The Scarlet Letter eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The Scarlet Letter.

“What mean you?” inquired Hester, startled more than she permitted to appear.  “Have you another passenger?”

“Why, know you not,” cried the shipmaster, “that this physician here—­Chillingworth he calls himself—­is minded to try my cabin-fare with you?  Ay, ay, you must have known it; for he tells me he is of your party, and a close friend to the gentleman you spoke of—­he that is in peril from these sour old Puritan rulers.”

“They know each other well, indeed,” replied Hester, with a mien of calmness, though in the utmost consternation.  “They have long dwelt together.”

Nothing further passed between the mariner and Hester Prynne.  But at that instant she beheld old Roger Chillingworth himself, standing in the remotest corner of the market-place and smiling on her; a smile which—­across the wide and bustling square, and through all the talk and laughter, and various thoughts, moods, and interests of the crowd—­conveyed secret and fearful meaning.

XXII.  THE PROCESSION

Before Hester Prynne could call together her thoughts, and consider what was practicable to be done in this new and startling aspect of affairs, the sound of military music was heard approaching along a contiguous street.  It denoted the advance of the procession of magistrates and citizens on its way towards the meeting-house:  where, in compliance with a custom thus early established, and ever since observed, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale was to deliver an Election Sermon.

Soon the head of the procession showed itself, with a slow and stately march, turning a corner, and making its way across the market-place.  First came the music.  It comprised a variety of instruments, perhaps imperfectly adapted to one another, and played with no great skill; but yet attaining the great object for which the harmony of drum and clarion addresses itself to the multitude—­that of imparting a higher and more heroic air to the scene of life that passes before the eye.  Little Pearl at first clapped her hands, but then lost for an instant the restless agitation that had kept her in a continual effervescence throughout the morning; she gazed silently, and seemed to be borne upward like a floating sea-bird on the long heaves and swells of sound.  But she was brought back to her former mood by the shimmer of the sunshine on the weapons and bright armour of the military company, which followed after the music, and formed the honorary escort of the procession.  This body of soldiery—­which still sustains a corporate existence, and marches down from past ages with an ancient and honourable fame—­was composed of no mercenary materials.  Its ranks were filled with gentlemen who felt the stirrings of martial impulse, and sought to establish a kind of College of Arms, where, as in an association of Knights Templars, they might learn the science, and, so far as peaceful exercise would teach them, the

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.