Hopkins paced the stage, thinking. Everyone watched with rapt attention. He turned toward the Vicar.
“Vicar … how do you know Mary?”
“She’s been a faithful member of the church since I arrived here ten years ago. She volunteered to help the poor and distribute food during the plague. She works for the church now, cleaning and preparing for Sunday services. Her character is above reproach, and the charges and implications being made right now are shameful.”
A silence hung in the room. Hopkins stared at Vicar Price, a viciousness in his eyes.
“There are many shameful things that have happened here, Vicar. It’s a shame so many have been lost to war, to disease, to poverty, to every form suffering can take.”
He turned toward the crowd.
“I do not bring these charges or execute my responsibilities without the utmost care, diligence and sincerity. It is not only Parliament who has commissioned me – their actions were only recognizing the Higher Authority that had already set me apart.”
He raised his voice, turning again toward the vicar.
“What we have here is a cursed town, a town in which darkness and sorrow have found a home. How can you be in such denial? You must educate yourself and read my book.”
“I fully appreciate the gravity of what this town has gone through, because this is my town! This is my home! These are my brethren – my brothers, my sisters. I have dedicated my life to the Lord and his children,” Vicar Price said, his voice rising.
”Then how can you be so blind? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself – to find yourself on the wrong side of this godly swell of people rising for justice and righteousness and tearing down the very pillars of hell? History will look unkindly on you, vicar – if it even bothers so much to remember your name.”
Vicar Price stepped toward Hopkins, raising his voice in return.
“I will not let Mary or anyone be a sacrifice to this golden calf of fear and lunacy.”
“Is it fear to be prudent? Do you accuse me of recklessness?” Hopkins spat.
“I do,” Vicar Price answered.
Hopkins fumed again, then shouted.
“We are at war with the devil! I have seen how the hand of the Wicked One moves in this land, and I have overseen three hundred witches coming to their just end. What we have established here is a woman who from the accounts of her husband and closest friends is not devoted to godliness, a woman who cannot bear children, whose time cannot be accounted for except for mysterious trips to the woods and talks to entities that others cannot see. The objective truth is that everyone around her is suffering. She is a curse that has saturated this entire town,” Hopkins said, then turned toward the townspeople. “How many of you have felt it? That you did not deserve this hardship? That something is deeply wrong?”
Suddenly the old women screamed in tandem, falling to the floor and writhing and shrieking. People began to stand up.
“No! Everyone stay back!” Hopkins shouted.
Hopkins ran over to the women and began to speak in tongues, uttering a language no one understood, stringing syllables together that no one could follow. His voice grew in volume and power until suddenly he bellowed for everyone to hear.
“The Lord rebuke you Satan! Get ye behind us! You have no foothold here!”
Suddenly the women were still. Hopkins leaned over them, speaking to each gently. He helped them each back to their feet, then turned back to the audience.
“My brothers and sisters in the Lord, my companions have confirmed my worst suspicions. While I myself was beginning to consider Mary’s innocence based on the sincere and passionate testimony of your vicar, Mary herself confirmed her guilt by launching a spiritual attack on these matrons in the Lord.”
“I have done no such thing!” Mary shouted.
“Please! Someone restrain her! I have rebuked Satan and the Lord has granted us protection from her power. She is without her dark lord to avenge her.”
“Absolutely not!” cried Vicar Price.
The whole room became agitated.
“Everyone please! There are fail-proof ways we can ascertain her guilt or innocence. Leave her to us, and we will present you with undeniable proof of her communion with the devil!”
“Her innocence is already beyond question – I forbid this!” Vicar Price yelled.
The constable came on the stage. Hopkins looked directly at him.
“We demand you give us 24 hours to fulfill our responsibilities to this town, to Parliament and before God himself! If she is not a witch then neither her nor the Vicar nor anyone else here has anything to fear, and she will walk free!”
The constable turned to Vicar Price, conflicted.
“Vicar, he comes with the authority of Parliament … I have to uphold the law,” the constable said.
“You cannot do this,” Vicar Price said.
“It is my sovereign duty,” Hopkins said, “Do you want to risk more years of suffering?”
The room erupted with shouts of anger, calling for the Vicar to stand down.
Mary looked around the room, horrified and overwhelmed. She felt completely numb, unable to process anything that was happening. She caught sight of Richard standing quietly, watching.
Then she felt a pair of strong hands on her shoulders, and she was led away.