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THE CUSTOM-HOUSE

at periods generally much posterior to the Revolution, up-
ward to what their children look upon as long-established
rank.

Prior to the Revolution, there is a dearth of records; the
earlier documents and archives of the Custom-House having,
probably, been carried off to Halifax, when all the King's offi-
cials accompanied the British army in its flight from Boston. It
has often been a matter of regret with me; for, going back,
perhaps, to the days of the Protectorate, those papers must
have contained many references to forgotten or remembered
men, and to antique customs, which would have affected me
with the same pleasure as when I used to pick up Indian
arrow-heads in the field near the Old Manse.

But, one idle and rainy day, it was my fortune to make a
discovery of some little interest. Poking and burrowing into
the heaped-up rubbish in the corner; unfolding one and an-
other document, and reading the names of vessels that had
long ago foundered at sea or rotted at the wharves, and those
of merchants, never heard of now on 'Change, nor very readily
decipherable on their mossy tombstones; glancing at such mat-
ters with the saddened, weary, half-reluctant interest which
we bestow on the corpse of dead activity,–and exerting my
fancy, sluggish with little use, to raise up from these dry bones
an image of the old town's brighter aspect, when India was a
new region, and only Salem knew the way thither,–I
chanced to lay my hand on a small package, carefully done
up in a piece of ancient yellow parchment. This envelope had
the air of an official record of some period long past, when
clerks engrossed their stiff and formal chirography on more
substantial materials than at present. There was something
about it that quickened an instinctive curiosity, and made me
undo the faded red tape, that tied up the package, with the
sense that a treasure would here be brought to light. Unbend-
ing the rigid folds of the parchment cover, I found it to be a
commission, under the hand and seal of Governor Shirley, in

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