The Scarlet Letter eBook

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

Pearl, seeing the rose-bushes, began to cry for a red rose, and would not be pacified.

“Hush, child—­hush!” said her mother, earnestly.  “Do not cry, dear little Pearl!  I hear voices in the garden.  The Governor is coming, and gentlemen along with him.”

In fact, adown the vista of the garden avenue, a number of persons were seen approaching towards the house.  Pearl, in utter scorn of her mother’s attempt to quiet her, gave an eldritch scream, and then became silent, not from any notion of obedience, but because the quick and mobile curiosity of her disposition was excited by the appearance of those new personages.

VIII.  THE ELF-CHILD AND THE MINISTER

Governor Bellingham, in a loose gown and easy cap—­such as elderly gentlemen loved to endue themselves with, in their domestic privacy—­walked foremost, and appeared to be showing off his estate, and expatiating on his projected improvements.  The wide circumference of an elaborate ruff, beneath his grey beard, in the antiquated fashion of King James’s reign, caused his head to look not a little like that of John the Baptist in a charger.  The impression made by his aspect, so rigid and severe, and frost-bitten with more than autumnal age, was hardly in keeping with the appliances of worldly enjoyment wherewith he had evidently done his utmost to surround himself.  But it is an error to suppose that our great forefathers—­though accustomed to speak and think of human existence as a state merely of trial and warfare, and though unfeignedly prepared to sacrifice goods and life at the behest of duty—­made it a matter of conscience to reject such means of comfort, or even luxury, as lay fairly within their grasp.  This creed was never taught, for instance, by the venerable pastor, John Wilson, whose beard, white as a snow-drift, was seen over Governor Bellingham’s shoulders, while its wearer suggested that pears and peaches might yet be naturalised in the New England climate, and that purple grapes might possibly be compelled to flourish against the sunny garden-wall.  The old clergyman, nurtured at the rich bosom of the English Church, had a long established and legitimate taste for all good and comfortable things, and however stern he might show himself in the pulpit, or in his public reproof of such transgressions as that of Hester Prynne, still, the genial benevolence of his private life had won him warmer affection than was accorded to any of his professional contemporaries.

Behind the Governor and Mr. Wilson came two other guests—­one, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whom the reader may remember as having taken a brief and reluctant part in the scene of Hester Prynne’s disgrace; and, in close companionship with him, old Roger Chillingworth, a person of great skill in physic, who for two or three years past had been settled in the town.  It was understood that this learned man was the physician as well as friend of the young minister, whose health had severely suffered of late by his too unreserved self-sacrifice to the labours and duties of the pastoral relation.

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.