To be brief, besides Hepzibah's disadvantages of person, there was an

uncouthness pervading all her deeds; a clumsy something, that could but

ill adapt itself for use, and not at all for ornament. She was a grief

to Clifford, and she knew it. In this extremity, the antiquated virgin

turned to Phoebe. No grovelling jealousy was in her heart. Had it

pleased Heaven to crown the heroic fidelity of her life by making her

personally the medium of Clifford's happiness, it would have rewarded

her for all the past, by a joy with no bright tints, indeed, but deep

and true, and worth a thousand gayer ecstasies. This could not be.

She therefore turned to Phoebe, and resigned the task into the young

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girl's hands. The latter took it up cheerfully, as she did everything,

but with no sense of a mission to perform, and succeeding all the

better for that same simplicity.

By the involuntary effect of a genial temperament, Phoebe soon grew to

be absolutely essential to the daily comfort, if not the daily life, of

her two forlorn companions. The grime and sordidness of the House of

the Seven Gables seemed to have vanished since her appearance there;

the gnawing tooth of the dry-rot was stayed among the old timbers of

its skeleton frame; the dust had ceased to settle down so densely, from

the antique ceilings, upon the floors and furniture of the rooms

below,--or, at any rate, there was a little housewife, as light-footed

as the breeze that sweeps a garden walk, gliding hither and thither to

brush it all away. The shadows of gloomy events that haunted the else

lonely and desolate apartments; the heavy, breathless scent which death

had left in more than one of the bedchambers, ever since his visits of

long ago,--these were less powerful than the purifying influence

scattered throughout the atmosphere of the household by the presence of

one youthful, fresh, and thoroughly wholesome heart. There was no

morbidness in Phoebe; if there had been, the old Pyncheon House was the

very locality to ripen it into incurable disease. But now her spirit

resembled, in its potency, a minute quantity of ottar of rose in one of

Hepzibah's huge, iron-bound trunks, diffusing its fragrance through the

various articles of linen and wrought-lace, kerchiefs, caps, stockings,

folded dresses, gloves, and whatever else was treasured there. As

every article in the great trunk was the sweeter for the rose-scent, so

did all the thoughts and emotions of Hepzibah and Clifford, sombre as

they might seem, acquire a subtle attribute of happiness from Phoebe's

intermixture with them. Her activity of body, intellect, and heart

impelled her continually to perform the ordinary little toils that

offered themselves around her, and to think the thought proper for the

moment, and to sympathize,--now with the twittering gayety of the

robins in the pear-tree, and now to such a depth as she could with

Hepzibah's dark anxiety, or the vague moan of her brother. This facile

adaptation was at once the symptom of perfect health and its best

preservative.