"Then, Mistress Alice," said Matthew Maule, handing a

chair,--gracefully enough, for a craftsman, "will it please you only to

sit down, and do me the favor (though altogether beyond a poor

carpenter's deserts) to fix your eyes on mine!"

Alice complied, She was very proud. Setting aside all advantages of

rank, this fair girl deemed herself conscious of a power--combined of

beauty, high, unsullied purity, and the preservative force of

womanhood--that could make her sphere impenetrable, unless betrayed by

treachery within. She instinctively knew, it may be, that some

sinister or evil potency was now striving to pass her barriers; nor

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would she decline the contest. So Alice put woman's might against

man's might; a match not often equal on the part of woman.

Her father meanwhile had turned away, and seemed absorbed in the

contemplation of a landscape by Claude, where a shadowy and

sun-streaked vista penetrated so remotely into an ancient wood, that it

would have been no wonder if his fancy had lost itself in the picture's

bewildering depths. But, in truth, the picture was no more to him at

that moment than the blank wall against which it hung. His mind was

haunted with the many and strange tales which he had heard, attributing

mysterious if not supernatural endowments to these Maules, as well the

grandson here present as his two immediate ancestors. Mr. Pyncheon's

long residence abroad, and intercourse with men of wit and

fashion,--courtiers, worldings, and free-thinkers,--had done much

towards obliterating the grim Puritan superstitions, which no man of

New England birth at that early period could entirely escape. But, on

the other hand, had not a whole community believed Maule's grandfather

to be a wizard? Had not the crime been proved? Had not the wizard died

for it? Had he not bequeathed a legacy of hatred against the Pyncheons

to this only grandson, who, as it appeared, was now about to exercise a

subtle influence over the daughter of his enemy's house? Might not

this influence be the same that was called witchcraft?

Turning half around, he caught a glimpse of Maule's figure in the

looking-glass. At some paces from Alice, with his arms uplifted in the

air, the carpenter made a gesture as if directing downward a slow,

ponderous, and invisible weight upon the maiden.

"Stay, Maule!" exclaimed Mr. Pyncheon, stepping forward. "I forbid

your proceeding further!"

"Pray, my dear father, do not interrupt the young man," said Alice,

without changing her position. "His efforts, I assure you, will prove

very harmless."

Again Mr. Pyncheon turned his eyes towards the Claude. It was then his

daughter's will, in opposition to his own, that the experiment should

be fully tried. Henceforth, therefore, he did but consent, not urge

it. And was it not for her sake far more than for his own that he

desired its success? That lost parchment once restored, the beautiful

Alice Pyncheon, with the rich dowry which he could then bestow, might

wed an English duke or a German reigning-prince, instead of some New

England clergyman or lawyer! At the thought, the ambitious father

almost consented, in his heart, that, if the devil's power were needed

to the accomplishment of this great object, Maule might evoke him.

Alice's own purity would be her safeguard.