There were two objects that appeared rather out of place in this very
handsomely furnished room. One was a large map, or surveyor's plan, of
a tract of land, which looked as if it had been drawn a good many years
ago, and was now dingy with smoke, and soiled, here and there, with the
touch of fingers. The other was a portrait of a stern old man, in a
Puritan garb, painted roughly, but with a bold effect, and a remarkably
strong expression of character.
At a small table, before a fire of English sea-coal, sat Mr. Pyncheon,
sipping coffee, which had grown to be a very favorite beverage with him
in France. He was a middle-aged and really handsome man, with a wig
flowing down upon his shoulders; his coat was of blue velvet, with lace
on the borders and at the button-holes; and the firelight glistened on
the spacious breadth of his waistcoat, which was flowered all over with
gold. On the entrance of Scipio, ushering in the carpenter, Mr.
Pyncheon turned partly round, but resumed his former position, and
proceeded deliberately to finish his cup of coffee, without immediate
notice of the guest whom he had summoned to his presence. It was not
that he intended any rudeness or improper neglect,--which, indeed, he
would have blushed to be guilty of,--but it never occurred to him that
a person in Maule's station had a claim on his courtesy, or would
trouble himself about it one way or the other.
The carpenter, however, stepped at once to the hearth, and turned
himself about, so as to look Mr. Pyncheon in the face.
"You sent for me," said he. "Be pleased to explain your business, that
I may go back to my own affairs."
"Ah! excuse me," said Mr. Pyncheon quietly. "I did not mean to tax
your time without a recompense. Your name, I think, is Maule,--Thomas
or Matthew Maule,--a son or grandson of the builder of this house?"
"Matthew Maule," replied the carpenter,--"son of him who built the
house,--grandson of the rightful proprietor of the soil."
"I know the dispute to which you allude," observed Mr. Pyncheon with
undisturbed equanimity. "I am well aware that my grandfather was
compelled to resort to a suit at law, in order to establish his claim
to the foundation-site of this edifice. We will not, if you please,
renew the discussion. The matter was settled at the time, and by the
competent authorities,--equitably, it is to be presumed,--and, at all
events, irrevocably. Yet, singularly enough, there is an incidental
reference to this very subject in what I am now about to say to you.
And this same inveterate grudge,--excuse me, I mean no offence,--this
irritability, which you have just shown, is not entirely aside from the