At last, while tending to a sick man whom Mr. Dimmesdale had recently visited and prayed over, she learned that Mr. Dimmedale had just gone to visit the Apostle Eliot among his Indian converts. He would probably return by a certain hour in the afternoon on the next day. So at the proper time, Hester set out with little Pearl, who had to come on all of her mother’s expeditions, whether convenient or not.
After Hester and Pearl had walked some way, the road became a mere footpath straggling on into the mysterious forest, which hemmed it in on all sides. The forest was so black and dense, admitting so little light, that it seemed to Hester to represent the moral wilderness in which she had been wandering. The day was cold and grim. Gray clouds hung overhead, stirred occasionally by a breeze. Flickering sunshine played now and then along the path, though this cheerfulness was always at the very edge of sight, never close by. The playful sunlight would retreat as they approached, leaving the spots where it had danced that much drearier, because they had hoped to find them bright
“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself because it is afraid of something on your chest. See! There it is, playing in the distance. Stay here and let me run and catch it. I am only a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my chest yet!” “And never shall, my child, I hope,” said Hester. “And why not, mother?” asked Pearl, stopping short just as she began to run off. “Won’t that come of its own accord when I am grown into a woman?” “Run away, child,” her mother answered, “and catch the sunshine. It will soon be gone.” Pearl set off at a great pace. Hester smiled to see that she did actually catch the sunshine and stood laughing in the midst of it, brightened by its splendor and glowing with the liveliness of rapid motion. The light lingered around the lonely child as if glad to have such a playmate. Her mother drew almost close enough to step into the magic circle too. “It will go now,” said Pearl, shaking her head. “See!” replied Hester, smiling, “now I can stretch out my hand and touch some of it.”
As she tried to do so, the sunshine vanished. To judge from the bright expression that played across Pearl’s face, her mother could have thought that the child had absorbed the sunlight into herself. Perhaps Pearl would send it forth again, to throw a gleam along her path as they plunged into the gloomy shade. No other trait drove home to Hester the vigor of Pearl’s nature as much as the never-failing liveliness of her spirits. She did not have the disease of sadness that almost all children in these fallen days inherit from the their ancestors, along with the usual maladies. Perhaps this lack was itself a disease, the result of the wild energy with which Hester had fought against her sorrows before Pearl’s birth. It was a dubious…