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John Proctor's Daughters

By eddieedwards20111 All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Mystery

Salem, Massachusetts, 1713

The wind blew hard and naked branches scraped on the window as the cold, black, moonless night welcomed in its newest champion, her mother screaming in agony, as Constance Proctor was born.  Constance already knew everything there was to know about witchcraft. Her father, John Proctor, had been born in prison while her grandmother Elizabeth waited to be hung for witchcraft.  Her grandfather had already been hung for the same offense.  Her grandmother was spared only until Constance's father was born, but then she was given reprieve. Meanwhile, many of the people of Salem had already been hung as witches.  The townspeople who were present watched in amazement and horror as the infant Constance emerged with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, twice.  The midwife Goody Oddworth, worked quickly to unravel the cord from around Constance's head.  Meanwhile, the child lie on her back, in Goody Oddworth's hand, legs and arms splayed out, head back, bobbing lifeless, her eyes closed.  Her mother, Goody Proctor, looked on in shock and horror, concern crinkling her brow in even more lines of care.  After removing the cord twice, Goody Oddworth quickly flipped Constance over onto her belly in her hands, slapped her back several times, firmly.  At last, Constance coughed, opened her eyes, and began screaming.  Goody Proctor breathed a sigh of relief.  Now the child was swathed and given to her mother.  It was then that all noticed Constance had a full head of black hair, and on her neck, was a small birthmark in the shape of an upside down star. 

“It's the mark of the Devil! She's a witch, too!” muttered Goody Bashley, one of the town's other midwives.

She was nudged hard by Goody Oddworth, who frowned at her and whispered, “We don't say witch anymore!  Too much evil has been done under that guise and too many have suffered wrongly and were falsely accused!”

Goody Bashley bowed her head.

“But she does have an evil look about her,” conceded Goody Oddworth, and she checked that her wimple was still on straight.  “If Judge Hathorne were here, he would urge us that we must hang them all before they spawn anymore!” 

“Judge Hathorne must see this,” urged Goody Bashley. 

“Go and fetch him,” urged Goody Oddworth.  “I know we are new to the colony and are not acquainted with all of the evidence and details.  But to be sure, I know not why he allowed mercy for this one's Grandmother, Goody Proctor, to birth her child, the spawn of the devil!  He should have hung her before she could bring him into being.  Now he has fathered his own devil's spawn, bringing this new witch into being!” 

Goody Bashley left quickly to fetch Judge Hathorne.

When baby Constance had been cleaned, disconnected from her mother’s womb, and swaddled, that tiny face, framed in all of that black hair, suddenly broke into a smile.

“John Proctor, your young, baby daughter is a beauty and no mistake.  Sure that smile is one to steal men's souls,” laughed Kent Bashley, Goody Bashley's husband.   

John Proctor smiled and beamed with the pride of a new father. 

“Well done,” added Kent, “Goody Proctor, you have a beauty there, and no mistake!”

Constance turned her smile from her father to the other townspeople present.  It was a mischievous smile, as if to say, “You got my Grandfather and tried to hang my Grandmother, but now I am here, and all of you will pay!”

When Constance was playing one morning, in the village of Salem, Goody Oddworth and Goody Bashley were walking by.

 “Careful,” shouted Goody Proctor, as her daughter Constance came close to a passing trap and horse.  Constance looked back and smiled, stopped, then scampered out of the way and wandered on toward the cemetery.

“What a cow,” whispered Goody Bashley.  “How can she live with herself, spawning with that bewitched family?

“Careful,” laughed Goody Oddworth quietly, “Don't come between a cow and her calf!”

They both chuckled to each other.

Goody Bashley continued, “The bellowing cow is always the first to forget its calf.”

Constance was now among the gravestones, playing, frolicking and laughing.

“What a strange creature,” remarked Goody Oddworth.

 

As Constance grew older, she listened to the tales of the Witch Hunt in Salem and learned all she could.  By the time she was seven, she had developed a complete and utter hatred for one person, someone she wanted to kill with all her being, someone who deserved torture and death:  Abigail.

But first, she had to find out if Judge Hathorne was still alive.  He was the one who had sentenced all those innocent people, including her own dear grandfather. Her grandfather, John Proctor, had three wives and eighteen children.  Her father, John, son of John, at age 25, only had the one child, her.

Constance went to visit the Reverend John Hale in Beverly.  He and his wife welcomed her.

“I am sorry for all you have suffered,” smiled the Reverend Hale, as he welcomed Constance into his house.  “My wife will make us some tea.  What is the purpose of your visit?”

“I want to learn more about my Grandfather,” smiled Constance, with that smile that could slay men's souls.

“Well, there is much to read in the town's records, or the court proceedings and the like,” he continued.  “Is there something specific you wish to learn, child?”

“I want to know about all of those who accused him, their names, and where they live now,” smiled Constance.  “Please tell me all you know,” and she became more serious.

The Reverend sat back in his chair.  His hair was white now and his back ailed him.  He shifted with some pain in his seat as he croaked, “Your grandfather was a good man.  He was honest and true.  He used to tell me that all of the witch trial business was only bringing the laughter of the devil and destroying our town and our people.  He was right.  But I didn't listen.  I was too caught up in my own folly and pride.”

Mrs. Hale brought the tea.

“Perhaps you should have been wiser and listened to him,” said Constance, almost whispering.  She took a deep breath and continued, “And what do you know of the whereabouts of Abigail?” seethed Constance, now fighting hard to conceal her loathing with her charming smile.

“All I know is that she took ship and was never heard from again.  She was reported to be dead these 23 year.”

Constance breathed a gust of what could have been fire, steaming in her hatred, anger and frustration.

The Reverend was taken aback.  “You must forgive and forget, child,” he urged her, coughing.  “It is in the past.  Do not unearth what is far too painful still for many, even your own dear Grandmother,” he sputtered.

Mrs. Hale gave him a handkerchief and he covered his mouth, going into a fitful cough that seemed to rage on and escalate.

Mrs. Hale suddenly became concerned, leaning over him to assist her husband.

Constance sipped her tea.

“I have never seen him this bad,” whined Mrs. Hale.  “Dear Constance, if it would please you, please run and fetch the surgeon!”

“Of course,” answered Constance.  She stood and made for the door.  In the commotion and distraction, Mrs. Hale did not see Constance sneak into Reverend Hales' study and steal his books on witchcraft.  One in particular she coveted.  She found it but it had a lock and buckle on it.  She then began to search frantically for the key, opening drawers, quietly but urgently.  At last, she found the key.  She took it, and the black bound book with the lock on it and placed them in her satchel.

“I will fetch the surgeon straight away,” smiled Constance, emerging from the office and leaving through the door, the books in a large satchel under her arm.

The Reverend Hale died within the hour.


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