The infant, during the latter portion of her ordeal, pierced the air with its wailings and screams; she strove to hush it mechanically, but seemed scarcely to sympathize with its trouble. With the same hard demeanor, she was led back to prison, and vanished from 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.
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If tone means a general attitude that pervades the passage, then this one might best be described as 'solemn.' There is a sense in which "the infant's" response to and from the prison and the scarlet letter incites an attitude of genuine seriousness and even fear. This fits well with the Puritanism which supplies the formative content of so much of the book.