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2 occurrences of Mistress Hale of Beverly
[Clear Hits]

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2 occurrences of Mistress Hale of Beverly
[Clear Hits]


The roadside forests here and there were touched with tawny gold;
The days were shortening, and at dusk the sea looked blue and cold;
Through his long fields the minister paced, restless, up and down;
Before, the land-locked harbor lay; behind, the little town.
No careless chant of harvester or fisherman awoke
The silent air; no clanging hoof, no curling weft of smoke,
Where late the blacksmith's anvil rang; all dumb as death,—and why?
Why? echoed back the minister's chilled heart, for sole reply.
His wife was watching from the door; she came to meet him now,
A weary sadness in her voice, a care upon her brow.
A vague, oppressive mystery, a hint of unknown fear,
Hung hovering over every roof: it was the witchcraft year.
She laid her hand upon his arm, and looked into his face,
And as he turned away she turned, beside him keeping pace:


And, “Oh, my husband, let me speak!” said gentle Mistress Hale
“For truth is fallen in the street, and falsehoods vile prevail.
“The very air we breathe is thick with whisperings of hell;
The foolish trust the quaking bog, where wise men sink as well,
Who follow them: O husband mine, for love of me, beware
Of touching slime that from the pit is oozing everywhere!
“The rulers and the ministers, tell me, what have they done,
Through all the dreadful weeks since this dark inquest was begun,
Save to encourage thoughtless girls in their unhallowed ways,
And bring to an untimely end many a good woman's days?
“Think of our neighbor, Goodwife Hoar: because she would not say
She was in league with evil powers, she pines in jail to-day.
Think of our trusty field-hand, Job,—a swaggerer, it is true,—
Boasting he feared no Devil, they have condemned him, too.
“And Bridget Bishop, when she lived yonder at Ryal-Side,
What if she kept a shovel-board, and trimmed with laces wide
Her scarlet bodice: grant she was too frivolous and vain;
How dared they take away the life they could not give again?
“Nor soberness availeth aught; for who hath suffered worse,
Through persecutions undeserved, than good Rebecca Nurse?
Forsaken of her kith and kin, alone in her despair,
It almost seemed as if God's ear were closed against her prayer.
“They spare not even infancy: poor little Dorcas Good,
The vagrant's child—but four years old!—who says that baby could
To Satan sign her soul away condemns this business blind,
As but the senseless babbling of a weak and wicked mind.
“Is it not like the ancient tale they tell of Phaeton,
Whose ignorant hands were trusted with the horses of the sun?
Our teachers now by witless youths are led on and beguiled:
Woe to the land, the Scripture saith, whose ruler is a child!
“God grant this dismal day be short! Except help soon arrive,
To ruin these deluded ones will our fair country drive.
If I to-morrow were accused, what further could I plead
Than those who died, whom neither judge nor minister would heed!
“I pray thee, husband, enter not their councils any more!
My heart aches with forebodings! Do not leave me, I implore!
Yet if to turn this curse aside my life might but avail,
In Christ's name would I yield it up;” said gentle previous hit Mistress Hale.
The minister of Beverly  dreamed a strange dream that night:
He dreamed the tide came up, blood-red, through inlet, cove, and bight,


Till Salem Village was submerged; until Bass River rose,
A threatening crimson gulf, that yawned the hamlet to inclose.
It rushed in at the cottage-doors whence women fled and wept;
Close to the little meeting-house with serpent curves it crept;
The grave-mounds in the burying-ground were sunk beneath its flood;
The doorstone of the parsonage was dashed with spray of blood.
And on the threshold, praying, knelt his dear and honored wife,
As one who would that deluge stay at cost of her own life.—
“Oh, save her! save us, Christ!” the cry unlocked him from his dream,
And at his casement in the east he saw the day-star gleam.
The minister that morning said, “Only this once I go,
Beloved wife; I cannot tell if witches be or no.
We on the judgment-throne have sat in place of God too long;
I fear me much lest we have done His flock a grievous wrong:
“And this before my brethren will I testify to-day.”
Around him quiet wooded isles and placid waters lay,
As unto Salem-Side he crossed. He reached the court-room small,
Just as a shrill, unearthly shriek echoed from wall to wall:
‘Woe! Mistress Hale tormenteth me! She came in like a bird,
Perched on her husband's shoulder!” Then silence fell; no word
Spake either judge or minister, while with profound amaze
Each fixed upon the other's face his horror-stricken gaze.
But, while the accuser writhed in wild contortions on the floor,
One rose and said, “Let all withdraw! the court is closed!” no more:
For well the land knew Mistress Hale's rare loveliness and worth;
Her virtues bloomed like flowers of heaven along the paths of earth.
The minister of Beverly went homeward riding fast;
His wife shrank back from his strange look, affrighted and aghast.
“Dear wife, thou ailest! Shut thyself into thy room!” said he;
“Whoever comes, the latch-string keep drawn in from all save me!”
Nor his life's treasure from close guard did he one moment lose,
Until across the ferry came a messenger with news
That the bewitched ones acted now vain mummeries of woe;
The judges looked and wondered still, but all the accused let go.
The dark cloud rolled from off the land; the golden leaves dropped down
Along the winding wood-paths of the little sea-side town:
In Salem Village there was peace; with witchcraft-trials passed
The nightmare-terror from the vexed New England air at last.
Again in natural tones men dared to laugh aloud and speak;
From Naugus Head the fisher's shout rang back to Jeffrey's Creek;


The phantom-soldiery withdrew, that haunted Gloucester shore;
The teamster's voice through Wenham Woods broke into psalms once more.
The minister of Beverly thereafter sorely grieved
That he had inquisition held with counselors deceived;
Forsaking love's unerring light and duty's solid ground,
And groping in the shadowy void, where truth is never found.
Errors are almost trespasses; rarely indeed we know
How our mistakes hurt other hearts, until some random blow
Has well-nigh broken our own. Alas! regret could not restore
To lonely hearths the presences that gladdened them before.
As with the grain our fathers sowed sprang up Old England's weeds,
So to their lofty piety clung superstition's seeds.
Though tares grow with it, wheat is wheat: by food from heaven we live:
Yet whoso asks for daily bread must add, “Our sins forgive!”
Truth made transparent in a life, tried gold of character,
Were Mistress Hale's, and this is all that history says of her;
Their simple force, like sunlight, broke the hideous midnight spell,
And sight restored again to eyes obscured by films of hell.
The minister's long fields are still with dews of summer wet:
The roof that sheltered Mistress Hale tradition points to yet.
Green be her memory ever kept all over Cape-Ann-Side,
Whose unobtrusive excellence awed back delusion's tide!

“What finally broke the spell by which they had held the minds of the whole colony in bondage was their accusation, in October, of Mrs. Hale, the wife of the minister of the First Church of Beverly. Her genuine and distinguished virtues had won for her a reputation, and secured in the breasts of the people a confidence which superstition itself could not sully nor shake. Mr. Hale had been active in all the previous proceedings; but he knew the innocence and piety of his wife, and he stood forth between her and the storm he had helped to raise. The whole community became convinced that the accusers in crying out upon Mrs. Hale had perjured themselves; and from that moment their power was destroyed.”—

Upham's Salem Witchcraft.