"Hepzibah, my beloved cousin, I am rejoiced!" exclaimed the Judge most
emphatically. "Now, at length, you have something to live for. Yes,
and all of us, let me say, your friends and kindred, have more to live
for than we had yesterday. I have lost no time in hastening to offer
any assistance in my power towards making Clifford comfortable. He
belongs to us all. I know how much he requires,--how much he used to
require,--with his delicate taste, and his love of the beautiful.
Anything in my house,--pictures, books, wine, luxuries of the
table,--he may command them all! It would afford me most heartfelt
gratification to see him! Shall I step in, this moment?"
"No," replied Hepzibah, her voice quivering too painfully to allow of
many words. "He cannot see visitors!"
"A visitor, my dear cousin!--do you call me so?" cried the Judge, whose
sensibility, it seems, was hurt by the coldness of the phrase. "Nay,
then, let me be Clifford's host, and your own likewise. Come at once
to my house. The country air, and all the conveniences,--I may say
luxuries,--that I have gathered about me, will do wonders for him. And
you and I, dear Hepzibah, will consult together, and watch together,
and labor together, to make our dear Clifford happy. Come! why should
we make more words about what is both a duty and a pleasure on my part?
Come to me at once!"
On hearing these so hospitable offers, and such generous recognition of
the claims of kindred, Phoebe felt very much in the mood of running up
to Judge Pyncheon, and giving him, of her own accord, the kiss from
which she had so recently shrunk away. It was quite otherwise with
Hepzibah; the Judge's smile seemed to operate on her acerbity of heart
like sunshine upon vinegar, making it ten times sourer than ever.
"Clifford," said she,--still too agitated to utter more than an abrupt
sentence,--"Clifford has a home here!"
"May Heaven forgive you, Hepzibah," said Judge Pyncheon,--reverently
lifting his eyes towards that high court of equity to which he
appealed,--"if you suffer any ancient prejudice or animosity to weigh
with you in this matter. I stand here with an open heart, willing and
anxious to receive yourself and Clifford into it. Do not refuse my
good offices,--my earnest propositions for your welfare! They are such,
in all respects, as it behooves your nearest kinsman to make. It will
be a heavy responsibility, cousin, if you confine your brother to this
dismal house and stifled air, when the delightful freedom of my
country-seat is at his command."
"It would never suit Clifford," said Hepzibah, as briefly as before.
"Woman!" broke forth the Judge, giving way to his resentment, "what is
the meaning of all this? Have you other resources? Nay, I suspected as
much! Take care, Hepzibah, take care! Clifford is on the brink of as
black a ruin as ever befell him yet! But why do I talk with you, woman
as you are? Make way!--I must see Clifford!"