"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

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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

again?

"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.