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She thought of the dim forest, with its little dell of solitude, and love, and anguish, and the mossy tree-trunk, where, sitting hand in hand, they had mingled their sad and passionate talk with the melancholy murmur of the brook. How deeply they had known each other then! And was this the man? She hardly knew him now! (22.6)
In town, appearances matter: Hester and Dimmesdale aren't officially allowed to know each other, and so they don't. But when they met in the forest, they "had known each other" deeply. It's the kind of human connection that they can't make in town, where houses and rules dictate the kinds of meetings people can have.