Was there no help in their extremity? It seemed strange that there

should be none, with a city round about her. It would be so easy to

throw up the window, and send forth a shriek, at the strange agony of

which everybody would come hastening to the rescue, well understanding

it to be the cry of a human soul, at some dreadful crisis! But how

wild, how almost laughable, the fatality,--and yet how continually it

comes to pass, thought Hepzibah, in this dull delirium of a

world,--that whosoever, and with however kindly a purpose, should come

to help, they would be sure to help the strongest side! Might and wrong

combined, like iron magnetized, are endowed with irresistible


attraction. There would be Judge Pyncheon,--a person eminent in the

public view, of high station and great wealth, a philanthropist, a

member of Congress and of the church, and intimately associated with

whatever else bestows good name,--so imposing, in these advantageous

lights, that Hepzibah herself could hardly help shrinking from her own

conclusions as to his hollow integrity. The Judge, on one side! And

who, on the other? The guilty Clifford! Once a byword! Now, an

indistinctly remembered ignominy!

Nevertheless, in spite of this perception that the Judge would draw all

human aid to his own behalf, Hepzibah was so unaccustomed to act for

herself, that the least word of counsel would have swayed her to any

mode of action. Little Phoebe Pyncheon would at once have lighted up

the whole scene, if not by any available suggestion, yet simply by the

warm vivacity of her character. The idea of the artist occurred to

Hepzibah. Young and unknown, mere vagrant adventurer as he was, she had

been conscious of a force in Holgrave which might well adapt him to be

the champion of a crisis. With this thought in her mind, she unbolted a

door, cobwebbed and long disused, but which had served as a former

medium of communication between her own part of the house and the gable

where the wandering daguerreotypist had now established his temporary

home. He was not there. A book, face downward, on the table, a roll of

manuscript, a half-written sheet, a newspaper, some tools of his

present occupation, and several rejected daguerreotypes, conveyed an

impression as if he were close at hand. But, at this period of the day,

as Hepzibah might have anticipated, the artist was at his public rooms.

With an impulse of idle curiosity, that flickered among her heavy

thoughts, she looked at one of the daguerreotypes, and beheld Judge

Pyncheon frowning at her. Fate stared her in the face. She turned back

from her fruitless quest, with a heartsinking sense of disappointment.

In all her years of seclusion, she had never felt, as now, what it was

to be alone. It seemed as if the house stood in a desert, or, by some

spell, was made invisible to those who dwelt around, or passed beside

it; so that any mode of misfortune, miserable accident, or crime might

happen in it without the possibility of aid. In her grief and wounded

pride, Hepzibah had spent her life in divesting herself of friends; she

had wilfully cast off the support which God has ordained his creatures

to need from one another; and it was now her punishment, that Clifford

and herself would fall the easier victims to their kindred enemy.