"That, good sir, is but a fantasy
of yours," replied the minister."There can be, if I forebode
aright, no power, short of the Divine mercy, to disclose, whether by uttered words, or by type or emblem
, the secrets that may be buried with a human heart. The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed. Nor have I so read or interpreted Holy Writ, as to understand that the disclosure of human thoughts and deeds, then to be made, is intended as a part of the retribution
. That, surely, were a shallow view of it. No; these revelations
, unless I greatly err, are meant merely to promote the intellectual satisfaction of all intelligent beings, who will stand waiting, on that day, to see the dark problem of this life made plain. A knowledge of men's hearts will be needful to the completest solution of that problem. And I conceive, moreover, that the hearts holding such miserable secrets as you speak of will yield them up, at that last day, not with reluctance
, but with a joy unutterable
"Then why not reveal them here?" asked Roger Chillingworth, glancing quietly aside at the minister. "Why should not the guilty ones sooner avail themselves of this unutterable solace
"They mostly do," said the clergyman, griping hard at his breast, as if afflicted
with an importunate throb
of pain. "Many, many a poor soul hath given its confidence to me, not only on the deathbed, but while strong in life, and fair in reputation. And ever, after such an outpouring, oh, what a relief have I witnessed in those sinful brethren
! even as in one who at last draws free air, after long stifling with his own polluted breath. How can it be otherwise? Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say, of murder, prefer to keep the dead corpse buried in his own heart, rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of it?"
"Yet some men bury their secrets thus," observed the calm physician.