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[215]

It must have been so. Common sense and humanity might have refuted every other evidence than that of the victims themselves. But what were the authorities to do, when, in addition to all legal and Scriptural precedents, the prisoners insisted on entering a plea of guilty? When Goody E-- testified that she and two others rode from Andover to a witch-meeting on a broomstick, and the stick broke and she fell and was still lame from it,--when her daughter testified that she rode on the same stick, and confirmed all the details of the casualty,--when the granddaughter confirmed them also, and added that she rode on another stick, and they all signed Satan's book together,--when W. B , aged forty, testified that Satan assembled a hundred fine blades near Salem Meeting-House, and tile trumpet sounded, and bread and wine were carried round, and Satan was like a black sheep, and wished them to destroy the minister's house (by thunder probably), and set up his kingdom, and “then all would be well,” --when one woman summoned her three children and some neighbors and a sister and a domestic, who all testified that she was a witch and so were they all,--what could be done for such prisoners by judge or jury, in an age which held witchcraft to be possible? It was only the rapid rate of increase which finally stopped the convictions.

One thing is certain, that this strange delusion, a semi-comedy to us,--though part of the phenomena may find their solution in laws not yet unfolded,--was the sternest of tragedies to those who lived in it. Conceive, for an instant, of believing in the visible presence and labors of the arch-fiend in a peaceful community. Yet from the bottom of their souls these strong men held to it, and they waged a hand-to-hand fight with Satan all their days.

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