Very soon after their change of fortune, Clifford, Hepzibah, and little

Phoebe, with the approval of the artist, concluded to remove from the

dismal old House of the Seven Gables, and take up their abode, for the

present, at the elegant country-seat of the late Judge Pyncheon.

Chanticleer and his family had already been transported thither, where

the two hens had forthwith begun an indefatigable process of

egg-laying, with an evident design, as a matter of duty and conscience,

to continue their illustrious breed under better auspices than for a

century past. On the day set for their departure, the principal

personages of our story, including good Uncle Venner, were assembled in

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the parlor.

"The country-house is certainly a very fine one, so far as the plan

goes," observed Holgrave, as the party were discussing their future

arrangements. "But I wonder that the late Judge--being so opulent, and

with a reasonable prospect of transmitting his wealth to descendants of

his own--should not have felt the propriety of embodying so excellent a

piece of domestic architecture in stone, rather than in wood. Then,

every generation of the family might have altered the interior, to suit

its own taste and convenience; while the exterior, through the lapse of

years, might have been adding venerableness to its original beauty, and

thus giving that impression of permanence which I consider essential to

the happiness of any one moment."

"Why," cried Phoebe, gazing into the artist's face with infinite

amazement, "how wonderfully your ideas are changed! A house of stone,

indeed! It is but two or three weeks ago that you seemed to wish people

to live in something as fragile and temporary as a bird's-nest!"

"Ah, Phoebe, I told you how it would be!" said the artist, with a

half-melancholy laugh. "You find me a conservative already! Little

did I think ever to become one. It is especially unpardonable in this

dwelling of so much hereditary misfortune, and under the eye of yonder

portrait of a model conservative, who, in that very character, rendered

himself so long the evil destiny of his race."

"That picture!" said Clifford, seeming to shrink from its stern glance.

"Whenever I look at it, there is an old dreamy recollection haunting

me, but keeping just beyond the grasp of my mind. Wealth, it seems to

say!--boundless wealth!--unimaginable wealth! I could fancy that, when

I was a child, or a youth, that portrait had spoken, and told me a rich

secret, or had held forth its hand, with the written record of hidden

opulence. But those old matters are so dim with me, nowadays! What

could this dream have been?"

"Perhaps I can recall it," answered Holgrave. "See! There are a

hundred chances to one that no person, unacquainted with the secret,

would ever touch this spring."

"A secret spring!" cried Clifford. "Ah, I remember now! I did discover

it, one summer afternoon, when I was idling and dreaming about the

house, long, long ago. But the mystery escapes me."