As regards Judge Pyncheon's invisibility, however, that matter will

soon be remedied. The northwest wind has swept the sky clear. The

window is distinctly seen. Through its panes, moreover, we dimly catch

the sweep of the dark, clustering foliage outside, fluttering with a

constant irregularity of movement, and letting in a peep of starlight,

now here, now there. Oftener than any other object, these glimpses

illuminate the Judge's face. But here comes more effectual light.

Observe that silvery dance upon the upper branches of the pear-tree,

and now a little lower, and now on the whole mass of boughs, while,

through their shifting intricacies, the moonbeams fall aslant into the

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room. They play over the Judge's figure and show that he has not

stirred throughout the hours of darkness. They follow the shadows, in

changeful sport, across his unchanging features. They gleam upon his

watch. His grasp conceals the dial-plate,--but we know that the

faithful hands have met; for one of the city clocks tells midnight.

A man of sturdy understanding, like Judge Pyncheon, cares no more for

twelve o'clock at night than for the corresponding hour of noon.

However just the parallel drawn, in some of the preceding pages,

between his Puritan ancestor and himself, it fails in this point. The

Pyncheon of two centuries ago, in common with most of his

contemporaries, professed his full belief in spiritual ministrations,

although reckoning them chiefly of a malignant character. The Pyncheon

of to-night, who sits in yonder arm-chair, believes in no such

nonsense. Such, at least, was his creed, some few hours since. His

hair will not bristle, therefore, at the stories which--in times when

chimney-corners had benches in them, where old people sat poking into

the ashes of the past, and raking out traditions like live coals--used

to be told about this very room of his ancestral house. In fact, these

tales are too absurd to bristle even childhood's hair. What sense,

meaning, or moral, for example, such as even ghost-stories should be

susceptible of, can be traced in the ridiculous legend, that, at

midnight, all the dead Pyncheons are bound to assemble in this parlor?

And, pray, for what? Why, to see whether the portrait of their ancestor

still keeps its place upon the wall, in compliance with his

testamentary directions! Is it worth while to come out of their graves

for that?

We are tempted to make a little sport with the idea. Ghost-stories are

hardly to be treated seriously any longer. The family-party of the

defunct Pyncheons, we presume, goes off in this wise.

First comes the ancestor himself, in his black cloak, steeple-hat, and

trunk-breeches, girt about the waist with a leathern belt, in which

hangs his steel-hilted sword; he has a long staff in his hand, such as

gentlemen in advanced life used to carry, as much for the dignity of

the thing as for the support to be derived from it. He looks up at the

portrait; a thing of no substance, gazing at its own painted image! All

is safe. The picture is still there. The purpose of his brain has

been kept sacred thus long after the man himself has sprouted up in

graveyard grass. See! he lifts his ineffectual hand, and tries the

frame. All safe! But is that a smile?--is it not, rather a frown of

deadly import, that darkens over the shadow of his features? The stout

Colonel is dissatisfied! So decided is his look of discontent as to

impart additional distinctness to his features; through which,

nevertheless, the moonlight passes, and flickers on the wall beyond.

Something has strangely vexed the ancestor! With a grim shake of the

head, he turns away. Here come other Pyncheons, the whole tribe, in

their half a dozen generations, jostling and elbowing one another, to

reach the picture. We behold aged men and grandames, a clergyman with

the Puritanic stiffness still in his garb and mien, and a red-coated

officer of the old French war; and there comes the shop-keeping

Pyncheon of a century ago, with the ruffles turned back from his

wrists; and there the periwigged and brocaded gentleman of the artist's

legend, with the beautiful and pensive Alice, who brings no pride out

of her virgin grave. All try the picture-frame. What do these ghostly

people seek? A mother lifts her child, that his little hands may touch

it! There is evidently a mystery about the picture, that perplexes

these poor Pyncheons when they ought to be at rest. In a corner,

meanwhile, stands the figure of an elderly man, in a leathern jerkin

and breeches, with a carpenter's rule sticking out of his side pocket;

he points his finger at the bearded Colonel and his descendants,

nodding, jeering, mocking, and finally bursting into obstreperous,

though inaudible laughter.