In Chapter 3, Hester recognizes her husband, who now goes by the name of Roger Chillingworth standing amid the crowd of onlookers.
From this intense consciousness of being the object of severe and universal
observation, the wearer of the scarlet letter was at length relieved by
discerning, on the outskirts of the crowd, a figure which irresistibly took
possession of her thoughts. An Indian, in his native garb, was standing there;
but the red men were not so infrequent visitors of the English settlements, that
one of them would have attracted any notice from Hester Prynne, at such a time;
much less would he have excluded all other objects and ideas from her mind. By
the Indian's side, and evidently sustaining a companionship with him, stood a
white man, clad in a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume.
He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which, as yet, could hardly be
termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person
who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the
physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens. Although, by a
seemingly careless arrangement of his heterogeneous garb, he had endeavoured to
conceal or abate the peculiarity, it was sufficiently evident to Hester Prynne,
that one of this man's shoulders rose higher than the other. Again, at the first
instant of perceiving that thin visage, and the slight deformity of the figure,
she pressed her infant to her bosom, with so convulsive a force that the poor
babe uttered another cry of pain. But the mother did not seem to hear it.
At his arrival in the market-place, and some time before she saw him, the
stranger had bent his eyes on Hester Prynne. It was carelessly, at first, like a
man chiefly accustomed to look inward, and to whom external matters are of
little value and import, unless they bear relation to something within his mind.
Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. A writhing horror
twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, and
making one little pause, with all its wreathed intervolutions in open sight. His
face darkened with some powerful emotion, which, nevertheless, he so
instantaneously controlled by an effort of his will, that, save at a single
moment, its expression might have passed for calmness. After a brief space, the
convulsion grew almost imperceptible, and finally subsided into the depths of
his nature. When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw
that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made
a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips.
Then, touching the shoulder of a townsman who stood near to him, he addressed
him in a formal and courteous manner.
He bowed courteously to the communicative townsman, and, whispering a few words
to his Indian attendant, they both made their way through the crowd.
While this passed, Hester Prynne had been standing on her pedestal, still with a
fixed gaze towards the stranger; so fixed a gaze, that, at moments of intense
absorption, all other objects in the visible world seemed to vanish, leaving
only him and her. Such an interview, perhaps, would have been more terrible than
even to meet him as she now did, with the hot, midday sun burning down upon her
face, and lighting up its shame; with the scarlet token of infamy on her breast;
with the sin-born infant in her arms; with a whole people, drawn forth as to a
festival, staring at the features that should have been seen only in the quiet
gleam of the fireside, in the happy shadow of a home, or beneath a matronly
veil, at church. Dreadful as it was, she was conscious of a shelter in the
presence of these thousand witnesses. It was better to stand thus, with so many
betwixt him and her, than to greet him, face to face, they two alone. She fled
for refuge, as it were, to the public exposure, and dreaded the moment when its
protection should be withdrawn from her. Involved in these thoughts, she
scarcely heard a voice behind her until it had repeated her name more than once,
in a loud and solemn tone, audible to the whole multitude.