When Phoebe awoke,--which she did with the early twittering of the

conjugal couple of robins in the pear-tree,--she heard movements below

stairs, and, hastening down, found Hepzibah already in the kitchen.

She stood by a window, holding a book in close contiguity to her nose,

as if with the hope of gaining an olfactory acquaintance with its

contents, since her imperfect vision made it not very easy to read

them. If any volume could have manifested its essential wisdom in the

mode suggested, it would certainly have been the one now in Hepzibah's

hand; and the kitchen, in such an event, would forthwith have streamed

with the fragrance of venison, turkeys, capons, larded partridges,

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puddings, cakes, and Christmas pies, in all manner of elaborate mixture

and concoction. It was a cookery book, full of innumerable old

fashions of English dishes, and illustrated with engravings, which

represented the arrangements of the table at such banquets as it might

have befitted a nobleman to give in the great hall of his castle. And,

amid these rich and potent devices of the culinary art (not one of

which, probably, had been tested, within the memory of any man's

grandfather), poor Hepzibah was seeking for some nimble little titbit,

which, with what skill she had, and such materials as were at hand, she

might toss up for breakfast.

Soon, with a deep sigh, she put aside the savory volume, and inquired

of Phoebe whether old Speckle, as she called one of the hens, had laid

an egg the preceding day. Phoebe ran to see, but returned without the

expected treasure in her hand. At that instant, however, the blast of

a fish-dealer's conch was heard, announcing his approach along the

street. With energetic raps at the shop-window, Hepzibah summoned the

man in, and made purchase of what he warranted as the finest mackerel

in his cart, and as fat a one as ever he felt with his finger so early

in the season. Requesting Phoebe to roast some coffee,--which she

casually observed was the real Mocha, and so long kept that each of the

small berries ought to be worth its weight in gold,--the maiden lady

heaped fuel into the vast receptacle of the ancient fireplace in such

quantity as soon to drive the lingering dusk out of the kitchen. The

country-girl, willing to give her utmost assistance, proposed to make

an Indian cake, after her mother's peculiar method, of easy

manufacture, and which she could vouch for as possessing a richness,

and, if rightly prepared, a delicacy, unequalled by any other mode of

breakfast-cake.

Hepzibah gladly assenting, the kitchen was soon the

scene of savory preparation. Perchance, amid their proper element of

smoke, which eddied forth from the ill-constructed chimney, the ghosts

of departed cook-maids looked wonderingly on, or peeped down the great

breadth of the flue, despising the simplicity of the projected meal,

yet ineffectually pining to thrust their shadowy hands into each

inchoate dish. The half-starved rats, at any rate, stole visibly out

of their hiding-places, and sat on their hind-legs, snuffing the fumy

atmosphere, and wistfully awaiting an opportunity to nibble.