"You are stronger than I," said Hepzibah, after a brief consideration;
"and you have no pity in your strength! Clifford is not now insane; but
the interview which you insist upon may go far to make him so.
Nevertheless, knowing you as I do, I believe it to be my best course to
allow you to judge for yourself as to the improbability of his
possessing any valuable secret. I will call Clifford. Be merciful in
your dealings with him!--be far more merciful than your heart bids you
be!--for God is looking at you, Jaffrey Pyncheon!"
The Judge followed his cousin from the shop, where the foregoing
conversation had passed, into the parlor, and flung himself heavily
into the great ancestral chair. Many a former Pyncheon had found
repose in its capacious arms: rosy children, after their sports; young
men, dreamy with love; grown men, weary with cares; old men, burdened
with winters,--they had mused, and slumbered, and departed to a yet
profounder sleep. It had been a long tradition, though a doubtful one,
that this was the very chair, seated in which the earliest of the
Judge's New England forefathers--he whose picture still hung upon the
wall--had given a dead man's silent and stern reception to the throng
of distinguished guests. From that hour of evil omen until the
present, it may be,--though we know not the secret of his heart,--but
it may be that no wearier and sadder man had ever sunk into the chair
than this same Judge Pyncheon, whom we have just beheld so immitigably
hard and resolute. Surely, it must have been at no slight cost that he
had thus fortified his soul with iron. Such calmness is a mightier
effort than the violence of weaker men. And there was yet a heavy task
for him to do. Was it a little matter--a trifle to be prepared for in
a single moment, and to be rested from in another moment,--that he must
now, after thirty years, encounter a kinsman risen from a living tomb,
and wrench a secret from him, or else consign him to a living tomb
"Did you speak?" asked Hepzibah, looking in from the threshold of the
parlor; for she imagined that the Judge had uttered some sound which
she was anxious to interpret as a relenting impulse. "I thought you
called me back."
"No, no" gruffly answered Judge Pyncheon with a harsh frown, while his
brow grew almost a black purple, in the shadow of the room. "Why
should I call you back? Time flies! Bid Clifford come to me!"
The Judge had taken his watch from his vest pocket and now held it in
his hand, measuring the interval which was to ensue before the
appearance of Clifford.