Excerpts from Chapter 6, "Maule's Well," of The House of the Seven Gables,
which focus on Phoebe
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 a peculiar smile, as if glad
to perceive that nature, elsewhere overwhelmed, and driven out of the dusty
town, had here been able to retain a breathing-place….
Nor must we forget to mention a hen-coop of very reverend antiquity
that stood in the further corner of the garden not a great way from the
fountain. It now contained only Chanticleer, his two wives and a solitary
"That little fowl pays you a high compliment!" said a voice behind
Turning quickly, she was surprised at sight of a young man, who had
found access into the garden by a door opening out of another gable than
that whence she had emerged. He held a hoe in his hand, and, while Phoebe
was gone in quest of the crumbs, had begun to busy himself with drawing
up fresh earth about the roots of the tomatoes.
"The chicken really treats you like an old acquaintance," continued
he, in a quiet way, while a smile made his face pleasanter than Phoebe
at first fancied it. "Those venerable personages in the coop, too, seem
very affably disposed. You are lucky to be in their good graces so soon!
They have known me much longer, but never honor me with any familiarity,
though hardly a day passes without my bringing them food. Miss Hepzibah,
I suppose, will interweave the fact with her other traditions, and set
it down that the fowls know you to be a Pyncheon!"
"The secret is," said Phoebe, smiling, "that I have learned how to talk
with hens and chickens."
"Ah! but these hens," answered the young man,--"these hens of aristocratic
lineage would scorn to understand the vulgar language of a barn-yard fowl.
I prefer to think,--and so would Miss Hepzibah,--that they recognize the
family tone. For you are a Pyncheon?"
"My name is Phoebe Pyncheon," said the girl, with a manner of some reserve;
for she was aware that her new acquaintance could be no other than the
daguerreotypist, of whose lawless propensities the old maid had given her
a disagreeable idea.
"I did not know that my cousin Hepzibah's garden was under another
Silently, and rather surprised at her own compliance, Phoebe accordingly
betook herself to weeding a flower-bed, but busied herself still more with
cogitations respecting this young man, with whom she so unexpectedly found
herself on terms approaching to familiarity. She did not altogether like
him. His character perplexed the little country-girl, as it might a more
practised observer; for, while the tone of his conversation had generally
been playful, the impression left on her mind was that of gravity, and,
except as his youth modified it, almost sternness. She rebelled, as it
were, against a certain magnetic element in the artist's nature, which
he exercised towards her, possibly without being conscious of it. (Chapter