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enable me to sketch only in the merest outline. It is that of
the Collector, our gallant old General, who, after his brilliant
military service, subsequently to which he had ruled over a
wild Western territory, had come hither, twenty years before,
to spend the decline of his varied and honorable life. The
brave soldier had already numbered, nearly or quite, his
threescore years and ten, and was pursuing the remainder of
his earthly march, burdened with infirmities which even the
martial music of his own spirit-stirring recollections could do
little towards lightening. The step was palsied now, that had
been foremost in the charge. It was only with the assistance of
a servant, and by leaning his hand heavily on the iron balus-
trade, that he could slowly and painfully ascend the Custom-
House steps
, and, with a toilsome progress across the floor,
attain his customary chair beside the fireplace. There he used
to sit, gazing with a somewhat dim serenity of aspect at the
figures that came and went; amid the rustle of papers, the
administering of oaths, the discussion of business, and the
casual talk of the office; all which sounds and circumstances
seemed but indistinctly to impress his senses, and hardly to
make their way into his inner sphere of contemplation. His
countenance, in this repose, was mild and kindly. If his notice
was sought, an expression of courtesy and interest gleamed
out upon his features; proving that there was light within
him, and that it was only the outward medium of the intel-
lectual lamp that obstructed the rays in their passage. The
closer you penetrated to the substance of his mind, the sounder
it appeared. When no longer called upon to speak, or listen,
either of which operations cost him an evident effort, his face
would briefly subside into its former not uncheerful quietude.
It was not painful to behold this look; for, though dim, it had
not the imbecility of decaying age. The framework of his
nature, orginally strong and massive, was not yet crumbled
into ruin.

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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