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The Scarlet Letter

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“Come, my child!” said Hester, looking about her, from the spot where Pearl had stood still in the sunshine. “We will sit down a little way within the wood, and rest ourselves.” “Come, my child!” said Hester, looking around her from the spot where Pearl had stood in the sunshine, “we will sit down a little farther in the woods and rest ourselves.”
“I am not aweary, mother,” replied the little girl. “But you may sit down, if you will tell me a story meanwhile.” “I am not tired, mother,” replied the little girl. “But you may sit down, if you will tell me a story while you rest.”
“A story, child!” said Hester. “And about what?” “A story, child!” said Hester. “A story about what?”
“O, a story about the Black Man!” answered Pearl, taking hold of her mother’s gown, and looking up, half-earnestly, half-mischievously, into her face. “How he haunts this forest, and carries a book with him,—a big, heavy book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to every body that meets him here among the trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets his mark on their bosoms! Didst thou ever meet the Black Man, mother?” “Oh, a story about the Black Man,” answered Pearl, grasping her mother’s gown and looking up, half earnestly and half mischievously, into her face. “Tell me how he haunts this forest, carrying a big, heavy book, with iron clasps. Tell how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to everyone who meets him here among the trees. Tell how they write their names with their own blood, and then he sets his mark on their chests. Did you ever meet the Black Man, mother?”
“And who told you this story, Pearl?” asked her mother, recognizing a common superstition of the period. “And who told you this story, Pearl?” asked her mother, recognizing a superstition common in those days.
“It was the old dame in the chimney-corner, at the house where you watched last night,” said the child. “But she fancied me asleep while she was talking of it. She said that a thousand and a thousand people had met him here, and had written in his book, and have his mark on them. And that ugly-tempered lady, old Mistress Hibbins, was one. And, mother, the old dame said that this scarlet letter was the Black Man’s mark on thee, and that it glows like a red flame when thou meetest him at midnight, here in the dark wood. Is it true, mother? And dost thou go to meet him in the night-time?” “It was the old woman in the chimney corner, at the sick house where you watched last night,” said the child. “But she thought I was asleep when she spoke of it. She said that thousands of people had met him here, and had written in his book, and have his mark on them. She said that ugly old lady, Mistress Hibbins, was one of them. And, mother, the old woman said that this scarlet letter was the Black Man’s mark on you, and that it glows like a red flame when you meet him at midnight, here in this dark wood. Is it true, mother? Do you go to meet him in the nighttime?”
“Didst thou ever awake, and find thy mother gone?” asked Hester. “Did you ever wake and find your mother gone?” asked Hester.
“Not that I remember,” said the child. “If thou fearest to leave me in our cottage, thou mightest take me along with thee. I would very gladly go! But, mother, tell me now! Is there such a Black Man? And didst thou ever meet him? And is this his mark?” “Not that I remember,” said the child. “If you’re afraid to leave me in our cottage, you might take me along with you. I would very gladly go! But mother, tell me now! Is there such a Black Man? And did you ever meet him? And is this his mark?”
“Wilt thou let me be at peace, if I once tell thee?” asked her mother. “Will you leave me alone, if I tell you once?” asked her mother.
“Yes, if thou tellest me all,” answered Pearl. “Yes, if you tell me everything,” answered Pearl.
“Once in my life I met the Black Man!” said her mother. “This scarlet letter is his mark!” “Once in my life I met the Black Man!” said her mother. “This scarlet letter is his mark!”
Thus conversing, they entered sufficiently deep into the wood to secure themselves from the observation of any casual passenger along the forest-track. Here they sat down on a luxuriant heap of moss; which, at some epoch of the preceding century, had been a gigantic pine, with its roots and trunk in the darksome shade, and its head aloft in the upper atmosphere. It was a little dell where they had seated themselves, with a leaf-strewn bank rising gently on either side, and a brook flowing through the midst, over a bed of fallen and drowned leaves. The trees impending over it had flung down great branches, from time to time, which choked up the current, and compelled it to form eddies and black depths at some points; while, in its swifter and livelier passages, there appeared a channel-way of pebbles, and brown, sparkling sand. Letting the eyes follow along the course of the stream, they could catch the reflected light from its water, at some short distance within the forest, but soon lost all traces of it amid the bewilderment of tree-trunks and underbrush, and here and there a huge rock, covered over with gray lichens. All these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that, with its never-ceasing loquacity, it should whisper tales out of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed, or mirror its revelations on the smooth surface of a pool. Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintance and events of sombre hue. Talking in this way, they walked deep enough into the wood to be invisible to any causal passerby along the forest path. They sat down on a luxurious pile of moss, which had once been a gigantic pine, with its roots and trunk in the shade of the forest and its head high in the upper atmosphere. They had seated themselves in a little dell. The banks of a brook rose on either side of them, covered in leaves, and the brook itself flowed through their midst. The trees that overhung it had thrown down great branches from time to time, disrupting the brook’s current and causing it to form eddies and black pools in some places. In the brook’s swifter passages were pebbles and brown, sparkling sand. Letting their eyes follow the course of the stream, they could see the light reflected off its water—but soon it disappeared among tree trunks and underbrush, and here and there a huge rock covered over with gray lichens. All these giant trees and boulders seemed intent on making a mystery of this small brook’s course. Perhaps they feared that, with its constant babbling, the water would whisper tales from the heart of the old forest or show the forest’s secrets on the smooth surface of a pool. As it crept onward, the little stream kept up quite a babble. It was kind, quiet, and soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child who never played, and who does not know how to be among sad friends and serious events.
“O brook! O foolish and tiresome little brook!” cried Pearl, after listening awhile to its talk. “Why art thou so sad? Pluck up a spirit, and do not be all the time sighing and murmuring!” “Oh, brook! Oh, foolish and tiresome little brook!” cried Pearl, after listening awhile to its talk. “Why are you so sad? Pick up your spirits, and don’t be sighing and murmuring all the time!”
But the brook, in the course of its little lifetime among the forest-trees, had gone through so solemn an experience that it could not help talking about it, and seemed to have nothing else to say. Pearl resembled the brook, inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a well-spring as mysterious, and had flowed through scenes shadowed as heavily with gloom. But, unlike the little stream, she danced and sparkled, and prattled airily along her course. But the brook, over its little lifetime among the forest trees, had had such sad experiences that it could not help talking about them. Indeed, the brook seemed to have nothing else to say. Pearl resembled the brook: Her life had sprung from a well as mysterious as the brook’s and had flowed through scenes as heavily shadowed with gloom. But unlike the little stream, she danced and sparkled and chatted airily as she went on her way.

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