As Alice came into the room, her eyes fell upon the carpenter, who was
standing near its centre, clad in green woollen jacket, a pair of loose
breeches, open at the knees, and with a long pocket for his rule, the
end of which protruded; it was as proper a mark of the artisan's
calling as Mr. Pyncheon's full-dress sword of that gentleman's
aristocratic pretensions. A glow of artistic approval brightened over
Alice Pyncheon's face; she was struck with admiration--which she made
no attempt to conceal--of the remarkable comeliness, strength, and
energy of Maule's figure. But that admiring glance (which most other
men, perhaps, would have cherished as a sweet recollection all through
life) the carpenter never forgave. It must have been the devil himself
that made Maule so subtile in his preception.
"Does the girl look at me as if I were a brute beast?" thought he,
setting his teeth. "She shall know whether I have a human spirit; and
the worse for her, if it prove stronger than her own!"
"My father, you sent for me," said Alice, in her sweet and harp-like
voice. "But, if you have business with this young man, pray let me go
again. You know I do not love this room, in spite of that Claude, with
which you try to bring back sunny recollections."
"Stay a moment, young lady, if you please!" said Matthew Maule. "My
business with your father is over. With yourself, it is now to begin!"
Alice looked towards her father, in surprise and inquiry.
"Yes, Alice," said Mr. Pyncheon, with some disturbance and confusion.
"This young man--his name is Matthew Maule--professes, so far as I can
understand him, to be able to discover, through your means, a certain
paper or parchment, which was missing long before your birth. The
importance of the document in question renders it advisable to neglect
no possible, even if improbable, method of regaining it. You will
therefore oblige me, my dear Alice, by answering this person's
inquiries, and complying with his lawful and reasonable requests, so
far as they may appear to have the aforesaid object in view. As I
shall remain in the room, you need apprehend no rude nor unbecoming
deportment, on the young man's part; and, at your slightest wish, of
course, the investigation, or whatever we may call it, shall
immediately be broken off."
"Mistress Alice Pyncheon," remarked Matthew Maule, with the utmost
deference, but yet a half-hidden sarcasm in his look and tone, "will no
doubt feel herself quite safe in her father's presence, and under his
"I certainly shall entertain no manner of apprehension, with my father
at hand," said Alice with maidenly dignity. "Neither do I conceive
that a lady, while true to herself, can have aught to fear from
whomsoever, or in any circumstances!"
Poor Alice! By what unhappy impulse did she thus put herself at once on
terms of defiance against a strength which she could not estimate?