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"?