"Tell me, mother!" said the child seriously, coming up to Hester, and pressing herself close to her knees. "Do thou tell me!"
"Thy Heavenly Father sent thee!" answered Hester Prynne.
But she said it with a hesitation that did not escape the acuteness
of the child. Whether moved only by her ordinary freakishness
, or because an evil spirit prompted her, she put up her small forefinger
, and touched the scarlet letter.
"He did not send me!" cried she positively
. "I have no Heavenly Father!"
"Hush, Pearl, hush! Thou must not talk so!" answered the mother, suppressing a groan
. "He sent us all into this world. He sent even me, thy mother. Then, much more, thee! Or, if not, thou strange and elfish child, whence didst thou come?"
"Tell me! Tell me!" repeated Pearl, no longer seriously, but laughing, and capering
about the floor. "It is thou that must tell me!"
But Hester could not resolve the query
, being herself in a dismal labyrinth
of doubt. She remembered- betwixt a smile and a shudder- the talk of the neighbouring townspeople; who, seeking vainly elsewhere for the child's paternity
, and observing some of her old attributes, had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring; such as, ever since old Catholic times, had occasionally been seer
, on earth, through the agency of their mother's sin, and to promote some foul and wicked purpose. Luther, according to the scandal of his monkish
enemies, was a brat
of that hellish
breed; nor was Pearl the only child to whom this inauspicious
origin was assigned among the New England Puritans.