"Oh, never say that, Miss Hepzibah!" answered the old man. "You are a
young woman yet. Why, I hardly thought myself younger than I am now,
it seems so little while ago since I used to see you playing about the
door of the old house, quite a small child! Oftener, though, you used
to be sitting at the threshold, and looking gravely into the street;
for you had always a grave kind of way with you,--a grown-up air, when
you were only the height of my knee. It seems as if I saw you now; and
your grandfather with his red cloak, and his white wig, and his cocked
hat, and his cane, coming out of the house, and stepping so grandly up
the street! Those old gentlemen that grew up before the Revolution used
to put on grand airs. In my young days, the great man of the town was
commonly called King; and his wife, not Queen to be sure, but Lady.
Nowadays, a man would not dare to be called King; and if he feels
himself a little above common folks, he only stoops so much the lower
to them. I met your cousin, the Judge, ten minutes ago; and, in my old
tow-cloth trousers, as you see, the Judge raised his hat to me, I do
believe! At any rate, the Judge bowed and smiled!"
"Yes," said Hepzibah, with something bitter stealing unawares into her
tone; "my cousin Jaffrey is thought to have a very pleasant smile!"
"And so he has" replied Uncle Venner. "And that's rather remarkable in
a Pyncheon; for, begging your pardon, Miss Hepzibah, they never had the
name of being an easy and agreeable set of folks. There was no getting
close to them. But Now, Miss Hepzibah, if an old man may be bold to
ask, why don't Judge Pyncheon, with his great means, step forward, and
tell his cousin to shut up her little shop at once? It's for your
credit to be doing something, but it's not for the Judge's credit to
"We won't talk of this, if you please, Uncle Venner," said Hepzibah
coldly. "I ought to say, however, that, if I choose to earn bread for
myself, it is not Judge Pyncheon's fault. Neither will he deserve the
blame," added she more kindly, remembering Uncle Venner's privileges of
age and humble familiarity, "if I should, by and by, find it convenient
to retire with you to your farm."
"And it's no bad place, either, that farm of mine!" cried the old man
cheerily, as if there were something positively delightful in the
prospect. "No bad place is the great brick farm-house, especially for
them that will find a good many old cronies there, as will be my case.
I quite long to be among them, sometimes, of the winter evenings; for
it is but dull business for a lonesome elderly man, like me, to be
nodding, by the hour together, with no company but his air-tight stove.
Summer or winter, there's a great deal to be said in favor of my farm!
And, take it in the autumn, what can be pleasanter than to spend a
whole day on the sunny side of a barn or a wood-pile, chatting with
somebody as old as one's self; or, perhaps, idling away the time with a
natural-born simpleton, who knows how to be idle, because even our busy
Yankees never have found out how to put him to any use? Upon my word,
Miss Hepzibah, I doubt whether I've ever been so comfortable as I mean
to be at my farm, which most folks call the workhouse. But
you,--you're a young woman yet,--you never need go there! Something
still better will turn up for you. I'm sure of it!"