Study Guide

The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 20

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 20

The Flower of Eden

  • At first Phoebe can't see in the sudden dark of the house.
  • She feels a hand drawing her into the grand reception room.
  • She sees that it's Mr. Holgrave who has brought her inside.
  • He looks paler than usual, but his smile is full of a rare warmth.
  • Phoebe asks what has happened to Hepzibah and Clifford.
  • Mr. Holgrave the two of them are all alone in the house.
  • He hesitates to tell Phoebe what has happened.
  • First he shows her the old photograph of Judge Pyncheon.
  • Then he shows her another photograph he took half an hour before of Judge Pyncheon's dead face.
  • Mr. Holgrave explains that throughout the day he has been overhearing rumors from passersby about Judge Pyncheon and Clifford. So he went down into the main part of the house to investigate.
  • That's when he found Judge Pyncheon's body.
  • And that's when he decided to photograph it as a form of evidence in case it could help Clifford.
  • Phoebe wonders why he hasn't brought in help from outside.
  • Mr. Holgrave thinks that would look very bad for Clifford and Hepzibah, who seem to have fled the scene.
  • Indeed, Mr. Holgrave thinks it would have been better for Clifford's reputation if they had just brought in help.
  • After all, it's clear that Judge Pyncheon has not died from violence. It's just a hereditary ailment that seems to affect the Pyncheon family – "usually attacking individuals about the Judge's time of life, and generally in the tension of some mental crisis" (20.10).
  • Mr. Holgrave suspects that Matthew Maule knew about this genetic problem, which is why he framed his curse the way he did.
  • Mr. Holgrave believes that Clifford's uncle's death happened in exactly the same way 30 years earlier.
  • But after Clifford's Uncle Jaffrey's death, someone appears to have arranged the scene to make it look like Clifford killed the man.
  • The person who framed Clifford was, of course, Judge Pyncheon.
  • If Clifford comes back to the House of the Seven Gables before Judge Pyncheon's body is found, then they could prove that (a) Judge Pyncheon died of natural causes, and (b) Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's death many years earlier was by the same means and thus also natural.
  • Otherwise, it'll look like Clifford killed both Judge Pyncheon and his Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon.
  • Phoebe says, "Clifford is innocent. God will make it manifest!" (20.25).
  • She insists that they have to tell the neighborhood what has happened right now.
  • Mr. Holgrave agrees, but he stalls for a few moments.
  • Mr. Holgrave is enjoying the fact that he and Phoebe are the only two people in the world who know this secret. He feels joy that the two of them are together in this dark business.
  • Mr. Holgrave seizes the moment to tell Phoebe that he loves her!
  • Phoebe is afraid that Mr. Holgrave will expect her to live too far outside of society for her comfort.
  • Mr. Holgrave promises that in the future he is going to start settling down.
  • Phoebe admits, "You look into my heart [...] You know I love you!" (20.38).
  • At this happy moment, Mr. Holgrave and Phoebe forget everything sad – even the dead guy in the next room.
  • That is, until they both hear footsteps at the front door.
  • It's Clifford and Hepzibah – they're back!
  • As soon as Hepzibah sees Phoebe she bursts into tears.
  • Clifford is delighted to see Phoebe and Mr. Holgrave, even back in this dark, dreary house.