Skip over navigation

The Scarlet Letter

Original Text

Modern Text

All this time, Roger Chillingworth was looking at the minister with the grave and intent regard of a physician towards his patient. But, in spite of this outward show, the latter was almost convinced of the old man’s knowledge, or, at least, his confident suspicion, with respect to his own interview with Hester Prynne. The physician knew, then, that, in the minister’s regard, he was no longer a trusted friend, but his bitterest enemy. So much being known, it would appear natural that a part of it should be expressed. It is singular, however, how long a time often passes before words embody things; and with what security two persons, who choose to avoid a certain subject, may approach its very verge, and retire without disturbing it. Thus, the minister felt no apprehension that Roger Chillingworth would touch, in express words, upon the real position which they sustained towards one another. Yet did the physician, in his dark way, creep frightfully near the secret. All the while, Roger Chillingworth looked at the minister with the serious intensity of a physician examining his patient. But in spite of this show, the minister was nearly certain that the old man knew—or at least strongly suspected—that he had spoken with Hester Prynne. The doctor knew that the minister no longer thought of him as a trusted friend but rather as a bitter enemy. It would seem natural that they’d talk about this change. But it’s one of those interesting things—a long time can pass before you say aloud what you’re both thinking. Two people who choose to avoid a certain subject may approach the very edge of it and then veer away. And so the minister was not concerned that Roger Chillingworth would say anything to hint at their real relationship to one another. Yet the doctor, in his dark way, came dreadfully close to the secret.
“Were it not better,” said he, “that you use my poor skill to-night? Verily, dear Sir, we must take pains to make you strong and vigorous for this occasion of the Election discourse. The people look for great things from you; apprehending that another year may come about, and find their pastor gone.” “Wouldn’t it be better,” he said, “for you to use my poor skills tonight? Dear sir, we must be sure to make you strong for the day of the Election Sermon. The people expect great things from you, since they know you might be gone next year.”
“Yea, to another world,” replied the minister, with pious resignation. “Heaven grant it be a better one; for, in good sooth, I hardly think to tarry with my flock through the flitting seasons of another year! But, touching your medicine, kind Sir, in my present frame of body I need it not.” “Yes, to another world,” the minister replied with pious resignation. “May Heaven make it a better one! Truly, I don’t expect that I will remain with my parishioners for another year! But, as for your medicine, kind sir, at the moment I do not need it.”
“I joy to hear it,” answered the physician. “It may be that my remedies, so long administered in vain, begin now to take due effect. Happy man were I, and well deserving of New England’s gratitude, could I achieve this cure!” “It brings me joy to hear it,” replied the doctor. “Perhaps my remedies, which seemed to be in vain, have finally begun to take effect. I would be a happy man, and well deserving of New England’s gratitude, if I could cure you!”
“I thank you from my heart, most watchful friend,” said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, with a solemn smile. “I thank you, and can but requite your good deeds with my prayers.” “Thanks from the bottom of my heart, my watchful friend,” said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale with a solemn smile. “I thank you and can only repay your good deeds with my prayers.”
“A good man’s prayers are golden recompense!” rejoined old Roger Chillingworth, as he took his leave. “Yea, they are the current gold coin of the New Jerusalem, with the King’s own mint-mark on them!” “A good man’s prayers are golden payment!” replied old Roger Chillingworth, as he took his leave. “Yes, they are the true currency of Heaven, with God’s own stamp on them!”
Left alone, the minister summoned a servant of the house, and requested food, which, being set before him, he ate with ravenous appetite. Then, flinging the already written pages of the Election Sermon into the fire, he forthwith began another, which he wrote with such an impulsive flow of thought and emotion, that he fancied himself inspired; and only wondered that Heaven should see fit to transmit the grand and solemn music of its oracles through so foul an organ-pipe as he. However, leaving that mystery to solve itself, or go unsolved for ever, he drove his task onward, with earnest haste and ecstasy. Thus the night fled away, as if it were a winged steed, and he careering on it; morning came, and peeped blushing through the curtains; and at last sunrise threw a golden beam into the study, and laid it right across the minister’s bedazzled eyes. There he was, with the pen still between his fingers, and a vast, immeasurable tract of written space behind him! Left to himself, the minister summoned a servant and asked for food. When it was brought to him, he ate ravenously. Then, throwing the already-written pages of his Election Sermon into the fire, he immediately began another, writing with such impulsive thought and emotion that he imagined himself to be inspired. He was amazed that Heaven could see fit to play the great music of prophecy on such a sinful instrument as him. Leaving that mystery to solve itself or remain forever unsolved, he kept on writing with earnest and ecstatic speed. And so the night flew by, as though it were a winged horse and he riding it. Morning came and peeped through the curtains. And then sunrise threw a golden beam into the study, laying it right across the minister’s dazzled eyes. There he sat, with the pen still in his hand, and many, many pages in front of him!

More Help

Previous Next