The girl ran into the house to get some crumbs of bread, cold potatoes,
and other such scraps as were suitable to the accommodating appetite of
fowls. Returning, she gave a peculiar call, which they seemed to
recognize. The chicken crept through the pales of the coop and ran,
with some show of liveliness, to her feet; while Chanticleer and the
ladies of his household regarded her with queer, sidelong glances, and
then croaked one to another, as if communicating their sage opinions of
her character. So wise, as well as antique, was their aspect, as to
give color to the idea, not merely that they were the descendants of a
time-honored race, but that they had existed, in their individual
capacity, ever since the House of the Seven Gables was founded, and
were somehow mixed up with its destiny. They were a species of
tutelary sprite, or Banshee; although winged and feathered differently
from most other guardian angels.
"Here, you odd little chicken!" said Phoebe; "here are some nice crumbs
The chicken, hereupon, though almost as venerable in appearance as its
mother--possessing, indeed, the whole antiquity of its progenitors in
miniature,--mustered vivacity enough to flutter upward and alight on
"That little fowl pays you a high compliment!" said a voice behind
Turning quickly, she was surprised at sight of a young man, who had
found access into the garden by a door opening out of another gable
than that whence she had emerged. He held a hoe in his hand, and,
while Phoebe was gone in quest of the crumbs, had begun to busy himself
with drawing up fresh earth about the roots of the tomatoes.
"The chicken really treats you like an old acquaintance," continued he
in a quiet way, while a smile made his face pleasanter than Phoebe at
first fancied it. "Those venerable personages in the coop, too, seem
very affably disposed. You are lucky to be in their good graces so
soon! They have known me much longer, but never honor me with any
familiarity, though hardly a day passes without my bringing them food.
Miss Hepzibah, I suppose, will interweave the fact with her other
traditions, and set it down that the fowls know you to be a Pyncheon!"
"The secret is," said Phoebe, smiling, "that I have learned how to talk
with hens and chickens."
"Ah, but these hens," answered the young man,--"these hens of
aristocratic lineage would scorn to understand the vulgar language of a
barn-yard fowl. I prefer to think--and so would Miss Hepzibah--that
they recognize the family tone. For you are a Pyncheon?"
"My name is Phoebe Pyncheon," said the girl, with a manner of some
reserve; for she was aware that her new acquaintance could be no other
than the daguerreotypist, of whose lawless propensities the old maid
had given her a disagreeable idea. "I did not know that my cousin
Hepzibah's garden was under another person's care."