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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 5 Summary

May and November

  • Phoebe wakes up the next morning in a room overlooking the garden.
  • She sees a lush rosebush that had been planted generations before by Alice Pyncheon.
  • Phoebe rearranges the old, dusty room to try to make it more lovely and homey.
  • She emerges dressed and ready for the day.
  • Hepzibah and Phoebe chat over breakfast.
  • Phoebe has been trying to get out of the house because her father has just remarried and she doesn't like her stepmother.
  • Phoebe wants to come and live at the House of the Seven Gables.
  • Hepzibah says she can't because it's too sad a place for a young girl.
  • Phoebe insists that she is cheerful and that she will happily earn her keep.
  • Hepzibah then pulls out her miniature portrait.
  • She explains that the portrait is of Clifford Pyncheon.
  • Phoebe has never heard of him. She thought the only Pyncheons left were Hepzibah and Judge Pyncheon.
  • Hepzibah remarks mysteriously: "But, in old houses like this, you know, dead people are very apt to come back again!" (5.24).
  • Hepzibah says that Phoebe can stay as long as she likes.
  • Phoebe starts taking over the duties of the household.
  • She quickly washes up and puts the kitchen in order.
  • When the shop doorbell rings, Hepzibah starts reluctantly heading out to her customer.
  • Phoebe offers, "Do not trouble yourself, dear Cousin! [...] I am shopkeeper to-day" (5.35).
  • Hepzibah stands by to watch Phoebe bargain with her customer. She is impressed.
  • She thinks to herself that Phoebe is very nice, so it's a shame that she's not a lady.
  • But the narrator believes that Phoebe shows all of the friendliness, tastefulness, and prettiness that a lady could possibly want.
  • Phoebe quickly organizes the shop and arranges for new stock.
  • Ned Higgins comes by and eats three more pieces of gingerbread.
  • By the end of the day, there is "an enormous heap of copper!" (5.46) – in other words, Phoebe has made a lot of money.
  • Uncle Venner compliments Phoebe's skills.
  • He agrees with Hepzibah that there has never been a Pyncheon like Phoebe. He thinks Phoebe is like one of God's angels.
  • Throughout the day, Hepzibah tells Phoebe about the Pyncheon family: their claim to the land in Maine and the mysterious death of Colonel Pyncheon.
  • She also mentions Mr. Holgrave, the lodger.
  • Hepzibah doesn't know what to make of Mr. Holgrave. He seems like a very nice young man, but he's got a bunch of free-thinking friends who seem very odd.
  • Phoebe asks why Hepzibah lets Mr. Holgrave stay if he's such a troublemaker.
  • Hepzibah hedges; she says Mr. Holgrave is "a quiet kind of person" (5.60), and that he is good company for her.
  • Phoebe thinks Mr. Holgrave sounds like "a lawless person" (5.61).
  • Hepzibah concludes: "Oh [...] I suppose he has a law of his own!" (5.62).

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