On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.
"She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain,"
remarked one of the female spectators; "but did ever
a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a
way of showing it! Why, gossips, what is it but to
laugh in the faces of our godly magistrates, and make
a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for
"It were well," muttered the most iron-visaged of the old dames, "if we stripped Madam Hester's rich gown off her dainty shoulders; and as for the red letter, which she hath stitched so curiously, I'll bestow a rag of mine own rheumatic flannel, to make a fitter one!"
"O, peace, neighbours, peace!" whispered their youngest companion. "Do not let her hear you! Not a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart."
The Scarlet Letter: A
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1850
Excerpts from Chapter II, The Market-Place