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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 96

Margaret Wesson, "old Meg," lived in Gloucester until she came to her death by a shot fired at the siege of Louisburg, five hundred miles away, in 1745. Two soldiers of Gloucester, while before the walls of the French town, were annoyed by a crow, that flew over and around them, cawing harshly and disregarding stones and shot, until it occurred to them that the bird could be no other than old Meg in another form, and, as silver bullets are an esteemed antidote for the evils of witchcraft, they cut two silver buttons from their uniforms and fired them at the crow. At the first shot its leg was broken; at the second, it fell dead. On returning to Gloucester they learned that old Meg had fallen and broken her leg at the moment when the crow was fired on, and that she died quickly after. An examination of her body was made, and the identical buttons were extracted from her flesh that had been shot into the crow at Louisburg.

As a citizen of New Haven was riding home—this was at the time of the goings on at Salem—he saw shapes of women near his horse's head, whispering earnestly together and keeping time with the trot of his animal without effort of their own. "In the name of God, tell me who you are," cried the traveller, and at the name of God they vanished. Next day the man's orchard was shaken by viewless hands and the fruit thrown down. Hogs ran about the neighborhood on their hind legs; children cried that somebody was sticking pins into them; one man would roll across the floor as if pushed, and he had to be watched lest he should go into the fire; when housewives made their bread they found it as full of hair as food in a city boarding-house; when they made soft soap it ran from the kettle and over the floor like lava; stones fell down chimneys and smashed crockery. One of the farmers cut off an ear from a pig that was walking on its hind legs, and an eccentric old body of the neighborhood appeared presently with one of her ears in a muffle, thus satisfying that community that she had caused the troubles. When a woman was making potash it began to leap about, and a rifle was fired into the pot, causing a sudden calm. In the morning the witch was found dead on her floor. Yet killing only made her worse, for she moved to a deserted house near her own, and there kept a mad revel every night; fiddles were heard, lights flashed, stones were thrown, and yells gave people at a distance a series of cold shivers; but the populace tried the effect of tearing down the house, and quiet was brought to the town.

In the early days of this century a skinny old woman known as Aunt Woodward lived by herself in a log cabin at Minot Corner, Maine, enjoying the awe of the people in that secluded burg. They moved around but little at night, on her account, and one poor girl was in mortal fear lest by mysterious arts she should be changed, between two days, into a white horse. One citizen kept her away from his house by nailing a horseshoe to his door, while another took the force out of her spells by keeping a branch of "round wood" at his threshold. At night she haunted a big, square house where the ghost of a murdered infant was often heard to cry, and by day she laid charms on her neighbors' provisions and utensils, and turned their cream to buttermilk. "Uncle" Blaisdell hurried into the settlement to tell the farmers that Aunt Woodward had climbed into his sled in the middle of the road, and that his four yoke of oxen could not stir it an inch, but that after she had leaped down one yoke of cattle drew the load of wood without an effort. Yet she died in her bed.


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