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Grandfather's Chair by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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"Good evening, my old friend," said the dry and husky voice, now a
little clearer than before. "We have been intimately acquainted so long
that I think it high time we have a chat together."

Grandfather was looking straight at the lion's head, and could not be
mistaken in supposing that it moved its lips. So here the mystery was
all explained.

"I was not aware," said Grandfather, with a civil salutation to his
oaken companion, "that you possessed the faculty of speech. Otherwise I
should often have been glad to converse with such a solid, useful, and
substantial if not brilliant member of society."

"Oh!" replied the ancient chair, in a quiet and easy tone, for it had
now cleared its throat of the dust of ages, "I am naturally a silent and
incommunicative sort of character. Once or twice in the course of a
century I unclose my lips. When the gentle Lady Arbella departed this
life I uttered a groan. When the honest mint-master weighed his plump
daughter against the pine-tree shillings I chuckled audibly at the joke.
When old Simon Bradstreet took the place of the tyrant Andros I joined
in the general huzza, and capered on my wooden legs for joy. To be sure,
the by-standers were so fully occupied with their own feelings that my
sympathy was quite unnoticed."

"And have you often held a private chat with your friends?" asked

"Not often," answered the chair. "I once talked with Sir William Phips,
and communicated my ideas about the witchcraft delusion. Cotton Mather
had several conversations with me, and derived great benefit from my
historical reminiscences. In the days of the Stamp Act I whispered in
the ear of Hutchinson, bidding him to remember what stock his countrymen
were descended of, and to think whether the spirit of their forefathers
had utterly departed from them. The last man whom I favored with a
colloquy was that stout old republican, Samuel Adams."

"And how happens it," inquired Grandfather, "that there is no record nor
tradition of your conversational abilities? It is an uncommon thing to
meet with a chair that can talk."

"Why, to tell you the truth," said the chair, giving itself a hitch
nearer to the hearth, "I am not apt to choose the most suitable moments
for unclosing my lips. Sometimes I have inconsiderately begun to speak,
when my occupant, lolling back in my arms, was inclined to take an
after-dinner nap. Or perhaps the impulse to talk may be felt at
midnight, when the lamp burns dim and the fire crumbles into decay, and
the studious or thoughtful man finds that his brain is in a mist.
Oftenest I have unwisely uttered my wisdom in the ears of sick persons,
when the inquietude of fever made them toss about upon my cushion. And
so it happens, that though my words make a pretty strong impression at
the moment, yet my auditors invariably remember them only as a dream. I
should not wonder if you, my excellent friend, were to do the same to-
morrow morning."

"Nor I either," thought Grandfather to himself. However, he thanked this
respectable old chair for beginning the conversation, and begged to know
whether it had anything particular to communicate.

"I have been listening attentively to your narrative of my adventures,"
replied the chair; "and it must be owned that your correctness entitles
you to be held up as a pattern to biographers. Nevertheless, there are a
few omissions which I should be glad to see supplied. For instance, you
make no mention of the good knight Sir Richard Saltonstall, nor of the
famous Hugh Peters, nor of those old regicide judges, Whalley, Goffe,
and Dixwell. Yet I have borne the weight of all those distinguished
characters at one time or another."

Grandfather promised amendment if ever he should have an opportunity to
repeat his narrative. The good old chair, which still seemed to retain a
due regard for outward appearance, then reminded him how long a time had
passed since it had been provided with a new cushion. It likewise
expressed the opinion that the oaken figures on its back would show to
much better advantage by the aid of a little varnish.

"And I have had a complaint in this joint," continued the chair,
endeavoring to lift one of its legs, "ever since Charley trundled his
wheelbarrow against me."

"It shall be attended to," said Grandfather.

"And now, venerable chair, I have a favor to solicit. During an
existence of more than two centuries you have had a familiar intercourse
with men who were esteemed the wisest of their day. Doubtless, with your
capacious understanding, you have treasured up many an invaluable lesson
of wisdom. You certainly have had time enough to guess the riddle of
life. Tell us, poor mortals, then, how we may be happy."

The lion's head fixed its eyes thoughtfully upon the fire, and the whole
chair assumed an aspect of deep meditation. Finally it beckoned to
Grandfather with its elbow, and made a step sideways towards him, as if
it had a very important secret to communicate.

"As long as I have stood in the midst of human affairs," said the chair,
with a very oracular enunciation, "I have constantly observed that
Justice, Truth, and Love are the chief ingredients of every happy life."

"Justice, Truth, and Love!" exclaimed Grandfather. "We need not exist
two centuries to find out that these qualities are essential to our
happiness. This is no secret. Every human being is born with the
instinctive knowledge of it."

"Ah!" cried the chair, drawing back in surprise. "From what I have
observed of the dealings of man with man, and nation with nation, I
never should have suspected that they knew this all-important secret.
And, with this eternal lesson written in your soul, do you ask me to
sift new wisdom for you out of my petty existence of two or three

"But, my dear chair "--said Grandfather.

"Not a word more," interrupted the chair; "here I close my lips for the
next hundred years. At the end of that period, if I shall have
discovered any new precepts of happiness better than what Heaven has
already taught you, they shall assuredly be given to the world."

In the energy of its utterance the oaken chair seemed to stamp its foot,
and trod (we hope unintentionally) upon Grandfather's toe. The old
gentleman started, and found that he had been asleep in the great chair,
and that his heavy walking-stick had fallen down across his foot.

"Grandfather," cried little Alice, clapping her hand," you must dream a
new dream every night about our chair!"

Laurence, and Clara, and Charley said the same. But the good old
gentleman shook his head, and declared that here ended the history, real
or fabulous, of GRANDFATHER'S CHAIR.




BOSTON, Aug. 30, 1765.

MY DEAR SIR, I came from my house at Milton, the 26 in the morning.
After dinner it was whispered in town there would be a mob at night, and
that Paxton, Hallowell, the custom-house, and admiralty officers' houses
would be attacked; but my friends assured me that the rabble were
satisfied with the insult I had received and that I was become rather
popular. In the evening, whilst I was at supper and my children round
me, somebody ran in and said the mob were coming. I directed my children
to fly to a secure place, and shut up my house as I had done before,
intending not to quit it; but my eldest daughter repented her leaving
me, hastened back, and protested she would not quit the house unless I
did. I could n't stand against this, and withdrew with her to a
neighboring house, where I had been but a few minutes before the hellish
crew fell upon my house with the rage of devils, and in a moment with
axes split down the doors and entered. My son being in the great entry
heard them cry: "Damn him, he is upstairs, we'll have him." Some ran
immediately as high as the top of the house, others filled the rooms
below and cellars, and others remained without the house to be employed

Messages soon came one after another to the house where I was, to inform
me the mob were coming in pursuit of me, and I was obliged to retire
through yards and gardens to a house more remote, where I remained until
4 o'clock, by which time one of the best finished houses in the Province
had nothing remaining but the bare walls and floors. Not contented with
tearing off all the wainscot and hangings, and splitting the doors to
pieces, they beat down the partition walls; and although that alone cost
them near two hours, they cut down the cupola or lanthorn, and they
began to take the slate and boards from the roof, and were prevented
only by the approaching daylight from a total demolition of the
building. The garden. house was 1ait flat, and all my trees, etc., broke
down to the ground.

Such ruin was never seen in America. Besides my plate and family
pictures, household furniture of every kind, my own, my children's, and
servants' apparel, they carried off about 900 sterling in money, and
emptied the house of everything whatsoever, except a part of the kitchen
furniture, not leaving a single book or paper in it, and have scattered
or destroyed all the manuscripts and other papers I had been collecting
for thirty years together, besides a great number of public papers in my
custody. The evening being warm, I had undressed me and put on a thin
camlet surtout over my waistcoat. The next morning, the weather being
changed, I had not clothes enough in my possession to defend me from the
cold, and was obliged to borrow from my friends. Many articles of
clothing and a good part of my plate have since been picked up in
different quarters of the town, lint the furniture in general was cut to
pieces before it was thrown out of the house, and most of the beds cut
open, and the feathers thrown out of the windows. The next evening, I
intended with my children to Milton, but meeting two or three small
parties of the ruffians, who I suppose had concealed themselves in the
country, and my coachman hearing one of them say, "There he is!" my
daughters were terrified and said they should never be safe, and I was
forced to shelter them that night at the Castle.

The encouragers of the first mob never intended matters should go this
length, and the people in general expressed the utter detestation of
this unparalleled outrage, and I wish they could be convinced what
infinite hazard there is of the most terrible consequences from such
demons, when they are let loose in a government where there is not
constant authority at hand sufficient to suppress them. I am told the
government here will make me a compensation for my own and my family's
loss, which I think cannot be much less than 3,000 sterling. I am not
sure that they will. If they should not, it will be too heavy for me,
and I must humbly apply to his majesty in whose service I am a sufferer;
but this, and a much greater sum would be an insufficient compensation
for the constant distress and anxiety of mind I have felt for some time
past, and must feel for months to come. You cannot conceive the wretched
state we are in. Such is the resentment of the people against the Stamp-
Duty, that there can be no dependence upon the General Court to take any
steps to enforce, or rather advise, to the payment of it. On the other
hand, such will be the effects of not submitting to it, that all trade
must cease, all courts fall, and all authority be at an end. Must not
the ministry be excessively embarrassed? On the one hand, it will be
said, if concessions are made, the Parliament endanger the loss of their
authority over the Colony: on the other hand, if external forces should
be used, there seems to be danger of a total lasting alienation of
affection. Is there no alternative? May the infinitely wise God direct

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