"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

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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

dreadful?"

"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!"