vorhänge wohnzimmer landhausstil
chapter xixalice's posies uncle venner, trundling a wheelbarrow, wasthe earliest person stirring in the neighborhood the day after the storm. pyncheon street, in front of the house ofthe seven gables, was a far pleasanter scene than a by-lane, confined by shabbyfences, and bordered with wooden dwellings of the meaner class, could reasonably beexpected to present. nature made sweet amends, that morning, forthe 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 visiblebetween the houses, genial once more with sunshine. every object was agreeable, whether to begazed at in the breadth, or examined more minutely. such, for example, were the well-washedpebbles and gravel of the sidewalk; even the sky-reflecting pools in the centre ofthe street; and the grass, now freshly verdant, that crept along the base of the fences, on the other side of which, if onepeeped 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 greatcircumference, was all alive, and full of the morning sun and a sweet-tempered littlebreeze, which lingered within this verdant sphere, and set a thousand leafy tongues a-whispering all at once. this aged tree appeared to have sufferednothing from the gale. it had kept its boughs unshattered, and itsfull 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 gainedaeneas and the sibyl admittance into hades. this one mystic branch hung down before themain entrance of the seven gables, so nigh the ground that any passer-by might havestood on tiptoe and plucked it off. presented at the door, it would have been asymbol of his right to enter, and be made acquainted with all the secrets of thehouse. so little faith is due to externalappearance, 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 wouldbe delightful for a fireside tale. its windows gleamed cheerfully in theslanting sunlight.
the lines and tufts of green moss, here andthere, seemed pledges of familiarity and sisterhood with nature; as if this humandwelling-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, whilepassing 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 portalover which it opened; the luxuriance of gigantic burdocks, near the threshold; he would note all these characteristics, andbe conscious of something deeper than he saw. he would conceive the mansion to have beenthe residence of the stubborn old puritan, integrity, who, dying in some forgottengeneration, 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, tothis day.
one object, above all others, would takeroot 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 nameof alice's posies, in remembrance of fair alice pyncheon, who was believed to havebrought their seeds from italy. they were flaunting in rich beauty and fullbloom to-day, and seemed, as it were, a mystic expression that something within thehouse was consummated. it was but little after sunrise, when unclevenner made his appearance, as aforesaid, impelling a wheelbarrow along the street.
he was going his matutinal rounds tocollect cabbage-leaves, turnip-tops, potato-skins, and the miscellaneous refuseof the dinner-pot, which the thrifty housewives of the neighborhood were accustomed to put aside, as fit only tofeed a pig. uncle venner's pig was fed entirely, andkept in prime order, on these eleemosynary contributions; insomuch that the patchedphilosopher used to promise that, before retiring to his farm, he would make a feast of the portly grunter, and invite all hisneighbors to partake of the joints and spare-ribs which they had helped to fatten.
miss hepzibah pyncheon's housekeeping hadso greatly improved, since clifford became a member of the family, that her share ofthe banquet would have been no lean one; and uncle venner, accordingly, was a good deal disappointed not to find the largeearthen pan, full of fragmentary eatables, that ordinarily awaited his coming at theback doorstep of the seven gables. "i never knew miss hepzibah so forgetfulbefore," said the patriarch to himself. "she must have had a dinner yesterday,--noquestion 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 stirringyet? no, no,--'t won't do! if little phoebe was about the house, ishould not mind knocking; but miss hepzibah, likely as not, would scowl downat 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 everyother gate and door about the premises, the sound reached the ears of the occupant ofthe northern gable, one of the windows of
which had a side-view towards the gate. "good-morning, uncle venner!" said thedaguerreotypist, 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 thisside of the house; so that my heart misgave me, somehow or other, and i felt as ifthere was nobody alive in it. the front of the house looks a good dealcheerier; and alice's posies are blooming
there beautifully; and if i were a youngman, 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 lastnight?" "it did, indeed!" answered the artist,smiling. "if i were a believer in ghosts,--and idon't quite know whether i am or not,--i should have concluded that all the oldpyncheons were running riot in the lower rooms, especially in miss hepzibah's partof 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, ifthe 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 oldman. "well, well!i must go my rounds, and so must my wheelbarrow. but i'll be back here at dinner-time; formy 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 disturbedthe 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, itbeing a pretty warm morning, she bubbled and hissed, as it were, as if all a-frywith 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, orbreak the door down!" she shook it accordingly, and the bell,having a spiteful little temper of its own, rang obstreperously, making itsremonstrances heard,--not, indeed, by the ears for which they were intended,--but by a good lady on the opposite side of thestreet. she opened the window, and addressed theimpatient 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 somefirst-rate flounders for mr. gubbins's breakfast; and, lady or not, old maidpyncheon 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 goneto their cousin's, judge pyncheon's at his country-seat. there's not a soul in the house, but thatyoung daguerreotype-man that sleeps in the
north gable. i saw old hepzibah and clifford go awayyesterday; 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 thejudge's?" asked mrs. gubbins. "he's a rich man; and there's been aquarrel 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 acent-shop." "i know that well enough," said theneighbor. "but they're gone,--that's one thingcertain.
and who but a blood relation, that couldn'thelp himself, i ask you, would take in that awful-tempered old maid, and that dreadfulclifford? that's it, you may be sure." mrs. gubbins took her departure, stillbrimming 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 aswithin. the elm, however, made a pleasant,cheerful, sunny sigh, responsive to the breeze that was elsewhere imperceptible; aswarm of insects buzzed merrily under its
drooping shadow, and became specks of light whenever they darted into the sunshine; alocust sang, once or twice, in some inscrutable seclusion of the tree; and asolitary little bird, with plumage of pale gold, came and hovered about alice'sposies. at last our small acquaintance, nedhiggins, trudged up the street, on his way to school; and happening, for the firsttime in a fortnight, to be the possessor of a cent, he could by no means get past theshop-door of the seven gables. but it would not open. again and again, however, and half a dozenother agains, with the inexorable
pertinacity of a child intent upon someobject important to itself, did he renew his efforts for admittance. he had, doubtless, set his heart upon anelephant; 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 intoclamor by any exertion of the little fellow's childish and tiptoe strength. holding by the door-handle, he peepedthrough a crevice of the curtain, and saw that the inner door, communicating with thepassage towards the parlor, was closed.
"miss pyncheon!" screamed the child,rapping on the window-pane, "i want an elephant!" there being no answer to severalrepetitions of the summons, ned began to grow impatient; and his little pot ofpassion quickly boiling over, he picked up a stone, with a naughty purpose to fling it through the window; at the same timeblubbering and sputtering with wrath. a man--one of two who happened to bepassing by--caught the urchin's arm. "what's the trouble, old gentleman?" heasked. "i want old hepzibah, or phoebe, or any ofthem!" answered ned, sobbing.
"they won't open the door; and i can't getmy elephant!" "go to school, you little scamp!" said theman. "there's another cent-shop round thecorner. 't is very strange, dixey," added he to hiscompanion, "what's become of all these pyncheon's! smith, the livery-stable keeper, tells mejudge pyncheon put his horse up yesterday, to stand till after dinner, and has nottaken him away yet. and one of the judge's hired men has beenin, this morning, to make inquiry about him.
he's a kind of person, they say, thatseldom 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 wordfor it, she has run in debt, and gone off from her creditors. i foretold, you remember, the first morningshe 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 overdoneamong the women-folks.
my wife tried it, and lost five dollars onher outlay!" "poor business!" said dixey, shaking hishead. "poor business!" in the course of the morning, there werevarious other attempts to open a communication with the supposed inhabitantsof this silent and impenetrable mansion. the man of root-beer came, in his neatlypainted 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 hefancied she would be eager to secure for
clifford. had any observer of these proceedings beenaware of the fearful secret hidden within the house, it would have affected him witha 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 theblack depth where a dead corpse lay unseen! the butcher was so much in earnest with hissweetbread of lamb, or whatever the dainty might be, that he tried every accessibledoor of the seven gables, and at length came round again to the shop, where heordinarily found admittance.
"it's a nice article, and i know the oldlady would jump at it," said he to himself. "she can't be gone away! in fifteen years that i have driven my cartthrough pyncheon street, i've never known her to be away from home; though oftenenough, to be sure, a man might knock all day without bringing her to the door. but that was when she'd only herself toprovide for." peeping through the same crevice of thecurtain where, only a little while before, the urchin of elephantine appetite hadpeeped, the butcher beheld the inner door, not closed, as the child had seen it, butajar, and almost wide open.
however it might have happened, it was thefact. through the passage-way there was a darkvista into the lighter but still obscure interior of the parlor. it appeared to the butcher that he couldpretty clearly discern what seemed to be the stalwart legs, clad in blackpantaloons, of a man sitting in a large oaken chair, the back of which concealedall the remainder of his figure. this contemptuous tranquillity on the partof an occupant of the house, in response to the butcher's indefatigable efforts toattract notice, so piqued the man of flesh that he determined to withdraw.
"so," thought he, "there sits old maidpyncheon'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 totrade with such people; and from this time forth, if they want a sausage or an ounceof liver, they shall run after the cart for he tossed the titbit angrily into his cart,and drove off in a pet. not a great while afterwards there was asound of music turning the corner and approaching down the street, with severalintervals 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 centreof the throng; so that they were loosely bound together by slender strains of harmony, and drawn along captive; with everand anon an accession of some little fellow in an apron and straw-hat, capering forthfrom door or gateway. arriving under the shadow of the pyncheonelm, it proved to be the italian boy, who, with his monkey and show of puppets, hadonce 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 herecognized the spot where this trifling incident of his erratic life had chanced. he entered the neglected yard (now wilderthan ever, with its growth of hog-weed and burdock), stationed himself on the doorstepof the main entrance, and, opening his show-box, began to play. each individual of the automatic communityforthwith set to work, according to his or her proper vocation: the monkey, takingoff his highland bonnet, bowed and scraped to the by-standers most obsequiously, with
ever an observant eye to pick up a straycent; and the young foreigner himself, as he turned the crank of his machine, glancedupward to the arched window, expectant of a presence that would make his music thelivelier and sweeter. the throng of children stood near; some onthe sidewalk; some within the yard; two or three establishing themselves on the verydoor-step; and one squatting on the threshold. meanwhile, the locust kept singing in thegreat old pyncheon elm. "i don't hear anybody in the house," saidone of the children to another. "the monkey won't pick up anything here."
"there is somebody at home," affirmed theurchin on the threshold. "i heard a step!" still the young italian's eye turnedsidelong upward; and it really seemed as if the touch of genuine, though slight andalmost playful, emotion communicated a juicier sweetness to the dry, mechanicalprocess of his minstrelsy. these wanderers are readily responsive toany natural kindness--be it no more than a smile, or a word itself not understood, butonly a warmth in it--which befalls them on the roadside of life. they remember these things, because theyare the little enchantments which, for the
instant,--for the space that reflects alandscape in a soap-bubble,--build up a home about them. therefore, the italian boy would not bediscouraged by the heavy silence with which the old house seemed resolute to clog thevivacity of his instrument. he persisted in his melodious appeals; hestill looked upward, trusting that his dark, alien countenance would soon bebrightened by phoebe's sunny aspect. neither could he be willing to departwithout again beholding clifford, whose sensibility, like phoebe's smile, hadtalked a kind of heart's language to the foreigner.
he repeated all his music over and overagain, 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 ofthe locust. "no children live in this house," said aschoolboy, at last. "nobody lives here but an old maid and anold 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 forthe cheap rate at which it was had.
"let him play as he likes! if there's nobody to pay him, that's hisown lookout!" once more, however, the italian ran overhis round of melodies. to the common observer--who couldunderstand nothing of the case, except the music and the sunshine on the hither sideof 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 youngones of the house, come dancing, shouting,
laughing, into the open air, and clusterround the show-box, looking with eager merriment at the puppets, and tossing each a copper for long-tailed mammon, themonkey, to pick up? but to us, who know the inner heart of theseven gables as well as its exterior face, there is a ghastly effect in thisrepetition of light popular tunes at its door-step. it would be an ugly business, indeed, ifjudge pyncheon (who would not have cared a fig for paganini's fiddle in his mostharmonious 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 jigsand 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, desertedof life, and with awful death sitting sternly in its solitude, was the emblem ofmany a human heart, which, nevertheless, is compelled to hear the thrill and echo ofthe world's gayety around it. before the conclusion of the italian'sperformance, a couple of men happened to be
passing, on their way to dinner. "i say, you young french fellow!" calledout one of them,--"come away from that doorstep, and go somewhere else with yournonsense! the pyncheon family live there; and theyare in great trouble, just about this time. they don't feel musical to-day. it is reported all over town that judgepyncheon, who owns the house, has been murdered; and the city marshal is going tolook 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 thenewspaper that the carrier had flung upon it, but was now shuffled into sight. he picked it up, and perceiving somethingwritten in pencil, gave it to the man to read. in fact, it was an engraved card of judgepyncheon's with certain pencilled memoranda on the back, referring to variousbusinesses which it had been his purpose to transact during the preceding day. it formed a prospective epitome of theday's history; only that affairs had not turned out altogether in accordance withthe programme.
the card must have been lost from thejudge's vest-pocket in his preliminary attempt to gain access by the main entranceof the house. though well soaked with rain, it was stillpartially legible. "look here; dixey!" cried the man."this has something to do with judge pyncheon. see!--here's his name printed on it; andhere, 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 judgehas gone into that door and never come out again! a certain cousin of his may have been athis old tricks. and old maid pyncheon having got herself indebt by the cent-shop,--and the judge's pocket-book being well filled,--and badblood amongst them already! put all these things together and see whatthey make!" "hush, hush!" whispered the other."it seems like a sin to be the first to speak of such a thing. but i think, with you, that we had bettergo 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, andretraced their steps up the street. the italian, also, made the best of his wayoff, with a parting glance up at the arched window. as for the children, they took to theirheels, 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 asthey had set out. their susceptible nerves took an indefinitealarm from what they had overheard.
looking back at the grotesque peaks andshadowy angles of the old mansion, they fancied a gloom diffused about it which nobrightness of the sunshine could dispel. an imaginary hepzibah scowled and shook herfinger at them, from several windows at the same moment. an imaginary clifford--for (and it wouldhave 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 timidwent whole streets about, for the sake of avoiding the seven gables; while the boldersignalized their hardihood by challenging their comrades to race past the mansion atfull speed. it could not have been more than half anhour after the disappearance of the italian boy, with his unseasonable melodies, when acab drove down the street. it stopped beneath the pyncheon elm; thecabman took a trunk, a canvas bag, and a bandbox, from the top of his vehicle, anddeposited them on the doorstep of the old house; a straw bonnet, and then the pretty figure of a young girl, came into view fromthe interior of the cab.
it was phoebe! though not altogether so blooming as whenshe first tripped into our story,--for, in the few intervening weeks, her experienceshad made her graver, more womanly, and deeper-eyed, in token of a heart that had begun to suspect its depths,--still therewas the quiet glow of natural sunshine over her. neither had she forfeited her proper giftof making things look real, rather than fantastic, within her sphere. yet we feel it to be a questionableventure, even for phoebe, at this juncture,
to cross the threshold of the seven gables. is her healthful presence potent enough tochase away the crowd of pale, hideous, and sinful phantoms, that have gainedadmittance there since her departure? or will she, likewise, fade, sicken,sadden, and grow into deformity, and be only another pallid phantom, to glidenoiselessly up and down the stairs, and affright children as she pauses at thewindow? at least, we would gladly forewarn theunsuspecting 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 ournight-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 whitecurtain, 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 enterhere, she betook herself to the great portal, under the arched window.finding it fastened, she knocked. a reverberation came from the emptinesswithin. she knocked again, and a third time; and,listening intently, fancied that the floor
creaked, as if hepzibah were coming, withher ordinary tiptoe movement, to admit her. but so dead a silence ensued upon thisimaginary sound, that she began to question whether she might not have mistaken thehouse, familiar as she thought herself with its exterior. her notice was now attracted by a child'svoice, at some distance. it appeared to call her name. looking in the direction whence itproceeded, phoebe saw little ned higgins, a good way down the street, stamping, shakinghis head violently, making deprecatory gestures with both hands, and shouting toher 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 beinduced to approach near enough to explain himself, phoebe concluded that he had beenfrightened, on some of his visits to the shop, by her cousin hepzibah; for the good lady's manifestations, in truth, ran aboutan equal chance of scaring children out of their wits, or compelling them to unseemlylaughter. still, she felt the more, for thisincident, how unaccountably silent and
impenetrable the house had become. as her next resort, phoebe made her wayinto the garden, where on so warm and bright a day as the present, she had littledoubt of finding clifford, and perhaps hepzibah also, idling away the noontide inthe shadow of the arbor. immediately on her entering the gardengate, the family of hens half ran, half flew to meet her; while a strangegrimalkin, which was prowling under the parlor window, took to his heels, clamberedhastily 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 thepast storm.
the growth of the garden seemed to have gotquite out of bounds; the weeds had taken advantage of phoebe's absence, and thelong-continued rain, to run rampant over the flowers and kitchen-vegetables. maule's well had overflowed its stoneborder, and made a pool of formidable breadth in that corner of the garden. the impression of the whole scene was thatof a spot where no human foot had left its print for many preceding days,--probablynot 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 thelast afternoon when she and clifford sat
there. the girl knew that her two relatives werecapable of far greater oddities than that of shutting themselves up in their oldhouse, as they appeared now to have done. nevertheless, with indistinct misgivings ofsomething amiss, and apprehensions to which she could not give shape, she approachedthe door that formed the customary communication between the house and garden. it was secured within, like the two whichshe had already tried. she knocked, however; and immediately, asif the application had been expected, the door was drawn open, by a considerableexertion of some unseen person's strength,
not wide, but far enough to afford her asidelong entrance. as hepzibah, in order not to expose herselfto inspection from without, invariably opened a door in this manner, phoebenecessarily concluded that it was her cousin who now admitted her. without hesitation, therefore, she steppedacross the threshold, and had no sooner entered than the door closed behind her. > chapter xxthe flower of eden phoebe, coming so suddenly from the sunnydaylight, was altogether bedimmed in such
density of shadow as lurked in most of thepassages of the old house. she was not at first aware by whom she hadbeen admitted. before her eyes had adapted themselves tothe obscurity, a hand grasped her own with a firm but gentle and warm pressure, thusimparting a welcome which caused her heart to leap and thrill with an indefinableshiver of enjoyment. she felt herself drawn along, not towardsthe parlor, but into a large and unoccupied apartment, which had formerly been thegrand reception-room of the seven gables. the sunshine came freely into all theuncurtained windows of this room, and fell upon the dusty floor; so that phoebe nowclearly saw--what, indeed, had been no
secret, after the encounter of a warm hand with hers--that it was not hepzibah norclifford, but holgrave, to whom she owed her reception. the subtile, intuitive communication, or,rather, the vague and formless impression of something to be told, had made her yieldunresistingly to his impulse. without taking away her hand, she lookedeagerly in his face, not quick to forebode evil, but unavoidably conscious that thestate of the family had changed since her departure, and therefore anxious for anexplanation. the artist looked paler than ordinary;there was a thoughtful and severe
contraction of his forehead, tracing adeep, vertical line between the eyebrows. his smile, however, was full of genuinewarmth, and had in it a joy, by far the most vivid expression that phoebe had everwitnessed, shining out of the new england reserve with which holgrave habituallymasked whatever lay near his heart. it was the look wherewith a man, broodingalone over some fearful object, in a dreary forest or illimitable desert, wouldrecognize the familiar aspect of his dearest friend, bringing up all the peaceful ideas that belong to home, and thegentle current of every-day affairs. and yet, as he felt the necessity ofresponding to her look of inquiry, the
smile disappeared. "i ought not to rejoice that you have come,phoebe," said he. "we meet at a strange moment!""what has happened!" she exclaimed. "why is the house so deserted? where are hepzibah and clifford?""gone! i cannot imagine where they are!" answeredholgrave. "we are alone in the house!" "hepzibah and clifford gone?" cried phoebe."it is not possible! and why have you brought me into this room,instead of the parlor?
ah, something terrible has happened! i must run and see!""no, no, phoebe!" said holgrave holding her back."it is as i have told you. they are gone, and i know not whither. a terrible event has, indeed happened, butnot to them, nor, as i undoubtingly believe, through any agency of theirs. if i read your character rightly, phoebe,"he continued, fixing his eyes on hers with stern anxiety, intermixed with tenderness,"gentle as you are, and seeming to have your sphere among common things, you yetpossess remarkable strength.
you have wonderful poise, and a facultywhich, when tested, will prove itself capable of dealing with matters that fallfar out of the ordinary rule." "oh, no, i am very weak!" replied phoebe,trembling. "but tell me what has happened!""you are strong!" persisted holgrave. "you must be both strong and wise; for i amall astray, and need your counsel. it may be you can suggest the one rightthing to do!" "tell me!--tell me!" said phoebe, all in atremble. "it oppresses,--it terrifies me,--thismystery! anything else i can bear!"
the artist hesitated. notwithstanding what he had just said, andmost sincerely, in regard to the self- balancing power with which phoebe impressedhim, it still seemed almost wicked to bring the awful secret of yesterday to herknowledge. it was like dragging a hideous shape ofdeath into the cleanly and cheerful space before a household fire, where it wouldpresent all the uglier aspect, amid the decorousness of everything about it. yet it could not be concealed from her; shemust needs know it. "phoebe," said he, "do you remember this?"
he put into her hand a daguerreotype; thesame that he had shown her at their first interview in the garden, and which sostrikingly brought out the hard and relentless traits of the original. "what has this to do with hepzibah andclifford?" asked phoebe, with impatient surprise that holgrave should so triflewith her at such a moment. "it is judge pyncheon! you have shown it to me before!""but here is the same face, taken within this half-hour" said the artist, presentingher with another miniature. "i had just finished it when i heard you atthe door."
"this is death!" shuddered phoebe, turningvery pale. "judge pyncheon dead!" "such as there represented," said holgrave,"he sits in the next room. the judge is dead, and clifford andhepzibah have vanished! i know no more. all beyond is conjecture.on returning to my solitary chamber, last evening, i noticed no light, either in theparlor, or hepzibah's room, or clifford's; no stir nor footstep about the house. this morning, there was the same death-likequiet.
from my window, i overheard the testimonyof a neighbor, that your relatives were seen leaving the house in the midst ofyesterday's storm. a rumor reached me, too, of judge pyncheonbeing missed. a feeling which i cannot describe--anindefinite sense of some catastrophe, or consummation--impelled me to make my wayinto this part of the house, where i discovered what you see. as a point of evidence that may be usefulto clifford, and also as a memorial valuable to myself,--for, phoebe, there arehereditary reasons that connect me strangely with that man's fate,--i used the
means at my disposal to preserve thispictorial record of judge pyncheon's death." even in her agitation, phoebe could nothelp remarking the calmness of holgrave's demeanor. he appeared, it is true, to feel the wholeawfulness of the judge's death, yet had received the fact into his mind without anymixture of surprise, but as an event preordained, happening inevitably, and so fitting itself into past occurrences thatit could almost have been prophesied. "why have you not thrown open the doors,and called in witnesses?" inquired she with
a painful shudder. "it is terrible to be here alone!""but clifford!" suggested the artist. "clifford and hepzibah!we must consider what is best to be done in their behalf. it is a wretched fatality that they shouldhave disappeared! their flight will throw the worst coloringover this event of which it is susceptible. yet how easy is the explanation, to thosewho know them! bewildered and terror-stricken by thesimilarity of this death to a former one, which was attended with such disastrousconsequences to clifford, they have had no
idea but of removing themselves from thescene. how miserably unfortunate! had hepzibah but shrieked aloud,--hadclifford flung wide the door, and proclaimed judge pyncheon's death,--itwould have been, however awful in itself, an event fruitful of good consequences tothem. as i view it, it would have gone fartowards obliterating the black stain on clifford's character." "and how," asked phoebe, "could any goodcome from what is so very dreadful?" "because," said the artist, "if the mattercan be fairly considered and candidly
interpreted, it must be evident that judgepyncheon could not have come unfairly to his end. this mode of death had been an idiosyncrasywith his family, for generations past; not often occurring, indeed, but, when it doesoccur, usually attacking individuals about the judge's time of life, and generally in the tension of some mental crisis, or,perhaps, in an access of wrath. old maule's prophecy was probably foundedon a knowledge of this physical predisposition in the pyncheon race. now, there is a minute and almost exactsimilarity in the appearances connected
with the death that occurred yesterday andthose recorded of the death of clifford's uncle thirty years ago. it is true, there was a certain arrangementof circumstances, unnecessary to be recounted, which made it possible nay, asmen look at these things, probable, or even certain--that old jaffrey pyncheon came toa violent death, and by clifford's hands." "whence came those circumstances?"exclaimed phoebe. "he being innocent, as we know him to be!" "they were arranged," said holgrave,--"atleast such has long been my conviction,-- they were arranged after the uncle's death,and before it was made public, by the man
who sits in yonder parlor. his own death, so like that former one, yetattended by none of those suspicious circumstances, seems the stroke of god uponhim, at once a punishment for his wickedness, and making plain the innocenceof clifford. but this flight,--it distorts everything!he may be in concealment, near at hand. could we but bring him back before thediscovery of the judge's death, the evil might be rectified.""we must not hide this thing a moment longer!" said phoebe. "it is dreadful to keep it so closely inour hearts.
clifford is innocent.god will make it manifest! let us throw open the doors, and call allthe neighborhood to see the truth!" "you are right, phoebe," rejoined holgrave."doubtless you are right." yet the artist did not feel the horror,which was proper to phoebe's sweet and order-loving character, at thus findingherself at issue with society, and brought in contact with an event that transcendedordinary rules. neither was he in haste, like her, tobetake himself within the precincts of common life. on the contrary, he gathered a wildenjoyment,--as it were, a flower of strange
beauty, growing in a desolate spot, andblossoming in the wind,--such a flower of momentary happiness he gathered from hispresent position. it separated phoebe and himself from theworld, and bound them to each other, by their exclusive knowledge of judgepyncheon's mysterious death, and the counsel which they were forced to holdrespecting it. the secret, so long as it should continuesuch, kept them within the circle of a spell, a solitude in the midst of men, aremoteness as entire as that of an island in mid-ocean; once divulged, the ocean would flow betwixt them, standing on itswidely sundered shores.
meanwhile, all the circumstances of theirsituation seemed to draw them together; they were like two children who go hand inhand, pressing closely to one another's side, through a shadow-haunted passage. the image of awful death, which filled thehouse, held them united by his stiffened grasp. these influences hastened the developmentof emotions that might not otherwise have flowered so. possibly, indeed, it had been holgrave'spurpose to let them die in their undeveloped germs."why do we delay so?" asked phoebe.
"this secret takes away my breath! let us throw open the doors!""in all our lives there can never come another moment like this!" said holgrave."phoebe, is it all terror?--nothing but terror? are you conscious of no joy, as i am, thathas made this the only point of life worth living for?" "it seems a sin," replied phoebe,trembling, "to think of joy at such a time!" "could you but know, phoebe, how it waswith me the hour before you came!"
exclaimed the artist."a dark, cold, miserable hour! the presence of yonder dead man threw agreat black shadow over everything; he made the universe, so far as my perception couldreach, a scene of guilt and of retribution more dreadful than the guilt. the sense of it took away my youth.i never hoped to feel young again! the world looked strange, wild, evil,hostile; my past life, so lonesome and dreary; my future, a shapeless gloom, whichi must mould into gloomy shapes! but, phoebe, you crossed the threshold; andhope, warmth, and joy came in with you! the black moment became at once a blissfulone.
it must not pass without the spoken word. i love you!""how can you love a simple girl like me?" asked phoebe, compelled by his earnestnessto speak. "you have many, many thoughts, with which ishould try in vain to sympathize. and i,--i, too,--i have tendencies withwhich you would sympathize as little. that is less matter. but i have not scope enough to make youhappy." "you are my only possibility of happiness!"answered holgrave. "i have no faith in it, except as youbestow it on me!"
"and then--i am afraid!" continued phoebe,shrinking towards holgrave, even while she told him so frankly the doubts with whichhe affected her. "you will lead me out of my own quiet path. you will make me strive to follow you whereit is pathless. i cannot do so.it is not my nature. i shall sink down and perish!" "ah, phoebe!" exclaimed holgrave, withalmost a sigh, and a smile that was burdened with thought."it will be far otherwise than as you forebode.
the world owes all its onward impulses tomen ill at ease. the happy man inevitably confines himselfwithin ancient limits. i have a presentiment that, hereafter, itwill be my lot to set out trees, to make fences,--perhaps, even, in due time, tobuild a house for another generation,--in a word, to conform myself to laws and thepeaceful practice of society. your poise will be more powerful than anyoscillating tendency of mine." "i would not have it so!" said phoebeearnestly. "do you love me?" asked holgrave."if we love one another, the moment has room for nothing more.
let us pause upon it, and be satisfied.do you love me, phoebe?" "you look into my heart," said she, lettingher eyes drop. "you know i love you!" and it was in this hour, so full of doubtand awe, that the one miracle was wrought, without which every human existence is ablank. the bliss which makes all things true,beautiful, and holy shone around this youth and maiden.they were conscious of nothing sad nor old. they transfigured the earth, and made iteden again, and themselves the two first dwellers in it.the dead man, so close beside them, was
forgotten. at such a crisis, there is no death; forimmortality is revealed anew, and embraces everything in its hallowed atmosphere.but how soon the heavy earth-dream settled down again! "hark!" whispered phoebe."somebody is at the street door!" "now let us meet the world!" said holgrave. "no doubt, the rumor of judge pyncheon'svisit to this house, and the flight of hepzibah and clifford, is about to lead tothe investigation of the premises. we have no way but to meet it.
let us open the door at once." but, to their surprise, before they couldreach the street door,--even before they quitted the room in which the foregoinginterview had passed,--they heard footsteps in the farther passage. the door, therefore, which they supposed tobe securely locked,--which holgrave, indeed, had seen to be so, and at whichphoebe had vainly tried to enter,--must have been opened from without. the sound of footsteps was not harsh, bold,decided, and intrusive, as the gait of strangers would naturally be, makingauthoritative entrance into a dwelling
where they knew themselves unwelcome. it was feeble, as of persons either weak orweary; there was the mingled murmur of two voices, familiar to both the listeners."can it be?" whispered holgrave. "it is they!" answered phoebe. "thank god!--thank god!"and then, as if in sympathy with phoebe's whispered ejaculation, they heardhepzibah's voice more distinctly. "thank god, my brother, we are at home!" "well!--yes!--thank god!" respondedclifford. "a dreary home, hepzibah!but you have done well to bring me hither!
stay! that parlor door is open.i cannot pass by it! let me go and rest me in the arbor, where iused,--oh, very long ago, it seems to me, after what has befallen us,--where i usedto be so happy with little phoebe!" but the house was not altogether so drearyas clifford imagined it. they had not made many steps,--in truth,they were lingering in the entry, with the listlessness of an accomplished purpose,uncertain what to do next,--when phoebe ran to meet them. on beholding her, hepzibah burst intotears.
with all her might, she had staggeredonward beneath the burden of grief and responsibility, until now that it was safeto fling it down. indeed, she had not energy to fling itdown, but had ceased to uphold it, and suffered it to press her to the earth.clifford appeared the stronger of the two. "it is our own little phoebe!--ah! andholgrave with, her" exclaimed he, with a glance of keen and delicate insight, and asmile, beautiful, kind, but melancholy. "i thought of you both, as we came down thestreet, and beheld alice's posies in full bloom. and so the flower of eden has bloomed,likewise, in this old, darksome house to-
day." chapter xxithe departure the sudden death of so prominent a memberof the social world as the honorable judge jaffrey pyncheon created a sensation (atleast, in the circles more immediately connected with the deceased) which hadhardly quite subsided in a fortnight. it may be remarked, however, that, of allthe events which constitute a person's biography, there is scarcely one--none,certainly, of anything like a similar importance--to which the world so easilyreconciles itself as to his death. in most other cases and contingencies, theindividual is present among us, mixed up
with the daily revolution of affairs, andaffording a definite point for observation. at his decease, there is only a vacancy,and a momentary eddy,--very small, as compared with the apparent magnitude of theingurgitated object,--and a bubble or two, ascending out of the black depth andbursting at the surface. as regarded judge pyncheon, it seemedprobable, at first blush, that the mode of his final departure might give him a largerand longer posthumous vogue than ordinarily attends the memory of a distinguished man. but when it came to be understood, on thehighest professional authority, that the event was a natural, and--except for someunimportant particulars, denoting a slight
idiosyncrasy--by no means an unusual form of death, the public, with its customaryalacrity, proceeded to forget that he had ever lived. in short, the honorable judge was beginningto be a stale subject before half the country newspapers had found time to puttheir columns in mourning, and publish his exceedingly eulogistic obituary. nevertheless, creeping darkly through theplaces which this excellent person had haunted in his lifetime, there was a hiddenstream of private talk, such as it would have shocked all decency to speak loudly atthe street-corners.
it is very singular, how the fact of aman's death often seems to give people a truer idea of his character, whether forgood or evil, than they have ever possessed while he was living and acting among them. death is so genuine a fact that it excludesfalsehood, or betrays its emptiness; it is a touchstone that proves the gold, anddishonors the baser metal. could the departed, whoever he may be,return in a week after his decease, he would almost invariably find himself at ahigher or lower point than he had formerly occupied, on the scale of publicappreciation. but the talk, or scandal, to which we nowallude, had reference to matters of no less
old a date than the supposed murder, thirtyor forty years ago, of the late judge pyncheon's uncle. the medical opinion with regard to his ownrecent and regretted decease had almost entirely obviated the idea that a murderwas committed in the former case. yet, as the record showed, there werecircumstances irrefragably indicating that some person had gained access to oldjaffrey pyncheon's private apartments, at or near the moment of his death. his desk and private drawers, in a roomcontiguous to his bedchamber, had been ransacked; money and valuable articles weremissing; there was a bloody hand-print on
the old man's linen; and, by a powerfully welded chain of deductive evidence, theguilt of the robbery and apparent murder had been fixed on clifford, then residingwith his uncle in the house of the seven gables. whencesoever originating, there now arose atheory that undertook so to account for these circumstances as to exclude the ideaof clifford's agency. many persons affirmed that the history andelucidation of the facts, long so mysterious, had been obtained by thedaguerreotypist from one of those mesmerical seers who, nowadays, so
strangely perplex the aspect of humanaffairs, and put everybody's natural vision to the blush, by the marvels which they seewith their eyes shut. according to this version of the story,judge pyncheon, exemplary as we have portrayed him in our narrative, was, in hisyouth, an apparently irreclaimable scapegrace. the brutish, the animal instincts, as isoften the case, had been developed earlier than the intellectual qualities, and theforce of character, for which he was afterwards remarkable. he had shown himself wild, dissipated,addicted to low pleasures, little short of
ruffianly in his propensities, andrecklessly expensive, with no other resources than the bounty of his uncle. this course of conduct had alienated theold bachelor's affection, once strongly fixed upon him. now it is averred,--but whether onauthority available in a court of justice, we do not pretend to have investigated,--that the young man was tempted by the devil, one night, to search his uncle's private drawers, to which he hadunsuspected means of access. while thus criminally occupied, he wasstartled by the opening of the chamber-
door. there stood old jaffrey pyncheon, in hisnightclothes! the surprise of such a discovery, hisagitation, alarm, and horror, brought on the crisis of a disorder to which the oldbachelor had an hereditary liability; he seemed to choke with blood, and fell upon the floor, striking his temple a heavy blowagainst the corner of a table. what was to be done?the old man was surely dead! assistance would come too late! what a misfortune, indeed, should it cometoo soon, since his reviving consciousness
would bring the recollection of theignominious offence which he had beheld his nephew in the very act of committing! but he never did revive. with the cool hardihood that alwayspertained to him, the young man continued his search of the drawers, and found awill, of recent date, in favor of clifford,--which he destroyed,--and an older one, in his own favor, which hesuffered to remain. but before retiring, jaffrey bethoughthimself of the evidence, in these ransacked drawers, that some one had visited thechamber with sinister purposes.
suspicion, unless averted, might fix uponthe real offender. in the very presence of the dead man,therefore, he laid a scheme that should free himself at the expense of clifford,his rival, for whose character he had at once a contempt and a repugnance. it is not probable, be it said, that heacted with any set purpose of involving clifford in a charge of murder. knowing that his uncle did not die byviolence, it may not have occurred to him, in the hurry of the crisis, that such aninference might be drawn. but, when the affair took this darkeraspect, jaffrey's previous steps had
already pledged him to those whichremained. so craftily had he arranged thecircumstances, that, at clifford's trial, his cousin hardly found it necessary toswear to anything false, but only to withhold the one decisive explanation, by refraining to state what he had himselfdone and witnessed. thus jaffrey pyncheon's inward criminality,as regarded clifford, was, indeed, black and damnable; while its mere outward showand positive commission was the smallest that could possibly consist with so great asin. this is just the sort of guilt that a manof eminent respectability finds it easiest
to dispose of. it was suffered to fade out of sight or bereckoned a venial matter, in the honorable judge pyncheon's long subsequent survey ofhis own life. he shuffled it aside, among the forgottenand forgiven frailties of his youth, and seldom thought of it again.we leave the judge to his repose. he could not be styled fortunate at thehour of death. unknowingly, he was a childless man, whilestriving to add more wealth to his only child's inheritance. hardly a week after his decease, one of thecunard steamers brought intelligence of the
death, by cholera, of judge pyncheon's son,just at the point of embarkation for his native land. by this misfortune clifford became rich; sodid hepzibah; so did our little village maiden, and, through her, that sworn foe ofwealth and all manner of conservatism,--the wild reformer,--holgrave! it was now far too late in clifford's lifefor the good opinion of society to be worth the trouble and anguish of a formalvindication. what he needed was the love of a very few;not the admiration, or even the respect, of the unknown many.
the latter might probably have been won forhim, had those on whom the guardianship of his welfare had fallen deemed it advisableto expose clifford to a miserable resuscitation of past ideas, when the condition of whatever comfort he mightexpect lay in the calm of forgetfulness. after such wrong as he had suffered, thereis no reparation. the pitiable mockery of it, which the worldmight have been ready enough to offer, coming so long after the agony had done itsutmost work, would have been fit only to provoke bitterer laughter than poorclifford was ever capable of. it is a truth (and it would be a very sadone but for the higher hopes which it
suggests) that no great mistake, whetheracted or endured, in our mortal sphere, is ever really set right. time, the continual vicissitude ofcircumstances, and the invariable inopportunity of death, render itimpossible. if, after long lapse of years, the rightseems to be in our power, we find no niche to set it in. the better remedy is for the sufferer topass on, and leave what he once thought his irreparable ruin far behind him. the shock of judge pyncheon's death had apermanently invigorating and ultimately
beneficial effect on clifford.that strong and ponderous man had been clifford's nightmare. there was no free breath to be drawn,within the sphere of so malevolent an influence. the first effect of freedom, as we havewitnessed in clifford's aimless flight, was a tremulous exhilaration.subsiding from it, he did not sink into his former intellectual apathy. he never, it is true, attained to nearlythe full measure of what might have been his faculties.
but he recovered enough of them partiallyto light up his character, to display some outline of the marvellous grace that wasabortive in it, and to make him the object of no less deep, although less melancholyinterest than heretofore. he was evidently happy. could we pause to give another picture ofhis daily life, with all the appliances now at command to gratify his instinct for thebeautiful, the garden scenes, that seemed so sweet to him, would look mean andtrivial in comparison. very soon after their change of fortune,clifford, hepzibah, and little phoebe, with the approval of the artist, concluded toremove from the dismal old house of the
seven gables, and take up their abode, for the present, at the elegant country-seat ofthe late judge pyncheon. chanticleer and his family had already beentransported thither, where the two hens had forthwith begun an indefatigable process ofegg-laying, with an evident design, as a matter of duty and conscience, to continue their illustrious breed under betterauspices than for a century past. on the day set for their departure, theprincipal personages of our story, including good uncle venner, were assembledin the parlor. "the country-house is certainly a very fineone, so far as the plan goes," observed
holgrave, as the party were discussingtheir future arrangements. "but i wonder that the late judge--being soopulent, and with a reasonable prospect of transmitting his wealth to descendants ofhis own--should not have felt the propriety of embodying so excellent a piece of domestic architecture in stone, rather thanin wood. then, every generation of the family mighthave altered the interior, to suit its own taste and convenience; while the exterior,through the lapse of years, might have been adding venerableness to its original beauty, and thus giving that impression ofpermanence which i consider essential to
the happiness of any one moment." "why," cried phoebe, gazing into theartist's face with infinite amazement, "how wonderfully your ideas are changed!a house of stone, indeed! it is but two or three weeks ago that youseemed to wish people to live in something as fragile and temporary as a bird's-nest!" "ah, phoebe, i told you how it would be!"said the artist, with a half-melancholy laugh."you find me a conservative already! little did i think ever to become one. it is especially unpardonable in thisdwelling of so much hereditary misfortune,
and under the eye of yonder portrait of amodel conservative, who, in that very character, rendered himself so long theevil destiny of his race." "that picture!" said clifford, seeming toshrink from its stern glance. "whenever i look at it, there is an olddreamy recollection haunting me, but keeping just beyond the grasp of my mind.wealth, it seems to say!--boundless wealth!--unimaginable wealth! i could fancy that, when i was a child, ora youth, that portrait had spoken, and told me a rich secret, or had held forth itshand, with the written record of hidden opulence.
but those old matters are so dim with me,nowadays! what could this dream have been?""perhaps i can recall it," answered holgrave. "see! there are a hundred chances to onethat no person, unacquainted with the secret, would ever touch this spring.""a secret spring!" cried clifford. "ah, i remember now! i did discover it, one summer afternoon,when i was idling and dreaming about the house, long, long ago.but the mystery escapes me." the artist put his finger on thecontrivance to which he had referred.
in former days, the effect would probablyhave been to cause the picture to start forward. but, in so long a period of concealment,the machinery had been eaten through with rust; so that at holgrave's pressure, theportrait, frame and all, tumbled suddenly from its position, and lay face downward onthe floor. a recess in the wall was thus brought tolight, in which lay an object so covered with a century's dust that it could notimmediately be recognized as a folded sheet of parchment. holgrave opened it, and displayed anancient deed, signed with the hieroglyphics
of several indian sagamores, and conveyingto colonel pyncheon and his heirs, forever, a vast extent of territory at the eastward. "this is the very parchment, the attempt torecover which cost the beautiful alice pyncheon her happiness and life," said theartist, alluding to his legend. "it is what the pyncheons sought in vain,while it was valuable; and now that they find the treasure, it has long beenworthless." "poor cousin jaffrey! this is what deceived him," exclaimedhepzibah. "when they were young together, cliffordprobably made a kind of fairy-tale of this
discovery. he was always dreaming hither and thitherabout the house, and lighting up its dark corners with beautiful stories. and poor jaffrey, who took hold ofeverything as if it were real, thought my brother had found out his uncle's wealth.he died with this delusion in his mind!" "but," said phoebe, apart to holgrave, "howcame you to know the secret?" "my dearest phoebe," said holgrave, "howwill it please you to assume the name of maule? as for the secret, it is the onlyinheritance that has come down to me from
my ancestors. you should have known sooner (only that iwas afraid of frightening you away) that, in this long drama of wrong andretribution, i represent the old wizard, and am probably as much a wizard as ever hewas. the son of the executed matthew maule,while building this house, took the opportunity to construct that recess, andhide away the indian deed, on which depended the immense land-claim of thepyncheons. thus they bartered their eastern territoryfor maule's garden-ground." "and now" said uncle venner "i supposetheir whole claim is not worth one man's
share in my farm yonder!" "uncle venner," cried phoebe, taking thepatched philosopher's hand, "you must never talk any more about your farm!you shall never go there, as long as you live! there is a cottage in our new garden,--theprettiest little yellowish-brown cottage you ever saw; and the sweetest-lookingplace, for it looks just as if it were made of gingerbread,--and we are going to fit itup and furnish it, on purpose for you. and you shall do nothing but what youchoose, and shall be as happy as the day is long, and shall keep cousin clifford inspirits with the wisdom and pleasantness
which is always dropping from your lips!" "ah! my dear child," quoth good unclevenner, quite overcome, "if you were to speak to a young man as you do to an oldone, his chance of keeping his heart another minute would not be worth one ofthe buttons on my waistcoat! and--soul alive!--that great sigh, whichyou made me heave, has burst off the very last of them! but, never mind!it was the happiest sigh i ever did heave; and it seems as if i must have drawn in agulp of heavenly breath, to make it with. well, well, miss phoebe!
they'll miss me in the gardens hereabouts,and round by the back doors; and pyncheon street, i'm afraid, will hardly look thesame without old uncle venner, who remembers it with a mowing field on one side, and the garden of the seven gables onthe other. but either i must go to your country-seat,or you must come to my farm,--that's one of two things certain; and i leave you tochoose which!" "oh, come with us, by all means, unclevenner!" said clifford, who had a remarkable enjoyment of the old man'smellow, quiet, and simple spirit. "i want you always to be within fiveminutes, saunter of my chair.
you are the only philosopher i ever knew ofwhose wisdom has not a drop of bitter essence at the bottom!" "dear me!" cried uncle venner, beginningpartly to realize what manner of man he was."and yet folks used to set me down among the simple ones, in my younger days! but i suppose i am like a roxbury russet,--a great deal the better, the longer i can be kept. yes; and my words of wisdom, that you andphoebe tell me of, are like the golden dandelions, which never grow in the hotmonths, but may be seen glistening among
the withered grass, and under the dryleaves, sometimes as late as december. and you are welcome, friends, to my mess ofdandelions, if there were twice as many!" a plain, but handsome, dark-green barouchehad now drawn up in front of the ruinous portal of the old mansion-house. the party came forth, and (with theexception of good uncle venner, who was to follow in a few days) proceeded to taketheir places. they were chatting and laughing verypleasantly together; and--as proves to be often the case, at moments when we ought topalpitate with sensibility--clifford and hepzibah bade a final farewell to the abode
of their forefathers, with hardly moreemotion than if they had made it their arrangement to return thither at tea-time. several children were drawn to the spot byso unusual a spectacle as the barouche and pair of gray horses. recognizing little ned higgins among them,hepzibah put her hand into her pocket, and presented the urchin, her earliest andstaunchest customer, with silver enough to people the domdaniel cavern of his interior with as various a procession of quadrupedsas passed into the ark. two men were passing, just as the barouchedrove off.
"well, dixey," said one of them, "what doyou think of this? my wife kept a cent-shop three months, andlost five dollars on her outlay. old maid pyncheon has been in trade justabout as long, and rides off in her carriage with a couple of hundredthousand,--reckoning her share, and clifford's, and phoebe's,--and some saytwice as much! if you choose to call it luck, it is allvery well; but if we are to take it as the will of providence, why, i can't exactlyfathom it!" "pretty good business!" quoth the sagaciousdixey,--"pretty good business!" maule's well, all this time, though left insolitude, was throwing up a succession of
kaleidoscopic pictures, in which a giftedeye might have seen foreshadowed the coming fortunes of hepzibah and clifford, and the descendant of the legendary wizard, and thevillage maiden, over whom he had thrown love's web of sorcery. the pyncheon elm, moreover, with whatfoliage the september gale had spared to it, whispered unintelligible prophecies. and wise uncle venner, passing slowly fromthe ruinous porch, seemed to hear a strain of music, and fancied that sweet alicepyncheon--after witnessing these deeds, this bygone woe and this present happiness,
of her kindred mortals--had given onefarewell touch of a spirit's joy upon her harpsichord, as she floated heavenward fromthe house of the seven gables!