The day had become overcast, and the cool air now left a creeping chill on the vicar’s skin.
“I don’t know what to do next,” Vicar Price said. He stopped in the middle of the street. He turned back to look at the pub, then toward Richard.
“Maybe you’re right. No matter what I do, Mary’s still going to die.”
Richard struck him across the face and he stumbled backwards. He tried to regather himself but Richard struck again, hard. Vicar Price fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
He tried to get back on his feet, but Richard kicked him back down onto the ground. Vicar Price pulled himself up, half sitting on the ground, balancing himself with one arm while wiping dirt off his face with the other. His lungs finally opened again so that he could breathe air.
Seeing the attack from the windows, people began to spill out of the pub but kept their distance.
Richard stood over him.
“Strike me,” Richard said.
“I’m not a man of violence. The Lord instructs us to turn the other cheek.”
Richard struck him again.
The constable broke from the crowd as people began to shout at Richard to stop.
“Turning your cheek sounds a lot like turning your head,” Richard said, crouching down next to him. “And appealing to your god’s commands is as effective as crying out for his mercy. Hopkins asked you what authority you have … I’m asking the same question.”
Richard stood. Vicar Price tried to find his feet to rise with him. The constable reached out to stop him from striking the vicar again, but Richard grabbed the constable’s arm, struck him multiple times in the gut, and then threw him to the ground. He pulled the constable up by his head and placed his other hand underneath the man’s chin, ready to break his neck.
“I’m going to kill this man on the count of three,” Richard said, meeting Vicar Price’s horrified stare.
“Richard – I don’t know what’s going on … but please … stop … listen to reason …”
“Richard! No! They’ll hang you too…”
“He doesn’t deserve …”
Vicar Price threw himself against Richard and they both fell onto the ground.
Several men broke from the crowd as the constable quickly got back on his feet. They came to Vicar Price’s aid, and began to beat Richard in the street. The constable shouted orders and they hoisted Richard to his feet, holding him in place.
Vicar Price stood back as they pulled Richard up. He held his breath, anticipating Richard was dead or almost dead after that kind of beating, but to Vicar Price’s amazement he didn’t even looked dazed. Wasn’t this the man who was struggling to walk after falling off his horse?
“Vicar, I don’t know how to thank you,” the constable said.
Vicar Price looked at him, confused and disoriented.
“You saved my life,” the constable emphasized.
“Please, don’t mention it … it’s what any of us would have done.”
“I’m not so sure,” the constable said and patted him on the back as he walked away. “You’re a good man, Vicar.”
The constable walked forward toward the group of men holding Richard. He started barking orders to take him to the jail, and Vicar Price watched as they dragged Richard away.
Vicar Price turned and walked in a daze back toward the pub. He rubbed his face, and saw that his hand had fresh blood on it.
“Let me get you something, Vicar. You’re bleeding,” someone said, running into the building.
Vicar Price stood, his head still spinning. He looked up and saw Hopkins continuing to watch down the street as the men made their way to the jail.
“What a miserable son of hell,” he muttered.
“Keep your distance from that man. Let him go his way,” one of the old women whispered.
“Why? Are you so foolish to be afraid of him?” Hopkins asked.
“Trust our judgment, as you have learned to do,” the other whispered.
They all turned to go back into the pub. Hopkins caught sight of Vicar Price watching them, and nodded.
Vicar Price met his gaze, and nodded in return.