"This is the very man!" murmured she to herself. "Let Jaffrey Pyncheon

smile as he will, there is that look beneath! Put on him a skull-cap,

and a band, and a black cloak, and a Bible in one hand and a sword in

the other,--then let Jaffrey smile as he might,--nobody would doubt

that it was the old Pyncheon come again. He has proved himself the

very man to build up a new house! Perhaps, too, to draw down a new

curse!"

Thus did Hepzibah bewilder herself with these fantasies of the old

time. She had dwelt too much alone,--too long in the Pyncheon

House,--until her very brain was impregnated with the dry-rot of its

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timbers. She needed a walk along the noonday street to keep her sane.

By the spell of contrast, another portrait rose up before her, painted

with more daring flattery than any artist would have ventured upon, but

yet so delicately touched that the likeness remained perfect.

Malbone's miniature, though from the same original, was far inferior to

Hepzibah's air-drawn picture, at which affection and sorrowful

remembrance wrought together. Soft, mildly, and cheerfully

contemplative, with full, red lips, just on the verge of a smile, which

the eyes seemed to herald by a gentle kindling-up of their orbs!

Feminine traits, moulded inseparably with those of the other sex! The

miniature, likewise, had this last peculiarity; so that you inevitably

thought of the original as resembling his mother, and she a lovely and

lovable woman, with perhaps some beautiful infirmity of character, that

made it all the pleasanter to know and easier to love her.

"Yes," thought Hepzibah, with grief of which it was only the more

tolerable portion that welled up from her heart to her eyelids, "they

persecuted his mother in him! He never was a Pyncheon!"

But here the shop-bell rang; it was like a sound from a remote

distance,--so far had Hepzibah descended into the sepulchral depths of

her reminiscences. On entering the shop, she found an old man there, a

humble resident of Pyncheon Street, and whom, for a great many years

past, she had suffered to be a kind of familiar of the house. He was

an immemorial personage, who seemed always to have had a white head and

wrinkles, and never to have possessed but a single tooth, and that a

half-decayed one, in the front of the upper jaw. Well advanced as

Hepzibah was, she could not remember when Uncle Venner, as the

neighborhood called him, had not gone up and down the street, stooping

a little and drawing his feet heavily over the gravel or pavement. But

still there was something tough and vigorous about him, that not only

kept him in daily breath, but enabled him to fill a place which would

else have been vacant in the apparently crowded world. To go of

errands with his slow and shuffling gait, which made you doubt how he

ever was to arrive anywhere; to saw a small household's foot or two of

firewood, or knock to pieces an old barrel, or split up a pine board

for kindling-stuff; in summer, to dig the few yards of garden ground

appertaining to a low-rented tenement, and share the produce of his

labor at the halves; in winter, to shovel away the snow from the

sidewalk, or open paths to the woodshed, or along the clothes-line;

such were some of the essential offices which Uncle Venner performed

among at least a score of families. Within that circle, he claimed the

same sort of privilege, and probably felt as much warmth of interest,

as a clergyman does in the range of his parishioners. Not that he laid

claim to the tithe pig; but, as an analogous mode of reverence, he went

his rounds, every morning, to gather up the crumbs of the table and

overflowings of the dinner-pot, as food for a pig of his own.