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The Scarlet Letter

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Governor Bellingham stepped through the window into the hall, followed by his three guests. Governor Bellingham stepped through the window and into the hall. His three guests followed.
“Hester Prynne,” said he, fixing his naturally stern regard on the wearer of the scarlet letter, “there hath been much question concerning thee, of late. The point hath been weightily discussed, whether we, that are of authority and influence, do well discharge our consciences by trusting an immortal soul, such as there is in yonder child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen, amid the pitfalls of this world. Speak thou, the child’s own mother! Were it not, thinkest thou, for thy little one’s temporal and eternal welfare, that she be taken out of thy charge, and clad soberly, and disciplined strictly, and instructed in the truths of Heaven and earth? What canst thou do for the child, in this kind?” “Hester Prynne,” he said, fixing his stern gaze on the wearer of the scarlet letter, “there has been a great debate concerning you. We have discussed whether we, who have the authority, are right to entrust the immortal soul of this child to your guidance. You have tripped and fallen amid the pitfalls of this world. Speak, mother of this child! Don’t you think it would be best for your little one if she were taken from you, dressed conservatively, disciplined strictly, and taught the true way to live? What can you do for this child?”
“I can teach my little Pearl what I have learned from this!” answered Hester Prynne, laying her finger on the red token. “I can teach my little Pearl what I have learned from this!” answered Hester Prynne, placing her finger on the scarlet letter.
“Woman, it is thy badge of shame!” replied the stern magistrate. “It is because of the stain which that letter indicates, that we would transfer thy child to other hands.” “Woman, that is your badge of shame!” replied the Governor. “It is because of the sin indicated by that letter that we want to place the child in other hands.”
“Nevertheless,” said the mother calmly, though growing more pale, “this badge hath taught me,—it daily teaches me,—it is teaching me at this moment,—lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself.” “Nonetheless,” said Hester, calmly, though growing paler, “this badge has taught me—it teaches me every day, and it is teaching me right now—lessons that will make my child wiser and better, though they can do me no good.”
“We will judge warily,” said Bellingham, “and look well what we are about to do. Good Master Wilson, I pray you, examine this Pearl,—since that is her name,—and see whether she hath had such Christian nurture as befits a child of her age.” “We will be cautious in our judgment,” said Governor Bellingham, “and will think hard on the decision. Mister Wilson, please, examine this Pearl—since that is her name—and see if she’s had the kind of Christian upbringing appropriate for her age.”
The old minister seated himself in an arm-chair, and made an effort to draw Pearl betwixt his knees. But the child, unaccustomed to the touch or familiarity of any but her mother, escaped through the open window and stood on the upper step, looking like a wild, tropical bird, of rich plumage, ready to take flight into the upper air. Mr. Wilson, not a little astonished at this outbreak,—for he was a grandfatherly sort of personage, and usually a vast favorite with children,—essayed, however, to proceed with the examination. The old minister sat down in an armchair and tried to set Pearl between his knees. But the child, who wasn’t used to anyone but her mother, escaped through the open window and stood on the upper step outside. She looked like a wild tropical bird with colorful feathers, ready to take flight high into the sky. Mr. Wilson was quite surprised by her escape, for he was a grandfatherly type and children usually loved him. Still, he tried to continue with his examination.
“Pearl,” said he, with great solemnity, “thou must take heed to instruction, that so, in due season, thou mayest wear in thy bosom the pearl of great price. Canst thou tell me, my child, who made thee?” “Pearl,” he said, with great seriousness, “you must pay attention so that, in time, you can wear in your breast the pearl of great price. Can you tell me, my child, who made you?”
Now Pearl knew well enough who made her; for Hester Prynne, the daughter of a pious home, very soon after her talk with the child about her Heavenly Father, had begun to inform her of those truths which the human spirit, at whatever stage of immaturity, imbibes with such eager interest. Pearl, therefore, so large were the attainments of her three years’ lifetime, could have borne a fair examination in the New England Primer, or the first column of the Westminster Catechism, although unacquainted with the outward form of either of those celebrated works. But that perversity, which all children have more or less of, and of which little Pearl had a tenfold portion, now, at the most inopportune moment, took thorough possession of her, and closed her lips, or impelled her to speak words amiss. After putting her finger in her mouth, with many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson’s question, the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses, that grew by the prison-door. Pearl knew perfectly well who made her. Hester Prynne was herself raised in a pious home. She talked with Pearl about her heavenly Father and taught her those religious truths that young children intently absorb. In her three short years, Pearl had learned so much about religion that she could have passed any school examination without having to study. But that same naughtiness present to some degree in all children existed ten-fold in Pearl. It seized her at this most inappropriate moment. She put her finger in her mouth and repeatedly refused Mr. Wilson’s requests for an answer. Then the child finally announced that she had not been made at all but had been plucked by her mother off the wild rose bush that grew by the prison door.
This fantasy was probably suggested by the near proximity of the Governor’s red roses, as Pearl stood outside of the window; together with her recollection of the prison rose-bush, which she had passed in coming hither. Pearl probably concocted this story after seeing the Governor’s red roses, which were right next to her by the window. She may have also remembered the prison rose bush she passed on the way to the Governor’s house.
Old Roger Chillingworth, with a smile on his face, whispered something in the young clergyman’s ear. Hester Prynne looked at the man of skill, and even then, with her fate hanging in the balance, was startled to perceive what a change had come over his features,—how much uglier they were,—how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure more misshapen,—since the days when she had familiarly known him. She met his eyes for an instant, but was immediately constrained to give all her attention to the scene now going forward. Old Roger Chillingworth, with a smile on his face, whispered something in the young minister’s ear. Hester Prynne looked at the doctor. Even then, with her fate hanging in the balance, she was startled to see how much he had changed. His face was so much uglier, his dark complexion even darker, and his figure more misshapen since the days when she knew him well. She looked him in the eyes for an instant but immediately returned her full attention to the scene between Pearl and Mr. Wilson.
“This is awful!” cried the Governor, slowly recovering from the astonishment into which Pearl’s response had thrown him. “Here is a child of three years old, and she cannot tell who made her! Without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul, its present depravity, and future destiny! Methinks, gentlemen, we need inquire no further.” “This is awful!” cried the Governor, slowly recovering from his astonishment at Pearl’s answer. “This three-year-old child cannot tell who made her! Without a doubt, she knows just as little about her soul, its present sinfulness, and its future destiny! Gentlemen, I think we know all we need to know.”

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