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A stentorian voice, hard as that of Rhadamanthus, exclaims,--
We returned to London on the 13th of August by the same route we had followed in going from London to Paris. Our passage was rough, as compared to the former one, and some of the passengers were seasick. We were both fortunate enough to escape that trial of comfort and self-respect.
On Sunday, the 29th of August, my birthday, we arrived in New York. In these days of birthday-books our chronology is not a matter of secret history, in case we have been much before the public. I found a great cake had been made ready for me, in which the number of my summers was represented by a ring of raisins which made me feel like Methuselah. A beautiful bouquet which had been miraculously preserved for the occasion was for the first time displayed. It came from Dr. Beach, of Boston, via London. Such is the story, and I can only suppose that the sweet little cherub who sits up aloft had taken special charge of it, or it would have long ago withered.
The reader who glances over these papers, and, finding them too full of small details and the lesser personal matters which belong naturally to private correspondences, turns impatiently from them, has my entire sympathy and good-will. He is not one of those for whom these pages are meant. Having no particular interest in the writer or his affairs, he does not care for the history of "the migrations from the blue bed to the brown" and the many Mistress Quicklyisms of circumstantial narrative. Yet all this may be pleasant reading to relatives and friends.
But I must not forget that a new generation of readers has come into being since I have been writing for the public, and that a new generation of aspiring and brilliant authors has grown into general recognition. The dome of Boston State House, which is the centre of my little universe, was glittering in its fresh golden pellicle before I had reached the scriptural boundary of life. It has lost its lustre now, and the years which have dulled its surface have whitened the dome of that fragile structure in which my consciousness holds the session of its faculties. Time is not to be cheated. It is easy to talk of perennial youth, and to toy with the flattering fictions which every ancient personage accepts as true so far as he himself is concerned, and laughs at as foolish talk when he hears them applied to others. When, in my exulting immaturity, I wrote the lines not unknown to the reading public under the name of "The Last Leaf", I spoke of the possibility that I myself might linger on the old bough until the buds and blossoms of a new spring were opening and spreading all around me. I am not as yet the solitary survivor of my literary contemporaries, and, remembering who my few coevals are, it may well be hoped that I shall not be. But I feel lonely, very lonely, in the pages through which I wander. These are new names in the midst of which I find my own. In another sense I am very far from alone. I have daily assurances that I have a constituency of known and unknown personal friends, whose indulgence I have no need of asking. I know there are readers enough who will be pleased to follow me in my brief excursion, because I am myself, and will demand no better reason. If I choose to write for them, I do no injury to those for whom my personality is an object of indifference. They will find on every shelf some publications which are not intended for them, and which they prefer to let alone. No person is expected to help himself to everything set before him at a public table. I will not, therefore, hesitate to go on with the simple story of our Old World experiences.