Of course, it was exceedingly ridiculous in Phoebe to be discomposed by

such a trifle, and still more unpardonable to show her discomposure to

the individual most concerned in it. But the incident chimed in so

oddly with her previous fancies about the Colonel and the Judge, that,

for the moment, it seemed quite to mingle their identity.

"What is the matter with you, young woman?" said Judge Pyncheon, giving

her one of his harsh looks. "Are you afraid of anything?"

"Oh, nothing, sir--nothing in the world!" answered Phoebe, with a

little laugh of vexation at herself. "But perhaps you wish to speak

with my cousin Hepzibah. Shall I call her?"

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"Stay a moment, if you please," said the Judge, again beaming sunshine

out of his face. "You seem to be a little nervous this morning. The

town air, Cousin Phoebe, does not agree with your good, wholesome

country habits. Or has anything happened to disturb you?--anything

remarkable in Cousin Hepzibah's family?-- An arrival, eh? I thought

so! No wonder you are out of sorts, my little cousin. To be an inmate

with such a guest may well startle an innocent young girl!"

"You quite puzzle me, sir," replied Phoebe, gazing inquiringly at the

Judge. "There is no frightful guest in the house, but only a poor,

gentle, childlike man, whom I believe to be Cousin Hepzibah's brother.

I am afraid (but you, sir, will know better than I) that he is not

quite in his sound senses; but so mild and quiet he seems to be, that a

mother might trust her baby with him; and I think he would play with

the baby as if he were only a few years older than itself. He startle

me!--Oh, no indeed!"

"I rejoice to hear so favorable and so ingenuous an account of my

cousin Clifford," said the benevolent Judge. "Many years ago, when we

were boys and young men together, I had a great affection for him, and

still feel a tender interest in all his concerns. You say, Cousin

Phoebe, he appears to be weak minded. Heaven grant him at least enough

of intellect to repent of his past sins!"

"Nobody, I fancy," observed Phoebe, "can have fewer to repent of."

"And is it possible, my dear," rejoined the Judge, with a commiserating

look, "that you have never heard of Clifford Pyncheon?--that you know

nothing of his history? Well, it is all right; and your mother has

shown a very proper regard for the good name of the family with which

she connected herself. Believe the best you can of this unfortunate

person, and hope the best! It is a rule which Christians should always

follow, in their judgments of one another; and especially is it right

and wise among near relatives, whose characters have necessarily a

degree of mutual dependence. But is Clifford in the parlor? I will

just step in and see."