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on both sides in matters that are indifferent to us, the safest method is to give up ourselves to neither.

It is with this temper of mind that I consider the ; subject of witchcraft.° When I hear the relations

that are made from all parts of the world, not only from Norway and Lapland, from the East and West Indies, but from every particular nation in Europe,

I cannot forbear thinking that there is such an inter10 course and commerce with evil spirits as that which

we express by the name of witchcraft. But when I consider that the ignorant and credulous parts of the world abound most in these relations, and that the

persons among us who are supposed to engage in such 15 an infernal commerce are people of a weak under

standing and a crazed imagination, and at the same time reflect upon the many impostures and delusions of this nature that have been detected in all ages, I

endeavor to suspend my belief till I hear more certain 20 accounts than any which have yet come to my

knowledge. In short, when I consider the question, whether there are such persons in the world as those we call witches, my mind is divided between the two oppo

site opinions: or rather (to speak my thoughts freely) 25 I believe in general that there is, and has been, such

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a thing as witchcraft; but at the same time can give no credit to any particular instance of it.

I am engaged in this speculation by some occur rences that I met with yesterday, which I shall give my reader an account of at large. As I was walking ! with my friend Sir Roger by the side of one of his woods, an old woman applied herself to me for my charity. Her dress and figure put me in mind of the following description in Otway:

In a close lane as I pursued my journey,
I spied a wrinkled hag, with age grown double,
Picking dry sticks, and mumbling to herself.
Her eyes with scalding rheum were gall’d and red;
Cold palsy shook her head ; her hands seem'd withered ;
And on her crooked shoulders had she wrapp'd
The tatter'd remnants of an old striped hanging,
Which served to keep her carcase from the cold:
So there was nothing of a piece about her.
Her lower weeds were all o'er coarsely patch'd
With diff'rent color'd rags, black, red, white, yellow,
And seem'd to speak variety of wretchedness.

As I was musing on this description, and comparing it with the object before me, the Knight told me that this very old woman had the reputation of a witch all over the country, that her lips were observed to be az always in motion, and that there was not a switch

about her house which her neighbors did not believe had carried her several hundreds of miles. If she chanced to stumble, they always found sticks or

straws that lay in the figure of a cross before her. If 5 sie made any mistake at church, and cried Amen in

a wrong place, they never failed to conclude that she was saying her prayers backwards. There was not a maid in the parish that would take a pin of her,

though she would offer a bag of money with it. She 10 goes by the name of Moll White, and has made the

country ring with several imaginary exploits which are palmed upon her. If the dairy maid does not make her butter come so soon as she should have it,

Moll White is at the bottom of the churn. If a horse 15 sweats in the stable, Moll White has been upon his

back. If a hare makes an unexpected escape from the hounds, the huntsman curses Moll White. “Nay,” says Sir Roger, “I have known the master of the pack,

upon such an occasion, send one of his servants to see 20 if Moll White had been out that morning.”

This account raised my curiosity so far, that I begged my friend Sir Roger to go with me into her hovel, which stood in a solitary corner under the side

of the wood. Upon our first entering Sir Roger 25 winked to me, and pointed at something that stood

behind the door, which, upon looking that way, I found to be an old broomstaff. At the same time he whispered me in the ear to take notice of a tabby cat that sat in the chimney-corner, which, as the old Knight told me, lay under as bad a report as Molls White herself; for besides that Moll is said often to accompany her in the same shape, the cat is reported to have spoken twice or thrice in her life, and to have played several pranks above the capacity of an ordinary cat.

I was secretly concerned to see human nature in so much wretchedness and disgrace, but at the same time could not forbear smiling to hear Sir Roger, who is a little puzzled about the old woman, advising her as a Justice of Peace to avoid all communication with the is devil, and never to hurt any of her neighbors' cattle. We concluded our visit with a bounty, which was very acceptable.

In our return home, Sir Roger told me that old Moll had been often brought before him for making chil- er dren spit pins, and giving maids the nightmare; and that the country people would be tossing her into a pond and trying experiments with her every day, if it was not for him and his chaplain.

I have since found upon inquiry that Sir Roger was 25 several times staggered with the reports that had been brought him concerning this old woman, and would frequently have bound her over to the county sessions

had not his chaplain, with much ado, persuaded him to 5 the contrary.

I have been the more particular in this account, because I hear there is scarce a village in England that has not a Moll White in it. When an old woman

begins to dote, and grow chargeable to a parish, she 10 is generally turned into a witch, and fills the whole

country with extravagant fancies, imaginary distempers, and terrifying dreams. In the meantime, the poor wretch that is the innocent occasion of so many

evils begins to be frighted at herself, and sometimes 15 confesses secret commerce and familiarities that her

imagination forms in a delirious old age. This frequently cuts off charity from the greatest objects of compassion, and inspires people with a malevolence

towards those poor decrepit parts of our species, in 20 whom human nature is defaced by infirmity and dotage.


This agreeable seat is surrounded with so many pleasing walks which are struck out of a wood in the midst of which the house stands, that one can hardly

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