"I tell you, Jaffrey," cried Hepzibah impatiently, as she turned from

the parlor-door to search other rooms, "my brother is not in his

chamber! You must help me seek him!"

But Judge Pyncheon was not the man to let himself be startled from an

easy-chair with haste ill-befitting either the dignity of his character

or his broad personal basis, by the alarm of an hysteric woman. Yet,

considering his own interest in the matter, he might have bestirred

himself with a little more alacrity.

"Do you hear me, Jaffrey Pyncheon?" screamed Hepzibah, as she again

approached the parlor-door, after an ineffectual search elsewhere.

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"Clifford is gone."

At this instant, on the threshold of the parlor, emerging from within,

appeared Clifford himself! His face was preternaturally pale; so deadly

white, indeed, that, through all the glimmering indistinctness of the

passageway, Hepzibah could discern his features, as if a light fell on

them alone. Their vivid and wild expression seemed likewise sufficient

to illuminate them; it was an expression of scorn and mockery,

coinciding with the emotions indicated by his gesture. As Clifford

stood on the threshold, partly turning back, he pointed his finger

within the parlor, and shook it slowly as though he would have

summoned, not Hepzibah alone, but the whole world, to gaze at some

object inconceivably ridiculous. This action, so ill-timed and

extravagant,--accompanied, too, with a look that showed more like joy

than any other kind of excitement,--compelled Hepzibah to dread that

her stern kinsman's ominous visit had driven her poor brother to

absolute insanity. Nor could she otherwise account for the Judge's

quiescent mood than by supposing him craftily on the watch, while

Clifford developed these symptoms of a distracted mind.

"Be quiet, Clifford!" whispered his sister, raising her hand to impress

caution. "Oh, for Heaven's sake, be quiet!"

"Let him be quiet! What can he do better?" answered Clifford, with a

still wilder gesture, pointing into the room which he had just quitted.

"As for us, Hepzibah, we can dance now!--we can sing, laugh, play, do

what we will! The weight is gone, Hepzibah! It is gone off this weary

old world, and we may be as light-hearted as little Phoebe herself."

And, in accordance with his words, he began to laugh, still pointing

his finger at the object, invisible to Hepzibah, within the parlor.

She was seized with a sudden intuition of some horrible thing. She

thrust herself past Clifford, and disappeared into the room; but almost

immediately returned, with a cry choking in her throat. Gazing at her

brother with an affrighted glance of inquiry, she beheld him all in a

tremor and a quake, from head to foot, while, amid these commoted

elements of passion or alarm, still flickered his gusty mirth.

"My God! what is to become of us?" gasped Hepzibah.