"I don't hear anybody in the house," said one of the children to
another. "The monkey won't pick up anything here."
"There is somebody at home," affirmed the urchin on the threshold. "I
heard a step!"
Still the young Italian's eye turned sidelong upward; and it really
seemed as if the touch of genuine, though slight and almost playful,
emotion communicated a juicier sweetness to the dry, mechanical process
of his minstrelsy. These wanderers are readily responsive to any
natural kindness--be it no more than a smile, or a word itself not
understood, but only a warmth in it--which befalls them on the roadside
of life. They remember these things, because they are the little
enchantments which, for the instant,--for the space that reflects a
landscape in a soap-bubble,--build up a home about them. Therefore,
the Italian boy would not be discouraged by the heavy silence with
which the old house seemed resolute to clog the vivacity of his
instrument. He persisted in his melodious appeals; he still looked
upward, trusting that his dark, alien countenance would soon be
brightened by Phoebe's sunny aspect. Neither could he be willing to
depart without again beholding Clifford, whose sensibility, like
Phoebe's smile, had talked a kind of heart's language to the foreigner.
He repeated all his music over and over again, 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 of the
"No children live in this house," said a schoolboy, at last. "Nobody
lives here but an old maid and an old 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 for the cheap rate at
which it was had. "Let him play as he likes! If there's nobody to pay
him, that's his own lookout!"
Once more, however, the Italian ran over his round of melodies. To the
common observer--who could understand nothing of the case, except the
music and the sunshine on the hither side of 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 young ones of the house, come dancing,
shouting, laughing, into the open air, and cluster round the show-box,
looking with eager merriment at the puppets, and tossing each a copper
for long-tailed Mammon, the monkey, to pick up?
But to us, who know the inner heart of the Seven Gables as well as its
exterior face, there is a ghastly effect in this repetition of light
popular tunes at its door-step. It would be an ugly business, indeed,
if Judge Pyncheon (who would not have cared a fig for Paganini's fiddle
in his most harmonious 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 jigs and 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,
deserted of life, and with awful Death sitting sternly in its solitude,
was the emblem of many a human heart, which, nevertheless, is compelled
to hear the thrill and echo of the world's gayety around it.