Epilogue for Danforth
After the end of the Salem Witch Trials, Judge Danforth went back to Boston. His reputation, somewhat shaken by the innocents he had sentenced to death, was broken, and Danforth hoped to amend it back in Boston.
Danforth rode back to Boston in his cart and arrived home late in the afternoon on a Wednesday. His home was big compared to that of the time period, but not quite on the same level as the upper levels of city. It was wooden, painted black with an insulating tar, and had a sturdy oak door. The house had two floors, and a small attic, along with a one story guest house and a tool shed nearby. Danforth’s house wasn’t strictly speaking in Boston, but he was on the outskirts and very close to the court house he presided over. Danforth’s land was 1 ½ miles by ¾ miles, though only an area of about 60 square feet were cultivated in the form of his wife’s garden that she kept with the help his children.
His wife, Mary Withington, and his three remaining children (He had had 12 but 3 died before the age of three, and another 6 had also passed away) were very important to him, maybe even more important than his power. Danforth was a strict man, but not a cruel one, and as he entered his house he was mobbed by his two youngest children. He smiled and let them hug him, before walking into the first floor bedroom. His wife and three eldest children he found within, but to his dismay one of his daughters lay in the bed scarcely moving. His wife told him she had fallen ill very shortly after he went to Salem, coincidently the day he first sentenced someone to death. Slightly trembling, Danforth left the room and went upstairs. He walked down to the room at the end of the hall, his room, and was almost unable to open it with how bad his hand had begun shaking. He thought that God might be punishing him for what happened in Salem, and so he knelt down and prayed.
An hour later, Danforth came down from his room with a new confidence. He told his son that his daughter would be fine, that she was just under the weather, and had his dinner that his wife had prepared for him. Since he had had a long day of travel, Danforth went to bed right after dinner and woke refreshed in the morning. He dressed into his robes and went downstairs where his wife had already made him Breakfast, which he ate promptly. Danforth then went outside and, with the help of one his daughters, hitched up his horse to his carriage, and rode off towards Boston. When he reached the court several aides moved his horse to the nearby stable, and wheeled away his coach while he walked inside.
About two hours later Danforth was already presiding over a trial. The case wasn’t very complicated; one of the rich land owners was accusing one of the smaller farmers of theft. The man accused owned a small tract of land two miles from Boston. He did not own a large amount of land, but the land he did own right at a river, and a lot less rocky than most of the surrounding land. Danforth listened, almost bored, and his mind strayed to his sick daughter. He was woken from his thoughts by the accused. He was of middle age, and had a wife but no kids. His hair was light brown and his skin was tanned from working in the fields. He was telling the jury about how he had fallen on poor times with a bad crop, but he had never stolen from anyone. The jury looked skeptical, but Danforth thought that the man seemed truthful. When asked why he was accused, the man replied that he had no idea, and that the only thing he could think of was that the rich landowner wanted his land because of its location and quality. The jury looked unconvinced, but Danforth began to think of Salem.
In Salem the Putnam’s had had their daughter accuse people so they could buy their land. Was this so different, he wondered. Danforth knew that he could not honestly make a decision without his previous cases giving him doubt, and so his mind went back to his daughter. Finally he decided to convene the court for the day and reconvene tomorrow. Plagued with doubt and worrying about his daughter, Danforth got in his cart and went home as fast as his horses would take him.
The news was not good when he got home, his daughter was worse, and the doctor had no idea what was wrong. Danforth dejectedly ate his dinner of cold stew and bread, before going to his bed room in the hopes of some sleep. He found no sleep however, and his night was plagued with images of his daughter and the man he thought he had no choice but to convict, but seemed innocent. When he came downstairs in the morning his wife had not yet made breakfast. When he walked into the downstairs bedroom he saw his wife sitting with their daughter, crying silently as her daughter was barely responsive. Danforth didn’t say a word, but walked out of the room silently, and prepared to go to court.
Doubt engulfed Danforth’s mind. He began to wonder if this was a punishment from God for his part in the trials in Salem, or for how he would be told by a unanimous jury that he must sentence a man to death for a crime it was not proven that he had committed. The road to Boston seemed arduous and slow, and every bump in the road messed with Danforth’s fraying nerves. The longer he sat in his cart, the more his mind seemed to slip. Maybe he could decide to go against the jury and acquit the man, or maybe require some more evidence. Maybe he could recuse himself as to stay with his sick daughter, and leave the decision to someone else. But for every thought of escaping the situation that came into his kind, the coach of Danforth moved ever closer to Boston.
Finally, he came to a stop at the court house. The whole world felt surreal to Danforth. His daughter had survived far enough that he had thought she’d make it, and now she was dying. He was about to decide a case that he thought he was wrong about while trying to repair his reputation. Danforth walked slowly to the front of the court, and as he stared at the jury and the rich land owner talking, he began to lose some of his doubt. Maybe he was just being a little, or extremely, paranoid, reading into things where there was nothing to read into. Danforth brought the court into session.
An hour later Danforth walked out pale as a ghost. He had sentenced the man and immediately his doubts had returned stronger than ever, and he was starting to lose his mind with the combined doubt and worry. He didn’t stop to chat with the jury or the rich land owner, but made straight for his horse and coach. His worry began to take over. How was his daughter? Was she worse? Would he even make it back to see her again? He had been too preoccupied to even say goodbye.
He reached his house and it was completely silent. With trepidation he walked towards the door, when he heard a horrible wailing cry. His heart nearly stopped at the noise, which was followed by the sounds of weeping. Unsure of what to do, and completely overwhelmed, Danforth stood frozen outside his front door.
Suddenly, a shooting pain shot through his chest like a bolt of lightning. Danforth collapsed on ground, and lay writhing in such intense pain that he could not even cry out. Danforth’s vision began to fade in and out of focus, until it finally began to disappear. Scared and alone, Danforth’s eyes closed and his body stopped moving. It would be hours before anyone would find him.
In Boston, news of the Salem trials finally arrived at about the same time as the news of Danforth’s death and the death of his daughter. Rumor quickly spread that God struck down Danforth’s daughter, then the man himself, because of his role in the Salem trials and the innocent man he had just sentenced to death. The words “heart attack” and “infection” were never once mentioned.