“The parsonage is on fire,” Vicar Price explained, holding the door open. “Everyone is trying to put it out. If it continues to spread, it will catch the church too.”
Mary sat closer to the bars. She had put her clothes back on. Richard sat across from her. She saw him intently studying Vicar Price. He looked over at Richard, and she didn’t understand what passed between them, but she saw Richard nod.
“If we go now, we can be miles out of town before they notice,” Vicar Price said, turning back to her.
Mary looked down at the floor.
“Mary, do you hear me? Please, we can leave.”
She looked up at him. He looked so beaten, but there was a light in his face, an energy in his eyes.
“You’re hurt,” she said.
“Don’t worry about that,” Vicar Price said.
Mary hated to see him like that. She couldn’t ask for others to be hurt for her sake – especially him.
“Where’s Hopkins?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Vicar Price said. “But if we have a chance, it’s only now.”
“He’ll keep coming after me. I won’t be safe. Anyone with me won’t be safe, and you’ll lose everything. I can’t ask for that sacrifice. I won’t ask for that sacrifice.”
He walked into the cell and knelt down on one knee next to her. He put his hand on her shoulder.
“It’s not a sacrifice. It’s who I am. I would be sacrificing myself if I did anything less.”
She met his eyes.
“Where would we go?”
He thought for a few moments, and then his face lit up.
“We can go to the coast,” he said.
“I can’t ask …”
“I know, and you’re not asking. I’m giving. I want to see you safe somewhere. I don’t have to stay with you, but I need to know that you’re somewhere in this world. Alive. Happy. Free…free of all of this.”
She reached up and put her hand over his. She looked over at the open door.
“Everything hurts,” she said, turning toward Richard.
“The door is open,” Richard said.
She looked back to Vicar Price.
“I would be sacrificing myself if I did anything less…”
She took a deep breath and put her hand out against the wall, balancing herself as she struggled to her feet. Vicar Price reached out to help her, but she stopped him. They stared at each other, holding each other’s eyes.
“I need to do it on my own, love,” Mary said.
Vicar Price nodded.
“I’ll be right here,” he said.
Mary focused to keep her balance and then let sheer will drive each step. She walked through the door, then turned to look at Vicar Price, who was at her side. She took his hand.
Vicar Price turned toward Richard.
“Aren’t you coming with us?”
“Richard rose to his feet and walked up to the bars.
“I’d like to stay here for a little while longer.”
“They have the gallows ready,” Vicar Price said.
“Not for me,” he said. “Go, you don’t have much time.”
“If I can’t convince you, then I should give you this. I thought we’d have it later, but if there won’t be a later …” Vicar Price reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle. He handed it to Richard.
Richard took it.
“You’re a good man, Vicar.”
Mary and Vicar Price began to walk down the entryway when the exterior door opened.
Mary caught her breath.
Hopkins walked in, followed by the old women who each carried a lantern.
He looked around at everyone, his eyes wild, but his face composed.
“When I didn’t see you at the parsonage, I had to ask myself where you would be if not trying to save the house of God?” he said, walking into the room.
“Get out of our way, Hopkins,” Vicar Price said.
Hopkins stepped forward, “Dusk is upon us.”
He took one of the lanterns from the woman and raised it high enough to illuminate the entire jail. He saw Richard, leaning casually against the cell bars.
“So you’re all here.”
He pulled out a dagger.
“You can’t expect to overpower us with that,” Vicar Price said, stepping forward.
“Only a fool burns down a church and thinks he can escape hell,” Hopkins said.
He smiled, then tossed the lantern onto the ground, where it caught fire to the straw and debris littered across the floor.
“Hopkins!” Vicar Price shouted, watching the fire rise. He shielded Mary and tried to pull her back toward the cell, away from the fire. Mary resisted, and stood her ground. She stared across the flames at Hopkins.
Hopkins stood, meeting her gaze and smiled. He began to pace from side to side.
She felt Vicar Price draw close to her side, and stand his ground too. Hopkins saw their clasped hands and laughed. Then he braced, his wild eyes growing eager as Richard walked past them. The fire licked up at him but he didn’t pay any attention to it.
Hopkins readied himself with his dagger, and then lunged at Richard as soon as he was near enough. Richard grabbed his wrist that held the dagger, and Mary saw Hopkin’s expression turn from rage, to surprise, to horror all in an instant. Richard held onto his wrist, crushing it, and then threw Hopkins up against the stone entryway as if he was nothing. His head hit the frame hard, and he slumped to the ground.
Richard turned, and waved them out.
Crouching together, they ran through the fire and out of the jail.
“Are you two okay?” Richard asked.
Mary looked down at Hopkins leaning against the doorframe of the jail as the fire inside grew.
“Mary?” Vicar Price asked.
“Yes, yes I’m okay,” she said.
“How are you leaving?” Richard asked.
“I have a horse ready, just down aways,” Vicar Price motioned.
Mary looked in front of them and saw the old women standing.
“What about them?” she asked.
Richard looked over at the women.
“What are your names?” he asked.
Mary heard a whisper in the air and Richard interrupted them.
“Raise your voices so I can hear you. Step forward,” Richard commanded.
The fire from the jail cast a wavering light onto them as dusk enveloped them in an increasing darkness. The women walked forward, pulling back their cloaks and revealing their hideous faces.
“Grisell,” one said.
“Lydia,” the other answered.
Richard stared at them.
“Does he know what you are?” he asked.
“No,” they answered.
Richard shook his head.
“Almost enough to make you pity him,” he said. “Why did you go along with it?”
A long ugly wisp of a smile drew itself on Grisell’s face.
“Same as you. For fun,” she answered.
“It would serve you best not to assume my purpose,” Richard said, his face hard. He met both of their eyes, and while Mary would have thought it impossible their faces paled even more.
“Go, leave us. And never both these two again,” Richard said.
“Can we enter the town?” Lydia asked.
Richard stared at them as several tense moments of silence passed. They heard a groan and turned to see Hopkins waking up.
“The town gave you their welcome, far be it from me to stand in the way of their hospitality,” Richard said.
The two women smiled, and walked into town.
“You two should leave, quickly,” Richard said, turning to Mary and Vicar Price.
“Who were they?” Mary asked.
Richard shrugged. “I’ve never met them, I only know their type. Witches.”
A cold chill washed over Mary as she watched the two women eagerly disappear into the town.
Hopkins began to lift his head.
“Go,” Richard said, moving toward Hopkins.
“What will happen to him?” Mary asked.
Richard turned to face them, his eyes as alive as the fire consuming the jail. Mary knew they were not going to receive an answer, and shouldn’t stay to discover it. She and the Vicar turned to make their way out of town. She stopped, then looked back toward Richard.
“Will we see you again?” Mary asked.
“Do you want to?” he asked.
They stared at each other.
“I don’t think I am like Lionsboro – I think it’s a shame he ran away,” she said, “until then, thank you.”
He nodded, then looked up at Vicar Price. He stared at Richard, then nodded.
They turned away and continued out of town. Mary only looked back once, and regretted it. The last she saw of Hopkins, he was clawing at the ground in a frenzy, helplessly trying to fight against being dragged into the fire. Richard continued inside with him- unconcerned by the flames and unabated by Hopkins’ protests.