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    A Select Party

    by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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    From Mosses From An Old Manse



    The man of fancy made an entertainment at one of his castles in the
    air, and invited a select number of distinguished personages to
    favor him with their presence. The mansion, though less splendid
    than many that have been situated in the same region, was
    nevertheless of a magnificence such as is seldom witnessed by those
    acquainted only with terrestrial architecture. Its strong
    foundations and massive walls were quarried out of a ledge of heavy
    and sombre clouds which had hung brooding over the earth, apparently
    as dense and ponderous as its own granite, throughout a whole
    autumnal day. Perceiving that the general effect was gloomy,--so
    that the airy castle looked like a feudal fortress, or a monastery
    of the Middle Ages, or a state prison of our own times, rather than
    the home of pleasure and repose which he intended it to be,--the
    owner, regardless of expense, resolved to gild the exterior from top
    to bottom. Fortunately, there was just then a flood of evening
    sunshine in the air. This being gathered up and poured abundantly
    upon the roof and walls, imbued them with a kind of solemn
    cheerfulness; while the cupolas and pinnacles were made to glitter
    with the purest gold, and all the hundred windows gleamed with a
    glad light, as if the edifice itself were rejoicing in its heart.

    And now, if the people of the lower world chanced to be looking
    upward out of the turmoil of their petty perplexities, they probably
    mistook the castle in the air for a heap of sunset clouds, to which
    the magic of light and shade had imparted the aspect of a
    fantastically constructed mansion. To such beholders it was unreal,
    because they lacked the imaginative faith. Had they been worthy to
    pass within its portal, they would have recognized the truth, that
    the dominions which the spirit conquers for itself among unrealities
    become a thousand times more real than the earth whereon they stamp
    their feet, saying, "This is solid and substantial; this may be
    called a fact."

    At the appointed hour, the host stood in his great saloon to receive
    the company. It was a vast and noble room, the vaulted ceiling of
    which was supported by double rows of gigantic pillars that had been
    hewn entire out of masses of variegated clouds. So brilliantly were
    they polished, and so exquisitely wrought by the sculptor's skill,
    as to resemble the finest specimens of emerald, porphyry, opal, and
    chrysolite, thus producing a delicate richness of effect which their
    immense size rendered not incompatible with grandeur. To each of
    these pillars a meteor was suspended. Thousands of these ethereal
    lustres are continually wandering about the firmament, burning out
    to waste, yet capable of imparting a useful radiance to any person
    who has the art of converting them to domestic purposes. As managed
    in the saloon, they are far more economical than ordinary lamplight.
    Such, however, was the intensity of their blaze that it had been
    found expedient to cover each meteor with a globe of evening mist,
    thereby muffling the too potent glow and soothing it into a mild and
    comfortable splendor. It was like the brilliancy of a powerful yet
    chastened imagination,--a light which seemed to hide whatever was
    unworthy to be noticed and give effect to every beautiful and noble
    attribute. The guests, therefore, as they advanced up the centre of
    the saloon, appeared to better advantage than ever before in their
    lives.

    The first that entered, with old-fashioned punctuality, was a
    venerable figure in the costume of bygone days, with his white hair
    flowing down over his shoulders and a reverend beard upon his
    breast. He leaned upon a staff, the tremulous stroke of which, as
    he set it carefully upon the floor, re-echoed through the saloon at
    every footstep. Recognizing at once this celebrated personage, whom
    it had cost him a vast deal of trouble and research to discover, the
    host advanced nearly three fourths of the distance down between the
    pillars to meet and welcome him.

    "Venerable sir," said the Man of Fancy, bending to the floor, "the
    honor of this visit would never be forgotten were my term of
    existence to be as happily prolonged as your own."

    The old gentleman received the compliment with gracious
    condescension. He then thrust up his spectacles over his forehead
    and appeared to take a critical survey of the saloon.

    "Never within my recollection," observed he, "have I entered a more
    spacious and noble hall. But are you sure that it is built of solid
    materials and that the structure will be permanent?"

    "O, never fear, my venerable friend," replied the host. "In
    reference to a lifetime like your own, it is true my castle may well
    be called a temporary edifice. But it will endure long enough to
    answer all the purposes for which it was erected."

    But we forget that the reader has not yet been made acquainted with
    the guest. It was no other than that universally accredited
    character so constantly referred to in all seasons of intense cold
    or heat; he that, remembers the hot Sunday and the cold Friday; the
    witness of a past age whose negative reminiscences find their way
    into every newspaper, yet whose antiquated and dusky abode is so
    overshadowed by accumulated years and crowded back by modern
    edifices that none but the Man of Fancy could have discovered it;
    it was, in short, that twin brother of Time, and great-grandsire of
    mankind, and hand-and-glove associate of all forgotten men and
    things,--the Oldest Inhabitant. The host would willingly have drawn
    him into conversation, but succeeded only in eliciting a few remarks
    as to the oppressive atmosphere of this present summer evening
    compared with one which the guest had experienced about fourscore
    years ago. The old gentleman, in fact, was a good deal overcome by
    his journey among the clouds, which, to a frame so earth-incrusted
    by long continuance in a lower region, was unavoidably more
    fatiguing than to younger spirits. He was therefore conducted to an
    easy-chair, well cushioned and stuffed with vaporous softness, and
    left to take a little repose.

    The Man of Fancy now discerned another guest, who stood so quietly
    in the shadow of one of the pillars that he might easily have been
    overlooked.

    "My dear sir," exclaimed the host, grasping him warmly by the hand,
    "allow me to greet you as the hero of the evening. Pray do not take
    it as an empty compliment; for, if there were not another guest in
    my castle, it would be entirely pervaded with your presence."

    "I thank you," answered the unpretending stranger; "but, though you
    happened to overlook me, I have not just arrived. I came very
    early; and, with your permission, shall remain after the rest of the
    company have retired."

    And who does the reader imagine was this unobtrusive guest? It was
    the famous performer of acknowledged impossibilities,--a character
    of superhuman capacity and virtue, and, if his enemies are to be
    credited, of no less remarkable weaknesses and defects. With a
    generosity with which he alone sets us an example, we will glance
    merely at his nobler attributes. He it is, then, who prefers the
    interests of others to his own and a humble station to an exalted
    one. Careless of fashion, custom, the opinions of men, and the
    influence of the press, he assimilates his life to the standard of
    ideal rectitude, and thus proves himself the one independent citizen
    of our free country. In point of ability, many people declare him
    to be the only mathematician capable of squaring the circle; the
    only mechanic acquainted with the principle of perpetual motion; the
    only scientific philosopher who can compel water to run up hill; the
    only writer of the age whose genius is equal to the production of an
    epic poem; and, finally, so various are his accomplishments, the
    only professor of gymnastics who has succeeded in jumping down his
    own throat. With all these talents, however, he is so far from being
    considered a member of good society, that it is the severest censure
    of any fashionable assemblage to affirm that this remarkable
    individual was present. Public orators, lecturers, and theatrical
    performers particularly eschew his company. For especial reasons,
    we are not at liberty to disclose his name, and shall mention only
    one other trait,--a most singular phenomenon in natural philosophy,
    --that, when he happens to cast his eyes upon a looking-glass, he
    beholds Nobody reflected there!

    Several other guests now made their appearance; and among them,
    chattering with immense volubility, a brisk little gentleman of
    universal vogue in private society, and not unknown in the public
    journals under the title of Monsieur On-Dit. The name would seem to
    indicate a Frenchman; but, whatever be his country, he is thoroughly
    versed in all the languages of the day, and can express himself
    quite as much to the purpose in English as in any other tongue. No
    sooner were the ceremonies of salutation over than this talkative
    little person put his mouth to the host's ear and whispered three
    secrets of state, an important piece of commercial intelligence, and
    a rich item of fashionable scandal. He then assured the Man of Fancy
    that he would not fail to circulate in the society of the lower
    world a minute description of this magnificent castle in the air and
    of the festivities at which he had the honor to be a guest. So
    saying, Monsieur On-Dit made his bow and hurried from one to another
    of the company, with all of whom he seemed to be acquainted and to
    possess some topic of interest or amusement for every individual.
    Coming at last to the Oldest Inhabitant, who was slumbering
    comfortably in the easy-chair, he applied his mouth to that
    venerable ear.

    "What do you say?" cried the old gentleman, starting from his nap
    and putting up his hand to serve the purpose of an ear-trumpet.

    Monsieur On-Dit bent forward again and repeated his communication.

    "Never within my memory," exclaimed the Oldest Inhabitant, lifting
    his hands in astonishment, "has so remarkable an incident been heard
    of."

    Now came in the Clerk of the Weather, who had been invited out of
    deference to his official station, although the host was well aware
    that his conversation was likely to contribute but little to the
    general enjoyment. He soon, indeed, got into a corner with his
    acquaintance of long ago, the Oldest Inhabitant, and began to
    compare notes with him in reference to the great storms, gales of
    wind, and other atmospherical facts that had occurred during a
    century past. It rejoiced the Man of Fancy that his venerable and
    much-respected guest had met with so congenial an associate.
    Entreating them both to make themselves perfectly at home, he now
    turned to receive the Wandering Jew. This personage, however, had
    latterly grown so common, by mingling in all sorts of society and
    appearing at the beck of every entertainer, that he could hardly be
    deemed a proper guest in a very exclusive circle. Besides, being
    covered with dust from his continual wanderings along the highways
    of the world, he really looked out of place in a dress party; so
    that the host felt relieved of an incommodity when the restless
    individual in question, after a brief stay, took his departure on a
    ramble towards Oregon.

    The portal was now thronged by a crowd of shadowy people with whom
    the Man of Fancy had been acquainted in his visionary youth. He had
    invited them hither for the sake of observing how they would
    compare, whether advantageously or otherwise, with the real
    characters to whom his maturer life had introduced him. They were
    beings of crude imagination, such as glide before a young man's eye
    and pretend to be actual inhabitants of the earth; the wise and
    witty with whom he would hereafter hold intercourse; the generous
    and heroic friends whose devotion would be requited with his own;
    the beautiful dream-woman who would become the helpmate of his human
    toils and sorrows and at once the source and partaker of his
    happiness. Alas! it is not good for the full-grown man to look too
    closely at these old acquaintances, but rather to reverence them at
    a distance through the medium of years that have gathered duskily
    between. There was something laughably untrue in their pompous
    stride and exaggerated sentiment; they were neither human nor
    tolerable likenesses of humanity, but fantastic maskers, rendering
    heroism and nature alike ridiculous by the grave absurdity of their
    pretensions to such attributes; and as for the peerless dream-lady,
    behold! there advanced up the saloon, with a movement like a jointed
    doll, a sort of wax-figure of an angel, a creature as cold as
    moonshine, an artifice in petticoats, with an intellect of pretty
    phrases and only the semblance of a heart, yet in all these
    particulars the true type of a young man's imaginary mistress.
    Hardly could the host's punctilious courtesy restrain a smile as he
    paid his respects to this unreality and met the sentimental glance
    with which the Dream sought to remind him of their former love
    passages.

    "No, no, fair lady," murmured he betwixt sighing and smiling; "my
    taste is changed; I have learned to love what Nature makes better
    than my own creations in the guise of womanhood."

    "Ah, false one," shrieked the dream-lady, pretending to faint, but
    dissolving into thin air, out of which came the deplorable murmur of
    her voice, "your inconstancy has annihilated me."

    "So be it," said the cruel Man of Fancy to himself; "and a good
    riddance too."

    Together with these shadows, and from the same region, there came an
    uninvited multitude of shapes which at any time during his life had
    tormented the Man of Fancy in his moods of morbid melancholy or had
    haunted him in the delirium of fever. The walls of his castle in
    the air were not dense enough to keep them out, nor would the
    strongest of earthly architecture have availed to their exclusion.
    Here were those forms of dim terror which had beset him at the
    entrance of life, waging warfare with his hopes; here were strange
    uglinesses of earlier date, such as haunt children in the night-
    time. He was particularly startled by the vision of a deformed old
    black woman whom he imagined as lurking in the garret of his native
    home, and who, when he was an infant, had once come to his bedside
    and grinned at him in the crisis of a scarlet fever. This same
    black shadow, with others almost as hideous, now glided among the
    pillars of the magnificent saloon, grinning recognition, until the
    man shuddered anew at the forgotten terrors of his childhood. It
    amused him, however, to observe the black woman, with the
    mischievous caprice peculiar to such beings, steal up to the chair
    of the Oldest Inhabitant and peep into his half-dreamy mind.

    "Never within my memory," muttered that venerable personage, aghast,
    "did I see such a face."

    Almost immediately after the unrealities just described, arrived a
    number of guests whom incredulous readers may be inclined to rank
    equally among creatures of imagination. The most noteworthy were an
    incorruptible Patriot; a Scholar without pedantry; a Priest without
    worldly ambition; and a Beautiful Woman without pride or coquetry; a
    Married Pair whose life had never been disturbed by incongruity of
    feeling; a Reformer untrammelled by his theory; and a Poet who felt
    no jealousy towards other votaries of the lyre. In truth, however,
    the host was not one of the cynics who consider these patterns of
    excellence, without the fatal flaw, such rarities in the world; and
    he had invited them to his select party chiefly out of humble
    deference to the judgment of society, which pronounces them almost
    impossible to be met with.

    "In my younger days," observed the Oldest Inhabitant, "such
    characters might be seen at the corner of every street."

    Be that as it might, these specimens of perfection proved to be not
    half so entertaining companions as people with the ordinary
    allowance of faults.

    But now appeared a stranger, whom the host had no sooner recognized
    than, with an abundance of courtesy unlavished on any other, he
    hastened down the whole length of the saloon in order to pay him
    emphatic honor. Yet he was a young man in poor attire, with no
    insignia of rank or acknowledged eminence, nor anything to
    distinguish him among the crowd except a high, white forehead,
    beneath which a pair of deep-set eyes were glowing with warm light.
    It was such a light as never illuminates the earth save when a great
    heart burns as the household fire of a grand intellect. And who was
    he?--who but the Master Genius for whom our country is looking
    anxiously into the mist of Time, as destined to fulfil the great
    mission of creating an American literature, hewing it, as it were,
    out of the unwrought granite of our intellectual quarries? From
    him, whether moulded in the form of an epic poem or assuming a guise
    altogether new as the spirit itself may determine, we are to receive
    our first great original work, which shall do all that remains to be
    achieved for our glory among the nations. How this child of a
    mighty destiny had been discovered by the Man of Fancy it is of
    little consequence to mention. Suffice it that he dwells as yet
    unhonored among men, unrecognized by those who have known him from
    his cradle; the noble countenance which should be distinguished by a
    halo diffused around it passes daily amid the throng of people
    toiling and troubling themselves about the trifles of a moment, and
    none pay reverence to the worker of immortality. Nor does it matter
    much to him, in his triumph over all the ages, though a generation
    or two of his own times shall do themselves the wrong to disregard
    him.

    By this time Monsieur On-Dit had caught up the stranger's name and
    destiny and was busily whispering the intelligence among the other
    guests.

    "Pshaw!" said one. "There can never be an American genius."

    "Pish!" cried another. "We have already as good poets as any in the
    world. For my part, I desire to see no better."

    And the Oldest Inhabitant, when it was proposed to introduce him to
    the Master Genius, begged to be excused, observing that a man who
    had been honored with the acquaintance of Dwight, and Freneau, and
    Joel Barlow, might be allowed a little austerity of taste.

    The saloon was now fast filling up by the arrival of other
    remarkable characters, among whom were noticed Davy Jones, the
    distinguished nautical personage, and a rude, carelessly dressed,
    harum-scarum sort of elderly fellow, known by the nickname of Old
    Harry. The latter, however, after being shown to a dressing-room,
    reappeared with his gray hair nicely combed, his clothes brushed, a
    clean dicky on his neck, and altogether so changed in aspect as to
    merit the more respectful appellation of Venerable Henry. Joel Doe
    and Richard Roe came arm in arm, accompanied by a Man of Straw, a
    fictitious indorser, and several persons who had no existence except
    as voters in closely contested elections. The celebrated Seatsfield,
    who now entered, was at first supposed to belong to the same
    brotherhood, until he made it apparent that he was a real man of
    flesh and blood and had his earthly domicile in Germany. Among the
    latest comers, as might reasonably be expected, arrived a guest from
    the far future.

    "Do you know him? do you know him?" whispered Monsieur On-Dit, who
    seemed to be acquainted with everybody. "He is the representative
    of Posterity,--the man of an age to come."

    "And how came he here?" asked a figure who was evidently the
    prototype of the fashion-plate in a magazine, and might be taken to
    represent the vanities of the passing moment. "The fellow infringes
    upon our rights by coming before his time."

    "But you forget where we are," answered the Man of Fancy, who
    overheard the remark. "The lower earth, it is true, will be
    forbidden ground to him for many long years hence; but a castle in
    the air is a sort of no-man's-land, where Posterity may make
    acquaintance with us on equal terms."

    No sooner was his identity known than a throng of guests gathered
    about Posterity, all expressing the most generous interest in his
    welfare, and many boasting of the sacrifices which they had made, or
    were willing to make, in his behalf. Some, with as much secrecy as
    possible, desired his judgment upon certain copies of verses or
    great manuscript rolls of prose; others accosted him with the
    familiarity of old friends, taking it for granted that he was
    perfectly cognizant of their names and characters. At length,
    finding himself thus beset, Posterity was put quite beside his
    patience.

    "Gentlemen, my good friends," cried he, breaking loose from a misty
    poet who strove to hold him by the button, "I pray you to attend to
    your own business, and leave me to take care of mine! I expect to
    owe you nothing, unless it be certain national debts, and other
    encumbrances and impediments, physical and moral, which I shall find
    it troublesome enough to remove from my path. As to your verses,
    pray read them to your contemporaries. Your names are as strange to
    me as your faces; and even were it otherwise,--let me whisper you a
    secret,--the cold, icy memory which one generation may retain of
    another is but a poor recompense to barter life for. Yet, if your
    heart is set on being known to me, the surest, the only method is,
    to live truly and wisely for your own age, whereby, if the native
    force be in you, you may likewise live for posterity."

    "It is nonsense," murmured the Oldest Inhabitant, who, as a man of
    the past, felt jealous that all notice should be withdrawn from
    himself to be lavished on the future, "sheer nonsense, to waste so
    much thought on what only is to be."

    To divert the minds of his guests, who were considerably abashed by
    this little incident, the Man of Fancy led them through several
    apartments of the castle, receiving their compliments upon the taste
    and varied magnificence that were displayed in each. One of these
    rooms was filled with moonlight, which did not enter through the
    window, but was the aggregate of all the moonshine that is scattered
    around the earth on a summer night while no eyes are awake to enjoy
    its beauty. Airy spirits had gathered it up, wherever they found it
    gleaming on the broad bosom of a lake, or silvering the meanders of
    a stream, or glimmering among the windstirred boughs of a wood, and
    had garnered it in this one spacious hall. Along the walls,
    illuminated by the mild intensity of the moonshine, stood a
    multitude of ideal statues, the original conceptions of the great
    works of ancient or modern art, which the sculptors did but
    imperfectly succeed in putting into marble; for it is not to be
    supposed that the pure idea of an immortal creation ceases to exist;
    it is only necessary to know where they are deposited in order to
    obtain possession of them.--In the alcoves of another vast apartment
    was arranged a splendid library, the volumes of which were
    inestimable, because they consisted, not of actual performances, but
    of the works which the authors only planned, without ever finding
    the happy season to achieve them. To take familiar instances, here
    were the untold tales of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims; the
    unwritten cantos of the Fairy Queen; the conclusion of Coleridge's
    Christabel; and the whole of Dryden's projected epic on the subject
    of King Arthur. The shelves were crowded; for it would not be too
    much to affirm that every author has imagined and shaped out in his
    thought more and far better works than those which actually
    proceeded from his pen. And here, likewise, where the unrealized
    conceptions of youthful poets who died of the very strength of their
    own genius before the world had caught one inspired murmur from
    their lips.

    When the peculiarities of the library and statue-gallery were
    explained to the Oldest Inhabitant, he appeared infinitely
    perplexed, and exclaimed, with more energy than usual, that he had
    never heard of such a thing within his memory, and, moreover, did
    not at all understand how it could be.

    "But my brain, I think," said the good old gentleman, "is getting
    not so clear as it used to be. You young folks, I suppose, can see
    your way through these strange matters. For my part, I give it up."

    "And so do I," muttered the Old Harry. "It is enough to puzzle the
    --Ahem!"

    Making as little reply as possible to these observations, the Man of
    Fancy preceded the company to another noble saloon, the pillars of
    which were solid golden sunbeams taken out of the sky in the first
    hour in the morning. Thus, as they retained all their living
    lustre, the room was filled with the most cheerful radiance
    imaginable, yet not too dazzling to be borne with comfort and
    delight. The windows were beautifully adorned with curtains made of
    the many-colored clouds of sunrise, all imbued with virgin light,
    and hanging in magnificent festoons from the ceiling to the floor.
    Moreover, there were fragments of rainbows scattered through the
    room; so that the guests, astonished at one another, reciprocally
    saw their heads made glorious by the seven primary hues; or, if they
    chose,--as who would not?--they could grasp a rainbow in the air and
    convert it to their own apparel and adornment. But the morning
    light and scattered rainbows were only a type and symbol of the real
    wonders of the apartment. By an influence akin to magic, yet
    perfectly natural, whatever means and opportunities of joy are
    neglected in the lower world had been carefully gathered up and
    deposited in the saloon of morning sunshine. As may well be
    conceived, therefore, there was material enough to supply, not
    merely a joyous evening, but also a happy lifetime, to more than as
    many people as that spacious apartment could contain. The company
    seemed to renew their youth; while that pattern and proverbial
    standard of innocence, the Child Unborn, frolicked to and fro among
    them, communicating his own unwrinkled gayety to all who had the
    good fortune to witness his gambols.

    "My honored friends," said the Man of Fancy, after they had enjoyed
    themselves awhile, "I am now to request your presence in the
    banqueting-hall, where a slight collation is awaiting you."

    "Ah, well said!" ejaculated a cadaverous figure, who had been
    invited for no other reason than that he was pretty constantly in
    the habit of dining with Duke Humphrey. "I was beginning to wonder
    whether a castle in the air were provided with a kitchen."

    It was curious, in truth, to see how instantaneously the guests were
    diverted from the high moral enjoyments which they had been tasting
    with so much apparent zest by a suggestion of the more solid as well
    as liquid delights of the festive board. They thronged eagerly in
    the rear of the host, who now ushered them into a lofty and
    extensive hall, from end to end of which was arranged a table,
    glittering all over with innumerable dishes and drinking-vessels of
    gold. It is an uncertain point whether these rich articles of plate
    were made for the occasion out of molten sunbeams, or recovered from
    the wrecks of Spanish galleons that had lain for ages at the bottom
    of the sea. The upper end of the table was overshadowed by a
    canopy, beneath which was placed a chair of elaborate magnificence,
    which the host himself declined to occupy, and besought his guests
    to assign it to the worthiest among them. As a suitable homage to
    his incalculable antiquity and eminent distinction, the post of
    honor was at first tendered to the Oldest Inhabitant. He, however,
    eschewed it, and requested the favor of a bowl of gruel at a side
    table, where he could refresh himself with a quiet nap. There was
    some little hesitation as to the next candidate, until Posterity
    took the Master Genius of our country by the hand and led him to the
    chair of state beneath the princely canopy. When once they beheld
    him in his true place, the company acknowledged the justice of the
    selection by a long thunder-roll of vehement applause.

    Then was served up a banquet, combining, if not all the delicacies
    of the season, yet all the rarities which careful purveyors had met
    with in the flesh, fish, and vegetable markets of the land of
    Nowhere. The bill of fare being unfortunately lost, we can only
    mention a phoenix, roasted in its own flames, cold potted birds of
    paradise, ice-creams from the Milky-Way, and whip syllabubs and
    flummery from the Paradise of Fools, whereof there was a very great
    consumption. As for drinkables, the temperance people contented
    themselves with water as usual; but it was the water of the Fountain
    of Youth; the ladies sipped Nepenthe; the lovelorn, the careworn,
    and the sorrow-stricken were supplied with brimming goblets of Lethe;
    and it was shrewdly conjectured that a certain golden vase, from
    which only the more distinguished guests were invited to partake,
    contained nectar that had been mellowing ever since the days of
    classical mythology. The cloth being removed, the company, as
    usual, grew eloquent over their liquor and delivered themselves of a
    succession of brilliant speeches,--the task of reporting which we
    resign to the more adequate ability of Counsellor Gill, whose
    indispensable co-operation the Man of Fancy had taken the precaution
    to secure.

    When the festivity of the banquet was at its most ethereal point,
    the Clerk of the Weather was observed to steal from the table and
    thrust his head between the purple and golden curtains of one of the
    windows.

    "My fellow-guests," he remarked aloud, after carefully noting the
    signs of the night, "I advise such of you as live at a distance to
    be going as soon as possible; for a thunder-storm is certainly at
    hand."

    "Mercy on me!" cried Mother Carey, who had left her brood of
    chickens and come hither in gossamer drapery, with pink silk
    stockings. "How shall I ever get home?"

    All now was confusion and hasty departure, with but little
    superfluous leave-taking. The Oldest Inhabitant, however, true to
    the rule of those long past days in which his courtesy had been
    studied, paused on the threshold of the meteor-lighted hall to
    express his vast satisfaction at the entertainment.

    "Never, within my memory," observed the gracious old gentleman, "has
    it been my good fortune to spend a pleasanter evening or in more
    select society."

    The wind here took his breath away, whirled his three-cornered hat
    into infinite space, and drowned what further compliments it had
    been his purpose to bestow. Many of the company had bespoken will-
    o'-the-wisps to convoy them home; and the host, in his general
    beneficence, had engaged the Man in the Moon, with an immense horn-
    lantern, to be the guide of such desolate spinsters as could do no
    better for themselves. But a blast of the rising tempest blew out
    all their lights in the twinkling of an eye. How, in the darkness
    that ensued, the guests contrived to get back to earth, or whether
    the greater part of them contrived to get back at all, or are still
    wandering among clouds, mists, and puffs of tempestuous wind,
    bruised by the beams and rafters of the overthrown castle in the
    air, and deluded by all sorts of unrealities, are points that
    concern themselves much more than the writer or the public. People
    should think of these matters before they trust themselves on a
    pleasure-party into the realm of Nowhere.
    If you're writing a A Select Party essay and need some advice, post your Nathaniel Hawthorne essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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