Summer as it was, the east wind set poor Hepzibah's few remaining teeth

chattering in her head, as she and Clifford faced it, on their way up

Pyncheon Street, and towards the centre of the town. Not merely was it

the shiver which this pitiless blast brought to her frame (although her

feet and hands, especially, had never seemed so death-a-cold as now),

but there was a moral sensation, mingling itself with the physical

chill, and causing her to shake more in spirit than in body. The

world's broad, bleak atmosphere was all so comfortless! Such, indeed,

is the impression which it makes on every new adventurer, even if he

plunge into it while the warmest tide of life is bubbling through his


veins. What, then, must it have been to Hepzibah and Clifford,--so

time-stricken as they were, yet so like children in their

inexperience,--as they left the doorstep, and passed from beneath the

wide shelter of the Pyncheon Elm! They were wandering all abroad, on

precisely such a pilgrimage as a child often meditates, to the world's

end, with perhaps a sixpence and a biscuit in his pocket. In

Hepzibah's mind, there was the wretched consciousness of being adrift.

She had lost the faculty of self-guidance; but, in view of the

difficulties around her, felt it hardly worth an effort to regain it,

and was, moreover, incapable of making one.

As they proceeded on their strange expedition, she now and then cast a

look sidelong at Clifford, and could not but observe that he was

possessed and swayed by a powerful excitement. It was this, indeed,

that gave him the control which he had at once, and so irresistibly,

established over his movements. It not a little resembled the

exhilaration of wine. Or, it might more fancifully be compared to a

joyous piece of music, played with wild vivacity, but upon a disordered

instrument. As the cracked jarring note might always be heard, and as

it jarred loudest amidst the loftiest exultation of the melody, so was

there a continual quake through Clifford, causing him most to quiver

while he wore a triumphant smile, and seemed almost under a necessity

to skip in his gait.

They met few people abroad, even on passing from the retired

neighborhood of the House of the Seven Gables into what was ordinarily

the more thronged and busier portion of the town. Glistening

sidewalks, with little pools of rain, here and there, along their

unequal surface; umbrellas displayed ostentatiously in the

shop-windows, as if the life of trade had concentrated itself in that

one article; wet leaves of the horse-chestnut or elm-trees, torn off

untimely by the blast and scattered along the public way; an unsightly,

accumulation of mud in the middle of the street, which perversely grew

the more unclean for its long and laborious washing,--these were the

more definable points of a very sombre picture. In the way of movement

and human life, there was the hasty rattle of a cab or coach, its

driver protected by a waterproof cap over his head and shoulders; the

forlorn figure of an old man, who seemed to have crept out of some

subterranean sewer, and was stooping along the kennel, and poking the

wet rubbish with a stick, in quest of rusty nails; a merchant or two,

at the door of the post-office, together with an editor and a

miscellaneous politician, awaiting a dilatory mail; a few visages of

retired sea-captains at the window of an insurance office, looking out

vacantly at the vacant street, blaspheming at the weather, and fretting

at the dearth as well of public news as local gossip. What a

treasure-trove to these venerable quidnuncs, could they have guessed

the secret which Hepzibah and Clifford were carrying along with them!