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THE SCARLET LETTER

a task of danger and glory before him, has ever spoken–
would be the best and fittest of all mottoes for the General's
shield of arms.

It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual
health, to be brought into habits of companionship with
individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits,
and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself
to appreciate. The accidents of my life have often afforded
me this advantage, but never with more fulness and variety
than during my continuance in office. There was one man,
especially, the observation of whose character gave me a new
idea of talent. His gifts were emphatically those of a man of
business; prompt, acute, clear-minded; with an eye that saw
through all perplexities, and a faculty of arrangement that
made them vanish, as by the waving of an enchanter's wand.
Bred up from boyhood in the Custom-House, it was his
proper field of activity; and the many intricacies of business,
so harassing to the interloper, presented themselves before
him with the regularity of a perfectly comprehended system.
In my contemplation, he stood as the ideal of his class. He
was, indeed, the Custom-House in himself; or, at all events,
the main-spring that kept its variously revolving wheels in
motion; for, in an institution like this, where its officers are
appointed to subserve their own profit and convenience, and
seldom with a leading reference to their fitness for the duty
to be performed, they must perforce seek elsewhere the
dexterity which is not in them. Thus, by an inevitable neces-
sity, as a magnet attracts steel-filings, so did our man of
business draw to himself the difficulties which everybody met
with. With an easy condescension, and kind forbearance
towards our stupidity,–which, to his order of mind, must
have seemed little short of crime,–would he forthwith, by
the merest touch of his finger, make the incomprehensible
as clear as daylight. The merchants valued him not less than
we, his esoteric friends. His integrity was perfect; it was a

The Scarlet Letter > Page
Previous Page Custom House Home Next Page   Audio Reading of Page
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21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45

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