The sudden death of so prominent a member of the social world as the

Honorable Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon created a sensation (at least, in the

circles more immediately connected with the deceased) which had hardly

quite subsided in a fortnight.

It may be remarked, however, that, of all the events which constitute a

person's biography, there is scarcely one--none, certainly, of anything

like a similar importance--to which the world so easily reconciles

itself as to his death. In most other cases and contingencies, the

individual is present among us, mixed up with the daily revolution of

affairs, and affording a definite point for observation. At his


decease, there is only a vacancy, and a momentary eddy,--very small, as

compared with the apparent magnitude of the ingurgitated object,--and a

bubble or two, ascending out of the black depth and bursting at the


As regarded Judge Pyncheon, it seemed probable, at first

blush, that the mode of his final departure might give him a larger and

longer posthumous vogue than ordinarily attends the memory of a

distinguished man. But when it came to be understood, on the highest

professional authority, that the event was a natural, and--except for

some unimportant particulars, denoting a slight idiosyncrasy--by no

means an unusual form of death, the public, with its customary

alacrity, proceeded to forget that he had ever lived. In short, the

honorable Judge was beginning to be a stale subject before half the

country newspapers had found time to put their columns in mourning, and

publish his exceedingly eulogistic obituary.

Nevertheless, creeping darkly through the places which this excellent

person had haunted in his lifetime, there was a hidden stream of

private talk, such as it would have shocked all decency to speak loudly

at the street-corners. It is very singular, how the fact of a man's

death often seems to give people a truer idea of his character, whether

for good or evil, than they have ever possessed while he was living and

acting among them. Death is so genuine a fact that it excludes

falsehood, or betrays its emptiness; it is a touchstone that proves the

gold, and dishonors the baser metal. Could the departed, whoever he

may be, return in a week after his decease, he would almost invariably

find himself at a higher or lower point than he had formerly occupied,

on the scale of public appreciation. But the talk, or scandal, to

which we now allude, had reference to matters of no less old a date

than the supposed murder, thirty or forty years ago, of the late Judge

Pyncheon's uncle.

The medical opinion with regard to his own recent

and regretted decease had almost entirely obviated the idea that a

murder was committed in the former case. Yet, as the record showed,

there were circumstances irrefragably indicating that some person had

gained access to old Jaffrey Pyncheon's private apartments, at or near

the moment of his death. His desk and private drawers, in a room

contiguous to his bedchamber, had been ransacked; money and valuable

articles were missing; there was a bloody hand-print on the old man's

linen; and, by a powerfully welded chain of deductive evidence, the

guilt of the robbery and apparent murder had been fixed on Clifford,

then residing with his uncle in the House of the Seven Gables.