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The House of the Seven Gables

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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