Excerpts from Chapter 8, "The Pyncheons of Today,"
Excerpts from Chapter 8, "The Pyncheons of Today," of The House of the
Seven Gables, which focus on Hepzibah.
Such was the case. The vibrations of the judge's voice had reached the
old gentlewoman in the parlor, where she sat, with face averted, waiting
on her brother's slumber. She now issued forth, as would appear, to defend
the entrance, looking, we must needs say, amazingly like the dragon which,
in fairy tales, is wont to be the guardian over an enchanted beauty. The
habitual scowl of her brow was, undeniably, too fierce, at this moment,
to pass itself off on the innocent score of near-sightedness; and it was
bent on Judge Pyncheon in a way that seemed to confound, if not alarm him,
so inadequately had he estimated the moral force of a deeply-grounded antipathy.
She made a repelling gesture with her hand, and stood, a perfect picture
of prohibition, at full length, in the dark frame of the doorway. But we
must betray Hepzibah's secret, and confess that the native timorousness
of her character, even now developed itself, in a quick tremor, which,
to her own perception, set each of her joints at variance with its fellows.
Possibly, the judge was aware how little true hardihood lay behind Hepzibah's
formidable front. At any rate, being a gentleman of steady nerves, he soon
recovered himself, and failed not to approach his cousin with outstretched
hand; adopting the sensible precaution, however, to cover his advance with
a smile, so broad and sultry, that, had it been only half as warm as it
looked, a trellis of grapes might at once have turned purple under its
summer-like exposure. It may have been his purpose, indeed, to melt poor
Hepzibah on the spot, as if she were a figure of yellow wax.
[. . .]
Hepzibah spread out her gaunt figure across the door and seemed really
to increase in bulk; looking the more terrible, also, because there was
so much terror and agitation in her heart. But Judge Pyncheon's evident
purpose of forcing a passage was interrupted by a voice from the inner
room; a weak, tremulous, wailing voice, indicating helpless alarm, with
no more energy for self-defence than belongs to a frightened infant. (Chapter