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How Mrs. MARGERY was taken up for a Witch, and what happened on that Occasion.
And so it is true? And they have taken up Mrs. Margery then, and accused her of being a Witch, only because she was wiser than some of her Neighbours! Mercy upon me! People stuff Children’s Heads with Stories of Ghosts, Faries, Witches, and such Nonsense when they are young, and so they continue Fools all their Days. The whole World ought to be made acquainted with her Case, and here it is at their Service.
The Case of Mrs. MARGERY.
Mrs. Margery, as we have frequently observed, was always doing Good, and thought she could never sufficiently gratify those who had done any Thing to serve her. These generous Sentiments, naturally led her to consult the Interest of Mr. Grove, and the rest of her Neighbours; and as most of their Lands were Meadow, and they depended much on their Hay, which had been for many Years greatly damaged by wet Weather, she contrived an Instrument to direct them when to mow their Grass with Safety, and prevent their Hay being spoiled. They all came to her for Advice, and by that Means got in their Hay without Damage, while most of that in the neighbouring Villages was spoiled.
This made a great Noise in the Country, and so provoked were the People in the other Parishes, that they accused her of being a Witch, and sent Gasser Goosecap, a busy Fellow in other People’s Concerns, to find out Evidence against her. This Wiseacre happened to come to her School, when she was walking about with the Raven on one Shoulder, the Pidgeon on the other, the Lark on her Hand, and the Lamb and the Dog by her Side; which indeed made a droll Figure, and so surprized the that he cried out, a Witch! a Witch! upon this she laughing, answered, a Conjurer! a Conjurer! and so they parted; but it did not end thus, for a Warrant was issued out against Mrs. Margery, and she was carried to a Meeting of the Justices, whither all the Neighbours followed her.
At the Meeting, one of the Justices, who knew little of Life, and less of the Law, behaved very idly; and though no Body was able to prove any Thing against her, asked, who she could bring to her Character? Who can you bring against my Character, Sir, says she, there are People enough who would appear in my Defence, were it necessary; but I never supposed that any one here could be so weak, as to believe there was any such Thing as a Witch. If I am a Witch, this is my Charm, and (laying a Barometer or Weather Glass on the Table) it is with this, says she, that I have taught my Neighbours to know the State of the Weather. All the Company laughed, and Sir William Dove, who was on the Bench, asked her Accusers, how they could be such Fools, as to think there was any such Thing as a Witch. It is true, continued he, many innocent and worthy People have been abused and even murdered on this absurd and foolish Supposition; which is a Scandal to our Religion, to our Laws, to our Nation, and to common Sense; but I will tell you a Story.
There was in the West of England a poor industrious Woman, who laboured under the same evil Report, which this good Woman is accused of. Every Hog that died with the Murrain, every Cow that slipt her Calf, she was accountable for: If a Horse had the Staggers, she was supposed to be in his Head; and whenever the Wind blew a little harder than ordinary, Goody Giles was playing her Tricks, and riding upon a Broomstick in the Air. These, and a thousand other Phantasies, too ridiculous to recite, possessed the Pates of the common People: Horse-shoes were nailed with the Heels upwards, and many Tricks made use of, to mortify the poor Creature; and such was their Rage against her, that they petitioned Mr. Williams, the Parson of the Parish, not to let her come to Church; and at last, even insisted upon it: But this he over-ruled, and allowed the poor old Woman a Nook in one of the Isles to herself, where she muttered over her Prayers in the best Manner she could. The Parish, thus disconcerted and enraged, withdrew the small Pittance they allowed for her Support, and would have reduced her to the Necessity of starving, had she not been still assisted by the benevolent Mr. Williams.
But I hasten to the Sequel of my Story, in which you will find, that the true Source from whence Witchcraft springs is Poverty, Age, and Ignorance; and that it is impossible for a Woman to pass for a Witch, unless she is very poor, very old, and lives in a Neighbourhood where the People are void of common Sense.
Some Time after, a Brother of her’s died in London, who, though he would not part with a Farthing while he lived, at his Death was obliged to leave her five thousand Pounds, that he could not carry with him.–This altered the Face of Jane’s Affairs prodigiously: She was no longer Jane, alias Joan Giles, the ugly old Witch, but Madam Giles; her old ragged Garb was exchanged for one that was new and genteel; her greatest Enemies made their Court to her, even the Justice himself came to wish her Joy; and though several Hogs and Horses died, and the Wind frequently blew afterwards, yet Madam Giles was never supposed to have a Hand in it; and from hence it is plain, as I observed before, that a Woman must be very poor, very old, and live in a Neighbourhood, where the People are very stupid, before she can possibly pass for a Witch.
’Twas a Saying of Mr. Williams, who would sometimes be jocose, and had the Art of making even Satire agreeable; that if ever Jane deserved the Character of a Witch, it was after this Money was left her; for that with her five thousand Pounds, she did more Acts of Charity and friendly Offices, than all the People of Fortune within fifty Miles of the Place.
After this, Sir William inveighed against the absurd and foolish Notions, which the Country People had imbibed concerning Witches, and Witchcraft, and having proved that there was no such Thing, but that all were the Effects of Folly and Ignorance, he gave the Court such an Account of Mrs. Margery, and her Virtue, good Sense, and prudent Behaviour, that the Gentlemen present were enamoured with her, and returned her public Thanks for the great Service she had done the Country. One Gentleman in particular, I mean Sir Charles Jones, had conceived such an high Opinion of her, that he offered her a considerable Sum to take the Care of his Family, and the Education of his Daughter, which, however, she refused; but this Gentleman, sending for her afterwards when he had a dangerous Fit of Illness, she went, and behaved so prudently in the Family, and so tenderly to him and his Daughter, that he would not permit her to leave his House, but soon after made her Proposals of Marriage. She was truly sensible of the Honour he intended her, but, though poor, she would not consent to be made a Lady, till he had effectually provided for his Daughter; for she told him, that Power was a dangerous Thing to be trusted with, and that a good Man or Woman would never throw themselves into the Road of Temptation.
All Things being settled, and the Day fixed, the Neighbours came in Crouds to see the Wedding; for they were all glad, that one who had been such a good little Girl, and was become such a virtuous and good Woman, was going to be made a Lady; but just as the Clergyman had opened his Book, a Gentleman richly dressed ran into the Church, and cry’d, Stop! stop! This greatly alarmed the Congregation, particularly the intended Bride and Bridegroom, whom he first accosted, and desired to speak with them apart. After they had been talking some little Time, the People were greatly surprized to see Sir Charlesstand Motionless, and his Bride cry, and faint away in the Stranger’s Arms. This seeming Grief, however, was only a Prelude to a Flood of Joy, which immediately succeeded; for you must know, gentle Reader, that this Gentleman, so richly dressed and bedizened with Lace, was that identical little Boy, whom you before saw in the Sailor’s Habit; in short, it was little Tom Two Shoes, Mrs. Margery’sBrother, who was just come from beyond Sea, where he had made a large Fortune, and hearing, as soon as he landed, of his Sister’s intended Wedding, had rode Post, to see that a proper Settlement was made on her; which he thought she was now intitled to, as he himself was both able and willing to give her an ample Fortune. They soon returned to the Communion-Table, and were married in Tears, but they were Tears of Joy.
There is something wonderful in this young Gentleman’s Preservation and Success in Life; which we shall acquaint the Reader of, in the History of his Life and Adventures, which will soon be published.
CHAP. VII. and Last.
The true Use of Riches. The Harmony and Affection that subsisted between this happy Couple, is inexpressible; but Time, which dissolves the closest Union, after six Years, severed Sir Charles from his Lady; for being seized with a violent Fever he died, and left her full of Grief, tho’ possessed of a large Fortune.
We forgot to remark, that after her Marriage, Lady Jones (for so we must now call her) ordered the Chappel to be fitted up, and allowed the Chaplain a considerable Sum out of her own private Purse, to visit the Sick, and say Prayers every Day to all the People that could attend. She also gave Mr. Johnson ten Guineas a Year, to preach a Sermon, annually, on the Necessity and Duties of the marriage State, and on the Decease of Sir Charles; she gave him ten more, to preach yearly on the Subject of Death; she had put all the Parish into Mourning for the Loss of her Husband; and to those Men who attended this yearly Service, she gave Harvest Gloves, to their Wives Shoes and Stockings, and to all the Children little Books and Plumb-cakes: We must also observe, that she herself wove a Chaplet of Flowers, and before the Service, placed it on his Grave-stone; and a suitable Psalm was always sung by the Congregation.
About this Time, she heard that Mr. Smith was oppressed by Sir Timothy Gripe, the Justice, and his Friend Graspall, who endeavoured to deprive him of Part of his Tythes; upon which she, in Conjunction with her Brother, defended him, and the Cause was tried in Westminster-hall, where Mr. Smith gained a Verdict; and it appearing that Sir Timothy had behaved most scandalously, as a Justice of the Peace, he was struck off the List, and no longer permitted to act in that Capacity. This was a Cut to a Man of his imperious Disposition, and this was followed by one yet more severe; for a Relation of his, who had an undoubted Right to the Mouldwell Estate, finding that it was possible to get the better at Law of a rich Man, laid Claim to it, brought his Action, and recovered the whole Manor of Mouldwell, and being afterwards inclined to sell it, he, in Consideration of the Aid Lady Margery had lent him during his Distress, made her the first Offer, and she purchased the Whole, and threw it into different Farms, that the Poor might be no longer under the Dominion of two over-grown Men.
This was a great Mortification to Sir Timothy, as well as to his Friend Graspall, who from this Time experienced nothing but Misfortunes, and was in a few Years so dispossessed of his Ill-gotten Wealth, that his Family were reduced to seek Subsistance from the Parish, at which those who had felt the Weight of his Iron Hand rejoiced; but Lady Margery desired, that his Children might be treated with Care and Tenderness; for they, says she, are no Ways accountable for the Actions of their Father.
At her first coming into Power, she took Care to gratify her old Friends, especially Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose Family she made happy.–She paid great Regard to the Poor, made their Interest her own, and to induce them to come regularly to Church, she ordered a Loaf, or the Price of a Loaf, to be given to every one who would accept of it. This brought many of them to Church, who by degrees learned their Duty, and then came on a more noble Principle. She also took Care to encourage Matrimony; and in order to induce her Tenants and Neighbours to enter into that happy State, she always gave the young Couple something towards House-keeping; and stood Godmother to all their Children, whom she had in Parties, every SundayEvening, to teach them their Catechism, and lecture them in Religion and Morality; after which she treated them with a Supper, gave them such Books as they wanted, and then dispatched them with her Blessing. Nor did she forget them at her Death, but left each a Legacy, as will be seen among other charitable Donations when we publish her Will, which we may do in some future Volume. There is one Request however so singular, that we cannot help taking some Notice of it in this Place; which is, that of her giving so many Acres of Land to be planted yearly with Potatoes, for all the Poor of any Parish who would come and fetch them for the Use of their Families; but if any took them to sell they were deprived of that Privilege ever after. And these Roots were planted and raised from the Rent arising from a Farm which she had assigned over for that purpose. In short, she was a Mother to the Poor, a Physician to the Sick, and a Friend to all who were in Distress. Her Life was the greatest Blessing, and her Death the greatest Calamity that ever was felt in the Neighbourhood. A Monument, but without Inscription, was erected to her Memory in the Church-yard, over which the Poor as they pass weep continually, so that the Stone is ever bathed in Tears.
On this Occasion the following Lines were spoken extempore by a young Gentleman.
How vain the Tears that fall from you, And here supply the Place of Dew? How vain to weep the happy Dead, Who now to heavenly Realms are fled? Repine no more, your Plaints forbear, And all prepare to meet them there. The END.