"Ah! my dear child," quoth good Uncle Venner, quite overcome, "if you
were to speak to a young man as you do to an old one, his chance of
keeping his heart another minute would not be worth one of the buttons
on my waistcoat! And--soul alive!--that great sigh, which you made me
heave, has burst off the very last of them! But, never mind! It was the
happiest sigh I ever did heave; and it seems as if I must have drawn in
a gulp of heavenly breath, to make it with. Well, well, Miss Phoebe!
They'll miss me in the gardens hereabouts, and round by the back doors;
and Pyncheon Street, I'm afraid, will hardly look the same without old
Uncle Venner, who remembers it with a mowing field on one side, and the
garden of the Seven Gables on the other. But either I must go to your
country-seat, or you must come to my farm,--that's one of two things
certain; and I leave you to choose which!"
"Oh, come with us, by all means, Uncle Venner!" said Clifford, who had
a remarkable enjoyment of the old man's mellow, quiet, and simple
spirit. "I want you always to be within five minutes, saunter of my
chair. You are the only philosopher I ever knew of whose wisdom has
not a drop of bitter essence at the bottom!"
"Dear me!" cried Uncle Venner, beginning partly to realize what manner
of man he was. "And yet folks used to set me down among the simple
ones, in my younger days! But I suppose I am like a Roxbury russet,--a
great deal the better, the longer I can be kept. Yes; and my words of
wisdom, that you and Phoebe tell me of, are like the golden dandelions,
which never grow in the hot months, but may be seen glistening among
the withered grass, and under the dry leaves, sometimes as late as
December. And you are welcome, friends, to my mess of dandelions, if
there were twice as many!"
A plain, but handsome, dark-green barouche had now drawn up in front of
the ruinous portal of the old mansion-house. The party came forth, and
(with the exception of good Uncle Venner, who was to follow in a few
days) proceeded to take their places. They were chatting and laughing
very pleasantly together; and--as proves to be often the case, at
moments when we ought to palpitate with sensibility--Clifford and
Hepzibah bade a final farewell to the abode of their forefathers, with
hardly more emotion than if they had made it their arrangement to
return thither at tea-time. Several children were drawn to the spot by
so unusual a spectacle as the barouche and pair of gray horses.
Recognizing little Ned Higgins among them, Hepzibah put her hand into
her pocket, and presented the urchin, her earliest and staunchest
customer, with silver enough to people the Domdaniel cavern of his
interior with as various a procession of quadrupeds as passed into the