Rebecca Nurse was working in the kitchen of her cottage in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, preparing the evening meal for herself and her husband Francis. She glanced out the small window in the kitchen and saw flowers blooming. Ah, spring, she thought. Rebecca was the kindest woman in all of Salem, with her long silver hair, soft features and kind, loving eyes. She was the town’s midwife, and she certainly had a way with children, having eleven of her own along with twenty-six grandchildren.
Rebecca was a devout Christian, which was why the recent events taking place in the usually quiet town deeply troubled her. It was the spring of 1692, and it had all begun with two sick young girls who could not be woken. There was talk of the Devil’s work, and then all of a sudden the entire town was crying witchcraft. She was uncertain whether witches really had unleashed their wrath upon Salem, but she was certain the many of the accused had never danced with the Devil.
A girl of 17 by the name of Abigail Williams seemed to be leading a group of young girls who were crying witchcraft upon members of the community. Many of the accused were respected members of society that Rebecca could not imagine to be witches, giving her the impression that this may all be a fraud to some extent. Rebecca had just finished setting the dinner table when she heard the front door open. Francis is home early, she thought. She looked up to see her husband standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
He was panting, as though he had run all the way home from town. His thin white hair was windswept, and his expression pained. “Rebecca” he whispered. “Oh, Rebecca. Giles Corey just told me -“His sentence was cut short as he collapsed against the door frame, sliding down to the floor. He cradled his head in his hands, weeping quietly. Rebecca kneeled down beside him and placed a warm hand on his back. “Francis, what is wrong? ” she asked, worried. “Your name was mentioned in the court. They are accusing you of witchcraft, Rebecca!
The authorities will be here any time now to take you away to the jails. ” Francis was crying openly now. Rebecca Froze. “I am accused? By whom? On what grounds? ” she asked quietly, her voice shaking. “Goody Putnam. She has accused you of murdering seven of her babies when you delivered them! ” he cried. Rebecca was astonished. She couldn’t believe she was being accused of something she found it so difficult to believe in.
“There is hope, Rebecca. Sarah Good confessed and she was freed. If you confess-“Francis was cut off by Rebecca. I will do no such thing. I refuse to give in to such fraud. I am a Godly woman – I cannot sin just to save my life. If they wish to hang me, so be it. I will die a good and honest woman. ” To think that Rebecca Nurse had been accused of witchcraft was absurd; however in times like these, it seemed no one was exempt from such claims. Rebecca glanced at Francis’s face but had to look away. His expression was heartbreaking – tears were running down his cheeks. She knew he would want her to confess; after all, how could he live without her?
But her morals stood in the way. Her religious character made the thought of lying only to save her own life unimaginable. The accusations against Rebecca led her to believe that this really was quite possibly a fraud, seeing as she herself knew that she had never participated in any manner of witchcraft. To think that a bunch of teenage girls had deceived an entire town seemed impossible, yet it appeared that they had achieved it with such ease. When she thought about things that way, it seemed foolish to lose her life over such a laughable matter.
That thought quickly passed, though – she knew she had to do what was right. Poor Francis, she thought. She could not bear the thought of hurting him, but it was inevitable. She could not live on knowing she had lied. In the distance, Rebecca could hear horses’ hooves pounding against the rough dirt road. They are coming for me, she thought. Francis’s eyes were full of fear. A cry escaped his mouth. “Rebecca, please” he begged. “You have never sinned in your life – surely God would forgive you for saving your own life! Rebecca wondered – just for a second – whether she should confess, though in the back of her mind she knew she could never bring herself to do it. She had never lied in her seventy years, and she did not intend to begin now. “Francis, you know I cannot do it. I simply cannot. I’m sorry” she whispered. She stood and straightened her long black skirt. She would put on a brave face for these men coming to take her away – they would see no fear in her eyes. The horses were getting closer, their hooves beginning to sound like thunder on the road.
She moved to stand at the front door; waiting for the knock she knew was certainly coming. The horses stopped outside the house and, seconds later, there it was. Rebecca opened the front door to Ezekiel Cheever, clerk of the court. “Good evening, Goody Nurse” he said, “I have received an arrest warrant for you. I must say, I was very surprised, but I am only doing my job as clerk of the court. I’m very sorry but you’ll have to come with me. ” Francis jumped to his feet. “You will not take my wife! Rebecca is the very foundation of the church, Mr Cheever, and you know it!
How can anyone possibly think my Rebecca is trafficking with the Devil? ” he yelled. Cheever’s eyes were filled with sorrow as he led Rebecca to a small wooden cart, where several other women stood already. He chained her wrists to the side of the cart. She stood tall, holding onto her dignity. She looked at Francis’s face, her eyes locked onto his. Rebecca did not falter as she watched him cry – she was a strong woman. She did not think of what lay ahead, of how awful jail would be, or of the fate she knew was almost certainly heading her way. Instead, she bowed her head in prayer.