In this passage Hawthorne illustrates the cold cruelty of Puritans toward
Quakers, a cruelty they evinced even in church.
Pearson and Dorothy separated at the door of the meetinghouse,
and Ilbrahim, being within the years of infancy, was retained under the
care of the latter. The wrinkled beldams involved themselves in their rusty
cloaks as he passed by; even the mild-featured maidens seemed to dread
contamination; and many a stern old man arose, and turned his repulsive
and unheavenly countenance upon the gentle boy, as if the sanctuary were
polluted by his presence. He was a sweet infant of the skies, that had
strayed away from his home, and all the inhabitants of this miserable world
closed up their impure hearts against him, drew back their earth-soiled
garments from his touch, and said, "We are holier than thou."