Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

The Old Manse

From "Mosses from an Old Manse"

The Author makes the Reader acquainted with his Abode.


Between two tall gate-posts of rough-hewn stone (the gate itself
having fallen from its hinges at some unknown epoch) we beheld the
gray front of the old parsonage, terminating the vista of an avenue of
black-ash trees. It was now a twelvemonth since the funeral
procession of the venerable clergyman, its last inhabitant, had turned
from that gateway towards the village burying-ground. The wheel-track
leading to the door, as well as the whole breadth of the avenue, was
almost overgrown with grass, affording dainty mouthfuls to two or
three vagrant cows and an old white horse who had his own living to
pick up along the roadside. The glimmering shadows that lay half
asleep between the door of the house and the public highway were a
kind of spiritual medium, seen through which the edifice had not quite
the aspect of belonging to the material world. Certainly it had
little in common with those ordinary abodes which stand so imminent
upon the road that every passer-by can thrust his head, as it were,
into the domestic circle. From these quiet windows the figures of
passing travellers looked too remote and dim to disturb the sense of
privacy. In its near retirement and accessible seclusion, it was the
very spot for the residence of a clergyman,--a man not estranged from
human life, yet enveloped, in the midst of it, with a veil woven of
intermingled gloom and brightness. It was worthy to have been one of
the time-honored parsonages of England, in which, through many
generations, a succession of holy occupants pass from youth to age,
and bequeath each an inheritance of sanctity to pervade the house and
hover over it as with an atmosphere.

Nor, in truth, had the Old Manse ever been profaned by a lay occupant
until that memorable summer afternoon when I entered it as my home. A
priest had built it; a priest had succeeded to it; other priestly men
from time to time had dwelt in it; and children born in its chambers
had grown up to assume the priestly character. It was awful to
reflect how many sermons must have been written there. The latest
inhabitant alone--he by whose translation to paradise the dwelling was
left vacant--had penned nearly three thousand discourses, besides the
better, if not the greater, number that gushed living from his lips.
How often, no doubt, had he paced to and fro along the avenue,
attuning his meditations to the sighs and gentle murmurs and deep and
solemn peals of the wind among the lofty tops of the trees! In that
variety of natural utterances he could find something accordant with
every passage of his sermon, were it of tenderness or reverential
fear. The boughs over my head seemed shadowy with solemn thoughts, as
well as with rustling leaves. I took shame to myself for having been
so long a writer of idle stories, and ventured to hope that wisdom
would descend upon me with the falling leaves of the avenue, and that
I should light upon an intellectual treasure in the Old Manse well
worth those hoards of long-hidden gold which people seek for in moss-
grown houses. Profound treatises of morality; a layman's
unprofessional, and therefore unprejudiced, views of religion;
histories (such as Bancroft might have written had he taken up his
abode here, as he once purposed) bright with picture, gleaming over a
depth of philosophic thought,--these were the works that might fitly
have flowed from such a retirement. In the humblest event, I resolved
at least to achieve a novel that should evolve some deep lesson, and
should possess physical substance enough to stand alone.

In furtherance of my design, and as if to leave me no pretext for not
fulfilling it, there was in the rear of the house the most delightful
little nook of a study that ever afforded its snug seclusion to a
scholar. It was here that Emerson wrote Nature; for he was then an
inhabitant of the Manse, and used to watch the Assyrian dawn and
Paphian sunset and moonrise from the summit of our eastern hill. When
I first saw the room, its walls were blackened with the smoke of
unnumbered years, and made still blacker by the grim prints of Puritan
ministers that hung around. These worthies looked strangely like bad
angels, or at least like men who had wrestled so continually and so
sternly with the Devil that somewhat of his sooty fierceness had been
imparted to their own visages. They had all vanished now; a cheerful
coat of paint and golden-tinted paper-hangings lighted up the small
apartment; while the shadow of a willow-tree that swept against the
overhanging eaves atempered the cheery western sunshine. In place of
the grim prints there was the sweet and lovely head of one of
Raphael's Madonnas, and two pleasant little pictures of the Lake of
Como. The only other decorations were a purple vase of flowers,
always fresh, and a bronze one containing graceful ferns. My books
(few, and by no means choice; for they were chiefly such waifs as
chance had thrown in my way) stood in order about the room, seldom to
be disturbed.

The study had three windows, set with little, old-fashioned panes of
glass, each with a crack across it. The two on the western side
looked, or rather peeped, between the willow branches, down into the
orchard, with glimpses of the river through the trees. The third,
facing northward, commanded a broader view of the river, at a spot
where its hitherto obscure waters gleam forth into the light of
history. It was at this window that the clergyman who then dwelt in
the Manse stood watching the outbreak of a long and deadly struggle
between two nations; he saw the irregular array of his parishioners on
the farther side of the river, and the glittering line of the British
on the hither bank. He awaited, in an agony of suspense, the rattle of
the musketry. It came; and there needed but a gentle wind to sweep the
battle-smoke around this quiet house.

Perhaps the reader, whom I cannot help considering as my guest in the
Old Manse, and entitled to all courtesy in the way of sight-showing,--
perhaps he will choose to take a nearer view of the memorable spot.
We stand now on the river's brink. It may well be called the
Concord,--the river of peace and quietness; for it is certainly the
most unexcitable and sluggish stream that ever loitered imperceptibly
towards its eternity,--the sea. Positively I had lived three weeks
beside it before it grew quite clear to my perception which way the
current flowed. It never has a vivacious aspect, except when a
northwestern breeze is vexing its surface on a sunshiny day. From the
incurable indolence of its nature, the stream is happily incapable of
becoming the slave of human ingenuity, as is the fate of so many a
wild, free mountain torrent. While all things else are compelled to
subserve some useful purpose, it idles its sluggish life away in lazy
liberty, without turning a solitary spindle or affording even water-
power enough to grind the corn that grows upon its banks. The torpor
of its movement allows it nowhere a bright, pebbly shore, nor so much
as a narrow strip of glistening sand, in any part of its course. It
slumbers between broad prairies, kissing the long meadow grass, and
bathes the overhanging boughs of elder-bushes and willows, or the
roots of elms and ash-trees and clumps of maples. Flags and rushes
grow along its plashy shore; the yellow water-lily spreads its broad,
flat leaves on the margin; and the fragrant white pond-lily abounds,
generally selecting a position just so far from the river's brink that
it cannot be grasped save at the hazard of plunging in.

It is a marvel whence this perfect flower derives its loveliness and
perfume, springing as it does from the black mud over which the river
sleeps, and where lurk the slimy eel, and speckled frog, and the mud-
turtle, whom continual washing cannot cleanse. It is the very same
black mud out of which the yellow lily sucks its obscene life and
noisome odor. Thus we see, too, in the world that some persons
assimilate only what is ugly and evil from the same moral
circumstances which supply good and beautiful results--the fragrance
of celestial flowers--to the daily life of others.

The reader must not, from any testimony of mine, contract a dislike
towards our slumberous stream. In the light of a calm and golden
sunset it becomes lovely beyond expression; the more lovely for the
quietude that so well accords with the hour, when even the wind, after
blustering all day long, usually hushes itself to rest. Each tree and
rock and every blade of grass is distinctly imaged, and, however
unsightly in reality, assumes ideal beauty in the reflection. The
minutest things of earth and the broad aspect of the firmament are
pictured equally without effort and with the same felicity of success.
All the sky glows downward at our feet; the rich clouds float through
the unruffled bosom of the stream like heavenly thoughts through a
peaceful heart. We will not, then, malign our river as gross and
impure while it can glorify itself with so adequate a picture of the
heaven that broods above it; or, if we remember its tawny hue and the
muddiness of its bed, let it be a symbol that the earthiest human soul
has an infinite spiritual capacity and may contain the better world
within its depths. But, indeed, the same lesson might be drawn out of
any mud-puddle in the streets of a city; and, being taught us
everywhere, it must be true.

Come, we have pursued a somewhat devious track in our walk to the
battle-ground. Here we are, at the point where the river was crossed
by the old bridge, the possession of which was the immediate object of
the contest. On the hither side grow two or three elms, throwing a
wide circumference of shade, but which must have been planted at some
period within the threescore years and ten that have passed since the
battle-day. On the farther shore, overhung by a clump of elder-
bushes, we discern the stone abutment of the bridge. Looking down
into the river, I once discovered some heavy fragments of the timbers,
all green with half a century's growth of water-moss; for during that
length of time the tramp of horses and human footsteps have ceased
along this ancient highway. The stream has here about the breadth of
twenty strokes of a swimmer's arm,--a space not too wide when the
bullets were whistling across. Old people who dwell hereabouts will
point out, the very spots on the western bank where our countrymen
fell down and died; and on this side of the river an obelisk of
granite has grown up from the soil that was fertilized with British
blood. The monument, not more than twenty feet in height, is such as
it befitted the inhabitants of a village to erect in illustration of a
matter of local interest rather than what was suitable to commemorate
an epoch of national history. Still, by the fathers of the village
this famous deed was done; and their descendants might rightfully
claim the privilege of building a memorial.

A humbler token of the fight, yet a more interesting one than the
granite obelisk, may be seen close under the stone wall which
separates the battle-ground from the precincts of the parsonage. It is
the grave,--marked by a small, mossgrown fragment of stone at the head
and another at the foot,--the grave of two British soldiers who were
slain in the skirmish, and have ever since slept peacefully where
Zechariah Brown and Thomas Davis buried them. Soon was their warfare
ended; a weary night-march from Boston, a rattling volley of musketry
across the river, and then these many years of rest. In the long
procession of slain invaders who passed into eternity from the battle-
fields of the Revolution, these two nameless soldiers led the way.

Lowell, the poet, as we were once standing over this grave, told me a
tradition in reference to one of the inhabitants below. The story has
something deeply impressive, though its circumstances cannot
altogether be reconciled with probability. A youth in the service of
the clergyman happened to be chopping wood, that April morning, at the
back door of the Manse; and when the noise of battle rang from side to
side of the bridge, he hastened across the intervening field to see
what might be going forward. It is rather strange, by the way, that
this lad should have been so diligently at work when the whole
population of town and country were startled out of their customary
business by the advance of the British troops. Be that as it might,
the tradition, says that the lad now left his task and hurried to the
battle-field with the axe still in his hand. The British had by this
time retreated; the Americans were in pursuit; and the late scene of
strife was thus deserted by both parties. Two soldiers lay on the
ground,--one was a corpse; but, as the young New-Englander drew nigh,
the other Briton raised himself painfully upon his hands and knees and
gave a ghastly stare into his face. The boy,--it must have been a
nervous impulse, without purpose, without thought, and betokening a
sensitive and impressible nature rather than a hardened one,--the boy
uplifted his axe and dealt the wounded soldier a fierce and fatal blow
upon the head.

I could wish that the grave might be opened; for I would fain know
whether either of the skeleton soldiers has the mark of an axe in his
skull. The story comes home to me like truth. Oftentimes, as an
intellectual and moral exercise, I have sought to follow that poor
youth through his subsequent career and observe how his soul was
tortured by the blood-stain, contracted as it had been before the long
custom of war had robbed human life of its sanctity and while it still
seemed murderous to slay a brother man. This one circumstance has
borne more fruit for me than all that history tells us of the fight.

Many strangers come in the summer-time to view the battle-ground. For
my own part, I have never found my imagination much excited by this or
any other scene of historic celebrity; nor would the placid margin of
the river have lost any of its charm for me, had men never fought and
died there. There is a wilder interest in the tract of land-perhaps a
hundred yards in breadth--which extends between the battle-field and
the northern face of our Old Manse, with its contiguous avenue and
orchard. Here, in some unknown age, before the white man came, stood
an Indian village, convenient to the river, whence its inhabitants
must have drawn so large a part of their substance. The site is
identified by the spear and arrow-heads, the chisels, and other
implements of war, labor, and the chase, which the plough turns up
from the soil. You see a splinter of stone, half hidden beneath a
sod; it looks like nothing worthy of note; but, if you have faith
enough to pick it up, behold a relic! Thoreau, who has a strange
faculty of finding what the Indians have left behind them, first set
me on the search; and I afterwards enriched myself with some very
perfect specimens, so rudely wrought that it seemed almost as if
chance had fashioned them. Their great charm consists in this
rudeness and in the individuality of each article, so different from
the productions of civilized machinery, which shapes everything on one
pattern. There is exquisite delight, too, in picking up for one's
self an arrow-head that was dropped centuries ago and has never been
handled since, and which we thus receive directly from the hand of the
red hunter, who purposed to shoot it at his game or at an enemy. Such
an incident builds up again the Indian village and its encircling
forest, and recalls to life the painted chiefs and warriors, the
squaws at their household toil, and the children sporting among the
wigwams, while the little wind-rocked pappoose swings from the branch
of a tree. It can hardly be told whether it is a joy or a pain, after
such a momentary vision, to gaze around in the broad daylight of
reality and see stone fences, white houses, potato-fields, and men
doggedly hoeing in their shirt-sleeves and homespun pantaloons. But
this is nonsense. The Old Manse is better than a thousand wigwams.

The Old Manse! We had almost forgotten it, but will return thither
through the orchard. This was set out by the last clergyman, in the
decline of his life, when the neighbors laughed at the hoary-headed
man for planting trees from which he could have no prospect of
gathering fruit. Even had that been the case, there was only so much
the better motive for planting them, in the pure and unselfish hope of
benefiting his successors,--an end so seldom achieved by more
ambitious efforts. But the old minister, before reaching his
patriarchal age of ninety, ate the apples from this orchard during
many years, and added silver and gold to his annual stipend by
disposing of the superfluity. It is pleasant to think of him walking
among the trees in the quiet afternoons of early autumn and picking up
here and there a windfall, while he observes how heavily the branches
are weighed down, and computes the number of empty flour-barrels that
will be filled by their burden. He loved each tree, doubtless, as if
it had been his own child. An orchard has a relation to mankind, and
readily connects itself with matters of the heart. The trees possess
a domestic character; they have lost the wild nature of their forest
kindred, and have grown humanized by receiving the care of man as well
as by contributing to his wants. There, is so much individuality of
character, too, among apple trees, that it gives them all additional
claim to be the objects of human interest. One is harsh and crabbed
in its manifestations; another gives us fruit as mild as charity. One
is churlish and illiberal, evidently grudging the few apples that it
bears; another exhausts itself in free-hearted benevolence. The
variety of grotesque shapes into which apple, trees contort themselves
has its effect on those who get acquainted with them: they stretch out
their crooked branches, and take such hold of the imagination, that we
remember them as humorists and odd fellows. And what is more
melancholy than the old apple-trees that linger about the spot where
once stood a homestead, but where there is now only a ruined chimney
rising out of a grassy and weed-grown cellar? They offer their fruit
to every wayfarer,--apples that are bitter sweet with the moral of
Time's vicissitude.

I have met with no other such pleasant trouble in the world as that of
finding myself, with only the two or three mouths which it was my
privilege to feed, the sole inheritor of the old clergyman's wealth of
fruits. Throughout the summer there were cherries and currants; and
then came Autumn, with his immense burden of apples, dropping them
continually from his over-laden shoulders as he trudged along. In the
stillest afternoon, if I listened, the thump of a great apple was
audible, falling without a breath of wind, from the mere necessity of
perfect ripeness. And, besides, there were pear-trees, that flung down
bushels upon bushels of heavy pears; and peach-trees, which, in a good
year, tormented me with peaches, neither to be eaten nor kept, nor,
without labor and perplexity, to be given away. The idea of an
infinite generosity and exhaustless bounty on the part of our Mother
Nature was well worth obtaining through such cares as these. That
feeling can be enjoyed in perfection only by the natives of summer
islands, where the bread-fruit, the cocoa, the palm, and the orange
grow spontaneously and hold forth the ever-ready meal; but likewise
almost as well by a man long habituated to city life, who plunges into
such a solitude as that of the Old Manse, where he plucks the fruit of
trees that he did not plant, and which therefore, to my heterodox
taste, bear the closest resemblance to those that grew in Eden. It
has been an apothegm these five thousand years, that toil sweetens the
bread it earns. For my part (speaking from hard experience, acquired
while belaboring the rugged furrows of Brook Farm), I relish best the
free gifts of Providence.

Not that it can be disputed that the light toil requisite to cultivate
a moderately sized garden imparts such zest to kitchen vegetables as
is never found in those of the market-gardener. Childless men, if they
would know something of the bliss of paternity, should plant a seed,--
be it squash, bean, Indian corn, or perhaps a mere flower or worthless
weed,--should plant it with their own hands, and nurse it from infancy
to maturity altogether by their own care. If there be not too many of
them, each individual plant becomes an object of separate interest.
My garden, that skirted the avenue of the Manse, was of precisely the
right extent. An hour or two of morning labor was all that it
required. But I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and
stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that
nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the
process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the
world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a row of
early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate
green. Later in the season the humming-birds were attracted by the
blossoms of a peculiar variety of bean; and they were a joy to me,
those little spiritual visitants, for deigning to sip airy food out of
my nectar-cups. Multitudes of bees used to bury themselves in the
yellow blossoms of the summer-squashes. This, too, was a deep
satisfaction; although, when they had laden themselves with sweets,
they flew away to some unknown hive, which would give back nothing in
requital of what my garden had contributed. But I was glad thus to
fling a benefaction upon the passing breeze with the certainty that
somebody must profit by it and that there would be a little more honey
in the world to allay the sourness and bitterness which mankind is
always complaining of. Yes, indeed; my life was the sweeter for that

Speaking of summer-squashes, I must say a word of their beautiful and
varied forms. They presented an endless diversity of urns and vases,
shallow or deep, scalloped or plain, moulded in patterns which a
sculptor would do well to copy, since Art has never invented anything
more graceful. A hundred squashes in the garden were worth, in my
eyes at least, of being rendered indestructible in marble. If ever
Providence (but I know it never will) should assign me a superfluity
of gold, part of it shall be expended for a service of plate, or most
delicate porcelain, to be wrought into the shapes of summer-squashes
gathered from vines which I will plant with my own hands. As dishes
for containing vegetables, they would be peculiarly appropriate.

But not merely the squeamish love of the beautiful was gratified by my
toil in the kitchen-garden. There was a hearty enjoyment, likewise,
in observing the growth of the crook-necked winter-squashes from the
first little bulb, with the withered blossom adhering to it, until
they lay strewn upon the soil, big, round fellows, hiding their heads
beneath the leaves, but turning up their great yellow rotundities to
the noontide sun. Gazing at them, I felt that by my agency something
worth living for had been done. A new substance was born into the
world. They were real and tangible existences, which the mind could
seize hold of and rejoice in. A cabbage, too,--especially the early
Dutch cabbage, which swells to a monstrous circumference, until its
ambitious heart often bursts asunder,--is a matter to be proud of when
we can claim a share with the earth and sky in producing it. But,
after all, the hugest pleasure is reserved until these vegetable
children of ours are smoking on the table, and we, like Saturn, make a
meal of them.

What with the river, the battle-field, the orchard, and the garden,
the reader begins to despair of finding his way back into the Old
Manse. But, in agreeable weather, it is the truest hospitality to keep
him out of doors. I never grew quite acquainted with my habitation
till a long spell of sulky rain had confined me beneath its roof.
There could not be a more sombre aspect of external nature than as
then seen from the windows of my study. The great willow-tree had
caught and retained among its leaves a whole cataract of water, to be
shaken down at intervals by the frequent gusts of wind. All day long,
and for a week together, the rain was drip-drip-dripping and splash-
splash-splashing from the eaves and bubbling and foaming into the tubs
beneath the spouts. The old, unpainted shingles of the house and
outbuildings were black with moisture; and the mosses of ancient
growth upon the walls looked green and fresh, as if they were the
newest things and afterthought of Time. The usually mirrored surface
of the river was blurred by an infinity of raindrops; the whole
landscape had a completely water-soaked appearance, conveying the
impression that the earth was wet through like a sponge; while the
summit of a wooded hill, about a mile distant, was enveloped in a
dense mist, where the demon of the tempest seemed to have his abiding-
place and to be plotting still direr inclemencies.

Nature has no kindness, no hospitality, during a rain. In the
fiercest beat of sunny days she retains a secret mercy, and welcomes
the wayfarer to shady nooks of the woods whither the sun cannot
penetrate; but she provides no shelter against her storms. It makes us
shiver to think of those deep, umbrageous recesses, those
overshadowing banks, where we found such enjoyment during the sultry
afternoons. Not a twig of foliage there but would dash a little
shower into our faces. Looking reproachfully towards the impenetrable
sky,--if sky there be above that dismal uniformity of cloud,--we are
apt to murmur against the whole system of the universe, since it
involves the extinction of so many summer days in so short a life by
the hissing and spluttering rain. In such spells of weather,--and it
is to be supposed such weather came,--Eve's bower in paradise must
have been but a cheerless and aguish kind of shelter, nowise
comparable to the old parsonage, which had resources of its own to
beguile the week's imprisonment. The idea of sleeping on a couch of
wet roses!

Happy the man who in a rainy day can betake himself to a huge garret,
stored, like that of the Manse, with lumber that each generation has
left behind it from a period before the Revolution. Our garret was an
arched hall, dimly illuminated through small and dusty windows; it was
but a twilight at the best; and there were nooks, or rather caverns,
of deep obscurity, the secrets of which I never learned, being too
reverent of their dust and cobwebs. The beams and rafters, roughly
hewn and with strips of bark still on them, and the rude masonry of
the chimneys, made the garret look wild and uncivilized, an aspect
unlike what was seen elsewhere in the quiet and decorous old house.
But on one side there was a little whitewashed apartment, which bore
the traditionary title of the Saint's Chamber, because holy men in
their youth had slept, and studied, and prayed there. With its
elevated retirement, its one window, its small fireplace, and its
closet convenient for an oratory, it was the very spot where a young
man might inspire himself with solemn enthusiasm and cherish saintly
dreams. The occupants, at various epochs, had left brief records and
ejaculations inscribed upon the walls. There, too, hung a tattered
and shrivelled roll of canvas, which on inspection proved to be the
forcibly wrought picture of a clergyman, in wig, band, and gown,
holding a Bible in his hand. As I turned his face towards the light,
he eyed me with an air of authority such as men of his profession
seldom assume in our days. The original had been pastor of the parish
more than a century ago, a friend of Whitefield, and almost his equal
in fervid eloquence. I bowed before the effigy of the dignified
divine, and felt as if I had now met face to face with the ghost by
whom, as there was reason to apprehend, the Manse was haunted.

Houses of any antiquity in New England are so invariably possessed
with spirits that the matter seems hardly worth alluding to. Our
ghost used to heave deep sighs in a particular corner of the parlor,
and sometimes rustled paper, as if he were turning over a sermon in
the long upper entry,--where nevertheless he was invisible, in spite
of the bright moonshine that fell through the eastern window. Not
improbably he wished me to edit and publish a selection from a chest
full of manuscript discourses that stood in the garret. Once, while
Hillard and other friends sat talking with us in the twilight, there
came a rustling noise as of a minister's silk gown, sweeping through
the very midst of the company, so closely as almost to brush against
the chairs. Still there was nothing visible. A yet stranger business
was that of a ghostly servant-maid, who used to be heard in the
kitchen at deepest midnight, grinding coffee, cooking, ironing,--
performing, in short, all kinds of domestic labor,--although no traces
of anything accomplished could be detected the next morning. Some
neglected duty of her servitude, some ill-starched ministerial band,
disturbed the poor damsel in her grave and kept her at work without
any wages.

But to return from this digression. A part of my predecessor's
library was stored in the garret,--no unfit receptacle indeed for such
dreary trash as comprised the greater number of volumes. The old books
would have been worth nothing at an auction. In this venerable
garret, however, they possessed an interest, quite apart from their
literary value, as heirlooms, many of which had been transmitted down
through a series of consecrated hands from the days of the mighty
Puritan divines. Autographs of famous names were to be seen in faded
ink on some of their fly-leaves; and there were marginal observations
or interpolated pages closely covered with manuscript in illegible
shorthand, perhaps concealing matter of profound truth and wisdom.
The world will never be the better for it. A few of the books were
Latin folios, written by Catholic authors; others demolished Papistry,
as with a sledge-hammer, in plain English. A dissertation on the Book
of Job--which only Job himself could have had patience to read--filled
at least a score of small, thick-set quartos, at the rate of two or
three volumes to a chapter. Then there was a vast folio body of
divinity,--too corpulent a body, it might be feared, to comprehend the
spiritual element of religion. Volumes of this form dated back two
hundred years or more, and were generally bound in black leather,
exhibiting precisely such an appearance as we should attribute to
books of enchantment. Others equally antique were of a size proper to
be carried in the large waistcoat pockets of old times,--diminutive,
but as black as their bulkier brethren, and abundantly interfused with
Greek and Latin quotations. These little old volumes impressed me as
if they had been intended for very large ones, but had been
unfortunately blighted at an early stage of their growth.

The rain pattered upon the roof and the sky gloomed through the dusty
garret-windows while I burrowed among these venerable books in search
of any living thought which should burn like a coal of fire or glow
like an inextinguishable gem beneath the dead trumpery that had long
hidden it. But I found no such treasure; all was dead alike; and I
could not but muse deeply and wonderingly upon the humiliating fact
that the works of man's intellect decay like those of his hands.
Thought grows mouldy. What was good and nourishing food for the
spirits of one generation affords no sustenance for the next. Books
of religion, however, cannot be considered a fair test of the enduring
and vivacious properties of human thought, because such books so
seldom really touch upon their ostensible subject, and have,
therefore, so little business to be written at all. So long as an
unlettered soul can attain to saving grace there would seem to be no
deadly error in holding theological libraries to be accumulations of,
for the most part, stupendous impertinence.

Many of the books had accrued in the latter years of the last
clergyman's lifetime. These threatened to be of even less interest
than the elder works a century hence to any curious inquirer who
should then rummage then as I was doing now. Volumes of the Liberal
Preacher and Christian Examiner, occasional sermons, controversial
pamphlets, tracts, and other productions of a like fugitive nature,
took the place of the thick and heavy volumes of past time. In a
physical point of view, there was much the same difference as between
a feather and a lump of lead; but, intellectually regarded, the
specific gravity of old and new was about upon a par. Both also were
alike frigid. The elder books nevertheless seemed to have been
earnestly written, and might be conceived to have possessed warmth at
some former period; although, with the lapse of time, the heated
masses had cooled down even to the freezing-point. The frigidity of
the modern productions, on the other hand, was characteristic and
inherent, and evidently had little to do with the writer's qualities
of mind and heart. In fine, of this whole dusty heap of literature I
tossed aside all the sacred part, and felt myself none the less a
Christian for eschewing it. There appeared no hope of either mounting
to the better world on a Gothic staircase of ancient folios or of
flying thither on the wings of a modern tract.

Nothing, strange to say, retained any sap except what had been written
for the passing day and year, without the remotest pretension or idea
of permanence. There were a few old newspapers, and still older
almanacs, which reproduced to my mental eye the epochs when they had
issued from the press with a distinctness that was altogether
unaccountable. It was as if I had found bits of magic looking-glass
among the books with the images of a vanished century in them. I
turned my eyes towards the tattered picture above mentioned, and asked
of the austere divine wherefore it was that he and his brethren, after
the most painful rummaging and groping into their minds, had been able
to produce nothing half so real as these newspaper scribblers and
almanac-makers had thrown off in the effervescence of a moment. The
portrait responded not; so I sought an answer for myself. It is the
age itself that writes newspapers and almanacs, which therefore have a
distinct purpose and meaning at the time, and a kind of intelligible
truth for all times; whereas most other works--being written by men
who, in the very act, set themselves apart from their age--are likely
to possess little significance when new, and none at all when old.
Genius, indeed, melts many ages into one, and thus effects something
permanent, yet still with a similarity of office to that of the more
ephemeral writer. A work of genius is but the newspaper of a century,
or perchance of a hundred centuries.

Lightly as I have spoken of these old books, there yet lingers with me
a superstitious reverence for literature of all kinds. A bound volume
has a charm in my eyes similar to what scraps of manuscript possess
for the good Mussulman. He imagines that those wind-wafted records
are perhaps hallowed by some sacred verse; and I, that every new book
or antique one may contain the "open sesame,"--the spell to disclose
treasures hidden in some unsuspected cave of Truth. Thus it was not
without sadness that I turned away from the library of the Old Manse.

Blessed was the sunshine when it came again at the close of another
stormy day, beaming from the edge of the western horizon; while the
massive firmament of clouds threw down all the gloom it could, but
served only to kindle the golden light into a more brilliant glow by
the strongly contrasted shadows. Heaven smiled at the earth, so long
unseen, from beneath its heavy eyelid. To-morrow for the hill-tops
and the woodpaths.

Or it might be that Ellery Charming came up the avenue to join me in a
fishing excursion on the river. Strange and happy times were those
when we cast aside all irksome forms and strait-laced habitudes and
delivered ourselves up to the free air, to live like the Indians or
any less conventional race during one bright semicircle of the sun.
Rowing our boat against the current, between wide meadows, we turned
aside into the Assabeth. A more lovely stream than this, for a mile
above its junction with the Concord, has never flowed on earth,
nowhere, indeed, except to lave the interior regions of a poet's
imagination. It is sheltered from the breeze by woods and a hillside;
so that elsewhere there might be a hurricane, and here scarcely a
ripple across the shaded water. The current lingers along so gently
that the mere force of the boatman's will seems sufficient to propel
his craft against it. It comes flowing softly through the midmost
privacy and deepest heart of a wood which whispers it to be quiet;
while the stream whispers back again from its sedgy borders, as if
river and wood were hushing one another to sleep. Yes; the river
sleeps along its course and dreams of the sky and of the clustering
foliage, amid which fall showers of broken sunlight, imparting specks
of vivid cheerfulness, in contrast with the quiet depth of the
prevailing tint. Of all this scene, the slumbering river has a dream-
picture in its bosom. Which, after all, was the most real,--the
picture, or the original?--the objects palpable to our grosser senses,
or their apotheosis in the stream beneath? Surely the disembodied
images stand in closer relation to the soul. But both the original
and the reflection had here an ideal charm; and, had it been a thought
more wild, I could have fancied that this river had strayed forth out
of the rich scenery of my companion's inner world; only the vegetation
along its banks should then have had an Oriental character.

Gentle and unobtrusive as the river is, yet the tranquil woods seem
hardly satisfied to allow it passage. The trees are rooted on the
very verge of the water, and dip their pendent branches into it. At
one spot there is a lofty bank, on the slope of which grow some
hemlocks, declining across the stream with outstretched arms, as if
resolute to take the plunge. In other places the banks are almost on
a level with the water; so that the quiet congregation of trees set
their feet in the flood, and are Fringed with foliage down to the
surface. Cardinal-flowers kindle their spiral flames and illuminate
the dark nooks among the shrubbery. The pond-lily grows abundantly
along the margin,--that delicious flower which, as Thoreau tells me,
opens its virgin bosom to the first sunlight and perfects its being
through the magic of that genial kiss. He has beheld beds of them
unfolding in due succession as the sunrise stole gradually from flower
to flower,--a sight not to be hoped for unless when a poet adjusts his
inward eye to a proper focus with the outward organ. Grapevines here
and there twine themselves around shrub and tree and hang their
clusters over the water within reach of the boatman's hand.
Oftentimes they unite two trees of alien race in an inextricable
twine, marrying the hemlock and the maple against their will and
enriching them with a purple offspring of which neither is the parent.
One of these ambitious parasites has climbed into the upper branches
of a tall white-pine, and is still ascending from bough to bough,
unsatisfied till it shall crown the tree's airy summit with a wreath
of its broad foliage and a cluster of its grapes.

The winding course of the stream continually shut out the scene behind
us and revealed as calm and lovely a one before. We glided from depth
to depth, and breathed new seclusion at every turn. The shy
kingfisher flew from the withered branch close at hand to another at a
distance, uttering a shrill cry of anger or alarm. Ducks that had
been floating there since the preceding eve were startled at our
approach and skimmed along the glassy river, breaking its dark surface
with a bright streak. The pickerel leaped from among the lilypads.
The turtle, sunning itself upon a rock or at the root of a tree, slid
suddenly into the water with a plunge. The painted Indian who paddled
his canoe along the Assabeth three hundred years ago could hardly have
seen a wilder gentleness displayed upon its banks and reflected in its
bosom than we did. Nor could the same Indian have prepared his
noontide meal with more simplicity. We drew up our skiff at some
point where the overarching shade formed a natural bower, and there
kindled a fire with the pine cones and decayed branches that lay
strewn plentifully around. Soon the smoke ascended among the trees,
impregnated with a savory incense, not heavy, dull, and surfeiting,
like the steam of cookery within doors, but sprightly and piquant.
The smell of our feast was akin to the woodland odors with which it
mingled: there was no sacrilege committed by our intrusion there: the
sacred solitude was hospitable, and granted us free leave to cook and
eat in the recess that was at once our kitchen and banqueting-hall.
It is strange what humble offices may be performed in a beautiful
scene without destroying its poetry. Our fire, red gleaming among the
trees, and we beside it, busied with culinary rites and spreading out
our meal on a mossgrown log, all seemed in unison with the river
gliding by and the foliage rustling over us. And, what was strangest,
neither did our mirth seem to disturb the propriety of the solemn
woods; although the hobgoblins of the old wilderness and the will-of-
the-wisps that glimmered in the marshy places might have come trooping
to share our table-talk and have added their shrill laughter to our
merriment. It was the very spot in which to utter the extremest
nonsense or the profoundest wisdom, or that ethereal product of the
mind which partakes of both, and may become one or the other, in
correspondence with the faith and insight of the auditor.

So, amid sunshine and shadow, rustling leaves and sighing waters, up
gushed our talk like the babble of a fountain. The evanescent spray
was Ellery's; and his, too, the lumps of golden thought that lay
glimmering in the fountain's bed and brightened both our faces by the
reflection. Could he have drawn out that virgin gold, and stamped it
with the mint-mark that alone gives currency, the world might have had
the profit, and he the fame. My mind was the richer merely by the
knowledge that it was there. But the chief profit of those wild days,
to him and me, lay not in any definite idea, not in any angular or
rounded truth, which we dug out of the shapeless mass of problematical
stuff, but in the freedom which we thereby won from all custom and
conventionalism and fettering influences of man on man. We were so
free to-day that it was impossible to be slaves again to-morrow. When
we crossed the threshold of the house or trod the thronged pavements
of a city, still the leaves of the trees that overhang the Assabeth
were whispering to us, "Be free! be free!" Therefore along that shady
river-bank there are spots, marked with a heap of ashes and half-
consumed brands, only less sacred in my remembrance than the hearth of
a household fire.

And yet how sweet, as we floated homeward adown the golden river at
sunset,--how sweet was it to return within the system of human
society, not as to a dungeon and a chain, but as to a stately edifice,
whence we could go forth at will into state--her simplicity! How
gently, too, did the sight of the Old Manse, best seen from the river,
overshadowed with its willow and all environed about with the foliage
of its orchard and avenue,--how gently did its gray, homely aspect
rebuke the speculative extravagances of the day! It had grown sacred
in connection with the artificial life against which we inveighed; it
had been a home for many years, in spite of all; it was my home too;
and, with these thoughts, it seemed to me that all the artifice and
conventionalism of life was but an impalpable thinness upon its
surface, and that the depth below was none the worse for it. Once, as
we turned our boat to the bank, there was a cloud, in the shape of an
immensely gigantic figure of a hound, couched above the house, as if
keeping guard over it. Gazing at this symbol, I prayed that the upper
influences might long protect the institutions that had grown out of
the heart of mankind.

If ever my readers should decide to give up civilized life, cities,
houses, and whatever moral or material enormities in addition to these
the perverted ingenuity of our race has contrived, let it be in the
early autumn. Then Nature will love him better than at any other
season, and will take him to her bosom with a more motherly
tenderness. I could scarcely endure the roof of the old house above me
in those first autumnal days. How early in the summer, too, the
prophecy of autumn comes! Earlier in some years than in others;
sometimes even in the first weeks of July. There is no other feeling
like what is caused by this faint, doubtful, yet real perception--if
it be not rather a foreboding--of the year's decay, so blessedly sweet
and sad in the same breath.

Did I say that there was no feeling like it? Ah, but there is a half-
acknowledged melancholy like to this when we stand in the perfected
vigor of our life and feel that Time has now given us all his flowers,
and that the next work of his never-idle fingers must be to steal them
one by one away.

I have forgotten whether the song of the cricket be not as early a
token of autumn's approach as any other,--that song which may be
called an audible stillness; for though very loud and heard afar, yet
the mind does not take note of it as a sound, so completely is its
individual existence merged among the accompanying characteristics of
the season. Alas for the pleasant summertime! In August the grass is
still verdant on the hills and in the valleys; the foliage of the
trees is as dense as ever and as green; the flowers gleam forth in
richer abundance along the margin of the river and by the stone walls
and deep among the woods; the days, too, are as fervid now as they
were a month ago; and yet in every breath of wind and in every beam of
sunshine we hear the whispered farewell and behold the parting smile
of a dear friend. There is a coolness amid all the heat, a mildness
in the blazing noon. Not a breeze can stir but it thrills us with the
breath of autumn. A pensive glory is seen in the far, golden gleams,
among the shadows of the trees. The flowers--even the brightest of
them, and they are the most gorgeous of the year--have this gentle
sadness wedded to their pomp, and typify the character of the
delicious time each within itself. The brilliant cardinal-flower has
never seemed gay to me.

Still later in the season Nature's tenderness waxes stronger. It is
impossible not to be fond of our mother now; for she is so fond of us!
At other periods she does not make this impression on me, or only at
rare intervals; but in those genial days of autumn, when she has
perfected her harvests and accomplished every needful thing that was
given her to do, then she overflows with a blessed superfluity of
love. She has leisure to caress her children now. It is good to be
alive and at such times. Thank Heaven for breath--yes, for mere
breath--when it is made up of a heavenly breeze like this! It comes
with a real kiss upon our cheeks; it would linger fondly around us if
it might; but, since it must be gone, it embraces us with its whole
kindly heart and passes onward to embrace likewise the next thing that
it meets. A blessing is flung abroad and scattered far and wide over
the earth, to be gathered up by all who choose. I recline upon the
still unwithered grass and whisper to myself, "O perfect day! O
beautiful world! O beneficent God!" And it is the promise of a
blessed eternity; for our Creator would never have made such lovely
days and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond
all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal. This sunshine is
the golden pledge thereof. It beams through the gates of paradise and
shows us glimpses far inward.

By and by, in a little time, the outward world puts on a drear
austerity. On some October morning there is a heavy hoarfrost on the
grass and along the tops of the fences; and at sunrise the leaves fall
from the trees of our avenue, without a breath of wind, quietly
descending by their own weight. All summer long they have murmured
like the noise of waters; they have roared loudly while the branches
were wrestling with the thunder-gust; they have made music both glad
and solemn; they have attuned my thoughts by their quiet sound as I
paced to and fro beneath the arch of intermingling boughs. Now they
can only rustle under my feet. Henceforth the gray parsonage begins
to assume a larger importance, and draws to its fireside,--for the
abomination of the air-tight stove is reserved till wintry weather,--
draws closer and closer to its fireside the vagrant impulses that had
gone wandering about through the summer.

When summer was dead and buried the Old Manse became as lonely as a
hermitage. Not that ever--in my time at least--it had been thronged
with company; but, at no rare intervals, we welcomed some friend out
of the dusty glare and tumult of the world, and rejoiced to share with
him the transparent obscurity that was floating over us. In one
respect our precincts were like the Enchanted Ground through which the
pilgrim travelled on his way to the Celestial City. The guests, each
and all, felt a slumberous influence upon them; they fell asleep in
chairs, or took a more deliberate siesta on the sofa, or were seen
stretched among the shadows of the orchard, looking up dreamily
through the boughs. They could not have paid a more acceptable
compliment to my abode nor to my own qualities as a host. I held it
as a proof that they left their cares behind them as they passed
between the stone gate-posts at the entrance of our avenue, and that
the so powerful opiate was the abundance of peace and quiet within and
all around us. Others could give them pleasure and amusement or
instruction,--these could be picked up anywhere; but it was for me to
give them rest,--rest in a life of trouble. What better could be
done for those weary and world-worn spirits?--for him whose career of
perpetual action was impeded and harassed by the rarest of his powers
and the richest of his acquirements?--for another who had thrown his
ardent heart from earliest youth into the strife of politics, and now,
perchance, began to suspect that one lifetime is too brief for the
accomplishment of any lofty aim?--for her oil whose feminine nature
had been imposed the heavy gift of intellectual power, such as a
strong man might have staggered under, and with it the necessity to
act upon the world?--in a word, not to multiply instances, what
better could be done for anybody who came within our magic circle than
to throw the spell of a tranquil spirit over him? And when it had
wrought its full effect, then we dismissed him, with but misty
reminiscences, as if he had been dreaming of us.

Were I to adopt a pet idea as so many people do, and fondle it in my
embraces to the exclusion of all others, it would be, that the great
want which mankind labors under at this present period is sleep. The
world should recline its vast head on the first convenient pillow and
take an age-long nap. It has gone distracted through a morbid
activity, and, while preternaturally wide awake, is nevertheless
tormented by visions that seem real to it now, but would assume their
true aspect and character were all things once set right by an
interval of sound repose. This is the only method of getting rid of
old delusions and avoiding new ones; of regenerating our race, so that
it might in due time awake as an infant out of dewy slumber; of
restoring to us the simple perception of what is right and the single-
hearted desire to achieve it, both of which have long been lost in
consequence of this weary activity of brain and torpor or passion of
the heart that now afflict the universe. Stimulants, the only mode of
treatment hitherto attempted, cannot quell the disease; they do but
heighten the delirium.

Let not the above paragraph ever be quoted against the author; for,
though tinctured with its modicum of truth, it is the result and
expression of what he knew, while he was writing, to be but a
distorted survey of the state and prospects of mankind. There were
circumstances around me which made it difficult to view the world
precisely as it exists; for, severe and sober as was the Old Manse, it
was necessary to go but a little way beyond its threshold before
meeting with stranger moral shapes of men than might have been
encountered elsewhere in a circuit of a thousand miles.

These hobgoblins of flesh and blood were attracted thither by the
widespreading influence of a great original thinker, who had his
earthly abode at the opposite extremity of our village. His mind
acted upon other minds of a certain constitution with wonderful
magnetism, and drew many men upon long pilgrimages to speak with him
face to face. Young visionaries--to whom just so much of insight had
been imparted as to make life all a labyrinth around them--came to
seek the clew that should guide them out of their self-involved
bewilderment. Gray-headed theorists--whose systems, at first air, had
finally imprisoned them in an iron framework--travelled painfully to
his door, not to ask deliverance, but to invite the free spirit into
their own thraldom. People that had lighted on a new thought or a
thought that they fancied new, came to Emerson, as the finder of a
glittering gem hastens to a lapidary, to ascertain its quality and
value. Uncertain, troubled, earnest wanderers through the midnight of
the moral world beheld his intellectual fire as a beacon burning on a
hill-top, and, climbing the difficult ascent, looked forth into the
surrounding obscurity more hopefully than hitherto. The light
revealed objects unseen before,--mountains, gleaming lakes, glimpses
of a creation among the chaos; but also, as was unavoidable, it
attracted bats and owls and the whole host of night birds, which
flapped their dusky wings against the gazer's eyes, and sometimes were
mistaken for fowls of angelic feather. Such delusions always hover
nigh whenever a beacon-fire of truth is kindled.

For myself, there bad been epochs of my life when I, too, might have
asked of this prophet the master word that should solve me the riddle
of the universe; but now, being happy, I felt as if there were no
question to be put, and therefore admired Emerson as a poet, of deep
beauty and austere tenderness, but sought nothing from him as a
philosopher. It was good, nevertheless, to meet him in the woodpaths,
or sometimes in our avenue, with that pure, intellectual gleam
diffused about his presence like the garment of a shining one; and be,
so quiet, so simple, so without pretension, encountering each man
alive as if expecting to receive more than he could impart. And, in
truth, the heart of many an ordinary man had, perchance, inscriptions
which he could not read. But it was impossible to dwell in his
vicinity without inhaling more or less the mountain atmosphere of his
lofty thought, which, in the brains of some people, wrought a singular
giddiness,--new truth being as heady as new wine. Never was a poor
little country village infested with such a variety of queer,
strangely dressed, oddly behaved mortals, most of whom took upon
themselves to be important agents of the world's destiny, yet were
simply bores of a very intense water. Such, I imagine, is the
invariable character of persons who crowd so closely about an original
thinker as to draw in his unuttered breath and thus become imbued with
a false originality. This triteness of novelty is enough to make any
man of common-sense blaspheme at all ideas of less than a century's
standing, and pray that the world may be petrified and rendered
immovable in precisely the worst moral and physical state that it ever
yet arrived at, rather than be benefited by such schemes of such

And now I begin to feel--and perhaps should have sooner felt--that we
have talked enough of the Old Manse. Mine honored reader, it may be,
will vilify the poor author as an egotist for babbling through so many
pages about a mossgrown country parsonage, and his life within its
walls, and on the river, and in the woods, and the influences that
wrought upon him from all these sources. My conscience, however, does
not reproach me with betraying anything too sacredly individual to be
revealed by a human spirit to its brother or sister spirit. How
narrow-how shallow and scanty too--is the stream of thought that has
been flowing from my pen, compared with the broad tide of dim
emotions, ideas, and associations which swell around me from that
portion of my existence! How little have I told! and of that little,
how almost nothing is even tinctured with any quality that makes it
exclusively my own! Has the reader gone wandering, hand in hand with
me, through the inner passages of my being? and have we groped
together into all its chambers and examined their treasures or their
rubbish? Not so. We have been standing on the greensward, but just
within the cavern's mouth, where the common sunshine is free to
penetrate, and where every footstep is therefore free to come. I have
appealed to no sentiment or sensibilities save such as are diffused
among us all. So far as I am a man of really individual attributes I
veil my face; nor am I, nor have I ever been, one of those supremely
hospitable people who serve up their own hearts, delicately fried,
with brain sauce, as a tidbit for their beloved public.

Glancing back over what I have written, it seems but the scattered
reminiscences of a single summer. In fairyland there is no
measurement of time; and, in a spot so sheltered from the turmoil of
life's ocean, three years hastened away with a noiseless flight, as
the breezy sunshine chases the cloud-shadows across the depths of a
still valley. Now came hints, growing more and more distinct, that the
owner of the old house was pining for his native air. Carpenters
next, appeared, making a tremendous racket among the outbuildings,
strewing the green grass with pine shavings and chips of chestnut
joists, and vexing the whole antiquity of the place with their
discordant renovations. Soon, moreover, they divested our abode of
the veil of woodbine which had crept over a large portion of its
southern face. All the aged mosses were cleared unsparingly away; and
there were horrible whispers about brushing up the external walls with
a coat of paint,--a purpose as little to my taste as might be that of
rouging the venerable cheeks of one's grandmother. But the hand that
renovates is always more sacrilegious than that which destroys. In
fine, we gathered up our household goods, drank a farewell cup of tea
in our pleasant little breakfast-room,--delicately fragrant tea, an
unpurchasable luxury, one of the many angel gifts that had fallen like
dew upon us,--and passed forth between the tall stone gate-posts as
uncertain as the wandering Arabs where our tent might next be pitched.
Providence took me by the hand, and--an oddity of dispensation which,
I trust, there is no irreverence in smiling at--has led me, as the
newspapers announce while I am writing, from the Old Manse into a
custom-house. As a story-teller, I have often contrived strange
vicissitudes for my imaginary personages, but none like this.

The treasure of intellectual gold which I hoped to find in our
secluded dwelling had never come to light. No profound treatise of
ethics, no philosophic history, no novel even, that could stand
unsupported on its edges. All that I had to show, as a man of
letters, were these, few tales and essays, which had blossomed out
like flowers in the calm summer of my heart and mind. Save editing
(an easy task) the journal of my friend of many years, the African
Cruiser, I had done nothing else. With these idle weeds and withering
blossoms I have intermixed some that were produced long ago,--old,
faded things, reminding me of flowers pressed between the leaves of a
book,--and now offer the bouquet, such as it is, to any whom it may
please. These fitful sketches, with so little of external life about
them, yet claiming no profundity of purpose,--so reserved, even while
they sometimes seem so frank,--often but half in earnest, and never,
even when most so, expressing satisfactorily the thoughts which they
profess to image,--such trifles, I truly feel, afford no solid basis
for a literary reputation. Nevertheless, the public--if my limited
number of readers, whom I venture to regard rather as a circle of
friends, may be termed a public--will receive them the more kindly,
as the last offering, the last collection of this nature which it is
my purpose ever to put forth. Unless I could do better, I have done
enough in this kind. For myself the book will always retain one
charm,--as reminding me of the river, with its delightful solitudes,
and of the avenue, the garden, and the orchard, and especially the
dear Old Manse, with the little study on its western side, and the
sunshine glimmering through the willow branches while I wrote.

Let the reader, if he will do me so much honor, imagine himself my
guest, and that, having seen whatever may be worthy of notice within
and about the Old Manse, he has finally been ushered into my study.
There, after seating him in an antique elbow-chair, an heirloom of the
house, I take forth a roll of manuscript and entreat his attention to
the following tales,--an act of personal inhospitality, however, which
I never was guilty of, nor ever will be, even to my worst enemy.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Short Stories