"Perhaps, sir, I had better call my cousin Hepzibah," said Phoebe;
hardly knowing, however, whether she ought to obstruct the entrance of
so affectionate a kinsman into the private regions of the house. "Her
brother seemed to be just falling asleep after breakfast; and I am sure
she would not like him to be disturbed. Pray, sir, let me give her
But the Judge showed a singular determination to enter unannounced; and
as Phoebe, with the vivacity of a person whose movements unconsciously
answer to her thoughts, had stepped towards the door, he used little or
no ceremony in putting her aside.
"No, no, Miss Phoebe!" said Judge Pyncheon in a voice as deep as a
thunder-growl, and with a frown as black as the cloud whence it issues.
"Stay you here! I know the house, and know my cousin Hepzibah, and know
her brother Clifford likewise.--nor need my little country cousin put
herself to the trouble of announcing me!"--in these latter words, by
the bye, there were symptoms of a change from his sudden harshness into
his previous benignity of manner. "I am at home here, Phoebe, you must
recollect, and you are the stranger. I will just step in, therefore,
and see for myself how Clifford is, and assure him and Hepzibah of my
kindly feelings and best wishes. It is right, at this juncture, that
they should both hear from my own lips how much I desire to serve them.
Ha! here is Hepzibah herself!"
Such was the case. The vibrations of the Judge's voice had reached the
old gentlewoman in the parlor, where she sat, with face averted,
waiting on her brother's slumber. She now issued forth, as would
appear, to defend the entrance, looking, we must needs say, amazingly
like the dragon which, in fairy tales, is wont to be the guardian over
an enchanted beauty. The habitual scowl of her brow was undeniably too
fierce, at this moment, to pass itself off on the innocent score of
near-sightedness; and it was bent on Judge Pyncheon in a way that
seemed to confound, if not alarm him, so inadequately had he estimated
the moral force of a deeply grounded antipathy. She made a repelling
gesture with her hand, and stood a perfect picture of prohibition, at
full length, in the dark frame of the doorway. But we must betray
Hepzibah's secret, and confess that the native timorousness of her
character even now developed itself in a quick tremor, which, to her
own perception, set each of her joints at variance with its fellows.
Possibly, the Judge was aware how little true hardihood lay behind
Hepzibah's formidable front. At any rate, being a gentleman of steady
nerves, he soon recovered himself, and failed not to approach his
cousin with outstretched hand; adopting the sensible precaution,
however, to cover his advance with a smile, so broad and sultry, that,
had it been only half as warm as it looked, a trellis of grapes might
at once have turned purple under its summer-like exposure. It may have
been his purpose, indeed, to melt poor Hepzibah on the spot, as if she
were a figure of yellow wax.