The Scarlet Letter (Chapter 8, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 8

Governor Bellingham, in a loose gown and easy cap--such as
elderly gentlemen loved to endue themselves with, in their
domestic privacy--walked foremost, and appeared to be showing
off his estate, and expatiating on his projected improvements.
The wide circumference of an elaborate ruff, beneath his grey
beard, in the antiquated fashion of King James's reign, caused
his head to look not a little like that of John the Baptist in a
charger. The impression made by his aspect, so rigid and severe,
and frost-bitten with more than autumnal age, was hardly in
keeping with the appliances of worldly enjoyment wherewith he
had evidently done his utmost to surround himself. But it is an
error to suppose that our great forefathers--though accustomed
to speak and think of human existence as a state merely of trial
and warfare, and though unfeignedly prepared to sacrifice goods
and life at the behest of duty--made it a matter of conscience
to reject such means of comfort, or even luxury, as lay fairly
within their grasp.

This creed was never taught, for instance,
by the venerable pastor, John Wilson, whose beard, white as a
snow-drift, was seen over Governor Bellingham's shoulders, while
its wearer suggested that pears and peaches might yet be
naturalised in the New England climate, and that purple grapes
might possibly be compelled to flourish against the sunny
garden-wall. The old clergyman, nurtured at the rich bosom of
the English Church, had a long established and legitimate taste
for all good and comfortable things, and however stern he might
show himself in the pulpit, or in his public reproof of such
transgressions as that of Hester Prynne, still, the genial
benevolence of his private life had won him warmer affection
than was accorded to any of his professional contemporaries.

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