Goody Cole

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Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so “vehemently suspected to be a witch” that in 1680 she was thrown into jail with a chain on her leg. She had a mumbling habit, which was bad, and a wild look, which was worse. The death of two calves had been charged to her sorceries, and she was believed to have raised the cyclone that sent a party of merrymakers to the sea-bottom off the Isles of Shoals, for insulting her that morning. Some said that she took the shapes of eagles, dogs, and cats, and that she had the aspect of an ape when she went through the mummeries that caused Goody Marston’s child to die, yet while she was in Ipswich jail a likeness of her was stumping about the graveyard on the day when they buried the child. For such offences as that of making bread ferment and give forth evil odors, that housekeepers could only dispel by prayer, she was several times whipped and ducked by the constable.

At last she lay under sentence of death, for Anna Dalton declared that her child had been changed in its cradle and that she hated and feared the thing that had been left there. Her husband, Ezra, had pleaded with her in vain. “‘Tis no child of mine,” she cried. “‘Tis an imp. Don’t you see how old and shrewd it is? How wrinkled and ugly? It does not take my milk: it is sucking my blood and wearing me to skin and bone.” Once, as she sat brooding by the fire, she turned to her husband and said, “Rake the coals out and put the child in them. Goody Cole will fly fast enough when she hears it screaming, and will come down chimney in the shape of an owl or a bat, and take the thing away. Then we shall have our little one back.”

Goodman Dalton sighed as he looked into the worn, scowling face of his wife; then, laying his hands on her head, he prayed to God that she might be led out of the shadow and made to love her child again. As he prayed a gleam of sunset shone in at the window and made a halo around the face of the smiling babe. Mistress Dalton looked at the little thing in doubt; then a glow of recognition came into her eyes, and with a sob of joy she caught the child to her breast, while Dalton embraced them both, deeply happy, for his wife had recovered her reason. In the midst of tears and kisses the woman started with a faint cry: she remembered that a poor old creature was about to expiate on the gallows a crime that had never been committed. She urged her husband to ride with all speed to justice Sewall and demand that Goody Cole be freed. This the goodman did, arriving at Newbury at ten o’clock at night, when the town had long been abed and asleep. By dint of alarms at the justice’s door he brought forth that worthy in gown and night-cap, and, after the case had been explained to him, he wrote an order for Mistress Cole’s release.

With this paper in his hand Dalton rode at once to Ipswich, and when the cock crew in the dawning the victim of that horrible charge walked forth, without her manacles. Yet dark suspicion hung about the beldam to the last, and she died, as she had lived, alone in the little cabin that stood near the site of the academy. Even after her demise the villagers could with difficulty summon courage to enter her cot and give her burial. Her body was tumbled into a pit, hastily dug near her door, and a stake was driven through the heart to exorcise the powers of evil that possessed her in life.

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