A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, was assembled in front of a wooden prison.
The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as the site of a prison. Before this ugly edifice was a grass-plot, much overgrown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-peru, and such unsightly vegetation which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison. But, on one side of the portal was a wild rose-bush, covered with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom.
This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history. It may serve to symbolize some sweet moral blossom that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.
The door of the jail being opened from within, there appeared, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle. He laid his right hand upon the shoulder of a young woman; until, on the threshold of the prison-door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will. Hester Prynne bore in her arms an infant, who winked and turned aside its little face from the too vivid light of day.