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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIX - ALICE'S POSIES
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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIX - ALICE'S POSIES Post by :SteveR Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :1206

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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIX - ALICE'S POSIES

UNCLE VENNER, trundling a wheelbarrow, was the earliest person
stirring in the neighborhood the day after the storm.

Pyncheon Street, in front of the House of the Seven Gables, was
a far pleasanter scene than a by-lane, confined by shabby fences,
and bordered with wooden dwellings of the meaner class, could
reasonably be expected to present. Nature made sweet amends,
that morning, for the five unkindly days which had preceded it.
It would have been enough to live for, merely to look up at the
wide benediction of the sky, or as much of it as was visible
between the houses, genial once more with sunshine. Every object
was agreeable, whether to be gazed at in the breadth, or examined
more minutely. Such, for example, were the well-washed pebbles
and gravel of the sidewalk; even the sky-reflecting pools in the
centre of the street; and the grass, now freshly verdant,
that crept along the base of the fences, on the other side of
which, if one peeped over, was seen the multifarious growth of
gardens. Vegetable productions, of whatever kind, seemed more
than negatively happy, in the juicy warmth and abundance of
their life. The Pyncheon Elm, throughout its great circumference,
was all alive, and full of the morning sun and a sweet-tempered
little breeze, which lingered within this verdant sphere, and
set a thousand leafy tongues a-whispering all at once. This aged
tree appeared to have suffered nothing from the gale. It had
kept its boughs unshattered, and its full complement of leaves;
and the whole in perfect verdure, except a single branch, that,
by the earlier change with which the elm-tree sometimes prophesies
the autumn, had been transmuted to bright gold. It was like the
golden branch that gained AEneas and the Sibyl admittance into Hades.

This one mystic branch hung down before the main entrance of the
Seven Gables, so nigh the ground that any passer-by might have
stood on tiptoe and plucked it off. Presented at the door, it
would have been a symbol of his right to enter, and be made
acquainted with all the secrets of the house. So little faith is
due to external appearance, that there was really an inviting
aspect over the venerable edifice, conveying an idea that its
history must be a decorous and happy one, and such as would be
delightful for a fireside tale. Its windows gleamed cheerfully
in the slanting sunlight. The lines and tufts of green moss,
here and there, seemed pledges of familiarity and sisterhood
with Nature; as if this human dwelling-place, being of such old
date, had established its prescriptive title among primeval oaks
and whatever other objects, by virtue of their long continuance,
have acquired a gracious right to be. A person of imaginative
temperament, while passing by the house, would turn, once and
again, and peruse it well: its many peaks, consenting together in
the clustered chimney; the deep projection over its basement-story;
the arched window, imparting a look, if not of grandeur, yet of
antique gentility, to the broken portal over which it opened; the
luxuriance of gigantic burdocks, near the threshold; he would
note all these characteristics, and be conscious of something
deeper than he saw. He would conceive the mansion to have
been the residence of the stubborn old Puritan, Integrity, who,
dying in some forgotten generation, had left a blessing in all
its rooms and chambers, the efficacy of which was to be seen in
the religion, honesty, moderate competence, or upright poverty
and solid happiness, of his descendants, to this day.

One object, above all others, would take root in the imaginative
observer's memory. It was the great tuft of flowers,--weeds, you
would have called them, only a week ago,--the tuft of crimson-spotted
flowers, in the angle between the two front gables. The old people
used to give them the name of Alice's Posies, in remembrance of fair
Alice Pyncheon, who was believed to have brought their seeds from
Italy. They were flaunting in rich beauty and full bloom to-day,
and seemed, as it were, a mystic expression that something within
the house was consummated.

It was but little after sunrise, when Uncle Venner made his
appearance, as aforesaid, impelling a wheelbarrow along the
street. He was going his matutinal rounds to collect
cabbage-leaves, turnip-tops, potato-skins, and the miscellaneous
refuse of the dinner-pot, which the thrifty housewives of the
neighborhood were accustomed to put aside, as fit only to feed
a pig. Uncle Venner's pig was fed entirely, and kept in prime
order, on these eleemosynary contributions; insomuch that the
patched philosopher used to promise that, before retiring to his
farm, he would make a feast of the portly grunter, and invite all
his neighbors to partake of the joints and spare-ribs which they
had helped to fatten. Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon's housekeeping
had so greatly improved, since Clifford became a member of the
family, that her share of the banquet would have been no lean
one; and Uncle Venner, accordingly, was a good deal disappointed
not to find the large earthen pan, full of fragmentary eatables,
that ordinarily awaited his coming at the back doorstep of the
Seven Gables.

"I never knew Miss Hepzibah so forgetful before," said the
patriarch to himself. "She must have had a dinner yesterday,
--no question of that! She always has one, nowadays. So where's
the pot-liquor and potato-skins, I ask? Shall I knock, and see if
she's stirring yet? No, no,--'t won't do! If little Phoebe was
about the house, I should not mind knocking; but Miss Hepzibah,
likely as not, would scowl down at me out of the window, and look
cross, even if she felt pleasantly. So, I'll come back at noon."

With these reflections, the old man was shutting the gate of the
little back-yard. Creaking on its hinges, however, like every other
gate and door about the premises, the sound reached the ears of
the occupant of the northern gable, one of the windows of which
had a side-view towards the gate.

"Good-morning, Uncle Venner!" said the daguerreotypist, leaning
out of the window. "Do you hear nobody stirring?"

"Not a soul," said the man of patches. "But that's no wonder.
'Tis barely half an hour past sunrise, yet. But I'm really glad
to see you, Mr. Holgrave! There's a strange, lonesome look about
this side of the house; so that my heart misgave me, somehow or
other, and I felt as if there was nobody alive in it. The front
of the house looks a good deal cheerier; and Alice's Posies are
blooming there beautifully; and if I were a young man, Mr. Holgrave,
my sweetheart should have one of those flowers in her bosom, though
I risked my neck climbing for it! Well, and did the wind keep you
awake last night?"

"It did, indeed!" answered the artist, smiling. "If I were a
believer in ghosts,--and I don't quite know whether I am or
not,--I should have concluded that all the old Pyncheons were
running riot in the lower rooms, especially in Miss Hepzibah's
part of the house. But it is very quiet now."

"Yes, Miss Hepzibah will be apt to over-sleep herself, after being
disturbed, all night, with the racket," said Uncle Venner. "But it
would be odd, now, wouldn't it, if the Judge had taken both his
cousins into the country along with him? I saw him go into the
shop yesterday."

"At what hour?" inquired Holgrave.

"Oh, along in the forenoon," said the old man. "Well, well! I
must go my rounds, and so must my wheelbarrow. But I'll be back
here at dinner-time; for my pig likes a dinner as well as a breakfast.
No meal-time, and no sort of victuals, ever seems to come amiss to
my pig. Good morning to you! And, Mr. Holgrave, if I were a
young man, like you, I'd get one of Alice's Posies, and keep it in
water till Phoebe comes back."

"I have heard," said the daguerreotypist, as he drew in his head,
"that the water of Maule's well suits those flowers best."

Here the conversation ceased, and Uncle Venner went on his way.
For half an hour longer, nothing disturbed the repose of the
Seven Gables; nor was there any visitor, except a carrier-boy,
who, as he passed the front doorstep, threw down one of his
newspapers; for Hepzibah, of late, had regularly taken it in.
After a while, there came a fat woman, making prodigious speed,
and stumbling as she ran up the steps of the shop-door. Her face
glowed with fire-heat, and, it being a pretty warm morning, she
bubbled and hissed, as it were, as if all a-fry with chimney-warmth,
and summer-warmth, and the warmth of her own corpulent velocity.
She tried the shop-door; it was fast. She tried it again, with so
angry a jar that the bell tinkled angrily back at her.

"The deuce take Old Maid Pyncheon!" muttered the irascible housewife.
"Think of her pretending to set up a cent-shop, and then lying abed
till noon! These are what she calls gentlefolk's airs, I suppose!
But I'll either start her ladyship, or break the door down!"

She shook it accordingly, and the bell, having a spiteful little
temper of its own, rang obstreperously, making its remonstrances
heard,--not, indeed, by the ears for which they were intended,
--but by a good lady on the opposite side of the street. She
opened the window, and addressed the impatient applicant.

"You'll find nobody there, Mrs. Gubbins."

"But I must and will find somebody here!" cried Mrs. Gubbins,
inflicting another outrage on the bell. "I want a half-pound
of pork, to fry some first-rate flounders for Mr. Gubbins's
breakfast; and, lady or not, Old Maid Pyncheon shall get up and
serve me with it!"

"But do hear reason, Mrs. Gubbins!" responded the lady opposite.
"She, and her brother too, have both gone to their cousin's, Judge
Pyncheon's at his country-seat. There's not a soul in the house,
but that young daguerreotype-man that sleeps in the north gable.
I saw old Hepzibah and Clifford go away yesterday; and a queer
couple of ducks they were, paddling through the mud-puddles!
They're gone, I'll assure you."

"And how do you know they're gone to the Judge's?" asked Mrs.
Gubbins. "He's a rich man; and there's been a quarrel between
him and Hepzibah this many a day, because he won't give her
a living. That's the main reason of her setting up a cent-shop."

"I know that well enough," said the neighbor. "But they're gone,
--that's one thing certain. And who but a blood relation, that
couldn't help himself, I ask you, would take in that awful-tempered
old maid, and that dreadful Clifford? That's it, you may be sure."

Mrs. Gubbins took her departure, still brimming over with hot
wrath against the absent Hepzibah. For another half-hour, or,
perhaps, considerably more, there was almost as much quiet on the
outside of the house as within. The elm, however, made a pleasant,
cheerful, sunny sigh, responsive to the breeze that was elsewhere
imperceptible; a swarm of insects buzzed merrily under its drooping
shadow, and became specks of light whenever they darted into the
sunshine; a locust sang, once or twice, in some inscrutable seclusion
of the tree; and a solitary little bird, with plumage of pale gold,
came and hovered about Alice's Posies.

At last our small acquaintance, Ned Higgins, trudged up the street,
on his way to school; and happening, for the first time in a
fortnight, to be the possessor of a cent, he could by no means
get past the shop-door of the Seven Gables. But it would not
open. Again and again, however, and half a dozen other agains,
with the inexorable pertinacity of a child intent upon some object
important to itself, did he renew his efforts for admittance.
He had, doubtless, set his heart upon an elephant; or, possibly,
with Hamlet, he meant to eat a crocodile. In response to his
more violent attacks, the bell gave, now and then, a moderate
tinkle, but could not be stirred into clamor by any exertion
of the little fellow's childish and tiptoe strength. Holding
by the door-handle, he peeped through a crevice of the curtain,
and saw that the inner door, communicating with the passage
towards the parlor, was closed.

"Miss Pyncheon!" screamed the child, rapping on the window-pane,
"I want an elephant!"

There being no answer to several repetitions of the summons,
Ned began to grow impatient; and his little pot of passion
quickly boiling over, he picked up a stone, with a naughty
purpose to fling it through the window; at the same time
blubbering and sputtering with wrath. A man--one of two who
happened to be passing by--caught the urchin's arm.

"What's the trouble, old gentleman?" he asked.

"I want old Hepzibah, or Phoebe, or any of them!" answered Ned,
sobbing. "They won't open the door; and I can't get my elephant!"

"Go to school, you little scamp!" said the man. "There's another
cent-shop round the corner. 'T is very strange, Dixey," added he
to his companion, "what's become of all these Pyncheon's! Smith,
the livery-stable keeper, tells me Judge Pyncheon put his horse
up yesterday, to stand till after dinner, and has not taken
him away yet. And one of the Judge's hired men has been in,
this morning, to make inquiry about him. He's a kind of person,
they say, that seldom breaks his habits, or stays out o' nights."

"Oh, he'll turn up safe enough!" said Dixey. "And as for Old
Maid Pyncheon, take my word for it, she has run in debt, and gone
off from her creditors. I foretold, you remember, the first morning
she set up shop, that her devilish scowl would frighten away customers.
They couldn't stand it!"

"I never thought she'd make it go," remarked his friend. "This
business of cent-shops is overdone among the women-folks. My wife
tried it, and lost five dollars on her outlay!"

"Poor business!" said Dixey, shaking his head. "Poor business!"

In the course of the morning, there were various other attempts
to open a communication with the supposed inhabitants of this
silent and impenetrable mansion. The man of root-beer came,
in his neatly painted wagon, with a couple of dozen full bottles,
to be exchanged for empty ones; the baker, with a lot of crackers
which Hepzibah had ordered for her retail custom; the butcher,
with a nice titbit which he fancied she would be eager to secure
for Clifford. Had any observer of these proceedings been aware
of the fearful secret hidden within the house, it would have
affected him with a singular shape and modification of horror,
to see the current of human life making this small eddy hereabouts,
--whirling sticks, straws and all such trifles, round and round,
right over the black depth where a dead corpse lay unseen!

The butcher was so much in earnest with his sweetbread of lamb,
or whatever the dainty might be, that he tried every accessible
door of the Seven Gables, and at length came round again to the
shop, where he ordinarily found admittance.

"It's a nice article, and I know the old lady would jump at it,"
said he to himself. "She can't be gone away! In fifteen years
that I have driven my cart through Pyncheon Street, I've never
known her to be away from home; though often enough, to be sure,
a man might knock all day without bringing her to the door.
But that was when she'd only herself to provide for"

Peeping through the same crevice of the curtain where, only a
little while before, the urchin of elephantine appetite had peeped,
the butcher beheld the inner door, not closed, as the child had
seen it, but ajar, and almost wide open. However it might have
happened, it was the fact. Through the passage-way there was a
dark vista into the lighter but still obscure interior of the parlor.
It appeared to the butcher that he could pretty clearly discern
what seemed to be the stalwart legs, clad in black pantaloons,
of a man sitting in a large oaken chair, the back of which concealed
all the remainder of his figure. This contemptuous tranquillity on
the part of an occupant of the house, in response to the butcher's
indefatigable efforts to attract notice, so piqued the man of flesh
that he determined to withdraw.

"So," thought he, "there sits Old Maid Pyncheon's bloody brother,
while I've been giving myself all this trouble! Why, if a hog
hadn't more manners, I'd stick him! I call it demeaning a man's
business to trade with such people; and from this time forth,
if they want a sausage or an ounce of liver, they shall run after
the cart for it!"

He tossed the titbit angrily into his cart, and drove off in a pet.

Not a great while afterwards there was a sound of music turning
the corner and approaching down the street, with several intervals
of silence, and then a renewed and nearer outbreak of brisk
melody. A mob of children was seen moving onward, or stopping,
in unison with the sound, which appeared to proceed from the
centre of the throng; so that they were loosely bound together
by slender strains of harmony, and drawn along captive; with ever
and anon an accession of some little fellow in an apron and
straw-hat, capering forth from door or gateway. Arriving under
the shadow of the Pyncheon Elm, it proved to be the Italian boy,
who, with his monkey and show of puppets, had once before played
his hurdy-gurdy beneath the arched window. The pleasant face of
Phoebe--and doubtless, too, the liberal recompense which she had
flung him--still dwelt in his remembrance. His expressive features
kindled up, as he recognized the spot where this trifling incident
of his erratic life had chanced. He entered the neglected yard
(now wilder than ever, with its growth of hog-weed and burdock),
stationed himself on the doorstep of the main entrance, and,
opening his show-box, began to play. Each individual of the
automatic community forthwith set to work, according to his or
her proper vocation: the monkey, taking off his Highland bonnet,
bowed and scraped to the by-standers most obsequiously, with
ever an observant eye to pick up a stray cent; and the young
foreigner himself, as he turned the crank of his machine, glanced
upward to the arched window, expectant of a presence that would
make his music the livelier and sweeter. The throng of children
stood near; some on the sidewalk; some within the yard; two or
three establishing themselves on the very door-step; and one
squatting on the threshold. Meanwhile, the locust kept singing
in the great old Pyncheon Elm.

"I don't hear anybody in the house," said one of the children to
another. "The monkey won't pick up anything here."

" There is somebody at home," affirmed the urchin on the threshold.
"I heard a step!"

Still the young Italian's eye turned sidelong upward; and it
really seemed as if the touch of genuine, though slight and almost
playful, emotion communicated a juicier sweetness to the dry,
mechanical process of his minstrelsy. These wanderers are readily
responsive to any natural kindness--be it no more than a smile,
or a word itself not understood, but only a warmth in it--which
befalls them on the roadside of life. They remember these things,
because they are the little enchantments which, for the instant,
--for the space that reflects a landscape in a soap-bubble,--build
up a home about them. Therefore, the Italian boy would not be
discouraged by the heavy silence with which the old house seemed
resolute to clog the vivacity of his instrument. He persisted in
his melodious appeals; he still looked upward, trusting that his
dark, alien countenance would soon be brightened by Phoebe's sunny
aspect. Neither could he be willing to depart without again
beholding Clifford, whose sensibility, like Phoebe's smile, had
talked a kind of heart's language to the foreigner. He repeated
all his music over and over again, until his auditors were getting
weary. So were the little wooden people in his show-box, and the
monkey most of all. There was no response, save the singing of
the locust.

"No children live in this house," said a schoolboy, at last.
"Nobody lives here but an old maid and an old man. You'll get
nothing here! Why don't you go along?"

"You fool, you, why do you tell him?" whispered a shrewd little
Yankee, caring nothing for the music, but a good deal for the
cheap rate at which it was had.
"Let him play as he likes! If there's nobody to pay him, that's
his own lookout!"

Once more, however, the Italian ran over his round of melodies.
To the common observer--who could understand nothing of the case,
except the music and the sunshine on the hither side of the door
--it might have been amusing to watch the pertinacity of the
street-performer. Will he succeed at last? Will that stubborn
door be suddenly flung open? Will a group of joyous children,
the young ones of the house, come dancing, shouting, laughing,
into the open air, and cluster round the show-box, looking with
eager merriment at the puppets, and tossing each a copper for
long-tailed Mammon, the monkey, to pick up?

But to us, who know the inner heart of the Seven Gables as well
as its exterior face, there is a ghastly effect in this repetition
of light popular tunes at its door-step. It would be an ugly
business, indeed, if Judge Pyncheon (who would not have cared a
fig for Paganini's fiddle in his most harmonious mood) should
make his appearance at the door, with a bloody shirt-bosom, and
a grim frown on his swarthily white visage, and motion the foreign
vagabond away! Was ever before such a grinding out of jigs and
waltzes, where nobody was in the cue to dance? Yes, very often.
This contrast, or intermingling of tragedy with mirth, happens
daily, hourly, momently. The gloomy and desolate old house,
deserted of life, and with awful Death sitting sternly in its
solitude, was the emblem of many a human heart, which,
nevertheless, is compelled to hear the thrill and echo of the
world's gayety around it.

Before the conclusion of the Italian's performance, a couple of men
happened to be passing, On their way to dinner. "I say, you young
French fellow!" called out one of them,--"come away from that doorstep,
and go somewhere else with your nonsense! The Pyncheon family live
there; and they are in great trouble, just about this time. They don't
feel musical to-day. It is reported all over town that Judge Pyncheon,
who owns the house, has been murdered; and the city marshal is going
to look into the matter. So be off with you, at once!"

As the Italian shouldered his hurdy-gurdy, he saw on the doorstep
a card, which had been covered, all the morning, by the newpaper
that the carrier had flung upon it, but was now shuffled into
sight. He picked it up, and perceiving something written in pencil,
gave it to the man to read. In fact, it was an engraved card of
Judge Pyncheon's with certain pencilled memoranda on the back,
referring to various businesses which it had been his purpose
to transact during the preceding day. It formed a prospective
epitome of the day's history; only that affairs had not turned
out altogether in accordance with the programme. The card must
have been lost from the Judge's vest-pocket in his preliminary
attempt to gain access by the main entrance of the house.
Though well soaked with rain, it was still partially legible.

"Look here; Dixey!" cried the man. "This has something to do
with Judge Pyncheon. See!--here's his name printed on it; and
here, I suppose, is some of his handwriting."

"Let's go to the city marshal with it!" said Dixey. "It may give
him just the clew he wants. After all," whispered he in his
companion's ear," it would be no wonder if the Judge has gone
into that door and never come out again! A certain cousin of his
may have been at his old tricks. And Old Maid Pyncheon having got
herself in debt by the cent-shop,--and the Judge's pocket-book
being well filled,--and bad blood amongst them already! Put all
these things together and see what they make!"

"Hush, hush!" whispered the other. "It seems like a sin to he the
first to speak of such a thing. But I think, with you, that we had
better go to the city marshal."

"Yes, yes!" said Dixey. "Well!--I always said there was something
devilish in that woman's scowl!"

The men wheeled about, accordingly, and retraced their steps up the
street. The Italian, also, made the best of his way off, with a
parting glance up at the arched window. As for the children,
they took to their heels, with one accord, and scampered as if
some giant or ogre were in pursuit, until, at a good distance
from the house, they stopped as suddenly and simultaneously as
they had set out. Their susceptible nerves took an indefinite
alarm from what they had overheard. Looking back at the grotesque
peaks and shadowy angles of the old mansion, they fancied a gloom
diffused about it which no brightness of the sunshine could dispel.
An imaginary Hepzibah scowled and shook her finger at them, from
several windows at the same moment. An imaginary Clifford--for
(and it would have deeply wounded him to know it) he had always
been a horror to these small people --stood behind the unreal
Hepzibah, making awful gestures, in a faded dressing-gown.
Children are even more apt, if possible, than grown people,
to catch the contagion of a panic terror. For the rest of the day,
the more timid went whole streets about, for the sake of avoiding
the Seven Gables; while the bolder sig nalized their hardihood
by challenging their comrades to race past the mansion at full speed.

It could not have been more than half an hour after the
disappearance of the Italian boy, with his unseasonable melodies,
when a cab drove down the street. It stopped beneath the Pyncheon
Elm; the cabman took a trunk, a canvas bag, and a bandbox, from the
top of his vehicle, and deposited them on the doorstep of the old
house; a straw bonnet, and then the pretty figure of a young girl,
came into view from the interior of the cab. It was Phoebe! Though
not altogether so blooming as when she first tripped into our story,
--for, in the few intervening weeks, her experiences had made her
graver, more womanly, and deeper-eyed, in token of a heart that
had begun to suspect its depths,--still there was the quiet glow
of natural sunshine over her. Neither had she forfeited her proper
gift of making things look real, rather than fantastic, within her
sphere. Yet we feel it to be a questionable venture, even for Phoebe,
at this juncture, to cross the threshold of the Seven Gables. Is her
healthful presence potent enough to chase away the crowd of pale,
hideous, and sinful phantoms, that have gained admittance there
since her departure? Or will she, likewise, fade, sicken, sadden,
and grow into deformity, and be only another pallid phantom, to glide
noiselessly up and down the stairs, and affright children as she
pauses at the window?

At least, we would gladly forewarn the unsuspecting girl that
there is nothing in human shape or substance to receive her,
unless it be the figure of Judge Pyncheon, who--wretched spectacle
that he is, and frightful in our remembrance, since our night-long
vigil with him!--still keeps his place in the oaken chair.

Phoebe first tried the shop-door. It did not yield to her hand;
and the white curtain, drawn across the window which formed the
upper section of the door, struck her quick perceptive faculty as
something unusual. Without making another effort to enter here,
she betook herself to the great portal, under the arched window.
Finding it fastened, she knocked. A reverberation came from the
emptiness within. She knocked again, and a third time; and,
listening intently, fancied that the floor creaked, as if Hepzibah
were coming, with her ordinary tiptoe movement, to admit her.
But so dead a silence ensued upon this imaginary sound, that she
began to question whether she might not have mistaken the
house, familiar as she thought herself with its exterior.

Her notice was now attracted by a child's voice, at some
distance. It appeared to call her name. Looking in the direction
whence it proceeded, Phoebe saw little Ned Higgins, a good way
down the street, stamping, shaking his head violently, making
deprecatory gestures with both hands, and shouting to her at
mouth-wide screech.

"No, no, Phoebe!" he screamed. "Don't you go in! There's
something wicked there! Don't--don't--don't go in!"

But, as the little personage could not be induced to approach
near enough to explain himself, Phoebe concluded that he had been
frightened, on some of his visits to the shop, by her cousin
Hepzibah; for the good lady's manifestations, in truth, ran about
an equal chance of scaring children out of their wits, or compelling
them to unseemly laughter. Still, she felt the more, for this
incident, how unaccountably silent and impenetrable the house had
become. As her next resort, Phoebe made her way into the garden,
where on so warm and bright a day as the present, she had little
doubt of finding Clifford, and perhaps Hepzibah also, idling away
the noontide in the shadow of the arbor. Immediately on her entering
the garden gate, the family of hens half ran, half flew to meet her;
while a strange grimalkin, which was prowling under the parlor window,
took to his heels, clambered hastily over the fence, and vanished.
The arbor was vacant, and its floor, table, and circular bench
were still damp, and bestrewn with twigs and the disarray of the
past storm. The growth of the garden seemed to have got quite
out of bounds; the weeds had taken advantage of Phoebe's absence,
and the long-continued rain, to run rampant over the flowers and
kitchen-vegetables. Maule's well had overflowed its stone border,
and made a pool of formidable breadth in that corner of the garden.

The impression of the whole scene was that of a spot where no
human foot had left its print for many preceding days,--probably
not since Phoebe's departure,--for she saw a side-comb of her
own under the table of the arbor, where it must have fallen on
the last afternoon when she and Clifford sat there.

The girl knew that her two relatives were capable of far greater
oddities than that of shutting themselves up in their old house,
as they appeared now to have done. Nevertheless, with indistinct
misgivings of something amiss, and apprehensions to which she
could not give shape, she approached the door that formed the
customary communication between the house and garden. It was
secured within, like the two which she had already tried. She
knocked, however; and immediately, as if the application had
been expected, the door was drawn open, by a considerable exertion
of some unseen person's strength, not wide, but far enough to
afford her a side-long entrance. As Hepzibah, in order not to
expose herself to inspection from without, invariably opened a
door in this manner, Phoebe necessarily concluded that it was her
cousin who now admitted her.

Without hesitation, therefore, she stepped across the threshold,
and had no sooner entered than the door closed behind her.

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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XX - THE FLOWER OF EDEN The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XX - THE FLOWER OF EDEN

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XX - THE FLOWER OF EDEN
PHOEBE, coming so suddenly from the sunny daylight, was altogetherbedimmed in such density of shadow as lurked in most of thepassages of the old house. She was not at first aware by whomshe had been admitted. Before her eyes had adapted themselvesto the obscurity, a hand grasped her own with a firm but gentleand warm pressure, thus imparting a welcome which caused her heartto leap and thrill with an indefinable shiver of enjoyment. She felt herself drawn along, not towards the parlor, but intoa large and unoccupied apartment, which had formerly been thegrand reception-room of the Seven Gables.

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVIII - GOVERNOR PYNCHEON The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVIII - GOVERNOR PYNCHEON

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVIII - GOVERNOR PYNCHEON
JUDGE PYNCHEON, while his two relatives have fled away with suchill-considered haste, still sits in the old parlor, keeping house,as the familiar phrase is, in the absence of its ordinary occupants.To him, and to the venerable House of the Seven Gables, does ourstory now betake itself, like an owl, bewildered in the daylight,and hastening back to his hollow tree.The Judge has not shifted his position for a long while now. He has not stirred hand or foot, nor withdrawn his eyes so much asa hair's-breadth from their fixed gaze towards the corner of theroom, since the footsteps of Hepzibah and Clifford