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´╗┐Title: A Witch in Time
Author: Williams, Herb
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Witch in Time" ***

                            A WITCH IN TIME

                           BY HERB WILLIAMS

            _If historians have ever pondered that eerie
           and magical transformation of Abigaile Goodyeare,
            that "faire young maide" who aged so before the
            disbelieving eyes of gallows witnesses, mayhaps
                    herein lies the answer...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
             Worlds of If Science Fiction, February 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

    _I saw this faire young maide, Abigaile Goodyeare, standing yonder
    on ye gallows and shee saith againe and againe that she was no
    witch, although the jury had founde her guilty of ... familiarity
    with Satan, the grand enemie of God & man; and that by his
    instigation and help ... afflicted and done harm to the bodyes and
    estates of sundry of his Majesties subjects...._


Nat Lyon looked nervously at the girl huddled in the corner of the time
machine. There were white streaks down her face where recent tears had
washed off the grime of several days spent in a primitive jail.

Her almost jet black hair was a tangled mess, hanging in strings to
her shoulders. He wrinkled his nose in distaste at the odor filling
the small compartment. There was romance in history, he thought, when
viewed in the abstract, but not when one faced history in the person of
a female who had languished several days in an unsanitary prison.

"Pray, Sir," she asked slowly, and so softly he scarcely heard her,
"Art thou the Lord? Or one of His Angels?"

Nat started to laugh, but she looked so pitiful he checked himself.
"No, I'm a human being, just like yourself--except that I've never been
accused of witchcraft!"

A look of fear crossed her face. "Verily, I testify unto thee that I am
no witch, but have the fear of God before mine eyes." She was almost
frantic in her statement. She cringed farther into the corner. Nat
noticed the raw wounds on her wrists where the irons had chafed her.

"Sure, sure, I believe you," Nat said sharply. "They won't hang you
now!" Then he added glumly, "But they'll probably do worse to me if
they find out what _I've_ done!"

She looked up at him, wonder in her deep blue eyes, her long lashes
blinking slowly. Even her bedraggled appearance and the dirt that
literally covered her could not hide from Nat the beauty of her eyes.
"Then perhaps thou art an emissary of the Evil One, though thou hast a
kind look to thy features that seemeth not to come of the Devil."

This time Nat laughed. He had read the ancient records known as _books_
but hearing someone talk in archaic _book_ fashion was too much. "That
was quite a speech, Pretty Eyes. But get it through your head that I'm
a normal human who had a momentary lapse and did an abnormal thing. I
used the paralysis ray on wide range, stopped the show and hauled you
off the gallows. Right now we're in a time machine headed for ... I'm
not sure where."

The girl forgot her fear in momentary puzzlement. "Paralysis ray?" she
repeated slowly, "Stop the show? Time machine?"

"Oh, skip it," he said. "What we need right now is a chance to get you
cleaned up--and I think I know just the place. There's a pretty beach
in 18th century Mexico. It's warm, and there's a fresh water stream
running into the ocean. You can wash off some of that prison grime."

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun beat down on Nat's blonde head as he sat on a rock overlooking
a river mouth and several miles of Mexican beach. Abby--he'd finally
discovered that her name was Abigaile Goodyeare--was behind a clump of
bushes beside the stream, vainly trying to wash her voluminous clothing.

Now that the shock and humor had passed, Nat was deeply worried. He
couldn't take Abby back to his own time and announce that he hadn't the
heart to see her hanged, on the other hand, he simply could not take
her back to 17th century New England to be hanged for witchcraft. If he
dropped her off in any other time, they'd think she was insane.

Nat had been making a routine historical survey, part of the work on
his thesis about life in 17th century New England. And on his first
venture into time, he had ended up committing one of the most serious
crimes possible in his society--Time Meddling.

Earlier in the day, just before leaving Earth University in the 25th
century, tall, ascetic Anton Bor, Chief of the Time Inspection Corps,
had impressed on him the penalties for Time Meddling. Fixing Nat with
cold grey eyes, Bor had recited the familiar warning in calculated
tones: "At no time, and under no circumstance, are people in past ages
to know they are being observed."

It was Nat's first solo adventure into time, and his indoctrination, as
thorough as it was, had not prepared him for the shock he experienced a
few hours later.

He had been completely unprepared for the scene that lay before his
eyes as he came out of the thick woods into a clearing.

A gallows had been erected on a mound in the center of the cleared
space and a large crowd had gathered to watch what seemed to be an

Checking his invisibility shield, Nat moved closer.

A tall, gaunt man, with a look of righteous wrath on his face was
reading from a scroll. Except for his clothing, the man looked exactly
like Anton Bor, Chief of the TIC. Nat shook his head in disbelief, but
strained his ears to hear what the man was reading.

"... she was found guilty of felonyes and witchcrafts whereof she stood
indicted and sentence of death accordingly passed that she be hanged by
the neck until she be dead...."

Nat tore his eyes from the man with the scroll and looked at the

He gasped audibly at what he saw, so that several people nearby looked
curiously around. Realizing his error, he stood completely still until
the people he had disturbed turned their attention back to the gallows.

Again he looked at the woman. She was no half insane old hag, a
busybody who had meddled her way into a witchcraft trial, but a
bewildered, fearful young woman who couldn't have been more than 18 or
19 years old.

Her hands were tied behind her back, pulling her bulky dress tight
across her bosom. Her tangled, matted, black hair, the dirt on her
face, her wrinkled disheveled clothing could not hide a great natural

But what affected Nat most, was the look on her face. It was that of a
frightened, helpless animal, cornered by a vicious, heartless predator.

The self-righteous bearing of the tall man, the lack of sympathy and
idle curiosity mirrored in the faces of the crowd infuriated Nat.

Impulsively he had used his paralysis ray, an instrument that was
designed only as a last resort when a time traveler needed to beat a
quick retreat unnoticed. While the entire gathering was in a suspended
state, he had carried Abby away from the gallows, and clocked away in
the time machine.

Now, completely confused, he was sitting worriedly in the warm sunshine
of 18th century Mexico, wondering what to do.

Abby's approach broke his reverie. She seemed almost lost in one of his
spare one-piece coveralls. She was carrying her own garments, dripping
wet, on her arm. In modesty she had put her own quaint shoes on again.

Her dark hair curled wetly about her shoulders, and the exertion of
bathing and washing her clothing had left a becoming flush on her

"Feel better, Abby?" he asked in a light-hearted manner he didn't feel.

"Verily, thou art a strange one," she answered, lowering her eyes in
an almost obsequious manner. "Though the way thou useth the diminutive
of my name is pleasant to my ear."

"Well, your pretty face is pleasant to my _eyes_, but it's certainly
gotten me into a lot of trouble," Nat answered gruffly.

She looked downcast. "Truly I'm contrite if I have caused thee
trouble." The penitent look on her face melted Nat's irritability.

"Let's eat," he said quickly. "You must be hungry. And while you eat,
I'll try to explain what happened and maybe figure out what to do."

A week passed, and Nat still was undecided. He was puzzled by a strange
restlessness that nagged at him constantly.

That is, he was puzzled until the first time he kissed her.

The difference in their backgrounds was vast. They were separated by
centuries of time. But now, thrown together, facing a common fear of
the past and the future, there could be only one outcome.

At the end of the first week, they were sitting on opposite sides of a
beach fire. A soft breeze, blowing off the water, added a chill to the
evening air. Abby rose to put another log on the fire. Nat stood up
quickly to help her.

"Let me lift that, Abby," he said with an air of protection. "It's
pretty heavy."

"Please, no," she answered in her quaint way. "'Tis nothing. I have
lifted heavier burdens than this many times."

He put his hand on her wrist. It was the first time he had touched her
since he had carried her from the gallows. For the past week he had
been so preoccupied he had hardly noticed her as she had gone quietly
about their impromptu camp, cooking the wild game and fish he had
caught with his paralysis ray.

The feel of her soft, warm wrist in his hand thrilled him. His voice
suddenly left him, as he consciously realized for the first time how
beautiful she was. Her fresh innocence, her complexion, freshly tanned
by the Southern sun, seemed to fill his entire being. He drew her
close, kissed her full lips.

Because of her Puritan heritage, she exhibited surprise.

"Verily, Nathanial Lyon, my people would frown on an embrace like
this." Then she whispered, "But I find it most pleasant, because I have
grown so very fond of thee." With that she threw her arms around him
and pressed her lips to his.

Time lost its meaning, and they stood for uncounted minutes. At last
she shivered. "I feel a chill, dear Nat."

"No wonder, darling," he whispered. "We've been standing here so long
the fire has gone out."

That night Nat made his decision. "I can't take you back to be hanged,
Abby," he said tenderly. "But at the same time I can't go back to my
own time, they'd do worse than that to me."

"I understand not this time travel," Abby said thoughtfully. "If thou
canst send this device to any time of thy choosing, couldst thou not
spend months, or even years away and _still_ get back to your own time
when thou art expected?"

"That's it, Abby, that's it!" Nat shouted, jumping to his feet. "We'll
stay away a lifetime. And when we take the machine back, they won't
be able to do anything that matters because we'll have had our life
together! Or better yet, we'll never go back at all!"

Suddenly he sobered, dropped back to the ground beside her, taking her
hands in his. "That is, if you'll marry me, Abby darling."

"Why, Nathanial," she answered without a flicker of a smile. "That was
all settled when first I yielded to thy embrace."

Nat's mouth dropped open, then he laughed, as he remembered his studies
of the customs and morals of Abby's time.

"Abby, verily thou art priceless," he said delightedly in her own

She gave her opinion of him, silently ... with her lips.

"Abby," Nat finally whispered, "I'm going to give you the best
honeymoon a woman ever had."

"Honeymoon? Of a truth, I know not of what thou speakest."

Nat chuckled, then kissed the end of her pert nose. "You'll see, my
love, you'll see. But first we have to make you Mrs. Nathanial Lyon.
There was a time, right after the Third World War, when marriage
was easy, with no questions asked. So right now, it's off to the
disorganized world of the late 20th century."

And so began one of the strangest honeymoons in the history of Earth's
human race.

Nat and Abby were unseen observers when Pericles ruled Greece. They
visited the court of Charlemagne, walked through the streets of Rome
at the height of its splendor, viewed the glories and wickedness of
Babylon and Baghdad, watched the artisans of old Cathay.

But fate chose their honeymoon as the time of their undoing.

Nat had believed they would be safe for the rest of their lives. He
knew that detection of the time machine was virtually impossible
unless their full dimensional destination were known to the TIC ...
assuming that he had been missed in the 25th century, which he believed
unlikely. Sealed chronometers, installed by the TIC, would give him
away if he ever returned the time machine to base. But premature
discovery need be the only worry now.

As he had explained to Abby, "The power plant in these things gives off
traceable radiation, provided the tracer gets close enough. But right
now, tracing us would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. All
we've got to watch out for is another time machine with someone aboard
who might have reason to be suspicious of us."

And it happened just that way as they sat watching the original first
night of a Shakespeare play. Another time machine controlled by an
Arts student from Earth University appeared in an adjoining balcony.
Nat flicked his machine to full power--too late! The student, an
acquaintance of Nat's, had nodded in recognition.

Clocking away, Nat couldn't avoid a glum comment. "Well, the TIC
probably will be after us in full force now."

Abby studied Nat's face. "Darling," she said, "Let's settle down. Why
need we travel at all?"

Her calm erased Nat's concern. "We'll do it!" he exclaimed, confident

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat parked his new model T Ford in the garage. He walked quickly into
the kitchen, kissed his wife. It was no perfunctory peck so much the
practice in the times in which they lived, but a tender, passionate
embrace, as if it might be their last.

"Nat, there's been someone around the house today. I'm worried," Abby
finally said.

The muscles in his stomach tightened. "Maybe they've traced us. What
did he look like?"

"He was tall, severe, in fact he could almost pass for old Jonathan
Borden, the man who was in charge of my execution, the man who read the
charges against me."

"Anton Bor!" Nat said hoarsely. "The head man of the TIC!"

Abby threw her arms around Nat, buried her head in his shoulder. Her
arms held him with desperation. "Oh darling, we've been so happy these
past five years. They can't separate us. I'd rather die first!"

He tipped her head back, kissed the tears that had trickled down each
cheek. "If they catch us, we'll probably both die. But at least we're
ready for them."

He was interrupted by a knock on the door. Through the front curtains
he glimpsed a car in front of the house. A hasty look out the back
revealed another one parked in the alley.

"Quick, Abby, into the basement before they use a paralysis ray," he
whispered. Aloud he shouted, "Just a moment!" to the person at the
front door.

With nervous fingers Nat unlocked a heavily reinforced door in the
basement. He heard a crash upstairs as the front door was battered in.
At almost the same instant he swung the door open and they stepped
into the time machine. With movements they had practiced many times,
he tripped the activating lever and the machine vanished, leaving the
hiding place Nat had built around the machine after they had bought the
house several years earlier.

They weren't a moment too soon, for both felt the slight tingling of a
paralysis ray. Their departure had occurred just at the split second
when one of Bor's TIC men had pushed the firing stud. Even so, it
clouded Nat's vision, slowed his reflexes.

"Another second and they'd have had us, Abby," he said aloud, after he
had returned to normal.

She pressed her lips to his. "I hated to leave 1925, but we can start
over again wherever you say," Abby whispered.

       *       *       *       *       *

The surf crashed and boomed on the coral reef. Nat lay in the shade of
a cocoanut palm, watching the white clouds scudding by overhead.

Abby came walking down the beach towards him, tanned a deep brown from
head to foot, dressed as the Polynesians had dressed before Captain
Cook had discovered them.

"You're every bit as beautiful as the women described in the old tales
of the South Sea Islands," Nat said as she sat down beside him.

"And you're as big a flatterer as any sailor who ever told those
stories," she answered, although she was pleased by his admiration. She
lay back, stretched her hands over her head with a happy look on her
face. "I'm 30 years old and don't compare to our young neighbors on the
other islands."

Nat rolled over, putting an arm across her waist, kissed her tenderly.
"I'm the luckiest man in the world," he whispered.

She looked up, her blue eyes serious. "You don't regret giving up all
you had in your own time?"

"I didn't know what true happiness was," he answered firmly. "People
in the 25th century are automatons, hemmed in by rules, regulations,
regimented by necessity because there are so many billions on the

He kissed her again, as the warm trade winds ruffled her dark hair--and
they forgot about time.

But they didn't have real peace of mind. Fear of the TIC and the
tenaciousness of Anton Bor was always present.

Nat and Abby had learned the language thoroughly through the time
machine's hypno-translator, then picked an uninhabited little island
in the atoll. After weeks of sun bathing, they had let themselves be
discovered by the natives in their outrigger canoes.

The natives quietly accepted Nat and Abby as slightly different, but
members of their informal society, for it was inconceivable to them
that any but their own kind could be living on one of the atolls.

"This is a heavenly life," Abby sighed, stretching out on the sand one
day. "Cocoanuts, breadfruit, seafood, all for the taking. I'll hate to
leave it."

"But I'm afraid we must," Nat said slowly, "And soon, too. We don't
dare stay too long in one place."

From the islands, Nat and Abby drifted on from century to century,
usually stopping in post-war periods when both governments and
populations were preoccupied with constructive social progress.

It was during the American reconstruction period following World War
III that they again were tracked down by the TIC.

Nat was an engineer, rebuilding shattered Seattle, when one day he
spotted a tall, angular mechanic, newly hired on the project--and
unmistakably Anton Bor!

Ten years before, Nat and Abby had cached the time machine a hundred
miles away. Now, as they winged through the night in their private
helicopter, Nat groaned at the futility of matching wits with
scientists of century twenty-five.

"I don't understand it, Abby! There's atomic radiation lingering here
from the war. We're working on a reactor for the city's power plant,
yet Bor and his TIC manage to track us down."

"Perhaps, Dear Nat," Abby said, lapsing into her original old New
England speech, as she often did when thinking deeply, "He followeth us
by inductive methods rather than through his science."

There was a moment's silence. Nat broke it to say, "We've been doing
the obvious. Well then, our next stop _must_ be different!"

They cruised silently toward the hiding place of their time machine
until they saw the faint glow of a radioactive crater. A missile
missing its target, had gouged a large hole in the mountainside. Nat
had hidden the time machine in a cave as close as possible to the
crater to lessen the chance of detection by the TIC or casual explorers.

"Just in case they _have_ spotted our machine, and someone is waiting
for us, we're going to take the last few miles on foot," Nat said,
checking his paralysis gun.

He set the heli down in a clearing and they started cautiously forward
on foot, working their way up the mountainside, with all the tension of
a hunter stalking game.

A hundred yards from the cave entrance, they spotted a campfire. They
approached stealthily, and finally were able to make out the shadowy
form of an old man, apparently a war hermit who had set up a mountain

At the very outset of the Third World War, the expression "take to the
hills" had become a reality to many. Afterwards, when a prostrated
world had begun painful reconstruction, lone men and women, and
sometimes couples, continued to roam through the forests and deserts
of Earth. Fugitives from fear in the beginning, many had held to the
nomadic existence, liking their new individuality.

"He may be a TIC agent in disguise," Nat whispered.

"Why not use thy paralysis ray now?" Abby whispered back, "And not take

Nat nodded, and silently they crept forward. When they finally were in
range, Nat raised his weapon and pressed the stud.

The hermit didn't move a muscle. The dancing flames of the fire cast
strange shadows over the camp site, reflecting off his shelter half,
lighting the coffee pot sitting on a rock.

Swiftly, without fear of detection, Nat and Abby strode forward,
towards the cave and their escape.

As they reached the entrance they heard a derisive laugh. Whirling
sharply, they saw the "hermit" rising slowly to his feet, a late 20th
century weapon in his hand.

Horror stricken, Nat glanced at the paralysis ray in his own hand, the
thought flashing across his mind that the tiny atomic battery had given

"No, your weapon is still good! You just didn't count on our
thoroughness!" the man laughed, using the vernacular of Nat's own time.
"I've been waiting here a year, while Bor combed the whole area for

"Lord, Abby!" Nat gasped hoarsely. "They've developed a neutralizing
field, something they were experimenting with when I left."

The agent laughed coarsely in agreement. "Just come away from the cave
while I put in a call to Inspector Bor!"

They moved towards the fire, and it was then that the agent got a good
look at Abby.

His eyes moved slowly from her head to her feet, taking in every detail
of her full figure. "Some dish you have there Lyon. I'm beginning to
understand why you checked out on us!"

Nat was surprised at the agent's obvious lechery. Such animal reaction
had been largely overcome by the 24th century.

The agent snickered, recognizing Nat's surprise. "You asked for it,
Lyon, when you tried to paralyze me! There's still a little problem to
be solved in this matter of neutralizing a paralysis ray. Right now I'm
morally drunk, haven't an inhibition in the world." He licked his lips.
"Come here, girl. I want to see you close up--real close!"

Abby had drawn back, horrified, but now she leaned toward Nat and
started talking in the ancient Greek they had learned during their
honeymoon. "Let me try to seduce him, Nat. Maybe we can get away before
Bor gets here!"

"What's she mumbling about?" the agent demanded suspiciously.

"She's talking Greek," Nat explained. "She doesn't understand the
Anglo-oriental combination we speak in the 25th century."

The agent's eyes flitted back to Abby, noting her dark hair, her even
features, moving hungrily over her figure again.

"Come here!" he ordered huskily, motioning with his hands.

Abby stepped hesitantly forward, a perfectly simulated look of
puzzlement on her face. Nat stepped forward at the same time, hoping to
get closer to the guard.

"Stay where you are," the agent snarled, waving his weapon at Nat.

Abby looked around at Nat with a cautioning expression on her face as
the agent moved slowly towards her.

Careful to keep the gun pointed at Nat, the agent put out a hand, slid
his arm around her waist.

Nat could tell by her quivering shoulders that Abby was revolted by the
man's touch, although she managed a faint, inviting smile.

Nat was poised, ready to move in when the agent dropped his guard.
Then he suddenly felt stark terror as he saw the man pull out a small
paralysis gun.

"I think I'll immobilize you, Lyon, while I get better acquainted with
your girl friend," he rasped.

Nat jumped, but the ray gun caught him in mid-air.

       *       *       *       *       *

His thoughts as he regained consciousness later were an agony of
confusion. Feeling the familiar sensation of a time machine in motion,
he filled in the blank about what must have happened to Abby. Sick
with resignation he opened his eyes, then sat up quickly, blinking in
disbelief, for Abby was sitting at the controls of the machine.

Her blouse was soiled and ripped, her hair mussed and Nat thought he
saw blood on her skirt. But she was humming a tune as she checked the

"Abby," Nat cried. "Are you all right?"

Her smile said more than words. "You seem to forget, my dear husband,"
she said happily, coming over to him. "We tender New England pioneers
learned a few things about self protection."

"What happened?"

Abby shuddered. "It wasn't pleasant, having that beast paw me, but my
apparent willingness threw him off guard. About the time he started
ripping my clothing off, I used the little dagger we picked up in
Renaissance Italy." Suddenly a sob broke through her artificial gaiety
and she was in Nat's arms, her control completely gone. Her body racked
with sobs, tears streaming down her face.

"They're getting closer each time, Abby," Nat said reflectively. "Next
time they probably will get us."

"But we're still together," Abby said fiercely. "And, if we're careful,
they may never find us again."

Years passed. Nat and Abby's youthful happiness flowered into the
contentment of those who have lived their allotted years in wisdom. Nat
had retired many years before, and he and Abby were content with simple

Evenings they sat together on the porch of their Florida cottage,
enjoying the ocean breeze and each other's presence.

It was on such an evening that their world came to an end.

While they sat as usual, reminiscing, Nat wondered aloud if Anton Bor
still lived. He scarcely had uttered the question before the grass on
the lawn seemed to shimmer slightly, and a time machine materialized
before their startled eyes. Its door burst open and three men sprang
out with weapons ready.

After them came the halting, decrepit figure of an ancient Anton Bor, a
paralysis gun wavering unsteadily in his shriveled hands.

The shock was so great that Nat and Abby sat completely unmoving and
the full power of Bor's weapon caught them where they sat.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat and Abby stood before the Judgement Tribunal in the 25th century.
Mere punishment had long since passed out of existence. A law
breaker had his case reviewed by a board of psychiatrists, lawyers,
sociologists, even historians. A person's past was laid bare, in an
effort to find out _why_ aberrant action had been taken.

The board recommended remedial action that varied greatly from case to

"We find you guilty," the spokesman finally stated, "of Time Meddling,
an offence that can have the gravest consequences. In this case, our
problem is two-fold. First, we must correct the original action.
Second, we must do all in our power to discourage actions such as you
have taken.

"With this in mind, you, personally, will see corrective measures
carried out. Anton Bor, who worked so self-sacrificingly over so many
years to bring this case to a close, will supervise the correction."

This time Nat was prepared. The scene was exactly as he remembered it.
But now the gallows was empty, the spectators frozen statues.

"The paralysis ray's effects last for a little more than five minutes,"
Bor said with the coldness of a machine. "We have that much time to
accomplish our job."

Bound and helpless, Nat heard Bor bark a command.

He saw an assistant pick up the paralysed form of his wife, dressed
again in 17th century style, and walk out across the valley. He placed
Abby on the gallows, put the rope around her neck and moved quickly
back to the woods.

"Now we'll watch it," Bor said with cold finality. "I think my ancestor
out there, Jonathan Borden would be proud of me," he added with a trace
of smugness.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "_... as we watched, it seemed suddenly our vision blurred and
    there was the smell of brimstone in the aire and when we could see
    againe, there in the place of comely young Abigaile Goodyeare, was
    a wrinkled gruesome crone, more like unto a spectre, with gray hair
    and wrinkled visage, whose true age could only be guessed at._"


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