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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Seven Gables - Chapter VIII - THE PYNCHEON OF TO-DAY
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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter VIII - THE PYNCHEON OF TO-DAY Post by :jkane Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :1949

Click below to download : The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter VIII - THE PYNCHEON OF TO-DAY (Format : PDF)

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter VIII - THE PYNCHEON OF TO-DAY

PHOEBE, on entering the shop, beheld there the already familiar
face of the little devourer--if we can reckon his mighty deeds
aright--of Jim Crow, the elephant, the camel, the dromedaries,
and the locomotive. Having expended his private fortune, on the
two preceding days, in the purchase of the above unheard-of
luxuries, the young gentleman's present errand was on the part
of his mother, in quest of three eggs and half a pound of raisins.
These articles Phoebe accordingly supplied, and, as a mark of
gratitude for his previous patronage, and a slight super-added
morsel after breakfast, put likewise into his hand a whale! The
great fish, reversing his experience with the prophet of Nineveh,
immediately began his progress down the same red pathway of
fate whither so varied a caravan had preceded him. This
remarkable urchin, in truth, was the very emblem of old Father
Time, both in respect of his all-devouring appetite for men and
things, and because he, as well as Time, after ingulfing thus
much of creation, looked almost as youthful as if he had been
just that moment made.

After partly closing the door, the child turned back, and mumbled
something to Phoebe, which, as the whale was but half disposed
of, she could not perfectly understand.

"What did you say, my little fellow?" asked she.

"Mother wants to know" repeated Ned Higgins more distinctly, "how
Old Maid Pyncheon's brother does? Folks say he has got home."

"My cousin Hepzibah's brother?" exclaimed Phoebe, surprised at
this sudden explanation of the relationship between Hepzibah and
her guest." Her brother! And where can he have been?"

The little boy only put his thumb to his broad snub-nose, with
that look of shrewdness which a child, spending much of his
time in the street. so soon learns to throw over his features,
however unintelligent in themselves. Then as Phoebe continued
to gaze at him, without answering his mother's message, he took
his departure.

As the child went down the steps, a gentleman ascended them,
and made his entrance into the shop. It was the portly, and,
had it possessed the advantage of a little more height, would have
been the stately figure of a man considerably in the decline of
life, dressed in a black suit of some thin stuff, resembling
broadcloth as closely as possible. A gold-headed cane, of rare
Oriental wood, added materially to the high respectability of
his aspect, as did also a neckcloth of the utmost snowy purity,
and the conscientious polish of his boots. His dark, square
countenance, with its almost shaggy depth of eyebrows, was
naturally impressive, and would, perhaps, have been rather stern,
had not the gentleman considerately taken upon himself to
mitigate the harsh effect by a look of exceeding good-humor and
benevolence. Owing, however, to a somewhat massive accumulation
of animal substance about the lower region of his face, the look
was, perhaps, unctuous rather than spiritual, and had, so to speak,
a kind of fleshly effulgence, not altogether so satisfactory as he
doubtless intended it to be. A susceptible observer, at any rate,
might have regarded it as affording very little evidence of the
general benignity of soul whereof it purported to be the outward
reflection. And if the observer chanced to be ill-natured, as well
as acute and susceptible, he would probably suspect that the smile
on the gentleman's face was a good deal akin to the shine on his
boots, and that each must have cost him and his boot-black,
respectively, a good deal of hard labor to bring out and
preserve them.

As the stranger entered the little shop, where the projection of
the second story and the thick foliage of the elm-tree, as well as
the commodities at the window, created a sort of gray medium, his smile
grew as intense as if he had set his heart on counteracting the whole
gloom of the atmosphere (besides any moral gloom pertaining to
Hepzibah and her inmates) by the unassisted light of his countenance.
On perceiving a young rose-bud of a girl, instead of the gaunt presence
of the old maid, a look of surprise was manifest. He at first knit his
brows; then smiled with more unctuous benignity than ever.

"Ah, I see how it is!" said he in a deep voice,--a voice which,
had it come from the throat of an uncultivated man, would have
been gruff, but, by dint of careful training, was now sufficiently
agreeable,--"I was not aware that Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon had
commenced business under such favorable auspices. You are her
assistant, I suppose?"

"I certainly am," answered Phoebe, and added, with a little air
of lady-like assumption (for, civil as the gentleman was,
he evidently took her to be a young person serving for wages),
"I am a cousin of Miss Hepzibah, on a visit to her."

"Her cousin?--and from the country? Pray pardon me, then," said
the gentleman, bowing and smiling, as Phoebe never had been
bowed to nor smiled on before; "in that case, we must be better
acquainted; for, unless I am sadly mistaken, you are my own
little kinswoman likewise! Let me see,--Mary?--Dolly?--Phoebe?
--yes, Phoebe is the name! Is it possible that you are Phoebe
Pyncheon, only child of my dear cousin and classmate, Arthur?
Ah, I see your father now, about your mouth! Yes, yes! we must
be better acquainted! I am your kinsman, my dear. Surely you must
have heard of Judge Pyncheon?"

As Phoebe curtsied in reply, the Judge bent forward, with the
pardonable and even praiseworthy purpose--considering the
nearness of blood and the difference of age--of bestowing on his
young relative a kiss of acknowledged kindred and natural
affection. Unfortunately (without design, or only with such
instinctive design as gives no account of itself to the intellect)
Phoebe, just at the critical moment, drew back; so that her highly
respectable kinsman, with his body bent over the counter and his
lips protruded, was betrayed into the rather absurd predicament
of kissing the empty air. It was a modern parallel to the case of
Ixion embracing a cloud, and was so much the more ridiculous
as the Judge prided himself on eschewing all airy matter, and
never mistaking a shadow for a substance. The truth was,--and it
is Phoebe's only excuse,--that, although Judge Pyncheon's
glowing benignity might not be absolutely unpleasant to the
feminine beholder, with the width of a street, or even an
ordinary-sized room, interposed between, yet it became quite
too intense, when this dark, full-fed physiognomy (so roughly
bearded, too, that no razor could ever make it smooth) sought to
bring itself into actual contact with the object of its regards.
The man, the sex, somehow or other, was entirely too prominent in
the Judge's demonstrations of that sort. Phoebe's eyes sank, and,
without knowing why, she felt herself blushing deeply under his
look. Yet she had been kissed before, and without any particular
squeamishness, by perhaps half a dozen different cousins, younger
as well as older than this dark-browned, grisly-bearded,
white-neck-clothed, and unctuously-benevolent Judge! Then, why
not by him?

On raising her eyes, Phoebe was startled by the change in Judge
Pyncheon's face. It was quite as striking, allowing for the
difference of scale, as that betwixt a landscape under a broad
sunshine and just before a thunder-storm; not that it had the
passionate intensity of the latter aspect, but was cold, hard,
immitigable, like a day-long brooding cloud.

"Dear me! what is to be done now?" thought the country-girl to
herself." He looks as if there were nothing softer in him than
a rock, nor milder than the east wind! I meant no harm! Since he
is really my cousin, I would have let him kiss me, if I could!"

Then, all at once, it struck Phoebe that this very Judge Pyncheon
was the original of the miniature which the daguerreotypist had
shown her in the garden, and that the hard, stern, relentless look,
now on his face, was the same that the sun had so inflexibly
persisted in bringing out. Was it, therefore, no momentary mood,
but, however skilfully concealed, the settled temper of his life?
And not merely so, but was it hereditary in him, and transmitted
down, as a precious heirloom, from that bearded ancestor, in
whose picture both the expression and, to a singular degree, the
features of the modern Judge were shown as by a kind of prophecy?
A deeper philosopher than Phoebe might have found something very
terrible in this idea. It implied that the weaknesses and defects,
the bad passions, the mean tendencies, and the moral diseases which
lead to crime are handed down from one generation to another, by a
far surer process of transmission than human law has been able to
establish in respect to the riches and honors which it seeks to
entail upon posterity.

But, as it happened, scarcely had Phoebe's eyes rested again on
the Judge's countenance than all its ugly sternness vanished; and
she found herself quite overpowered by the sultry, dog-day heat,
as it were, of benevolence, which this excellent man diffused out
of his great heart into the surrounding atmosphere,--very much
like a serpent, which, as a preliminary to fascination, is said
to fill the air with his peculiar odor.

"I like that, Cousin Phoebe!" cried he, with an emphatic nod of
approbation. "I like it much, my little cousin! You are a good
child, and know how to take care of yourself. A young
girl--especially if she be a very pretty one--can never be too
chary of her lips."

"Indeed, sir," said Phoebe, trying to laugh the matter off, "I did
not mean to be unkind."

Nevertheless, whether or no it were entirely owing to the
inauspicious commencement of their acquaintance, she still acted
under a certain reserve, which was by no means customary to her
frank and genial nature. The fantasy would not quit her, that the
original Puritan, of whom she had heard so many sombre traditions,
--the progenitor of the whole race of New England Pyncheons, the
founder of the House of the Seven Gables, and who had died so
strangely in it,--had now stept into the shop. In these days of
off-hand equipment, the matter was easily enough arranged. On his
arrival from the other world, he had merely found it necessary to
spend a quarter of an hour at a barber's, who had trimmed down the
Puritan's full beard into a pair of grizzled whiskers, then,
patronizing a ready-made clothing establishment, he had exchanged
his velvet doublet and sable cloak, with the richly worked band
under his chin, for a white collar and cravat, coat, vest, and
pantaloons; and lastly, putting aside his steel-hilted broadsword
to take up a gold-headed cane, the Colonel Pyncheon of two centuries
ago steps forward as the Judge of the passing moment!

Of course, Phoebe was far too sensible a girl to entertain this
idea in any other way than as matter for a smile. Possibly, also,
could the two personages have stood together before her eye,
many points of difference would have been perceptible, and perhaps
only a general resemblance. The long lapse of intervening years,
in a climate so unlike that which had fostered the ancestral
Englishman, must inevitably have wrought important changes in
the physical system of his descendant. The Judge's volume of
muscle could hardly be the same as the Colonel's; there was
undoubtedly less beef in him. Though looked upon as a weighty
man among his contemporaries in respect of animal substance,
and as favored with a remarkable degree of fundamental development,
well adapting him for the judicial bench, we conceive that the
modern Judge Pyncheon, if weighed in the same balance with his
ancestor, would have required at least an old-fashioned fifty-six
to keep the scale in equilibrio. Then the Judge's face had lost
the ruddy English hue that showed its warmth through all the
duskiness of the Colonel's weather-beaten cheek, and had taken
a sallow shade, the established complexion of his countrymen.
If we mistake not, moreover, a certain quality of nervousness
had become more or less manifest, even in so solid a specimen
of Puritan descent as the gentleman now under discussion.
As one of its effects, it bestowed on his countenance a quicker
mobility than the old Englishman's had possessed, and keener
vivacity, but at the expense of a sturdier something, on which
these acute endowments seemed to act like dissolving acids.
This process, for aught we know, may belong to the great system
of human progress, which, with every ascending footstep, as it
diminishes the necessity for animal force, may be destined
gradually to spiritualize us, by refining away our grosser
attributes of body. If so, Judge Pyncheon could endure a century
or two more of such refinement as well as most other men.

The similarity, intellectual and moral, between the Judge and
his ancestor appears to have been at least as strong as the
resemblance of mien and feature would afford reason to anticipate.
In old Colonel Pyncheon's funeral discourse the clergyman absolutely
canonized his deceased parishioner, and opening, as it were, a vista
through the roof of the church, and thence through the firmament
above, showed him seated, harp in hand, among the crowned choristers
of the spiritual world. On his tombstone, too, the record is highly
eulogistic; nor does history, so far as he holds a place upon its page,
assail the consistency and uprightness of his character. So also,
as regards the Judge Pyncheon of to-day, neither clergyman, nor legal
critic, nor inscriber of tombstones, nor historian of general or local
politics, would venture a word against this eminent person's sincerity
as a Christian, or respectability as a man, or integrity as a judge,
or courage and faithfulness as the often-tried representative of his
political party. But, besides these cold, formal, and empty words
of the chisel that inscribes, the voice that speaks, and the pen that
writes, for the public eye and for distant time,--and which inevitably
lose much of their truth and freedom by the fatal consciousness of so
doing,--there were traditions about the ancestor, and private diurnal
gossip about the Judge, remarkably accordant in their testimony.
It is often instructive to take the woman's, the private and domestic,
view of a public man; nor can anything be more curious than the
vast discrepancy between portraits intended for engraving and the
pencil-sketches that pass from hand to hand behind the original's back.

For example: tradition affirmed that the Puritan had been greedy
of wealth; the Judge, too, with all the show of liberal expenditure,
was said to be as close-fisted as if his gripe were of iron. The
ancestor had clothed himself in a grim assumption of kindliness,
a rough heartiness of word and manner, which most people took to be
the genuine warmth of nature, making its way through the thick and
inflexible hide of a manly character. His descendant, in compliance
with the requirements of a nicer age, had etherealized this rude
benevolence into that broad benignity of smile wherewith he shone
like a noonday sun along the streets, or glowed like a household
fire in the drawing-rooms of his private acquaintance. The Puritan
--if not belied by some singular stories, murmured, even at this
day, under the narrator's breath--had fallen into certain
transgressions to which men of his great animal development,
whatever their faith or principles, must continue liable, until
they put off impurity, along with the gross earthly substance that
involves it. We must not stain our page with any contemporary
scandal, to a similar purport, that may have been whispered
against the Judge. The Puritan, again, an autocrat in his own
household, had worn out three wives, and, merely by the remorseless
weight and hardness of his character in the conjugal relation,
had sent them, one after another, broken-hearted, to their graves.
Here the parallel, in some sort, fails. The Judge had wedded but
a single wife, and lost her in the third or fourth year of their
marriage. There was a fable, however,--for such we choose to
consider it, though, not impossibly, typical of Judge Pyncheon's
marital deportment,--that the lady got her death-blow in the honeymoon,
and never smiled again, because her husband compelled her to serve him
with coffee every morning at his bedside, in token of fealty to her
liege-lord and master.

But it is too fruitful a subject, this of hereditary resemblances,
--the frequent recurrence of which, in a direct line, is truly
unaccountable, when we consider how large an accumulation of
ancestry lies behind every man at the distance of one or two
centuries. We shall only add, therefore, that the Puritan--so,
at least, says chimney-corner tradition, which often preserves
traits of character with marvellous fidelity--was bold, imperious,
relentless, crafty; laying his purposes deep, and following them
out with an inveteracy of pursuit that knew neither rest nor
conscience; trampling on the weak, and, when essential to his
ends, doing his utmost to beat down the strong. Whether the
Judge in any degree resembled him, the further progress of our
narrative may show.

Scarcely any of the items in the above-drawn parallel occurred
to Phoebe, whose country birth and residence, in truth, had left
her pitifully ignorant of most of the family traditions, which
lingered, like cobwebs and incrustations of smoke, about the rooms
and chimney-corners of the House of the Seven Gables. Yet there
was a circumstance, very trifling in itself, which impressed her
with an odd degree of horror. She had heard of the anathema flung
by Maule, the executed wizard, against Colonel Pyncheon and his
posterity,--that God would give them blood to drink,--and likewise
of the popular notion, that this miraculous blood might now and
then be heard gurgling in their throats. The latter scandal
--as became a person of sense, and, more especially, a member of
the Pyncheon family--Phoebe had set down for the absurdity which
it unquestionably was. But ancient superstitions, after being
steeped in human hearts and embodied in human breath, and passing
from lip to ear in manifold repetition, through a series of
generations, become imbued with an effect of homely truth.
The smoke of the domestic hearth has scented them through and
through. By long transmission among household facts, they grow
to look like them, and have such a familiar way of making themselves
at home that their influence is usually greater than we suspect.
Thus it happened, that when Phoebe heard a certain noise in Judge
Pyncheon's throat, --rather habitual with him, not altogether
voluntary, yet indicative of nothing, unless it were a slight
bronchial complaint, or, as some people hinted, an apoplectic
symptom,--when the girl heard this queer and awkward ingurgitation
(which the writer never did hear, and therefore cannot describe),
she very foolishly started, and clasped her hands.

Of course, it was exceedingly ridiculous in Phoebe to be
discomposed by such a trifle, and still more unpardonable to
show her discomposure to the individual most concerned in it.
But the incident chimed in so oddly with her previous fancies
about the Colonel and the Judge, that, for the moment, it seemed
quite to mingle their identity.

"What is the matter with you, young woman?" said Judge Pyncheon,
giving her one of his harsh looks. "Are you afraid of anything?"

"Oh, nothing" sir--nothing in the world!" answered Phoebe, with
a little laugh of vexation at herself. "But perhaps you wish to
speak with my cousin Hepzibah. Shall I call her?"

"Stay a moment, if you please," said the Judge, again beaming
sunshine out of his face. "You seem to be a little nervous this
morning. The town air, Cousin Phoebe, does not agree with your
good, wholesome country habits. Or has anything happened to
disturb you?--anything remarkable in Cousin Hepzibah's family?
--An arrival, eh? I thought so! No wonder you are out of sorts,
my little cousin. To be an inmate with such a guest may well
startle an innocent young girl!"

"You quite puzzle me, sir," replied Phoebe, gazing inquiringly at
the Judge. "There is no frightful guest in the house, but only a
poor, gentle, childlike man, whom I believe to be Cousin Hepzibah's
brother. I am afraid (but you, sir, will know better than I) that
he is not quite in his sound senses; but so mild and quiet he
seems to be, that a mother might trust her baby with him; and
I think he would play with the baby as if he were only a few
years older than itself. He startle me!--Oh, no indeed!"

"I rejoice to hear so favorable and so ingenuous an account of
my cousin Clifford," said the benevolent Judge. "Many years ago,
when we were boys and young men together, I had a great affection
for him, and still feel a tender interest in all his concerns.
You say, Cousin Phoebe, he appears to be weak minded. Heaven
grant him at least enough of intellect to repent of his past sins!"

"Nobody, I fancy," observed Phoebe, "can have fewer to repent of."

"And is it possible, my dear" rejoined the Judge, with a
commiserating look," that you have never heard of Clifford
Pyncheon?--that you know nothing of his history? Well, it is all
right; and your mother has shown a very proper regard for the good
name of the family with which she connected herself. Believe
the best you can of this unfortunate person, and hope the best!
It is a rule which Christians should always follow, in their
judgments of one another; and especially is it right and wise
among near relatives, whose characters have necessarily a degree
of mutual dependence. But is Clifford in the parlor? I will just
step in and see."

"Perhaps, sir, I had better call my cousin Hepzibah," said Phoebe;
hardly knowing, however, whether she ought to obstruct the entrance
of so affectionate a kinsman into the private regions of the house.
"Her brother seemed to be just falling asleep after breakfast; and
I am sure she would not like him to be disturbed. Pray, sir, let
me give her notice!"

But the Judge showed a singular determination to enter unannounced;
and as Phoebe, with the vivacity of a person whose movements
unconsciously answer to her thoughts, had stepped towards the door,
he used little or no ceremony in putting her aside.

"No, no, Miss Phoebe!" said Judge Pyncheon in a voice as deep
as a thunder-growl, and with a frown as black as the cloud
whence it issues." Stay you here! I know the house, and know
my cousin Hepzibah, and know her brother Clifford likewise.--nor
need my little country cousin put herself to the trouble of
announcing me!"--in these latter words, by the bye, there were
symptoms of a change from his sudden harshness into his
previous benignity of manner. "I am at home here, Phoebe, you
must recollect, and you are the stranger. I will just step in,
therefore, and see for myself how Clifford is, and assure him and
Hepzibah of my kindly feelings and best wishes. It is right, at
this juncture, that they should both hear from my own lips how
much I desire to serve them. Ha! here is Hepzibah herself!"

Such was the case. The vibrations of the Judge's voice had
reached the old gentlewoman in the parlor, where she sat, with
face averted, waiting on her brother's slumber. She now issued
forth, as would appear, to defend the entrance, looking, we must
needs say, amazingly like the dragon which, in fairy tales, is
wont to be the guardian over an enchanted beauty. The habitual
scowl of her brow was undeniably too fierce, at this moment, to
pass itself off on the innocent score of near-sightedness; and it
was bent on Judge Pyncheon in a way that seemed to confound, if not
alarm him, so inadequately had he estimated the moral force of a
deeply grounded antipathy. She made a repelling gesture with her
hand, and stood a perfect picture of prohibition, at full length,
in the dark frame of the doorway. But we must betray Hepzibah's
secret, and confess that the native timorousness of her character
even now developed itself in a quick tremor, which, to her own
perception, set each of her joints at variance with its fellows.

Possibly, the Judge was aware how little true hardihood lay behind
Hepzibah's formidable front. At any rate, being a gentleman of
steady nerves, he soon recovered himself, and failed not to approach
his cousin with outstretched hand; adopting the sensible precaution,
however, to cover his advance with a smile, so broad and sultry, that,
had it been only half as warm as it looked, a trellis of grapes might
at once have turned purple under its summer-like exposure. It may
have been his purpose, indeed, to melt poor Hepzibah on the spot,
as if she were a figure of yellow wax.

"Hepzibah, my beloved cousin, I am rejoiced!" exclaimed the Judge
most emphatically. "Now, at length, you have something to live for.
Yes, and all of us, let me say, your friends and kindred, have more
to live for than we had yesterday. I have lost no time in hastening
to offer any assistance in my power towards making Clifford comfortable.
He belongs to us all. I know how much he requires,--how much he used
to require,--with his delicate taste, and his love of the beautiful.
Anything in my house, --pictures, books, wine, luxuries of the table,
--he may command them all! It would afford me most heartfelt
gratification to see him! Shall I step in, this moment?"

"No," replied Hepzibah, her voice quivering too painfully to allow
of many words. "He cannot see visitors!"

"A visitor, my dear cousin!--do you call me so?" cried the Judge,
whose sensibility, it seems, was hurt by the coldness of the phrase.
"Nay, then, let me be Clifford's host, and your own likewise.
Come at once to my house. The country air, and all the conveniences,
--I may say luxuries,--that I have gathered about me, will do wonders
for him. And you and I, dear Hepzibah, will consult together,
and watch together, and labor together, to make our dear Clifford
happy. Come! why should we make more words about what is both a
duty and a pleasure on my part? Come to me at once!"

On hearing these so hospitable offers, and such generous
recognition of the claims of kindred, Phoebe felt very much in
the mood of running up to Judge Pyncheon, and giving him, of
her own accord, the kiss from which she had so recently shrunk
away. It was quite otherwise with Hepzibah; the Judge's smile
seemed to operate on her acerbity of heart like sunshine upon
vinegar, making it ten times sourer than ever.

"Clifford," said she,--still too agitated to utter more than an
abrupt sentence,--"Clifford has a home here!"

"May Heaven forgive you, Hepzibah," said Judge Pyncheon,
--reverently lifting his eyes towards that high court of equity
to which he appealed,--"if you suffer any ancient prejudice or
animosity to weigh with you in this matter. I stand here with an
open heart, willing and anxious to receive yourself and Clifford
into it. Do not refuse my good offices,--my earnest propositions
for your welfare! They are such, in all respects, as it behooves
your nearest kinsman to make. It will be a heavy responsibility,
cousin, if you confine your brother to this dismal house and
stifled air, when the delightful freedom of my country-seat is
at his command."

"It would never suit Clifford," said Hepzibah, as briefly as before.

"Woman!" broke forth the Judge, giving way to his resentment, "what
is the meaning of all this? Have you other resources? Nay, I suspected
as much! Take care, Hepzibah, take care! Clifford is on the brink of
as black a ruin as ever befell him yet! But why do I talk with you,
woman as you are? Make way!--I must see Clifford!"

Hepzibah spread out her gaunt figure across the door, and seemed
really to increase in bulk; looking the more terrible, also, because
there was so much terror and agitation in her heart. But Judge
Pyncheon's evident purpose of forcing a passage was interrupted
by a voice from the inner room; a weak, tremulous, wailing voice,
indicating helpless alarm, with no more energy for self-defence
than belongs to a frightened infant.

"Hepzibah, Hepzibah!" cried the voice; "go down on your knees
to him! Kiss his feet! Entreat him not to come in! Oh, let him
have mercy on me! Mercy! mercy!"

For the instant, it appeared doubtful whether it were not the
Judge's resolute purpose to set Hepzibah aside, and step across
the threshold into the parlor, whence issued that broken and
miserable murmur of entreaty. It was not pity that restrained him,
for, at the first sound of the enfeebled voice, a red fire kindled
in his eyes, and he made a quick pace forward, with something
inexpressibly fierce and grim darkening forth, as it were, out of
the whole man. To know Judge Pyncheon was to see him at that moment.
After such a revelation, let him smile with what sultriness he would,
he could much sooner turn grapes purple, or pumpkins yellow, than
melt the iron-branded impression out of the beholder's memory. And
it rendered his aspect not the less, but more frightful, that it
seemed not to express wrath or hatred, but a certain hot fellness
of purpose, which annihilated everything but itself.

Yet, after all, are we not slandering an excellent and amiable man?
Look at the Judge now! He is apparently conscious of having erred,
in too energetically pressing his deeds of loving-kindness on persons
unable to appreciate them. He will await their better mood, and hold
himself as ready to assist them then as at this moment. As he draws
back from the door, an all-comprehensive benignity blazes from his
visage, indicating that he gathers Hepzibah, little Phoebe, and
the invisible Clifford, all three, together with the whole world
besides, into his immense heart, and gives them a warm bath in its
flood of affection.

"You do me great wrong, dear Cousin Hepzibah!" said he, first
kindly offering her his hand, and then drawing on his glove
preparatory to departure. "Very great wrong! But I forgive it,
and will study to make you think better of me. Of course, our
poor Clifford being in so unhappy a state of mind, I cannot think
of urging an interview at present. But I shall watch over his
welfare as if he were my own beloved brother; nor do I at all
despair, my dear cousin, of constraining both him and you to
acknowledge your injustice. When that shall happen, I desire no
other revenge than your acceptance of the best offices in my power
to do you."

With a bow to Hepzibah, and a degree of paternal benevolence
in his parting nod to Phoebe, the Judge left the shop, and went
smiling along the street. As is customary with the rich, when
they aim at the honors of a republic, he apologized, as it were,
to the people, for his wealth, prosperity, and elevated station,
by a free and hearty manner towards those who knew him; putting
off the more of his dignity in due proportion with the humbleness
of the man whom he saluted, and thereby proving a haughty
consciousness of his advantages as irrefragably as if he had
marched forth preceded by a troop of lackeys to clear the way.
On this particular forenoon, so excessive was the warmth of Judge
Pyncheon's kindly aspect, that (such, at least, was the rumor
about town) an extra passage of the water-carts was found essential,
in order to lay the dust occasioned by so much extra sunshine!

No sooner had he disappeared than Hepzibah grew deadly white,
and, staggering towards Phoebe, let her head fall on the young
girl's shoulder.

"O Phoebe!" murmured she, "that man has been the horror of my
life! Shall I never, never have the courage,--will my voice never
cease from trembling long enough to let me tell him what he is?"

"Is he so very wicked?" asked Phoebe. "Yet his offers were
surely kind!"

"Do not speak of them,--he has a heart of iron!" rejoined Hepzibah.
"Go, now, and talk to Clifford! Amuse and keep him quiet! It would
disturb him wretchedly to see me so agitated as I am. There, go,
dear child, and I will try to look after the shop."

Phoebe went accordingly, but perplexed herself, meanwhile, with
queries as to the purport of the scene which she had just witnessed,
and also whether judges, clergymen, and other characters of that
eminent stamp and respectability, could really, in any single
instance, be otherwise than just and upright men. A doubt of this
nature has a most disturbing influence, and, if shown to be a fact,
comes with fearful and startling effect on minds of the trim, orderly,
and limit-loving class, in which we find our little country-girl.
Dispositions more boldly speculative may derive a stern enjoyment
from the discovery, since there must be evil in the world, that a
high man is as likely to grasp his share of it as a low one. A wider
scope of view, and a deeper insight, may see rank, dignity, and
station, all proved illusory, so far as regards their claim to human
reverence, and yet not feel as if the universe were thereby tumbled
headlong into chaos. But Phoebe, in order to keep the universe in its
old place, was fain to smother, in some degree, her own intuitions
as to Judge Pyncheon's character. And as for her cousin's testimony
in disparagement of it, she concluded that Hepzibah's judgment
was embittered by one of those family feuds which render hatred
the more deadly by the dead and corrupted love that they
intermingle with its native poison.

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WHEN Phoebe awoke,--which she did with the early twitteringof the conjugal couple of robins in the pear-tree,--she heardmovements below stairs, and, hastening down, found Hepzibahalready in the kitchen. She stood by a window, holding a bookin close contiguity to her nose, as if with the hope of gainingan olfactory acquaintance with its contents, since her imperfectvision made it not very easy to read them. If any volume couldhave 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 streamedwith the fragrance of
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