Wicker pg. 2 - A Bold Proposal

“Friends,” Reverend Elliott addressed us, “one of the founding principles of our community has been to nurture goodness within our hearts, and turn evil away.”  This introduction was greeted with murmurs of assent.  “Together, we are as one body, with a common heart; united in a mutual embrace of goodness, our individual and combined goodnesses strengthening each other reciprocally.  Hearts thus united are a more effective fortress against evil than any physical walls and battlements; for though evil may lead the body to sin, it must first infect the heart.”  Amens scattered through the hall.  “And ours has thus far been an exemplary fortress.  However, today has reminded us of an important lesson.  No fortress is completely impervious to external forces.  Therefore our vigil must be a constant one.  Evil will take advantage of any lapse in attention.  Any chink it finds, if not stopped immediately, will widen to admit an increasingly greater scope of evils.  Friends – the devils of the west have found a chink in Hannah’s Rock.  However,” he continued over the rising hum of voices, “it is not a chink too wide for us to stop.  Warren Fuller.”

“Peace to you, Reverend Elliott,” said Warren Fuller, rising.  He and Sophia had been at Hannah’s Rock for twelve years, and were well loved.  The Reverend made no reply to Warren’s greeting, but continued.

“The marshes to the west,” he said, fixing Warren with a stare from behind his spectacles, which reflected the lamp-light, “are said to contain no flora save wicker, and to be otherwise inhabited by witches who weave the wicker into chairs and couches, which are then sold to sinners for the tarnish of their souls.  After seven days’ absence, you have returned with three pieces of newly-fashioned wicker which now occupy a prominent position in your household.  As the rest of us have never seen the interior of the marshes,” said the Reverend, his voice rising, “will you enlighten us, Warren Fuller, as to any discrepancy between the legend and the fact!”

“As many of my friends know,” said Warren Fuller in a sober tone, “I have returned from a visit with Sophia’s sister, in Boston –“

“And what was your business with her sister?” interrupted the Reverend.

“Sophia’s sister and her husband,” he continued over the accusation, giving emphasis to the last word, “made a gift of the wicker furniture to me, which I accepted with a brother’s gratitude.  I have brought it among you –“ he had turned to include all of us in his address – “I have brought it among you, hoping to demonstrate that wicker has as much place, if not more, in the home of a good man, as in marshes hidden by fog and fable.  In more enlightened climes, wicker is considered practical, not an evil form of plant life akin to toad-stools and wolf’s-bane.”

“Nay!” quoth the Reverend, “for it cannot be considered plant life at all.  Wicker is a dead-wood, such as remains after a fire in the wilderness.  And it may now be observed to sit as comfortably as in the heathen marshes, before the sinner’s hearth!”  The wicker of the marshes, in one version of the legend, is said to be the remains of a fire set by demons; and the mist, to be the smoke eternally rising from the embers.

“Do I not kneel in prayer with you on the Sabbath?” Warren Fuller said fiercely.  “Do these hands not break the bread our wives have kneaded?  Do I not teach my children to love and fear God?”

“Do you, Warren?” said the Reverend.  “Though you break bread with us now, what is known of your origins?  Repent and quit us, child of the marshes!”  His finger, directing all eyes to the meeting-house door, was as straight as if it were on the hand of the All-mighty.

“These superstitions have hardened and shrunk your brains into chest-nuts!” shouted Fuller.  “Wicker is not spun by witches!  They are as much a myth as the rest of the legend!  They are no more real than the hippogriff!”

“Stay,” I pleaded, rising.  I could hold my tongue no longer.  “Cool your passions, brothers.  Though his ideas be sometimes unorthodox, I say Warren Fuller has proved himself a good man in his years at Hannah’s Rock; I would not give up his company because of his furniture.  We may all do well to pattern our thinking more closely after his own, and try the possibility that he has dealt with the witches in the marshes before we hang him for it.  I propose to lead an expedition into the wicker marshes, and would be glad if some like-minded men would join me.  Come! none of us need venture thither with any fear.  Which of you will join me?”

Ethan Norton, whom I had burned much midnight tallow in conversation with, stood.  “I will join you, Zachary.”

“Welcome, Ethan.  And who else?”  My brother Henry also stood to accompany us, after a moment.  “Excellent!  We start to-morrow.  If we have not returned before the next dawn, you may seek us out or assume us dead, as your consciences direct.”

“Are you mad, Zachary Moore?” said Reverend Elliott.  “The marshes are a haven of death!”

“Not for a man with a serene conscience and a well-polished soul,” I replied with a touch of humor.

“To venture willfully into the marshes is to invite disaster.”  So saying, the Reverend carefully descended the podium.

“I shall prove otherwise,” said I.

The End

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