"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
"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
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
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.