Chapter 13: Another View of Hester HESTER: It had been so long since Dimmesdale and I had been together, I was shocked at how he looked and acted. Even though he was clearly still as smart as before, he was weak. He was a mess. And I felt terrible about it, because he and I were linked together in a way that nothing could destroy – and I owed it to him to try to help him. NARRATOR: Pearl was now seven. Things had changed for Hester in the town. She spent so many years taking everyone’s abuse and not abusing them back, and had been so willing to help the poor with her sewing, no matter how rude the people were to her, that everyone actually started thinking well of her. She went where there was a house in trouble, and helped how she could, so that people now said that the A stood for “Able”. HESTER: As soon as it was daylight, I was gone – I helped only in the dark. And if people tried to talk to me on the street, I kept my head down or put my finger on the scarlet letter. And so people left me alone, and their respect, oddly enough, grew. NARRATOR: The rulers of the colony didn’t acknowledge the change, but the people did – they talked about “our Hester”, as if she were some sort of angel of mercy, protected by the scarlet letter like some sort of invisible force field. HESTER: I hid my hair under my cap – I dressed severely and in all dark colors – and slowly I became, outwardly anyway – the serious and quiet person they all thought I was. I hid all of my intensity, although that doesn’t mean it was gone – just hiding. There were times when I was so lonely, for the company of Dimmesdale, or anyone, that I wondered if it weren’t better to just kill Pearl and myself, send us both out of this world. NARRATOR: But she didn’t do it. HESTER: I couldn’t. NARRATOR: After standing on the scaffold with Dimmesdale that night, though, Hester wondered if she’d made the wrong choice years ago, when she agreed to not reveal who Chillingworth really was. The minister seemed pretty close to crazy, and she felt like it was her fault, that she had unintentionally unleashed her wacko ex on the very person she least wanted to hurt. HESTER: I decided to talk to the old psycho myself and see what I could find out. I didn’t have to look hard, because not long after, one afternoon Pearl and I ran into Chillingworth out collecting his herbs. Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician NARRATOR: While Pearl played with her own mirror image in the stream, Hester approached Roger Chillingworth. HESTER: There’s something I want to talk to you about. CHILLINGWORTH: Oh yeah? Hester Prynne wants to speak to ME? To what do I owe this honor? You know, everyone thinks you’re such a freaking saint these days. Even the town council was discussing the other day if it was time to let you take off the scarlet letter. Of course I told them you should be done with it. HESTER: It’s not for them to decide. If I was done learning my lesson, it would have just fallen off already. CHILLINGWORTH: Well, keep wearing it then. Women have all of these strange ideas. NARRATOR: Once again, for about the 35th time in the book, Hester was surprised to notice that Chillingworth had become the embodiment of pure evil, his whole body and face showing what happened to someone who chose to be nothing but the worst of human nature. The scarlet letter burned on her chest. She felt responsible for having caused the change in Chillingworth too. CHILLINGWORTH: Why do you keep staring at me? HESTER: It’s the miserable minister I want to ask you about. CHILLINGWORTH: Awesome! I’m completely obsessed with him. What do you want to talk about? HESTER: Years ago, when I promised you that I wouldn’t say who you were, it was to protect him. And you burrowed your way into his life, causing him to be in this state of living death. You’ve ruined his life. And still he doesn’t know who you are. And now I’m pissed at myself, because in allowing it to happen, I have been false to the only man I had the power to be true to. CHILLINGWORTH: So what? If I’d said something, he wouldn’t be the preacher, he’d be in prison. Or even hanged. HESTER: He would have been better off. CHILLINGWORTH: Oh come on. I have given him better doctor’s care than anyone has ever received. His spirit is so weak, he would have been dead in two years if not for me. He owes me his life! HESTER: He’d be better off dead. CHILLINGWORTH: You’re right! No man has suffered like he has made himself suffer! Well, he’s stupid. He knew that there was some evil presence in his life, tormenting him, he just didn’t know it was ME, his trusted advisor and friend. Well, let me tell you, he’s getting what he deserved, to be tortured by the man whose life he helped ruin! And let me tell you, even more ironic, I now live just to torture him! NARRATOR: As Chillingworth said the words, he finally saw himself for the freak he really was. HESTER: Well, haven’t you tortured him enough by now? CHILLINGWORTH: No! Actually, I owe him even more torture. Nine years ago, wasn’t I a good man? I know I was a little cold, but wasn’t I kind and thoughtful to others back then, before you cheated on me? HESTER: Yeah, you were pretty nice. CHILLINGWORTH: And look at me now! I’m a devil! And he made me that way! HESTER: It was me as much as him though. Why haven’t you tortured me too? CHILLINGWORTH: You have the scarlet letter already to torment you. He had nothing. HESTER: I’m going to tell him who you are. I owe him that. His life is in your hands, and the scarlet letter has taught me that truth is really important, so I’m not going to stoop to beg you to stop tormenting him. It does him no good, me no good, you no good, Pearl no good that the secret continue. CHILLINGWORTH (with admiration): You know, Hester, you’re pretty awesome when you get angry. It’s too bad we didn’t meet later, when you’d already been tested by an earlier love, because you and I might have gotten along quite well. I’m sorry for you, for all the good that’s wasted in you. HESTER: I’m sorry for you too, because you were a good man, and now you’re totally awful. Won’t you forgive him, and me? If only to save yourself? Maybe you have a chance to go back to being that better guy you once were. CHILLINGWORTH: Hell no. It’s not possible. It’s too late. The first thing that you did wrong set all of this in motion, and there is no turning back. You and Dimmesdale aren’t truly sinful, and I’m not really the devil, but it’s our fate to act this out. I have to go. Do what you want with the minister. NARRATOR: And Chillingworth waved goodbye, and went back to gathering herbs.