The fog was lying thick and heavy on the forest when the huge shadow of a horse and its owner broke through the bushes, followed by a crowd of wild beasts that barked and showed their sharp fangs whenever they came close to the stranger. Black trees were reaching with their wooden hands for the brave knight, scratching his cheeks and his eyes but the man did not seem to care a lot, he just continued his way through the darkness as if somebody had planted a map in his unconscious mind or an angel waiting for him at the end of the forest, showing him the way with some kind of invisible light. And who knew where he would have ended if there weren't that fields of ice – and this fearful horse jumping on the frozen lake. A first crack showed up…
A slight glimmer of light caught the attention of John Hale as he sank deeper and deeper into the cold water. A glimmer of light – more was not visible. His eyes hurt because of the damage the trees had caused and he could not open them more than half way. "What an unfortunate way to die", he thought sadly but with a smile on his face that was the only hidden sign of his secret pleasure when he could feel no noose around his neck. What a dramatically but cruel death would THAT have been…
But the light… It caught his attention like nothing else, it released the pain of his lungs when the filled with ice-cold water and let his attention go away from the gentle, calm darkness of the lake. And then he reached for it, made his tired legs move, his arms, that burnt in pain, brought him slowly up, to the light, to safety, away from death and darkness – Till they hit something hard.
Ice – ice and behind it the light of the angels, the warm hands of life! But how to get out of here?
He started to panic as he realized that he could not find the whole – The place where he crushed through the ice. He struggled, hit the invisible, cold wall with his fists and feet but could not fight the pressure over him and in his lungs.
And yet not! A silent "dock", and another one… A "crack" and brighter light. And something from up there that would have nearly hit his head when it crashed through the ice. Hands, dozen of them, grabbing his shirt and arms and hair. And yet he thought it was a dream or the angels` arms reaching for him. But then there was air – air, so healing, such a pleasure but yet making him cough and shiver. With all his strength he clung to the arms that held him and if he had enough strength to talk he would have begged: "Hold on! Don't let me go!"
But it was not necessary. As his feet fell ground he fell back, landing in somebody's arms, not strong enough to move and shivering because of the coldness that was chewing on his bones. Someone threw a coat or a blanket over him and then he heard them raising their voices – scared, surprised and somehow unbelieving: "It is Hale! It is Reverend Hale!"
Elizabeth was not pleased by hosting the new "guest of Salem" but had finally felt guilty when she thought of the fact that this man had tried to save her husband's life two years ago. So she had finally agreed to keep the Reverend at her house till his wounds would heal and his strength come back. Usually she would have given him the artic to sleep in, but Holly thought that a Reverend would deserve at least a bed so she went to the loft instead and gave John her room.
"Hopefully he will thank her when he wakes up … IF he wakes up – I wouldn't have done that! He should be happy that Holly doesn't know…", she thought to herself as she entered the kitchen with a basket full or bred. Her new maid stood at the kitchen-table, pouring some soup into a bowl. Elizabeth rolled her eyes but smiled. At least she had taught the girl relief and magnanimity. "She has always been a good girl", she mumbled and remembered the first day when Holly had brought a weak pigeon with her after she went to the forest. "She is sick. I have to heal her wing", was all that she had said before she had brought the bird to her room. Since that day Elizabeth was not secure from animals of any kind. Holly's destiny was it to take care for the weaker creatures in God's paradise – At least that was what the child thought.
"You do know, that John Hale is a human being and not one of those puppies you use to cuddle with after taking care for them don't you?", Elizabeth joked as she placed the basket on the table. Holly had to laugh a bit but answered quickly: "I am engaged, Elizabeth. You should know that." Oh yeah, how could she have forgotten that – Just two months ago Danforth had had the lovely idea to marry his granddaughter to a member of the court: rich, with a white name and 25 years more on his back than sweet Holly.
And the child did not even say a word of arguing…
"I will have a look if Sir Hale is awake and bring him the soup", said Elizabeth and took the bowl out of Holly's hands. "Go and take a break. You can play with the boys in the garden if you like. Or you may go for a little walk to breathe the fresh winter air. The weather is beautiful. But remember: only one pet at a time! So no more animals from the forest as long as we have Hale." Elizabeth smiled happy when she saw the girl giggle. Holly saw her as her mother and so she was pleased when she could make her feel better even though their general situations – both Elizabeth's and Holly's – were not that good.
"Aye, mam", the young girl answered before she rushed out of the backdoor into the yard.
"Two years, Elizabeth", the lady of the household whispered to herself. "Two years – and you are still afraid that she could become a brat like Abigail was…"
Then she turned around and began to walk upstairs.