There was a vertical sundial on the front gable; and as the carpenter
passed beneath it, he looked up and noted the hour.
"Three o'clock!" said he to himself. "My father told me that dial was
put up only an hour before the old Colonel's death. How truly it has
kept time these seven-and-thirty years past! The shadow creeps and
creeps, and is always looking over the shoulder of the sunshine!"
It might have befitted a craftsman, like Matthew Maule, on being sent
for to a gentleman's house, to go to the back door, where servants and
work-people were usually admitted; or at least to the side entrance,
where the better class of tradesmen made application. But the
carpenter had a great deal of pride and stiffness in his nature; and,
at this moment, moreover, his heart was bitter with the sense of
hereditary wrong, because he considered the great Pyncheon House to be
standing on soil which should have been his own. On this very site,
beside a spring of delicious water, his grandfather had felled the
pine-trees and built a cottage, in which children had been born to him;
and it was only from a dead man's stiffened fingers that Colonel
Pyncheon had wrested away the title-deeds. So young Maule went
straight to the principal entrance, beneath a portal of carved oak, and
gave such a peal of the iron knocker that you would have imagined the
stern old wizard himself to be standing at the threshold.
Black Scipio answered the summons in a prodigious, hurry; but showed
the whites of his eyes in amazement on beholding only the carpenter.
"Lord-a-mercy, what a great man he be, this carpenter fellow!" mumbled
Scipio, down in his throat. "Anybody think he beat on the door with
his biggest hammer!"
"Here I am!" said Maule sternly. "Show me the way to your master's
As he stept into the house, a note of sweet and melancholy music
thrilled and vibrated along the passage-way, proceeding from one of the
rooms above stairs. It was the harpsichord which Alice Pyncheon had
brought with her from beyond the sea. The fair Alice bestowed most of
her maiden leisure between flowers and music, although the former were
apt to droop, and the melodies were often sad. She was of foreign
education, and could not take kindly to the New England modes of life,
in which nothing beautiful had ever been developed.
As Mr. Pyncheon had been impatiently awaiting Maule's arrival, black
Scipio, of course, lost no time in ushering the carpenter into his
master's presence. The room in which this gentleman sat was a parlor of
moderate size, looking out upon the garden of the house, and having its
windows partly shadowed by the foliage of fruit-trees. It was Mr.
Pyncheon's peculiar apartment, and was provided with furniture, in an
elegant and costly style, principally from Paris; the floor (which was
unusual at that day) being covered with a carpet, so skilfully and
richly wrought that it seemed to glow as with living flowers. In one
corner stood a marble woman, to whom her own beauty was the sole and
sufficient garment. Some pictures--that looked old, and had a mellow
tinge diffused through all their artful splendor--hung on the walls.
Near the fireplace was a large and very beautiful cabinet of ebony,
inlaid with ivory; a piece of antique furniture, which Mr. Pyncheon had
bought in Venice, and which he used as the treasure-place for medals,
ancient coins, and whatever small and valuable curiosities he had
picked up on his travels. Through all this variety of decoration,
however, the room showed its original characteristics; its low stud,
its cross-beam, its chimney-piece, with the old-fashioned Dutch tiles;
so that it was the emblem of a mind industriously stored with foreign
ideas, and elaborated into artificial refinement, but neither larger,
nor, in its proper self, more elegant than before.