Whencesoever originating, there now arose a theory that undertook so to

account for these circumstances as to exclude the idea of Clifford's

agency. Many persons affirmed that the history and elucidation of the

facts, long so mysterious, had been obtained by the daguerreotypist

from one of those mesmerical seers who, nowadays, so strangely perplex

the aspect of human affairs, and put everybody's natural vision to the

blush, by the marvels which they see with their eyes shut.

According to this version of the story, Judge Pyncheon, exemplary as we

have portrayed him in our narrative, was, in his youth, an apparently

irreclaimable scapegrace. The brutish, the animal instincts, as is

Advertisement..

often the case, had been developed earlier than the intellectual

qualities, and the force of character, for which he was afterwards

remarkable. He had shown himself wild, dissipated, addicted to low

pleasures, little short of ruffianly in his propensities, and

recklessly expensive, with no other resources than the bounty of his

uncle. This course of conduct had alienated the old bachelor's

affection, once strongly fixed upon him. Now it is averred,--but

whether on authority available in a court of justice, we do not pretend

to have investigated,--that the young man was tempted by the devil, one

night, to search his uncle's private drawers, to which he had

unsuspected means of access. While thus criminally occupied, he was

startled by the opening of the chamber-door. There stood old Jaffrey

Pyncheon, in his nightclothes! The surprise of such a discovery, his

agitation, alarm, and horror, brought on the crisis of a disorder to

which the old bachelor had an hereditary liability; he seemed to choke

with blood, and fell upon the floor, striking his temple a heavy blow

against the corner of a table. What was to be done? The old man was

surely dead! Assistance would come too late! What a misfortune, indeed,

should it come too soon, since his reviving consciousness would bring

the recollection of the ignominious offence which he had beheld his

nephew in the very act of committing!

But he never did revive. With the cool hardihood that always pertained

to him, the young man continued his search of the drawers, and found a

will, of recent date, in favor of Clifford,--which he destroyed,--and

an older one, in his own favor, which he suffered to remain. But

before retiring, Jaffrey bethought himself of the evidence, in these

ransacked drawers, that some one had visited the chamber with sinister

purposes. Suspicion, unless averted, might fix upon the real offender.

In the very presence of the dead man, therefore, he laid a scheme that

should free himself at the expense of Clifford, his rival, for whose

character he had at once a contempt and a repugnance. It is not

probable, be it said, that he acted with any set purpose of involving

Clifford in a charge of murder. Knowing that his uncle did not die by

violence, it may not have occurred to him, in the hurry of the crisis,

that such an inference might be drawn. But, when the affair took this

darker aspect, Jaffrey's previous steps had already pledged him to

those which remained. So craftily had he arranged the circumstances,

that, at Clifford's trial, his cousin hardly found it necessary to

swear to anything false, but only to withhold the one decisive

explanation, by refraining to state what he had himself done and

witnessed.