"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

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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."