Chapter 16 A FOREST WALK
"Didst thou ever awake, and find thy mother gone?" asked Hester.
"Not that I remember," said the child. "If thou fearest to leave me in our cottage, thou mightest take me along with thee. I would very gladly go! But, mother, tell me now! Is there such a Black Man? And didst thou ever meet him? And is this his mark?"
"Wilt thou let me be at peace if I once tell thee?" asked her mother.
"Yes, if thou tellest me all," answered Pearl.
"Once in my life I met the Black Man!" said her mother. "This scarlet letter is his mark!"
, they entered sufficiently deep into the wood to secure
themselves from the observation of any casual passenger along the forest track. Here they sat down on a luxuriant heap
of moss; which, at some epoch
of the preceding century, had been a gigantic
pine, with its roots and trunk in the darksome shade, and its head aloft
in the upper atmosphere. It was a little dell
where they had seated themselves, with a leaf-strewn bank rising gently on either side, and a brook flowing through the midst, over a bed of fallen and drowned leaves. The trees impending
over it had flung down great branches, from time to time, which choked up the current, and compelled it to form eddies
and black depths at some points; while, in its swifter and livelier passages, there appeared a channel-way of pebbles, and brown, sparkling
sand. Letting the eyes follow along the course of the stream, they could catch the reflected light from its water, at some short distance within the forest, but soon lost all traces of it amid the bewilderment
of tree-trunks and underbrush
, and here and there a huge rock covered over with grey lichens
. All these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that, with its never-ceasing loquacity, it should whisper tales out of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed, or mirror its revelations
on the smooth surface of a pool. Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness
, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintance and events of sombre hue