One Sunday, at the early morning service, the Reverend Mr. Hooper appears before his congregation wearing a black veil that extends from his forehead down over his mouth. The parishioners are shocked; some suggest that he has gone mad, and others speculate that perhaps the veiled figure is not the Reverend Mr. Hooper at all. What is clear, however, is that the veil has a tremendous impact on the congregation. Women with weak nerves must leave the service. Old Squire Saunders, who ordinarily invites the Reverend Mr. Hooper to dinner after the service, even forgets to extend his invitation. That afternoon, the Reverend Mr. Hooper conducts a funeral service for a young lady, and the veil again affects his audience. A “superstitious old woman” supposes that when the Reverend Mr. Hooper bends over the coffin, the corpse of the young lady shudders as his face is slightly unveiled, and two of the mourners in the procession to the grave say that they saw the spirits of the minister and the maiden walking hand in hand.
Finally, that night, Milford’s handsomest young couple are married by the minister, and his veil casts a pall over the whole ceremony. When the Reverend Mr. Hooper catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror at the reception, he shudders and spills some wedding wine on the carpet, then leaves abruptly.
By morning, the minister’s black veil is the central topic of conversation in the village of Milford, and it seems that no one can solve the mystery. A deputation from the church is sent to the minister’s home to question him about the black veil, but they return entirely disappointed. Only one person can solve the mystery, Elizabeth, who is engaged to be married to the Reverend Hooper. At the first opportunity, she approaches him on the subject of the black veil, and to her questions his reply is enigmatic. “Know, then, this veil...
(The entire section is 764 words.)