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The Scarlet Letter

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Carried away by the grotesque horror of this picture, the minister, unawares, and to his own infinite alarm, burst into a great peal of laughter. It was immediately responded to by a light, airy, childish laugh, in which, with a thrill of the heart,—but he knew not whether of exquisite pain, or pleasure as acute—he recognized the tones of little Pearl. The minister was carried away by the horror of this fantasy. Unconsciously, and to his great alarm, he burst into uncontrollable laughter. A light, airy, childish laugh responded immediately. With a pang in his heart—whether of pain or pleasure, he could not tell—he recognized the sound of little Pearl.
“Pearl! Little Pearl!” cried he, after a moment’s pause; then, suppressing his voice,—“Hester! Hester Prynne! Are you there?” “Pearl! Little Pearl!” he cried, after a moment. Then, in a quieter voice, “Hester! Hester Prynne! Are you there?”
“Yes; it is Hester Prynne!” she replied, in a tone of surprise; and the minister heard her footsteps approaching from the sidewalk, along which she had been passing.—“It is I, and my little Pearl.” “Yes, it is Hester Prynne!” she replied, with a tone of surprise. The minister heard her footsteps approaching from the sidewalk. “It’s me and my little Pearl.”
“Whence come you, Hester?” asked the minister. “What sent you hither?” “Where are you coming from, Hester?” asked the minister. “What’s brought you here?”
“I have been watching at a death-bed,” answered Hester Prynne;—“at Governor Winthrop’s death-bed, and have taken his measure for a robe, and am now going homeward to my dwelling.” “I have been at a deathbed,” answered Hester Prynne. “Governor Winthrop’s deathbed. I had to measure him for a burial robe, and now I’m heading home.”
“Come up hither, Hester, thou and little Pearl,” said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. “Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!” “Come up here, Hester, you and little Pearl,” said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. “You have been here before, but I was not with you. Come up here once more, and we will stand all three together.”
She silently ascended the steps, and stood on the platform, holding little Pearl by the hand. The minister felt for the child’s other hand, and took it. The moment that he did so, there came what seemed a tumultuous rush of new life, other life than his own, pouring like a torrent into his heart, and hurrying through all his veins, as if the mother and the child were communicating their vital warmth to his half-torpid system. The three formed an electric chain. She silently climbed the steps and stood on the platform, holding little Pearl by the hand. The minister felt for the child’s other hand and took it. As soon as he did, a rush of new life poured through him. The energy poured into his heart and sped through his veins, as though the mother and child had sent their warmth through his half-dead body. The three formed an electric chain.
“Minister!” whispered little Pearl. “Minister!” whispered little Pearl.
“What wouldst thou say, child?” asked Mr. Dimmesdale. “What it is, child?” asked Mr. Dimmesdale.
“Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?” inquired Pearl. “Will you stand here with mother and me at noontime tomorrow?” asked Pearl.
“Nay; not so, my little Pearl!” answered the minister; for, with the new energy of the moment, all the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him; and he was already trembling at the conjunction in which—with a strange joy, nevertheless—he now found himself. “Not so, my child. I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother and thee one other day, but not to-morrow!” “I’m afraid not, my little Pearl,” answered the minister. With the new energy of the moment, all the dread of public exposure had returned. He was already trembling at the position in which he now found himself, though it also brought a strange joy. “No, my child. I promise to stand with your mother and you one day, but not tomorrow.”
Pearl laughed, and attempted to pull away her hand. But the minister held it fast. Pearl laughed and tried to pull her hand away. But the minister held it tight.
“A moment longer, my child!” said he. “One moment more, my child!” he said.
“But wilt thou promise,” asked Pearl, “to take my hand, and mother’s hand, to-morrow noontide?” “But will you promise,” asked Pearl, “to take my hand, and mother’s hand, tomorrow at noon?”
“Not then, Pearl,” said the minister, “but another time!” “Not then, Pearl,” said the minister, “but another time.”
“And what other time?” persisted the child. “What other time?” the child asked persistently.
“At the great judgment day!” whispered the minister,—and, strangely enough, the sense that he was a professional teacher of the truth impelled him to answer the child so. “Then, and there, before the judgment-seat, thy mother, and thou, and I, must stand together! But the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting!” “At the great judgment day,” whispered the minister. Oddly enough, his sense of obligation as a teacher of the truth compelled him to give that answer. “Then and there, before the throne of judgment, your mother, you, and I must stand together. But the light of this world will not see us as one!”
Pearl laughed again. Pearl laughed again.
But, before Mr. Dimmesdale had done speaking, a light gleamed far and wide over all the muffled sky. It was doubtless caused by one of those meteors, which the night-watcher may so often observe burning out to waste, in the vacant regions of the atmosphere. So powerful was its radiance, that it thoroughly illuminated the dense medium of cloud betwixt the sky and earth. The great vault brightened, like the dome of an immense lamp. It showed the familiar scene of the street, with the distinctness of mid-day, but also with the awfulness that is always imparted to familiar objects by an unaccustomed light. The wooden houses, with their jutting stories and quaint gable-peaks; the door-steps and thresholds, with the early grass springing up about them; the garden-plots, black with freshly turned earth; the wheel-track, little worn, and, even in the market-place, margined with green on either side;—all were visible, but with a singularity of aspect that seemed to give another moral interpretation to the things of this world than they had ever borne before. And there stood the minister, with his hand over his heart; and Hester Prynne, with the embroidered letter glimmering on her bosom; and little Pearl, herself a symbol, and the connecting link between those two. They stood in the noon of that strange and solemn splendor, as if it were the light that is to reveal all secrets, and the daybreak that shall unite all who belong to one another. But before Mr. Dimmesdale had finished speaking, a light gleamed over the clouded sky. It was probably caused by one of those meteors that stargazers so often see burning in the blank areas of the sky. The light was so powerful that it completely illuminated the dense layer of cloud between Heaven and earth. The dome of the sky brightened like a giant lamp. It illuminated the familiar scene of the street as clearly as the midday sun, but in the bizarre way that a strange light gives to well-known objects. It lit up the wooden houses, with their uneven stories and quaint peaks; the front doors, with their young grass growing before them; the gardens, black with newly turned soil; the wagon road, lightly worn and bordered with green. All of this was visible, but with a unique appearance that seemed to assign to the world a deeper meaning. And there stood the minister, with his hand over his heart, and Hester Prynne, with the embroidered letter shimmering on her bosom. Little Pearl, herself a symbol, stood between the two like a link connecting them. They stood in the noon-like light of that strange and solemn splendor, as though it would reveal all their secrets—like a dawn that will unite those who belong to each another.

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