[Philippe Beaucoeur, who has approached from right but a moment before, and been partly hidden from view by those in front of him, now steps forward boldly. The knife in his red sash-belt glitters in the sun. His dark face is a-light with interest. His bearing is gallantly determined.
I will speak!
It is Philippe!
Stand back, Master Bradford. Be not so swift with your ducking-chair,
Goodman Caldwell. By what right have ye bound this poor old woman?
By what right can a Jackanapes confront his elders?
PHILIPPE (coolly). By the right of free speech in a free country. By the right of seeing defenseless age that lacks a champion.
(her voice sunk to a low moan).
PHILIPPE (gallantly alert, hand on knife). You have said your say against her. Is there one who hath spoken a word for her?
He has no right to confront us. He is not of Salem.
[Nevertheless, since Philippe is the only one armed, none step forward to seize him.
PHILIPPE (with light scorn). The worshipful Bradford speaks true. I dwell in a kinder place. The forest accuses neither man nor woman. Nay, do not frown at me, Holdfast Bradford. My hand is as well matched as yours.
By all the signs she is a witch. The moon rose red, and the wind——
(not to be cheated).
PHILIPPE. What if the moon rose red? What if the wind wailed in the chimney? Are ye children round the nursery fire that such things should be to you as signs? Ye have seen the same a thousand times before. Is this all ye can say against her? Is there naught ye can say for her—ye who have known her kindness? John Giles, who sat with thy brother when he had the fever? Goodwife Anne Brown, who helped thee keep watch the night thy father’s ship was lost at sea? Tabitha Brett, who healed thy childish hurts, and drove away thy tears with sweetmeats? Thrice shame upon you all! The poor old woman!
GOODWIFE WILLIAMS (wildly). Let her give back my child! Here is the cap that I found on her door-sill.
PHILIPPE. Let me look at the cap, Goodwife Williams. (Turns it inside out.) There is a name embroidered on the band. (Reads.) “Hester Wordell.” Not thy child’s cap at all.
[Hands it back.
’Tis more witchcraft!
And is that witchcraft, too?
(A child’s voice in the woods at right is heard singing:)
“In May I go a-walking to hear the linnets sing,
The blackbird and the throstle a-praising Queen and King:
It cheers the heart to hear them, to see the leaves unfold,
The meadows covered over with buttercups of gold.”
GOODWIFE WILLIAMS. ’Tis Barbara’s voice! ’Tis Barbara! (Enter Barbara, fleet as a shadow, from right, followed by Fawnfoot. Both take the unconsciously tripping steps that belong to the wild freedom of youth.) It is my child! Barbara! Where hast thou been since yesternight?