"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
"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."
"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.