“Art thou not frightened, Prudence?”

“Nay, I believe I am the happiest bride in the Colony. Now quickly--help me unbraid my hair. I want Silas to see it unbound when he enters the bed chamber.”

Leah Folsham was a slight and nervous young woman. As Pru’s best friend and confidante, she had lingered after the women of their small village had arrayed Prudence in her finest night rail for her wedding night. She obediently helped undo the heavy braid, using her fingers to spread strands of silky flaxen hair over the smocked white bodice of Prudence’s gown. “I know I will be in a quake of fear on my wedding night, just being alone with a man.”

“My sister Patience explained it all to me. She said there will be some slight pain the first time, but I am sure my husband will be very gentle. I know he must love me as much as I love him.” Prudence smiled and clasped Leah’s hands.

“I don’t know how thou can remain so calm Pru, especially after all that has gone on these past months—all that we have done . . . so you can be with Silas.”

Prudence seized her friend by the shoulders and shook her. “Remember how Verity beguiled him! All her smiles and the soft glances she cast at him. It had to be done—we both agreed!” Sounds of boisterous laughter in the hallway signaled the arrival of the groom, escorted by the men of the village. Prudence settled herself in the large four poster bed as her friend opened the door.

Leah peeped up at the groom as she passed him in the hallway. He was tall and elegant, with such a handsome face and fair hair waving back from his brow. Leah sighed. She could well understand how much her friend wanted Silas for a husband. Pru’s father took her arm. “Come Leah, we must hurry if we are to reach the village before darkness falls. I prithee Silas, be kind to my daughter.” he said as he and Leah followed the rest of the men down the narrow staircase.

“Have no fear, Mr. Maling, I shall treat Prudence with all the consideration she deserves.” Silas whispered as he entered the chamber and smiled upon his bride. “You look lovely with your hair down, my good wife.” he said as he closed and leaned against the door.

If the truth were told, Prudence was far more nervous than she had let on to Leah. Although her heart was racing, she tried to appear composed as she looked modestly down at her clasped hands. “Husband.” she said, and could not resist a satisfied smile at the word. “I felt thee, of all people, had the right to see it thus.”

Silas placed his simple felted-wool hat on the bureau and stepped towards the bed. Fingering a lock of her flaxen hair he said “Hair of gold and eyes of blue. So much more angelic than—for instance—jet black hair and green eyes, hmmm?”

Prudence glanced swiftly up at his face. “S-silas?” she stuttered out, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat.

“Oh, just an observation my dear.” he said seating himself on the side of the bed and removing his plain square-buckled shoes and white stockings. “You, my good wife, are both fair and virtuous in appearance and deed. I’m sure the entire village has cause to thank thee for discovering the witch in our midst. And Leah deserves our thanks, too, of course. Which one of you first discovered Verity’s perfidy?”

Prudence bit her lip and once more looked down at her hands. She realized she was wringing them together and took a breath to calm herself. Her brow wrinkled as if she tried to remember the details. “Leah and I were picking blackberries when we saw Mistress Whiting go into the woods with the stranger. At first we didn’t know who—or what—he was, or what they were doing. We really didn’t see them, but heard them laughing and murmuring behind some bushes. But then, when we went around the bushes into the clearing the stranger had disappeared and Verity’s clothing was disheveled.”

“I’m surprised none of the other villagers failed to realize what a menace Mistress Whiting was to our little community, with her slanted green cat-like eyes and messy clothing.” Silas said as he stood and shrugged out of his woolen coat. “Surely there must have been more proof of her witchcraft?”

“Oh yes!” Prudence exclaimed. “A few days after we saw her in the woods she went to visit Ellen Hadleigh and the very next day their cow’s milk dried up and half of their hens went missing.”

Silas had to chuckle. “Couldn’t the chicken loss be explained by a fox?” He stood up and moved to the fireplace to add another log to the fire. The flames licked up, making his shadow appear to leap across the room towards the bed.

“Thou mustn’t jest Silas! There were other ills which Verity caused. She gave Leah some soup which did sicken Leah and caused her to fall down and have fits. That is when we both knew Verity Whiting was a witch. When Leah and I told this to Reverend Audley, he and Mister Brinkhurst did question Verity most strenuously and examined her for witch marks—and they found a third teat whereon she must have suckled a demon!”

“Oh I’m sure they did a very thorough examination of Mistress Whiting’s flesh.” said Silas, as he placed his coat over the back of a nearby chair. He began to remove his white, square-collared shirt. “I’m also sure they very much enjoyed the process.”

Prudence stole a quick look at Silas. The sun had gone down without her noticing and the only light in the room was from the flickering fire. She thought the uncertain light made his handsome face look somehow harsh; his brow and cheekbones seemed more prominent than usual.

“Prudence . . . I very much fear thou art not very prudent.” murmured Silas as he moved away from the fire to the far side of the bed.

“W-what do you mean, Silas?” she asked in a quavering voice.

“Well, my dear, I believe all the hysteria down in Salem Village gave you an idea on how to dispose of a rival. And you convinced your friend Leah to help in your scheme.” he said as he removed his breeches and climbed under the covers.

As he loomed over her Prudence began to wonder if the hard cider she’d had at the wedding meal had affected her vision. Although Silas was turned away, the fire seemed to be casting a strange red glow on his face. She blinked and tried to clear her vision, as the shadows made it appear that bulges were emerging from his forehead.

“Poor Verity—we both know that she did not lie with a demon, don’t we? Of course, after tonight you will not be able to say the same, my dear!” Silas said as he gazed into her blue eyes with ones which now glowed like two red coals.

Her sister Patience had been wrong. It hurt so much she tried to scream, but the demon Silas trapped it with his kiss.

Horrorquest 2011

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