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Title: Lois the Witch
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605541.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Lois the Witch
Elizabeth Gaskell



CHAPTER I



In the year 1691, Lois Barclay stood on a little wooden pier,
steadying herself on the stable land, in much the same manner as,
eight or nine weeks ago, she had tried to steady herself on the deck
of the rocking ship which had carried her across from Old to New
England. It seemed as strange now to be on solid earth as it had been,
not long ago, to be rocked by the sea both by day and by night; and
the aspect of the land was equally strange. The forests which showed
in the distance all around, and which, in truth, were not very far
from the wooden houses forming the town of Boston, were of different
shades of green, and different, too, in shape of outline to those
which Lois Barclay knew well in her old home in Warwickshire. Her
heart sank a little as she stood alone, waiting for the captain of the
good ship Redemption, the kind, rough old sailor, who was her only
known friend in this unknown continent. Captain Holdernesse was busy,
however, as she saw, and it would probably be some time before he
would be ready to attend to her; so Lois sat down on one of the casks
that lay about, and wrapped her grey duffle cloak tight around her,
and sheltered herself under her hood, as well as might be, from the
piercing wind, which seemed to follow those whom it had tyrannised
over at sea with a dogged wish of still tormenting them on land. Very
patiently did Lois sit there, although she was weary, and shivering
with cold; for the day was severe for May, and the Redemption, with
store of necessaries and comforts for the Puritan colonists of New
England, was the earliest ship that had ventured across the seas.

How could Lois help thinking of the past, and speculating on the
future, as she sat on Boston pier, at this breathing-time of her life?
In the dim sea mist which she gazed upon with aching eyes (filled,
against her will, with tears, from time to time), there rose, the
little village church of Barford (not three miles from Warwick--you
may see it yet), where her father had preached ever since 1661, long
before she was born. He and her mother both lay dead in Barford
churchyard; and the old low grey church could hardly come before her
vision without her seeing the old parsonage too, the cottage covered
with Austrian roses and yellow jessamine, where she had been born,
sole child of parents already long past the prime of youth. She saw
the path not a hundred yards long, from the parsonage to the vestry
door: that path which her father trod daily; for the vestry was his
study, and the sanctum where he pored over the ponderous tomes of the
Fathers, and compared their precepts with those of the authorities of
the Anglican Church of that day--the day of the later Stuarts; for
Barford Parsonage, at that time, scarcely exceeded in size and dignity
the cottages by which it was surrounded: it only contained three rooms
on a floor, and was but two storeys high. On the first or ground
floor, were the parlour, kitchen, and back or working kitchen;
upstairs, Mr and Mrs Barclay's room, that belonging to Lois, and the
maid servant's room. If a guest came, Lois left her own chamber, and
shared old Clemence's bed. But those days were over. Never more should
Lois see father or mother on earth; they slept, calm and still, in
Barford churchyard, careless of what became of their orphan child, as
far as earthly manifestations of care or love went. And Clemence lay
there too, bound down in her grassy bed by withes of the briar-rose,
which Lois had trained over those three precious graves before leaving
England for ever.

There were some who would fain have kept her there; one who swore in
his heart a great oath unto the Lord that he would seek her, sooner or
later, if she was still upon the earth. But he was the rich heir and
only son of the Miller Lucy, whose mill stood by the Avon side in the
grassy Barford meadows; and his father looked higher for him than the
penniless daughter of Parson Barclay (so low were clergymen esteemed
in those days!); and the very suspicion of Hugh Lucy's attachment to
Lois Barclay made his parents think it more prudent not to offer the
orphan a home, although none other of the parishioners had the means,
even if they had the will, to do so.

So Lois swallowed her tears down till the time came for crying, and
acted upon her mother's words

'Lois, thy father is dead of this terrible fever, and I am dying. Nay,
it is so; though I am easier from pain for these few hours, the Lord
be praised! The cruel men of the Commonwealth have left thee very
friendless. Thy father's only brother was shot down at Edgehill. I,
too, have a brother, though thou hast never heard me speak of him, for
he was a schismatic; and thy father and me had words, and he left for
that new country beyond the seas, without ever saying farewell to us.
But Ralph was a kind lad until he took up these newfangled notions;
and for the old days sake he will take thee in, and love thee as a
child, and place thee among his children. Blood is thicker than water.
Write to him as soon as I am gone--for, Lois, I am going, and I bless
the Lord that has letten me join my husband again so soon.' Such was
the selfishness of conjugal love; she thought little of Lois's
desolation in comparison with her rejoicing over her speedy reunion
with her dead husband! 'Write to thine uncle, Ralph Hickson, Salem,
New England (put it down, child, on thy tablets), and say that I,
Henrietta Barclay, charge him, for the sake of all he holds dear in
heaven or on earth---for his salvation's sake, as well as for the sake
of the old home at Lester Bridge--for the sake of the father and
mother that gave us birth, as well as for the sake of the six little
children who lie dead between him and me--that he take thee into his
home as if thou wert his own flesh and blood, as indeed thou art. He
has a wife and children of his own, and no one need fear having thee,
my Lois, my darling, my baby, among his household. O Lois, would that
thou wert dying with me! The thought of thee makes death sore!' Lois
comforted her mother more than herself, poor child, by promises to
obey her dying wishes to the letter, and by expressing hopes she dared
not feel of her uncle's kindness.

'Promise me'--the dying woman's breath came harder and harder---'that
thou wilt go at once. The money our goods will bring--thy letter thy
father wrote to Captain Holdernesse, his old schoolfellow--thou
knowest all I would say--my Lois, God bless thee!'

Solemnly did Lois promise; strictly she kept her word. It was all the
more easy, for Hugh Lucy met her, and told her, in one great burst of
love, of his passionate attachment, his vehement struggles with his
father, his impotence at present, his hopes and resolves for the
future. And, intermingled with all this, came such outrageous threats
and expressions of uncontrolled vehemence, that Lois felt that in
Barford she must not linger to be a cause of desperate quarrel between
father and son, while her absence might soften down matters, so that
either the rich old miller might relent, or--and her heart ached to
think of the other possibility--Hugh's love might cool, and the dear
playfellow of her childhood learn to forget. If not--if Hugh were to
be trusted in one tithe of what he said--God might permit him to
fulfil his resolve of coming to seek her out, before many years were
over. It was all in God's hands; and that was best, thought Lois
Barclay.

She was aroused out of her trance of recollections by Captain
Holdernesse, who, having done all that was necessary in the way of
orders and directions to his mate, now came up to her, and, praising
her for her quiet patience, told her that he would now take her to the
Widow Smith's, a decent kind of house, where he and many other sailors
of the better order were in the habit of lodging during their stay on
the New England shores. Widow Smith, he said, had a parlour for
herself and her daughters, in which Lois might sit, while he went
about the business that, as he had told her, would detain him in
Boston for a day or two, before he could accompany her to her uncle's
at Salem. All this had been to a certain degree arranged on ship-
board; but Captain Holdernesse, for want of anything else that he
could think of to talk about, recapitulated it, as he and Lois walked
along. It was his way of showing sympathy with the emotion that made
her grey eyes full of tears, as she started up from the pier at the
sound of his voice. In his heart he said, 'Poor wench! poor wench!
it's a strange land to her, and they are all strange folks, and, I
reckon, she will be feeling desolate. I'll try and cheer her up.' So
he talked on about hard facts, connected with the life that lay before
her, until they reached Widow Smith's; and perhaps Lois was more
brightened by this style of conversation, and the new ideas it
presented to her, than she would have been by the tenderest woman's
sympathy.

'They are a queer set, these New Englanders,' said Captain
Holdernesse. 'They are rare chaps for praying; down on their knees at
every turn of their life. Folk are none so busy in a new country, else
they would have to pray like me, with a "Yo-hoy!" on each side of my
prayer, and a rope cutting like fire through my hand. Yon pilot was
for calling us all to thanksgiving for a good voyage, and lucky escape
from the pirates; but I said I always put up my thanks on dry land,
after I had got my ship into harbour. The French colonists, too, are
vowing vengeance for the expedition against Canada, and the people
here are raging like heathens--at least, as like as godly folk can
be--for the loss of their charter. All that is the news the pilot told
me; for, for all he wanted us to be thanksgiving instead of casting
the lead, he was as down in the mouth as could be about the state of
the country. But here we are at Widow Smith's! Now, cheer up, and show
the godly a pretty smiling Warwickshire lass!'

Anybody would have smiled at Widow Smith's greeting. She was a comely,
motherly woman, dressed in the primmest fashion in vogue twenty years
before in England, among the class to which she belonged. But,
somehow, her pleasant face gave the lie to her dress; were it as brown
and sober-coloured as could be, folk remembered it bright and
cheerful, because it was a part of Widow Smith herself.

She kissed Lois on both cheeks, before she rightly understood who the
stranger maiden was, only because she was a stranger and looked sad
and forlorn; and then she kissed her again, because Captain
Holdernesse commanded her to the widow's good offices. And so she led
Lois by the hand into her rough, substantial log-house, over the door
of which hung a great bough of a tree, by way of sign of entertainment
for man and horse. Yet not all men were received by Widow Smith. To
some she could be as cold and reserved as need be, deaf to all
inquiries save one---where else they could find accommodation? To this
question she would give a ready answer, and speed the unwelcome guest
on his way. Widow Smith was guided in these matters by instinct: one
glance at a man's face told her whether or not she chose to have him
as an inmate of the same house as her daughters; and her promptness of
decision in these matters gave her manner a kind of authority which no
one liked to disobey, especially as she had stalwart neighbours within
call to back her, if her assumed deafness in the first instance, and
her voice and gesture in the second, were not enough to give the
would-be guest his dismissal. Widow Smith chose her customers merely
by their physical aspect; not one whit with regard to their apparent
worldly circumstances. Those who had been staying at her house once
always came again; for she had the knack of making every one beneath
her roof comfortable and at his ease. Her daughters, Prudence and
Hester, had somewhat of their mother's gifts, but not in such
perfection. They reasoned a little upon a stranger's appearance,
instead of knowing at the first moment whether they liked him or no;
they noticed the indications of his clothes, the quality and cut
thereof, as telling somewhat of his station in society; they were more
reserved; they hesitated more than their mother; they had not her
prompt authority, her happy power. Their bread was not so light; their
cream went sometimes to sleep, when it should have been turning into
butter; their hams were not always just like the hams of the old
country'; as their mother's were invariably pronounced to be--yet they
were good, orderly, kindly girls, and rose and greeted Lois with a
friendly shake of the hand, as their mother, with her arm round the
stranger's waist, led her into the private room which she called her
parlour. The aspect of this room was strange in the English girl's
eyes. The logs of which the house was built showed here and there
through the mud-plaster, although before both plaster and logs were
hung the skins of many curious animals--skins presented to the widow
by many a trader of her acquaintance, just as her sailor-guests
brought her another description of gifts--shells, strings of wampum-
beads, sea-birds' eggs, and presents from the old country. The room
was more like a small museum of natural history of these days than a
parlour; and it had a strange, peculiar, but not unpleasant smell
about it, neutralised in some degree by the smoke from the enormous
trunk of pinewood which smouldered in the hearth.

The instant their mother told them that Captain Holdernesse was in the
outer room, the girls began putting away their spinning-wheel and
knitting needles, and preparing for a meal of some kind; what meal,
Lois, sitting there and unconsciously watching, could hardly tell.
First, dough was set to rise for cakes; then came out of a corner-
cupboard--a present from England--an enormous square bottle of a
cordial called Gold-Wasser; next, a mill for grinding chocolate--a
rare, unusual treat anywhere at that time; then a great Cheshire
cheese. Three venison-steaks were cut ready for broiling, fat cold
pork sliced up and treacle poured over it; a great pie, something like
a mince-pie, but which the daughters spoke of with honour as the
'punken-pie,' fresh and salt-fish brandered, oysters cooked in various
ways. Lois wondered where would be the end of the provisions for
hospitably receiving the strangers from the old country. At length
everything was placed on the table, the hot food smoking; but all was
cool, not to say cold, before Elder Hawkins (an old neighbour of much
repute and standing, who had been invited in by Widow Smith to hear
the news) had finished his grace, into which was embodied thanksgiving
for the past, and prayers for the future, lives of every individual
present, adapted to their several cases, as far as the elder could
guess at them from appearances. This grace might not have ended so
soon as it did, had it not been for the somewhat impatient drumming of
his knife-handle on the table, with which Captain Holdernesse
accompanied the latter half of the elder's words.

When they first sat down to their meal, all were too hungry for much
talking; but, as their appetites diminished, their curiosity
increased, and there was much to be told and heard on both sides. With
all the English intelligence Lois was, of course, well acquainted; but
she listened with natural attention to all that was said about the new
country, and the new people among whom she had come to live. Her
father had been a Jacobite, as the adherents of the Stuarts were
beginning at this rime to be called. His father, again, had been a
follower of Archbishop Laud; so Lois had hitherto heard little of the
conversation, and seen little of the ways of the Puritans. Elder
Hawkins was one of the strictest of the strict, and evidently his
presence kept the two daughters of the house considerably in awe. But
the widow herself was a privileged person; her known goodness of heart
(the effects of which had been experienced by many) gave her the
liberty of speech which was tacitly denied to many, under penalty of
being esteemed ungodly, if they infringed certain conventional limits.
And Captain Holdernesse and his mate spoke out their minds, let who
would be present. So that, on this first landing in New England, Lois
was, as it were, gently let down into the midst of the Puritan
peculiarities; and yet they were sufficient to make her feel very
lonely and strange.

The first subject of conversation was the present state of the
colony--Lois soon found out that, although at the beginning she was
not a little perplexed by the frequent reference to names of places
which she naturally associated with the old country. Widow Smith was
speaking: 'In county of Essex the folk are ordered to keep four
scouts, or companies of minutemen; six persons in each company; to be
on the look-out for the wild Indians, who are for ever stirring about
in the woods, stealthy brutes as they are! I am sure, I got such a
fright the first harvest-time after I came over to New England, I go
on dreaming, now near twenty years after Lothrop's business, of
painted Indians, with their shaven scalps and their war-streaks,
lurking behind the trees, and coming nearer and nearer with their
noiseless steps.'

'Yes,' broke in one of her daughters; 'and, mother, don't you remember
how Hannah Benson told us how her husband had cut down every tree near
his house at Deerbrook, in order that no one might come near him,
under cover; and how one evening she was a-sitting in the twilight,
when all her family were gone to bed, and her husband gone off to
Plymouth on business, and she saw a log of wood, just like a trunk of
a felled tree, lying in the shadow, and thought nothing of it, till,
on looking again a while after, she fancied it was come a bit nearer
to the house; and how her heart turned sick with fright; and how she
dared not stir at first, but shut her eyes while she counted a
hundred, and looked again, and the shadow was deeper, but she could
see that the log was nearer; so she ran in and bolted the door, and
went up to where her eldest lad lay. It was Elijah, and he was but
sixteen then; but he rose up at his mother's words, and took his
father's long duck-gun down; and he tried the loading, and spoke for
the first time to put up a prayer that God would give his aim good
guidance, and went to a window that gave a view upon the side where
the log lay, and fired; and no one dared to look what came of it; but
all the household read the Scriptures, and prayed the whole night
long; till morning came and showed a long stream of blood lying on the
grass close by the log---which the full sunlight showed to be no log
at all, but just a Red Indian covered with bark, and painted most
skilfully, with his war-knife by his side.'

All were breathless with listening; though to most the story, or
others like it, were familiar. Then another took up the tale of
horror:--

'And the pirates have been down at Marblehead, since you were here,
Captain Holdernesse. 'Twas only the last winter they landed--French
Papist pirates; and the people kept close within their houses, for
they knew not what would come of it; and they dragged folk ashore.
There was one woman among those folk--prisoners from some vessel,
doubtless---and the pirates took them by force to the inland marsh;
and the Marblehead folk kept still and quiet, every gun loaded, and
every car on the watch, for who knew but what the wild sea-robbers
might take a turn on land next; and, in the dead of the night, they
heard a woman's loud and pitiful outcry from the marsh, "Lord Jesu!
have mercy on me! Save me from the power of man, O Lord Jesu!" And the
blood of all who heard the cry ran cold with terror; till old Nance
Hickson, who had been stone-deaf and bed-ridden for years, stood up in
the midst of the folk all gathered together in her grandson's house,
and said, that, as they, the dwellers in Marblehead, had not had brave
hearts or faith enough to go and succour the helpless, that cry of a
dying woman should be in their ears, and in their children's cars,
till the end of the world. And Nance dropped down dead as soon as she
had made an end of speaking, and the pirates set sail from Marblehead
at morning dawn; but the folk there hear the cry still, shrill and
pitiful, from the waste marshes, "Lord Jesu! have mercy on me! Save me
from the power of man, O Lord Jesu!"'

'And, by token,' said Elder Hawkins's deep bass voice, speaking with
the strong nasal twang of the Puritans (who, says Butler, 'godly Mr
Noyes ordained a fast at Marblehead, and preached a soul-stirring
discourse on the words, "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the
least of these, my brethren, ye did it not unto me." But it has been
borne in upon me at times, whether the whole vision of the pirates and
the cry of the woman was not a device of Satan's to sift the
Marblehead folk, and see what fruit their doctrine bore, and so to
condemn them in the sight of the Lord. If it were so, the enemy had a
great triumph; for assuredly it was no part of Christian men to leave
a helpless woman unaided in her sore distress.)'

'But, Elder,' said Widow Smith, 'it was no vision; they were real
living men who went ashore, men who broke down branches and left their
footmarks on the ground.'

'As for that matter, Satan bath many powers, and, if it be the day
when he is permitted to go about like a roaring lion, he will not
stick at trifles, but make his work complete. I tell you, many men are
spiritual enemies in visible forms, permitted to roam about the waste
places of the earth. I myself believe that these Red Indians are
indeed the evil creatures of whom we read in Holy Scripture; and there
is no doubt that they are in league with those abominable Papists, the
French people in Canada. I have heard tell, that the French pay the
Indians so much gold for every dozen scalps of Englishmen's heads.'

'Pretty cheerful talk this!' said Captain Holdernesse to Lois,
perceiving her blanched cheek and terror-stricken mien. 'Thou art
thinking that thou hadst better have stayed at Barford, I'll answer
for it, wench. But the devil is not so black as he is painted.'

'Ho! there again!' said Elder Hawkins. 'The devil is painted, it bath
been said so from old times; and are not these Indians painted, even
like unto their father?'

'But is it all true?' asked Lois, aside, of Captain Holdernesse,
letting the Elder hold forth unheeded by her, though listened to with
the utmost reverence by the two daughters of the house.

'My wench,' said the old sailor, 'thou hast come to a country where
there are many perils, both from land and from sea. The Indians hate
the white men. Whether other white men' (meaning the French away to
the north) 'have bounded-on the savages, or whether the English have
taken their lands and hunting-grounds without due recompense, and so
raised the cruel vengeance of the wild creatures--who knows? But it is
true that it is not safe to go far into the woods, for fear of the
lurking painted savages; nor has it been safe to build a dwelling far
from a settlement; and it takes a brave heart to make a journey from
one town to another; and folk do say the Indian creatures rise up out
of the very ground to waylay the English! and then others affirm they
are all in league with Satan to affright the Christians out of the
heathen country, over which he has reigned so long. Then, again, the
sea-shore is infested by pirates, the scum of all nations: they land,
and plunder, and ravage, and burn, and destroy. Folk get affrighted of
the real dangers, and in their fright imagine, perchance, dangers that
are not. But who knows? Holy Scripture speaks of witches and wizards,
and of the power of the Evil One in desert places; and, even in the
old country, we have heard tell of those who have sold their souls for
ever for the little power they get for a few years on earth.'

By this time the whole table was silent, listening to the captain; it
was just one of those chance silences that sometimes occur, without
any apparent reason, and often without any apparent consequence. But
all present had reason, before many months had passed over, to
remember the words which Lois spoke in answer, although her voice was
low, and she only thought, in the interest of the moment, of being
heard by her old friend the captain.

'They are fearful creatures, the witches! and yet I am sorry for the
poor old women, whilst I dread them. We had one in Barford, when I was
a little child. No one knew whence she came, but she settled herself
down in a mud-hut by the common-side; and there she lived, she and her
cat.' (At the mention of the cat, Elder Hawkins shook his head long
and gloomily.) 'No one knew how she lived, if it were not on nettles
and scraps of oatmeal and such-like food, given her more for fear than
for pity. She went double, and always talking and muttering to
herself. Folk said she snared birds and rabbits in the thicket that
came down to her hovel. How it came to pass I cannot say, but many a
one fell sick in the village, and much cattle died one spring, when I
was near four years old. I never heard much about it, for my father
said it was ill talking about such things; I only know I got a sick
fright one afternoon, when the maid had gone out for milk and had
taken me with her, and we were passing a meadow where the Avon,
circling, makes a deep round pool, and there was a crowd of folk, all
still--and a still, breathless crowd makes the heart beat worse than a
shouting, noisy one. They were all gazing towards the water, and the
maid held me up in her arms, to see the sight above the shoulders of
the people; and I saw old Hannah in the water, her grey hair all
streaming down her shoulders, and her face bloody and black with the
stones and mud they had been throwing at her, and her cat tied round
her neck. I hid my face, I know, as soon as I saw the fearsome sight,
for her eyes met mine as they were glaring with fury--poor, helpless,
baited creature!--and she caught the sight of me, and cried out,
"Parson's wench, parson's wench, yonder, in thy nurse's arms, thy dad
bath never tried for to save me; and none shall save thee, when thou
art brought up for a witch." Oh! the words rang in my cars, when I was
dropping asleep, for years after. I used to dream that I was in that
pond; that all men hated me with their eyes because I was a witch:
and, at times, her black cat used to seem living again, and say over
those dreadful works.'

Lois stopped: the two daughters looked at her excitement with a kind
of shrinking surprise, for the tears were in her eyes. Elder Hawkins
shook his head, and muttered texts from Scripture; but cheerful Widow
Smith, not liking the gloomy rum of the conversation, tried to give it
a lighter cast by saying, 'And I don't doubt but what the parson's
bonny lass has bewitched many a one since, with her dimples and her
pleasant ways--eh, Captain Holdernesse? It's you must tell us tales of
the young lass's doings in England.'

'Ay, ay,' said the captain; 'there's one under her charms in
Warwickshire who will never get the better of it, I'm thinking.'

Elder Hawkins rose to speak; he stood leaning on his hands, which were
placed on the table: 'Brethren,' said he, 'I must upbraid you if ye
speak lightly; charms and witchcraft are evil things; I trust this
maiden bath had nothing to do with them, even in thought. But my mind
misgives me at her story. The hellish witch might have power from
Satan to infect her mind, she being yet a child, with the deadly sin.
Instead of vain talking, I call upon you all to join with me in prayer
for this stranger in our land, that her heart may be purged from all
iniquity. Let us pray.'

'Come, there's no harm in that,' said the captain; 'but, Elder
Hawkins, when you are at work, just pray for us all; for I am afeard
there be some of us need purging from iniquity a good deal more than
Lois Barclay, and a prayer for a man never does mischief.'

Captain Holdernesse had business in Boston which detained him there
for a couple of days; and during that time Lois remained with the
Widow Smith, seeing what was to be seen of the new land that contained
her future home. The letter of her dying mother was sent off to Salem,
meanwhile, by a lad going thither, in order to prepare her Uncle Ralph
Hickson for his niece's coming, as soon as Captain Holdernesse could
find leisure to take her; for he considered her given into his own
personal charge, until he could consign her to her uncle's care. When
the time came for going to Salem, Lois felt very sad at leaving the
kindly woman under whose roof she had been staying, and looked back as
long as she could see anything of Widow Smith's dwelling. She was
packed into a rough kind of country-cart, which just held her and
Captain Holdernesse, beside the driver. There was a basket of
provisions under their feet, and behind them hung a bag of provender
for the horse; for it was a good day's journey to Salem, and the road
was reputed so dangerous that it was ill tarrying a minute longer than
necessary for refreshment. English roads were bad enough at that
period, and for long after; but in America the way was simply the
cleared ground of the forest--the stumps of the felled trees still
remaining in the direct line, forming obstacles which it required the
most careful driving to avoid; and in the hollows, where the ground
was swampy, the pulpy nature of it was obviated by logs of wood laid
across the boggy part. The deep green forest, tangled into heavy
darkness even thus early in the year, came within a few yards of the
road all the way, though efforts were regularly made by the
inhabitants of the neighbouring settlements to keep a certain space
clear on each side, for fear of the lurking Indians, who might
otherwise come upon them unawares. The cries of strange birds, the
unwonted colour of some of them, all suggested to the imaginative or
unaccustomed traveller the idea of war-whoops and painted deadly
enemies. But at last they drew near to Salem, which rivalled Boston in
size in those days, and boasted the names of one or two streets,
although to an English eye they looked rather more like irregularly
built houses, clustered round the meeting-house, or rather one of the
meeting-houses, for a second was in process of building. The whole
place was surrounded with two circles of stockades; between the two
were the gardens and grazing-ground for those who dreaded their cattle
straying into the woods, and the consequent danger of reclaiming them.

The lad who drove them flogged his spent horse into a trot, as they
went through Salem to Ralph Hickson's house. It was evening, the
leisure-time for the inhabitants, and their children were at play
before the houses. Lois was struck by the beauty of one wee, toddling
child, and turned to look after it; it caught its little foot in a
stump of wood, and fell with a cry that brought the mother out in
affright. As she ran out, her eye caught Lois' anxious gaze, although
the noise of the heavy wheels drowned the sound of her words of
inquiry as to the nature of the hurt the child had received. Nor had
Lois time to think long upon the matter; for, the instant after, the
horse was pulled up at the door of a good, square, substantial wooden
house, plastered over into a creamy white, perhaps as handsome a house
as any in Salem; and there she was told by the driver that her uncle,
Ralph Hickson, lived. In the flurry of the moment she did not notice,
but Captain Holdernesse did, that no one came out at the unwonted
sound of wheels, to receive and welcome her. She was lifted down by
the old sailor, and led into a large room, almost like the hall of
some English manor-house as to size. A tall, gaunt young man of three
or four-and-twenty sat on a bench by one of the windows, reading a
great folio by the fading light of day. He did not rise when they came
in, but looked at them with surprise, no gleam of intelligence coming
into his stem, dark face. There was no woman in the house-place.
Captain Holdernesse paused a moment, and then said--

'Is this house Ralph Hickson's?'

'It is,' said the young man, in a slow, deep voice. But he added no
word further.

'This is his niece, Lois Barclay,' said the captain, taking the girl's
arm, and pushing her forwards. The young man looked at her steadily
and gravely for a minute; then rose, and carefully marking the page in
the folio, which hitherto had laid open upon his knee, said, still in
the same heavy, indifferent manner, 'I will call my mother; she will
know.'

He opened a door which looked into a warm bright kitchen, ruddy with
the light of the fire, over which three women were apparently engaged
in cooking something, while a fourth, an old Indian woman, of a
greenish-brown colour, shrivelled-up and bent with apparent age, moved
backwards and forwards, evidently fetching the others the articles
they required.

'Mother!' said the young man; and, having arrested her attention, he
pointed over his shoulder to the newly-arrived strangers and returned
to the study of his book, from time to time, however, furtively
examining Lois from beneath his dark shaggy eyebrows.

A tall, largely-made woman, past middle life, came in from the
kitchen, and stood reconnoitring the strangers.

Captain Holdernesse spoke--

'This is Lois Barclay, master Ralph Hickson's niece.'

'I know nothing of her,' said the mistress of the house in a deep
voice, almost as masculine as her son's.

'Master Hickson received his sister's letter, did he not? I sent it
off myself by a lad named Elias Wellcome, who left Boston for this
place yester morning.'

'Ralph Hickson has received no such letter. He lies bed-ridden in the
chamber beyond. Any letters for him must come through my hands;
wherefore I can affirm with certainty that no such letter has been
delivered here. His sister Barclay, she that was Henrietta Hickson,
and whose husband took the oaths to Charles Stuart, and stuck by his
living when all godly men left theirs'--

Lois, who had thought her heart was dead and cold, a minute before, at
the ungracious reception she had met with, felt words come up into her
mouth at the implied insult to her father, and spoke out, to her own
and the captain's astonishment--

'They might be godly men who left their churches on that day of which
you speak, madam; but they alone were not the godly men, and no one
has a right to limit true godliness for mere opinion's sake.'

'Well said, lass,' spoke out the captain, looking round upon her with
a kind of admiring wonder, and patting her on the back.

Lois and her aunt gazed into each other's eyes unflinchingly, for a
minute or two of silence; but the girl felt her colour coming and
going, while the elder woman's never varied; and the eyes of the young
maiden were filling fast with tears, while those of Grace Hickson kept
on their stare, dry and unwavering.

'Mother,' said the young man, rising up with a quicker motion than any
one had yet used in this house, 'it is ill speaking of such matters
when my cousin comes first among us. The Lord may give her grace
hereafter; but she has travelled from Boston city today, and she and
this seafaring man must need rest and food.'

He did not attend to see the effect of his words, but sat down again,
and seemed to be absorbed in his book in an instant. Perhaps he knew
that his word was law with his grim mother; for he had hardly ceased
speaking before she had pointed to a wooden settle; and, smoothing the
lines on her countenance, she said--'What Manasseh says is true. Sit
down here, while I bid Faith and Nattee get food ready; and meanwhile
I will go tell my husband that one who calls herself his sister's
child is come over to pay him a visit.'

She went to the door leading into the kitchen, and gave some
directions to the elder girl, whom Lois now knew to be the daughter of
the house. Faith stood impassive, while her mother spoke, scarcely
caring to look at the newly-arrived strangers. She was like her
brother Manasseh in complexion, but had handsomer features, and large,
mysterious-looking eyes, as Lois saw, when once she lifted them up,
and took in, as it were, the aspect of the sea-captain and her cousin
with one swift, searching look. About the stiff, tall, angular mother,
and the scarce less pliant figure of the daughter, a girl of twelve
years old, or thereabouts, played all manner of impish antics,
unheeded by them, as if it were her accustomed habit to peep about,
now under their arms, now at this side, now at that, making grimaces
all the while at Lois and Captain Holdernesse, who sat facing the
door, weary, and somewhat disheartened by their reception. The captain
pulled out tobacco, and began to chew it by way of consolation; but in
a moment or two his usual elasticity of spirit came to his rescue, and
he said in a low voice to Lois--

'That scoundrel Elias, I will give it him! If the letter had but been
delivered, thou wouldst have had a different kind of welcome; but, as
soon as I have had some victuals, I will go out and find the lad, and
bring back the letter, and that will make all right, my wench. Nay,
don't be down-hearted, for I cannot stand women's tears. Thou'rt just
worn out with the shaking and the want of food.'

Lois brushed away her tears, and, looking round to try and divert her
thoughts by fixing them on present objects, she caught her cousin
Manasseh's deep-set eyes furtively watching her. It was with no
unfriendly gaze; yet it made Lois uncomfortable, particularly as he
did not withdraw his looks, after he must have seen that she observed
him. She was glad when her aunt called her into an inner room to see
her uncle, and she escaped from the steady observance of her gloomy,
silent cousin.

Ralph Hickson was much older than his wife, and his illness made him
look older still. He had never had the force of character that Grace,
his spouse, possessed; and age and sickness had now rendered him
almost childish at times. But his nature was affectionate; and,
stretching out his trembling arms from whence he lay bedridden, he
gave Lois an unhesitating welcome, never waiting for the confirmation
of the missing letter before he acknowledged her to be his niece.

'Oh! 'tis kind in thee to come all across the sea to make acquaintance
with thine uncle; kind in sister Barclay to spare thee!'

Lois had to tell him, there was no one living to miss her at home in
England; that, in fact, she had no home in England, no father nor
mother left upon earth; and that she had been bidden by her mother's
last words to seek him out and ask him for a home. Her words came up,
half choked from a heavy heart, and his dulled wits could not take in
their meaning without several repetitions; and then he cried like a
child, rather at his own loss of a sister whom he had not seen for
more than twenty years, than at that of the orphan's, standing before
him, trying hard not to cry, but to start bravely in this new strange
home. What most of all helped Lois in her self-restraint was her
aunt's unsympathetic look. Born and bred in New England, Grace Hickson
had a kind of jealous dislike to her husband's English relations,
which had increased since of late years his weakened mind yearned
after them; and he forgot the good reason he had had for his self-
exile, and moaned over the decision which had led to it as the great
mistake of his life. 'Come,' said she; 'it strikes me that, in all
this sorrow for the loss of one who died full of years, ye are
forgetting in Whose hands life and death are!'

True words, but ill-spoken at that time. Lois looked up at her with a
scarcely disguised indignation; which increased as she heard the
contemptuous tone in which her aunt went on talking to Ralph Hickson,
even while she was arranging his bed with a regard to his greater
comfort.

'One would think thou wert a godless man, by the moan thou art always
making over spilt milk; and truth is, thou art but childish in thine
old age. When we were wed, thou left all things to the Lord; I would
never have married thee else. Nay, lass,' said she, catching the
expression on Lois's face, 'thou art never going to browbeat me with
thine angry looks. I do my duty as I read it, and there is never a man
in Salem that dare speak a word to Grace Hickson about either her
works or her faith. Godly Mr Cotton Mather bath said, that even he
might learn of me; and I would advise thee rather to humble thyself,
and see if the Lord may not convert thee from thy ways, since He has
sent thee to dwell, as it were, in Zion, where the precious dew fails
daily on Aaron's beard.'

Lois felt ashamed and sorry to find that her aunt had so truly
interpreted the momentary expression of her features; she blamed
herself a little for the feeling that had caused that expression,
trying to think how much her aunt might have been troubled with
something, before the unexpected irruption of the strangers, and again
hoping that the remembrance of this misunderstanding would soon pass
away. So she endeavoured to reassure herself, and not to give way to
her uncle's tender trembling pressure of her hand, as, at her aunt's
bidding, she wished him 'goodnight', and returned into the outer, or
'keeping'--room, where all the family were now assembled, ready for
the meal of flourcakes and venison steaks which Nattee, the Indian
servant, was bringing in from the kitchen. No one seemed to have been
speaking to Captain Holdernesse, while Lois had been away. Manasseh
sat quiet and silent where he did, with the book open upon his knee;
his eyes thoughtfully fixed on vacancy, as if he saw a vision, or
dreamed dreams. Faith stood by the table, lazily directing Nattee in
her preparations; and Prudence lofted against the door-frame, between
kitchen and keeping-room, playing tricks on the old Indian woman, as
she passed backwards and forwards, till Nattee appeared to be in a
state of strong irritation, which she tried in vain to suppress; as,
whenever she showed any sign of it, Prudence only seemed excited to
greater mischief. When all was ready, Manasseh lifted his right hand
and 'asked a blessing,' as it was termed; but the grace became a long
prayer for abstract spiritual blessings, for strength to combat Satan,
and to quench his fiery darts, and at length assumed--so Lois
thought--a purely personal character, as if the young man had
forgotten the occasion, and even the people present, but was searching
into the nature of the diseases that beset his own sick soul, and
spreading them out before the Lord. He was brought back by a pluck at
the coat from Prudence; he opened his shut eyes, cast an angry glance
at the child, who made a face at him for sole reply, and then he sat
down, and they all fell to. Grace Hickson would have thought her
hospitality sadly at fault, if she had allowed Captain Holdernesse to
go out in search of a bed. Skins were spread for him on the floor of
the keeping-room; a Bible and a square bottle of spirits were placed
on the table to supply his wants during the night; and, in spite of
all the cares and troubles, temptations, or sins of the members of
that household, they were all asleep before the town clock struck ten.

In the morning, the captain's first care was to go out in search of
the boy Elias and the missing letter. He met him bringing it with an
easy conscience, for, thought Elias, a few hours sooner or later will
make no difference; tonight or the morrow morning will be all the
same. But he was startled into a sense of wrong-doing, by a sound box
on the ear from the very man who had charged him to deliver it
speedily, and whom he believed to be at that very moment in Boston
city.

The letter delivered, all possible proof being given that Lois had a
right to claim a home from her nearest relations, Captain Holdernesse
thought it best to take leave.

'Thou'lt take to them, lass, maybe, when there is no one here to make
thee think on the old country. Nay, nay! parting is hard work at all
times, and best get hard work done out of hand! Keep up thine heart,
my wench, and I'll come back and see thee next spring, if we are all
spared till then; and who knows what fine young miller mayn't come
with me? Don't go and get wed to a praying Puritan, meanwhile! There,
there; I'm off. God bless thee!'

And Lois was left alone in New England.



CHAPTER II



It was hard work for Lois to win herself a place in this family. Her
aunt was a woman of narrow, strong affections. Her love for her
husband, if ever she had any, was burnt out and dead long ago. What
she did for him, she did from duty; but duty was not strong enough to
restrain that little member, the tongue; and Lois's heart often bled
at the continual flow of contemptuous reproof which Grace constantly
addressed to her husband, even while she was sparing no pains or
trouble to minister to his bodily case and comfort. It was more as a
relief to herself that she spoke in this way, than with any desire
that her speeches should affect him; and he was too deadened by
illness to feel hurt by them; or, it may be, the constant repetition
of her sarcasms had made him indifferent; at any rate, so that he had
his food and his state of bodily warmth attended to, he very seldom
seemed to care much for anything else. Even his first flow of
affection towards Lois was soon exhausted; he cared for her, because
she arranged his pillows well and skilfully, and because she could
prepare new and dainty kinds of food for his sick appetite, but no
longer for her as his dead sister's child. Still he did care for her,
and Lois was too glad of his little hoard of affection to examine how
or why it was given. To him she could give pleasure, but apparently to
no one else in that household. Her aunt looked askance at her for many
reasons: the first coming of Lois to Salem was inopportune; the
expression of disapprobation on her face on that evening still
lingered and rankled in Grace's memory; early prejudices, and
feelings, and prepossessions of the English girl were all on the side
of what would now be called Church and State, what was then esteemed
in that country a superstitious observance of the directions of a
Popish rubric, and a servile regard for the family of an oppressing
and irreligious king. Nor is it to be supposed that Lois did not feel,
and feel acutely, the want of sympathy that all those with whom she
was now living manifested towards the old hereditary loyalty
(religious as well as political loyalty) in which she had been brought
up. With her aunt and Manasseh it was more than want of sympathy; it
was positive, active antipathy to all the ideas Lois held most dear.
The very allusion, however incidentally made, to the little old grey
church at Barford, where her father had preached so long--the
occasional reference to the troubles in which her own country had been
distracted when she left--and the adherence, in which she had been
brought up, to the notion that the king could do no wrong, seemed to
irritate Manasseh past endurance. He would get up from his reading,
his constant employment when at home, and walk angrily about the room
after Lois had said anything of this kind, muttering to himself; and
once he had even stopped before her, and in a passionate tone bade her
not talk so like a fool. Now this was very different to his mother's
sarcastic, contemptuous way of treating all poor Lois's little loyal
speeches. Grace would lead her on--at least she did at first, till
experience made Lois wiser--to express her thoughts on such subjects,
till, just when the girl's heart was opening, her aunt would turn
round upon her with some bitter sneer that roused all the evil
feelings in Lois's disposition by its sting. Now Manasseh seemed,
through all his anger, to be so really grieved by what he considered
her error, that he went much nearer to convincing her that there might
be two sides to a question. Only this was a view that it appeared like
treachery to her dead father's memory to entertain.

Somehow, Lois felt instinctively that Manasseh was really friendly
towards her. He was little in the house; there was farming, and some
kind of mercantile business to be transacted by him, as real head of
the house; and, as the season drew on, he went shooting and hunting in
the surrounding forests, with a daring which caused his mother to warn
and reprove him in private, although to the neighbours she boasted
largely of her son's courage and disregard of danger. Lois did not
often walk out for the mere sake of walking; there was generally some
household errand to be transacted when any of the women of the family
went abroad; but once or twice she had caught glimpses of the dreary,
dark wood, hemming in the cleared land on all sides--the great wood
with its perpetual movement of branch and bough, and its solemn wail,
that came into the very streets of Salem when certain winds blew,
bearing the sound of the pine-trees clear upon the cars that had
leisure to listen. And, from all accounts, this old forest, girdling
round the settlement, was full of dreaded and mysterious beasts, and
still more to be dreaded Indians, stealing in and out among the
shadows, intent on bloody schemes against the Christian people:
panther-streaked, shaven Indians, in league by their own confession,
as well as by the popular belief, with evil powers.

Nattee, the old Indian servant, would occasionally make Lois's blood
run cold, as she and Faith and Prudence listened to the wild stories
she told them of the wizards of her race. It was often in the kitchen,
in the darkening evening, while some cooking process was going on,
that the old Indian crone, sitting on her haunches by the bright red
wood embers which sent up no flame, but a lurid light reversing the
shadows of all the faces around, told her weird stories, while they
were awaiting the rising of the dough, perchance, out of which the
household bread had to be made. There ran through these stories always
a ghastly, unexpressed suggestion of some human sacrifice being needed
to complete the success of any incantation to the Evil One; and the
poor old creature, herself believing and shuddering as she narrated
her tale in broken English, took a strange, unconscious pleasure in
her power over her hearers--young girls of the oppressing race, which
had brought her down into a state little differing from slavery, and
reduced her people to outcasts on the hunting-grounds which had
belonged to her fathers.

After such tales, it required no small effort on Lois's part to go
out, at her aunt's command, into the common pasture round the town,
and bring the cattle home at night. Who knew but what the double-
headed snake might start up from each blackberry bush--that wicked,
cunning, accursed creature in the service of the Indian wizards, that
had such power over all those white maidens who met the eyes placed at
either end of his long, sinuous, creeping body, so that, loathe him,
loathe the Indian race as they would, off they must go into the forest
to seek out some Indian man, and must beg to be taken into his wigwam,
adjuring faith and race for ever? Or there were spells--so Nattee
said--hidden about the ground by the wizards, which changed that
person's nature who found them; so that, gentle and loving as they
might have been before, thereafter they took no pleasure but in the
cruel torments of others, and had a strange power given to them of
causing such torments at their will. Once, Nattee, speaking low to
Lois, who was alone with her in the kitchen, whispered out her
terrified belief that such a spell had Prudence found; and, when the
Indian showed her arms to Lois, all pinched black and blue by the
impish child, the English girl began to be afraid of her cousin as of
one possessed. But it was not Nattee alone, nor young imaginative
girls alone, that believed in these stories. We can afford to smile at
them now; but our English ancestors entertained superstitions of much
the same character at the same period, and with less excuse, as the
circumstances surrounding them were better known, and consequently
more explicable by common sense, than the real mysteries of the deep,
untrodden forests of New England. The gravest divines not only
believed stories similar to that of the double-headed serpent, and
other tales of witchcraft, but they made such narrations the subjects
of preaching and prayer; and, as cowardice makes us all cruel, men who
were blameless in many of the relations of life, and even praiseworthy
in some, became, from superstition, cruel persecutors about this time,
showing no mercy towards any one whom they believed to be in league
with the Evil One.

Faith was the person with whom the English girl was the most
intimately associated in her uncle's house. The two were about the
same age, and certain household employments were shared between them.
They took it in turns to call in the cows, to make up the butter which
had been churned by Hosea, a stiff, old out-door servant, in whom
Grace Hickson placed great confidence; and each lassie had her great
spinning-wheel for wool, and her lesser for flax, before a month had
elapsed after Lois's coming. Faith was a grave, silent person, never
merry, sometimes very sad, though Lois was a long time in even
guessing why. She would try, in her sweet, simple fashion, to cheer
her cousin up, when the latter was depressed, by telling her old
stories of English ways and life. Occasionally, Faith seemed to care
to listen; occasionally, she did not heed one word, but dreamed on.
Whether of the past or of the future, who could tell?

Stern old ministers came in to pay their pastoral visits. On such
occasions, Grace Hickson would put on clean apron and clean cap, and
make them more welcome than she was ever seen to do any one else,
bringing out the best provisions of her store, and setting of all
before them. Also, the great Bible was brought forth, and Hosea and
Nattee summoned from their work, to listen while the minister read a
chapter, and, as he read, expounded it at considerable length. After
this all knelt, while he, standing, lifted up his right hand, and
prayed for all possible combinations of Christian men, for all
possible cases of spiritual need; and lastly, taking the individuals
before him, he would put up a very personal supplication for each,
according to his notion of their wants. At first, Lots wondered at the
aptitude of one or two of his prayers of this description to the
outward circumstances of each case; but, when she perceived that her
aunt had usually a pretty long confidential conversation with the
minister in the early part of his visit, she became aware that he
received both his impressions and his knowledge through the medium of
'that godly woman, Grace Hickson;' and I am afraid she paid less
regard to the prayer 'for the maiden from another land, who bath
brought the errors of that land as a seed with her, even across the
great ocean, and who is letting even now the little seeds shoot up
into an evil tree, in which all unclean creatures may find shelter.'

'I like the prayers of our Church better,' said Lois one day to Faith.
'No clergyman in England can pray his own words; and therefore it is
that he does not judge of others so as to fit his prayers to what he
esteems to be their case, as Mr Tappau did this morning.'

'I hate Mr Tappau!' said Faith shortly, a passionate flash of light
coming out of her dark, heavy eyes.

'Why so, cousin? It seems to me as if he were a good man, although I
like not his prayers.'

Faith only repeated her words, 'I hate him!'

Lois was sorry for this strong, bad feeling; instinctively sorry, for
she was loving herself, delighted in being loved, and felt a jar run
through her at every sign of want of love in others. But she did not
know what to say, and was silent at the time. Faith, too, went on
turning her wheel with vehemence, but spoke never a word until her
thread snapped; and then she pushed the wheel away hastily, and left
the room.

Then Prudence crept softly up to Lois's side. This strange child
seemed to be tossed about by varying moods: today she was caressing
and communicative; tomorrow she might be deceitful, mocking, and so
indifferent to the pain or sorrows of others that you could call her
almost inhuman.

'So thou dost not like Pastor Tappau's prayers?' she whispered.

Lots was sorry to have been overheard; but she neither would nor could
take back her words.

'I like them not so well as the prayers I used to hear at home.'

'Mother says thy home was with the ungodly. Nay, don't look at me so--
it was not I that said it. I'm none so fond of praying myself, nor of
Pastor Tappau, for that matter. But Faith cannot abide him, and I know
why. Shall I tell thee, Cousin Lois?'

'No! Faith did not tell me; and she was the right person to give her
own reasons.'

'Ask her where young Mr Nolan is gone to, and thou wilt hear. I have
seen Faith cry by the hour together about Mr Nolan.'

'Hush, child! hush!' said Lois, for she heard Faith's approaching
step, and feared lest she should overhear what they were saying.

The truth was that, a year or two before, there had been a great
struggle in Salem village, a great division in the religious body, and
Pastor Tappau had been the leader of the more violent, and,
ultimately, the successful party. In consequence of this, the less
popular minister, Mr Nolan, had had to leave the place. And him Faith
Hickson loved with all the strength of her passionate heart, although
he never was aware of the attachment he had excited, and her own
family were too regardless of manifestations of mere feeling ever to
observe the signs of any emotion on her part. But the old Indian
servant Nattee saw and observed them all. She knew, as well as if she
had been told the reason, why Faith had lost all care about father or
mother, brother and sister, about household work and daily occupation;
nay, about the observances of religion as well. Nattee read the
meaning of the deep smouldering of Faith's dislike to Pastor Tappau
aright; the Indian woman understood why the girl (whom alone of all
the white people she loved) avoided the old minister--would hide in
the wood-stack, sooner than be called in to listen to his exhortations
and prayers. With savage, untutored people, it is not 'Love me, love
my dog,'--they are often jealous of the creature beloved; but it is,
'Whom thou hatest I will hate;' and Nattee's feeling towards Pastor
Tappau was even an exaggeration of the mute, unspoken hatred of Faith.

For a long time, the cause of her cousin's dislike and avoidance of
the minister was a mystery to Lois; but the name of Nolan remained in
her memory, whether she would or no; and it was more from girlish
interest in a suspected love affair, than from any indifferent and
heartless curiosity, that she could not help piecing together little
speeches and actions with Faith's interest in the absent banished
minister, for an explanatory clue, till not a doubt remained in her
mind. And this without any further communication with Prudence, for
Lois declined hearing any more on the subject from her, and so gave
deep offence.

Faith grew sadder and duller, as the autumn drew on. She lost her
appetite; her brown complexion became sallow and colourless; her dark
eyes looked hollow and wild. The first of November was near at hand.
Lois, in her instinctive, well-intentioned efforts to bring some life
and cheerfulness into the monotonous household, had been telling Faith
of many English customs, silly enough, no doubt, and which scarcely
lighted up a flicker of interest in the American girl's mind. The
cousins were lying awake in their bed, in the great unplastered room,
which was in part storeroom, in part bedroom. Lois was full of
sympathy for Faith that night. For long she had listened to her
cousin's heavy, irrepressible sighs, in silence. Faith sighed, because
her grief was of too old a date for violent emotion or crying. Lois
listened without speaking in the dark, quiet night hours, for a long,
long time. She kept quite still, because she thought such vent for
sorrow might relieve her cousin's weary heart. But, when at length,
instead of lying motionless, Faith seemed to be growing restless, even
to convulsive motions of her limbs, Lois began to speak, to talk about
England, and the dear old ways at home, without exciting much
attention on Faith's part; until at length she fell upon the subject
of Hallow-e'en, and told about customs then and long afterwards
practised in England, and that have scarcely yet died out in Scotland.
As she told of tricks she had often played, of the apple eaten facing
a mirror, of the dripping sheet, of the basins of water, of the nuts
burning side by side, and many other such innocent ways of divination,
by which laughing, trembling English maidens sought to see the form of
their future husbands, if husbands they were to have: then Faith
listened breathlessly, asking short eager questions, as if some ray of
hope had entered into her gloomy heart. Lois went on speaking, telling
her of all the stories that would confirm the truth of the second
sight vouchsafed to all seekers in the accustomed methods; half
believing, half incredulous herself, but desiring, above all things,
to cheer up poor Faith.

Suddenly, Prudence rose up from her truckle-bed in the dim corner of
the room. They had not thought that she was awake; but she had been
listening long.

'Cousin Lois may go out and meet Satan by the brookside, if she will;
but, if thou goest, Faith, I will tell mother--ay, and I will tell
Pastor Tappau, too. Hold thy stories, Cousin Lois; I am afeared of my
very life. I would rather never be wed at all, than feel the touch of
the creature that would take the apple out of my hand, as I held it
over my left shoulder.' The excited girl gave a loud scream of terror
at the image her fancy had conjured up. Faith and Lois sprang out
towards her, flying across the moon-lit room in their white night-
gowns. At the same instant, summoned by the same cry, Grace Hickson
came to her child.

'Hush! hush!' said Faith, authoritatively.

'What is it, my wench?' asked Grace. While Lois, feeling as if she had
done all the mischief, kept silence.

'Take her away, take her away!' screamed Prudence. 'Look over her
shoulder--her left shoulder--the Evil One is there now, I see him
stretching over for the half-bitten apple.'

'What is it she says?' said Grace austerely.

'She is dreaming,' said Faith; 'Prudence, hold thy tongue.' And she
pinched the child severely, while Lois more tenderly tried to soothe
the alarms she felt that she had conjured up.

'Be quiet, Prudence,' said she, 'and go to sleep! I will stay by thee,
till thou hast gone off into slumber.'

'No, no! go away!' sobbed Prudence, who was really terrified at first,
but was now assuming more alarm than she felt, from the pleasure she
received at perceiving herself the centre of attention. 'Faith shall
stay by me, not you, wicked English witch!'

So Faith sat by her sister; and Grace, displeased and perplexed,
withdrew to her own bed, purposing to inquire more into the matter in
the morning. Lois only hoped it might all be forgotten by that rime,
and resolved never to talk again of such things. But an event happened
in the remaining hours of the night to change the current of affairs.
While Grace had been absent from her room, her husband had had another
paralytic stroke: whether he, too, had been alarmed by that eldritch
scream no one could ever know. By the faint light of the rush-candle
burning at the bed-side, his wife perceived that a great change had
taken place in his aspect on her return: the irregular breathing came
almost like snorts--the end was drawing near. The family were roused,
and all help given that either the doctor or experience could suggest.
But before the late November morning-light, all was ended for Ralph
Hickson.

The whole of the ensuing day, they sat or moved in darkened rooms, and
spoke few words, and those below their breath. Manasseh kept at home,
regretting his father, no doubt, but showing little emotion. Faith was
the child that bewailed her loss most grievously; she had a warm
heart, hidden away somewhere under her moody exterior, and her father
had shown her far more passive kindness than ever her mother had done;
for Grace made distinct favourites of Manasseh, her only son, and
Prudence, her youngest child. Lois was about as unhappy as any of
them; for she had felt strongly drawn towards her uncle as her kindest
friend, and the sense of his loss renewed the old sorrow she had
experienced at her own parent's death. But she had no time and no
place to cry in. On her devolved many of the cares which it would have
seemed indecorous in the nearer relatives to interest themselves in
enough to take an active part: the change required in their dress, the
household preparations for the sad feast of the funeral--Lois had to
arrange all under her aunt's stern direction.

But, a day or two afterwards--the last day before the funeral---she
went into the yard to fetch in some faggots for the oven; it was a
solemn, beautiful, starlit evening, and some sudden sense of
desolation in the midst of the vast universe thus revealed touched
Lois's heart, and she sat down behind the wood-stack, and cried very
plentiful tears.

She was startled by Manasseh, who suddenly turned the corner of the
stack, and stood before her.

'Lois crying!'

'Only a little,' she said, rising up, and gathering her bundle of
faggots; for she dreaded being questioned by her grim, impassive
cousin. To her surprise, he laid his hand on her arm, and said--

'Stop one minute. Why art thou crying, cousin?'

'I don't know,' she said, just like a child questioned in like manner;
and she was again on the point of weeping. 'My father was very kind to
thee, Lois; I do not wonder that thou grievest after him. But the Lord
who taketh away can restore tenfold. I will be as kind as my father--
yea, kinder. This is not a time to talk of marriage and giving in
marriage. But after we have buried our dead, I wish to speak to thee.'

Lois did not cry now; but she shrank with affright. What did her
cousin mean? She would far rather that he had been angry with her for
unreasonable grieving, for folly.

She avoided him carefully--as carefully as she could, without seeming
to dread him--for the next few days. Sometimes, she thought it must
have been a bad dream; for, if there had been no English lover in the
case, no other man in the whole world, she could never have thought of
Manasseh as her husband; indeed, till now, there had been nothing in
his words or actions to suggest such an idea. Now it had been
suggested, there was no telling how much she loathed him. He might be
good, and pious--he doubtless was--but his dark, fixed eyes, moving so
slowly and heavily, his lank, black hair, his grey, coarse skin, all
made her dislike him now--all his personal ugliness and ungainliness
struck on her senses with ajar, since those few words spoken behind
the hay-stack.

She knew that, sooner or later, the time must come for further
discussion of this subject; but, like a coward, she tried to put it
off by clinging to her aunt's apron-string, for she was sure that
Grace Hickson had far different views for her only son. As, indeed,
she had; for she was an ambitious, as well as a religious, woman; and,
by an early purchase of land in Salem village, the Hicksons had become
wealthy people, without any great exertions of their own--partly,
also, by the silent process of accumulation; for they had never cared
to change their manner of living, from the time when it had been
suitable to a far smaller income than that which they at present
enjoyed. So much for worldly circumstances. As for their worldly
character, it stood as high. No one could say a word against any of
their habits or actions. Their righteousness and godliness were patent
to every one's eyes. So Grace Hickson thought herself entitled to pick
and choose among the maidens, before she should meet with one fitted
to be Manasseh's wife. None in Salem came up to her imaginary
standard. She had it in her mind even at this very time, so soon after
her husband's death, to go to Boston, and take counsel with the
leading ministers there, with worthy Mr Cotton Mather at their head,
and see if they could tell her of a well-favoured and godly young
maiden in their congregations worthy of being the wife of her son.
But, besides good looks and godliness, the wench must have good birth
and good wealth, or Grace Hickson would have put her contemptuously on
one side. When once this paragon was found, and the ministers had
approved, Grace anticipated no difficulty on her son's part. So Lois
was right in feeling that her aunt would dislike any speech of
marriage between Manasseh and herself.

But the girl was brought to bay one day, in this wise. Manasseh had
ridden forth on some business, which every one said would occupy him
the whole day; but, meeting the man with whom he had to transact his
affairs, he returned earlier than any one expected. He missed Lois
from the keeping-room, where his sisters were spinning, almost
immediately. His mother sat by at her knitting; he could see Nattee in
the kitchen through the open door. He was too reserved to ask where
Lois was; but he quietly sought till he found her, in the great loft,
already piled with winter stores of fruit and vegetables. Her aunt had
sent her there to examine the apples one by one, and pick out such as
were unsound for immediate use. She was stooping down, and intent upon
this work, and was hardly aware of his approach, until she lifted up
her head and saw him standing close before her. She dropped the apple
she was holding, went a little paler than her wont, and faced him in
silence.

'Lois,' he said, 'thou rememberest the words that I spoke while we yet
mourned over my father. I think that I am called to marriage now, as
the head of this household. And I have seen no maiden so pleasant in
my sight as thou art, Lois!' He tried to take her hand. But she put it
behind her with a childish shake of her head, and, half crying, said--

'Please, Cousin Manasseh, do not say this to me! I dare say you ought
to be married, being the head of the household now; but I don't want
to be married. I would rather not.'

'That is well spoken,' replied he; frowning a little, nevertheless. 'I
should not like to take to wife an over-forward maiden, ready to jump
at wedlock. Besides, the congregation might talk, if we were to be
married too soon after my father's death. We have, perchance, said
enough, even now. But I wished thee to have thy mind set at case as to
thy future well-doing. Thou wilt have leisure to think of it, and to
bring thy mind more fully round to it.' Again he held out his hand.
This time she took hold of it with a free, frank gesture.

'I owe you somewhat for your kindness to me ever since I came, Cousin
Manasseh; and I have no way of paying you but by telling you truly I
can love you as a dear friend, if you will let me, but never as a
wife.'

He flung her hand away, but did not take his eyes off her face, though
his glance was lowering and gloomy. He muttered something which she
did not quite hear; and so she went on bravely, although she kept
trembling a little, and had much ado to keep from crying.

'Pleae, let me tell you all! There was a young man in Barford---nay,
Manasseh, I cannot speak if you are so angry; it is hard work to tell
you anyhow--he said that he wanted to marry me; but I was poor, and
his father would have none of it; and I do not want to marry any one;
but, if I did, it would be'--Her voice dropped, and her blushes told
the rest. Manasseh stood looking at her with sullen, hollow eyes, that
had a gathering touch of wildness in them; and then he said--

'It is borne in upon me--verily, I see it as in a vision--that thou
must be my spouse, and no other man's. Thou canst not escape what is
fore-doomed. Months ago, when I set myself to read the old godly books
in which my soul used to delight until thy coming; I saw no letter of
printer's ink marked upon the page, but I saw a gold and ruddy type of
some unknown language, the meaning whereof was whispered into my soul;
it was, 'Marry Lois! marry Lois!' And, when my father died, I knew it
was the beginning of the end. It is the Lord's will, Lois, and thou
canst not escape from it.' And again he would have taken her hand, and
drawn her towards him. But this time she eluded him with ready
movement.

'I do not acknowledge it to be the Lord's will, Manasseh,' said she.
'It is not "borne in upon me," as you Puritans call it, that I am to
be your wife. I am none so set upon wedlock as to take you, even
though there be no other chance for me. For I do not care for you as I
ought to care for my husband. But I could have cared for you very much
as a cousin--as a kind cousin.'

She stopped speaking; she could not choose the right words with which
to speak to him of her gratitude and friendliness, which yet could
never be any feeling nearer and dearer, no more than two parallel
lines can ever meet.

But he was so convinced by what he considered the spirit of prophecy,
that Lois was to be his wife, that he felt rather more indignant at
what he considered to be her resistance to the preordained decree,
than really anxious as to the result. Again he tried to convince her
that neither he nor she had any choice in the matter, by saying--

'The voice said unto me "Marry Lois;" and I said, "I will, Lord. "'

'But,' Lois replied, 'the voice, as you call it, has never spoken such
a word to me.'

'Lois,' he answered solemnly, 'it will speak. And then wilt thou obey,
even as Samuel did?'

'No; indeed I cannot!' she answered briskly. 'I may take a dream to be
the truth, and hear my own fancies, if I think about them too long.
But I cannot marry any one from obedience.'

'Lois, Lois, thou art as yet unregenerate; but I have seen thee in a
vision as one of the elect, robed in white. As yet thy faith is too
weak for thee to obey meekly; but it shall not always be so. I will
pray that thou mayest see thy preordained course. Meanwhile, I will
smooth away all worldly obstacles.'

'Cousin Manasseh! Cousin Manasseh!' cried Lois after him, as he was
leaving the room, 'come back! I cannot put it in strong enough words.
Manasseh, there is no power in heaven or earth that can make me love
thee enough to marry thee, or to wed thee without such love. And this
I say solemnly, because it is better that this should end at once.'

For a moment he was staggered; then he lifted up his hands, and said--

'God forgive thee thy blasphemy! Remember Hazael, who said, "Is thy
servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" and went straight
and did it, because his evil courses were fixed and appointed for him
from before the foundation of the world. And shall not thy paths be
laid out among the godly, as it bath been foretold to me?'

He went away; and for a minute or two Lois felt as if his words must
come true, and that, struggle as she would, hate her doom as she
would, she must become his wife; and, under the circumstances, many a
girl would have succumbed to her apparent fate. Isolated from all
previous connections, hearing no word from England, living in the
heavy, monotonous routine of a family with one man for head, and this
man esteemed a hero by most of those around him, simply because he was
the only man in the family--these facts alone would have formed strong
presumptions that most girls would have yielded to the offers of such
a one. But, besides this, there was much to tell upon the imagination
in those days, in that place and time. It was prevalently believed
that there were manifestations of spiritual influence--of the direct
influence both of good and bad spirits--constantly to be perceived in
the course of men's lives. Lots were drawn, as guidance from the Lord;
the Bible was opened, and the leaves allowed to fall apart; and the
first text the eye fell upon was supposed to be appointed from above
as a direction. Sounds were heard that could not be accounted for;
they were made by the evil spirits not yet banished from the desert-
places of which they had so long held possession. Sights, inexplicable
and mysterious, were dimly seen--Satan, in some shape, seeking whom he
might devour. And, at the beginning of the long winter season, such
whispered tales, such old temptations and hauntings, and devilish
terrors, were supposed to be peculiarly rife. Salem was, as it were,
snowed up, and left to prey upon itself The long, dark evenings; the
dimly-lighted rooms; the creaking passages, where heterogeneous
articles were piled away, out of the reach of the keen-piercing frost,
and where occasionally, in the dead of night, a sound was heard, as of
some heavy falling body, when, next morning, everything appeared to be
in its right place (so accustomed are we to measure noises by
comparison with themselves, and not with the absolute stillness of the
night-season); the white mist, coming nearer and nearer to the windows
every evening in strange shapes, like phantoms--all these, and many
other circumstances: such as the distant fall of mighty trees in the
mysterious forests girdling them round; the faint whoop and cry of
some Indian seeking his camp, and unwittingly nearer to the white
man's settlement than either he or they would have liked, could they
have chosen; the hungry yells of the wild beasts approaching the
cattle-pens--these were the things which made that winter life in
Salem, in the memorable time of 1691-2, seem strange, and haunted, and
terrific to many; peculiarly weird and awful to the English girl, in
her first year's sojourn in America.

And now, imagine Lois worked upon perpetually by Manasseh's conviction
that it was decreed that she should be his wife, and you will see that
she was not without courage and spirit to resist as she did, steadily,
firmly, and yet sweetly, Take one instance out of many, when her
nerves were subjected to a shock--slight in relation, it is true; but
then remember that she had been all day, and for many days, shut up
within doors, in a dull light that at midday was almost dark with a
long-continued snowstorm. Evening was coming on, and the wood fire was
more cheerful than any of the human beings surrounding it; the
monotonous whirr of the smaller spinning-wheels had been going on all
day, and the store of flax downstairs was nearly exhausted: when Grace
Hickson bade Lois fetch down some more from the store room, before the
light so entirely waned away that it could not be found without a
candle, and a candle it would be dangerous to carry into that
apartment full of combustible materials, especially at this time of
hard frost, when every drop of water was locked up and bound in icy
hardness. So Lois went, half-shrinking from the long passage that led
to the stairs leading up into the store room, for it was in this
passage that the strange night-sounds were heard, which every one had
begun to notice, and speak about in lowered tones. She sang, however,
as she went, 'to keep her courage up,' in a subdued voice, the evening
hymn she had so often sung in Barford church--

'Glory to Thee, my God, this night;' and so it was, I suppose, that
she never heard the breathing or motion of any creature near her,
till, just as she was loading herself with flax to carry down, she
heard some one--it was Manasseh--say close to her car; 'Has the voice
spoken yet? Speak, Lois! Has the voice spoken yet to thee--that
speaketh to me day and night, "Marry Lois"?'

She started and turned a little sick, but spoke almost directly in a
brave, clear manner--

'No, Cousin Manasseh! And it never will.'

'Then I must wait yet longer,' he replied hoarsely, as if to himself.
'But all submission--all submission.'

At last, a break came upon the monotony of the long, dark winter. The
parishioners once more raised the discussion whether--the parish
extending as it did--it was not absolutely necessary for Pastor Tappau
to have help. This question had been mooted once before; and then
Pastor Tappau had acquiesced in the necessity, and all had gone on
smoothly for some months after the appointment of his assistant; until
a feeling had sprung up on the part of the elder minister, which might
have been called jealousy of the younger, if so godly a man as Pastor
Tappau could have been supposed to entertain so evil a passion.
However that might be, two parties were speedily formed; the younger
and more ardent being in favour of Mr Nolan, the elder and more
persistent---and, at the time, the more numerous--clinging to the old,
grey-headed, dogmatic Mr Tappau, who had married them, baptized their
children, and was to them, literally, as a 'pillar of the church.' So
Mr Nolan left Salem, carrying away with him, possibly, more hearts
than that of Faith Hickson's; but certainly she had never been the
same creature since.

But now--Christmas, 1691--one or two of the older members of the
congregation being dead, and some who were younger men having come to
settle in Salem--Mr Tappau being also older, and, some charitably
supposed, wiser--a fresh effort had been made, and Mr Nolan was
returning to labour in ground apparently smoothed over. Lois had taken
a keen interest in all the proceedings for Faith's sake--far more than
the latter did for herself, any spectator would have said. Faith's
wheel never went faster or slower, her thread never broke, her colour
never came, her eyes were never uplifted with sudden interest, all the
time these discussions respecting Mr Nolan's return were going on. But
Lois, after the hint given by Prudence, had found a clue to many a
sigh and look of despairing sorrow, even without the help of Nattee's
improvised songs, in which, under strange allegories, the helpless
love of her favourite was told to ears heedless of all meaning, except
those of the tenderhearted and sympathetic Lois. Occasionally, she
heard a strange chant of the old Indian woman's--half in her own
language, half in broken English--droned over some simmering pipkin,
from which the smell was, to say the least, unearthly. Once, on
perceiving this odour in the keeping-room, Grace Hickson suddenly
exclaimed--

'Nattee is at her heathen ways again; we shall have some mischief
unless she is stayed.'

But Faith, moving quicker than ordinary, said something about putting
a stop to it, and so forestalled her mother's evident intention of
going into the kitchen. Faith shut the door between the two rooms, and
entered upon some remonstrance with Nattee; but no one could hear the
words used. Faith and Nattee seemed more bound together by love and
common interest than any other two among the self-contained
individuals comprising this household. Lois sometimes felt as if her
presence, as a third, interrupted some confidential talk between her
cousin and the old servant. And yet she was fond of Faith, and could
almost think that Faith liked her more than she did either mother,
brother, or sister; for the first two were indifferent as to any
unspoken feelings, while Prudence delighted in discovering them, only
to make an amusement to herself out of them.

One day, Lois was sitting by herself at her sewing-table, while Faith
and Nattee were holding one of their secret conclaves, from which Lois
felt herself to be tacitly excluded: when the outer door opened, and a
tall, pale young man, in the strict professional habit of a minister,
entered. Lois sprang up with a smile and a look of welcome for Faith's
sake; for this must be the Mr Nolan whose name had been on the tongue
of every one for days, and who was, as Lois knew, expected to arrive
the day before.

He seemed half-surprised at the glad alacrity with which he was
received by this stranger: possibly, he had not heard of the English
girl who was an inmate in the house where formerly he had seen only
grave, solemn, rigid, or heavy faces, and had been received with a
stiff form of welcome, very different from the blushing, smiling,
dimpled looks that innocently met him with the greeting almost of an
old acquaintance. Lois, having placed a chair for him, hastened out to
call Faith, never doubting but that the feeling which her cousin
entertained for the young pastor was mutual, although it might be
unrecognised in its full depth by either.

'Faith!' said she, bright and breathless. 'Guess--No,' checking
herself to an assumed unconsciousness of any particular importance
likely to be affixed to her words; 'Mr Nolan, the new pastor, is in
the keeping-room. He has asked for my aunt and Manasseh. My aunt is
gone to the prayer-meeting at Pastor Tappau's, and Manasseh is away.'
Lois went on speaking, to give Faith time; for the girl had become
deadly white at the intelligence, while, at the same time, her eyes
met the keen, cunning eyes of the old Indian with a peculiar look of
half-wondering awe; while Nattee's looks expressed triumphant
satisfaction.

'Go,' said Lois, smoothing Faith's hair, and kissing the white, cold
cheek, 'or he will wonder why no one comes to see him, and perhaps
think he is not welcome.' Faith went without another word into the
keeping-room, and shut the door of communication. Nattee and Lois were
left together. Lois felt as happy as if some piece of good fortune had
befallen herself. For the time, her growing dread of Manasseh's wild,
ominous persistence in his suit, her aunt's coldness, her own
loneliness, were all forgotten, and she could almost have danced with
joy. Nattee laughed aloud, and talked and chuckled to herself-'Old
Indian woman great mystery. Old Indian woman sent hither and thither;
go where she is told, where she hears with her cars. But old Indian
woman'--and here she drew herself up, and the expression of her face
quite changed--'know how to call, and then white man must come; and
old Indian woman have spoken never a word, and white man have heard
nothing with his cars.' So the old crone muttered.

All this time, things were going on very differently in the keeping-
room to what Lois imagined. Faith sat stiller even than usual; her
eyes downcast, her words few. A quick observer might have noticed a
certain tremulousness about her hands, and an occasional twitching
throughout all her frame. But Pastor Nolan was not a keen observer
upon this occasion; he was absorbed with his own little wonders and
perplexities. His wonder was that of a carnal man--who that pretty
stranger might be, who had seemed, on his first coming, so glad to see
him, but had vanished instantly, apparently not to reappear. And,
indeed, I am not sure if his perplexity was not that of a carnal man
rather than that of a godly minister, for this was his dilemma. It was
the custom of Salem (as we have already seen) for the minister, on
entering a household for the visit which, among other people and in
other times, would have been termed a 'morning call,' to put up a
prayer for the eternal welfare of the family under whose roof-tree he
was. Now this prayer was expected to be adapted to the individual
character, joys, sorrows, wants, and failings of every member present;
and here was he, a young pastor, alone with a young woman; and he
thought--vain thoughts, perhaps, but still very natural--that the
implied guesses at her character, involved in the minute supplications
above described, would be very awkward in a tete-a-tete prayer; so,
whether it was his wonder or his perplexity, I do not know, but he did
not contribute much to the conversation for some time, and at last, by
a sudden burst of courage and impromptu hit, he cut the Gordian knot
by making the usual proposal for prayer and adding to it a request
that the household might be summoned. In came Lois, quiet and
decorous; in came Nattee, all one impassive, stiff piece of wood--no
look of intelligence or trace of giggling near her countenance.
Solemnly recalling each wandering thought, Pastor Nolan knelt in the
midst of these three to pray. He was a good and truly religious man,
whose name here is the only thing disguised, and played his part
bravely in the awful trial to which he was afterwards subjected; and
if, at the time, before he went through his fiery persecutions, the
human fancies which beset all young hearts came across his, we at this
day know that these fancies are no sin. But now he prays in earnest,
prays so heartily for himself, with such a sense of his own spiritual
need and spiritual failings, that each one of his hearers feels as if
a prayer and a supplication had gone up for each of them. Even Nattee
muttered the few words she knew of the Lord's Prayer; gibberish though
the disjointed nouns and verbs might be, the poor creature said them
because she was stirred to unwonted reverence. As for Lois, she rose
up comforted and strengthened, as no special prayers of Pastor Tappau
had ever made her feel. But Faith was sobbing, sobbing aloud, almost
hysterically, and made no effort to rise, but lay on her outstretched
arms spread out upon the settle. Lois and Pastor Nolan looked at each
other for an instant. Then Lois said--

'Sir, you must go. My cousin has not been strong for some time, and
doubtless she needs more quiet than she has had today.'

Pastor Nolan bowed, and left the house; but in a moment he returned.
Half-opening the door, but without entering, he said--

'I come back to ask, if perchance I may call this evening to inquire
how young Mistress Hickson finds herself?'

But Faith did not hear this; she was sobbing louder than ever.

'Why did you send him away, Lois? I should have been better directly,
and it is so long since I have seen him.'

She had her face hidden as she uttered these words and Lois could not
hear them distinctly. She bent her head down by her cousin's on the
settle, meaning to ask her to repeat what she had said. But in the
irritation of the moment, and prompted possibly by some incipient
jealousy, Faith pushed Lois away so violently that the latter was hurt
against the hard, sharp corner of the wooden settle. Tears came into
her eyes; not so much because her cheek was bruised, as because of the
surprised pain she felt at this repulse from the cousin towards whom
she was feeling so warmly and kindly, just for the moment, Lois was as
angry as any child could have been; but some of the words of Pastor
Nolan's prayer yet rang in her cars, and she thought it would be a
shame if she did not let them sink into her heart. She dared not,
however, stoop again to caress Faith, but stood quietly by her,
sorrowfully waiting; until a step at the outer door caused Faith to
rise quickly, and rush into the kitchen, leaving Lois to bear the
brunt of the new-comer. It was Manasseh, returned from hunting. He had
been two days away, in company with other young men belonging to
Salem. It was almost the only occupation which could draw him out of
his secluded habits. He stopped suddenly at the door on seeing Lois,
and alone; for she had avoided him of late in every possible way.

'Where is my mother?'

'At a prayer-meeting at Pastor Tappau's. She has taken Prudence. Faith
has left the room this minute. I will call her.' And Lois was going
towards the kitchen, when he placed himself between her and the door.

'Lois,' said he, 'the rime is going by, and I cannot wait much longer.
The visions come thick upon me, and my sight grows clearer and
clearer. Only this last night, camping out in the woods, I saw in my
soul, between sleeping and waking, the spirit come and offer thee two
lots; and the colour of the one was white, like a bride's, and the
other was black and red, which is, being interpreted, a violent death.
And, when thou didst choose the latter, the spirit said unto me,
"Come!" and I came, and did as I was bidden. I put it on thee with
mine own hands, as it is preordained, if thou wilt not hearken unto
the voice and be my wife. And when the black and red dress fell to the
ground, thou wert even as a corpse three days old. Now, be advised,
Lois, in time! Lois, my cousin, I have seen it in a vision, and my
soul cleaveth unto thee--I would fain spare thee.'

He was really in earnest--in passionate earnest; whatever his visions,
as he called them, might be, he believed in them, and this belief gave
something of unselfishness to his love for Lois. This she felt at this
moment, if she had never done so before; and it seemed like a contrast
to the repulse she had just met with from his sister. He had drawn
near her, and now he took hold of her hand, repeating in his wild,
pathetic, dreamy way--

'And the voice said unto me, "Marry Lois!"' And Lois was more inclined
to soothe and reason with him than she had ever been before, since the
first time of his speaking to her on the subject--when Grace Hickson
and Prudence entered the room from the passage. They had returned from
the prayer-meeting by the back way, which had prevented the sound of
their approach from being heard.

But Manasseh did not stir or look round; he kept his eyes fixed on
Lois, as if to note the effect of his words. Grace came hastily
forwards and, lifting up her strong right arm, smote their joined
hands in twain, in spite of the fervour of Manasseh's grasp.

'What means this?' said she, addressing herself more to Lois than to
her son, anger flashing out of her deep-set eyes.

Lois waited for Manasseh to speak. He seemed, but a few minutes
before, to be more gentle and less threatening than he had been of
late on this subject, and she did not wish to irritate him. But he did
not speak, and her aunt stood angrily waiting for an answer.

'At any rate,' thought Lois, 'it will put an end to the thought in his
mind, when my aunt speaks out about it.'

'My cousin seeks me in marriage,' said Lois.

'Thee!' and Grace struck out in the direction of her niece with a
gesture of supreme contempt. But now Manasseh spoke forth--

'Yea! it is preordained. The voice has said it, and the spirit has
brought her to me as my bride.'

'Spirit! an evil spirit then! A good spirit would have chosen out for
thee a godly maiden of thine own people, and not a prelatist and a
stranger like this girl. A pretty return, Mistress Lois, for all our
kindness!'

'Indeed, Aunt Hickson, I have done all I could--Cousin Manasseh knows
it--to show him I can be none of his. I have told him,' said she,
blushing, but determined to say the whole out at once, 'that I am all
but troth-plight to a young man of our own village at home; and even
putting all that on one side, I wish not for marriage at present.'

'Wish rather for conversion and regeneration! Marriage is an unseemly
word in the mouth of a maiden. As for Manasseh, I will take reason
with him in private; and, meanwhile, if thou hast spoken truly, throw
not thyself in his path, as I have noticed thou hast done but too
often of late.'

Lois's heart burnt within her at this unjust accusation, for she knew
how much she had dreaded and avoided her cousin, and she almost looked
to him to give evidence that her aunt's last words were not true. But,
instead, he recurred to his one fixed idea, and said--

'Mother, listen! If I wed not Lois, both she and I die within the
year. I care not for life; before this, as you know, I have sought for
death' (Grace shuddered, and was for a moment subdued by some
recollection of past horror); 'but, if Lois were my wife, I should
live, and she would be spared from what is the other lot. That whole
vision grows clearer to me, day by day. Yet, when I try to know
whether I am one of the elect, all is dark. The mystery of Free-Will
and Fore-Knowledge is a mystery of Satan's devising, not of God's.'

'Alas, my son! Satan is abroad among the brethren even now; but let
the old vexed topics rest! Sooner than fret thyself again, thou shalt
have Lois to be thy wife, though my heart was set far differently for
thee.'

'No, Manasseh,' said Lois. 'I love you well as a cousin, but wife of
yours I can never be. Aunt Hickson, it is not well to delude him so. I
say, if ever I marry man, I am troth-plight to one in England.'

'Tush, child! I am your guardian in my dead husband's place. Thou
thinkest thyself so great a prize that I could clutch at thee whether
or no, I doubt not. I value thee not, save as a medicine for Manasseh,
if his mind get disturbed again, as I have noted signs of late.'

This, then, was the secret explanation of much that had alarmed her in
her cousin's manner: and, if Lois had been a physician of modern
times, she might have traced somewhat of the same temperament in his
sisters as well--in Prudence's lack of natural feeling and impish
delight in mischief, in Faith's vehemence of unrequited love. But, as
yet, Lois did not know, any more than Faith, that the attachment of
the latter to Mr Nolan was not merely unreturned, but even
unperceived, by the young minister.

He came, it is true--came often to the house, sat long with the
family, and watched them narrowly, but took no especial notice of
Faith. Lois perceived this, and grieved over it; Nattee perceived it,
and was indignant at it, long before Faith slowly acknowledged it to
herself, and went to Nattee the Indian woman, rather than to Lois her
cousin, for sympathy and counsel.

'He cares not for me,' said Faith. 'He cares more for Lois's little
finger than for my whole body,' the girl moaned out, in the bitter
pain of jealousy.

'Hush thee, hush thee, prairie-bird! How can he build a nest, when the
old bird has got all the moss and the feathers?' Wait till the Indian
has found means to send the old bird flying far away.' This was the
mysterious comfort Nattee gave.

Grace Hickson took some kind of charge over Manasseh that relieved
Lois of much of her distress at his strange behaviour. Yet, at times,
he escaped from his mother's watchfulness, and in such opportunities
he would always seek Lois, entreating her, as of old, to marry him---
sometimes pleading his love for her, oftener speaking wildly of his
visions and the voices which he heard foretelling a terrible futurity.

We have now to do with events which were taking place in Salem, beyond
the narrow circle of the Hickson family; but, as they only concern us
in as far as they bore down in their consequences on the future of
those who formed part of it, I shall go over the narrative very
briefly. The town of Salem had lost by death, within a very short time
preceding the commencement of my story, nearly all its venerable men
and leading citizens--men of ripe wisdom and sound counsel. The people
had hardly yet recovered from the shock of their loss, as one by one
the patriarchs of the primitive little community had rapidly followed
each other to the grave. They had been loved as fathers, and looked up
to as judges in the land. The first bad effect of their loss was seen
in the heated dissention which sprang up between Pastor Tappau and the
candidate Nolan. It had been apparently healed over; but Mr Nolan had
not been many weeks in Salem, after his second coming, before the
strife broke out afresh, and alienated many for life who had till then
been bound together by the ties of friendship or relationship. Even in
the Hickson family something of this feeling soon sprang up; Grace
being a vehement partisan of the elder pastor's more gloomy doctrines,
while Faith was a passionate, if a powerless, advocate of Mr Nolan.
Manasseh's growing absorption in his own fancies, and imagined gift of
prophecy, making him comparatively indifferent to all outward events,
did not tend to either the fulfilment of his visions, or the
elucidation of the dark mysterious doctrines over which he had
pondered too long for the health either of his mind or body; while
Prudence delighted in irritating every one by her advocacy of the
views of thinking to which they were most opposed, and relating every
gossiping story to the person most likely to disbelieve, and to be
indignant at, what she told with an assumed unconsciousness of any
such effect to be produced. There was much talk of the congregational
difficulties and dissensions being carried up to the general court;
and each party naturally hoped that, if such were the course of
events, the opposing pastor and that portion of the congregation which
adhered to him might be worsted in the struggle.

Such was the state of things in the township, when, one day towards
the end of the month of February, Grace Hickson returned from the
weekly prayer-meeting, which it was her custom to attend at Pastor
Tappau's house, in a state of extreme excitement. On her entrance into
her own house she sat down, rocking her body backwards and forwards,
and praying to herself. Both Faith and Lois stopped their spinning, in
wonder at her agitation, before either of them ventured to address
her. At length Faith rose, and spoke--

'Mother, what is it? Hath anything happened of any evil nature?'

The brave, stern old woman's face was blenched, and her eyes were
almost set in horror, as she prayed; the great drops running down her
cheeks.

It seemed almost as if she had to make a struggle to recover her sense
of the present homely accustomed fife, before she could find words to
answer--

'Evil nature! Daughters, Satan is abroad--is close to us; I have this
very hour seen him afflict two innocent children, as of old he
troubled those who were possessed by him in Judea. Hester and Abigail
Tappau have been contorted and convulsed by him and his servants into
such shapes as I am afeared to think on; and when their father, godly
Mr Tappau, began to exhort and to pray, their howlings were like the
wild beasts of the field. Satan is of a truth let loose among us. The
girls kept calling upon him, as if he were even then present among us.
Abigail screeched out that he stood at my very back in the guise of a
black man; and truly, as I turned round at her words, I saw a creature
like a shadow vanishing, and turned all of a cold sweat. Who knows
where he is now? Faith, lay straws across the door-sill!'

'But, if he be already entered in,' asked Prudence,' may not that make
it difficult for him to depart?'

Her mother, taking no notice of her question, went on rocking herself,
and praying, till again she broke out into narration--

'Reverend Mr Tappau says, that only last night he heard a sound as of
a heavy body dragged all through his house by some strong power; once
it was thrown against his bedroom door, and would, doubtless, have
broken it in, if he had not prayed fervently and aloud at that very
time; and a shriek went up at his prayer that made his hair stand on
end; and this morning all the crockery in the house was found broken
and piled up in the middle of the kitchen floor, and Pastor Tappau
says that, as soon as he began to ask a blessing on the morning's
meal, Abigail and Hester cried out, as if some one was pinching them.
Lord, have mercy upon us all! Satan is of a truth let loose.'

'They sound like the old stories I used to hear in Barford,' said
Lois, breathless with affright.

Faith seemed less alarmed; but then her dislike to Pastor Tappau was
so great, that she could hardly sympathise with any misfortunes that
befell him or his family.

Towards evening Mr Nolan came in. In general, so high did party spirit
run, Grace Hickson only tolerated his visits, finding herself often
engaged at such hours, and being too much abstracted in thought to
show him the ready hospitality which was one of her most prominent
virtues. But today, both as bringing the latest intelligence of the
new horrors sprung up in Salem, and as being one of the Church
militant (or what the Puritans considered as equivalent to the Church
militant) against Satan, he was welcomed by her in an unusual manner.

He seemed oppressed with the occurrences of the day; at first it
appeared to be almost a relief to him to sit still, and cogitate upon
them, and his hosts were becoming almost impatient for him to say
something more than mere monosyllables, when he began--

'Such a day as this I pray that I may never see again. It is as if the
devils, whom our Lord banished into the herd of swine, had been
permitted to come again upon the earth. And I would it were only the
lost spirits who were tormenting us; but I much fear that certain of
those whom we have esteemed as God's people have sold their souls to
Satan, for the sake of a little of his evil power, whereby they may
afflict others for a time. Elder Sherringham bath lost this very day a
good and valuable horse, wherewith he used to drive his family to
meeting.'

'Perchance,' said Lois, 'the horse died of some natural disease.'

'True,' said Pastor Nolan; 'but I was going on to say, that, as he
entered into his house, full of dolour at the loss of his beast, a
mouse ran in before him so sudden that it almost tripped him up,
though an instant before there was no such thing to be seen; and he
caught it with his shoe and hit it, and it cried out like a human
creature in pain, and straight ran up the chimney, caring nothing for
the hot flame and smoke.'

Manasseh listened greedily to all this story; and, when it was ended
he smote his breast, and prayed aloud for deliverance from the power
of the Evil One; and he continually went on praying at intervals
through the evening, with every mark of abject terror on his face and
in his manner--he, the bravest, most daring hunter in all the
settlement. Indeed, all the family huddled together in silent fear,
scarcely finding any interest in the usual household occupations.
Faith and Lois sat with arms entwined, as in days before the former
had become jealous of the latter; Prudence asked low, fearful
questions of her mother and of the pastor as to the creatures that
were abroad, and the ways in which they afflicted others; and, when
Grace besought the minister to pray for her and her household, he made
a long and passionate supplication that none of that little flock
might ever so far fall away into hopeless perdition as to be guilty of
the sin without forgiveness--the Sin of Witchcraft.



CHAPTER III



'The Sin of Witchcraft.' We read about it, we look on it from the
outside; but we can hardly realise the terror it induced. Every
impulsive or unaccustomed action, every little nervous affection,
every ache or pain was noticed, not merely by those around the
sufferer, but by the person himself, whoever he might be, that was
acting, or being acted upon, in any but the most simple and ordinary
manner. He or she (for it was most frequently a woman or girl that was
the supposed subject) felt a desire for some unusual kind of food--
some unusual motion or rest--her hand twitched, her foot was asleep,
or her leg had the cramp; and the dreadful question immediately
suggested itself, 'Is any one possessing an evil power over me; by the
help of Satan?' and perhaps they went on to think, 'It is bad enough
to feel that my holy can he made to suffer through the power of some
unknown evil-wisher to me; but what if Satan gives them still further
power, and they can touch my soul, and inspire me with loathful
thoughts leading me into crimes which at present I abhor?' and so on,
till the very dread of what might happen, and the constant dwelling of
the thoughts, even with horror, upon certain possibilities, or what
were esteemed such, really brought about the corruption of imagination
at last, which at first they had shuddered at. Moreover, there was a
sort of uncertainty as to who might be infected--not unlike the
overpowering dread of the plague, which made some shrink from their
best-beloved with irrepressible fear. The brother or sister, who was
the dearest friend of their childhood and youth, might now be bound in
some mysterious deadly pack with evil spirits of the most horrible
kind--who could tell? And in such a case it became a duty, a sacred
duty, to give up the earthly body which bad been once so loved, but
which was now the habitation of a soul corrupt and horrible in its
evil inclinations. Possibly, terror of death might bring on
confession, and repentance, and purification. Or if it did not, why,
away with the evil creature, the witch, out of the world, down to the
kingdom of the master, whose bidding was done on earth in all manner
of corruption and torture of God's creatures! There were others who,
to these more simple, if more ignorant, feelings of horror at witches
and witchcraft, added the desire, conscious or unconscious, of revenge
on those whose conduct had been in any way displeasing to them. Where
evidence takes a supernatural character, there is no disproving it.
This argument comes up: 'You have only the natural powers; I have
supernatural. You admit the existence of the supernatural by the
condemnation of this very crime of witchcraft. You hardly know the
limits of the natural powers; how, then, can you define the
supernatural? I say that in the dead of night, when my body seemed to
all present to be lying in quiet sleep, I was, in the most complete
and wakeful consciousness, present in my body at an assembly of
witches and wizards, with Satan at their head; that I was by them
tortured in my body, because my soul would not acknowledge him as its
king; and that I witnessed such and such deeds. What the nature of the
appearance was that took the semblance of myself, sleeping quietly in
my bed, I know not; but, admitting, as you do, the possibility of
witchcraft, you cannot disprove my evidence.' The evidence might be
given truly or falsely, as the person witnessing believed it or not;
but every one must see what immense and terrible power was abroad for
revenge. Then, again, the accused themselves ministered to the
horrible panic abroad. Some, in dread of death, confessed from
cowardice to the imaginary crimes of which they were accused, and of
which they were promised a pardon on confession. Some, weak and
terrified, came honestly to believe in their own guilt, through the
diseases of imagination which were sure to be engendered at such a
time as this.

Lois sat spinning with Faith. Both were silent, pondering over the
stories that were abroad. Lois spoke first.

'Oh, Faith! this country is worse than ever England was, even in the
days of Master Matthew Hopkinson, the witch-finder. I grow frightened
of every one, I think. I even get afeared sometimes of Nattee!'

Faith coloured a little. Then she asked--

'Why? What should make you distrust the Indian woman?'

'Oh! I am ashamed of my fear as soon as it arises in my mind. But, you
know, her look and colour were strange to me when I first came; and
she is not a christened woman; and they tell stories of Indian
wizards; and I know not what the mixtures are which she is sometimes
stirring over the fire, nor the meaning of the strange chants she
sings to herself. And once I met her in the dusk, just close by Pastor
Tappau's house, in company with Hota, his servant--it was just before
we heard of the sore disturbance in his house--and I have wondered if
she had aught to do with it.'

Faith sat very still, as if thinking. At last she said--

'If Nattee has powers beyond what you and I have, she will not use
them for evil; at least not evil to those whom she loves.'

'That comforts me but little,' said Lois. 'If she has powers beyond
what she ought to have, I dread her, though I have done her no evil;
nay, though I could almost say she bore me a kindly feeling. But such
powers are only given by the Evil One; and the proof thereof is, that,
as you imply, Nattee would use them on those who offend her.'

'And why should she not?' asked Faith, lifting her eyes, and flashing
heavy fire out of them, at the question.

'Because,' said Lois, not seeing Faith's glance, 'we are told to pray
for them that despitefully use us, and to do good to them that
persecute us. But poor Nattee is not a christened woman. I would that
Mr Nolan would baptize her: it would, maybe, take her out of the power
of Satan's temptations.'

'Are you never tempted?' asked Faith half-scornfully; 'and yet I doubt
not you were well baptized!'

'True,' said Lois sadly; 'I often do very wrong; but, perhaps, I might
have done worse, if the holy form had not been observed.'

They were again silent for a time.

'Lois,' said Faith, 'I did not mean any offence'. But do you never
feel as if you would give up all that future life, of which the
parsons talk, and which seems so vague and so distant, for a few years
of real, vivid blessedness, to begin tomorrow--this hour--this minute?
Oh! I could think of happiness for which I would willingly give up all
those misty chances of heaven'--

'Faith, Faith!' cried Lois in terror, holding her hand before her
cousin's mouth, and looking around in fright. 'Hush! you know not who
may be listening; you are putting yourself in his power.'

But Faith pushed her hand away, and said, 'Lois, I believe in him no
more than I believe in heaven. Both may exist; but they are so far
away that I defy them. Why all this ado about Mr Tappau's house---
promise me never to tell living creature, and I will tell you a
secret.'

'No!' said Lois, terrified. 'I dread all secrets. I will hear none. I
will do all that I can for you, Cousin Faith, in any way; but just at
this time, I strive to keep my life and thoughts within the strictest
bounds of godly simplicity, and I dread pledging myself to aught that
is hidden and secret.

'As you will, cowardly girl, full of terrors, which, if you had
listened to me, might have been lessened, if not entirely done away
with.' And Faith would not utter another word, though Lois tried
meekly to entice her into conversation on some other subject.

The rumour of witchcraft was like the echo of thunder among the hills.
It had broken out in Mr Tappau's house, and his two little daughters
were the first supposed to be bewitched; but round about, from every
quarter of the town, came in accounts of sufferers by witchcraft.
There was hardly a family without one of these supposed victims. Then
arose a growl and menaces of vengeance from many a household--menaces
deepened, not daunted, by the terror and mystery of the suffering that
gave rise to them.

At length a day was appointed when, after solemn fasting and prayer,
Mr Tappau invited the neighbouring ministers and all godly people to
assemble at his house, and unite with him in devoting a day to solemn
religious services, and to supplication for the deliverance of his
children, and those similarly afflicted, from the power of the Evil
One. All Salem poured out towards the house of the minister. There was
a look of excitement on all their faces; eagerness and horror were
depicted on many, while stern resolution, amounting to determined
cruelty, if the occasion arose, was seen on others.

In the midst of the prayer, Hester Tappau, the younger girl, fell into
convulsions; fit after fit came on, and her screams mingled with the
shrieks and cries of the assembled congregation. In the first pause,
when the child was partially recovered, when the people stood around,
exhausted and breathless, her father, the Pastor Tappau, lifted his
right hand, and adjured her, in the name of the Trinity, to say who
tormented her. There was a dead silence; not a creature stirred of all
those hundreds. Hester turned wearily and uneasily, and moaned out the
name of Hota, her father's Indian servant. Hota was present,
apparently as much interested as any one; indeed, she had been busying
herself much in bringing remedies to the suffering child. But now she
stood aghast, transfixed, while her name was caught up and shouted out
in tones of reprobation and hatred by all the crowd around her.
Another moment, and they would have fallen upon the trembling creature
and torn her limb from limb--pale, dusky, shivering Hota, half guilty-
looking from her very bewilderment. But Pastor Tappau, that gaunt,
grey man, lifting himself to his utmost height, signed to them to go
back, to keep still while he addressed them; and then he told them
that instant vengeance was not just, deliberate punishment; that there
would be need of conviction, perchance of confession; he hoped for
some redress for his suffering children from her revelations, if she
were brought to confession. They must leave the culprit in his hands,
and in those of his brother ministers, that they might wrestle with
Satan before delivering her up to the civil power. He spoke well; for
he spoke from the heart of a father seeing his children exposed to
dreadful and mysterious suffering, and firmly believing that he now
held the clue in his hand which should ultimately release them and
their fellow-sufferers. And the congregation moaned themselves into
unsatisfied submission, and listened to his long, passionate prayer,
which he uplifted even while the hapless Hota stood there, guarded and
bound by two men, who glared at her like blood-hounds ready to slip,
even while the prayer ended in the words of the merciful Saviour.

Lois sickened and shuddered at the whole scene; and this was no
intellectual shuddering at the folly and superstition of the people,
but tender moral shuddering at the sight of guilt which she believed
in, and at the evidence of men's hatred and abhorrence, which, when
shown even to the guilty, troubled and distressed her merciful heart.
She followed her aunt and cousins out into the open air, with downcast
eyes and pale face. Grace Hickson was going home with a feeling of
triumphant relief at the detection of the guilty one. Faith alone
seemed uneasy and disturbed beyond her wont; for Manasseh received the
whole transaction as the fulfilment of a prophecy, and Prudence was
excited by the novel scene into a state of discordant high spirits.

'I am quite as old as Hester Tappau,' she said; 'her birthday is in
September and mine in October.'

'What has that to do with it?' said Faith sharply.

'Nothing; only she seemed such a little thing for all those grave
ministers to be praying for, and so many folk come from a distance;
some from Boston, they said, all for her sake, as it were. Why, didst
thou see, it was godly Mr Henwick that held her head when she wriggled
so, and old Madam Holbrook had herself helped up on a chair to see the
better? I wonder how long I might wriggle, before great and godly folk
would take so much notice of me? But, I suppose, that comes of being a
pastor's daughter. She'll be so set up, there'll be no speaking to her
now. Faith! thinkest thou that Hota really had bewitched her? She gave
me corn-cakes the last time I was at Pastor Tappau's, just like any
other woman, only, perchance, a trifle more good-natured; and to think
of her being a witch after all!'

But Faith seemed in a hurry to reach home, and paid no attention to
Prudence's talking. Lois hastened on with Faith; for Manasseh was
walking alongside of his mother, and she kept steady to her plan of
avoiding him, even though she pressed her company upon Faith, who had
seemed of late desirous of avoiding her.

That evening the news spread through Salem, that Hota had confessed
her sin--had acknowledged that she was a witch. Nattee was the first
to hear the intelligence. She broke into the room where the girls were
sitting with Grace Hickson, solemnly doing nothing, because of the
great prayer-meeting in the morning, and cried out, 'Mercy, mercy,
mistress, everybody! take care of poor Indian Nattee, who never do
wrong, but for mistress and the family! Hota one bad, wicked witch;
she say so herself; oh, me! oh, me!' and, stooping over Faith, she
said something in a low, miserable tone of voice, of which Lois only
heard the word 'torture.' But Faith heard all, and, turning very pale,
half-accompanied, half-led Nattee back to her kitchen.

Presently, Grace Hickson came in. She had been out to see a neighbour:
it will not do to say that so godly a woman had been gossiping; and,
indeed, the subject of the conversation she had held was of too
serious and momentous a nature for me to employ a light word to
designate it. There was all the listening to, and repeating of, small
details and rumours, in which the speakers have no concern, that
constitutes gossiping; but, in this instance, all trivial facts and
speeches might be considered to bear such dreadful significance, and
might have so ghastly an ending, that such whispers were occasionally
raised to a tragic importance. Every fragment of intelligence that
related to Mr Tappau's household was eagerly snatched at: how his dog
howled all one long night through, and could not be stilled; how his
cow suddenly failed in her milk, only two months after she had calved;
how his memory had forsaken him one morning for a minute or two, in
repeating the Lord's Prayer, and he had even omitted a clause thereof
in his sudden perturbation; and how all these forerunners of his
children's strange illness might now be interpreted and understood---
this had formed the staple of the conversation between Grace Hickson
and her friends. There had arisen a dispute among them at last, as to
how far these subsections to the power of the Evil One were to be
considered as a judgment upon Pastor Tappau for some sin on his part;
and if so, what? It was not an unpleasant discussion, although there
was considerable difference of opinion; for, as none of the speakers
had had their families so troubled, it was rather a proof that they
had none of them committed any sin. In the midst of this talk, one,
entering in from the street, brought the news that Hota had confessed
all--had owned to signing a certain little red book which Satan had
presented to her--had been present at impious sacraments--had ridden
through the air to Newbury Falls--and, in fact, had assented to all
the questions which the elders and magistrates, carefully reading over
the confessions of the witches who had formerly been tried in England,
in order that they might not omit a single inquiry, had asked of her.
More she had owned to, but things of inferior importance, and
partaking more of the nature of earthly tricks than of spiritual
power. She had spoken of carefully-adjusted strings, by which all the
crockery in Pastor Tappau's house could be pulled down or disturbed;
but of such intelligible malpractices the gossips of Salem took little
heed. One of them said that such an action showed Satan's prompting;
but they all preferred to listen to the grander guilt of the
blasphemous sacraments and supernatural rides. The narrator ended with
saying that Hota was to be hung the next morning, in spite of her
confession, even although her life had been promised to her if she
acknowledged her sin; for it was well to make an example of the first-
discovered witch, and it was also well that she was an Indian, a
heathen, whose life would be no great loss to the community. Grace
Hickson on this spoke out. It was well that witches should perish off
the face of the earth, Indian or English, heathen or, worse, a
baptized Christian who had betrayed the Lord, even as Judas did, and
had gone over to Satan. For her part, she wished that the first-
discovered witch had been a member of a godly English household, that
it might be seen of all men that religious folk were willing to cut
off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye, if tainted with the
devilish sin. She spoke sternly and well. The last corner said that
her words might be brought to proof, for it had been whispered that
Hota had named others, and some from the most religious families of
Salem, whom she had seen among the unholy communicants at the
sacraments of the Evil One. And Grace replied that she would answer
for it, all godly folk would stand the proof, and quench all natural
affection rather than that such a sin should grow and spread among
them. She herself had a weak bodily dread of witnessing the violent
death even of an animal; but she would not let that deter her from
standing amidst those who cast the accursed creature out from among
them on the morrow morning.

Contrary to her wont, Grace Hickson told her family much of this
conversation. It was a sign of her excitement on the subject that she
thus spoke, and the excitement spread in different forms through her
family. Faith was flushed and restless, wandering between the keeping-
room and the kitchen, and questioning her mother particularly as to
the more extraordinary parts of Hota's confession, as if she wished to
satisfy herself that the Indian witch had really done those horrible
and mysterious deeds.

Lois shivered and trembled with affright at the narration, and at the
idea that such things were possible. Occasionally she found herself
wandering off into sympathetic thought for the woman who was to die,
abhorred of all men, and unpardoned by God, to whom she had been so
fearful a traitor, and who was now, at this very time--when Lois sat
among her kindred by the warm and cheerful firelight, anticipating
many peaceful, perchance happy, morrows--solitary, shivering, panic-
stricken, guilty, with none to stand by her and exhort her, shut up in
darkness between the cold walls of the town prison. But Lois almost
shrank from sympathising with so loathsome an accomplice of Satan, and
prayed for forgiveness for her charitable thought; and yet, again, she
remembered the tender spirit of the Saviour, and allowed herself to
fall into pity, till at last her sense of right and wrong became so
bewildered that she could only leave all to God's disposal, and just
ask that he would take all creatures and all events into His hands.

Prudence was as bright as if she were listening to some merry story--
curious as to more than her mother would tell her--seeming to have no
particular terror of witches or witchcraft, and yet to be especially
desirous to accompany her mother the next morning to the hanging. Lois
shrank from the cruel, eager face of the young girl, as she begged her
mother to allow her to go. Even Grace was disturbed and perplexed by
her daughter's pertinacity.

'No,' she said. 'Ask me no more! Thou shalt not go. Such sights are
not for the young. I go, and I sicken at the thoughts of it. But I go
to show that I, a Christian woman, take God's part against the
devil's. Thou shalt not go, I tell thee. I could whip thee for
thinking of it.'

'Manasseh says Hota was well whipped by Pastor Tappau ere she was
brought to confession,' said Prudence, as if anxious to change the
subject of discussion.

Manasseh lifted up his head from the great folio Bible, brought by his
father from England, which he was studying. He had not heard what
Prudence said, but he looked up at the sound of his name. All present
were startled at his wild eyes, his bloodless face. But he was
evidently annoyed at the expression of their countenances.

'Why look ye at me in that manner?' asked he. And his manner was
anxious and agitated. His mother made haste to speak--

'It was but that Prudence said something that thou hast told her---
that Pastor Tappau defiled his hands by whipping the witch Hota. What
evil thought has got hold of thee? Talk to us, and crack not thy skull
against the learning of man.'

'It is not the learning of man that I study; it is the Word of God. I
would fain know more of the nature of this sin of witchcraft, and
whether it be, indeed, the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. At
times I feel a creeping influence coming over me, prompting all evil
thoughts and unheard-of deeds, and I question within myself, "Is not
this the power of witchcraft?" and I sicken, and loathe all that I do
or say; and yet some evil creature hath the mastery over me, and I
must needs do and say what I loathe and dread. Why wonder you,'
mother, that I, of all men, strive to learn the exact nature of
witchcraft, and for that end study the Word of God? Have you not seen
me when I was, as it were, possessed with a devil?'

He spoke calmly, sadly, but as under deep conviction. His mother rose
to comfort him.

'My son,' she said, 'no one ever saw thee do deeds, or heard thee
utter words, which any one could say were prompted by devils. We have
seen thee, poor lad, with thy wits gone astray for a time; but all thy
thoughts sought rather God's will in forbidden places, than lost the
clue to them for one moment in hankering after the powers of darkness.
Those days are long past; a future lies before thee. Think not of
witches, or of being subject to the power of witchcraft. I did evil to
speak of it before thee. Let Lois come and sit by thee, and talk to
thee.'

Lois went to her cousin, grieved at heart for his depressed state of
mind, anxious to soothe and comfort him, and yet recoiling more than
ever from the idea of ultimately becoming his wife--an idea to which
she saw her aunt reconciling herself unconsciously day by day, as she
perceived the English girl's power of soothing and comforting her
cousin, even by the very tones of her sweet cooing voice.

He took Lois's hand.

'Let me hold it! It does me good,' said he. 'Ah, Lois, when I am by
you, I forget all my troubles--will the day never come when you will
listen to the voice that speaks to me continually?'

'I never hear it, Cousin Manasseh,' she said softly; 'but do not think
of the voices. Tell me of the land you hope to enclose from the
forest--what manner of trees grow on it?' Thus, by simple questions on
practical affairs, she led him back, in her unconscious wisdom, to the
subjects on which he had always shown strong practical sense. He
talked on these, with all due discretion, till the hour for family
prayer came round, which was early in those days. It was Manasseh's
place to conduct it, as head of the family; a post which his mother
had always been anxious to assign to him since her husband's death. He
prayed extempore, and tonight his supplications wandered off into
wild, unconnected fragments of prayer, which all those kneeling around
began, each according to her anxiety for the speaker, to think would
never end. Minutes elapsed, and grew to quarters of an hour, and his
words only became more emphatic and wilder, praying for himself alone,
and laying bare the recesses of his heart. At length his mother rose,
and took Lois by the hand; for she had faith in Lois's power over her
son, as being akin to that which the shepherd David, playing on his
harp, had over king Saul sitting on his throne. She drew her towards
him, where he knelt facing into the circle, with his eyes upturned,
and the tranced agony of his face depicting the struggle of the
troubled soul within.

'Here is Lois,' said Grace, almost tenderly; she would fain go to her
chamber.' (Down the girl's face the tears were streaming.) 'Rise, and
finish thy prayer in thy closet.'

But at Lois's approach he sprang to his feet--sprang aside.

'Take her away, mother! Lead me not into temptation! She brings me
evil and sinful thoughts. She overshadows me, even in the presence of
God. She is no angel of light, or she would not do this. She troubles
me with the sound of a voice bidding me marry her, even when I am at
my prayers. Avaunt! Take her away!'

He would have struck at Lois, if she had not shrunk back, dismayed and
affrighted. His mother, although equally dismayed, was not affrighted.
She had seen him thus before, and understood the management of his
paroxysm.

'Go, Lois! the sight of thee irritates him, as once that of Faith did.
Leave him to me!'

And Lois rushed away to her room, and threw herself on her bed, like a
panting, hunted creature. Faith came after her slowly and heavily.

'Lois,' said she, 'wilt thou do me a favour? It is not much to ask.
Wilt thou arise before daylight, and bear this letter from me to
Pastor Nolan's lodgings? I would have done it myself, but mother has
bidden me to come to her, and I may be detained until the time when
Hota is to be hung; and the letter tells of matters pertaining to life
and death. Seek out Pastor Nolan, wherever he may be, and have speech
of him after he has read the letter.'

'Cannot Nattee take it?' asked Lois.

'No!' Faith answered fiercely. 'Why should she?'

But Lois did not reply. A quick suspicion darted through Faith's mind,
sudden as lightning. It had never entered there before.

'Speak, Lois! I read thy thoughts. Thou would'st fain not be the
bearer of this letter?'

'I will take it,' said Lois meekly. 'It concerns life and death, you
say?'

'Yes!' said Faith, in quite a different tone of voice. But, after a
pause of thought, she added: 'Then, as soon as the house is still, I
will write what I have to say, and leave it here on this chest; and
thou wilt promise me to take it before the day is fully up, while
there is yet time for action.'

'Yes, I promise,' said Lois. And Faith knew enough of her to feel sure
that the deed would be done, however reluctantly.

The letter was written--laid on the chest; and, ere day dawned, Lois
was astir, Faith watching her from between her half-closed eyelids--
eyelids that had never been fully closed in sleep the livelong night.
The instant Lois, cloaked and hooded, left the room, Faith sprang up,
and prepared to go to her mother, whom she heard already stirring.
Nearly every one in Salem was awake and up on this awful morning,
though few were out of doors, as Lois passed along the streets. Here
was the hastily-erected gallows, the black shadow of which fell across
the street with ghastly significance; now she had to pass the iron-
barred gaol, through the unglazed windows of which she heard the
fearful cry of a woman, and the sound of many footsteps. On she sped,
sick almost to faintness, to the widow woman's where Mr Nolan lodged.
He was already up and abroad, gone, his hostess believed, to the gaol.
Thither Lois, repeating the words 'for life and for death!' was forced
to go. Retracing her steps, she was thankful to see him come out of
those dismal portals, rendered more dismal for being in heavy shadow,
just as she approached. What his errand had been she knew not; but he
looked grave and sad, as she put Faith's letter into his hands, and
stood before him quietly waiting until he should read it, and deliver
the expected answer. But, instead of opening it, he hid it in his
hand, apparently absorbed in thought. At last he spoke aloud, but more
to himself than to her--

'My God! and is she, then, to die in this fearful delirium? It must
be--can be--only delirium, that prompts such wild and horrible
confessions. Mistress Barclay, I come from the presence of the Indian
woman appointed to die. It seems, she considered herself betrayed last
evening by her sentence not being respited, even after she had made
confession of sin enough to bring down fire from heaven; and, it seems
to me, the passionate, impotent anger of this helpless creature has
turned to madness, for she appals me by the additional revelations she
has made to the keepers during the night--to me this morning. I could
almost fancy that she thinks, by deepening the guilt she confesses, to
escape this last dread punishment of all; as if, were a tithe of what
she says true, one could suffer such a sinner to live! Yet to send her
to death in such a state of mad terror! What is to be done?'

'Yet Scripture says that we are not to suffer witches in the land,'
said Lois slowly.

'True; I would but ask for a respite, till the prayers of God's people
had gone up for His mercy. Some would pray for her, poor wretch as she
is. You would, Mistress Barclay, I am sure?' But he said it in a
questioning tone.

'I have been praying for her in the night many a time,' said Lois, in
a low voice. 'I pray for her in my heart at this moment; I suppose
they are bidden to put her out of the land, but I would not have her
entirely God-forsaken. But, sir, you have not read my cousin's letter.
And she bade me bring back an answer with much urgency.'

Still he delayed. He was thinking of the dreadful confession he came
from hearing. If it were true, the beautiful earth was a polluted
place, and he almost wished to die, to escape from such pollution,
into the white innocence of those who stood in the presence of God.

Suddenly his eyes fell on Lois's pure, grave face, upturned and
watching his. Faith in earthly goodness came over his soul in that
instant, 'and he blessed her unaware.'

He put his hand on her shoulder, with an action half paternal---
although the difference in their ages was not above a dozen years---
and, bending a little towards her, whispered, half to himself,
'Mistress Barclay, you have done me good.'

'I!' said Lois, half-affrighted; 'I done you good! How?'

'By being what you are. But, perhaps, I should rather thank God, who
sent you at the very moment when my soul was so disquieted.'

At this instant, they were aware of Faith standing in front of them,
with a countenance of thunder. Her angry look made Lois feel guilty.
She had not enough urged the pastor to read his letter, she thought;
and it was indignation at this delay in what she had been commissioned
to do with the urgency of life or death, that made her cousin lower at
her so from beneath her straight black brows. Lois explained how she
had not found Mr Nolan at his lodgings, and had bad to follow him to
the door of the gaol. But Faith replied, with obdurate contempt--

'Spare thy breath, Cousin Lois! It is easy seeing on what pleasant
matters thou and the Pastor Nolan were talking. I marvel not at thy
forgetfulness. My mind is changed. Give me back my letter, sir; it was
about a poor matter--an old woman's life. And what is that compared to
a young girl's love?'

Lois heard but for an instant; did not understand that her cousin, in
her jealous anger, could suspect the existence of such a feeling as
love between her and Mr Nolan. No imagination as to its possibility
had ever entered her mind; she had respected him, almost revered him--
nay, had liked him as the probable husband of Faith. At the thought
that her cousin could believe her guilty of such treachery, her grave
eyes dilated, and fixed themselves on the flaming countenance of
Faith. That serious, unprotesting manner of perfect innocence must
have told on her accuser, had it not been that, at the same instant,
the latter caught sight of the crimsoned and disturbed countenance of
the pastor, who felt the veil rent off the unconscious secret of his
heart. Faith snatched her letter out of his hands, and said--

'Let the witch hang! What care I? She has done harm enough with her
charms and her sorcery on Pastor Tappau's girls. Let her die, and let
all other witches look to themselves; for there be many kinds of
witchcraft abroad. Cousin Lois, thou wilt like best to stop with
Pastor Nolan, or I would pray thee to come back with me to breakfast.'

Lois was not to be daunted by jealous sarcasm. She held out her hand
to Pastor Nolan, determined to take no heed of her cousin's mad words,
but to bid him farewell in her accustomed manner. He hesitated before
taking it; and, when he did, it was with a convulsive squeeze that
almost made her start. Faith waited and watched all, with set lips and
vengeful eyes. She bade no farewell; she spake no word; but, grasping
Lois tightly by the back of the arm, she almost drove her before her
down the street till they reached their home.

The arrangement for the morning was this: Grace Hickson and her son
Manasseh were to be present at the hanging of the first witch executed
in Salem, as pious and godly heads of a family. All the other members
were strictly forbidden to stir out, until such time as the low-
tolling bell announced that all was over in this world for Hota, the
Indian witch. When the execution was ended, there was to be a solemn
prayer-meeting of all the inhabitants of Salem; ministers had come
from a distance to aid by the efficacy of their prayers in these
efforts to purge the land of the devil and his servants. There was
reason to think that the great old meeting-house would be crowded;
and, when Faith and Lois reached home, Grace Hickson was giving her
directions to Prudence, urging her to be ready for an early start to
that place. The stern old woman was troubled in her mind at the
anticipation of the sight she was to see, before many minutes were
over, and spoke in a more hurried and incoherent manner than was her
wont. She was dressed in her Sunday best; but her face was very grey
and colourless, and she seemed afraid to cease speaking about
household affairs, for fear she should have time to think. Manasseh
stood by her, perfectly, rigidly still; he also was in his Sunday
clothes. His face, too, was paler than its wont; but it wore a kind of
absent, rapt expression, almost like that of a man who sees a vision.
As Faith entered, still holding Lois in her fierce grasp, Manasseh
started and smiled, but still dreamily. His manner was so peculiar
that even his mother stayed her talking to observe him more closely;
he was in that state of excitement which usually ended in what his
mother and certain of her friends esteemed a prophetic revelation. He
began to speak, at first very low, and then his voice increased in
power.

'How beautiful is the land of Beulah, far over the sea, beyond the
mountains! Thither the angels carry her, lying back in their arms like
one fainting. They shall kiss away the black circle of death, and lay
her down at the feet of the Lamb. I hear her pleading there for those
on earth who consented to her death. O Lois! pray also for me, pray
for me, miserable!'

When he uttered his cousin's name all their eyes turned towards her.
It was to her that his vision related! She stood among them, amazed,
awe-stricken, but not like one affrighted or dismayed. She was the
first to speak--

'Dear friends, do not think of me; his words may or may not be true. I
am in God's hands all the same, whether he have the gift of prophecy
or not. Besides, hear you not that I end where all would fain end?
Think of him, and of his needs! Such times as these always leave him
exhausted and weary, and he comes out of them.'

And she busied herself in cares for his refreshment, aiding her aunt's
trembling hands to set before him the requisite food, as he now sat
tired and bewildered, gathering together with difficulty his scattered
senses.

Prudence did all she could to assist and speed their departure. But
Faith stood apart, watching in silence with her passionate, angry
eyes.

As soon as they had set out on their solemn, fatal errand, Faith left
the room. She had not tasted food or touched drink. Indeed, they all
felt sick at heart. The moment her sister had gone upstairs, Prudence
sprang to the settle on which Lois had thrown down her cloak and
hood--

'Lend me your muffles and mantle, Cousin Lois. I never yet saw a woman
hanged, and I see not why I should not go. I will stand on the edge of
the crowd; no one will know me, and I will be home long before my
mother.'

'No!' said Lois, 'that may not be. My aunt would be sore displeased. I
wonder at you, Prudence, seeking to witness such a sight.' And as she
spoke she held fast her cloak, which Prudence vehemently struggled
for.

Faith returned, brought back possibly by the sound of the struggle.
She smiled--a deadly smile.

'Give it up, Prudence. Strive no more with her. She has bought success
in this world, and we are but her slaves.'

'Oh, Faith' said Lois, relinquishing her hold of the cloak, and
turning round with passionate reproach in her look and voice, 'what
have I done that you should speak so of me: you, that I have loved as
I think one loves a sister?'

Prudence did not lose her opportunity, but hastily arrayed herself in
the mantle, which was too large for her, and which she had, therefore,
considered as well adapted for concealment; but, as she went towards
the door, her feet became entangled in the unusual length, and she
fell, bruising her arm pretty sharply.

'Take care, another time, how you meddle with a witch's things,' said
Faith, as one scarcely believing her own words, but at enmity with all
the world in her bitter jealousy of heart. Prudence rubbed her arm,
and looked stealthily at Lois.

'Witch Lois! Witch Lois!' said she at last, softly, pulling a childish
face of spite at her.

'Oh, hush, Prudence! Do not bandy such terrible words! Let me look at
thine arm! I am sorry for thy hurt; only glad that it has kept thee
from disobeying thy mother.'

'Away, away!' said Prudence, springing from her. 'I am afeared of her
in very truth, Faith. Keep between me and the witch, or I will throw a
stool at her.'

Faith smiled--it was a bad and wicked smile--but she did not stir to
calm the fears she had called up in her young sister, just at this
moment, the bell began to toll. Hota, the Indian witch, was dead. Lois
covered her face with her hands. Even Faith went a deadlier pale than
she had been, and said, sighing, 'Poor Hota! But death is best.'

Prudence alone seemed unmoved by any thoughts connected with the
solemn, monotonous sound. Her only consideration was, that now she
might go out into the street and see the sights, and hear the news,
and escape from the terror which she felt at the presence of her
cousin. She flew upstairs to find her own mantle, ran down again, and
past Lois, before the English girl had finished her prayer, and was
speedily mingled among the crowd going to the meeting-house. There
also Faith and Lois came in due course of rime, but separately, not
together. Faith so evidently avoided Lois that she, humbled and
grieved, could not force her company upon her cousin, but loitered a
little behind---the quiet tears stealing down her face, shed for the
many causes that had occurred this morning.

The meeting-house was full to suffocation; and, as it sometimes
happens on such occasions, the greatest crowd was close about the
doors, from the fact that few saw, on their first entrance, where
there might be possible spaces into which they could wedge themselves.
Yet they were impatient of any arrivals from the outside, and pushed
and hustled Faith, and after her Lois, till the two were forced on to
a conspicuous place in the very centre of the building, where there
was no chance of a seat, but still space to stand in. Several stood
around, the pulpit being in the middle, and already occupied by two
ministers in Geneva bands and gowns, while other ministers, similarly
attired, stood holding on to it, almost as if they were giving support
instead of receiving it. Grace Hickson and her son sat decorously in
their own pew, thereby showing that they had arrived early from the
execution. You might almost have traced out the number of those who
had been at the hanging of the Indian witch, by the expression of
their countenances. They were awe-stricken into terrible repose; while
the crowd pouring in, still pouring in, of those who had not attended
the execution, looked all restless, and excited, and fierce. A buzz
went round the meeting that the stranger minister who stood along with
Pastor Tappau in the pulpit was no other than Dr Cotton Mather
himself, come all the way from Boston to assist in purging Salem of
witches.

And now Pastor Tappau began his prayer, extempore, as was the custom.
His words were wild and incoherent, as might be expected from a man
who had just been consenting to the bloody death of one who was, but a
few days ago, a member of his own family; violent and passionate, as
was to be looked for in the father of children, whom he believed to
suffer so fearfully from the crime he would denounce before the Lord.
He sat down at length from pure exhaustion. Then Dr Cotton Mather
stood forward; he did not utter more than a few words of prayer, calm
in comparison with what had gone before, and then he went on to
address the great crowd before him in a quiet, argumentative way, but
arranging what he had to say with something of the same kind of skill
which Antony used in his speech to the Romans after Csar's murder.
Some of Dr Mather's words have been preserved to us, as he afterwards
wrote them down in one of his works. Speaking of those 'unbelieving
Sadducees' who doubted the existence of such a crime, he said:
'Instead of their apish shouts and jeers at blessed Scripture, and
histories which have such undoubted confirmation as that no man that
has breeding enough to regard the common laws of human society will
offer to doubt of them, it becomes us rather to adore the goodness of
God, who from the mouths of babes and sucklings has ordained truth,
and by the means of the sore-afflicted children of your godly pastor,
has revealed the fact that the devils have with most horrid operations
broken in upon your neighbourhood. Let us beseech Him that their power
may be restrained, and that they go not so far in their evil
machinations as they did but four years ago in the city of Boston,
where I was the humble means, under God, of loosing from the power of
Satan the four children of that religious and blessed man, Mr Goodwin.
These four babes of grace were bewitched by an Irish witch; there is
no end of the narration of the torments they had to submit to. At one
time they would bark like dogs, at another purr like cats; yea, they
would fly like geese, and be carried with an incredible swiftness,
having but just their toes now and then upon the ground, sometimes not
once in twenty feet, and their arms waved like those of a bird. Yet,
at other times, by the hellish devices of the woman who had bewitched
them, they could not stir without limping; for, by means of an
invisible chain, she hampered their limbs, or sometimes, by means of a
noose, almost choked them. One, in special, was subjected by this
woman of Satan to such heat as of an oven, that I myself have seen the
sweat drop from off her, while all around were moderately cold and
well at ease. But not to trouble you with more of my stories, I will
go on to prove that it was Satan himself that held power over her. For
a very remarkable thing it was, that she was not permitted by that
evil spirit to read any godly or religious book, speaking the truth as
it is in Jesus. She could read Popish books well enough, while both
sight and speech seemed to fail her, when I gave her the Assembly's
Catechism. Again, she was fond of that prelatical Book of Common
Prayer, which is but the Roman mass-book in an English and ungodly
shape. In the midst of her sufferings, if one put the Prayer-book into
her hands, it relieved her. Yet, mark you, she could never be brought
to read the Lord's Prayer, whatever book she met with it in, proving
thereby distinctly that she was in league with the devil. I took her
into my own house, that I, even as Dr Martin Luther did, might wrestle
with the devil, and have my fling at him. But, when I called my
household to prayer, the devils that possessed her caused her to
whistle, and sing, and yell in a discordant and hellish fashion.'

At this very instant a shrill, clear whistle pierced all ears. Dr
Mather stopped for a moment--

'Satan is among you!' he cried. 'Look to yourselves!' And he prayed
with fervour, as if against a present and threatening enemy; but no
one heeded him. Whence came that ominous, unearthly whistle? Every man
watched his neighbour. Again the whistle, out of their very midst! And
then a bustle in a corner of the building; three or four people
stirring, without any cause immediately perceptible to those at a
distance; the movement spread; and, directly after, a passage even in
that dense mass of people was cleared for two men, who bore forwards
Prudence Hickson, lying rigid as a log of wood, in the convulsive
position of one who suffered from an epileptic fit. They laid her down
among the ministers who were gathered round the pulpit. Her mother
came to her, sending up a wailing cry at the sight of her distorted
child. Dr Mather came down from the pulpit and stood over her,
exorcising the devil in possession, as one accustomed to such scenes.
The crowd pressed forward in mute horror. At length her rigidity of
form and feature gave way, and she was terribly convulsed--torn by the
devil, as they called it. By and by, the violence of the attack was
over, and the spectators began to breathe once more; though still the
former horror brooded over them, and they listened as if for the
sudden ominous whistle again, and glanced fearfully around, as if
Satan were at their backs picking out his next victim.

Meanwhile, Dr Mather, Pastor Tappau, and one or two others, were
exhorting Prudence to reveal, if she could, the name of the person,
the witch, who, by influence over Satan, had subjected the child to
such torture as that which they had just witnessed. They bade her
speak in the name of the Lord. She whispered a name in the low voice
of exhaustion. None of the congregation could hear what it was. But
the Pastor Tappau, when he heard it drew back in dismay, while Dr
Mather, knowing not to whom the name belonged, cried out, in a clear,
cold voice--

'Know ye one Lois Barclay; for it is she who bath bewitched this poor
child?'

The answer was given rather by action than by word, although a low
murmur went up from many. But all fell back, as far as falling back in
such a crowd was possible, from Lois Barclay, where she stood--and
looked on her with surprise and horror. A space of some feet, where no
possibility of space had seemed to be not a minute before, left Lois
standing alone, with every eye fixed upon her in hatred and dread. She
stood like one speechless, tongue-tied, as if in a dream. She a witch!
accursed as witches were in the sight of God and man! Her smooth,
healthy face became contracted into shrivel and pallor; but she
uttered not a word, only looked at Dr Mather with her dilated
terrified eyes.

Some one said, 'She is of the household of Grace Hickson, a God-
fearing women.' Lois did not know if the words were in her favour or
not. She did not think about them, even; they told less on her than on
any person present. She a witch! and the silver glittering Avon, and
the drowning woman she had seen in her childhood at Barford--at home
in England--was before her, and her eyes fell before her doom. There
was some commotion--some rustling of papers; the magistrates of the
town were drawing near the pulpit and consulting with the ministers.
Dr Mather spoke again--

'The Indian woman, who was hung this morning, named certain people,
whom she deposed to have seen at the horrible meetings for the worship
of Satan; but there is no name of Lois Barclay down upon the paper,
although we are stricken at the sight of the names of some'--

An interruption--a consultation. Again Dr Mather spoke--

'Bring the accused witch, Lois Barclay, near to this poor suffering
child of Christ.'

They rushed forward to force Lois to the place where Prudence lay. But
Lois walked forward of herself--

'Prudence,' she said, in such a sweet, touching voice, that, long
afterwards, those who heard it that day spoke of it to their children,
'have I ever said an unkind word to you, much less done you an ill
rum? Speak, dear child! You did not know what you said just now, did
you?'

But Prudence writhed away from her approach, and screamed out, as if
stricken with fresh agony--

'Take her away! take her away! Witch Lois! Witch Lois, who threw me
down only this morning, and turned my arm black and blue.' And she
bared her arm, as if in confirmation of her words. It was sorely
bruised.

'I was not near you, Prudence!' said Lois sadly. But that was only
reckoned fresh evidence of her diabolical power.

Lois's brain began to get bewildered. 'Witch Lois'! She a witch,
abhorred of all men! yet she would try to think, and make one more
effort.

'Aunt Hickson,' she said, and Grace came forwards. 'Am I a witch, Aunt
Hickson?' she asked; for her aunt, stern, harsh, unloving as she might
be, was truth itself, and Lois thought--so near to delirium had she
come--if her aunt condemned her, it was possible she might indeed be a
witch.

Grace Hickson faced her unwillingly.

'It is a stain upon our family for ever,' was the thought in her mind.

'It is for God to judge whether thou art a witch or not. Not for me. I

'Alas, alas!' moaned Lois; for she had looked at Faith, and learnt
that no good word was to be expected from her gloomy face and averted
eyes. The meeting-house was full of eager voices, repressed, out of
reverence for the place, into tones of earnest murmuring that seemed
to fill the air with gathering sounds of anger; and those who had
first fallen back from the place where Lois stood were now pressing
forwards and round about her, ready to seize the young friendless
girl, and bear her off to prison. Those who might have been, who ought
to have been, her friends, were either averse or indifferent to her;
though only Prudence made any open outcry upon her. That evil child
cried out perpetually that Lois had cast a devilish spell upon her,
and bade them keep the witch away from her; and, indeed, Prudence was
strangely convulsed, when once or twice Lois's perplexed and wistful
eyes were turned in her direction. Here and there, girls, women,
tittering strange cries, and apparently suffering from the same kind
of convulsive fit as that which had attacked Prudence, were centres of
a group of agitated friends, who muttered much and savagely of
witchcraft, and the list which had been taken down only the night
before from Hota's own lips. They demanded to have it made public, and
objected to the slow forms of the law. Others, not so much or so
immediately interested in the sufferers, were kneeling around, and
praying aloud for themselves and their own safety, until the
excitement should be so much quelled as to enable Dr Cotton Mather to
be again heard in prayer and exhortation.

And where was Manasseh? What said he? You must remember that the stir
of the outcry, the accusation, the appeals of the accused, all seemed
to go on at once, amid die buzz and din of the people who had come to
worship God, but remained to judge and upbraid their fellow-creature.
Tin now, Lois had only caught a glimpse of Manasseh, who was
apparently trying to push forwards, but whom his mother was holding
back with word and action, as Lois knew she would hold him back; for
it was not for the first time that she was made aware how carefully
her aunt had always shrouded his decent reputation among his fellow-
citizens from the least suspicion of his seasons of excitement and
incipient insanity. On such days, when he himself imagined that he
heard prophetic voices and saw prophetic visions, his mother would do
much to prevent any besides his own family from seeing Mm; and now
Lois, by a process swifter than reasoning, felt certain, from her one
look at his face when she saw it, colourless and deformed by intensity
of expression, among a number of others, all simply ruddy and angry,
that he was in such a state that his mother would in vain do her
utmost to prevent his making himself conspicuous. Whatever force or
argument Grace used, it was of no avail. In another moment, he was by
Lois's side, stammering with excitement, and giving vague testimony,
which would have been of little value in a calm court of justice, and
was only oil to the smouldering fire of that audience.

'Away with her to gaol!' 'Seek out the witches!' 'The sin has spread
into all households!' 'Satan is in the very midst of us!' 'Strike and
spare not!' In vain Dr Cotton Mather raised his voice in loud prayers,
in which he assumed the guilt of the accused girl; no one listened,
all were anxious to secure Lois, as if they feared she would vanish
from before their very eyes: she, white, trembling, standing quite
still in the tight grasp of strange, fierce men, her dilated eyes only
wandering a little now and then in search of some pitiful face---some
pitiful face that, among all those hundreds, was not to be found.
While some fetched cords to bind her, and others, by low questions,
suggested new accusations to the distempered brain of Prudence,
Manasseh obtained a hearing once more. Addressing Dr Cotton Mather, he
said, evidently anxious to make clear some new argument that had just
suggested itself to him: 'Sir, in this matter, be she witch or not,
the end has been foreshown to me by the spirit of prophecy. Now,
reverend sir, if the event be known to the spirit, it must have been
foredoomed in the counsels of God. If so, why punish her for doing
that in which she had no free-will?'

'Young man,' said Dr Mather, bending down from the pulpit and looking
very severely upon Manasseh, 'Take care! you arc trenching on
blasphemy.'

'I do not care. I say it again. Either Lois Barclay is a witch, or she
is not. If she is, it has been foredoomed for her, for I have seen a
vision of her death as a condemned witch for many months past--and the
voice has told me there was but one escape for her--Lois--the voice
you know'--In his excitement he began to wander a little; but it was
touching to see how conscious he was, that by giving way he would lose
the thread of the logical argument by which he hoped to prove that
Lois ought not to be punished, and with what an effort he wrenched his
imagination away from the old ideas, and strove to concentrate all his
mind upon the plea that, if Lois was a witch, it had been shown him by
prophecy: and, if there was prophecy, there must be foreknowledge; if
foreknowledge, no freedom; if no freedom, no exercise of free-will;
and, therefore, that Lois was not justly amenable to punishment.

On he went, plunging into heresy, caring not--growing more and more
passionate every instant, but directing his passion into keen
argument, desperate sarcasm, instead of allowing it to excite his
imagination. Even Dr Mather felt himself on the point of being worsted
in the very presence of this congregation, who, but a short half-hour
ago, looked upon him as all but infallible. Keep a good heart, Cotton
Mather! your opponent's eye begins to glare and flicker with a
terrible, yet uncertain, light--his speech grows less coherent, and
his arguments are mixed up with wild glimpses at wilder revelations
made to himself alone. He has touched on the limits--he has entered
the borders--of blasphemy; and, with an awful cry of horror and
reprobation, the congregation rise up, as one man, against the
blasphemer. Dr Mather smiled a grim smile; and the people were ready
to stone Manasseh, who went on, regardless, talking and raving.

'Stay, stay!' said Grace Hickson--all the decent family shame which
prompted her to conceal the mysterious misfortune of her only son from
public knowledge done away with by the sense of the immediate danger
to his life. 'Touch him not! He knows not what he is saying. The fit
is upon him. I tell you the truth before God. My son, my only son, is
mad.'

They stood aghast at the intelligence. The grave young citizen, who
had silently taken his part in life close by them in their daily
lives--not mixing much with them, it was true, but looked up to,
perhaps, all the more--the student of abstruse books on theology, fit
to converse with the most learned ministers that ever came about those
parts--was he the same with the man now pouring out wild words to Lois
the witch, as if he and she were the only two present? A solution of
it all occurred to them. He was another victim. Great was the power of
Satan! Through the arts of the devil, that white statue of a girl had
mastered the soul of Manasseh Hickson. SO the word spread from mouth
to mouth. And Grace heard it. It seemed a healing balsam for her
shame. With wilful, dishonest blindness, she would not see--not even
in her secret heart would she acknowledge--that Manasseh had been
strange, and moody, and violent long before the English girl had
reached Salem. She even found some specious reason for his attempt at
suicide long ago. He was recovering from a fever--and though tolerably
well in health, the delirium had not finally left him. But since Lois
came, how headstrong he had been at times! how unreasonable! how
moody! What a strange delusion was that which he was under, of being
bidden by some voice to marry her! How he followed her about, and
clung to her, as under some compulsion of affection! And over all
reigned the idea that, if he were indeed suffering from being
bewitched, he was not mad, and might again assume the honourable
position he had held in the congregation and in the town, when the
spell by which he was held was destroyed. So Grace yielded to the
notion herself, and encouraged it in others, that Lois Barclay had
bewitched both Manasseh and Prudence. And the consequence of this
belief was, that Lois was to be tried, with little chance in her
favour, to see whether she was a witch or no; and if a witch, whether
she would confess, implicate others, repent, and live a life of bitter
shame, avoided by all men, and cruelly treated by most; or die,
impenitent, hardened, denying her crime upon the gallows.

And so they dragged Lois away from the congregation of Christians to
the gaol, to await her trial. I say 'dragged her': because, although
she was docile enough to have followed them whither they would, she
was now so faint as to require extraneous force--poor Lois! who should
have been carried and tended lovingly in her state of exhaustion; but,
instead, was so detested by the multitude, who looked upon her as an
accomplice of Satan in all his evil doings, that they cared no more
how they treated her than a careless boy minds how he handles the toad
that he is going to throw over the wall.

When Lois came to her full senses, she found herself lying on a short,
hard bed in a dark, square room, which she at once knew must be a part
of the city gaol. It was about eight feet square; it had stone walls
on every side, and a grated opening high above her head, letting in
all the light and air that could enter through about a square foot of
aperture. It was so lonely, so dark to that poor girl, when she came
slowly and painfully out of her long faint. She did so want human help
in that struggle which always supervenes after a swoon; when the
effort is to clutch at life, and the effort seems too much for the
will. She did not at first understand where she was, did not
understand how she came to be there; nor did she care to understand.
Her physical instinct was to lie still and let the hurrying pulses
have time to calm. So she shut her eyes once more. Slowly, slowly the
recollection of the scene in the meeting-house shaped itself into a
kind of picture before her. She saw within her eyelids, as it were,
that sea of loathing faces all turned towards her, as towards
something unclean and hateful. And you must remember, you who in the
nineteenth century read this account, that witchcraft was a real
terrible sin to her, Lois Barclay, two hundred years ago. The look on
their faces, stamped on heart and brain, excited in her a sort of
strange sympathy. Could it, O God!--could it be true, that Satan had
obtained the terrific power over her and her will of which she had
heard and read? Could she indeed be possessed by a demon and be indeed
a witch, and yet till now have been unconscious of it? And her excited
imagination recalled, with singular vividness, all she had ever heard
on the subject--the horrible midnight sacrament, the very presence and
power of Satan. Then, remembering every angry thought against her
neighbour, against the impertinences of Prudence, against the
overbearing authority of her aunt, against the persevering crazy suit
of Manasseh, her indignation--only that morning, but such ages off in
real time--at Faith's injustice: oh, could such evil thoughts have had
devilish power given to them by the father of evil, and, all
unconsciously to herself, have gone forth as active curses in die
world? And so the ideas went on careering wildly through the poor
girl's brain, the girl thrown inward upon herself. At length, the
sting of her imagination forced her to start up impatiently. What was
this? A weight of iron on her legs--a weight stated afterwards, by the
gaoler of Salem prison, to have been 'not more than eight pounds.' It
was well for Lois it was a tangible ill, bringing her back from the
wild, illimitable desert in which her imagination was wandering. She
took hold of the iron, and saw her tom stocking, her bruised ankle,
and began to cry pitifully, out of strange compassion with herself.
They feared, then, that even in that cell she would find a way to
escape! Why, the utter, ridiculous impossibility of the thing
convinced her of her own innocence and ignorance of all supernatural
power; and the heavy iron brought her strangely round from the
delusions that seemed to be gathering about her.

No! she never could fly out of that deep dungeon; there was no escape,
natural or supernatural, for her, unless by man's mercy. And what was
man's mercy in such times of panic? Lois knew that it was nothing;
instinct, more than reason, taught her that panic calls out cowardice,
and cowardice cruelty. Yet she cried, cried freely, and for the first
time, when she found herself ironed and chained. It seemed so cruel,
so much as if her fellow-creatures had really learnt to hate and dread
her--her, who had had a few angry thoughts, which God forgive! but
whose thoughts had never gone into words, far less into actions. Why,
even now she could love all the household at home, if they would but
let her; yes, even yet, though she felt that it was the open
accusation of Prudence and the withheld justifications of her aunt and
Faith that had brought her to her present strait. Would they ever come
and see her? Would kinder thoughts of her--who had shared their daily
bread for months and months--bring them to see her, and ask her
whether it were really she who had brought on the illness of Prudence,
the derangement of Manasseh's mind? No one came. Bread and water were
pushed in by some one, who hastily locked and unlocked the door, and
cared not to see if he put them within his prisoner's reach, or
perhaps thought that that physical fact mattered little to a witch. It
was long before Lois could reach them; and she had something of the
natural hunger of youth left in her still, which prompted her, lying
her length on the floor, to weary herself with efforts to obtain the
bread. After she had eaten some of it, the day began to wane, and she
thought she would lay her down and try to sleep. But before she did
so, the gaoler heard her singing the Evening Hymn--

     'Glory to Thee, my God, this night,

     For all the blessings of the light!'

And a dull thought came into his dull mind, that she was thankful for
few blessings, if she could tune up her voice to sing praises after
this day of what, if she were a witch, was shameful detection in
abominable practices, and if not--Well, his mind stopped short at this
point in his wondering contemplation. Lois knelt down and said the
Lord's Prayer, pausing just a little before one clause, that she might
be sure that in her heart of hearts she did forgive. Then she looked
at her ankle, and the tears came into her eyes once again; but not so
much because she was hurt, as because men must have hated her so
bitterly before they could have treated her thus. Then she lay down
and fell asleep.

The next day, she was led before Mr Hathorn and Mr Curwin, justices of
Salem, to be accused legally and publicly of witchcraft. Others were
with her, under the same charge. And when the prisoners were brought
in, they were cried out at by the abhorrent crowd. The two Tappaus,
Prudence, and one or two other girls of the same age were there, in
the character of victims of the spells of the accused. The prisoners
were placed about seven or eight feet from the justices, and the
accusers between the justices and them; the former were then ordered
to stand right before the justices. All this Lois did at their
bidding, with something of the wondering docility of a child, but not
with any hope of softening the hard, stony look of detestation that
was on all the countenances around her, save those that were distorted
by more passionate anger. Then an officer was bidden to hold each of
her hands, and justice Hathorn bade her keep her eyes continually
fixed on him, for this reason--which, however, was not told to her--
lest, if she looked on Prudence, the girl might either fall into a
fit, or cry out that she was suddenly or violently hurt. If any heart
could have been touched in that cruel multitude, they would have felt
some compassion for the sweet young face of the English girl, trying
so meekly to do all that she was ordered, her face quite white, yet so
full of sad gentleness, her grey eyes, a little dilated by the very
solemnity of her position, fixed with the intent look of innocent
maidenhood on the stem face of justice Hathorn. And thus they stood in
silence, one breathless minute. Then they were bidden to say the
Lord's Prayer. Lois went through it as if alone in her cell; but, as
she had done alone in her cell the night before, she made a little
pause, before the prayer to be forgiven as she forgave. And at this
instant of hesitation--as if they had been on the watch for it--they
all cried out upon her for a witch; and, when the clamour ended, the
justices bade Prudence Hickson come forward. Then Lois turned a little
to one side, wishing to see at least one familiar face; but, when her
eyes fell upon Prudence, the girl stood stock-still, and answered no
questions, nor spoke a word, and the justices declared that she was
struck dumb by witchcraft. Then some behind took Prudence under the
arms, and would have forced her forwards to touch Lois, possibly
esteeming that as a cure for her being bewitched. But Prudence had
hardly been made to take three steps, before she struggled out of
their arms and fell down writhing, as in a fit, calling out with
shrieks, and entreating Lois to help her, and save her from her
torment. Then all the girls began 'to tumble down like swine' (to use
the words of an eye-witness) and to cry out upon Lois and her fellow-
prisoners. These last were now ordered to stand with their hands
stretched out, it being imagined that, if the bodies of the witches
were arranged in the form of a cross, they would lose their evil
power. By and by, Lois felt her strength going, from the unwonted
fatigue of such a position, which she had borne patiently until the
pain and weariness had forced both tears and sweat down her face; and
she asked, in a low, plaintive voice, if she might not rest her head
for a few moments against the wooden partition. But justice Hathorn
told her she had strength enough to torment others, and should have
strength enough to stand. She sighed a little, and bore on, the
clamour against her and the other accused increasing every moment; the
only way she could keep herself from utterly losing consciousness was
by distracting herself from present pain and danger, and saying to
herself verses of the Psalms as she could remember them, expressive of
trust in God. At length, she was ordered back to gaol, and dimly
understood that she and others were sentenced to be hanged for
witchcraft. Many people now looked eagerly at Lois, to see if she
would weep at this doom. If she had had strength to cry, it might--it
was just possible that it might--have been considered a plea in her
favour, for witches could not shed tears; but she was too exhausted
and dead. All she wanted was to lie down once more on her prison-bed,
out of the reach of men's cries of abhorrence, and out of shot of
their cruel eyes. So they led her back to prison, speechless and
tearless.

But rest gave her back her power of thought and suffering. Was it
indeed true that she was to die? She, Lois Barclay, only eighteen, so
well, so young, so full of love and hope as she had been, till but
these few days past! What would they think of it at home--real, dear
home at Barford, in England? There they had loved her; there she had
gone about singing and rejoicing, all the day long, in the pleasant
meadows by the Avon side. Oh, why did father and mother die, and leave
her their bidding to come her to this cruel New England shore, where
no one had wanted her, no one had cared for her, and where now they
were going to put her to a shameful death as a witch? And there would
be no one to send kindly messages by, to those she should never see
more. Never more! Young Lucy was living, and joyful--probably thinking
of her, and of his declared intention of coming to fetch her home to
be his wife this very spring. Possibly he had forgotten her; no one
knew. A week before, she would have been indignant at her own distrust
in thinking for a minute that he could forget. Now, she doubted all
men's goodness for a time; for those around her were deadly, and
cruel, and relentless.

Then she turned round, and beat herself with angry blows (to speak in
images) for ever doubting her lover. Oh! if she were but with him! Oh!
if she might but be with him! He would not let her die, but would hide
her in his bosom from the wrath of this people, and carry her back to
the old home at Barford. And he might even now be sailing on the wide
blue sea, coming nearer, nearer every moment, and yet be too late
after all.

So the thoughts chased each other through her head all that feverish
night, till she clung almost deliriously to life, and wildly prayed
that she might not die; at least, not just yet, and she so young!

Pastor Tappau and certain elders roused her up from a heavy sleep,
late on the morning of the following day. All night long, she had
trembled and cried, till morning light had come peering in through the
square grating up above. It soothed her, and she fell asleep, to be
awakened, as I have said, by Pastor Tappau.

'Arise!' said he, scrupling to touch her, from his superstitious idea
of her evil powers. 'It is noonday.'

'Where am I?' said she, bewildered at this unusual wakening and the
array of severe faces, all gazing upon her with reprobation.

'You are in Salem gaol, condemned for a witch.'

'Alas! I had forgotten for an instant,' said she, dropping her head
upon her breast.

'She has been out on a devilish ride all night long, doubtless, and is
weary and perplexed this morning,' whispered one in so low a voice
that he did not think she could hear; but she lifted up her eyes, and
looked at him, with mute reproach.

'We are come,' said Pastor Tappau, 'to exhort you to confess your
great and manifold sin.'

'My great and manifold sin!' repeated Lois to herself, shaking her
head.

'Yea, your sin of witchcraft. If you will confess, there may yet be
balm in Gilead.'

One of the elders, struck with pity at the young girl's wan, shrunken
look, said that if she confessed and repented, and did penance,
possibly her life might yet be spared.

A sudden flash of light came into her sunk, dulled eye. Might she yet
live? Was it in her power? Why, no one knew how soon Hugh Lucy might
be here, to take her away for ever into the peace of a new home! Life!
Oh, then, all hope was not over--perhaps she might still live, and not
die. Yet the truth came once more out of her lips, almost without
exercise of her will.

'I am not a witch,' she said.

Then Pastor Tappau blindfolded her, all unresisting, but with languid
wonder in her heart as to what was to come next. She heard people
enter the dungeon softly, and heard whispering voices; then her hands
were lifted up and made to touch some one near, and in an instant she
heard a noise of struggling, and the well-known voice of Prudence
shrieking out in one of her hysterical fits, and screaming to be taken
away and out of that place. It seemed to Lois as if some of her judges
must have doubted of her guilt, and demanded yet another test. She sat
down heavily on her bed, thinking she must be in a horrible dream, so
compassed about with dangers and enemies did she seem. Those in the
dungeon--and, by the oppression of the air, she perceived that there
were many--kept on eager talking in low voices. She did not try to
make out the sense of the fragments of sentences that reached her
dulled brain, till, all at once, a word or two made her understand
they were discussing the desirableness of applying the whip or the
torture to make her confess, and reveal by what means the spell she
had cast upon those whom she had bewitched could be dissolved. A
thrill of affright ran through her; and she cried out beseechingly--

'I beg you, sirs, for God's mercy sake, that you do not use such awful
means. I may say anything--nay, I may accuse any one--if I am
subjected to such torment as I have heard tell about. For I am but a
young girl, and not very brave, or very good, as some are.'

It touched the hearts of one or two to see her standing there; the
tears streaming down from below the coarse handkerchief, tightly bound
over her eyes; the clanking chain fastening the heavy weight to the
slight ankle; the two hands held together, as if to keep down a
convulsive motion.

'Look!' said one of these. 'She is weeping. They say no witch can weep
tears.'

But another scoffed at this test, and bade the first remember how
those of her own family, the Hicksons even, bore witness against her.

Once more, she was bidden to confess. The charges, esteemed by all men
(as they said) to have been proven against her, were read over to her,
with all the testimony borne against her in proof thereof. They told
her that, considering the godly family to which she belonged, it had
been decided by the magistrates and ministers of Salem that she should
have her life spared, if she would own her guilt, make reparation, and
submit to penance; but that, if not, she and others convicted of
witchcraft along with her, were to be hung in Salem market-place on
the next Thursday morning (Thursday being market-day). And when they
had thus spoken, they waited silently for her answer. It was a minute
or two before she spoke. She had sat down again upon the bed
meanwhile; for indeed she was very weak. She asked, 'May I have this
handkerchief unbound from my eyes; for indeed, sirs, it hurts me?'

The occasion for which she was blindfolded being over, the bandage was
taken off, and she was allowed to see. She looked pitifully at the
stern faces around her, in grim suspense as to what her answer would
be. Then she spoke--

'Sirs, I must choose death with a quiet conscience rather than life to
be gained by a lie. I am not a witch. I know not hardly what you mean,
when you say I am. I have done many, many things very wrong in my
life; but I think God will forgive me them for my Saviour's sake.'

'Take not His name on your wicked lips,' said Pastor Tappau, enraged
at her resolution of not confessing, and scarcely able to keep himself
from striking her. She saw the desire he had, and shrank away in timid
fear. Then justice Hathorn solemnly read the legal condemnation of
Lois Barclay to death by hanging, as a convicted witch. She murmured
something which nobody heard fully, but which sounded like a prayer
for pity and compassion on her tender years and friendless estate.
Then they left her to all the horrors of that solitary, loathsome
dungeon, and the strange terror of approaching death.

Outside the prison-walls, the dread of the witches, and the excitement
against witchcraft, grew with fearful rapidity. Numbers of women, and
men, too, were accused, no matter what their station of life and their
former character had been. On the other side, it is alleged that
upwards of fifty persons were grievously vexed by the devil, and those
to whom he had imparted of his power for vile and wicked
considerations. How much of malice--distinct, unmistakable, personal
malice--was mixed up with these accusations, no one can now tell. The
dire statistics of this time tell us, that fifty-five escaped death by
confessing themselves guilty; one hundred and fifty were in prison;
more than two hundred accused; and upwards of twenty suffered death,
among whom was the minister I have called Nolan, who was traditionally
esteemed to have suffered through hatred of his co-pastor. One old
man, scorning the accusation, and refusing to plead at his trial, was,
according to the law, pressed to death for his contumacy. Nay, even
dogs were accused of witchcraft, suffered the legal penalties, and are
recorded among the subjects of capital punishment. One young man found
means to effect his mother's escape from confinement, fled with her on
horseback, and secreted her in the Blueberry Swamp, not far from
Taplay's Brook, in the Great Pasture; he concealed her here in a
wigwam which he built for her shelter, provided her with food and
clothing, and comforted and sustained her, until after the delusion
had passed away. The poor creature must, however, have suffered
dreadfully; for one of her arms was fractured in the all but desperate
effort of getting her out of prison.

But there was no one to try and save Lois. Grace Hickson would fain
have ignored her altogether. Such a taint did witchcraft bring upon a
whole family, that generations of blameless life were not at that day
esteemed sufficient to wash it out. Besides, you must remember that
Grace, along with most people of her time, believed most firmly in the
reality of the crime of witchcraft. Poor, forsaken Lois believed in it
herself; and it added to her terror, for the gaoler, in an unusually
communicative mood, told her that nearly every cell was now full of
witches, and it was possible he might have to put one, if more came,
in with her. Lois knew that she was no witch herself; but not the less
did she believe that the crime was abroad, and largely shared in by
evil-minded persons who had chosen to give up their souls to Satan;
and she shuddered with terror at what the gaoler said, and would have
asked him to spare her this companionship, if it were possible. But,
somehow, her senses were leaving her; and she could not remember the
right words in which to form her request, until he had left the place.

The only person who yearned after Lois--who would have befriended her
if he could--was Manasseh, poor, made Manasseh. But he was so wild and
outrageous in his talk, that it was all his mother could do to keep
his state concealed from public observation. She had for this purpose
given him a sleeping potion; and, while he lay heavy and inert under
the influence of the poppy-tea, his mother bound him with cords to the
ponderous, antique bed in which he slept. She looked brokenhearted,
while she did this office and thus acknowledged the degradation of her
first-born--him of whom she had ever been so proud.

Late that evening, Grace Hickson stood in Lois's cell, hooded and
cloaked up to her eyes. Lois was sitting quite still, playing idly
with a bit of string which one of the magistrates had dropped out of
his pocket that morning. Her aunt was standing by her for an instant
or two in silence, before Lois seemed aware of her presence. Suddenly,
she looked up and uttered a little cry, shrinking away from the dark
figure. Then, as if her cry had loosened Grace's tongue, she began--

'Lois Barclay, did I ever do you any harm?' Grace did not know how
often her want of loving-kindness had pierced the tender heart of the
stranger under her roof; nor did Lois remember it against her now.
Instead, Lois's memory was filled with grateful thoughts of how much
that might have been left undone, by a less conscientious person, her
aunt had done for her; and she half-stretched out her arms as to a
friend in that desolate place, while she answered--

'Oh no, no! you were very good! very kind!'

But Grace stood immovable.

'I did you no harm, although I never rightly knew why you came to us.'

'I was sent by my mother on her death-bed,' moaned Lois, covering her
face. It grew darker every instant. Her aunt stood, still and silent.

'Did any of mine every wrong you?' she asked, after a time.

'No, no; never, till Prudence said--Oh, aunt, do you think I am a
witch?' And now Lois was standing up, holding by Grace's cloak, and
trying to read her face. Grace drew herself, ever so little, away from
the girl, whom she dreaded, and yet sought to propitiate.

'Wiser than I, godlier than I, have said it. But, oh, Lois, Lois! he
was my first-born. Loose him from the demon, for the sake of Him whose
name I dare not name in this terrible building, filled with them who
have renounced the hopes of their baptism; loose Manasseh from his
awful state, if ever I or mine did you a kindness.'

'You ask me for Christ's sake,' said Lois, 'I can name that holy
name--for oh, aunt! indeed, and in holy truth, I am no witch! and yet
I am to die--to be hanged! Aunt, do not let them kill me! I am so
young, and I never did any one any harm that I know of.'

'Hush! for very shame! This afternoon I have bound my first-born with
strong cords, to keep him from doing himself or us a mischief--he is
so frenzied. Lois Barclay, look here!' and Grace knelt down at her
niece's feet, and joined her hands, as if in prayer. 'I am a proud
woman, God forgive me! and I never thought to kneel to any save to
Him. And now I kneel at your feet, to pray you to release my children,
more especially my son Manasseh, from the spells you have put upon
them. Lois, hearken to me, and I will pray to the Almighty for you, if
yet there may be mercy.'

'I cannot do it; I never did you or yours any wrong. How can I undo
it? How can I?' And she wrung her hands, in intensity of conviction of
the inutility of aught she could do.

Here Grace got up, slowly, stiffly, and sternly. She stood aloof from
the chained girl, in the remote corner of the prison-cell near the
door, ready to make her escape as soon as she had cursed the witch,
who would not, or could not, undo the evil she had wrought. Grace
lifted up her right hand, and held it up on high, as she doomed Lois
to be accursed for ever, for her deadly sin, and her want of mercy
even at this final hour. And, lastly, she summoned her to meet her at
the judgment-seat, and answer for this deadly injury, done to both
souls and bodies of those who had taken her in, and received her when
she came to them an orphan and a stranger.

Until this last summons, Lois had stood as one who hears her sentence
and can say nothing against it, for she knows all would be in vain.
But she raised her head when she heard her aunt speak of the judgment-
seat, and at the end of Grace's speech she, too, lifted up her right
hand, as if solemnly pledging herself by that action, and replied--

'Aunt! I will meet you there. And there you will know my innocence of
this deadly thing. God have mercy on you and yours!'

Her calm voice maddened Grace; and, making a gesture as if she plucked
up a handful of dust off the floor and threw it at Lois, she cried--

'Witch! witch! ask mercy for thyself--I need not your prayers.
Witches' prayers are read backwards. I spit at thee, and defy thee!'
And so she went away.

Lois sat moaning that whole night through. 'God comfort me! God
strengthen me!' was all she could remember to say. She just felt that
want, nothing more--all other fears and wants seemed dead within her.
And, when the gaoler brought in her breakfast the next morning, he
reported her as 'gone silly'; for, indeed, she did not seem to know
him, but kept rocking herself to and fro, and whispering softly to
herself, smiling a little from time to time.

But God did comfort her, and strengthen her too. Late on that
Wednesday afternoon they thrust another 'witch' into her cell, bidding
the two, with opprobrious words, keep company together. The new-comer
fell prostrate with the push given her from without; and Lois, not
recognising any thing but an old ragged woman, lying helpless on her
face on the ground, lifted her up; and lo! it was Nattee--dirty,
filthy indeed, mud-pelted, stone-bruised, beaten, and all astray in
her wits with the treatment she had received from the mob outside.
Lois held her in her arms, and softly wiped the old brown wrinkled
face with her apron, crying over it, as she had hardly yet cried over
her own sorrows. For hours she tended the old Indian woman--tended her
bodily woes; and, as the poor scattered senses of the savage creature
came slowly back, Lois gathered her infinite dread of the morrow, when
she, too, as well as Lois, was to be led out to die, in face of all
that infuriated crowd. Lois sought in her own mind for some source of
comfort for the old woman, who shook like one in the shaking-palsy at
the dread of death--and such a death!

When all was quiet through the prison, in the deep dead midnight, the
gaoler outside the door heard Lois telling, as if to a young child,
the marvellous and sorrowful story of One who died on the cross for us
and for our sakes. As long as she spoke, the Indian woman's terror
seemed lulled; but, the instant she paused for weariness, Nattee cried
out afresh, as if some wild beast were following her close through the
'dense forests in which she had dwelt in her youth. And then Lois went
on, saying all the blessed words she could remember, and comforting
the helpless Indian woman with the sense of the presence of a Heavenly
Friend. And, in comforting her, Lois was comforted; in strengthening
her, Lois was strengthened.

The morning came, and the summons to come forth and die came. They who
entered the cell found Lois asleep, her face resting on the slumbering
old woman, whose head she still held in her lap. She did not seem
clearly to recognise where she was, when she awakened; the 'silly'
look had returned to her wan face; all she appeared to know was that,
somehow or another, through some peril or another, she had to protect
the poor Indian woman. She smiled faintly, when she saw the bright
light of the April day; and put her arm round Nattee, and tried to
keep the Indian quiet with hushing, soothing words of broken meaning,
and holy fragments of the Psalms. Nattee tightened her hold upon Lois,
as they drew near the gallows, and the outrageous crowd below began to
hoot and yell. Lois redoubled her efforts to calm and encourage
Nattee, apparently unconscious that any of the opprobrium, the
hootings, the stones, the mud, was directed towards herself. But, when
they took Nattee from her arms, and led her out to suffer first, Lois
seemed all at once to recover her sense of the present terror. She
gazed wildly around, stretched out her arms as if to some person in
the distance, who was yet visible to her, and cried out once, with a
voice that thrilled through all who heard it, 'Mother!' Directly
afterwards, the body of Lois the Witch swung in the air; and every one
stood with hushed breath, with a sudden wonder, like a fear of deadly
crime, fallen upon them.

The stillness and the silence were broken by one crazed and mad, who
came rushing up the steps of the ladder, and caught Lois's body in his
arms, and kissed her lips with wild passion. And then, as if it were
true what the people believed, that he was possessed by a demon, he
sprang down, and rushed through the crowd, out of the bounds of the
city, and into the dark dense forest; and Manasseh Hickson was no more
seen of Christian man.

The people of Salem had awakened from their frightful delusion before
the autumn, when Captain Holdernesse and Hugh Lucy came to find out
Lois, and bring her home to peaceful Barford, in the pleasant country
of England. Instead, they led them to the grassy grave where she lay
at rest, done to death by mistaken men. Hugh Lucy shook die dust off
his feet in quitting Salem, with a heavy, heavy heart, and lived a
bachelor all his life long for her sake.

Long years afterwards, Captain Holdernesse sought him out, to tell him
some news that he thought might interest the grave miller of the Avon-
side. Captain Holdernesse told him, that in the previous year--it was
then 1713--the sentence of excommunication against the witches of
Salem was ordered, in godly sacramental meeting of the church, to be
erased and blotted out, and that those who met together for this
purpose 'humbly requested the merciful God would pardon whatsoever
sin, error, or mistake was in the application of justice, through our
merciful High Priest, who knoweth how to have compassion on the
ignorant, and those that are out of the way.' He also said, that
Prudence Hickson--now woman grown--had made a most touching and
pungent declaration of sorrow and repentance before the whole church,
for the false and mistaken testimony she had given in several
instances, among which she particularly mentioned that of her cousin
Lois Barclay. To all of which Hugh Lucy only answered--

'No repentance of theirs can bring her back to life.'

Then Captain Holdernesse took out a paper and read the following
humble and solemn declaration of regret on the part of those who
signed it, among whom Grace Hickson was one:--

'We, whose names are undersigned, being, in the year 1692, called to
serve as jurors in the court of Salem, on trial of many who were by
some suspected guilty of doing acts of witchcraft upon the bodies of
sundry persons: we confess that we ourselves were not capable to
understand, nor able to withstand, the mysterious delusions of the
powers of darkness, and prince of the air, but were, for want of
knowledge in ourselves, and better information from others, prevailed
with to take up with such evidence against the accused, as, on further
consideration, and better information, we justly fear was insufficient
for the touching the lives of any (Deut. xvii. 6), whereby we feel we
have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and
unwittingly, to bring upon ourselves and this people of the Lord the
guilt of innocent blood; which sin, the Lord saith in Scripture, he
would not pardon (2 Kings xxiv. 4), that is, we suppose, in regard of
his temporal judgments. We do, therefore, signify to all in general
(and to the surviving sufferers in special) our deep sense of, and
sorrow for, our errors, in acting on such evidence to the condemning
of any person; and do hereby declare, that we justly fear that we were
sadly deluded and mistaken, for which we are much disquieted and
distressed in our minds, and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness,
first of God for Christ's sake, for this our error; and pray that God
would not impute the guilt of it to ourselves nor others; and we also
pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living
sufferers, as being then under the power of a strong and general
delusion, utterly unacquainted with, and not experienced in, matters
of that nature.

'We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly
offended; and do declare, according to our present minds, we would
none of us do such things again on such grounds for the whole world;
praying you to accept of this in way of satisfaction for our offence,
and that you would bless the inheritance of the Lord, that he may be
entreated for the land.

                                  'Foreman, THOMAS FISK, c.'

To the reading of this paper Hugh Lucy made no reply save this, even
more gloomily than before--

'All their repentance will avail nothing to my Lois, nor will it bring
back her life.'

Then Captain Holdernesse spoke once more, and said that on the day of
the general fast, appointed to be held all through New England, when
the meeting-houses were crowded, an old, old man, with white hair, had
stood up in the place in which he was accustomed to worship, and had
handed up into the pulpit a written confession, which he had once or
twice essayed to read for himself, acknowledging his great and
grievous error in the matter of the witches of Salem, and praying for
the forgiveness of God and of His people, ending with an entreaty that
all then present would join with him in prayer that his past conduct
might not bring down the displeasure of the Most High upon his
country, his family, or himself That old man, who was no other than
justice Sewall, remained standing all the time that his confession was
read; and at the end he said, 'The good and gracious God be pleased to
save New England and me and my family!' And then it came out that, for
years past, judge Sewall had set apart a day for humiliation and
prayer, to keep fresh in his mind a sense of repentance and sorrow for
the part he had borne in these trials, and that this solemn
anniversary he was pledged to keep as long as he lived, to show his
feeling of deep humiliation.

Hugh Lucy's voice trembled as he spoke: 'All this will not bring my
Lois to life again, or give me back the hope of my youth.'

But--as Captain Holdernesse shook his head (for what word could he
say, or how dispute what was so evidently true?)--Hugh added, 'What is
the day, know you, that this justice has set apart?'

'The twenty-ninth of April.'

'Then, on that day, will I, here at Barford in England, join my
prayers as long as I live with the repentant judge, that his sin may
be blotted out and no more had in remembrance. She would have willed
it so.'



THE END



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