The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Book: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth George Speare
Kit stared, too aghast to realize her own tactlessness. There was not a single stone building or shop in sight. The Meeting House stood in the center of the clearing, a square unpainted wooden structure, topped by a small turret. As they crossed the clearing Kit recoiled at the objects that stood between her and the Meeting House; a pillory, a whipping post and stocks.
    Inside the small building, on rows of benches, sat the good folk of Wethersfield, men on one side and women on the other. At the door Matthew Wood left his family and moved with dignity to the deacon's bench directly in front of the pulpit. Rachel preceded the two girls down the aisle to the family bench. As Kit moved behind her the astonishment of the assembled townspeople met her with the impact of a gathering wave. It was not so much a sound as a stillness so intent that it made her ears ring. She knew that her cheeks were flaming, but she held her head high under the feathered bonnet.
    The Puritan service seemed to her as plain and unlovely as the bare board walls of the Meeting House. She felt a moment's surprise when her uncle stepped forward to line the psalm. His firm nasal voice set the tune and pace, one line at a time, and the congregation repeated it after him. By the time the long psalm was over Kit was glad to sit down, but presently she longed to stand again. The hard edge of the narrow pew bit into her thigh, in spite of every gingerly effort to shift her weight. Kit's gaze flicked over the other churchfolk. A varied lot they were. Not all of them shared her uncle's opinions of seemly garb; some were as fashionably dressed as Kit herself. But the majority were soberly and poorly clad, and here and there, in the farthermost pews, Kit glimpsed the familiar black faces that must be slaves. All of them however were alike in their reverent silence. How could they sit there without twitching a muscle, even with the black flies buzzing under their bonnet brims? It was impossible that they could be listening to the sermon. She could not keep her mind on it for an instant.
    A steady rustling sound told her that a few muscles were as unruly as her own. On the stairs leading to the gallery nearly twenty small boys were clustered, shoulder to shoulder, and the solid ranks undulated with the constant jerking of restless elbows straining under tight woolen jackets. A rosy-cheeked boy on the second step, with one fleeting motion, captured a fly and held it imprisoned against his knees. Four boys nearest him were convulsed. Snickers spilled out past the hands they clapped over their mouths. A man stepped menacingly from the corner brandishing a long pole, and Kit winced as two sharp raps descended on each luckless head. The cause of all the commotion sat serenely, his rapt, innocent gaze never straying from the minister's face, his hand still cupped over the imprisoned fly. Kit felt a giggle rising in her own throat, and looking frantically for distraction, caught John Holbrook's eye. He looked away without a sign of recognition.
    Bother these people! Look at Judith, sitting there with her hands folded in her lap. Didn't her feet ever go to sleep? Nevertheless, if this were a test of endurance, then she could see it through as well as these New Englanders. She tilted her chin so that one plume swept gracefully against her cheek, discreetly curled and uncurled her numb toes inside the kid slippers, and set herself to endure.
    The sun slanted directly downward through the chinks in the roof when the sermon ended. It must have been a good two hours, and would, Kit suspected, have been much longer had not the minister's voice grown increasingly hoarse till it threatened to fail altogether. Kit rose thankfully for the final prayer, and stood respectfully with the rest of the congregation till the minister had passed down the aisle to the door.
    Outside the Meeting House the Reverend Gershom Bulkeley took Kit's hand in his. "So this is the orphan from Barbados?" he

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