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the magnitude of which he did not dream, and it was only natural, with his fertile imagination, narrow perceptions and limited knowledge, that he would see strange sights and hear strange sounds. Images and visions which have been portrayed in tales of romance and given interest to the pages of poetry were made by him to throng the woods, flit through the air and hover over the heads of terrified officials, whose learning should have placed them beyond the bounds of superstition. The ghosts of murdered wives, husbands and children played their part with a vividness of representation and artistic skill of expression hardly surpassed in scenic representation on the stage. The superstition of the Middle Ages was embodied in real action, with all its extravagant absurdities and monstrosities. This, carried into the courts of law, where the relations of society and conduct or feelings of individuals were suffered to be under control of fanciful or mystical notions, could have but one effect. When a whole people abandoned the solid ground of common sense, overleaped the boundaries of human knowledge, gave itself up to wild reveries, and let loose its passions without restraint, the result was more destructive to society than a Vesuvius to Pompeii. When John Louder said his gun was bewitched, there was no incredulous smile on his companions' faces.
The political complexion of New England at that time no doubt had much to do with the superstitious awe which overspread that country. Within the recollection of many inhabitants, the parent government had changed three times. Charles II. had lived such a life of furious dissipation, that his earthly career was drawing to a close.
The New England people were zealous theologians, and Massachusetts and Plymouth hated above all sects the Roman Catholics. Charles II. could not reign long, and James, Duke of York, his brother, would be his successor, as it was generally known that Charles II. had no legitimate heir. It was hoped by some that his illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, a Protestant, might succeed him. Some had even hinted that Charles II., while flying from Cromwell, had secretly married Lucy Waters, the mother of the duke; but this has never been proved in history.
The somewhat ostentatious manner in which the Duke of York had been accustomed to go to mass, during the life of his brother, was the chief cause of the general dislike in which he was held. Even Charles, giddy and careless as he was in general, saw the imprudence of James' conduct, and significantly told him on one occasion that he had no desire to go upon his travels again, whatever James might wish.
When it became currently reported
all over the American colonies that this bigoted Catholic would, on the death of his brother, become their ruler, the New Englanders began to tremble for their religion. There was murmuring from every village and plantation, keeping society in a constant ferment.
The three hunters were still discussing their ill luck when the sound of horse's hoofs fell on their ears, and they turned slowly about to see a stranger approaching them on horseback. His sad, gray eye had something wild and supernatural about it. His costume had at one time been elegant, but was now stained with dust and travel. It included a wrought flowing neckcloth, a sash covered with a silver-laced red cloth coat, a satin waistcoat embroidered with gold, a trooping scarf and a silver hat-band. His trousers, which were met above the knees by a pair of riding boots, like the remainder of his attire, was covered with dust.
The expression of pain on his face was misconstrued by the superstitious hunters into a look of fiendish triumph, and John Louder, seizing the arm of Bly, whispered:
"It is he!" “Perhaps “I know it, Bly, for he hath followed me all day.”
" Then wherefore not give him the ball, which he hath guarded from the deer?”
“It would be of no avail, John. A witch cannot be killed with lead. He would throw the ball in my face and laugh at me."
The three walked hastily along, casting wary and uneasy glances behind as the horseman drew nearer. Each trembled lest the horseman should speak, and once or twice he seemed as if he would; but pain, or some other cause unknown to the hunters, prevented his doing so. He rode swiftly by, disappearing over the hill in the direction of Salem.
When he was out of sight the three hunters paused, and, falling on their knees, each uttered a short prayer for deliverance from Satan. As they rose, John Louder said:
“Now I know full well, good men, that he is the wizard who hath tampered with my gun.”
“Who is he?"
“Ah! well may you ask, Samuel Gray, who he is; a stranger, the black man, the devil, who hath assumed this form to mislead and torment us. One can only wonder at the various cunning of Satan," and Louder sighed.
“Truly you speak, friend John,” Bly answered. “The enemy of men's souls is constantly on the lookout for the unwary.'
“I have met him and wrestled with him, until I was almost overcome; but, having on the whole armor of God, I did cry out 'Get thee behind me,
Satan!' and, behold, I could smell the sulphur of hell, as the gates were opened to admit the prince of darkness.”
The shades of night were creeping over the earth, and the three weary hunters were not yet within sight of their homes, when the horseman who had so strangely excited their fears drew rein at a spring not a fourth of a mile from the village of Salem and allowed his horse to drink. He pressed his hand to his side, as if suffering intolerable anguish, and murmured:
“ Will I find shelter there?"
Overcome by suffering, he at last slipped from his saddle and, sitting among the rustling leaves heedless of the lowering clouds and threatened storm, buried his face in his hands. Two hours had certainly elapsed since he first came in sight of Salem, and yet so slow had been his pace, that he had not reached the village; but on the earth, threatened with a raging tempest, he breathed in feeble accents a prayer to God for strength to perform the great and holy task on which he was bent. He was sick and feeble. In his side was a wound that might prove fatal, and to this he occasionally pressed his hand as if in pain.
He who heareth the poor when they cry unto Him, answered the prayer of the desolate. A farmer boy came along whistling merrily despite the