"It cannot be!" answered the minister, listening as if he were
called upon to realise a dream. "I am powerless to go. Wretched
and sinful as I am, I have had no other thought than to drag on
my earthly existence in the sphere where Providence hath placed
me. Lost as my own soul is, I would still do what I may for
other human souls! I dare not quit my post, though an unfaithful
sentinel, whose sure reward is death and dishonour, when his
dreary watch shall come to an end!"
"Thou art crushed under this seven years' weight of misery,"
replied Hester, fervently resolved to buoy him up with her own
energy. "But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! It shall not
cumber thy steps, as thou treadest along the forest-path:
neither shalt thou freight the ship with it, if thou prefer to
cross the sea. Leave this wreck and ruin here where it hath
happened. Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou
exhausted possibility in the failure of this one trial? Not so!
The future is yet full of trial and success. There is happiness
to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Exchange this false
life of thine for a true one. Be, if thy spirit summon thee to
such a mission, the teacher and apostle of the red men. Or, as
is more thy nature, be a scholar and a sage among the wisest and
the most renowned of the cultivated world. Preach! Write! Act!
Do anything, save to lie down and die! Give up this name of
Arthur Dimmesdale, and make thyself another, and a high one,
such as thou canst wear without fear or shame. Why shouldst thou
tarry so much as one other day in the torments that have so
gnawed into thy life? that have made thee feeble to will and to
do? that will leave thee powerless even to repent? Up, and