In Chapter 7, Hester seeks an interview with Governor Bellingham because she has heard rumors that some members of the community wish to remove Pearl from her care.
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 selectmen 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.
Full of concern, therefore,--but so conscious of her own right, that it
seemed scarcely an unequal match between the public, on the one side, and a
lonely woman, backed by the sympathies of nature, on the other,--Hester
Prynne set forth from her solitary cottage.