"This sherry is too potent a wine for me; it has affected my brain

already," he observed, after a somewhat startled look at the picture.

"On returning to Europe, I shall confine myself to the more delicate

vintages of Italy and France, the best of which will not bear

transportation."

"My Lord Pyncheon may drink what wine he will, and wherever he

pleases," replied the carpenter, as if he had been privy to Mr.

Pyncheon's ambitious projects. "But first, sir, if you desire tidings

of this lost document, I must crave the favor of a little talk with

your fair daughter Alice."

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"You are mad, Maule!" exclaimed Mr. Pyncheon haughtily; and now, at

last, there was anger mixed up with his pride. "What can my daughter

have to do with a business like this?"

Indeed, at this new demand on the carpenter's part, the proprietor of

the Seven Gables was even more thunder-struck than at the cool

proposition to surrender his house. There was, at least, an assignable

motive for the first stipulation; there appeared to be none whatever

for the last. Nevertheless, Matthew Maule sturdily insisted on the

young lady being summoned, and even gave her father to understand, in a

mysterious kind of explanation,--which made the matter considerably

darker than it looked before,--that the only chance of acquiring the

requisite knowledge was through the clear, crystal medium of a pure and

virgin intelligence, like that of the fair Alice. Not to encumber our

story with Mr. Pyncheon's scruples, whether of conscience, pride, or

fatherly affection, he at length ordered his daughter to be called. He

well knew that she was in her chamber, and engaged in no occupation

that could not readily be laid aside; for, as it happened, ever since

Alice's name had been spoken, both her father and the carpenter had

heard the sad and sweet music of her harpsichord, and the airier

melancholy of her accompanying voice.

So Alice Pyncheon was summoned, and appeared. A portrait of this young

lady, painted by a Venetian artist, and left by her father in England,

is said to have fallen into the hands of the present Duke of

Devonshire, and to be now preserved at Chatsworth; not on account of

any associations with the original, but for its value as a picture, and

the high character of beauty in the countenance. If ever there was a

lady born, and set apart from the world's vulgar mass by a certain

gentle and cold stateliness, it was this very Alice Pyncheon. Yet

there was the womanly mixture in her; the tenderness, or, at least, the

tender capabilities. For the sake of that redeeming quality, a man of

generous nature would have forgiven all her pride, and have been

content, almost, to lie down in her path, and let Alice set her slender

foot upon his heart. All that he would have required was simply the

acknowledgment that he was indeed a man, and a fellow-being, moulded of

the same elements as she.