toward his servant girl—here James glanced at Lucy to see her eyes widening in a guilty way, as if she were expecting to be called up herself—but the wrongdoer only got three hours with his legs clamped in the stocks and a fine of ten shillings to be paid directly to the aggrieved girl. His confession seemed to be the deciding factor in the lightness of the sentence.
Two men stood accused of Sabbath violations, and another woman of gossip. Unlike Goodwife Brockett, she suffered nothing more than a public denunciation, perhaps because she was an unmarried girl, or maybe simply because she seemed fully contrite. The harshest punishment fell on the last man, who was accused of profanity, apparently muttering, “The devil scald you!” to one of the deacons of the church. Most damning of all was that he was not present at the meeting. This earned him twenty lashes, four hours in the pillory, and a nasty fine to boot.
James’s English sensibilities had been shocked by the licentious French court, but this was shocking in a more disturbing way. Ah, to be in Paris or Versailles again. Preferably in spring, when the flowers were in bloom. Instead, he was stuck in this coldest, most stiff-necked English outpost in the darkest time of the year.
After that bit of excitement, the Puritan meeting settled into a tedious affair. There was none of the beauty and majesty of an Anglican service. Instead, a lot of parish business, some psalms sung without accompaniment, verse, or even someone to keep time, just a lot of warbling out of tune, and then an interminable sermon. Even the building itself was dull. No crosses, no stained-glass windows, no beauty to the vaults. All strictly functional.
Reverend Stone began his sermon with an anecdote about a man who paid his tithes, who kept the Sabbath, who didn’t blaspheme or bear false witness or commit adultery. Yet he was speedily on his way to hell nonetheless. For you see, in his heart he was a secret whoremonger, committing every crime from buggery to blasphemy.
Some twenty minutes later, James was dozing off, idly daydreaming about getting his hands on Widow Cotton, when Peter stiffened next to him. James’s eyes opened, and he was instantly alert. The Indian gripped the pew in front of him, knuckles white. A peculiar light had entered his eyes.
This was it. The disruption James had been seeking.
Reverend Stone continued. “These troubles with King Philip and his savages are a warning voice from the Lord. We set ourselves to be a city on a hill, yet Boston Town—the entirety of New England, even—has become no more holy, no more Godly, than any other blighted corner in Christendom.”
Peter rose to his feet. “You are wrong, friend!”
A gasp and a visible shudder worked its way through the congregation as dozens of heads turned to stare. Seemingly stunned, Stone could only gape.
James had known Peter’s reputation before hiring the man to return to his native New England. He’d even seen it on the ship, when Peter had interrupted the services held for the crew. But to see it here, in the midst of so many sober and devout Puritans, was staggering. An Indian and a Quaker—and in the aftermath of the Indian war too.
“Pray sit down,” Reverend Stone said, recovering. “There shall be no contention here.”
He sounded remarkably calm, considering that angry mutters were passing through his flock and a few men rose tentatively to their feet.
“God’s judgment is upon these people, that much we agree on,” Peter said. “But not for backsliding. Not for secret whoredoms or witchcraft.”
“Both of which you are well accustomed to, I am sure,” a woman said.
Angry assent mixed with scattered, nervous laughter. The speaker was Goodwife Brockett, the one so recently condemned for her gossiping.
“Thou hast cast out the servants of the Lord,” Peter said. His voice was strong and unwavering and easily cleared the growing noise. “The Society of Friends came to
Stephanie Rowe - Darkness Unleashed