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Standing on this public stage, Hester looks out and notices an American Indian and a white dude (who is dressed partly in American Indian traditional attire) standing on the outskirts of the crowd.
She recognizes the white man by the slight deformity in his shoulders and squeezes her baby again until it cries.
But the man just looks at her and puts a finger to his lips.
Helpfully for us, he questions a nearby citizen of the town about what's going on.
The woman is Hester Prynne. She's married to an Englishman who's been missing for two years.
Wait, but what about the kid?
That's just it. The 3-month-old baby makes it pretty clear that Hester's been up to something she shouldn't have.
The stranger asks who the father is, but nobody knows—Hester's not telling.
Meanwhile, Hester is up on the public stage thinking that she's glad she's encountered the stranger this way, with a crowed of people between her and him.
Everyone wants Hester to reveal the name of her partner in crime.
Her pastor, Reverend Dimmesdale, is particularly insistent. He wants her to 'fess up, even if the man she names has to step down from a high position of authority to join her on the stage.
This plea is so moving that even Hester's baby lifts its arms out to him, but she keeps her mouth shut.
Then, the townspeople engage in a crazy sort of mass hallucination, where the scarlet letter takes on a life of its own and they begin to see its scarlet glow as coming from the very fires of hell itself.