Chapter 17 THE PASTOR AND HIS
SLOWLY as the minister walked, he had almost gone by, before Hester Prynne could gather voice enough to attract his observation. At length, she succeeded.
"Arthur Dimmesdale!" she said, faintly at first; then louder, but : "Arthur Dimmesdale!"
"Who speaks?" answered the minister.
Gathering himself quickly up, he stood more , like a man taken by surprise in a mood to which he was to have . Throwing his eyes anxiously in the direction of the voice, he beheld a form under the trees, clad in garments so, , and so little relieved from the grey twilight into which the clouded sky and the heavy had darkened the , that he knew not whether it were a woman or a shadow. It may be, that his pathway through life was haunted thus, by a that had stolen out from among his thoughts.
He made a step nigher, and discovered the scarlet letter.
"Hester! Hester Prynne!" said he. "Is it thou? Art thou in life?"
"Even so!" she answered. "In such life as has been mine these seven years past! And thou, Arthur Dimmesdale, dost thou yet live?"
It was no wonder that they thus questioned one another's actual and bodily , and even doubted of their own. So strangely did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first , in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately connected in their former life, but now stood coldly shuddering, in mutual ; as not yet familiar with their state, nor wonted to the companionship of beings. Each a ghost, and -stricken at the other ghost! They were awe-stricken likewise at themselves; because the crisis flung back to them their , and revealed to each heart its history and experience, as life never does, except at such breathless . The soul beheld its features in the mirror of the passing moment. It was with fear, and , and, as it were, by a slow, reluctant necessity, that Arthur Dimmesdale put forth his hand, chill as death, and touched the chill hand of Hester Prynne. The , cold as it was, took away what was dreariest in the interview. They now felt themselves, at least, inhabitants of the same sphere.