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The Scarlet Letter

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With a convulsive motion he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed! But it were irreverent to describe that revelation. For an instant the gaze of the horror-stricken multitude was concentred on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood with a flush of triumph in his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had won a victory. Then, down he sank upon the scaffold! Hester partly raised him, and supported his head against her bosom. Old Roger Chillingworth knelt down beside him, with a blank, dull countenance, out of which the life seemed to have departed. With a spasm, he tore his minister’s robe away from his breast. It was revealed! But it would be pointless to describe that revelation. For an instant, the eyes of the horrified mass were focused on the dreadful miracle. The minister stood with a flush of triumph in his face, as though he had persevered in the midst of a great torment. Then he crumpled upon the platform! Hester raised him slightly, supporting his head against her bosom. Old Roger Chillingworth kneeled down next to him, his face blank and dull, as though the life had drained out of it.
“Thou hast escaped me!” he repeated more than once. “Thou hast escaped me!” “You have escaped me!” he said over and over. “You have escaped me!”
“May God forgive thee!” said the minister. “Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!” “May God forgive you!” said the minister. “You have sinned deeply too!”
He withdrew his dying eyes from the old man, and fixed them on the woman and the child. His dying eyes turned away from the old man and looked instead at the woman and child.
“My little Pearl,” said he feebly,—and there was a sweet and gentle smile over his face, as of a spirit sinking into deep repose; nay, now that the burden was removed, it seemed almost as if he would be sportive with the child,—“dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt?” “My little Pearl!” he said, weakly. There was a sweet and gentle smile on his face, as though his spirit was sinking into a deep rest. Now that his burden was lifted, it seemed almost as though he would play with the child. “Dear little Pearl, will you kiss me now? You wouldn’t when we were in the forest! But will you now?”
Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor for ever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl’s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled. Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The wild infant’s sympathies had been developed by the enormous grief she had grown up around. Her tears that now fell upon her father’s cheek were a pledge to open herself to human joy and sorrow. She would not fight constantly against the world but would be a woman in it. Pearl’s role as a bringer of pain to her mother also came to an end.
“Hester,” said the clergyman, “farewell!” “Hester,” said the clergyman, “goodbye!”
“Shall we not meet again?” whispered she, bending her face down close to his. “Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely, surely, we have ransomed one another, with all this woe! Thou lookest far into eternity, with those bright dying eyes! Then tell me what thou seest?” “Won’t we meet again?” she whispered, bending her face down close to his. “Won’t we spend eternity together? Surely, surely, we have saved each other through all this misery! You see far into eternity now, with those bright dying eyes! Tell me what you see!”
“Hush, Hester, hush!” said he, with tremulous solemnity. “The law we broke!—the sin here so awfully revealed!—let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God,—when we violated our reverence each for the other’s soul,—it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion. God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been lost for ever! Praised be his name! His will be done! Farewell!” “Hush, Hester, hush!” he said, with trembling gravity. “Think only of the law that we broke and the sin that has been horribly revealed here! I am afraid! I am afraid! From the moment we forgot our God—when we forgot our love for each other’s souls—it may have been vain to hope that we could have a pure and everlasting reunion in Heaven. God knows, and He is merciful. He has shown His mercy, above all, in my trials. He gave me this burning torture to bear on my breast! He sent that dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always red-hot! He brought me here, to die in triumphant shame in front of all the people! Without either of these agonies, I would have been lost forever! Praised be His name! His will be done! Goodbye!”
That final word came forth with the minister’s expiring breath. The multitude, silent till then, broke out in a strange, deep voice of awe and wonder, which could not as yet find utterance, save in this murmur that rolled so heavily after the departed spirit. That minister spoke that last word with his dying breath. The crowd, silent up to that point, erupted with a strange, deep sound of awe and wonder. Their reaction could only be expressed in this murmur, which rolled so heavily after the minister’s departing soul.

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