"Hester," said the clergyman, "farewell!"
"Shall we not meet again?" whispered she, bending her face down close to
his. "Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely, surely, we
have ransomed one another, with all this woe! Thou lookest far into
eternity, with those bright dying eyes! Then tell me what thou seest?"
"Hush, Hester, hush!" said he, with tremulous solemnity. "The law we
broke!--the sin here so awfully revealed!--let these alone be in thy
thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God,--when we
violated our reverence each for the other's soul,--it was thenceforth vain
to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion.
God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my
afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast! By
sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at
red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy
before the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been
lost for ever! Praised be his name! His will be done! Farewell!"
That final word came forth with the minister's expiring breath. The
multitude, silent till then, broke out in a strange, deep voice of awe and
wonder, which could not as yet find utterance, save in this murmur that
rolled so heavily after the departed spirit.