"I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path"

Peter Bysshe Shelley's cremation on a funeral pyre
Public DomainPeter Bysshe Shelley's cremation on a funeral pyre - Credit: Louis Edouard Fournier
A bale-fire is a funeral pyre, a wooden structure on which the bodies of the dead were formerly cremated. Chillingworth’s association of this with the scarlet letter is ambiguous, for it suggests at once the flaming destruction of his marriage to Hester and a means of ritual purification through which Hester may be liberated.