After my rash and thoroughly bold conversation with Miss Ames', I was quite bewildered to say the least, but continued my daily work as usual for some time. It wasn't until I was called to court only weeks later that I had any inkling of worry.
The court had been calling many women in of late, but I still felt a deep sense of foreboding, for not one of these women had since come out. Witchcraft, the gossipers said, was their crime, and they lapped up the drama that ensued.
Miss Ames and her dear friends, inspired by the antics of the young women of Salem village, had begun to have fits. They screamed during prayer, said they saw spirits. And, of course, everyone believed them, because, really, what cause would such good Christian girls have for pretense that hurt so many? The answer is power. The young women of Salem now held the town's full and undivided attention, and these girls wanted a taste.
It had been, at first, the old beggar woman, someone no one would miss. I have heard it rumored that the cries of witchery had begun in Salem quite the same way. Soon, though, the girls began to set their eyes on a much higher prize. They wanted this man's wife, or this girl who had snubbed them. It soon became sheer madness. Those who confessed to Witchcraft were set free, but their name was black in the village. Those who denied their deal with Satan were hanged or, like I will be, burned.
Of course, there were those who saw these events for what they were, mere girlish pretending, with a terrible and mortal price. The girls soon began to believe in what they were doing, that they were sent from God to save our little town from Satan, who ran rampant among our women, infecting the minds of our men. Theirs was a higher purpose, and any who would stand in their way deserved the noose.
After the girl's personal grudges came those who were simply too strange to continue their lives here on Earth. Namely, me.
Things were quite lovely before I was summoned to court, actually. It was on the cusp of fall and winter, which meant my herbs for chills and other illnesses were in high demand. I even had a suitor. Benjamin Allen had become quite taken with me, to his family''s dismay, and he'd come round to speak to me a few times. He is quite handsome, and I considered myself lucky. Miss Mercy Kelley had begun to speak with me as well. She and I had been close friends in childhood, but she had recently been married and it had made it hard for us to keep in contact with one another, even in such a small town. Now, though, she was pregnant and her husband was less firm about her letting her wander. She had convinced him that the fresh air would be healthful for both her and the baby. He agreed and so did I.
She sat sipping the tea I brewed for her, stroking the swelling of her belly thoughtfully as I weeded the garden.
"Are you certain?" She asked again. I had told her she shouldn't help me, and made her sit, however reluctant she was to do so.
"Yes, quite." I said. "How is the tea?"
"Delicious, but a bit too strong for me." She said, smiling.
Her smile then faltered and faded, replaced by a look of thinly-veiled surprise and concern. I turned around to see the source of her sudden change in mood.
Pastor Bodge stood behind me, a slip of parchment gripped firmly in his meaty hand.
"I have a warrant here for your arrest, Miss Newcomb." He said tersely, cruelly, as I stood to face him, wiping dirt from my dress.
The weight of his words took several moments to sink in.
"M-my arrest?" I repeated, dumbfounded.
"Yes, Miss. You'll come with me to the jail now to await your trial." He said, producing a pair of shackles from the many folds of his robe.
I heard a sharp intake of breath at the sight and sound of the jangling chains from Mercy. I turned to face her.
"Go home, Mrs. Mercy. Quick." I told her, holding out shaking hands to the Pastor.
He cuffs me and begins to lead me away.
"You're a witch, Pru?" Mercy said, using the shortened version of my name, Prudence, that she used in our youth.
"No, Mercy. Never!" I said, feeling wild. This was outrageous. Didn't these learned men know pretense when they saw it? Indignation and rage boiled up inside me, but I knew better than to let them fly. Emotion betrayed guilt, or so they thought. I knew I must be still, calm, poised if I had any chance at all.
Manage Your Items