The road, after the two wayfarers had crossed from the Peninsula
to the mainland, was no other than a foot-path. It straggled
onward into the mystery of the primeval forest. This hemmed it
in so narrowly, and stood so black and dense on either side, and
disclosed such imperfect glimpses of the sky above, that, to
Hester's mind, it imaged not amiss the moral wilderness in which
she had so long been wandering. The day was chill and sombre.
Overhead was a gray expanse of cloud, slightly stirred, however,
by a breeze; so that a gleam of flickering sunshine might now
and then be seen at its solitary play along the path. This
flitting cheerfulness was always at the further extremity of
some long vista through the forest. The sportive
sunlight--feebly sportive, at best, in the predominant
pensiveness of the day and scene--withdrew itself as they came
nigh, and left the spots where it had danced the drearier,
because they had hoped to find them bright.
"Mother," said little Pearl, "the sunshine does not love you.
It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something
on your bosom. Now, see! There it is, playing a good way off.
Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child.
It will not flee from me--for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!"
"Nor ever will, my child, I hope," said Hester.
"And why not, mother?" asked Pearl, stopping short, just at the
beginning of her race. "Will not it come of its own accord when
I am a woman grown?"
"Run away, child," answered her mother, "and catch the sunshine.
It will soon be gone."