The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the
burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. O
exquisite relief! She had not known the weight until she felt
the freedom! By another impulse, she took off the formal cap
that confined her hair, and down it fell upon her shoulders,
dark and rich, with at once a shadow and a light in its
abundance, and imparting the charm of softness to her features.
There played around her mouth, and beamed out of her eyes, a
radiant and tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very
heart of womanhood. A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek,
that had been long so pale. Her sex, her youth, and the whole
richness of her beauty, came back from what men call the
irrevocable past, and clustered themselves with her maiden hope,
and a happiness before unknown, within the magic circle of this
hour. And, as if the gloom of the earth and sky had been but the
effluence of these two mortal hearts, it vanished with their
sorrow. All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth
burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure
forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow
fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the
solemn trees. The objects that had made a shadow hitherto,
embodied the brightness now. The course of the little brook
might be traced by its merry gleam afar into the wood's heart of
mystery, which had become a mystery of joy.
Such was the sympathy of Nature--that wild, heathen Nature of
the forest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by
higher truth--with the bliss of these two spirits! Love, whether
newly-born, or aroused from a death-like slumber, must always
create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that
it overflows upon the outward world. Had the forest still kept
its gloom, it would have been bright in Hester's eyes, and
bright in Arthur Dimmesdale's!
Hester looked at him with a thrill of another joy.