De te fabula does not apply here, my dear friend; for you will show me more indulgence than I have skill to demand. And should you find matter of interest in this book, yours, rather than the author’s, will be the merit. As the beauty of nature is from the eye that looks upon her, so would the story be dull and barren, save for the life and color of the reader’s sympathy.
Yours most sincerely,
The enchanted ring.
One of the most imposing buildings in Boston twenty years ago was a granite hotel, whose western windows looked upon a graveyard. Passing up a flight of steps, and beneath a portico of dignified granite columns, and so through an embarrassing pair of swinging-doors to the roomy vestibule,—you would there pause a moment to spit upon the black-and-white tessellated pavement. Having thus asserted your title to Puritan ancestry, and to the best accommodations the house afforded, you would approach the desk and write your name in the hotel register. This done, you would be apt to run your eye over the last dozen arrivals, on the chance of lighting upon the autograph of some acquaintance, to be shunned or sought according to circumstances.
Let us suppose, for the story’s sake, that such was the gentle reader’s behavior on a certain night during the latter part of May, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-three. If now he will turn to the ninety-ninth page of the register above mentioned, he will remark that the last name thereon written is, “Doctor Hiero Glyphic. Room 27.” The natural inference is that, unless so odd a name be an assumed one, Doctor Glyphic occupies that room. Passing on to page one hundred, he will find the first entry reads as follows “Balder Helwyse, Cosmopolis. Room 29.”
In no trifling mood do we call attention to these two names, and, above all, to their relative position in the book. Had they both appeared upon the same page, this romance might never have been written. On such seemingly frail pegs hang consequences the most weighty. Because Doctor Glyphic preferred the humble foot of the ninety-ninth page to the trouble of turning to a leading position on the one hundredth; because Mr. Helwyse, having begun the one hundredth page, was too incurious to find out who was his next-door neighbor on the ninety-ninth, ensued unparalleled adventures, and this account of them.