Hester Prynne was now fully sensible of the deep injury for which she was responsible to this unhappy man, in permitting him to lie for so many years, or, indeed, for a single moment, at the mercy of one whose purposes could not be other than malevolent
. The very contiguity
of his enemy, beneath whatever mask the latter might conceal himself, was enough to disturb the magnetic
sphere of a being so sensitive as Arthur Dimmesdale. There had been a period when Hester was less alive to this consideration; or, perhaps, in the misanthropy
of her own trouble, she left the minister to bear what she might picture to herself as a more tolerable doom. But of late, since the night of his vigil
, all her sympathies towards him had been both softened and invigorated
. She now read his heart more accurately. She doubted not, that the continual presence of Roger Chillingworth the secret poison of his malignity
, infecting all the air about him- and his authorised interference, as a physician, with the minister's physical and spiritual infirmities
- that these bad opportunities had been turned to a cruel purpose. By means of them, the sufferer's conscience had been kept in an irritated state, the tendency of which was, not to cure by wholesome pain, but to disorganise
and corrupt his spiritual being. Its result, on earth, could hardly fail to be insanity, and hereafter, that eternal alienation
from the Good and True, of which madness is perhaps the earthly type.
Such was the ruin to which she had brought the man, once- nay, why should we not speak it?- still so passionately
loved! Hester felt that the sacrifice of the clergyman's good name, and death itself, as she had already told Roger Chillingworth, would have been infinitely
preferable to the alternative which she had taken upon herself to choose. And now, rather than have had this grievous
wrong to confess, she would gladly have lain down on the forest-leaves, and died there, at Arthur Dimmesdale's feet.