Winds of Salem Online - Melissa de La Cruz

chapter one

A Violet War

Late March in Salem Village and the early spring flowers were in full bloom—the yellow, purple, and white crocuses of the meadow, the lily of the valley in the woodlands, brilliant clusters of grape hyacinth and daffodils the color of baby chicks.Violets proliferated along the ponds and rivers all the way to the town harbor, and everything was peaceful in the vale as fat hogs lolled in their pens and cattle and sheep grazed in green pastures.

Inside the small wooden houses of the village, servant girls groped for their clothing in the pitch-black, rising before the cocks crowed to revive the dying coals in the hearths with a quick blast of the bellows. The womenfolk donned layers of petticoats and shifts, lacing up their bodices and putting on their white caps, while the men and boys pulled on their breeches and boots to set to work.

In one particular household, a farm on a substantial property on the village outskirts, encompassing part of the Great River and Indian Bridge, the maids did their best to keep their master’s temper temperate, or at least not blustering their way. The farm belonged to one Mr. Thomas Putnam, the eldest sibling and leader of the Putnam clan, a handsome but austere man, with a near-perpetual somber cast to his brow. Thomas was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Salem Village, although to his dismay and chagrin, not the most prosperous. That title belonged to land-rich families like the Porters and his half brother, Joseph Putnam, who also had a finger in the mercantile business of the port of Salem Town.

But such taxonomies were neither here nor there at the moment. Mr. and Mrs. Putnam and their children slept tranquilly as the house servants and farmhands began their daily work. On this fine morning, two young maids, Mercy Lewis and Freya Beauchamp, filled large baskets with dirty linens and cookware to wash in the nearby river. Mercy, a sixteen-year-old orphan, had seen her entire family slaughtered by Indians in the Eastward two years earlier. Freya, a year younger, had also ended up in service after she had arrived at the family’s doorstep one day, fainting dead into Mercy’s arms.

Freya knew her name but had no recollection of her past or her people. Perhaps she had survived the smallpox and lost her memory to the fever. Or maybe, like Mercy, she had seen her family killed, and the horror of it had caused her to forget. When Freya strained to look back, she saw nothing. She did not know where she came from. She knew the dull ache she felt in her heart was the absence of family, and she knew that she missed them, but for all she tried, she could not remember her mother or father or a single sibling. It was as if her past had been erased—taken—lost as leaves spirited away by the wind.

All Freya knew was that Mercy was a friend from the start, and for that she was grateful to have found a place in the Putnam home. With the large farm and several young children underfoot, the family had gladly taken her in as an extra hand.

The laundry and dishes assembled, the girls stepped out of the house and onto the dirt path, baskets balanced on their hips. Freya’s red hair, startling as a sunset, glowed like a halo in the early rays of light. Of the two, she was the more striking one, with her rosebud lips and creamy skin. She had a lightness to her step and a quick, beguiling smile. While Mercy was pretty, with pale blue eyes and a high forehead, it was not her scarred cheek or hands that made her less so, but a tightness to her person that showed in her pinched lips and wary expression. The older girl tucked a wayward strand of blond hair that had fallen out from beneath her cap as she stopped by a bed of flowers, setting her basket on the ground. “Go ahead, pick one,” she urged Freya as she knelt on the ground, “pick a violet, and let us have a violet war!”

“No, dear, we mustn’t tarry. Poor Annie is all on her own!” Freya said, meaning the oldest Putnam daughter. “We can’t leave her to tend the little ones by herself while Mistress is bedridden.” The lady of the house often took to her room to recover from the many tragedies of her life. Like her husband, Ann