“I couldn’t persuade them. Hopkins has her until tomorrow. They won’t let me near the jail. I would have stayed overnight,” Vicar Price said, despondent.
Richard and Vicar Price sat outside on the stoop of the parsonage, each holding a glass.
“If they let that man have his way, he will kill her,” Richard said.
“Dear God, do you think he will tonight?” Vicar Price asked.
“No, he’s a man who kills publicly, with everyone complicit. It will be the gallows.”
Vicar Price set his drink down and poured his head into his hands.
“What drives a man like him? What makes a man so deranged?”
They sat in silence, the noise of the woods beyond them filling the night air.
“You shouldn’t try to understand him,” Richard said. “I don’t think you will ever find a way to relate to a man like that except by fatally deceiving yourself. Take him at his word. He means to kill Mary.”
Vicar Price was distraught.
“Oh my god,” he said. “What can we do?”
“Kill him, and break her out,” Richard said, taking a drink.
“No, I mean seriously. We cannot kill a man of God, no matter how lost. And if we break her out then the rumor will always follow her… she’ll have to live in hiding hoping no one from this town recognizes her.”
“What other option do you have?” Richard asked.
“We can appeal to the town again, I can appeal to Hopkins, or write to Parliament…”
“The town has already welcomed Hopkins’ verdict. Hopkins will certainly not admit any wrongdoing. And even if Parliament did agree with you – Mary dies tomorrow before the letter even arrives to them.”
He held his head, overwhelmed.
“Who’s even going to listen to me anyways? So many in this town outright called me in league with the devil. I may hang with her or soon after,” he said, then looked at Richard, forlorn. “Everything I’ve trusted in this world to uphold any degree of principle has failed me.”
Richard met his eyes.
“Then that leaves only you.”
Vicar Price stared out at the night, at nothing in particular. Richard studied him.
“Vicar, I can read your eyes. I could read them when you first met me in the road.”
He turned to look at Richard, his eyes swollen, his face fallen.
“Do you think love is sacrifice?” Richard asked.
“Love – is it about sacrifice?” Richard repeated.
Vicar Price wiped his face and shook his head. He tried to collect his thoughts. His words were choked with his own emotion as he answered.
“No, well … maybe sometimes … I think …” he took a deep breath, “The Lord tells us that greater love has none but this, that we lay down our lives for those we love.”
“I’ve read the scriptures. I’m asking what your words are.”
Vicar Price thought for several moments.
“I think people confuse love as if it’s an act of duty, something that you give away and it empties you until you have no more to give. Love – to me – I always considered it the opposite. It’s something that is living – it keeps growing, transforming – a fire that grows from an ember to a sun.”
Richard looked up at the stars, taking another drink.
“I was asked about love once, and sacrifice,” he said. “What about when it costs you everything?”
“I would consider it the price to keep my own soul, and would pay it.”
Richard set his glass down.
“Vicar, we won’t let Mary die tomorrow. We’ll play it first by your rules, but then by mine.”
Vicar Price nodded. Richard looked at him, then spoke.
“Keep in mind and be ready – the cost of your soul.”