The Scarlet Letter (Chapter 4, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 4

After her return to the prison, Hester Prynne was found to be in
a state of nervous excitement, that demanded constant
watchfulness, lest she should perpetrate violence on herself, or
do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe. As night
approached, it proving impossible to quell her insubordination
by rebuke or threats of punishment, Master Brackett, the jailer,
thought fit to introduce a physician. He described him as a man
of skill in all Christian modes of physical science, and
likewise familiar with whatever the savage people could teach in
respect to medicinal herbs and roots that grew in the forest. To
say the truth, there was much need of professional assistance,
not merely for Hester herself, but still more urgently for the
child--who, drawing its sustenance from the maternal bosom,
seemed to have drank in with it all the turmoil, the anguish and
despair, which pervaded the mother's system. It now writhed in
convulsions of pain, and was a forcible type, in its little
frame, of the moral agony which Hester Prynne had borne
throughout the day.

Closely following the jailer into the dismal apartment, appeared
that individual, of singular aspect whose presence in the crowd
had been of such deep interest to the wearer of the scarlet
letter. He was lodged in the prison, not as suspected of any
offence, but as the most convenient and suitable mode of
disposing of him, until the magistrates should have conferred
with the Indian sagamores respecting his ransom. His name was
announced as Roger Chillingworth. The jailer, after ushering him
into the room, remained a moment, marvelling at the comparative
quiet that followed his entrance; for Hester Prynne had
immediately become as still as death, although the child
continued to moan.

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