"If you should happen to find it, Phoebe," said Hepzibah, glancing

aside at her with a grim yet kindly smile, "we will tie up the

shop-bell for good and all!"

"Yes, dear cousin," answered Phoebe; "but, in the mean time, I hear

somebody ringing it!"

When the customer was gone, Hepzibah talked rather vaguely, and at

great length, about a certain Alice Pyncheon, who had been exceedingly

beautiful and accomplished in her lifetime, a hundred years ago. The

fragrance of her rich and delightful character still lingered about the

place where she had lived, as a dried rose-bud scents the drawer where

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it has withered and perished. This lovely Alice had met with some

great and mysterious calamity, and had grown thin and white, and

gradually faded out of the world. But, even now, she was supposed to

haunt the House of the Seven Gables, and, a great many times,--especially

when one of the Pyncheons was to die,--she had been heard playing sadly

and beautifully on the harpsichord. One of these tunes, just as it had

sounded from her spiritual touch, had been written down by an amateur of

music; it was so exquisitely mournful that nobody, to this day, could

bear to hear it played, unless when a great sorrow had made them know

the still profounder sweetness of it.

"Was it the same harpsichord that you showed me?" inquired Phoebe.

"The very same," said Hepzibah. "It was Alice Pyncheon's harpsichord.

When I was learning music, my father would never let me open it. So,

as I could only play on my teacher's instrument, I have forgotten all

my music long ago."

Leaving these antique themes, the old lady began to talk about the

daguerreotypist, whom, as he seemed to be a well-meaning and orderly

young man, and in narrow circumstances, she had permitted to take up

his residence in one of the seven gables. But, on seeing more of Mr.

Holgrave, she hardly knew what to make of him. He had the strangest

companions imaginable; men with long beards, and dressed in linen

blouses, and other such new-fangled and ill-fitting garments;

reformers, temperance lecturers, and all manner of cross-looking

philanthropists; community-men, and come-outers, as Hepzibah believed,

who acknowledged no law, and ate no solid food, but lived on the scent

of other people's cookery, and turned up their noses at the fare. As

for the daguerreotypist, she had read a paragraph in a penny paper, the

other day, accusing him of making a speech full of wild and

disorganizing matter, at a meeting of his banditti-like associates.

For her own part, she had reason to believe that he practised animal

magnetism, and, if such things were in fashion nowadays, should be apt

to suspect him of studying the Black Art up there in his lonesome

chamber.