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

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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

matter."