The Scarlet Letter (Introductory: The Custom House, p. 6)

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Page 6 of 33

But the sentiment has likewise its moral quality. The figure of
that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and
dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back
as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of
home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference
to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger
claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded,
sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor--who came so
early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street
with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man
of war and peace--a stronger claim than for myself, whose name
is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier,
legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the
Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter
persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in
their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity
towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to
be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these
were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and
made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches,
that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon
him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the
Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have
not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors
of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven
for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the
heavy consequences of them in another state of being. At all
events, I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby
take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse
incurred by them--as I have heard, and as the dreary and
unprosperous condition of the race, for many a long year back,
would argue to exist--may be now and henceforth removed.


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