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.Either way, Rebecca would be no longer of use.The attic was crammed with supplies—sacks of corn, barrels of apples, smoke-black hams hanging from the rafters to keep them away from mice—but no clothesline.By the attenuated glimmer of the single gable window, and the weak flicker of Abigail’s candle, they eventually located a stout coil of it downstairs in the porch, after what felt like half an hour of hunting.By that time the ground outside was a mere blur of iron gray, the sky barely to be distinguished above the coal-black line of the trees.“Can you find the thicket?” Abigail slipped the lantern-slide shut on her candle, and Muldoon nodded.“Then go now, and rig a line to the blockhouse,” she whispered.“I don’t know what I’ll find there, or how long it’ll take.”“Stand at the corner of the house toward the wood, then,” whispered the sergeant, “with the lantern-slide open toward me, or I’ll never find the place comin’ back.”Abigail obeyed.As she stood waiting, she could hear the drift of sound from the House of Repentance, a single voice, crying out in terror, shrieking in horror at the spirit of the witch that assailed him.Now and then, like the gust of wind in the trees, the congregation gasped or screamed in response.Like the Sons of Liberty, she reflected, when Sam would shout at them, Do you want to see your homes overrun, your goods plundered, your children at the point of British bayonets.?No—! Like the hammer of the sea.or the slow tolling of Boston’s bells.For a time she could make out the black shape of the sergeant, his heavy military cloak belling out behind him, moving over the paler ground.Then she blinked, and could see him no more.She herself could scarcely find the blockhouse, though she oriented herself carefully toward the dark bulk of it against the final limmerance of sky.She followed its wall around, opened the lantern-slide, pointed it out toward the wood.Herself a Daughter of Eve—the ninth and worst, she recalled: the woman who goes about the town poking her long nose into things that weren’t her affair—Abigail would have given much, to tiptoe down the empty village street and put her head through the door of the House of Repentance.She recalled how an uncle of hers described the girls at the Salem trials, screaming in agony and pointing at the old woman whom the jury had just voted as innocent: It was she, she, who was doing this to them! Did they not see her glowing spirit, squatting on their chests, strangling and pinching and grinning? The jury had reversed their verdict, and old Mrs.Nurse had been hanged.Sergeant Muldoon’s footfalls crunched in the dark, but Abigail saw nothing of him until he appeared suddenly, a yard from her, in the lantern’s feeble light.The sky was black overcast, thin wind running like scared rats over the fallow fields.The sergeant tied the end of his yarn-clue to a sliver of kindling, which he rammed between the logs at the corner of the house.“Let’s not lose that,” he said.Abigail shut the lantern-slide.The dark was absolute.They followed the log wall of the blockhouse back around to their right, and Abigail almost broke her shin on the pile of firewood by the door.Opening the slide, they could just see the latchstring.The remains of a fire glowed in the hearth of what had been a keeping room downstairs, long as two ordinary rooms and smelling of dirt and mold.Searching for the stairway, Abigail had the dim impression of a big table, a litter of broken baskets entangled with the knots and slag-ends of wool.Broken shuttles, and a whittled wood “wheel-finger,” told her that at some point this room had contained spinning wheels and probably a couple of looms, where the women of the village had pursued the wholesale task of cloth-making.Neither looms nor wheels remained.Along the back wall lay the stairs, a sort of heavy ladder that it would have taken all of Abigail’s strength to raise to its place alone.The room was as cold as a tomb.The ladder, put in its place, hooked onto pegs in the wall just beneath a bolted trapdoor in the ceiling.This opened into darkness only warmer by the most minute degree, a darkness that smelled of dirty blankets, mice, decades of mold, and of chamber pots long uncleaned.Abigail said, “Rebecca?”There was no reply.The dark lantern showed only edges, spots, and then only when Abigail had cautiously advanced to be nearly on top of what she saw.The room was a large one, lined—Abigail saw as she moved toward the wall—with two tiers of roughly constructed bunks.Some of these retained mattresses of ticking stuffed with what had once been straw.On others, only heaps of mousy-smelling husks remained.Wild skittering at the other end of the long room, and the lantern-beam glittered on a half-hundred little mousy eyes.Abigail walked toward the place, the light held out before her, knowing what she’d find close to that many mice.And she did.A bowl of porridge and a hunk of bread, comprehensively chewed by the vermin.A red pottery pitcher of water.The rinsed-out chamber pot, and the trailing end of a very dirty striped blanket.She held the lantern higher and closer.Rebecca.Asleep.Thirty-twoAbigail saw her breast rise and fall beneath the blankets.Someone had thrown a couple of those thin straw mattresses over her, for extra warmth.Rebecca was so emaciated as to be almost unrecognizable, her black hair cut off short and a dark, bruised area just back of her right temple, a half-healed cut in its center.A black bottle—and two dead mice—lay beside the bed.Another bottle stood next to it, exactly the same as she had seen in Orion Hazlitt’s house.Abigail knelt beside the bed.“Rebecca, wake up.” She shook her, gently but urgently.“Wake up!”She hefted the upright bottle.Nearly full [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]