“Pearl,” said she, sadly, “look down at thy feet! There!—before thee!—on the
hither side of the brook!”
“Pearl,” she said sadly, “look down at your feet! There—in front on you—on the
other side of the brook!”
The child turned her eyes to the point indicated; and there lay the scarlet
letter, so close upon the margin of the stream, that the gold embroidery was
reflected in it.
The child looked where her mother had indicated. The scarlet letter lay there,
so close to the edge of the stream that the gold embroidery was reflected in the
“Bring it hither!” said Hester.
“Bring it here!” said Hester.
“Come thou and take it up!” answered Pearl.
“You come here and pick it up!” replied Pearl.
“Was ever such a child!” observed Hester aside to the minister. “O, I have
much to tell thee about her. But, in very truth, she is right as regards this
hateful token. I must bear its torture yet a little longer,—only a few days
longer,—until we shall have left this region, and look back hither as to a land
which we have dreamed of. The forest cannot hide it! The mid-ocean shall take it
from my hand, and swallow it up for ever!”
“Was there ever a child like this?” Hester asked the minister. “I have so much
to tell you about her! But she is right about this hateful symbol. I must bear
its torture a little longer—but only a few days longer. When we have left this
region, we will look back on it as though it were a dream. The forest cannot
hide the scarlet letter, but the ocean will take it from my hand and swallow it
With these words, she advanced to the margin of the brook, took up the scarlet
letter, and fastened it again into her bosom. Hopefully, but a moment ago, as
Hester had spoken of drowning it in the deep sea, there was a sense of
inevitable doom upon her, as she thus received back this deadly symbol from the
hand of fate. She had flung it into infinite space!—she had drawn an hour’s free
breath!—and here again was the scarlet misery, glittering on the old spot! So it
ever is, whether thus typified or no, that an evil deed invests itself with the
character of doom. Hester next gathered up the heavy tresses of her hair, and
confined them beneath her cap. As if there were a withering spell in the sad
letter, her beauty, the warmth and richness of her womanhood, departed, like
fading sunshine; and a gray shadow seemed to fall across her.
With these words, she walked to edge of the brook, picked up the scarlet
letter, and fastened it again onto her bosom. Just a moment earlier, Hester had
spoken hopefully of drowning the letter in the deep sea. But there was a sense
of inevitable doom about her now, as though fate itself had returned the deadly
symbol to her. She had thrown it off into the universe! She had breathed free
for an hour! And now the scarlet misery was glittering once again, right in its
old spot! It’s always this way. An evil deed, whether symbolized or not, always
takes on the appearance of fate. Hester gathered up the heavy locks of her hair
and hid them beneath the cap. Her beauty, the warmth and richness of her
womanhood, left her like fading sunshine. A gray shadow seemed to fall on her.
It was as though there was a withering spell in the sad letter.
When the dreary change was wrought, she extended her hand to Pearl.
When the change was complete, she extended her hand to Pearl.
“Dost thou know thy mother now, child?” asked she, reproachfully, but with a
subdued tone. “Wilt thou come across the brook, and own thy mother, now that she
has her shame upon her,—now that she is sad?”
“Do you recognize your mother now, child?” she asked. There was a subdued
reproach in her voice. “Will you come across the brook and acknowledge your
mother, now that she has her shame upon her—now that she is sad?”
“Yes; now I will!” answered the child, bounding across the brook, and clasping
Hester in her arms. “Now thou art my mother indeed! And I am thy little
“Yes, now I will!” answered the child. She bounded across the brook and
wrapped Hester in her arms. “Now you are my mother again, and I am your little
In a mood of tenderness that was not usual with her, she drew down her
mother’s head, and kissed her brow and both her cheeks. But then—by a kind of
necessity that always impelled this child to alloy whatever comfort she might
chance to give with a throb of anguish—PearI put up her mouth, and kissed the
scarlet letter too!
In a tender mood that was unusual for her, she lowered her mother’s head and
kissed her forehead and both cheeks. But then—as though the child needed to mix
a throb of pain into any comfort she might give—Pearl kissed the scarlet letter
“That was not kind!” said Hester. “When thou hast shown me a little love, thou
“That was not nice!” said Hester. “When you have shown me a little love, you
“Why doth the minister sit yonder?” asked Pearl.
“Why is the minister sitting over there?” asked Pearl.
“He waits to welcome thee,” replied her mother. “Come thou, and entreat his
blessing! He loves thee, my little Pearl, and loves thy mother too. Wilt thou
not love him? Come! he longs to greet thee!”
“He’s waiting to welcome you,” replied her mother. “Come, and ask for his
blessing! He loves you, my little Pearl, and he loves your mother too. Won’t you
love him? Come, he’s waiting to greet you.”
“Doth he love us?” said Pearl, looking up with acute intelligence into her
mother’s face. “Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into
“Does he love us?” asked Pearl, looking into her mother’s face with a sharp
intelligence. “Will he go back into the town with us, hand in hand?”
“Not now, dear child,” answered Hester. “But in days to come he will walk hand
in hand with us. We will have a home and fireside of our own; and thou shalt sit
upon his knee; and he will teach thee many things, and love thee dearly. Thou
wilt love him; wilt thou not?”
“Not now, my child,” answered Hester. “But soon he will walk hand in hand with
us. We will have a home and a hearth of our own. You will sit upon his knee, and
he will teach you many things and love you dearly. You will love him—won’t
“And will he always keep his hand over his heart?” inquired Pearl.
“Will he always keep his hand over his heart?” asked Pearl.
“Foolish child, what a question is that!” exclaimed her mother. “Come and ask
“Silly child, what kind of question is that?” exclaimed her mother. “Come here
and ask his blessing!”
But, whether influenced by the jealousy that seems instinctive with every
petted child towards a dangerous rival, or from whatever caprice of her freakish
nature, Pearl would show no favor to the clergyman. It was only by an exertion
of force that her mother brought her up to him, hanging back, and manifesting
her reluctance by odd grimaces; of which, ever since her babyhood, she had
possessed a singular variety, and could transform her mobile physiognomy into a
series of different aspects, with a new mischief in them, each and all. The
minister—painfully embarrassed, but hoping that a kiss might prove a talisman to
admit him into the child’s kindlier regards—bent forward, and impressed one on
her brow. Hereupon, Pearl broke from her mother, and, running to the brook,
stooped over it, and bathed her forehead, until the unwelcome kiss was quite
washed off, and diffused through a long lapse of the gliding water. She then
remained apart, silently watching Hester and the clergyman; while they talked
together, and made such arrangements as were suggested by their new position,
and the purposes soon to be fulfilled.
But Pearl would not show any affection toward the clergyman. Perhaps she was
jealous of the attention her mother paid to the minister, as parents’ pets often
are. Or perhaps it was another of her inexplicable whims. Whatever the reason,
Pearl could only be brought over to the minister by force, hanging back and
grimacing all the while. Ever since she had been a baby, she’d had an incredible
array of grimaces. She could pull her face into many shapes, with a different
mischief in each one. The minister was greatly embarrassed but hoped that a kiss
might win him entrance into the child’s good thoughts. He bent forward and
placed one on her forehead—at which Pearl broke free of her mother and ran off
to the brook. Stooping over the water, she washed her forehead until the
unwelcome kiss was entirely gone, spread throughout the flowing brook. She stood
alone, silently watching Hester and the clergyman as the two talked and