| Boys and Girls of Colonial Days|
|by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey|
|An engaging collection of stories for the younger child, introducing him to activities and occupations of boys and girls in the colonial era. Focuses on children who responded with courage and resourcefulness when faced with unexpected circumstances and whose efforts played a key role in the safeguarding of their families and their communities. Famous personages of the time, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, figure in several of the stories. Dozens of detailed black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 7-9 |
THE JACK-O'-LANTERN WITCH
HE grim iron doors of the prison clanged shut and the
turnkey fastened them. Hearing the sound, Desire
touched the homespun sleeve of the little boy with whom
she was walking home from market down the narrow street
of the musty old town of Salem.
"Did you hear that sound of the locking of the doors,
Jonathan? It means that they've caught and imprisoned
The boy, a quaint little figure in his long trousers,
short jacket, and ruffled shirt looked, wide-eyed, at
the little girl. Quite as strangely dressed a child as
Jonathan was small Desire, the only daughter of Elder
Baxter who was high in authority in old Salem in those
far-away days. Although not quite twelve summers and
winters of the New England of a stern long-ago had
painted Desire's plump cheeks the pink of a rose and
burned the shining gold of her hair, her gray frock
with its short waist and long skirt nearly trailed the
gray cobble stones of the street. Her soft brown hair
was braided close to her head and pulled back tightly
in front from her white brow and tucked out of sight
 stiff cap. A white kerchief was folded closely about
her primly held shoulders and over her frock she wore a
long, dark cape for the fall day was chill.
Jonathan set down the rush basket of food supplies he
was carrying for Desire, and he touched the iron paling
that shut in the prison.
"Do you know who the witch is, Desire?" he asked, his
voice low with awe.
 "Not I," the little maid answered, "but they do say
that she has been brewing her spells for six months'
time before the elders caught her. I heard my father
and mother talking about it only this morning. They
said that before the day was over the witch that was
the cause of all our recent troubles in Salem would be
caught and safely imprisoned."
"What troubles?" Jonathan asked.
"Have you not heard, Jonathan?" Desire lowered her
voice and looked up and down the street to see that no
one was listening to her.
"Abigail Williams was ill of the whooping cough and she
had three fits which, as every one knows, is a sign
that a witch had cast a spell over her. And Mercy
Talcott's teakettle boiled over and nearly scalded
Mercy's mother. On the way for some ointment at the
doctor's to put on her mother's hand, Mercy saw the
witch herself flying over the tops of the trees on
Gallows Hill and," Desire's voice was a whisper now,
"she was riding on a broomstick."
"How did Mercy know that it was a witch, and how could
she be riding on a broomstick?" asked the practical
Desire tossed her head. "I can't explain that to you,
Jonathan. It was toward evening and Mercy says that she
saw a long, dark form in the trees and she heard the
dry leaves rustle."
"Crows!" said Jonathan.
 "For shame, Jonathan," said Desire. "Do you not know
that the eyes of Mercy Talcott are keen for seeing
witches. She is to be at the trial to-morrow, and
identify the evil creature." Desire repeated the words
of her elders in those far-away Colonial days of
ignorance and superstition. "When shall we rid
ourselves of this pest of witchcraft in Salem?" she
"Well," Jonathan said, swinging the basket upon his
shoulder and leading the way along the street again,
"[should be t instead of T]There'll probably be one
less witch to-morrow for she won't have a chance to
escape if that tale-bearing Mercy Talcott is at the
trial. Let us go on by the side street and see if Jack
is safe at Granny Hewitt's, Desire."
The two children hastened their steps and passed the
scattering little brown houses of old Salem. Their
quaintly gabled roofs made them look like dolls'
cottages. The windows with their tiny diamond-shaped
panes were neatly curtained with white. At one house, a
little larger than the others and having no garden,
they drew their breath.
"The Witches' House," said Desire.
It was here that so many of these unfortunate creatures
of the dark days of Salem had been kept in confinement
before they met their punishment in prison, on the
ducking stool, or on Gallows Hill. A little farther
along they passed a great white
meet-  ing-house where a gilded weathercock pointed bravely to
the sky and high, white pillars stood at either side of
"The witch will be tried here in the morning," Jonathan
said, and the two children walked a little faster
toward a pleasanter stopping place, Governor Endicott's
big white house, set in the midst of his fair English
Even now, when the wind blew cold from the water front
and rustled the cornstalks and rattled the red pods of
the rose hips, the Governor's garden was a pleasant
place for a child to see. Bright little marigolds,
defying the frost, lifted their orange blossoms along
the path. Great beds of scarlet dahlias and purple
asters made a mass of color. The late sun marked for
itself a long, golden shaft across the sundial, and at
the back of the house could be seen a patch of winter
squashes and pumpkins mellowing in a sunny spot.
"Was not the Governor kind to give us the pumpkin?"
"And wasn't Granny kind to show us how to make it into
so strange a hobgoblin of a creature as is our Jack?"
added Desire. "She said that almost no other granny in
old Salem was old enough to remember about carving a
pumpkin into a face as they did long ago in England.
She told me that we must keep it a secret until All
Hallow E'en, and then take
 the pumpkin with a tallow drip shining inside him,
lighting his funny face, down through the street to
show the other children."
"I lighted it last night," Jonathan confessed. "I went
to Granny's house with a cheese ball that was a gift
from my mother to Granny."
"How did the pumpkin look?" asked Desire eagerly.
"Fearsome!" said Jonathan. "We put it in the window and
I went outside in the dark to look at it. It had the
appearance of a grinning monster," the boy laughed at
his memory of the Jack-o'-Lantern.
"Here we are at Granny's. Let us go in a moment,"
Desire said as the two stopped before a tumble-down
cottage at the end of a tiny lane. Granny Hewitt lived
alone there, a little wrinkled crone with a face like a
brown walnut and eyes that shone like two stars. But
her mouth, oh, that was the best part of Granny; all
the children said that it made them think of their own
dear mother's when she smiled. How could a smile be
lovelier than that?
Having no kin of her own, Granny Hewitt loved the boys
and girls who passed her cottage every day on their way
to and from school. She made molasses cookies and
vinegar taffy for them. She put balm on their
scratches, and covered their primers and spellers with
pieces of bright calico. No wonder
 Desire and Jonathan wanted to stop a moment at Granny
Hewitt's house. They went up the white gravel path with
its neat border of clam shells. Desire lifted the big
brass knocker on the door, letting it drop with a
There was no sound inside.
"She has gone to market," Jonathan said.
"Well, good-bye, Jonathan," Desire said, taking her
basket from the boy's hands. "I probably shall not see
you to-morrow. It may be that my father will let me sit
in our pew in the meeting-house during the witch's
 Jonathan's eyes almost popped out of his head in
surprise. "Could I go, too?" he asked.
"I'll see if I can get you in," Desire promised as the
two friends parted.
The morning of the witch's trial was as bright and
peaceful as the fall sun lighting field and dingy
streets and roofs could make it. By half-after seven,
although the trial was not to begin until ten, the
green common that surrounded the Second Meeting-house
was a moving black and gray mass of stern men in their
dark capes, buckled shoes, and tall hats, and
Inside the meeting-house every pew was filled. The
platform was lined with the black-gowned elders, and
the Governor himself, a dignified figure in his flowing
cloak and powdered wig, occupied the pulpit. Desire
sat, prim and quiet beside her mother, her little round
head not much above the high back of the pew. On the
other side sat Jonathan whose urgent request to come
had been granted.
It was rumored that the witch who was about to be tried
was of some repute in the practice of magic, and that
she was to be made an example for any followers whom
she might have.
Jonathan nudged Desire's elbow. "Where is she?" he
"Ssh," the little girl put a warning finger to
her lips. "They'll bring her out in a minute." As she
 finished her whispered warning, her father, Elder
Baxter, rose and began to speak.
"We are met together to pass judgment upon a woman of
Salem town who has wrought her magic arts to the
undoing of its citizens. She has cast her spell over a
child and thrown it into dire sickness. She has
bewitched the kitchen of our neighbor, Elder Talcott. A
child of twelve years and well versed in the art of
discovering witchcraft saw this same witch after she
had practiced her arts. Mercy Talcott will please come
to the platform. Bring in the witch."
Desire and Jonathan craned their necks to see better as
the black row of the elders parted to let in a bent,
trembling little old lady. Two jailers guarded her, one
on each side. She still wore her tidy white apron with
its knitting pocket, and her white cap was tied neatly
under her chin. She was shaking from head to foot with
her fright. Her head was bent low so that no one could
see her face. She held her Bible clasped closely to her
At the same time Mercy Talcott, a little girl dressed
like Desire but with a less winning face, stepped up,
also, to the platform. It was the custom of those
strange days to believe that certain children could
identify witches, and Mercy was one of these children.
The elder spoke again, "I have not made one most
 important charge of all as I wish to make it in the
presence of the prisoner, herself. She has a creature
of some other kind than human with whom she consults on
matters of witchery. It has been seen at night looking
out of her window with glaring eyes and wide-open mouth
set in its huge head.
"Look up, witch. Mercy Talcott, is this the witch that
you saw leaving your house the day that your mother was
Slowly, and in terror the little old lady lifted her
head. At the same time and in the same sobbing breaths
Jonathan and Desire said, "It is Granny Hewitt!"
Mercy saw, too, who it was. She remembered the little
rag doll that Granny had made her when she was a very
little girl. It wore a gay pink calico dress, and its
cheeks were stained red with pokeberry juice. Mercy
caught her breath and hesitated. She knew that it was
only in fancy that she had seen the broomstick and its
wild rider. As she waited, Desire pulled Jonathan from
his seat. Before her mother could question or stop
them, the two children were at the front of the pulpit,
facing the Governor.
Desire clasped her hands and raised them in pleading
toward the great man who bent down toward her in
surprise. The whole meeting-house was still as Desire
spoke in her sweet, high voice.
 "Your Excellency, I beg your mercy for our dear Granny.
She is not a witch but a kind friend to all the
children of Salem. It is I who should be punished in
her place. If your Excellency will but think back to
the last tithing day, you will remember that you gave
two children, Jonathan and me, a pumpkin for our play.
We took it to Granny Hewitt's house and she helped us
to make it into a Jack whose tallow drip, lighted, in
Granny's window some one saw and spoke of to you. My
father did not know that it was my fault, else he would
not have accused Granny. Oh, speak, Jonathan, and
attest to the truth of what I am saying!"
She turned to the little boy but Jonathan, made
courageous by Desire's bravery, had gone to Mercy's
"It was crows you saw on Gallows Hill," he said in her
ear. "You never, never saw Granny Hewitt riding on a
broomstick. Say so."
Mercy looked into Granny's tear-stained face. Then,
with a rush of love she threw herself into her arms. "I
never saw Granny riding on a broomstick. She isn't a
witch," Mercy declared.
The white doors of the meeting-house opened wide and
the people waited with heads bowed, half in shame and
half in joy, as Granny, surrounded by the children,
passed into the sunshine and the freedom outside. Then
they followed, making a kind of
 triumphal procession to the cottage at the end of the
street. Kind hands led Granny all the way and kind
hearts made her forget all about her experiences. In
her window there still stood the grinning
Jack-o'-lantern, and at sight of it bursts of laughter
took away all thought of tears. One of the elders set
it upon one of Granny's fence posts and then held
Desire up beside it.
"Hurrah for the Jack-o'-lantern witch," some one said,
and the crowd shouted their happiness and relief.
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