Sunday, January 16, 2011
THE MELUNGEON WITCH
The small porch was littered with flower pots of woven river cane and red clay, and bunches of dried herbs hung from open rafters over his head. Curiosity getting the better of him, he stooped over one pot covered in purple horn-shaped blossoms.
“That's comfrey,” a voice called out over his shoulder.
He whipped around to face a slender woman in her 20s, irritated at how she'd managed to sneak up on him without making a sound. A glimpse of her light olive skin, straight black hair and periwinkle-blue eyes were enough to mark her as one of them, the Melungeons. He'd lost count of the rumors about who the mysterious people were--descendants of natives, settlers, slaves.
“It was that Melungeon girl, that witch Cephea Collins, who's responsible for this foul business,” the townspeople had shouted at him, trying to convince the Sheriff she was his main suspect. He didn't cotton to such prejudices. Maybe it was a reaction to his Daddy's drunken rants against “the darkies” or maybe it was all the senseless death he'd seen on the Western Front in the Argonne, but he was just plain tired of people not getting along.
Cephea pointed to the plant he'd been studying. “That there's a magic plant. The leaves make a poultice for sprains and bruises. And the root's good for quinsy and whooping-cough.”
“It's also kinda pretty,” he said, then flushed red with embarrassment as her lovely eyes danced with laughter at his un-soldierly reply.