"Is the world, then, so narrow?" exclaimed Hester Prynne, fixing
her deep eyes on the minister's, and instinctively exercising a
magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued that it
could hardly hold itself erect. "Doth the universe lie within
the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but
a leaf-strewn desert, as lonely as this around us? Whither leads
yonder forest-track? Backward to the settlement, thou sayest!
Yes; but, onward, too! Deeper it goes, and deeper into the
wilderness, less plainly to be seen at every step; until some
few miles hence the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the
white man's tread. There thou art free! So brief a journey would
bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to
one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough
in all this boundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of
"Yes, Hester; but only under the fallen leaves!" replied the
minister, with a sad smile.
"Then there is the broad pathway of the sea!" continued Hester.
"It brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee
back again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural
village, or in vast London--or, surely, in Germany, in France,
in pleasant Italy--thou wouldst be beyond his power and
knowledge! And what hast thou to do with all these iron men, and
their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too