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awakened to its peril too late, and that already the greater part of the community had signed the bond of Satan. So, no effectual refuge remaining but God, to Hin did all men fly, with unutterable groanings and wailings, in prayer, public and private, in appointed fasts and fervent attendance at the sanctuary. Never had the churches been so full, nor the attention of the people to their ministers so earnest. Nor were the pastors unmindful of improving the day of their power. They preached often, and zealously; they ransacked the Bible for texts on witchcraft; they were particularly stern in rebuking unbelief. Few were those who dared oppose their mistaken energy; all resistance seemed to have been quelled by the mere uproar of the coming storm.
Shall we abuse these old Puritans as stupid and superstitious, because they did and suffered these things? Let us remember that Melancthon was an interpreter of dreams; that Luther fought the devil with an inkstand; that Kepler was of the Rosicrucians; that Tycho Brahe was the prince of astrologers; that Bishop Jewell prayed before Queen Elizabeth against witchcraft; that Blackstone held sorcery to be a crime; that the Stuarts pretended to heal scrofula; that Sir Isaac Newton sought the philosopher's stone.
Perhaps there were not more than three men in Salem who dared openly and vigorously denounce the present course of the community. These three were our utopian More, young Stanton, and farmer Cory. All three had the stuff in them out of which to manufacture a tough opposition party. More and Cory were obstinate, excitable, a little violent, gifted with that magnanimity which will not strike a helpless man, and, in short, just the fellows to stand up for the weak against the strong. Neither of them belonged to the church; both were, perhaps, a little undevotional, if not skeptical, in disposition; they, at all events, pretended to a considerable incredulity as to the devil; and, in their present exasperation, they spoke with extreme unbelief and scorn of the doctrine of witchcraft. Without this native tendency to free-thinking, they would hardly have opposed the movement; for sorcery was a point of orthodox faith in those days-a matter of creed, in fact, with nearly all men. I do not mean to say that More was an
atheist; on the contrary, he believed in God most reverently. Nor did he reject or lightly esteem the Bible. He simply interpreted it after a mild and humane fashion. In short, he was only skeptical by contrast with the rigid, implacable orthodoxy of that period; and, were he living in the present day, he would be, at the worst, a Unitariau, or a Transcendentalist. As for Mark, he enlisted in the opposition chiefly through the influence of More, but partly, also, from the impulses of his own kind, sensible nature. It was a small army, certainly; and it had a great fight to undertake-a fight such as our latitudinarian age can illy realize.
Goody Bishop was swinging from the gallows as a signal of no quarter, like the death's head blowing at the topmast of a pirate schooner. More accepted the challenge, and commenced the struggle with his characteristic enthusiasm and energy; disputing boldly, obstinately, and angrily, on every occasion, with the equally stubborn and wrathful advocates of the delusion. Like all sanguine people, he thought his own arguments unanswerable, and was filled with contemptuous, indignant amazement at the prejudices and contumacy of his opponents. Master Curwin," he said, "it is you who are mulish and not I. You are mulish against reason, sir. You are so blown upon here, in New England, by harsh and sour winds of doctrine, that it makes you stiff-necked, sir, and wry-necked into the bargain, sir.”
He went to Elder Higginson, and begged him to preach a sermon in opposition to, at least, the rashness and recklessness of the witch prosecutions. "Sir," said he,. even if you believe in sorcery, you cannot believe that we are all sorcerers. If you think it wrong to oppose the courts altoguer, you can, at least, urge them to calmness, caution, and mercy. This is a horrible thing, to see members of your own flock, children of your own prayers, singled out as worse than demons."
The old man said that he had been very much distressed by the events of the last month; and he even wept once or twice during the conversation. The very next Sunday he preached a sermon on the subject, which won the enthusiastic approbation of More, but which raised toward him the grim
frowns of nearly the whole congregation. Justice Hawthorne got up and walked out of church, followed by two or three other fiery advocates of the prosecuting movement; while Justice Curwin waylaid the elder after service, and urged him, with tears in his stern, gray eyes, yet with grave reproof in his strong features, to give up those pernicious errors altogether; to throw aside those utterly dangerous thoughts of weak mercy. Deacon Bowson, and almost every one else, severely condemned Higginson's latitudinarianism, and began to express doubts whether they could conscientiously sit under the ministrations of a man who was little better than Sadduceeistic. Nobody called for a repetition of the sermon, nor could even More ask the elder to preach such another. So the old gentleman exchanged for a fortnight with Mr. Hall, of Beverly, who fed out far other spiritual food to the people of Salem; and, thereafter, he preached on that forbidden subject only in deeds, cheering the imprisoned, laboring with the condemned, giving what he could to widows and orphans. We must not blame him for not making himself a martyr; we must remember that, like most men of the epoch, he believed in sorcery; that he was afraid many of those accused ones were really guilty of the sin laid to their charge; and that the only part his conscience really called upon him to play, was that of the good Samaritan.
More had another plan in his head, which was, to get himself elected member of the general court from Salem, and bring in some new, wise, philosophical laws on the subject of witchcraft, which should forever put an end to these abuses. But that assembly would not meet until some tine in the autumn, and, in the absence of the royal charter, everything was decided by the governor and council; while the very court which conducted the trials was an informal one, cited on the plea of instant necessity. Accordingly he was reduced, for the present, to the circulation of a petition, in which the evils and irregularities of the prosecutions were set forth, and the gov ernor was prayed to check them in his great good sense and clemency. Oh, what arguments, what wranglings, what solemn reproofs, what regular oldwife scoldings, More raised in scores of
households with that paper! Peabody had just lost one of his calves; and he knew that it was all of that old witch (hang 'er up directly, I say), Goody Giggles. John Parker's wife, Alice, was safe in prison, at last; and John had no mind she should get out again to plague him with any more of her diableries. Mistress Margaret Hawkes's negro slave-girl, Candy, had been rendered quite useless, yea, rather mischievous, by somebody's witchcraft; and Mistress Hawkes naturally wanted remuneration, or, if that could not be had, legal vengeance for the loss of her abigail's services. "Look at that black creeter," cried the frugal housewife, with indignant skiffs and snorts; "cost me twelve pound; ain't worth a shillin' now; don't do a stroke of work; breaks things all day long; can't mend her by no kind of cuffing."
Poor Mistress Hawkes! the next thing heard of, she and Candy were in prison for sorcery together.
Mistress Beadle's children were all bewitched, the whole kit and posse of them; and how could Master More expect her to sign a petition for mercy toward witches? She wished the women could "take hold of the business; 'deed she did; a lot on 'em would be swung up afore night. now I tell ye." In another house, the girl was spitting pins and shrieking; the boy was breaking crockery, and trying to roll into the fire. As More lectured over his paper, a brickbat would come in through the window, and smash the shining face of some unlucky platter which glittered on the mantel-piece; or a heavy table would commence dancing at such a rate as to endanger the precious noddle of the innocent little urchin who sat under it; or the housemaid would rush down stairs with shrieks, declaring that the best bedroom was full of broomsticks, and of awful figures dressed up in master's clothes; or the good-wife would return from an afflicted neighbor's, running over with astonishing, incredible, hideous tales of ghastly apparitions and fiendish annoyances. Fancy a whole neighborhood filled with Rochester knockings, Stratford mysteries, Cocklane ghosts, table-turnings, and animal magnetism, all vivified to madness by a blazing credulity, and you will have some faint idea of the condition of Salem. More was canvassing it with
his hopeless petition. He got six names beside his own, and in a rage threw the paper into the fire. The very reasons why he was not a believer in the delusion disabled him from offering any successful opposition to it.
Had he been orthodox and devout, he might have been listened to; but, in that case, he would probably have sided with the orthodox and devout majority. He was latitudinarian and indifferent; and so almost all good men regarded him with coldness; while those who favored him, were apt to be the worst characters; people who neglected church, and hated the clergy; sneerers at the Bible as well as scoffers at witchcraft; heretics, godless strangers, and dissolute sailors.
Quite beat out one day with_his fruitless electioneering against the Juggernaut of the time, he stopped on his way home, to obtain some groceries at Deacon Bowson's shop. That excitable merchant met him in the doorway, grasped him by the hand, and exclaimed, in a choking voice, "Brother More" Then turning away his head, and covering his face (not exactly like Cæsar), he burst into tears. What devil's to pay now?" cried More, getting into a rage immediately at this whimpering. Oh! sir," snuffled the plaintive deacon, "to think that you and I should have fallen upon such awful times! How dreadful for uscold-fessors!"
Here his voice became inaudible again, and he melted into another moist and copious overflow. Dreadful? not a mite of it!" shouted More, dancing about the room with wrath. "I like it. I want to see it. Just show me one of your afflicted children, and see how I'll cure it."
And he brought down his fist on the counter with such force as to make all the iron weights hop up like nervous people when suddenly slapped on the shoulder. "Come, shut up those floodgates," he continued, catching Bowson by the collar, and tightening it as if he thought the water reached that gentleman's eyes through his windpipe. "Oh, Master More, don't strangulate me!" gasped the deacon, with hands aloft, and a purple face.
The hunter seemed to recollect that his friend had lungs; and letting go of the collar, he began to slap the broad back of that claret broadcloth waistcoat.
"There," said he; "I never meant to choke you; one person throttled a week is quite sufficient for one small town. But you make me mad with your snivelings and your lachrymations. I can't abear such watery-souled fellows, when I see the colony in so great need of cool, brave men. Come, get about, and deal me out some salt and spice, and eight yards of white linen for Rachel; linen for a gown, mind you; the same she looked at yestereve. And don't cry in the salt, I pray."
"Where are you going?" asked Bowson, panting for breath.
Into the house, to see sister Ann," replied the hunter, as he disappeared through a side door.
We must not attribute entire chidishness to our good deacon, on account of this ready flow of his tears. He was one of those juicy men, furnished by nature with too much lachrymal gland, who, at the pressure of any strong emotion, give forth an immediate supply of moisture. Tears of compassion and affectionate sympathy came from his eyes as easily as tears of unmanly ter
More found his sister packing up a noble chicken-pie for the especial digestion of Elder Noyse. Why, Ann, have you gone at it, too!" he exclaimed. “You women are enough, sometimes, to drive all sensible men mad. All the good-wives of Salem are cooking for the ministers. Send this to some poor person now, sister Ann; come, that will be a better use of the chickens. To think of putting all the pullets of the village down the throats of two or three elders!"
So, sister Ann, easily persuaded, dispatched Teague with the pio to the cabin of a dilapidated old good-wife of the vicinity. "What is the matter with pussy?" presently asked More, as he stared at an overfed cat which was shivering and crouching under the table. "Oh," said Mrs. Bowson, "it is going to have a fit; that comes of overcating; I must really charge Rachel with the poor thing's ill health."
"You will feed your elders into fits, in the same way," observed More. He flung the door open, and was trying to drive the creature out, when the deacon entered, and shut it after him. In the same instant that epileptic pussy commenced spinning round on two legs, and, presently, set off in headlong furi
ous circles about the room, knocking her insane head against various harder objects, bouncing desperately at the windows, and finally disappearing, with a scrabble, up chinney. At the very first start, Bowson leaped into a chair, and thence watched the frantic revolutions of the animal, with eyes of scared vigilance. As it vanished up the vast sooty orifice of the fire-place, he pointed after it with one trembling finger, and squeaked out, "Wife, a manifestation!"
More burst into contemptuous laughter, and Mrs. Bowson exclaimed, in a mortified tone, "John, do get down! What do you mean? This is not the first time you have seen the cat in a fit."
"No," said he, cautiously descending from his high place of refuge : "not the first time; but I hope and pray it may be the last. Who knows what Satan may have to do with those whirligigs?"
And, forgetting, apparently, why he came into the room, he walked out without another word. Alas!" said sister Ann, "I am afraid my husband's nature is not strong enough to keep a clear mind in these awful excitements. Since the execution of that poor Bishop he has been greatly exercised; and what adds to his disquietude is, that his best beloved pastor, Elder Noyse, has now fully entered into the work. Until the trial, Master Noyse seemed strangely heedless of the spiritual mysteries among us; but then he awoke suddenly to an emulation of Elder Parris's zeal and urgency. On the Sunday before Bishop's death he gave us a powerful discourse on the fate of Agag, and made application of it to those children of Satan who are supposed to be among
And since then he has publicly and privately warned us against sorcery, besides visiting the afflicted, questioning the accused, and exhorting the magistrates to their work. I only hope that so much zeal is not wasted, and had not better be employed in pointing out the path to heaven than in trying to choke up the broad way to hell."
"Sister Ann," said More, "you are the same sensible woman always. I only wish that you would cast out this devil of witchcraft altogether from your belief. But I see that we shall agree in all that is important; that we shall stand by each other in the end. Clear your husband's mind of these magical
ideas, as much as ever you can. can do something for the cause of good sense and mercy in that way."
"I will pray for heavenly counsel, brother," she replied, "and what God seems to favor, that I will strive to do."
More walked back into the shop, took his purchases without quarreling any further with the deacon, and set out for home. What he had said concerning the opulent state of the clerical larders was not exaggerated. The quantity of pies, cakes, puddings, turkeys, and choice edibles of all kinds, which the Salem good-wives poured into the houses of their ministers at this time, was something memorable. Some wanted the spiritual consolations of the pastors, in this dark hour of Satan's triumph; others had been intensely gratified by the last pungent discourse against the principalities and powers of the air; others, again, were anxious to secure friends in high places, who could shield them from any chance accusation of witchcraft. Elder Noyse, being unmarried, and, therefore, an object of general pity, was as overrun with good things as ever the Egyptians with frogs, and so forth. Parris, too, was unusually blessed in his basket and his store, and gave promise of blooming out into a brilliant case of apoplexy. Elder Higginson alone had to depend chiefly on home supplies.
More trudged on homeward, sad and sullen, recapitulating to himself, with great contempt, the absurd arguments which had been advanced against his petition during the day; occasionally wondering, in spite of his incredulity, at the incomprehensible phenomena which he had witnessed; anon laughing outright at the recollection of some scene of absurd simplicity and terror. He had already entered the forest, when he heard footsteps behind him, and a familiar voice bidding him good-evening. It was the first time since Elder Noyse's rejection, a period of about a month, that the two men had met to engage in conversation. The first words that the minister uttered showed, by their steady intonation, how much he had regained his confidence. How could he help it, when the whole community was prostrate at the feet of himself and his order? More, on the other hand, saluted him with extreme civility, for he was courteous, by habit, to women and the clergy; besides that, he wished to apo
logize tacitly for the pain which he had given the minister at their last interview. The dialogue which followed is of little consequence to our story, and, perhaps, in itself uninteresting; yet, after all, it may be worth the expense of a little time and paper, inasmuch as it sketches More's philosophy of life, and shows the nature and degree of his heterodoxy.
"With your good-will, sir," observed the minister, "I will hold you company as far as your cottage. These are wearying times to the spirit, which, indeed, could never endure them were not the members kept in health by vigorous exercise."
"Very justly said, Elder Noyse," responded More, quite pleased with this approval of one of his own favorite maxins. "I am much gratified to hear you advance, and see you practice upon, such reasonable ideas of life. I have always said that many of our doctrinal errors and rancorous emotions arise from our dwelling in bodies weakened by vicious habits. Yes, reverend sir, the pains and sorrows of humanity, bodily and spiritual, are the consequence, very often, of its own faults and follies, its own imprudence, luxury, and laziness. And look at the result, sir: it detracts from the nobility of enduce; it puts us on the footing of criminals rather than of martyrs. It is noble to endure agonies which come upon us unjustly, but it is no honor at all to bear the lash of our own misdeeds. Yes, when we suffer because of our own sins, then suffering becomes a crime more than a misfortune."
Two months before, the elder would have listened to all this in respectful silence, if not with uttered assent. But he had grown bolder now; he felt inclined to play the master and teacher; he was willing to triumph a little over this man who had so tortured him.
what we consider, our sufferings are more apparent than real. For instance, death, or the fear of it, is one of the greatest torments of our existence; is it not? But if we could see the more perfect state into which death leads us, we should not regard it as terrible. Pain, also, if we could distinctly perceive the mental and bodily benefits which arise from it, would not be considered so much a thing to be avoided. Thus our sufferings consist more in a misapprehension of our situation than in any reality of anguish. At the same time, it is necessary that we should fear both pain and death; otherwise, man would rush upon fate, and the race be extinguished before it had fulfilled its time."
"Master More," responded the elder, with an effort at severity, "do you know that you are doing away with the idea of punishment for sin, and thus, either denying the condemnning justice of heaven, or else, affirining that man is not a supremely guilty being? Do you not believe that man was created, and for a time existed, sinless? Do you not believe that he fell from that pure state by his own act, and brought upon himself and his posterity a just punishment?"
"I will tell you what I think of the fall," answered the hunter. "You theologians affirm, that the original state of Adam was one of moral perfection; I affirm, that the obligatory state of Adam was one of moral perfection. I only change the statement of the problem by that one word. Thus, I believe that his fall was not a fall from any actual state of purity, but only from an idea of purity which God had imprinted on his conscience. I do not believe that he lived a while in a state of sinlessness; I believe that he fell with his first action, and, perhaps, with his first desire. I further believe, that man will fulfill this idea of perfection by steps to be taken, partly in this world, partly in that to come. great step to this end was, the gradual growth of civility and morality through the many centuries of pagan history. Another greater step was the just example and self-elected sacrifice of Christ. Another great step to each one of us, and finally to the race, will be death. By this philosophy the moral history of Adam is made similar to the moral history of each of his suc