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MR. PARRIS AND FLOCK.
And false the light on glory's plume,
As fading hues of even,
The last expiring throe of a mighty superstition was about to convulse the little society at Salem, and, as usual in such cases, ignorance and preju- · dice went hand in hand for the destruction of reason and humanity. The last of the great religious persecutions was to begin, when eminent divines were to stand and point with pride to the swaying bodies of their victims, hanging from the gibbet, and call them “fire-brands of hell."
In the village of Salem, there was a strife between Samuel Parris the minister and a part of his people; a strife so bitter, that it had even attracted the attention of a general court. We all know, even in these modern days, what a furor can be created in a church, when a part of the organization is ar
rayed against the pastor. Sometimes the divine shepherd loses his temper and says ugly things against his flock, and thinks many which he does not utter.
Parris was a man filled with ambition and prejudice. He was a fanatic and easily driven to frenzy by opposition. An unfavorable criticism upset his highly nervous organism, and he set out to find some proof in the Scriptures for condemning his enemies. It never entered into his mind to love those who hated him.
Mr. Parris had lived in the West Indies for several years before going to Salem, and had brought with him some slaves purchased from the Spaniards. Among them were two famous in history as John and Tituba his wife. Historians disagree as to the nationality of these slaves. Some aver they were Indians, others call them negroes, while some state they were half and half. Whatever
Whatever may have been their nationality, their practices were the fetichism of western Africa, and there can be no doubt that negro blood predominated in their veins. All their training, their low cunning and beastly worship, their deception and treachery were utterly unlike the characteristics of the early aborigines of America, and were purely African.
John and Tituba were full of the gross superstitions of their people, and were of the frame and
temperament best adapted to the practice of demonology
In the family of Samuel Parris, his daughter, a child of nine years, and his niece, a girl of less than twelve, began to have strange caprices. During such a state of affairs the pastor actually permitted to be formed, with his own knowledge, a society of young girls between the ages of eight and eighteen to meet at the parsonage, strangely resembling those "circles" of our own time called séances, for spiritualistic revelations. There can be no doubt that the young girls were laboring under a strong nervous and mental excitement, which was encouraged rather than repressed by the means employed by their spiritual director. Instead of treating them as subjects of morbid delusion, Mr. Parris regarded them as victims of external and diabolical influence, and strangely enough this influence, on the evidence of the children themselves, was supposed to be exercised by some of the most pious and respectable people of the community. As it was those who opposed Mr. Parris, who fell under the ban of suspicion, there is room to suspect the reverent Mr. Parris with making a strong effort to gratify his revenge.
Many a child has had its early life blighted and its nerves shattered by a ghost-believing and ghoststory-telling nurse.
No class of people is more superstitious in regard to ghosts and witches than negroes.
Whatever fetich ideas may have been among the Indians of the New World, many more were imbibed from the Africans with whom they early came in contact.
Old Tituba was a horrid-looking creature. If ever there was a witch on earth, she was one, and as she crouched in one corner, smoking her clay pipe, her eyes closed, telling her weird stories to the girls, no one can wonder that they were strangely affected.
“Now, chillun, lem me tell ye, dat ef ebber a witch catches ye, and pinches ye, and sticks pins in ye, ye won't see 'em, ye won't see nobody, ye won't see nuffin,” said old Tituba.
“What should we do if a witch were to catch us, Tituba?” asked Abigail Williams, the niece of Mr. Parris. “Dar but one thing to do, chile.
Dat am to burn de witch or hang 'em."
“ Are there witches now ?”
“Yes, dar be plenty. I see 'em ob night. Doan ye nebber see a black man in de night?"
The children were all silent, until one little girl, whose imagination was very vivid, thought she had seen a black man, once.
“When was it?”' asked Abigail Williams.
"One night, when I waked out of my sleep, I saw a great black something by my side.”
The little blue eyes opened so wide and looked with such earnestness on the assembled children, that there could be no doubting her sincerity.
“Can we catch witches?” Abigail asked Tituba. “Yes.” “How?" “Many ways."
Then she proceeded to tell of the various charms by which a witch might be detected, such as drawing the picture of the person accused and stabbing it with a knife of silver, or shooting it with a silver bullet.
“Once, when a witch was in a churn, "continued Tituba, “and no butter would come, den de man, he take some hot water an' pour it in de churn, an' jist den dar come a loud noise like er gun, an' dey see er cloud erbove de churn. Bye um bye, dat cloud turned ter er woman's head an' et war an ole woman wat lib in der neighborhood and war called a witch."
“Is that true, Tituba?” asked one of the little girls.
“It am so, fur er sartin sure fact, chile.'
Nothing is more susceptible than a young imagination. · It can see whatever it wills, hear whatever is desired, and like wax is ready to receive