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The Scarlet Letter

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The minister looked at her, for an instant, with all that violence of passion, which—intermixed, in more shapes than one, with his higher, purer, softer qualities—was, in fact, the portion of him which the Devil claimed, and through which he sought to win the rest. Never was there a blacker or a fiercer frown, than Hester now encountered. For the brief space that it lasted, it was a dark transfiguration. But his character had been so much enfeebled by suffering, that even its lower energies were incapable of more than a temporary struggle. He sank down on the ground, and buried his face in his hands. The minister looked at her for a moment, with all the violence of his passion—the part of him that the Devil claimed. That passion was mixed with his higher, purer, and softer qualities: Through it the Devil sought to conquer them. Hester had never seen a darker or a fiercer frown. For the moment it lasted, it was a violent transformation. But the minister’s character had been so weakened by suffering that it was incapable of more than a temporary struggle. He sank to the ground and buried his face in his hands.
“I might have known it!” murmured he. “I did know it! Was not the secret told me in the natural recoil of my heart, at the first sight of him, and as often as I have seen him since? Why did I not understand? O Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame!—the indelicacy!—the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this! I cannot forgive thee!” “I should have known it,” he murmured. “I did know it! Didn’t my heart tell me this secret when I pulled back at the first sight of him, and every time I have seen him since? Why didn’t I understand? Oh, Hester Prynne, you don’t know the horror of this thing! And the shame, the horrible ugliness when a sick and guilty heart is exposed to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, you are to blame for this! I cannot forgive you!”
“Thou shalt forgive me!” cried Hester, flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside him. “Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!” “You will forgive me!” cried Hester, throwing herself in the fallen leaves beside him. “Let God punish! You will forgive!”
With sudden and desperate tenderness, she threw her arms around him, and pressed his head against her bosom; little caring though his cheek rested on the scarlet letter. He would have released himself, but strove in vain to do so. Hester would not set him free, lest he should look her sternly in the face. All the world had frowned on her,—for seven long years had it frowned upon this lonely woman,—and still she bore it all, nor ever once turned away her firm, sad eyes. Heaven, likewise, had frowned upon her, and she had not died. But the frown of this pale, weak, sinful, and sorrow-stricken man was what Hester could not bear, and live! With a sudden and desperate tenderness, she threw her arms around him and pressed his head against her breast. She did not care that his cheek rested on the scarlet letter. He would have freed himself, but he could not. Hester would not set him free, lest he look at her with reproach. All the world had frowned at her—for seven long years it had frowned at this lonely woman—and she bore it all, never turning away her firm, sad eyes. Heaven had frowned at her, too, and she had not died. But the frown of this pale, weak, sinful, and sorrowful man was more than Hester could bear!
“Wilt thou yet forgive me?” she repeated, over and over again. “Wilt thou not frown? Wilt thou forgive?” “Will you forgive me yet?” she repeated, over and over again. “Will you not frown? Will you forgive?”
“I do forgive you, Hester,” replied the minister, at length, with a deep utterance out of an abyss of sadness, but no anger. “I freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both! We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” “I do forgive you, Hester,” the minister eventually replied. He spoke deeply, out of great depths of sadness, but no anger. “I freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both. We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is a sinner even greater than this sinful priest! That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the holiness of a human heart. You and I, Hester, never did that!”
“Never, never!” whispered she. “What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other! Hast thou forgotten it?” “Never, never!” she whispered. “What we did had a holiness of its own. We felt that! We told each other so. Have you forgotten that?”
“Hush, Hester!” said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the ground. “No; I have not forgotten!” “Hush, Hester!” said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the ground. “No, I have not forgotten!”
They sat down again, side by side, and hand clasped in hand, on the mossy trunk of the fallen tree. Life had never brought them a gloomier hour; it was the point whither their pathway had so long been tending, and darkening ever, as it stole along;—and yet it inclosed a charm that made them linger upon it, and claim another, and another, and, after all, another moment. The forest was obscure around them, and creaked with a blast that was passing through it. The boughs were tossing heavily above their heads; while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another, as if telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath, or constrained to forebode evil to come. They sat down again, side by side and hand in hand, on the mossy trunk of the fallen tree. Life had never brought them a gloomier hour: This was the point to which their paths had been leading, darkening as they went along. And yet the moment revealed a charm that made them linger over it, and claim another moment, and another still—and yet one more moment. The forest was dark around them and creaked as the wind passed through it. As the branches were tossed back and forth overhead, one solemn old tree groaned sorrowfully to another. It was as though the trees were telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath them or warning of evil still to come.
And yet they lingered. How dreary looked the forest-track that led backward to the settlement, where Hester Prynne must take up again the burden of her ignominy, and the minister the hollow mockery of his good name! So they lingered an instant longer. No golden light had ever been so precious as the gloom of this dark forest. Here, seen only by his eyes, the scarlet letter need not burn into the bosom of the fallen woman! Here, seen only by her eyes, Arthur Dimmesdale, false to God and man, might be, for one moment, true! And yet they lingered. The forest path back to the settlement looked dreary: There Hester Prynne would once again take up the burden of her shame, and the minister the hollow mockery of his reputation! So they lingered another moment. No golden light was ever so precious as the gloom of this dark forest. Here, seen only by his eyes, the scarlet letter did not burn the bosom of the sinful woman! Here, seen only by her eyes, Arthur Dimmesdale—false to God and to man—might, for one moment, be true!
He started at a thought that suddenly occurred to him. He started suddenly as a thought occurred to him.
“Hester,” cried he, “here is a new horror! Roger Chillingworth knows your purpose to reveal his true character. Will he continue, then, to keep our secret? What will now be the course of his revenge?” “Hester!” he cried, “I have thought of a new horror! Roger Chillingworth knows that you intend to reveal his true character. Will he continue to keep our secret? What revenge will he take now?”
“There is a strange secrecy in his nature,” replied Hester, thoughtfully; “and it has grown upon him by the hidden practices of his revenge. I deem it not likely that he will betray the secret. He will doubtless seek other means of satiating his dark passion.” “There is a strange secrecy in his nature,” Hester replied, thoughtfully. “And he has grown more secretive as he has taken his hidden revenge. I think it unlikely that he will betray our secret now—but he will certainly seek revenge by other means.”

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