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Ponkapog Papers
written by "Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907"
... and an aspect of youth that was not his. Encountering him casually on a street corner, you would, at the first glance, have taken him for a youngish man, but the second glance left you doubtful. It was a figure that struck a note of singularity and would have attracted your attention even in a crowd. During the first four or five years of our acquaintance, meeting him only out of doors or in shops, I had never happened to see him with his hat off. One day he recklessly removed it, and in the twinkling of an eye he became an elderly bald-headed man. The Tom Folio I once knew had virtually vanished. An instant earlier he was a familiar shape; an instant later, an almost unrecognizable individual. A narrow fringe of light-colored hair, extending from ear to ear under the rear brim of his hat, had perpetrated an unintentional deception by leading one to suppose a head profusely covered with curly locks. "Tom Folio," I said, "put on your hat and come back!" But after that day he never seemed young to me. I had few or no inklings of his life disconnected with the streets and the book-stalls, chiefly those on Cornhill or in the vicinity. It is possible I am wrong in inferring that he occupied a room somewhere at the South End or in South Boston, and lived entirely alone, heating his coffee and boiling his egg over an alcohol lamp. I got from him one or two fortuitous hints of quaint housekeeping. Every winter, it appeared, some relative, far or near, sent him a large batch of mince pies, twenty or thirty at least. He once spoke to me of having laid in his winter pie, just as another might speak of laying in his winter coal. The only fireside companion Tom Folio ever alluded to in my presence was a Maltese cat, whose poor health seriously disturbed him from time to time. I suspected those mince pies. The cat, I recollect, was named Miss Mowcher. If he had any immediate family ties beyond this I was unaware of them, and not curious ...

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