"Thou knowest," said Hester--for, depressed as she was, she
could not endure this last quiet stab at the token of her
shame--"thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love,
nor feigned any."
"True," replied he. "It was my folly! I have said it. But, up
to that epoch of my life, I had lived in vain. The world had
been so cheerless! My heart was a habitation large enough for
many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household fire.
I longed to kindle one! It seemed not so wild a dream--old as I
was, and sombre as I was, and misshapen as I was--that the
simple bliss, which is scattered far and wide, for all mankind
to gather up, might yet be mine. And so, Hester, I drew thee
into my heart, into its innermost chamber, and sought to warm
thee by the warmth which thy presence made there!"
"I have greatly wronged thee," murmured Hester.