The House of the Seven Gables HTML version

18. Governor Pyncheon
JUDGE PYNCHEON, while his two relatives have fled away with such ill-considered
haste, still sits in the old parlor, keeping house, as the familiar phrase is, in the absence of
its ordinary occupants. To him, and to the venerable House of the Seven Gables, does our
story now betake itself, like an owl, bewildered in the daylight, and hastening back to his
hollow tree.
The Judge has not shifted his position for a long while now. He has not stirred hand or
foot, nor withdrawn his eyes so much as a hair's-breadth from their fixed gaze towards
the corner of the room, since the footsteps of Hepzibah and Clifford creaked along the
passage, and the outer door was closed cautiously behind their exit. He holds his watch in
his left hand, but clutched in such a manner that you cannot see the dial-plate. How
profound a fit of meditation! Or, supposing him asleep, how infantile a quietude of
conscience, and what wholesome order in the gastric region, are betokened by slumber so
entirely undisturbed with starts, cramp, twitches, muttered dreamtalk, trumpet-blasts
through the nasal organ, or any slightest irregularity of breath! You must hold your own
breath, to satisfy yourself whether he breathes at all. It is quite inaudible. You hear the
ticking of his watch; his breath you do not hear. A most refreshing slumber, doubtless!
And yet, the Judge cannot be asleep. His eyes are open! A veteran politician, such as he,
would never fall asleep with wide-open eyes, lest some enemy or mischief-maker, taking
him thus at unawares, should peep through these windows into his consciousness, and
make strange discoveries among the remniniscences, projects, hopes, apprehensions,
weaknesses, and strong points, which he has heretofore shared with nobody. A cautious
man is proverbially said to sleep with one eye open. That may be wisdom. But not with
both; for this were heedlessness! No, no! Judge Pyncheon cannot be asleep.
It is odd, however, that a gentleman so burdened with engagements, --and noted, too, for
punctuality,--should linger thus in an old lonely mansion, which he has never seemed
very fond of visiting. The oaken chair, to be sure, may tempt him with its roominess. It is,
indeed, a spacious, and, allowing for the rude age that fashioned it, a moderately easy
seat, with capacity enough, at all events, and offering no restraint to the Judge's breadth
of beam. A bigger man might find ample accommodation in it. His ancestor, now
pictured upon the wall, with all his English beef about him, used hardly to present a front
extending from elbow to elbow of this chair, or a base that would cover its whole
cushion. But there are better chairs than this,--mahogany, black walnut, rosewood,
spring-seated and damask-cushioned, with varied slopes, and innumerable artifices to
make them easy, and obviate the irksomeness of too tame an ease,--a score of such might
be at Judge Pyncheon's service. Yes! in a score of drawing-rooms he would be more than
welcome. Mamma would advance to meet him, with outstretched hand; the virgin
daughter, elderly as he has now got to be,--an old widower, as he smilingly describes
himself,--would shake up the cushion for the Judge, and do her pretty utmost to make
him comfortable. For the Judge is a prosperous man. He cherishes his schemes,