Judge Pyndheon, while his two relatives have fled away with such

ill-considered haste, still sits in the old parlor, keeping house, as

the familiar phrase is, in the absence of its ordinary occupants. To

him, and to the venerable House of the Seven Gables, does our story now

betake itself, like an owl, bewildered in the daylight, and hastening

back to his hollow tree.

The Judge has not shifted his position for a long while now. He has

not stirred hand or foot, nor withdrawn his eyes so much as a

hair's-breadth from their fixed gaze towards the corner of the room,

since the footsteps of Hepzibah and Clifford creaked along the passage,

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and the outer door was closed cautiously behind their exit. He holds

his watch in his left hand, but clutched in such a manner that you

cannot see the dial-plate. How profound a fit of meditation! Or,

supposing him asleep, how infantile a quietude of conscience, and what

wholesome order in the gastric region, are betokened by slumber so

entirely undisturbed with starts, cramp, twitches, muttered dreamtalk,

trumpet-blasts through the nasal organ, or any slightest irregularity

of breath! You must hold your own breath, to satisfy yourself whether

he breathes at all. It is quite inaudible. You hear the ticking of

his watch; his breath you do not hear. A most refreshing slumber,

doubtless! And yet, the Judge cannot be asleep. His eyes are open! A

veteran politician, such as he, would never fall asleep with wide-open

eyes, lest some enemy or mischief-maker, taking him thus at unawares,

should peep through these windows into his consciousness, and make

strange discoveries among the reminiscences, projects, hopes,

apprehensions, weaknesses, and strong points, which he has heretofore

shared with nobody. A cautious man is proverbially said to sleep with

one eye open. That may be wisdom. But not with both; for this were

heedlessness! No, no! Judge Pyncheon cannot be asleep.

It is odd, however, that a gentleman so burdened with engagements,--and

noted, too, for punctuality,--should linger thus in an old lonely

mansion, which he has never seemed very fond of visiting. The oaken

chair, to be sure, may tempt him with its roominess. It is, indeed, a

spacious, and, allowing for the rude age that fashioned it, a

moderately easy seat, with capacity enough, at all events, and offering

no restraint to the Judge's breadth of beam. A bigger man might find

ample accommodation in it. His ancestor, now pictured upon the wall,

with all his English beef about him, used hardly to present a front

extending from elbow to elbow of this chair, or a base that would cover

its whole cushion. But there are better chairs than this,--mahogany,

black walnut, rosewood, spring-seated and damask-cushioned, with varied

slopes, and innumerable artifices to make them easy, and obviate the

irksomeness of too tame an ease,--a score of such might be at Judge

Pyncheon's service.