"Oh, no, I am very weak!" replied Phoebe, trembling. "But tell me what
"You are strong!" persisted Holgrave. "You must be both strong and
wise; for I am all astray, and need your counsel. It may be you can
suggest the one right thing to do!"
"Tell me!--tell me!" said Phoebe, all in a tremble. "It oppresses,--it
terrifies me,--this mystery! Anything else I can bear!"
The artist hesitated. Notwithstanding what he had just said, and most
sincerely, in regard to the self-balancing power with which Phoebe
impressed him, it still seemed almost wicked to bring the awful secret
of yesterday to her knowledge. It was like dragging a hideous shape of
death into the cleanly and cheerful space before a household fire,
where it would present all the uglier aspect, amid the decorousness of
everything about it. Yet it could not be concealed from her; she must
needs know it.
"Phoebe," said he, "do you remember this?" He put into her hand a
daguerreotype; the same that he had shown her at their first interview
in the garden, and which so strikingly brought out the hard and
relentless traits of the original.
"What has this to do with Hepzibah and Clifford?" asked Phoebe, with
impatient surprise that Holgrave should so trifle with her at such a
moment. "It is Judge Pyncheon! You have shown it to me before!"
"But here is the same face, taken within this half-hour" said the
artist, presenting her with another miniature. "I had just finished it
when I heard you at the door."
"This is death!" shuddered Phoebe, turning very pale. "Judge Pyncheon
"Such as there represented," said Holgrave, "he sits in the next room.
The Judge is dead, and Clifford and Hepzibah have vanished! I know no
more. All beyond is conjecture. On returning to my solitary chamber,
last evening, I noticed no light, either in the parlor, or Hepzibah's
room, or Clifford's; no stir nor footstep about the house. This
morning, there was the same death-like quiet. From my window, I
overheard the testimony of a neighbor, that your relatives were seen
leaving the house in the midst of yesterday's storm. A rumor reached
me, too, of Judge Pyncheon being missed. A feeling which I cannot
describe--an indefinite sense of some catastrophe, or
consummation--impelled me to make my way into this part of the house,
where I discovered what you see. As a point of evidence that may be
useful to Clifford, and also as a memorial valuable to myself,--for,
Phoebe, there are hereditary reasons that connect me strangely with
that man's fate,--I used the means at my disposal to preserve this
pictorial record of Judge Pyncheon's death."
Even in her agitation, Phoebe could not help remarking the calmness of
Holgrave's demeanor. He appeared, it is true, to feel the whole
awfulness of the Judge's death, yet had received the fact into his mind
without any mixture of surprise, but as an event preordained, happening
inevitably, and so fitting itself into past occurrences that it could
almost have been prophesied.