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УДК 372.8 ББК 81.2 Англ-93 Г74 Готорн, Натаниель. Г74 Алая буква : книга для чтения на английском языке. — Санкт-Петербуг : КАРО, 2016. — 224 с. — (Classical Literature). ISBN 978-5-9925-1119-2. Натаниель Готорн (1804–1864) — один из наиболее значительных американских писателей XIX века. Предлагаем вниманию читателей одно из самых известных его произведений, роман «Алая буква» (1850), первый американский роман, вызвавший широкий резонанс в Европе. В книге приводится неадаптированный текст романа в сокращении с комментариями и словарем. УДК 372.8 ББК 81.2 Англ-93 © КАРО, 2016 ISBN 978-5-9925-1119-2 The Prison Door A throng of bearded men, in sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes. The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognised it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. In accordance with this rule it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere in the Vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground, on 1 Isaac Johnson’s lot, and round about his grave, 1 Isaac Johnson — Айзек Джонсон, один из ранних колонистов, обосновавшихся в Бостоне 3 which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated sepulchres in the old churchyard of 1 King’s Chapel . Certain it is that, some fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of the town, the wooden jail was already marked with weatherstains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front. Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era. Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with unsightly vegetation, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilised society, a prison. But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him. This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history; but whether it had merely survived out of the stern old wilderness, so long 1 King’s Chapel — Королевская церковь, старинная церковь в Бостоне 4 after the fall of the gigantic pines and oaks that originally overshadowed it, or whether, as there is fair authority for believing, it had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson 1 as she entered the prison-door, we shall not take upon us to determine. Finding it so directly on the threshold of our narrative, which is now about to issue from that inauspicious portal, we could hardly do otherwise than pluck one of its flowers, and present it to the reader. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolise some sweet moral blossom that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow. II The Market-Place The grass-plot before the jail, in Prison Lane, on a certain summer morning, not less than two centuries ago, was occupied by a pretty large number of the inhabitants of Boston, all with their eyes 1 Ann Hutchinson — Энн Хетчинсон (1591–1643), глава религиозной секты антиномистов, утверждавших, что верующий сливается со святым духом без посредства церкви и священников. В 1636–1637 годах ее судили и приговорили к отлучению от церкви 5 intently fastened on the iron-clamped oaken door. Amongst any other population, or at a later period in the history of New England, the grim rigidity that petrified the bearded physiognomies of these good people would have augured some awful business in hand. But, in that early severity of the Puritan character, it might be that a sluggish bond-servant, or an undutiful child, whom his parents had given over to the civil authority, was to be corrected at the whipping-post. It might be that an Antinomian, a 1 Quaker , or other heterodox religionist, was to be scourged out of the town, or an idle or vagrant Indian, whom the white man’s firewater had made riotous about the streets. It might be, too, that a witch, like old Mistress Hibbins, was to die upon the gallows. In either case, there was very much the same solemnity of demeanour on the part of the spectators, as befitted a people among whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful. On the other hand, a penalty which, in our days, would infer 1 a Quaker — квакеры, религиозная секта, основанная Джорджем Фоксом (1624–1691), протестантское христианское движение 6 a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself. It was a circumstance to be noted on the summer morning when our story begins its course, that the women, of whom there were several in the crowd, appeared to take a peculiar interest in whatever penal infliction might be expected to ensue. The age had not so much refinement, that any sense of impropriety restrained the wearers of petticoat and farthingale from stepping forth into the public ways, and wedging their not unsubstantial persons, if occasion were, into the throng nearest to the scaffold at an execution. Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding than in their fair descendants. “Goodwives,” said a hard-featured dame of fifty, “I’ll tell ye a piece of my mind. It would be greatly for the public behoof if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne. If the hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worshipful magistrates have awarded? Marry, I trow not.” 7 “People say,” said another, “that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation.” “The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch,” added a third autumnal matron. “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead. But little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!” “Ah, but,” interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, “let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.” “What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown or the flesh of her forehead?” cried another female, the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges. “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die; is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray.” 8 “Mercy on us, goodwife!” exclaimed a man in the crowd, “is there no virtue in woman, save what springs from a wholesome fear of the gallows? Hush now, gossips, for here comes Mistress Prynne herself.” The door of the jail being flung open from within there appeared, in the first place the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle. This personage prefigured and represented in his aspect the whole dismal severity of the Puritanic code of law, which it was his business to administer in its final and closest application to the offender. Stretching forth the offi cial staff in his left hand, he laid his right upon the shoulder of a young woman, whom he thus drew forward, until, on the threshold of the prison-door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air as if by her own free will. She bore in her arms a child, a baby of some three months old, who winked and turned aside its little face from the too vivid light of day; because its existence, heretofore, had brought it acquaintance only with the grey twilight of a dungeon, or other darksome apartment of the prison. When the young woman stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to 9 the right. Next rose before her a continental city; where new life had awaited her, still in connexion with the misshapen scholar: a new life, but feeding itself on time-worn materials, like a tuft of green moss on a crumbling wall. Lastly, in lieu of these shifting scenes, came back the rude market-place of the Puritan, settlement, with all the townspeople assembled, and levelling their stern regards at herself who stood on the scaffold of the pillory, an infant on her arm, and the letter A, in scarlet, fantastically embroidered with gold thread, upon her bosom. Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the shame were real. Yes these were her realities — all else had vanished! III The Recognition From this intense consciousness of being the object of severe and universal observation, the wearer of the scarlet letter was at length relieved, by discerning, on the outskirts of the crowd, a figure 17 which irresistibly took possession of her thoughts. An Indian in his native garb was standing there. By the Indian’s side, and evidently sustaining a companionship with him, stood a white man, clad in a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume. He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which as yet could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself and become manifest by unmistakable tokens. Although, by a seemingly careless arrangement of his heterogeneous garb, he had endeavoured to conceal or abate the peculiarity, it was suffi ciently evident to Hester Prynne that one of this man’s shoulders rose higher than the other. Again, at the first instant of perceiving that thin visage, and the slight deformity of the figure, she pressed her infant to her bosom with a convulsive force. At his arrival in the market-place, and some time before she saw him, the stranger had bent his eyes on Hester Prynne. It was carelessly at first, like a man chiefly accustomed to look inward. Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. A writhing horror twisted itself across 18 all its branches, but with continual reference to the ignominious letter. So forcibly did he dwell upon this symbol that it assumed new terrors, 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. 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. IV The Interview After her return to the prison, Hester Prynne was found to be in a state of nervous excitement, that demanded constant watchfulness, lest she should perpetrate violence on herself, or do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe. 29 As night approached, it proving impossible to quell her insubordination by rebuke or threats of punishment, Master Brackett, the jailer, thought fit to introduce a physician. He described him as a man of skill in all Christian modes of physical science, and likewise familiar with whatever the savage people could teach in respect to medicinal herbs and roots that grew in the forest. There was much need of professional assistance, not merely for Hester, but still more urgently for the child — who, drawing its sustenance from the maternal bosom, seemed to have drank in with it all mother’s despair. It now writhed in convulsions of pain, and was a forcible type of the moral agony which Hester Prynne had borne throughout the day. Closely following the jailer appeared that individual, whose presence in the crowd had been of such deep interest to the wearer of the scarlet letter. He was lodged in the prison as the most convenient and suitable mode of disposing of him, until the magistrates should have conferred with the Indian sagamores respecting his ransom. His name was announced as Roger Chillingworth. The jailer, after ushering him into the room, remained a moment, marvelling at the comparative quiet 30 infant and the scarlet letter! How is it, Hester? Doth thy sentence bind thee to wear the token in thy sleep? Art thou not afraid of nightmares?” “Why dost thou smile so at me?” inquired Hester, troubled at the expression of his eyes. “Art thou 1 like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about us? Hast thou enticed me into a bond that will prove the ruin of my soul?” “Not thy soul,” he answered, with another smile. “No, not thine!” V Hester at Her Needle Hester Prynne’s term of confinement was now at an end. Her prison-door was thrown open, and she came forth into the sunshine, which seemed to her as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast. Perhaps there was a more real torture in her first unattended footsteps from the threshold of the prison than even in the procession and spectacle that have been described. Then, she was supported by an unnatural tension of the nerves, and by all the combative energy of her character, which enabled her to convert the scene 1 the Black Man — дьявол 38 into a kind of lurid triumph. It was, moreover, a separate event, to meet which she might call up the vital strength that would have suffi ced for many quiet years. But now, with this unattended walk from her prison door, began the daily custom. She could no longer borrow from the future to help her through the present grief. Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it, so would the next day. The accumulating days and added years would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame. Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point. Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast — at her, the child of honourable parents — at her, the mother of a babe that would hereafter be a woman — at her, who had once been innocent — as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument. It may seem marvellous that, with the world before her — free to return to her birth-place, or to any other European land, and there hide her character and identity under a new exterior, — and having also the passes of the dark, inscrutable forest 39 abroad in the night-time. And we must needs say it seared Hester’s bosom so deeply, that perhaps there was more truth in the rumour than our modern incredulity may be inclined to admit. VI Pearl We have as yet hardly spoken of the infant; that little creature, whose innocent life had sprung out of the rank luxuriance of a guilty passion. How strange it seemed to the sad woman, as she watched the growth, and the beauty that became every day more brilliant, and the intelligence that threw its quivering sunshine over the tiny features of this child! Her Pearl — for so had Hester called her — as being of great price — purchased with all she had — her mother’s only treasure! How strange, indeed! Man had marked this woman’s sin by a scarlet letter. God, as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child! Yet these thoughts affected Hester Prynne less with hope than apprehension. She knew that her deed had been evil; she could have no faith, therefore, that its result would be good. Day after day she looked fearfully into the child’s 48 expanding nature, ever dreading to detect some dark and wild peculiarity that should correspond with the guiltiness to which she owed her being. Certainly there was no physical defect. By its perfect shape, its vigour, and its natural dexterity in the use of all its untried limbs, the infant was worthy to have been brought forth in Eden. The child had a native grace which does not invariably co-exist with faultless beauty. Her mother, with a morbid purpose that may be better understood hereafter, had bought the richest tissues that could be procured, and allowed her imaginative faculty its full play in the arrangement and decoration of the dresses which the child wore before the public eye. So magnificent was the small figure when thus arrayed, and such was the splendour of Pearl’s own proper beauty that there was an absolute circle of radiance around her. And yet a russet gown, torn and soiled with the child’s rude play, made a picture of her just as perfect. Pearl’s aspect was imbued with a spell of infinite variety, comprehending the full scope between the wild-flower prettiness of a peasant-baby, and the pomp of an infant princess. Throughout all, however, there was a trait of passion, a certain depth of hue, which she never lost. 49 But she said it with a hesitation that did not escape the acuteness of the child. “He did not send me!” cried she, positively. “I have no Heavenly Father!” “Hush, Pearl! Thou must not talk so! He sent us all into the world! Or, if not, whence didst thou come?” “Tell me! Tell me!” repeated Pearl 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 townspeople, who, seeking vainly elsewhere for the child’s paternity, and observing some of her odd attributes, had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring: such as, ever since old Catholic times, had occasionally been seen on earth, through the agency of their mother’s sin, to promote some foul and wicked purpose. VII The Governor’s Hall Hester Prynne went one day to the mansion of Governor Bellingham, with a pair of gloves which 57 she had fringed and embroidered to his order. Another and far more important reason impelled Hester, at this time, to seek an interview with a personage of so much power and activity in the affairs of the settlement. It had reached her ears that there was a design on the part of some of the leading inhabitants to deprive her of her child. On the supposition that Pearl, as already hinted, was of demon origin, these good people not unreasonably argued that a Christian interest in the mother’s soul required them to remove such a stumbling-block from her path. If the child, on the other hand, were really capable of moral and religious growth, then it would enjoy all the fairer prospect of these advantages by being transferred to wiser and better guardianship than Hester Prynne’s. Among those who promoted the design was Governor Bellingham. Full of concern, therefore — but so conscious of her own right that it seemed scarcely an unequal match between the public on the one side, and a lonely woman, backed by the sympathies of nature, on the other — Hester Prynne set forth from her solitary cottage. Little Pearl, of course, was her companion. We have spoken of Pearl’s rich and luxuriant beauty. Her mother, in contriving the 58 VIII The Elf-Child and the Minister Governor Bellingham walked foremost, and appeared to be showing off his estate, and expatiating on his projected improvements. Venerable pastor, John Wilson was seen over Governor Bellingham’s shoulders. Behind the Governor and Mr. Wilson came two other guests — one, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whom the reader may remember as having taken a brief and reluctant part in the scene of Hester Prynne’s disgrace; and, in close companionship with him, old Roger Chillingworth, a person of great skill in physic, who for two or three years past had been settled in the town. The Governor, in advance of his visitors, ascended one or two steps, and, throwing open the leaves of the great hall window, found himself close to little Pearl. The shadow of the curtain fell on Hester Prynne, and partially concealed her. “What have we here?” said Governor Bellingham, looking with surprise at the scarlet little figure before him. “How gat such a guest into my hall?” “Ay, indeed!” cried good old Mr. Wilson. “What little bird of scarlet plumage may this be? Prithee, 63 young one, who art thou, and what has ailed thy mother to bedizen thee in this strange fashion? Art thou a Christian child — ha? Or art thou one of those naughty elfs or fairies?” “I am mother’s child,” answered the scarlet vision, “and my name is Pearl!” “Pearl? — Ruby, rather judging from thy hue!” responded the old minister, putting forth his hand in a vain attempt to pat little Pearl on the cheek. “But where is this mother of thine? Ah! I see,” he added; and, turning to Governor Bellingham, whispered, “This is the selfsame child of whom we have held speech together; and behold here the unhappy woman, Hester Prynne, her mother!” “Sayest thou so?” cried the Governor. “Nay, we might have judged that such a child’s mother must needs be a scarlet woman, and a worthy type of her of Babylon 1 ! But she comes at a good time, and we will look into this matter forthwith.” Governor Bellingham stepped through the window into the hall, followed by his three guests. 1 her of Babylon — имеется в виду Вавилонская блудница, женщина легкого поведения (образ взят из «Откровения Иоанна Богослова», последней книги Нового Завета) 64 “Make my excuse to him, so please you!” answered Hester, with a triumphant smile. “I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my little Pearl. Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man’s book!” “We shall have thee there anon!” said the witchlady, frowning, as she drew back her head. But here was already an illustration of the young minister’s argument against sundering the relation of a fallen mother to the offspring of her frailty. Even thus early had the child saved her from Satan’s snare. IX The Leech Under the appellation of Roger Chillingworth, the reader will remember, was hidden another name, which its former wearer had resolved should never more be spoken. It has been related, how a man, elderly, travel-worn, who, just emerging from the perilous wilderness, beheld the woman, in whom he hoped to find embodied the warmth and cheerfulness of home, set up as a type of sin before the people. He resolved not to be pilloried 72 beside her on her pedestal of shame. He chose to withdraw his name from the roll of mankind, and, as regarded his former ties and interest, to vanish out of life completely. This purpose once effected, new interests would immediately spring up, and likewise a new purpose; dark, it is true, if not guilty, but of force enough to engage the full strength of his faculties. In pursuance of this resolve, he took up his residence in the Puritan town as Roger Chillingworth, without other introduction than the learning and intelligence. As his studies had made him extensively acquainted with the medical science of the day, it was as a physician that he presented himself and as such was cordially received. Skilful men, of the medical and chirurgical profession, were of rare occurrence in the colony. The health of the good town of Boston, had hitherto lain in the guardianship of an aged deacon and apothecary, whose piety and godly deportment were stronger testimonials in his favour than any that he could have produced in the shape of a diploma. The only surgeon was one who combined the occasional exercise of that noble art with the daily and habitual flourish of a razor. To such a professional body Roger Chillingworth was a brilliant acquisition. He 73 scholar-like. Now there was something ugly and evil in his face, which grew still the more obvious to sight the oftener they looked upon him. To sum up the matter, it grew to be a widely diffused opinion that the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, was haunted either by Satan himself or Satan’s emissary, in the guise of old Roger Chillingworth. This diabolical agent had the Divine permission, for a season, to burrow into the clergyman’s intimacy, and plot against his soul. No sensible man, it was confessed, could doubt on which side the victory would turn. The people looked, with an unshaken hope, to see the minister come forth out of the conflict transfigured with the glory. Alas! to judge from the gloom and terror in the depth of the poor minister’s eyes, the battle was a sore one, and the victory anything but secure. X The Leech and His Patient Old Roger Chillingworth, throughout life, had been calm in temperament, kindly, pure and upright man. He had begun an investigation, as he imagined, with the severe and equal integrity of a judge, desirous only of truth. But, as he proceeded, 81 a terrible fascination, a kind of fierce necessity, seized the old man within its gripe, and never set him free again until he had done all its bidding. He now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart like a sexton delving into a grave, possibly in quest of a jewel that had been buried on the dead man’s bosom, but likely to find nothing save mortality and corruption. Sometimes a light glimmered out of the physician’s eyes, burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace. The soil where this dark miner was working had perchance shown indications that encouraged him. “This man,” said he, at one such moment, to himself, “pure as they deem him hath inherited a strong animal nature from his father or his mother. Let us dig a little further in the direction of this vein!” Then after long search into the minister’s dim interior, and turning over many precious materials, in the shape of high aspirations for the welfare of his race, warm love of souls, pure sentiments, natural piety — all of which invaluable gold was perhaps no better than rubbish to the seeker — he would turn back, discouraged, and begin his quest towards another point. Mr. Dimmesdale, whose sensibility of nerve often produced the effect of 82 his hand upon his bosom, and thrust aside the vestment, that hitherto had always covered it even from the professional eye. After a brief pause, the physician turned away. But with what a wild look of wonder, joy, and horror! With what a ghastly rapture, as it were, too mighty to be expressed only by the eye and features, he threw up his arms towards the ceiling, and stamped his foot upon the floor! Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom. But what distinguished the physician’s ecstasy from Satan’s was the trait of wonder in it! XI The Interior of a Heart After the incident last described, the intercourse between the clergyman and the physician, though externally the same, was really of another character than it had previously been. The intellect of Roger Chillingworth had now a suffi ciently plain path before it. Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, 92 hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, which led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever wreaked upon an enemy. To make himself the one trusted friend, to whom should be confided all the fear, the remorse, the agony! All that guilty sorrow, hidden from the world, whose great heart would have pitied and forgiven, to be revealed to him, the very man, to whom nothing else could so adequately pay the debt of vengeance! The clergyman’s shy and sensitive reserve had balked this scheme. Roger Chillingworth, however, was inclined to be hardly less satisfied with the aspect of affairs, which Providence had substituted for his black devices. A revelation had been granted to him. By its aid, the very inmost soul of Mr. Dimmesdale, seemed to be brought out before his eyes, so that he could see and comprehend its every movement. He became, thenceforth, a chief actor in the poor minister’s interior world. Would he arouse him with a throb of agony? The victim was for ever on the rack; it needed only to know the spring that controlled the engine: and the physician knew it well. Would he startle him with sudden fear? As at the waving of a magician’s wand, up rose a grisly phantom flocking round about the clergyman, and pointing at his breast! 93 XII The Minister’s Vigil Walking in the shadow of a dream, as it were, Mr. Dimmesdale reached the spot where, now so long since, Hester Prynne had lived through her first hours of public ignominy. The same platform or scaffold, black and weather-stained, remained standing beneath the balcony of the meetinghouse. The minister went up the steps. It was an obscure night. There was no peril of discovery. The minister might stand there, if it so pleased him, until morning should redden in the east, without other risk than that the dank and chill night air would creep into his frame, and stiffen his joints with rheumatism, and clog his throat with catarrh and cough. No eye could see him, save that ever-wakeful one which had seen him in his closet, wielding the bloody scourge. Why, then, had he come hither? Was it but the mockery of penitence? He had been driven hither by the impulse of that Remorse which dogged him everywhere, and whose own sister and closely linked companion was that Cowardice which invariably drew him back, just when the other impulse had hurried him to the verge of a disclosure. Poor, miserable man! 100 what right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off at once! This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither. And thus, while standing on the scaffold, in this vain show of expiation, Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart. On that spot, in very truth, there was, and there had long been, the gnawing and poisonous tooth of bodily pain. Without any effort of his will, or power to restrain himself, he shrieked aloud: an outcry that went pealing through the night. “It is done!” muttered the minister, covering his face with his hands. “The whole town will awake and hurry forth, and find me here!” But it was not so. The shriek had perhaps sounded with a far greater power, to his own startled ears, than it actually possessed. The town did not awake; or, if it did, the drowsy slumberers mistook the cry either for something frightful in a dream, or for the noise of witches as they rode with Satan through the air. The clergyman, therefore, 101 henceforward,” remarked the old sexton, grimly smiling. “But did your reverence hear of the portent that was seen last night? a great red letter in the sky — the letter A, which we interpret to stand for Angel. For, as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some notice thereof!” “No,” answered the minister; “I had not heard of it.” XIII Another View of Hester In her late singular interview with Mr. Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne was shocked at the condition to which she found the clergyman reduced. His moral force was abased into more than childish weakness, even while his intellectual faculties retained their pristine strength, or had perhaps acquired a morbid energy, which disease only could have given. Knowing what this poor fallen man had once been, her whole soul was moved by the terror with which he had appealed to her for support against his instinctively discovered enemy. She decided that he had a right to her utmost aid. The links that united her to the rest of humankind 110 had all been broken. Here was the iron link of mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break, it brought along with it its obligations. Hester Prynne did not now occupy precisely the same position in which we beheld her during the earlier periods of her ignominy. Years had come and gone. Pearl was now seven years old. Her mother, with the scarlet letter on her breast, had long been a familiar object to the townspeople. As is apt to be the case when a person stands out in any prominence before the community, and, at the same time, interferes neither with public nor individual interests and convenience, a species of general regard had ultimately grown up in reference to Hester Prynne. It is to the credit of human nature that, except where its selfishness is brought into play, it loves more readily than it hates. Hester Prynne never battled with the public; made no claim upon it in requital for what she suffered; did not weigh upon its sympathies. Then, also, the blameless purity of her life during all these years was reckoned largely in her favour. It was perceived, too, that while Hester never put forward even the humblest title to share in the world’s privileges she was quick to acknowledge her sisterhood with the race of man whenever 111 beheld the old physician, stooping along the ground in quest of roots and herbs. XIV Hester and the Physician Hester bade little Pearl run down to the margin of the water, and play with the shells and tangled sea-weed, until she should have talked awhile with yonder gatherer of herbs. Meanwhile she had accosted the physician. “I would speak a word with you, a word that concerns us much.” “Aha! and is it Mistress Hester that has a word for old Roger Chillingworth?” answered he, raising himself from his stooping posture. “With all my heart! Why, mistress, I hear good tidings of you on all hands! No longer ago than yester-eve, a magistrate was discoursing of your affairs and whispered me that it was debated whether or no, with safety to the commonweal, yonder scarlet letter might be taken off your bosom. On my life, Hester, I made my intreaty to the worshipful magistrate that it might be done forthwith.” “It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off the badge,” calmly replied Hester. “Were 119 I worthy to be quit of it, it would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport.” “Nay, then, wear it, if it suit you better. A woman must needs follow her own fancy touching the adornment of her person.” All this while Hester had been looking steadily at the old man, and was shocked to discern what a change had been wrought upon him within the past seven years. The former aspect of an intellectual man, calm and quiet, had been succeeded by an eager, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look. It seemed to be his wish to mask this expression with a smile, but the latter played him false, and flickered over his visage so derisively that the spectator could see his blackness all the better for it. Ever and anon, too, there came a glare of red light out of his eyes, as if the old man’s soul were on fire and kept on smouldering duskily within his breast. In a word, old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil’s offi ce. This unhappy person had effected such a transformation by devoting himself to the constant analysis of a heart 120 XV Hester and Pearl So Roger Chillingworth took leave of Hester Prynne, and went stooping away along the earth. He gathered here and there a herb and put it into the basket on his arm. His gray beard almost touched the ground as he crept onward. Hester gazed after him a little while, looking with a half fantastic curiosity to see whether the tender grass would not be blighted beneath him. She wondered what sort of herbs they were which the old man was so sedulous to gather. Would not the earth, quickened to an evil purpose by the sympathy of his eye, greet him with poisonous shrubs of species hitherto unknown? And whither was he now going? Would he not suddenly sink into the earth, leaving a blasted spot? Or would he spread bat’s wings and flee away? “Be it sin or no,” said Hester Prynne, bitterly, “I hate the man!” She upbraided herself for the sentiment, but could not overcome or lessen it. Attempting to do so, she thought of those days in a distant land, when he used to emerge from the seclusion of his study and sit down in the firelight of their home, 126 and in the light of her nuptial smile. Such scenes had once appeared happy, but now, viewed through the medium of her subsequent life, they classed themselves among her ugliest remembrances. She marvelled how such scenes could have been! How she could ever have been wrought upon to marry him! And it seemed a fouler offence than any which had since been done him, that, in the time when her heart knew no better, he had persuaded her to fancy herself happy by his side. “Yes, I hate him!” repeated Hester. “He betrayed me! He has done me worse wrong than I did him!” Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, as it was Roger Chillingworth’s, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality. But Hester ought long ago to have done with this injustice. Had seven long years, under the torture of the scarlet letter, inflicted so much of misery and wrought out no repentance? The emotion, while she stood gazing after old Roger Chillingworth, threw a dark light on Hester’s 127 one had never been expelled. As for little Pearl, the earnestness soon passed out of her face. But the child did not see fit to let the matter drop. As she went homeward, at supper-time, while Hester was putting her to bed, and once after she seemed to be fairly asleep, Pearl looked up, with mischief gleaming in her black eyes. “Mother,” said she, “what does the scarlet letter mean?” And the next morning, the first indication the child gave of being awake was by popping up her head from the pillow, and making that other enquiry, which she had so unaccountably connected with her investigations about the scarlet letter — “Mother! Why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?” “Hold thy tongue, naughty child!” answered her mother, with an asperity that she had never permitted to herself before. “Do not tease me; else I shall put thee into the dark closet!” XVI A Forest Walk Hester Prynne remained constant in her resolve to make known to Mr. Dimmesdale, at whatever 132 risk of pain or consequences, the true character of the man who had crept into his intimacy. For several days she vainly sought an opportunity of addressing him in some of the meditative walks. There would have been no scandal, indeed, had she visited him in his own study. But, partly that she dreaded the interference of old Roger Chillingworth, and partly that her conscious heart imparted suspicion where none could have been felt, and partly that both the minister and she would need the whole wide world to breathe in, while they talked together, Hester never thought of meeting him in any narrower privacy than beneath the open sky. At last, she learnt that he had gone, the day 1 before, to visit the Apostle Eliot , among his Indian converts. Therefore, the next day, Hester took little Pearl and set forth. The road was no other than a foot-path. It straggled onward into the mystery of the primeval forest. This hemmed it in so narrowly, and stood so black and dense on either side, and disclosed such imperfect glimpses of the sky above, that, to Hester’s mind, it imaged not amiss the moral wilderness in 1 Apostle Eliot — Джон Элиот (1604–1690), пуританский миссионер, проповедовавший среди индейцев Северной Америки 133 When her elf-child had departed, Hester Prynne made a step or two towards the track that led through the forest, but still remained under the deep shadow of the trees. She beheld the minister advancing along the path entirely alone, and leaning on a staff which he had cut by the wayside. He looked haggard and feeble, and betrayed a nerveless despondency in his air, which had never so remarkably characterised him, when he deemed himself liable to notice. Here it was wofully visible, in this intense seclusion of the forest. There was a listlessness in his gait, as if he saw no reason for taking one step further, but would have been glad to fling himself down at the root of the nearest tree, and lie there passive for evermore. To Hester’s eye, Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of vivacious suffering, except that, as Pearl had remarked, he kept his hand over his heart. XVII The Pastor and His Parishioner Slowly as the minister walked, he had almost gone by before Hester could gather voice to attract his observation. 138 “Arthur Dimmesdale!” she said, faintly at first, then louder, but hoarsely— “Arthur Dimmesdale!” “Who speaks?” answered the minister. Gathering himself quickly up, like a man taken by surprise in a mood to which he was reluctant to have witnesses. Throwing his eyes anxiously in the direction of the voice, he indistinctly beheld a form under the trees, so little relieved from the gray twilight that he knew not if it were a woman or a shadow. He made a step nigher, and discovered the scarlet letter. “Hester! Hester Prynne!», said he; “is it thou? Art thou in life?” “Even so,” she answered. “In such life as has been mine these seven years past! And thou, Arthur Dimmesdale, dost thou yet live?” It was no wonder that they thus questioned one another. So strangely did they meet in the dim wood that it was like the first encounter in the world beyond the grave of two spirits who had been intimately connected in their former life, but now stood shuddering in mutual dread, as not yet familiar with their state of disembodied beings. They were awe-stricken likewise at themselves, because the crisis revealed to each heart its history and experience, as life never does, except at such 139 “Thou shall not go alone!” answered she, in a deep whisper. Then, all was spoken! XVIII A Flood of Sunshine Arthur Dimmesdale gazed into Hester’s face with a look in which hope and joy shone out, but with fear and horror at her boldness, who had spoken what he vaguely hinted at, but dared not speak. Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period outlawed from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation foreign to the clergyman. She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness, as vast and shadowy as this untamed forest. For years past she had looked from this estranged point of view at human institutions, and whatever priests or legislators had established. The tendency of her fate had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where others dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss. The minister, on the other hand, had never gone through an experience calculated to lead 149 him beyond the scope of generally received laws; although, in a single instance, he had so fearfully transgressed one of the most sacred of them. But this had been a sin of passion. Since then, he had watched with morbid zeal, not only his acts, but each breath of emotion, and his every thought. At the head of the social system, as the clergymen of that day stood, he was only the more trammelled by its regulations. As a priest, the framework of his order inevitably hemmed him in. As a man who had once sinned, but who kept his conscience alive and painfully sensitive, he might have been supposed safer within the line of virtue than if he had never sinned at all. As regarded Hester Prynne, the whole seven years of outlaw had been a preparation for this hour. But Arthur Dimmesdale! Were such a man once more to fall, what plea could be urged in extenuation of his crime? None; unless it avail him somewhat; that his mind was darkened by the remorse; that, between fleeing as an avowed criminal, and remaining as a hypocrite, conscience might find it hard to strike the balance; that it was human to avoid the peril of death, infamy, and machinations of an enemy; that, finally, on his dreary and desert path, there appeared a glimpse 150 XIX The Child at the Brookside “Thou wilt love her dearly,” repeated Hester Prynne, as she and the minister sat watching little Pearl. “Dost thou not think her beautiful? See with what natural skill she has made those flowers adorn her! She is a splendid child! But I know whose brow she has!” “Dost thou know, Hester,” said Arthur Dimmesdale, with an unquiet smile, “that this dear child, tripping about always at thy side, hath caused me many an alarm? Methought — oh, what a thought is that, how terrible to dread it! — that my features were partly repeated in her face, and so strikingly that the world might see it! But she is mostly thine!” “No, no! Not mostly!” answered the mother, with a tender smile. “A little longer, and thou needest not to be afraid to trace whose child she is.” It was with a feeling which neither of them had ever before experienced, that they watched Pearl’s slow advance. In her was visible the tie that united them. She had been offered to the world these seven past years, in her was revealed the secret they so darkly sought to hide! And Pearl was the oneness of their being. Be the foregone evil what 156 it might, how could they doubt that their lives and future destinies were conjoined when they beheld at once the material union, and the spirit, in whom they met, and were to dwell immortally together; thoughts like these threw an awe about the child as she came onward. “Let her see nothing strange, no passion or eagerness, in thy way of accosting her,” whispered Hester. “Our Pearl is a fitful and fantastic little elf sometimes. Especially she is intolerant of emotion, when she does not fully comprehend the why and wherefore. But the child hath strong affections! She loves me, and will love thee!” “Thou canst not think,” said the minister, “how my heart dreads this interview, and yearns for it! But, in truth, as I told thee, children are not readily won to be familiar with me. Even little babes, when I take them in my arms, weep bitterly. Yet Pearl, twice in her little lifetime, hath been kind to me! The first time — thou knowest it well! The last was when thou ledst her with thee to the house of yonder stern old Governor.” “Thou didst plead so bravely in our behalf! I remember it; and so shall little Pearl!” By this time Pearl had reached the margin of the brook, and stood on the further side, gazing 157 they talked together and made arrangements as were suggested by their new position and the purposes to be fulfilled. And now this fateful interview had come to a close. The melancholy brook would add this tale to the mystery with which its heart was already overburdened, and whereof it still kept up a murmuring babble, with not a bit more cheerfulness of tone than heretofore. XX The Minister in a Maze As the minister departed, in advance of Hester Prynne and little Pearl, he threw a backward glance half expecting that he should discover only some faintly traced features or outline of the mother and the child, slowly fading into the twilight of the woods. So great a vicissitude in his life could not at once be received as real. But there was Hester, clad in her gray robe, still standing beside the treetrunk. And there was Pearl, too, lightly dancing from the margin of the brook — now that the intrusive third person was gone — taking her old place by her mother’s side. So the minister had not fallen asleep and dreamed! 164 In order to free his mind from this indistinctness and duplicity of impression he recalled and more thoroughly defined the plans which Hester and himself had sketched for their departure. It had been determined between them that the Old World, with its crowds and cities, offered them a more eligible shelter and concealment than the wilds of New England or all America, with its alternatives of an Indian wigwam, or the few settlements of Europeans scattered thinly along the sea-board. In furtherance of this choice, it so happened that a ship lay in the harbour; one of those unquestionable cruisers, frequent at that day, which, without being absolutely outlaws of the deep, yet roamed over its surface with a remarkable irresponsibility of character. This vessel had recently arrived from the Spanish Main, and within three days’ time would sail for Bristol. Hester Prynne — whose vocation, 1 as a self-enlisted Sister of Charity , had brought her acquainted with the captain and crew — could 1 Sister of Charity — сестры милосердия, представительницы женского общества, которое преследовало благотворительные цели. Они добровольно принимали обязанности медицинских сестер, помогали бедным, заключенным, воспитывали и обучали сирот и детей из бедных семей 165 “A good man’s prayers are golden recompense!” rejoined old Roger Chillingworth, as he took his leave. Left alone, the minister summoned a servant, and requested food, which he ate with ravenous appetite. Then flinging the already written pages of the Election Sermon into the fire, he forthwith began another. He wrote with such an impulsive flow of thought and emotion, that he fancied himself inspired; and only wondered that Heaven should see fit to transmit the grand and solemn music of its oracles through so foul an organ pipe as he. Thus the night fled away, and at last sunrise threw a golden beam into the study, and laid it right across the minister’s bedazzled eyes. There he was, with the pen still between his fingers, and a vast, immeasurable tract of written space behind him! XXI The New England Holiday Betimes in the morning of the day on which the new Governor was to receive his offi ce at the hands of the people, Hester Prynne and little Pearl came into the market-place. It was already thronged with 176 the craftsmen and other plebeian inhabitants of the town. On this public holiday, as on all other occasions for seven years past, Hester was clad in a garment of coarse gray cloth. Not more by its hue than by some indescribable peculiarity in its fashion, it had the effect of making her fade personally out of sight and outline; while again the scarlet letter brought her back from this twilight indistinctness, and revealed her under the moral aspect of its own illumination. Her face, so long familiar to the townspeople, showed the marble quietude which they were accustomed to behold there. It might be, on this one day, that there was an expression unseen before, nor, indeed, vivid enough to be detected now; some preternaturally gifted observer might have conceived, that, after sustaining the gaze of the multitude through several miserable years as a necessity, a penance, and something which it was a stern religion to endure, she now, for one last time more, encountered it freely and voluntarily, in order to convert what had so long been agony into a kind of triumph. “Look your last on the scarlet letter and its wearer! A few hours longer and the deep, mysterious ocean will quench and hide for ever the symbol which ye 177 XXII The Procession Before Hester Prynne could call together her thoughts, and consider what was practicable to be done in this new and startling aspect of affairs, the sound of military music was heard approaching along a contiguous street. It denoted the advance of the procession of magistrates and citizens on its way towards the meeting-house: where, in compliance with a custom thus early established, and ever since observed, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale was to deliver an Election Sermon. Soon the head of the procession showed itself, with a slow and stately march, making its way across the market-place. First came the music. It comprised a variety of instruments, perhaps imperfectly adapted to one another, and played with no great skill; but yet attaining the great object for which the harmony of drum and clarion addresses itself to the multitude — that of imparting a higher and more heroic air to the scene of life that passes before the eye. The shimmer of the sunshine on the weapons and bright armour of the military company followed after the music, and formed the honorary escort of the procession. This body of soldiery was composed of no mercenary 187 materials. Its ranks were filled with gentlemen who felt the stirrings of martial impulse, and sought to establish a kind of College of Arms, where, as in an association of Knights Templars 1 , they might learn the science, and, so far as peaceful exercise would teach them, the practices of war. And yet the men of civil eminence, who came immediately behind the military escort, were better worth a thoughtful observer’s eye. Even in outward demeanour they showed a stamp of majesty that made the warrior’s haughty stride look vulgar, if not absurd. It was an age when what we call talent had far less consideration than now, but the massive materials which produce stability and dignity of character a great deal more. In that old day the English settler on these rude shores — having left king, nobles, and all degrees of awful rank behind, while still the faculty and necessity of reverence was strong in him — bestowed it on the white hair and venerable brow of age — on long-tried integrity — on solid wisdom and sad-coloured experience — on endowments of that grave and weighty order which gave the idea of permanence, and comes 1 Knights Templars — тамплиеры, рыцари-храмовники, католический духовно-рыцарский орден, основанный в 1119 году Гуго де Пейном 188 Unscrupulous as it was, however, it could not bring them nearer than a circuit of several yards. At that distance they accordingly stood, fixed there by the centrifugal force of the repugnance which the mystic symbol inspired. At the final hour, when she was so soon to fling aside the burning letter, it had strangely become the centre of more remark and excitement, and was thus made to sear her breast more painfully, than at any time since the first day she put it on. While Hester stood in that magic circle of ignominy, where the cunning cruelty of her sentence seemed to have fixed her for ever, the admirable preacher was looking down from the sacred pulpit upon an audience whose very inmost spirits had yielded to his control. The sainted minister in the church! The woman of the scarlet letter in the marketplace! What imagination would have been irreverent enough to surmise that the same scorching stigma was on them both! XXIII The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter The eloquent voice, on which the souls of the listening audience had been borne aloft as on the 198 swelling waves of the sea, at length came to a pause. There was a momentary silence, profound as what should follow the utterance of oracles. In a moment more the crowd began to gush forth from the doors of the church. Now that there was an end, they needed more breath, more fit to support the gross and earthly life into which they relapsed, than that atmosphere which the preacher had converted into words of flame, and had burdened with the rich fragrance of his thought. In the open air their rapture broke into speech. The street and the market-place absolutely babbled, from side to side, with applauses of the minister. According to their united testimony, never had man spoken in so wise, so high, and so holy a spirit, as he that spake this day; nor had inspiration ever breathed through mortal lips more evidently than it did through his. His subject, it appeared, 1 had been the relation between the Deity and the communities of mankind, with a special reference to the New England which they were here planting in the wilderness. And, as he drew towards the close, a spirit as of prophecy had come upon him: it was his mission to foretell a high and glorious 1 the Deity — Бог, Божество 199 XXIV Conclusion After many days, when time suffi ced for the people to arrange their thoughts in reference to the foregoing scene, there was more than one account of what had been witnessed on the scaffold. Most of the spectators testified to having seen, on the breast of the unhappy minister, a SCARLET LETTER — the very semblance of that worn by Hester Prynne — imprinted in the flesh. As regarded its origin there were various explanations. Some affi rmed that the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, on the very day when Hester Prynne first wore her ignominious badge, had begun a course of penance by inflicting a hideous torture on himself. Others contended that old Roger Chillingworth, being a potent necromancer, had caused it to appear, through the agency of magic and poisonous drugs. Others, whispered their belief, that the awful symbol was the effect of the ever-active tooth of remorse, gnawing from the inmost heart outwardly, and at last manifesting Heaven’s dreadful judgment by the visible presence of the letter. It is singular, nevertheless, that certain persons, who were spectators of the whole scene, denied 210 that there was any mark whatever on his breast, more than on a new-born infant’s. Neither, by their report, had his dying words acknowledged, the slightest connexion with the guilt for which Hester Prynne had so long worn the scarlet letter. According to these highly respectable witnesses, the minister, conscious that he was dying, had desired, by yielding up his breath in the arms of that fallen woman, to express to the world how utterly nugatory is the choicest of man’s own righteousness. He had made the manner of his death a parable, in order to impress on his admirers the mighty and mournful lesson, that, in the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike. We must be allowed to consider this version of Mr. Dimmesdale’s story as only an instance of that stubborn fidelity with which a man’s friends will sometimes uphold his character, when proofs, clear as the mid-day sunshine on the scarlet letter, establish him a false and sin-stained creature of the dust. The authority which we have chiefly followed — a manuscript of old date, drawn up from the verbal testimony of individuals, some of whom had known Hester Prynne, while others had heard the tale from contemporary witnesses fully confirms the view taken in the foregoing pages. Among many morals which 211 Vocabulary A abasement унижение, упадок akin близкий, родной awry кривой; искажённый B balk препятствовать behoof польза, выгода benevolence благожелательность, доброжелательность богохульный, нечестивый blaze гореть ярким пламенем, сверкать, сиять boon дар, благо brethren собратья; братия brook ручеек C clad одетый clergyman священник cloister уединение consecration одобрение (законом, традициями), освящение искривление, выгибание creed вера, вероисповедание culprit обвиняемый; подсудимый D dauntless бесстрашный delusive обманчивый, иллюзорный, нереальный 218 demeanour поведение, манера вести себя denizen обитатель, житель despondency отчаяние, уныние, упадок духа discourse речь, проповедь draught лекарство (жидкое), глоток E eloquence красноречие; ораторское искусство emaciated изнуренный embroidery вышивка endeavour пытаться, прилагать усилия, стараться escutcheon геральдический щит exhortation призыв, проповедь, наставление F farthingale юбка с фижмами fast пост, голодание feign притворяться, делать вид fiend дьявол, демон firmament небесный свод forlorn несчастный, одинокий, покинутый frailty слабость, порок frantic безумный, неистовый, яростный furnace топка, горн G garb наряд, одеяние germ росток gibberish тарабарщина grovel лежать ниц, ползать, пресмыкаться 219