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Hester now turns to her purpose. She has given Chillingworth a promise of silence that she now regrets. She has left her husband in a position to watch Dimmesdale day and night, to poison the minister's thoughts, to play on his heartstrings. She will retract that promise now.
Chillingworth, at first, denies Hester's accusation. "'What evil have I done the man?'" Chillingworth asks. Why, no evil at all. In fact, Chillingworth asserts, he has lavished on Dimmesdale medical care fit for a king. It is only thanks to the physician's care that Dimmesdale is still alive.
The argument would be quite convincing, if we didn't know better. But we know, and Hester suspects, that Chillingworth has only been pretending to minister to Dimmesdale's ailments while in reality adding to his distress.
Chillingworth now hurries on to reveal his true intentions, to make explicit the evil within him, and to pass a rather unexpected judgment on himself.
Yes, Dimmesdale has suffered, Chillingworth now admits. He has suffered hideously, and he has never known why. With monkish superstition, he has imagined himself visited by a fiend.
"Yea, indeed!- he did not err!- there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!" -
Well, Chillingworth has said it himself, though we may wonder if fiends are inclined to label themselves for our convenience. He stops in horror at his own words. But the horror leads him not to a reversal of his position but to a recommitment to his ugly methods of revenge.