Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/446

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cause of death? None could say. Then he must have been bewitched. By whom? Yesterday he refused a penny to so and so, a chattering old hag. What more likely, etc., etc. Long before so many questions had been asked and answered, a case, perhaps of heart disease, had been fastened upon some local witch who did not deny the charge.

All this is but illustrative of that temper of credulity so superlatively characteristic of the Elizabethan character. Not only were the people ready to believe these tales of the supernatural acts performed by witches, but the witches themselves came to believe in them as ardently as did any of their disciples. It is a mistake to think that they were all fakirs through and through as were many of the professional swindlers described in a former chapter. Who has not at one time or another been startled by the merely accidental fulfilment of a wish? It is but a step further to him who opens the Bible at hazard and believes in the supernatural guidance to a selection of a text for the day, or to her who, having cursed her neighbour successfully, believes that the devil has supernaturally vested some of his power in her weak hands. Just as there were voices, like Reginald Scot's, occasionally crying in the wilderness against the folly of belief in witch-