Efforts, it is true, were made by the Pyncheons, not only then, but at

various periods for nearly a hundred years afterwards, to obtain what

they stubbornly persisted in deeming their right. But, in course of

time, the territory was partly regranted to more favored individuals,

and partly cleared and occupied by actual settlers. These last, if

they ever heard of the Pyncheon title, would have laughed at the idea

of any man's asserting a right--on the strength of mouldy parchments,

signed with the faded autographs of governors and legislators long dead

and forgotten--to the lands which they or their fathers had wrested

from the wild hand of nature by their own sturdy toil. This impalpable

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claim, therefore, resulted in nothing more solid than to cherish, from

generation to generation, an absurd delusion of family importance,

which all along characterized the Pyncheons. It caused the poorest

member of the race to feel as if he inherited a kind of nobility, and

might yet come into the possession of princely wealth to support it.

In the better specimens of the breed, this peculiarity threw an ideal

grace over the hard material of human life, without stealing away any

truly valuable quality. In the baser sort, its effect was to increase

the liability to sluggishness and dependence, and induce the victim of

a shadowy hope to remit all self-effort, while awaiting the realization

of his dreams. Years and years after their claim had passed out of the

public memory, the Pyncheons were accustomed to consult the Colonel's

ancient map, which had been projected while Waldo County was still an

unbroken wilderness. Where the old land surveyor had put down woods,

lakes, and rivers, they marked out the cleared spaces, and dotted the

villages and towns, and calculated the progressively increasing value

of the territory, as if there were yet a prospect of its ultimately

forming a princedom for themselves.

In almost every generation, nevertheless, there happened to be some one

descendant of the family gifted with a portion of the hard, keen sense,

and practical energy, that had so remarkably distinguished the original

founder. His character, indeed, might be traced all the way down, as

distinctly as if the Colonel himself, a little diluted, had been gifted

with a sort of intermittent immortality on earth. At two or three

epochs, when the fortunes of the family were low, this representative

of hereditary qualities had made his appearance, and caused the

traditionary gossips of the town to whisper among themselves, "Here is

the old Pyncheon come again! Now the Seven Gables will be

new-shingled!" From father to son, they clung to the ancestral house

with singular tenacity of home attachment. For various reasons,

however, and from impressions often too vaguely founded to be put on

paper, the writer cherishes the belief that many, if not most, of the

successive proprietors of this estate were troubled with doubts as to

their moral right to hold it. Of their legal tenure there could be no

question; but old Matthew Maule, it is to be feared, trode downward

from his own age to a far later one, planting a heavy footstep, all the

way, on the conscience of a Pyncheon. If so, we are left to dispose of

the awful query, whether each inheritor of the property--conscious of

wrong, and failing to rectify it--did not commit anew the great guilt

of his ancestor, and incur all its original responsibilities. And

supposing such to be the case, would it not be a far truer mode of

expression to say of the Pyncheon family, that they inherited a great

misfortune, than the reverse?