"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
"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
"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."