At the moment when the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale thus communed
with himself, and struck his forehead with his hand, old
Mistress Hibbins, the reputed witch-lady, is said to have been
passing by. She made a very grand appearance, having on a high
head-dress, a rich gown of velvet, and a ruff done up with the
famous yellow starch, of which Anne Turner, her especial friend,
had taught her the secret, before this last good lady had been
hanged for Sir Thomas Overbury's murder. Whether the witch had
read the minister's thoughts or no, she came to a full stop,
looked shrewdly into his face, smiled craftily, and--though
little given to converse with clergymen--began a conversation.
"So, reverend sir, you have made a visit into the forest,"
observed the witch-lady, nodding her high head-dress at him.
"The next time I pray you to allow me only a fair warning, and I
shall be proud to bear you company. Without taking overmuch upon
myself my good word will go far towards gaining any strange
gentleman a fair reception from yonder potentate you wot of."