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THE CUSTOM-HOUSE

scene. More frequently, however, on ascending the steps,
you would discern–in the entry, if it were summer time, or
in their appropriate rooms, if wintry or inclement weather–
a row of venerable figures, sitting in old-fashioned chairs,
which were tipped on their hind legs back against the wall.
Oftentimes they were asleep, but occasionally might be heard
talking together, in voices between speech and a snore, and
with that lack of energy that distinguishes the occupants of
alms-houses, and all other human beings who depend for
subsistence on charity, on monopolized labor, or any thing
else but their own independent exertions. These old gentle-
men–seated, like Matthew, at the receipt of custom, but not
very liable to be summoned thence, like him, for apostolic
errands–were Custom-House officers.

Furthermore, on the left hand as you enter the front door,
is a certain room or office, about fifteen feet square, and of a
lofty height; with two of its arched windows commanding a
view of the aforesaid dilapidated wharf, and the third looking
across a narrow lane, and along a portion of Derby Street.
All three give glimpses of the shops of grocers, block-makers,
slop-sellers, and ship-chandlers; around the doors of which are
generally to be seen, laughing and gossiping, clusters of old
salts, and such other wharf-rats as haunt the Wapping of a
seaport. The room itself is cobwebbed, and dingy with old
paint; its floor is strewn with gray sand, in a fashion that has
elsewhere fallen into long disuse; and it is easy to conclude,
from the general slovenliness of the place, that this is a
sanctuary into which womankind, with her tools of magic,
the broom and mop, has very infrequent access. In the way of
furniture, there is a stove with a voluminous funnel; an old
pine desk, with a three-legged stool beside it; two or three
wooden-bottom chairs, exceedingly decrepit and infirm; and,
–not to forget the library,–on some shelves, a score or two
of volumes of the Acts of Congress, and a bulky Digest of the
Revenue Laws
. A tin pipe ascends through the ceiling, and

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