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THE CUSTOM-HOUSE

in a lifetime's search. With his florid cheek, his compact
figure, smartly arrayed in a bright-buttoned blue coat, his
brisk and vigorous step, and his hale and hearty aspect, alto-
gether, he seemed–not young, indeed–but a kind of new
contrivance of Mother Nature in the shape of man, whom age
and infirmity had no business to touch. His voice and laugh,
which perpetually reëchoed through the Custom-House, had
nothing of the tremulous quaver and cackle of an old man's
utterance; they came strutting out of his lungs, like the crow
of a cock, or the blast of a clarion. Looking at him merely
as an animal,–and there was very little else to look at,–he
was a most satisfactory object, from the thorough healthful-
ness and wholesomeness of his system, and his capacity, at
that extreme age, to enjoy all, or nearly all, the delights which
he had ever aimed at, or conceived of. The careless security of
his life in the Custom-House, on a regular income, and with
but slight and infrequent apprehensions of removal, had no
doubt contributed to make time pass lightly over him. The
original and more potent causes, however, lay in the rare per-
fection of his animal nature, the moderate proportion of
intellect, and the very trifling admixture of moral and spiritual
ingredients; these latter qualities, indeed, being in barely
enough measure to keep the old gentleman from walking on
all-fours. He possessed no power of thought, no depth of
feeling, no troublesome sensibilities; nothing, in short, but a
few commonplace instincts, which, aided by the cheerful
temper that grew inevitably out of his physical well-being,
did duty very respectably, and to general acceptance, in lieu
of a heart. He had been the husband of three wives, all long
since dead; the father of twenty children, most of whom, at
every age of childhood or maturity, had likewise returned to
dust. Here, one would suppose, might have been sorrow
enough to imbue the sunniest disposition, through and
through, with a sable tinge. Not so with our old Inspector!
One brief sigh sufficed to carry off the entire burden of these

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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