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“Do you belong here?” asked Goody Nurse.
“I suppose we do," was the answer. “Father is here part of the time.”
“And your mother?”
Cora shook her head, and a shadow passed over her face.
“Has your father ever told you about her?” asked Goody Nurse.
“No, madame; I have not heard him speak her
Then Goody Nurse, with a curiosity that was natural, sought to question the child about her former life; but all she could gain was that her father had been a strolling player.
Players were not in good repute in New England at this time. The prejudice against the theatre, growing out of the rupture between the actors and the Roman Catholic Church, was inherited by the Protestants, who, to some extent, still continue their war against the stage. The fact that George Waters had been an actor was sufficient to condemn him in the eyes of the Puritans.
When Mr. Parris learned that a player was in their midst, he elevated his ecclesiastical nose, and
seemed to sniff the brimstone of Satan. When he learned that some of the dissenting members of his congregation had been guilty of the heinous sin of speaking kind words to the motherless child of a player, he shook his wise head knowingly and declared, “Truly Satan is "kind to his own. He made the player a subject for his next Lord's day sermon, in which he sought to pervert the scriptures to suit his prejudices. The subject of witchcraft was beginning to excite some attention, and he managed in almost every sermon to ring in enough of it to keep up the agitation. In the course of his discourse, he declared:
“The New Englanders are a people of God settled in those, which were the devil's territories, and it may easily be supposed that the devil is exceedingly disturbed, when he perceives such people here, accomplishing the promises of old, made unto our blessed Jesus, that he should have the uttermost parts of the earth for his possessions. There was not a greater uproar among the Ephesians, when the gospel was first brought among them, than there is now among the powers of the air after whom those Ephesians walked, when first the silver trumpets of the gospel made the joyful sound in their dark domain. The devil, thus irritated, hath tried all sorts of methods to overturn this poor plantation."
With this preface he assailed the unfortunate actor and his innocent child as being tools of his Satanic majesty, and denounced those who would lift the wounded, bleeding and beaten wayfarer from the road-side, carry him home, or offer his unfortunate child a cup of cold water as agents of darkness. Mr. Parris had forgotten some of the commands of the divine Master, whom he professed to follow. He assailed “the little maid furiously.” That child of sorrow and of tears, whom he had never seen before, and whose young heart ached from the wrongs heaped on her innocent young head, was to him an object of demoniac fury.
She sat in the rear of the church, and, covering her face with her hands as Mr. Parris assailed her father and herself, the tears silently trickled through her small fingers. Goody Nurse, who sat near the child, bent over and whispered some encouraging words in her ear.
“Verily, the Devil's own will be the Devil's own!” declared the pastor, his eyes flashing with fury. “When one of Satan's imps hath been wounded by a shaft of truth, shot from the bow of God, the angels of darkness, verily, will hover over the suffering devil, and seek to undo what God hath done.” He called on those suffering from the familiar spirits to behold one even now willing to soothe the offspring of a wicked player.
When Cora left the church that day, she asked Mrs. Stevens why Mr. Parris hated her and said such hard things about her. "Surely I never did him harm, and why doth he assail me so cruelly?”
Mrs. Stevens strove to comfort the wounded feelings of the child, by assuring Cora that it was the mistaken zeal of the minister, who, but for the scales of prejudice covering his eyes, would by no means be so cruel with her.
“Oh, would that father would return and take me from this place!” sobbed Cora.
“Cora, are you tired of me? Have I not been kind to you?”
“Yes, you have, and I thank you for all your goodness.
“Are you not happy with me?”
“Yes, I could be very happy, did not Mr. Parris say such vile things of my father and myself. Do you think me one of Satan's imps?”
“No, no, sweet child; you are one of God's angels.
“But I am the child of a player, and he said none such could enter into the kingdom of the Lord.” “ That is but a display of his prejudice and igno
I have read the good book from beginning to end, and nowhere do I see anything in
God's Holy Bible that excludes even the player from entering into eternal rest."
“But he, the interpreter of God's word, says we are doomed."
“He says more than is narrated in the Book of Life. If the ministers would only keep constantly in their minds these words: 'For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book,' then there would be less misconstructions put upon the Bible. Men would be more careful not to accuse their brother, while the beam was in their own eye. Why, Cora, you are but a child, and Christ said: 'Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. Now, instead of following the holy precept of the Master, whom he feigns to serve, he declares you an imp of dark
His zeal hath made him mad. Where is
" “Alas, I know not." “When will be return?” “I know not." “What are his plans?” “I am wholly ignorant of them.'
Next day Charles Stevens waj wandering through the forest near the spring where he rescued the