The House of the Seven Gables HTML version

6. Maule's Well
AFTER an early tea, the little country-girl strayed into the garden. The enclosure had
formerly been very extensive, but was now contracted within small compass, and
hemmed about, partly by high wooden fences, and partly by the outbuildings of houses
that stood on another street. In its centre was a grass-plat, surrounding a ruinous little
structure, which showed just enough of its original design to indicate that it had once
been a summer-house. A hop-vine, springing from last year's root, was beginning to
clamber over it, but would be long in covering the roof with its green mantle. Three of
the seven gables either fronted or looked sideways, with a dark solemnity of aspect, down
into the garden.
The black, rich soil had fed itself with the decay of a long period of time; such as fallen
leaves, the petals of flowers, and the stalks and seed--vessels of vagrant and lawless
plants, more useful after their death than ever while flaunting in the sun. The evil of these
departed years would naturally have sprung up again, in such rank weeds (symbolic of
the transmitted vices of society) as are always prone to root themselves about human
dwellings. Phoebe Saw, however, that their growth must have been checked by a degree
of careful labor, bestowed daily and systematically on the garden. The white double rose-
bush had evidently been propped up anew against the house since the commencement of
the season; and a pear-tree and three damson-trees, which, except a row of currant-
bushes, constituted the only varieties of fruit, bore marks of the recent amputation of
several superfluous or defective limbs. There were also a few species of antique and
hereditary flowers, in no very flourishing condition, but scrupulously weeded; as if some
person, either out of love or curiosity, had been anxious to bring them to such perfection
as they were capable of attaining. The remainder of the garden presented a well-selected
assortment of esculent vegetables, in a praiseworthy state of advancement. Summer
squashes almost in their golden blossom; cucumbers, now evincing a tendency to spread
away from the main stock, and ramble far and wide; two or three rows of string-beans
and as many more that were about to festoon themselves on poles; tomatoes, occupying a
site so sheltered and sunny that the plants were already gigantic, and promised an early
and abundant harvest.
Phoebe wondered whose care and toil it could have been that had planted these
vegetables, and kept the soil so clean and orderly. Not surely her cousin Hepzibah's, who
had no taste nor spirits for the lady-like employment of cultivating flowers, and--with her
recluse habits, and tendency to shelter herself within the dismal shadow of the house--
would hardly have come forth under the speck of open sky to weed and hoe among the
fraternity of beans and squashes.
It being her first day of complete estrangement from rural objects, Phoebe found an
unexpected charm in this little nook of grass, and foliage, and aristocratic flowers, and
plebeian vegetables. The eye of Heaven seemed to look down into it pleasantly, and with