With a bow to Hepzibah, and a degree of paternal benevolence in his
parting nod to Phoebe, the Judge left the shop, and went smiling along
the street. As is customary with the rich, when they aim at the honors
of a republic, he apologized, as it were, to the people, for his
wealth, prosperity, and elevated station, by a free and hearty manner
towards those who knew him; putting off the more of his dignity in due
proportion with the humbleness of the man whom he saluted, and thereby
proving a haughty consciousness of his advantages as irrefragably as if
he had marched forth preceded by a troop of lackeys to clear the way.
On this particular forenoon, so excessive was the warmth of Judge
Pyncheon's kindly aspect, that (such, at least, was the rumor about
town) an extra passage of the water-carts was found essential, in order
to lay the dust occasioned by so much extra sunshine!
No sooner had he disappeared than Hepzibah grew deadly white, and,
staggering towards Phoebe, let her head fall on the young girl's
"O Phoebe!" murmured she, "that man has been the horror of my life!
Shall I never, never have the courage,--will my voice never cease from
trembling long enough to let me tell him what he is?"
"Is he so very wicked?" asked Phoebe. "Yet his offers were surely
"Do not speak of them,--he has a heart of iron!" rejoined Hepzibah.
"Go, now, and talk to Clifford! Amuse and keep him quiet! It would
disturb him wretchedly to see me so agitated as I am. There, go, dear
child, and I will try to look after the shop."
Phoebe went accordingly, but perplexed herself, meanwhile, with queries
as to the purport of the scene which she had just witnessed, and also
whether judges, clergymen, and other characters of that eminent stamp
and respectability, could really, in any single instance, be otherwise
than just and upright men. A doubt of this nature has a most
disturbing influence, and, if shown to be a fact, comes with fearful
and startling effect on minds of the trim, orderly, and limit-loving
class, in which we find our little country-girl. Dispositions more
boldly speculative may derive a stern enjoyment from the discovery,
since there must be evil in the world, that a high man is as likely to
grasp his share of it as a low one. A wider scope of view, and a
deeper insight, may see rank, dignity, and station, all proved
illusory, so far as regards their claim to human reverence, and yet not
feel as if the universe were thereby tumbled headlong into chaos. But
Phoebe, in order to keep the universe in its old place, was fain to
smother, in some degree, her own intuitions as to Judge Pyncheon's
character. And as for her cousin's testimony in disparagement of it,
she concluded that Hepzibah's judgment was embittered by one of those
family feuds which render hatred the more deadly by the dead and
corrupted love that they intermingle with its native poison.