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.


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.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
“The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” Atlantic Monthly (1858-05)

Collected in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 7 (1858).

Added on 23-May-23 | Last updated 1-Feb-24
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