The next morning, Phoebe finds Hepzibah already in the kitchen. Hepzibah is staring at a cookbook, trying to find an idea for breakfast. Phoebe helps Hepzibah prepare a mackerel, some coffee, and a cake. With the addition of Hepzibah’s family china and some flowers picked by Phoebe, the breakfast table is soon copiously laden. But there is a third place setting—who is it for?
Hepzibah isn’t accustomed to being domestic, much less cooking elaborate meals, so the more practical Phoebe must come to her aid. Her motivation for such out-of-character behavior is finally about to be revealed.
Hepzibah, trembling and tearful, tells a puzzled Phoebe that her heart is overflowing. She murmurs about “poor Clifford.” Phoebe hears the same hesitant step she had heard overnight and, at long last, Hepzibah opens the door and leads a stranger into the room: an elderly man with long, graying hair. His expression wavers like a flickering candle.
It's such a momentous day that Hepzibah’s tender emotions finally overflow her reserved exterior—a reaction that is, again, out of character for the genteel Hepzibah. The footsteps Phoebe heard last night were Clifford’s, yet the ghostly sense of tragedy surrounding Clifford persists.
Hepzibah introduces Phoebe and helps the man into a chair. He struggles to take in his surroundings. Watching him, Phoebe suddenly realizes that the man is the same delicate figure whom Hepzibah had shown her in the miniature portrait. Even the sense of a lingering calamity cannot totally erase the man’s graceful beauty.
Clifford’s ravaged exterior cannot completely erase the beauty that was transparently shown in his portrait, which Phoebe picks up on right away, suggesting a kindred sort of innocence that the two share.
As Hepzibah pours Clifford coffee, Clifford seems bewildered by Hepzibah’s frowning expression. Hepzibah assures Clifford that she is not angry with him, and that there is only love here. As Clifford enjoys the food and begins to perk up, it’s evident that he has good taste and an appreciation for beauty. It’s also evident in the way he smiles at Phoebe’s loveliness and recoils at Hepzibah’s age. He delights in a crimson rose Phoebe has picked in the garden, but he cowers before the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, asking Hepzibah to cover it. She promises to do so.
Like Phoebe, Clifford struggles to make sense of people who are not quite as they seem—even when it’s just a matter of a scowl hiding a loving spirit. This makes it difficult for him to bond anew with his sister, whereas Phoebe’s transparent beauty is attractive to him. It also makes the sight of Colonel Pyncheon’s fierce portrait especially grating to his delicate sensibilities.
Clifford is rattled anew when the shop bell rings. Hepzibah explains that they are now poor and that she’s found it necessary to open a shop to support the two of them. She asks Clifford if he is ashamed of her because of this. Clifford asks what further shame could possibly befall him, and he begins to weep. After a little while, he falls asleep. Hepzibah gazes sadly at his changed face.
In addition to the notable change in Hepzibah’s appearance, Clifford also discovers that the household’s class standing has shifted in his absence. Yet Clifford also alludes to a deeper shame, the real source of which has yet to be revealed.