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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE
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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE Post by :haydnellen Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :1055

Click below to download : The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE (Format : PDF)

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XV - THE SCOWL AND SMILE

SEVERAL days passed over the Seven Gables, heavily and drearily
enough. In fact (not to attribute the whole gloom of sky and
earth to the one inauspicious circumstance of Phoebe's departure),
an easterly storm had set in, and indefatigably apply itself to
the task of making the black roof and walls of the old house look
more cheerless than ever before. Yet was the outside not half so
cheerless as the interior. Poor Clifford was cut off, at once,
from all his scanty resources of enjoyment. Phoebe was not there;
nor did the sunshine fall upon the floor. The garden, with its
muddy walks, and the chill, dripping foliage of its summer-house,
was an image to be shuddered at. Nothing flourished in the cold,
moist, pitiless atmosphere, drifting with the brackish scud of
sea-breezes, except the moss along the joints of the shingle-roof,
and the great bunch of weeds, that had lately been suffering from
drought, in the angle between the two front gables.

As for Hepzibah, she seemed not merely possessed with the east
wind, but to be, in her very person, only another phase of this
gray and sullen spell of weather; the east wind itself, grim and
disconsolate, in a rusty black silk gown, and with a turban of
cloud-wreaths on its head. The custom of the shop fell off,
because a story got abroad that she soured her small beer and
other damageable commodities, by scowling on them. It is, perhaps,
true that the public had something reasonably to complain of in
her deportment; but towards Clifford she was neither ill-tempered
nor unkind, nor felt less warmth of heart than always, had it
been possible to make it reach him. The inutility of her best
efforts, however, palsied the poor old gentlewoman. She could
do little else than sit silently in a corner of the room,
when the wet pear-tree branches, sweeping across the small
windows, created a noon-day dusk, which Hepzibah unconsciously
darkened with her woe-begone aspect. It was no fault of
Hepzibah's. Everything--even the old chairs and tables, that had
known what weather was for three or four such lifetimes as her
own--looked as damp and chill as if the present were their worst
experience. The picture of the Puritan Colonel shivered on the
wall. The house itself shivered, from every attic of its seven
gables down to the great kitchen fireplace, which served all the
better as an emblem of the mansion's heart, because, though built
for warmth, it was now so comfortless and empty.

Hepzibah attempted to enliven matters by a fire in the parlor.
But the storm demon kept watch above, and, whenever a flame was
kindled, drove the smoke back again, choking the chimney's
sooty throat with its own breath. Nevertheless, during four days
of this miserable storm, Clifford wrapt himself in an old cloak,
and occupied his customary chair. On the morning of the fifth,
when summoned to breakfast, he responded only by a broken-hearted
murmur, expressive of a determination not to leave his bed. His
sister made no attempt to change his purpose. In fact, entirely
as she loved him, Hepzibah could hardly have borne any longer
the wretched duty--so impracticable by her few and rigid faculties
--of seeking pastime for a still sensitive, but ruined mind,
critical and fastidious, without force or volition. It was at
least something short of positive despair, that to-day she might
sit shivering alone, and not suffer continually a new grief,
and unreasonable pang of remorse, at every fitful sigh of her
fellow sufferer.

But Clifford, it seemed, though he did not make his appearance
below stairs, had, after all, bestirred himself in quest of
amusement. In the course of the forenoon, Hepzibah heard a note
of music, which (there being no other tuneful contrivance in the
House of the Seven Gables) she knew must proceed from Alice
Pyncheon's harpsichord. She was aware that Clifford, in his
youth, had possessed a cultivated taste for music, and a
considerable degree of skill in its practice. It was difficult,
however, to conceive of his retaining an accomplishment to
which daily exercise is so essential, in the measure indicated by
the sweet, airy, and delicate, though most melancholy strain,
that now stole upon her ear. Nor was it less marvellous that the
long-silent instrument should be capable of so much melody.
Hepzibah involuntarily thought of the ghostly harmonies, prelusive
of death in the family, which were attributed to the legendary
Alice. But it was, perhaps, proof of the agency of other than
spiritual fingers, that, after a few touches, the chords seemed
to snap asunder with their own vibrations, and the music ceased.

But a harsher sound succeeded to the mysterious notes; nor was
the easterly day fated to pass without an event sufficient in
itself to poison, for Hepzibah and Clifford, the balmiest air
that ever brought the humming-birds along with it. The final
echoes of Alice Pyncheon's performance (or Clifford's, if his
we must consider it) were driven away by no less vulgar a
dissonance than the ringing of the shop-bell. A foot was heard
scraping itself on the threshold, and thence somewhat ponderously
stepping on the floor. Hepzibah delayed a moment, while muffling
herself in a faded shawl, which had been her defensive armor in
a forty years' warfare against the east wind. A characteristic
sound, however,--neither a cough nor a hem, but a kind of rumbling
and reverberating spasm in somebody's capacious depth of chest;
--impelled her to hurry forward, with that aspect of fierce
faint-heartedness so common to women in cases of perilous
emergency. Few of her sex, on such occasions, have ever looked
so terrible as our poor scowling Hepzibah. But the visitor
quietly closed the shop-door behind him, stood up his umbrella
against the counter, and turned a visage of composed benignity,
to meet the alarm and anger which his appearance had excited.

Hepzibah's presentiment had not deceived her. It was no other
than Judge Pyncheon, who, after in vain trying the front door,
had now effected his entrance into the shop.

"How do you do, Cousin Hepzibah?--and how does this most inclement
weather affect our poor Clifford?" began the Judge; and wonderful
it seemed, indeed, that the easterly storm was not put to shame, or,
at any rate, a little mollified, by the genial benevolence of his
smile. "I could not rest without calling to ask, once more,
whether I can in any manner promote his comfort, or your own."

"You can do nothing," said Hepzibah, controlling her agitation as
well as she could." I devote myself to Clifford. He has every
comfort which his situation admits of."

"But allow me to suggest, dear cousin," rejoined the Judge," you
err,--in all affection and kindness, no doubt, and with the very
best intentions,--but you do err, nevertheless, in keeping your
brother so secluded. Why insulate him thus from all sympathy
and kindness? Clifford, alas! has had too much of solitude. Now
let him try society,--the society, that is to say, of kindred and
old friends. Let me, for instance, but see Clifford, and I will
answer for the good effect of the interview."

"You cannot see him," answered Hepzibah. "Clifford has kept his
bed since yesterday."

"What! How! Is he ill?" exclaimed Judge Pyncheon, starting with
what seemed to be angry alarm; for the very frown of the old
Puritan darkened through the room as he spoke. "Nay, then, I
must and will see him! What if he should die?"

"He is in no danger of death," said Hepzibah,--and added, with
bitterness that she could repress no longer, "none; unless he shall
be persecuted to death, now, by the same man who long ago
attempted it!"

"Cousin Hepzibah," said the Judge, with an impressive earnestness
of manner, which grew even to tearful pathos as he proceeded,
"is it possible that you do not perceive how unjust, how unkind,
how unchristian, is this constant, this long-continued bitterness
against me, for a part which I was constrained by duty and conscience,
by the force of law, and at my own peril, to act? What did I do,
in detriment to Clifford, which it was possible to leave undone?
How could you, his sister,--if, for your never-ending sorrow, as it
has been for mine, you had known what I did,--have, shown greater
tenderness? And do you think, cousin, that it has cost me no pang?
--that it has left no anguish in my bosom, from that day to this,
amidst all the prosperity with which Heaven has blessed me?--or that
I do not now rejoice, when it is deemed consistent with the dues of
public justice and the welfare of society that this dear kinsman,
this early friend, this nature so delicately and beautifully
constituted,--so unfortunate, let us pronounce him, and forbear
to say, so guilty,--that our own Clifford, in fine, should be given
back to life, and its possibilities of enjoyment? Ah, you little
know me, Cousin Hepzibah! You little know this heart! It now throbs
at the thought of meeting him! There lives not the human being
(except yourself,--and you not more than I) who has shed so many
tears for Clifford's calamity. You behold some of them now.
There is none who would so delight to promote his happiness!
Try me, Hepzibah! --try me, cousin! --try the man whom you have
treated as your enemy and Clifford's! --try Jaffrey Pyncheon,
and you shall find him true, to the heart's core!"

"In the name of Heaven," cried Hepzibah, provoked only to
intenser indignation by this outgush of the inestimable tenderness
of a stern nature,--"in God's name, whom you insult, and whose
power I could almost question, since he hears you utter so many
false words without palsying your tongue,--give over, I beseech
you, this loathsome pretence of affection for your victim! You hate
him! Say so, like a man! You cherish, at this moment, some black
purpose against him in your heart! Speak it out, at once!--or,
if you hope so to promote it better, hide it till you can triumph
in its success! But never speak again of your love for my poor
brother. I cannot bear it! It will drive me beyond a woman's
decency! It will drive me mad! Forbear. Not another word!
It will make me spurn you!"

For once, Hepzibah's wrath had given her courage. She had spoken.
But, after all, was this unconquerable distrust of Judge Pyncheon's
integrity, and this utter denial, apparently, of his claim to stand
in the ring of human sympathies,--were they founded in any just
perception of his character, or merely the offspring of a woman's
unreasonable prejudice, deduced from nothing?

The Judge, beyond all question, was a man of eminent respectability.
The church acknowledged it; the state acknowledged it. It was denied
by nobody. In all the very extensive sphere of those who knew him,
whether in his public or private capacities, there was not an
individual--except Hepzibah, and some lawless mystic, like the
daguerreotypist, and, possibly, a few political opponents--who would
have dreamed of seriously disputing his claim to a high and honorable
place in the world's regard. Nor (we must do him the further justice
to say) did Judge Pyncheon himself, probably, entertain many or very
frequent doubts, that his enviable reputation accorded with his
deserts. His conscience, therefore, usually considered the surest
witness to a man's integrity,--his conscience, unless it might be
for the little space of five minutes in the twenty-four hours, or,
now and then, some black day in the whole year's circle,--his
conscience bore an accordant testimony with the world's laudatory
voice. And yet, strong as this evidence may seem to be, we should
hesitate to peril our own conscience on the assertion, that the
Judge and the consenting world were right, and that poor Hepzibah
with her solitary prejudice was wrong. Hidden from mankind,
--forgotten by himself, or buried so deeply under a sculptured
and ornamented pile of ostentatious deeds that his daily life
could take no note of it,--there may have lurked some evil and
unsightly thing. Nay, we could almost venture to say, further,
that a daily guilt might have been acted by him, continually
renewed, and reddening forth afresh, like the miraculous
blood-stain of a murder, without his necessarily and at every
moment being aware of it.

Men of strong minds, great force of character, and a hard texture
of the sensibilities, are very capable of falling into mistakes of
this kind. They are ordinarily men to whom forms are of paramount
importance. Their field of action lies among the external phenomena
of life. They possess vast ability in grasping, and arranging, and
appropriating to themselves, the big, heavy, solid unrealities, such
as gold, landed estate, offices of trust and emolument, and public
honors. With these materials, and with deeds of goodly aspect, done
in the public eye, an individual of this class builds up, as it were,
a tall and stately edifice, which, in the view of other people,
and ultimately in his own view, is no other than the man's character,
or the man himself. Behold, therefore, a palace! Its splendid halls
and suites of spacious apartments are floored with a mosaic-work
of costly marbles; its windows, the whole height of each room, admit
the sunshine through the most transparent of plate-glass; its high
cornices are gilded, and its ceilings gorgeously painted; and a
lofty dome--through which, from the central pavement, you may gaze
up to the sky, as with no obstructing medium between--surmounts the
whole. With what fairer and nobler emblem could any man desire to
shadow forth his character? Ah! but in some low and obscure nook,
--some narrow closet on the ground-floor, shut, locked and bolted,
and the key flung away,--or beneath the marble pavement, in a
stagnant water-puddle, with the richest pattern of mosaic-work
above,--may lie a corpse, half decayed, and still decaying, and
diffusing its death-scent all through the palace! The inhabitant
will not be conscious of it, for it has long been his daily breath!
Neither will the visitors, for they smell only the rich odors which
the master sedulously scatters through the palace, and the incense
which they bring, and delight to burn before him! Now and then,
perchance, comes in a seer, before whose sadly gifted eye the
whole structure melts into thin air, leaving only the hidden nook,
the bolted closet, with the cobwebs festooned over its forgotten
door, or the deadly hole under the pavement, and the decaying
corpse within. Here, then, we are to seek the true emblem of the
man's character, and of the deed that gives whatever reality it
possesses to his life. And, beneath the show of a marble palace,
that pool of stagnant water, foul with many impurities, and,
perhaps, tinged with blood,--that secret abomination, above which,
possibly, he may say his prayers, without remembering it,--is this
man's miserable soul!

To apply this train of remark somewhat more closely to Judge
Pyncheon. We might say (without in the least imputing crime to
a personage of his eminent respectability) that there was enough
of splendid rubbish in his life to cover up and paralyze a more
active and subtile conscience than the Judge was ever troubled
with. The purity of his judicial character, while on the bench;
the faithfulness of his public service in subsequent capacities;
his devotedness to his party, and the rigid consistency with which
he had adhered to its principles, or, at all events, kept pace with
its organized movements; his remarkable zeal as president of a
Bible society; his unimpeachable integrity as treasurer of a widow's
and orphan's fund; his benefits to horticulture, by producing two
much esteemed varieties of the pear and to agriculture, through
the agency of the famous Pyncheon bull; the cleanliness of his
moral deportment, for a great many years past; the severity with
which he had frowned upon, and finally cast off, an expensive
and dissipated son, delaying forgiveness until within the final
quarter of an hour of the young man's life; his prayers at
morning and eventide, and graces at meal-time; his efforts in
furtherance of the temperance cause; his confining himself, since
the last attack of the gout, to five diurnal glasses of old sherry
wine; the snowy whiteness of his linen, the polish of his boots,
the handsomeness of his gold-headed cane, the square and roomy
fashion of his coat, and the fineness of its material, and, in
general, the studied propriety of his dress and equipment; the
scrupulousness with which he paid public notice, in the street,
by a bow, a lifting of the hat, a nod, or a motion of the hand,
to all and sundry of his acquaintances, rich or poor; the smile
of broad benevolence wherewith he made it a point to gladden the
whole world,--what room could possibly be found for darker traits
in a portrait made up of lineaments like these? This proper face
was what he beheld in the looking-glass. This admirably arranged
life was what he was conscious of in the progress of every day.
Then might not he claim to be its result and sum, and say to
himself and the community, "Behold Judge Pyncheon there"?

And allowing that, many, many years ago, in his early and
reckless youth, he had committed some one wrong act,--or that,
even now, the inevitable force of circumstances should
occasionally make him do one questionable deed among a
thousand praiseworthy, or, at least, blameless ones,--would you
characterize the Judge by that one necessary deed, and that
half-forgotten act, and let it overshadow the fair aspect of a
lifetime? What is there so ponderous in evil, that a thumb's
bigness of it should outweigh the mass of things not evil which
were heaped into the other scale! This scale and balance system
is a favorite one with people of Judge Pyncheon's brotherhood.
A hard, cold man, thus unfortunately situated, seldom or never
looking inward, and resolutely taking his idea of himself from
what purports to be his image as reflected in the mirror of
public opinion, can scarcely arrive at true self-knowledge,
except through loss of property and reputation. Sickness will
not always help him do it; not always the death-hour!

But our affair now is with Judge Pyncheon as he stood confronting
the fierce outbreak of Hepzibah's wrath. Without premeditation,
to her own surprise, and indeed terror, she had given vent, for
once, to the inveteracy of her resentment, cherished against this
kinsman for thirty years.

Thus far the Judge's countenance had expressed mild forbearance,
--grave and almost gentle deprecation of his cousin's unbecoming
violence,--free and Christian-like forgiveness of the wrong inflicted
by her words. But when those words were irrevocably spoken, his look
assumed sternness, the sense of power, and immitigable resolve; and
this with so natural and imperceptible a change, that it seemed as
if the iron man had stood there from the first, and the meek man not
at all. The effect was as when the light, vapory clouds, with their
soft coloring, suddenly vanish from the stony brow of a precipitous
mountain, and leave there the frown which you at once feel to be
eternal. Hepzibah almost adopted the insane belief that it was her
old Puritan ancestor, and not the modern Judge, on whom she had just
been wreaking the bitterness of her heart. Never did a man show
stronger proof of the lineage attributed to him than Judge Pyncheon,
at this crisis, by his unmistakable resemblance to the picture in
the inner room.

"Cousin Hepzibah," said he very calmly, "it is time to have done
with this."

"With all my heart!" answered she. "Then, why do you persecute
us any longer? Leave poor Clifford and me in peace. Neither of
us desires anything better!"

"It is my purpose to see Clifford before I leave this house,"
continued the Judge. "Do not act like a madwoman, Hepzibah! I am
his only friend, and an all-powerful one. Has it never occurred
to you,--are you so blind as not to have seen,--that, without not
merely my consent, but my efforts, my representations, the exertion
of my whole influence, political, official, personal, Clifford
would never have been what you call free? Did you think his release
a triumph over me? Not so, my good cousin; not so, by any means!
The furthest possible from that! No; but it was the accomplishment
of a purpose long entertained on my part. I set him free!"

"You!" answered Hepzibah. "I never will believe it! He owed his
dungeon to you; his freedom to God's providence!"

"I set him free!" reaffirmed Judge Pyncheon, with the calmest
composure. "And I came hither now to decide whether he shall
retain his freedom. It will depend upon himself. For this purpose,
I must see him."

"Never!--it would drive him mad!" exclaimed Hepzibah, but with an
irresoluteness sufficiently perceptible to the keen eye of the Judge;
for, without the slightest faith in his good intentions, she knew not
whether there was most to dread in yielding or resistance. "And why
should you wish to see this wretched, broken man, who retains hardly
a fraction of his intellect, and will hide even that from an eye
which has no love in it?"

"He shall see love enough in mine, if that be all!" said the Judge,
with well-grounded confidence in the benignity of his aspect.
"But, Cousin Hepzibah, you confess a great deal, and very much to
the purpose. Now, listen, and I will frankly explain my reasons
for insisting on this interview. At the death, thirty years since,
of our uncle Jaffrey, it was found,--I know not whether the
circumstance ever attracted much of your attention, among the
sadder interests that clustered round that event,--but it was
found that his visible estate, of every kind, fell far short of
any estimate ever made of it. He was supposed to be immensely rich.
Nobody doubted that he stood among the weightiest men of his day.
It was one of his eccentricities, however,--and not altogether a
folly, neither,--to conceal the amount of his property by making
distant and foreign investments, perhaps under other names than
his own, and by various means, familiar enough to capitalists, but
unnecessary here to be specified. By Uncle Jaffrey's last will
and testament, as you are aware, his entire property was bequeathed
to me, with the single exception of a life interest to yourself in
this old family mansion, and the strip of patrimonial estate
remaining attached to it."

"And do you seek to deprive us of that?" asked Hepzibah, unable
to restrain her bitter contempt." Is this your price for ceasing
to persecute poor Clifford?"

"Certainly not, my dear cousin!" answered the Judge, smiling
benevolently. "On the contrary, as you must do me the justice to
own, I have constantly expressed my readiness to double or treble
your resources, whenever you should make up your mind to accept
any kindness of that nature at the hands of your kinsman. No, no!
But here lies the gist of the matter. Of my uncle's unquestionably
great estate, as I have said, not the half--no, not one third, as I
am fully convinced--was apparent after his death. Now, I have the
best possible reasons for believing that your brother Clifford can
give me a clew to the recovery of the remainder."

"Clifford!--Clifford know of any hidden wealth? Clifford have it
in his power to make you rich?" cried the old gentlewoman, affected
with a sense of something like ridicule at the idea. "Impossible!
You deceive yourself! It is really a thing to laugh at!"

"It is as certain as that I stand here!" said Judge Pyncheon,
striking his gold-headed cane on the floor, and at the same time
stamping his foot, as if to express his conviction the more forcibly
by the whole emphasis of his substantial person. "Clifford told
me so himself!"

"No, no!" exclaimed Hepzibah incredulously. "You are dreaming,
Cousin Jaffrey."

"I do not belong to the dreaming class of men," said the Judge
quietly. "Some months before my uncle's death, Clifford boasted
to me of the possession of the secret of incalculable wealth. His
purpose was to taunt me, and excite my curiosity. I know it well.
But, from a pretty distinct recollection of the particulars of our
conversation, I am thoroughly convinced that there was truth in
what he said. Clifford, at this moment, if he chooses,--and choose
he must!--can inform me where to find the schedule, the documents,
the evidences, in whatever shape they exist, of the vast amount of
Uncle Jaffrey's missing property. He has the secret. His boast
was no idle word. It had a directness, an emphasis, a particularity,
that showed a backbone of solid meaning within the mystery of
his expression."

"But what could have been Clifford's object," asked Hepzibah,
"in concealing it so long?"

"It was one of the bad impulses of our fallen nature," replied the
Judge, turning up his eyes. "He looked upon me as his enemy.
He considered me as the cause of his overwhelming disgrace,
his imminent peril of death, his irretrievable ruin. There was
no great probability, therefore, of his volunteering information,
out of his dungeon, that should elevate me still higher on the
ladder of prosperity. But the moment has now come when he must
give up his secret."

"And what if he should refuse?" inquired Hepzibah. "Or,--as I
steadfastly believe,--what if he has no knowledge of this wealth?"

"My dear cousin," said Judge Pyncheon, with a quietude which
he had the power of making more formidable than any violence,
"since your brother's return, I have taken the precaution (a highly
proper one in the near kinsman and natural guardian of an
individual so situated) to have his deportment and habits
constantly and carefully overlooked. Your neighbors have been
eye-witnesses to whatever has passed in the garden. The butcher,
the baker, the fish-monger, some of the customers of your shop,
and many a prying old woman, have told me several of the secrets
of your interior. A still larger circle--I myself, among the
rest--can testify to his extravagances at the arched window.
Thousands beheld him, a week or two ago, on the point of finging
himself thence into the street. From all this testimony, I am
led to apprehend--reluctantly, and with deep grief--that Clifford's
misfortunes have so affected his intellect, never very strong,
that he cannot safely remain at large. The alternative, you must
be aware,--and its adoption will depend entirely on the decision
which I am now about to make,--the alternative is his confinement,
probably for the remainder of his life, in a public asylum for
persons in his unfortunate state of mind."

"You cannot mean it!" shrieked Hepzibah.

"Should my cousin Clifford," continued Judge Pyncheon, wholly
undisturbed, "from mere malice, and hatred of one whose
interests ought naturally to be dear to him,--a mode of passion
that, as often as any other, indicates mental disease,--should he
refuse me the information so important to myself, and which he
assuredly possesses, I shall consider it the one needed jot of
evidence to satisfy my mind of his insanity. And, once sure of
the course pointed out by conscience, you know me too well,
Cousin Hepzibah, to entertain a doubt that I shall pursue it."

"O Jaffrey,--Cousin Jaffrey." cried Hepzibah mournfully, not
passionately, "it is you that are diseased in mind, not Clifford!
You have forgotten that a woman was your mother!--that you
have had sisters, brothers, children of your own!--or that there
ever was affection between man and man, or pity from one man
to another, in this miserable world! Else, how could you have
dreamed of this? You are not young, Cousin Jaffrey!--no, nor
middle-aged,--but already an old man! The hair is white upon
your head! How many years have you to live? Are you not rich
enough for that little time? Shall you be hungry,--shall you
lack clothes, or a roof to shelter you,--between this point
and the grave? No! but, with the half of what you now possess,
you could revel in costly food and wines, and build a house twice
as splendid as you now inhabit, and make a far greater show to the
world,--and yet leave riches to your only son, to make him bless
the hour of your death! Then, why should you do this cruel,
cruel thing?--so mad a thing, that I know not whether to call it
wicked! Alas, Cousin Jaffrey, this hard and grasping spirit has
run in our blood these two hundred years. You are but doing
over again, in another shape, what your ancestor before you did,
and sending down to your posterity the curse inherited from him!"

"Talk sense, Hepzibah, for Heaven's sake!" exclaimed the Judge,
with the impatience natural to a reasonable man, on hearing
anything so utterly absurd as the above, in a discussion about
matters of business. "I have told you my determination. I am
not apt to change. Clifford must give up his secret, or take
the consequences. And let him decide quickly; for I have several
affairs to attend to this morning, and an important dinner
engagement with some political friends."

"Clifford has no secret!" answered Hepzibah. "And God will not
let you do the thing you meditate!"

"We shall see," said the unmoved Judge. "Meanwhile, choose whether
you will summon Clifford, and allow this business to be amicably
settled by an interview between two kinsmen, or drive me to harsher
measures, which I should be most happy to feel myself justified in
avoiding. The responsibility is altogether on your part."

"You are stronger than I," said Hepzibah, after a brief
consideration; "and you have no pity in your strength! Clifford
is not now insane; but the interview which you insist upon may
go far to make him so. Nevertheless, knowing you as I do,
I believe it to be my best course to allow you to judge for
yourself as to the improbability of his possessing any valuable
secret. I will call Clifford. Be merciful in your dealings with
him!--be far more merciful than your heart bids you be!--for God
is looking at you, Jaffrey Pyncheon!"

The Judge followed his cousin from the shop, where the
foregoing conversation had passed, into the parlor, and flung
himself heavily in to the great ancestral chair. Many a former
Pyncheon had found repose in its capacious arms: rosy children,
after their sports; young men, dreamy with love; grown men,
weary with cares; old men, burdened with winters, --they had
mused, and slumbered, and departed to a yet profounder sleep.
It had been a long tradition, though a doubtful one, that this
was the very chair, seated in which the earliest of the Judge's
New England forefathers--he whose picture still hung upon the
wall--had given a dead man's silent and stern reception to the
throng of distinguished guests. From that hour of evil omen
until the present, it may be,--though we know not the secret
of his heart,--but it may be that no wearier and sadder man
had ever sunk into the chair than this same Judge Pyncheon,
whom we have just beheld so immitigably hard and resolute.
Surely, it must have been at no slight cost that he had thus
fortified his soul with iron. Such calmness is a mightier effort
than the violence of weaker men. And there was yet a heavy task
for him to do. Was it a little matter--a trifle to be prepared
for in a single moment, and to be rested from in another moment,
--that he must now, after thirty years, encounter a kinsman
risen from a living tomb, and wrench a secret from him, or else
consign him to a living tomb again?

"Did you speak?" asked Hepzibah, looking in from the threshold
of the parlor; for she imagined that the Judge had uttered some
sound which she was anxious to interpret as a relenting impulse.
"I thought you called me back."

"No, no" gruffly answered Judge Pyncheon with a harsh frown,
while his brow grew almost a black purple, in the shadow of the
room. "Why should I call you back? Time flies! Bid Clifford
come to me!"

The Judge had taken his watch from his vest pocket and now
held it in his hand, measuring the interval which was to ensue
before the appearance of Clifford.

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The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVI - CLIFFORD'S CHAMBER The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVI - CLIFFORD'S CHAMBER

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XVI - CLIFFORD'S CHAMBER
NEVER had the old house appeared so dismal to poor Hepzibahas when she departed on that wretched errand. There was astrange aspect in it. As she trode along the foot-worn passages,and opened one crazy door after another, and ascended thecreaking staircase, she gazed wistfully and fearfully around. It would have been no marvel, to her excited mind, if, behindor beside her, there had been the rustle of dead people'sgarments, or pale visages awaiting her on the landing-place above.Her nerves were set all ajar by the scene of passion and terrorthrough which she had just struggled. Her colloquy with

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY

The House Of Seven Gables - Chapter XIV - PHOEBE'S GOOD-BY
HOLGRAVE, plunging into his tale with the energy and absorptionnatural to a young author, had given a good deal of action tothe parts capable of being developed and exemplified in thatmanner. He now observed that a certain remarkable drowsiness(wholly unlike that with which the reader possibly feels himselfaffected) had been flung over the senses of his auditress. It was the effect, unquestionably, of the mystic gesticulationsby which he had sought to bring bodily before Phoebe's perceptionthe figure of the mesmerizing carpenter. With the lids droopingover her eyes,--now lifted for an instant, and drawn down againas with leaden weights,--she leaned