It still lacked half an hour of sunrise, when Miss Hepzibah

Pyncheon--we will not say awoke, it being doubtful whether the poor

lady had so much as closed her eyes during the brief night of

midsummer--but, at all events, arose from her solitary pillow, and

began what it would be mockery to term the adornment of her person.

Far from us be the indecorum of assisting, even in imagination, at a

maiden lady's toilet! Our story must therefore await Miss Hepzibah at

the threshold of her chamber; only presuming, meanwhile, to note some

of the heavy sighs that labored from her bosom, with little restraint

as to their lugubrious depth and volume of sound, inasmuch as they

Advertisement..

could be audible to nobody save a disembodied listener like ourself.

The Old Maid was alone in the old house. Alone, except for a certain

respectable and orderly young man, an artist in the daguerreotype line,

who, for about three months back, had been a lodger in a remote

gable,--quite a house by itself, indeed,--with locks, bolts, and oaken

bars on all the intervening doors. Inaudible, consequently, were poor

Miss Hepzibah's gusty sighs. Inaudible the creaking joints of her

stiffened knees, as she knelt down by the bedside. And inaudible, too,

by mortal ear, but heard with all-comprehending love and pity in the

farthest heaven, that almost agony of prayer--now whispered, now a

groan, now a struggling silence--wherewith she besought the Divine

assistance through the day! Evidently, this is to be a day of more than

ordinary trial to Miss Hepzibah, who, for above a quarter of a century

gone by, has dwelt in strict seclusion, taking no part in the business

of life, and just as little in its intercourse and pleasures. Not with

such fervor prays the torpid recluse, looking forward to the cold,

sunless, stagnant calm of a day that is to be like innumerable

yesterdays.

The maiden lady's devotions are concluded. Will she now issue forth

over the threshold of our story? Not yet, by many moments. First,

every drawer in the tall, old-fashioned bureau is to be opened, with

difficulty, and with a succession of spasmodic jerks then, all must

close again, with the same fidgety reluctance. There is a rustling of

stiff silks; a tread of backward and forward footsteps to and fro

across the chamber. We suspect Miss Hepzibah, moreover, of taking a

step upward into a chair, in order to give heedful regard to her

appearance on all sides, and at full length, in the oval, dingy-framed

toilet-glass, that hangs above her table. Truly! well, indeed! who

would have thought it! Is all this precious time to be lavished on the

matutinal repair and beautifying of an elderly person, who never goes

abroad, whom nobody ever visits, and from whom, when she shall have

done her utmost, it were the best charity to turn one's eyes another

way?