At this price, or at whatever price, she rejoiced that the day had

reached its end. Never before had she had such a sense of the

intolerable length of time that creeps between dawn and sunset, and of

the miserable irksomeness of having aught to do, and of the better

wisdom that it would be to lie down at once, in sullen resignation, and

let life, and its toils and vexations, trample over one's prostrate

body as they may! Hepzibah's final operation was with the little

devourer of Jim Crow and the elephant, who now proposed to eat a camel.

In her bewilderment, she offered him first a wooden dragoon, and next a

handful of marbles; neither of which being adapted to his else

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omnivorous appetite, she hastily held out her whole remaining stock of

natural history in gingerbread, and huddled the small customer out of

the shop. She then muffled the bell in an unfinished stocking, and put

up the oaken bar across the door.

During the latter process, an omnibus came to a stand-still under the

branches of the elm-tree. Hepzibah's heart was in her mouth. Remote

and dusky, and with no sunshine on all the intervening space, was that

region of the Past whence her only guest might be expected to arrive!

Was she to meet him now?

Somebody, at all events, was passing from the farthest interior of the

omnibus towards its entrance. A gentleman alighted; but it was only

to offer his hand to a young girl whose slender figure, nowise needing

such assistance, now lightly descended the steps, and made an airy

little jump from the final one to the sidewalk. She rewarded her

cavalier with a smile, the cheery glow of which was seen reflected on

his own face as he reentered the vehicle. The girl then turned towards

the House of the Seven Gables, to the door of which, meanwhile,--not

the shop-door, but the antique portal,--the omnibus-man had carried a

light trunk and a bandbox. First giving a sharp rap of the old iron

knocker, he left his passenger and her luggage at the door-step, and

departed.

"Who can it be?" thought Hepzibah, who had been screwing her visual

organs into the acutest focus of which they were capable. "The girl

must have mistaken the house." She stole softly into the hall, and,

herself invisible, gazed through the dusty side-lights of the portal at

the young, blooming, and very cheerful face which presented itself for

admittance into the gloomy old mansion. It was a face to which almost

any door would have opened of its own accord.

The young girl, so fresh, so unconventional, and yet so orderly and

obedient to common rules, as you at once recognized her to be, was

widely in contrast, at that moment, with everything about her. The

sordid and ugly luxuriance of gigantic weeds that grew in the angle of

the house, and the heavy projection that overshadowed her, and the

time-worn framework of the door,--none of these things belonged to her

sphere. But, even as a ray of sunshine, fall into what dismal place it

may, instantaneously creates for itself a propriety in being there, so

did it seem altogether fit that the girl should be standing at the

threshold. It was no less evidently proper that the door should swing

open to admit her. The maiden lady herself, sternly inhospitable in

her first purposes, soon began to feel that the door ought to be shoved

back, and the rusty key be turned in the reluctant lock.