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WITCHFINDER Lodowicke Muggleton was a zealot. In league with his compatriot John Reaves, in 1651 these two declared themselves to be the “Last Two Witnesses.” They traveled from place to place ‘denouncing with great violence all whom they regarded as false professors of religion, and even magistrates and persons in authority.’ His fanaticism was sincere….
Lodowicke Muggleton was a zealot. In league with his compatriot John Reaves, in 1651 these two declared themselves to be the “Last Two Witnesses.” They traveled from place to place ‘denouncing with great violence all whom they regarded as false professors of religion, and even magistrates and persons in authority.’
His fanaticism was sincere. He more than once spent time in prison for ‘the vigour’ with which he prosecuted his commission. He published pamphlets.
Muggleton is no fiction. He ‘Dyed the 14th March 1698, then aged eighty-eight years, seven months, and fourteen days.’
His description was of ‘one with long thin hair, low forehead, protruding brow, broad high cheek-bones, and what physiognomists would call the aggressive nose’
He was a witchfinder.
In 1656 he exposed his doctrines in a work called “The Divine Looking Glass.” At about this time his followers formed a sect that survives to this day.
Just follow. There are complexities. There is no need to remember dates, no need to think in historical terms. There is only fact, and fiction, and how one can live in the shade of another. Most writers meld fact with fiction. It is an accepted mischief.
The introduction to the original 2003 text of “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” uses Muggleton’s description of a gown. Dora Pollexfen, the author, borrowed this gown for her hero Anna Pettyt. She was she said, “impressed” with the depth of emotion Muggleton displayed. “There is” she says, “an implicit eroticism buried within this piece of text.” And it is with this description of this gown that “I caught the first bright vision of Anna Pettyt.”
If you wish to leave your seats ladies and gentlemen, may I suggest that you wander around the hologram. Those who wish to inspect the material may do so with the aid of our museum’s curator.
The rich magnificence of this dress…the perfect elegance…and the simplicity of its adornment are matters of forethought. Not a garment to accentuate but to conceal.
Dora Pollexfen chose to live a solitary, simple life. Rising at dawn she would wash in cold water, comb out sleep tangles from her hair, set a modest fire if the weather dictated, and prepare an austere breakfast. By seven she would be at her kitchen table with the morning sun waking her potted window herbs. There she would write about Anna Pettyt.
We know as little about Dora Pollexfen as we do of Anna Pettyt. We can make assumptions. We can guess, and we know sufficient to guess with some intelligence.
She marveled constantly at the irony that her circumstances presented. That a poor 17th century peasant girl could create such riches for her. That such a creation could make it possible to step from the austerity of one life, to the opulence of another. This we learn from her inter-views.
That initial book “Anna: To the Alms of Dante.” Bewitched millions of readers.
Dora took the name Pettyt from a book. It was a book of biography entitled “Great Men of Great Britain, a second thousandth printing, published by Charles Griffin and Company Stationer’s Hall Court, London.
“I chose the name Pettyt because the man in question seemed to have such an interesting job. He was the Keeper of the Tower Records, and author of writings on the Ancient Constitution of Parliament. He was born in 1636 and died in 1707. Originally he was to have been my central character, but then I found that he had been ‘bewiytched’ by a peasant girl, Anna, whom he purchased for a bride on her thirteenth birthday. When I read Muggleton’s description of the dress, and the time in which he lived, the dress just seemed perfect for Anna. After all, William Pettyt, the Keeper of Tower Records, was an insanely jealous man. It all just came together. Anna the fiction became more real by having an historical character court, and marry her. William Pettyt had that most magnificent gown ‘in the known worlde’ made specifically to conceal the beauty of his possession…and of course his ‘possession’ more completely possessed him than he possessed her…”
nb: Quoted from the Inter-Views Cd Rom of 2003
Jack Hargreaves had his audience spellbound. He paused to sip iced water, casting his eye carefully at the potential for profit. He smiled at Michelle. Of all the bidders, she was the one who looked bored. Diffident perhaps. But then she held his gaze, and he lowered his eyes, killing the smarmy smile. He cleared his throat, and sipped a little more water; sure that no one had noticed his momentary discomfort. She was magnetic, and he forced his eyes not to keep straying to her.
“Gentlemen.” He paused. “Ladies” He flashed again his pearly whites, but this time patently fraudulent. “Shall we have a short break for drinks?’
The ladies were about him the moment he stepped down from the rostrum. Not for his surprising youth, nor for his brand of sparkling intelligence, but for the fact that he felt dangerous. Close up he seemed so much taller, thinner. His suit and demeanor were all Sotherby’s. His bearing too. However….
They all wanted to know about Anna. William Pettyt’s Anna. Was there any description of her? What did she look like? Was she beautiful?
Hargreaves fenced with them. He, like them had no idea, so he gave scholarly replies that were both articulate and clueless. He glanced around for that other woman, but Michelle had not joined the surrounding women. He felt ridiculously relieved.
A black-haired woman nursing a Blue Burmese cat came close. Hargreave’s nose stiffened. Her eyes were as bright as Belladonna. Her face round, and soft, and free of lines, though her forties must have fully enfolded her he supposed. Had she anticipated his agenda?
“Mr Hargreaves? What of Dora Pollexfen? Is she as fascinating as her fiction?”
“Yes..Of course.” He said, shrugging of a vague discomfort. He glanced in haste at the Burmese cat. Cats bothered him.
Hargreaves felt safer up on the rostrum. Removed from down there where his nerves rebelled. He strode back to his position, leaving the throng to their champagne and caviar. Returning to the fascinating fruits of his research. Standing now aloft, he paused, waiting authoritatively for silence. The low hubbub diminished, then stopped altogether. He worked the silence. It made the crowd uncomfortable, waiting. It relieved them to hear his voice again, and they became attentive.
He scrolled up on his Rombook, and keyed in Pollex…D. Please wait. Searching… flashed onto the screen and almost immediately the text appeared. He was secretly proud that he had so well anticipated the war. These notes, his notes had never been available online, even though it was illegal to withhold knowledge. Still, he felt justified. Particularly now.
“Coincidence?” He began, “or design? Dora Pollexfen had a relative. This man was not just anyone. The author’s relative was an exceptional man. He was Sir Henry Pollexfen, a lawyer. In 1688 Sir Henry acted as counsel for the seven bishops. Later he became the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He died in 1692. Now, notwithstanding that this places Sir Henry in the same time/space as Dora Pollexfen’s fiction, it is almost certain that he knew, or was known to William Pettyt. As I said at the beginning, follow me. There are complexities. Paradoxical no doubt, but ladies and gentlemen, please try to follow me. Remember how I said that fact and fiction can live in the shade of one another.
Hargreaves tapped his little keyboard. Pettyt.A.
He sipped at his water briefly for effect. “On 1st day of May 2004, the first of the New Era witches was attacked by the mob and burnt at the stake in the town of Kings Lynn in Norfolk England. Anne Pettit, a young farm worker was a practitioner of the ‘Old Ways’ She lived alone outside the town, and collected old texts on paper, having no desire for our digital lifestyle. The fact that she was very beautiful we can clearly see by our hologram. In recent months we have made the necessary calculations, and, as you can see ladies and gentlemen, this gown might have fit her form and figure with exceptional comfort.” Hargreaves’ face hardened with accusation. “Perhaps though it was no more than a coincidence that Dora Pollexfen’s irresponsible use of a simple girls name in 2003…that mischief of working together fact and fiction, condemned an innocent lass to death.”
Hargreaves began to feel that fire in his belly. Suddenly it had ignited. “Anne, the New Era Witch became known as ANNA THE NEW. That she traded at the local markets in crystals and charms did not help her case. Nor that she read the Tarot. Of course no one admitted to ever having consulted her. Perhaps it was all a tragic coincidence. Just an accident of space and time. Anne Pettit was never given a trial. She was permitted no confession, nor any defence. Her ‘examination’ was not lawfully conducted, no ‘expert’ was called, and no cleric was present.”
Now Hargreaves scanned his miserable audience with an accusing eye. Michelle held his gaze and nodded in slow, amused agreement. He shifted his gaze quickly, passing over the woman with Burmese cat.
“Anna: To the Alms of Dante” was completed as a paper book in January of 2002. Dora Pollexfen could find no market for it. Troubador wanted a classic ‘Bodice Ripper’. Others wanted something more ‘occult’. Larger publishers simply wanted a ‘spellbinder’ and found the work too scholarly. Oddly, others claimed it to be too sensational. So “Anna” remained in the slushpile of a hundred agents, editor, and publishers. Dora Pollexfen’s credits became debits, and she was pulled from the Credit of Commerce files. The final straw was the e-mail to tell her that she had two weeks to pay, or her computer access would be terminated. At the end of 2002 she faced the ignominy of being listed “Non Productive.”
Dora had no choice. She took “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” to the digital world, and as you may all know, it became the first paperless novel to sell more than ten million downloads. What we now know as the Universal Interweave was then called the Internet. It was slow, cumbersome and difficult to use. Equipment filled entire desktops, and with only sixty million subscribers, the internet was of suspect economic value.
An amused murmur circulated the room.
“The internet then was a village where anarchy prevailed, and the New Era Witches practiced their business openly there. Dora Pollexfen jointed the organization ‘Artists on the Internet, and she was soon contacted by a loose group of technogenius’, later to become known as the ‘Inter-illustrators Corporation’. And so I think it is true to say that “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” cast a spell upon those cave dwelling anarchists of the digital world. Anna now lived.
In 2003, a week before her disappearance, Pollexfen held an on-line conference. She was questioned at length about the many roles of Anna. The pornography, the violence, the heresies.
Hargreaves let out a wet chuckle as he pronounced heresies.
“In one interview Pollexfen admitted ‘It just got out of hand’.” He made his voice sound a little weary, with a small pause after each word. Then he gathered himself up and agitated his little keyboard once more.
“Pollexfen was lucky…or she was a witch.” Hargreaves laughed again. “ Her publisher was not particularly competent, but he was honest, and within a few weeks she had her credits re-established, and her name was removed from the Welfare files. In those early days she moved to Yorkshire, taking a small stone cottage on the moors near Whitby. Well, one could hardly call it a cottage. It was a windswept, vile hovel more than two hundred years old, and empty for a hundred of them. Close enough anyway. The records show that a hippy family briefly lived there in the 1970’s, and before that, again briefly, a rabbi and his family of refugees accorded the place some decency in 1945. And, in 1860 a young girl, besotted with the Bronte’s had taken up a romantic notion to live in that certain manner. She soon became a victim of the elements, and walkers found her body in July of 1861, almost rotted to pulp.”
The audience was losing it. Not so the lady with the cat, who kept her gaze firmly fixed on Hargreaves, to his dismay. Michelle seemed to be more interested too, and bedecked her face with a bright look of amusement.
Hargreaves the scholar, and historian , auctioneer of fine arts and artifacts, was being lurid! Or was he leading somewhere? It could be that he was simply full of egotistic excitement at his long years of pains taking research, and wanted to bragg. Nevertheless, in the collective mind of the audience, he was getting scary. The zeal of the salesman becoming the zeal of the zealot. Madness being managed for a moment or two, and then slipping once more. His fingers worked at the keyboard, slamming at the keys, and his voice took on a tone of fundamentalism. “Consider!” He roared suddenly. “It is possible…probable that the fictional Anna Actually, truly existed! According to the story, she was forced to marry Sir William at the age of thirteen. That Sir William was a most jealous man is well documented. Also well documented is his ‘possession’ by a girl so beautiful that he became ‘wylde with desire for her!’ and PERHAPS… driven insane by this girls beauty, he sought to cover her charms with such finery as …this!” He waved his arm towards the hologram, and with a satisfied smack of the lips showed that however flimsy the evidence, he had proved the authenticity of the gown. And now could establish a price. But Hargreaves was not finished.
“Our author Dora Pollexfen has the fictional Anna run away at the age of sixteen from the abusive Pettyt, taking with her nothing but this astounding gown. And Pettyt, enraged by rejection, called the Witchfinders to their business. Here, truth and fiction meld remarkably well together. The witchfinders business was a filthy one. Few had ever seen the face of Anna, so well was she kept from society. And so a great many innocents were tortured and put to death on her account. In the fiction, Anna fled to Yorkshire. So too did the real Anna. But Pollexfen would not have, could not have known this fact! For it is my research, from suppressed books and documents which unearthed this fact!” Hargreaves’ forehead beaded with sweat. He dabbed at it with a red silk handkerchief ripped from the top pocket of his perfect suit. “She fled to Yorkshire. Just, ladies and gentlemen as did Dora Pollexfen!”
His oratory softened suddenly, and his voice became the voice of reason. “Surely, just a story was all she wrote. Of course. Just an electronic, interactive fiction. Not so to the millions to whom Anna became a digital reality though ladies and gentlemen. Those who owned their virtual reality suits, or rented them from the pornographers, were able to communicate directly with Anna in the vilest manner. It was now that the dark side of the internet offered a new virtual reality story. “The Examination of Anna”. It came complete with the witchfinders manual and any person with the inclination could do with Anna whatever their hearts desired. Dora Pollexfen tried to sue, and failed. The entire “Anna” had become a licensed product, with royalties accruing to Pollexfens already massive account. Though she claimed to have been sickened by it, she accepted the vile credits. Anna was featured in a great many degrading occult offerings of those years. The computer generators made Anna something of rare beauty, although she could not have borne any resemblance to the authors Anna. Pollexfen had always written carefully so that no detailed description existed. She was a clever writer. Clues were all she wrote. Black hair, high cheekbones, small and slim, self-assured. There was little else to identify how the fictional Anna looked. Except for one thing. A small brown mole on her left breast, known in legend to be ‘the imps suckle’.
Hargreaves was on a roll. “Pollexfen befriended a young techno-anarchist. For two days this young man had murdered the entire world’s banking systems and had held the flow of credits single-handedly to ransom. He was never caught. Instead, he made contact with the techno-courts at Microsoft, volunteered his online identity, and furnished a suitable reason for his actions. He reinstated the systems, and wrote a killer virus which is still in use today. In return he was granted a pardon, and anonymity. He is now inaccessible.
Whether Dora Pollexfen contacted him or he Dora is not known. That they did collude is certainly known. Consequently in late 2003 Dora was ‘expunged’ from all files. She completely disappeared. There are no credit files to be found on Dora Pollexfen. No birth, marriage, or death certificates. No licenses of any description. It is as if Dora Pollexfen never existed at all ladies and gentlemen. She has paralleled her own fictional character!
However…we have some clues. Some evidence. The cottage on the moor remained occupied, though by strangers, and it is through these strangers, we find that Dora has become something more than a simple storyteller. She has become an accomplice, an active member in a digital coven dedicated to…Anna Pettyt! This coven networked with others, cast spells. Welters of publications in defense of Anna were published, and attacks made on the virtual porn merchants, purveyors of the obscene Anna.
The dark side retaliated with new software. “Witchfinder” was the first witch-hunting software. It was developed by a religious zealot whose fundamental harangues had pervaded the internet for years. He was a sincere, but somewhat obsessive man ladies and gentlemen. He was my father James Hargreaves. A crusader for Jesus. James Hargreaves formed the very first Interdenominational Fundamental Digital Church of Christ.
Initially my father wrote “Witchfinder” as an interactive text file. It was a sincere, but emotional outburst. A denial of evil. But, as happened with ‘Anna’ his text gathered new dimensions. Others helped him to develop, and as he grew in stature, he began to recruit.
PETTIT.A Hargreaves prompted. He sipped briefly at the tumbler of water.
“A quirk of fate ladies and gentlemen? That Anne Pettit of 2004 bore many of the traits of the fictional Anna? She too was a quiet girl, living alone in the country. She kept fowls, grew herbs, and concocted potions. She shunned the digital world, and was therefore, free of economic restraints. She possessed neither computer, nor credits, after all, she could not have one without the other”. Hargreaves wet chuckle returned. “This Anne, this young girl…she did not profess to witchcraft. Nor did she admit to any belief in magic, or sorcery. Or for that matter to the existence of a higher being. She would say no more than ‘All which comes from the earth must return to it.’ She slaughtered her fowls only at night, bleeding them over her garden. By the moon she planted her crops. She kept a faith which, she said was purely her own. She was not privy to our mass-communication. She had little idea of the thoughts and deeds of the masses. She was aware of the good, and the evil in folk, and she was visited for her labours. When the men who came tried to lay a hand on her she became a whip of steel, so that the flash of her eyes made them afraid, and the tensile spring in her body coiled to strike out at their eyes. It was attested by one of these men that she changed from human to cat and inflicted deep scratches, which constantly festered”.
The Burmese mewled. The woman held it closer.
Hargreaves hit the ESC button, and took his time to re-access the file. The hologram dress, turning slowly, and the smiling soft young face of the wearer Anne Pettit, gazed from under the sheer black veil.
“With the burning of Anne Pettit there came an outpouring. The Witch-hunts of 2005/5 took wings. In this one mind-numbing year of madness, our churches were brought to their knees. Priests, nuns, bishops, archbishops, and popes were denounced. Accused of child molestation, heresy, and acts of corruption. Cult moved against cult, war was waged in the name of Christianity and the ‘true way’ on Islam, and Islam fought back with all the might it could muster. Cataclysm. And as you know ladies and gentlemen, the world split itself asunder.”
Hargreaves paused, letting his words seep through to the audience.
“You may believe ladies and gentlemen… or you may not…that this is the dress worn by the real “Anna”… if indeed she really existed. Fact, and fantasy, and fiction may well have melded together to form it’s own truth. Perhaps. There is, in the record, a letter. It came from an early admirer of Dora Pollexfens’ work. In 2002 when “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” first touched our lives, there was a man, Air Vice Marshal Henry Pettyt. In his letter a ‘gift’ of this gown is described, in the hope that Dora would accept it from ‘an ardent and grateful fan.’ It must of course be a fraud. Undoubtedly. All those people I have mentioned here today are dead or disappeared. Many thousands of innocent people are dead… and some of the guilty. Millions more are now marked for examination. Now that the Universal Interweave is within the control of the Corporation, we have complete control of all knowledge. We do, say, think and believe only this knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen…today is a special sale. Today this auction house has the privilege of being able to offer you not a replica of a fictional garment…but…” With a flourish Hargreaves smiled and waved his hand. The hologram ceased its ballerina dance and vanished. A low appreciative gasp circulated the room. Hargreaves smiled broadly. He tapped his Rombook and closed the lid with satisfaction, taking up his gavel. The hologram, perfect as it was could hold no candle to this gown. Vermillion and black. Quite astonishing, it seemed to vibrate with a life of it’s own. “This garment..” Hargreaves began.. “Is no replica! The material is authentic. Dyed with cinnabar, and hand-stitched by the tiniest of hands. The material is of Turkish origin, and dated to the early part of the 17th century. Dora Pollexfen wore this dress! Found beneath the stone floor of her abandoned cottage on the moors near Whitby! Ladies and gentlemen, I have proved to you today that Dora Pollexfen, and Anna Pettyt were one and the same! A soul passed from body to body across the centuries! And it is in this garment, this spellbinding garment that she cast her spells. Ladies and gentlemen… what am I bid to start the auction? Sixty thousand credits? Ninety! I have ninety in the corner. One hundred and seventy… the lady with the cat” Hargreaves became flustered until the bid was raised. Michelle raised her hand at two hundred and twenty thousand credits. She smiled her amused smile at him. He returned it with a knowing nod.
Michelle Little chewed the end of her pencil, ever amused. It was between her and the cat-woman.
Hargreaves’ eyes beseeched, and Michelle held him in collusion until the cat-woman fell silent and hung her head sullenly. Two million credits, and ever a bargain.
Anarchy still survives on the Universal Interweave. There is a natural law that governs all species. Technology cannot outwit that.
The vineyards are good this year. It will be a rare vintage. The Chateau is quite splendid at this time of the season, and all is united, as it should be. The earth to the sky, all that lives to the earth, and Mother Nature in her kindest mood.
Jean met her with a smile as wide as his arms. I watched from the window. “Madmoiselle Petite! Bonjour! Bonjour! Welcome Home.” Michelle Little embraced the old man, who seemed to gain lightness in his step. He bent with ease to take her bags.
Now that Miss Michelle is home, we shall have a celebration tonight. For the thirteen of us alone, and she will wear the lost gown and cast her spells amongst us.