For example: tradition affirmed that the Puritan had been greedy of

wealth; the Judge, too, with all the show of liberal expenditure, was

said to be as close-fisted as if his gripe were of iron. The ancestor

had clothed himself in a grim assumption of kindliness, a rough

heartiness of word and manner, which most people took to be the genuine

warmth of nature, making its way through the thick and inflexible hide

of a manly character. His descendant, in compliance with the

requirements of a nicer age, had etherealized this rude benevolence

into that broad benignity of smile wherewith he shone like a noonday

sun along the streets, or glowed like a household fire in the

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drawing-rooms of his private acquaintance. The Puritan--if not belied

by some singular stories, murmured, even at this day, under the

narrator's breath--had fallen into certain transgressions to which men

of his great animal development, whatever their faith or principles,

must continue liable, until they put off impurity, along with the gross

earthly substance that involves it. We must not stain our page with

any contemporary scandal, to a similar purport, that may have been

whispered against the Judge. The Puritan, again, an autocrat in his

own household, had worn out three wives, and, merely by the remorseless

weight and hardness of his character in the conjugal relation, had sent

them, one after another, broken-hearted, to their graves. Here the

parallel, in some sort, fails. The Judge had wedded but a single wife,

and lost her in the third or fourth year of their marriage. There was

a fable, however,--for such we choose to consider it, though, not

impossibly, typical of Judge Pyncheon's marital deportment,--that the

lady got her death-blow in the honeymoon, and never smiled again,

because her husband compelled her to serve him with coffee every

morning at his bedside, in token of fealty to her liege-lord and master.

But it is too fruitful a subject, this of hereditary resemblances,--the

frequent recurrence of which, in a direct line, is truly unaccountable,

when we consider how large an accumulation of ancestry lies behind

every man at the distance of one or two centuries. We shall only add,

therefore, that the Puritan--so, at least, says chimney-corner

tradition, which often preserves traits of character with marvellous

fidelity--was bold, imperious, relentless, crafty; laying his purposes

deep, and following them out with an inveteracy of pursuit that knew

neither rest nor conscience; trampling on the weak, and, when essential

to his ends, doing his utmost to beat down the strong. Whether the

Judge in any degree resembled him, the further progress of our

narrative may show.

Scarcely any of the items in the above-drawn parallel occurred to

Phoebe, whose country birth and residence, in truth, had left her

pitifully ignorant of most of the family traditions, which lingered,

like cobwebs and incrustations of smoke, about the rooms and

chimney-corners of the House of the Seven Gables. Yet there was a

circumstance, very trifling in itself, which impressed her with an odd

degree of horror. She had heard of the anathema flung by Maule, the

executed wizard, against Colonel Pyncheon and his posterity,--that God

would give them blood to drink,--and likewise of the popular notion,

that this miraculous blood might now and then be heard gurgling in

their throats. The latter scandal--as became a person of sense, and,

more especially, a member of the Pyncheon family--Phoebe had set down

for the absurdity which it unquestionably was. But ancient

superstitions, after being steeped in human hearts and embodied in

human breath, and passing from lip to ear in manifold repetition,

through a series of generations, become imbued with an effect of homely

truth. The smoke of the domestic hearth has scented them through and

through. By long transmission among household facts, they grow to look

like them, and have such a familiar way of making themselves at home

that their influence is usually greater than we suspect. Thus it

happened, that when Phoebe heard a certain noise in Judge Pyncheon's

throat,--rather habitual with him, not altogether voluntary, yet

indicative of nothing, unless it were a slight bronchial complaint, or,

as some people hinted, an apoplectic symptom,--when the girl heard this

queer and awkward ingurgitation (which the writer never did hear, and

therefore cannot describe), she very foolishly started, and clasped her

hands.