Several days passed over the Seven Gables, heavily and drearily enough.

In fact (not to attribute the whole gloom of sky and earth to the one

inauspicious circumstance of Phoebe's departure), an easterly storm had

set in, and indefatigably apply itself to the task of making the black

roof and walls of the old house look more cheerless than ever before.

Yet was the outside not half so cheerless as the interior. Poor

Clifford was cut off, at once, from all his scanty resources of

enjoyment. Phoebe was not there; nor did the sunshine fall upon the

floor. The garden, with its muddy walks, and the chill, dripping

foliage of its summer-house, was an image to be shuddered at. Nothing

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flourished in the cold, moist, pitiless atmosphere, drifting with the

brackish scud of sea-breezes, except the moss along the joints of the

shingle-roof, and the great bunch of weeds, that had lately been

suffering from drought, in the angle between the two front gables.

As for Hepzibah, she seemed not merely possessed with the east wind,

but to be, in her very person, only another phase of this gray and

sullen spell of weather; the East-Wind itself, grim and disconsolate,

in a rusty black silk gown, and with a turban of cloud-wreaths on its

head. The custom of the shop fell off, because a story got abroad that

she soured her small beer and other damageable commodities, by scowling

on them. It is, perhaps, true that the public had something reasonably

to complain of in her deportment; but towards Clifford she was neither

ill-tempered nor unkind, nor felt less warmth of heart than always, had

it been possible to make it reach him. The inutility of her best

efforts, however, palsied the poor old gentlewoman. She could do

little else than sit silently in a corner of the room, when the wet

pear-tree branches, sweeping across the small windows, created a

noonday dusk, which Hepzibah unconsciously darkened with her woe-begone

aspect.

It was no fault of Hepzibah's. Everything--even the old

chairs and tables, that had known what weather was for three or four

such lifetimes as her own--looked as damp and chill as if the present

were their worst experience. The picture of the Puritan Colonel

shivered on the wall. The house itself shivered, from every attic of

its seven gables down to the great kitchen fireplace, which served all

the better as an emblem of the mansion's heart, because, though built

for warmth, it was now so comfortless and empty.

Hepzibah attempted to enliven matters by a fire in the parlor. But the

storm demon kept watch above, and, whenever a flame was kindled, drove

the smoke back again, choking the chimney's sooty throat with its own

breath. Nevertheless, during four days of this miserable storm,

Clifford wrapt himself in an old cloak, and occupied his customary

chair. On the morning of the fifth, when summoned to breakfast, he

responded only by a broken-hearted murmur, expressive of a

determination not to leave his bed. His sister made no attempt to

change his purpose. In fact, entirely as she loved him, Hepzibah could

hardly have borne any longer the wretched duty--so impracticable by her

few and rigid faculties--of seeking pastime for a still sensitive, but

ruined mind, critical and fastidious, without force or volition. It

was at least something short of positive despair, that to-day she might

sit shivering alone, and not suffer continually a new grief, and

unreasonable pang of remorse, at every fitful sigh of her fellow

sufferer.