The House of the Seven Gables (Chapter 7, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 7

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,
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.

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