"Give up this house!" exclaimed Mr. Pyncheon, in amazement at the

proposal. "Were I to do so, my grandfather would not rest quiet in his

grave!"

"He never has, if all stories are true," remarked the carpenter

composedly. "But that matter concerns his grandson more than it does

Matthew Maule. I have no other terms to propose."

Impossible as he at first thought it to comply with Maule's conditions,

still, on a second glance, Mr. Pyncheon was of opinion that they might

at least be made matter of discussion. He himself had no personal

attachment for the house, nor any pleasant associations connected with

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his childish residence in it. On the contrary, after seven-and-thirty

years, the presence of his dead grandfather seemed still to pervade it,

as on that morning when the affrighted boy had beheld him, with so

ghastly an aspect, stiffening in his chair. His long abode in foreign

parts, moreover, and familiarity with many of the castles and ancestral

halls of England, and the marble palaces of Italy, had caused him to

look contemptuously at the House of the Seven Gables, whether in point

of splendor or convenience. It was a mansion exceedingly inadequate to

the style of living which it would be incumbent on Mr. Pyncheon to

support, after realizing his territorial rights. His steward might

deign to occupy it, but never, certainly, the great landed proprietor

himself. In the event of success, indeed, it was his purpose to return

to England; nor, to say the truth, would he recently have quitted that

more congenial home, had not his own fortune, as well as his deceased

wife's, begun to give symptoms of exhaustion. The Eastern claim once

fairly settled, and put upon the firm basis of actual possession, Mr.

Pyncheon's property--to be measured by miles, not acres--would be worth

an earldom, and would reasonably entitle him to solicit, or enable him

to purchase, that elevated dignity from the British monarch. Lord

Pyncheon!--or the Earl of Waldo!--how could such a magnate be expected

to contract his grandeur within the pitiful compass of seven shingled

gables?

In short, on an enlarged view of the business, the carpenter's terms

appeared so ridiculously easy that Mr. Pyncheon could scarcely forbear

laughing in his face. He was quite ashamed, after the foregoing

reflections, to propose any diminution of so moderate a recompense for

the immense service to be rendered.

"I consent to your proposition, Maule!" cried he. "Put me in possession

of the document essential to establish my rights, and the House of the

Seven Gables is your own!"

According to some versions of the story, a regular contract to the

above effect was drawn up by a lawyer, and signed and sealed in the

presence of witnesses. Others say that Matthew Maule was contented

with a private written agreement, in which Mr. Pyncheon pledged his

honor and integrity to the fulfillment of the terms concluded upon.

The gentleman then ordered wine, which he and the carpenter drank

together, in confirmation of their bargain. During the whole preceding

discussion and subsequent formalities, the old Puritan's portrait seems

to have persisted in its shadowy gestures of disapproval; but without

effect, except that, as Mr. Pyncheon set down the emptied glass, he

thought he beheld his grandfather frown.