There was a message brought, one day, from the worshipful Gervayse

Pyncheon to young Matthew Maule, the carpenter, desiring his immediate

presence at the House of the Seven Gables.

"And what does your master want with me?" said the carpenter to Mr.

Pyncheon's black servant. "Does the house need any repair? Well it

may, by this time; and no blame to my father who built it, neither! I

was reading the old Colonel's tombstone, no longer ago than last

Sabbath; and, reckoning from that date, the house has stood

seven-and-thirty years. No wonder if there should be a job to do on

the roof."

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"Don't know what massa wants," answered Scipio. "The house is a berry

good house, and old Colonel Pyncheon think so too, I reckon;--else why

the old man haunt it so, and frighten a poor nigga, As he does?"

"Well, well, friend Scipio; let your master know that I'm coming," said

the carpenter with a laugh. "For a fair, workmanlike job, he'll find

me his man. And so the house is haunted, is it? It will take a tighter

workman than I am to keep the spirits out of the Seven Gables. Even if

the Colonel would be quiet," he added, muttering to himself, "my old

grandfather, the wizard, will be pretty sure to stick to the Pyncheons

as long as their walls hold together."

"What's that you mutter to yourself, Matthew Maule?" asked Scipio.

"And what for do you look so black at me?"

"No matter, darky," said the carpenter. "Do you think nobody is to

look black but yourself? Go tell your master I'm coming; and if you

happen to see Mistress Alice, his daughter, give Matthew Maule's humble

respects to her. She has brought a fair face from Italy,--fair, and

gentle, and proud,--has that same Alice Pyncheon!"

"He talk of Mistress Alice!" cried Scipio, as he returned from his

errand. "The low carpenter-man! He no business so much as to look at

her a great way off!"

This young Matthew Maule, the carpenter, it must be observed, was a

person little understood, and not very generally liked, in the town

where he resided; not that anything could be alleged against his

integrity, or his skill and diligence in the handicraft which he

exercised. The aversion (as it might justly be called) with which many

persons regarded him was partly the result of his own character and

deportment, and partly an inheritance.

He was the grandson of a former Matthew Maule, one of the early

settlers of the town, and who had been a famous and terrible wizard in

his day. This old reprobate was one of the sufferers when Cotton

Mather, and his brother ministers, and the learned judges, and other

wise men, and Sir William Phipps, the sagacious governor, made such

laudable efforts to weaken the great enemy of souls, by sending a

multitude of his adherents up the rocky pathway of Gallows Hill. Since

those days, no doubt, it had grown to be suspected that, in consequence

of an unfortunate overdoing of a work praiseworthy in itself, the

proceedings against the witches had proved far less acceptable to the

Beneficent Father than to that very Arch Enemy whom they were intended

to distress and utterly overwhelm. It is not the less certain,

however, that awe and terror brooded over the memories of those who

died for this horrible crime of witchcraft. Their graves, in the

crevices of the rocks, were supposed to be incapable of retaining the

occupants who had been so hastily thrust into them. Old Matthew Maule,

especially, was known to have as little hesitation or difficulty in

rising out of his grave as an ordinary man in getting out of bed, and

was as often seen at midnight as living people at noonday. This

pestilent wizard (in whom his just punishment seemed to have wrought no

manner of amendment) had an inveterate habit of haunting a certain

mansion, styled the House of the Seven Gables, against the owner of

which he pretended to hold an unsettled claim for ground-rent. The

ghost, it appears,--with the pertinacity which was one of his

distinguishing characteristics while alive,--insisted that he was the

rightful proprietor of the site upon which the house stood. His terms

were, that either the aforesaid ground-rent, from the day when the

cellar began to be dug, should be paid down, or the mansion itself

given up; else he, the ghostly creditor, would have his finger in all

the affairs of the Pyncheons, and make everything go wrong with them,

though it should be a thousand years after his death. It was a wild

story, perhaps, but seemed not altogether so incredible to those who

could remember what an inflexibly obstinate old fellow this wizard

Maule had been.