Now she is almost ready. Let us pardon her one other pause; for it is

given to the sole sentiment, or, we might better say,--heightened and

rendered intense, as it has been, by sorrow and seclusion,--to the

strong passion of her life. We heard the turning of a key in a small

lock; she has opened a secret drawer of an escritoire, and is probably

looking at a certain miniature, done in Malbone's most perfect style,

and representing a face worthy of no less delicate a pencil. It was

once our good fortune to see this picture. It is a likeness of a young

man, in a silken dressing-gown of an old fashion, the soft richness of

which is well adapted to the countenance of reverie, with its full,

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tender lips, and beautiful eyes, that seem to indicate not so much

capacity of thought, as gentle and voluptuous emotion. Of the

possessor of such features we shall have a right to ask nothing, except

that he would take the rude world easily, and make himself happy in it.

Can it have been an early lover of Miss Hepzibah? No; she never had a

lover--poor thing, how could she?--nor ever knew, by her own

experience, what love technically means. And yet, her undying faith

and trust, her fresh remembrance, and continual devotedness towards the

original of that miniature, have been the only substance for her heart

to feed upon.

She seems to have put aside the miniature, and is standing again before

the toilet-glass. There are tears to be wiped off. A few more

footsteps to and fro; and here, at last,--with another pitiful sigh,

like a gust of chill, damp wind out of a long-closed vault, the door of

which has accidentally been set, ajar--here comes Miss Hepzibah

Pyncheon! Forth she steps into the dusky, time-darkened passage; a tall

figure, clad in black silk, with a long and shrunken waist, feeling her

way towards the stairs like a near-sighted person, as in truth she is.

The sun, meanwhile, if not already above the horizon, was ascending

nearer and nearer to its verge. A few clouds, floating high upward,

caught some of the earliest light, and threw down its golden gleam on

the windows of all the houses in the street, not forgetting the House

of the Seven Gables, which--many such sunrises as it had

witnessed--looked cheerfully at the present one. The reflected

radiance served to show, pretty distinctly, the aspect and arrangement

of the room which Hepzibah entered, after descending the stairs. It

was a low-studded room, with a beam across the ceiling, panelled with

dark wood, and having a large chimney-piece, set round with pictured

tiles, but now closed by an iron fire-board, through which ran the

funnel of a modern stove. There was a carpet on the floor, originally

of rich texture, but so worn and faded in these latter years that its

once brilliant figure had quite vanished into one indistinguishable

hue. In the way of furniture, there were two tables: one, constructed

with perplexing intricacy and exhibiting as many feet as a centipede;

the other, most delicately wrought, with four long and slender legs, so

apparently frail that it was almost incredible what a length of time

the ancient tea-table had stood upon them. Half a dozen chairs stood

about the room, straight and stiff, and so ingeniously contrived for

the discomfort of the human person that they were irksome even to

sight, and conveyed the ugliest possible idea of the state of society

to which they could have been adapted. One exception there was,

however, in a very antique elbow-chair, with a high back, carved

elaborately in oak, and a roomy depth within its arms, that made up, by

its spacious comprehensiveness, for the lack of any of those artistic

curves which abound in a modern chair.