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Summary

The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 8 Summary Page 1

The Pyncheon of To-Day

  • Phoebe goes down to the shop to find Ned Higgins waiting.
  • This time little Ned is on a chore for his mother.
  • Ned buys some eggs, but he also asks Phoebe how Hepzibah's brother is getting along.
  • It's only with this question that Phoebe realizes how Clifford Pyncheon is related to Hepzibah.
  • But she still doesn't know where Clifford has been all of this time.
  • As Ned Higgins leaves the shop, an older gentleman comes in.
  • He is tall, large, and carrying a gold-headed cane.
  • It's Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon.
  • The Judge introduces himself and figures out that Phoebe must be the daughter of his cousin Arthur.
  • Phoebe curtsies.
  • When the Judge leans over to give her a kiss, however, Phoebe suddenly startles backward.
  • Phoebe can't explain why she has been so rude to this elderly relative when she has kissed many other cousins without even thinking about it.
  • When Phoebe looks back at the Judge, she suddenly sees a cold expression on his face.
  • That's when Phoebe realizes that Judge Pyncheon looks exactly like Colonel Pyncheon in that old portrait.
  • Almost as soon as she notices his ugly sternness, his face suddenly returns to its usual kind expression.
  • Phoebe apologizes for being rude. But she can't quite get over that first perception that Judge Pyncheon looks just like his Puritan ancestor.
  • She recognizes that there are many differences between the two, but even so, that impression remains.
  • It's not just physical appearance that draws together the Colonel and Judge Pyncheon. They share two other things: first, they are both widely respected and spoken of in glowing terms by the clergyman and local officials of their day. And second, they both have bad reputations in local gossip. They are known to be miserly tyrants.
  • Phoebe is unaware of all these rumors.
  • She does know the story of Matthew Maule and his last words about blood to drink, though. So when the Judge clears his throat in an odd way, Phoebe startles.
  • Judge Pyncheon asks if Phoebe is afraid of something.
  • Phoebe says no, no, everything is fine.
  • But Judge Pyncheon has heard a rumor of an odd guest in the House of the Seven Gables.
  • Phoebe says this guest is not "frightful"; he is a "poor, gentle, childlike man" (8.28), Hepzibah's brother Clifford.
  • Judge Pyncheon wonders whether Phoebe has heard of Clifford's history.
  • He decides it would be inappropriate for a young girl to know Clifford's past.
  • Judge Pyncheon wants to step in to visit Clifford.
  • Phoebe offers to go and ask Hepzibah, since last she saw, Clifford was sleeping.
  • Judge Pyncheon refuses to wait. He insists, "Stay you here! I know the house, and know my Cousin Hepzibah" (8.34).
  • At this, Hepzibah comes into the shop.
  • She looks furious and is shaking.
  • Judge Pyncheon greets Hepzibah warmly.
  • Hepzibah refuses to let Judge Pyncheon see Clifford.
  • Judge Pyncheon offers to let both Clifford and Hepzibah stay with him at the seaside.
  • Phoebe is impressed by Judge Pyncheon's generous offer.
  • Hepzibah looks even angrier than before.
  • Hepzibah assures Judge Pyncheon that "Clifford has a home here" (8.41).
  • Judge Pyncheon asks how Hepzibah can keep her brother trapped in this old, dank house.
  • Hepzibah still refuses to let Clifford go to Judge Pyncheon's country house.
  • Hepzibah physically blocks the door to the house.
  • Clifford's voice comes from upstairs. He begs Hepzibah to keep Judge Pyncheon from coming in.
  • Once more, Judge Pyncheon looks furious for a moment before returning to his usual, loving expression.
  • Judge Pyncheon scolds Hepzibah for treating him this way.
  • He takes his leave of Hepzibah and Phoebe.
  • As soon as he leaves, Hepzibah staggers and grows pale. She tells Phoebe that Judge Pyncheon has been "the horror of [her] life" (8.52).
  • Phoebe can't believe he is so wicked – his offers to Hepzibah and Clifford were so kind!
  • Hepzibah tells Phoebe not to be fooled.
  • She asks Phoebe to go and look after Clifford.
  • Phoebe wonders what this is all about.
  • She thinks Hepzibah is probably giving in to old family resentments.
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