From the Book:
SEPTEMBER 2, 1636
During the last week of July 1636, Sir Thomas, after first
informing Hester, told his staff that he was leaving the following
week for the Netherlands to visit several libraries and talk
with his peers about matters of interest to him. He planned to
return to Roxford by Christmas. He gave detailed instructions
to his butler, housekeeper, and husbandman sparing Hester from
having any responsibility for the day-to-day management of the
manor. On Monday morning, August fourth, with a slight tug at
her heart, Hester wished her husband a safe trip and success
with his academic endeavors.
Later that evening, Hester seated herself at her small desk
and penned the following:
I beg thy pardon and thy understanding in this matter. I am
leaving England to reside in the Colonies. I can no longer remain
in thy presence knowing that by not returning thy love, I am
a source of continual pain for thee. Nor can I endure any longer
this useless life I lead. I long to be among those who need what
humble talents I can offer and whose faith will strengthen mine.
Lady Hester Prynne
She careful folded and sealed her letter, and then went downstairs
to her husband's office where she laid it on his desk. Relief
that she was finally effecting an ending to the matters that
had deviled her did little to stifle the fear that she might
be doing wrong by heaping an injustice on a man who deserved
better from her.
In the small hours of the morning two days after her husband's
departure, Hester and Alice crept quietly from the Hall to meet
James at the end of the lane where he waited with the Alworthy's
farm wagon carrying Hester's and Alice's possessions. As the
wagon began to move, Hester took one last look at the house wherein
she had spent four unhappy years, vowing never to return.
The first faint streaks of purple in the eastern sky announced
the coming dawn as the wagon arrived in front of the Four Ponies
Inn on the York to London post road. The stagecoach was just
making up and James helped the two drivers load the women's traps.
Within the hour, the coach was bumping and jolting its way south.
At dusk on the seventh day of their journey exhausted and aching,
Alice and Hester stepped down from the stagecoach and into the
warm, smoky interior of the Great Swan Inn and Ale House, the
last and most comfortable of the road houses that had sheltered
them en route, where they took a room for the night.
Feeling rested and sated after a good breakfast, Hester sought
directions to Purvis and Smythe Goldsmiths who protected the
bulk of the Prynne family's wealth. Sir Harold Purvis greeted
her request with considerable skepticism; he had heard that Sir
Thomas married but had never met Hester. Sir Harold had not become
wealthy by being duped, so he studied carefully the attractive
young woman standing before him. Her dress and carriage spoke
of aristocracy, her companion was definitely in service
but still, charlatans abounded, especially in London. He required
He became slightly more convinced of the legitimacy of Hester's
claim when she produced a request written on Sir Thomas's stationery
and sealed with the Prynne family crest. Hester had taken care
to copy her husband's writing as closely as possible and fortunately
Sir Harold had at hand no other documents in Sir Thomas had written
to which to compare the letter given him by Hester. Still he
would not give her of her husband's funds outright, he would
make her a loan against what security she could offer. If or
when Sir Thomas verified the request, the loan would be canceled.
From around her neck, Hester removed a golden chain attached
to a pendant sequestered in her bodice. Sir Harold looked in
wonder at the large, black pearl mounted in delicate gold filigree
worth several times Hester's requested funds a gift from
Sir Thomas on the occasion of their marriage she told him. With
little more conversation, Sir Harold counted out fifty gold sovereigns
that Hester sequestered in the safety of a cleverly concealed
pocket she had sewn into the folds of her traveling dress.
This was only Hester's second trip to London, she had been
taken there as a little girl by her father; Alice had never been.
Although Hester was anxious to continue their journey, the novelty
of London captured them and they spent three more days exploring
the shops, making a few small purchases, and being awed by the
size of the buildings and bustle of city life.
The early morning of Saturday, August sixteenth was unusually
blustery for that time of year, and the two travelers were chilled
by the time they gained their seats on the very crowded stagecoach
bound for Falmouth. Although the roads were in somewhat better
condition than those they traveled over from York, they were
made even more uncomfortable by the press of their companions,
some of whom had not recently bathed, some with horribly bad
breath, and one who produced a considerable volume of flatulence.
When Hester and Alice left the coach for the relatively better
comfort of an inn three blocks from the harbor, both hoped they
would never have to ride in a stagecoach again.
The innkeeper, a portly, pleasant and obliging chap, introduced
Hester to a booking agent who began immediately to find suitable
accommodations for the two women for their trip to the New World.
They were in luck, the Anne Mary, a freighter of considerable
size, was making up for a passage to Salem. There was one first-class
cabin remaining, which Hester agreed to share with Alice. On
Tuesday afternoon September second, the Anne Mary set sail on
the ebb of high tide.