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The House of the Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 4 Summary
A Day Behind the Counter Around noon, Hepzibah sees a man walking by. He's elderly and rich-looking, with a cold, heavy face. He sees Hepzibah's shop and looks displeased, then suddenly smiles. This is Hepzibah's cousin Jaffrey Pyncheon – the judge who is head of the Pyncheon family. Just then, little Ned Higgins comes in to buy a gingerbread elephant. Hepzibah's cousin Jaffrey continues on his way. Hepzibah thinks to herself, "Take it as you like! You have seen my little shop-window! [...] Is not the Pyncheon-house my own, while I'm alive?" (4.6). Hepzibah retreats back into the house and looks at the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon. She sees his hard, direct face. She thinks to herself that Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is the living image of their Puritan ancestor, no matter how much he tries to cover it with smiles. Looking at this portrait reminds her of the miniature of the young man she was studying earlier. She thinks mysteriously: "they persecuted his mother in him! He never was a Pyncheon!" (4.12). Hepzibah is startled to hear someone coming into the shop, and she rushes out. It's Uncle Venner. Uncle Venner is a very elderly handyman who has lived in the neighborhood for as long as Hepzibah can remember. He is a little odd, but much loved in the area. Uncle Venner congratulates Hepzibah on starting her shop. He mentions having seen her cousin Judge Pyncheon and compliments his smile. Hepzibah agrees bitterly, "my Cousin Jaffrey is thought to have a very pleasant smile!" (4.19). Uncle Venner promises that something good is coming Hepzibah's way. She starts to dream of reclaiming that land in Maine or joining up with the other Pyncheons back in England. But Uncle Venner seems to have something more immediate in mind: "When do you expect him home?" (4.29). He won't explain who "he" is. After Uncle Venner's visit, Hepzibah is even more disastrous with business than before. She is truly glad when her busy day in the shop is over. Hepzibah locks the door and looks outside. She sees a young woman getting off the public coach in front of her house. She realizes that this must by Phoebe Pyncheon, her young relative from the country. Hepzibah is surprised to see her and decides that she can stay, but only for one night. Hepzibah doesn't want Phoebe to disturb Clifford – though who Clifford might be we don't know yet.
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