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THE SCARLET LETTER

only conscious that what would have been a pleasure once was
now a hopeless toil. There was no occasion to make much
moan about this state of affairs. I had ceased to be a writer of
tolerably poor tales and essays, and had become a tolerably
good Surveyor of the Customs. That was all. But, neverthe-
less, it is any thing but agreeable to be haunted by a suspicion
that one's intellect is dwindling away; or exhaling, without
your consciousness, like ether out of a phial; so that, at every
glance, you find a smaller and less volatile residuum. Of the
fact, there could be no doubt; and, examining myself and
others, I was led to conclusions in reference to the effect of
public office on the character, not very favorable to the mode
of life in question. In some other form, perhaps, I may here-
after develop these effects. Suffice it here to say, that a Cus-
tom-House officer, of long continuance, can hardly be a very
praiseworthy or respectable personage, for many reasons; one
of them, the tenure by which he holds his situation, and an-
other, the very nature of his business, which–though, I trust,
an honest one–is of such a sort that he does not share in the
united effort of mankind.

An effect–which I believe to be observable, more or less,
in every individual who has occupied the position–is, that,
while he leans on the mighty arm of the Republic, his own
proper strength departs from him. He loses, in an extent pro
portioned to the weakness or force of his original nature, the
capability of self-support. If he possess an unusual share of
native energy, or the enervating magic of place do not operate
too long upon him, his forfeited powers may be redeemable.
The ejected officer–fortunate in the unkindly shove that
sends him forth betimes, to struggle amid a struggling world
–may return to himself, and become all that he has ever
been. But this seldom happens. He usually keeps his ground
just long enough for his own ruin, and is then thrust out, with
sinews all unstrung, to totter along the difficult footpath of
life as he best may. Conscious of his own infirmity, that his

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