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Hawthorne says the story was inspired by events that took place rather than a pointed summary. He says he took some artistic licence (his own twist)with parts of the plot and characters,
"I must not be understood as affirming, that, in the dressing up of the tale, and imagining the motives and modes of passion that influenced the characters who figure in it. I have invariably confined myself withing the limits of the old Surveyor's half a dozen sheets of foolscrap."