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The Scarlet Letter

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Roger Chillingworth had by this time approached the window, and smiled grimly down. By this time, Roger Chillingworth had approached the window and was smiling down grimly.
“There is no law, nor reverence for authority, no regard for human ordinances or opinions, right or wrong, mixed up with that child’s composition,” remarked he, as much to himself as to his companion. “I saw her, the other day, bespatter the Governor himself with water, at the cattle-trough in Spring Lane. What, in Heaven’s name, is she? Is the imp altogether evil? Hath she affections? Hath she any discoverable principle of being?” “That child doesn’t care about the law, authority, or public opinion, whether right or wrong,” he remarked, as much to himself as to his companion. “The other day, I saw her spray the Governor himself with water at the cattle trough on Spring Lane. What, in Heaven’s name, is she? Is that imp altogether evil? Does she have any feelings? Any governing principles?”
“None,—save the freedom of a broken law,” answered Mr. Dimmesdale, in a quiet way, as if he had been discussing the point within himself. “Whether capable of good, I know not.” “None, except the freedom of a broken law,” answered Mr. Dimmesdale, in a quiet way, as if he had been discussing the point with himself. “I don’t know whether she is capable of good.”
The child probably overheard their voices; for, looking up to the window, with a bright, but naughty smile of mirth and intelligence, she threw one of the prickly burrs at the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. The sensitive clergyman shrunk, with nervous dread, from the light missile. Detecting his emotion, Pearl clapped her little hands in the most extravagant ecstasy. Hester Prynne, likewise, had involuntarily looked up; and all these four persons, old and young, regarded one another in silence, till the child laughed aloud, and shouted,—“Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother, or he will catch you! But he cannot catch little Pearl!” The girl likely overheard their voices. Looking up to the window with a bright but naughty smile full of delight and intelligence, she threw one of the prickly burrs at the Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale. The nervous clergyman cringed at the little missile. Seeing that she had gotten a reaction, Pearl clapped her little hands in extravagant joy. Hester Prynne had involuntarily looked up, and these four people, old and young, stared at one another in silence until the child laughed aloud. “Come away, mother!” she shouted. “Come away, or that old Devil will catch you! He’s caught the minister already. Come away, mother, or he’ll catch you! But he can’t catch little Pearl!”
So she drew her mother away, skipping, dancing, and frisking fantastically among the hillocks of the dead people, like a creature that had nothing in common with a bygone and buried generation, nor owned herself akin to it. It was as if she had been made afresh, out of new elements, and must perforce be permitted to live her own life, and be a law unto herself, without her eccentricities being reckoned to her for a crime. So she pulled her mother away, skipping and dancing ridiculously around the mounds of dead people, as though she was some little creature who had nothing in common with past generations and wanted nothing to do with them. It was as if she had been made out of a completely new substance and must be allowed to live her life by her own rules.
“There goes a woman,” resumed Roger Chillingworth, after a pause, “who, be her demerits what they may, hath none of that mystery of hidden sinfulness which you deem so grievous to be borne. Is Hester Prynne the less miserable, think you, for that scarlet letter on her breast?” “There goes a woman,” said Roger Chillingworth, after a pause, “who, though her faults are what they are, has none of that mystery of hidden sinfulness you say is so painful for people to bear. Is Hester Prynne less miserable, do you think, because of the scarlet letter on her breast?”
“I do verily believe it,” answered the clergyman. “Nevertheless, I cannot answer for her. There was a look of pain in her face, which I would gladly have been spared the sight of. But still, methinks, it must needs be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is, than to cover it all up in his heart.” “I truly believe it,” answered the clergyman, “though I can’t speak for her. There was a look of pain in her face that I would have rather not seen. But, I still think it must be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is free to show hers, than to cover it up in his heart.”
There was another pause; and the physician began anew to examine and arrange the plants which he had gathered. There was another pause, and the physician again began to examine and arrange his new plants.
“You inquired of me, a little time agone,” said he, at length, “my judgment as touching your health.” “You asked me, a little while ago,” he said, after some time, “for my judgment about your health.”
“I did,” answered the clergyman, “and would gladly learn it. Speak frankly, I pray you, be it for life or death.” “I did,” answered the clergyman, “and would be glad to hear it. Tell me honestly, please, whether you think I will live or die.”
“Freely, then, and plainly,” said the physician, still busy with his plants, but keeping a wary eye on Mr. Dimmesdale, “the disorder is a strange one; not so much in itself, nor as outwardly manifested—in so far, at least, as the symptoms have been laid open to my observation. Looking daily at you, my good Sir, and watching the tokens of your aspect, now for months gone by, I should deem you a man sore sick, it may be, yet not so sick but that an instructed and watchful physician might well hope to cure you. But—I know not what to say—the disease is what I seem to know, yet know it not.” “I’ll be straight with you,” said the doctor, still busy with his plants but keeping a watchful eye on Mr. Dimmesdale, “the disease is strange. I don’t mean the symptoms, at least as far as you have revealed them to me. Seeing you every day, my good sir, for many months now, I would think you were a very sick man—though not too sick for an educated and observant physician to cure you. I’m not sure what to say: It seems I know the disease, but at the same time, I don’t.”
“You speak in riddles, learned Sir,” said the pale minister, glancing aside out of the window. “You speak in riddles, my learned sir,” said the pale minister, glancing out the window.
“Then, to speak more plainly,” continued the physician, “and I crave pardon, Sir,—should it seem to require pardon,—for this needful plainness of my speech. Let me ask,—as your friend,—as one having charge, under Providence, of your life and physical well-being,—hath all the operation of this disorder been fairly laid open and recounted to me?” “I’ll be more plain,” continued the doctor, “and I beg your pardon, sir, for being direct. Let me ask, as your friend, as one in charge of your life and bodily health: Have you told me all the symptoms of this disorder?”
“How can you question it?” asked the minister. “Surely, it were child’s play to call in a physician, and then hide the sore!” “How can you doubt that?” asked the minister. “It would be childish to call for a physician and then conceal the illness!”
“You would tell me, then, that I know all?” said Chillingworth, deliberately, and fixing an eye, bright with intense and concentrated intelligence, on the minister’s face. “Be it so! But, again! He to whom only the outward and physical evil is laid open knoweth, oftentimes, but half the evil which he is called upon to cure. A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part. Your pardon, once again, good Sir, if my speech give the shadow of offence. You, Sir, of all men whom I have known, are he whose body is the closest conjoined, and imbued, and identified, so to speak, with the spirit whereof it is the instrument.” “So you’re telling me that I know everything?” said Roger Chillingworth deliberately, staring the minister full in the face with intense and concentrated intelligence. “So be it! But let me say again that one who knows only the physical symptoms often knows only half of what he is asked to cure. A bodily disease, which we think of as self-contained, may after all be merely a symptom of some spiritual ailment. I beg your pardon, again, if my words give the slightest offense. Of all the men I have known, you, sir, are the one whose body is most closely connected to the spirit inside.”

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