Page images
PDF
EPUB

side I stood a comforter in the dark hours of trouble, has seen fit to offer me one word of consolation."

“I trow, Charles, that Adelpha knows it not. Cora is coming.”

“Who hath told you?”

A friend from Boston brings information that the Waters brothers, with the newly found wife and mother and Cora, are coming to Salem to do all in their power to aid you."

Charles sadly shook his head and said:
“My poor friends can do nothing for me.”

“They can at least offer you consolation and comfort."

“Yes; but what more?” "That is much."

“True; and I will appreciate it. I could not think that Cora would forget me. Neither would Adelpha, if she knew.

His mother after waiting some time for her son to resume, at last said:

“Charles, if your choice were left you, which of the two, Adelpha or Cora, would you wed?”

Charles, smiling, answered:

“Mother, it is not for one living within the shadow of the scaffold to think of marriage."

“Charles, can you really think your case serious?"

"I do mother. I know it."

“Oh, Charles, surely they will not condemn you! They have no proof. You are innocent.”

“I am innocent, mother; but that is no reason that evidence will not be produced against me.

“Yet it will be false."

“False, of course; yet many have been hung on testimony false as Satan himself."

“Oh, Charles, what shall we do?”

“Trust in the Lord, mother. When all earthly help is gone, we can only look to God for aid. I have prayed to him that, if it be his will, this cup might pass; yet his will, not mine, be done. If I must die a martyr to that woman's falsehood, I pray he may give me sufficient strength to endure the trial.”

The mother fell on the neck of her son, crying: “You shall not die! Oh, my son! my son!”

Charles comforted his mother as well as he could, and she took her leave. All was dark and gloomy. He knew that malice and hatred pursued him, caught his throat and would not let go its hold, until it dragged him to death. He was buried in the midst of his gloomy reflections, when the door of his cell opened, and a jailer, entering, said:

“Another visitor for you, Charles Stevens." “ Another visitor? Who can it be?” he asked. “It is I,” and Samuel Parris entered.

For a moment, Charles Stevens was struck dumb at the audacity of the pastor of Salem in venturing to enter the cell of one whom he had wronged. Though the power of Mr. Parris was on the wane, it was not wholly gone. He took advantage of the confusion of Charles Stevens to signal the jailer to leave them, and he went out, closing the iron door behind him. Folding his arms on his breast, Parris gazed on the prisoner.

Charles Stevens, about whose waist was a thick belt of leather, fastened by a chain to the wall, sat on a miserable cot, his face bowed in his hands. He did not look up at the white, cadaverous face and great, blazing orbs, which gleamed with fury upon him, although he knew full well that those eyes were on him.

“Charles!” the deep sepulchral voice at last spoke.

“Well?"
“Look up."

With a sigh, the young prisoner raised his head. Every movement he made was accompanied by the rattling of chains.

“Charles, you will not believe me, when I tell you I am sorry for this.”

“No; I will not.”

“Nevertheless, I am. Charles Stevens, you do not know me; the world misjudges me, and all

future generations will do the same. Some things which I have done may seem harsh; yet I was commanded of Heaven to do them."

“Samuel Parris, if you have come to upbraid me, to gloat over my captivity and add to my misery, do so. I am powerless and cannot resist you; but I do entreat you not to blaspheme your Maker."

The great eyes of Parris gleamed with sullen fire; his thin lips parted; his breath came short and quick, and for a few moments he was unable to answer. At last, becoming calmer, he said, in his deep sepulchral voice:

“Charles, you do not like me?” “I confess it."

" “I have rebuked you for your sinful associations, and the wicked dislike rebuke. The devils said to the Saviour, when he would cast them out, 'Let us alone; we have naught to do with thee.' Everywhere in this life, the sinner says, 'Leave me alone,' yet it is my calling to go forth and snatch brands from the burning. Charles, why will you not denounce the child of that player?”

“She hath done no wrong.' “Do you love her?”

“That is a question you have no right to ask, or expect me to answer. “I have read it in your heart.

“I have no answer.'

“What have you to say in extenuation of your conduct hitherto ?”

“Nothing."
“Why did you return to Salem ?”
“It is my home.”
“Did you anticipate this accusation ?”
"No."
“And what do you expect now?”
“Death."
' Have you no hope of escaping?”
“None."
“But you seem calm and collected.”
“Why should I not?”
“ Most men fear death."
“True.”
" And do not you?"
“I would rather live."

“What would you consent to do to save your life?

“Nothing dishonorable."

“What I am about to propose is by no means dishonorable, but honorable and fair in every particular."

“Proceed.”

“You are charged with the death of Samuel Williams. Whether you be guilty or not, it is quite clear that Williams is dead. Now it is the

« PreviousContinue »