Legend and chronicle.
Hiero Glyphic’s house came not into the world complete at a birth, but was the result of an irregular growth, progressing through many years. Originally a single-gabled edifice, its only peculiarity had been that it was brick instead of wooden. Here, red and unornamented as the house itself, the future Egyptologist was born. The parallel between him and his dwelling was maintained more or less closely to the end.
He was the first pledge of affection between his mother and father, and the last also; for shortly after his advent the latter parent, a retired undertaker by profession, failed from this world. The widow was much younger than her husband, and handsome to boot. Nevertheless, several years passed before she married again. Her second lord was likewise elderly, but differed from the first in being enormously wealthy. The issue of this union was a daughter, the Helen of our story, a pretty, dark-eyed little thing, petted and indulged by all the family, and reigning undisputed over all.
Meanwhile the old brick house had been deserted, Mrs. Glyphic having accompanied her second husband to his sumptuous residence in Brooklyn. But in process of time Hiero (or, as he was then called, Henry) took it into his head to return to the original family mansion and live there. No objection was made; in truth, Henry’s oddities, awkwardnesses, and propensity to dabble in queer branches of research and experiment may have allayed the parting pangs. Back he blundered, therefore, to the banks of the Hudson, and established himself in his birthplace. What he did there during the next few years will never be known. Grisly stories about the man in the brick house were current among the country people. A devil was said to be his familiar friend; nay, it was whispered that he himself was the arch-fiend! But nothing positively supernatural, or even unholy, was ever proved to have taken place. The recluse had the command of as much money as he could spend, and no doubt he wrought with it miracles beyond the vulgar comprehension. His mind had no more real depth than a looking-glass with a crack in it, and its images were disjointed and confused. There are many such men, but few possess unlimited means of carrying their crack-brained fancies into fact.
During this—which may be called the second—period of Glyphic’s career, he made several anomalous additions to the brick house, all after designs of his own. He moreover furnished it anew throughout, in a manner that made the upholsterers stare. Each room—so reads the legend—was fitted up in the style of a different country, according to Glyphic’s notion of it! He was said to live in one apartment or another according as it was his whim to be Spaniard, Turk, Russian, Hindoo, or Chinaman. He also applied himself to gardening, and enclosed seven hundred acres of ground adjoining