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The House of the Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 7 Summary
The Guest Phoebe wakes up the next morning and walks downstairs. She finds Hepzibah looking at a cookbook. Hepzibah asks Phoebe to go look for an egg in the hen coop. Hepzibah begins cooking energetically. Phoebe, the rats, and the ghosts of the household are all surprised at this unusual activity. Phoebe gathers some flowers to put on the table. She is surprised to see that Hepzibah has set the table for three. Who is the third visitor? Throughout all of this preparation, Hepzibah has been trembling anxiously. Finally Hepzibah asks Phoebe to "bear with" (7.8) her. Phoebe asks what's upsetting Hepzibah so much. Hepzibah hushes Phoebe because "He is coming!" (7.10). There is a step in the passageway. The approaching footsteps come slowly in fits and starts. Finally the footsteps hesitate at the threshold of the door. Hepzibah warns Phoebe: "Whatever may happen, be nothing but cheerful!" (7.14). Hepzibah jumps up and leads an elderly man into the room. This man has unusually long white hair and a broken face. He looks like he is capable of thinking and feeling, but only sometimes – otherwise, his mind seems to "waver, and glimmer" (7.15). Hepzibah introduces Phoebe to Clifford Pyncheon. Clifford keeps looking around the room as though he cannot believe that he is there. Finally Phoebe realizes that she is seeing the face of the man in Hepzibah's miniature portrait. She can see, now and again, the remnants of that sensitive spirit captured in the portrait. Clifford thinks that Hepzibah is angry with him. Poor Hepzibah's permanent scowl – the result of heavy eyebrows and nearsightedness – freaks him out. But Hepzibah feels nothing but love and pity for her brother. Clifford eats a lot very quickly. He also quaffs down a pot of coffee. Clifford is unable to believe that this pleasant life will last. Phoebe, noticing Clifford's pleasure in the beauties of the garden, quickly distracts him from dark thoughts by pointing out a new kind of rose. Clifford is excited and asks to hold the rose. After enjoying the beauty of the rose for a time, Clifford is distracted by the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon. He demands that Hepzibah take it down. She replies that it cannot be taken down. Clifford asks that she cover it with a red cloth. Clifford insists that "It must not stare [him] in the face!" (7.41). Clifford slowly seems to be tiring: he's not used to so much excitement. When he hears the shop bell, he is horrified by the ugly noise. Hepzibah explains that she has had to open a shop. Hepzibah asks if Clifford is ashamed of her. Clifford asks Hepzibah how he could possibly be ashamed of her when he has just spent the last 30 years in jail. Clifford bursts in to tears before asking, with an odd smile, "Are we so very poor, Hepzibah?" (7.54). Clifford then falls asleep in his chair. Hepzibah feels filled with grief and pity at the sight.
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