“Thou wilt go!” said Hester calmly, as he met her glance. “You will go!” said Hester calmly, as he looked her in the eyes.
The decision once made, a glow of strange enjoyment threw its flickering brightness over the trouble of his breast. It was the exhilarating effect—upon a prisoner just escaped from the dungeon of his own heart—of breathing the wild, free atmosphere of an unredeemed, unchristianized, lawless region. His spirit rose, as it were, with a bound, and attained a nearer prospect of the sky, than throughout all the misery which had kept him grovelling on the earth. Of a deeply religious temperament, there was inevitably a tinge of the devotional in his mood. Now that the decision was made, a strange glow of pleasure entered his heart. It was the thrill of breathing the wild, free air of a region without God or rules. He felt like a prisoner escaped from a dungeon. His spirit leaped up and came nearer to the sky than it had in all the years that his miserable guilt had kept him groveling on the earth. His temperament was deeply religious, and so there was an inevitable trace (but only a trace) of religious devotion in his mood.
“Do I feel joy again?” cried he, wondering at himself. “Methought the germ of it was dead in me! O Hester, thou art my better angel! I seem to have flung myself—sick, sin-stained, and sorrow-blackened—down upon these forest-leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful! This is already the better life! Why did we not find it sooner?” “Is this joy I feel once again?” he cried, amazed at himself. “I thought that there was no joy left in me! Oh, Hester, you are my better angel! I have thrown myself—sick, sinful, and miserable—down on these forest leaves, and I have been made new, with no powers to glorify God, who has been merciful! I have already reached a better life! Why didn’t we find it sooner?”
“Let us not look back,” answered Hester Prynne. “The past is gone! Wherefore should we linger upon it now? See! With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!” “Let’s not look back now,” answered Hester Prynne. “The past is gone! Why should we linger over it now? Look. With this symbol I undo everything and make it as though it had never been!”
So speaking, she undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and, taking it from her bosom, threw it to a distance among the withered leaves. The mystic token alighted on the hither verge of the stream. With a hand’s breadth farther flight it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook another woe to carry onward, besides the unintelligible tale which it still kept murmuring about. But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel, which some ill-fated wanderer might pick up, and thenceforth be haunted by strange phantoms of guilt, sinkings of the heart, and unaccountable misfortune. Saying this, she undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter. Taking it from her breast, she threw it among the withered leaves. The mystic symbol landed on the near bank of the stream. Had it flown a little farther, it would have fallen into the water and given the little brook another woe to carry onward. But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel for some cursed wanderer to pick up. That ill-fated person might then be haunted by strange, guilty spirits; sad emotions; and inexplicable misfortune.
The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom! By another impulse, she took off the formal cap that confined her hair; and down it fell upon her shoulders, dark and rich, with at once a shadow and a light in its abundance, and imparting the charm of softness to her features. There played around her mouth, and beamed out of her eyes, a radiant and tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very heart of womanhood. A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been long so pale. Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back from what men call the irrevocable past, and clustered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before unknown, within the magic circle of this hour. And, as if the gloom of the earth and sky had been but the effluence of these two mortal hearts, it vanished with their sorrow. All at once, as with a sudden smile of Heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the solemn trees. The objects that had made a shadow hitherto, embodied the brightness now. The course of the little brook might be traced by its merry gleam afar into the wood’s heart of mystery, which had become a mystery of joy.