvapory cloudswith their
soft coloringsuddenly vanish from the stony brow of a precipitous
mountainand leave there the frown which you at once feel to be
eternal. Hepzibah almost adopted the insane belief that it was her
old Puritan ancestorand not the modern Judgeon whom she had just
been wreaking the bitterness of her heart. Never did a man show
stronger proof of the lineage attributed to him than Judge Pyncheon
at this crisisby his unmistakable resemblance to the picture in
the inner room.

Cousin Hepzibah,said he very calmlyit is time to have done
with this.

With all my heart!answered she. "Thenwhy do you persecute
us any longer? Leave poor Clifford and me in peace. Neither of
us desires anything better!"

It is my purpose to see Clifford before I leave this house,
continued the Judge. "Do not act like a madwomanHepzibah! I am
his only friendand an all-powerful one. Has it never occurred
to you--are you so blind as not to have seen--thatwithout not
merely my consentbut my effortsmy representationsthe exertion
of my whole influencepoliticalofficialpersonalClifford
would never have been what you call free? Did you think his release
a triumph over me? Not somy good cousin; not soby any means!
The furthest possible from that! No; but it was the accomplishment
of a purpose long entertained on my part. I set him free!"

You!answered Hepzibah. "I never will believe it! He owed his
dungeon to you; his freedom to God's providence!"

I set him free!reaffirmed Judge Pyncheonwith the calmest
composure. "And I came hither now to decide whether he shall
retain his freedom. It will depend upon himself. For this purpose
I must see him."

Never!--it would drive him mad!exclaimed Hepzibahbut with an
irresoluteness sufficiently perceptible to the keen eye of the Judge;
forwithout the slightest faith in his good intentionsshe knew not
whether there was most to dread in yielding or resistance. "And why
should you wish to see this wretchedbroken manwho retains hardly
a fraction of his intellectand will hide even that from an eye
which has no love in it?"

He shall see love enough in mine, if that be all!said the Judge
with well-grounded confidence in the benignity of his aspect.
But, Cousin Hepzibah, you confess a great deal, and very much to
the purpose. Now, listen, and I will frankly explain my reasons
for insisting on this interview. At the death, thirty years since,
of our uncle Jaffrey, it was found,--I know not whether the
circumstance ever attracted much of your attention, among the
sadder interests that clustered round that event,--but it was
found that his visible estate, of every kind, fell far short of
any estimate ever made of it. He was supposed to be immensely rich.
Nobody doubted that he stood among the weightiest men of his day.


It was one of his eccentricities, however,--and not altogether a
folly, neither,--to conceal the amount of his property by making
distant and foreign investments, perhaps under other names than
his own, and by various means, familiar enough to capitalists, but
unnecessary here to be specified. By Uncle Jaffrey's last will
and testament, as you are aware, his entire property was bequeathed
to me, with the single exception of a life interest to yourself in
this old family mansion, and the strip of patrimonial estate
remaining attached to it.


And do you seek to deprive us of that?asked Hepzibahunable
to restrain her bitter contempt." Is this your price for ceasing
to persecute poor Clifford?"


Certainly not, my dear cousin!answered the Judgesmiling
benevolently. "On the contraryas you must do me the justice to
ownI have constantly expressed my readiness to double or treble
your resourceswhenever you should make up your mind to accept
any kindness of that nature at the hands of your kinsman. Nono!
But here lies the gist of the matter. Of my uncle's unquestionably
great estateas I have saidnot the half--nonot one thirdas I
am fully convinced--was apparent after his death. NowI have the
best possible reasons for believing that your brother Clifford can
give me a clew to the recovery of the remainder."


Clifford!--Clifford know of any hidden wealth? Clifford have it
in his power to make you rich?cried the old gentlewomanaffected
with a sense of something like ridicule at the idea. "Impossible!
You deceive yourself! It is really a thing to laugh at!"


It is as certain as that I stand here!said Judge Pyncheon
striking his gold-headed cane on the floorand at the same time
stamping his footas if to express his conviction the more forcibly
by the whole emphasis of his substantial person. "Clifford told
me so himself!"


No, no!exclaimed Hepzibah incredulously. "You are dreaming
Cousin Jaffrey."


I do not belong to the dreaming class of men,said the Judge
quietly. "Some months before my uncle's deathClifford boasted
to me of the possession of the secret of incalculable wealth. His
purpose was to taunt meand excite my curiosity. I know it well.
Butfrom a pretty distinct recollection of the particulars of our
conversationI am thoroughly convinced that there was truth in
what he said. Cliffordat this momentif he chooses--and choose
he must!--can inform me where to find the schedulethe documents
the evidencesin whatever shape they existof the vast amount of
Uncle Jaffrey's missing property. He has the secret. His boast
was no idle word. It had a directnessan emphasisa particularity
that showed a backbone of solid meaning within the mystery of
his expression."


But what could have been Clifford's object,asked Hepzibah
in concealing it so long?


It was one of the bad impulses of our fallen nature,replied the
Judgeturning up his eyes. "He looked upon me as his enemy.
He considered me as the cause of his overwhelming disgrace
his imminent peril of deathhis irretrievable ruin. There was
no great probabilitythereforeof his volunteering information
out of his dungeonthat should elevate me still higher on the
ladder of prosperity. But the moment has now come when he must
give up his secret."



And what if he should refuse?inquired Hepzibah. "Or--as I
steadfastly believe--what if he has no knowledge of this wealth?"

My dear cousin,said Judge Pyncheonwith a quietude which
he had the power of making more formidable than any violence
since your brother's return, I have taken the precaution (a highly
proper one in the near kinsman and natural guardian of an
individual so situated) to have his deportment and habits
constantly and carefully overlooked. Your neighbors have been
eye-witnesses to whatever has passed in the garden. The butcher,
the baker, the fish-monger, some of the customers of your shop,
and many a prying old woman, have told me several of the secrets
of your interior. A still larger circle--I myself, among the
rest--can testify to his extravagances at the arched window.
Thousands beheld him, a week or two ago, on the point of finging
himself thence into the street. From all this testimony, I am
led to apprehend--reluctantly, and with deep grief--that Clifford's
misfortunes have so affected his intellect, never very strong,
that he cannot safely remain at large. The alternative, you must
be aware,--and its adoption will depend entirely on the decision
which I am now about to make,--the alternative is his confinement,
probably for the remainder of his life, in a public asylum for
persons in his unfortunate state of mind.

You cannot mean it!shrieked Hepzibah.

Should my cousin Clifford,continued Judge Pyncheonwholly
undisturbedfrom mere malice, and hatred of one whose
interests ought naturally to be dear to him,--a mode of passion
that, as often as any other, indicates mental disease,--should he
refuse me the information so important to myself, and which he
assuredly possesses, I shall consider it the one needed jot of
evidence to satisfy my mind of his insanity. And, once sure of
the course pointed out by conscience, you know me too well,
Cousin Hepzibah, to entertain a doubt that I shall pursue it.

O Jaffrey,--Cousin Jaffrey.cried Hepzibah mournfullynot
passionatelyit is you that are diseased in mind, not Clifford!
You have forgotten that a woman was your mother!--that you
have had sisters, brothers, children of your own!--or that there
ever was affection between man and man, or pity from one man
to another, in this miserable world! Else, how could you have
dreamed of this? You are not young, Cousin Jaffrey!--no, nor
middle-aged,--but already an old man! The hair is white upon
your head! How many years have you to live? Are you not rich
enough for that little time? Shall you be hungry,--shall you
lack clothes, or a roof to shelter you,--between this point
and the grave? No! but, with the half of what you now possess,
you could revel in costly food and wines, and build a house twice
as splendid as you now inhabit, and make a far greater show to the
world,--and yet leave riches to your only son, to make him bless
the hour of your death! Then, why should you do this cruel,
cruel thing?--so mad a thing, that I know not whether to call it
wicked! Alas, Cousin Jaffrey, this hard and grasping spirit has
run in our blood these two hundred years. You are but doing
over again, in another shape, what your ancestor before you did,
and sending down to your posterity the curse inherited from him!

Talk sense, Hepzibah, for Heaven's sake!exclaimed the Judge
with the impatience natural to a reasonable manon hearing
anything so utterly absurd as the abovein a discussion about
matters of business. "I have told you my determination. I am
not apt to change. Clifford must give up his secretor take


the consequences. And let him decide quickly; for I have several
affairs to attend to this morningand an important dinner
engagement with some political friends."

Clifford has no secret!answered Hepzibah. "And God will not
let you do the thing you meditate!"

We shall see,said the unmoved Judge. "Meanwhilechoose whether
you will summon Cliffordand allow this business to be amicably
settled by an interview between two kinsmenor drive me to harsher
measureswhich I should be most happy to feel myself justified in
avoiding. The responsibility is altogether on your part."

You are stronger than I,said Hepzibahafter a brief
consideration; "and you have no pity in your strength! Clifford
is not now insane; but the interview which you insist upon may
go far to make him so. Neverthelessknowing you as I do
I believe it to be my best course to allow you to judge for
yourself as to the improbability of his possessing any valuable
secret. I will call Clifford. Be merciful in your dealings with
him!--be far more merciful than your heart bids you be!--for God
is looking at youJaffrey Pyncheon!"

The Judge followed his cousin from the shopwhere the
foregoing conversation had passedinto the parlorand flung
himself heavily in to the great ancestral chair. Many a former
Pyncheon had found repose in its capacious arms: rosy children
after their sports; young mendreamy with love; grown men
weary with cares; old menburdened with winters--they had
musedand slumberedand departed to a yet profounder sleep.
It had been a long traditionthough a doubtful onethat this
was the very chairseated in which the earliest of the Judge's
New England forefathers--he whose picture still hung upon the
wall--had given a dead man's silent and stern reception to the
throng of distinguished guests. From that hour of evil omen
until the presentit may be--though we know not the secret
of his heart--but it may be that no wearier and sadder man
had ever sunk into the chair than this same Judge Pyncheon
whom we have just beheld so immitigably hard and resolute.
Surelyit must have been at no slight cost that he had thus
fortified his soul with iron. Such calmness is a mightier effort
than the violence of weaker men. And there was yet a heavy task
for him to do. Was it a little matter--a trifle to be prepared
for in a single momentand to be rested from in another moment
--that he must nowafter thirty yearsencounter a kinsman
risen from a living tomband wrench a secret from himor else
consign him to a living tomb again?

Did you speak?asked Hepzibahlooking in from the threshold
of the parlor; for she imagined that the Judge had uttered some
sound which she was anxious to interpret as a relenting impulse.
I thought you called me back.

No, nogruffly answered Judge Pyncheon with a harsh frown
while his brow grew almost a black purplein the shadow of the
room. "Why should I call you back? Time flies! Bid Clifford
come to me!"

The Judge had taken his watch from his vest pocket and now
held it in his handmeasuring the interval which was to ensue
before the appearance of Clifford.


XVI Clifford's Chamber

NEVER had the old house appeared so dismal to poor Hepzibah
as when she departed on that wretched errand. There was a
strange aspect in it. As she trode along the foot-worn passages
and opened one crazy door after anotherand ascended the
creaking staircaseshe gazed wistfully and fearfully around.
It would have been no marvelto her excited mindifbehind
or beside herthere had been the rustle of dead people's
garmentsor pale visages awaiting her on the landing-place above.
Her nerves were set all ajar by the scene of passion and terror
through which she had just struggled. Her colloquy with Judge
Pyncheonwho so perfectly represented the person and attributes
of the founder of the familyhad called back the dreary past.
It weighed upon her heart. Whatever she had heardfrom legendary
aunts and grandmothersconcerning the good or evil fortunes of
the Pyncheons--stories which had heretofore been kept warm in
her remembrance by the chimney-corner glow that was associated
with them--now recurred to hersombreghastlycoldlike most
passages of family historywhen brooded over in melancholy
mood. The whole seemed little else but a series of calamity
reproducing itself in successive generationswith one general hue
and varying in littlesave the outline. But Hepzibah now felt as
if the Judgeand Cliffordand herself--they three together
--were on the point of adding another incident to the annals of
the housewith a bolder relief of wrong and sorrowwhich would
cause it to stand out from all the rest. Thus it is that the grief
of the passing moment takes upon itself an individualityand a
character of climaxwhich it is destined to lose after a while
and to fade into the dark gray tissue common to the grave or glad
events of many years ago. It is but for a momentcomparatively
that anything looks strange or startling--a truth that has the
bitter and the sweet in it.

But Hepzibah could not rid herself of the sense of something
unprecedented at that instant passing and soon to be accomplished.
Her nerves were in a shake. Instinctively she paused before the
arched windowand looked out upon the streetin order to seize
its permanent objects with her mental graspand thus to steady
herself from the reel and vibration which affected her more
immediate sphere. It brought her upas we may saywith a kind
of shockwhen she beheld everything under the same appearance
as the day beforeand numberless preceding daysexcept for the
difference between sunshine and sullen storm. Her eyes travelled
along the streetfrom doorstep to doorstepnoting the wet
sidewalkswith here and there a puddle in hollows that had been
imperceptible until filled with water. She screwed her dim optics
to their acutest pointin the hope of making outwith greater
distinctnessa certain windowwhere she half sawhalf guessed
that a tailor's seamstress was sitting at her work. Hepzibah
flung herself upon that unknown woman's companionshipeven thus
far off. Then she was attracted by a chaise rapidly passing
and watched its moist and glistening topand its splashing wheels
until it had turned the cornerand refused to carry any further
her idly triflingbecause appalled and overburdenedmind.
When the vehicle had disappearedshe allowed herself still
another loitering moment; for the patched figure of good Uncle
Venner was now visiblecoming slowly from the head of the street
downwardwith a rheumatic limpbecause the east wind had got
into his joints. Hepzibah wished that he would pass yet more
slowlyand befriend her shivering solitude a little longer.
Anything that would take her out of the grievous presentand


interpose human beings betwixt herself and what was nearest to
her--whatever would defer for an instant the inevitable errand
on which she was bound--all such impediments were welcome. Next
to the lightest heartthe heaviest is apt to be most playful.

Hepzibah had little hardihood for her own proper painand far
less for what she must inflict on Clifford. Of so slight a nature
and so shattered by his previous calamitiesit could not well be
short of utter ruin to bring him face to face with the hard
relentless man who had been his evil destiny through life. Even
had there been no bitter recollectionsnor any hostile interest
now at stake between themthe mere natural repugnance of the
more sensitive system to the massiveweightyand unimpressible
onemustin itselfhave been disastrous to the former. It would
be like flinging a porcelain vasewith already a crack in it
against a granite column. Never before had Hepzibah so adequately
estimated the powerful character of her cousin Jaffrey--powerful
by intellectenergy of willthe long habit of acting among men
andas she believedby his unscrupulous pursuit of selfish ends
through evil means. It did but increase the difficulty that Judge
Pyncheon was under a delusion as to the secret which he supposed
Clifford to possess. Men of his strength of purpose and customary
sagacityif they chance to adopt a mistaken opinion in practical
mattersso wedge it and fasten it among things known to be true
that to wrench it out of their minds is hardly less difficult than
pulling up an oak. Thusas the Judge required an impossibility of
Cliffordthe latteras he could not perform itmust needs perish.
For whatin the grasp of a man like thiswas to become of Clifford's
soft poetic naturethat never should have had a task more stubborn
than to set a life of beautiful enjoyment to the flow and rhythm of
musical cadences! Indeedwhat had become of it already? Broken!
Blighted! All but annihilated! Soon to be wholly so!

For a momentthe thought crossed Hepzibah's mindwhether
Clifford might not really have such knowledge of their deceased
uncle's vanished estate as the Judge imputed to him. She remembered
some vague intimationson her brother's partwhich--if the
supposition were not essentially preposterous --might have been
so interpreted. There had been schemes of travel and residence
abroadday-dreams of brilliant life at homeand splendid castles
in the airwhich it would have required boundless wealth to build
and realize. Had this wealth been in her powerhow gladly would
Hepzibah have bestowed it all upon her iron-hearted kinsmanto buy
for Clifford the freedom and seclusion of the desolate old house!
But she believed that her brother's schemes were as destitute of
actual substance and purpose as a child's pictures of its future life
while sitting in a little chair by its mother's knee. Clifford had
none but shadowy gold at his command; and it was not the stuff to
satisfy Judge Pyncheon!

Was there no help in their extremity? It seemed strange that there
should be nonewith a city round about her. It would be so easy
to throw up the windowand send forth a shriekat the strange
agony of which everybody would come hastening to the rescue
well understanding it to be the cry of a human soulat some
dreadful crisis! But how wildhow almost laughablethe fatality
--and yet how continually it comes to passthought Hepzibahin this
dull delirium of a world--that whosoeverand with however kindly
a purposeshould come to helpthey would be sure to help the
strongest side! Might and wrong combinedlike iron magnetized
are endowed with irresistible attraction. There would be Judge
Pyncheon--a person eminent in the public viewof high station
and great wealtha philanthropista member of Congress and of the
churchand intimately associated with whatever else bestows good


name--so imposingin these advantageous lightsthat Hepzibah
herself could hardly help shrinking from her own conclusions as
to his hollow integrity. The Judgeon one side! And whoon the
other? The guilty Clifford! Once a byword! Nowan indistinctly
remembered ignominy!

Neverthelessin spite of this perception that the Judge would
draw all human aid to his own behalfHepzibah was so
unaccustomed to act for herselfthat the least word of counsel
would have swayed her to any mode of action. Little Phoebe
Pyncheon would at once have lighted up the whole sceneif not
by any available suggestionyet simply by the warm vivacity of
her character. The idea of the artist occurred to Hepzibah.
Young and unknownmere vagrant adventurer as he wasshe had
been conscious of a force in Holgrave which might well adapt him
to be the champion of a crisis. With this thought in her mind
she unbolted a doorcobwebbed and long disusedbut which had
served as a former medium of communication between her own part
of the house and the gable where the wandering daguerreotypist had
now established his temporary home. He was not there. A bookface
downwardon the tablea roll of manuscripta half-written sheet
a newspapersome tools of his present occupationand several
rejected daguerreotypesconveyed an impression as if he were
close at hand. Butat this period of the dayas Hepzibah might
have anticipatedthe artist was at his public rooms. With an
impulse of idle curiositythat flickered among her heavy thoughts
she looked at one of the daguerreotypesand beheld Judge Pyncheon
frowning at her. Fate stared her in the face. She turned back from
her fruitless questwith a heartsinking sense of disappointment.
In all her years of seclusionshe had never feltas nowwhat it
was to be alone. It seemed as if the house stood in a desertor
by some spellwas made invisible to those who dwelt aroundor
passed beside it; so that any mode of misfortunemiserable accident
or crime might happen in it without the possibility of aid. In her
grief and wounded prideHepzibah had spent her life in divesting
herself of friends; she had wilfully cast off the support which God
has ordained his creatures to need from one another; and it was now
her punishmentthat Clifford and herself would fall the easier
victims to their kindred enemy.

Returning to the arched windowshe lifted her eyes--scowling
poordim-sighted Hepzibahin the face of Heaven!--and strove
hard to send up a prayer through the dense gray pavement of clouds.
Those mists had gatheredas if to symbolize a greatbrooding mass
of human troubledoubtconfusionand chill indifferencebetween
earth and the better regions. Her faith was too weak; the prayer too
heavy to be thus uplifted. It fell backa lump of leadupon her
heart. It smote her with the wretched conviction that Providence
intermeddled not in these petty wrongs of one individual to his
fellownor had any balm for these little agonies of a solitary
soul; but shed its justiceand its mercyin a broadsunlike
sweepover half the universe at once. Its vastness made it nothing.
But Hepzibah did not see thatjust as there comes a warm sunbeam
into every cottage windowso comes a lovebeam of God's care and
pity for every separate need.

At lastfinding no other pretext for deferring the torture that she
was to inflict on Clifford--her reluctance to which was the true
cause of her loitering at the windowher search for the artist
and even her abortive prayer--dreadingalsoto hear the stern
voice of Judge Pyncheon from below stairschiding her delay--she
crept slowlya palegrief-stricken figurea dismal shape of woman
with almost torpid limbsslowly to her brother's doorand knocked!


There was no reply.

And how should there have been? Her handtremulous with the
shrinking purpose which directed ithad smitten so feebly against
the door that the sound could hardly have gone inward. She knocked
again. Still no response! Nor was it to be wondered at. She had
struck with the entire force of her heart's vibrationcommunicating
by some subtile magnetismher own terror to the summons. Clifford
would turn his face to the pillowand cover his head beneath the
bedclotheslike a startled child at midnight. She knocked a third
timethree regular strokesgentlebut perfectly distinctand with
meaning in them; formodulate it with what cautious art we will
the hand cannot help playing some tune of what we feel upon the
senseless wood.

Clifford returned no answer.

Clifford! dear brother.said Hepzibah. "Shall I come in?"

A silence.

Two or three timesand moreHepzibah repeated his name
without result; tillthinking her brother's sleep unwontedly
profoundshe undid the doorand enteringfound the chamber
vacant. How could he have come forthand whenwithout her
knowledge? Was it possible thatin spite of the stormy day
and worn out with the irksomeness within doors he had betaken
himself to his customary haunt in the gardenand was now
shivering under the cheerless shelter of the summer-house? She
hastily threw up a windowthrust forth her turbaned head and the
half of her gaunt figureand searched the whole garden through
as completely as her dim vision would allow. She could see the
interior of the summer-houseand its circular seatkept moist
by the droppings of the roof. It had no occupant. Clifford was
not thereabouts; unlessindeedhe had crept for concealment
(asfor a momentHepzibah fancied might be the case) into a great
wet mass of tangled and broad-leaved shadowwhere the squash-vines
were clambering tumultuously upon an old wooden framework
set casually aslant against the fence. This could not be
however; he was not there; forwhile Hepzibah was looking
a strange grimalkin stole forth from the very spotand picked
his way across the garden. Twice he paused to snuff the air
and then anew directed his course towards the parlor window.
Whether it was only on account of the stealthyprying manner
common to the raceor that this cat seemed to have more than
ordinary mischief in his thoughtsthe old gentlewomanin spite
of her much perplexityfelt an impulse to drive the animal away
and accordingly flung down a window stick. The cat stared up at her
like a detected thief or murdererandthe next instanttook
to flight. No other living creature was visible in the garden.
Chanticleer and his family had either not left their roost
disheartened by the interminable rainor had done the next wisest
thingby seasonably returning to it. Hepzibah closed the window.

But where was Clifford? Could it be thataware of the presence
of his Evil Destinyhe had crept silently down the staircase
while the Judge and Hepzibah stood talking in the shopand had
softly undone the fastenings of the outer doorand made his
escape into the street? With that thoughtshe seemed to behold
his graywrinkledyet childlike aspectin the old-fashioned
garments which he wore about the house; a figure such as one
sometimes imagines himself to bewith the world's eye upon
himin a troubled dream. This figure of her wretched brother
would go wandering through the cityattracting all eyesand


everybody's wonder and repugnancelike a ghostthe more to be
shuddered at because visible at noontide. To incur the ridicule
of the younger crowdthat knew him not--the harsher scorn and
indignation of a few old menwho might recall his once familiar
features! To be the sport of boyswhowhen old enough to run
about the streetshave no more reverence for what is beautiful
and holynor pity for what is sad--no more sense of sacred
miserysanctifying the human shape in which it embodies itself
--than if Satan were the father of them all! Goaded by their
tauntstheir loudshrill criesand cruel laughter--insulted
by the filth of the public wayswhich they would fling upon him
--oras it might well bedistracted by the mere strangeness of
his situationthough nobody should afflict him with so much as
a thoughtless word--what wonder if Clifford were to break into
some wild extravagance which was certain to be interpreted as
lunacy? Thus Judge Pyncheon's fiendish scheme would be ready
accomplished to his hands!

Then Hepzibah reflected that the town was almost completely
water-girdled. The wharves stretched out towards the centre of
the harborandin this inclement weatherwere deserted by the
ordinary throng of merchantslaborersand sea-faring men; each
wharf a solitudewith the vessels moored stem and sternalong
its misty length. Should her brother's aimless footsteps stray
thitherwardand he but bendone momentover the deepblack
tidewould he not bethink himself that here was the sure refuge
within his reachand thatwith a single stepor the slightest
overbalance of his bodyhe might be forever beyond his kinsman's
gripe? Ohthe temptation! To make of his ponderous sorrow a
security! To sinkwith its leaden weight upon himand never
rise again!

The horror of this last conception was too much for Hepzibah.
Even Jaffrey Pyncheon must help her now She hastened down
the staircaseshrieking as she went.

Clifford is gone!she cried. "I cannot find my brother.
HelpJaffrey Pyncheon! Some harm will happen to him!"

She threw open the parlor-door. Butwhat with the shade of
branches across the windowsand the smoke-blackened ceiling
and the dark oak-panelling of the wallsthere was hardly so
much daylight in the room that Hepzibah's imperfect sight could
accurately distinguish the Judge's figure. She was certain
howeverthat she saw him sitting in the ancestral armchair
near the centre of the floorwith his face somewhat averted
and looking towards a window. So firm and quiet is the nervous
system of such men as Judge Pyncheonthat he had perhaps stirred
not more than once since her departurebutin the hard composure
of his temperamentretained the position into which accident had
thrown him.

I tell you, Jaffrey,cried Hepzibah impatientlyas she turned
from the parlor-door to search other roomsmy brother is not in
his chamber! You must help me seek him!

But Judge Pyncheon was not the man to let himself be startled
from an easy-chair with haste ill-befitting either the dignity
of his character or his broad personal basisby the alarm of an
hysteric woman. Yetconsidering his own interest in the matter
he might have bestirred himself with a little more alacrity.

Do you hear me, Jaffrey Pyncheon?screamed Hepzibahas she
again approached the parlor-doorafter an ineffectual search


elsewhere. "Clifford is gone."

At this instanton the threshold of the parloremerging from
withinappeared Clifford himself! His face was preternaturally
pale; so deadly whiteindeedthatthrough all the glimmering
indistinctness of the passagewayHepzibah could discern his
featuresas if a light fell on them alone. Their vivid and wild
expression seemed likewise sufficient to illuminate them; it was
an expression of scorn and mockerycoinciding with the emotions
indicated by his gesture. As Clifford stood on the threshold
partly turning backhe pointed his finger within the parlor
and shook it slowly as though he would have summonednot Hepzibah
alonebut the whole worldto gaze at some object inconceivably
ridiculous. This actionso ill-timed and extravagant--accompanied
toowith a look that showed more like joy than any other kind of
excitement--compelled Hepzibah to dread that her stern kinsman's
ominous visit had driven her poor brother to absolute insanity.
Nor could she otherwise account for the Judge's quiescent mood
than by supposing him craftily on the watchwhile Clifford
developed these symptoms of a distracted mind.

Be quiet, Clifford!whispered his sisterraising her hand to
impress caution. "Ohfor Heaven's sakebe quiet!"

Let him be quiet! What can he do better?answered Clifford
with a still wilder gesturepointing into the room which he had
just quitted. "As for usHepzibahwe can dance now!--we can
singlaughplaydo what we will! The weight is goneHepzibah!
It is gone off this weary old worldand we may be as light-hearted
as little Phoebe herself."

Andin accordance with his wordshe began to laughstill
pointing his finger at the objectinvisible to Hepzibahwithin
the parlor. She was seized with a sudden intuition of some horrible
thing. She thrust herself past Cliffordand disappeared into the
room; but almost immediately returnedwith a cry choking in her
throat. Gazing at her brother with an affrighted glance of inquiry
she beheld him all in a tremor and a quakefrom head to footwhile
amid these commoted elements of passion or alarmstill flickered
his gusty mirth.

My God! what is to become of us?gasped Hepzibah.

Come!said Clifford in a tone of brief decisionmost unlike what
was usual with him. "We stay here too long! Let us leave the old
house to our cousin Jaffrey! He will take good care of it!"

Hepzibah now noticed that Clifford had on a cloak--a garment
of long ago--in which he had constantly muffled himself during
these days of easterly storm. He beckoned with his handand
intimatedso far as she could comprehend himhis purpose that
they should go together from the house. There are chaoticblind
or drunken momentsin the lives of persons who lack real force
of character--moments of testin which courage would most assert
itself--but where these individualsif left to themselves
stagger aimlessly alongor follow implicitly whatever guidance
may befall themeven if it be a child's. No matter how preposterous
or insanea purpose is a Godsend to them. Hepzibah had reached
this point. Unaccustomed to action or responsibility--full of
horror at what she had seenand afraid to inquireor almost to
imaginehow it had come to pass--affrighted at the fatality which
seemed to pursue her brother--stupefied by the dimthickstifling
atmosphere of dread which filled the house as with a death-smell
and obliterated all definiteness of thought--she yielded without


a questionand on the instantto the will which Clifford expressed.
For herselfshe was like a person in a dreamwhen the will always
sleeps. Cliffordordinarily so destitute of this facultyhad found
it in the tension of the crisis.

Why do you delay so?cried he sharply. "Put on your cloak
and hoodor whatever it pleases you to wear! No matter what;
you cannot look beautiful nor brilliantmy poor Hepzibah! Take
your pursewith money in itand come along!"

Hepzibah obeyed these instructionsas if nothing else were to be
done or thought of. She began to wonderit is truewhy she did
not wake upand at what still more intolerable pitch of dizzy
trouble her spirit would struggle out of the mazeand make her
conscious that nothing of all this had actually happened. Of
course it was not real; no such blackeasterly day as this had
yet begun to be; Judge Pyncheon had not talked withher. Clifford
had not laughedpointedbeckoned her away with him; but she
had merely been afflicted--as lonely sleepers often are--with a
great deal of unreasonable miseryin a morning dream!

Now--now--I shall certainly awake!thought Hepzibahas she went
to and fromaking her little preparations. "I can bear it no longer
I must wake up now!"

But it came notthat awakening moment! It came noteven
whenjust before they left the houseClifford stole to the
parlor-doorand made a parting obeisance to the sole occupant
of the room.

What an absurd figure the old fellow cuts now!whispered he
to Hepzibah. "Just when he fancied he had me completely under
his thumb! Comecome; make haste! or he will start uplike
Giant Despair in pursuit of Christian and Hopefuland catch
us yet!"

As they passed into the streetClifford directed Hepzibah's
attention to something on one of the posts of the front door.
It was merely the initials of his own namewhichwith somewhat
of his characteristic grace about the forms of the lettershe had
cut there when a boy. The brother and sister departedand left
Judge Pyncheon sitting in the old home of his forefathersall by
himself; so heavy and lumpish that we can liken him to nothing
better than a defunct nightmarewhich had perished in the midst
of its wickednessand left its flabby corpse on the breast of
the tormented oneto be gotten rid of as it might!

XVII The Flight of Two Owls

SUMMER as it wasthe east wind set poor Hepzibah's few
remaining teeth chattering in her headas she and Clifford faced
iton their way up Pyncheon Streetand towards the centre of
the town. Not merely was it the shiver which this pitiless blast
brought to her frame (although her feet and handsespecially
had never seemed so death-a-cold as now)but there was a moral
sensationmingling itself with the physical chilland causing
her to shake more in spirit than in body. The world's broad
bleak atmosphere was all so comfortless! Suchindeedis the
impression which it makes on every new adventurereven if he
plunge into it while the warmest tide of life is bubbling through


his veins. Whatthenmust it have been to Hepzibah and
Clifford--so time-stricken as they wereyet so like children
in their inexperience--as they left the doorstepand passed
from beneath the wide shelter of the Pyncheon Elm! They were
wandering all abroadon precisely such a pilgrimage as a child
often meditatesto the world's endwith perhaps a sixpence and
a biscuit in his pocket. In Hepzibah's mindthere was the
wretched consciousness of being adrift. She had lost the faculty
of self-guidance; butin view of the difficulties around her
felt it hardly worth an effort to regain itand wasmoreover
incapable of making one.

As they proceeded on their strange expeditionshe now and then
cast a look sidelong at Cliffordand could not but observe that
he was possessed and swayed by a powerful excitement. It was
thisindeedthat gave him the control which he had at onceand
so irresistiblyestablished over his movements. It not a little
resembled the exhilaration of wine. Orit might more fancifully
be compared to a joyous piece of musicplayed with wild vivacity
but upon a disordered instrument. As the cracked jarring note
might always be heardand as it jarred loudest amidst the loftiest
exultation of the melodyso was there a continual quake through
Cliffordcausing him most to quiver while he wore a triumphant
smileand seemed almost under a necessity to skip in his gait.

They met few people abroadeven on passing from the retired
neighborhood of the House of the Seven Gables into what was
ordinarily the more thronged and busier portion of the town.
Glistening sidewalkswith little pools of rainhere and there
along their unequal surface; umbrellas displayed ostentatiously in
the shop-windowsas if the life of trade had concentrated itself
in that one article; wet leaves of thehorse-chestnut or elm-trees
torn off untimely by the blast and scattered along the public way;
an unsightlyaccumulation of mud in the middle of the street
which perversely grew the more unclean for its long and laborious
washing--these were the more definable points of a very sombre
picture. In the way of movement and human lifethere was the
hasty rattle of a cab or coachits driver protected by a waterproof
cap over his head and shoulders; the forlorn figure of an old man
who seemed to have crept out of some subterranean sewerand was
stooping along the kenneland poking the wet rubbish with a stick
in quest of rusty nails; a merchant or twoat the door of the
post-officetogether with an editor and a miscellaneous politician
awaiting a dilatory mail; a few visages of retired sea-captains at
the window of an insurance officelooking out vacantly at the vacant
streetblaspheming at the weatherand fretting at the dearth as
well of public news as local gossip. What a treasure-trove to
these venerable quidnuncscould they have guessed the secret which
Hepzibah and Clifford were carrying along with them! But their two
figures attracted hardly so much notice as that of a young girl
who passed at the same instantand happened to raise her skirt
a trifle too high above her ankles. Had it been a sunny and
cheerful daythey could hardly have gone through the streets
without making themselves obnoxious to remark. Nowprobably
they were felt to be in keeping with the dismal and bitter weather
and therefore did not stand out in strong reliefas if the sun
were shining on thembut melted into the gray gloom and were
forgotten as soon as gone.

Poor Hepzibah! Could she have understood this factit would have
brought her some little comfort; forto all her other troubles
--strange to say!--there was added the womanish and old-maiden-like
misery arising from a sense of unseemliness in her attire. Thus
she was fain to shrink deeper into herselfas it wereas if in the


hope of making people suppose that here was only a cloak and hood
threadbare and woefully fadedtaking an airing in the midst of the
stormwithout any wearer!

As they went onthe feeling of indistinctness and unreality kept
dimly hovering round about herand so diffusing itself into her
system that one of her hands was hardly palpable to the touch of
the other. Any certainty would have been preferable to this. She
whispered to herselfagain and againAm I awake?--Am I awake?
and sometimes exposed her face to the chill spatter of the wind
for the sake of its rude assurance that she was. Whether it was
Clifford's purposeor only chancehad led them thitherthey
now found themselves passing beneath the arched entrance of a
large structure of gray stone. Withinthere was a spacious
breadthand an airy height from floor to roofnow partially
filled with smoke and steamwhich eddied voluminously upward
and formed a mimic cloud-region over their heads. A train of
cars was just ready for a start; the locomotive was fretting and
fuminglike a steed impatient for a headlong rush; and the bell
rang out its hasty pealso well expressing the brief summons
which life vouchsafes to us in its hurried career. Without
question or delay--with the irresistible decisionif not rather
to be called recklessnesswhich had so strangely taken possession
of himand through him of Hepzibah--Clifford impelled her
towards the carsand assisted her to enter. The signal was given;
the engine puffed forth its shortquick breaths; the train began
its movement; andalong with a hundred other passengersthese
two unwonted travellers sped onward like the wind.

At lastthereforeand after so long estrangement from everything
that the world acted or enjoyedthey had been drawn into the
great current of human lifeand were swept away with itas by
the suction of fate itself.

Still haunted with the idea that not one of the past incidents
inclusive of Judge Pyncheon's visitcould be realthe recluse
of the Seven Gables murmured in her brother's ear-


Clifford! Clifford! Is not this a dream?

A dream, Hepzibah!repeated healmost laughing in her face.
On the contrary, I have never been awake before!

Meanwhilelooking from the windowthey could see the world
racing past them. At one momentthey were rattling through a
solitude; the nexta village had grown up around them; a few
breaths moreand it had vanishedas if swallowed by an earthquake.
The spires of meeting-houses seemed set adrift from their foundations;
the broad-based hills glided away. Everything was unfixed from its
age-long restand moving at whirlwind speed in a direction opposite
to their own.

Within the car there was the usual interior life of the railroad
offering little to the observation of other passengersbut full
of novelty for this pair of strangely enfranchised prisoners.
It was novelty enoughindeedthat there were fifty human beings
in close relation with themunder one long and narrow roofand
drawn onward by the same mighty influence that had taken their
two selves into its grasp. It seemed marvellous how all these
people could remain so quietly in their seatswhile so much
noisy strength was at work in their behalf. Somewith tickets
in their hats (long travellers thesebefore whom lay a hundred
miles of railroad)had plunged into the English scenery and
adventures of pamphlet novelsand were keeping company with dukes


and earls. Otherswhose briefer span forbade their devoting
themselves to studies so abstrusebeguiled the little tedium of
the way with penny-papers. A party of girlsand one young man
on opposite sides of the carfound huge amusement in a game
of ball. They tossed it to and frowith peals of laughter that
might be measured by mile-lengths; forfaster than the nimble
ball could flythe merry players fled unconsciously along
leaving the trail of their mirth afar behindand ending their
game under another sky than had witnessed its commencement.
Boyswith applescakescandyand rolls of variously tinctured
lozenges--merchandise that reminded Hepzibah of her deserted
shop--appeared at each momentary stopping-placedoing up their
business in a hurryor breaking it short offlest the market
should ravish them away with it. New people continually entered.
Old acquaintances--for such they soon grew to bein this rapid
current of affairs--continually departed. Here and thereamid
the rumble and the tumultsat one asleep. Sleep; sport; business;
graver or lighter study; and the common and inevitable movement
onward! It was life itself!


Clifford's naturally poignant sympathies were all aroused.
He caught the color of what was passing about himand threw it
back more vividly than he received itbut mixednevertheless
with a lurid and portentous hue. Hepzibahon the other hand
felt herself more apart from human kind than even in the seclusion
which she had just quitted.


You are not happy, Hepzibah!said Clifford apartin a tone
of aproach. "You are thinking of that dismal old houseand
of CousinJaffrey"--here came the quake through him--"and of
Cousin Jaffrey sitting thereall by himself! Take my advice
--follow my example--and let such things slip aside. Here
we arein the worldHepzibah!--in the midst of life!--in the
throng of our fellow beings! Let you and I be happy! As happy
as that youth and those pretty girlsat their game of ball!"


Happy--thought Hepzibahbitterly consciousat the wordof
her dull and heavy heartwith the frozen pain in it--"happy.
He is mad already; andif I could once feel myself broad awake
I should go mad too!"


If a fixed idea be madnessshe was perhaps not remote from it.
Fast and far as they had rattled and clattered along the iron
trackthey might just as wellas regarded Hepzibah's mental
imageshave been passing up and down Pyncheon Street. With miles
and miles of varied scenery betweenthere was no scene for her
save the seven old gable-peakswith their mossand the tuft of
weeds in one of the anglesand the shop-windowand a customer
shaking the doorand compelling the little bell to jingle fiercely
but without disturbing Judge Pyncheon! This one old house was
everywhere! It transported its greatlumbering bulk with more
than railroad speedand set itself phlegmatically down on whatever
spot she glanced at. The quality of Hepzibah's mind was too
unmalleable to take new impressions so readily as Clifford's.
He had a winged nature; she was rather of the vegetable kind
and could hardly be kept long aliveif drawn up by the roots.
Thus it happened that the relation heretofore existing between
her brother and herself was changed. At homeshe was his guardian;
hereClifford had become hersand seemed to comprehend whatever
belonged to their new position with a singular rapidity of
intelligence. He had been startled into manhood and intellectual
vigor; orat leastinto a condition that resembled them
though it might be both diseased and transitory.



The conductor now applied for their tickets; and Cliffordwho
had made himself the purse-bearerput a bank-note into his hand
as he had observed others do.

For the lady and yourself?asked the conductor. "And how far?"

As far as that will carry us,said Clifford. "It is no great
matter. We are riding for pleasure merely."

You choose a strange day for it, sir!remarked a gimlet-eyed
old gentleman on the other side of the carlooking at Clifford
and his companionas if curious to make them out." The best
chance of pleasurein an easterly rainI take itis in a man's
own housewith a nice little fire in the chimney."

I cannot precisely agree with you,said Cliffordcourteously
bowing to the old gentlemanand at once taking up the clew of
conversation which the latter had proffered. "It had just occurred
to meon the contrarythat this admirable invention of the railroad
--with the vast and inevitable improvements to be looked forboth as
to speed and convenience--is destined to do away with those stale
ideas of home and firesideand substitute something better."

In the name of common-sense,asked the old gentleman rather
testilywhat can be better for a man than his own parlor and
chimney-corner?

These things have not the merit which many good people attribute
to them,replied Clifford. "They may be saidin few and pithy
wordsto have ill served a poor purpose. My impression is
that our wonderfully increased and still increasing facilities
of locomotion are destined to bring us around again to the
nomadic state. You are awaremy dear sir--you must have
observed it in your own experience--that all human progress is
in a circle; orto use a more accurate and beautiful figure
in an ascending spiral curve. While we fancy ourselves going
straight forwardand attainingat every stepan entirely new
position of affairswe do actually return to something long ago
tried and abandonedbut which we now find etherealizedrefined
and perfected to its ideal. The past is but a coarse and sensual
prophecy of the present and the future. To apply this truth to
the topic now under discussion. In the early epochs of our race
men dwelt in temporary hutsof bowers of branchesas easily
constructed as a bird's-nestand which they built--if it should
be called buildingwhen such sweet homes of a summer solstice
rather grew than were made with hands--which Naturewe will
sayassisted them to rear where fruit aboundedwhere fish and
game were plentifulormost especiallywhere the sense of
beauty was to be gratified by a lovelier shade than elsewhere
and a more exquisite arrangement of lakewoodand hill. This
life possessed a charm whichever since man quitted ithas
vanished from existence. And it typified something better than
itself. It had its drawbacks; such as hunger and thirstinclement
weatherhot sunshineand weary and foot-blistering marches over
barren and ugly tractsthat lay between the sites desirable for
their fertility and beauty. But in our ascending spiralwe escape
all this. These railroads--could but the whistle be made musical
and the rumble and the jar got rid of--are positively the greatest
blessing that the ages have wrought out for us. They give us wings;
they annihilate the toil and dust of pilgrimage; they spiritualize
travel! Transition being so facilewhat can be any man's inducement
to tarry in one spot? Whythereforeshould he build a more cumbrous
habitation than can readily be carried off with him? Why should he
make himself a prisoner for life in brickand stoneand old


worm-eaten timberwhen he may just as easily dwellin one sense
nowhere--in a better sensewherever the fit and beautiful shall
offer him a home?"

Clifford's countenance glowedas he divulged this theory; a youthful
character shone out from withinconverting the wrinkles and pallid
duskiness of age into an almost transparent mask. The merry girls let
their ball drop upon the floorand gazed at him. They said to themselves
perhapsthatbefore his hair was gray and the crow's-feet tracked his
templesthis now decaying man must have stamped the impress of his
features on many a woman's heart. Butalas! no woman's eye had seen
his face while it was beautiful.

I should scarcely call it an improved state of things,observed
Clifford's new acquaintanceto live everywhere and nowhere!

Would you not?exclaimed Cliffordwith singular energy. "It
is as clear to me as sunshine--were there any in the sky--that
the greatest possible stumbling-blocks in the path of human
happiness and improvement are these heaps of bricks and stones
consolidated with mortaror hewn timberfastened together with
spike-nailswhich men painfully contrive for their own torment
and call them house and home! The soul needs air; a wide sweep
and frequent change of it. Morbid influencesin a thousand-fold
varietygather about hearthsand pollute the life of households.
There is no such unwholesome atmosphere as that of an old home
rendered poisonous by one's defunct forefathers and relatives. I
speak of what I know. There is a certain house within my familiar
recollection--one of those peaked-gable (there are seven of them)
projecting-storied edificessuch as you occasionally see in our
older towns--a rustycrazycreakydry-rotteddingydarkand
miserable old dungeonwith an arched window over the porchand a
little shop-door on one sideand a greatmelancholy elm before it!
Nowsirwhenever my thoughts recur to this seven-gabled mansion
(the fact is so very curious that I must needs mention it)
immediately I have a vision or image of an elderly manof remarkably
stern countenancesitting in an oaken elbow-chairdeadstone-dead
with an ugly flow of blood upon his shirt-bosom! Deadbut with
open eyes! He taints the whole houseas I remember it. I could
never flourish therenor be happynor do nor enjoy what God
meant me to do and enjoy."

His face darkenedand seemed to contractand shrivel itself up
and wither into age.

Never, sirhe repeated. "I could never draw cheerful breath there!"

I should think not,said the old gentlemaneyeing Clifford
earnestlyand rather apprehensively. "I should conceive notsir
with that notion in your head!"

Surely not,continued Clifford; "and it were a relief to me if
that house could be torn downor burnt upand so the earth be
rid of itand grass be sown abundantly over its foundation. Not
that I should ever visit its site again! forsirthe farther I
get away from itthe more does the joythe lightsome freshness
the heart-leapthe intellectual dancethe youthin short--yes
my youthmy youth!--the more does it come back to me. No longer
ago than this morningI was old. I remember looking in the glass
and wondering at my own gray hairand the wrinklesmany and deep
right across my browand the furrows down my cheeksand the
prodigious trampling of crow's-feet about my temples! It was too
soon! I could not bear it! Age had no right to come! I had not lived!
But now do I look old? If somy aspect belies me strangely; for--a


great weight being off my mind--I feel in the very heyday of my
youthwith the world and my best days before me!"

I trust you may find it so,said the old gentlemanwho seemed
rather embarrassedand desirous of avoiding the observation
which Clifford's wild talk drew on them both. "You have my
best wishes for it."

For Heaven's sake, dear Clifford, be quiet!whispered his sister.
They think you mad.

Be quiet yourself, Hepzibah!returned her brother. "No matter
what they think! I am not mad. For the first time in thirty years
my thoughts gush up and find words ready for them. I must talk
and I will!"

He turned again towards the old gentlemanand renewed the conversation.

Yes, my dear sir,said heit is my firm belief and hope that
these terms of roof and hearth-stone, which have so long been
held to embody something sacred, are soon to pass out of men's
daily use, and be forgotten. Just imagine, for a moment, how
much of human evil will crumble away, with this one change! What
we call real estate--the solid ground to build a house on--is the
broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests.
A man will commit almost any wrong,--he will heap up an immense
pile of wickedness, as hard as granite, and which will weigh as
heavily upon his soul, to eternal ages,--only to build a great,
gloomy, dark-chambered mansion, for himself to die in, and for
his posterity to be miserable in. He lays his own dead corpse
beneath the underpinning, as one may say, and hangs his frowning
picture on the wall, and, after thus converting himself into an
evil destiny, expects his remotest great-grandchildren to be happy
there. I do not speak wildly. I have just such a house in my
mind's eye!

Then, sir,said the old gentlemangetting anxious to drop the
subjectyou are not to blame for leaving it.

Within the lifetime of the child already born,Clifford went on
all this will be done away. The world is growing too ethereal and
spiritual to bear these enormities a great while longer. To me,
though, for a considerable period of time, I have lived chiefly
in retirement, and know less of such things than most men,--even
to me, the harbingers of a better era are unmistakable. Mesmerism,
now! Will that effect nothing, think you, towards purging away the
grossness out of human life?

All a humbug!growled the old gentleman."

These rapping spiritsthat little Phoebe told us ofthe other day
said Clifford,--what are these but the messengers of the spiritual world
knocking at the door of substance? And it shall be flung wide open!"

A humbug, again!cried the old gentlemangrowing more and more
testy at these glimpses of Clifford's metaphysics. "I should
like to rap with a good stick on the empty pates of the dolts
who circulate such nonsense!"

Then there is electricity,--the demon, the angel, the mighty
physical power, the all-pervading intelligence!exclaimed Clifford.
Is that a humbug, too? Is it a fact--or have I dreamt it--that,
by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve,
vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time? Rather,


the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence!
Or, shall we say, it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no
longer the substance which we deemed it!

If you mean the telegraph,said the old gentlemanglancing his
eye toward its wirealongside the rail-trackit is an excellent
thing,--that is, of course, if the speculators in cotton and politics
don't get possession of it. A great thing, indeed, sir, particularly
as regards the detection of bank-robbers and murderers.

I don't quite like it, in that point of view,replied Clifford.
A bank-robber, and what you call a murderer, likewise, has his
rights, which men of enlightened humanity and conscience should
regard in so much the more liberal spirit, because the bulk of
society is prone to controvert their existence. An almost spiritual
medium, like the electric telegraph, should be consecrated to high,
deep, joyful, and holy missions. Lovers, day by, day--hour by hour,
if so often moved to do it,--might send their heart-throbs from
Maine to Florida, with some such words as these `I love you forever!'
--`My heart runs over with love!'--`I love you more than I can!'
and, again, at the next message 'I have lived an hour longer,
and love you twice as much!' Or, when a good man has departed,
his distant friend should be conscious of an electric thrill,
as from the world of happy spirits, telling him 'Your dear friend
is in bliss!' Or, to an absent husband, should come tidings thus
`An immortal being, of whom you are the father, has this moment
come from God!' and immediately its little voice would seem to have
reached so far, and to be echoing in his heart. But for these poor
rogues, the bank-robbers,--who, after all, are about as honest as
nine people in ten, except that they disregard certain formalities,
and prefer to transact business at midnight rather than 'Change-hours,
--and for these murderers, as you phrase it, who are often excusable
in the motives of their deed, and deserve to be ranked among public
benefactors, if we consider only its result,--for unfortunate
individuals like these, I really cannot applaud the enlistment of
an immaterial and miraculous power in the universal world-hunt
at their heels!

You can't, hey?cried the old gentlemanwith a hard look.

Positively, no!answered Clifford. "It puts them too miserably
at disadvantage. For examplesirin a darklowcross-beamed
panelled room of an old houselet us suppose a dead man
sitting in an arm-chairwith a blood-stain on his shirt-bosom
--and let us add to our hypothesis another manissuing from the
housewhich he feels to be over-filled with the dead man's
presence--and let us lastly imagine him fleeingHeaven knows
whitherat the speed of a hurricaneby railroad! Nowsirif
the fugutive alight in some distant townand find all the people
babbling about that self-same dead manwhom he has fled so far
to avoid the sight and thought ofwill you not allow that his
natural rights have been infringed? He has been deprived of his
city of refugeandin my humble opinionhas suffered infinite
wrong!"

You are a strange man; sirsaid the old gentlemanbringing his
gimlet-eye to a point on Cliffordas if determined to bore right
into him. "I can't see through you!"

No, I'll be bound you can't!cried Cliffordlaughing. "And yet
my dear sirI am as transparent as the water of Maule's well!
But comeHepzibah! We have flown far enough for once. Let us
alightas the birds doand perch ourselves on the nearest twig
and consult wither we shall fly next!"


Just thenas it happenedthe train reached a solitary way-station.
Taking advantage of the brief pauseClifford left the carand
drew Hepzibah along with him. A moment afterwardsthe train--with
all the life of its interioramid which Clifford had made himself
so conspicuous an object--was gliding away in the distanceand
rapidly lessening to a point whichin another momentvanished.
The world had fled away from these two wanderers. They gazed
drearily about them. At a little distance stood a wooden church
black with ageand in a dismal state of ruin and decaywith broken
windowsa great rift through the main body of the edificeand a
rafter dangling from the top of the square tower. Farther off was
a farm-housein the old styleas venerably black as the church
with a roof sloping downward from the three-story peakto within
a man's height of the ground. It seemed uninhabited. There were
the relics of a wood-pileindeednear the doorbut with grass
sprouting up among the chips and scattered logs. The small rain-drops
came down aslant; the wind was not turbulentbut sullenand full
of chilly moisture.

Clifford shivered from head to foot. The wild effervescence of
his mood--which had so readily supplied thoughtsfantasies
and a strange aptitude of wordsand impelled him to talk from
the mere necessity of giving vent to this bubbling-up gush of ideas
had entirely subsided. A powerful excitement had given him energy
and vivacity. Its operation overhe forthwith began to sink.

You must take the lead now, Hepzibah!murmured hewith a
torpid and reluctant utterance. "Do with me as you will!"
She knelt down upon the platform where they were standing and
lifted her clasped hands to the sky. The dullgray weight of
clouds made it invisible; but it was no hour for disbelief--no
juncture this to question that there was a sky aboveand an
Almighty Father looking from it!

O God!--ejaculated poorgaunt Hepzibah--then paused a moment
to consider what her prayer should be--"O God--our Father
--are we not thy children? Have mercy on us!"

XVIII Governor Pyncheon

JUDGE PYNCHEONwhile his two relatives have fled away with such
ill-considered hastestill sits in the old parlorkeeping house
as the familiar phrase isin the absence of its ordinary occupants.
To himand to the venerable House of the Seven Gablesdoes our
story now betake itselflike an owlbewildered in the daylight
and hastening back to his hollow tree.

The Judge has not shifted his position for a long while now.
He has not stirred hand or footnor withdrawn his eyes so much as
a hair's-breadth from their fixed gaze towards the corner of the
roomsince the footsteps of Hepzibah and Clifford creaked along
the passageand the outer door was closed cautiously behind
their exit. He holds his watch in his left handbut clutched in
such a manner that you cannot see the dial-plate. How profound
a fit of meditation! Orsupposing him asleephow infantile a
quietude of conscienceand what wholesome order in the gastric
regionare betokened by slumber so entirely undisturbed with
startscramptwitchesmuttered dreamtalktrumpet-blasts
through the nasal organor any slightest irregularity of breath!


You must hold your own breathto satisfy yourself whether he breathes
at all. It is quite inaudible. You hear the ticking of his watch;
his breath you do not hear. A most refreshing slumberdoubtless!
And yetthe Judge cannot be asleep. His eyes are open! A veteran
politiciansuch as hewould never fall asleep with wide-open
eyeslest some enemy or mischief-makertaking him thus at
unawaresshould peep through these windows into his consciousness
and make strange discoveries among the remniniscencesprojects
hopesapprehensionsweaknessesand strong pointswhich he has
heretofore shared with nobody. A cautious man is proverbially said
to sleep with one eye open. That may be wisdom. But not with both;
for this were heedlessness! Nono! Judge Pyncheon cannot be asleep.

It is oddhoweverthat a gentleman so burdened with engagements
--and notedtoofor punctuality--should linger thus in an old
lonely mansionwhich he has never seemed very fond of visiting.
The oaken chairto be suremay tempt him with its roominess.
It isindeeda spaciousandallowing for the rude age that
fashioned ita moderately easy seatwith capacity enoughat
all eventsand offering no restraint to the Judge's breadth
of beam. A bigger man might find ample accommodation in it.
His ancestornow pictured upon the wallwith all his English
beef about himused hardly to present a front extending from
elbow to elbow of this chairor a base that would cover its
whole cushion. But there are better chairs than this--mahogany
black walnutrosewoodspring-seated and damask-cushioned
with varied slopesand innumerable artifices to make them easy
and obviate the irksomeness of too tame an ease--a score of
such might be at Judge Pyncheon's service. Yes! in a score of
drawing-rooms he would be more than welcome. Mamma would advance
to meet himwith outstretched hand; the virgin daughterelderly
as he has now got to be--an old widoweras he smilingly describes
himself--would shake up the cushion for the Judgeand do her
pretty utmost to make him comfortable. For the Judge is a
prosperous man. He cherishes his schemesmoreoverlike other
peopleand reasonably brighter than most others; or did soat
leastas he lay abed this morningin an agreeable half-drowse
planning the business of the dayand speculating on the
probabilities of the next fifteen years. With his firm health
and the little inroad that age has made upon himfifteen years
or twenty--yesor perhaps five-and-twenty!--are no more than he
may fairly call his own. Five-and-twenty years for the enjoyment
of his real estate in town and countryhis railroadbankand
insurance shareshis United States stock--his wealthin short
however investednow in possessionor soon to be acquired;
together with the public honors that have fallen upon himand
the weightier ones that are yet to fall! It is good! It is
excellent! It is enough!

Still lingering in the old chair! If the Judge has a little
time to throw awaywhy does not he visit the insurance office
as is his frequent customand sit awhile in one of their
leathern-cushioned arm-chairslistening to the gossip of the
dayand dropping some deeply designed chance-wordwhich will
be certain to become the gossip of to-morrow. And have not the
bank directors a meeting at which it was the Judge's purpose to
be presentand his office to preside? Indeed they have; and the
hour is noted on a cardwhich isor ought to bein Judge
Pyncheon's right vest-pocket. Let him go thitherand loll at ease
upon his moneybags! He has lounged long enough in the old chair!

This was to have been such a busy day. In the first placethe
interview with Clifford. Half an hourby the Judge's reckoning
was to suffice for that; it would probably be lessbut--taking


into consideration that Hepzibah was first to be dealt withand
that these women are apt to make many words where a few would do
much better--it might be safest to allow half an hour. Half an
hour? WhyJudgeit is already two hoursby your own undeviatingly
accurate chronometer. Glance your eye down at it and see! Ah! he
will not give himself the trouble either to bend his heador elevate
his handso as to bring the faithful time-keeper within his range
of vision! Timeall at onceappears to have become a matter of no
moment with the Judge!

And has he forgotten all the other items of his memoranda?
Clifford's affair arrangedhe was to meet a State Street broker
who has undertaken to procure a heavy percentageand the best
of paperfor a few loose thousands which the Judge happens to
have by himuninvested. The wrinkled note-shaver will have
taken his railroad trip in vain. Half an hour laterin the street
next to thisthere was to be an auction of real estateincluding
a portion of the old Pyncheon propertyoriginally belonging to
Maule's garden ground. It has been alienated from the Pyncheons
these four-score years; but the Judge had kept it in his eyeand
had set his heart on reannexing it to the small demesne still left
around the Seven Gables; and nowduring this odd fit of oblivion
the fatal hammer must have fallenand transferred our ancient
patrimony to some alien possessor. Possiblyindeedthe sale
may have been postponed till fairer weather. If sowill the
Judge make it convenient to be presentand favor the auctioneer
with his bidOn the proximate occasion?

The next affair was to buy a horse for his own driving. The one
heretofore his favorite stumbledthis very morningon the road
to townand must be at once discarded. Judge Pyncheon's neck
is too precious to be risked on such a contingency as a stumbling
steed. Should all the above business be seasonably got through
withhe might attend the meeting of a charitable society; the
very name of whichhoweverin the multiplicity of his
benevolenceis quite forgotten; so that this engagement may pass
unfulfilledand no great harm done. And if he have timeamid
the press of more urgent mattershe must take measures for the
renewal of Mrs. Pyncheon's tombstonewhichthe sexton tells
himhas fallen on its marble faceand is cracked quite in twain.
She was a praiseworthy woman enoughthinks the Judgein spite
of her nervousnessand the tears that she was so oozy withand
her foolish behavior about the coffee; and as she took her
departure so seasonablyhe will not grudge the second tombstone.
It is betterat leastthan if she had never needed any! The next
item on his list was to give orders for some fruit-treesof a rare
varietyto be deliverable at his country-seat in the ensuing
autumn. Yesbuy themby all means; and may the peaches be
luscious in your mouthJudge Pyncheon! After this comes something
more important. A committee of his political party has besought
him for a hundred or two of dollarsin addition to his previous
disbursementstowards carrying on the fall campaign. The Judge
is a patriot; the fate of the country is staked on the November
election; and besidesas will be shadowed forth in another
paragraphhe has no trifling stake of his own in the same great
game. He will do what the committee asks; nayhe will be liberal
beyond their expectations; they shall have a check for five hundred
dollarsand more anonif it be needed. What next? A decayed widow
whose husband was Judge Pyncheon's early friendhas laid her case of
destitution before himin a very moving letter. She and her fair
daughter have scarcely bread to eat. He partly intends to call on
her to-day--perhaps so--perhaps not--accordingly as he may happen
to have leisureand a small bank-note.


Another businesswhichhoweverhe puts no great weight on (it
is wellyou knowto be heedfulbut not over-anxiousas respects
one's personal health)--another businessthenwas to consult his
family physician. About whatfor Heaven's sake? Whyit is rather
difficult to describe the symptoms. A mere dimness of sight and
dizziness of brainwas it?--or disagreeable chokingor stifling
or gurglingor bubblingin the region of the thoraxas the
anatomists say?--or was it a pretty severe throbbing and kicking of
the heartrather creditable to him than otherwiseas showing that
the organ had not been left out of the Judge's physical contrivance?
No matter what it was. The doctor probably would smile at the
statement of such trifles to his professional ear; the Judge would
smile in his turn; and meeting one another's eyesthey would enjoy
a hearty laugh together! But a fig for medical advice. The Judge
will never need it.

PrayprayJudge Pyncheonlook at your watchNow! What--not
a glance! It is within ten minutes of the dinner hour! It surely
cannot have slipped your memory that the dinner of to-day is to
be the most importantin its consequencesof all the dinners
you ever ate. Yesprecisely the most important; although
in the course of your somewhat eminent careeryou have been
placed high towards the head of the tableat splendid banquets
and have poured out your festive eloquence to ears yet echoing
with Webster's mighty organ-tones. No public dinner this
however. It is merely a gathering of some dozen or so of friends
from several districts of the State; men of distinguished character
and influenceassemblingalmost casuallyat the house of a
common friendlikewise distinguishedwho will make them
welcome to a little better than his ordinary fare. Nothing in
the way of French cookerybut an excellent dinnernevertheless.
Real turtlewe understandand salmontautogcanvas-backspig
English muttongood roast beefor dainties of that serious kind
fit for substantial country gentlemenas these honorable persons
mostly are. The delicacies of the seasonin shortand flavored
by a brand of old Madeira which has been the pride of many seasons.
It is the Juno brand; a glorious winefragrantand full of gentle
might; a bottled-up happinessput by for use; a golden liquid
worth more than liquid gold; so rare and admirablethat veteran
wine-bibbers count it among their epochs to have tasted it!
It drives away the heart-acheand substitutes no head-ache!
Could the Judge but quaff a glassit might enable him to shake
off the unaccountable lethargy which (for the ten intervening
minutesand five to bootare already past) has made him such
a laggard at this momentous dinner. It would all but revive a
dead man! Would you like to sip it nowJudge Pyncheon?

Alasthis dinner. Have you really forgotten its true object?
Then let us whisper itthat you may start at once out of the
oaken chairwhich really seems to be enchantedlike the one
in Comusor that in which Moll Pitcher imprisoned your own
grandfather. But ambition is a talisman more powerful than
witchcraft. Start upthenandhurrying through the streets
burst in upon the companythat they may begin before the fish
is spoiled! They wait for you; and it is little for your interest
that they should wait. These gentlemen--need you be told it?
--have assemblednot without purposefrom every quarter of
the State. They are practised politiciansevery man of them
and skilled to adjust those preliminary measures which steal
from the peoplewithout its knowledgethe power of choosing
its own rulers. The popular voiceat the next gubernatorial
electionthough loud as thunderwill be really but an echo of
what these gentlemen shall speakunder their breathat your
friend's festive board. They meet to decide upon their candidate.


This little knot of subtle schemers will control the convention
andthrough itdictate to the party. And what worthier candidate
--more wise and learnedmore noted for philanthropic liberality
truer to safe principlestried oftener by public trustsmore
spotless in private characterwith a larger stake in the common
welfareand deeper groundedby hereditary descentin the faith
and practice of the Puritans--what man can be presented for the
suffrage of the peopleso eminently combining all these claims
to the chief-rulership as Judge Pyncheon here before us?

Make hastethen! Do your part! The meed for which you have
toiledand foughtand climbedand creptis ready for your
grasp! Be present at this dinner!--drink a glass or two of that
noble wine!--make your pledges in as low a whisper as you will!
--and you rise up from table virtually governor of the glorious
old State! Governor Pyncheon of Massachusetts!

And is there no potent and exhilarating cordial in a certainty like
this? It has been the grand purpose of half your lifetime to obtain
it. Nowwhen there needs little more than to signify your acceptance
why do you sit so lumpishly in your great-great-grandfather's oaken
chairas if preferring it to the gubernatorial one? We have all heard
of King Log; butin these jostling timesone of that royal kindred
will hardly win the race for an elective chief-magistracy.

Well! it is absolutely too late for dinner! Turtlesalmontautog
woodcockboiled turkeySouth-Down muttonpigroast-beef
have vanishedor exist only in fragmentswith lukewarm potatoes
and gravies crusted over with cold fat. The Judgehad he done
nothing elsewould have achieved wonders with his knife and fork.
It was heyou knowof whom it used to be saidin reference to
his ogre-like appetitethat his Creator made him a great aninmal
but that the dinner-hour made him a great beast. Persons of his
large sensual endowments must claim indulgenceat their feeding-time.
Butfor oncethe Judge is entirely too late for dinner! Too late
we feareven to join the party at their wine! The guests are warm
and merry; they have given up the Judge; andconcluding that the
Free-Soilers have himthey will fix upon another candidate. Were our
friend now to stalk in among themwith that wide-open stareat once
wild and stolidhis ungenial presence would be apt to change their
cheer. Neither would it be seemly in Judge Pyncheongenerally so
scrupulous in his attireto show himself at a dinner-table with
that crimson stain upon his shirt-bosom. By the byehow came it
there? It is an ugly sightat any rate; and the wisest way for the
Judge is to button his coat closely over his breastandtaking his
horse and chaise from the livery stableto make all speed to his
own house. Thereafter a glass of brandy and waterand a mutton-chop
a beefsteaka broiled fowlor some such hasty little dinner and
supper all in onehe had better spend the evening by the fireside.
He must toast his slippers a long whilein order to get rid of
the chilliness which the air of this vile old house has sent curdling
through his veins.

UpthereforeJudge Pyncheonup! You have lost a day. But
to-morrow will be here anon. Will you risebetimesand make
the most of it? To-morrow. To-morrow! To-morrow. Wethat are
alivemay rise betimes to-morrow. As for him that has died
to-dayhis morrow will be the resurrection morn.

Meanwhile the twilight is glooming upward out of the corners of
the room. The shadows of the tall furniture grow deeperand at
first become more definite; thenspreading widerthey lose their
distinctness of outline in the dark gray tide of oblivionas it
werethat creeps slowly over the various objectsand the one


human figure sitting in the midst of them. The gloom has not
entered from without; it has brooded here all dayand now
taking its own inevitable timewill possess itself of everything.
The Judge's faceindeedrigid and singularly whiterefuses to
melt into this universal solvent. Fainter and fainter grows the
light. It is as if another double-handful of darkness had been
scattered through the air. Now it is no longer graybut sable.
There is still a faint appearance at the window. neither a glow
nor a gleamNor a glimmer--any phrase of light would express
something far brighter than this doubtful perceptionor sense
ratherthat there is a window there. Has it yet vanished? No!
--yes!--not quite! And there is still the swarthy whiteness--we
shall venture to marry these ill-agreeing words--the swarthy
whiteness of Judge Pyncheon's face. The features are all gone:
there is only the paleness of them left. And how looks it now?
There is no window! There is no face! An infiniteinscrutable
blackness has annihilated sight! Where is our universe? All
crumbled away from us; and weadrift in chaosmay hearken to
the gusts of homeless windthat go sighing and murmuring about
in quest of what was once a world!

Is there no other sound? One otherand a fearful one. It is the
ticking of the Judge's watchwhichever since Hepzibah left the
room in search of Cliffordhe has been holding in his hand. Be
the cause what it maythis littlequietnever-ceasing throb of
Time's pulserepeating its small strokes with such busy regularity
in Judge Pyncheon's motionless handhas an effect of terrorwhich
we do not find in any other accompaniment of the scene.

Butlisten! That puff of the breeze was louder. ithad a tone
unlike the dreary and sullen one which has bemoaned itselfand
afflicted all mankind with miserable sympathyfor five days past.
The wind has veered about! It now comes boisterously from the
northwestandtaking hold of the aged framework of the Seven
Gablesgives it a shakelike a wrestler that would try strength
with his antagonist. Another and another sturdy tussle with the
blast! The old house creaks againand makes a vociferous but
somewhat unintelligible bellowing in its sooty throat (the big
fluewe meanof its wide chimney)partly in complaint at the
rude windbut ratheras befits their century and a half of
hostile intimacyin tough defiance. A rumbling kind of a bluster
roars behind the fire-board. A door has slammed above stairs.
A windowperhapshas been left openor else is driven in by
an unruly gust. It is not to be conceivedbefore-handwhat
wonderful wind-instruments are these old timber mansionsand
how haunted with the strangest noiseswhich immediately begin
to singand sighand soband shriek--and to smite with
sledge-hammersairy but ponderousin some distant chamber
--and to tread along the entries as with stately footsteps
and rustle up and down the staircaseas with silks miraculously
stiff--whenever the gale catches the house with a window open
and gets fairly into it. Would that we were not an attendant
spirit here! It is too awful! This clamor of the wind through
the lonely house; the Judge's quietudeas he sits invisible;
and that pertinacious ticking of his watch!

As regards Judge Pyncheon's invisibilityhoweverthat matter
will soon be remedied. The northwest wind has swept the sky
clear. The window is distinctly seen. Through its panes
moreoverwe dimly catch the sweep of the darkclustering
foliage outsidefluttering with a constant irregularity of
movementand letting in a peep of starlightnow herenow
there. Oftener than any other objectthese glimpses illuminate
the Judge's face. But here comes more effectual light. Observe


that silvery dance upon the upper branches of the pear-tree
and now a little lowerand now on the whole mass of boughs
whilethrough their shifting intricaciesthe moonbeams fall
aslant into the room. They play over the Judge's figure and
show that he has not stirred throughout the hours of darkness.
They follow the shadowsin changeful sportacross his unchanging
features. They gleam upon his watch. His grasp conceals the
dial-plate--but we know that the faithful hands have met;
for one of the city clocks tells midnight.

A man of sturdy understandinglike Judge Pyncheoncares no
more for twelve o'clock at night than for the corresponding hour
of noon. However just the parallel drawnin some of the preceding
pagesbetween his Puritan ancestor and himselfit fails in this
point. The Pyncheon of two centuries agoin common with most of
his contemporariesprofessed his full belief in spiritual
ministrationsalthough reckoning them chiefly of a malignant
character. The Pyncheon of to-nightwho sits in yonder arm-chair
believes in no such nonsense. Suchat leastwas his creed
some few hours since. His hair will not bristletherefore
at the stories which--in times when chimney-corners had benches
in themwhere old people sat poking into the ashes of the past
and raking out traditions like live coals--used to be told about
this very room of his ancestral house. In factthese tales are
too absurd to bristle even childhood's hair. What sensemeaning
or moralfor examplesuch as even ghost-stories should be
susceptible ofcan be traced in the ridiculous legendthat
at midnightall the dead Pyncheons are bound to assemble in this
parlor? Andprayfor what? Whyto see whether the portrait of
their ancestor still keeps its place upon the wallin compliance
with his testamentary directions! Is it worth while to come out
of their graves for that?

We are tempted to make a little sport with the idea. Ghost-stories
are hardly to be treated seriously any longer. The family-party of
the defunct Pyncheonswe presumegoes off in this wise.

First comes the ancestor himselfin his black cloaksteeple-hat
and trunk-breechesgirt about the waist with a leathern belt
in which hangs his steel-hilted sword; he has a long staff in his
handsuch as gentlemen in advanced life used to carryas much
for the dignity of the thing as for the support to be derived from
it. He looks up at the portrait; a thing of no substancegazing
at its own painted image! All is safe. The picture is still there.
The purpose of his brain has been kept sacred thus long after the
man himself has sprouted up in graveyard grass. See! he lifts his
ineffectual handand tries the frame. All safe! But is that a
smile?--is it notrather a frown of deadly importthat darkens
over the shadow of his features? The stout Colonel is dissatisfied!
So decided is his look of discontent as to impart additional
distinctness to his features; through whichneverthelessthe
moonlight passesand flickers on the wall beyond. Something has
strangely vexed the ancestor! With a grim shake of the headhe
turns away. Here come other Pyncheonsthe whole tribein their
half a dozen generationsjostling and elbowing one anotherto
reach the picture. We behold aged men and grandamesa clergyman
with the Puritanic stiffness still in his garb and mienand a
red-coated officer of the old French war; and there comes the
shop-keeping Pyncheon of a century agowith the ruffles turned
back from his wrists; and there the periwigged and brocaded
gentleman of the artist's legendwith the beautiful and pensive
Alicewho brings no pride out of her virgin grave. All try the
picture-frame. What do these ghostly people seek? A mother lifts
her childthat his little hands may touch it! There is evidently


a mystery about the picturethat perplexes these poor Pyncheons
when they ought to be at rest. In a cornermeanwhilestands the
figure of an elderly manin a leathern jerkin and breecheswith
a carpenter's rule sticking out of his side pocket; he points his
finger at the bearded Colonel and his descendantsnodding
jeeringmockingand finally bursting into obstreperousthough
inaudible laughter.

Indulging our fancy in this freakwe have partly lost the power
of restraint and guidance. We distinguish an unlooked-for figure
in our visionary scene. Among those ancestral people there is a
young mandressed in the very fashion of to-day: he wears a
dark frock-coatalmost destitute of skirtsgray pantaloons
gaiter boots of patent leatherand has a finely wrought gold
chain across his breastand a little silver-headed whalebone
stick in his hand. Were we to meet this figure at noondaywe
should greet him as young Jaffrey Pyncheonthe Judge's only
surviving childwho has been spending the last two years in
foreign travel. If still in lifehow comes his shadow hither?
If deadwhat a misfortune! The old Pyncheon propertytogether
with the great estate acquired by the young man's fatherwould
devolve on whom? On poorfoolish Cliffordgaunt Hepzibahand
rustic little Phoebe! But another and a greater marvel greets us!
Can we believe our eyes? A stoutelderly gentleman has made his
appearance; he has an aspect of eminent respectabilitywears a
black coat and pantaloonsof roomy widthand might be pronounced
scrupulously neat in his attirebut for a broad crimson stain
across his snowy neckcloth and down his shirt-bosom. Is it the
Judgeor no? How can it be Judge Pyncheon? We discern his figure
as plainly as the flickering moonbeams can show us anythingstill
seated in the oaken chair! Be the apparition whose it mayit
advances to the pictureseems to seize the frametries to
peep behind itand turns awaywith a frown as black as the
ancestral one.

The fantastic scene just hinted at must by no means be considered
as forming an actual portion of our story. We were betrayed into
this brief extravagance by the quiver of the moonbeams; they dance
hand-in-hand with shadowsand are reflected in the looking-glass
whichyou are awareis always a kind of window or doorway into
the spiritual world. We needed reliefmoreoverfrom our too
long and exclusive contemplation of that figure in the chair.
This wild windtoohas tossed our thoughts into strange confusion
but without tearing them away from their one determined centre.
Yonder leaden Judge sits immovably upon our soul. Will he never
stir again? We shall go mad unless he stirs! You may the better
estimate his quietude by the fearlessness of a little mouse
which sits on its hind legsin a streak of moonlightclose by
Judge Pyncheon's footand seems to meditate a journey of
exploration over this great black bulk. Ha! what has startled
the nimble little mouse? It is the visage of grimalkinoutside
of the windowwhere he appears to have posted himself for a
deliberate watch. This grimalkin has a very ugly look. Is it
a cat watching for a mouseor the devil for a human soul? Would
we could scare him from the window!

Thank Heaventhe night is well-nigh past! The moonbeams have
no longer so silvery a gleamnor contrast so strongly with the
blackness of the shadows among which they fall. They are paler
now; the shadows look graynot black. The boisterous wind is
hushed. What is the hour? Ah! the watch has at last ceased to
tick; for the Judge's forgetful fingers neglected to wind it up
as usualat ten o'clockbeing half an hour or so before his
ordinary bedtime--and it has run downfor the first time in five


years. But the great world-clock of Time still keeps its beat.
The dreary night--forohhow dreary seems its haunted waste
behind us!--gives place to a freshtransparentcloudless morn.
Blessedblessed radiance! The daybeam--even what little of it finds
its way into this always dusky parlor--seems part of the universal
benedictionannulling eviland rendering all goodness possible
and happiness attainable. Will Judge Pyncheon now rise up from
his chair? Will he go forthand receive the early sunbeams on
his brow? Will he begin this new day--which God has smiled upon
and blessedand given to mankind--will he begin it with better
purposes than the many that have been spent amiss? Or are all the
deep-laid schemes of yesterday as stubborn in his heartand as
busy in his brainas ever?

In this latter casethere is much to do. Will the Judge still
insist with Hepzibah on the interview with Clifford? Will he buy
a safeelderly gentleman's horse? Will he persuade the purchaser
of the old Pyncheon property to relinquish the bargain in his
favor? Will he see his family physicianand obtain a medicine
that shall preserve himto be an honor and blessing to his race
until the utmost term of patriarchal longevity? Will Judge
Pyncheonabove allmake due apologies to that company of
honorable friendsand satisfy them that his absence from the
festive board was unavoidableand so fully retrieve himself in
their good opinion that he shall yet be Governor of Massachusetts?
And all these great purposes accomplishedwill he walk the streets
againwith that dog-day smile of elaborate benevolencesultry
enough to tempt flies to come and buzz in it? Or will heafter the
tomb-like seclusion of the past day and nightgo forth a humbled
and repentant mansorrowfulgentleseeking no profitshrinking
from worldly honorhardly daring to love Godbut bold to love
his fellow manand to do him what good he may? Will he bear
about with him--no odious grin of feigned benignityinsolent
in its pretenceand loathsome in its falsehood--but the tender
sadness of a contrite heartbrokenat lastbeneath its own
weight of sin? For it is our beliefwhatever show of honor he
may have piled upon itthat there was heavy sin at the base of
this man's being.

Rise upJudge Pyncheon! The morning sunshine glimmers through the
foliageandbeautiful and holy as it isshuns not to kindle up
your face. Rise upthou subtleworldlyselfishiron-hearted
hypocriteand make thy choice whether still to be subtleworldly
selfishiron-heartedand hypocriticalor to tear these sins out
of thy naturethough they bring the lifeblood with them! The Avenger
is upon thee! Rise upbefore it be too late!

What! Thou art not stirred by this last appeal? Nonot a jot!
And there we see a fly--one of your common house-fliessuch as
are always buzzing on the window-pane--which has smelt out Governor
Pyncheonand alightsnow on his foreheadnow on his chinand now
Heaven help us! is creeping over the bridge of his nosetowards the
would-be chief-magistrate's wide-open eyes! Canst thou not brush the
fly away? Art thou too sluggish? Thou manthat hadst so many busy
projects yesterday! Art thou too weakthat wast so powerful?
Not brush away a fly? Naythenwe give thee up!

And hark! the shop-bell rings. After hours like these latter
onesthrough which we have borne our heavy taleit is good
to be made sensible that there is a living worldand that even
this oldlonely mansion retains some manner of connection with
it. We breathe more freelyemerging from Judge Pyncheon's
presence into the street before the Seven Gables.


XIX Alice's Posies

UNCLE VENNERtrundling a wheelbarrowwas the earliest person
stirring in the neighborhood the day after the storm.

Pyncheon Streetin front of the House of the Seven Gableswas
a far pleasanter scene than a by-laneconfined by shabby fences
and bordered with wooden dwellings of the meaner classcould
reasonably be expected to present. Nature made sweet amends
that morningfor the five unkindly days which had preceded it.
It would have been enough to live formerely to look up at the
wide benediction of the skyor as much of it as was visible
between the housesgenial once more with sunshine. Every object
was agreeablewhether to be gazed at in the breadthor examined
more minutely. Suchfor examplewere the well-washed pebbles
and gravel of the sidewalk; even the sky-reflecting pools in the
centre of the street; and the grassnow freshly verdant
that crept along the base of the fenceson the other side of
whichif one peeped overwas seen the multifarious growth of
gardens. Vegetable productionsof whatever kindseemed more
than negatively happyin the juicy warmth and abundance of
their life. The Pyncheon Elmthroughout its great circumference
was all aliveand full of the morning sun and a sweet-tempered
little breezewhich lingered within this verdant sphereand
set a thousand leafy tongues a-whispering all at once. This aged
tree appeared to have suffered nothing from the gale. It had
kept its boughs unshatteredand its full complement of leaves;
and the whole in perfect verdureexcept a single branchthat
by the earlier change with which the elm-tree sometimes prophesies
the autumnhad been transmuted to bright gold. It was like the
golden branch that gained AEneas and the Sibyl admittance into Hades.

This one mystic branch hung down before the main entrance of the
Seven Gablesso nigh the ground that any passer-by might have
stood on tiptoe and plucked it off. Presented at the doorit
would have been a symbol of his right to enterand be made
acquainted with all the secrets of the house. So little faith is
due to external appearancethat there was really an inviting
aspect over the venerable edificeconveying an idea that its
history must be a decorous and happy oneand such as would be
delightful for a fireside tale. Its windows gleamed cheerfully
in the slanting sunlight. The lines and tufts of green moss
here and thereseemed pledges of familiarity and sisterhood
with Nature; as if this human dwelling-placebeing of such old
datehad established its prescriptive title among primeval oaks
and whatever other objectsby virtue of their long continuance
have acquired a gracious right to be. A person of imaginative
temperamentwhile passing by the housewould turnonce and
againand peruse it well: its many peaksconsenting together in
the clustered chimney; the deep projection over its basement-story;
the arched windowimparting a lookif not of grandeuryet of
antique gentilityto the broken portal over which it opened; the
luxuriance of gigantic burdocksnear the threshold; he would
note all these characteristicsand be conscious of something
deeper than he saw. He would conceive the mansion to have
been the residence of the stubborn old PuritanIntegritywho
dying in some forgotten generationhad left a blessing in all
its rooms and chambersthe efficacy of which was to be seen in
the religionhonestymoderate competenceor upright poverty
and solid happinessof his descendantsto this day.


One objectabove all otherswould take root in the imaginative
observer's memory. It was the great tuft of flowers--weedsyou
would have called themonly a week ago--the tuft of crimson-spotted
flowersin the angle between the two front gables. The old people
used to give them the name of Alice's Posiesin remembrance of fair
Alice Pyncheonwho was believed to have brought their seeds from
Italy. They were flaunting in rich beauty and full bloom to-day
and seemedas it werea mystic expression that something within
the house was consummated.

It was but little after sunrisewhen Uncle Venner made his
appearanceas aforesaidimpelling a wheelbarrow along the
street. He was going his matutinal rounds to collect
cabbage-leavesturnip-topspotato-skinsand the miscellaneous
refuse of the dinner-potwhich the thrifty housewives of the
neighborhood were accustomed to put asideas fit only to feed
a pig. Uncle Venner's pig was fed entirelyand kept in prime
orderon these eleemosynary contributions; insomuch that the
patched philosopher used to promise thatbefore retiring to his
farmhe would make a feast of the portly grunterand invite all
his neighbors to partake of the joints and spare-ribs which they
had helped to fatten. Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon's housekeeping
had so greatly improvedsince Clifford became a member of the
familythat her share of the banquet would have been no lean
one; and Uncle Venneraccordinglywas a good deal disappointed
not to find the large earthen panfull of fragmentary eatables
that ordinarily awaited his coming at the back doorstep of the
Seven Gables.

I never knew Miss Hepzibah so forgetful before,said the
patriarch to himself. "She must have had a dinner yesterday
--no question of that! She always has onenowadays. So where's
the pot-liquor and potato-skinsI ask? Shall I knockand see if
she's stirring yet? Nono--'t won't do! If little Phoebe was
about the houseI should not mind knocking; but Miss Hepzibah
likely as notwould scowl down at me out of the windowand look
crosseven if she felt pleasantly. SoI'll come back at noon."

With these reflectionsthe old man was shutting the gate of the
little back-yard. Creaking on its hingeshoweverlike every other
gate and door about the premisesthe sound reached the ears of
the occupant of the northern gableone of the windows of which
had a side-view towards the gate.

Good-morning, Uncle Venner!said the daguerreotypistleaning
out of the window. "Do you hear nobody stirring?"

Not a soul,said the man of patches. "But that's no wonder.
'Tis barely half an hour past sunriseyet. But I'm really glad
to see youMr. Holgrave! There's a strangelonesome look about
this side of the house; so that my heart misgave mesomehow or
otherand I felt as if there was nobody alive in it. The front
of the house looks a good deal cheerier; and Alice's Posies are
blooming there beautifully; and if I were a young manMr. Holgrave
my sweetheart should have one of those flowers in her bosomthough
I risked my neck climbing for it! Welland did the wind keep you
awake last night?"

It did, indeed!answered the artistsmiling. "If I were a
believer in ghosts--and I don't quite know whether I am or
not--I should have concluded that all the old Pyncheons were
running riot in the lower roomsespecially in Miss Hepzibah's
part of the house. But it is very quiet now."


Yes, Miss Hepzibah will be apt to over-sleep herself, after being
disturbed, all night, with the racket,said Uncle Venner. "But it
would be oddnowwouldn't itif the Judge had taken both his
cousins into the country along with him? I saw him go into the
shop yesterday."


At what hour?inquired Holgrave.


Oh, along in the forenoon,said the old man. "Wellwell! I
must go my roundsand so must my wheelbarrow. But I'll be back
here at dinner-time; for my pig likes a dinner as well as a breakfast.
No meal-timeand no sort of victualsever seems to come amiss to
my pig. Good morning to you! AndMr. Holgraveif I were a
young manlike youI'd get one of Alice's Posiesand keep it in
water till Phoebe comes back."


I have heard,said the daguerreotypistas he drew in his head
that the water of Maule's well suits those flowers best.


Here the conversation ceasedand Uncle Venner went on his way.
For half an hour longernothing disturbed the repose of the
Seven Gables; nor was there any visitorexcept a carrier-boy
whoas he passed the front doorstepthrew down one of his
newspapers; for Hepzibahof latehad regularly taken it in.
After a whilethere came a fat womanmaking prodigious speed
and stumbling as she ran up the steps of the shop-door. Her face
glowed with fire-heatandit being a pretty warm morningshe
bubbled and hissedas it wereas if all a-fry with chimney-warmth
and summer-warmthand the warmth of her own corpulent velocity.
She tried the shop-door; it was fast. She tried it againwith so
angry a jar that the bell tinkled angrily back at her.


The deuce take Old Maid Pyncheon!muttered the irascible housewife.
Think of her pretending to set up a cent-shop, and then lying abed
till noon! These are what she calls gentlefolk's airs, I suppose!
But I'll either start her ladyship, or break the door down!


She shook it accordinglyand the bellhaving a spiteful little
temper of its ownrang obstreperouslymaking its remonstrances
heard--notindeedby the ears for which they were intended
--but by a good lady on the opposite side of the street. She
opened the windowand addressed the impatient applicant.


You'll find nobody there, Mrs. Gubbins.


But I must and will find somebody here!cried Mrs. Gubbins
inflicting another outrage on the bell. "I want a half-pound
of porkto fry some first-rate flounders for Mr. Gubbins's
breakfast; andlady or notOld Maid Pyncheon shall get up and
serve me with it!"


But do hear reason, Mrs. Gubbins!responded the lady opposite.
She, and her brother too, have both gone to their cousin's, Judge
Pyncheon's at his country-seat. There's not a soul in the house,
but that young daguerreotype-man that sleeps in the north gable.
I saw old Hepzibah and Clifford go away yesterday; and a queer
couple of ducks they were, paddling through the mud-puddles!
They're gone, I'll assure you.


And how do you know they're gone to the Judge's?asked Mrs.
Gubbins. "He's a rich man; and there's been a quarrel between
him and Hepzibah this many a daybecause he won't give her
a living. That's the main reason of her setting up a cent-shop."



I know that well enough,said the neighbor. "But they're gone
--that's one thing certain. And who but a blood relationthat
couldn't help himselfI ask youwould take in that awful-tempered
old maidand that dreadful Clifford? That's ityou may be sure."

Mrs. Gubbins took her departurestill brimming over with hot
wrath against the absent Hepzibah. For another half-houror
perhapsconsiderably morethere was almost as much quiet on the
outside of the house as within. The elmhowevermade a pleasant
cheerfulsunny sighresponsive to the breeze that was elsewhere
imperceptible; a swarm of insects buzzed merrily under its drooping
shadowand became specks of light whenever they darted into the
sunshine; a locust sangonce or twicein some inscrutable seclusion
of the tree; and a solitary little birdwith plumage of pale gold
came and hovered about Alice's Posies.

At last our small acquaintanceNed Higginstrudged up the street
on his way to school; and happeningfor the first time in a
fortnightto be the possessor of a centhe could by no means
get past the shop-door of the Seven Gables. But it would not
open. Again and againhoweverand half a dozen other agains
with the inexorable pertinacity of a child intent upon some object
important to itselfdid he renew his efforts for admittance.
He haddoubtlessset his heart upon an elephant; orpossibly
with Hamlethe meant to eat a crocodile. In response to his
more violent attacksthe bell gavenow and thena moderate
tinklebut could not be stirred into clamor by any exertion
of the little fellow's childish and tiptoe strength. Holding
by the door-handlehe peeped through a crevice of the curtain
and saw that the inner doorcommunicating with the passage
towards the parlorwas closed.

Miss Pyncheon!screamed the childrapping on the window-pane
I want an elephant!

There being no answer to several repetitions of the summons
Ned began to grow impatient; and his little pot of passion
quickly boiling overhe picked up a stonewith a naughty
purpose to fling it through the window; at the same time
blubbering and sputtering with wrath. A man--one of two who
happened to be passing by--caught the urchin's arm.

What's the trouble, old gentleman?he asked.

I want old Hepzibah, or Phoebe, or any of them!answered Ned
sobbing. "They won't open the door; and I can't get my elephant!"

Go to school, you little scamp!said the man. "There's another
cent-shop round the corner. 'T is very strangeDixey added he
to his companion, what's become of all these Pyncheon's! Smith
the livery-stable keepertells me Judge Pyncheon put his horse
up yesterdayto stand till after dinnerand has not taken
him away yet. And one of the Judge's hired men has been in
this morningto make inquiry about him. He's a kind of person
they saythat seldom breaks his habitsor stays out o' nights."

Oh, he'll turn up safe enough!said Dixey. "And as for Old
Maid Pyncheontake my word for itshe has run in debtand gone
off from her creditors. I foretoldyou rememberthe first morning
she set up shopthat her devilish scowl would frighten away customers.
They couldn't stand it!"

I never thought she'd make it go,remarked his friend. "This


business of cent-shops is overdone among the women-folks. My wife
tried itand lost five dollars on her outlay!"

Poor business!said Dixeyshaking his head. "Poor business!"

In the course of the morningthere were various other attempts
to open a communication with the supposed inhabitants of this
silent and impenetrable mansion. The man of root-beer came
in his neatly painted wagonwith a couple of dozen full bottles
to be exchanged for empty ones; the bakerwith a lot of crackers
which Hepzibah had ordered for her retail custom; the butcher
with a nice titbit which he fancied she would be eager to secure
for Clifford. Had any observer of these proceedings been aware
of the fearful secret hidden within the houseit would have
affected him with a singular shape and modification of horror
to see the current of human life making this small eddy hereabouts
--whirling sticksstraws and all such triflesround and round
right over the black depth where a dead corpse lay unseen!

The butcher was so much in earnest with his sweetbread of lamb
or whatever the dainty might bethat he tried every accessible
door of the Seven Gablesand at length came round again to the
shopwhere he ordinarily found admittance.

It's a nice article, and I know the old lady would jump at it,
said he to himself. "She can't be gone away! In fifteen years
that I have driven my cart through Pyncheon StreetI've never
known her to be away from home; though often enoughto be sure
a man might knock all day without bringing her to the door.
But that was when she'd only herself to provide for"

Peeping through the same crevice of the curtain whereonly a
little while beforethe urchin of elephantine appetite had peeped
the butcher beheld the inner doornot closedas the child had
seen itbut ajarand almost wide open. However it might have
happenedit was the fact. Through the passage-way there was a
dark vista into the lighter but still obscure interior of the parlor.
It appeared to the butcher that he could pretty clearly discern
what seemed to be the stalwart legsclad in black pantaloons
of a man sitting in a large oaken chairthe back of which concealed
all the remainder of his figure. This contemptuous tranquillity on
the part of an occupant of the housein response to the butcher's
indefatigable efforts to attract noticeso piqued the man of flesh
that he determined to withdraw.

So,thought hethere sits Old Maid Pyncheon's bloody brother,
while I've been giving myself all this trouble! Why, if a hog
hadn't more manners, I'd stick him! I call it demeaning a man's
business to trade with such people; and from this time forth,
if they want a sausage or an ounce of liver, they shall run after
the cart for it!

He tossed the titbit angrily into his cartand drove off in a pet.

Not a great while afterwards there was a sound of music turning
the corner and approaching down the streetwith several intervals
of silenceand then a renewed and nearer outbreak of brisk
melody. A mob of children was seen moving onwardor stopping
in unison with the soundwhich appeared to proceed from the
centre of the throng; so that they were loosely bound together
by slender strains of harmonyand drawn along captive; with ever
and anon an accession of some little fellow in an apron and
straw-hatcapering forth from door or gateway. Arriving under
the shadow of the Pyncheon Elmit proved to be the Italian boy


whowith his monkey and show of puppetshad once before played
his hurdy-gurdy beneath the arched window. The pleasant face of
Phoebe--and doubtlesstoothe liberal recompense which she had
flung him--still dwelt in his remembrance. His expressive features
kindled upas he recognized the spot where this trifling incident
of his erratic life had chanced. He entered the neglected yard
(now wilder than everwith its growth of hog-weed and burdock)
stationed himself on the doorstep of the main entranceand
opening his show-boxbegan to play. Each individual of the
automatic community forthwith set to workaccording to his or
her proper vocation: the monkeytaking off his Highland bonnet
bowed and scraped to the by-standers most obsequiouslywith
ever an observant eye to pick up a stray cent; and the young
foreigner himselfas he turned the crank of his machineglanced
upward to the arched windowexpectant of a presence that would
make his music the livelier and sweeter. The throng of children
stood near; some on the sidewalk; some within the yard; two or
three establishing themselves on the very door-step; and one
squatting on the threshold. Meanwhilethe locust kept singing
in the great old Pyncheon Elm.

I don't hear anybody in the house,said one of the children to
another. "The monkey won't pick up anything here."

There is somebody at home,affirmed the urchin on the threshold.
I heard a step!

Still the young Italian's eye turned sidelong upward; and it
really seemed as if the touch of genuinethough slight and almost
playfulemotion communicated a juicier sweetness to the dry
mechanical process of his minstrelsy. These wanderers are readily
responsive to any natural kindness--be it no more than a smile
or a word itself not understoodbut only a warmth in it--which
befalls them on the roadside of life. They remember these things
because they are the little enchantments whichfor the instant
--for the space that reflects a landscape in a soap-bubble--build
up a home about them. Thereforethe Italian boy would not be
discouraged by the heavy silence with which the old house seemed
resolute to clog the vivacity of his instrument. He persisted in
his melodious appeals; he still looked upwardtrusting that his
darkalien countenance would soon be brightened by Phoebe's sunny
aspect. Neither could he be willing to depart without again
beholding Cliffordwhose sensibilitylike Phoebe's smilehad
talked a kind of heart's language to the foreigner. He repeated
all his music over and over againuntil his auditors were getting
weary. So were the little wooden people in his show-boxand the
monkey most of all. There was no responsesave the singing of
the locust.

No children live in this house,said a schoolboyat last.
Nobody lives here but an old maid and an old man. You'll get
nothing here! Why don't you go along?

You fool, you, why do you tell him?whispered a shrewd little
Yankeecaring nothing for the musicbut a good deal for the
cheap rate at which it was had.
Let him play as he likes! If there's nobody to pay him, that's
his own lookout!

Once morehoweverthe Italian ran over his round of melodies.
To the common observer--who could understand nothing of the case
except the music and the sunshine on the hither side of the door
--it might have been amusing to watch the pertinacity of the
street-performer. Will he succeed at last? Will that stubborn


door be suddenly flung open? Will a group of joyous children
the young ones of the housecome dancingshoutinglaughing
into the open airand cluster round the show-boxlooking with
eager merriment at the puppetsand tossing each a copper for
long-tailed Mammonthe monkeyto pick up?

But to uswho know the inner heart of the Seven Gables as well
as its exterior facethere is a ghastly effect in this repetition
of light popular tunes at its door-step. It would be an ugly
businessindeedif Judge Pyncheon (who would not have cared a
fig for Paganini's fiddle in his most harmonious mood) should
make his appearance at the doorwith a bloody shirt-bosomand
a grim frown on his swarthily white visageand motion the foreign
vagabond away! Was ever before such a grinding out of jigs and
waltzeswhere nobody was in the cue to dance? Yesvery often.
This contrastor intermingling of tragedy with mirthhappens
dailyhourlymomently. The gloomy and desolate old house
deserted of lifeand with awful Death sitting sternly in its
solitudewas the emblem of many a human heartwhich
neverthelessis compelled to hear the thrill and echo of the
world's gayety around it.

Before the conclusion of the Italian's performancea couple of men
happened to be passingOn their way to dinner. "I sayyou young
French fellow!" called out one of them--"come away from that doorstep
and go somewhere else with your nonsense! The Pyncheon family live
there; and they are in great troublejust about this time. They don't
feel musical to-day. It is reported all over town that Judge Pyncheon
who owns the househas been murdered; and the city marshal is going
to look into the matter. So be off with youat once!"

As the Italian shouldered his hurdy-gurdyhe saw on the doorstep
a cardwhich had been coveredall the morningby the newpaper
that the carrier had flung upon itbut was now shuffled into
sight. He picked it upand perceiving something written in pencil
gave it to the man to read. In factit was an engraved card of
Judge Pyncheon's with certain pencilled memoranda on the back
referring to various businesses which it had been his purpose
to transact during the preceding day. It formed a prospective
epitome of the day's history; only that affairs had not turned
out altogether in accordance with the programme. The card must
have been lost from the Judge's vest-pocket in his preliminary
attempt to gain access by the main entrance of the house.
Though well soaked with rainit was still partially legible.

Look here; Dixey!cried the man. "This has something to do
with Judge Pyncheon. See!--here's his name printed on it; and
hereI supposeis some of his handwriting."

Let's go to the city marshal with it!said Dixey. "It may give
him just the clew he wants. After all whispered he in his
companion's ear,it would be no wonder if the Judge has gone
into that door and never come out again! A certain cousin of his
may have been at his old tricks. And Old Maid Pyncheon having got
herself in debt by the cent-shop--and the Judge's pocket-book
being well filled--and bad blood amongst them already! Put all
these things together and see what they make!"

Hush, hush!whispered the other. "It seems like a sin to he the
first to speak of such a thing. But I thinkwith youthat we had
better go to the city marshal."

Yes, yes!said Dixey. "Well!--I always said there was something
devilish in that woman's scowl!"


The men wheeled aboutaccordinglyand retraced their steps up the
street. The Italianalsomade the best of his way offwith a
parting glance up at the arched window. As for the children
they took to their heelswith one accordand scampered as if
some giant or ogre were in pursuituntilat a good distance
from the housethey stopped as suddenly and simultaneously as
they had set out. Their susceptible nerves took an indefinite
alarm from what they had overheard. Looking back at the grotesque
peaks and shadowy angles of the old mansionthey fancied a gloom
diffused about it which no brightness of the sunshine could dispel.
An imaginary Hepzibah scowled and shook her finger at themfrom
several windows at the same moment. An imaginary Clifford--for
(and it would have deeply wounded him to know it) he had always
been a horror to these small people --stood behind the unreal
Hepzibahmaking awful gesturesin a faded dressing-gown.
Children are even more aptif possiblethan grown people
to catch the contagion of a panic terror. For the rest of the day
the more timid went whole streets aboutfor the sake of avoiding
the Seven Gables; while the bolder sig nalized their hardihood
by challenging their comrades to race past the mansion at full speed.

It could not have been more than half an hour after the
disappearance of the Italian boywith his unseasonable melodies
when a cab drove down the street. It stopped beneath the Pyncheon
Elm; the cabman took a trunka canvas bagand a bandboxfrom the
top of his vehicleand deposited them on the doorstep of the old
house; a straw bonnetand then the pretty figure of a young girl
came into view from the interior of the cab. It was Phoebe! Though
not altogether so blooming as when she first tripped into our story
--forin the few intervening weeksher experiences had made her
gravermore womanlyand deeper-eyedin token of a heart that
had begun to suspect its depths--still there was the quiet glow
of natural sunshine over her. Neither had she forfeited her proper
gift of making things look realrather than fantasticwithin her
sphere. Yet we feel it to be a questionable ventureeven for Phoebe
at this junctureto cross the threshold of the Seven Gables. Is her
healthful presence potent enough to chase away the crowd of pale
hideousand sinful phantomsthat have gained admittance there
since her departure? Or will shelikewisefadesickensadden
and grow into deformityand be only another pallid phantomto glide
noiselessly up and down the stairsand affright children as she
pauses at the window?

At leastwe would gladly forewarn the unsuspecting girl that
there is nothing in human shape or substance to receive her
unless it be the figure of Judge Pyncheonwho--wretched spectacle
that he isand frightful in our remembrancesince our night-long
vigil with him!--still keeps his place in the oaken chair.

Phoebe first tried the shop-door. It did not yield to her hand;
and the white curtaindrawn across the window which formed the
upper section of the doorstruck her quick perceptive faculty as
something unusual. Without making another effort to enter here
she betook herself to the great portalunder the arched window.
Finding it fastenedshe knocked. A reverberation came from the
emptiness within. She knocked againand a third time; and
listening intentlyfancied that the floor creakedas if Hepzibah
were comingwith her ordinary tiptoe movementto admit her.
But so dead a silence ensued upon this imaginary soundthat she
began to question whether she might not have mistaken the
housefamiliar as she thought herself with its exterior.

Her notice was now attracted by a child's voiceat some


distance. It appeared to call her name. Looking in the direction
whence it proceededPhoebe saw little Ned Higginsa good way
down the streetstampingshaking his head violentlymaking
deprecatory gestures with both handsand shouting to her at
mouth-wide screech.

No, no, Phoebe!he screamed. "Don't you go in! There's
something wicked there! Don't--don't--don't go in!"

Butas the little personage could not be induced to approach
near enough to explain himselfPhoebe concluded that he had been
frightenedon some of his visits to the shopby her cousin
Hepzibah; for the good lady's manifestationsin truthran about
an equal chance of scaring children out of their witsor compelling
them to unseemly laughter. Stillshe felt the morefor this
incidenthow unaccountably silent and impenetrable the house had
become. As her next resortPhoebe made her way into the garden
where on so warm and bright a day as the presentshe had little
doubt of finding Cliffordand perhaps Hepzibah alsoidling away
the noontide in the shadow of the arbor. Immediately on her entering
the garden gatethe family of hens half ranhalf flew to meet her;
while a strange grimalkinwhich was prowling under the parlor window
took to his heelsclambered hastily over the fenceand vanished.
The arbor was vacantand its floortableand circular bench
were still dampand bestrewn with twigs and the disarray of the
past storm. The growth of the garden seemed to have got quite
out of bounds; the weeds had taken advantage of Phoebe's absence
and the long-continued rainto run rampant over the flowers and
kitchen-vegetables. Maule's well had overflowed its stone border
and made a pool of formidable breadth in that corner of the garden.

The impression of the whole scene was that of a spot where no
human foot had left its print for many preceding days--probably
not since Phoebe's departure--for she saw a side-comb of her
own under the table of the arborwhere it must have fallen on
the last afternoon when she and Clifford sat there.

The girl knew that her two relatives were capable of far greater
oddities than that of shutting themselves up in their old house
as they appeared now to have done. Neverthelesswith indistinct
misgivings of something amissand apprehensions to which she
could not give shapeshe approached the door that formed the
customary communication between the house and garden. It was
secured withinlike the two which she had already tried. She
knockedhowever; and immediatelyas if the application had
been expectedthe door was drawn openby a considerable exertion
of some unseen person's strengthnot widebut far enough to
afford her a side-long entrance. As Hepzibahin order not to
expose herself to inspection from withoutinvariably opened a
door in this mannerPhoebe necessarily concluded that it was her
cousin who now admitted her.

Without hesitationthereforeshe stepped across the threshold
and had no sooner entered than the door closed behind her.

XX The Flower of Eden

PHOEBEcoming so suddenly from the sunny daylightwas altogether
bedimmed in such density of shadow as lurked in most of the
passages of the old house. She was not at first aware by whom


she had been admitted. Before her eyes had adapted themselves
to the obscuritya hand grasped her own with a firm but gentle
and warm pressurethus imparting a welcome which caused her heart
to leap and thrill with an indefinable shiver of enjoyment.
She felt herself drawn alongnot towards the parlorbut into
a large and unoccupied apartmentwhich had formerly been the
grand reception-room of the Seven Gables. The sunshine came
freely into all the uncurtained windows of this roomand fell
upon the dusty floor; so that Phoebe now clearly saw--what
indeedhad been no secretafter the encounter of a warm hand
with hers--that it was not Hepzibah nor Cliffordbut Holgrave
to whom she owed her reception. The subtileintuitive
communicationorratherthe vague and formless impression
of something to be toldhad made her yield unresistingly to his
impulse. Without taking away her handshe looked eagerly in his
facenot quick to forebode evilbut unavoidably conscious that
the state of the family had changed since her departureand
therefore anxious for an explanation.

The artist looked paler than ordinary; there was a thoughtful and
severe contraction of his foreheadtracing a deepvertical line
between the eyebrows. His smilehoweverwas full of genuine warmth
and had in it a joyby far the most vivid expression that Phoebe had
ever witnessedshining out of the New England reserve with which
Holgrave habitually masked whatever lay near his heart. It was
the look wherewith a manbrooding alone over some fearful object
in a dreary forest or illimitable desertwould recognize the
familiar aspect of his dearest friendbringing up all the peaceful
ideas that belong to homeand the gentle current of every-day affairs.
And yetas he felt the necessity of responding to her look of inquiry
the smile disappeared.

I ought not to rejoice that you have come, Phoebe,said he.
We meet at a strange moment!

What has happened!she exclaimed. "Why is the house so
deserted? Where are Hepzibah and Clifford?"

Gone! I cannot imagine where they are!answered Holgrave.
We are alone in the house!

Hepzibah and Clifford gone?cried Phoebe. "It is not possible!
And why have you brought me into this roominstead of the parlor?
Ahsomething terrible has happened! I must run and see!"

No, no, Phoebe!said Holgrave holding her back. "It is as I
have told you. They are goneand I know not whither. A terrible
event hasindeed happenedbut not to themnoras I undoubtingly
believethrough any agency of theirs. If I read your character
rightlyPhoebe he continued, fixing his eyes on hers with
stern anxiety, intermixed with tenderness, gentle as you are
and seeming to have your sphere among common thingsyou yet
possess remarkable strength. You have wonderful poiseand a
faculty whichwhen testedwill prove itself capable of dealing
with matters that fall far out of the ordinary rule."

Oh, no, I am very weak!replied Phoebetrembling. "But tell
me what has happened!"

You are strong!persisted Holgrave. "You must be both strong
and wise; for I am all astrayand need your counsel. It may be
you can suggest the one right thing to do!"

Tell me!--tell me!said Phoebeall in a tremble. "It oppresses


--it terrifies me--this mystery! Anything else I can bear!"

The artist hesitated. Notwithstanding what he had just saidand
most sincerelyin regard to the self-balancing power with which
Phoebe impressed himit still seemed almost wicked to bring the
awful secret of yesterday to her knowledge. It was like dragging
a hideous shape of death into the cleanly and cheerful space
before a household firewhere it would present all the uglier
aspectamid the decorousness of everything about it. Yet it
could not be concealed from her; she must needs know it.

Phoebe,said hedo you remember this?He put into her hand
a daguerreotype; the same that he had shown her at their first
interview in the gardenand which so strikingly brought out the
hard and relentless traits of the original.

What has this to do with Hepzibah and Clifford?asked Phoebewith
impatient surprise that Holgrave should so trifle with her at such a
moment." It is Judge Pyncheon! You have shown it to me before!"

But here is the same face, taken within this half-hoursaid the
artistpresenting her with another miniature. "I had just finished
it when I heard you at the door."

This is death!shuddered Phoebeturning very pale. "Judge
Pyncheon dead!"

Such as there represented,said Holgravehe sits in the next
room. The Judge is dead, and Clifford and Hepzibah have vanished!
I know no more. All beyond is conjecture. On returning to my solitary
chamber, last evening, I noticed no light, either in the parlor, or
Hepzibah's room, or Clifford's; no stir nor footstep about the house.
This morning, there was the same death-like quiet. From my window, I
overheard the testimony of a neighbor, that your relatives were seen
leaving the house in the midst of yesterday's storm. A rumor reached
me, too, of Judge Pyncheon being missed. A feeling which I cannot
describe--an indefinite sense of some catastrophe, or consummation
--impelled me to make my way into this part of the house, where I
discovered what you see. As a point of evidence that may be useful
to Clifford, and also as a memorial valuable to myself,--for, Phoebe,
there are hereditary reasons that connect me strangely with that
man's fate,--I used the means at my disposal to preserve this
pictorial record of Judge Pyncheon's death.

Even in her agitationPhoebe could not help remarking the
calmness of Holgrave's demeanor. He appearedit is trueto feel
the whole awfulness of the Judge's deathyet had received the
fact into his mind without any mixture of surprisebut as an
event preordainedhappening inevitablyand so fitting itself
into past occurrences that it could almost have been prophesied.

Why have you not thrown open the doors, and called in witnesses?
inquired she with a painful shudder. "It is terrible to be here alone!"

But Clifford!suggested the artist. "Clifford and Hepzibah! We
must consider what is best to be done in their behalf. It is a
wretched fatality that they should have disappeared! Their flight
will throw the worst coloring over this event of which it is
susceptible. Yet how easy is the explanationto those who know
them! Bewildered and terror-stricken by the similarity of this
death to a former onewhich was attended with such disastrous
consequences to Cliffordthey have had no idea but of removing
themselves from the scene. How miserably unfortunate! Had
Hepzibah but shrieked aloud--had Clifford flung wide the door


and proclaimed Judge Pyncheon's death--it would have been
however awful in itselfan event fruitful of good consequences
to them. As I view itit would have gone far towards obliterating
the black stain on Clifford's character."


And howasked Phoebecould any good come from what is so very dreadful?


Because,said the artistif the matter can be fairly considered
and candidly interpreted, it must be evident that Judge Pyncheon
could not have come unfairly to his end. This mode of death had
been an idiosyncrasy with his family, for generations past; not often
occurring, indeed, but, when it does occur, usually attacking
individuals about the Judge's time of life, and generally in the
tension of some mental crisis, or, perhaps, in an access of wrath.
Old Maule's prophecy was probably founded on a knowledge of this
physical predisposition in the Pyncheon race. Now, there is a
minute and almost exact similarity in the appearances connected
with the death that occurred yesterday and those recorded of the
death of Clifford's uncle thirty years ago. It is true, there was
a certain arrangement of circumstances, unnecessary to be recounted,
which made it possible nay, as men look at these things, probable,
or even certain--that old Jaffrey Pyncheon came to a violent death,
and by Clifford's hands.


Whence came those circumstances?exclaimed Phoebe. "He being
innocentas we know him to be!"


They were arranged,said Holgrave--"at least such has long
been my conviction--they were arranged after the uncle's death
and before it was made publicby the man who sits in yonder
parlor. His own deathso like that former oneyet attended by
none of those suspicious circumstancesseems the stroke of God
upon himat once a punishment for his wickednessand making
plain the innocence of CliffordBut this flight--it distorts
everything! He may be in concealmentnear at hand. Could we
but bring him back before the discovery of the Judge's death
the evil might be rectified


We must not hide this thing a moment longer!" said Phoebe.
It is dreadful to keep it so closely in our hearts. Clifford is
innocent. God will make it manifest! Let us throw open the doors,
and call all the neighborhood to see the truth!


You are right, Phoebe,rejoined Holgrave. "Doubtless you are right."


Yet the artist did not feel the horrorwhich was proper to Phoebe's
sweet and order-loving characterat thus finding herself at issue
with societyand brought in contact with an event that transcended
ordinary rules. Neither was he in hastelike herto betake himself
within the precincts of common life. On the contraryhe gathered
a wild enjoyment--as it werea flower of strange beautygrowing
in a desolate spotand blossoming in the wind--such a flower
of momentary happiness he gathered from his present position.
It separated Phoebe and himself from the worldand bound them
to each otherby their exclusive knowledge of Judge Pyncheon's
mysterious deathand the counsel which they were forced to hold
respecting it. The secretso long as it should continue such
kept them within the circle of a spella solitude in the midst
of mena remoteness as entire as that of an island in mid-ocean;
once divulgedthe ocean would flow betwixt themstanding on its
widely sundered shores. Meanwhileall the circumstances of their
situation seemed to draw them together; they were like two children
who go hand in handpressing closely to one another's sidethrough
a shadow-haunted passage. The image of awful Deathwhich filled



the househeld them united by his stiffened grasp.

These influences hastened the development of emotions that
might not otherwise have flowered so. Possiblyindeedit had
been Holgrave's purpose to let them die in their undeveloped
germs. "Why do we delay so?" asked Phoebe. "This secret takes
away my breath! Let us throw open the doors!"

In all our lives there can never come another moment like this!
said Holgrave. "Phoebeis it all terror?--nothing but terror?
Are you conscious of no joyas I amthat has made this the only
point of life worth living for?"

It seems a sin,replied Phoebetremblingto think of joy at
such a time!

Could you but know, Phoebe, how it was with me the hour before
you came!exclaimed the artist. "A darkcoldmiserable hour!
The presence of yonder dead man threw a great black shadow over
everything; he made the universeso far as my perception could
reacha scene of guilt and of retribution more dreadful than
the guilt. The sense of it took away my youth. I never hoped
to feel young again! The world looked strangewildevil
hostile; my past lifeso lonesome and dreary; my future
a shapeless gloomwhich I must mould into gloomy shapes!
ButPhoebeyou crossed the threshold; and hopewarmth
and joy came in with you! The black moment became at once
a blissful one. It must not pass without the spoken word.
I love you!"

How can you love a simple girl like me?asked Phoebe
compelled by his earnestness to speak. "You have manymany
thoughtswith which I should try in vain to sympathize. And I
--Itoo--I have tendencies with which you would sympathize as
little. That is less matter. But I have not scope enough to
make you happy."

You are my only possibility of happiness!answered Holgrave.
I have no faith in it, except as you bestow it on me!

And then--I am afraid!continued Phoebeshrinking towards
Holgraveeven while she told him so frankly the doubts with
which he affected her. "You will lead me out of my own quiet
path. You will make me strive to follow you where it is pathless.
I cannot do so. It is not my nature. I shall sink down and perish!"

Ah, Phoebe!exclaimed Holgravewith almost a sighand a smile
that was burdened with thought.

It will be far otherwise than as you forebode. The world owes
all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man
inevitably confines himself within ancient limits. I have a
presentiment that, hereafter, it will be my lot to set out trees,
to make fences,--perhaps, even, in due time, to build a house for
another generation,--in a word, to conform myself to laws and the
peaceful practice of society. Your poise will be more powerful
than any oscillating tendency of mine.

I would not have it so!said Phoebe earnestly.

Do you love me?asked Holgrave. "If we love one another
the moment has room for nothing more. Let us pause upon it
and be satisfied. Do you love mePhoebe?"


You look into my heart,said sheletting her eyes drop.
You know I love you!

And it was in this hourso full of doubt and awethat the one
miracle was wroughtwithout which every human existence is a
blank. The bliss which makes all things truebeautifuland holy
shone around this youth and maiden. They were conscious of nothing
sad nor old. They transfigured the earthand made it Eden again
and themselves the two first dwellers in it. The dead manso close
beside themwas forgotten. At such a crisisthere is no death;
for immortality is revealed anewand embraces everything in its
hallowed atmosphere.

But how soon the heavy earth-dream settled down again!

Hark!whispered Phoebe. "Somebody is at the street door!"

Now let us meet the world!said Holgrave. "No doubtthe rumor
of Judge Pyncheon's visit to this houseand the flight of Hepzibah
and Cliffordis about to lead to the investigation of the premises.
We have no way but to meet it. Let us open the door at once."

Butto their surprisebefore they could reach the street
door--even before they quitted the room in which the foregoing
interview had passed--they heard footsteps in the farther passage.
The doorthereforewhich they supposed to be securely locked
--which Holgraveindeedhad seen to be soand at which Phoebe
had vainly tried to enter--must have been opened from without.
The sound of footsteps was not harshbolddecidedand intrusive
as the gait of strangers would naturally bemaking authoritative
entrance into a dwelling where they knew themselves unwelcome.
It was feebleas of persons either weak or weary; there was the
mingled murmur of two voicesfamiliar to both the listeners.

Can it be?whispered Holgrave.

It is they!answered Phoebe. "Thank God!--thank God!"

And thenas if in sympathy with Phoebe's whispered ejaculation
they heard Hepzibah's voice more distinctly.

Thank God, my brother, we are at home!

Well!--Yes!--thank God!responded Clifford. "A dreary home
Hepzibah! But you have done well to bring me hither! Stay! That
parlor door is open. I cannot pass by it! Let me go and rest me
in the arborwhere I used--ohvery long agoit seems to me
after what has befallen us--where I used to be so happy with
little Phoebe!"

But the house was not altogether so dreary as Clifford imagined
it. They had not made many steps--in truththey were lingering
in the entrywith the listlessness of an accomplished purpose
uncertain what to do next--when Phoebe ran to meet them. On beholding
herHepzibah burst into tears. With all her mightshe had staggered
onward beneath the burden of grief and responsibilityuntil now
that it was safe to fling it down. Indeedshe had not energy to
fling it downbut had ceased to uphold itand suffered it to
press her to the earth. Clifford appeared the stronger of the two.

It is our own little Phoebe!--Ah! and Holgrave with, her
exclaimed hewith a glance of keen and delicate insightand a
smilebeautifulkindbut melancholy. "I thought of you both
as we came down the streetand beheld Alice's Posies in full bloom.


And so the flower of Eden has bloomedlikewisein this old
darksome house to-day."

XXI The Departure

THE sudden death of so prominent a member of the social world
as the Honorable Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon created a sensation
(at leastin the circles more immediately connected with the
deceased) which had hardly quite subsided in a fortnight.

It may be remarkedhoweverthatof all the events which
constitute a person's biographythere is scarcely one--none
certainlyof anything like a similar importance--to which the
world so easily reconciles itself as to his death. In most other
cases and contingenciesthe individual is present among us
mixed up with the daily revolution of affairsand affording a
definite point for observation. At his deceasethere is only
a vacancyand a momentary eddy--very smallas compared with
the apparent magnitude of the ingurgitated object--and a bubble
or twoascending out of the black depth and bursting at the
surface. As regarded Judge Pyncheonit seemed probableat first
blushthat the mode of his final departure might give him a
larger and longer posthumous vogue than ordinarily attends the
memory of a distinguished man. But when it came to be understood
on the highest professional authoritythat the event was a natural
and--except for some unimportant particularsdenoting a slight
idiosyncrasy--by no means an unusual form of deaththe public
with its customary alacrityproceeded to forget that he had ever
lived. In shortthe honorable Judge was beginning to be a stale
subject before half the country newspapers had found time to put
their columns in mourningand publish his exceedingly eulogistic
obituary.

Neverthelesscreeping darkly through the places which this
excellent person had haunted in his lifetimethere was a hidden
stream of private talksuch as it would have shocked all decency
to speak loudly at the street-corners. It is very singular
how the fact of a man's death often seems to give people a truer
idea of his characterwhether for good or evilthan they have
ever possessed while he was living and acting among them. Death
is so genuine a fact that it excludes falsehoodor betrays its
emptiness; it is a touchstone that proves the goldand dishonors
the baser metal. Could the departedwhoever he may bereturn
in a week after his deceasehe would almost invariably find
himself at a higher or lower point than he had formerly occupied
on the scale of public appreciation. But the talkor scandalto
which we now alludehad reference to matters of no less old a date
than the supposed murderthirty or forty years agoof the late
Judge Pyncheon's uncle. The medical opinion with regard to his own
recent and regretted decease had almost entirely obviated the idea
that a murder was committed in the former case. Yetas the record
showedthere were circumstances irrefragably indicating that some
person had gained access to old Jaffrey Pyncheon's private apartments
at or near the moment of his death. His desk and private drawers
in a room contiguous to his bedchamberhad been ransacked; money and
valuable articles were missing; there was a bloody hand-print on the
old man's linen; andby a powerfully welded chain of deductive evidence
the guilt of the robbery and apparent murder had been fixed on Clifford
then residing with his uncle in the House of the Seven Gables.


Whencesoever originatingthere now arose a theory that undertook
so to account for these circumstances as to exclude the idea of
Clifford's agency. Many persons affirmed that the history and
elucidation of the factslong so mysterioushad been obtained
by the daguerreotypist from one of those mesmerical seers who
nowadaysso strangely perplex the aspect of human affairsand
put everybody's natural vision to the blushby the marvels which
they see with their eyes shut.

According to this version of the storyJudge Pyncheonexemplary
as we have portrayed him in our narrativewasin his youth
an apparently irreclaimable scapegrace. The brutishthe animal
instinctsas is often the casehad been developed earlier
than the intellectual qualitiesand the force of characterfor
which he was afterwards remarkable. He had shown himself wild
dissipatedaddicted to low pleasureslittle short of ruffianly
in his propensitiesand recklessly expensivewith no other
resources than the bounty of his uncle. This course of conduct had
alienated the old bachelor's affectiononce strongly fixed upon
him. Now it is averred--but whether on authority available in
a court of justicewe do not pretend to have investigated--that
the young man was tempted by the devilone nightto search his
uncle's private drawersto which he had unsuspected means of
access. While thus criminally occupiedhe was startled by the
opening of the chamber-door. There stood old Jaffrey Pyncheon
in his nightclothes! The surprise of such a discoveryhis agitation
alarmand horrorbrought on the crisis of a disorder to which
the old bachelor had an hereditary liability; he seemed to choke
with bloodand fell upon the floorstriking his temple a heavy
blow against the corner of a table. What was to be done? The
old man was surely dead! Assistance would come too late! What a
misfortuneindeedshould it come too soonsince his reviving
consciousness would bring the recollection of the ignominious
offence which he had beheld his nephew in the very act of committing!

But he never did revive. With the cool hardihood that always
pertained to himthe young man continued his search of the
drawersand found a willof recent datein favor of Clifford
--which he destroyed--and an older onein his own favorwhich
he suffered to remain. But before retiringJaffrey bethought
himself of the evidencein these ransacked drawersthat some
one had visited the chamber with sinister purposes. Suspicion
unless avertedmight fix upon the real offender. In the very
presence of the dead manthereforehe laid a scheme that should
free himself at the expense of Cliffordhis rivalfor whose
character he had at once a contempt and a repugnance. It is not
probablebe it saidthat he acted with any set purpose of
involving Clifford in a charge of murder. Knowing that his uncle
did not die by violenceit may not have occurred to himin the
hurry of the crisisthat such an inference might be drawn. But
when the affair took this darker aspectJaffrey's previous steps
had already pledged him to those which remained. So craftily had
he arranged the circumstancesthatat Clifford's trialhis cousin
hardly found it necessary to swear to anything falsebut only to
withhold the one decisive explanationby refraining to state what
he had himself done and witnessed.

Thus Jaffrey Pyncheon's inward criminalityas regarded Clifford
wasindeedblack and damnable; while its mere outward show
and positive commission was the smallest that could possibly
consist with so great a sin. This is just the sort of guilt that
a man of eminent respectability finds it easiest to dispose of.
It was suffered to fade out of sight or be reckoned a venial matter
in the Honorable Judge Pyncheon's long subsequent survey of his


own life. He shuffled it asideamong the forgotten and forgiven
frailties of his youthand seldom thought of it again.

We leave the Judge to his repose. He could not be styled
fortunate at the hour of death. Unknowinglyhe was a childless man
while striving to add more wealth to his only child's inheritance.
Hardly a week after his deceaseone of the Cunard steamers brought
intelligence of the deathby choleraof Judge Pyncheon's son
just at the point of embarkation for his native land. By this
misfortune Clifford became rich; so did Hepzibah; so did our little
village maidenandthrough herthat sworn foe of wealth and all
manner of conservatism--the wild reformer--Holgrave!

It was now far too late in Clifford's life for the good opinion
of society to be worth the trouble and anguish of a formal
vindication. What he needed was the love of a very few; not the
admirationor even the respectof the unknown many. The latter
might probably have been won for himhad those on whom the
guardianship of his welfare had fallen deemed it advisable to
expose Clifford to a miserable resuscitation of past ideas
when the condition of whatever comfort he might expect lay in
the calm of forgetfulness. After such wrong as he had suffered
there is no reparation. The pitiable mockery of itwhich the
world might have been ready enough to offercoming so long after
the agony had done its utmost workwould have been fit only to
provoke bitterer laughter than poor Clifford was ever capable of.
It is a truth (and it would be a very sad one but for the higher
hopes which it suggests) that no great mistakewhether acted or
enduredin our mortal sphereis ever really set right. Time
the continual vicissitude of circumstancesand the invariable
inopportunity of deathrender it impossible. Ifafter long
lapse of yearsthe right seems to be in our powerwe find no niche
to set it in. The better remedy is for the sufferer to pass on
and leave what he once thought his irreparable ruin far behind him.

The shock of Judge Pyncheon's death had a permanently invigorating
and ultimately beneficial effect on Clifford. That strong and
ponderous man had been Clifford's nightmare. There was no free
breath to be drawnwithin the sphere of so malevolent an influence.
The first effect of freedomas we have witnessed in Clifford's aimless
flightwas a tremulous exhilaration. Subsiding from ithe did not
sink into his former intellectual apathy. He neverit is true
attained to nearly the full measure of what might have been his
faculties. But he recovered enough of them partially to light up
his characterto display some outline of the marvellous grace that
was abortive in itand to make him the object of No less deep
although less melancholy interest than heretofore. He was evidently
happy. Could we pause to give another picture of his daily life
with all the appliances now at command to gratify his instinct for
the Beautifulthe garden scenesthat seemed so sweet to him
would look mean and trivial in comparison.

Very soon after their change of fortuneCliffordHepzibahand
little Phoebewith the approval of the artistconcluded to remove
from the dismal old House of the Seven Gablesand take up their
abodefor the presentat the elegant country-seat of the late
Judge Pyncheon. Chanticleer and his family had already been
transported thitherwhere the two hens had forthwith begun an
indefatigable process of egg-layingwith an evident designas a
matter of duty and conscienceto continue their illustrious breed
under better auspices than for a century past. On the day set for
their departurethe principal personages of our storyincluding
good Uncle Vennerwere assembled in the parlor.


The country-house is certainly a very fine one, so far as the
plan goes,observed Holgraveas the party were discussing their
future arrangements. "But I wonder that the late Judge--being so
opulentand with a reasonable prospect of transmitting his wealth
to descendants of his own--should not have felt the propriety of
embodying so excellent a piece of domestic architecture in stone
rather than in wood. Thenevery generation of the family might
have altered the interiorto suit its own taste and convenience;
while the exteriorthrough the lapse of yearsmight have been
adding venerableness to its original beautyand thus giving that
impression of permanence which I consider essential to the
happiness of any one moment."

Why,cried Phoebegazing into the artist's face with infinite
amazementhow wonderfully your ideas are changed! A house of
stone, indeed! It is but two or three weeks ago that you seemed
to wish people to live in something as fragile and temporary as
a bird's-nest!

Ah, Phoebe, I told you how it would be!said the artistwith
a half-melancholy laugh."You find me a conservative already!
Little did I think ever to become one. It is especially
unpardonable in this dwelling of so much hereditary misfortune
and under the eye of yonder portrait of a model conservative
whoin that very characterrendered himself so long the evil
destiny of his race."

That picture!said Cliffordseeming to shrink from its stern
glance. "Whenever I look at itthere is an old dreamy recollection
haunting mebut keeping just beyond the grasp of my mind. Wealth
it seems to say! --boundless wealth!--unimaginable wealth! I could
fancy thatwhen I was a childor a youththat portrait had spoken
and told me a rich secretor had held forth its handwith the
written record of hidden opulence. But those old matters are so dim
with menowadays! What could this dream have been?"

Perhaps I can recall it,answered Holgrave. "See! There are a
hundred chances to one that no personunacquainted with the
secretwould ever touch this spring."

A secret spring!cried Clifford. "AhI remember Now! I did
discover itone summer afternoonwhen I was idling and
dreaming about the houselonglong ago. But the mystery
escapes me."

The artist put his finger on the contrivance to which he had
referred. In former daysthe effect would probably have been to
cause the picture to start forward. Butin so long a period of
concealmentthe machinery had been eaten through with rust; so that
at Holgrave's pressurethe portraitframe and alltumbled suddenly
from its positionand lay face downward on the floor. A recess in
the wall was thus brought to lightin which lay an object so covered
with a century's dust that it could not immediately be recognized as
a folded sheet of parchment. Holgrave opened itand displayed an
ancient deedsigned with the hieroglyphics of several Indian
sagamoresand conveying to Colonel Pyncheon and his heirsforever
a vast extent of territory at the Eastward.

This is the very parchment, the attempt to recover which cost
the beautiful Alice Pyncheon her happiness and life,said the
artistalluding to his legend. "It is what the Pyncheons sought
in vainwhile it was valuable; and now that they find the
treasureit has long been worthless."


Poor Cousin Jaffrey! This is what deceived him,exclaimed
Hepzibah. "When they were young togetherClifford probably
made a kind of fairy-tale of this discovery. He was always
dreaming hither and thither about the houseand lighting up its
dark corners with beautiful stories. And poor Jaffreywho took
hold of everything as if it were realthought my brother had
found out his uncle's wealth. He died with this delusion in his
mind!"

But,said Phoebeapart to Holgravehow came you to know
the secret?

My dearest Phoebe,said Holgravehow will it please you to
assume the name of Maule? As for the secret, it is the only
inheritance that has come down to me from my ancestors. You
should have known sooner (only that I was afraid of frightening
you away) that, in this long drama of wrong and retribution,
I represent the old wizard, and am probably as much a wizard
as ever he was. The son of the executed Matthew Maule, while
building this house, took the opportunity to construct that recess,
and hide away the Indian deed, on which depended the immense
land-claim of the Pyncheons. Thus they bartered their eastern
territory for Maule's garden-ground.

And nowsaid Uncle Venner "I suppose their whole claim is not
worth one man's share in my farm yonder!"

Uncle Venner,cried Phoebetaking the patched philosopher's
handyou must never talk any more about your farm! You shall
never go there, as long as you live! There is a cottage in our
new garden,--the prettiest little yellowish-brown cottage you
ever saw; and the sweetest-looking place, for it looks just as
if it were made of gingerbread,--and we are going to fit it up
and furnish it, on purpose for you. And you shall do nothing
but what you choose, and shall be as happy as the day is long,
and shall keep Cousin Clifford in spirits with the wisdom and
pleasantness which is always dropping from your lips!

Ah! my dear child,quoth good Uncle Vennerquite overcome
if you were to speak to a young man as you do to an old one,
his chance of keeping his heart another minute would not be
worth one of the buttons on my waistcoat! And--soul alive!--that
great sigh, which you made me heave, has burst off the very last
of them! But, never mind! It was the happiest sigh I ever did
heave; and it seems as if I must have drawn in a gulp of heavenly
breath, to make it with. Well, well, Miss Phoebe! They'll miss
me in the gardens hereabouts, and round by the back doors;
and Pyncheon Street, I'm afraid, will hardly look the same
without old Uncle Venner, who remembers it with a mowing
field on one side, and the garden of the Seven Gables on the
other. But either I must go to your country-seat, or you must
come to my farm,--that's one of two things certain; and I leave
you to choose which!

Oh, come with us, by all means, Uncle Venner!said Clifford
who had a remarkable enjoyment of the old man's mellowquiet
and simple spirit. "I want you always to be within five minutes
saunter of my chair. You are the only philosopher I ever knew
of whose wisdom has not a drop of bitter essence at the bottom!"

Dear me!cried Uncle Vennerbeginning partly to realize what
manner of man he was. "And yet folks used to set me down
among the simple onesin my younger days! But I suppose I am
like a Roxbury russet--a great deal the betterthe longer I can


be kept. Yes; and my words of wisdomthat you and Phoebe tell
me ofare like the golden dandelionswhich never grow in the
hot monthsbut may be seen glistening among the withered
grassand under the dry leavessometimes as late as December.
And you are welcomefriendsto my mess of dandelionsif there
were twice as many!"

A plainbut handsomedark-green barouche had now drawn up in
front of the ruinous portal of the old mansion-house. The party
came forthand (with the exception of good Uncle Vennerwho was
to follow in a few days) proceeded to take their places. They
were chatting and laughing very pleasantly together; and--as proves
to be often the caseat moments when we ought to palpitate with
sensibility--Clifford and Hepzibah bade a final farewell to the
abode of their forefatherswith hardly more emotion than if they
had made it their arrangement to return thither at tea-time.
Several children were drawn to the spot by so unusual a spectacle
as the barouche and pair of gray horses. Recognizing little
Ned Higgins among themHepzibah put her hand into her pocket
and presented the urchinher earliest and staunchest customer
with silver enough to people the Domdaniel cavern of his interior
with as various a procession of quadrupeds as passed into the ark.

Two men were passingjust as the barouche drove off.

Well, Dixey,said one of themwhat do you think of this? My
wife kept a cent-shop three months, and lost five dollars on her
outlay. Old Maid Pyncheon has been in trade just about as long,
and rides off in her carriage with a couple of hundred thousand,
--reckoning her share, and Clifford's, and Phoebe's,--and some
say twice as much! If you choose to call it luck, it is all very
well; but if we are to take it as the will of Providence, why,
I can't exactly fathom it!

Pretty good business!quoth the sagacious Dixey--"pretty good business!"

Maule's wellall this timethough left in solitudewas throwing
up a succession of kaleidoscopic picturesin which a gifted eye
might have seen foreshadowed the coming fortunes of Hepzibah and
Cliffordand the descendant of the legendary wizardand the
village maidenover whom he had thrown Love's web of sorcery.
The Pyncheon Elmmoreoverwith what foliage the September gale
had spared to itwhispered unintelligible prophecies. And wise
Uncle Vennerpassing slowly from the ruinous porchseemed to
hear a strain of musicand fancied that sweet Alice Pyncheon--after
witnessing these deedsthis bygone woe and this present happiness
of her kindred mortals--had given one farewell touch of a spirit's
joy upon her harpsichordas she floated heavenward from the HOUSE
OF THE SEVEN GABLES!