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THE SCARLET LETTER

consequences of them, in another state of being. At all events,
I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby take
shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse
incurred by them–as I have heard, and as the dreary and
unprosperous condition of the race, for many a long year
back, would argue to exist–may be now and henceforth removed.

Doubtless, however, either of these stern and black-browed
Puritans would have thought it quite a sufficient retribution
for his sins, that, after so long a lapse of years, the old trunk of
the family tree, with so much venerable moss upon it, should
have borne, as its topmost bough, an idler like myself. No
aim, that I have ever cherished, would they recognize as
laudable; no success of mine–if my life, beyond its domestic
scope, had ever been brightened by success–would they deem
otherwise than worthless, if not positively disgraceful. "What
is he?" murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to the
other. "A writer of story-books! What kind of a business in
life,–what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to
mankind in his day and generation,–may that be? Why, the
degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!" Such are
the compliments bandied between my great-grand sires and
myself, across the gulf of time! And yet, let them scorn me as
they will, strong traits of their nature have intertwined
themselves with mine.

Planted deep, in the town's earliest infancy and childhood,
by these two earnest and energetic men, the race has ever
since subsisted here; always, too, in respectability; never, so
far as I have known, disgraced by a single unworthy member;
but seldom or never, on the other hand, after the first two
generations, performing any memorable deed, or so much as
putting forward a claim to public notice. Gradually, they have
sunk almost out of sight; as old houses, here and there about
the streets, get covered half-way to the eaves by the accumula-
tion of new soil. From father to son, for above a hundred

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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