Before the minister had time to celebrate his victory over this
last temptation, he was conscious of another impulse, more
ludicrous, and almost as horrible. It was--we blush to tell
it--it was to stop short in the road, and teach some very wicked
words to a knot of little Puritan children who were playing
there, and had but just begun to talk. Denying himself this
freak, as unworthy of his cloth, he met a drunken seaman, one of
the ship's crew from the Spanish Main. And here, since he had so
valiantly forborne all other wickedness, poor Mr. Dimmesdale
longed at least to shake hands with the tarry black-guard, and
recreate himself with a few improper jests, such as dissolute
sailors so abound with, and a volley of good, round, solid,
satisfactory, and heaven-defying oaths! It was not so much a
better principle, as partly his natural good taste, and still
more his buckramed habit of clerical decorum, that carried him
safely through the latter crisis.
"What is it that haunts and tempts me thus?" cried the minister
to himself, at length, pausing in the street, and striking his
hand against his forehead.
"Am I mad? or am I given over utterly to the fiend? Did I make
a contract with him in the forest, and sign it with my blood?
And does he now summon me to its fulfilment, by suggesting the
performance of every wickedness which his most foul imagination