Excerpts from Chapter 15, "The Scowl and the Smile,"
Excerpts from Chapter 17, "The Flight of Two Owls," of The House of the Seven
Gables, which focus on Hepzibah
Poor Hepzibah! Could she have understood this fact, it would have brought
her some little comfort; for, to all her other troubles--strange to say!--there
was added the womanish and old-maiden-like misery arising from a sense
of unseemliness in her attire. Thus, she was fain to shrink deeper into
herself, as it were, as if in the hope of making people suppose that here
was only a cloak and hood, threadbare and wofully faded, taking an airing
in the midst of the storm, without any wearer!
As they went on, the feeling of indistinctness and unreality kept dimly
hovering round about her, and so diffusing itself into her system that
one of her hands was hardly palpable to the touch of the other. Any certainty
would have been preferable to this. She whispered to herself, again and
again,--"Am I awake?--Am I awake?"--and sometimes exposed her face to the
chill spatter of the wind, for the sake of its rude assurance that she
was. Whether it was Clifford's purpose, or only chance, had led them thither,
they now found themselves passing beneath the arched entrance of a large
structure of gray stone. Within, there was a spacious breadth, and an airy
height from floor to roof, now partially filled with smoke and steam, which
eddied voluminously upward, and formed a mimic cloud-region over their
heads. A train of cars was a steed impatient for a headlong rush; and the
bell rang out its hasty peal, so well expressing the brief summons which
life vouchsafes to us, in its hurried career. Without question or delay,--with
the irresistible decision, if not rather to be called recklessness, which
had so strangely taken possession of him, and through him of Hepzibah,--Clifford
impelled her towards the cars, and assisted her to enter. The signal was
given; the engine puffed forth its short, quick breaths; the train began
its movement; and, along with a hundred other passengers, these two unwonted
travellers sped onward like the wind.
Clifford shivered from head to foot. The wild effervescence of his
mood--which had so readily supplied thoughts, fantasies, and a strange
aptitude of words, and impelled him to talk from the mere necessity of
giving vent to this bubbling-up gush of ideas--had entirely subsided. A
powerful excitement had given him energy and vivacity. Its operation over,
he forthwith began to sink.
"You must take the lead now, Hepzibah!" murmured he, with a torpid and
reluctant utterance. "Do with me as you will!"
She knelt down upon the platform where they were standing, and lifted
her clasped hands to the sky. The dull, gray weight of clouds made it invisible;
but it was no hour for disbelief;--no juncture this, to question that there
was a sky above, and an Almighty Father looking down from it!
"O God!"--ejaculated poor, gaunt Hepzibah,--then paused a moment, to
consider what her prayer should be,--"O God,--our Father,--are we not thy
children? Have mercy on us!" (Chapter