Study Guide

A Mirror for Witches

by Esther Forbes

A Mirror for Witches Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Mr. Jared Bilby, captain of an English brig, landed his ship in Britanny on a day when the French burned more than two hundred witches and warlocks. Attracted by the holocaust, he saw a tiny girl trying to pass the guards in order to reach her burning mother. Bilby sheltered the child and took her home. He thought she would forget her past, for she lay in a swoon for days; but she remembered only the evil of the years before she met Bilby.

Bilby called the little one his dolly and soon the child was known as Bilby’s Doll. They adored each other, but Bilby’s wife Hannah hated the child as soon as she saw her. Hannah had been barren for years but had recently become pregnant. One searing look from Doll withered Hannah to the marrow, and she believed thereafter that Doll had blasted her unborn child.

Bilby took his family to America. On the ship, they met Mr. Zelley, a minister who became friendly and settled close to them at Cowan Corners, near Salem.

Goody Greene, a kindly woman looked on with disfavor by the townspeople because she associated with Indians in her search for herbs, was called to account by the churchmen because she had let fall in church a poppet she had made for Doll. No one would visit her, but suspicion fell away from her and centered on Doll when Hannah became strangely ill. Hannah told everyone that Doll was a witch who had cast a spell on Bilby so that it pleased him to pamper and fondle her. Mr. Zelley also befriended the girl.

To join their properties, Bilby proposed a marriage between Doll and Titus, the son of Deacon Thumb. Titus, a virtuous young man, was attracted to Doll and willing to wed. One day, the Thumbs’ black bull Ahab was missing. Titus got up early the next morning to catch the animal at a watering hole. The bull, ridden by an Indian, came crashing down to the water. Titus called out and shot at the Indian. In the twinkling of an eye, Doll stood before him, her hands over her heart. Titus knew the bullet had gone through her, but there was no blood on her gown. He wanted to make love to Doll, but he felt only like a protecting big brother until after he had left her, when again he greatly desired her. From then on, he began to pine away.

Bilby wished to speed the marriage. When Titus came courting, Doll frantically locked up the house, but at last, she let him in. When he asked her to marry him, she bit his hand. He flung her away so hard that she hit her head and lay helpless. Titus wept.

Without telling Doll, Bilby had the marriage banns proclaimed the next Sunday. After Mr. Zelley had announced them, Doll screamed at her foster father. Cursed as he was, he took to his bed and died four days later. Doll kept herself hidden during his illness, but on the fourth day, she went looking for Goody Greene. Tracing the herb woman’s footsteps into the woods, Doll became lost. Lying down to sleep, she was startled to hear her father...

(The entire section is 1204 words.)