Salem, Massachusetts 1790
Constance Sedgewick stood in the front hall of Salem’s Academy for Young Ladies considering the repercussions if she summarily changed Phoebe’s mother into a mute.
“Phoebe has no need for learning numbers,” the woman huffed. “Such foolish knowledge wastes her precious time.”
Constance crossed her arms. “On the contrary, I have not found it so.”
“Humph, why, you haven’t even been able to secure a husband.”
A fiery ire rose from within and might well have exploded forth had a crashing thud not sounded down the hall. Constance whirled to see the damaged portrait of her father lying askew on the floor. The air sizzled with magic. Aunt Gwendolyn, blessed with frequently erratic spells, must have overheard the unkind comment.
Constance, doing her best to control her true emotions, drew a long breath and turned back to Phoebe’s mother.
“I do recall your family operates the English Goods store. Have you ever considered, heaven forbid, what would happen if your husband should become incapacitated? Who would calculate the shop finances?”
The woman straightened proudly. “My son will run the business someday.”
“Your son is barely nine years of age. What if this sad event happened tomorrow?”
“How dare you suggest such a thing.”
Constance gently put a hand on the woman’s arm and guided her to the front door. “Think of Phoebe’s knowledge as insurance in times of difficulty. Do you wish a sharper to steal your business blind because you lack knowledge of numbers?”
The woman, apparently recognizing the attempt to remove her from the manor house, firmly planted herself across the threshold. “I see the merit in your point, but she must be prepared for society and a proper husband. Attention is required in social skills, music, and the arts. Could you not allow her to concentrate more on those talents?”
“We treat all our young ladies equally. And I do believe my aunts do an admirable job of teaching the arts and personal etiquette. We produce well-rounded young ladies here. But if you think Phoebe will be better served at another establishment, I will gladly assist with her transfer.”
Phoebe’s mother grew pale. “But there are no others in town with your reputation.”
“Then, we shall be pleased to keep her as a student. You must understand, though, we are quite set in giving our young ladies a thorough education.”
Constance stepped away from the woman and took hold of the sturdy wooden door. While smiling pleasantly, she slowly moved her hand, hidden behind the door, in a shooing motion.
“I must get back to my students. If you have any further concerns, feel free to return after lessons today.” She swung the door shut as Phoebe’s mother stood with a surprised and puzzled expression.
The poor woman probably wondered how she had moved the few feet from the threshold onto the porch. Constance giggled at the image. Oh, the small pleasures of witchcraft. On occasion it posed a great burden, but other times proved a blessing.
© Sandy Moffett Bewitching Excerpt