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THE SCARLET LETTER

mouldering trunk. In one case, however, it is real sunshine; in
the other, it more resembles the phosphorescent glow of
decaying wood.

It would be sad injustice, the reader must understand, to
represent all my excellent old friends as in their dotage. In the
first place, my coadjutors were not invariably old; there were
men among them in their strength and prime, of marked
ability and energy, and altogether superior to the sluggish and
dependent mode of life on which their evil stars had cast
them. Then, moreover, the white locks of age were some-
times found to be the thatch of an intellectual tenement in
good repair. But, as respects the majority of my corps of
veterans, there will be no wrong done, if I characterize them
generally as a set of wearisome old souls, who had gathered
nothing worth preservation from their varied experience of
life. They seemed to have flung away all the golden grain of
practical wisdom, which they had enjoyed so many opportuni-
ties of harvesting, and most carefully to have stored their
memories with the husks. They spoke with far more interest
and unction of their morning's breakfast, or yesterday's, to-
day's, or to-morrow's dinner, than of the shipwreck of forty
or fifty years ago, and all the world's wonders which they
had witnessed with their youthful eyes.

The father of the Custom-House–the patriarch, not only
of this little squad of officials, but, I am bold to say, of the
respectable body of tide-waiters all over the United States–
was a certain permanent Inspector. He might truly be termed
a legitimate son of the revenue system, dyed in the wool, or
rather, born in the purple; since his sire, a Revolutionary
colonel, and formerly collector of the port, had created an
office for him, and appointed him to fill it, at a period of the
early ages which few living men can now remember. This
Inspector, when I first knew him, was a man of fourscore
years, or thereabouts, and certainly one of the most wonderful
specimens of winter-green that you would be likely to discover

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