"Something that would make me weep, if there were any tears
bitter enough for it," answered she. "But let it pass! It is of
yonder miserable man that I would speak."
"And what of him?" cried Roger Chillingworth, eagerly, as if he
loved the topic, and were glad of an opportunity to discuss it
with the only person of whom he could make a confidant. "Not to
hide the truth, Mistress Hester, my thoughts happen just now to
be busy with the gentleman. So speak freely and I will make
"When we last spake together," said Hester, "now seven years
ago, it was your pleasure to extort a promise of secrecy as
touching the former relation betwixt yourself and me. As the
life and good fame of yonder man were in your hands there seemed
no choice to me, save to be silent in accordance with your
behest. Yet it was not without heavy misgivings that I thus
bound myself, for, having cast off all duty towards other human
beings, there remained a duty towards him, and something
whispered me that I was betraying it in pledging myself to keep
your counsel. Since that day no man is so near to him as you.
You tread behind his every footstep. You are beside him,
sleeping and waking. You search his thoughts. You burrow and
rankle in his heart! Your clutch is on his life, and you cause
him to die daily a living death, and still he knows you not. In
permitting this I have surely acted a false part by the only man
to whom the power was left me to be true!"