By Frida Gurn, 13 Co. Leitrim
Charlotte Wilson was born, in a small English village on the 13th of May, 1605 into a family that wasn't poor but wasn’t wealthy. Her parents were William and Lillian Wilson. They lived on a small farm, which Mr Wilson had inherited from his father. Charlotte’s parents worked hard to support the family, her father on the farm and her mother running the household and raising her daughter. Charlotte, known as Lottie by her family, was fair haired and blue eyed and to any other person, looked exactly like any infant of her age. But what you wouldn’t know is that she was anything but a normal child.
Lottie’s mother first noticed that her daughter was unlike other children when she was about 3 years old. She had left her sitting in the garden playing with a doll while she was cooking in the kitchen. Lottie was a mostly quiet child, so Ms Wilson didn't think anything out of the ordinary when she didn't hear a sound for about 10 minutes. Suddenly out of nowhere, she heard desperate sobs and could just make out the girl’s cries of “mama, mama, please come”. Ms Wilson had never heard such desperation in her daughter’s voice, and ran outside immediately. Lottie was sitting exactly where she had left her, but she had tears streaming down her face, and she cried “papa.....he’s in t...trouble..... He’s h...hurt” Ms Wilson was instantly alarmed, “what happened to him?” “He’s... Down in the...barn”, Lottie mumbled between sobs. After telling her daughter to stay exactly where she was, Ms Wilson rushed towards the hay sheds, at the end of the farmyard. She pulled open the doors and screamed at the sight before her eyes.
Her husband was lying on the ground, an axe in his arm with blood all over him. “Lilly”, he gasped.
Ms Wilson’s blood curdling shrieks instantly alerted the neighbours and they rushed over to see what had happened. Mr Wilson was brought back to the house, and the doctor called. Lottie, who had been found exactly where she had been left, was carried inside.
The doctor spoke solemnly to a shocked Ms Wilson, “your husband is a very lucky man, if you had come any later he might not have survived”.
Mr Wilson addressed his wife, “how did you know I was in trouble”. She replied in a bewildered voice, “Lottie told me”. Then, turning to the little girl, “sweetheart, how did you know Papa was in trouble”. She blinked up at her parents and replied clearly, “the cat told me”.
Mrs Wilson gasped and her face went pale. Mr Wilson suddenly went serious, and spoke to his daughter in a grave tone, “do you mean that you spoke to the cat and it spoke back to you?” “Yes papa, he told me that you were in trouble”, she replied, not at all fazed by her parent’s serious expressions. Mrs Wilson felt weak and sank down into a nearby chair. Mr Wilson looked his daughter dead in the eye, “listen to me Charlotte Wilson, you are not to talk to any animal ever again, and you must never let any other person know that you can speak to animals, do you hear me?” ”y...yes...papa”, she mumbled, suddenly alarmed by her father’s tone. “That’s a good girl”, he concluded and Mrs Wilson took Lottie up to bed.
The next couple of years went by in a blur. Lottie made sure to never talk to animals in front of her parents but this didn't mean that she refrained from talking to animals altogether though. As Lottie got older, her connection with them strengthened. She would often run down the lane towards a field containing a pretty brown pony, belonging to her elderly neighbours. Out of all the animals she had ever spoken to, horses were by far her favourite. They were so calm and intelligent, and told such interesting stories. Sometimes, if she made friends with them, they would even let her have a ride on their back. Oh, there was nothing Lottie adored more than to sit on that brown pony, chatting away and listening to his fascinating stories about his life.
When Lottie was 5 years old, she started at the village school. Her teacher was Ms Smith, a kind looking young woman with honey coloured hair, hazel eyes and a warm smile. She directed her smile towards Lottie and she instantly liked her.
One Friday evening, as she was leaving the school later than usual, Ms Smith saw 7 year old Lottie skip down the road to the field with the brown pony, climb over the gate and begin talking to the pony, completely oblivious to the fact that her teacher was standing a few metres away, watching her carefully. Ms Smith was amazed to see Lottie tell the pony something, and it lay down so that the girl could climb easily onto its back. She continued talking to it, and it almost seemed as though the pony was listening and whinnying back, as if replying to her. She walked up towards the gate, coming into Lottie’s view. “Lottie, are you able to talk to the pony?” Ms Smith asked curiously. Lottie jumped suddenly and her eyes were full of fear. “N...no...Miss”, she stuttered, sliding off the pony’s back, and landing with a thud on the grass. She picked herself up, and when she stood up, Ms Smith noticed there were tears streaming down her face. She rushed over, concerned. “Sweetheart, I didn't mean to make you cry”. Lottie still looked terrified. “Mother and father said I was not to tell anyone”, she gasped. “That you can talk to animals?” Lottie flinched but nodded reluctantly. “I’m going to let you in on a little secret Lottie, I'm just the same as you, I can talk to animals too”, whispered her teacher, with the same gentle smile that she had given Lottie on her first day of school.
Over the next few weeks Lottie met Ms Smith at that same field, nearly every evening. She was so happy to have someone that she could trust and who truly understood her. She gladly told her teacher every little detail about her secret, all the animals she had spoken to, how her connection with them got stronger, everything.
That poor, ignorant child was completely unaware that she should never have spoken a word to Ms Smith.
One day, Lottie came to the field and waited for her teacher, but she never came.
Ms Smith, betraying every ounce of Lottie’s trust, went to the village priest and told him everything, stating that charlotte Wilson was a witch.
The priest, along with some other villages, stormed over to the Wilsons’ home. “We have unmistakable proof that your daughter is a witch”, they proclaimed.
Meanwhile Lottie was still with her brown pony, chatting away in blissful ignorance. Little did she know that her happiness wouldn’t even last another hour. After a while, she went back home, still wondering where Ms Smith had been. “She must have been busy with something, I’ll see her tomorrow”, she assured herself.
When Lottie entered her home, her parents rushed towards her with angry, yet scared expressions. “Who did you tell?”, “We tried to protect you!” cried both her Mother and Father at the same time. Lottie stopped and stared blankly at them both, confused by their outburst. “Listen, Charlotte”, her father spoke quickly, “your grandmother could speak to animals too”, “She could?” asked Lottie, suddenly interested. “Listen, child”, he said firmly, “People found out about your grandmother’s ability and accused her of being a witch”. Lottie was deadly silent. Mrs Wilson clutched her daughter closely, as though her life depended on it. “She was burnt at the stake. Killed. ” Her father spoke gravely. “Now the whole village knows about your ability, Lottie, do you understand what that could mean?” Ms Wilson burst into heartbroken sobs. Lottie was suddenly terrified, as the realization set in. Just then, they heard loud, boisterous voices coming down the lane. William and Lillian grasped their daughter tightly. They wanted to protect her, but how?