The Witches' Curse

Two young women get tangled in the Salem Witch Trials.

Almost all was silent. The cackle of the fireplace was faded, mildly popping and cracking, and the scratch of Thomas’ pen against paper was but a whisper. On occasions, Mrs. Clark at his side would correct his letters, or give a murmur of advice. Arabella sat at the window, sewing in her lap and fingers idle, gazing with a dreamy glaze over her eyes out into the dusky twilight. The sun was sinking briskly from the sky, seeping the light from the landscape and making room for darkness to spread its oppressive fingers.

Priscilla sighed, running her fingers over Mercy’s soft, delicate curls. The little girl’s form sprawled across her lap, drifted to deep slumber already, despite having fought against the idea of going to bed moments earlier. Her expression was peaceful, caught in the bliss of dreams. It made Priscilla herself feel the slight temptation of sleep, her eyes quite heavy from the long day.

All was undisturbed and quiet; another passing usual evening. It would not be long before the family would be tucked away into their covers, with tired hands and sore limbs from the day’s work. Ever since their father’s passing, everything had become harder. Much of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of the women, Thomas at thirteen years still too young to take the lead and the eldest child, John,  was too preoccupied himself with his own farm and budding family but to assist them in the most minor of ways. In many ways, they were alone. They only had one another, and only together they would survive the turbulence of such days, when disease could rear her ugly head and swallow whole families, and all finances, farm, and family must be kept in order to prevent complete ruin.

A roll of hoof beats followed by a knock at the door awoke everyone from their respective daze. Each looked to one another; Mrs. Clark straightened her skirt and went to door, all turned their heads to watch.

“Good evening, Ma’am,” a young man stepped into the room as she opened the door, taking off his hat. He bowed his head slightly, the faded light of the fire playing on his tall, narrow form. He looked to each person in their turn, his brilliant blue eyes falling upon Priscilla lastly. She flushed slightly and averted her gaze, Mercy beginning to shift in her lap.

“What is going on, Ben?” Mrs. Clark said. “Is all well?”

Benjamin Smith took his eyes from Priscilla briefly to turn to her mother. “Mr. Hill came to John’s and dropped this letter for you; John bade me to bring it to you,” He took the letter from his pocket and held it out to Mrs. Clark.

“Oh, you should’ve waited till morning, no?” she replied, tearing the seal and unfolding the parchment. Scanning the words briefly, she then turned to her children, “Oh! It is from your Aunt Hope! Her birth has been successful; tis a boy, my goodness! How lovely.” Smiling, Mrs. Clark returned her eyes to Benjamin, who’s eyes had wandered to her eldest daughter once more. “Thank you, Ben. Is there anything that you require at this moment? Would you like some tea, dear?”

“Hmmm?” Mercy sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Shhhh,” murmured Priscilla, heat still washing over her cheeks and attempting to stifle it somehow.

He seemed to come from his daze, placing his hat on his head. “Oh no, thank you, Mrs. Clark. I should be off. Have a good night.”

Exchanging a few farewells, Benjamin departed. Priscilla took Mercy into her arms, drowsily asking of what was going on. Briefly quieting her, she guided her little sister to her bed, where the small girl easily drifted to sleep.

Priscilla gave Mercy one last look, and slipped from the room to return to the rest of the family in the common room. Her mother had resumed her former position, though Arabella slipped to Priscilla's side almost as soon as she made her entry.

"He can not take his eyes off of you," Arabella whispered into her older sister's ear, grabbing at Priscilla's arm eagerly.

"That is not true," returned Priscilla softly. "I am not pretty enough to be looked at in such a way."

"Anyone with eyes can not deny it-!"  the younger insisted in an undertone.

"What do you speak of, dears, that is such a secret?" Mrs. Clark spoke up, though she did not lift her eyes from the letter which she held in her hands, on occasions peering over Thomas' work. "If I really must not hear it, then talk of it in another room rather than before my face."

Thomas set aside his pen briefly. "It is of Ben they are talking of, Mamma!" laughed the two girl's younger brother. "He fancies Priscilla, that's for sure. I haven't the least idea why."

"Hush, Tom!" Mrs. Clark scolded him. "Back to work!" Still smirking, Thomas returned to his pen. Their mother looked up to the two girls, "Is Mercy put to sleep?"

Priscilla nodded quickly, looking to her hands. "How about you head to bed yourselves; we must rise early." 


Snuffing the candle, Priscilla lay her head down upon the pillow with a sigh. Velvet darkness swallowed the room, the night blanketing the two girls.

"Do you love him?" came Arabella's murmur from behind her in the silence. The younger  shifted, coming closer to her sister when only replied by quiet. "Are you asleep?"

"No--not as long as you continue to speak," whispered Priscilla in answer. "We really must get some sleep. Good night, Arabella."

Arabella sat up, cross. "Do you love him? Why do you not tell me?"

She turned in her blankets to look up at her sister. "I am not sure. Benjamin Smith is a fine man."

"Fine man? Is that all you can say?"  Priscilla could see Arabella pouting even in the shadows.  "I believe you are both too reserved--he appears too shy, you too timid. One of you needs to take some sort of aggressive step to further-,"

"Good night, Arabella," Priscilla scolded her slightly, turning her back to her once more.

Arabella chuckled, "I think you love him more than you can admit to yourself."  She took my arm, "Please do not get married too soon, I would be incredibly bored without your company...."

She was not interrupted by her elder sister this time, but the shouts and cries of men outdoors. "What is that?" whispered Arabella.

"Shh,"replied Priscilla, slipping out of bed and fumbling to light the candle at their bedside once more. Arabella at her arm, she made her way to the common room where their mother already was with Thomas beside her. Mercy must still be sleeping.

No words were exchanged between them, all eyes dark and wide against the waneness of their expression and paleness of their nightclothes. Mrs. Clark made the move toward the door, the racket growing louder and louder before their house at the road, a strange amber light starting to creep through their windows.

Slowly, the three children came to her side to look out. Men and boys, like shadows darting along the road, with pitchforks and torches in their hands went yaping down the road such as a great gang of wild dogs would.

"Evening, Ma'am!" came a bark of one of them, a boy stopping before their home. He held his torch closer to his face so that its light may dash into his face. It was Edgar Mosley, a son of a neighbor who always had a knack for causing trouble.

"What be going on, Ed?" called Mrs. Clark in reply, staying warily at the doorway.

"We are finally to be rid of the Old Mrs. Williams!"  the men around him cheered and jeered in a frighteningly goulish fashion.

"Why? Why would you ever do that?"

"We 'ave all had enough of her; farm animals are dying in masses at Mr. Erwin's, and his Mrs' had a miscarriage, you heard. The old hag's been poscessed by the devil. A witch, for real!"  grinned Ed. "Come 'n join, Tom!"

Mrs. Clark put her hand on her son's shoulder, signaling for him not to answer. "You best be off and getting back to your bed, Ed. In fact, all of you should."

Ed laughed and skipped off, disappearing into the crowd. "What is to happen to Mrs. Williams, Ma?" muttered Thomas, looking to his mother.

"Something not well, Tom," Mrs. Clark murmured, shaking her head. She turned away, beckoning for the children to back into the house once more. "We have no business here--return to bed. Priscilla, please look in on Mercy and see if she still sleeps...."

With that, she shut the door, though the muffled growl of the crowd was heard.   

The End

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