In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown is the member of a Puritan community who is out one evening on "an errand." As he prepares to leave, his wife, Faith, puts her head near her new husband's ear and entreats him to stay home. He tells her he must go, but insists that if she stays home and says her prayers, all will be well.
Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee.
As he leaves he looks back, and there is foreshadowing in his comment:
She talks of dreams. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no!
This implies that Brown, for all of his encouragement regarding how his wife can keep herself safe, he is planning to partake in something he should not be doing; we find this in "warned her what work is to be done." This also foreshadows what happens in the middle of the woods, when it appears that there is a Black Mass. However, when it is over, Brown is not sure if it was a dream or not.
As Brown walks along (in the forest, where Puritans believed the devil resided and therefore avoided the place), the narrator describes that Brown "passed a crook in the road." This would indicate a bend. The road to heaven is said to be "straight and narrow," while the road to hell is winding and wide. In that moment, Brown meets a man in "grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree" who takes his place comfortably, it seems, at Brown's side as they walk on. (This man is allegedly the devil.) The man complains that Brown is late; Brown responds, "Faith kept me back awhile," and we can assume that he means it literally—"I was late because my wife wanted to talk with me."
We might also assume that the premonition Brown thought he read on his wife's face made her fearful to let him go and so she tried to delay him.
However, we might also perceive this as a figurative statement, a double entendre. While "Faith" is his wife's name, the word starts the sentence and so it must be capitalized. Looking at this statement figuratively, it may not refer to his wife at all, but may refer, rather, to a struggle Brown had with his soul's faith—in deciding whether to come into the woods for this meeting and journey, or to stay at home as he wisely counsels his wife to do.
While Brown believes he can consort with this man in the forest and come out unscathed, Hawthorne seems to be saying that it is not possible. As the scripture warns...
No one can serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24 - NIV)
Ironically, Brown believes he is the only faithful person in town when he returns, but his time spent in the company of evil has changed him. If only he had listened to "faith" when it/she spoke to him.