"Why have you not thrown open the doors, and called in witnesses?"
inquired she with a painful shudder. "It is terrible to be here alone!"
"But Clifford!" suggested the artist. "Clifford and Hepzibah! We must
consider what is best to be done in their behalf. It is a wretched
fatality that they should have disappeared! Their flight will throw the
worst coloring over this event of which it is susceptible. Yet how
easy is the explanation, to those who know them! Bewildered and
terror-stricken by the similarity of this death to a former one, which
was attended with such disastrous consequences to Clifford, they have
had no idea but of removing themselves from the scene. How miserably
unfortunate! Had Hepzibah but shrieked aloud,--had Clifford flung wide
the door, and proclaimed Judge Pyncheon's death,--it would have been,
however awful in itself, an event fruitful of good consequences to
them. As I view it, it would have gone far towards obliterating the
black stain on Clifford's character."
"And how," asked Phoebe, "could any good come from what is so very
"Because," said the artist, "if the matter can be fairly considered and
candidly interpreted, it must be evident that Judge Pyncheon could not
have come unfairly to his end. This mode of death had been an
idiosyncrasy with his family, for generations past; not often
occurring, indeed, but, when it does occur, usually attacking
individuals about the Judge's time of life, and generally in the
tension of some mental crisis, or, perhaps, in an access of wrath. Old
Maule's prophecy was probably founded on a knowledge of this physical
predisposition in the Pyncheon race. Now, there is a minute and almost
exact similarity in the appearances connected with the death that
occurred yesterday and those recorded of the death of Clifford's uncle
thirty years ago. It is true, there was a certain arrangement of
circumstances, unnecessary to be recounted, which made it possible nay,
as men look at these things, probable, or even certain--that old
Jaffrey Pyncheon came to a violent death, and by Clifford's hands."
"Whence came those circumstances?" exclaimed Phoebe. "He being
innocent, as we know him to be!"
"They were arranged," said Holgrave,--"at least such has long been my
conviction,--they were arranged after the uncle's death, and before it
was made public, by the man who sits in yonder parlor. His own death,
so like that former one, yet attended by none of those suspicious
circumstances, seems the stroke of God upon him, at once a punishment
for his wickedness, and making plain the innocence of Clifford. But
this flight,--it distorts everything! He may be in concealment, near at
hand. Could we but bring him back before the discovery of the Judge's
death, the evil might be rectified."
"We must not hide this thing a moment longer!" said Phoebe. "It is
dreadful to keep it so closely in our hearts. Clifford is innocent.
God will make it manifest! Let us throw open the doors, and call all
the neighborhood to see the truth!"