“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now, see! There it is, playing a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me—for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!”
“Nor ever will, my child, I hope,” said Hester.
“And why not, mother?” asked Pearl, stopping short, just at the beginning of her race. “Will not it come of its own accord when I am a woman grown?”
“Run away, child,” answered her mother, “and catch the sunshine. It will soon be gone.”
Pearl set forth at a great pace, and as Hester smiled to perceive, did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendour, and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion. The light lingered about the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate, until her mother had drawn almost nigh enough to step into the magic circle too.
“It will go now,” said Pearl, shaking her head.
“See!” answered Hester, smiling; “now I can stretch out my hand and grasp some of it.”
As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished; or, to judge from the bright expression that was dancing on Pearl’s features, her mother could have fancied that the child had absorbed it into herself, and would give it forth again, with a gleam about her path, as they should plunge into some gloomier shade. There was no other attribute that so much impressed her with a sense of new and untransmitted vigour in Pearl’s nature, as this never failing vivacity of spirits: she had not the disease of sadness, which almost all children, in these latter days, inherit, with the scrofula, from the troubles of their ancestors. Perhaps this, too, was a disease, and but the reflex of the wild energy with which Hester had fought against her sorrows before Pearl’s birth. It was certainly a doubtful charm, imparting a hard, metallic lustre to the child’s character. She wanted—what some people want throughout life—a grief that should deeply touch her, and thus humanise and make her capable of sympathy. But there was time enough yet for little Pearl.
“Come, my child!” said Hester, looking about her from the spot where Pearl had stood still in the sunshine—“we will sit down a little way within the wood, and rest ourselves.”