Twice Told Tales
The Minister's Black Veil
The sexton stood in the porch of Milford meeting-house pulling lustily at the bell-rope.
The old people of the village came stooping along the street. Children with bright faces
tripped merrily beside their parents or mimicked a graver gait in the conscious dignity of
their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the pretty maidens, and fancied
that the Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on week-days. When the throng had
mostly streamed into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the
Reverend Mr. Hooper's door. The first glimpse of the clergyman's figure was the signal
for the bell to cease its summons.
"But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?" cried the sexton, in astonishment.
All within hearing immediately turned about and beheld the semblance of Mr. Hooper
pacing slowly his meditative way toward the meeting-house. With one accord they
started, expressing more wonder than if some strange minister were coming to dust the
cushions of Mr. Hooper's pulpit.
"Are you sure it is our parson?" inquired Goodman Gray of the sexton.
"Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper," replied the sexton. "He was to have exchanged
pulpits with Parson Shute of Westbury, but Parson Shute sent to excuse himself
yesterday, being to preach a funeral sermon."
The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight. Mr. Hooper, a
gentlemanly person of about thirty, though still a bachelor, was dressed with due clerical
neatness, as if a careful wife had starched his band and brushed the weekly dust from his
Sunday's garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed about his
forehead and hanging down over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr.
Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape,
which entirely concealed his features except the mouth and chin, but probably did not
intercept his sight further than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate
things. With this gloomy shade before him good Mr. Hooper walked onward at a slow
and quiet pace, stooping somewhat and looking on the ground, as is customary with
abstracted men, yet nodding kindly to those of his parishioners who still waited on the
meeting-house steps. But so wonder-struck were they that his greeting hardly met with a
"I can't really feel as if good Mr. Hooper's face was behind that piece of crape," said the
"I don't like it," muttered an old woman as she hobbled into the meeting-house. "He has
changed himself into something awful only by hiding his face."