The Minister’s Black Veil (1836)
THE SEXTON stood in the porch of Milford meeting-house,
pulling busily at the bell-rope. The old people of the village came
stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily
beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conscious digni-
ty of their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the
pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them
prettier than on week days. When the throng had mostly streamed
into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the
Reverend Mr. Hooper’s door. The first glimpse of the clergyman’s
figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.
“But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?” cried the
sexton in astonishment.
All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the sem-
blance of Mr. Hooper, pacing slowly his meditative way towards the
meeting-house. With one accord they started, expressing more won-
der than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of
Mr. Hooper’s pulpit.
“Are you sure it is our parson?” inquired Goodman Gray of the
“Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper,” replied the sexton. “He
was to have exchanged pulpits with Parson Shute, of Westbury; but
Parson Shute sent to excuse himself yesterday, being to preach a fu-
The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight.
Mr. Hooper, a gentlemanly person, of about thirty, though still a ba-
chelor, was dressed with due clerical neatness, as if a careful wife had
starched his band, and brushed the weekly dust from his Sunday’s
garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed
THE MINISTER’S BLACK VEIL 2
about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be
shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer
view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape, which entirely con-
cealed his features, except the mouth and chin, but probably did not
intercept his sight, further than to give a darkened aspect to all living
and inanimate things. With this gloomy shade before him, good Mr.
Hooper walked onward, at a slow and quiet pace, stooping somewhat,
and looking on the ground, as is customary with abstracted men, yet
nodding kindly to those of his parishioners who still waited on the
meeting-house steps. But so wonder-struck were they that his greeting
hardly met with a return.
“I can’t really feel as if good Mr. Hooper’s face was behind that
piece of crape,” said the sexton.
“I don’t like it,” muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the
meeting-house. “He has changed himself into something awful, only
by hiding his face.”
“Our parson has gone mad!” cried Goodman Gray, following him
across the threshold.
A rumor of some unaccountable phenomenon had preceded Mr.
Hooper into the meeting-house, and set all the congregation astir.
Few could refrain from twisting their heads towards the door; many