It is indeed difficult to imagine that there could have been a serious

suspicion of murder, or the slightest grounds for implicating any

particular individual as the perpetrator. The rank, wealth, and

eminent character of the deceased must have insured the strictest

scrutiny into every ambiguous circumstance. As none such is on record,

it is safe to assume that none existed. Tradition,--which sometimes

brings down truth that history has let slip, but is oftener the wild

babble of the time, such as was formerly spoken at the fireside and now

congeals in newspapers,--tradition is responsible for all contrary

averments. In Colonel Pyncheon's funeral sermon, which was printed,

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and is still extant, the Rev. Mr. Higginson enumerates, among the many

felicities of his distinguished parishioner's earthly career, the happy

seasonableness of his death. His duties all performed,--the highest

prosperity attained,--his race and future generations fixed on a stable

basis, and with a stately roof to shelter them for centuries to

come,--what other upward step remained for this good man to take, save

the final step from earth to the golden gate of heaven! The pious

clergyman surely would not have uttered words like these had he in the

least suspected that the Colonel had been thrust into the other world

with the clutch of violence upon his throat.

The family of Colonel Pyncheon, at the epoch of his death, seemed

destined to as fortunate a permanence as can anywise consist with the

inherent instability of human affairs. It might fairly be anticipated

that the progress of time would rather increase and ripen their

prosperity, than wear away and destroy it. For, not only had his son

and heir come into immediate enjoyment of a rich estate, but there was

a claim through an Indian deed, confirmed by a subsequent grant of the

General Court, to a vast and as yet unexplored and unmeasured tract of

Eastern lands. These possessions--for as such they might almost

certainly be reckoned--comprised the greater part of what is now known

as Waldo County, in the state of Maine, and were more extensive than

many a dukedom, or even a reigning prince's territory, on European

soil. When the pathless forest that still covered this wild

principality should give place--as it inevitably must, though perhaps

not till ages hence--to the golden fertility of human culture, it would

be the source of incalculable wealth to the Pyncheon blood. Had the

Colonel survived only a few weeks longer, it is probable that his great

political influence, and powerful connections at home and abroad, would

have consummated all that was necessary to render the claim available.

But, in spite of good Mr. Higginson's congratulatory eloquence, this

appeared to be the one thing which Colonel Pyncheon, provident and

sagacious as he was, had allowed to go at loose ends. So far as the

prospective territory was concerned, he unquestionably died too soon.

His son lacked not merely the father's eminent position, but the talent

and force of character to achieve it: he could, therefore, effect

nothing by dint of political interest; and the bare justice or legality

of the claim was not so apparent, after the Colonel's decease, as it

had been pronounced in his lifetime. Some connecting link had slipped

out of the evidence, and could not anywhere be found.