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The House of the Seven Gables Summary & Study Guide Description
The House of the Seven Gables Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The House of the Seven Gables begins with a preface in which Hawthorne makes a point to tell readers that the tale they are about to read is a "Romance" rather than a traditional "Novel." He proceeds to say that because the story is written as a Romance, it gives him creative license to present reader's with his selective understanding of the truth instead of binding him to being true to life. He notes that Romances give writers a creative and subjective license to "mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture." Hawthorne also tells readers that the moral purpose of his work is to convey the notion that "the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones." Despite this claim, however, he notes that he has not tried "to impale the story with its moral." Finally, Hawthorne concludes that he did not intend to correlate the location or events in the story with any particular place or happenings in the County of Essex.
The first chapter opens with a description of the House of the Seven Gables, its history, and that of the Pyncheon and Maule families. In the mid-1600s, Matthew Maule (the elder) settles in the County of Essex and establishes a homestead. Soon thereafter, Colonel Pyncheon decides he would like to build his familial estate on Matthew's land. Matthew refuses to surrender his land. He is then put on trial for witchcraft and with Colonel Pyncheon's full support, is hung. Just before dying, Matthew places a curse on Colonel Pyncheon, saying that "God will give him blood to drink." Colonel Pyncheon acquires the land, builds his house using Thomas Maule, Matthew Maule's son, as the architect. The day of his house-warming feast, to which he has invited the entire community, including many very esteemed society people, Colonel Pyncheon is found dead in his study with blood dripping from his mouth. Subsequent generations live in the house, believing that they are entitled to a large piece of land in Maine that Colonel Pyncheon was in the process of acquiring before he died. Many try to acquire the land, but fail.
More years pass, and thirty years before the beginning of the novel's action, another wealthy Pyncheon (Jaffrey Pyncheon, the elder) dies. His nephew (Clifford) is accused, tried, and convicted of the murder and is sentenced to life imprisonment. Jaffrey Pyncheon (the elder) believed that Matthew Maule was wrongly robbed of his land and put to death and intended to make restitution to the Maule descendents. Following Clifford's incarceration, Jaffrey Pyncheon's other nephew (Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon) inherits the dead man's wealth. Clifford's sister (Hepzibah) remained living in the House of the Seven Gables, per her uncle's will. Meanwhile, Maule's descendents have all but died out. They long inhabited the town and were a "quiet, honest, well-meaning race of people, cherishing no malice done them," who were said to have the power to influence people's dreams.
The chapter concludes with a description of the giant elm tree in the yard, the flowers that grow between two of the gables, and the door on the front gable that leads to a once used retail space.
Hepzibah Pyncheon rises from bed, dresses, examines herself in the mirror, and pulls out a miniature (a very small portrait) of a young man, who readers later learn is her brother, Clifford. She cries as she readies herself for the day and notices how cross she looks as a result of the scowl caused by her near-sightedness. Despite her almost permanent scowl, Hepzibah is said to have a "heart that never frowned. It was naturally tender, [and] sensitive." Hepzibah faces the day in low spirits as she sets up the shop that she intends to open. Opening the shop is mortifying for her because she is an aristocrat by birth; however, she has no choice and must commence a business of her own in order to save herself from starvation. When she finally opens the shop door, she immediately runs inside the house to cry.
The first person to enter Hepzibah's shop is her boarder, Holgrave. The daguerreotypist comes to the store to offer Hepzibah help with her preparations. He congratulates Hepzibah on her endeavor, noting that this venture is a promising new beginning for her that will give her a "sense of healthy and natural effort for a purpose." Hepzibah views the situation quite differently and laments that she is no longer a lady. Holgrave counters that no Pyncheon lady has ever acted more heroically or nobly. Holgrave attempts to buy biscuits, but Hepzibah insists on giving them to him free. Holgrave departs and Hepzibah overhears two workmen discussing her shop. They discuss her disagreeable looks and the likely failure of her shop. As Hepzibah considers the possibility of failure, the shop-bell rings and a boy (Ned Higgins) enters. As with Holgrave, Hepzibah gives the child a gingerbread cookie for free. He shortly returns to request another cookie, for which Hepzibah takes his payment. Other customers follow and in several cases, Hepzibah does not stock their needs. At the end of the day, she has a poor opinion of the temperament and manners of people who she sees as part of the lower classes. At the same time, after seeing a wealthy lady pass by, she wonders about the purpose of such a person.
Toward the afternoon, a large, elderly gentleman (Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon) passes by the shop and gazes upon it with both a frown and a smile. When he sees Hepzibah his "smile changed from acrid and disagreeable to the sunniest complacency and benevolence." Hepzibah shows dislike for the man and draws a comparison between his likeness and that of the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, which hangs in the house. The shop bell rings when Uncle Venner enters the shop. He is the oldest resident of Pyncheon Street and is happy to see that Hepzibah has opened a shop instead of remaining idle. He discusses the possibility of his retirement to what he calls his farm. Although he praises Hepzibah for working, he tells her that it is an embarrassment that her wealthy cousin lets her do so. Hepzibah tells him that the judge is not to blame. Uncle Venner leaves Hepzibah after inquiring when Clifford will be home. Hepzibah is quite jarred by Uncle Venner's question and spends the remainder of the day dazed and clumsy. Just after she closes the shop for the day, an omnibus arrives, bringing Phoebe to Hepzibah's doorstep. Phoebe's letter was unfortunately delayed and thus her arrival is a surprise to Hepzibah, who decides that her country relation cannot stay lest she upset Clifford.
When Phoebe awakes in the morning, she arranges her quarters, "throwing a kindly and hospitable smile over the apartment." Her "sweet breath and happy thoughts" remove "all former evil and sorrow" from the room. Phoebe joins Hepzibah, who tells her that she unfortunately cannot stay. Unaffected by the comment, Phoebe assures Hepzibah that she will earn her keep and be a cheerful addition to the house. Hepzibah accedes and after telling Phoebe that Clifford is soon to arrive home, she fetches his miniature. Phoebe, who thought that Clifford was dead, admires the miniature, commenting on Clifford's sweet and childlike face. The two women sit down to tea, and when the shop-bell rings, Phoebe jumps up. To Hepzibah's great pleasure, Phoebe serves the customer with ease and skill. Despite her being a country girl, Phoebe is praised by the narrator for her lady-like qualities. Phoebe's presence is known in the town and inspires a steady stream of shop customers. Uncle Venner praises her and likens her to one of God's angels. Hepzibah talks at length to Phoebe about Alice Pycheon, who is believed to haunt the house and whose harpsichord Hepzibah had shown Phoebe earlier. Changing the subject, Hepzibah then tells Phoebe about Holgrave, the daguerreotypist with questionable politics who lives in one of the gables. Noting his strange hold on her mind and his agreeable and kind disposition, Hepzibah says that she is disinclined to send him away simply for his strange companions.
After having tea, Phoebe goes out to the garden, which she finds in a state of decay that has been only slightly modified by a small effort of evident care. While in the garden, she is happy to find flowers, vegetables, a robin's nest in a pear tree, a fountain, and a hen-coop. Within the hen-coop, she finds a rooster, two hens, and a chick, all having seen better days. Holgrave surprises Phoebe as he enters the garden. Holgrave notes the positive way the hens react to Phoebe, who approaches the conversation hesitantly. Holgrave tells Phoebe that he has been caring for the garden and offers to show her one of his daguerreotypes. He shows her one of Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, and she mistakes it for Colonel Pyncheon. Holgrave continues the discussion by saying that it has been impossible for him to create a pleasing rendering of the judge despite more than one attempt. Pictures apparently cannot cover up the truth of a man's character as a subjective painter might. Holgrave asks Phoebe if she would care to tend to the flowers and the hens while he cared for the vegetables. Although her reticence about Holgrave remains in tact, she complies with the request and weeds the flower-bed. As Holgrave leaves, he warns Phoebe not to drink or bathe in the fountain, which is called Maule's well, because the water is believed to be bewitched. Phoebe also goes inside and finds Hepzibah in the dark. Phoebe has a strange feeling that someone else is in the room with them, and after she goes off to bed, she continues to think that she hears Hepzibah talking with someone.
Phoebe awakes to find Hepzibah already busy in the kitchen attempting to find something savory to make for breakfast. Hepzibah purchases the best mackerel available from the passing fish-dealer. Phoebe assists by roasting coffee and making an Indian cake. Hepzibah is emotional during the preparations, laughing and crying. Phoebe is aware of Hepzibah's strange behavior and inquires what has happened to affect her so, when Hepzibah signals that "he" is coming to the table. Clifford arrives, looking elderly and spiritless. He weakly greets Phoebe, and Hepzibah explains that Phoebe is their cousin. The three sit down to eat, and Clifford notices how changed Hepzibah is and wonders if she is angry with him because of her scowl. Hepzibah assures him that she has nothing but love for him. He eats voraciously as the narrator continues to describe his disposition toward all that is beautiful. He is pleased with Phoebe's presence but cannot look at his sister because of her unattractiveness. Clifford enjoys the beautiful rose presented by Phoebe and remarks about the dismal house. When the shop-bell rings, Phoebe gets up to attend to the customer, and Hepzibah explains to her brother that they are now quite poor. She fears the disgrace she has brought to them by opening the shop; however, Clifford apologizes for his previous disapproval and bursts into tears. Shortly thereafter, he falls asleep, leaving Hepzibah to weep quietly as she looks at him.
When Phoebe enters the shop, she finds Ned, the young boy who favors the shop's gingerbread cookies. Before leaving, Ned asks Phoebe how Clifford is. Phoebe learns through the inquiry that the man at breakfast is Hepzibah's brother. Just as the boy leaves, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon enters. He introduces himself and attempts to give Phoebe a kiss, which she instinctively rebuffs. He turns cold in response and then thinking better of it, warms again. She apologizes, yet is struck by the similarity between the judge and Colonel Pyncheon. Noticing her ill-ease, the judge asks if she is afraid of something. She tells him no and asks if he would like to see Hepzibah. He delays her and surmises that she fears Clifford. She assures him to the contrary and says that Clifford is not frightful in the least. He goes to enter the house just as Hepzibah comes out and prevents him from doing so. The judge offers Hepzibah anything he has to make Clifford comfortable and asks to see him. Hepzibah refuses his request. The conversation escalates with the judge offering more and more and Hepzibah refusing everything. The two are interrupted by Clifford's cry to not let the judge enter the house. The judge is deeply angered and tells Hepzibah that when she and Clifford realize their injustice, he will simply hope that they will accept his generous offers. He leaves and, while Hepzibah laments his evil ways, Phoebe questions if he is truly ill intentioned. Phoebe goes off to tend to Clifford, confused by the events of the day and certain that Hepzibah's contempt for the judge is rooted deeply in the past.
Despite her ongoing attempts to care for Clifford, Hepzibah realizes that because she so horribly lacks the beauty he so adores, Phoebe is better equipped to tend to him. Clifford brightens in Phoebe's refreshing and purifying presence and although he does not act on it, he finds himself attracted to her. For her part, Phoebe is likely unaware of her impact on Clifford. She finds the mysteries of his past annoying and is brought down a bit by the heavy atmosphere. Nonetheless, she perseveres, and the three settle into a daily routine. While Clifford sleeps in the morning, Phoebe works in the shop, which the public seems to enjoy. In the afternoons, Hepzibah takes over in the shop while Phoebe spends time with Clifford.
Phoebe often takes Clifford into the garden, where she reads to him. Clifford prefers poetry and is deeply delighted by the flowers in the garden. He is particularly fond of the scarlet blossoms found on some of the bean-vines, which Holgrave planted after finding the presumably ancient seeds in one of the garrets. The blossoms attract an ongoing stream of hummingbirds, which Clifford watches with childlike enthusiasm. Hepzibah is both happy and sad to see her brother's reaction. She remembers that the hummingbirds had the same effect on him in his youth, yet she is saddened by his present state. For his part, Clifford wants to be sure that what he is experiencing is real and sometimes asks Phoebe to pinch him or to give him a rose so that he can prick himself with the thorns. One day, Clifford asks that the hens be freed from their enclosure. When Hepzibah cooks one of the hen's recently layed eggs, the rooster "delivered himself of a harangue that might have proved as long as his own pedigree." Clifford likes to spend time looking into Maule's Well, where beautiful faces formed from the colored pebbles at the bottom greet him. Occasionally, dark faces appear and hamper his mood for the remainder of the day. On Sundays after Phoebe attends church, Clifford, Hepzibah, Holgrave, and Uncle Venner gather for picnics in the garden. Clifford feels young in Uncle Venner's presence and is uncharacteristically social with him. Holgrave tries to engage with Clifford as well, but seems to be motivated by something other than beneficence. One Sunday, Clifford sadly declares that he wants his happiness. The narrator calls Clifford part crazy and part imbecile and cautions him to enjoy what he has because happiness other than this may always elude him.
In addition to taking Clifford to the garden, Phoebe often brings him to sit in front of the window that faces the street. From there, he watches passersby. Clifford finds all of the new inventions strange, including the omnibus, the water-cart, the cab, and the railroad steam-devil. He prefers the things of his past, like the butcher's cart, the fish -cart, and the scissor-grinder. One afternoon, an organ player stops in front of the house. While the greedy monkey plies the crowd for money, the organ player turns the crank, which plays music and also sets a host of small figures into action. The narrator notes that despite the actions engaged in by each figure, when the music stops, they have come no further than when they started. The cobbler does not finish making his shoe, the blacksmith's iron is not shaped, and the milkmaid has fetched no milk. Clifford enjoys the music but finally cries about the monkey because of its physical and spiritual ugliness. On another day, a procession passes the house and while watching the throngs of people, Clifford makes an attempt to jump into the crowd from the balcony. He is stopped by Phoebe and Hepzibah, but the narrator notes that such a plunge into the sea of humanity may have been a help to him. One Sunday, Clifford and Hepzibah decide to go to church. The two ready themselves but are unable to step out of the house. Clifford claims that they are ghosts whose only place is right there in the house. On yet another day, Clifford blows bubbles off the balcony, and one bubble lands and pops on Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon's nose. The judge mocks Clifford for still partaking in childish endeavors. Clifford is overcome with fear.
When Clifford retires for the day, Phoebe spends her time shopping and reading the Bible. She has grown pensive and more mature under the influence of her relations and her stay in their home. Her only social outlet is Holgrave, who despite their almost daily encounters she feels she does not really know. Holgrave was independent early in life and has held many jobs, including schoolmaster, salesman, peddler, and dentist. He has traveled in Europe and lectured about mesmerism. Despite such experiences, he is not learned and is marked by youthful passion more than intellect. In one of his meetings with Phoebe, with whom he appears smitten, Holgrave shares his views about the past and the future. He argues that everything in the past should be discarded and that before men can make their own mark on the world, they must rid themselves of the influence of previous generations. He believes that each new generation should start fresh, building their own public buildings and even homes. He argues that the House of the Seven Gables should be burned and cleansed of its awful past. Toward the end of their conversation, the legend of Colonel Pyncheon and Matthew Maule surfaces, and Holgrave tells Phoebe that he means to publish some of the Pyncheon history in a magazine. After Pheobe accedes to hearing it, he produces his manuscript of the story and begins to read.
The thirteenth chapter presents the text of Holgrave's story. Gervayse Pyncheon, having recently returned from Europe, requests that Matthew Maule (the younger) come to the House of the Seven Gables. Gervayse believes that Matthew may know the whereabouts of the deed to the land in Maine that Colonel Pyncheon was in the process of acquiring at the time of his death. Matthew is described as an unpopular man and despite his lower class status, enters the Pyncheon house through the front door. Gervayse offers Matthew money in exchange for information about the missing deed; however, Matthew refuses. When Matthew eventually agrees to give Gervayse the information in exchange for the House of the Seven Gables, the two confirm their agreement in writing and with a drink. Before leaving, Matthew asks to see Gervayse's daughter, Alice. When Alice looks at him admiringly, Matthew misconstrues her look as disapproval. Matthew mesmerizes Alice in an attempt to summon the spirits of his father, grandfather, and Colonel Pyncheon. Gervayse intervenes and attempts to stop the process; however, on Alice's insistence, Matthew continues. Once summoned, the Maule spirits prevent the spirit of Colonel Pyncheon from telling where the deed is hidden. Matthew Maule (the younger) tells Gervayse that the secret must be kept until the deed is worthless and awakes Alice. Alice remains under his spell, however, and at any time, he can simply command her to laugh, be sad, or dance, and she does his bidding. On his wedding day, Matthew summons Alice to wait on his bride. She does so, and finally Matthew releases Alice from her spell. Alice kisses the bride and walks home in the snow in inappropriate clothes. She catches a cold and ultimately dies. Matthew attends the funeral procession, noting that he only meant to humble her and now she was dead.
Having listened carefully to Holgrave's detailed story, Phoebe is mesmerized. Holgrave is attempting to keep Phoebe under his spell; however, his integrity and value of the individual inspires him to awaken her. As the two watch the moon come up, Holgrave comments on his current happiness while Phoebe reflects that she has seen gayer days. Her time with Hepzibah and Clifford has aged her and, she hopes, made her wiser. Holgrave assures her that she is simply maturing and that what she is experiencing is an important part of the development of her soul. Phoebe gets up to help Hepzibah with the day's accounts when Holgrave acknowledges that she will briefly be returning to her country home. He tells Phoebe that her presence has much improved the lives of Hepzibah and Clifford, who for the most part are dead souls. When Phoebe wonders if he means well by the Pyncheon siblings, he responds that unlike her, he is not compelled to help them, but rather to observe them. Holgrave says that he believes that Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is ill-intentioned and that trouble is brewing. Two mornings later, Phoebe is tearful as she leaves, and Hepzibah notices that the young woman's smile is not as bright as it was upon her arrival. Clifford bids her goodbye, telling her that she has matured into a beautiful woman. Phoebe passes Uncle Venner, who like Holgrave, tells her what a boon she has been to the Pyncheon siblings. He likens her to an angel and hopes she will return quickly.
The days following Phoebe's departure are dreary and stormy. Hepzibah's business falls off, and Clifford takes to his bed. Making matters worse, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon arrives and insists upon seeing Clifford. He at first tries to sweet talk Hepzibah with words of kindness and love about her and Clifford. Hepzibah remains cold and bitter and refuses to let him see Clifford, whom she fears would be unable to handle the encounter. Eventually, the judge becomes enraged. He tells Hepzibah that Clifford knows the whereabouts of certain necessary paperwork about the large remaining portion of their uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's estate and threatens to have Clifford committed to an asylum if Hepzibah does not let him talk with him. Hepzibah insists that Clifford could not possibly know anything about the hidden wealth, but fearing her cousin's intentions, goes to summon Clifford. The judge sits in the chair that Colonel Pyncheon occupied upon his death and waits.
While Hepzibah slowly ascends the stairs to Clifford's room, she wonders if he could possibly know anything about the missing portion of their uncle's estate. She concludes it is impossible and ponders going for help. She knows the community would favor the judge and instead attempts to find Holgrave, who she discovers is not in his room. Giving in to the inevitable meeting, she knocks on Clifford's door and after receiving no answer, she enters to find that he is not in bed. Fearing he may have left and drowned himself to escape his cousin's inquiry, Hepzibah returns to the parlor to summon the judge for help. Despite Hepzibah's emotional and animated outbursts, the judge does not move or respond. Clifford appears and pointing into the parlor, tells Hepzibah that they are now free to dance, sing, play, and be as happy as Phoebe. Going into the parlor, Hepzibah realizes that the judge is dead. Clifford tells Hepzibah that they must go and the two leave the house.
Clifford and Hepzibah board the train. Hepzibah feels as though she is in a dream while Clifford feels exhilarated by the events. Clifford begins a conversation with a fellow passenger, noting the merits of the railroad and its ability to take people away from their homes and parlors. Contrary to his previous favoring of the things of yore, Clifford expounds that the railroad is one of the greatest modern inventions for it will enable people to return to their nomadic routes. He argues that men need to be on the move rather than cooped up in their homes. Speaking of the House of the Seven Gables, Clifford deems that it should be burned because of the image of the dead man that it conjures in his mind. Hepzibah asks Clifford to be quiet for fear that the traveler may think he is crazy. Enlivened by his thoughts, however, Clifford continues, pointing to the merits of mesmerism and the telegraph. He likes that friends and lovers can be more connected via the telegraph, yet expresses disdain for its use to catch criminals. Clifford and Hepzibah depart the train and all of Clifford's energy drains away. He tells Hepzibah that she must now take charge of their future. Hepzibah prays that God will guide them.
Judge Pyncheon remains motionless in the parlor. Despite having open eyes, he is not breathing. His watch continues to tick as the narrator inquires why he lingers. The narrator addresses him, asking if he has forgotten his appointments for the day, especially his dinner with important personages from throughout the state who he was hoping to persuade to nominate him as a candidate for governor. The narrator encourages the judge to make haste; however, he of course does not. A procession of Pyncheon spirits then enters the room, starting with Colonel Pyncheon followed by the next six generations. Noticing that Judge Pyncheon's son is among the spirits, the narrator notes that the judge's wealth will now go to Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe. When the next morning comes and the judge still does not stir, the narrator gives up the address just as the shop-bell rings.
The storm has ended, and the neighborhood is alive. The flowers on top of the house are in bloom. Uncle Venner arrives at the House of the Seven Gables to pick up the food Hepzibah sets aside for his pigs, and Holgrave tells him that no one is home. When Mrs. Gubbins comes to the shop, a neighbor tells her that she will not be able buy anything because Hepzibah and Clifford left yesterday to go to Judge Pyncheon's. Ned Higgens also comes to the shop to find it closed. The two laborers pass and speculate that Hepzibah has run off because her shop has failed. When the butcher comes, he peeks inside and believes he sees Clifford sitting in the parlor rudely ignoring his knocking. The organ player also arrives and after playing for a bit is warned to move on because rumor has it that the judge has been murdered in the house. Finding Judge Pyncheon's card with his datebook items for the previous day on the back of it on the porch, one of the laborers deems that they should take it to the City Marshal. Phoebe arrives and is warned by Ned Higgins that something wicked is inside. As Phoebe knocks at the door, it opens before her. She assumes it is Hepzibah opening it. She steps inside, and it closes behind her.
Holgrave, not Hepzibah, leads Phoebe into what had been the grand reception room. He tells her that Hepzibah and Clifford are gone and shows her the daguerreotype of the judge he made some time ago. He then shows her one he just completed, and she surmises that the judge is dead. Holgrave tells Phoebe that he has not told anyone about the death because he believes that with Hepzibah and Clifford gone and the similarity between the judge's death and uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's, the two will be implicated. Holgrave believes that the judge's death, if evaluated properly, will show that his death occurred because of an inherited family condition. He also tells Pheobe that he believes the judge made uncle Jaffrey Pyncheon's death look violent after the man had already died of the same affliction. Holgrave then professes his love for Phoebe and vice versa. Just then, Hepzibah and Clifford return home. Clifford is glad to be home and seems stronger than Hepzibah, who is in tears.
The judge's death creates a stir until the public learns that he died of natural causes. They seem to easily forget him except for the rumors that now surface about his less than benevolent past. A rumor now prevails that the night of old Jaffrey Pyncheon's death, the younger Jaffrey rummaged through the elder man's papers. Part way through the task, old Jaffrey surprised his nephew. As a result of the shock and his hereditary disposition, the elder Jaffrey died of apoplexy. The younger Jaffrey continued to look through the papers and destroyed a new version of his uncle's will, which left a favorable portion of the man's estate to Clifford. To avoid suspicion, the judge arranged clues that pointed police to Clifford as the assailant. Jaffrey did not intend Clifford be tried for murder; however, he never told authorities about his own part in his uncle's death. In subsequent years, the younger Jaffrey wrote the incident off to youth and rarely thought about it. Next, readers learn that the judge's only heir, his son, has died of cholera while traveling and that as a result, Clifford, Hepzibah, Phoebe, and Holgrave are now to enjoy the judge's riches. Though Clifford is never restored to his former self, he is greatly brightened by the judge's death. Clifford, Hepzibah, Phoebe, and Holgrave move to the judge's country estate as do the Pyncheon hens, who become prolific egg layers. In the face of the change, Holgrave's progressive views seem to be becoming more conservative. On the day of their departure, the foursome and Uncle Venner gaze upon Colonel Pyncheon's portrait and Clifford comments that he has a hazy remembrance about the portrait holding a secret about wealth. Holgrave taps a hidden spring on the portrait, which sends the picture toppling to the floor. In the open space that is revealed, everyone sees the legendary deed to the land in Maine. Hepzibah comments that Clifford must have mentioned something in his youth about the portrait to the judge, who then mistakenly believed that Clifford knew something about the whereabouts of their uncle's remaining estate. Holgrave reveals that he knows of the spring because he is the son of Thomas Maule, who hid the parchment behind the portrait when he built the house. Uncle Venner ventures that the claim is now worthless. Phoebe insists that Uncle Venner come live in the cottage on the judge's property. Clifford seconds the invitation and when the foursome prepare to depart, Uncle Venner is to follow them a few days later. Children gather around the carriage, and Hepzibah notices Ned Higgins, to whom she gives some money. The two laborers pass and acknowledge Hepzibah's good fortune. Leaving the house, Uncle Venner fancies he hears Alice Pyncheon playing her harpsichord as she ascends to heaven.
This section contains 5,192 words
(approx. 13 pages at 400 words per page)