House of The Seven Gables - Chapter 2
Now our story begins.
It is early in the morning. The sun has not yet risen. We will not say that Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon just woke up. It is possible that the poor old woman did not close her eyes all night. But now she has gotten out of bed. She is beginning to dress. She is alone in the house except for one other person. This person is a young man. He is a photographer. He is a person of very good character. For three months he has had a room in one of the far gables of the house. His room is far from the room of Miss Hepzibah. There are many long halls and doors between them. Therefore he does not hear the sounds that come from her room as she dresses. Miss Hepzibah is very sad. She cries sadly to herself. She prays to God to help her. It seems that this is to be a particularly difficult day for her. For many years she has lived alone. She has never gone out. No one comes to see her or to visit her. She has taken no part in the business of life. But today is to be different. She dresses herself with great care. She looks at herself in the mirror a long time.
She is almost ready now. Yet she stops a moment to open a small drawer of her dressing table. She takes out a small picture. It is the picture of a young man. She looks at the picture a long time. The young man has a very sensitive face. The eyes are soft and beautiful. He is dressed in a long silk dressing gown.
The style of the dressing gown shows that the picture was taken a long time ago. Who is this young man? Can he have been a lover of Miss Hepzibah? No, she never had a lover—poor thing —how could she? She has never known love in all her life. Yet the affection which she feels for the young man in the picture is very great. Her affection will never die.
She has put the picture to one side and stands again before the mirror. There are tears in her eyes. Slowly she wipes them away. Miss Hepzibah is a tall woman. She is very thin. She wears a long black silk dress which makes her look even thinner. She leaves the room, enters the long dark hall. Slowly she feels her way toward the stairs. She does not see well because her eyes are no longer good.
She goes downstairs, enters the living room. The sun has now risen. There is light coming in at all the windows of the House of the Seven Gables. Yet the living room remains dark. It is a large room. There is nothing pleasant or inviting about it. The walls are of dark wood. All of the furniture is old and ugly. There is a large chimney in the room, but this has been closed up. In front of the chimney now stands a modern stove. The carpet on the floor is old and worn. There are two tables in the room. Both of them are very old. There are also five or six chairs. These chairs are straight and hard. They represent the Puritan character of the early period from which they come.
Two things in particular stand out in the room. One is a large map which hangs on the wall. This map shows the land to the east which, for so many years, the Pyncheon family said belonged to them. The other is a large picture of Colonel Pyncheon. This hangs on another wall. It shows the colonel standing. In one hand the colonel holds a Bible. In the other hand he holds a long sword. The sword seems to stand out in the picture much more clearly than the Bible. The man who made the picture probably felt that the sword represented the real character of Colonel Pyncheon much better than the Bible.
Miss Hepzibah stopped before the picture. She looked at it for several moments. The expression on her face was not pleasant. Could she be angry? No—this was her usual expression. It was the result of her poor eyes. Every time she looked at anything, in order to see it well, she scowled. This scowl made her look angry. She was not angry. She often stood and looked at the picture of Colonel Pyncheon in this way. She was proud to be a Pyncheon and proud to be one of Colonel Pyncheon’s descendants.
Because of her scowl, however, most people thought of Miss Hepzibah as a very unpleasant old woman. To them she always looked angry. Yet she was a simple, kind woman. She had lived so many years alone that her character had become a little strange. But at heart she was sensitive and gentle. All of this we shall see as we go on with our story.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. At what time of day does the story begin?
2. What is Miss Hepzibah doing at the beginning of the story?
3. Who else lives in the house? What does he do?
4. Why can’t he hear the sounds from Miss Hepzibah’s room?
5. Why is Miss Hepzibah sad?
6. How has she lived for many years?
7. What docs she take out of the drawer of her dressing table?
8. What does the young man in the picture look like? How is he dressed?
9. Describe Miss Hepzibah.
10. Describe the living room of the House of the Seven Gables.
11. What two things in particular stand out in the living room?
12. Why does Miss Hepzibah scowl so often when she looks at anything?
13. How does this scowl make her appear to most people?
14. Why has the character of Miss Hepzibah become a little strange?
15. What kind of person is she at heart?
B.Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
woke up gotten out of bed taken part in stand out looked because of at heart go on with
In the front part of the House of the Seven Gables there was a small shop door. We have not spoken about this door before. It was put there about a hundred years ago by one of the Pyn- cheons. He happened to be very poor. He needed money. So he opened a small shop right in the House of the Seven Gables. The door was divided into two parts. The upper part had a small window in it, and so could be opened without opening the lower part. It was a great disgrace to the Pyncheon family to have this shop right in the house. No one in the Pyncheon family had ever gone into business. Therefore, as soon as the old man died, the family closed the shop door and never opened it again. The room was not used for many years. Everything in it was covered with dust. Hepzibah and her brother used to play there sometimes when they were small children. Now a great change had taken place. The whole shop had been cleaned. Everything was in order once again. The shelves were full of goods to sell. Some of these things were similar to those the old man used to sell. Others were more modern. They did not exist in the time of the old man.
It is clear that someone has taken over the shop. Someone plans to go into business here again. Who can it be? Why, of all places, has this person decided to open a shop in the old House of the Seven Gables?
We go back now to Miss Hepzibah. She has turned away from the picture of Colonel Pyncheon. She leaves the room, enters another long dark hall. This hall leads to the small shop we have just spoken about. She opens the door of the shop but does not enter. She stops a moment in the doorway. It is dark inside. The big tree in front of the house lets little light come into the shop. She scowls as usual, trying to see inside. She enters the shop suddenly as though trying to finish as quickly as possible something which is unpleasant for her.
Once inside the shop she begins to put things in order. Certain things she places in the shop window so that people who pass in the street may see them. So tall and thin—dressed in her long black dress—Miss Hepzibah makes a rather strange shopkeeper. Yet the business of opening a small shop is about the
only thing an old woman like Miss Hcpzibah can do. At first she thought of making her living by sewing. When she was young, she sewed very well. But now her eyes are not good. This makes sewing difficult for her. She also thought about opening a small school for children. But she did not like children very well. She never had any children of her own. She never learned to love them. Sometimes she used to watch them in the street from her window. The thought of teaching them was not pleasant to her.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What was there in the front part of the House of the Seven
2. When was it put there?
3. Why did one of the Pyncheons need to open a shop?
4. Describe the door.
5. Why was the shop a disgrace to the Pyncheon family?
6. What happened to the shop after the old man died?
7. What change had now taken place in the shop?
8. What is Miss Hepzibah planning to do?
9. Why can’t she make her living by sewing?
10. Why didn’t she open a small school for children?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
gone into business used to play taken place
taken over turned away from making her living as usual as though