Stage 4 (Sage): The Scarlet letter, chapter 7



Old Roger Chillingworth had always been an upright (1) man. He had begun his investigation with a judge’s integrity (2), desiring only the truth. But, as he proceeded, his eyes grew ominous (3) and dark.

He transformed into a thief. Entering a chamber where a man lies, half­asleep, he aimed to steal the man’s treasure.

But the floor would creak, Mr. Dimmesdale aware of a disturbance. Yet Roger Chillingworth, intuitive (4) and perceptive, would be prepared appearing always as the clergyman’s kind friend.

Thus, they maintained a familiar relationship.

One day, the clergyman was looking out a window into the graveyard conversing with the old man, who was examining a bundle of plants.

“I found these,” Roger Chillingworth answered upon inquiry, “…on a grave. Perchance they grew out of the man’s heart and typify (5) some hideous secret buried with him, one which he should have confessed when in life.”

“Perhaps,” said Mr. Dimmesdale, “he desired to but could not. The heart must hold certain secrets until that last day; only then will the hearts holding such miserable secrets yield (6) them with joy.”

“If with joy, why should they not reveal their secrets here?”

“Most do,” said the clergyman, grasping at his breast as if with an importunate (7) throb of pain. “Many have confessed to me, not only on the deathbed, but while strong in life. And, oh, what a relief I witnessed in those sinful brethren (8)!”

“Yet some men bury their secrets,” observed the calm physician.

“True. But, perhaps guilty as they may be, they shrink (9) from displaying themselves filthy; because thenceforward, they can do no good. Thus, they go about looking pure despite their hearts being stained with iniquity (10).”

“These men deceive themselves,” said Roger Chillingworth, with more emphasis than usual. “They fear to take up the shame that rightfully belongs to them!”

“Perhaps. But now I would ask my physician whether he deems me to have profited by his care?” He had a habit of avoiding any topic which agitated (11) him.

Before Roger Chillingworth could answer, they heard the wild laughter of a young child. Looking from the window, the minister beheld Hester and little Pearl passing along. Pearl skipped irreverently (12) until she came upon a respected man’s tombstone, upon which she began to dance.

In response to her mother’s request that she would behave more decorously (13), little Pearl paused to gather burrs (14) from a bush. Taking a handful, she arranged them along the scarlet letter upon Hester’s bosom. Hester did not pluck them off.

Roger Chillingworth approached the window and smiled grimly. “There is no respect for authority in that child. Is the imp altogether evil?”

“Whether capable of good, I know not,” answered Mr. Dimmesdale, quietly, as if he had been pondering (15) the question himself.

The child, perhaps overhearing their voices, looked up with a naughty smile. She threw a burr at the sensitive minister who immediately shrank. Pearl clapped her hands in joy.

Hester had looked up and all four regarded one another in silence. Then, the child laughed and shouted—“Come away, mother! Come away, or the old black man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. But he cannot catch little Pearl!”

And so she drew her mother away, dancing among the dead.

“There goes a woman,” resumed Roger Chillingworth, after a pause, “who, despite her demerits (16), has no hidden sinfulness which you deem so grievous to be borne. Think you, is Hester Prynne the less miserable for that scarlet letter on her breast?”

“I do believe it,” answered the clergyman. “Despite a pain in her face, it must be better for the sufferer to show his pain than to cover it up in his heart.”

After another pause: “You inquired of me, a little time ago,” said Roger Chillingworth. “­my judgment regarding your health. Quite plainly,” said the physician, busy with his plants yet keeping a wary eye on Mr. Dimmesdale, “­the disease is what I seem to know yet not know.”

“You speak in riddles, sir,” said the pale minister.

“Then to speak more plainly,” continued the physician, “let me ask as your friend, as one having charge of your well­being, hath all the symptoms of this disorder been recounted (17) to me?”

“How can you question it?” asked the minister.

“Then I know all? Be it so! For a bodily disease may be brought about by some hidden ailment in the spiritual part.”

“I need ask no further,” said the clergyman, hastily rising. “You deal not in medicine for the soul!”

“A sickness,” continued Roger Chillingworth despite the interruption, standing up and confronting the pale minister, ”­in your spirit hath manifested itself in your body. How can your physician heal the bodily evil unless you first lay open to him the wound in your soul?”

“No, not to thee!” cried Mr. Dimmesdale passionately, suddenly looking fiercely at his companion. “If it be a disease of the soul, there is but one Physician! Who art thou to come between the sufferer and his God?”

And with that, he rushed from the room.

“See now,” said Roger Chillingworth, with a grave smile, “­how quickly passion takes hold of him! As with one passion, so with another. He hath done a wild thing, this pious (18) Master Dimmesdale, in the hot passion of his heart.”


It proved not difficult to re–establish the intimacy of the two companions. After a few hours, the young clergyman became sensible that his nerves had hurried him into an unwarranted (19) temper. He marvelled at the violence with which he had thrust back the kind old man, who had merely offered the advice the minister had sought.

He lost no time in making apologies and besought his friend to continue his care.

Roger Chillingworth readily assented and went on with his medical supervision. But, he always quitted his patient’s apartment with a mysterious smile. This expression was invisible in Mr. Dimmesdale’s presence but grew evident as the physician crossed the threshold.

Not long after this scene did the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale fall into an unusually deep slumber.

He did not stir when Roger Chillingworth, without any extraordinary precaution, came into the room. The physician stood in front of his patient, laid his hand upon his bosom, and thrust aside the vest.

After a brief pause, the physician turned away.

But with what a wild look of wonder, joy, and honor! He threw up his arms and stamped his foot, dancing! Had a man seen Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would see how Satan behaves when a soul enters his kingdom.

But what distinguished (20) the physician’s ecstasy from Satan’s was the trait of wonder in it!




1/upright(adj): moral; respectable
2/integrity(n): the state of being principled and of high moral character
3/ominous(adj): threatening; unfavorable
4/intuitive(adj): describes a type of reasoning that is instinctive rather than one that requires much pondering upon
5/typify(v): to indicate; to characterize; to be an example of
6/yield(v): to give something up; to give way (to pressure)
7/importunate(adj): persistent to the point of being intrusive and unwanted
8/brethren(n): brothers (of a Christian community)
9/shrink(v): to refrain from a responsibility
10/iniquity(n): immorality; sinfulness

11/agitate(v): to unsettle; to make somebody nervous
12/irreverently(adv): without respect for something that most people take seriously 13/decorously(adv): politely; describing a behavior of good manners
14/burr(n): a rough, spiny fruit that grows on a burdock
15/ponder(v): to think long and hard about something; to contemplate 16/demerit(n): a mark that notes an individual’s offenses and faults
17/recount(v): to tell; to relate an event or experience to another
18/pious(adj): religious; godly; spiritual
19/unwarranted(adj): something that isn’t or cannot be justified; unreasonable 20/distinguish(v): to separate; to find a difference between two or more things

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