of this appeal drew the eyes of the whole crowd upon the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale; a young clergyman, who had come from one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest-land. His eloquence
and religious fervour had already given the earnest of high eminence
in his profession. He was a person of very striking aspect, with a white, lofty, and impending
brow, large, brown, melancholy
eyes, and a mouth which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to be tremulous
, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint. Notwithstanding
his high native gifts and scholar-like attainments, there was an air about this young minister- an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look- as of a being who felt himself quite astray
and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion
of his own. Therefore, so far as his duties would permit, he trod in the shadowy
bypaths, and thus kept himself simple and childlike; coming forth, when occasion was, with a freshness, and fragrance
, and dewy
purity of thought, which, as many people said, affected them like the speech of an angel.
Such was the young man whom the Reverend Mr. Wilson and the Governor had introduced so openly to the public notice, bidding
him speak, in the hearing of all men, to that mystery of a woman's soul, so sacred even in its pollution. The trying nature of his position drove the blood from his cheek, and made his lips tremulous.
"Speak to the woman, my brother," said Mr. Wilson. "It is of moment to her soul, and therefore, as the worshipful
Governor says, momentous
to thine own, in whose charge hers is. Exhort
her to confess the truth!"
The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward.
"Hester Prynne," said he, leaning over the balcony, and looking down steadfastly
into her eyes, "thou hearest what this good man says, and seest the accountability
under which I labour. If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation
, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal
of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him- yea, compel him, as it were- to add hypocrisy
to sin? Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy
, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee, and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him-who, perchance
, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself- the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!"