The House of the Seven Gables
5. May and November
PHOEBE PYNCHEON slept, on the night of her arrival, in a chamber that looked down
on the garden of the old house. It fronted towards the east, so that at a very seasonable
hour a glow of crimson light came flooding through the window, and bathed the dingy
ceiling and paper-hangings in its own hue. There were curtains to Phoebe's bed; a dark,
antique canopy, and ponderous festoons of a stuff which had been rich, and even
magnificent, in its time; but which now brooded over the girl like a cloud, making a night
in that one corner, while elsewhere it was beginning to be day. The morning light,
however, soon stole into the aperture at the foot of the bed, betwixt those faded curtains.
Finding the new guest there,--with a bloom on her cheeks like the morning's own, and a
gentle stir of departing slumber in her limbs, as when an early breeze moves the foliage, -
-the dawn kissed her brow. It was the caress which a dewy maiden--such as the Dawn is,
immortally--gives to her sleeping sister, partly from the impulse of irresistible fondness,
and partly as a pretty hint that it is time now to unclose her eyes.
At the touch of those lips of light, Phoebe quietly awoke, and, for a moment, did not
recognize where she was, nor how those heavy curtains chanced to be festooned around
her. Nothing, indeed, was absolutely plain to her, except that it was now early morning,
and that, whatever might happen next, it was proper, first of all, to get up and say her
prayers. She was the more inclined to devotion from the grim aspect of the chamber and
its furniture, especially the tall, stiff chairs; one of which stood close by her bedside, and
looked as if some old-fashioned personage had been sitting there all night, and had
vanished only just in season to escape discovery.
When Phoebe was quite dressed, she peeped out of the window, and saw a rosebush in
the garden. Being a very tall one, and of luxuriant growth, it had been propped up against
the side of the house, and was literally covered with a rare and very beautiful species of
white rose. A large portion of them, as the girl afterwards discovered, had blight or
mildew at their hearts; but, viewed at a fair distance, the whole rosebush looked as if it
had been brought from Eden that very summer, together with the mould in which it grew.
The truth was, nevertheless, that it had been planted by Alice Pyncheon,--she was
Phoebe's great-great-grand-aunt, --in soil which, reckoning only its cultivation as a
garden-plat, was now unctuous with nearly two hundred years of vegetable decay.
Growing as they did, however, out of the old earth, the flowers still sent a fresh and sweet
incense up to their Creator; nor could it have been the less pure and acceptable because
Phoebe's young breath mingled with it, as the fragrance floated past the window.
Hastening down the creaking and carpetless staircase, she found her way into the garden,
gathered some of the most perfect of the roses, and brought them to her chamber.
Little Phoebe was one of those persons who possess, as their exclusive patrimony, the gift
of practical arrangement. It is a kind of natural magic that enables these favored ones to
bring out the hidden capabilities of things around them; and particularly to give a look of