Having waited for years for the return of the royal governor, Esther Dudley prepares to greet the man she mistakes for him.
In this excerpt from "Old Esther Dudley" Hawthorne
presents her feeling of triumph and fulfillment that turns to failure; Hawthorne also shows the republican John
Hancock paying her respect.
"She set the mansion in the best order that her means allowed, and, arraying herself in silks and tarnished gold, stood long before the blurred
mirror to admire her own magnificence. As she gazed, the gray and withered lady moved her ashen lips, murmuring half aloud, talking to shapes
that she saw within the mirror, to shadows of her own fantasies, to the household friends of memory, and bidding them rejoice with her and come
forth to meet the Governor. And while absorbed in this communion, Mistress Dudley heard the tramp of many footsteps in the street, and, looking
out at the window, beheld what she construed as the Royal Governor's arrival.
'O happy day! O blessed, blessed hour!' she exclaimed. 'Let me but bid him welcome within the portal, and my task in the Province House, and on
earth, is done!'
She turned the key--withdrew it from the lock--unclosed the door-and stepped across the threshold. Advancing up the court-yard appeared a person
of most dignified mien, with tokens, as Esther interpreted them, of gentle blood, high rank, and long-accustomed authority, even in his walk and
every gesture. He was richly dressed, but wore a gouty shoe, which, however, did not lessen the stateliness of his gait. Around and behind him
were people in plain civic dresses, and two or three war-worn veterans, evidently officers of rank, arrayed in a uniform of blue and buff. But
Esther Dudley, firm in the belief that had fastened its roots about her heart, beheld only the principal personage, and never doubted that this
was the long-looked-for Governor, to whom she was to surrender up her charge. As he approached, she involuntarily sank down on her knees and
tremblingly held forth the heavy key.
'Alas, venerable lady," said Governor Hancock, lending her his support with all the reverence that a courtier would have shown to a queen. 'Your
life has been prolonged until the world has changed around you. You have treasured up all that time has rendered worthless--the principles,
feelings, manners, modes of being and acting, which another generation has flung aside-and you are a symbol of the past.'
'She hath done her office!' said Hancock solemnly. 'We will follow her reverently to the tomb of her ancestors; and then, my fellow-citizens,
onward--onward! We are no longer children of the Past!'" (courtesy of Eric Eldred)