"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. What think ye, gossips? 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."
"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--that is a truth," added a third autumnal matron. "At
the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on
Hester Prynne's forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at
that, I warrant me. But she--the naughty baggage--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."