bookcover-traitorsnewThis novel was originally published under the title THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER.

In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin’s household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves—in many forms—who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage, THE TRAITOR’S WIFE confirms Kathleen Kent’s ability to craft powerful stories from the dramatic background of America’s earliest days.

 

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  • "Kent doesn't disappoint in this prequel to THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, taking readers back to Massachusetts before the Salem witch trials…" — Publishers Weekly

    "This vivid prequel recreates her doomed forebear's hardscrabble early days. Mixing history, love story, and suspense, Kent seamlessly blends true events with fiction to bring a fraught, endlessly fascinating period of American history to life." — People Magazine

    "THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER combines the steadfastness of well-researched historical fiction with the organic mien of oral storytelling…a story of deception and harrowing passion." — Bookpage

    "A solid piece of historical fiction, beautifully written." — Dallas Morning News

    "…[P]art historical fiction, part romance, and part suspense. Skillfully meshing these various elements, the author's latest effort is bound to please fans of each." — Booklist

  • C H A P T E R  O N E

    Billerica, Massachusetts, March 1673

    THE YOUNG WOMAN stepped from the wagon and turned to face the driver still holding the slackened reins. From Daniel's vantage point, looking through the shuttered windows of the common room, he could not read the woman's face but could see the rigid set of her back. The man in the wagon was small and as hard-set as a dried persimmon. The brim of his felt hat was slung so low and angled over his eyes that its very putting on must have been an act of vengeance. Daniel had met his wife's uncle only once at market, and the number of words exchanged between them could not have filled a walnut. But Daniel remembered well the look of triumph on Andrew Allen's face when the old man bested him at a calf auction. That he was now giving his daughter the last of his cautious, brusque advice was clear from the way he punctuated his words with a string of country sayings: "Hech, now listen to me," and "Hark you well to me now." The sorts of words that the old Scotsmen still used were like pepperweed in a mutton stew.

    Daniel moved through the common room and stood at the open door. He saluted the old man, saying, "Will you come in for a breakfast?"

    To his relief Goodman Allen shook his head and with a few muttered words of good-bye pulled his wagon around, taking the road back towards Andover. The woman stood for a long while watching her father ride away, the hem of her dress slowly soaking up the wet, ice-filled mud of the yard. Daniel studied the unbending arch of her neck, thinking it was a sad thing that she be past twenty and not yet married, still sent out by her parents into service, her few things put into some bit of cotton sacking.

    Taking the full measure of her forlorn appearance, Daniel shook his head in sympathy. Andrew Allen was prosperous enough; he could have at the very least provided his daughter with her own bed. But Daniel knew from his wife, Patience, that for all the old man's parsimonious airs, he swore, drank hard ale, and gambled at dice whenever, and wherever, the opportunity arose, and was tighter than a tick paying for anything he couldn't raise from the ground or fashion himself from driftwood.

    It would be a blessing for his wife to have another woman at the settlement. He could hear Patience even now retching and puking into a bucket by the bed, as sick in her fifth month with their third child as any girl would be with her first. He was eager to see his wife's cousin settled into the house as quickly as possible. The roads were freeing themselves of ice, and though they be a rutted misery, Daniel had a certainty that if he didn't attend to his carting soon, others would beat him to Boston, getting the best of the off-loaded goods from England, Holland, and Spain.

    He called her gently by name, "Martha," telling her to come in and settle herself by the fire. She slowly turned her head in profile to him as though still reluctant to give up her vigil on the road. A few dark strands of her hair, as coarse as a horse's mane, had blown free from her cap and whipped around her cheek in the damp wind. He braced himself for the onslaught of tears that surely must come in answer to being left, yet again, in the home of near strangers. But when she turned fully to face him, his breath caught in his chest, for there, in place of tears, was dry-eyed fury, and a mouth so pinched and implacably set that his first thought was to hide his tender belly from her approaching form. Good God, he thought, and cleared a wide space at the door for her to enter.



    A HEAVY RAIN had started that morning, pouring in unbroken sheets, and though Patience had begged her husband to put off his leaving one more day, Daniel had thrown an oiled canvas over his head, mounted his carting wagon, and clucked his heavy gelding out of the yard and onto the road. But for the downpour, Martha thought, her cousin would still be standing at the door crying, holding her slightly protruding belly, seemingly unaware that Daniel had made all haste in leaving. Martha looked about the room, noting all of the tamped-down and dirt-ridden rushes scattered beneath the table, the scabs of food clinging to the previous evening's dishes, the soiled linen loosely draped over a chair—the entire unwholesome mess creating odors both fetid and close. Patience, finally closing the door against the rain, began showing Martha the places where the house goods were stored.

    "Of the cellar," Patience said, motioning for Martha to lift the trap in the floor, "there are cranberries in a firkin of water, some wheat flour, cornmeal, two baskets left of apples, pumpkins, and squash."

    Martha took a candle from the table and, lifting the hem of her skirt, stepped down the shallow ladder to the cellar. She held the candle high and saw at once that rats and mice had done their job during the winter months, chewing through the poorly tended baskets. Remembering her mother's stone-lined cellar, carefully cleared each day of blackening mold or encroaching pests, she wrinkled her nose at a braid of darkly speckled onions, rotted and evil-smelling from hanging too close to the sweating dirt walls. She could hear Patience shifting her weight restlessly in the space above her head. Finally Patience called down, "It's been a month or more that I cannot climb the ladder. I send the children down to fetch food for the table … and they … things may not be as they should …"

    In the small arc of light, Martha quickly tallied the remainder of the cellar's holdings: one half-barrel of cider, thirty head of dried corn mixed with peas, two sealed pots of salted pork and salted cod each, one covered tin of autumn tallow, and fifteen candles in a box. The approaching scarcity of food would have to be addressed at once, as it would be days yet before any seed could be put to ground for the house garden. She had been told by Daniel that one of his two field men was a creditable hunter. They would need his skill, and soon, for they would all require fresh meat, whether it had swum or crawled, to have the strength to put the house to rights.

    She prodded with her foot a bag of potatoes made unfit for eating by lying too long on the damp floor, but she reckoned with a hard boiling the spuds could be rendered to starch for the wash.

    It would take a week at least to get clean all the dirty linens. Even now there were three or four baby's clouts hung close to the fire drying, looking as if they had not been scrubbed for weeks.

    She held the candle up to light her way to the ladder and saw the pregnant woman's face appear at the hatchway, her eyes and lips still swollen from crying. Underlit by the soft yellow light, Patience looked like nothing so much as a petulant child, even though the woman was on the downhill path to twenty-five. As Martha climbed up out of the cellar, Patience was saying, "I think it fitting that Will and Joanna be made a porridge now." Two children, a boy of perhaps five and a much younger girl, came to stand behind their mother, yawning and rubbing at their faces. Martha bent to drop the cellar trap, hiding a look of disapproval, as it was long past the breakfast hour. When she raised herself upright again, she realized with a jolt that Patience had given her her first order. She'd been there only an hour and already she was being sorted like a common stone to the bottom in household prominence.

    "When you are finished with the porridge you may—"

    "Cousin." Martha's arms had crept together to cross in front of her apron, fingers gripping tightly at opposing arms. She saw Patience wince at the biting tone, and she quickly unclenched her hands, letting them fall to her sides. She cautioned herself from speaking so abruptly, a habit she had learned from her father, and one her mother had warned her would chase away flies, leaving only the vinegar.

    She gentled her tone and began again. "Cousin, if I am to be both husband and wife to this house, there must be an order to things. Breakfast is past, and since there is no greater sauce to a meal than hunger, the children will eat at midday with the rest of us."

    "Martha," Patience said testily, her mouth pinched and resolute. "The children are hungry. I cannot have them hanging about me, crying for their breakfast for two hours or more until their dinner. Cousin though you may be, you are here to aid me in my labors. So now, if you will be so kind, you may serve the porridge for my children."

    Martha saw it all clear in that moment: this was the instant her place in the family would be decided. If she lost her footing at the outset, she would forever be dealt with as no more than a servant. She resisted the indignation that threatened to turn her voice shrill and said quietly, "Very well. But then Will may fetch the rain barrel, as he is such a great big lad, and if Joanna can stand on a stool, she may wash and wipe the bowls. You will need to call in the men straightaway and, if you can push a broom, you need to sweep free those rushes or we'll have rats crawling into the stew. I will soon need a book for the house accounts, a quill, and whatever ink you have for writing. The washing will be started as soon as we are free of rain, and I will want to strip today every bed and mattress and smoke them for lice."

    There was silence in the room for a few breaths until Patience, grabbing the mantel for balance, retched violently into the hearth. After the spasms had passed, she took each child in hand and walked them back to the bedroom, firmly closing and latching the door behind her.



    THE EVENING WAS late before Martha closed the door to her own narrow room. It was farthest from the hearth and cold; she could see her exhaled breath by the circle of candlelight. She sat carefully on the edge of the bed, feeling the ropes under the mattress give way, and began sorting through her meager belongings: two blankets and a pillow with ticking, a pair of summer stockings for the coming warmer weather, a good collar and cuff. Her father had given her a bowl to show Patience and her husband that his daughter would work to fill it with her own labors and not be a burden to them in this regard.

    I have certainly been a burden in my own house, she thought bitterly—although not from what went into her mouth but rather from what came out of it. Earlier, Martha had tried to make amends for her harsh words to her cousin by kneading the pregnant woman's back with lard and mustard seeds. Patience had shown her gratitude with a kiss on the cheek, and Martha had felt a more amicable balance restored between them. But in her deepest heart, she knew that relations between them would always be more like servant and mistress. Patience as a child had been sullen and demanding, with an inborn grasping nature that had blossomed into a sense of entitlement after she had made a profitable marriage with Daniel.

    Blowing out the candle, Martha pulled both of the blankets close under her chin and lay in the dark. Here I am, she thought, traded like a kettle to yet another family. She knew it was not just for the wages, though, wages that went to her parents; it was to find her a husband. Her father had said to her that morning as they rode in the wagon, "Ye've spent more time in the company of far relatives than in yer own house and ye still have yer maidenhead. Fer Christ's bloody sake, my hunting dog is more hospitable. Yer twenty-three and I begin to despair of ye ever comin' to bed with a husband. Can ye not for once, just for once, guard yer tongue and mind yer place?"

    It had been pointed out, and often, that Martha's own sister, Mary, had been married and settled in Billerica for ten years; she had a good home and a husband who provided for her, a son to share in their labors, and another babe on the way. Martha rolled over on her side, restless and overly tired, and spread her hands over her belly. She had at times wished it possible to be with child without having to be bothered with the needful attentions of men, their smells and their gropings, their intrusive probings. Even if she were to settle on a husband, and make children of her own, she doubted that her father would ever resolve his disappointments over her stubborn and contrary ways.

    Sleep finally came, washing over the demands of her family, the calculations of laundry to be done, the setting to rights of the cellar, the sweeping of the floor, the scrubbing and sanding of pots. The imaginings of work yet to be done stayed with her through her dreams and left her exhausted and ill-tempered in the morning.



    DESPITE A HIGH, buffeting wind and slanting rain, the entire household had embarked early on Sunday to attend the meetinghouse in the town proper. The women and children rode in the horse cart, each one struggling to hold on to a corner of the oiled canvas draped over their heads, while the hired men followed behind on foot. Sodden dirt caked their boots to midcalf, and the younger of the two, a Scotsman named John with a ruddy childish face, mired himself again and again in the muck. The other, a Welshman named Thomas, walked between the ruts in easy strides. He was, without doubt, the tallest man Martha had ever seen, and though she was accustomed to having indentured laboring men about her father's house, he had a hard-bitten look about him that made her uneasy.

    Past the one-mile mark, the cart tilted dangerously into a hole, one wheel sinking to its upper rim, and Thomas moved quickly to support its sagging weight. John took the horse's head and pulled at the trappings, but the cart would not be freed. They lifted Patience and the children onto a small hillock out of the ground water, but when Thomas offered his arm to help Martha down, she gave him a withering glance and waved him away.

    She jumped from the wagon into the mud, and as she struggled to keep her balance, she saw John palm a grin. Her pride would cost a good hour cleaning clods from shoe leather, and her irritation grew as John passively eyed her wilting progress to join Patience and the children on the hump of ground, already crowded with furze and lichen.

    Thomas bent his shoulder to the frame and, with little effort from the horse, pushed the cart rocking from the sump. There was no labored exhalation of air or grimacing of his face to prove to the women a superior show of strength. There was only a corded straining of tendons in the forearm and neck to mark the effort of freeing a baling wagon weighted with oak and a full morning's rain.

    "As easy as plucking a plover's egg from a nest," John said with a grin and a whistle. He gave his hand to Martha to help her back into the wagon, but she refused it, barking her shins as she climbed over the spokes. He turned his head to stifle a laugh and she blushed with anger. The Scotsman may blow all he likes, she thought, but it did not give him a place to ridicule her. She would bide her time, waiting for the opportunity, and then he would learn who gave the marching orders in the Taylor household.

    After the evening meal, Martha lingered at the table, watching John as his head drooped into the hollow of his chest. The meal she had prepared was sparse but savory, with heat and grease enough to loosen the day from the men's heads, and she knew John was thinking longingly of his bed in the new-built quarters behind the hearth. It was a room he shared with Thomas and was close and cramped. But the walls were boarded tight, the shake roof sealed properly with pitch, and, unlike the barn where the men had slept all last summer, it would not leak.

    "I heard howling during the night," Martha said suddenly, turning to Patience. "The rustling of the hens has brought feral things from the brush."

    John opened one eye drowsily and said, "Oh, it's only a fox come to pester the hens."

    "No," Martha said, shaking her head. "It was a wolf I heard."

    The rattling on the roof surged louder as the day's rain turned to ice. It would be an especially cold night, Martha knew, for anyone sleeping outside the walls of the house.

    "Mark me," Martha said to Patience, her eyes resting heavily on John. "Someone should stay in the barn tonight or we'll wake tomorrow to find feathers with nothing besides but air."

    John had been roused fully from his pleasant nodding and he lifted his head, cutting his eyes to Thomas, who sat close by with a whetstone, slowly sharpening a hoe. The stone made harsh scraping noises at odd intervals, and Martha sensed, although she was not certain, that the Welshman was marking every one of her pronouncements with purposefully long screeching sounds.

    "But surely," Patience answered weakly, "it is too cold. And Daniel has never before insisted the men sleep in the barn before the first of April …"

    It took another quarter hour for Martha to cow Patience into submission. She reminded her cousin that Daniel would be sorely disappointed to lose his prized hens to his wife's careless disregard, while bringing base and predatory beasts to their front door, endangering the very lives of their children, and on and on. Patience, complaining weakly, finally retreated to her bed, dragging the children along behind her. Martha, left alone with the men, turned triumphantly to John and pointed to the front door.

    John, walking as though carrying a sack of stones on his back, took his time putting on his greatcoat and sighed at long intervals, hoping for some word of intervention on Thomas's part. But Thomas said nothing as he quietly put away the whetstone and walked to the warmth of his own bed. John soon followed him behind the hearth, harping at his bad luck. His voice carried back to the common room, muffled but angry. "She's a feckin' nightterror driven to ground, Thomas. … To be sent out to the barn like a dog. … Come morning she'll know what for …"

    There was a dull creaking of ropes, as though Thomas had settled his tall form onto the rope bed, and he said in warning, "Lay it by, John, or she'll beggar you."

    Martha walked to the linen chest and pulled from it the thinnest quilt. She waited for John to reemerge from his room and, handing the quilt to John, said pleasantly, "You'll need this. It's no doubt very cold in the barn." She opened the door and then, as John stepped into the chafing rain, said, "You'll next time think before laughing at me."

    She firmly closed and latched the door behind him. Her mouth curled tightly upwards as she thought of John climbing, diminished and swearing, into the manger, the barn filling with the murmuring of hens and horses, a chorus blending with the sounds of wounded muttering.



    BEFORE DAWN, MARTHA roused the entire house to help with the washing. She sent Thomas to fetch John from the barn and he appeared at the table sullen but silent, his hair and coat covered in straw. In the midst of the breakfast meal, the giving and taking of food and the talk of work to be done, Patience sat slumped in her chair, carelessly picking at bread soaked in milk. One lock of hair fell in a limp ribbon over her face and her skin held a greenish pallor.

    Martha scratched with her nail a split seam in a stocking she had been mending and wondered if Patience would be well enough to at least mend some of the fraying collars and cuffs. A dark thought, playing beyond her work-filled mind, shifted and settled behind her eyes. It was common-enough knowledge among mid-wives that the unborn, to be born in good health, would by necessity make the mother sick, the mother's vital essences usurped by the quickening child.

    But something unwholesome and yeastlike in the pregnant woman's sweat made Martha uneasy. She would try to remember later to save by her cousin's water. In this way she would sniff out the unbalancing elements. She had been present at numerous difficult, painful, and even violent births, but she had never yet lost a babe and had learned from older, more experienced women the collective wisdom of generations: the seeing, the smelling, the touching, the knowing of the sacrificial rites of birth. No, she had never lost a babe, but three women had been laid into the ground, two of them shrouded in cloth made to grace their infants' swaddling.

    Walking out into the yard, she lifted her face towards the morning sun and, closing her eyes, felt the heat of it draw blood into her cheeks. The frigid sleet had ceased during the night, and the clouds, which had covered the skies for weeks, began to disperse into crisscrossed bands of gray. A crown of sweat soon prickled her skin under her cap and she opened the laces, pulling it from her head. An easterly wind, chilled and saltwater pungent, blew at her back, filling her apron like a sail and lifting the ropy strands of hair at her neck. She opened her eyes again, slowly, lids creased and fluttering from the sudden light and, with her fingers, smoothed away the sweat from the hollow of her throat. She tried banishing the dark thoughts about her cousin and filled her lungs with the briny air.

    A lengthy shadow over the yard startled her and she turned to meet the unapologetic gaze of the Welshman. He had been studying her, she had no doubt, while her eyes were closed and had come upon her with soft-footed guile. Behind him stood John, who was also staring, but he dropped his eyes once she pierced him with a threatening look.

    "Well?" she asked, jerking the cap back over her head, hiding the tangles of black hair. "The two of you won't work off servitude in the company of mischief."

    "I need my man to come trapping with me," Thomas answered, his voice deeply resonant, as though he had swallowed pebbles with his mash.

    Martha crossed her arms and considered him. She was a tall woman but next to Thomas she felt near to a child. She hated the way she had to tilt her chin up to see the whole of him. "My man," he had said. "My man," as though John Levistone were indentured not to the Taylors but to Thomas.

    "You can tend to your traps when the other one has finished the clearing," she said, turning on her heel and walking away. There was a satisfactory silence that followed her to the house, and when at length she looked over her shoulder, Thomas had returned to the barn. John gathered up a hoe and a slotted rake and began pulling a winter's worth of dirt and leaves away from the damp foundation of the house.

    She sat for an hour or more, sorting through the seeds that would go into the house garden. From time to time she looked up through the window or open door, following John's progress around the house. He sang snatches of a song, "'For other manly practices she gain'd the love of all, for leaping and for running or wrestling for a fall,'" sometimes stopping to swear softly or moan to himself, "Christ, the woman is a tartar."

    When she had finished counting the seeds, she glanced through the window and saw Thomas coming from the barn. He stood looking fixedly at the ground as though the firing pan had fallen off his flintlock. Something about the way he stared prickled the back of her neck.

    Leaving her shawl in the house, Martha quickly crossed the yard to the barn, coming to stand behind Thomas, who had knelt down and was examining a late bank of snow worn down to gray, rounded lumps of slush and mud and pocked with deep channels and ridges. When her shadow crossed his path, Thomas stood upright again, suddenly alert, his gaze sweeping across the melting fields and into the surrounding woods. She followed his gaze but could see nothing beyond the bare trees.

    He pointed to a marked depression in the mud. There, impressed like a mold into the wasting snow, were four distinct circlets over one larger circlet. Martha bent and spread her closed fist over the print and saw her own hand dwarfed by the size of it.

    "Wolves," Thomas said, looking at her with frank appraisal. "Two of them. It seems John and I will both be in the barn tonight."

    Martha hugged herself tightly with her own arms, shivering slightly in the cool, shaded air. There was no look of satisfaction on her face. Only a deepening crease between her brows, and lips that were open and moist, like a child's mouth caught at the moment of surprise.



    LATE AFTER DARK, Martha kept vigil by the window, listening for the howling or yipping that was not from a fox or badger. She sighed, remembering her last worded exchange with her cousin. Patience, ill and fretful, wanting only to escape to her bed, had become overwrought and cried uncontrollably when Martha pressed her to take greater charge of the men, especially now that wolves had come prowling to feed at their door. Clapping her hands over her ears, Patience had cried, "Do what you will, only leave me be."

    Rushing for the comfort of her bed, she had tripped over a stool, and when Martha rose to catch her, Patience waved her away and ran to her room, breathing bubbles of snot from her nose like an infant. Later, when Martha brought her a strained broth, Patience grabbed her hand and, holding it to her belly, wailed, "I am afraid of this birthing." She began to cry miserably and Martha stayed with her for a while, smoothing her hair and whispering reassurances that she herself did not feel, until her cousin had fallen into a heavy sleep.

    In a year's time, Martha thought, shifting her weight to peer out the window again, Patience would be delivered of another child, with a husband and a home. Even Thomas and John Levistone would, next spring, have land on which to build. Earlier that evening Patience had corrected Martha's mistaken belief that the men were indentured for the accustomed term of seven years; Thomas and John had in fact been hired by Daniel to work for three years in trade for prime land owned by the Taylors on the Concord. They had one more year of laboring on another's land, and then they would have their own.

    And what would she gain with her own sweat? Even the room in which she slept would have to be shared with Joanna and Will once the babe was born. And once Patience had recovered her strength and Daniel had returned, she would most likely be sent home. An unmarried woman too long in a strange household of men was a challenge to virtue, a carnal distraction not to be borne.

    Well, then, she thought, spring would bring open roads, and if she had exhausted her chances for a husband in Andover, perhaps the market or meetinghouse in Billerica would bring more success. Tomorrow would be the first of April, a day of hopeful warming, and she would begin the cleaning in earnest. She would open all the doors and with sand and ashes and birch rods both dirt and despondency would be swept away with the old season as proof of renewal for the new. Perhaps, she thought, her mouth twisting into a grim smile, some journeyman, still damp from the crossing, would stumble upon their threshold and see some coveted quality beneath the gritty sweat over her lip, and the stains through her bodice, and say to himself, "Here is a woman to wife."

    And thus would things be decided; for, Christ knew, the man who had a mind to marry her would not sit and talk to her about it. He would know that at her advanced years, if she had had a choice for husband, she would already have come to the marriage bed. It would be taken as a matter of course that the set of her back and the knitting together of her brows signaled the Work of Ages. It would be taken for granted that she did not have a thought or a wish for herself apart from carrying a man's seed in her belly.

    "And if I hardly dare speak to myself of other hopes," she whispered, "how can I speak of them to another?"

    She regarded for a minute more the ebbing light on the walls, and when the candle at last extinguished itself, she felt her way to her bed in the dark.


    Copyright © 2013 by Kathleen Kent

  • Since the publication of THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, Kathleen Kent has spoken with book clubs nationally, both in person and by phone, about the Carrier family history passed down through nine generations, and about her extensive research of the Salem witch trials of 1692. If you would like to schedule Ms. Kent for a book club discussion, please contact the author.


    THE TRAITOR'S WIFE 10 Questions


    1) What must it be like for Martha, a strong, independent woman, to be a servant in her cousin's home?

    2) Why is Martha so determined to gain the upper hand in her early dealings with Thomas and John?

    3) Giving birth in the early colonies was often dangerous. What do you imagine it was like for a woman at that time to be pregnant, lacking a proper diet and adequate medical care? Patience often behaves in a weak and ineffectual way. Does knowing about the perils of childbirth that she faced make you feel more compassion for her?

    4) Just before Martha's encounter with the wolves, she remembers a poem recited by an elderly great-aunt. The last line is "It is not wolf, but man, and brings a maiden's death" (page 53). What do you think the poem means?

    5) Wolves were a real threat in the early colonial wilderness. What do the wolves foreshadow beyond the coming of the assassins?

    6) Martha carries a dark secret. At what point do you think Thomas intuits her painful past experiences?

    7) When Martha discovers the scroll inside Thomas's trunk, a small piece of wood falls to the floor and "an aversion as strong as anything she had ever felt unfurled its way down her spine" (page 141). Discuss whether you believe some people have the ability to sense past events through physical objects.

    8) In chapter 12, Brudloe tells the miller Asa Rogers that it can't be difficult to track down one colonial lout—meaning Thomas. The miller answers, "To find men of stature in this place, in this hard wilderness, one has only to stand on a Boston wharf and look westwards" (page 148). What events do you think helped to make the colonists so capable?

    9) Martha's father tells her that he did not raise her to be liked, but rather to be "reckoned with" (page 266). What do you think he means?

    10) Often we think of the New World colonies as established on the eve of the American Revolution. History shows, however, that independent thought and action took root much earlier. Discuss ways in which the early spy rings of the colonial settlers aided the colonists' growing independence.

  • My second novel, THE TRAITOR'S WIFE, is a story close to my heart. Like my first book, THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, it is based in part on Carrier family legends passed down through 10 generations. In this narrative I've chosen to explore the life of Thomas Carrier, husband to Martha Carrier, who was hanged as a witch in 1692, and how these two remarkable people met and fell in love. According to family lore, Thomas lived to the age of 109, stood seven feet tall, and was one of the executioners of King Charles I of England. I am honored to bring you another chapter of the Carrier family history.

    Regards,
    Kathleen Kent

  • The Salem witch trials of 1692 were a unique and tragic part of American history. The trials and executions, which took place in Salem Village, included nearly 150 men and women arrested from many different villages in Massachusetts. The accused came from such towns as Andover, Topsfield, Beverly, and as far away as Wells, in what is now the state of Maine. Ultimately 19 men and women were hanged, and one man pressed to death with stones because he would not testify, either to his guilt or his innocence. The witch hysteria, and the ensuing legal actions, took a little more than a year from January 1692 to May of 1693, and yet the fascination with the Salem "witches" has never diminished.

    One of the most  terrifying aspects of the trials was the reliance by the court magistrates on "Spectral Evidence," said to be the manifestation of Satan's Invisible World seen only by the afflicted, accusing girls. It was the testimony of these young women which was accepted and written into the court transcripts; the original documents held for posterity in such institutions as the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston.

    Many of the accused, to save themselves from death, pled guilty to consorting with the Devil and so were only imprisoned. The men and women who held fast to their innocence were all condemned to be hanged. Martha Carrier, one of the 19 accused witches who was hanged, not only professed her innocence, but harshly admonished her judges for allowing the words of a few hysterical girls determine such a cruel fate for so many. It is a common misunderstanding that the Salem witches were burned, but no witches in the Colonies were ever killed at the stake as they were in Europe, as the British courts considered a burning death too cruel. But to the Puritans who had forsworn themselves to being in league with Satan, this false self-testimony meant eternal damnation. 

    The imprisonment of mostly women and children took place in some of the most appalling conditions ever seen by the Colonial judicial system. Upon release from jail, many of the accused were never compensated for their expenditures for provisions such as food and water, as well as for the very shackles and heavy chains that confined them. With a few exceptions, such as the grave memorial of Rebecca Nurse, there are no known grave sites for most of the executed witches, as they were tossed into shallow open pits after being hanged.

    There have been many different theories as to the cause of such a terrifying outcry by young women, ranging in age from 11 to 20, accusing their neighbors and friends of witchcraft; ergot poisoninig, encephalitis, and, more reasonably, conflict brought about by land disputes, disagreements over fundamental religious practices and the dread of attacks and capture by the indigenous native tribes. Whatever the confluence of causes, it is the mystifying social drama of family against family, friend against neighbor, that still haunts us and echoes today through the current events of religious intolerance, superstition and the fear of the "Other."


    The men and women hanged by the Court of Oyer & Terminer 1692:

    June 10 Bridget Bishop
    July 19 Sarah Good
    July 19 Elizabeth Howe
    July 19 Susannah Martin
    July 19 Rebecca Nurse
    July 19 Sarah Wildes
    August 19 George Burroughs
    August 19 Martha Carrier
    August 19 George Jacobs
    August 19 John Proctor
    August 19 John Willard
    September 22 Martha Corey
    September 22 Mary Easty
    September 22 Alice Parker
    September 22 Mary Parker
    September 22 Ann Pudeator
    September 22 Margaret Scott
    September 22 Wilmot Redd
    September 22 Samual Wardwell
    Pressed to Death
    September 19 Giles Corey

    For further reading on the Salem witch trials, the author recommends:

    "In the Devil's Snare" by Mary Beth Norton (Published Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2002)

    "The Salem Witch Trials Reader" by Frances Hill (Published DaCapo Press)

  • Dear Readers,

    Martha Carrier, my grandmother back nine generations, was hanged as a witch in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. Called the "Queen of Hell" by Cotton Mather, Martha was unyielding in her refusal to confess and went to her death rather than join the accused men and women who did so and were spared.

    I've read countless historical sources about the trials, including the transcripts that captured verbatim Martha's defiance to the court. But it was the stories of my mother and my maternal grandparents that defined more clearly the courage—and obstinacy—that set the Carriers apart.

    All the Carrier tales I heard as a child were enthralling. The children made bows and arrows and practiced shooting objects off each other's heads. Their cow was fed pumpkins so she would give golden milk. Martha’s husband Thomas was, according to local gossip, a soldier for Cromwell and the executioner of King Charles I of England. Thomas was over seven feet tall and, when he died at 109, two coffins had to be fitted together to bury him.

    Sarah is the central character of THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, and Martha did have a daughter with that name. She was arrested on suspicion of witchcraft along with her three brothers and spent months in captivity in a crowded cellar prison. It's my hope that weaving my family legends into the fictional narrative will bring an authenticity to the story of their tremendous bravery and fortitude.

    Regards,
    Kathleen Kent

  • The author recommends these related sites to learn more about Martha Carrier and the Salem witch trials.


    The Court of Oyer & Terminer transcripts, warrants, and depositions of Martha Carrier and her children, Sarah, Tom, Richard and Andrew (The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Paul Boyer & Stephen Nessenbaum, Volume 1)


    The Danvers (formerly Salem Village) Witch Trial Memorial


    Witch House Museum; the home of Jonathan Corwin, one of the key judges in the Court of Oyer & Terminer who signed the arrest warrants, and interrogated, the Carrier family. Judge Corwin, along with other Salem witch judges, signed the death warrant for Martha Carrier.

  • Thomas Carrier House, Colchester, CT

  • Thomas Carrier House, Colchester, CT

  • Thomas Carrier Tombstone, died 1735, aged 109 years

  • Martha Carrier Memorial Stone, Salem, MA

  • Author Kathleen Kent

  • Welcome reception for the Carrier descendants' reunion. Salem, MA, November 5, 2010

  • Carrier descendants from all over the US sign their names on the family tree.

  • Kathleen Kent talks to descendants about the history and research for THE TRAITOR'S WIFE. Salem, MA, November 6, 2010

  • Descendants gather to pay homage at the Martha Carrier Witch Trial Memorial. Salem, MA, November 6, 2010

  • The Red Book, where all the attending Carrier descendants signed their names.

  • Authors' Panel, First Church in Salem, MA. (From left to right: Elyssa East, Kathleen Kent, Brunonia Barry, Katherine Howe)

8 Responses

    • Kathleen Kent

      Dear Morgana: Often people will read Heretic’s Daughter first, and then Traitor’s Wife. In that order, some mysteries offered up in the first book, will be answered in the second. Best regards, KK

  1. Pam Masom

    Kathleen
    I just finished listening to The Traitor’s Wife. As a descendant of Martha and Thomas via Richard, it was great to have flesh put on the family lore. I had grown up knowing the tale but recently just finished the family tree back to Thomas and finding out more about Martha. I have pictures of the cemetery in Middle Haddam, CT where a lot of the Carriers including my grandmother Helen Carrier Tluck are buried. Will be downloading the Heretic’s daughter tonight to finish the story
    Pam Mason.

    • Kathleen Kent

      Pam: Thank you for your posting! I’m always thrilled to hear from fellow descendants of those two remarkable people, Martha and Thomas Carrier. I hope you’ll be moved by the story of The Heretic’s Daughter. It was truly a labor of love as it was based on stories my grandparents used to tell me about the Carrier family. I so appreciate all your support and enthusiasm for my work. Best regards, KK

  2. margaret jane bracher

    I picked up The Heretic’s Daughter at our local library hoping it would be a good read. I read a book for the writing ability as much as the story and I am very picky about what I consider to be good writing. I wanted to say that you are a writer of remarkable skill and I finished the book in just a few hours. I am so pleased to see that you have written more books and I can’t wait to purchase them for my collection. Thank you!

    • Kathleen Kent

      Margaret, thank you so much for your note. It is deeply appreciated. I hope that you’ll be moved by my other two books as well, The Traitor’s Wife (published as The Wolves of Andover in hardcover) and The Outcasts, set in 1870 Texas. Best regards, Kathleen

  3. Beverly Yacovitch

    Your novel, THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER, was recommend by LibraryThing.com based on my reading habits. I was pleasantly surprised that the story was of the Salem Witch Trial which takes place in Olde Salem Village aka Danvers, MA where I have lived for 33 years. I did not realize that the victims named lived as far as Andover. Your research was so accurate that it even named on of my ancestor, Ralph Farnham.

    For my Mother’s 80th birthday, I researched her family tree back to the 1500’s. Another name that I remember seeing in the tree was Toothtaker which my mother’s Maternal Grandmother is a decedent. The Toothtakers in her tree were from Maine but after reading your book, I found that Andrew Toothtaker, Roger Toothtaker’s son moved to Hapswell, ME. I was so excitied to know that a book had been written about one of my ancestor even if they were unsavory.

    • Kathleen Kent

      Beverly: Thank you so much for your posting! I’m always thrilled to hear from descendants of the settlers that lived in 17th century New England. I still hear from a lot of Carriers, and several Toothakers from back East. One of them Don Toothaker, a photographer, still lives in Maine. Who knows, you may be related to him. Thank you as well for your enthusiastic support of The Heretic’s Daughter. I hope you’ll be moved to read The Traitor’s Wife, a prequel to Heretic, and a more in-depth story of Thomas Carrier, an important player in the events leading to the death of King Charles I of England. Best regards, Kathleen

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