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clothed with light and fire upon them, then covering themselves and their instruments with invisibility? Are not all these but a blasphemous imitation of certain things recorded about our Saviour, or his prophets, or the saints in the kingdom of God?
“Mr. Parris,” said Charles, when the fanatic had paused in his wild harangue for want of breath, "you seem in earnest; but you must bear in mind that there is a mistaken zeal—_"
“Hold, Charles, I know what you would say; but God has opened my eyes to the abominations of witchcraft.”
“So Bishop Mendoza thought, when he ordered the innocent slain. Beware of false prophets, Mr. Parris. They are more to be dreaded than the protean devil of which you speak. Be sure that you remove the beam from your own eye, before you try to see the mote in the eye of your brother.”
The sallow face of the fanatic grew more ghastly than before. His teeth gnashed, and his great eyes seemed starting in hatred from his head. Seizing the wrist of Charles with his hand, he clutched it so tightly as to almost make him cry out in pain.
Charles, Charles, why persecutest thou me? Have not the scales of infidelity fallen from your eyes? Would you deny the power of God ?”
Charles Stevens, by an effort, freed his hand and, with a boldness which increased as he spoke, answered: “It is not God whom I deny, but man.
God is good and just and kind. He who, in the name of the Lord, would pervert His holy word is an impostor and blasphemer more base than a thief or an infidel."
“I have listened patiently to you, Mr. Parris. Now listen to me. Where do you find in Scripture justification for the charges you lay at the doors of innocent people such as Goody Nurse, Goody Easty, Goody Cloyse and the poor little maid Cora Waters? What harm have they ever done you, that you, as a Christian man, might not forgive them?"
“Charles-” interrupted Mr. Parris.
“Hold, sir; you shall hear me through. Mr. Parris, you must be a man of singular shamelessness, craft, ruthlessness and impudence, withal. You began your operations with sharp bargaining about your stipend and sharp practice in appropriating the house and land assigned for the use of successive pastors. You wrought so diligently, under the stimulus of your ambition, that you have got the meeting-house sanctioned as a true church and yourself ordained as the first pastor of
Salem Village. Because you were opposed by Goody Nurse, her sisters and others, you seek to charge them with offences made punishable under our laws with death."
The sallow face of the pastor grew almost white; but, in a voice of forced calmness, he said:
“Go on-go on!”
“No;' it is for you to tell, without further discussion, why you brought me here. Rather let me guess it.
You have brought me to say something to me about Cora Waters. You have come to tell me she is a witch, and I tell you it is false."
The passionate minister glared at the youth for a moment and said:
“Charles, do you deny that she is the child of a player?"
“I do not; but what sin follows being the child of a player, or being even a player? Nowhere does the Bible condemn the actor for his profession; and, if the player be godly, his calling is unobjectionable. Oh, Mr. Parris, eradicate from your heart the deadly poison of prejudice, and there will appear no harm in that fair, innocent and much-abused young maid. She has ever been a child of sorrow and of tears, one who never in thought wronged any one. Tell me that child is a witch? Mr. Parris, it is false!"
“Then,” cried the pastor, suddenly changing his tone, turning to Charles, and bringing his clenched hand down upon the stone fence with a
force that laid the knuckles raw and bleeding; "then you may both go down— down to the infernal re
gions to gether!”
The dark look of hatred and revenge with which the words broke from his livid lips, and with which he stood holding out his bruised and
bleeding hand, made Charles shudder and turn to go home; but the pastor caught his arm.
“Mr. Parris, let me go. I have heard quite enough. We understand each other thoroughly."
“And you will not give her up?"
“What! Do you deny the word of God? Have a care! You are going too far in this. mother?"
“She does not believe in it, either."
“Charles, why have you and your mother grievously opposed me?” he demanded, his eyes glaring with hatred and his breath coming hard, while a white froth, tinged with blood, exuded from his lips.
“Because you are a bad man, Mr. Parris,” cried Charles. "You are a saintly fraud."
The rage of the pastor knew no bounds. Pointing his wounded and bleeding hand at Charles, he cried:
“Go! and may the curse of an outraged God go with you!”
Charles went home.