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The House of the Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 13 Summary
Alice Pyncheon (This is Mr. Holgrave's short story.) One day Matthew Maule II (grandson of the first Matthew Maule) gets a message to come to the House of the Seven Gables. The servant who brings the message, Scipio, says the house is haunted by Colonel Pyncheon. Matthew Maule II adds that, if Colonel Pyncheon weren't haunting the place, his grandfather Matthew Maule certainly would be. Matthew Maule II sends his respects to Alice Pyncheon, the daughter of the house. Scipio (the servant) thinks Maule shouldn't be thinking such thoughts about Alice. (For more on the racial politics of Hawthorne's depiction of "Black Scipio," check out our "Character Analysis" of Scipio.) Maule is a carpenter and not widely liked in the town. The fact that his grandfather was executed for witchcraft doesn't look good to these god-fearing townspeople. Also, the villagers think that Maule has the ability to control other people with his mind. Everyone suspects that he is a wizard like his grandfather. Eventually Maule makes his way to the House of the Seven Gables. The current owner of the house is Mr. Gervayse Pyncheon, the grandson of the original Colonel Pyncheon. Apparently, he's the grandson who ran up to his grandfather and discovered him dead on the day of that housewarming party many years before. As a result, Gervayse Pyncheon hates the House of the Seven Gables. He traveled to Europe and married a wealthy woman there. While Pyncheon has been away, the rest of the family has been keeping up the house. The House of the Seven Gables looks jolly and well-filled – not as fashionable as it once was, but still very respectable. Even though he's a servant, Maule goes straight up to the front door. He doesn't care – he's filled with bitterness towards the Pyncheon family anyway. The servant, Scipio, is startled by the loudness of Maule's knock, but he lets him in. Maule hears a pleasant sound: it's young Alice Pyncheon playing her harpsichord Scipio ushers Maule into Gervayse Pyncheon's visiting room. The room has two interesting things in it: (1) a large map of land that looks like "it had been drawn a good many years ago" (13.21), and (2), a portrait of a stern Puritan man. Maule demands that Pyncheon explain why he has sent for him. Pyncheon asks if Maule is aware of the Pyncheon family claim on this land in Maine. Apparently the story goes that Matthew Maule I somehow got hold of the deed before he was hanged. Gervayse Pyncheon's lawyers had Maule's grave searched, but they couldn't find the deed. They did find one weird detail: his right hand was missing. Pyncheon wants to know whether Matthew Maule's father Thomas Maule might have come away from the Colonel's study with this important piece of paper. Pyncheon promises Maule lots of money if he can produce the deed. Maule makes a counteroffer: if Pyncheon promises to abandon the House of the Seven Gables, he will help him. Pyncheon thinks it over. After all, he doesn't really like the house, and he has spent a lot of time abroad. So finally, Pyncheon agrees. Pyncheon promises that, if Maule can produce the land documents, he will give him the deed to the House of the Seven Gables. Maule also insists on speaking to Alice Pyncheon. Gervayse Pyncheon calls in his daughter. As soon as she looks at Maule, she is impressed by his handsome appearance. But Maule totally misinterprets her look: he thinks she thinks he's "a brute beast" (13.52). Maule decides to show her that he has the stronger spirit. He asks Alice to sit down and look into his eyes. Gervayse Pyncheon turns around to examine a landscape painting. Twice he turns around and thinks of stopping Maule from whatever strange ritual he's performing. But each time, he remembers how much money is in it for him if Maule produces that land deed. Finally Maule speaks: "Behold your daughter" (13.70). Alice seems to be in a deep sleep and Pyncheon can't wake her, no matter how hard he tries. Pyncheon demands that Maule give him back his daughter. Maule laughs and says she is his: he has the strongest spirit. Under hypnosis, Alice sees three men who know the secret location of the land document. The men she describes are Colonel Pyncheon, Matthew Maule I, and Thomas Maule. But the Maules won't let Colonel Pyncheon say what he knows. Matthew Maule II decides that his grandfather's curse on the Pyncheon family has to run its course. They can't leave the House of the Seven Gables yet. Pyncheon demands that Maule release Alice. Alice wakes up without any memory of what has happened to her. And so the secret deed is never found. After this hypnotic incident, Alice is never the same. Maule can make her laugh or cry in an instant, whenever he feels like it. Alice is so ashamed and embarrassed that she withdraws from society. The last humiliation is when Maule makes her come along to wait on his bride on their wedding night. When Alice comes to, she kisses the bride then goes out into the wild weather. She catches a terrible cold and slowly wastes away and dies. But frankly, she is glad to be free of Maule's humiliations. The Pyncheons hold a big funeral for Alice. Maule attends, and he looks furious. He meant to "humble" Alice, "not to kill her" (13.95).
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