Page images
PDF
EPUB

and speak with him. She greeted him with a smile, and hoped he had had a pleasant journey.

It was now growing late, and she stood in the door bidding all good-evening, preparatory to going home. Suddenly the girl gave utterance to a wild shriek and leaped into the house, holding her wrist in her left hand.

“What is the matter?” asked Mr. Lawson. “I am bitten on the wrist," she cried.

'Surely you cannot be bitten, for I have seen nothing to bite you."

“Nevertheless, I am bitten. It is a witch that hath bitten me.

The candle had been burning all the while in the apartment, and Mr. Lawson knew that no one could have been in the room without his knowledge.

“Some one hath grievously bitten me!” the girl sobbed.

Mr. Lawson seized the candle and, holding it to her wrist, saw apparently the marks of teeth, both upper and lower set, on each side of her wrist. He was lost in wonder and, placing the candle on the mantel, remarked:

“It is a mystery.”

"Yea, verily it is,” Lieutenant Ingersol answered; "but you have not seen the beginning of the wonders of witchcraft in this village. Satan surely hath been loosed for a little season.”

“I have heard much of the sore afflictions of the children at the home of Mr. Parris,” remarked Mr. Lawson.

“And they are sorely afflicted, as I can bear testimony. After tea we will walk over to his

house."

Mr. Lawson assented, and Mary Walcut was sent home. After an early tea, Mr. Lawson went to the parsonage, which was but a short distance. Mr. Parris met them at the door.

His white, cadaverous face, prominent cheek bones, aquiline nose, piercing eyes, and wild, disheveled hair giving him a strange, weird appearance. He greeted Reverend Mr. Lawson warmly and thanked him for coming all the way from Boston to preach for him next Lord's Day.

“I am so sorely tried with my many afflictions, that I cannot compose my mind for sermonizing."

“I have heard somewhat of the afflictions and troubles that beset you," Rev. Deodat Lawson answered.

“Verily you cannot have heard more than has occurred. I am maligned, misunderstood and beset everywhere by the enemies of God.”

“Meet it with prayer and humiliation," answered Mr. Lawson.

“I do—I do—and, verily, the Lord is making my enemies my footstool. Many are already in

prison, and many more will yet go to the gallows." The pastor gnashed his teeth in silent rage, while his eyes gleamed with hate.

“How are the afflicted children?” asked Mr. Lawson.

“No better. Abigail come hither."

Abigail Williams, the niece of the pastor, came from an adjoining room. She was a girl of twelve, with a fair face, but cunning eyes, which deprived her of the innocence of childhood. Mr. Lawson at once entered into conversation with her, but had not proceeded far, when she uttered a shriek and, turning her face to the ceiling, whirled about in a circle, while her eyes, rolling back in her bead, snapped like flashes of light. Her mouth was drawn to the left side of her face and her whole frame conyulsively jerked till she fell to the floor, where she writhed and struggled, and blood-stained froth issued from her mouth, while Mr. Lawson gazed upon her appalled. Then she sprang to her feet and hurried violently to and fro through the room in spite of the efforts to hold her. Sometimes she made motions as if she would fly, reaching her arms up as high as she could, and bringing them down at her side, crying:

“ Whish! whish! whish!”

Presently she began talking in a strange, hysterical and half inaudible manner.

“There is Goodwife Nurse!” she cried. “Do you not see her? Why, there she stands!” and the girl pointed to a corner of the room that was vacant. Her eyes seemed riveted on some object that kept moving about. After a short silence, Abigail Williams said:

“There, she is offering me the book to sign; but I won't take it, Goody Nurse! I won't! I won't! I won't take it! I do not know what book it is. I am sure it is not God's book. It is the Devil's book, for aught I know."

Then she remained a moment with her eyes closed and arms folded across her breast, after which she ran to the fire, and began to throw firebrands about the house, and run into the fireplace, against the back of the wall, as if she would go up the chimney. They caught hold of her and pulled her out.

“It is nothing uncommon,” Mr. Parris explained. “In other fits, the children have sought to throw themselves into the fire."

Mr. Lawson did not tarry long at the house of the pastor; but returned to the home of Lieut. Ingersol.

When Sunday came, Mr. Lawson went to the church to preach. Several of the afflicted people were “at meeting,” for it was thought proper that the afflicted should be in the house of God. So

long as one was able to go to church, they were taken, regardless of any mental affection they might have. Mrs. Pope, Goodwife Bibber, Abigail Williams, Mary Walcut, Mary Lewes and Doctor Grigg's maid, all of whom were persons bewitched, are reported by reliable historians as being present at this “Lord's Day service." There was also present Goodwife Corey, who was subsequently arrested for a witch.

While at prayer, Mr. Lawson was interrupted by shrieks and struggles on the part of the afflicted, and a voice near said:

“ Fits!”

He kept on praying for the Lord to relieve them of their torments, while Charles Stevens, who was in the house, declared that a whip would relieve them. After the prayer, a psalm was sung, as usual, and then Abigail Williams, turning to the preacher, said in a loud, coarse voice:

“Now stand up and name your text!” After he had named his text, she said: “It is a long text."

He had scarcely begun his sermon, when Mrs. Pope, one of the afflicted women, bawled out:

‘Now, there is enough of that."

“These mad people ought to be kept away from the house of worship,” declared Charles Stevens to a neighbor.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »