Bellingham, for the last few moments, had kept an anxious
eye upon him. He now left his own place in the procession, and advanced to give assistance; judging, from Mr. Dimmesdale's aspect, that he must otherwise inevitably
fall. But there was something in the latter's expression that warned back the magistrate
, although a man not readily obeying the vague intimations
that pass from one spirit to another. The crowd, meanwhile, looked on with awe and wonder. This earthly faintness was, in their view, only another phase of the ministers' celestial
strength; nor would it have seemed a miracle too high to be wrought for one so holy, had he ascended before their eyes, waxing dimmer and brighter, and fading at last into the light of heaven!
He turned towards the scaffold
, and stretched forth his arms.
"Hester," said he, "come hither! Come, my little Pearl!"
It was a ghastly
look with which he regarded them; but there was something at once tender and strangely triumphant
in it. The child, with the bird-like motion which was one of her characteristics, flew to him, and clasped her arms about his knees. Hester Prynne- slowly, as if impelled by inevitable fate, and against her strongest will- likewise drew near, but paused before she reached him. At this instant, old Roger Chillingworth thrust himself through the crowd- or, perhaps, so dark, disturbed, and evil was his look, he rose up out of some nether region- to snatch back his victim from what he sought to do! Be that as it might, the old man rushed forward, and caught the minister by the arm.
"Madman, hold! what is your purpose?" whispered he. "Wave back that woman! Cast off this child! All shall be well! Do not blacken your fame, and perish
in dishonour. I can yet save you! Would you bring infamy
on your sacred profession?"
"Ha, tempter! Methinks thou art too late!" answered the minister, encountering his eye, fearfully, but firmly. "Thy power is not what it was! With God's help, I shall escape thee now!"He again extended his hand to the woman of the scarlet letter.