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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 6 Summary

Maule's Law

  • Phoebe goes out into the garden.
  • She sees signs that the garden has been well-cared for.
  • She can't figure out who's doing the upkeep, but she's sure it's not Hepzibah.
  • She finds a corner of the garden with a lovely old mossy fountain.
  • There is also a chicken coop.
  • Phoebe runs inside to get breadcrumbs for the chickens.
  • As she feeds them, one of the baby chickens flies up to land on her shoulder.
  • A voice says, "That little fowl pays you a high compliment!" (6.9).
  • Phoebe turns around and sees the lodger, Mr. Holgrave.
  • Phoebe introduces herself.
  • Mr. Holgrave tells her that he is the one who hoes and weeds the garden.
  • He asks if Phoebe wants to see a portrait he has taken.
  • (Mr. Holgrave is a daguerreotypist, which means that he is an early photographer.)
  • He points out that this particular portrait is unusual.
  • Generally, photographs show the faces of their subjects as they always appear.
  • But this portrait is of a man who shows "a very different expression" (6.17) during his ordinary life.
  • Phoebe identifies the face as that of her "Puritan ancestor" (6.18), Colonel Pyncheon.
  • It's not Colonel Pyncheon, though, since it's a modern face.
  • Usually this stern, hard man looks "exceedingly pleasant, indicative of benevolence, openness of heart, [and] sunny good humor" (6.20). But the photograph makes him look "sly, subtle [...] and cold as ice" (6.20).
  • Phoebe points out the contrast between the man in this photograph and her cousin Hepzibah's miniature portrait.
  • Mr. Holgrave has never seen the portrait but he has heard of it.
  • He asks if Phoebe can imagine that figure being guilty of a crime.
  • Phoebe thinks he's talking a lot of nonsense: of course not.
  • Mr. Holgrave changes the subject.
  • He suggests that Phoebe help out with the garden, since she will need something to do with her energy while she's staying with Hepzibah.
  • Phoebe agrees, and they start working silently side by side.
  • Phoebe doesn't really like Mr. Holgrave. He seems serious, almost stern, and she doesn't understand him.
  • As the sun sets, Mr. Holgrave tells her good night.
  • He suggests that Phoebe come and see him sometime.
  • He also warns Phoebe not to drink or wash at Maule's Well (the fountain with the mossy stones). He says the fountain is bewitched.
  • Then he goes inside.
  • Phoebe returns to Hepzibah's part of the house.
  • Hepzibah seems in a strange mood, as though she is listening for something.
  • The room is very dark.
  • Phoebe asks if Hepzibah has just said something.
  • Hepzibah says no.
  • Phoebe asks if there is someone in the room with them.
  • Hepzibah suggests that Phoebe go and rest; she's had a busy day.
  • Hepzibah hugs Phoebe before Phoebe goes to bed.
  • As Phoebe lies down, she hears what sounds like the murmur of human voices.

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