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THE CUSTOMHOUSE

tempered steel and elasticity are lost,–he for ever afterwards
looks wistfully about him in quest of support external to him-
self. His pervading and continual hope–a hallucination,
which, in the face of all discouragement, and making light of
impossibilities, haunts him while he lives, and, I fancy, like
the convulsive throes of the cholera, torments him for a
brief space after death–is, that, finally, and in no long time,
by some happy coincidence of circumstances, he shall be re-
stored to office. This faith, more than any thing else, steals
the pith and availability out of whatever enterprise he may
dream of undertaking. Why should he toil and moil, and be at
so much trouble to pick himself up out of the mud, when, in
a little while hence, the strong arm of his Uncle will raise
and support him? Why should he work for his living here, or
go to dig gold in California, when he is so soon to be made
happy, at monthly intervals, with a little pile of glittering
coin out of his Uncle's pocket? It is sadly curious to observe
how slight a taste of office suffices to infect a poor fellow
with this singular disease. Uncle Sam's gold–meaning no
disrespect to the worthy old gentleman–has, in this respect,
a quality of enchantment like that of the Devil's wages. Who-
ever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the
bargain to go hard against him, involving, if not his soul, yet
many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and
constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives the
emphasis to manly character.

Here was a fine prospect in the distance! Not that the
Surveyor brought the lesson home to himself, or admitted that
he could be so utterly undone, either by continuance in office,
or ejectment. Yet my reflections were not the most comfor-
table. I began to grow melancholy and restless; continually
prying into my mind, to discover which of its poor properties
were gone, and what degree of detriment had already accrued
to the remainder. I endeavoured to calculate how much
longer I could stay in the Custom-House, and yet go forth a

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