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
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
"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?"