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The Lost Witch of Salem
The screams of the girls, the questions from the judges, the encouragement from the crowd.
“Witch!” Ann Putnam shrieked.
“Meets with the Devil!” Elizabeth Hubbard cried.
“Signed her name in blood!” Abigail Williams cackled.
The three girls, and the others, promptly fell into fits. A man behind Livvy muttered, “They should hang her for this.”
Livvy ducked her head and closed her eyes. She had seen the examination of others: Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. She had seen the good fall, like Martha Corey, a devoted church member. She had seen Dorcas Goode, only four years old, be condemned and shipped off to prison. Worse, she had seen Bridget Bishop hang less than three weeks before. Now her beloved Goodwife Nurse was next.
The 71-year-old woman had been like a mother toLivvyy. WhenLivvyy’s parents both died when she was seven, leaving her a homeless orphan, Goodwife Nurse had taken her in as a servant. All of Goody Nurse’s eight children were grown and moved away, soLivvyy became like a second daughter to the aged lady. Livvyy did all she could to help around the vast homestead and assist Goody Nurse and her husband. The woman had trainedLivvyy in the Puritan ways and taught her to be a housewife, though she herself could no longer get out of bed. Goody Nurse was her mother when she had none.
Then came that fateful day in late March. Livvyy had answered the knock at the door that night. The two men said that Rebecca Nurse had been accused for witchcraft and they had a warrant for her arrest. Livvyy nearly fainted but controlled herself. She said, “Tis a wonder that an invalid can have such an active specter.”
The men scowled and demanded to be let in. Livvyy stepped aside, though wishing she could grab a gun and order the men off the Nurse property. The men stomped up the stairs to Goody Nurse’s bedroom. Goody Nurse was feeble in her old age and could hardly to sit up. The men read off the accusations to which she replied, “I am innocent as the child unborn, but surely, what sin hath God found in me unrepented of, that He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age.” Livvyy cried thick tears as her beloved adopted mother was taken away.
Many people of Salem were outraged that Rebecca Nurse be accused. A more pious woman could not be found in the entire colony. Thirty-nine prominent community members signed a petition, declaring her innocence. Nevertheless, her trial began on June 30, 1692.
People did testify on Goody Nurse’s behalf, but for naught. The girls were now going full force against the old woman. They fell into all their fits and spasms, led by the twelve-year-old Ann Putnam. It baffledLivvyy how a girl younger than herself could have so much power.
“I have nobody to look to but God,” Rebecca Nurse proclaimed, to which Ann Putnam screeched, “She lies! She looks to the Devil!”
This was too much for the pious old woman. She leaned back on the chair, looking sweaty and faint. Tears were pooling in her eyes. Livvyy was so angry she shook. It was time to end this abomination. She stood up and yelled, “You girls are all liars!”
The room, even the tortured girls, went silent. Ann Putnam stood up straighter and looked for the voice that dared go against her.
Livvy pushed her way to the front of Ingersoll’s Ordinary and screamed, “You leave this poor woman alone!”
Ann’s eyes foundLivvyy’s. “But, Deliverance Moore, we are doing the Lord’s work by eliminating the witch coven here in Salem.” Ann’s eyes bored into her. They sent a darker message that onlyLivvyy could see: obey us or be accused next.
Livvy was done listening to the girls’ lies and accusations, and paid Ann no mind. “You are doing no work of God. Rebecca Nurse is a saint! How dare you accuse her of witchcraft?”
She glanced at Goody Nurse and saw the old woman shaking her head. It was a warning. Livvyy knew that what she was doing was incredibly dangerous.
“What proof do you have that she is not a witch?” Ann asked.
“What proof do you have that she is?”Livvyy retorted. The two girls faced each other, glaring daggers. None of the other accusers dared interfere in the battle. The crowd waited anxiously to see who would break first.
Suddenly Ann collapsed to the ground, grasping at her throat. She seemed as if she was choking. “Somebody…stop….Deliverance!” she gasped out.
The other girls took their cue and immediately fell into fits. They screamed thatLivvyy was biting them, scratching them, hitting them, choking them.
“Please,” begged Ann, tears streaming from her eyes, “take her away from us!”
Livvy turned from the girls and tried to run for the door. If the people couldn’t catch her, they couldn’t convict her. It was too late, though. Men from the crowd rushed forward to restrain her. They grabbed her arms and dragged her from the room.
Livvy was kept in a room on the second story of Ingersoll’s. Her hands were tied behind her back to the bedpost. The men had been none too gentle in handling her: a bruise was forming on her arm and her lip was bleeding. Livvyy leaned her head back against the post and tried to focus. She had to remain calm. She was now accused of being a witch and had to figure out a way to escape this prison. Livvyy knew that, as an orphaned servant, she had virtually no chance of being declared innocent. Even now, she heard people in the streets rejoicing over the fact that Rebecca Nurse had been found guilty.
Livvy’s trial was set for the next day. She suspected that it was so quick because her case was so unusual. Never before had anyone disturbed an examination and declared that the girls were wrong in their accusations. Livvyy was sure the judges and girls wanted to get her out of the way as soon as possible.
The owner of the tavern, Nathaniel Ingersoll, came and untiedLivvyy himself. He roughly pulled her up. Her legs were so weak from not standing in twenty-four hours that he had to assist her out the door and down the stairs. She was pushed into the same room where Goody Nurse had been judged; it even more crowded than it was yesterday.
As soon asLivvyy was put on the chair in the front of the room, Magistrate Hathorne began bombarding her with questions.
“Why do you hurt your fellow girls?”
“I do not.”
“Did you make a contract with the Devil?”
“Why do you follow his beastly commands?”
“I do not.”
“Have you employed the use of a familiar?”
“I am not a witch, so no!”
“Why do you send out your specter to hurt the girls?”
“Have you dabbled in witchcraft?”
“No. I am not a witch!”
No matter whatLivvyy said, no one believed her. As soon as she said she was not a witch, Ann Putnam fell to the floor, screaming, “She is kicking me even now!”
“I am not!”Livvyy cried.
“Why do you hurt them?” Hathorne demanded.
“Liar!” Mercy Lewis shrieked. “She came to me last night and threatened to kill me!”
“Why did you defend Rebecca Nurse?” Hathorne questioned.
BeforeLivvyy could answer, Mary Walcott cried, “Because she is a friend to her fellow witches!”
“A yellow bird is feeding betwixt her fingers!” Ann Putnam claimed.
Livvy licked her lips nervously. The girls grabbed their mouths, screaming thatLivvyy had spread a burning poison on their mouths.
The crowd yelled angrily atLivvyy, demanding that she cease hurting the girls.
“I think we have all the evidence we need,” Hathorne said triumphantly.
“I am not a witch!”Livvyy pled earnestly. “Those girls are lying! They just want the power and attention all this madness brings! I beg of you, don’t listen to them!”
Hathorne ignored her and said, “She is guilty.”
“Guilty,” agreed Corwin.
The three other judges echoed that one word, doomingLivvyy.
The room spun. Livvyy stood up. The girls all shrieked and fell to the floor, taken with their sick dance of spasms. “Please, I am no witch!”
“Take her to the prison,” ordered Hathorne. A man obliged, grabbedLivvyy and dragged her from the room. The crowd hissed at her as she was taken away. “Ye shall hang!” cackled Ann Putnam.
Hope. Hope had leftLivvyy and the other accused men and women in their prison. Livvyy had heard that Rebecca Nurse was going to be pardoned, but then the pardon was snatched away just as quickly. Rebecca Nurse and four others— Sarah Wildes, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, and Sarah Goode— swung from the hanging tree on a hot day in July. The worst day inLivvyy’s young life was when she had heard her beloved Goody Nurse was dead, condemned as a witch.
In August, more were taken from the prison to be executed: George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs, John Proctor, and John Willard. Livvyy heard from the guards that George Burroughs had unnerved everyone present by reciting the Lord’s Prayer perfectly, something a witch supposedly could not do.
Throughout that steamy summer, people poured into the prison. So many she had known all her life. Livvyy knew that none of those there were witches. The power had gone to the girls’ heads and now they accused anyone who looked at them cross-eyed. The people imprisoned wept, prayed, shouted in anger. Livvyy did none of that, and only bided her time. She clung to a small strand of faith that she would not be one of those executed.
September 19: Giles Corey, who refused to stand trial, was taken from the prison and to a field. Heavy stones were placed upon his chest to force him to confess. He did not and died there.
September 22:Livvyy’s name was called, along with several others. It was ordered that they be executed. All hope was crushed now. She would be hung. Choked. Strangled.
She was taken out to a cart and driven to the gallows. A large crowd awaited them, eager to see more bloodshed. Livvyy and the others condemned were pushed roughly from the cart and to the hanging tree. One by one, each person had a noose tied around their necks and was thrown from the tree branch.
Martha Corey: “Ye are all against me.” Said just before her neck snapped.
Mary Eastey: “If it be possible no more innocent blood be shed…I am clear of this sin.” Her last words spoken on earth.
Ann Pudeator. Alice Parker. Mary Parker. Wilmot Redd. Margaret Scott. Samuel Wardwell.
It was justLivvyy left. She had seen eight innocent people, people she had known all her life, hang before her eyes. She had held in her emotions for months, and now she couldn’t do it. She burst into sobs.
The crowd didn’t like this. Livvyy was the youngest, at only fourteen, to be hanged. Now that she was crying the people saw her, not as a witch, but as a very scared young girl.
“Come on, then,” the hangman said. He stoodLivvyy up on the wagon and fitted the noose around her neck. The rough rope scratched at her throat, now choked with tears. “I pray to God this madness stops soon. As it is, you people have enough innocent blood on your hands.”
The last thingLivvyy heard was the sound of her own neck breaking.
“Dear God, we just hung a child,” a man murmured as the girl’s body swung lifeless in the air. She had died instantly, without so much as a final choked breath.
“What have we done?” another asked.
Several people were crying. The sight of a young girl hanging before them was too much.
“This must end!” someone cried.
The crowd turned to Magistrate Hathorne, standing in back of the audience. He looked as stricken as the rest. “We must destroy the records of her!
The people gasped. “Destroy them?”
“There are still witches about, but if word leaks that Salem hath hung a young girl then nobody will believe us! Don’t you see? They will call us monsters! Find the records of that girl! Find anything that has the name Deliverance Moore on it and destroy it! Go to the Nurse home and make sure there is no mention of her.”
The deed was done just as Hathorne had commanded it. Any record ofLivvyy was burned, including the papers of her trial and execution.
It was if she had never existed.