"I do forgive you, Hester," replied the minister at length, with
a deep utterance, out of an abyss of sadness, but no anger. "I
freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both. We are not,
Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than
even the polluted priest! That old man's revenge has been
blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the
sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!"
"Never, never!" whispered she. "What we did had a consecration
of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other. Hast thou
"Hush, Hester!" said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the ground.
"No; I have not forgotten!"
They sat down again, side by side, and hand clasped in hand, on
the mossy trunk of the fallen tree. Life had never brought them
a gloomier hour; it was the point whither their pathway had so
long been tending, and darkening ever, as it stole along--and
yet it unclosed a charm that made them linger upon it, and claim
another, and another, and, after all, another moment. The forest
was obscure around them, and creaked with a blast that was
passing through it. The boughs were tossing heavily above their
heads; while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another,
as if telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath, or
constrained to forbode evil to come.