"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

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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.