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Part III. Nathaniel Hawthorne

XI. Grandfather's Dream

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"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 Grandfather.

"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."

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"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 tomorrow 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."

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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