By way of contributing what grace she could, Phoebe gathered some roses

and a few other flowers, possessing either scent or beauty, and

arranged them in a glass pitcher, which, having long ago lost its

handle, was so much the fitter for a flower-vase. The early

sunshine--as fresh as that which peeped into Eve's bower while she and

Adam sat at breakfast there--came twinkling through the branches of the

pear-tree, and fell quite across the table. All was now ready. There

were chairs and plates for three. A chair and plate for Hepzibah,--the

same for Phoebe,--but what other guest did her cousin look for?

Throughout this preparation there had been a constant tremor in

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Hepzibah's frame; an agitation so powerful that Phoebe could see the

quivering of her gaunt shadow, as thrown by the firelight on the

kitchen wall, or by the sunshine on the parlor floor. Its

manifestations were so various, and agreed so little with one another,

that the girl knew not what to make of it. Sometimes it seemed an

ecstasy of delight and happiness. At such moments, Hepzibah would

fling out her arms, and infold Phoebe in them, and kiss her cheek as

tenderly as ever her mother had; she appeared to do so by an inevitable

impulse, and as if her bosom were oppressed with tenderness, of which

she must needs pour out a little, in order to gain breathing-room. The

next moment, without any visible cause for the change, her unwonted joy

shrank back, appalled, as it were, and clothed itself in mourning; or

it ran and hid itself, so to speak, in the dungeon of her heart, where

it had long lain chained, while a cold, spectral sorrow took the place

of the imprisoned joy, that was afraid to be enfranchised,--a sorrow as

black as that was bright. She often broke into a little, nervous,

hysteric laugh, more touching than any tears could be; and forthwith,

as if to try which was the most touching, a gush of tears would follow;

or perhaps the laughter and tears came both at once, and surrounded our

poor Hepzibah, in a moral sense, with a kind of pale, dim rainbow.

Towards Phoebe, as we have said, she was affectionate,--far tenderer

than ever before, in their brief acquaintance, except for that one kiss

on the preceding night,--yet with a continually recurring pettishness

and irritability. She would speak sharply to her; then, throwing aside

all the starched reserve of her ordinary manner, ask pardon, and the

next instant renew the just-forgiven injury.

At last, when their mutual labor was all finished, she took Phoebe's

hand in her own trembling one.

"Bear with me, my dear child," she cried; "for truly my heart is full

to the brim! Bear with me; for I love you, Phoebe, though I speak so

roughly. Think nothing of it, dearest child! By and by, I shall be

kind, and only kind!"