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Meanwhile, twenty-first-century North Hampton has its own snares. Joanna and Norm consult the Oracle for advice, and Freddie and his pixie allies search for a missing totem that could reopen the passages of time and help bring his sister home. When Ingrid bumps into an old flame, she finds that her new love for Detective Matt Noble is in doubt. Moving between past and present, with dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense, Winds of Salem is sure to bewitch fans old and new.
A Violet War
Late March in Salem Village and the early spring flowers were in full bloom—the yellow, purple, and white crocuses of the meadow, the lily of the valley in the woodlands, brilliant clusters of grape hyacinth and daffodils the color of baby chicks. Violets proliferated along the ponds and rivers all the way to the town harbor, and everything was peaceful in the vale as fat hogs lolled in their pens and cattle and sheep grazed in green pastures.
Inside the small wooden houses of the village, servant girls groped for their clothing in the pitch-black, rising before the cocks crowed to revive the dying coals in the hearths with a quick blast of the bellows. The womenfolk donned layers of petticoats and shifts, lacing up their bodices and putting on their white caps, while the men and boys pulled on their breeches and boots to set to work.
In one particular house hold, a farm on a substantial property on the village outskirts, encompassing part of the Great River and Indian Bridge, the maids did their best to keep their master's temper temperate, or at least not blustering their way. The farm belonged to one Mr. Thomas Putnam, the eldest sibling and leader of the Putnam clan, a handsome but austere man, with a near-perpetual somber cast to his brow. Thomas was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Salem Village, although to his dismay and chagrin, not the most prosperous. That title belonged to land-rich families like the Porters and his half brother, Joseph Putnam, who also had a finger in the mercantile business of the port of Salem Town.
But such taxonomies were neither here nor there at the moment. Mr. and Mrs. Putnam and their children slept tranquilly as the house servants and farmhands began their daily work. On this fine morning, two young maids, Mercy Lewis and Freya Beauchamp, filled large baskets with dirty linens and cookware to wash in the nearby river. Mercy, a sixteen-year-old orphan, had seen her entire family slaughtered by Indians in the Eastward two years earlier. Freya, a year younger, had also ended up in service after she had arrived at the family's doorstep one day, fainting dead into Mercy's arms.
Freya knew her name but had no recollection of her past or her people. Perhaps she had survived the smallpox and lost her memory to the fever. Or maybe, like Mercy, she had seen her family killed, and the horror of it had caused her to forget. When Freya strained to look back, she saw nothing. She did not know where she came from. She knew the dull ache she felt in her heart was the absence of family, and she knew that she missed them, but for all she tried, she could not remember her mother or father or a single sibling. It was as if her past had been erased—taken—lost as leaves spirited away by the wind.
All Freya knew was that Mercy was a friend from the start, and for that she was grateful to have found a place in the Putnam home. With the large farm and several young children underfoot, the family had gladly taken her in as an extra hand.
The laundry and dishes assembled, the girls stepped out of the house and onto the dirt path, baskets balanced on their hips. Freya's red hair, startling as a sunset, glowed like a halo in the early rays of light. Of the two, she was the more striking one, with her rosebud lips and creamy skin. She had a lightness to her step and a quick, beguiling smile. While Mercy was pretty, with pale blue eyes and a high forehead, it was not her scarred cheek or hands that made her less so, but a tightness to her person that showed in her pinched lips and wary expression. The older girl tucked a wayward strand of blond hair that had fallen out from beneath her cap as she stopped by a bed of flowers, setting her basket on the ground. "Go ahead, pick one," she urged Freya as she knelt on the ground, "pick a violet, and let us have a violet war!"
"No, dear, we mustn't tarry. Poor Annie is all on her own!" Freya said, meaning the oldest Putnam daughter. "We can't leave her to tend the little ones by herself while Mistress is bedridden." The lady of the house often took to her room to recover from the many tragedies of her life. Like her husband, Ann Putnam had been disinherited by her rich father, with his wife and sons seizing permanent control of his wealth. Her failed battle in court against them had left her bruised and embittered. Worse, soon after her three beautiful nieces died from a mysterious illness, one right after the other, and her sister, the girls' mother and her only close friend, died as well, most likely from a broken heart. Their loss had left Mrs. Ann Putnam frail of body and spirit.
Freya reminded Mercy that there was no time for idle pastimes such as picking flowers. There was much to do still: the rooms swept and scrubbed, the butter churned, the ale checked, the kindling gathered, supper cooked. "Not to mention we must make more soap and those golden candles Reverend Parris bid for his altar. We need—"
Mercy laughed and put a finger over Freya's mouth to shush her and pulled her down to join her on the grass. She was tired of hearing about their endless chores.
Freya laughed as well, but covered her mouth with a fist, worried that someone might hear them. Her bright green eyes glinted at Mercy. "What on God's green earth is a violet war anyway?" she asked as she placed her basket next to her friend's.
Mercy smiled. "Choose your violet, and I'll show you, cunning girl!"
Freya blushed. Mercy knew all about Freya and her talent with herbs—it was their closely guarded secret. But then the mistress knew, too, and she hadn't sent Freya away. When Freya had first arrived, she had heard Mrs. Putnam complain of headaches, so she had gone into the woods and picked peppermint, lavender, and rosemary to make a potent brew that instantly eased her discomfort.
The mistress was grateful, but she warned Freya that Thomas mustn't know of her gift. Mr. Putnam was a devoutly pious man, and he might mistake Freya's talent for making physics as the devil working through the girl. Not that it had stopped Ann from asking for another and another. "I miss my dear departed sister and those poor dead children," she would say. "Girl, could you make something for the pain?" Freya always obliged.
Ann also frequently asked Freya if she could see into her and Thomas's future. Would there be more land, more money?
Freya had heard from Mercy that their master and mistress had both been cheated out of shares of their inheritances from their fathers. Ann wanted to know if anything would change in this regard. Freya tried hard to please her, but she could not glimpse into the future, just as she could not glimpse into her own past.
As Mercy watched, Freya chose a perfect violet with dark, rich purple petals, plucking it at the base of its stem. Mercy did the same with her fire-scarred fingers.
"Hold up your violet and make a wish," Mercy instructed. "Perhaps we shall wish for two other girls to do our work," she said with a naughty smile.
Freya chuckled as she closed her eyes, contemplating a wish. Truly she did not mind having so much to do. It was folly to wish their lives otherwise. Work was important to the community and to their house hold. No, there was something else. Something else that she knew would not easily be wished away, and she was not entirely convinced she would desire its removal either.
The other day, Freya had discovered she could make objects move without touching them. She had made the butter churn itself just by thinking that she had to do so. When she saw the handle turning on its own, she almost screamed. Later that afternoon the same thing happened with the broom, sweeping the room as if possessed by a spirit. Freya tried to stop it but could not help but feel thrilled at the sight.
What was wrong with her? Could it be that the devil had possessed her like the Revered Parris warned from the pulpit? She was a good girl, devout, like all the girls in the Putnam house hold. Why had she suddenly been invested with such power? This gift? Did she even want to wish it away?
"Silly girl, have you made your wish yet?" asked Mercy, staring curiously at Freya, who had opened her eyes.
She hadn't made a wish at all, but now she did: she wished that she and Mercy would be like this always, the best of friends, and that nothing would ever come between them. "I'm ready."
Mercy instructed her to wrap the stem of the violet, where it curled beneath the petals like a bent neck, around the part of her own stem that curled the same. The girls interlocked their flowers.
"Now pull," said Mercy, "and whoever lops off the other's head—the flower—will have her wish."
The girls pulled at the stems of their interlocked violets, moving the flowers this way and that. It was Freya's violet's head that went flying off.
Mercy raised her victorious violet with her scarred hand. "I got my wish!" she cried.
Freya was glad for her friend but felt wistful just the same. "Come on now, let's go."
Mercy rolled onto her side, staring dreamily up at Freya, as she pressed her violet into the cleavage of her bodice. "All right. But first, I must tell you a secret."
"A secret!" said Freya. "I do love our secrets."
Mercy grinned. "There is a new young man in town. I saw him training with the militia in the field by Ingersoll's Inn on Thursday."
Freya batted her pale red lashes at her friend. "And?"
"A dashing youth with dark hair and green eyes," Mercy added. "I can't wait for you to see him! For aught I know, he is already promised to another maid, but you must see how very handsome he is."
Freya thrilled at the description. "Do you think he will visit the Putnams?" she asked.
"Maybe, but we will most likely see him in church."
With that pleasant thought, they both rose and followed the path to the river.
Later that evening, after dinner and prayers, after the bread had been made for the morning and placed in the oven door by the hearth for the night, and the little children put to sleep, the girls lowered their rope beds in the hall, their work finally done for the day. The beds hung about a foot apart. They shook out their blankets and lay in the flickering light of the fire.
Mercy reached out her hand, and Freya interlocked her fingers with her friend's. They should know better. What if the master awoke and saw them holding hands? He would not approve of such a display of affection. He might misinterpret it. But they interlaced fingers nevertheless, the way they had hooked their violets together earlier, until slumber seized them, and their hands fell apart.
Of Plums and Pie
Early the next morning, Thomas Putnam drove the girls to the meeting house in Salem Town, traveling a good way across hillocks, rivers, inlets, and rocky terrain. Legal proceedings involving villagers still had to take place in Salem Town, as the village was not yet fully in dependent, to his continuing annoyance.
Freya and Mercy had been summoned as witnesses in a case between two quarreling goodwives. The whole affair had been the talk of the village for an entire year now. The girls would be providing evidence against Goody Brown, the defendant, who lived near the Putnam farm. Mercy had once been in Goody Brown's employ, while Freya often went to the Brown house hold to buy or trade baked goods for the Putnam house. It was Mercy who had volunteered their services to Mr. Putnam, as she surmised that he was weary of the bothersome talk between the women and eager to bring it all to an end. He had seen to it that Mercy and Freya would be called as deponents. Mercy was thrilled; the clever girl knew the trip would mean some time off from work and the opportunity to visit the town, which Freya had not yet had occasion to see. Freya felt rather guilty about Mercy's machinations, although she knew the girl meant well.
They sat meekly next to their master on top of the carriage as it wobbled along the pebbly road. Thomas was tall, good-looking, and broad shouldered, with a commanding, booming voice. He ruled Salem Village as he ruled his house hold, but he disliked going into Salem Town for it was somewhat outside his jurisdiction. The new families who had land by the port were becoming increasingly more prosperous than older farmers like himself, and they had been abandoning the old Puritan ways, to his disapproval. The very thought of Salem Town alone filled him with bitterness. It was there that his father had lived with his second wife, Mary Veren, the wealthy widow of a ship captain, marrying her while his own mother's dead body had barely grown cold. Mary soon gave birth to his loathsome half brother, Joseph, who eventually reaped much too much of the property that was rightfully Thomas's.
He comforted himself with the thought that at least he had secured the appointment of the reverend. Mr. Samuel Parris was finally ordained, which meant the village could at last have its own church with a minister who could give communion and preach to covenanted members rather than just a congregation. With their very own church in the meeting house, the villagers no longer had to travel twice a week—a good three-hour walk—to the port town to worship, as missing church was a punishable offense.
He drove wordlessly, a dour expression on his face, the girls beside him, their caps and blouses recently laundered and scrubbed in the river and left out in the bleaching sun to look their brightest. They dared not utter a word unless Thomas addressed them. There was a breeze, but the sun was sweet against the girls' cheeks as the wheels rolled and squeaked over stones in the road. They crossed a creaky bridge over a river, planks groaning under the wheels as they reached their destination.
The meeting house was packed with plaintiffs and defendants, although there were many who came just for the entertainment, squeezed into the pews and galleries or standing in the back. A year ago, Goodwife Diffidence Brown had bought ten pounds of plums from Goodwife Faith Perkins. Goody Brown made pies with the plums and sold the pies at the market. The following week, Goody Brown claimed her customers returned to her stall to complain that the plum pies had been inedible, tasting as "putrid as rotten fish." Brown alleged that every customer who had bought a plum pie clamored for a refund, which she promptly gave. The allegedly bad plums had caused Goody Brown "tremendous grief and financial loss."
When Goody Brown complained to Goody Perkins about it, Goody Perkins refused to make restitution on such hearsay. "I gave you fat, juicy, sweet ones. There is nothing wrong with my plums and, as everyone in Salem Village knows, you are a lying hag, Goody Brown." She didn't believe Goody Brown's story one bit. Most likely Goody Brown was hard up and trying to make a few extra pence. It was not beneath her. A scuffle and some pulling of hair ensued.
Goody Perkins then claimed that when Goody Brown left her doorstep, Goody Brown "fell to muttering and scolding extremely," and Goody Perkins heard Goody Brown clearly say, "I will give you something, you fat-looking hog!" Goody Perkins claimed Goody Brown had cursed her, and that she was a wench and a witch. For almost immediately after, Goody Perkins's baby stopped nursing and fell ill, and she almost lost the infant. Then one of her sows "was taken with strange fits, jumping up and down and knocking her head against the fence, and appeared blind and deaf," and died in a "strange and unusual manner." This spring the trees in her plum orchard had not bloomed, and she feared she would have no plums to harvest.
The magistrate, a spice merchant whose loud sighs made it clear he had better things to do, harrumphed and quieted both plaintiff and defendant, who had begun bickering at each other again. "Order in the court! You goodwives are giving me a headache." The people in the meeting house tittered. "Order!" he called again, then requested the bailiff usher in the first deponent: Mercy Lewis.
The magistrate glanced up at Mercy and in a bored voice said, "What saith the deponent?"
"I do not know what I saith, Sir Magistrate. Is there a question?" asked Mercy. More laughter from the galleries. Mercy glanced at Freya, who smiled encouragingly back at her.
Excerpted from Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz. Copyright © 2014 Melissa de la Cruz. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion.
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