Old Age, this is Mr. Professor; Mr. Professor-- this is Old Age.

Old Age-- Mr. Professor, I hope to see you well. I have known you for some time, though I think you did not know me. Shall we walk down the street together?

Professor (drawing back a little)-- We can talk more quietly, perhaps, in my study. Will you tell me how it is you seem to be acquainted with everybody you are introduced to, though he evidently considers you an entire stranger?

Old Age--I make it a rule never to force myself upon a person's recognition until I have known him at least five years.

Professor-- Do you mean to say that you have known me so long as that?

Old Age-- I do. I left my card on you longer ago than that, but I am afraid you never read it; yet I see you have it with you.

Professor-- Where?

Old Age-- There, between your eyebrows,--three straight lines running up and down; all the probate courts know that token,--"Old Age, his mark." Put your forefinger on the inner end of one eyebrow, and your middle finger on the inner end of the other eyebrow; now separate the fingers, and you will smooth out my sign- manual; that's the way you used to look before I left my card on you.

Professor-- What message do people generally send back when you first call on them?

Old Age-- Not at home. Then I leave a card and go. Next year I call; get the same answer; leave another card. So for five or six,--sometimes ten years or more. At last, if they don't let me in, I break in through the front door or the windows.

We talked together in this way some time. Then Old Age said again,--Come, let us walk down the street together,--and offered me a cane, an eyeglass, a tippet, and a pair of over-shoes.--No, much obliged to you, said I. I don't want those things, and I had a little rather talk with you here, privately, in my study. So I dressed myself up in a jaunty way and walked out alone;--got a fall, caught a cold, was laid up with a lumbago, and had time to think over this whole matter.

[Oliver W. Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858]

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