The Scarlet Letter HTML version
19. The Child At The Brookside
"Thou will love her dearly," repeated Hester Prynne, as she and the minister sat watching
little Pearl. "Dost thou not think her beautiful? And see with what natural skill she has
made those simple flowers adorn her! Had she gathered pearls, and diamonds, and rubies
in the wood, they could not have become her better! She is a splendid child! But I know
whose brow she has!"
"Dost thou know, Hester," said Arthur Dimmesdale, with an unquiet smile, "that this dear
child, tripping about always at thy side, hath caused me many an alarm? Methought--oh,
Hester, what a thought is that, and how terrible to dread it!--that my own features were
partly repeated in her face, and so strikingly that the world might see them! But she is
"No, no! Not mostly!" answered the mother, with a tender smile. "A little longer, and
thou needest not to be afraid to trace whose child she is. But how strangely beautiful she
looks with those wild flowers in her hair! It is as if one of the fairies, whom we left in
dear old England, had decked her out to meet us."
It was with a feeling which neither of them had ever before experienced, that they sat and
watched Pearl's slow advance. In her was visible the tie that united them. She had been
offered to the world, these seven past years, as the living hieroglyphic, in which was
revealed the secret they so darkly sought to hide--all written in this symbol--all plainly
manifest--had there been a prophet or magician skilled to read the character of flame!
And Pearl was the oneness of their being. Be the foregone evil what it might, how could
they doubt that their earthly lives and future destinies were conjoined when they beheld at
once the material union, and the spiritual idea, in whom they met, and were to dwell
immortally together; thoughts like these--and perhaps other thoughts, which they did not
acknowledge or define--threw an awe about the child as she came onward.
"Let her see nothing strange--no passion or eagerness--in thy way of accosting her,"
whispered Hester. "Our Pearl is a fitful and fantastic little elf sometimes. Especially she
is generally intolerant of emotion, when she does not fully comprehend the why and
wherefore. But the child hath strong affections! She loves me, and will love thee!"
"Thou canst not think," said the minister, glancing aside at Hester Prynne, "how my heart
dreads this interview, and yearns for it! But, in truth, as I already told thee, children are
not readily won to be familiar with me. They will not climb my knee, nor prattle in my
ear, nor answer to my smile, but stand apart, and eye me strangely. Even little babes,
when I take them in my arms, weep bitterly. Yet Pearl, twice in her little lifetime, hath
been kind to me! The first time--thou knowest it well! The last was when thou ledst her
with thee to the house of yonder stern old Governor."