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

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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!"