The Scarlet Letter eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The Scarlet Letter.
afforded for tampering with the delicate springs of Mr. Dimmesdale’s nature.  Hester could not but ask herself whether there had not originally been a defect of truth, courage, and loyalty on her own part, in allowing the minister to be thrown into a position where so much evil was to be foreboded and nothing auspicious to be hoped.  Her only justification lay in the fact that she had been able to discern no method of rescuing him from a blacker ruin than had overwhelmed herself except by acquiescing in Roger Chillingworth’s scheme of disguise.  Under that impulse she had made her choice, and had chosen, as it now appeared, the more wretched alternative of the two.  She determined to redeem her error so far as it might yet be possible.  Strengthened by years of hard and solemn trial, she felt herself no longer so inadequate to cope with Roger Chillingworth as on that night, abased by sin and half-maddened by the ignominy that was still new, when they had talked together in the prison-chamber.  She had climbed her way since then to a higher point.  The old man, on the other hand, had brought himself nearer to her level, or, perhaps, below it, by the revenge which he had stooped for.

In fine, Hester Prynne resolved to meet her former husband, and do what might be in her power for the rescue of the victim on whom he had so evidently set his gripe.  The occasion was not long to seek.  One afternoon, walking with Pearl in a retired part of the peninsula, she beheld the old physician with a basket on one arm and a staff in the other hand, stooping along the ground in quest of roots and herbs to concoct his medicine withal.

XIV.  HESTER AND THE PHYSICIAN

Hester bade little Pearl run down to the margin of the water, and play with the shells and tangled sea-weed, until she should have talked awhile with yonder gatherer of herbs.  So the child flew away like a bird, and, making bare her small white feet went pattering along the moist margin of the sea.  Here and there she came to a full stop, and peeped curiously into a pool, left by the retiring tide as a mirror for Pearl to see her face in.  Forth peeped at her, out of the pool, with dark, glistening curls around her head, and an elf-smile in her eyes, the image of a little maid whom Pearl, having no other playmate, invited to take her hand and run a race with her.  But the visionary little maid on her part, beckoned likewise, as if to say—­“This is a better place; come thou into the pool.”  And Pearl, stepping in mid-leg deep, beheld her own white feet at the bottom; while, out of a still lower depth, came the gleam of a kind of fragmentary smile, floating to and fro in the agitated water.

Meanwhile her mother had accosted the physician.  “I would speak a word with you,” said she—­“a word that concerns us much.”

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.