As the young girl ran for her life, she scrambled over a fallen tree and then ducked to avoid a low hanging branch. Seeking some sort of shelter, Ester slipped behind a large oak and paused, then leaning against the trunk for support, she listened for her pursuers. At first, all she could hear was the frantic pounding of her heart, and the ragged sound of air rushing in and out of her lungs. Then, holding her breath for a moment, she heard them in the distance, stomping through the underbrush. They did not even try to conceal their progress as they came closer to her hiding place, calling out their taunts to the frightened girl.
“Come out, come out, where ever you are,” a voice she recognized as belonging to Physician Jansen, echoed through the forest.
“We mean you no harm,” shouted a man with a gruff voice, not far to her right.
“Stop fleeing, Ester. Surrender yourself,” called out someone who sounded vaguely familiar to the girl, but whom she could not identify in her panicked state. “You are only making this harder on yourself.”
“Girl!” yelled the town magistrate, Bartholomew van Den. “You will receive a fair trial prior to punishment.”
“You have nothing to fear,” teased Jacob von Thorpe, the young man whose romantic attentions she had scorned that very spring. “If you are innocent, that is.”
Listening to their taunts and placations, the girl tried to concentrate on catching her breath. Hearing a twig snap only a hundred feet away, she lifted her heavy wool skirt to just below her knees and took off running deeper into the woods.
She was soon panting once again from the exertion of her sprint. Risking a glance over her shoulder, the girl discovered that one of her pursuers was closer than she thought. Stumbling over an exposed tree root, she fell to her hands and knees, wincing when small sharp rocks dug into the tender flesh of her left shin and right palm.
As she tried to stand up, a hand suddenly closed around her upper arm. Ester gasped in fright and attempted to pull her arm away from her captor, but a hand clamped over her mouth. She felt warm breath blowing against her ear and cheek, and a voice said softly, “Hush, Ester; you need to be silent.”
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