"Yea, woman, thou sayest truly!" cried old Roger Chillingworth,
letting the lurid fire of his heart blaze out before her eyes.
"Better he had died at once! Never did mortal suffer what this
man has suffered. And all, all, in the sight of his worst enemy!
He has been conscious of me. He has felt an influence dwelling
always upon him like a curse. He knew, by some spiritual
sense--for the Creator never made another being so sensitive as
this--he knew that no friendly hand was pulling at his
heartstrings, and that an eye was looking curiously into him,
which sought only evil, and found it. But he knew not that the
eye and hand were mine! With the superstition common to his
brotherhood, he fancied himself given over to a fiend, to be
tortured with frightful dreams and desperate thoughts, the sting
of remorse and despair of pardon, as a foretaste of what awaits
him beyond the grave. But it was the constant shadow of my
presence, the closest propinquity of the man whom he had most
vilely wronged, and who had grown to exist only by this
perpetual poison of the direst revenge! Yea, indeed, he did not
err, there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a
human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment."
The unfortunate physician, while uttering these words, lifted
his hands with a look of horror, as if he had beheld some
frightful shape, which he could not recognise, usurping the
place of his own image in a glass. It was one of those
moments--which sometimes occur only at the interval of
years--when a man's moral aspect is faithfully revealed to his
mind's eye. Not improbably he had never before viewed himself as
he did now.
"Hast thou not tortured him enough?" said Hester, noticing the
old man's look. "Has he not paid thee all?"