"We must renew our stock, Cousin Hepzibah!" cried the little

saleswoman. "The gingerbread figures are all gone, and so are those

Dutch wooden milkmaids, and most of our other playthings. There has

been constant inquiry for cheap raisins, and a great cry for whistles,

and trumpets, and jew's-harps; and at least a dozen little boys have

asked for molasses-candy. And we must contrive to get a peck of russet

apples, late in the season as it is. But, dear cousin, what an

enormous heap of copper! Positively a copper mountain!"

"Well done! well done! well done!" quoth Uncle Venner, who had taken

occasion to shuffle in and out of the shop several times in the course

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of the day. "Here's a girl that will never end her days at my farm!

Bless my eyes, what a brisk little soul!"

"Yes, Phoebe is a nice girl!" said Hepzibah, with a scowl of austere

approbation. "But, Uncle Venner, you have known the family a great

many years. Can you tell me whether there ever was a Pyncheon whom she

takes after?"

"I don't believe there ever was," answered the venerable man. "At any

rate, it never was my luck to see her like among them, nor, for that

matter, anywhere else. I've seen a great deal of the world, not only

in people's kitchens and back-yards but at the street-corners, and on

the wharves, and in other places where my business calls me; and I'm

free to say, Miss Hepzibah, that I never knew a human creature do her

work so much like one of God's angels as this child Phoebe does!"

Uncle Venner's eulogium, if it appear rather too high-strained for the

person and occasion, had, nevertheless, a sense in which it was both

subtile and true. There was a spiritual quality in Phoebe's activity.

The life of the long and busy day--spent in occupations that might so

easily have taken a squalid and ugly aspect--had been made pleasant,

and even lovely, by the spontaneous grace with which these homely

duties seemed to bloom out of her character; so that labor, while she

dealt with it, had the easy and flexible charm of play. Angels do not

toil, but let their good works grow out of them; and so did Phoebe.

The two relatives--the young maid and the old one--found time before

nightfall, in the intervals of trade, to make rapid advances towards

affection and confidence. A recluse, like Hepzibah, usually displays

remarkable frankness, and at least temporary affability, on being

absolutely cornered, and brought to the point of personal intercourse;

like the angel whom Jacob wrestled with, she is ready to bless you when

once overcome.

The old gentlewoman took a dreary and proud satisfaction in leading

Phoebe from room to room of the house, and recounting the traditions

with which, as we may say, the walls were lugubriously frescoed. She

showed the indentations made by the lieutenant-governor's sword-hilt in

the door-panels of the apartment where old Colonel Pyncheon, a dead

host, had received his affrighted visitors with an awful frown. The

dusky terror of that frown, Hepzibah observed, was thought to be

lingering ever since in the passageway. She bade Phoebe step into one

of the tall chairs, and inspect the ancient map of the Pyncheon

territory at the eastward. In a tract of land on which she laid her

finger, there existed a silver mine, the locality of which was

precisely pointed out in some memoranda of Colonel Pyncheon himself,

but only to be made known when the family claim should be recognized by

government. Thus it was for the interest of all New England that the

Pyncheons should have justice done them. She told, too, how that there

was undoubtedly an immense treasure of English guineas hidden somewhere

about the house, or in the cellar, or possibly in the garden.