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PHOEBE, on entering the shop, beheld there the already familiar
face of the little devourer--if we can reckon his mighty deeds
aright--of Jim Crow, the elephant, the camel, the dromedaries,
and the locomotive. Having expended his private fortune, on the
two preceding days, in the purchase of the above unheard-of
luxuries, the young gentleman's present errand was on the part
of his mother, in quest of three eggs and half a pound of raisins.
These articles Phoebe accordingly supplied, and, as a mark of
gratitude for his previous patronage, and a slight super-added
morsel after breakfast, put likewise into his hand a whale! The
great fish, reversing 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 urchin, in truth, was the very emblem of old Father
Time, both in respect of his all-devouring appetite for men and
things, and because he, as well as Time, after ingulfing thus
much of creation, looked almost as youthful as if he had been
just that moment made.

After partly closing the door, the child turned back, and mumbled
something to Phoebe, which, as the whale was but half disposed
of, she could not perfectly understand.

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

"Mother wants to know" repeated Ned Higgins more distinctly, "how
Old Maid Pyncheon's brother does? Folks say he has got home."

"My cousin Hepzibah's brother?" exclaimed Phoebe, surprised 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-nose, with
that look of shrewdness which a child, spending 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 him, without answering his mother's message, he took
his departure.

As the child went down the steps, a gentleman ascended them,
and made his entrance into the shop. It was the portly, and,
had it possessed the advantage of a little more height, would have
been the stately figure of a man considerably in the decline of
life, dressed in a black suit of some thin stuff, resembling
broadcloth as closely as possible. A gold-headed cane, of rare
Oriental wood, added materially to the high respectability of
his aspect, as did also a neckcloth of the utmost snowy purity,
and the conscientious polish of his boots. His dark, square
countenance, with its almost shaggy depth of eyebrows, was
naturally impressive, and would, perhaps, have 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. Owing, however, to a somewhat massive accumulation
of animal substance about the lower region of his face, the look
was, perhaps, unctuous rather than spiritual, and had, so to speak,
a kind of fleshly effulgence, not altogether so satisfactory as he
doubtless intended it to be. A susceptible observer, at 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-natured, as well
as acute and susceptible, he would probably suspect that the smile
on the gentleman's face was a good deal akin to the shine on his
boots, and that each must have cost him and his boot-black,
respectively, a good deal of hard labor to bring out and
preserve them.

As the stranger entered the little shop, where the projection of
the second story and the thick foliage of the elm-tree, as well as
the commodities at the window, created a sort of gray medium, his 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 girl, instead of the gaunt presence
of the old maid, a 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 man, would have
been gruff, but, by dint of careful training, was now sufficiently
agreeable,--"I was not aware that Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon had
commenced business under such favorable auspices. You are her
assistant, I suppose?"

"I certainly am," answered Phoebe, and added, with a little air
of lady-like assumption (for, civil 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 gentleman, bowing and smiling, as Phoebe never had been
bowed to nor smiled on before; "in that case, we must be better
acquainted; for, unless I am sadly mistaken, you are my own
little kinswoman likewise! Let me see,--Mary?--Dolly?--Phoebe?
--yes, Phoebe is the name! Is it possible that you are Phoebe
Pyncheon, only child of my dear cousin and classmate, Arthur?
Ah, I see your father now, about your mouth! Yes, yes! we must
be better acquainted! I am your kinsman, my dear. Surely you must
have heard of Judge Pyncheon?"

As Phoebe curtsied in reply, the Judge bent forward, with 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 design, or only with such
instinctive design as gives no account of itself to the intellect)
Phoebe, just at the critical moment, drew back; so that her highly
respectable kinsman, with his body bent over the counter and his
lips protruded, was betrayed into the rather absurd predicament
of kissing the empty air. It was a modern parallel to the case of
Ixion embracing a cloud, and was so much the more ridiculous
as the Judge prided himself on eschewing all airy matter, and
never mistaking a shadow for a substance. The truth was,--and it
is Phoebe's only excuse,--that, although Judge Pyncheon's
glowing benignity might not be absolutely unpleasant to the
feminine beholder, with the width of a street, or even an
ordinary-sized room, interposed between, yet it became quite
too intense, when this dark, full-fed physiognomy (so roughly
bearded, too, that no razor could ever make it smooth) sought to
bring itself into actual contact with the object of its regards.
The man, the sex, somehow or other, was entirely too prominent in
the Judge's demonstrations of that sort. Phoebe's eyes sank, and,
without knowing why, she felt herself blushing deeply under his
look. Yet she had been kissed before, and without any particular
squeamishness, by perhaps half a dozen different cousins, younger
as well as older than this dark-browned, grisly-bearded,
white-neck-clothed, and unctuously-benevolent Judge! Then, why
not by him?

On raising her eyes, Phoebe was startled by the change in Judge
Pyncheon's face. It was quite as striking, allowing for the
difference of scale, as that betwixt a landscape under a broad
sunshine and just before a thunder-storm; not that it had the
passionate intensity of the latter aspect, but was cold, hard,
immitigable, like 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 rock, nor milder than the east wind! I meant no harm! Since he
is really my cousin, I would have let him kiss me, if I could!"

Then, all at once, it struck Phoebe that this very Judge Pyncheon
was the original of the miniature which the daguerreotypist had
shown her in the garden, and that the hard, stern, relentless look,
now on his face, was the same that the sun had so inflexibly
persisted in bringing out. Was it, therefore, no momentary mood,
but, however skilfully concealed, the settled temper of his life?
And not merely so, but was it hereditary in him, and transmitted
down, as a precious heirloom, from that bearded ancestor, in
whose picture both the expression and, to a singular degree, the
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 passions, the mean tendencies, and the moral diseases which
lead to crime are handed down from one generation to another, by 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.

But, as it happened, scarcely 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 sultry, dog-day heat,
as it were, of benevolence, which this excellent man diffused out
of his great heart into the surrounding atmosphere,--very much
like a serpent, which, as a preliminary to fascination, is said
to fill the air with his peculiar odor.

"I like that, Cousin Phoebe!" cried he, with an emphatic nod of
approbation. "I like it much, my little cousin! You are a good
child, and 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 Phoebe, trying to laugh the matter off, "I did
not mean to be unkind."

Nevertheless, whether or no it were entirely owing to the
inauspicious commencement of their acquaintance, she still acted
under a certain reserve, which was by no means customary to her
frank and genial nature. The fantasy would not quit her, that the
original Puritan, of whom she had heard so many sombre traditions,
--the progenitor of the whole race of New England Pyncheons, the
founder of the House of the Seven Gables, and who had died so
strangely in it,--had now stept into the shop. In these days of
off-hand equipment, the matter was easily enough arranged. On his
arrival from the other world, he had merely found it necessary to
spend a quarter of an hour at a barber's, who had trimmed down the
Puritan's full beard into a pair of grizzled whiskers, then,
patronizing a ready-made clothing establishment, he had exchanged
his velvet doublet and sable cloak, with the richly worked band
under his chin, for a white collar and cravat, coat, vest, and
pantaloons; and lastly, putting aside his steel-hilted broadsword
to take up a gold-headed cane, the Colonel Pyncheon of two centuries
ago steps forward as the Judge of the passing moment!

Of course, Phoebe was far too sensible a girl to entertain this
idea in any other way than as matter for a smile. Possibly, also,
could the two personages have stood together before her eye,
many points of difference would have been perceptible, and perhaps
only a general resemblance. The long lapse of intervening years,
in a climate so unlike that which had fostered the ancestral
Englishman, must 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 bench, we conceive that the
modern Judge Pyncheon, if weighed in the same balance with his
ancestor, would 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 cheek, and had taken
a sallow shade, the established complexion of his countrymen.
If we mistake not, moreover, a certain quality of nervousness
had become more or less manifest, even in so solid a specimen
of Puritan descent as the gentleman now under discussion.
As one of its effects, it bestowed on his countenance a quicker
mobility than the old Englishman's had possessed, and keener
vivacity, but at the expense of a sturdier something, on which
these acute endowments seemed to act like dissolving acids.
This process, for aught we know, may belong to the great system
of human progress, which, with every ascending footstep, as it
diminishes the necessity for animal force, may be destined
gradually to spiritualize us, by refining away our grosser
attributes of body. If so, Judge Pyncheon could endure a century
or two more of such refinement as well as most other men.

The similarity, intellectual and moral, between 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 parishioner, and opening, as it were, a vista
through the roof of the church, and thence through the firmament
above, showed him seated, harp in hand, among the crowned choristers
of the spiritual world. On his tombstone, too, the record is highly
eulogistic; nor does history, so 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-day, neither clergyman, nor legal
critic, nor inscriber of tombstones, nor historian of general or local
politics, would venture a word against this eminent person's sincerity
as a Christian, or respectability as a man, or integrity as a judge,
or courage and faithfulness as the often-tried representative of his
political party. But, besides these cold, formal, and empty words
of the chisel that inscribes, the voice that speaks, and the pen that
writes, for 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 ancestor, and private diurnal
gossip about the Judge, remarkably accordant in their testimony.
It is often instructive to take the woman's, the 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 Judge, too, with 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 manner, which most people took to be
the genuine warmth of nature, making its way through the thick and
inflexible hide of a manly character. His descendant, in compliance
with the requirements of a nicer age, had etherealized this rude
benevolence into that broad benignity of smile wherewith he shone
like a noonday sun along the streets, or glowed like a household
fire in the drawing-rooms of his private acquaintance. The Puritan
--if not belied by some singular stories, murmured, even at this
day, under the narrator's breath--had fallen into certain
transgressions to which men of his great animal development,
whatever their faith or principles, must continue liable, until
they put off impurity, along with the gross earthly substance that
involves it. We must not stain our page with any contemporary
scandal, to a similar purport, that may have been whispered
against the Judge. The Puritan, again, an autocrat in his own
household, had worn out three wives, and, merely by the remorseless
weight and hardness of his character in the conjugal relation,
had sent them, one after another, broken-hearted, to their graves.
Here the parallel, in some sort, fails. The Judge had wedded but
a single wife, and lost her in the third or fourth year of their
marriage. There was a fable, however,--for such we choose to
consider it, though, not impossibly, typical of Judge Pyncheon's
marital deportment,--that the lady got her death-blow in the honeymoon,
and never smiled again, because her husband compelled her to serve him
with coffee every morning at his bedside, in token of fealty to her
liege-lord and master.

But it is too fruitful a subject, this of hereditary resemblances,
--the frequent recurrence of which, in a direct line, is truly
unaccountable, when we consider how large an accumulation of
ancestry lies behind every man at the distance of one or two
centuries. We shall only add, therefore, that the Puritan--so,
at least, says chimney-corner tradition, which often preserves
traits of character with marvellous fidelity--was bold, imperious,
relentless, crafty; laying his purposes deep, and following them
out with an inveteracy of pursuit that knew neither rest nor
conscience; trampling on the weak, and, when essential to his
ends, doing his utmost to beat down the strong. Whether the
Judge in any degree resembled him, the further progress of our
narrative may show.

Scarcely any of the items in the above-drawn parallel occurred
to Phoebe, whose country birth and residence, in truth, had left
her pitifully ignorant of most of the family traditions, which
lingered, like cobwebs and incrustations of smoke, about the rooms
and chimney-corners of the House of the Seven Gables. Yet there
was a circumstance, very trifling in itself, which impressed her
with an odd degree of horror. She had heard of the anathema flung
by Maule, the executed wizard, against Colonel Pyncheon and his
posterity,--that God would give them blood to drink,--and likewise
of the popular notion, that this miraculous blood might now and
then be heard gurgling in their throats. The latter scandal
--as became a person of sense, and, more especially, a member of
the Pyncheon family--Phoebe had set down for the absurdity which
it unquestionably was. But ancient superstitions, after being
steeped in human hearts and embodied in human breath, and passing
from lip to ear in manifold repetition, through a series of
generations, become imbued with an effect of homely truth.
The smoke of the domestic hearth has scented them through and
through. By long transmission among household facts, they grow
to look like them, and have such a familiar way of making themselves
at home that their influence is usually greater than we suspect.
Thus it happened, that when Phoebe heard a certain noise in Judge
Pyncheon's throat, --rather habitual with him, not altogether
voluntary, yet indicative of nothing, unless it were a slight
bronchial complaint, or, as some people hinted, an apoplectic
symptom,--when the girl heard this queer and awkward ingurgitation
(which the writer never did hear, and therefore cannot describe),
she very foolishly started, and clasped her hands.

Of course, it was exceedingly ridiculous in Phoebe to be
discomposed by such a trifle, and 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 Judge, that, for the moment, it 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, nothing" sir--nothing in the world!" answered Phoebe, with
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 Judge, again beaming
sunshine out of his face. "You seem to be a little nervous this
morning. The town air, Cousin Phoebe, does not agree with your
good, wholesome country habits. Or has anything happened to
disturb you?--anything remarkable in Cousin Hepzibah's family?
--An arrival, eh? 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 Phoebe, gazing inquiringly at
the Judge. "There is no frightful guest in the house, but only a
poor, gentle, childlike man, whom I believe to be Cousin Hepzibah's
brother. I am afraid (but you, sir, will know better than I) that
he is not quite in his sound senses; but so mild and quiet he
seems to be, that 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!--Oh, no 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 together, I had a great affection
for him, and still feel a tender interest in all his concerns.
You say, Cousin Phoebe, he appears to be weak minded. Heaven
grant him at least enough of intellect to repent of his past sins!"

"Nobody, I fancy," observed Phoebe, "can have fewer to repent of."

"And is it possible, my dear" rejoined the Judge, with 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 knowing, however, whether 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 Phoebe, with the vivacity of a person whose movements
unconsciously answer to her thoughts, had 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-growl, and with a frown as black as the cloud
whence it issues." Stay you here! I know the house, and know
my cousin Hepzibah, and know her brother Clifford likewise.--nor
need my little country cousin put herself to the trouble of
announcing me!"--in these latter words, by the bye, there were
symptoms of a change from his sudden harshness into his
previous benignity of manner. "I am at home here, Phoebe, you
must recollect, and you are the stranger. I will just step in,
therefore, and see for myself how Clifford is, and assure him and
Hepzibah of my kindly feelings and best wishes. It is right, at
this juncture, that 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 parlor, where she sat, with
face averted, waiting on her brother's slumber. She now issued
forth, as would appear, to defend the entrance, looking, we must
needs say, amazingly like the dragon which, in fairy tales, is
wont to be the guardian over an enchanted beauty. The habitual
scowl of her brow was undeniably too fierce, at this moment, to
pass itself off on the innocent score of near-sightedness; and it
was bent on Judge Pyncheon in a way that seemed to confound, if not
alarm him, so inadequately had he estimated the moral force of a
deeply grounded antipathy. She made a repelling gesture with her
hand, and stood a perfect picture of prohibition, at full length,
in the dark frame of the doorway. But we must betray Hepzibah's
secret, and confess that the native timorousness of her character
even now developed itself in a quick tremor, which, to her own
perception, set each of her joints at variance with its fellows.

Possibly, the Judge was aware how little true hardihood lay behind
Hepzibah's formidable front. At any rate, being a gentleman of
steady nerves, he soon recovered himself, and failed not to approach
his cousin with outstretched hand; adopting the sensible precaution,
however, to cover his advance with a smile, so broad and sultry, that,
had it been only half as warm as it looked, a trellis of grapes might
at once have turned purple under its summer-like exposure. It may
have been his purpose, indeed, to 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. "Now, at length, you have something to live for.
Yes, and all of us, let me say, your friends and kindred, have 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 taste, and his love of the beautiful.
Anything in my house, --pictures, books, wine, luxuries of the table,
--he may command them all! It would afford me most heartfelt
gratification to see him! Shall I step in, this moment?"

"No," replied Hepzibah, her 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 sensibility, it seems, was 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 offers, and such generous
recognition of the claims of kindred, Phoebe felt very much in
the mood of running up to Judge Pyncheon, and giving him, of
her own accord, the 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
vinegar, making 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 heart, willing and anxious to receive yourself and Clifford
into it. Do not refuse my good offices,--my earnest propositions
for your welfare! They are such, in all respects, as it behooves
your nearest kinsman to make. It will be a heavy responsibility,
cousin, if you confine your brother to this dismal house and
stifled air, when the delightful freedom of my country-seat is
at his command."

"It would never suit Clifford," said Hepzibah, as briefly as before.

"Woman!" broke forth the Judge, giving way to his resentment, "what
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 door, and seemed
really to increase in bulk; looking the more terrible, also, because
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 weak, tremulous, wailing voice,
indicating helpless alarm, with 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! Oh, let him
have mercy on me! Mercy! mercy!"

For the instant, it appeared doubtful whether it were not the
Judge's resolute purpose to set Hepzibah aside, and step across
the threshold into the parlor, whence issued that broken and
miserable murmur of entreaty. It was not pity that restrained him,
for, at the first sound of the enfeebled voice, a red fire kindled
in his eyes, and he made a quick pace forward, with something
inexpressibly fierce and grim darkening forth, as it were, out of
the whole man. To know Judge Pyncheon was to see him at that moment.
After such a revelation, let him smile with what sultriness he would,
he could much sooner turn grapes purple, or pumpkins yellow, than
melt the iron-branded impression out of the beholder's memory. And
it rendered his aspect not the less, but more frightful, that it
seemed not to express wrath or hatred, but a certain hot fellness
of purpose, which annihilated everything but itself.

Yet, after all, are 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 mood, and hold
himself as ready to assist them then as at this moment. As he draws
back from the door, an all-comprehensive benignity blazes from his
visage, indicating that he gathers Hepzibah, little Phoebe, and
the invisible Clifford, all three, together with the whole world
besides, into his immense heart, and gives them a warm bath in its
flood of affection.

"You do me great wrong, dear Cousin Hepzibah!" said he, first
kindly offering her his hand, and 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 course, our
poor Clifford being in so unhappy a state of mind, I 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
despair, my dear cousin, of constraining both him and you to
acknowledge your injustice. When that shall happen, I desire no
other revenge than your acceptance of the best offices in my power
to do you."

With a bow to Hepzibah, and a degree of paternal benevolence
in his parting nod to Phoebe, the Judge left the shop, and went
smiling along the street. As is customary with the rich, when
they aim at the honors of a republic, he apologized, as it were,
to the people, for his wealth, prosperity, and 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 saluted, and 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 forenoon, so excessive was the warmth of Judge
Pyncheon's kindly aspect, that (such, at least, was 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,
and, staggering towards Phoebe, let her head fall on the young
girl's shoulder.

"O Phoebe!" murmured she, "that 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 accordingly, but perplexed herself, meanwhile, with
queries as to the purport of the scene which she had just witnessed,
and also whether judges, clergymen, and other characters of that
eminent stamp and respectability, could really, in any single
instance, be otherwise than just and upright men. A doubt of this
nature has a most disturbing influence, and, if shown to be a fact,
comes with fearful and startling effect on minds of the trim, orderly,
and limit-loving class, in which we find our little country-girl.
Dispositions more boldly speculative may derive a stern enjoyment
from the discovery, since there must be evil in the world, that a
high man is as likely to grasp his share of it as a low one. A wider
scope of view, and a deeper insight, may see rank, dignity, and
station, all proved illusory, so far as regards their claim to human
reverence, and yet not feel as if the universe were thereby tumbled
headlong into chaos. But Phoebe, in order to keep the universe in its
old place, was fain to smother, in some degree, her own intuitions
as to Judge Pyncheon's character. And as for her cousin's testimony
in disparagement of it, she 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 high, generous, and 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
poverty, developed by sorrow, elevated by the strong and solitary
affection of her life, and thus endowed with heroism, which
never could have characterized her in what are called happier
circumstances. Through dreary years Hepzibah had looked
forward--for the most part despairingly, never with any
confidence of hope, but always with the feeling that it was her
brightest possibility--to the very position in which she now found
herself. In her own behalf, she had asked nothing of Providence
but the opportunity of devoting herself to this brother, whom she
had so loved,--so admired for what he was, or might have been,
--and to whom she had kept her faith, alone of all the world,
wholly, unfalteringly, at every instant, and throughout life.
And here, in his late decline, the lost one had come back out of
his long and strange misfortune, and was thrown on her sympathy,
as it seemed, not 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 poor, gaunt
Hepzibah, in her rusty silks, with her rigid joints, and the
sad perversity of her scowl,-- ready to do her utmost; and with
affection enough, if that were all, to 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 them, than Hepzibah presented on that
first afternoon.

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

Remembering his early love of poetry and fiction, she unlocked
a bookcase, and took down several books that had been excellent
reading in their day. There was a volume of Pope, with the Rape
of the Lock in it, and another of the Tatler, and an odd one of
Dryden's Miscellanies, all with tarnished gilding on their covers,
and thoughts of tarnished brilliancy inside. They had no success
with Clifford. These, and all such writers of society, whose new
works glow like the rich texture of a just-woven carpet, must be
content to relinquish their charm, for every reader, after an age
or two, and 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 Rasselas, and began to read of
the Happy Valley, with a vague idea that some secret of a contented
life had there been elaborated, which might at least serve
Clifford and herself for this one day. But the Happy Valley
had a cloud over it. Hepzibah troubled her auditor, moreover, by
innumerable sins of emphasis, which he seemed to detect, without
any reference to the meaning; nor, in fact, did he appear to take
much note of the sense of what she read, but evidently felt the
tedium of the lecture, without harvesting its profit. His sister's
voice, too, naturally harsh, had, in the course of her sorrowful
lifetime, contracted a kind of croak, which, when it once gets
into the human throat, is as ineradicable as sin. In both sexes,
occasionally, this lifelong croak, accompanying each word of joy
or sorrow, is one of the symptoms of a settled melancholy; and
wherever it occurs, the 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 croak, running through all the variations of the voice,
is like a black silken thread, on which the crystal beads of speech
are strung, and 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 time, her 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 benefit, and accompanying the performance with her voice.
Poor Clifford! Poor Hepzibah! Poor harpsichord! All three would have
been miserable together. By some good agency,--possibly, by 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
endure, and perhaps for Clifford, too was his invincible distaste
for her appearance. Her features, never the most agreeable, and
now harsh with age and grief, and resentment against the world for
his sake; her dress, and especially her turban; the queer and quaint
manners, which had unconsciously grown upon her in solitude,--such
being the poor gentlewoman's outward characteristics, it is no great
marvel, although the mournfullest of pities, that 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 extremity, the expiring breath stealing faintly through
Clifford's lips, he would doubtless press Hepzibah's hand, in
fervent recognition of all her lavished love, and close his eyes,
--but not so much to die, as to be constrained to look no longer
on her face! Poor Hepzibah! She took counsel with herself what
might be done, and thought of putting ribbons on her turban; but,
by the instant rush of several guardian angels, was withheld from
an experiment that could hardly have proved less than fatal to
the beloved object of her anxiety.

To be brief, besides Hepzibah's disadvantages of person, there
was an uncouthness pervading all her deeds; a clumsy something,
that could but ill adapt itself for use, and not at all for ornament.
She was a grief to Clifford, and 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 happiness, it would have rewarded her for all the past,
by a joy with no bright tints, indeed, but deep and true, and
worth a thousand gayer ecstasies. This could not be. She
therefore turned to Phoebe, and resigned the task into the young
girl's hands. The latter took it up cheerfully, as she did
everything, but with no sense of a mission to perform, and
succeeding all the better for that same simplicity.

By the involuntary effect of a genial temperament, Phoebe soon
grew to be absolutely essential to the daily comfort, if not the
daily life, of 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 densely, from the antique
ceilings, upon the floors and furniture of the rooms below,--or,
at any rate, there was a little housewife, as light-footed as the
breeze that sweeps a garden walk, gliding hither and thither to
brush it all away. The shadows of gloomy events that haunted
the else lonely and desolate apartments; the heavy, breathless
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 youthful, fresh, and thoroughly
wholesome heart. There was no morbidness in Phoebe; if there
had been, the old Pyncheon House was the very locality to ripen
it into incurable disease. But now her spirit resembled, in its
potency, a minute quantity of ottar of rose in one of Hepzibah's
huge, iron-bound trunks, diffusing its fragrance through the
various articles of linen and wrought-lace, kerchiefs, caps,
stockings, folded dresses, gloves, and whatever else was treasured
there. As every article in the great trunk was the sweeter for the
rose-scent, so did all the thoughts and emotions of Hepzibah and
Clifford, sombre as they might seem, acquire a subtle attribute of
happiness from Phoebe's intermixture with them. Her activity of
body, intellect, and heart impelled her continually to perform the
ordinary little toils that offered themselves around her, and to
think the thought proper for the moment, and to sympathize,--now
with the twittering gayety of the robins in the pear-tree, and now
to such a depth as she could with Hepzibah's dark anxiety, or 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 influence, but is
seldom regarded with due honor. Its spiritual force, however, may
be partially estimated by the fact of her having found a place for
herself, amid 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 gaunt, bony frame and limbs of Hepzibah, as compared with
the tiny lightsomeness of Phoebe's figure, were perhaps in some
fit proportion with the moral weight and substance, respectively,
of the woman and the girl.

To the guest,--to Hepzibah's brother,--or Cousin Clifford, as
Phoebe now began to call him,--she was especially necessary.
Not that he could ever be said to converse with her, or often
manifest, in any other very definite mode, his sense of a charm
in her society. But if she were a long while absent he became
pettish and nervously restless, pacing the room to and fro with
the uncertainty that characterized all his movements; or else
would sit broodingly in his great chair, resting his head on his
hands, and 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 one, was usually
all that he required. Indeed, such was the native gush and play
of her spirit, that she was seldom perfectly quiet and
undemonstrative, any more than a fountain ever ceases to dimple
and warble with its flow. She possessed the gift of song, and
that, too, so naturally, that you would as little think of inquiring
whence she had caught it, or what master had taught her, as of
asking the same questions about a bird, in 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 sang, she
might stray at her own will about the house. Clifford was
content, whether the sweet, airy homeliness of her tones came
down from the upper chambers, or along the passageway from
the shop, or was sprinkled through the foliage of the pear-tree,
inward from the garden, with the twinkling sunbeams. He would
sit quietly, with a gentle pleasure gleaming over his face,
brighter now, and now a little dimmer, as the song happened to
float near him, or was more remotely heard. It pleased him best,
however, when she sat on a low footstool at his knee.

It is perhaps remarkable, considering her temperament, that
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
song, moreover, came sifted through the golden texture of a
cheery spirit, and was somehow so interfused with the quality
thence acquired, that one's heart felt all the lighter for having
wept at it. Broad mirth, in the sacred presence of dark
misfortune, would have jarred harshly and irreverently with the
solemn symphony that rolled its undertone through Hepzibah's
and her brother's life. Therefore, it was well that Phoebe so
often chose sad themes, and not amiss that they ceased to be so
sad while she was singing them.

Becoming habituated to her companionship, Clifford 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 real, even in its utmost manifestation, and which a
painter would have watched long to seize and fix upon his canvas,
and, after all, in vain,--beauty, nevertheless, that was not a
mere dream, would 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 hair, and those furrows,
--with their record of infinite sorrow so deeply written across
his brow, and so compressed, as with a futile effort to crowd
in all the tale, that the whole inscription was made illegible,
--these, for the moment, vanished. An eye at once tender and
acute might have beheld in the man some shadow of what he was
meant to be. Anon, as age came stealing, like a sad twilight,
back over his figure, you would have felt tempted to hold an
argument with Destiny, and affirm, that either this being
should not have been made mortal, or 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;
but, as he had breathed, it 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
Beautiful, let their earthly fate be as lenient as it may.

Phoebe, it is probable, had 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 it, but need not know the
individuality of one among them all. Indeed, there 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 Clifford, however, the reality, and simplicity,
and thorough homeliness of the girl's nature were as powerful a
charm as any that she possessed. Beauty, it is true, and beauty
almost perfect in its own style, was indispensable. Had Phoebe
been coarse in feature, shaped clumsily, of a harsh voice, and
uncouthly mannered, she might have been rich with all good gifts,
beneath this unfortunate exterior, and still, so long as she
wore the guise of woman, she would have shocked Clifford, and
depressed him by her lack of beauty. But nothing more beautiful
--nothing prettier, at least--was ever made than Phoebe. And,
therefore, to this man,--whose whole poor and impalpable enjoyment
of existence heretofore, and until both his heart and fancy died
within him, had been a dream,--whose images of women had more and
more lost their warmth and substance, and been frozen, like the
pictures of secluded artists, into 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 wandered, or been expelled, out of the common track of
things, even were it for a better system, desire nothing so much
as to be led back. They shiver in their loneliness, be it on a
mountain-top or in a dungeon. Now, Phoebe's presence made a home
about her,--that very sphere which the outcast, the prisoner, the
potentate,--the wretch beneath mankind, the wretch aside from it,
or the wretch above it, --instinctively pines after,--a home! She
was real! Holding her hand, you felt something; a tender something;
a substance, and a warm one: and so long as you should feel its
grasp, soft as it was, you 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 direction, we might suggest an
explanation of an often-suggested mystery. Why are poets so apt
to choose their mates, not 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?
Because, probably, at his highest elevation, the poet needs no human
intercourse; but he finds it dreary to descend, and be a stranger.

There was something very beautiful in the relation that grew up
between this pair, so closely and constantly linked together, yet
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 influence, but
who had never quaffed the cup of passionate love, and knew that it
was now too late. He knew it, with the instinctive delicacy that
had survived his intellectual decay. Thus, his sentiment for Phoebe,
without being paternal, was not less chaste than if she had been
his daughter. He was a man, it is true, and recognized her as a
woman. She was his only representative of womankind. He took
unfailing note of every charm that appertained to her sex, and
saw the ripeness of her lips, and the virginal development of her
bosom. All her little womanly ways, budding out of her like
blossoms on a young fruit-tree, had their effect on him, and
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 sound, when the musician's
fingers sweep across it. But, after all, it seemed rather a
perception, or a sympathy, than 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
poetry, which God, in requital of his bleak and dismal lot, had
permitted some angel, that most pitied him, to warble through the
house. She was not an actual fact for him, but the interpretation
of all that he lacked on earth brought warmly home to his conception;
so that this mere symbol, or life-like picture, had 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 being, made only for happiness,
and heretofore so miserably failing to be happy,--his tendencies
so hideously thwarted, that, some unknown time ago, the delicate
springs of his character, never morally or intellectually strong,
had given way, and he was now imbecile,--this poor, forlorn
voyager from the Islands of the Blest, in a frail bark, on a
tempestuous sea, had been flung, by the last mountain-wave of
his shipwreck, into a quiet harbor. There, as he lay more
than half lifeless on the strand, the fragrance of an earthly
rose-bud had come to his nostrils, and, as odors will, had
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 influences, he inhales the
slight, ethereal rapture into his soul, and 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
Clifford, so far as it affected her at all, was an annoyance,
rather than the piquant charm which many women might have found
in it. Still, her native kindliness was brought strongly into play,
not by what was darkly picturesque in his situation, nor so much,
even, by the finer graces of his character, as 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 regard, because
he needed so much love, and seemed to have received so little.
With a ready tact, the result of ever-active and wholesome
sensibility, she discerned what was good for him, and did it.
Whatever was morbid in his mind and experience she ignored;
and thereby kept their intercourse healthy, by the incautious,
but, as it were, heaven-directed freedom of her whole conduct.
The sick in mind, and, perhaps, in body, are 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 it, too, not with a wild-flower
scent, --for wildness was no trait of hers,--but with the perfume
of garden-roses, pinks, and other blossoms of much sweetness, which
nature and man have consented together in making grow from summer
to summer, and from century to century. Such a flower was Phoebe
in her relation with Clifford, and such the delight that he
inhaled from her.

Yet, it must be said, her petals sometimes drooped a little, in
consequence of the heavy atmosphere about her. She grew more
thoughtful than heretofore. Looking aside at Clifford's face,
and seeing the dim, unsatisfactory elegance and the intellect
almost quenched, she would try to inquire what had been his life.
Was he always thus? Had this veil been over him from his birth?
--this veil, under which far more of his spirit was hidden than
revealed, and through which he so imperfectly discerned the actual
world, --or was its gray texture woven of some dark calamity?
Phoebe loved no riddles, and would have been glad to escape the
perplexity of this one. Nevertheless, there was so far a good
result of her meditations on Clifford's character, that, when her
involuntary conjectures, together with the tendency of every
strange circumstance to tell its own story, had gradually taught
her the fact, it had no terrible effect upon her. Let the world
have done him what vast wrong it might, she 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
inmate, the routine of life had established itself with a good
deal of uniformity in the old house of our narrative. In the
morning, very shortly after breakfast, it was Clifford's custom
to fall asleep in his chair; nor, unless accidentally disturbed,
would he emerge from a dense cloud of slumber or the thinner mists
that flitted to and fro, until well towards noonday. These hours
of drowsihead were the season of the old gentlewoman's attendance
on her brother, while Phoebe took charge of the shop; an arrangement
which the public speedily understood, and evinced their decided
preference of the younger shopwoman by the multiplicity of their
calls during her administration of affairs. Dinner over, Hepzibah
took her knitting-work,--a long stocking of gray yarn, for her
brother's winter wear,--and with a sigh, and a scowl of affectionate
farewell to Clifford, and a gesture enjoining watchfulness on
Phoebe, went to take her seat behind the counter. It was now the
young girl's turn to be the nurse,--the guardian, the playmate,
--or whatever is the fitter phrase,--of the gray-haired man.

X The Pyncheon Garden

CLIFFORD, except for Phoebe's More active instigation would
ordinarily have yielded to the torpor which had crept through all
his modes of being, and which sluggishly counselled him to sit
in his morning chair till eventide. But the girl seldom failed
to propose a removal to the garden, where Uncle Venner and the
daguerreotypist had made such repairs on the roof of the ruinous
arbor, or summer-house, that it was now a sufficient shelter from
sunshine and casual showers. The hop-vine, too, had begun to
grow luxuriantly over the sides of the little edifice, and made
an interior of verdant seclusion, with innumerable peeps and
glimpses into the wider solitude of the garden.

Here, sometimes, in this green play-place of flickering light,
Phoebe read to Clifford. Her acquaintance, the artist, who
appeared to have a literary turn, had supplied her with works
of fiction, in pamphlet form,--and a few volumes of poetry, in
altogether a different style and taste from those which Hepzibah
selected for his amusement. Small thanks were due to the books,
however, if the girl's readings were in any degree more
successful than her elderly cousin's. Phoebe's voice had always
a pretty music in it, and could either enliven Clifford by its
sparkle and gayety of tone, or soothe him by a continued flow
of pebbly and brook-like cadences. But the fictions--in which
the country-girl, unused to works of that nature, often became
deeply absorbed--interested her strange auditor very little,
or not at all. Pictures of life, scenes of passion or sentiment,
wit, humor, and pathos, were all thrown away, or worse than
thrown away, on Clifford; either because he lacked an experience
by which to test their truth, or because his own griefs were a
touch-stone of reality that few feigned emotions could withstand.
When Phoebe broke into a peal of merry laughter at what she read,
he would now and then laugh for sympathy, but oftener respond with
a troubled, questioning look. If a tear--a maiden's sunshiny tear
over imaginary woe--dropped upon some melancholy page, Clifford
either took it as a token of actual calamity, or else grew
peevish, and angrily motioned her to close the volume. And
wisely too! Is not the world sad enough, in genuine earnest,
without making a pastime of mock sorrows?

With poetry it was rather better. He delighted in the swell and
subsidence of the rhythm, and the happily recurring rhyme. Nor
was Clifford incapable of feeling the sentiment of poetry,--not,
perhaps, where it was highest or deepest, but where it was most
flitting and ethereal. It was impossible to foretell in what
exquisite verse the awakening spell might lurk; but, on raising
her eyes from the page to Clifford's face, Phoebe would be made
aware, by the light breaking through it, that a more delicate
intelligence than her own had caught a lambent flame from what
she read. One glow of this kind, however, was often the
precursor of gloom for many hours afterward; because, when the
glow left him, he seemed conscious of a missing sense and
power, and groped about for them, as if a blind man should go
seeking his lost eyesight.

It pleased him more, and was better for his inward welfare, that
Phoebe should talk, and 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
exquisite, and seemed not so much a taste as an emotion; he was
fond of sitting with one in his hand, intently observing it, and
looking from its petals into Phoebe's face, as if the garden flower
were the sister of the household maiden. Not merely was there
a delight in the flower's perfume, or pleasure in its beautiful
form, and the delicacy or brightness of its hue; but Clifford's
enjoyment was accompanied with a perception of life, character,
and individuality, that made him love these blossoms of the
garden, as if they were endowed with sentiment and intelligence.
This affection and sympathy for flowers is almost exclusively a
woman's trait. Men, if endowed with it by nature, soon lose,
forget, and learn to despise it, in their contact with coarser things
than flowers. Clifford, too, had long forgotten it; but found it
again now, as 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 there, on
the first day of her acquaintance with the place. And often,
--almost continually, indeed,--since then, the bees kept coming
thither, Heaven knows why, or by what pertinacious desire, for
far-fetched sweets, when, no doubt, there were broad clover-fields,
and all kinds of garden growth, much nearer home than this. Thither
the bees came, however, and plunged into the squash-blossoms, as if
there were no other squash-vines within a long day's flight, or as
if the soil of Hepzibah's garden gave its productions just the very
quality which these laborious little wizards wanted, in order to
impart the Hymettus odor to their whole hive of New England honey.
When Clifford heard their sunny, buzzing murmur, in the heart of
the great yellow blossoms, he looked about him with a joyful sense
of warmth, and blue sky, and green grass, and of God's free air in
the whole height from earth to heaven. After all, there 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 them, in requital of a little honey.

When the bean-vines began to flower on the poles, there was
one particular variety which bore a vivid scarlet blossom.
The daguerreotypist had found these beans in a garret, over one
of the seven gables, treasured up in an old chest of drawers
by some horticultural Pyncheon of days gone by, who doubtless
meant to sow them the next summer, but was himself first sown
in Death's garden-ground. By way of testing whether there were
still a living germ in such ancient seeds, Holgrave had planted
some of them; and the result of his experiment was a splendid
row of bean-vines, clambering, early, to the full height of the
poles, and arraying them, from top to bottom, in a spiral
profusion of red blossoms. And, ever since the unfolding of the
first bud, a multitude of humming-birds had been attracted
thither. At times, it 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 plumage, hovering and vibrating
about the bean-poles. It was with indescribable interest, and
even more than childish delight, that Clifford watched the
humming-birds. He used to thrust his head softly out of the
arbor to see them the better; all the while, too, motioning
Phoebe to be quiet, and snatching glimpses of the smile upon her
face, so as to heap his enjoyment up the higher with her sympathy.
He had not merely grown young;--he was a child again.

Hepzibah, whenever she happened to witness one of these fits of
miniature enthusiasm, would shake her head, with a strange
mingling of the mother and sister, and of pleasure and sadness,
in her aspect. She said that it had always been thus with Clifford
when the humming-birds came,--always, from 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 coincidence, the good lady thought, that the artist
should have planted these scarlet-flowering beans--which the
humming-birds sought far and wide, and 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 eyes, or overflow
them with a too abundant gush, so that she was fain to betake
herself into some corner, lest Clifford should espy her agitation.
Indeed, all the enjoyments of this period were provocative of
tears. Coming so late as it did, it was a kind of Indian summer,
with a mist in its balmiest sunshine, and decay and death in its
gaudiest delight. The more Clifford seemed to taste the happiness
of a child, the sadder was the difference to be recognized. With
a mysterious and terrible Past, which had annihilated his memory,
and a blank Future before him, he had only this visionary and
impalpable Now, which, if you once look closely at it, is nothing.
He himself, as was perceptible by many symptoms, lay darkly behind
his pleasure, and knew it to be a baby-play, which he was to
toy and trifle with, instead of thoroughly believing. Clifford saw,
it may be, in the mirror of his deeper consciousness, that 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 food, and setting poison before
them for a banquet; and thus--when it might so easily, as one
would think, have been adjusted otherwise--making their existence
a strangeness, a solitude, and torment. All his life long, he had
been learning how to be wretched, as one learns a foreign
tongue; and now, with the lesson thoroughly by heart, he 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 rose, that I may press its thorns, and prove
myself awake by the sharp touch of pain!" Evidently, he desired
this prick of a trifling anguish, in order to assure himself, by
that quality which he best knew to be real, that the garden, and
the seven weather-beaten gables, and Hepzibah's scowl, and Phoebe's
smile, were real likewise. Without this signet in his flesh, he
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 minute, and incidents apparently
so trifling, as are essential to make up the idea of this
garden-life. It was the Eden of a thunder-smitten Adam, who 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 amusement, of which Phoebe
made the most in Clifford's behalf, was that feathered society,
the hens, a breed of whom, as we have already said, was an
immemorial heirloom in the Pyncheon family. In compliance with
a whim of Clifford, as it troubled him to see them in confinement,
they had been set at liberty, and now roamed at will about the
garden; doing some little mischief, but hindered from escape by
buildings on three sides, and the difficult peaks of a wooden
fence on the other. They spent much of their abundant leisure
on the margin of Maule's well, which was haunted by a kind of
snail, evidently a titbit to their palates; and the brackish
water itself, however nauseous to the rest of the world, was so
greatly esteemed by these fowls, that they might be seen tasting,
turning up their heads, and smacking their bills, with precisely
the air of wine-bibbers round a probationary cask. Their generally
quiet, yet often brisk, and constantly diversified talk, one to
another, or sometimes in soliloquy,--as they scratched worms out
of the rich, black soil, or pecked at such plants as suited their
taste,--had such a domestic tone, that it was almost a wonder
why you could not establish a regular interchange of ideas about
household matters, human 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
progenitors, derived through an unbroken succession of eggs; or
else this individual Chanticleer and his two wives had grown to
be humorists, and a little crack-brained withal, on account of
their solitary way of life, and out of sympathy for Hepzibah,
their lady-patroness.

Queer, indeed, they looked! Chanticleer himself, though stalking
on two stilt-like legs, with the dignity of interminable descent in
all his gestures, was 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 egg, and, at the same
time, sufficiently old, withered, wizened, and experienced, to have
been founder of the antiquated race. Instead of being the youngest
of the family, it rather seemed to have aggregated into itself the
ages, not only of these living specimens of the breed, but of all
its forefathers and foremothers, whose united excellences and oddities
were squeezed into its little body. Its mother evidently regarded
it as the one chicken of the world, and as necessary, in fact, to
the world's continuance, or, at any rate, to the equilibrium of the
present system of affairs, whether in church or state. No lesser
sense of the infant fowl's importance could have justified, even
in a mother's eyes, the perseverance with which she watched over
its safety, ruffling her small person to twice its proper size, and
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 scratched, and her unscrupulousness in digging
up the choicest flower or vegetable, for the sake of the fat earthworm
at its root. Her nervous cluck, when the chicken happened to be
hidden in the long grass or under the squash-leaves; her gentle
croak of satisfaction, while sure of it beneath her wing; her note
of ill-concealed fear and obstreperous defiance, when she saw her
arch-enemy, a neighbor's cat, on the top of the high fence,--one
or other of these sounds was to be heard at almost every moment
of the day. By degrees, the observer came to feel nearly as much
interest in this chicken of illustrious race as the mother-hen did.

Phoebe, after getting well acquainted with the old hen, was
sometimes permitted to take the chicken in her hand, which was
quite capable of grasping its cubic inch or two of body. While
she curiously examined its hereditary marks,--the peculiar speckle
of its plumage, the funny tuft on its head, and a knob on each
of its legs,--the little biped, as she insisted, kept giving her a
sagacious wink. The daguerreotypist once whispered her that
these marks betokened the oddities of the Pyncheon family, and
that the chicken itself was a symbol of the life of the old house,
embodying its interpretation, likewise, although an unintelligible
one, as such clews generally are. It was a feathered riddle; a
mystery hatched out of an egg, and just as mysterious as if the
egg had been addle!

The second of Chanticleer's two wives, ever since Phoebe's
arrival, had been in a state of heavy despondency, caused, as it
afterwards appeared, by her inability to lay an egg. One day,
however, by her self-important gait, the sideways turn of her
head, and the cock of her eye, as she pried into one and another
nook of the garden,--croaking to herself, all the while, with
inexpressible complacency,--it was made evident that this
identical hen, much as mankind undervalued her, carried something
about her person the worth of which was not to be estimated either
in gold or precious stones. Shortly after, there was a prodigious
cackling and gratulation of Chanticleer and all his family, including
the wizened chicken, who appeared to understand the matter quite as
well as did his sire, his mother, or his aunt. That afternoon Phoebe
found a diminutive egg,--not in the regular nest, it was far too
precious to be trusted there,--but cunningly hidden under the
currant-bushes, on some dry stalks of last year's grass. Hepzibah,
on learning the fact, took possession of the egg and appropriated
it to Clifford's breakfast, on account of a certain delicacy of
flavor, for which, as she affirmed, these eggs had always been famous.
Thus unscrupulously did the old gentlewoman sacrifice the continuance,
perhaps, of an ancient feathered race, with 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
Chanticleer, the next day, accompanied by the bereaved mother of
the egg, took his post in front of Phoebe and Clifford, and 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. Hereupon, the offended
fowl stalked away on his long stilts, and utterly withdrew his notice
from Phoebe and the rest of human nature, until she made her peace
with an offering of spice-cake, which, next to snails, was the
delicacy most in favor with his aristocratic taste.

We linger too long, no doubt, beside this paltry rivulet of life
that flowed through the garden of the Pyncheon House. But we deem
it pardonable to record these mean incidents and poor delights,
because they proved so greatly to Clifford's benefit. They had
the earth-smell in them, and contributed to give him health and
substance. Some of his occupations wrought less desirably upon him.
He had a singular propensity, for example, to hang over Maule's well,
and look at the constantly shifting phantasmagoria of figures produced
by the agitation of the water over the mosaic-work of colored pebbles
at the bottom. He said that faces looked upward to him there,
--beautiful faces, arrayed in bewitching smiles,--each momentary
face so fair and rosy, and every smile so sunny, that he felt
wronged at its departure, until the same flitting witchcraft made
a new one. But sometimes he would suddenly cry out, "The dark
face gazes at me!" and be miserable the whole day afterwards.
Phoebe, when she hung over the fountain by Clifford's side,
could see nothing of all this,--neither the beauty nor the
ugliness,--but only the colored pebbles, looking as if the
gush of the waters shook and disarranged them. And the dark
face, that so troubled Clifford, was no more than the shadow
thrown from a branch of one of the damson-trees, and breaking
the inner light of Maule's well. The truth was, however,
that his fancy--reviving faster than his will and judgment,
and always stronger than they--created shapes of loveliness that
were symbolic of his native character, and now and then a stern
and dreadful shape that typified his fate.

On Sundays, after Phoebe had been at church,--for the girl had
a church-going conscience, and would hardly have been at ease
had she missed either prayer, singing, sermon, or benediction,
--after church-time, therefore, there was, ordinarily, a sober
little festival in the garden. In addition to Clifford, Hepzibah,
and Phoebe, two guests made up the company. One was the artist
Holgrave, who, in spite of his consociation with reformers, and
his other queer and questionable traits, continued to hold an
elevated place in Hepzibah's regard. The other, we are almost
ashamed to say, was the venerable Uncle Venner, in a clean shirt,
and a broadcloth coat, more respectable than his ordinary wear,
inasmuch as it was neatly patched on each elbow, and might be
called an entire garment, except for a slight inequality in the
length of its skirts. Clifford, on several occasions, had seemed
to enjoy the old man's intercourse, for the sake of his mellow,
cheerful vein, which was like the sweet flavor of a frost-bitten
apple, such as one picks up under the tree in December. A man at
the very lowest point of the social scale was easier and more
agreeable for the fallen gentleman to encounter than a person at
any of the intermediate degrees; and, moreover, as Clifford's young
manhood had been lost, he was fond of feeling himself comparatively
youthful, now, in apposition with the patriarchal age of Uncle
Venner. In fact, it was sometimes observable that Clifford half
wilfully hid from himself the consciousness of being stricken in
years, and cherished visions of an earthly future still before him;
visions, however, too indistinctly drawn to be followed by
disappointment--though, doubtless, by depression--when any casual
incident or recollection made him sensible of the withered leaf.

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

"Miss Hepzibah, ma'am," said he once, after they had all been
cheerful together, "I 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 Venner" observed Clifford in a drowsy, inward tone, "is 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 patches, "you 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 ours, one
would like a house and a moderate garden-spot of one's own."

" It appears to me," said the daguerreotypist, smiling, "that 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 Hepzibah, "it is time to bring the currants."

And then, while the yellow richness of the declining sunshine
still fell into the open space of the garden, Phoebe brought out
a loaf of bread and a china bowl of currants, freshly gathered
from the bushes, and crushed with sugar. These, with water,--but
not from the fountain of ill omen, close at hand,--constituted all
the entertainment. Meanwhile, Holgrave took some pains to establish
an intercourse with Clifford, actuated, it might seem, entirely
by an impulse of kindliness, in order that the present hour
might be cheerfuller than most which the poor recluse had spent,
or was destined yet to spend. Nevertheless, in the artist's deep,
thoughtful, all-observant eyes, there was, now and then, an
expression, not sinister, but questionable; as if he had some other
interest in the scene than a stranger, a youthful and unconnected
adventurer, might be supposed to have. With great mobility of
outward mood, however, he applied himself to the task of enlivening
the party; and with so much success, that even dark-hued Hepzibah
threw off one tint of melancholy, and made what shift she could
with the remaining portion. Phoebe said to herself,--"How pleasant
he can be!" As for Uncle Venner, as a mark of friendship and
approbation, he readily consented to afford the young man his
countenance in the way of his profession,--not metaphorically,
be it understood, but literally, by allowing a daguerreotype of
his face, so familiar to the town, to be exhibited at the entrance
of Holgrave's studio.

Clifford, as the company partook of their little banquet, grew to
be the gayest of them all. Either it was one of those up-quivering
flashes of the spirit, to which minds in an abnormal state are
liable, or else the artist had subtly touched some chord that made
musical vibration. Indeed, what with the pleasant summer
evening, and the sympathy of this little circle of not unkindly
souls, it was perhaps natural that a character so susceptible as
Clifford's should become animated, and show itself readily
responsive to what was said around him. But he gave out his
own thoughts, likewise, with an airy and fanciful glow; so that
they glistened, as it were, through the arbor, and made their
escape among the interstices of the foliage. He had been as
cheerful, no doubt, while alone with Phoebe, but never with such
tokens of acute, although partial intelligence.

But, as the sunlight left the peaks of the Seven Gables, so did
the excitement fade out of Clifford's eyes. He gazed vaguely and
mournfully about him, as if he missed something precious, and missed
it the more drearily for not knowing precisely what it was.

"I want my happiness!" at last he murmured hoarsely and
indistinctly, hardly Shaping out the words. "Many, many years
have I waited for it! It is late! It is late! I want my happiness!"

Alas, poor Clifford! You are old, and worn with troubles that
ought never to have befallen you. You are partly crazy and partly
imbecile; a ruin, a failure, as almost everybody is,--though some
in less degree, or less perceptibly, than their fellows. Fate has
no happiness in store for you; unless your quiet home in the old
family residence with the faithful Hepzibah, and your long summer
afternoons with Phoebe, and these Sabbath festivals with Uncle
Venner and the daguerreotypist, deserve to be called happiness!
Why not? If not the thing itself, it 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,
therefore, while you may Murmur not,--question not,--but make
the most of it!

XI The Arched Window

FROM the inertness, or what we may term the vegetative
character, of his ordinary mood, Clifford would perhaps have
been content to spend one day after another, interminably,--or,
at least, throughout the summer-time,--in just the kind of life
described in the preceding pages. Fancying, however, that 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 purpose, they used to mount the
staircase together, to the second story of the house, where, at
the termination of a wide entry, there was an arched window, of
uncommonly large dimensions, shaded by a pair of curtains. It
opened above the porch, where there had formerly been a balcony,
the balustrade of which had long since gone to decay, and been
removed. At this arched window, throwing it open, but 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 pale, gray, childish, aged, melancholy, yet
often simply cheerful, and sometimes delicately intelligent aspect
of Clifford, peering from behind the faded crimson of the curtain,
--watching the monotony of every-day occurrences with a kind of
inconsequential interest and earnestness, and, at every petty
throb of his sensibility, turning for sympathy to the eyes of
the bright young girl!

If once he were fairly seated at the window, even Pyncheon
Street would hardly be so dull and lonely but that, somewhere or
other along its extent, Clifford might discover matter to occupy
his eye, and titillate, if not engross, his observation. Things
familiar to the youngest child that had begun its outlook at
existence seemed strange to him. A cab; an omnibus, with its
populous interior, dropping here and there a passenger, and
picking up another, and thus typifying that vast rolling vehicle,
the world, the end of whose journey is everywhere and nowhere;
these objects he followed eagerly with his eyes, but 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 thrice, for example,
during the sunny hours of the day, a water-cart went along by
the Pyncheon House, leaving 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 shower, which the city authorities
had caught and tamed, and 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 it, but lost the recollection of this perambulatory shower,
before its next reappearance, as completely as did the street
itself, along 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-devil, and, by leaning a little
way from the arched window, could catch a glimpse of the trains
of cars, flashing a brief transit across the extremity of the
street. The idea of terrible energy thus forced upon him was
new at every recurrence, and seemed to affect him as disagreeably,
and with almost as much surprise, the hundredth time as the first.

Nothing gives a sadder sense of decay than this loss or
suspension of the power to deal with unaccustomed things, and
to keep up with the swiftness of the passing moment. It can
merely be a suspended animation; for, were the power actually
to perish, there would be little use of immortality. We are less
than ghosts, for the time being, whenever 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 carts, the former track of which he still found in his
long-buried remembrance, as the observer of to-day finds the
wheel-tracks of ancient vehicles in Herculaneum. The butcher's
cart, with its snowy canopy, was an acceptable object; so was
the fish-cart, heralded by its horn; so, likewise, was the
countryman's cart of vegetables, plodding from door to door,
with long pauses of the patient horse, while his owner drove a
trade in turnips, carrots, summer-squashes, string-beans, green
peas, and new potatoes, with half the housewives of the neighborhood.
The baker's cart, with the harsh music of its bells, had a pleasant
effect on Clifford, because, as few things else did, it jingled the
very dissonance of yore. One afternoon a scissor-grinder chanced
to set his wheel a-going under the Pyncheon Elm, and just in front
of the arched window. Children came running with their mothers'
scissors, or the carving-knife, or the paternal razor, or anything
else that lacked an edge (except, indeed, poor Clifford's wits),
that the grinder might apply the article to his magic wheel, and
give it back as good as new. Round went the busily revolving
machinery, kept in motion by the scissor-grinder's foot, and wore
away the hard steel against the hard stone, whence issued an intense
and spiteful prolongation of a hiss as fierce as those emitted by
Satan and his compeers in Pandemonium, though squeezed into smaller
compass. It was an ugly, little, venomous serpent of a noise,
as ever did petty violence to human ears. But Clifford listened
with rapturous delight. The sound, however disagreeable, had very
brisk life in it, and, together with the circle of curious children
watching the revolutions of the wheel, appeared to give him a more
vivid sense of active, bustling, and sunshiny existence than he had
attained in almost any other way. Nevertheless, its 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 chaises, with wings
sticking out on either side, that used to be drawn by a
plough-horse, and driven by a farmer's wife and daughter,
peddling whortle-berries and blackberries about the town.
Their disappearance made him doubt, he said, whether 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 beauty, in however
humble a way, did 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-organ, and 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 window, and, opening his
instrument, began to scatter its melodies abroad. He had a
monkey on his shoulder, dressed in a Highland plaid; and, to
complete the sum of splendid attractions wherewith he presented
himself to the public, there was a company of little figures,
whose sphere and habitation was in the mahogany case of his
organ, and whose principle of life was the music which the Italian
made it his business to grind out. In all their variety of
occupation,--the cobbler, the blacksmith, the soldier, the lady
with her fan, the toper with his bottle, the milkmaid sitting by
her, cow--this fortunate little society might truly be said to
enjoy a harmonious existence, and to make life literally a dance.
The Italian turned a crank; and, behold! every one of these small
individuals started into the most curious vivacity. The cobbler
wrought upon a shoe; the blacksmith hammered his iron, the 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 knowledge, and 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; and, moved by the self-same impulse,
a lover saluted his mistress on her lips! Possibly some cynic,
at once merry and bitter, had desired to signify, in this
pantomimic scene, that we mortals, whatever our business or
amusement,--however serious, however trifling, --all dance to
one identical tune, and, in spite of our ridiculous activity,
bring nothing finally to pass. For the most remarkable aspect
of the affair was, that, at the cessation of the music, everybody
was petrified at once, from the most extravagant life into a dead
torpor. Neither was the cobbler's shoe finished, nor the blacksmith's
iron shaped out; nor was there a drop less of brandy in the toper's
bottle, nor a drop more of milk in the milkmaid's pail, nor one
additional coin in the miser's strong-box, nor 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 enjoy, to accumulate gold, and to become wise. Saddest of all,
moreover, the lover was none the happier for the maiden's granted
kiss! But, rather than swallow this last too acrid ingredient,
we reject the whole moral of the show.

The monkey, meanwhile, with a thick tail curling out into
preposterous prolixity from beneath his tartans, took his station
at the Italian's feet. He turned a wrinkled and abominable little
visage to every passer-by, and to the circle of children that soon
gathered round, and to Hepzibah's shop-door, and upward to the
arched window, whence Phoebe and Clifford were looking down.
Every moment, also, he took off his Highland bonnet, and performed
a bow and scrape. Sometimes, moreover, he made personal application
to individuals, holding out his small black palm, and 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 glance, that 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 short, and you could desire no better image of the Mammon of
copper coin, symbolizing 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 eagerness, handed them over
to the Italian for safekeeping, and immediately recommenced
a series of pantomimic petitions for more.

Doubtless, more than one New-Englander--or, let him be of what
country he might, it is as likely to be the case--passed by,
and threw a look at the monkey, and went on, without imagining
how nearly his own moral condition was here exemplified. Clifford,
however, was a being of another order. He had taken childish
delight in the music, and smiled, too, at the figures which it
set in motion. But, after looking awhile at the long-tailed imp,
he was so shocked by his horrible ugliness, spiritual as well as
physical, that he actually began to shed tears; a weakness which
men of merely delicate endowments, and destitute of the fiercer,
deeper, and more tragic power of laughter, can 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 above, and which brought the multitude
along with them. With a shivering repugnance at the idea of personal
contact with the world, a powerful impulse still seized on Clifford,
whenever the rush and roar of the human tide grew strongly audible
to him. This was made evident, one day, when a political procession,
with hundreds of flaunting banners, and drums, fifes, clarions,
and cymbals, reverberating between the rows of buildings, marched
all through town, and trailed its length of trampling footsteps,
and most infrequent uproar, past the ordinarily quiet House of the
Seven Gables. As a mere object of sight, nothing is more deficient
in picturesque features than a procession seen in its passage through
narrow streets. The spectator feels it to be fool's play, when he can
distinguish the tedious commonplace of each man's visage, with the
perspiration and weary self-importance on it, and the very cut of his
pantaloons, and the stiffness or laxity of his shirt-collar, and the
dust on the back of his black coat. In order to become majestic, it
should be viewed from some vantage point, as it rolls its slow and
long array through the centre of a wide plain, or the stateliest
public square of a city; for then, by its remoteness, it melts all
the petty personalities, of which it is made up, into one broad mass
of existence,--one great life,--one collected body of mankind, with
a vast, homogeneous spirit animating it. But, on the other hand,
if an impressible person, standing alone over the brink of one of
these processions, should behold it, not in its atoms, but in its
aggregate,--as a mighty river of life, massive in its tide, and
black with mystery, and, out of its depths, calling 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 Phoebe, who were with him at
the window. They comprehended nothing of his emotions, and
supposed him merely disturbed by the unaccustomed tumult. At
last, with tremulous limbs, he started up, set his foot on the
window-sill, and in an instant more would have been in the
unguarded balcony. As it was, the whole procession might have
seen him, a wild, haggard figure, his gray locks floating in
the wind that waved their banners; a lonely being, estranged
from his race, but now feeling himself man again, by virtue of
the irrepressible instinct that possessed him. Had Clifford
attained the balcony, he 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 from, or by a natural magnetism, tending towards the
great centre of humanity, it were not easy to decide. Both
impulses might have wrought on him at once.

But his companions, affrighted 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. Phoebe, to whom
all extravagance was a horror, burst into sobs and tears.

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

"I hardly know, Hepzibah," said Clifford, drawing 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!"

Possibly, in some sense, Clifford may have been right. He needed
a shock; or perhaps he required to take a deep, deep plunge into
the ocean of human life, and to sink down and be covered by its
profoundness, and then to emerge, sobered, invigorated, restored
to the world and to himself. Perhaps again, he 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 sketched, there was a touching
recognition, on Clifford's part, of God's care and love towards
him,--towards this poor, forsaken man, who, if any mortal could,
might have been pardoned for regarding himself as thrown aside,
forgotten, and left to be the sport of some fiend, whose
playfulness was an ecstasy of mischief.

It was the Sabbath morning; one of those bright, calm Sabbaths,
with its own hallowed atmosphere, when Heaven seems to diffuse
itself over the earth's face in a solemn smile, no less sweet than
solemn. On such a Sabbath morn, were we pure enough to be its
medium, we should be conscious of the earth's natural worship
ascending through our frames, on whatever spot of ground we stood.
The church-bells, with various tones, but all in harmony, were
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 sounds, now slowly, now with livelier
joy, now one bell alone, now all the bells together, crying
earnestly,--"It is the Sabbath!" and flinging their accents afar
off, to melt into the air and pervade it with the holy word.
The air with God's sweetest and tenderest sunshine in it, was
meet for mankind to breathe into their hearts, and send it forth
again as the utterance of prayer.

Clifford sat at the window with Hepzibah, watching the neighbors
as they stepped into the street. All of them, however unspiritual
on other days, were transfigured by the Sabbath influence; so that
their very garments--whether it were an old man's decent coat well
brushed for the thousandth time, or a little boy's first sack and
trousers finished yesterday by his mother's needle--had somewhat
of the quality of ascension-robes. Forth, likewise, from the
portal of the old house stepped Phoebe, putting up her small
green sunshade, and throwing upward a glance and smile of parting
kindness to the faces at the arched window. In her aspect there
was a familiar gladness, and 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 Phoebe, moreover, and airy and sweet in her apparel;
as if nothing that she wore--neither her gown, nor her small
straw bonnet, nor her little kerchief, any more than her snowy
stockings--had ever been put on before; or, if worn, were all
the fresher for it, and with a fragrance as if they had lain
among the rose-buds.

The girl waved her hand to Hepzibah and Clifford, and went up the
street; a religion in herself, warm, simple, true, with a substance
that could walk on earth, and a spirit that was capable of heaven.

"Hepzibah," asked Clifford, after watching Phoebe to the corner,
"do you never go to church?"

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

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

She looked into Clifford's face, and beheld there a soft natural
effusion; for his heart gushed out, as it were, and ran over at his
eyes, in delightful reverence for God, and kindly affection for his
human brethren. The emotion communicated itself to Hepzibah. She
yearned to take him by the hand, and go and kneel down, they two
together,--both so long separate from the world, and, as she now
recognized, scarcely friends with Him above,--to kneel down among
the people, and be reconciled to God and man at once.

"Dear brother," said she earnestly, "let 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 themselves, ready--as ready
as they could in the best of their old-fashioned garments, which
had hung on pegs, or been laid away in trunks, so long that the
dampness and mouldy smell of the past was on them,--made themselves
ready, in their faded bettermost, to go to church. They descended
the staircase together,--gaunt, sallow Hepzibah, and pale, emaciated,
age-stricken Clifford! They pulled open the front door, and stepped
across the threshold, and felt, both of them, as if they were standing
in the presence of the whole world, and with mankind's great and
terrible eye on them alone. The eye of their Father seemed to be
withdrawn, and 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 house, which has a curse on it, and
which, therefore, we are doomed to haunt! And, besides," 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-beings, and that children would
cling to their mothers' gowns at sight of me!"

They shrank back into the dusky passage-way, and closed the door.
But, going up the staircase again, they found the whole interior
of the house tenfold, more dismal, and 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
mockery, and stood behind it to watch them stealing out. At the
threshold, they felt his pitiless gripe upon them. For, what 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 contrary, there was no other man in the city, we are bold to
affirm, of so much as half his years, who 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 lives, and 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 existence, be it long or short.
Indeed, his life seemed to be standing still at a period little
in advance of childhood, and to cluster all his reminiscences about
that epoch; just as, after the torpor of a heavy blow, the sufferer's
reviving consciousness goes back to a moment considerably behind
the accident that stupefied him. He sometimes told Phoebe and
Hepzibah his dreams, in which he invariably played the part of a
child, or a very young man. So vivid were they, in his relation
of them, that 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 wear, in the dream of the preceding night.
Hepzibah, piquing herself on a woman's accuracy in such matters,
held it to be slightly different from what Clifford described;
but, producing the very gown from an old trunk, it proved to be
identical with his remembrance of it. Had Clifford, every time
that he emerged out of dreams so lifelike, undergone the torture
of transformation from a boy into an old and broken man, the
daily recurrence of the shock would have been too much to bear.
It would have caused an acute agony to thrill from the morning
twilight, all the day through, until bedtime; and even then would
have mingled a dull, inscrutable pain and pallid hue of misfortune
with the visionary bloom and adolescence of his slumber. But the
nightly moonshine interwove itself with the morning mist, and
enveloped him as in a robe, which he hugged about his person, and
seldom let realities pierce through; he was not often quite awake,
but slept open-eyed, and perhaps fancied himself most dreaming then.

Thus, lingering always so near his childhood, he had sympathies
with children, and kept his heart the fresher thereby, like a
reservoir into which rivulets were pouring not far from the
fountain-head. Though prevented, by a subtile sense of propriety,
from desiring to associate with them, he loved few things better
than to look out of the arched window and see a little girl driving
her hoop along the sidewalk, or schoolboys at a game of ball.
Their voices, also, were very pleasant to him, heard at a distance,
all swarming and intermingling together as flies do in a sunny room.

Clifford would, doubtless, have been glad to share their sports.
One afternoon he was seized with an irresistible desire to blow
soap-bubbles; an amusement, as Hepzibah told Phoebe apart, that
had been a favorite one with her brother when they were both
children. Behold him, therefore, at the arched window, with an
earthen pipe in his mouth! Behold him, with his gray hair, and
a wan, unreal smile over his countenance, where still hovered a
beautiful grace, which his worst enemy must have acknowledged
to be spiritual and immortal, since it had survived so long!
Behold him, scattering airy spheres abroad from the window into
the street! Little impalpable worlds were those soap-bubbles,
with the big world depicted, in hues bright as imagination, on the
nothing of their surface. It was curious to see how the passers-by
regarded these brilliant fantasies, as they came floating down,
and made the dull atmosphere imaginative about them. Some stopped
to gaze, and perhaps, carried a pleasant recollection of the
bubbles onward as far as the street-corner; some looked angrily
upward, as 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 touch, withal; and were
perversely gratified, no doubt, when the bubble, with all its
pictured earth and sky scene, vanished as if it had never been.

At length, just as an elderly gentleman of very dignified presence
happened to be passing, a large bubble sailed majestically down,
and burst right against his nose! He looked up,--at first with a
stern, keen glance, which 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 soothing, but yet had
a bitterness of sarcasm in it. As for Clifford, an absolute palsy
of fear came over him. Apart from any definite cause of dread
which his past experience might have given him, he felt that native
and original horror of the excellent Judge which is proper to a
weak, delicate, and apprehensive character in the presence of
massive strength. Strength is incomprehensible by weakness, and,
therefore, the 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 satisfied, in those long days, considerably earlier
than sunset. Quiet as his daily existence seemed, it 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 hoe, or paced the garden-walk, or, in
rainy weather, traversed a large unoccupied room,--it was his
tendency to remain only too quiescent, as regarded any toil of
the limbs and muscles. But, either there was a smouldering fire
within him that consumed his vital energy, or the monotony that
would have dragged itself with benumbing effect over a mind
differently situated was no monotony to Clifford. Possibly, he
was in a state of second growth and recovery, and was constantly
assimilating nutriment for his spirit and intellect from sights,
sounds, and 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 child, so might it be, likewise, to a mind that
had undergone a kind of new creation, after its long-suspended life.

Be the cause what it might, Clifford commonly retired to rest,
thoroughly exhausted, while the sunbeams were still melting
through his window-curtains, or were thrown with late lustre
on the chamber wall. And while he thus slept early, as other
children do, and dreamed of childhood, Phoebe 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 house, as we have already said, had both the dry-rot
and the damp-rot in its walls; it was not good to breathe no other
atmosphere than that. Hepzibah, though she had her valuable and
redeeming traits, had grown to be a kind of lunatic by imprisoning
herself so long in one place, with no other company than a single
series of ideas, and but one affection, and one bitter sense of
wrong. Clifford, the reader may perhaps imagine, was too inert
to operate morally on his fellow-creatures, however intimate and
exclusive their relations with him. But the sympathy or magnetism
among human beings is more subtile and universal than we think;
it exists, indeed, among different classes of organized life, and
vibrates from one to another. A flower, for instance, as Phoebe
herself observed, always began to droop sooner in Clifford's hand,
or Hepzibah's, than in her own; and by the same law, converting
her whole daily life into a flower fragrance for these two sickly
spirits, the 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 impulses, and breathed rural air in a
suburban walk, or ocean breezes along the shore,--had occasionally
obeyed the impulse of Nature, in New England girls, by attending
a metaphysical or philosophical lecture, or viewing a seven-mile
panorama, or listening to a concert,--had gone shopping about the
city, ransacking entire depots of splendid merchandise, and bringing
home a ribbon,--had employed, likewise, a little time to read the
Bible in her chamber, and had stolen a little more to think of her
mother and her native place--unless for such moral medicines as the
above, we should soon have beheld our poor Phoebe grow thin and put
on a bleached, unwholesome aspect, and assume strange, shy ways,
prophetic of old-maidenhood and a cheerless future.

Even as it was, a change grew visible; a change partly to be
regretted, although whatever charm it infringed upon was repaired
by another, perhaps more precious. She was not so constantly
gay, but had her moods of thought, which Clifford, on 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
larger, and darker, and deeper; so deep, at some silent moments,
that they seemed like Artesian wells, down, down, into the
infinite. She was less girlish than when we first beheld her
alighting from the omnibus; less girlish, but more a woman.

The only youthful mind with which Phoebe had an opportunity
of frequent intercourse was that of the daguerreotypist.
Inevitably, by the pressure of the seclusion about them, they had
been brought into habits of some familiarity. Had they met under
different circumstances, neither of these young persons would
have been likely to bestow much thought upon the other, unless,
indeed, their extreme dissimilarity should have proved a principle
of mutual attraction. Both, it is true, were characters proper
to New England life, and possessing a common ground, therefore,
in their more external developments; but as unlike, in their
respective interiors, as if their native climes had been at

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