"Wherefore dost thou desire it?" inquired Hester, shrinking, she
hardly knew why, from this secret bond. "Why not announce
thyself openly, and cast me off at once?"
"It may be," he replied, "because I will not encounter the
dishonour that besmirches the husband of a faithless woman. It
may be for other reasons. Enough, it is my purpose to live and
die unknown. Let, therefore, thy husband be to the world as one
already dead, and of whom no tidings shall ever come. Recognise
me not, by word, by sign, by look! Breathe not the secret, above
all, to the man thou wottest of. Shouldst thou fail me in this,
beware! His fame, his position, his life will be in my hands.
"I will keep thy secret, as I have his," said Hester.
"Swear it!" rejoined he.
And she took the oath.
"And now, Mistress Prynne," said old Roger Chillingworth, as he
was hereafter to be named, "I leave thee alone: alone with thy
infant and the scarlet letter! How is it, Hester? Doth thy
sentence bind thee to wear the token in thy sleep? Art thou not
afraid of nightmares and hideous dreams?"