Hawthorne in Salem Search Hawthorne in Salem





Facebook Page
[Home]  

The Scarlet Letter > Page
Previous Page Custom House Home Next Page   Audio Reading of Page

THE SCARLET LETTER

resort of business. In some months of the year, however, there
often chances a forenoon when affairs move onward with a
livelier tread. Such occasions might remind the elderly citi-
zen of that period, before the last war with England, when
Salem was a port by itself; not scorned, as she is now, by her
own merchants and ship-owners, who permit her wharves to
crumble to ruin, while their ventures go to swell, needlessly
and imperceptibly, the mighty flood of commerce at New
York or Boston. On some such morning, when three or four
vessels happen to have arrived at once,–usually from Africa
or South America,–or to be on the verge of their departure
thitherward, there is a sound of frequent feet, passing briskly
up and down the granite steps. Here, before his own wife has
greeted him, you may greet the sea-flushed ship-master, just
in port, with his vessel's papers under his arm in a tarnished
tin box. Here, too, comes his owner, cheerful or sombre, gra-
cious or in the sulks, accordingly as his scheme of the now
accomplished voyage has been realized in merchandise that
will readily be turned to gold, or has buried him under a bulk
of incommodities, such as nobody will care to rid him of.
Here, likewise,–the germ of the wrinkle-browed, grizzly-
bearded, careworn merchant,–we have the smart young
clerk, who gets the taste of traffic as a wolf-cub does of blood,
and already sends adventures in his master's ships, when he
had better be sailing mimic boats upon a mill-pond. Another
figure in the scene is the outward-bound sailor, in quest of a
protection; or the recently arrived one, pale and feeble, seek-
ing a passport to the hospital. Nor must we forget the captains
of the rusty little schooners that bring firewood from the
British provinces; a rough-looking set of tarpaulins, without
the alertness of the Yankee aspect, but contributing an item
of no slight importance to our decaying trade.

Cluster all these individuals together, as they sometimes
were, with other miscellaneous ones to diversify the group,
and, for the time being, it made the Custom-House a stirring

The Scarlet Letter > Page
Previous Page Custom House Home Next Page   Audio Reading of Page
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11931/


About US Privacy Policy Copyright Credits Site Map Site Help