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, and to whom external matters are of little value and
import, unless they bear relation to something within his mind.
Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. A
writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake
gliding swiftly over them, and making one little pause, with all
its wreathed intervolutions in open sight. His face darkened
with some powerful emotion, which, nevertheless, he so
instantaneously controlled by an effort of his will, that, save
at a single moment, its expression might have passed for
calmness. After a brief space, the convulsion grew almost
imperceptible, and finally subsided into the depths of his
nature. When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his
own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and
calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and
laid it on his lips.
Then touching the shoulder of a townsman who stood near to him,
he addressed him in a formal and courteous manner:
"I pray you, good Sir," said he, "who is this woman?--and
wherefore is she here set up to public shame?"
"You must needs be a stranger in this region, friend," answered
the townsman, looking curiously at the questioner and his savage
companion, "else you would surely have heard of Mistress Hester
Prynne and her evil doings. She hath raised a great scandal, I
promise you, in godly Master Dimmesdale's church."