The Magistrate’s List

Elizabeth scrubbed her face and hands with the rainwater that had collected in the stained bucket.  The animals watched her, motionless.  Thankfully, her cloak had remained clean in her burlap sack.  She shook it out, swept it around her dress, and tied it under her chin.  She took a cautious step away from the trees.

She drew her breath as she looked at the vessel bound for Newfoundland.  She had to find her way on board without being recognized.  Nobody knew her in this village, but sensational news did travel.  Her grandmother had been hanged for witchcraft a fortnight ago.  Her mother then died in gaol awaiting trial for selling her soul to a demon.  She received word that her own name appeared on the magistrate’s list, again.  The charge was witchcraft, naturally, along with petty treason, for good measure.

She retreated behind the trees once again to quiet her wildly racing thoughts.  Eventually, she reached into her rations and slowly chewed the bread crusts, gathering her courage.  The animals remained still and didn’t take their eyes off her.  How strange, she thought.  This must signify a good omen.  She re-wrapped the bread alongside the salted meat, pickles and preserves in her mother’s thick wool kerchief.

She felt a calm descend over her as she stepped forward.  Keeping her eyes down, she walked slowly among the villagers, making her way to the dock.  Stepping onto the plank, she froze at the sound of a soft thud.  Her great-great grandmother’s book had escaped the folds of her cloak.  Magik Remedies lay in the dust at her feet.  She held her breath as the men nearby helped her retrieve it.  She kept her eyes down as she quietly thanked the man who handed it back to her.  She rushed to the vessel.  The men watched her, admiring her modesty.

What a charming woman, thought John.  Who was she?  He’d surely remember having met her before.  She couldn’t be voyaging to Newfoundland?  He was so taken with her that it hadn’t yet struck him that she had a book in her possession.



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