"If you can find anything for your purpose, Mr. Pyncheon," said the

carpenter, "in a man's natural resentment for the wrongs done to his

blood, you are welcome to it."

"I take you at your word, Goodman Maule," said the owner of the Seven

Gables, with a smile, "and will proceed to suggest a mode in which your

hereditary resentments--justifiable or otherwise--may have had a

bearing on my affairs. You have heard, I suppose, that the Pyncheon

family, ever since my grandfather's days, have been prosecuting a still

unsettled claim to a very large extent of territory at the Eastward?"

"Often," replied Maule,--and it is said that a smile came over his

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face,--"very often,--from my father!"

"This claim," continued Mr. Pyncheon, after pausing a moment, as if to

consider what the carpenter's smile might mean, "appeared to be on the

very verge of a settlement and full allowance, at the period of my

grandfather's decease. It was well known, to those in his confidence,

that he anticipated neither difficulty nor delay. Now, Colonel

Pyncheon, I need hardly say, was a practical man, well acquainted with

public and private business, and not at all the person to cherish

ill-founded hopes, or to attempt the following out of an impracticable

scheme. It is obvious to conclude, therefore, that he had grounds, not

apparent to his heirs, for his confident anticipation of success in the

matter of this Eastern claim. In a word, I believe,--and my legal

advisers coincide in the belief, which, moreover, is authorized, to a

certain extent, by the family traditions,--that my grandfather was in

possession of some deed, or other document, essential to this claim,

but which has since disappeared."

"Very likely," said Matthew Maule,--and again, it is said, there was a

dark smile on his face,--"but what can a poor carpenter have to do with

the grand affairs of the Pyncheon family?"

"Perhaps nothing," returned Mr. Pyncheon, "possibly much!"

Here ensued a great many words between Matthew Maule and the proprietor

of the Seven Gables, on the subject which the latter had thus broached.

It seems (although Mr. Pyncheon had some hesitation in referring to

stories so exceedingly absurd in their aspect) that the popular belief

pointed to some mysterious connection and dependence, existing between

the family of the Maules and these vast unrealized possessions of the

Pyncheons. It was an ordinary saying that the old wizard, hanged

though he was, had obtained the best end of the bargain in his contest

with Colonel Pyncheon; inasmuch as he had got possession of the great

Eastern claim, in exchange for an acre or two of garden-ground. A very

aged woman, recently dead, had often used the metaphorical expression,

in her fireside talk, that miles and miles of the Pyncheon lands had

been shovelled into Maule's grave; which, by the bye, was but a very

shallow nook, between two rocks, near the summit of Gallows Hill.

Again, when the lawyers were making inquiry for the missing document,

it was a by-word that it would never be found, unless in the wizard's

skeleton hand. So much weight had the shrewd lawyers assigned to these

fables, that (but Mr. Pyncheon did not see fit to inform the carpenter

of the fact) they had secretly caused the wizard's grave to be

searched. Nothing was discovered, however, except that, unaccountably,

the right hand of the skeleton was gone.