"I might have known it," murmured he--"I did know it! Was not
the secret told me, in the natural recoil of my heart at the
first sight of him, and as often as I have seen him since? Why
did I not understand? Oh, Hester Prynne, thou little, little
knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame!--the
indelicacy!--the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick
and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it!
Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this!--I cannot forgive
"Thou shalt forgive me!" cried Hester, flinging herself on the
fallen leaves beside him. "Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!"
With sudden and desperate tenderness she threw her arms around
him, and pressed his head against her bosom, little caring
though his cheek rested on the scarlet letter. He would have
released himself, but strove in vain to do so. Hester would not
set him free, lest he should look her sternly in the face. All
the world had frowned on her--for seven long years had it
frowned upon this lonely woman--and still she bore it all, nor
ever once turned away her firm, sad eyes. Heaven, likewise, had
frowned upon her, and she had not died. But the frown of this
pale, weak, sinful, and sorrow-stricken man was what Hester
could not bear, and live!
"Wilt thou yet forgive me?" she repeated, over and over again.
"Wilt thou not frown? Wilt thou forgive?"