The House of the Seven Gables (Chapter 2, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 2

It still lacked half an hour of sunrise, when Miss Hepzibah
Pyncheon--we will not say awoke, it being doubtful whether the poor
lady had so much as closed her eyes during the brief night of
midsummer--but, at all events, arose from her solitary pillow, and
began what it would be mockery to term the adornment of her person.
Far from us be the indecorum of assisting, even in imagination, at a
maiden lady's toilet! Our story must therefore await Miss Hepzibah at
the threshold of her chamber; only presuming, meanwhile, to note some
of the heavy sighs that labored from her bosom, with little restraint
as to their lugubrious depth and volume of sound, inasmuch as they
could be audible to nobody save a disembodied listener like ourself.

The Old Maid was alone in the old house. Alone, except for a certain
respectable and orderly young man, an artist in the daguerreotype line,
who, for about three months back, had been a lodger in a remote
gable,--quite a house by itself, indeed,--with locks, bolts, and oaken
bars on all the intervening doors. Inaudible, consequently, were poor
Miss Hepzibah's gusty sighs. Inaudible the creaking joints of her
stiffened knees, as she knelt down by the bedside. And inaudible, too,
by mortal ear, but heard with all-comprehending love and pity in the
farthest heaven, that almost agony of prayer--now whispered, now a
groan, now a struggling silence--wherewith she besought the Divine
assistance through the day! Evidently, this is to be a day of more than
ordinary trial to Miss Hepzibah, who, for above a quarter of a century
gone by, has dwelt in strict seclusion, taking no part in the business
of life, and just as little in its intercourse and pleasures. Not with
such fervor prays the torpid recluse, looking forward to the cold,
sunless, stagnant calm of a day that is to be like innumerable
yesterdays.

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