Now, what was unquestionably important, a portion of these popular

rumors could be traced, though rather doubtfully and indistinctly, to

chance words and obscure hints of the executed wizard's son, and the

father of this present Matthew Maule. And here Mr. Pyncheon could

bring an item of his own personal evidence into play. Though but a

child at the time, he either remembered or fancied that Matthew's

father had had some job to perform on the day before, or possibly the

very morning of the Colonel's decease, in the private room where he and

the carpenter were at this moment talking. Certain papers belonging to

Colonel Pyncheon, as his grandson distinctly recollected, had been

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spread out on the table.

Matthew Maule understood the insinuated suspicion.

"My father," he said,--but still there was that dark smile, making a

riddle of his countenance,--"my father was an honester man than the

bloody old Colonel! Not to get his rights back again would he have

carried off one of those papers!"

"I shall not bandy words with you," observed the foreign-bred Mr.

Pyncheon, with haughty composure. "Nor will it become me to resent any

rudeness towards either my grandfather or myself. A gentleman, before

seeking intercourse with a person of your station and habits, will

first consider whether the urgency of the end may compensate for the

disagreeableness of the means. It does so in the present instance."

He then renewed the conversation, and made great pecuniary offers to

the carpenter, in case the latter should give information leading to

the discovery of the lost document, and the consequent success of the

Eastern claim. For a long time Matthew Maule is said to have turned a

cold ear to these propositions. At last, however, with a strange kind

of laugh, he inquired whether Mr. Pyncheon would make over to him the

old wizard's homestead-ground, together with the House of the Seven

Gables, now standing on it, in requital of the documentary evidence so

urgently required.

The wild, chimney-corner legend (which, without copying all its

extravagances, my narrative essentially follows) here gives an account

of some very strange behavior on the part of Colonel Pyncheon's

portrait. This picture, it must be understood, was supposed to be so

intimately connected with the fate of the house, and so magically built

into its walls, that, if once it should be removed, that very instant

the whole edifice would come thundering down in a heap of dusty ruin.

All through the foregoing conversation between Mr. Pyncheon and the

carpenter, the portrait had been frowning, clenching its fist, and

giving many such proofs of excessive discomposure, but without

attracting the notice of either of the two colloquists. And finally,

at Matthew Maule's audacious suggestion of a transfer of the

seven-gabled structure, the ghostly portrait is averred to have lost

all patience, and to have shown itself on the point of descending

bodily from its frame. But such incredible incidents are merely to be

mentioned aside.