Hi guys! This is my first story published on here and I'm very excited! Hope you enjoy it! :D
While I have conducted so much research [which became a chore honestly] this story is not entirely accurate. Some events and people have been changed/added. However, those characters that are real - William Stoughton, Cotton Mather, Samuel Parris, Mercy Lewis, and the other girls who were involved in the "crying out" - I have tried to write them accurately to the extent of the information I have. The Herricks, Lancasters, and Swaynes are my own characters.
This is also a work in progress [obviously], in the fact that it is not perfect. So bear with me guys and leave any constructive criticism you feel I should know.
With that said...enjoy! :)
It is the summer of 1692 and in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, a bizarre supernatural power is running rampant - witches. Fueled by secrets and an obsession with the Devil, the inhabitants of Salem will stop at nothing to keep their town safe - even if it means murdering innocent people.
William Herrick could not breath. Not due to his growing anticipation but from seeing the hoards of people trickling in through the open doors. William stood at the front of the courtroom and felt the sweat beading at his neck and migrating down his back. The whole of Salem had seemingly packed itself into this very room. For a witch trial, that was no surprise. For a few months, men and women alike had been accused of witchcraft, but there was no substantial evidence - according to the reverends and judges called upon. But something nagging in the back of Will's mind told him that Bridget Bishop, now restrained to a chair before the court, would be condemned for the crime of witchcraft that morning.
The Court of Oyer and Terminer - which, according to Will's measly Latin education, meant 'to hear and decide' - all sat at a long, wooden table behind Ms. Bishop. It was made up of local magistrates and jurors, a reverend hailed from Boston, and Chief Justice William Stoughton. Though they shared the same first name, Will Herrick felt that they couldn't be less alike. Perhaps it was the fact that the older man actually believed in the farce of witches. Stoughton rose as someone attempted - in vain - to close the doors, and he cleared his throat, walking to stand beside Bridget Bishop. The young woman's shoulders were squared back and her jaw set firmly, but Will could see the fear in her wide eyes, trembling chin. As Stoughton clapped the back of Bishop's chair, the courtroom fell silent.
"We are gathered here today to commence the trial of Bridget Bishop," he said, his voice loud and authoritative. However, it did nothing to stop those in the courtroom from crying out.
Several people began screaming that Bridget Bishop was, indeed, a witch. William kept quiet and restrained himself from rolling his eyes. He noticed, however, that in the midst of all the chaos, there was one row that remained silent and somber. That of the girls who accused Bishop in the first place. And one of them happened to be his daughter, Elizabeth. The irony of it all was not lost on William - that the daughter of one of the only outspoken cynics in Salem would charge someone with witchcraft. He sighed heavily and turned his attention back to Stoughton as he demanded order.
Best of luck with that, sir.
William smirked at this thought.
Stoughton's voice took on a more irritated tone as he continued, "Ms. Bishop has been accused of the crime of witchcraft by six young girls. Her trial - "
"A trial is not necessary!" someone called out towards the back. "She is a witch!"
"And the spectral evidence gathered further fuels that accusation." He turned toward a younger man sitting at the table. "Reverend Mather, if you could, please present your findings."
Reverend Cotton Mather. William bit back his scoff. Even the man's name itself, derived from two famous reverends of the past, was one to warrant teasings. And Mather's own actions did nothing to stop said teasings. Ever since arriving in Salem from Boston in April, he spent his days in his room at the inn, studying and studying. The fool had dedicated his life to witches and the supernatural. A life well wasted. And now he took Stoughton's place before Bridget Bishop to further indulge the people of Salem in their ridiculous beliefs.
"In my investigations of Ms. Bishop, I have found incriminating spectral evidence that she is, indeed, a witch," he began, his voice not as commanding as Stoughtons. But it was enough to keep Will's quickly-waning attention. "There are accusations against her, and the examinations I have conducted do aid those. First and foremost, the fact that there is a considerable amount of witches' teats covering her body. Next, that she has afflicted six girls and - "
William could not keep his mouth shut anymore and called out, "And that absolutely proves she does the Devil's work?"
No one spoke for a moment or two, and all eyes turned to him. He could almost hear their derisive snorts; they believed him as much as he believed them. And - oh Lord, the disposition of Mather's face as he simmered with anger...Will fought his smile.
"Mr. Herrick, your daughter - " Mather began.
"I am well aware of what my daughter claims."
"And you do not believe her?"
William raised his eyebrows and said, "Perhaps I do. What I do not believe in and agree with are the ways in which you, Reverend, attempt to prove there are witches among us. For several months, these ways have proved false."
Cotton Mather did not speak for a few moments. He only stared uncomprehendingly at William, his face twitching in an odd way that hinted at blistering anger. Then he stood behind Bridget Bishop and yanked her usually-covered long dark hair off her neck, revealing a small mole. "That, sir, is the mark of the Devil. A witches' teat. I assure you, she has several more."
Will couldn't help but smirk. He knew he was making a bigger grumble than was necessary, but he just could not stop. "Is that your sole evidence, Reverend?"
Samuel Parris, the local minister seated at the table with the court that hears and decides, suddenly rose and called out, "What says your daughter, Mr. Herrick?"
William looked at her, and she sank in her seat, avoiding his gaze. "Let them speak."
Abruptly, the six girls emitted a simultaneous shriek, a blood-curdling sound that invoked another round of panic and terror in the courtroom. Will immediately headed for his daughter, realizing Bridget Bishop had been looking at the girls. Now the young woman was touting her innocence emphatically - she was barely heard over those clamoring. This witches nonsense was - well, simply that. Nonsense. He watched, forced back by magistrates, as Elizabeth fell to the floor and he almost laughed. She was a talented performer - that much was certain.
"Hang her!" someone calls out, and Bridget Bishop shrieks.
William shook his head and headed for the courthouse doors. He just could not take another minutes of this folly. Though outside, in the hot summer morning, it wasn't much of an improvement. A large crowd craned their necks towards the door and shouted at Will as he jostled his way through them. He was grabbed by a small, older woman.
"Oh William," she said breathlessly. "What of her fate? What say the judges?"
He stopped and looked at the woman. It was Anne Lancaster, his neighbor, his friend. She looked up at him with her wide brown eyes, as did her daughter Sarah and son John. William sighed. "I believe she is to be hanged."
Anne gasped softly and covered her mouth with her hand.
Sarah, almost as outspoken as Will, demanded, "How dare they? Those girls are liars!"
Some of the townspeople around turned their accusing eyes to the Lancasters, silently debating Sarah's own innocence.
"Quiet, girl!" her mother hissed.
"Make certain that Boston reverend doesn't hear you say so, Sarah," Will murmured. "He's lookin' to hang anyone."
Sarah smiled slightly, biting her lip. "I could hear you in there."
He returned her smile and opened his mouth to speak. Before he could get a word out, however, someone burst outside.
"Bridget Bishop is to be hanged!"
In the shocking response most Puritans have to the word "hang", those outside began chattering excitedly, with the exception of William and Sarah. In her dark eyes, he could see her worry and fear, and he knew such emotions were mirrored in his eyes.
"Mr. Herrick, your daughter!" someone called out.
Without a farewell, William immediately rushed inside, elbowing his way through the crowd. His daughter lay on the floor at the front of the courtroom, absolutely still, eyes and mouth wide open. Cotton Mather and Samuel Parris, the 'good' Reverends, stood above her. William pushed them away and dropped to his knees before his daughter. He cradled her head in his lap and she did not move an inch.
"It's Bishop's witchcraft!" Parris called out.
Will gently shook his daughter, and she stared up at him with those cold, glassy eyes. "Lizzy, please," he whispered.
"What must be done, Reverend Mather?" Parris asked the younger man, and it irritated Will suddenly that these strange man could control his daughter's fate.
Cotton wrenched the 'witch' from the magistrate's hands and dragged her over to Elizabeth. "Touch her, witch. Cease her torment."
Those around - William, Parris, Cotton, Stoughton, and the five other girls - watched intently as she leaned down towards Elizabeth. Once again, William could not breathe. Bridget touched the young girl's head, her own hands shaking. Elizabeth bolted up immediately, gasping, glancing around wildly. Will breathed deeply and clutched her to him as she sobbed.
"Do you believe now, Mr. Herrick?" Cotton asked softly.
Will dropped his gaze, kissing his daughter's head. He hardly heard Justice Stoughton demand a magistrate to lock Bridget Bishop up - "before she can harm anyone else." And Bridget Bishop was carried off through the jeering crowd, kicking and screaming that she was no witch.
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