The young pastor
's voice was tremulously
sweet, rich, deep, and broken. The feeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than the direct purport
of the words, caused it to vibrate
within all hearts, and brought the listeners into one accord of sympathy. Even the poor baby, at Hester's bosom, was affected by the same influence; for it directed its hitherto
vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms, with a half-pleased, half-plaintive
murmur. So powerful seemed the minister's appeal, that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would speak out the guilty name; or else that the guilty one himself, in whatever high or lowly place he stood, would be drawn forth by an inward and inevitable
necessity, and compelled to ascend
Hester shook her head.
not beyond the limits of Heaven's mercy!" cried the Reverend Mr. Wilson, more harshly
than before. "That little babe hath been gifted with a voice, to second and confirm the counsel
which thou hast heard. Speak out the name! That, and thy repentance
, may avail to take the scarlet letter off thy breast."
"Never!" replied Hester Prynne, looking, not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman. "It is too deeply branded
. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony
, as well as mine!"
"Speak, woman!" said another voice, coldly and sternly
, proceeding from the crowd about the scaffold. "Speak; and give your child a father!"
"I will not speak!" answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this voice, which she too surely recognized. "And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one!"
"She will not speak!" murmured Mr. Dimmesdale, who, leaning
over the balcony, with his hand upon his heart, had awaited the result of his appeal. He now drew back, with a long respiration
strength and generosity
of a woman's heart! She will not speak!"
state of the poor culprit
's mind, the elder clergyman, who had carefully prepared himself for the occasion, addressed to the multitude a discourse on sin, in all its branches, but with continual reference to the ignominious
letter. So forcibly did he dwell upon this symbol, for the hour or more during which his periods were rolling over the people's heads, that it assumed new terrors in their imagination, and seemed to derive
its scarlet hue
from the flames of the infernal pit
. Hester Prynne, meanwhile, kept her place upon the pedestal
of shame, with glazed eyes, and an air of weary indifference. She had borne, that morning, all that nature could endure; and as her temperament
was not of the order that escapes from too intense suffering by a swoon
, her spirit could only shelter itself beneath a stony crust
of insensibility, while the faculties of animal life remained entire. In this state, the voice of the preacher
, but unavailingly
, upon her ears. The infant, during the latter portion of her ordeal
the air with its wailings
and screams; she strove to hush it, mechanically
, but seemed scarcely to sympathise with its trouble. With the same hard demeanour
, she was led back to prison, and vanished from the public gaze within its iron-clamped portal. It was whispered, by those who peered after her, that the scarlet letter threw a lurid
gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior.