Skip over navigation

The Scarlet Letter

Original Text

Modern Text

There was both truth and error in the impression; the child and mother were estranged, but through Hester’s fault, not Pearl’s. Since the latter rambled from her side, another inmate had been admitted within the circle of the mother’s feelings, and so modified the aspect of them all, that Pearl, the returning wanderer, could not find her wonted place, and hardly knew where she was. There was some truth in that impression. Mother and child were estranged—but it was Hester’s fault, not Pearl’s. Since the child had left her side, someone else had entered the circle of her mother’s feelings. Those feeling had been so altered that Pearl, the returning wanderer, could not find her usual place there. She hardly knew where she was.
“I have a strange fancy,” observed the sensitive minister, “that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again. Or is she an elfish spirit, who, as the legends of our childhood taught us, is forbidden to cross a running stream? Pray hasten her; for this delay has already imparted a tremor to my nerves.” “I have a strange notion,” said the observant minister, “that this brook is the border between two worlds and that you will never meet your Pearl again. Or is she an elflike spirit? Our childhood tales taught us that elves are forbidden to cross a running stream. Tell her to hurry—this delay has already given a tremble to my nerves.”
“Come, dearest child!” said Hester encouragingly, and stretching out both her arms. “How slow thou art! When hast thou been so sluggish before now? Here is a friend of mine, who must be thy friend also. Thou wilt have twice as much love, henceforward, as thy mother alone could give thee! Leap across the brook and come to us. Thou canst leap like a young deer!” “Come, dear child!” Hester encouraged her, stretching out both arms. “You are so slow! When have you moved as slowly as this? There is a friend of mine here, who must be your friend as well. From now on, you will have twice as much love as I could give you alone! Leap across the brook and come to us. You can leap like a young deer!”
Pearl, without responding in any manner to these honey-sweet expressions, remained on the other side of the brook. Now she fixed her bright, wild eyes on her mother, now on the minister, and now included them both in the same glance; as if to detect and explain to herself the relation which they bore to one another. For some unaccountable reason, as Arthur Dimmesdale felt the child’s eyes upon himself, his hand,—with that gesture so habitual as to have become involuntary—stole over his heart. At length, assuming a singular air of authority, Pearl stretched out her hand, with the small forefinger extended, and pointing evidently towards her mother’s breast. And beneath, in the mirror of the brook, there was the flower-girdled and sunny image of little Pearl, pointing her small forefinger too. Pearl, without responding to these sweet expressions, remained on the other side of the brook. She looked at her mother with bright, wild eyes, and then at the minister. Then she looked at them both at once, as if to figure out how they were related to one another. For some inexplicable reason, as Arthur Dimmesdale felt the child’s eyes upon him, he hand crept over his heart. The gesture was so habitual that it had become involuntary. After some time, and with an air of great authority, Pearl extended her hand. With her small index figure extended, she pointed toward her mother’s breast. Below her, in the mirror of the brook, there was the flower-decorated and sunny image of little Pearl, pointing her index finger too.
“Thou strange child, why dost thou not come to me?” exclaimed Hester. “You strange child! Why don’t you come to me?” said Hester.
Pearl still pointed with her forefinger; and a frown gathered on her brow; the more impressive from the childish, the almost baby-like aspect of the features that conveyed it. As her mother still kept beckoning to her, and arraying her face in a holiday suit of unaccustomed smiles, the child stamped her foot with a yet more imperious look and gesture. In the brook, again, was the fantastic beauty of the image, with its reflected frown, its pointed finger, and imperious gesture, giving emphasis to the aspect of little Pearl. Pearl still pointed, and a frown took shape on her brow. It was all the more impressive for the childish, almost babylike face that conveyed it. Her mother kept beckoning to her, with a face full of unusual smiles. The child stamped her foot with an even more demanding look and gesture. The brook reflected the fantastic beauty of the image, giving the frown and pointed finger and demanding gesture even greater emphasis.
“Hasten, Pearl; or I shall be angry with thee!” cried Hester Prynne, who, however inured to such behaviour on the elf-child’s part at other seasons, was naturally anxious for a more seemly deportment now. “Leap across the brook, naughty child, and run hither! Else I must come to thee!” “Hurry, Pearl, or I will be angry with you!” cried Hester Prynne. Though she was accustomed to the behavior of her elflike child, she was naturally anxious for her to act differently just now. “Leap across the brook, naughty child, and run over here! Otherwise I will cross over to you!”
But Pearl, not a whit startled at her mother’s threats, any more than mollified by her entreaties, now suddenly burst into a fit of passion, gesticulating violently and throwing her small figure into the most extravagant contortions. She accompanied this wild outbreak with piercing shrieks, which the woods reverberated on all sides; so that, alone as she was in her childish and unreasonable wrath, it seemed as if a hidden multitude were lending her their sympathy and encouragement. Seen in the brook, once more, was the shadowy wrath of Pearl’s image, crowned and girdled with flowers, but stamping its foot, wildly gesticulating, and, in the midst of all, still pointing its small forefinger at Hester’s bosom! But Pearl, no more startled by her mother’s threats than she was calmed by her pleadings, suddenly burst into a fit of passion. She made violent gestures, twisting her small figure into the strangest shapes. Along with these wild gestures, she made piercing shrieks. The woods echoed all around her. Alone as she was in her childish and unreasonable anger, it seemed as though many hidden voices lent her sympathy and encouragement. Reflected in the brook once more was the shadowy anger of Pearl’s image, crowned and encircled with flowers. The image was stamping its foot, gesturing wildly, and—in the midst of it all—still pointing its tiny index finger at Hester’s bosom.
“I see what ails the child,” whispered Hester to the clergyman, and turning pale in spite of a strong effort to conceal her trouble and annoyance. “Children will not abide any, the slightest, change in the accustomed aspect of things that are daily before their eyes. Pearl misses something which she has always seen me wear!” “I see what troubles the child,” whispered Hester to the clergyman. She turned pale, despite her best efforts to hide her irritation. “Children will not tolerate even the slightest change in the things they are used to seeing every day. Pearl misses something that she has always seen me wear!”
“I pray you,” answered the minister, “if thou hast any means of pacifying the child, do it forthwith! Save it were the cankered wrath of an old witch, like Mistress Hibbins,” added he, attempting to smile. “I know nothing that I would not sooner encounter than this passion in a child. In Pearl’s young beauty, as in the wrinkled witch, it has a preternatural effect. Pacify her, if thou lovest me!” “Please,” replied the minister, “if you have any way of calming the child, do it now! Aside from the bitter anger of an old witch like Mistress Hibbins,” he added, trying to smile, “I would rather be confronted with anything other than this passion in a child. It has a supernatural effect in Pearl’s young beauty, as it does in the wrinkled witch. Calm her, if you love me!”
Hester turned again towards Pearl, with a crimson blush upon her cheek, a conscious glance aside at the clergyman, and then a heavy sigh; while, even before she had time to speak, the blush yielded to a deadly pallor. Hester turned toward Pearl again, blushing and glancing aside at the clergyman. She sighed heavily and, before she could speak, the blush faded. Hester looked deadly pale.

More Help

Previous Next