The year was 1692 when the events in Salem started to affect our neighboring town of Lynn Massachusetts. The morning sunlight was dim, and it seemed to me that it wasnt very late at all. That was why I was confused at being woken up so abruptly.
"Sabrine! I mean it!!! Up with you this moment!!" My mother, Mary, whipped off my covers and pulled my pillow out from under me.
"Mother, is it late? It still seems like dusk to me."
"That it is, Sabrine
but the Preacher has asked for an immediate meeting at the church. I just got word of it."
"What sort of meeting, Mother? Is there something wrong?"
"I really dont know, darling and that is why it is vital that you get up this instant." And with that she dashed out of my room to wake my brother, Phillip from his sleep. I groggily stepped onto the cold wooden floor and shuddered. It did seem cooler this night than usual, and Im sure my bare room did nothing to help heat the temperature. I only had two pieces of furniture in the entire room, a bed and a dresser. Soon I would also have a bed stand; father is working on that for me now. I hoped that this meeting wouldnt be long, for I was tired and I did have a long day of chores and errands tomorrow. I hobbled my way over to my wooden dresser drawer, made for me by my father in the farthest corner of my bed. I pulled on my wool stockings and undergarments and put on my fall dress. I grabbed a shawl knowing that the church would probably not have any wood for a fire at this hour.
"Mother? Oh, father its you
will we have time to eat a quick biscuit before we go?"
"Sunflower, we dont have time for that. How could you be hungry already? We finished dinner only a couple of hours ago." I blushed, realizing that he was right.
We made our way down Main Street to the church. It had candles in all the windows and appeared very lively.
"See, I had a feeling we would be late." Mother whispered into Fathers ear.
I entered the church behind my father. My mother was right, the church was already filled. I searched for Rebecca and James, two of my very best friends. I couldnt see them over the heads of the other adults in the church, so I decided to look for them myself. There was a discomforting air to the church. I could sense trouble when I looked at the faces of most people gathered there.
" Sabrine! Im over here! Sabrine!!!" I glanced to my right and saw Rebecca. I waved and moved towards her.
"How long have you been here? Wheres James? Is he here yet?" I craned my neck and looked for him. I frowned; where was that boy?
"No, hes not here yet. Do you have any idea why this meeting was called?"
I shook my head, " Whatever it is, it sure does add some excitement to this town."
"What? How can you say that? Cant you see that something is wrong?" Rebecca started to pick at her fingers, a nervous habit I had seen many times before.
look at you, the meeting hasnt even started and youre beginning to fret. Im sure nothing is wrong. Why, I bet this meeting is just to warn us of wolves. You know how every beginning of fall they gather us for a talk on how not to go in the woods, and how not to leave food out on our porches or anywhere outside."
"But never in the middle of the night; that is very unlikely."
I shrugged my shoulders and told her to calm down once more.
"Good evening, Sabrine." I giggled; it was James older brother Thomas.
"Good evening, Thomas." I said with a smile and a giggle. I just couldnt keep from giggling when I was around Thomas. I couldnt believe he just said hello to me. Rebecca smiled as we exchanged glances.
"Do you happen to know where James is? I cant seem to find him anywhere! He must have separated from us at the door," Thomas asked.
"Oh, no Thomas I havent seen him all evening; in fact, I was just about to ask you where he was."
"Oh, I see
well tell him to just go directly back to the house after the meeting and not to look for me or our parents."
"Yes, Ill do that."
"Thanks, youre a blessing." I smiled as he turned and made his way back into the of crowd. Just then, James popped up. James was two years older than Rebecca and I, yet he seemed to get along better with us than anyone his own age.
"Hello girls." We responded with a greeting, and I gave him the message. Just then, the Preacher asked everyone to settle down and find a seat.
"Ladies and gentleman, " he began, "I am very sorry to have called this meeting so late. Please do excuse the interruption. I just felt it necessary to call to your attention this issue as soon as I could. As some of you may not know, our neighboring town, Salem has been having problems with
I do not wish to scare any of you, but
witches." At that last word a gasp went through the church and everyone began to talk rapidly. Rebecca clasped my wrist and turned to me with wide eyes of fear.
"Please, please do be quiet, " the Preacher commanded, " I understand completely how all of you must be feeling, so it is of the utmost importance that you listen to what I have to say. We have reason to believe that some witches, yes workers of the devil, may be living in our little town, too. I know, I know please
please calm down. We are asking all of you to please be on the look out for any strange things that may occur. We also ask that if you suspect anyone of being a witch that you come forward at once. The longer a witch is free, the more damage she can do. All right, you may return to your homes. The meeting is over." There was complete chaos all through the church. Mothers were calling for children, wives for husbands. Everyone seemed so worried. But I wasnt.
"Did you hear that, Sabrine? Witches! In our town!"
"Rebecca, calm down
nobodys been labeled a witch yet
this is just for precaution."
"I dont know about that, Sabrine." James scratched his head and twitched his nose.
dont tell me youre afraid too, silly boy." I playfully slapped his shoulder with a smile.
"I can be afraid if I want Sabrine!" He then playfully slapped my arm back. I pretended to be shocked and declared that I would report him for hitting a girl. He laughed, and I laughed too. Rebecca still seemed worried.
The town had been quiet for a couple of days. It seemed that the problem of witches started to quiet down, too. But everything started to stir up again when my next-door neighbor, Beth, was arrested for being a suspected witch. It came as a shock to me since I knew Beth so well. Id been helping her with her two twin boys since her husband died. He died in his sleep. No one really knew why he died
but they suspected heart failure of some sort. I really hated to see Beth arrested. She was a very nice woman who I knew could never be a witch. But unfortunately, things turned for the worst. Suspicions started to rise about her husbands death. People started to think that using some sort of powers she killed her husband. I felt awful just letting her rot there in her cell, so one night I crept out to the town jail. Her cell had a barred window that was level with the dirt road. I squatted down beside the window and whispered,
Beth." She was sleeping, so I found a little pebble and threw it at her arm. She woke up startled and looked around quickly.
. Im over here." She looked over to the window and jumped up. She ran to me and put her hands over two of the bars.
what are you doing here? You shouldnt be here. If anyone sees you it wont be good. So.shoo
. be gone."
. I know. But I just cant bear to see you like this. Youre not a witch. I know that for sure." I smiled at her and put my hands over hers. She smiled sweetly at me and whispered, " I know you believe me
but they," nodding to the church, " dont believe me. They even think I killed my husband! My Henry! Lord knows I would never have done that."
" I know
I believe you, " there was a pause while I looked up at the church, "Ill do something
anything I can to help you."
"No, no you stay out of this, Sabrine. Do you hear me child? No, no youre too precious to be getting into any sort of trouble with the church. God will look out for me; thats his job. All I ask is that you look after my boys while Im in here. Can you do that for me? Where are my boys? Is it true theyre with the Preacher?"
I nodded. "Theyve been there since the arrest. Even though Theyre only six, the Preachers been asking them questions day and night. Theyre under close supervision."
well at least theyre in good hands, right?" She tried to look happy but I could see the sadness behind that fake smile.
"Im going to help you, Beth. You mark my words, Im going to help you." And without giving her a chance to protest I bolted down the street and back home.
After seeing Beth in that horrid cell, I began my planning. I didnt exactly know what to do, but I knew I had to think fast. Beths trial was coming up the following Tuesday, so I had very little time. I did as Beth had asked and I went to check up on her two little boys every afternoon while coming back from my errands in town. They seemed well fed and rested, and I was glad to see that. I wanted to go and tell Beth all the good news about the boys; itd bring her heart rest to hear that they were well, but I never got a chance to sneak out again. Monday came and went and before I knew it; it was Tuesday morning. I was faced with the trial before I was ready, but I knew I had to find some way to get into the church. Mother didnt want me going anywhere near the church that whole day. She was afraid that it would not be good for a child to be around during a trial of witchcraft. She didnt want me to hear anything that might be too frightening for a little girl. But, I snuck out anyway. I just couldnt let Beth get convicted. I had heard rumors that if a woman was convicted of being a witch, she would be executed and possibly her children would be too. The church was full of course, but I was the only child. I knew my father was in there somewhere, so I had to be extra careful not to be seen. One of the town elders, Mr. Johansen, stood up to announce the arrival of the council of elders, the jury and the Preacher who would be presiding over the trial. I watched as he stood up on a wooden block; he adjusted his big black hat and cleared his throat.
"All rise for the council of elders, the jury and Preacher Harris." Everyone in the church stood, but I stayed balled up in a corner in the back.
" We are all here today to prosecute Mrs. Beth Miller; her crime is of the highest sort. She is accused of being a witch and having used her evil powers to kill her husband some two years ago. The trial will now begin."
Many different men stood up and gave evidence to prove Beth was a witch. I didnt know all of their names; in fact, I only recognized Benjamin Miller, the brother of Beths late husband. I was shocked to see him point a finger at her and declare, "This woman is a witch! She should be hung for killing my late brother and working for the devil!" The whole church started to buzz at such a declaration. The head of the council of elders, Preacher Harris, started to bang his mallet for everyone to be quiet.
At that moment, I stood up and yelled at the top of my lungs, "She is not a witch! Let her free!" The whole church turned around to see who had the little voice that dared speak. Preacher Harris squinted his eyes to see who I was. He asked that I come forward. I did as he asked. As I got closer to him my bravery started to leave. Once I reached the Preacher, sitting tall with his white wig of justice, my knees began to tremble.
"Little girl, please state your name."
"My name is Sabrine Becksmith, sir."
"And how old are you, my dear?"
"I am 12 years old, sir."
"Twelve years, you say? And how do you know Mrs. Beth Miller, who you claim is not a witch."
"She and I are friends, sir."
"You are friends? Please do explain a bit more, child."
"Yes sir," I nodded, "I live right next door to Beth, er, Mrs. Miller. I help her out with the twin boys she has."
"How do you help her out, be more specific. Have you ever been in her house?"
"Why, of course sir. I am over at her house for most of the day, well
after I finish my errands, sir."
"What did you and Mrs. Miller do?"
"Well, sir I help her cook, clean and sometimes I watch the boys for her and sometimes I help her tend to the garden. Quite harmless, sir."
that does seem quite harmless, doesnt it?" I nodded my head and smiled at him, hopefully my speech had worked!
"But unfortunately, dear I believe that Ms. Miller is a witch." My heart sank; I felt a deep pain in my chest. I heard Beth sob from behind me.
"And because I believe the Ms. Miller is a witch, I am beginning to question you, darling."
I gasped, what did he mean? He didnt think
no, he couldnt.
"What do you mean sir?"
"It seems to me that you are very close to Ms. Miller. You spent a lot of time over at her house unsupervised by anyone else. You say you cooked with her and you helped her tend to her garden, the exact garden we believe she uses to grow plants for her spells."
"Im still confused, sir. What are you suggesting exactly?" I started to breath more heavily; my hands grew cold.
"I am saying, young lady that you, in my opinion, were being trained by this Ms. Miller!"
you dont understand!" The church grew chaotic again at this news. He was accusing me of being a witch, too.
" I am accusing you, Ms. Sabrine Becksmith of willingly being trained by a witch to be a witch!"
The whole church grew loud again, and I turned to face Beth. Her face was pale with fright. I looked up at Preacher Harris and stared at him. My mind was buzzing with the sounds of the crowd, the look on Beths face and my own inner emotions.
please arrest this young girl!"
"No!" I yelled. I began to squirm as the guards grabbed my hands and arms. What was happening to me? How could this be? I wasnt a witch, neither was Beth; they were all wrong. "Youre wrong! Youre all wrong! God will punish you for what you are doing!" Everyone was shocked at this statement, even me.
"Theyre going to kill us, arent they?" Beth and I were back in her cell. The trial had just ended.
no, dont say that. Theyll probably kill me, but not you. Youre only twelve. They would never dare to kill a child." She came and sat next to me. I put my head on her shoulder. She began to stroke my hair.
"Im so sorry, Sabrine." She whispered into my hair.
"Why are you sorry? You did nothing wrong."
"This is all my fault. I shouldve stopped you from doing anything."
"But you tried to, Beth. It was all my doing. Seriously, dont feel as if it was your fault at all."
"Oh, my dear Sabrine. I want to thank you for standing up for me. It took a lot of courage to do what you did, and I will never forget it." We hugged each other.
"Youre poor parents. Theyll blame me. Theyll hate me forever." I sat straight up.
"No, no! Why would they hate you? You were always a good influence on me. They know youre not a witch."
She took her hand off of my back and stood up. She walked over to the barred window and turned to me.
"Sabrine, if I tell you something do you swear to never tell?"
"Of course, you can trust me."
"The Preacher, he isnt all that wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, you know what I mean, Sabrine. Part of my accusation was correct, and they spotted it."
what do you mean. Youre beginning to scare me."
"Oh, child, dont be afraid of me, but
I did kill Henry."
My eyes widened, my pulse started to race. I stood up and began to back up away from Beth.
"Do you mean to tell me that you are a witch?" I whispered, just barely loud enough for her to hear me.
"Oh, dear god, no!" She rushed over to me, "Dear, not at all. I am in no way in contact with the devil or any evil spirits."
I sighed with relief.
"So then what do you mean you killed Henry?"
" I will tell you everything, but you must swear on your life never to tell a soul."
"Alright, I swear."
"Very well, I will start from the beginning. Henry and I were never in love. He forced me to marry him. I had no choice. He wasnt a kind man either. He used to beat me and then when the boys came along, he used to beat them too. In fact, I had triplets. Henry killed one of them by accident and told the authorities that he had died of natural causes. So, one night after he had beaten us up pretty badly, I decided I had to kill him. You see, I had no way of bringing him to justice. A woman has no say against a man. They would have believed him. So, I went into my garden and cut a sprig of hemlock from my hemlock plant. I put that sprig into his tea that evening. He went to sleep feeling fine, but the next morning he was dead."
The cell was freezing. We never got any blankets or anything. My fingers and face were always pink. Beth tried to help me feel comfortable as best as she could, but there wasnt much she could do. My father never came to visit me, but my mother did. She would come to check up on me and sneak some food. She never brought anything or talked to Beth. No matter how many times I told her, she still didnt believe that Beth didnt have any part in my speaking out. I even told her how Beth had warned me not too, but she never changed her opinion. She told me that my father was too disgraced to come see me; that was the worse news I had ever received. My father was very religious, more than anyone in the town besides the Preacher. He believed the church more than his own family, and kids. He never wanted to see me; he was happy I was locked up where every witch should be. My mother begged him to try and get them to release me, but he always refused. He also forbade my mother to do anything of that sort. I knew it killed her to see me in there, but she was taught to obey her husband, and that was what she did.
The church would not allow Beth to see her boys, and she was always heartbroken about that. She and I would always have long conversations at night mostly about what was going on outside of our prison. I would try to cheer her up by reminding her of all the silly things the twins used to do. And that always worked. I used to think about my friends more than anyone else. I always hoped that one of them would come visit me, but they never did. Beth would try to explain that it was probably because their parents did not want them to come and visit, but I knew them, and I also knew that if they wanted to, they would have found a way. Months dragged on; my birthday came and went. I was finally 13, but didnt have the energy to celebrate. My mother stopped coming and the whole world seemed to stop. We never got any news about what was to become of us, nor did we know about anything in the town. The twins were now seven, and the Preacher allowed them to come one day. We were both very shocked and curious about why he would do this all of a sudden. When we questioned our guard, he told us that the council had finally agreed on our punishment.
"What do you think it could be?" I was worried and was hopeful that Beth would have some idea.
"Well, it certainly took them long enough, didnt they?" She chuckled, but I could sense fear in that laugh.
On one very cold and windy autumn morning four guards awaked us. They had rope and tied our hands behind our backs. I felt truly ashamed, but I still didnt understand what was going on. We were marched out of the jail and onto Main Street. I was so happy to be outside, that I didnt even realize where we were going. People yelled nasty comments to us the whole walk. Once we came to the big oak tree by the lake, I knew what was to become of us. I saw Beth begin to cry; I saw true fear in her eyes and for some reason, I wasnt afraid. We were marched up onto a wooden plank with two nooses dangling limply from one huge branch. I stood up on the plank with pride and kept my head up high, for I knew I was going to a better place. I knew I was not a witch, and I knew God knew that too. So I wasnt afraid. I saw Rebecca crying next to James, but they never uttered a word in protest. And as the noose was put around our heads, we held hands. When the Preacher asked us if we had anything to say I nodded. I cleared my throat so that everyone could hear me loud and clear.
"I now see what my fate is. I now know, after many months that I will die of an un-natural cause. I want you all to look at us and see what you are doing. We were your friends, your neighbors, and your sisters in the eyes of God. We have committed no crime, yet we will pay. And one day, so will all of you." At that, I nodded to the executioner and took a deep breath.
Chloe` Meyerson lives in Tenafly, New Jersey and attends Tenafly High School. She enjoys learning about different cultures and new languages. She is currently studying both French and Japanese in school. Chloe's work has been published in the textbook, The Company of Children as well as the magazine, "And Then."
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