The Scarlet Letter eBook

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

“We shall have thee there anon!” said the witch-lady, frowning, as she drew back her head.

But here—­if we suppose this interview betwixt Mistress Hibbins and Hester Prynne to be authentic, and not a parable—­was already an illustration of the young minister’s argument against sundering the relation of a fallen mother to the offspring of her frailty.  Even thus early had the child saved her from Satan’s snare.

IX.  THE LEECH

Under the appellation of Roger Chillingworth, the reader will remember, was hidden another name, which its former wearer had resolved should never more be spoken.  It has been related, how, in the crowd that witnessed Hester Prynne’s ignominious exposure, stood a man, elderly, travel-worn, who, just emerging from the perilous wilderness, beheld the woman, in whom he hoped to find embodied the warmth and cheerfulness of home, set up as a type of sin before the people.  Her matronly fame was trodden under all men’s feet.  Infamy was babbling around her in the public market-place.  For her kindred, should the tidings ever reach them, and for the companions of her unspotted life, there remained nothing but the contagion of her dishonour; which would not fail to be distributed in strict accordance and proportion with the intimacy and sacredness of their previous relationship.  Then why—­since the choice was with himself—­should the individual, whose connexion with the fallen woman had been the most intimate and sacred of them all, come forward to vindicate his claim to an inheritance so little desirable?  He resolved not to be pilloried beside her on her pedestal of shame.  Unknown to all but Hester Prynne, and possessing the lock and key of her silence, he chose to withdraw his name from the roll of mankind, and, as regarded his former ties and interest, to vanish out of life as completely as if he indeed lay at the bottom of the ocean, whither rumour had long ago consigned him.  This purpose once effected, new interests would immediately spring up, and likewise a new purpose; dark, it is true, if not guilty, but of force enough to engage the full strength of his faculties.

In pursuance of this resolve, he took up his residence in the Puritan town as Roger Chillingworth, without other introduction than the learning and intelligence of which he possessed more than a common measure.  As his studies, at a previous period of his life, had made him extensively acquainted with the medical science of the day, it was as a physician that he presented himself and as such was cordially received.  Skilful men, of the medical and chirurgical profession, were of rare occurrence in the colony.  They seldom, it would appear, partook of the religious zeal that brought other emigrants across the Atlantic.  In their researches into the human frame, it may be that the higher and more subtle faculties of such men were materialised, and that they lost the spiritual

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.