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The Custom House serves the small ship traffic going through the port, but it is usually a quiet place requiring only minimal work.
He describes his staff as a bunch of tottering old men who rarely rise out of their chairs and who spend each day sleeping or talking softly to one another. Hawthorne tells the reader that he could not bring himself to fire any of them, so after he assumed leadership, things stayed the same.Much of the story then deals with long descriptions of the various men with whom he worked in the Custom House. General Miller, the Collector, is the oldest inhabitant, a man who maintained a stellar career in the military but who has chosen to work in the Custom House for the remainder of his years. As for the Inspector, his job was created by the man's father decades earlier, and he has held the position ever since. The Inspector is the most light-hearted of the workers, constantly laughing and talking in spite of his age.