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“Oh, I trust not,” and the darkness concealed the sly glance which Sarah cast from her great dark eyes on the unsuspecting youth at her side. The conversation was next changed to Mr. Parris, his quarrel with his flock, and the strange phenomenon developing at his house.
“What think you of it, Charles ?”
‘Oh, no, no! John, the negro man, is bewitched, and has fits."
“A good flogging would very quickly bring him out of his fits."
By this time they had reached the door of Sarah Williams' house. She turned upon the youth and, seizing his arm, in a voice trembling with emotion, said:
“Charles, I beseech of you, as you love life and happiness, do not say aught against Mr. Parris or witchcraft. We stand on the brink of something terrible, and no one knows what the end may be."
As Charles wended his way homeward, he pondered over the strange words of Sarah Williams, and asked himself:
“ What does she mean?”
A NIGHT WITH WITCHES.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke
Most people are superstitious. In fact, we might put it stronger and say, all people are superstitious. Superstition is natural, and so long as there are great mysteries unrevealed to man, there will be superstition. So long as the great mysteries of life and death and a future existence are shrouded in the unknown, there will be believers in the supernatural. So long as there are powers and forces not understood, they will be attributed to unknown
* The incidents narrated in this chapter were gathered from Cotton Mather's “Invisible World,” and legends current at the time. Strange as it may seem, these narratives were believed, and some are from sworn testimony in court.
or unnatural causes. Most people are unwilling to admit, even to themselves, that they are superstitious, yet somewhere in their nature will be found a belief in some odd and ludicrous superstition. Many have a dread of the unlucky number; some will not commence a journey on Friday; they feel better when they have seen the new moon over their right shoulder, and when the matter is well sifted, we find lurking about all a strange, inexplicable superstition.
Two hundred years ago, superstition was far more prevalent than at present, and some of the wisest and best of that day possessed the oddest and most unreasonable opinions.
A few evenings after the incidents narrated in the foregoing chapter, Charles Stevens, who had been all day on a hunt, at night found himself near an old deserted house, four or five miles from town. The house had been built by some Puritans, years before, and the family which had lived in it were murdered by Indians.
The house was currently reported at the village to be haunted; but Charles, who was not a believer in ghosts, resolved to pass the night there, in preference to braving a threatening thunderstorm.
His negro man Pete was with him, and when he told Pete to gather up some dry wood, the darkey, with eyes protruding from his head, asked:
“Massa Charles, am ye gwine to stay heah all night?"
“Certainly, Pete, why not? A storm is coming, and we could not reach home in such a tempest.'
“But dis house am baunted."
“Oh, nonsense, Pete. Get the wood, and don't let such foolish notions as ghosts enter your mind.”
Pete reluctantly obeyed, and Charles went into the house where was an old lamp which had been left there by hunters. It was nearly full of oil, and he lighted it by aid of his flint and steel.
Some rude benches and three-legged stools constituted the furniture. Pete, finding that nothing could induce his master to go on, gathered a quantity of dry wood before the rain began to fall, and started a fire.
The single lamp, burning dimly on the mantel, gave a weird ghost-like gleam, and Pete shuddered as he glanced into the dark corners and the black attic' above, from whence his fervid imagination conjured up lost spirits, ghosts and goblins ready to seize him by the hair.
Just as the first great rain-drops began to fall on the old weather-beaten roof of the deserted house, they heard the rapid tramp of feet without. Pete uttered a horrified yell and sprang into the chimney, where he was trying to start a fire. Charles
told him to refrain from his silly conduct and went to the door to see who their visitors were.
“Charles, Charles, is it you?” cried a voice which he recognized as John Louder.
“We saw the light within and determined to seek shelter."
Louder was accompanied by his neighbors Bly and Gray, all carrying guns and some small game in their hands.
“You have been in the forest to-day?”
“Yes, with ill luck, too. Marry! I trow, neighbors, we will have a tempest,” cried Louder, as he and his companions entered the old house. A burst of thunder shook the earth; the wild winds raged about the house, making the rickety old structure creak and groan, while the air about seemed on fire. For a moment all were awed to silence; then Charles said: “It will soon pass.
The rain will soon drown it."
“Have you but just come?” asked Louder. “Just arrived."
“I would not, under other circumstances, put up in such a place as this; but it is better than the storm raging without."
The hunters, thankful for even such poor shelter, skinned some squirrels, and toasted them before the glowing fire, which Pete had built. Suppe over, they drew the benches close about the fire,