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THE CUSTOMHOUSE

self,–a most curious relic,–are still in my possession, and
shall be freely exhibited to whomsoever, induced by the
great interest of the narrative, may desire a sight of them. I
must not be understood as affirming, that, in the dressing up of
the tale, and imagining the motives and modes of passion that
influenced the characters who figure in it, I have invariably
confined myself within the limits of the old Surveyor's half a
dozen sheets of foolscap. On the contrary, I have allowed my-
self, as to such points, nearly or altogether as much license as
if the facts had been entirely of my own invention. What I
contend for is the authenticity of the outline.

This incident recalled my mind, in some degree, to its old
track. There seemed to be here the groundwork of a tale. It
impressed me as if the ancient Surveyor, in his garb of a hun-
dred years gone by, and wearing his immortal wig,–which
was buried with him, but did not perish in the grave,–had
met me in the deserted chamber of the Custom-House. In his
port was the dignity of one who had borne his Majesty's com-
mission, and who was therefore illuminated by a ray of the
splendor that shone so dazzlingly about the throne. How un-
like, alas! the hang-dog look of a republican official, who, as
the servant of the people, feels himself less than the least, and
below the lowest, of his masters. With his own ghostly hand,
the obscurely seen, but majestic, figure had imparted to me the
scarlet symbol, and the little roll of explanatory manuscript.
With his own ghostly voice, he had exhorted me, on the sa-
cred consideration of my filial duty and reverence towards
him,–who might reasonably regard himself as my official
ancestor,–to bring his mouldy and moth-eaten lucubrations
before the public. "Do this," said the ghost of Mr. Surveyor
Pue, emphatically nodding the head that looked so imposing
within its memorable wig, "do this, and the profit shall be all
your own! You will shortly need it; for it is not in your days as
it was in mine, when a man's office was a life-lease, and often-
times an heirloom. But, I charge you, in this matter of old

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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