9) The Cure Is A Simple Life
That morning I rose a wee bit later than mornings before. God blessed me with a grand night’s sleep and the land with a glorious sunny day despite sickness that had mysteriously struck the town. It was made much more intense when a group of men from the Marshall’s Militia barged into the Tavern and raised voices were heard. As I strode up the street to the Tavern door I saw them searching the place thoroughly making a mess of the place as they went. Verity and Meredith were arguing while they searched, but before I could speak I heard someone’s footsteps along with their heavy breath which made me turn around to see the Reverend who probably ordered their home be searched for signs of witchcraft. I pursed my lips trying to hide me outrage at him hounding poor Verity. I had to choose my words carefully though because I could be next.
“Sir, ya won’t find any proof of witchcraft ’ere,” I began then he glanced at me sceptically.
“That is bold of you to say such a thing Mistress Jones,” He then glared at me with disgust. “You also seem confident in that, perhaps you have knowledge of this...and perhaps you are one of those devil women,” He seethed leaning closer to me. I closed my mouth and backed away shaking me head.
“No sir, I am a woman who fears the Lord and I am a good Christian. But I also care for me friends,” I replied and his glare lingered for a couple more seconds before he turned to walk closer to Verity and Meredith.
“There ain’t nothing to find here, there ain’t no witches here!” Meredith spoke up while the Reverand just stared back at him slightly menacingly like a dark shadow that wouldn’t go away. “I’m not much of a praying man, but I shall pray today. I shall pray for your soul to be saved Reverand Michaelmas Whitaker!” He added pointing a stern finger at him. The men then left the Tavern then left with the Reverand leaving after them. I rushed over to Verity and embraced the lass in a hug. I helped her tidy up the Tavern after she gave Meredith a mug of ale that he drank while muttering away about the problems they now had. He wasn’t the one who was at risk of being burnt alive, but at least he stood up to defend his wife I thought to meself sweeping up bits of grain the men had caused to be scattered across the floor.
“The cheek the Reverand as ‘ey? And the Marshall! Every woman in Jamestown must be quakin’ in their boots with this talk o’ evil,” I began shaking me head at me own fearfulness when the Reverand glared and hissed at me like a wicked snake protected by God. Verity to my surprise had no response. Not even a chuckle. “Verity?” I frowned. She had a look of fear that was probably much more intense than me own before.
“Clara...I have a mark, from when I was a babe, and they’ll use that,” She stuttered, her voice like that of a frightened little lass.
“They’ll find the real cause o’ the sickness Verity, and I know you ain’t no witch. And if ya go t’ church it’ll do ya good t’ show you’re a God-fearin’ woman,” I tried to reassure her, but she just turned away stubbornly going away in the back to clean. I sighed then turned to Meredith who was stood looking sorrowful out the Tavern door. I bid him farewell with a pat on the back before I went back to me own home wanting to get some work done in me own home. The looks I got from the few Militiamen that I passed in the street made fear begin to bubble inside me once more. I tried to ignore that while I did me odd chores and eventually when the night began to set in, it went away when I saw Recorder Castel and Doctor Priestly at the well discussing the water. I had yet to know if Mercy had recovered from the sickness that struck her down. Poor lass.
“Recorder Castel Sir?” I began making both the men turn around to face me. “Forgive f’interruptin’ but how’s Mercy?”
“Recovering, Jocelyn made sure she took the medicine Doctor Priestly gave,” He told me and I smiled at him then the Doctor.
“Thank the Lord f’you Doctor,” I smiled and he bowed his head thankful.
“Hopefully we can cure the Marshall with the same remedy,” The Doctor sighed glancing at the well once more.
“Aye, we don’t want anyone else gettin’ sick or dyin’,” I stressed then they both nodded. They both excused themselves as they had to go to the Marshall’s home. I was glad Mercy was better, and I was surprised at Jocelyn doing what she did. She must care for her loyal servant girl, but she was a good lass. The night came swift meaning I had to light the few candles in me home, and I prayed before I went to sleep for Verity.
The next day was the day for church, but outside the town, there was something truly terrifying being built. A stake of wood that was for Verity if she was found to be a witch. She had to attend church today if the lass wanted to live. Me, Alice and Silas all went to the Tavern to persuade her. She did so with a look of disdain, Meredith nervously clutching his hat as we approached the entrance to the Church. The Reverand went silent at the sight of us, and every face in the congregation turned to us with looks of shock. They muttered and whispered as we took our seats, Verity between me and Alice.
“Now we know well enough, the strange countenance of one touched by the evil spirit. She has as shrew tongue, it brings renown,” The Reverend went on speaking with hatred in his voice that was aimed at Verity as clear as day. “The same woman refuses to attend church, why? Because she knows, her confederacy with the Devil will show itself-”
“I’m here aren’t I?!” Verity suddenly spoke up rising from her seat. “Haven’t ya seen me on me knees?” She then scoffed looking around at the folks murmuring. “Is it any wonder that I refuse to come to church? When all I see are condemning eyes on me,” She made them go silent speaking with some fury in her voice before she looked once more at the Reverend. “I curse because there is much to curse about,”
“When Satan takes a woman to him, he marks her, she bares that stain on her body!” He spat pointing an accusing finger at Verity. Unable to remain there any longer, she stormed out of the church with me and Alice following after her. We both came to a stop and smiled when we saw Mistress Castel link arms with Verity elegantly smiling herself. This witty lass had a plan, and I couldn’t wait to see it play out.
“Governor?” She called sweetly making the Reverand’s face drop and Governor Yeardley rose up looking back better like everyone else at the two. “Might I have your permission to address Reverend Whitaker in church? I need his assistance,” She asked making him glance at the worried Reverend in deep thought as Jocelyn unlinked arms from Verity and stopped near him. “I believe I can clear up this matter if I may,” She added then he nodded once and sat down once more like everyone else.
“We are most fortunate to have a priest so pious that our spiritual wellbeing here is assured. I’m here to ask your blessing, Reverend,” She began flattering the old man so much he could not refuse and approached her about to do as she asked but she was not yet done speaking. “If you sir, draw down God’s holiness into this piece of bread then this piece of bread itself is holy. Is that not what the church tells us?” Puzzled looks filled the room as she went on. “Please, Reverend. Bestow your grace unto this bread,” She asked then he did so in front of everyone. “And it is true, is it not, that if a woman is in confederacy with the Devil and should swallow sacred bread it will kill her?” She questioned, but in a manner that sounded more like she was stating the truth everyone at church was told meaning, not even the Reverend could argue with her.
He also could not argue with her because from the side door of the church came a recovered Marshall in full uniform making the crowd murmur once more before he took his seat with the other company men who were shocked to see him. That medicine worked on him, it wasn’t witchcraft! Oh, and what grand timing this all seemed to have!
“Then, dear Reverend Whitaker, I am certain that you will serve your congregation well should you press this bread into Verity’s mouth,” She said, and very hesitantly, the Reverend took the small piece of bread from her and looked at Verity who swiftly dropped down to her knees opening her mouth. He slowly pressed the bread into her mouth, shaking ever so slightly it would seem, and Verity swallowed not choking on it at all. Smiles crossed mine and Alice’s faces of pure relief. “Our dear Lord would not allow an innocent woman to stand accused. Neither should we.” Jocelyn finished with that same elegant and sweet smile as Verity stood up then turned to leave the church.
The Doctor and Recorder before everyone then began to discuss the real cause of the sickness, was the rickety outhouses that were built nearby when the town was under siege. It was making the water unclean and spreading disease, considering that well was used an awful lot it is surprising more did not get ill. The Governor agreed with the two men that they had to be taken down and new outhouses had to be built outside just the walls. That would make going to them a tad more difficult, but what is the worst thing to happen to someone going to relieve themselves?
“Thank God for Mistress Castel ’ey?” I said to Alice and Silas.
“Yes, she is extremely brave. Who knows what she will do next?” Alice replied.
“She should try enjoying life, she has a rich life,” Silas replied resting an arm against one of the townhouses’ walls that were nearby.
“And a complicated life that’ll get her into spots o’ bother. I think the simple life is better. The cure for all sickness,” I stated crossing me arms while we watched her converse with Lord and Lady Yeardly.
“You plan on living that Clara?” Alice asked me and I nodded to her.
“Aye, I want no trouble comin’ me way, just the man who’ll love me and be a good husband,” I sighed thinking about that dream I wanted. Alice smiled, amused at me before she and Silas left to the farm, the eyes of James Read watching them as they walking out the gates.