The Scarlet Letter HTML version

7. The Governor's Hall
Hester Prynne went one day to the mansion of Governor Bellingham, with a pair of
gloves which she had fringed and embroidered to his order, and which were to be worn
on some great occasion of state; for, though the chances of a popular election had caused
this former ruler to descend a step or two from the highest rank, he still held an
honourable and influential place among the colonial magistracy.
Another and far more important reason than the delivery of a pair of embroidered gloves,
impelled Hester, at this time, to seek an interview with a personage of so much power and
activity in the affairs of the settlement. It had reached her ears that there was a design on
the part of some of the leading inhabitants, cherishing the more rigid order of principles
in religion and government, to deprive her of her child. On the supposition that Pearl, as
already hinted, was of demon origin, these good people not unreasonably argued that a
Christian interest in the mother's soul required them to remove such a stumbling-block
from her path. If the child, on the other hand, were really capable of moral and religious
growth, and possessed the elements of ultimate salvation, then, surely, it would enjoy all
the fairer prospect of these advantages by being transferred to wiser and better
guardianship than Hester Prynne's. Among those who promoted the design, Governor
Bellingham was said to be one of the most busy. It may appear singular, and, indeed, not
a little ludicrous, that an affair of this kind, which in later days would have been referred
to no higher jurisdiction than that of the select men of the town, should then have been a
question publicly discussed, and on which statesmen of eminence took sides. At that
epoch of pristine simplicity, however, matters of even slighter public interest, and of far
less intrinsic weight than the welfare of Hester and her child, were strangely mixed up
with the deliberations of legislators and acts of state. The period was hardly, if at all,
earlier than that of our story, when a dispute concerning the right of property in a pig not
only caused a fierce and bitter contest in the legislative body of the colony, but resulted in
an important modification of the framework itself of the legislature.
Full of concern, therefore--but so conscious of her own right that it seemed scarcely an
unequal match between the public on the one side, and a lonely woman, backed by the
sympathies of nature, on the other--Hester Prynne set forth from her solitary cottage.
Little Pearl, of course, was her companion. She was now of an age to run lightly along by
her mother's side, and, constantly in motion from morn till sunset, could have
accomplished a much longer journey than that before her. Often, nevertheless, more from
caprice than necessity, she demanded to be taken up in arms; but was soon as imperious
to be let down again, and frisked onward before Hester on the grassy pathway, with many
a harmless trip and tumble. We have spoken of Pearl's rich and luxuriant beauty--a beauty
that shone with deep and vivid tints, a bright complexion, eyes possessing intensity both
of depth and glow, and hair already of a deep, glossy brown, and which, in after years,
would be nearly akin to black. There was fire in her and throughout her: she seemed the
unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment. Her mother, in contriving the child's
garb, had allowed the gorgeous tendencies of her imagination their full play, arraying her
in a crimson velvet tunic of a peculiar cut, abundantly embroidered in fantasies and