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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Strutt used the test of the Lord's Prayer


this raised a stir. The tale was absolutely original, it was no less remarkable. A maid with a broken knee had run a half-mile and back in seven minutes, very good time considering the circumstances. On the next day the maid, despite the knee and the fits she had meantime contracted, was sent out on an errand. She met Jane Wenham and that woman quite properly berated her for the stories she had set going, whereupon the maid's fits were worse than ever. Then, while several people carefully watched her, she repeated her former long distance run, leaping over a five-bar gate "as nimbly as a greyhound."

Jane Wenham was now imprisoned by the justice of the peace, who collected with all speed the evidence against her. In this he was aided by the Reverend Francis Bragge, rector of Walkerne, and the Reverend Mr. Strutt, vicar of Audley. The wretched woman asked the justice to let her submit to the ordeal of water,[28] but he refused, pronouncing it illegal and unjustifiable. Meantime, the Rev. Mr. Strutt used the test of the Lord's Prayer,[29] a test that had been discarded for half a century. She failed to say the prayer aright, and alleged in excuse that "she was much disturbed in her head," as well she might be. But other evidence came in against her rapidly. She had been caught stealing turnips, and had quite submissively begged pardon, saying that she had no victuals that day and no money to buy any.[30] On the very next day the man who gave this

evidence had lost one of his sheep and found another "taken strangely, skipping and standing upon its head."[31] There were other equally silly scraps of testimony. We need not go into them. The two officious clergymen busied themselves with her until one of them was able to wring some sort of a confession from her. It was a narrative in which she tried to account for the strange conduct of Anne Thorne and made a failure of it.[32] A few days later, in the presence of three clergymen and a justice of the peace, she was urged to repeat her confession but was "full of Equivocations and Evasions," and when pressed told her examiners that they "lay in wait for her Life."

Bragge and Strutt had shown a great deal of energy in collecting evidence. Yet, when the case came to trial, the woman was accused only of dealing with a spirit in the shape of a cat.[33] This was done on the advice of a lawyer. Unfortunately we have no details about his reasons, but it would look very much as if the lawyer recognized that the testimony collected by the ministers would no longer influence the court, and believed that the one charge of using a cat as a spirit might be substantiated. The assizes were largely attended. "So vast a number of People," writes an eye-witness, "have not been together at the Assizes in the memory of Man."[34] Besides the evidence brought in by the justice of the peace, who led the prosecution with vigor, the Rev. Mr. Bragge, who was not to be repressed because the charges had been limited, gave some most remarkable testimony about the stuffing of Anne Thorne's pillow. It was full of cakes of small feathers fastened together with some viscous matter resembling much the "ointment made of dead men's flesh" mentioned by Mr. Glanvill. Bragge had done a piece of research upon the stuff and discovered that the particles were arranged in geometrical forms with equal numbers in each part.[35] Justice Powell called for the pillow, but had to be content with the witness's word, for the pillow had been burnt. Arthur Chauncy, who was probably a relative of the justice of the peace, offered to show the judge pins taken from Anne Thorne. It was needless, replied the judge, he supposed they were crooked pins.[36] The leaders of the prosecution seem to have felt that the judge was sneering at them throughout the trial. When Anne Thorne was in a fit, and the Reverend Mr. Chishull, being permitted to pray over her, read the office for the visitation of the sick, Justice Powell mockingly commented "That he had heard there were Forms of Exorcism in the Romish Liturgy, but knew not that we had any in our Church."[37] It must have been a great disappointment to these Anglican clergymen that Powell took the case so lightly. When it was testified against the accused that she was accustomed to fly, Powell is said to have said to her, "You may, there is no law against flying."[38] This indeed is quite in keeping with the man as described by Swift: "an old fellow with grey hairs, who was the merriest old gentleman I ever saw, spoke pleasing things, and chuckled till he cried again."

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