Study Guide

The House of the Seven Gables Chapter 21

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 21

The Departure

  • When it becomes public knowledge that Judge Pyncheon died a natural death, people start to think back to the death of Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon 30 years before.
  • They realize that he must also have died a natural death.
  • But it is nonetheless true that someone got into Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's rooms after his death and searched through all of his papers.
  • The evidence seemed to point to Clifford Pyncheon, who was living with Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon at the time.
  • Now that Judge Pyncheon has died, a new set of rumors crops up.
  • Everyone remembers what a rough, pleasure-loving young man Judge Pyncheon had been.
  • Apparently his bad behavior turned Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon against his nephew.
  • One night Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon surprised his criminal nephew in the act of searching through his papers.
  • This surprise may have been what caused Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon to suffer his fatal stroke.
  • Presented with the dead body of his uncle, young Jaffrey Pyncheon immediately thought about how he could turn this whole situation to his advantage. It was his testimony on the stand that got Clifford Pyncheon sent to jail for 30 years.
  • Now that the Judge has died, there is the question of his fortune.
  • The Judge's only son has died of cholera overseas, so the fortune is being divided evenly between Hepzibah, Clifford, and Phoebe.
  • Everyone has also acknowledged Clifford's innocence.
  • But it's way too late for Clifford to care. He's already lost his whole life to this case. After Judge Pyncheon's death, he does perk up a bit, though.
  • Clifford, Hepzibah, Phoebe, and Mr. Holgrave all decide to leave the House of the Seven Gables. They are going to set up house (for now) at Judge Pyncheon's country home.
  • The morning of their departure, they gather in the parlor with Uncle Venner.
  • Clifford looks at the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon and half-remembers some secret he discovered years before.
  • Mr. Holgrave shows him that there is a spring hidden in the portrait.
  • The portrait falls to the floor.
  • There is a hole in the wall behind the portrait.
  • In the hole, there is an ancient deed signed by Native American leaders promising Colonel Pyncheon and his heirs a huge stretch of land to the east.
  • Mr. Holgrave says this is the deed for which Alice Pyncheon sacrificed her life.
  • Hepzibah realizes that this discovery must be what Clifford told Judge Pyncheon about many years ago.
  • This must be what made Judge Pyncheon think Clifford knew the secret to Uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's hidden wealth.
  • Phoebe asks how Mr. Holgrave came to know of the secret spring.
  • Apparently, Mr. Holgrave is a direct descendent of Matthew Maule!
  • When Thomas Maule built the House of the Seven Gables, he put Colonel Pyncheon's deed into this special hole.
  • Thus, without even knowing it, the Pyncheons exchanged their deed to Maine for Matthew Maule's land.
  • Uncle Venner points out that now their claim isn't worth a thing.
  • Phoebe invites Uncle Venner to come live in a cottage on their new property. He can help keep Clifford's spirits up.
  • Uncle Venner happily agrees.
  • As they leave, Hepzibah presents Ned Higgins (her first customer) with enough silver to buy as many gingerbread animals as he could possibly want.
  • Dixey and his friend comment that this is all "pretty good business" (21.31).
  • As the remaining Pyncheons drive away, the harpsichord sends up a few notes. "Sweet Alice Pyncheon" (21.32) is showing her joy at this present happiness.