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THE WITCH.

CHARACTERS.

Old Servant in the Family of Sir Francis

Fairford. Stranger.

SERVANT. ONE summer night Sir Francis, as it chanced, Was pacing to and fro in the avenue That westward fronts our house, Among those aged oaks, said to have been

planted Three hundred years ago By a neighb'ring prior of the Fairford name, Being o'er-task'd in thought, he heeded not The importunate suit of one who stood by the

gate,

And begged an alms.
Some

say he shoved her rudely from the gate
With angry chiding; but I can never think
(Our master's nature hath a sweetness in it)
That he could use a woman, an old woman,
With such discourtesy: but he refused her
And better had he met a lion in his path
Than that old woman that night ;
For she was one who practised the black arts,
And served the devil, being since burnt for

witchcraft. She looked at him as one that. ineant to blast

him, And with a frightful noise, ('Twas partly like a woman's voice, And partly like the hissing of a snake,) She nothing said but this :(Sir Francis told the words)

A mischief, mischief, mischief, And a nine-times-killing curse, By day and by night, to the caitif wight, Who shakes the poor like snakes from his door,

And shuts up the womb of his purse.

And still she cried

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A mischief, And a nine-fold-withering curse: For that shall come to thee that will undo thee,

Both all that thou fearest and worse.

So saying, she departed,
Leaving Sir Francis like a man, beneath
Whose feet a scaffolding was suddenly falling;
So he described it.

STRANGER.
A terrible curse ! What followed ?

SERVANT.
Nothing immediate, but some two months after
Young Philip Fairford suddenly fell sick,
And none could tell what ailed him; for he lay,
And pined, and pined, till all his hair fell off,
And he, that was full-fleshed, became as thin
As a two-months' babe that has been starved in

the nursing And sure I think He bore his death-wound like a little child ; With such rare sweetness of dumb melancholy He strove to clothe his agony in smiles, Which he would force up in his poor pale cheeks, Like ill-timed guests that had no proper dwelling And, when they asked him his complaint, he

there;

laid
His hand upon his heart to shew the place,
Where Susan came to him a-nights, he said,
And prick'd him with a pin.-
And thereupon Sir Francis called to mind
The beggar-witch that stood by the gateway
And begged an alms.

STRANGER.
But did the witch confess ?

SERVANT. All this and more at her death.

STRANGER. I do not love to credit tales of magic. Heaven's music, which is Order, seems unstrung; And this brave world (The mystery of God) unbeautified, Disorder'd, marrd, where such strange things CURIOUS FRAGMENTS.

are acted.

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