Hepzibah spread out her gaunt figure across the door, and seemed really

to increase in bulk; looking the more terrible, also, because there was

so much terror and agitation in her heart. But Judge Pyncheon's

evident purpose of forcing a passage was interrupted by a voice from

the inner room; a weak, tremulous, wailing voice, indicating helpless

alarm, with no more energy for self-defence than belongs to a

frightened infant.

"Hepzibah, Hepzibah!" cried the voice; "go down on your knees to him!

Kiss his feet! Entreat him not to come in! Oh, let him have mercy on

me! Mercy! mercy!"

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For the instant, it appeared doubtful whether it were not the Judge's

resolute purpose to set Hepzibah aside, and step across the threshold

into the parlor, whence issued that broken and miserable murmur of

entreaty. It was not pity that restrained him, for, at the first sound

of the enfeebled voice, a red fire kindled in his eyes, and he made a

quick pace forward, with something inexpressibly fierce and grim

darkening forth, as it were, out of the whole man. To know Judge

Pyncheon was to see him at that moment. After such a revelation, let

him smile with what sultriness he would, he could much sooner turn

grapes purple, or pumpkins yellow, than melt the iron-branded

impression out of the beholder's memory. And it rendered his aspect

not the less, but more frightful, that it seemed not to express wrath

or hatred, but a certain hot fellness of purpose, which annihilated

everything but itself.

Yet, after all, are we not slandering an excellent and amiable man?

Look at the Judge now! He is apparently conscious of having erred, in

too energetically pressing his deeds of loving-kindness on persons

unable to appreciate them. He will await their better mood, and hold

himself as ready to assist them then as at this moment. As he draws

back from the door, an all-comprehensive benignity blazes from his

visage, indicating that he gathers Hepzibah, little Phoebe, and the

invisible Clifford, all three, together with the whole world besides,

into his immense heart, and gives them a warm bath in its flood of

affection.

"You do me great wrong, dear Cousin Hepzibah!" said he, first kindly

offering her his hand, and then drawing on his glove preparatory to

departure. "Very great wrong! But I forgive it, and will study to make

you think better of me. Of course, our poor Clifford being in so

unhappy a state of mind, I cannot think of urging an interview at

present. But I shall watch over his welfare as if he were my own

beloved brother; nor do I at all despair, my dear cousin, of

constraining both him and you to acknowledge your injustice. When that

shall happen, I desire no other revenge than your acceptance of the

best offices in my power to do you."