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THE SCARLET LETTER

order to take the eyes of Indians,–I happened to place it on
my breast. It seemed to me,–the reader may smile, but must
not doubt my word,–it seemed to me, then, that I experi-
enced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of
burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but
red-hot iron. I shuddered, and involuntarily let it fall upon the
floor.

In the absorbing contemplation of the scarlet letter, I had
hitherto neglected to examine a small roll of dingy paper,
around which it had been twisted. This I now opened, and had
the satisfaction to find, recorded by the old Surveyor's pen, a
reasonably complete explanation of the whole affair. There
were several foolscap sheets, containing many particulars re-
specting the life and conversation of one Hester Prynne, who
appeared to have been rather a noteworthy personage in the
view of our ancestors. She had flourished during a period be-
tween the early days of Massachusetts and the close of the
seventeenth century. Aged persons, alive in the time of Mr.
Surveyor Pue, and from whose oral testimony he bad made up
his narrative, remembered her, in their youth, as a very old,
but not decrepit woman, of a stately and solemn aspect. It
had been her habit, from an almost immemorial date, to go
about the country as a kind of voluntary nurse, and doing
whatever miscellaneous good she might; taking upon herself,
likewise, to give advice in all matters, especially those of the
heart; by which means, as a person of such propensities in
evitably must, she gained from many people the reverence due
to an angel, but, I should imagine, was looked upon by others
as an intruder and a nuisance. Prying farther into the manu-
script, I found the record of other doings and sufferings of this
singular woman, for most of which the reader is referred to the
story entitled "THE SCARLET LETTER"; and it should be borne
carefully in mind, that the main facts of that story are au-
thorized and authenticated by the document of Mr. Surveyor
Pue. The original papers, together with the scarlet letter it–

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