Little Phoebe was one of those persons who possess, as their exclusive

patrimony, the gift of practical arrangement. It is a kind of natural

magic that enables these favored ones to bring out the hidden

capabilities of things around them; and particularly to give a look of

comfort and habitableness to any place which, for however brief a

period, may happen to be their home. A wild hut of underbrush, tossed

together by wayfarers through the primitive forest, would acquire the

home aspect by one night's lodging of such a woman, and would retain it

long after her quiet figure had disappeared into the surrounding shade.

No less a portion of such homely witchcraft was requisite to reclaim,


as it were, Phoebe's waste, cheerless, and dusky chamber, which had

been untenanted so long--except by spiders, and mice, and rats, and

ghosts--that it was all overgrown with the desolation which watches to

obliterate every trace of man's happier hours. What was precisely

Phoebe's process we find it impossible to say. She appeared to have no

preliminary design, but gave a touch here and another there; brought

some articles of furniture to light and dragged others into the shadow;

looped up or let down a window-curtain; and, in the course of half an

hour, had fully succeeded in throwing a kindly and hospitable smile

over the apartment. No longer ago than the night before, it had

resembled nothing so much as the old maid's heart; for there was

neither sunshine nor household fire in one nor the other, and, save for

ghosts and ghostly reminiscences, not a guest, for many years gone by,

had entered the heart or the chamber.

There was still another peculiarity of this inscrutable charm. The

bedchamber, no doubt, was a chamber of very great and varied

experience, as a scene of human life: the joy of bridal nights had

throbbed itself away here; new immortals had first drawn earthly breath

here; and here old people had died. But--whether it were the white

roses, or whatever the subtile influence might be--a person of delicate

instinct would have known at once that it was now a maiden's

bedchamber, and had been purified of all former evil and sorrow by her

sweet breath and happy thoughts. Her dreams of the past night, being

such cheerful ones, had exorcised the gloom, and now haunted the

chamber in its stead.

After arranging matters to her satisfaction, Phoebe emerged from her

chamber, with a purpose to descend again into the garden. Besides the

rosebush, she had observed several other species of flowers growing

there in a wilderness of neglect, and obstructing one another's

development (as is often the parallel case in human society) by their

uneducated entanglement and confusion. At the head of the stairs,

however, she met Hepzibah, who, it being still early, invited her into

a room which she would probably have called her boudoir, had her

education embraced any such French phrase. It was strewn about with a

few old books, and a work-basket, and a dusty writing-desk; and had, on

one side, a large black article of furniture, of very strange

appearance, which the old gentlewoman told Phoebe was a harpsichord.

It looked more like a coffin than anything else; and, indeed,--not

having been played upon, or opened, for years,--there must have been a

vast deal of dead music in it, stifled for want of air. Human finger

was hardly known to have touched its chords since the days of Alice

Pyncheon, who had learned the sweet accomplishment of melody in Europe.