Hester and Chillingsworth were married in England and lived together for a time in Amsterdam before Chillingsworth sent Hester ahead to settle in America, "remaining himself to look after some necessary affairs". Later, at the end of his own voyage across the ocean to join her, Chillingsworth's vessel was shipwrecked, and he was taken hostage by Indians in the New World. He has been living a hostage among them for over a year, and has only just arrived with one of his captors, to be ransomed in Boston, when he reencounters Hester (Chapter 3).
Hester was born and raised in England. This is where she met her husband, Roger Chillingworth. After their marriage, he and Hester made plans to travel to the New World. Hester went before him, and as a result, was not reunited until almost two years later. On his voyage, Roger Chillingworth was shipwrecked and held captive in the wild by Indians. During his time with them, he evolves into a self-proclaimed physician using the knowledge he gained from them.
The next time Hester will see her husband is while she and Pearl are on the scaffold being subjected to the taunts and scrutiny of the community.
In Chapter 3, "The Recognition," we learn that the stranger (who later is identified as Chillingworth) "had long ago dwelt in Amsterdam." When he decided to come to Massachusetts, he sent his wife before him. In the two years since, however, he has been missing. This stranger tells the townsman that he has been "long held in bonds among the heathen-folk to the south" but now is brought to Boston "to be redeemed out of [his] captivity." In the following chapter, Chillingworth tells Hester that living with the Indians has given him the opportunity to become "a better physician than many that claim the medical degree" because he has studied the Indians' methods.