Phoebe Pyncheon slept, on the night of her arrival, in a chamber that
looked down on the garden of the old house. It fronted towards the
east, so that at a very seasonable hour a glow of crimson light came
flooding through the window, and bathed the dingy ceiling and
paper-hangings in its own hue. There were curtains to Phoebe's bed; a
dark, antique canopy, and ponderous festoons of a stuff which had been
rich, and even magnificent, in its time; but which now brooded over the
girl like a cloud, making a night in that one corner, while elsewhere
it was beginning to be day. The morning light, however, soon stole
into the aperture at the foot of the bed, betwixt those faded curtains.
Finding the new guest there,--with a bloom on her cheeks like the
morning's own, and a gentle stir of departing slumber in her limbs, as
when an early breeze moves the foliage,--the dawn kissed her brow. It
was the caress which a dewy maiden--such as the Dawn is,
immortally--gives to her sleeping sister, partly from the impulse of
irresistible fondness, and partly as a pretty hint that it is time now
to unclose her eyes.
At the touch of those lips of light, Phoebe quietly awoke, and, for a
moment, did not recognize where she was, nor how those heavy curtains
chanced to be festooned around her. Nothing, indeed, was absolutely
plain to her, except that it was now early morning, and that, whatever
might happen next, it was proper, first of all, to get up and say her
prayers. She was the more inclined to devotion from the grim aspect of
the chamber and its furniture, especially the tall, stiff chairs; one
of which stood close by her bedside, and looked as if some
old-fashioned personage had been sitting there all night, and had
vanished only just in season to escape discovery.
When Phoebe was quite dressed, she peeped out of the window, and saw a
rosebush in the garden. Being a very tall one, and of luxuriant
growth, it had been propped up against the side of the house, and was
literally covered with a rare and very beautiful species of white rose.
A large portion of them, as the girl afterwards discovered, had blight
or mildew at their hearts; but, viewed at a fair distance, the whole
rosebush looked as if it had been brought from Eden that very summer,
together with the mould in which it grew. The truth was, nevertheless,
that it had been planted by Alice Pyncheon,--she was Phoebe's
great-great-grand-aunt,--in soil which, reckoning only its cultivation
as a garden-plat, was now unctuous with nearly two hundred years of
vegetable decay. Growing as they did, however, out of the old earth,
the flowers still sent a fresh and sweet incense up to their Creator;
nor could it have been the less pure and acceptable because Phoebe's
young breath mingled with it, as the fragrance floated past the window.
Hastening down the creaking and carpetless staircase, she found her way
into the garden, gathered some of the most perfect of the roses, and
brought them to her chamber.