As to Phoebe's not being a lady, or whether she were a lady or no, it

was a point, perhaps, difficult to decide, but which could hardly have

come up for judgment at all in any fair and healthy mind. Out of New

England, it would be impossible to meet with a person combining so many

ladylike attributes with so many others that form no necessary (if

compatible) part of the character. She shocked no canon of taste; she

was admirably in keeping with herself, and never jarred against

surrounding circumstances. Her figure, to be sure,--so small as to be

almost childlike, and so elastic that motion seemed as easy or easier

to it than rest, would hardly have suited one's idea of a countess.

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Neither did her face--with the brown ringlets on either side, and the

slightly piquant nose, and the wholesome bloom, and the clear shade of

tan, and the half dozen freckles, friendly remembrances of the April

sun and breeze--precisely give us a right to call her beautiful. But

there was both lustre and depth in her eyes. She was very pretty; as

graceful as a bird, and graceful much in the same way; as pleasant

about the house as a gleam of sunshine falling on the floor through a

shadow of twinkling leaves, or as a ray of firelight that dances on the

wall while evening is drawing nigh. Instead of discussing her claim

to rank among ladies, it would be preferable to regard Phoebe as the

example of feminine grace and availability combined, in a state of

society, if there were any such, where ladies did not exist. There it

should be woman's office to move in the midst of practical affairs, and

to gild them all, the very homeliest,--were it even the scouring of

pots and kettles,--with an atmosphere of loveliness and joy.

Such was the sphere of Phoebe. To find the born and educated lady, on

the other hand, we need look no farther than Hepzibah, our forlorn old

maid, in her rustling and rusty silks, with her deeply cherished and

ridiculous consciousness of long descent, her shadowy claims to

princely territory, and, in the way of accomplishment, her

recollections, it may be, of having formerly thrummed on a harpsichord,

and walked a minuet, and worked an antique tapestry-stitch on her

sampler. It was a fair parallel between new Plebeianism and old

Gentility.

It really seemed as if the battered visage of the House of the Seven

Gables, black and heavy-browed as it still certainly looked, must have

shown a kind of cheerfulness glimmering through its dusky windows as

Phoebe passed to and fro in the interior. Otherwise, it is impossible

to explain how the people of the neighborhood so soon became aware of

the girl's presence. There was a great run of custom, setting steadily

in, from about ten o' clock until towards noon,--relaxing, somewhat, at

dinner-time, but recommencing in the afternoon, and, finally, dying

away a half an hour or so before the long day's sunset. One of the

stanchest patrons was little Ned Higgins, the devourer of Jim Crow and

the elephant, who to-day signalized his omnivorous prowess by

swallowing two dromedaries and a locomotive. Phoebe laughed, as she

summed up her aggregate of sales upon the slate; while Hepzibah, first

drawing on a pair of silk gloves, reckoned over the sordid accumulation

of copper coin, not without silver intermixed, that had jingled into

the till.