"How you hate everything old!" said Phoebe in dismay. "It makes me
dizzy to think of such a shifting world!"
"I certainly love nothing mouldy," answered Holgrave. "Now, this old
Pyncheon House! Is it a wholesome place to live in, with its black
shingles, and the green moss that shows how damp they are?--its dark,
low-studded rooms--its grime and sordidness, which are the
crystallization on its walls of the human breath, that has been drawn
and exhaled here in discontent and anguish? The house ought to be
purified with fire,--purified till only its ashes remain!"
"Then why do you live in it?" asked Phoebe, a little piqued.
"Oh, I am pursuing my studies here; not in books, however," replied
Holgrave. "The house, in my view, is expressive of that odious and
abominable Past, with all its bad influences, against which I have just
been declaiming. I dwell in it for a while, that I may know the better
how to hate it. By the bye, did you ever hear the story of Maule, the
wizard, and what happened between him and your immeasurably
"Yes, indeed!" said Phoebe; "I heard it long ago, from my father, and
two or three times from my cousin Hepzibah, in the month that I have
been here. She seems to think that all the calamities of the Pyncheons
began from that quarrel with the wizard, as you call him. And you, Mr.
Holgrave look as if you thought so too! How singular that you should
believe what is so very absurd, when you reject many things that are a
great deal worthier of credit!"
"I do believe it," said the artist seriously; "not as a superstition,
however, but as proved by unquestionable facts, and as exemplifying a
theory. Now, see: under those seven gables, at which we now look
up,--and which old Colonel Pyncheon meant to be the house of his
descendants, in prosperity and happiness, down to an epoch far beyond
the present,--under that roof, through a portion of three centuries,
there has been perpetual remorse of conscience, a constantly defeated
hope, strife amongst kindred, various misery, a strange form of death,
dark suspicion, unspeakable disgrace,--all, or most of which calamity I
have the means of tracing to the old Puritan's inordinate desire to
plant and endow a family. To plant a family! This idea is at the
bottom of most of the wrong and mischief which men do. The truth is,
that, once in every half-century, at longest, a family should be merged
into the great, obscure mass of humanity, and forget all about its
ancestors. Human blood, in order to keep its freshness, should run in
hidden streams, as the water of an aqueduct is conveyed in subterranean
pipes. In the family existence of these Pyncheons, for
instance,--forgive me Phoebe, but I cannot think of you as one of
them,--in their brief New England pedigree, there has been time enough
to infect them all with one kind of lunacy or another."