Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/125

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119
THE SISTER YEARS.

away the imperfections of the Immortal Pilgrim, and will be felt no more, when they have done their office.'

'Perhaps,' cried the hopeful New Year—'perhaps I shall see that happy day!'

'I doubt whether it be so close at hand,' answered the Old Year, gravely smiling. 'You will soon grow weary of looking for that blessed consummation, and will turn for amusement (as has frequently been my own practice) to the affairs of some sober little city, like this of Salem. Here we sit, on the steps of the new City Hall, which has been completed under my administration; and it would make you laugh to see how the game of politics, of which the Capitol at Washington is the great chessboard, is here played in miniature. Burning Ambition finds its fuel here; here Patriotism speaks boldly in the people's behalf, and virtuous Economy demands retrenchment in the emoluments of a lamp-lighter; here the Aldermen range their senatorial dignity around the Mayor's chair of state, and the Common Council feel that they have liberty in charge. In short, human weakness and strength, passion and policy, Man's tendencies, his aims and modes of pursuing them, his individual character, and his character in the mass, may be studied almost as well here as on the theatre of nations; and with this great advantage, that, be the lesson ever so disastrous, its Lilliputian scope still makes the beholder smile.'

'Have you done much for the improvement of the City?' asked the New Year. 'Judging from what little I have seen, it appears to be ancient and time-worn.'