But, as the little personage could not be induced to approach near

enough to explain himself, Phoebe concluded that he had been

frightened, on some of his visits to the shop, by her cousin Hepzibah;

for the good lady's manifestations, in truth, ran about an equal chance

of scaring children out of their wits, or compelling them to unseemly

laughter. Still, she felt the more, for this incident, how

unaccountably silent and impenetrable the house had become. As her

next resort, Phoebe made her way into the garden, where on so warm and

bright a day as the present, she had little doubt of finding Clifford,

and perhaps Hepzibah also, idling away the noontide in the shadow of

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the arbor. Immediately on her entering the garden gate, the family of

hens half ran, half flew to meet her; while a strange grimalkin, which

was prowling under the parlor window, took to his heels, clambered

hastily over the fence, and vanished. The arbor was vacant, and its

floor, table, and circular bench were still damp, and bestrewn with

twigs and the disarray of the past storm. The growth of the garden

seemed to have got quite out of bounds; the weeds had taken advantage

of Phoebe's absence, and the long-continued rain, to run rampant over

the flowers and kitchen-vegetables. Maule's well had overflowed its

stone border, and made a pool of formidable breadth in that corner of

the garden.

The impression of the whole scene was that of a spot where no human

foot had left its print for many preceding days,--probably not since

Phoebe's departure,--for she saw a side-comb of her own under the table

of the arbor, where it must have fallen on the last afternoon when she

and Clifford sat there.

The girl knew that her two relatives were capable of far greater

oddities than that of shutting themselves up in their old house, as

they appeared now to have done. Nevertheless, with indistinct

misgivings of something amiss, and apprehensions to which she could not

give shape, she approached the door that formed the customary

communication between the house and garden. It was secured within,

like the two which she had already tried. She knocked, however; and

immediately, as if the application had been expected, the door was

drawn open, by a considerable exertion of some unseen person's

strength, not wide, but far enough to afford her a sidelong entrance.

As Hepzibah, in order not to expose herself to inspection from without,

invariably opened a door in this manner, Phoebe necessarily concluded

that it was her cousin who now admitted her.

Without hesitation, therefore, she stepped across the threshold, and

had no sooner entered than the door closed behind her.