Towards noon, Hepzibah saw an elderly gentleman, large and portly, and

of remarkably dignified demeanor, passing slowly along on the opposite

side of the white and dusty street. On coming within the shadow of the

Pyncheon Elm, he stopt, and (taking off his hat, meanwhile, to wipe the

perspiration from his brow) seemed to scrutinize, with especial

interest, the dilapidated and rusty-visaged House of the Seven Gables.

He himself, in a very different style, was as well worth looking at as

the house. No better model need be sought, nor could have been found,

of a very high order of respectability, which, by some indescribable

magic, not merely expressed itself in his looks and gestures, but even

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governed the fashion of his garments, and rendered them all proper and

essential to the man.

Without appearing to differ, in any tangible

way, from other people's clothes, there was yet a wide and rich gravity

about them that must have been a characteristic of the wearer, since it

could not be defined as pertaining either to the cut or material. His

gold-headed cane, too,--a serviceable staff, of dark polished

wood,--had similar traits, and, had it chosen to take a walk by itself,

would have been recognized anywhere as a tolerably adequate

representative of its master. This character--which showed itself so

strikingly in everything about him, and the effect of which we seek to

convey to the reader--went no deeper than his station, habits of life,

and external circumstances. One perceived him to be a personage of

marked influence and authority; and, especially, you could feel just as

certain that he was opulent as if he had exhibited his bank account, or

as if you had seen him touching the twigs of the Pyncheon Elm, and,

Midas-like, transmuting them to gold.

In his youth, he had probably been considered a handsome man; at his

present age, his brow was too heavy, his temples too bare, his

remaining hair too gray, his eye too cold, his lips too closely

compressed, to bear any relation to mere personal beauty. He would

have made a good and massive portrait; better now, perhaps, than at any

previous period of his life, although his look might grow positively

harsh in the process of being fixed upon the canvas. The artist would

have found it desirable to study his face, and prove its capacity for

varied expression; to darken it with a frown,--to kindle it up with a

smile.

While the elderly gentleman stood looking at the Pyncheon House, both

the frown and the smile passed successively over his countenance. His

eye rested on the shop-window, and putting up a pair of gold-bowed

spectacles, which he held in his hand, he minutely surveyed Hepzibah's

little arrangement of toys and commodities. At first it seemed not to

please him,--nay, to cause him exceeding displeasure,--and yet, the

very next moment, he smiled. While the latter expression was yet on

his lips, he caught a glimpse of Hepzibah, who had involuntarily bent

forward to the window; and then the smile changed from acrid and

disagreeable to the sunniest complacency and benevolence. He bowed,

with a happy mixture of dignity and courteous kindliness, and pursued

his way.