ACT II--Scene 1
[Chillingworth, basket in hand, gathering herbs, does
Hester and Pearl enter. Hester comes up behind him, as Pearl
mocks his movements, then scampers off, chasing something.]
A word with thee, good sir. [He jumps.] Pray pardon me.
Upon a matter touching both of us.
[A breath.] Ah! Is it Madam Hester has a word . . .
For poor old Roger Chillingworth . . . at last!
With all my heart! Why, Mistress, I have heard
Good comments touching thee on every hand.
Just yester-eve a godly magistrate
Bethought to speak most fav'rably of thee.
He whispered me that there has been proposed
A question in the council in thy case,
Whether or no they might with safety take
That scarlet letter from thy bosom now.
Why, Hester--on my life!--I made appeal
Our magistrates might so conclude . . . forthwith!
[Calmly.] The magistrates cannot remove the mark.
Were I now worthy to be quit of it,
Of its own nature would it fall away,
Or be transformed in purport in its place.
Why, nay then, wear it, if it suit thee so!
A woman must needs follow her own taste
In matters of adornment . . . or of dress.
[Looks at her carefully.]
This letter . . . thus embroidered . . . is so gay,
And shows so bravely on thy bosom there! [Almost touches it.]
Why dost thou gaze so earnestly at me?
There's something in thy face would make me weep,
If there were any tears remaining me.
[Pause.] But not of thee . . . it's of another man,
Another troubled spirit, I would speak,
That man that thou led'st home the other night . . .
Who stood upon the scaffold . . . at my side.
[Eagerly.] Ah! Wouldst thou speak of him? To tell
My thoughts were busy with that gentleman.
So, Hester, speak. What wouldst thou say of him?
When last we spoke . . . now seven years ago . . .
It was thy pleasure to extort a vow
Of secrecy . . . of thy identity . . .
And our relationship in former times.
The life and reputation of this man
We speak of now were upmost in my mind.
There seemed no choice for me but to agree . . .
Be silent in accordance with that vow.
Though I had deep misgivings at the time,
I bound myself to thee in such a pact,
For, having cast all other duty off,
To every person else, that one remained . . .
My duty still to him . . . the only one.
I fear I did betray that final trust
In pledging not to tell him aught of thee.
No man has been so near to him as thou . . .
Watching his every footstep--close behind--
Thou art beside him, waking or asleep.
Thy clutch is on his life! To search his thoughts . . .
To burrow and to rankle in his heart . . .
To haunt the man . . . and yet he knows thee not!
As I've permitted this, so I've been false
To that last soul was left me to be true.
Was there a choice? I held him in my hand!
My finger pointed at this man had hurled
Him from his pulpit to a prison cell--
From thence to climb the gallows steps himself!
It had been better so!
Well may'st thou say!
But then . . . what evil have I done this man?
I tell thee, Hester Prynne, the richest fee
That ever monarch to physician paid
Could not have bought the care I've given him . . .
Have wasted on this God-forsaken priest.
But for my aid his life had burned away,
In torments lasting but a year or two
Beyond the perpetration of his crime . . .
And thine. For, Hester, he had not thy strength,
Nor ever could have borne, as thou hast done,
His scarlet letter in the public view.
[Looking away.] Ah, what a goodly secret I could tell!
[Back to her.] But let that be. He lives because of me.
My art I have exhausted on the man;
That he now breathes, and creeps about this earth,
Is due to me!
Far better had he died!
Yea, woman, thou speak'st true. He would agree!
It were far better he had died at once!
For never mortal man hath suffered more,
And every moment of that suffering
Before the eyes of his worst enemy!
He has been conscious of it. He has felt
My influence brooding o'er him like a curse.
By preternatural spirit he did know . . .
For never was a spirit more acute . . .
That some unfriendly hand did touch his heart,
And that an eye was scrutinizing him
That looked for evil only . . . which it found!
But yet knew not the hand and eye were mine!
With priestly superstitious ego still,
He fancied him delivered to a fiend,
Who'd torture him with frightful dreams at night,
With desperate thoughts, the sting of sharp remorse,
Despair of any pardon--as a taste
Of what awaits him once beyond the grave.
And yet it was my shadow goaded him,
The close attendance of a man he'd wronged . . .
Most vilely! A man who'd come to live
On that perpetual poison, dark revenge!
He felt him haunted so. Nor did he err.
There was a demon standing at his side,
A mortal man, with once a human heart,
Become a fiend to make his torment sure!
But surely thou hast tortured him enough!
Has he not paid his debt to thee in full?
His debt in full? He has increased that debt!
[Subsiding into gloom.]
Dost thou remember, Hester, what I was
When first we met? I grant that I was old,
Beyond the early autumn of my years
It must have seemed to thee . . . but all my life
I'd been concerned with earnest, studious thought.
Those quiet years, bestowed so faithfully,
First to enhance my knowledge, I admit,
But also, if a secondary goal,
To serve the general welfare, if I could.
No life had been more peaceful, more serene . . .
More innocent in touching other lives . . .
Few lives so rich in benefits conferred.
Dost thou remember me as then I was?
Was I not then, though thou might'st deem me cold,
A thoughtful man for others, kind and just,
And of a constant temper . . . if not warm?
Was I not all of this?
All this and more.
What am I now? Have we not just agreed?
A mortal fiend! And who has made me so?
It was myself! [Shuddering.] Yes, I, not less than he!
Why hast thou not avenged thyself on me?
I've trusted thee to this!
[Touching the scarlet letter.] What could I more
If it hath not avenged me? I ask thee.
No . . . nothing more.
I judged no less. And now,
What wouldst thou with me touching on this man?
[Firmly.] I must reveal the secret. He must know.
What that may lead to I cannot predict,
But this long debt . . . this last fidelity . . .
To him whose bane and ruin I have been,
I must now pay--whate'er the cost may be!
Thou speakest of his fate, his earthly state,
And yea, perchance his life. He's in thy hands.
I speak the truth, a truth I've learned from this,
[Touching the letter.]
A red-hot truth now burned into my soul,
To tell thee there's no value in a life
Lived as a ghastly, empty mockery.
I shall not even beg, "Be merciful!"
What's there to gain? Do with him as thou wilt!
There is no good for him . . . no good for me . . .
No good for thee . . . no good for little Pearl . . .
No path to guide us from this dismal maze!
Hush, woman, I could well-nigh pity thee!
Thou hadst much promise in those other days.
Hadst thou but met a better love than mine
This evil had not been. Yes, pity thee . . .
For all thy good thus wasted . . . uselessly.
And for the hatred that has now transformed
A man both wise and just into a fiend,
I pity thee! But thou art not yet lost!
If thou wilt purge that hatred from thy soul,
Become again a gentle, gen'rous man.
If not for his sake, do it for thine own!
Forgive, and leave him to his brooding fate.
I said, but now, no good could come for him,
Or thee, or me, all wandering in this wood,
Together in this hopeless maze of sin,
And stumbling over guilt at every step
Along the tangled path. It is not so!
There might be good for thee, and thee alone,
Since thou hast truly been so deeply wronged,
Yet hast it at thy will to pardon him.
Wilt thou forego that holy privilege?
Wilt thou reject that priceless benefit?
Peace, Hester, peace. I cannot pardon him . . .
That credits me with powers I have not.
The faith that I was reared in as a boy . . .
So long forgotten . . . now comes back to me,
Explaining why we suffer as we do.
By thy first step awry the evil germ
Was planted . . . that may be. But since that time
What follows is a dark necessity.
Ye are not sinful that have wronged me so,
Save as ye are the types of such a sin;
Nor am I fiend-like, who have taken on
The office of a fiend. It is our fate.
Let that black flower blossom as it may!
Now go thy ways. Feel free to deal with him,
As he works out his doom, howe're thou wilt!
[He moves away, his halting step emphasizing his deformity.]
ACT II--Scene 2
[To herself, as she watches Chillingworth go.]
Yea, be it sin or no, I hate the man!
His smiling pretense hides a secret sin
Far worse than mine . . . it has a vicious strain
That I despise. [More bitterly.] Nay hate!
[As he is out of sight.] Where are you, Pearl?
[Entering behind Hester, engrossed in a letter she has fash-
ioned from greenery and placed upon her bosom.]
Here, Mother! Tell me what this letter means.
[After observing the letter in silence for a moment.]
My little Pearl, on thy young bosom . . . now,
In all thy innocence . . . the letter green . . .
It has no meaning, but to give thee sport,
Nor needst thou wear it else. But dost thou know
The meaning of thy mother's letter, child,
This scarlet letter I am doomed to wear? [Touches the letter.]
Yes, do I. It's the larger letter A,
That thou hast taught me on the horn-book sheet.
And why I always wear it . . . dost thou know?
I know that, too! The reason is the same,
As why the sad and lonely minister
Doth ever hold his hand above his heart!
[Half smiling, then turning pale.]
The reason is the same? How can it be
This letter touches any heart save mine?
[Seriously.] Nay, Mother, I have told thee all I know.
But that old man I saw thee talking with
Could tell thee more. Dost think he'd tell me too?
For I would know what such a letter means . . .
Why thou dost always wear it on thy breast . . .
And why the minister . . . each time we meet . . .
Will place his hand this way above his heart.
[Taking Hester's hand and placing it on her own heart.]
Tell me! Tell me! For surely thou dost know.
[To herself.] What can I say? A price I cannot pay,
If this be it to win her sympathy.
[To Pearl.] A silly child! What questions thou dost ask!
For there are things thou must not seek to know.
What can I know of that man's hand . . . or heart?
As for this scarlet letter that I wear,
[Looking at it.] I wear it for the sake of this gold thread.
Now, please, no more! And come along with me,
A way into the forest on this path.
We have another errand yet today.
[As they walk.] The sunshine doth not love thee, Mother.
It runs to hide. It is afraid of thee!
Thy scarlet letter frightens it away!
See, there it is. It's playing over there.
Stay here, and I will run and catch it quick.
It will not run from me. It is my friend . . .
For I wear nothing on my bosom yet!
Nor ever will, I hope . . . my little Pearl.
Why should I not, when I'm a woman grown?
Run on, my child. Go catch the sunshine there.
It does seem thou must gather it thyself,
For I have none to give. See how it goes!
Enjoy it now . . . for it will soon be gone.
[Having run ahead to a patch of sunshine, then waiting as
Hester comes up.]
It waits for me! [Laughing.] But it won't wait for thee.
I'll stretch my hand and capture some of it!
[The sunshine vanishes.]
But no, it flees! Just as thou said it would.
[She motions to a fallen tree trunk.]
Let's sit here by the path and rest ourselves.
But I'm not tired, Mother. Must I sit?
[Brightening.] Or tell me then a story if I do! [Sits.]
Tell thee a story, child? And what about?
About the Black Man! How he haunts this place!
And how he always carries his black book . . .
A heavy book . . . with heavy iron clasps . . .
And gives his crooked pen to anyone
Who meets him here among these forest trees,
And how they write their names with their own blood!
And how he sets his devil's mark on them!
But, Mother, didst thou ever meet him here?
Now who has told thee such a story, Pearl?
Those two old women by the chimney place,
In that big house, the night the sick man died,
Old Mistress Hibbins and that other one.
They thought I was asleep, and talked of him.
A thousand, thousand men have met him here,
And women, too, and written in his book,
And have his mark upon their bosoms now.
They pointed at thy letter . . . then the fire.
They said that was the Black Man's mark on thee,
And that it glows like fire in the night,
Out in the forest, when thou meet'st with him.
Is that true, Mother? Dost thou go at night,
To meet the Black Man while I am asleep?
Didst ever wake at night and find me gone?
Not that I do remember. If thou dost,
Please take me with thee! I would gladly go!
But, Mother, tell me, is there such a one?
And does he haunt the forest in the night?
And hast thou met him? And is this his mark?
If I should tell thee, may I then have peace?
If thou wilt tell me all!
I met him once.
And, yes, this scarlet letter is his mark!
Now run and play.
[Starting to go off.] Oh, listen to the brook!
Oh foolish little brook! Why art thou sad?
What is it saying, Mother? Canst thou tell?
If thou hadst but a sorrow of thine own,
That little brook might speak of it to thee . . .
For thus it often speaks to me of mine.
But shh . . . I hear a footstep on the path,
The noise of branches being put aside.
So go now, Pearl, amuse thyself a while,
So I may speak to him that comes this way.
Is it the Black Man?
Wilt thou go and play?
But do not stray too far into the woods,
And take heed that thou come when first I call.
But, Mother, must I go? Please let me stay
To see if it's the Black Man. [Looking.] Here he comes!
And look! Beneath his arm! His big black book!
Go, silly child! With all those foolish tales!
There is no Black Man! Thou canst see him now.
Look . . . through the trees. It is the minister.
It is the minister. Yes, now I see.
And, Mother, see his hand above his heart!
Is it because he took the Black Man's pen,
And when he wrote his name in that big book,
The Black Man set his mark in that same place?
But, Mother, why does he not wear his mark
Outside his garments . . . even as thou dost?
Pray go now, child! Tease me another time.
I'll call thee when we've finished talking here.
Stray not beyond the babble of the brook. [Pearl runs off.]
ACT II--Scene 3
[After a moment, Hester calls, faintly.]
Hist! Arthur Dimmesdale!
[Louder, but hoarsely.]
Arthur Dimmesdale! Here!
Who speaks to me? [Seeing the letter.]
It's Hester! Hester Prynne!
And is it thou? And art thou still in life?
Why even so! As such has been my life
These seven years! And thou? Dost thou yet live?
[After some time.] And Hester, hast thou found some peace?
[Looking at the letter and smiling drearily.] Hast thou?
None . . . nothing but despair! But then what else?
I could not look for anything but pain,
In being what I am, and living so.
Were I an atheist, no fear of God,
A man devoid of conscience, or a wretch,
With coarse and brutal instincts, like a beast,
I might have found some peace . . . long years ago.
To such a one, I find, it's never lost.
But as things stand for me, and for my soul,
Whatever good capacities I had,
The best of God's choice gifts bestowed on me,
Have all become the agents of His wrath.
I live in torment, Hester . . . dread each day!
The people reverence thee . . . praise thy good works.
Doth that bring thee no comfort . . . no relief?
Adds to my misery! Because it's false!
For all this good which I may seem to do
Is only a delusion and a sham.
What can a ruined soul like mine effect
Toward redemption of another soul?
Can this polluted spirit purify?
As for the people's reverence and trust,
How quickly it can turn to scorn and hate!
Can there be consolation in the fact
That from my pulpit I must meet the gaze
Of many eyes turned upward to my face
As if the light of Heaven beamed from it!
I see a gathering hungry for the truth,
And listening to my words as if a tongue
Of Pentecost were there reborn on earth!
And then look inward and discern the truth,
The black reality of what I am?
How often have I laughed . . . in bitterness . . .
In agony of heart . . . at what I seem . . .
And what I am! And Satan laughs as well!
I hear his laughter echo in the night!
Thou wrong'st thyself in this . . . the sin long past
That thou hast ever since repented of.
Thy present life is not less holy, sure,
Than it appears in every person's eyes.
No one can doubt the truth of penitence
Thus sealed and witnessed by prolonged good works.
No, Hester, no! There is no substance there!
Of penance I have had enough . . . and more . . .
But penitence . . . of that there has been none!
Else I should long ago have thrown these off,
These garments of this false . . . mock . . . holiness,
And shown myself as one day I'll be seen
To all men's eyes . . . before the Judgment Seat!
Most happy art thou, Hester, so to wear
Thy scarlet letter out where all may see.
The letter worn in secret burns more fierce.
Thou little knowest what relief it is,
Amid the torment of this masquerade,
To look into an eye that knows me for
The sinner that I am? Had I one friend--
Nay, say not friend, say my worst enemy--
To whom, when I'm most sickened by this praise,
I might betake myself . . . and know he knew!
Thus much of truth might save my wretched soul!
Now all is falsehood!--emptiness!--and death!
A friend such as thou wished for even now . . .
To share thy sense of sin . . . thou hast in me.
As partner in that sin I weep with thee.
[After hesitating a moment, continuing with some effort.]
And such an enemy thou long hast had,
Who dwells with thee beneath thy very roof.
[Starting to his feet, gasping, and clutching at his heart.]
An enemy? Who's there within my house?
What dost thou mean? I tremble at the thought!
Forgive me, Arthur! Oh, I should have known!
In all things else I've striven to be true . . .
As that one virtue that was left to me . . .
Through all extremity . . .save just in this . . .
When thy good reputation, nay, thy life,
Were put in question . . . subject to his threat . . .
Then I consented to deceiving thee.
But even then I knew I'd rue that lie . . .
Though death might threaten on the other side!
Dost thou not see what I have hid from thee?
It's that old man! Yes . . . Roger Chillingworth . . .
As he would now prefer to call himself.
He was my husband . . . he who shares thy house.
[Gasps.] I should have known it! Nay, I must have known!
Could read the secret hinted from the first . . .
That natural recoil of my heart at him,
Which echoes every time I've seen him since!
And yet I did not know! No . . . did not know!
Nor, Hester Prynne, canst thou expect to know
The horror of this thing! And then the shame!
Indelicate! And, oh, the ugliness
Of this exposure of a guilty heart
To just that eye that most would gloat o'er it!
Oh, woman, thou art most accountable!
Forgive thee? How can I forgive thee this?
[Sinks to his knees.]
Thou must forgive! Let Heaven punish me!
Thou shalt forgive! [Pressing his head to her bosom.]
Oh, Arthur, from my heart!
How could I know? How could I mean thee harm?
Canst look me in the eyes and say I did?
[After looking into her eyes for a long moment.]
I do forgive thee, Hester . . . as I must.
Forgive me, too! May God forgive us both!
For we are not the worst of sinners here.
Nay, that old man's revenge is blacker far
Than any sin of ours. To violate
The sanctity of any human heart,
To probe the deepest secrets of the soul . . .
And in cold blood . . . a calculated thing . . .
The one crime that is unforgivable.
Far different, Hester, than . . . the thing we did.
Which had a consecration of its own!
We said so then! Hast thou forgotten that?
Hush, Hester! [Rising, in some confusion.]
No . . . how could a man forget?
[He paces a moment, in thought, then comes to sit by her again.]
Another horror threatens us, I fear.
If Roger Chillingworth is now aware
That thou intend revealing who he is,
Will he continue then to hold his peace?
What now will be the course of his revenge?
His nature's drawn to secrecy and guile,
A habit grown upon him through the years
In every hidden practice of revenge.
I do not deem it likely he'll betray
This secret that has come to be his own;
He'll rather seek to find some other means
To satiate his evil appetite.
And what of me? How can I breathe the air
That that man breathes--my deadly enemy?
Think for me, Hester! Help me with thy strength!
Thou must not any longer dwell with him.
No longer live beneath his evil eye.
To live so were a life far worse than death!
But how can I avoid it? What's my choice?
[Stares at his feet in despair.]
To lie down on these withered leaves and die?
Ah, what a ruin has befallen thee!
Wilt thou just die? For simple lack of strength?
There is no other cause!
It is God's will!
A destiny I cannot struggle with!
Thou might'st find Heaven merciful enough,
Hadst thou the strength to ask it for its help.
Be thou my strength! Advise me what to do!
Is this wide world so limited as that,
The universe contained in yonder town,
Which so few years ago was even such
A lonely, leaf-strewn wood as this we see?
And wither leads this narrow forest trail?
It goes back to the settlement, thou sayest.
Why so it does, but it goes onward, too!
It deeper goes into the wilderness,
Less plainly to be seen at every step,
Until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves
Will show no vestige of the white man's tread.
There art thou free! A journey of a day
Would take thee from this world so like a jail,
Where thou hast been a wretched, haunted man,
To one where thou might'st find new happiness!
Is there not shade enough among these trees
To hide thy heart from Roger Chillingworth?
But only here beneath these fallen leaves!
Consider, then, the pathway of the sea!
It brought thee hither--let it take thee hence!
Back in our native land thou might be lost,
In any rural village that's remote,
Or in vast London's anonymity . . .
In Germany, or France, or Italy--
Far, far beyond his power . . . or his ken!
Why, leave them all behind . . . these iron men . . .
For what hast thou to do with their harsh laws,
That hold thy better part in bondage here?
It cannot be! I'm powerless to go!
As sinful and as wretched as I am,
I've had no other thought than here to serve,
To pay out my existence in the sphere
Which Providence has chosen as my place.
Lost though my soul may be, I still would do
Whate'er I may for other human souls.
Though here I stand unfaithful sentinel,
Whose sure reward is infamy and death--
When this most dreary watch shall make an end--
I dare not run! I dare not quit my post!
Thy spirit's crushed beneath this misery,
The weight of seven years of hidden guilt.
But plan to leave such burdens far behind,
And let them not encumber thy quick steps,
As thou mak'st haste along the forest path;
Refuse to take such freight aboard the ship,
Should'st thou prefer to flee across the sea.
Leave all such misery where it was found!
Just walk away from it! Begin anew!
Hast thou exhausted possibility
In finding failure in this single trial?
Not so! The future may yet grant success . . .
And happiness . . . and useful . . . noble . . . work!
Thou must exchange a false life for a true!
Be, if thy spirit summon thee to be,
The red man's teacher, in the forest here,
Or, as is more thy nature, find a place
Among the scholars in the wider world,
A sage among the wisest, most renowned,
Of those who preach . . . and speculate . . . and write.
Do anything, except lie down and die!
This name of Arthur Dimmesdale? Leave it, too!
And take thyself another . . . make it shine . . .
One thou canst wear without this fear and shame.
Why shouldst thou tarry here another day
In torments that have gnawed into thy life,
Have robbed thee of the strength of will to act . .
Have sapped thy power even to repent?
I say take heart! Up and away with thee!
Oh, Hester, thou wouldst have one run a race
Whose knees begin to totter if he stands!
I must die here! I do not have the strength!
I lack the courage so to venture out
Into that world . . . so wide and strange . . . alone!
Ah, how it chills me, that one word . . . alone!
[A deep whisper.]
Then speak it not! Thou shalt not go alone!
[Taking her hands and looking into her eyes for a long moment.]
Oh, Hester, can I stand before that thought? [A deep sigh.]
Could I recall, in all these seven years,
A single instant's sense of peace, or hope,
Yet would I still endure this awful fate,
And trust to Heaven's mercy at the end.
But now . . . a man irrevocably doomed . . .
Why should I not snatch solace where I can,
Before the execution of my doom?
Or, if this path lead to a better life,
As thou wouldst have me think . . . then follow it!
I lose no fairer prospect in the trade!
[Directly to her.] Nor can I any longer live alone,
Without thy strength, its power to sustain,
Thy company, its tenderness to soothe!
[Looking down.] Oh Thou to whom I dare not lift
Wilt Thou yet pardon me? [Looking back into Hester's eyes.]
[As their eyes then meet.] Then thou wilt
[Decisively.] Yes, I will go . . . [Pause.]
Can that thought bring me joy?
I judged all hope of joy was dead in me!
Thou must become my better angel now!
I threw myself upon these forest leaves,
A sin-stained man, without the strength to live;
Thy spirit lifts me up, a man new born,
And with new powers to glorify that God
That hath in this been merciful to me.
As thou hast said, this is the better life!
Why did we not perceive it long ago?
Do not look back. For us the past is gone!
Why should we even think about it now?
See! With this symbol I undo it all,
Hereby declare the past has never been!
[She takes the letter from her bosom and casts it away. Then,
as she lets down her hair, goes on, with some excitement.]
Thou must know Pearl! Our own, our precious Pearl!
Oh, thou hast seen her . . . yes . . . I know thou hast!
But now will see her with far different eyes.
I hardly comprehend the child myself,
But know that thou must love her . . . as I do . . .
And will advise me how to deal with her.
Think'st thou she will be pleased in meeting me?
I long have shrunk from children at their play,
Because they often show distrust in me,
So much they stop their games and run away.
And now I fear what little Pearl may do.
Ah . . . that's so sad! But she will love thee, sure.
She's not far off! I'll call her. Pearl! Oh, Pearl!
I see the child. She stands by yonder brook,
[Unseen by the audience.]
There in that streak of sunshine . . . over there.
And canst thou promise she will love me, too?
She seems so strange . . . as from another world.
But certainly she'll love thee . . . look at her!
She has a kinship with these natural things.
I sometimes think the flowers speak to her
As she goes passing by. They seem to say,
"Adorn thyself with us, and be our child!"
And is she not a pretty child today?
To see the way she hath adorned herself,
With simple flowers . . . and such natural skill.
Had she discovered diamonds, rubies, pearls,
Here in the woods, they could not show more fair.
She's such a splendid child! And I can tell
Whose eyes she has, when they look deep in mine.
That little child, who's ever at thy side,
Hath caused me much alarm these seven years.
I thought--oh, Hester, what a thought it is--
That she might stand as witness to the crime,
My features so repeated in her face
That all the world must see them shouting there.
But it would seem that she is mostly thine.
Not mostly! No! And surely not her eyes!
A little longer and thou needs not fear
To trace whose child she is . . . to hold her hand!
But look again, how strangely beautiful,
There by the brook, those flowers in her hair,
As if the fairies we'd thought left behind,
In merry England, had bedecked her so.
[A reflective pause.]
But show her nothing strange, no eagerness
Or passion in thy way of greeting her.
Our little Pearl is sometimes wont to be
A fitful and fantastic little elf.
Especially is she seldom tolerant
Of feelings which she does not comprehend.
Yet she hath strong affections. Thou shalt see!
For she will love thee well . . . how could she not?
Oh, Hester, how I dread this interview,
In spite of how my heart has yearned for it.
For, as I told thee, children shy away;
I cannot be familiar with them.
They will not laugh and climb upon my knee,
Return my smile, or prattle in my ear.
They eye me strangely, and remain aloof.
Why even little babes burst into tears
When I make bold to take them in my arms.
Yet twice in her young life has little Pearl
Been kind to me. The first . . . thou knowest it well . . .
The last was when thou brought her, recently,
To speak with us at Gov'nor Bellingham's.
When thou didst plead so well on our behalf!
As I do, so must she remember that.
Fear nothing! If she's somewhat shy at first,
She soon will learn to share her love with thee.
Look how she stands, across the brook from us,
And seems to judge us with that sober gaze.
I have the strangest fancy that this brook
May separate her moral world from ours,
And thou canst never lure the child across.
Or is it that she is an elfish sprite,
Who, if our childhood legends told the truth,
Must be forbid to cross a running stream?
Pray hasten her, for standing as she does
She brings a special tremor to my nerves.
Come, Pearl! Come here to us! How slow thou art.
[Pearl comes slowly into view, then stops, to stand looking at
them with a child's sobriety.]
When hast thou been so slow to come before?
This is my friend . . . who'll be a friend to thee.
Thou wilt have twice the love that I could give.
Now leap across the brook and come to us.
[Pearl points to Hester's bosom. The minister's hand goes to
Thou stubborn child, why dost thou fail to come?
[Pearl still points, frowns, and stamps her foot.]
Don't prompt thy mother's anger with these tricks!
Thou naughty child! Must I then come to thee?
[Pearl begins to burst into a tantrum.]
Ah, now I see what brings this passion on.
The child cannot abide a sudden change
In what has been each day before her eyes.
She misses that she's always seen me wear.
I pray thee, Hester, if thou hast the means
To pacify the child, do so forthwith!
Unless it be the wrath of some old witch . . .
Like Mistress Hibbins' frantic posturings . . .
There's nothing I would more avoid than this.
Such passion in a child . . . or wrinkled crone . . .
Has just this preternatural effect.
Please pacify her . . . quickly . . . for my sake!
[With a blush, a sidelong look at Dimmesdale, and a sigh.]
Pearl, look! There at thy feet! No! Over here!
On this side of the brook! Come bring it me!
[She looks, at the scarlet letter.] Come thou and take it up!
Ah, such a child!
The stories I can tell concerning her!
But on this hateful letter she is right.
I must take up its burden, for a time,
Must bear the torture yet a little while,
A few days longer . . . just until we leave . . .
To look back on this land as on a place
We have but chanced upon in some bad dream.
The forest is not vast enough to hide
This scarlet letter. No! A better way,
The ocean shall receive it from my hand,
And swallow it forever in its depths!
[She goes to pick up the letter, puts it on, and ties up her hair.]
Dost know thy mother now? And wilt thou come
Across the brook to take her by the hand,
Now that she wears her shame upon her breast,
Resumes the sad demeanor that thou know'st?
Yes, now will I! [Bounds across the brook.]
I am thy little Pearl!
And thou art now my mother once again.
[She kisses Hester, and then the scarlet letter.]
That was not kind! To show me first thy love
And then to mock me in this naughty way!
Why doth the minister sit over there?
He waits to welcome thee. So come and see.
Entreat his blessing, for he loves thee well.
He loves us both, and thou must love him, too.
Doth he love us? And will he take our hands,
And walk together back into the town?
Not now, dear child. But in the days to come
He'll take thee by the hand . . . and walk with thee.
[As they walk toward Dimmesdale.]
We'll have a home and our own fireside,
And thou wilt sit and listen, on his knee,
As he will teach thee all that he doth know,
And love thee dearly . . . just as we'll love him.
And wilt thou keep thy hand above thy heart? [He shudders.]
Thou foolish child! Now why must thou ask that?
Come here and ask his blessing . . . for my sake.
[She takes Pearl to Dimmesdale, under duress. Embarrassed,
he receives her with a kiss on the forehead, which she runs
to the brook to wash off.]
[To Dimmesdale.] We must allow familiarity
Some time to work . . . to overcome her fear . . .
For thou art yet a stranger to the child.
Yes, so it doth appear. But, Hester . . . now . . .
What must we do? For I am like a child,
And look to thee to lead where we must go.
[Coming up to him and taking his hands.]
We must make plans to spirit us away . . .
ACT II--Scene 4
[Dimmesdale enters, returning from the forest, the minister
a maze. This scene echoes the pattern of Chillingworth's
meeting with Mistress Hibbins in I.ii.]
So . . . we must leave. [Pause.] And yet . . . 'tis fortunate!
We cannot leave before Election Day.
When I must mount the pulpit once again,
And stand before the whole community.
So no one then can ever say of me,
"He left his public duty unperformed."
What should I say to them? Confess it all?
Tell them, "I'm not the man ye think ye see!
I left him in the forest, near the brook
That whispers melancholy secrets . . . ah . . . [Laughs.]
Go seek him there . . . still deep within those woods,
Beside a mossy tree . . . [More seriously.] there
in the dell.
Wilt find his wasted figure, his thin cheek,
So white and pale against the greens and reds
Of those bright forest leaves to seem cast off!
[Mistress Hibbins enters, quietly, and hears part of this. Dimmes-
dale, sensing a presence, looks around, but does not see her.]
What evil spirit works upon my mind?
As if I'd been abandoned to the fiend!
Did I conclude a contract in those woods,
So long ago, and seal it with my blood?
And does he now demand that I fulfill
Each item in that evil contract's terms,
Suggesting to my mind performance of
Such acts of wickedness . . . each kind of sin
His foul imagination can conceive?
[Surprising him.] So, Reverend Sir, hast wandered in the woods?
Another time, I pray thee, speak to me;
Give me a little warning, I'll along . . .
Be proud to bear thee secret company.
Then my good word . . . I know whereof I speak . . .
Might have some weight with yonder Potentate--
For many wan'dring gentlemen it has--
To gain a fair reception when ye meet.
Beg pardon, Madam, at my quick surprise . . .
Approaching me as I had other thoughts.
I'm utterly bewildered by thy words!
I went not to the forest, but beyond,
Nor do I know of such a potentate.
I plan no future visits to the woods,
To meet with any in the forest depths.
My one sufficient object was to greet
My pious friend, Apostle Eliot,
Rejoicing on the many precious souls
That he hath won from savage heathendom!
Ha, ha, ha, ha! Well, so we must needs speak,
When standing here in town . . . in light of day. [Gestures.]
Thou dost it well . . . like one who knows the game!
At midnight, in the forest, we shall speak--
We'll have another talk together then! [Exits, laughing.]
Have I then sold myself unto the Fiend,
And does this yellow-starched and strange old hag
Serve him as Master . . . and, so, welcome me . . .
Another damned soul . . . or am I mad?
ACT II--Scene 5
[The bachelors' common room. Chillingworth is
Why welcome home! So late, good reverend sir?
Apostle Eliot? Thou found'st him well?
But, my good sir, why then so drawn . . . so pale?
It seems the journey through the wilderness
Has been a burden that has taxed thee sore.
Will not my medicine be requisite,
To give thee heart and spirit now to preach
Tomorrow morn's Election Sermon, pray?
I think not so. My journey's tired me . . .
I do admit . . . but I've spent most the day
Conversing with Apostle Eliot.
Reflecting on that holy man's good work,
As I've come through the forest, coming home,
The free and wholesome air which I have breathed
Have done much good, have raised my spirits up.
Perhaps it's been the long confinement here,
Too long spent in the study . . . without break . . .
That's caused the ailment I have suffered from.
I may not need thy drugs . . . good though they be . . .
Administered with such a special care,
By such a rare physician . . . and a friend.
Perhaps the medicine I need to seek
I've found today . . . out in the open air.
And yet, tonight, were it not best to use
What my poor skills might offer . . . t'ward thy rest?
For, my dear sir, we must take pains to see
That thou art strong and vigorous, to meet
The challenge of the morrow. Thou must be . . .
For this Election Discourse . . . at thy best.
The people look for special things from thee,
And yet they fear that in another year
They may look up and find their pastor gone.
[Gives him a long hard look.]
Yea, to another world! If that be so,
May Heaven grant it be a better one. [Turning his back.]
And, in good sooth, I am prepared to go.
I hardly think to tarry with my flock
Through all the changing seasons of a year.
But touching on thy medicine, good sir,
In present frame of mind, I need it not.
I joy to hear it. May my remedies,
So long administered without effect,
Be now no longer needed for thy cure.
The cure is all . . . and happy would I be . . .
And well deserving of New England's praise . . .
If I could claim some part . . . in thy good health.
I thank thee from my heart, most watchful friend . . .
Can but requite thy deeds with earnest prayers.
A good man's prayers are golden recompense!
The current coin of New Jerusalem,
[Dimmesdale leaves the room as he is speaking.]
The King's own mint-mark printed on their back.
[Chillingworth stares after Dimmesdale deep in thought.]
ACT II--Scene 6
[Hester enters with Pearl, but clearly talking to herself.
spotlight on them.]
[To herself.] Now look thy last on sinful Hester Prynne,
And on this scarlet letter she has worn.
A little while . . . she'll be beyond your reach!
Just hours hence . . . the waters of the sea
Will take, then hide forever, this red flame,
Which ye have caused to burn upon my breast.
[Pointing ahead, to the crowd, as the lights come up.]
Why, Mother, look . . . the people . . . in the square.
Why have they left their work to gather here?
And why have we come here to town today?
Look there! The blacksmith! But he's washed his face,
And wears his Sabbath clothes . . . that seem so tight.
He looks as if he gladly would be gay,
If someone here would please to show him how!
And there is Master Brackett, from the jail,
Who nods and smiles at me . . . why does he so?
He must remember thee a little babe.
But still he should not nod and smile at me . . .
That grim . . . and black . . . and ugly-eyed old man!
He nods at thee . . . though thou art clad in gray . . .
And wear thy scarlet letter. See him stare!
And, Mother . . . all the strangers here in town.
So many Indians! And sailors, too!
What have they come to do? Why are they here?
They come to see the gay procession pass,
The governor and magistrates go by,
The godly ministers, and all the great,
With music, and with soldiers marching, too.
And will the minister be passing, too?
And will he hold his hands out then to me . . .
As when thou led'st me to him by the brook?
He will be there. But now behave thyself.
He cannot talk to thee [A hard look.] . . . nor thou to him.
He called us to him here, in dark of night,
And held my hand, and thine, as then we stood,
Up on the scaffold, yonder, by his side.
And he did kiss me . . . in the forest . . . then,
Where there were only trees and sky to see . . .
The little brook could hardly wash it off!
And talked with thee, and sat and held thy hand!
But on this sunny day . . . here in the town . . .
With all the people here . . . he knows us not!
And we must not know him! A strange . . . sad man!
And always with his hand above his heart!
Be quiet, Pearl! Thou understandest not!
Think not about the minister . . . not now!
[Looking around, obviously for somebody in particular, spots
the shipmaster, talking to Chillingworth, gives a little gasp and
stands stock still for a moment, then forces her attention back
to the child.]
Think, rather, of how cheerful people are!
In everybody's face you see today
The spirit of this holiday expressed--
The children from their schools, their mothers, too,
Men from their workshops, farmers from their fields.
They purpose to be happy, for today
They choose a new man to rule over them,
And so . . . it is a custom old as man . . .
They celebrate, make merry, and rejoice,
As if a good and golden year had come,
And now there'd be a paradise on earth.
[The master, seeing Hester, crosses to her. Chillingworth
stays where he is, watching them.]
So, Mistress! I must take aboard my ship
One more, it seems, than thou didst bargain for!
[Laughs.] No fear of scurvy or ship-fever now.
We'll have the ship's own surgeon . . . and this man,
Another doctor . . . to look after us.
Our only danger will be drugs and pills,
Of which we have some quantity as well,
Apothecary's stuff I've traded for
With Spanish vessels . . . far off to the south.
Another passenger? What dost thou mean?
[Looking at Chillingworth, who nods and smiles.]
Why knowest thou not that worthy doctor there . . .
Ah . . . Roger Chillingworth, I think he said . . .
Is minded to share cabin fare with thee?
Ay, ay, thou must have known it, for he said
That he is of thy party . . . and a friend . . .
A friend unto the gentleman, I think,
The man thou spak'st of, who's to go with thee,
The one who stands in peril of his life
From these harsh men . . . so sour in their rule . . .
Who now in Merry England cast their gloom . . .
These Puritans . . . who help me love the sea.
Why yes, they know each other very well,
Have lived together now for many years,
[Hester and Chillingworth exchange glances.]
Though I must say I hardly know the man.
[The procession begins, with music.]
Look, Mother! Canst thou see the minister?
The same who kissed my forehead by the brook!
Now hold thy peace, child! Speak not in the town
Of things that happened . . . out there in the woods.
I thought it wasn't him . . . he looks so strange.
[Pestering.] And should I run to him to kiss me now . . .
Before these people . . . even as he did
That other day among those dark old trees?
I wonder, if I did, what he would say . . .
I wonder . . . would he even smile at me?
Or would he clap his hand . . . so . . . on his heart,
And scowl on me [Scowls.], and bid me "hold my peace"?
Yea, hold thy peace! Pearl, this is not the time!
Such kisses are not for the market-place.
It's well for thee . . . and me . . . thou foolish child,
That there was not the chance to speak to him.
[Mistress Hibbins approaches Hester, catches her attention,
and whispers to her.]
Now whose imagination could conceive
The two as one . . . that lonely, holy man,
That saint on earth, as people think of him,
And as, I must needs say, he really looks
To see him pass in this procession now.
Yea, who would think how little while ago
He sallied from his study to the woods
(A Hebrew text of scripture in his mouth,
I warrant me), to take an airing there.
How well we know what that means, Hester Prynne!
Can you believe that man and this the same?
But many, many members of the church,
Who walk behind the music here today,
Have danced out in the forest in the night . . .
Have tripped a lively measure there with me,
To that same merry fiddler thou dost know!
Mayhap an Indian powwow in the group,
A Lapland wizard changing hands with us!
A trifle . . . when a woman knows the world.
But for this pious minister! Ah, ha!
Canst tell me, Hester, is the man the same?
Hast ever met him on the forest path?
Thou speak'st in riddles, Madam. Why to me?
It's not for me to speak in such a vein . . .
Of such a learned . . . such a pious . . . man.
The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale speaks me fair;
How much more fair should I then speak of him?
Fie, fie! I'm one who knows the forest well!
Dost think I have no skill to judge who else
Has spent a merry hour in the woods,
Though there may be no trace of any leaf
Of those wild garlands woven in his hair
While he they danced? I know thee, Hester Prynne,
For I behold this token on thy breast! [Touches it.]
We all may see it, sparkling in the sun . . .
[Smiles.] As some have seen it glowing in the night.
It's there to see. Thou wear'st it openly.
But not so with our pious minister!
I'll tell thee in thy ear what I do think,
That when the Black Man sees one of his own . . .
One signed and sealed . . . so shy as this one is
Of owning to the bond . . . who hides the mark,
The way our Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale does . . .
He hath a way of so arranging things,
That that same mark shall one day be disclosed
In open daylight, to the eyes of all!
What think'st thee that he hopes that he may hide . . .
That hand above his heart? Ha, Hester Prynne?
What is it, Mistress Hibbins? Hast thou seen?
No matter, darling! Thou thyself wilt see . . .
Some time or other. Tell me, child, they say
Thou art an offspring of the Prince of Air.
Wilt ride with me, my child, some moonlit night,
To see thy father . . . if the story's true.
Then thou shalt know what he so hopes to hide
Whene'er he holds his hand above his heart!
[Laughing, she leaves them.]
[To Hester.] When I spake with that same black-visaged man,
That hump-backed doctor looking at us now,
He told me he would bring his friend with him,
That gentleman thou wot'st of. So, it seems,
Thou need'st not be concerned but for thyself . . .
[Smiles.] Thyself and for this little elf of thine.
Old Mistress Hibbins says my father is
The Prince of Air! If thou call'st me such names,
I'll tell him so! He'll chase thy ship with storms!
[The Master laughs. Then his attention is attracted
Dimmesdale stands, at the steps of the scaffold.]
Look, there . . . that minister would speak to thee!
He must have seen thy naughty impudence.
Now, Hester! Come ye hither! Little Pearl!
[Rushing toward him.]
Stop, madman! Stop! Be careful what thou say'st!
Wave back that woman! All can still be well!
Protect thy fame! I'll help to save thee yet!
Do not bring infamy upon those robes!
Ha, tempter! Get thee back! Thou art too late!
Thy voice hath not the power once it had.
With God's good help, I shall escape thee now!
[Extending his hands to Hester and Pearl.]
Yes, Hester, now thy hand . . . and little Pearl's . . .
We'll call on Him . . . so terrible . . . and yet
So merciful to those who turn to Him,
Who gives me grace, at last, to do this thing . . .
For my own heavy sin, and agony,
Have held me back this seven years and more.
Come hither now, and twine thy strength with mine!
'Twill be thy strength, but guided by the will
Which God hath granted me for this one day.
This wretched and misguided old man . . . here
Opposes it with all his might . . . thou see'st . . .
With all his might, and aided by the Fiend!
Come, Hester, come! Support me up the steps!
[They climb together to the pillory.]
Thou might'st have fled three times around the world,
And found no place so secret, so secure,
No place so high, no place so out of sight,
That thou couldst have escaped me . . . save this one . . .
This very scaffold, here in public view!
My thanks to Him, who leads my steps aright!
[To Hester.] Is this not then far better than we dreamed
Out in the forest . . . when we laid our plans?
I do not know! Like this? I do not know!
Perhaps it may be . . . better . . . if we die!
And little Pearl? Does she then die with us?
For thee and Pearl, be it as God shall judge . . .
And God is merciful . . . I know that well!
But as for me, I'll carry out his will.
For, Hester, I stand here a dying man,
So let me now make haste to meet my doom,
To take my shame upon me while I may.
[To the crowd.] Ye people of New England!
Ye all have loved me, all have deemed me pure!
Behold me here, the sinner of the world!
At last! At last! I stand upon the spot
Where seven years ago I should have stood . . .
Stand with this woman . . . and this little child.
This woman's arm has given me the strength,
With which I have crept hitherward today.
That strength sustains me . . . at this dreadful hour . . .
Keeps me from grov'ling down upon my face!
Behold the scarlet letter Hester wears! [Gestures.]
Ye all have shuddered at it as she passed.
Wherever she has walked . . . in misery . . .
Wherever she has hoped to find repose . . .
Its lurid gleam has kept all peace away,
A horrible repugnance cast around.
But there stood one right in thy very midst
Whose brand of sin was just as horrible,
And yet it was not seen--to shock thy sight!
He wore the mark! God's eye knew where it was!
The angels were forever pointing there!
The Devil knew it, too, and fretted it,
His burning finger ever on the spot!
But yet he hid it cunningly from men,
And walked among ye as thy minister,
Who seemed so mournful in his purity
Because he looked upon a sinful world!
So sad because he missed the Heavenly host!
Now, at his death hour, he must take his stand
Upon this scaffold, and before this crowd!
He bids ye look again on Hester Prynne,
And on the scarlet letter on her breast!
He tells ye that, as bright as that may be,
To blaze forth its mysterious horror here,
It's but the shadow of the one he wears . . .
Burned deep upon his breast . . .
[Begins to take off his collar.] and even this . .
His own red stigma . . . is no more than type,
Of that cruel mark that's seared upon his heart!
[Struggling with his clothing.]
Stand any here that question God's great hand,
In judgment on a secret sinner's crime?
[He bears his breast. What the audience sees there is at the
director's discretion. Ideally, some would definitely see, some
definitely not, most not be sure.]
Behold! Behold! A dreadful witness here!
[He sinks down on the scaffold.]
[Ascending the scaffold and kneeling beside him.]
Thou hast escaped! Just when I felt secure
In having thwarted thee . . . thou hast escaped!
May God forgive thee . . . as I freely do . . .
A poor old man, become a sinner, too,
Drawn into sin pursuing his revenge . . .
And bargaining his soul . . . past all recall.
And Pearl, my little Pearl, wilt kiss me now . . .
As thou wouldst not when we were in the woods?
But wilt thou now?
[She kisses him.] And Hester . . . now
Shall we not meet again? Shall we not spend
Eternity together, through our love?
We've ransomed one another with this woe!
Look thou into that future . . . tell me then . . .
With those bright dying eyes . . . what thou dost see!
Hush, Hester, hush! We broke the sacred law!
Committed sin . . . so awfully revealed!
Let that alone be in thy thoughts! I fear!
It may be that when we forgot our God,
And violated one another's soul,
It thence was vain for us to hope to meet
Hereafter, and in everlasting bliss.
God knows . . . and He is ever merciful . . .
His mercy proved in this my suffering,
This burning torture I bear on my breast!
In sending yonder dark and wild old man
To keep the torture always at red heat!
In bringing me at length to this high place,
To die in ignominious triumph here,
Before these people gathered at my feet.
If He had not sent all these agonies,
I had been lost forever . . . deep in Hell!
Praised be His name! His will be done! Farewell!
I saw the mark! It blazed upon his breast!
'Twas but thy fancy . . . addled worse than his . . .
Poor man! I saw no mark upon his breast.
[Holding Dimmesdale in her arms, and speaking to no one in
particular . . . if not him.]
Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world,
If not your worst, a trait whereby your worst
May be inferred! [And then to herself.] And what is left