After an early tea, the little country-girl strayed into the garden.

The enclosure had formerly been very extensive, but was now contracted

within small compass, and hemmed about, partly by high wooden fences,

and partly by the outbuildings of houses that stood on another street.

In its centre was a grass-plat, surrounding a ruinous little structure,

which showed just enough of its original design to indicate that it had

once been a summer-house. A hop-vine, springing from last year's root,

was beginning to clamber over it, but would be long in covering the

roof with its green mantle. Three of the seven gables either fronted

or looked sideways, with a dark solemnity of aspect, down into the

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garden.

The black, rich soil had fed itself with the decay of a long period of

time; such as fallen leaves, the petals of flowers, and the stalks and

seed--vessels of vagrant and lawless plants, more useful after their

death than ever while flaunting in the sun. The evil of these departed

years would naturally have sprung up again, in such rank weeds

(symbolic of the transmitted vices of society) as are always prone to

root themselves about human dwellings. Phoebe saw, however, that their

growth must have been checked by a degree of careful labor, bestowed

daily and systematically on the garden. The white double rosebush had

evidently been propped up anew against the house since the commencement

of the season; and a pear-tree and three damson-trees, which, except a

row of currant-bushes, constituted the only varieties of fruit, bore

marks of the recent amputation of several superfluous or defective

limbs.

There were also a few species of antique and hereditary

flowers, in no very flourishing condition, but scrupulously weeded; as

if some person, either out of love or curiosity, had been anxious to

bring them to such perfection as they were capable of attaining. The

remainder of the garden presented a well-selected assortment of

esculent vegetables, in a praiseworthy state of advancement. Summer

squashes almost in their golden blossom; cucumbers, now evincing a

tendency to spread away from the main stock, and ramble far and wide;

two or three rows of string-beans and as many more that were about to

festoon themselves on poles; tomatoes, occupying a site so sheltered

and sunny that the plants were already gigantic, and promised an early

and abundant harvest.

Phoebe wondered whose care and toil it could have been that had planted

these vegetables, and kept the soil so clean and orderly. Not surely

her cousin Hepzibah's, who had no taste nor spirits for the lady-like

employment of cultivating flowers, and--with her recluse habits, and

tendency to shelter herself within the dismal shadow of the

house--would hardly have come forth under the speck of open sky to weed

and hoe among the fraternity of beans and squashes.