Reading Books on PopNovel APP

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Author:The Scarlet Letter


It is a little remarkable, that—though disinclined to talk overmuch of myself and my affairs at the fireside, and to my personal friends—an autobiographical impulse should twice in my life have taken possession of me, in addressing the public. The first time was three or four years since, when I favored the reader—inexcusably, and for no earthly reason, that either the indulgent reader or the intrusive author could imagine—with a description of my way of life in the deep quietude of an Old Manse. And now—because, beyond my deserts, I was happy enough to find a listener or two on the former occasion—I again seize the public by the button, and talk of my three years' experience in a Custom-House. The[2] example of the famous “P. P., Clerk of this Parish,” was never more faithfully followed. The truth seems to be, however, that, when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him, better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates.
Show All▼

  A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray,

  steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and

  others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the

  door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron


  The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and

  happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it

  among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the

  virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a

  prison. In accordance with this rule, it may safely be assumed that

  the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere

  in the vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out

  the first burial-ground, on Isaac Johnson's lot, and round about his

  grave, which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated

  sepulchres in the old churchyard of King's Chapel. Certain it is,

  that, some fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of the town,

  the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other

  indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its

  beetle-browed and gloomy front. The rust on the ponderous iron-work of

  its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New

  World. Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known

  a youthful era. Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the

  wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with

  burdock, pigweed, apple-peru, and such unsightly vegetation, which

  evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early

  borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison. But on one side

  of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild

  rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems,

  which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to

  the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came

  forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity

  and be kind to him.

  This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history;

  but whether it had merely survived out of the stern old wilderness, so

  long after the fall of the gigantic pines and oaks that originally

  overshadowed it,—or whether, as there is fair authority for

  believing, it had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann

  Hutchinson, as she entered the prison-door,—we shall not take upon us

  to determine. Finding it so directly on the threshold of our

  narrative, which is now about to issue from that inauspicious portal,

  we could hardly do otherwise than pluck one of its flowers, and

  present it to the reader. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some

  sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the

  darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.