The Scarlet Letter Chapter 22
The Procession passes through the town square. The Reverend Dimmesdale is part of the procession, and is remarkable today in his appearance: "There was no feebleness of step, as at other times; his frame was not bent; nor did his hand rest ominously upon his heart. Yet, if the clergyman were rightly viewed, his strength seemed not of the body....so abstracted was his look, it might be questioned whether Mr. Dimmesdale even heard the music [of the procession]." Chapter 22, pp. 217-218. Hester sees Dimmesdale's changed appearance and feels as if he is totally lost to her - as if their encounter in the woods had been only a dream. "'Mother,' said she, 'was that the same minister that kissed me by the brook?'" Chapter 22, pg. 219.
Against the public norm, Mistress Hibbins begins speaking to Hester in public, whispering to her in the midst of festivities. She hints and jokes that Dimmesdale's current good health is due to a meeting he and Hester had in the forest.
As Hibbins and Hester speak, Dimmesdale begins his speech inside the over-crowded Church.
Hester cannot get in because of the crowds, so she stands beside the familiar town scaffold. She can hear only the indistinct sound of the sermon, because she is too far away to hear the words. She listens intently, sympathizing "so intimately that the sermon had throughout a meaning for her, entirely apart from its indistinguishable words." Chapter 22, pg. 221.
As the sermon continues, those still outside, many from far settlements, begin to crowd around Hester, many seeing the famed scarlet letter for the first time. "At the final hour, when she was so soon to fling aside the burning letter, it had strangely become the center of more remark and excitement, and was thus made to sear her breast more painfully than at any time since the first day she put it on." Chapter 22, pg. 225.