The matter is disagreeably delicate to handle; but,

since the reader must needs be let into the secret, he will please to

understand, that, about a century ago, the head of the Pyncheons found

himself involved in serious financial difficulties. The fellow

(gentleman, as he styled himself) can hardly have been other than a

spurious interloper; for, instead of seeking office from the king or

the royal governor, or urging his hereditary claim to Eastern lands, he

bethought himself of no better avenue to wealth than by cutting a

shop-door through the side of his ancestral residence. It was the

custom of the time, indeed, for merchants to store their goods and

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transact business in their own dwellings. But there was something

pitifully small in this old Pyncheon's mode of setting about his

commercial operations; it was whispered, that, with his own hands, all

beruffled as they were, he used to give change for a shilling, and

would turn a half-penny twice over, to make sure that it was a good

one. Beyond all question, he had the blood of a petty huckster in his

veins, through whatever channel it may have found its way there.

Immediately on his death, the shop-door had been locked, bolted, and

barred, and, down to the period of our story, had probably never once

been opened. The old counter, shelves, and other fixtures of the

little shop remained just as he had left them. It used to be affirmed,

that the dead shop-keeper, in a white wig, a faded velvet coat, an

apron at his waist, and his ruffles carefully turned back from his

wrists, might be seen through the chinks of the shutters, any night of

the year, ransacking his till, or poring over the dingy pages of his

day-book. From the look of unutterable woe upon his face, it appeared

to be his doom to spend eternity in a vain effort to make his accounts

balance.

And now--in a very humble way, as will be seen--we proceed to open our

narrative.