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
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
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