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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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