The Scarlet Letter eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The Scarlet Letter.
impending brow; large, brown, melancholy eyes, and a mouth which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to be tremulous, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self restraint.  Notwithstanding his high native gifts and scholar-like attainments, there was an air about this young minister—­an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look—­as of a being who felt himself quite astray, and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion of his own.  Therefore, so far as his duties would permit, he trod in the shadowy by-paths, and thus kept himself simple and childlike, coming forth, when occasion was, with a freshness, and fragrance, and dewy purity of thought, which, as many people said, affected them like the speech of an angel.

Such was the young man whom the Reverend Mr. Wilson and the Governor had introduced so openly to the public notice, bidding him speak, in the hearing of all men, to that mystery of a woman’s soul, so sacred even in its pollution.  The trying nature of his position drove the blood from his cheek, and made his lips tremulous.

“Speak to the woman, my brother,” said Mr. Wilson.  “It is of moment to her soul, and, therefore, as the worshipful Governor says, momentous to thine own, in whose charge hers is.  Exhort her to confess the truth!”

The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward.

“Hester Prynne,” said he, leaning over the balcony and looking down steadfastly into her eyes, “thou hearest what this good man says, and seest the accountability under which I labour.  If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer!  Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life.  What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him—­yea, compel him, as it were—­to add hypocrisy to sin?  Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee and the sorrow without.  Take heed how thou deniest to him—­who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself—­the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!”

The young pastor’s voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and broken.  The feeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than the direct purport of the words, caused it to vibrate within all hearts, and brought the listeners into one accord of sympathy.  Even the poor baby at Hester’s bosom was affected by the same influence, for it directed its hitherto vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms with a half-pleased, half-plaintive murmur.  So powerful seemed the minister’s appeal that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would speak out the guilty name, or else that the guilty one himself in whatever high or lowly place he stood, would be drawn forth by an inward and inevitable necessity, and compelled to ascend the scaffold.

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.