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THE SCARLET LETTER

the worst, of the accident which has befallen him. In my par-
ticular case, the consolatory topics were close at hand, and,
indeed, had suggested themselves to my meditations a con-
siderable time before it was requisite to use them. In view of
my previous weariness of office, and vague thoughts of resigna-
tion, my fortune somewhat resembled that of a person who
should entertain an idea of committing suicide, and, alto-
gether beyond his hopes, meet with the good hap to be mur-
dered. In the Custom-House, as before in the Old Manse, I
had spent three years; a term long enough to rest a weary
brain; long enough to break off old intellectual habits, and
make room for new ones; long enough, and too long, to have
lived in an unnatural state, doing what was really of no ad-
vantage nor delight to any human being, and withholding my-
self from toil that would, at least, have stilled an unquiet im-
pulse in me. Then, moreover, as regarded his unceremonious
ejectment, the late Surveyor was not altogether ill-pleased to
be recognized by the Whigs as an enemy; since his inactivity in
political affairs,–his tendency to roam, at will, in that broad
and quiet field where all mankind may meet, rather than con-
fine himself to those narrow paths where brethren of the same
household must diverge from one another,–had sometimes
made it questionable with his brother Democrats whether he
was a friend. Now, after he had won the crown of martyrdom,
(though with no longer a head to wear it on,) the point
might be looked upon as settled. Finally, little heroic as he
was, it seemed more decorous to be overthrown in the down-
fall of the party with which he had been content to stand,
than to remain a forlorn survivor, when so many worthier men
were falling; and, at last, after subsisting for four years on the
mercy of a hostile administration, to be compelled then to de-
fine his position anew, and claim the yet more humiliating
mercy of a friendly one.

Meanwhile, the press had taken up my affair, and kept me,
for a week or two, careering through the public prints, in my

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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