But the Puritan soldier and magistrate was not a man to be turned aside

from his well-considered scheme, either by dread of the wizard's ghost,

or by flimsy sentimentalities of any kind, however specious. Had he

been told of a bad air, it might have moved him somewhat; but he was

ready to encounter an evil spirit on his own ground. Endowed with

commonsense, as massive and hard as blocks of granite, fastened

together by stern rigidity of purpose, as with iron clamps, he followed

out his original design, probably without so much as imagining an

objection to it. On the score of delicacy, or any scrupulousness which

a finer sensibility might have taught him, the Colonel, like most of

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his breed and generation, was impenetrable. He therefore dug his

cellar, and laid the deep foundations of his mansion, on the square of

earth whence Matthew Maule, forty years before, had first swept away

the fallen leaves. It was a curious, and, as some people thought, an

ominous fact, that, very soon after the workmen began their operations,

the spring of water, above mentioned, entirely lost the deliciousness

of its pristine quality. Whether its sources were disturbed by the

depth of the new cellar, or whatever subtler cause might lurk at the

bottom, it is certain that the water of Maule's Well, as it continued

to be called, grew hard and brackish. Even such we find it now; and

any old woman of the neighborhood will certify that it is productive of

intestinal mischief to those who quench their thirst there.

The reader may deem it singular that the head carpenter of the new

edifice was no other than the son of the very man from whose dead gripe

the property of the soil had been wrested. Not improbably he was the

best workman of his time; or, perhaps, the Colonel thought it

expedient, or was impelled by some better feeling, thus openly to cast

aside all animosity against the race of his fallen antagonist. Nor was

it out of keeping with the general coarseness and matter-of-fact

character of the age, that the son should be willing to earn an honest

penny, or, rather, a weighty amount of sterling pounds, from the purse

of his father's deadly enemy. At all events, Thomas Maule became the

architect of the House of the Seven Gables, and performed his duty so

faithfully that the timber framework fastened by his hands still holds

together.

Thus the great house was built. Familiar as it stands in the writer's

recollection,--for it has been an object of curiosity with him from

boyhood, both as a specimen of the best and stateliest architecture of

a longpast epoch, and as the scene of events more full of human

interest, perhaps, than those of a gray feudal castle,--familiar as it

stands, in its rusty old age, it is therefore only the more difficult

to imagine the bright novelty with which it first caught the sunshine.

The impression of its actual state, at this distance of a hundred and

sixty years, darkens inevitably through the picture which we would fain

give of its appearance on the morning when the Puritan magnate bade all

the town to be his guests. A ceremony of consecration, festive as well

as religious, was now to be performed. A prayer and discourse from the

Rev. Mr. Higginson, and the outpouring of a psalm from the general

throat of the community, was to be made acceptable to the grosser sense

by ale, cider, wine, and brandy, in copious effusion, and, as some

authorities aver, by an ox, roasted whole, or at least, by the weight

and substance of an ox, in more manageable joints and sirloins. The

carcass of a deer, shot within twenty miles, had supplied material for

the vast circumference of a pasty. A codfish of sixty pounds, caught

in the bay, had been dissolved into the rich liquid of a chowder. The

chimney of the new house, in short, belching forth its kitchen smoke,

impregnated the whole air with the scent of meats, fowls, and fishes,

spicily concocted with odoriferous herbs, and onions in abundance. The

mere smell of such festivity, making its way to everybody's nostrils,

was at once an invitation and an appetite.