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THE SCARLET LETTER

dismal reminiscences. The next moment, he was as ready
for sport as any unbreeched infant; far readier than the
Collector's junior clerk, who, at nineteen years, was much the
elder and graver man of the two.

I used to watch and study this patriarchal personage with,
I think, livelier curiosity than any other form of humanity
there presented to my notice. He was, in truth, a rare
phenomenon; so perfect in one point of view; so shallow, so
delusive, so impalpable, such an absolute nonentity, in every
other. My conclusion was that he had no soul, no heart, no
mind; nothing, as I have already said, but instincts; and yet,
withal, so cunningly had the few materials of his character
been put together, that there was no painful perception of
deficiency, but, on my part, an entire contentment with what
I found in him. It might be difficult–and it was so–to
conceive how he should exist hereafter, so earthy and sensuous
did he seem; but surely his existence here, admitting that it
was to terminate with his last breath, had been not unkindly
given; with no higher moral responsibilities than the beasts of
the field, but with a larger scope of enjoyment than theirs, and
with all their blessed immunity from the dreariness and
duskiness of age.
One point, in which he had vastly the advantage over his
four-footed brethren, was his ability to recollect the good
dinners which it had made no small portion of the happiness
of his life to eat. His gourmandism was a highly agreeable
trait; and to hear him talk of roast-meat was as appetizing as a
pickle or an oyster. As he possessed no higher attribute, and
neither sacrificed nor vitiated any spiritual endowment by
devoting all his energies and ingenuities to subserve the
delight and profit of his maw, it always pleased and satisfied
me to hear him expatiate on fish, poultry, and butcher's meat,
and the most eligible methods of preparing them for the
table. His reminiscences of good cheer, however ancient the
date of the actual banquet, seemed to bring the savor of pig or

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