Excerpts from Chapter 15, "The Scowl and the Smile,"
Excerpts from Chapter 5, "May and November," of The House of the Seven
Gables which focus on Hepzibah.
…To find the born and educated lady, on the other hand, we need look no
further than Hepzibah, our forlorn old maid, in her rustling and rusty
silks, with her deeply-cherished and ridiculous consciousness of long descent,
her shadowy claims to princely territory, and, in the way of accomplishment,
her recollections, it may be, of having formerly thrummed on a harpsichord,
and walked a minuet, and worked an antique tapestry-stitch on her sampler.
It was a fair parallel between new Plebeianism and old Gentility.
The old gentlewoman took a dreary and proud satisfaction in leading
Phoebe from room to room of the house, and recounting the traditions with
which, as we may say, the walls were lugubriously frescoed. She showed
the indentations made by the lieutenant-governor's sword-hilt in the door-panels
of the apartment where old Colonel Pyncheon, a dead host, had received
his affrighted visitors with an awful frown. The dusky terror of that frown,
Hepzibah observed, was thought to be lingering ever since in the passageway.
She bade Phoebe step into one of the tall chairs, and inspect the ancient
map of the Pyncheon territory at the eastward. In a tract of land on which
she laid her finger, there existed a silver mine, the locality of which
was precisely pointed out in some memoranda of Colonel Pyncheon himself,
but only to be made known when the family claim should be recognized by
government. Thus it was for the interest of all New England that the Pyncheons
should have justice done them. She told, too, how that there was undoubtedly
an immense treasure of English guineas hidden somewhere about the house,
or in the cellar, or possibly in the garden.
"If you should happen to find it, Phoebe," said Hepzibah, glancing aside
at her, with a grim yet kindly smile, "we will tie up the shop-bell for
good and all!"