"There he is!" said Hepzibah to herself, gulping down a very bitter
emotion, and, since she could not rid herself of it, trying to drive it
back into her heart. "What does he think of it, I wonder? Does it
please him? Ah! he is looking back!"
The gentleman had paused in the street, and turned himself half about,
still with his eyes fixed on the shop-window. In fact, he wheeled
wholly round, and commenced a step or two, as if designing to enter the
shop; but, as it chanced, his purpose was anticipated by Hepzibah's
first customer, the little cannibal of Jim Crow, who, staring up at the
window, was irresistibly attracted by an elephant of gingerbread. What
a grand appetite had this small urchin!--Two Jim Crows immediately
after breakfast!--and now an elephant, as a preliminary whet before
dinner. By the time this latter purchase was completed, the elderly
gentleman had resumed his way, and turned the street corner.
"Take it as you like, Cousin Jaffrey," muttered the maiden lady, as
she drew back, after cautiously thrusting out her head, and looking up
and down the street,--"Take it as you like! You have seen my little
shop-window. Well!--what have you to say?--is not the Pyncheon House
my own, while I'm alive?"
After this incident, Hepzibah retreated to the back parlor, where she
at first caught up a half-finished stocking, and began knitting at it
with nervous and irregular jerks; but quickly finding herself at odds
with the stitches, she threw it aside, and walked hurriedly about the
room. At length she paused before the portrait of the stern old
Puritan, her ancestor, and the founder of the house. In one sense, this
picture had almost faded into the canvas, and hidden itself behind the
duskiness of age; in another, she could not but fancy that it had been
growing more prominent and strikingly expressive, ever since her
earliest familiarity with it as a child. For, while the physical
outline and substance were darkening away from the beholder's eye, the
bold, hard, and, at the same time, indirect character of the man seemed
to be brought out in a kind of spiritual relief. Such an effect may
occasionally be observed in pictures of antique date. They acquire a
look which an artist (if he have anything like the complacency of
artists nowadays) would never dream of presenting to a patron as his
own characteristic expression, but which, nevertheless, we at once
recognize as reflecting the unlovely truth of a human soul. In such
cases, the painter's deep conception of his subject's inward traits has
wrought itself into the essence of the picture, and is seen after the
superficial coloring has been rubbed off by time.
While gazing at the portrait, Hepzibah trembled under its eye. Her
hereditary reverence made her afraid to judge the character of the
original so harshly as a perception of the truth compelled her to do.
But still she gazed, because the face of the picture enabled her--at
least, she fancied so--to read more accurately, and to a greater depth,
the face which she had just seen in the street.