"There is the garden,--the flowers to be taken care of," observed
Phoebe. "I should keep myself healthy with exercise in the open air."
"And, after all, child," exclaimed Hepzibah, suddenly rising, as if to
dismiss the subject, "it is not for me to say who shall be a guest or
inhabitant of the old Pyncheon House. Its master is coming."
"Do you mean Judge Pyncheon?" asked Phoebe in surprise.
"Judge Pyncheon!" answered her cousin angrily. "He will hardly cross
the threshold while I live! No, no! But, Phoebe, you shall see the face
of him I speak of."
She went in quest of the miniature already described, and returned with
it in her hand. Giving it to Phoebe, she watched her features
narrowly, and with a certain jealousy as to the mode in which the girl
would show herself affected by the picture.
"How do you like the face?" asked Hepzibah.
"It is handsome!--it is very beautiful!" said Phoebe admiringly. "It
is as sweet a face as a man's can be, or ought to be. It has something
of a child's expression,--and yet not childish,--only one feels so very
kindly towards him! He ought never to suffer anything. One would bear
much for the sake of sparing him toil or sorrow. Who is it, Cousin
"Did you never hear," whispered her cousin, bending towards her, "of
"Never. I thought there were no Pyncheons left, except yourself and
our cousin Jaffrey," answered Phoebe. "And yet I seem to have heard
the name of Clifford Pyncheon. Yes!--from my father or my mother; but
has he not been a long while dead?"
"Well, well, child, perhaps he has!" said Hepzibah with a sad, hollow
laugh; "but, in old houses like this, you know, dead people are very
apt to come back again! We shall see. And, Cousin Phoebe, since, after
all that I have said, your courage does not fail you, we will not part
so soon. You are welcome, my child, for the present, to such a home as
your kinswoman can offer you."
With this measured, but not exactly cold assurance of a hospitable
purpose, Hepzibah kissed her cheek.
They now went below stairs, where Phoebe--not so much assuming the
office as attracting it to herself, by the magnetism of innate
fitness--took the most active part in preparing breakfast. The
mistress of the house, meanwhile, as is usual with persons of her stiff
and unmalleable cast, stood mostly aside; willing to lend her aid, yet
conscious that her natural inaptitude would be likely to impede the
business in hand. Phoebe and the fire that boiled the teakettle were
equally bright, cheerful, and efficient, in their respective offices.
Hepzibah gazed forth from her habitual sluggishness, the necessary
result of long solitude, as from another sphere. She could not help
being interested, however, and even amused, at the readiness with which
her new inmate adapted herself to the circumstances, and brought the
house, moreover, and all its rusty old appliances, into a suitableness
for her purposes. Whatever she did, too, was done without conscious
effort, and with frequent outbreaks of song, which were exceedingly
pleasant to the ear. This natural tunefulness made Phoebe seem like a
bird in a shadowy tree; or conveyed the idea that the stream of life
warbled through her heart as a brook sometimes warbles through a
pleasant little dell. It betokened the cheeriness of an active
temperament, finding joy in its activity, and, therefore, rendering it
beautiful; it was a New England trait,--the stern old stuff of
Puritanism with a gold thread in the web.