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

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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.