Page images
PDF
EPUB

Being desirous to furnish myself with a dog, I applied myself to buy one of this Martin, who had a female with whelps in her house; but she not letting me have my choice, I said I would supply myself at one Blezdel's, whereupon I noticed that she was greatly displeased. Having marked a puppy at Blezdel's, I met George Martin, the husband of Susanna Martin, who asked me:

Will you not have one of my wife's puppies?' and I answered:

“No; I have got one at Blezdel's, which I like better.'

“The same day one Edmond Eliot, being at Martin's house, heard George Martin relate to his wife that I had been at Blezdel's and had bought a puppy. Whereupon Susanna Martin flew into a great rage and answered:

"If I live, I'll give him puppies enough!'

“Within a few days after, I was coming out of the woods, when there arose a little black cloud in the northwest, and I immediately felt a force upon me, which made me not able to avoid running upon the stumps of trees that were before me, albeit I had a broad, plain cart-way before me; but though I had my axe on my shoulder, to endanger me in my falls, I could not forbear going out of my way to tumble over the stumps, where the trees had been cut away.

When I came below the meeting

house, there appeared unto me a little thing like a puppy, of a darkish color, and it shot backward and forward between my legs. I had the courage to use all possible endeavors of cutting it with my

axe; but I could not hit it. The puppy gave a jump from me and went, as to me it seemed, into the ground.*

“On going a little further, there appeared unto me a black puppy, somewhat bigger than the first, but as black as a coal. Its motions were quicker than

those of my axe; it “ITS MOTIONS WERE QUICKER THAN

flew at my belly, and

away; then at my throat; so, over my shoulder one way, and then over my shoulder another way. My heart now began to fail me, and I thought the dog would have torn my throat out; but I recovered myself and called upon God in my distress; and, naming

[graphic]

THOSE OF MY AXE."

* See Cotton Mather's “Wonders of the Invisible World,”

p. 144.

them on.

the name of Jesus Christ, it vanished away at once.

Charles Stevens tried to argue with Bly that he had had an attack of blind staggers, and that the dog was only an optical delusion; but he could in no way convince him that it was not a reality, and that he was not bewitched.

According to Mr. Bancroft, New England, like Canaan, had been settled by fugitives. Like the Jews, they had fled to a wilderness. Like the Jews, they had looked to heaven for a light to lead

Like the Jews, they had heathen for their foes, and they derived their highest legislation from the Jewish code. Cotton Mather said, “New England being a country whose interests are remarkably inwrapped in ecclesiastical circumstances, ministers ought to concern themselves in politics. Cotton Mather and Mr. Parris did concern themselves in politics, and the latter, being unscrupulous and ambitious as well as fanatical, caused hundreds of unfortunate people to mourn.

The circle of children who had been meeting at the house of Mr. Parris began to perform wonders. In the dull life of the country, the excitement of the proceedings of the “circle” was welcome, no doubt, and it was always on the increase. The human mind requires amusement, as the human body requires food, exercise and rest, and when

healthful and innocent amusements are denied, resort is had to the low and vicious. Mr. Parris, who preached sermons against the evils of the theatre and excommunicated the child of an actor, fostered in his own house an amusement as diabolical and dangerous as has ever been known. Results of that circle were wonderful. Whatever trickery there might be—and, no doubt, there was plenty; whatever excitement to hysteria; whatever actual sharpening of common faculties, it is clear that there was more; and those who have given due and dispassionate attention to the process of mesmerism and its effects can have no difficulty in understanding the reports handed down of what these young creatures did and said and saw, under peculiar conditions of the nervous system. When the physicians of the district could see no explanation of the ailments of the afflicted children but the evil hand,” they, with one accord, came to the conclusion that their afflictions were through the agencies of Satan.

Convulsions and epilepsy are among the many mysteries which medical science has not mastered to this day, and one cannot wonder that the doctors two centuries ago should declare the afflicted ones bewitched. Then came the inquiry as to who had stricken the children, and the readiest means that occurred was to ask this question of the children

themselves. At first they refused to disclose any names; but there was soon an end to any such delicacy. The first prominent symptoms occurred in November, 1691, and the first public examination of witches took place March 1st, 1692, just before the return of Charles Stevens from New York.

One among the first arrested was Sarah Good, a weak ignorant, poor, despised woman, whose equally weak and ignorant husband had abandoned her, leaving her to the mercy of evil tongues. This ignorant woman was taken to jail, and, shortly after, her child, little Dorcas, only four years old, was also arrested and imprisoned in chains on charge of witchcraft. All this met the approval of Mr. Parris, whose pale, thin face glowed with triumph as he declared:

“Now is the coming of the Lord, and the consumption of the fire-brands of hell.”

No wonder Charles Stevens was serious. Over twenty people were in prison on charge of witchcraft, among them an Irish woman, a Roman Catholic, hated more on account of her religion than any suspicion of evil against her. She was among the first to hang.

Parris, the wild-eyed fanatic, swinging his arms about, walked up and down the village, crying against the evil spirits of the air and longing to

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »