Pearl's inevitable tendency to hover about the enigma of the
scarlet letter seemed an innate quality of her being. From the
earliest epoch of her conscious life, she had entered upon this
as her appointed mission. Hester had often fancied that
Providence had a design of justice and retribution, in endowing
the child with this marked propensity; but never, until now, had
she bethought herself to ask, whether, linked with that design,
there might not likewise be a purpose of mercy and beneficence.
If little Pearl were entertained with faith and trust, as a
spirit messenger no less than an earthly child, might it not be
her errand to soothe away the sorrow that lay cold in her
mother's heart, and converted it into a tomb?--and to help her
to overcome the passion, once so wild, and even yet neither dead
nor asleep, but only imprisoned within the same tomb-like heart?
Such were some of the thoughts that now stirred in Hester's
mind, with as much vivacity of impression as if they had
actually been whispered into her ear. And there was little
Pearl, all this while, holding her mother's hand in both her
own, and turning her face upward, while she put these searching
questions, once and again, and still a third time.
"What does the letter mean, mother? and why dost thou wear it?
and why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?"
"What shall I say?" thought Hester to herself. "No! if this be
the price of the child's sympathy, I cannot pay it."