Under the Harvest Moon
Salem, Massachusetts 1692
Rebecca Foster turned to her patient observer as she pressed the cork into the small bottle. "Here," she said, handing the mixture over. "This will ease the pain of Mary's contractions."
"God bless you, Rebecca, for helping us at this hour." Midwife Sarah Crowley tucked the herbed concoction into the satchel tied about her hips and whirled for the door. Her dark Puritan dress swooshed about wide hips as she gathered her cloak and tossed it around her shoulders.
Rebecca followed her late-night patron to the entry to see her out. "Please, be careful." She peered out the door into the crisp October night. The wind howled outside the small cottage and the harvest moon hung, ripe and deep orange-red, in the velvet sky over Salem Town.
Sarah cast a look over her shoulder as she gathered the reins to the small cart, led by a donkey, and then jostled herself onto the creaking perch. "'Tis not the night I fear. It will be my neck if I do not deliver this babe without incident, as the Minister has already been regarding me skeptically, despite the arrival of Governor Phips. I fear our new Governor's influence cannot take hold soon enough." A deep frown wrinkled her mouth as she whipped the reins on the backend of the lowly animal and started out for Ipswich Road, toward Salem Village, the rickety cart bumping over the rocky path leading from Rebecca's cottage.
A slight breeze wafted Rebecca's hair as she watched her good friend disappear. She was utterly alone at her cottage on the edge of Salem Town, the town separated from the village of Salem by social class and a much stricter character. She supposed she belonged right in the middle. It suited. She was neither a poor farmer nor a merchant, as her father had been. She was also neither a strict Puritan with an unjust need for vengeance upon those whom did not fit into the mold set beliefs formed, nor a despicable being wrought by evil.
After her parents and younger sister had perished of smallpox last year, she had been left near destitute and at the speculation of the village. She wasn’t stupid. She knew they questioned her because of her occupation and sex, as they did Sarah, and because she had been the only one in her family to survive. Unfortunately, try as she might to save her loved ones her herbal mixtures had been rendered useless by the sickness.
God had been merciful, however. She still lived and possessed a rare talent for finding and mixing herbs to cure fevers, pains, and other ailments, which afforded her a meager lifestyle, but she was content. Descending from a long line of healers, she would soon become Sarah's apprentice as a midwife. Her friend hesitated to take her on now, until their new governor's reason and justice took hold, for fear of the minister and deacons in Salem Village. The minister was of a mind that all women should be burnt at the stake as witches and Sarah only tried to protect her. Soon, she hoped, now that Governor Phips was aware of the danger the innocent were in, he would put a stop to the unmerciful and unjust killing dictated by the church and court.
One deacon of their church, John Yeats—who held strong influence over the minister—he and herself were already on unstable terms. The older man desired her, and she had refused him more than once. At the sickening thought of him touching her with his calloused, fat fingers, Rebecca cringed. Heat spread up her neck. If she were a witch, he would have been long since in his grave.
Rebecca closed the door and bolted it against the night, moving to tidy up scattered utensils and dried plants about her worktable. When she finished the task, she crossed the small room and headed to the back of the cottage, removing her robe as she did. Her nipples tightened against the chill lingering in the cottage, and she poked the fire before finding her bed. Just as she pulled the covers to her chin, she heard a rooster began to crow. She squeezed her eyes shut and groaned.
Sunday's dawn drew near.
©2013 Kerri M. Patterson