"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

pursue it."

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"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

him!"

"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."