Thank Heaven, the night is well-nigh past! The moonbeams have no longer
so silvery a gleam, nor contrast so strongly with the blackness of the
shadows among which they fall. They are paler now; the shadows look
gray, not black. The boisterous wind is hushed. What is the hour? Ah!
the watch has at last ceased to tick; for the Judge's forgetful fingers
neglected to wind it up, as usual, at ten o'clock, being half an hour
or so before his ordinary bedtime,--and it has run down, for the first
time in five years. But the great world-clock of Time still keeps its
beat. The dreary night--for, oh, how dreary seems its haunted waste,
behind us!--gives place to a fresh, transparent, cloudless morn.
Blessed, blessed radiance! The daybeam--even what little of it finds
its way into this always dusky parlor--seems part of the universal
benediction, annulling evil, and rendering all goodness possible, and
happiness attainable. Will Judge Pyncheon now rise up from his chair?
Will he go forth, and receive the early sunbeams on his brow? Will he
begin this new day,--which God has smiled upon, and blessed, and given
to mankind,--will he begin it with better purposes than the many that
have been spent amiss? Or are all the deep-laid schemes of yesterday as
stubborn in his heart, and as busy in his brain, as ever?
In this latter case, there is much to do. Will the Judge still insist
with Hepzibah on the interview with Clifford? Will he buy a safe,
elderly gentleman's horse? Will he persuade the purchaser of the old
Pyncheon property to relinquish the bargain in his favor? Will he see
his family physician, and obtain a medicine that shall preserve him, to
be an honor and blessing to his race, until the utmost term of
patriarchal longevity? Will Judge Pyncheon, above all, make due
apologies to that company of honorable friends, and satisfy them that
his absence from the festive board was unavoidable, and so fully
retrieve himself in their good opinion that he shall yet be Governor of
Massachusetts? And all these great purposes accomplished, will he walk
the streets again, with that dog-day smile of elaborate benevolence,
sultry enough to tempt flies to come and buzz in it? Or will he, after
the tomb-like seclusion of the past day and night, go forth a humbled
and repentant man, sorrowful, gentle, seeking no profit, shrinking from
worldly honor, hardly daring to love God, but bold to love his fellow
man, and to do him what good he may? Will he bear about with him,--no
odious grin of feigned benignity, insolent in its pretence, and
loathsome in its falsehood,--but the tender sadness of a contrite
heart, broken, at last, beneath its own weight of sin? For it is our
belief, whatever show of honor he may have piled upon it, that there
was heavy sin at the base of this man's being.