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The Scarlet Letter

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“And I—how am I to live longer, breathing the same air with this deadly enemy?” exclaimed Arthur Dimmesdale, shrinking within himself, and pressing his hand nervously against his heart,—a gesture that had grown involuntary with him. “Think for me, Hester! Thou art strong. Resolve for me!” “And I—how am I to live, breathing the same air as this deadly enemy?” exclaimed Arthur Dimmesdale, shrinking into himself and pressing his hand nervously against his heart. The gesture had become involuntary for him. “Think for me, Hester! You are strong. Decide for me!”
“Thou must dwell no longer with this man,” said Hester, slowly and firmly. “Thy heart must be no longer under his evil eye!” “You must live with this man no longer,” said Hester, slowly and firmly. “Your heart must be no longer under his evil eye!”
“It were far worse than death!” replied the minister. “But how to avoid it? What choice remains to me? Shall I lie down again on these withered leaves, where I cast myself when thou didst tell me what he was? Must I sink down there, and die at once?” “That would be worse than death!” replied the minister. “But how can I avoid it? What choice do I have left? Should I lie down again on these withered leaves, where I threw myself when you told me who he was? Must I fall down there and die at once?”
“Alas, what a ruin has befallen thee!” said Hester, with the tears gushing into her eyes. “Wilt thou die for very weakness? There is no other cause!” “Oh, what have you come to?” said Hester, with tears filling her eyes. “Will you die of weakness? There is no other reason!”
“The judgment of God is on me,” answered the conscience-stricken priest. “It is too mighty for me to struggle with!” “The judgment of God is upon me,” answered the guilty priest. “It is too strong for me to resist!”
“Heaven would show mercy,” rejoined Hester “hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it.” “Heaven would be merciful,” replied Hester, “if you had the strength to ask for mercy.”
“Be thou strong for me!” answered he. “Advise me what to do.” “Be strong for me!” he answered. “Advise me what to do.”
“Is the world then so narrow?” exclaimed Hester Prynne, fixing her deep eyes on the minister’s, and instinctively exercising a magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued, that it could hardly hold itself erect. “Doth the universe lie within the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but a leaf-strewn desert, as lonely as this around us? Whither leads yonder forest-track? Backward to the settlement, thou sayest! Yes; but onward, too! Deeper it goes, and deeper, into the wilderness, less plainly to be seen at every step; until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white man’s tread. There thou art free! So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?” “Is the world that small?” exclaimed Hester Prynne, looking at the minister with her deep eyes. Instinctively, she exercised her power over a spirit so broken and beaten down that it could hardly hold itself upright. “Is that town, which not that long ago was just part of the forest, the entire universe? Where does this forest path go? Back to the settlement, you say! Yes, but it goes onward too! It goes deeper and deeper into the wilderness, less visible with every step. A few miles from here, the yellow leaves show no trace of the white man’s tracks. There you would be free! Such a brief journey would take you from a world where you have been miserable to one where you might still be happy! Isn’t there enough shade in this vast forest to hide your heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?”
“Yes, Hester; but only under the fallen leaves!” replied the minister, with a sad smile. “Yes, Hester, but only buried under the fallen leaves!” replied the minister, with a sad smile.
“Then there is the broad pathway of the sea!” continued Hester. “It brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee back again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural village or in vast London,—or, surely, in Germany, in France, in pleasant Italy,—thou wouldst be beyond his power and knowledge! And what hast thou to do with all these iron men, and their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too long already!” “Then there is the wide road of the sea!” continued Hester. “It brought you here. If you choose, it will bring you back again. There you would be beyond his power and his knowledge! You could live in our native land—in London, or some faraway rural village—or in Germany, France, or Italy. And what do you care for all of these magistrates and their opinions? They have kept your better part locked away for far too long!”
“It cannot be!” answered the minister, listening as if he were called upon to realize a dream. “I am powerless to go. Wretched and sinful as I am, I have had no other thought than to drag on my earthly existence in the sphere where Providence hath placed me. Lost as my own soul is, I would still do what I may for other human souls! I dare not quit my post, though an unfaithful sentinel, whose sure reward is death and dishonor, when his dreary watch shall come to an end!” “It cannot be!” answered the minister, listening as though he were being encouraged to realize a dream. “I do not have the power to go. Miserable and sinful as I am, I have no desire to do anything but continue my earthly life where I have been placed. Although my own soul is lost, I would still do what I can for other souls! Though I am an unfaithful watchman, sure to be rewarded with death and dishonor when my dreary watch comes to an end, yet I dare not quit my post!”
“Thou art crushed under this seven years’ weight of misery,” replied Hester, fervently resolved to buoy him up with her own energy. “But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! It shall not cumber thy steps, as thou treadest along the forest-path; neither shalt thou freight the ship with it, if thou prefer to cross the sea. Leave this wreck and ruin here where it hath happened! Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou exhausted possibility in the failure of this one trial? Not so! The future is yet full of trial and success. There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Exchange this false life of thine for a true one. Be, if thy spirit summon thee to such a mission, the teacher and apostle of the red men. Or,—as is more thy nature,—be a scholar and a sage among the wisest and the most renowned of the cultivated world. Preach! Write! Act! Do anything, save to lie down and die! Give up this name of Arthur Dimmesdale, and make thyself another, and a high one, such as thou canst wear without fear or shame. Why shouldst thou tarry so much as one other day in the torments that have so gnawed into thy life!—that have made thee feeble to will and to do!—that will leave thee powerless even to repent! Up, and away!” “You are crushed under the weight of seven years’ misery,” replied Hester, determined to hold him up with her own energy. “But you will leave it all behind! It will not trip you up as you walk along the forest path. Your misery will not weigh the ship down, if you prefer to cross the sea. Leave this ruined life here. Begin anew! Have you exhausted every possibility in failing this one trial? No! The future is still full of trial and success. There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Trade this false life for a true one! Be a wise scholar in the company of the wisest, if your spirit calls you to it. Preach! Write! Act! Do anything except lie down and die! Throw off the name of Arthur Dimmesdale and make yourself another. Let it be a high name, which you can wear without fear or shame. Why remain here one more day, where torments have eaten away at your life? Where troubles have made you too weak to decide and to act? Where misery has left you powerless even to repent? Rise up and leave!”

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