The Scarlet Letter (Chapter 7, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 7

Hester Prynne went one day to the mansion of Governor
Bellingham, with a pair of gloves which she had fringed and
embroidered to his order, and which were to be worn on some
great occasion of state; for, though the chances of a popular
election had caused this former ruler to descend a step or two
from the highest rank, he still held an honourable and
influential place among the colonial magistracy.

Another and far more important reason than the delivery of a
pair of embroidered gloves, impelled Hester, at this time, to
seek an interview with a personage of so much power and activity
in the affairs of the settlement. It had reached her ears that
there was a design on the part of some of the leading
inhabitants, cherishing the more rigid order of principles in
religion and government, to deprive her of her child. On the
supposition that Pearl, as already hinted, was of demon origin,
these good people not unreasonably argued that a Christian
interest in the mother's soul required them to remove such a
stumbling-block from her path. If the child, on the other hand,
were really capable of moral and religious growth, and possessed
the elements of ultimate salvation, then, surely, it would enjoy
all the fairer prospect of these advantages by being transferred
to wiser and better guardianship than Hester Prynne's.

Among those who promoted the design, Governor Bellingham was said to
be one of the most busy. It may appear singular, and, indeed,
not a little ludicrous, that an affair of this kind, which in
later days would have been referred to no higher jurisdiction
than that of the select men of the town, should then have been a
question publicly discussed, and on which statesmen of eminence
took sides. At that epoch of pristine simplicity, however,
matters of even slighter public interest, and of far less
intrinsic weight than the welfare of Hester and her child, were
strangely mixed up with the deliberations of legislators and
acts of state. The period was hardly, if at all, earlier than
that of our story, when a dispute concerning the right of
property in a pig not only caused a fierce and bitter contest in
the legislative body of the colony, but resulted in an important
modification of the framework itself of the legislature.

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