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“Charles Stevens, beware how you defend the being at your side. She is an imp of darkness, and a day is coming when such will not be permitted to run at large. Beware! beware! BEWARE!” and with the last command amounting almost to a shriek, she turned about and ran away.
Long Charles Stevens stood gazing after the retreating woman. The gentle breeze, stirring the leaves of the sweet-scented forest, bore pleasant odors to them, the birds sang their sweet peaceful songs, while a squirrel, with a nut in its paws, skipped nimbly over the leaves near and, pausing, reared upon its hind legs and looked at them from its bright little eyes, while the flowers nodded their gaudy little heads as if to invite every one to be glad; but Charles and Cora saw not all these beauties of nature. She stood leaning against the friendly trunk of a giant oak, and turned her eyes on him with a look of helpless appeal and agony. so dazed by the bold accusation, that he could not speak for several seconds. She was first to regain her speech.
“She, too, is my enemy."
“Don't say that, Cora. While mother and I live, you have two friends,” he interrupted.
“Yes—yes; I had not forgotten you; but you
may be powerless to aid me. I learned that they were going to arrest and try some of the accused people for witches. It is terrible,” she added with a shudder.
“In England they burn witches at the stake. My father saw one thus roasted. He said it did touch him with tenderness to see the gallant way she met her fate cursing and reviling the hooting mob gathered about her, whilst the angry flames, leaping upward, licked her face, caught her locks, crackling about her old gray head. I trow it was a sorry sight, and God be praised, I never saw such a one!”
“You never will, Cora, for those days are passed. We live in a more enlightened and humane age. People are not burned to death now, as they used to be. We are safe under the shelter of humane and wise laws."
Charles was mistaken. Human laws have never been perfect or just, and mankind will never be safe while laws are interpreted by partial magistrates. Laws are never perfect, for, were they, continual amendments would be unnecessary.
On their way home, Charles and Cora were compelled to pass the Salem church. As they did so, they met Mr. Parris face to face, as he was coming out of the sanctuary whither he had gone to pray. He paused near the door and, fixing his large gray eyes on the unfortunate maid, glared at her much
as an angry lion might gaze on the object of its hatred; then he turned away on his heel with something about the children of darkness profaning the house of the Lord.
Cora shuddered as long as he was in sight, and when he had disappeared, she said:
“Surely, he is a bad man!”
They resumed their walk to the house. Though neither spoke, they went slowly, each buried in thought. The gentle zephyrs, the frisking squirrels, the nodding flowers, the singing birds, were all unheeded by them. When the home was reached, he found his mother standing in the door, her face almost deathly white.
Though she said nothing, he knew she was greatly disturbed. Her wheel stood idle, the great heap of wool rolls lying unspun at the side of it. She smiled faintly and, as Cora passed into the little room set apart for her, turned her eyes anxiously to
“Mother, has any one been here since we left?” he asked.
“We saw him come out of the church as we
“He was here but a moment since."
Then Charles felt that something had been said to his mother to occasion alarm, and he asked her what it was.
“He advised me to warn you to flee from the wrath to come. He said you would be involved in ruin ere you knew it, if you continued in your present course.
" What did he mean?'
“He referred to her,” and Mrs. Stevens significantly nodded toward the apartment in which Cora Charles had expected this answer.
He went slowly to the door and looked down the road to see if the pastor was still in sight; but he was not. Only the broad, well-beaten thoroughfare, with the great, old trees standing on either side, and the blue sea beyond the hill, with the village in the valley were visible. The youth's beart was full of bitterness, and the manner in which his mother's words were spoken was not calculated to allay the storm within his breast. Though her words did not say so, her manner indicated that she shared the opinions of Mr. Parris. Turning from the door, Charles went toward her and said:
“Mother, whatever he said of her is false. I know he hates Cora, that he would make her one of the emissaries of Satan; but his charges are false. You know-you must know that she is a pure, good girl."
“I do know it,” she answered, her face still anxious and pale. “The accusation is false. I know it is false; yet he threatens.”
“Whom does he threaten ?" “You."
Charles laughed, as only a brave lad can laugh at danger. Why need he fear Mr. Parris? Charles was young and inexperienced. He knew not the age in which he lived, and little did he dream of the power which Mr. Parris, as pastor of the church, could wield over the public. The pulpit controlled judges and juries, law-makers and governors in that day, and when an evil-disposed person like Mr. Parris became pastor of a congregation, he could wield a terrible influence.
"Mother, how can he injure me?” Charles asked. “In more ways than one." “What are they?”
“I don't know, Charles; but I know-I feel that something terrible is about to happen. Our people will suffer from Mr. Parris—especially all who oppose his ministry." "I oppose his ministry, and I have no fear of
All he can do is to wound the feelings of that poor girl; but she will go away soon, beyond reach of his calumny."
“Heaven grant she may, and right soon, too.” As Charles was about to leave the house, his