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THE SCARLET LETTER

man. To confess the truth, it was my greatest apprehension,
–as it would never be a measure of policy to turn out so quiet
an individual as myself, and it being hardly in the nature of a
public officer to resign,–it was my chief trouble, therefore,
that I was likely to grow gray and decrepit in the Surveyor-
ship, and become much such another animal as the old In-
spector. Might it not, in the tedious lapse of official life that lay
before me, finally be with me as it was with this venerable
friend,–to make the dinner-hour the nucleus of the day, and
to spend the rest of it, as an old dog spends it, asleep in the
sunshine or the shade? A dreary look-forward this, for a man
who felt it to be the best definition of happiness to live
throughout the whole range of his faculties and sensibilities!
But, all this while, I was giving myself very unnecessary
alarm. Providence had meditated better things for me than I
could possibly imagine for myself.

A remarkable event of the third year of my Surveyorship–
to adopt the tone of "P.P."–was the election of General Tay-
lor to the Presidency. It is essential, in order to form a com-
plete estimate of the advantages of official life, to view the in-
cumbent at the in-coming of a hostile administration. His posi-
tion is then one of the most singularly irksome, and, in every
contingency, disagreeable, that a wretched mortal can possibly
occupy; with seldom an alternative of good, on either hand, al-
though what presents itself to him as the worst event may
very probably be the best. But it is a strange experience, to a
man of pride and sensibility, to know that his interests are
within the control of individuals who neither love nor under-
stand him, and by whom, since one or the other must needs
happen, he would rather be injured than obliged. Strange, too,
for one who has kept his calmness throughout the contest, to
observe the bloodthirstiness that is developed in the hour of
triumpb, and to be conscious that he is himself among its ob-
jects! There are few uglier traits of human nature than this
tendency–which I now witnessed in men no worse than their

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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