"A secret spring!" cried Clifford. "Ah, I remember now! I did
discover it, one summer afternoon, when I was idling and dreaming
about the house, long, long ago. But the mystery escapes me."
The artist put his finger on the contrivance to which he had
referred. In former days, the effect would probably have been to
cause the picture to start forward. But, in so long a period of
concealment, the machinery had been eaten through with rust; so
that, at Holgrave's pressure, the portrait, frame and all, tumbled
suddenly from its position, and lay face downward on the floor. A
recess in the wall was thus brought to light, in which lay an
object so covered with a century's dust that it could not
immediately be recognized as a folded sheet of parchment. Holgrave
opened it, and displayed an ancient deed, signed with the
hieroglyphics of several Indian sagamores, and conveying to
Colonel Pyncheon and his heirs, forever, a vast extent of
territory at the eastward.
"This is the very parchment the attempt to recover which cost the
beautiful Alice Pyncheon her happiness and life," said the artist,
alluding to his legend. "It is what the Pyncheons sought in vain,
while it was valuable; and now that they find the treasure, it has
long been worthless."
"Poor Cousin Jaffrey! This is what deceived him," exclaimed
Hepzibah. "When they were young together, Clifford probably made a
kind of fairy-tale of this discovery. He was always dreaming
hither and thither about the house, and lighting up its dark
corners with beautiful stories. And poor Jaffrey, who took hold of
everything as if it were real, thought my brother had found out
his uncle's wealth. He died with this delusion in his mind!"
"But," said Phoebe, apart to Holgrave, "how came you to know the
"My dearest Phoebe," said Holgrave, "how will it please you to
assume the name of Maule? As for the secret, it is the only
inheritance that has come down to me from my ancestors. You should
have known sooner (only that I was afraid of frightening you away)
that, in this long drama of wrong and retribution, I represent the
old wizard, and am probably as much of a wizard as ever he was.
The son of the executed Matthew Maule, while building this house,
took the opportunity to construct that recess, and hide away the
Indian deed, on which depended the immense land-claim of the
Pyncheons. Thus they bartered their eastern territory for Maule's