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Anything but the Truth

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In the distance, she heard the knocker’s tap tap tap on the cabin door. Jumping up off the soft grass, the girl started towards her house. She had been playing in the forest behind the cottage with her pet kitten named Toulouse. Knowing that her older sister was in, Carolina did not rush inside to greet the guest. She smiled down at the soft brown-furred Toulouse, and picked him up. Carolina tried to hide him in her dress skirts because her sister never approved of animals.
Carolina and her sister lived in the calm yet wild forest and usually had no visitors. At the age of five, Carolina’s parents died from the plague, though her sister and Carolina were unharmed. Whatever the luck, they lived, and her elder sister raised them both away from the town. Neither Carolina nor her sister, Marta, would admit that they were lonely, but some cries and yells in the night from their bedrooms may have proved otherwise.
As Carolina approached the small cottage, she saw a carriage parked in the dirt lane. It was elegantly trimmed and sturdy stallions patiently waited with the coachman keeping them on a short rein. Carolina wouldn’t have been surprised if King Charles himself was inside. This puzzled Carolina; for who could possibly come to this remote cottage in such style?
Carolina let Toulouse scurry away and smoothed out her dress, picking cat hairs off it before entering through the back door. Anticipation fluttered around the girl like butterflies as she walked into her house.
Immediately she heard a man’s deep and melancholy voice in the hallway. Carolina walked across the wooden planks into the hall. She saw the man in a posh top hat, perfectly sewn leather boots, and clothing fit for the fashions of the day. There was an odd gleam in his eyes that Carolina came to dread, but out of common courtesy, tried to ignore it.
“Carolina, this is Lewis Johnson,” Marta said politely, clearly embarrassed of her and her sister’s plain dresses.
The stranger smiled, and tipped his hat to Carolina. “A pleasure to meet you Carol,” he said.
Carolina clenched her teeth in a forced smile. My name is not Carol, Carolina thought.
“Do you two ladies live alone?” Johnson inquired, stepping further into the girls’ house.
“Yes,” Carolina stated.
“How peculiar,” the man muttered, “It isn’t becoming for average young ladies to live alone in the woods.”
Carolina’s sister frowned, “Might I ask the reason of your arrival, sir?”
The man paid no attention to Marta’s question, but took a step closer to Carolina. “I have heard carriage travelers comment on screaming and crying in the night from this area of the forest,” he said.
Marta shook her head definitely, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She would never dream of telling the man that it was her and Carolina.
“What strange marks there are on your face,” Lewis said to Carolina.
Carolina flushed and touched her nose instinctively. Freckles inhabited her face ever since she was born, and she passionately despised them.
Lewis Johnson shifted his hat as if waiting for something to happen.
“Have we met before?” Marta asked, raising an eyebrow.
The man stepped away from Marta in shock, not at her question which he noticeably disregarded, but at the mere motion on her face. He muttered something about the Devil, and then headed towards the door. “I believe you have to come with me,” he gasped.
“Whatever for?” Carolina demanded. She now wished that she had stayed in the forest with Toulouse for the day.
“Matthew Hopkins would love to see you two,” he said, stepping out the door.
The girls followed apprehensively. Carolina recognized the name, but couldn’t remember who he was.
“Sorry, but who is Matthew Hopkins?” asked Marta.
The man motioned for the coachman to open the carriage door. “He wants to meet you exceptionally gifted ladies.”
Carolina and Marta didn’t move from their spot, but watched the strange man get in the carriage himself.
“He wants to offer you a house in Essex- and perhaps a job,” Lewis said.
“My, what a surprise!” Marta exclaimed, then walked up towards the carriage and turned back to Carolina before entering, “I suppose we ought to get going.”
Out of the forest Toulouse came scampering up to Carolina, meowing delightfully. Carolina impulsively crouched down and gave her kitten a nice pat on the head.
“A cat!” Lewis Johnson cried scaring Toulouse away.
“Get in the carriage, please,” Marta said giving her sister a warning gaze.
Carolina, knowing how much her sister wanted to live in a town, went in the carriage alongside her. I hope this won’t take too long, Carolina thought sitting in the comfy leather seats. She knew that she’d be back in no time; it was probably just a horrible house tucked in the alleyway.
Lewis Johnson smiled, and the coachman set off at a quick pace.
“Who is Matthew Hopkins?” Carolina asked.
Lewis looked out the window. There was something about him that Carolina loathed, something too out of the ordinary.
“He is a very respected man,” was all Lewis Johnson offered.
Not appreciating his answer, Carolina was determined to find out who Mr. Hopkins was before she met him herself. Who could he possibly be? Hopkins- Carolina was sure she heard her uncle say that name before. Her uncle had visited a few months ago, and most certainly Matthew Hopkins appeared in the conversation a few times. It failed Carolina how he used the name- was it in a good way?
The young girl stared out the window. They were approaching Essex, but why? What could this possibly mean?
Then, as if she was dipped in ice-cold water, Carolina remembered the name with a jolt. She looked over at Lewis Johnson and held back her tears in fear.
Looking at her sister who was happy with eagerness, Carolina shut her mouth and didn’t say a word- for Matthew Hopkins was the leader in witch hangings.





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