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THE SCARLET LETTER

though still almost as vividly present as by daylight. Thus,
therefore, the floor of our familiar room has become a neutral
territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land,
where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each im-
bue itself with the nature of the other. Ghosts might enter
here, without affrighting us. It would be too much in keeping
with the scene to excite surprise, were we to look about us and
discover a form, beloved, but gone hence, now sitting quietly in
a streak of this magic moonshine, with an aspect that would
make us doubt whether it had returned from afar, or had
never once stirred from our fireside.

The somewhat dim coal-fire has an essential influence in
producing the effect which I would describe. It throws its
unobtrusive tinge throughout the room, with a faint ruddiness
upon the walls and ceiling, and a reflected gleam from the pol-
ish of the furniture. This warmer light mingles itself with the
cold spirituality of the moonbeams, and communicates, as it
were, a heart and sensibilities of human tenderness to the
forms which fancy summons up. It converts them from snow-
images into men and women. Glancing at the looking-glass,
we behold–deep within its haunted verge–the smouldering
glow of the half- extinguished anthracite, the white moon
beams on the floor, and a repetition of all the gleam and
shadow of the picture, with one remove farther from the ac-
tual, and nearer to the imaginative. Then, at such an hour, and
with this scene before him, if a man, sitting all alone, cannot
dream strange things, and make them look like truth, he need
never try to write romances.

But, for myself, during the whole of my Custom-House
experience, moonlight and sunshine, and the glow of fire-
light, were just alike in my regard; and neither of them was of
one whit more avail than the twinkle of a tallow-candle. An
entire class of susceptibilities, and a gift connected with them,
–-of no great richness or value, but the best I had,– was
gone from me.

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