"The Guilty and the Guiltless"
"Get up," said the guard wearily as he opened the barred doors of my cell. "We're moving surplus witches to the McCaughanys' house."
I got up wordlessly, for I had long since run out of words to say. I felt relieved, of course, to leave my musty old cell, but at the same time, I felt no conviction to leave. As I walked past the other cells, I peered into familiar faces, gaunt and hungry, oppressed under the Puritanical society which had so brutally forced them down. There was Goody Proctor. She was convicted shortly before me, and had put up a right good struggle before being arrested. There was Goody Nurse, whom I had always believed a good woman. Then again, I had believed myself a good woman, and still did. Perhaps none of these women were guilty? What if it were all a farce? A child's fancy? For it was not unknown in the village that the child Abigail, one of the afflicted, had long since taken a fancy to John Proctor.
As my escort and I proceeded through those dark halls, I saw many other women and a few men being moved likewise. It seemed that I was not the only of the relocated. Among the women being relocated was one Goody Good. I hissed under my breath as I saw her. My despise for her rankled in my heart. Perhaps she was truly a witch, a hag of the devil. I had seen fair many crops of her husband's wither and die. Yet how could I believe that she was no guiltier than I? After all, like a good many other convicted women, I did not know my commandments. This, although seeming a very unlikely piece of evidence, played a large role in the worship of God. I, myself an Anglican, and unversed in scripture, had been among the first suspected.
Now, passing through the gates of the prison into the crisp Salem air, I felt no relief, no happiness, at being out of that grim dungeon. It well surprised me how deserted the village looked. Many houses already lacked the signs of life: the smell of cooking, the sound of children's laughter, the smoke rising from the chimneys. While I was escorted briskly into town and toward the outskirts, I noticed something even more disconcerting. There were, in fact, children in the street, but they were not laughing. Instead, they walked slowly, hanging their heads, and dragging their feet. Most had no food to eat, nor parents to care for them. Many had been chased out of possession and home.
I was shocked, and rather frightened, to see my boy, Horace, among them. His eyes met mine, and I knew what I had to do. My child, although a virtuous one, full of manners and patience, was not all blessed. He was deaf. I had often spoken with him in gestures, which had been taught to me by my acquaintance, Reverend Parris, long since corrupted by this notion of witchcraft. Now, as my hands moved softly by my sides, his eyes opened wide, and he nodded and ran off. I smiled internally as I walked.
As soon as Horace saw his mother's hands moving, he knew what was expected of him. He ran off, toward the peninsula near the town. Just before that peninsula was the house in which his mother and he once lived. This sight brought back such painful memories as brought tears immediately to his eyes. Shortly after the execution of John Proctor, his mother had written a long notice, Horace was not sure of what. Horace had never learned to read, as his mother thought that without functioning ears, reading did not matter. Horace had never communicated except with his mother, and occasionally the Reverend Parris, who had become dark and somber as of late.
As he reached his childhood abode, he thought, not sure where to begin to look. He looked in his mother's writing desk, in all the drawers, but to no avail. The house seemed rather empty. He knew, nevertheless, that his mother would never put something of such valued as she seemed to bestow upon the notice in an easily sought out place. He looked around the house, and, spying a fracture in one of the walls, his eyes opened wide. He clomped up the stairs to his former bedchamber. Once there, and feeling very childish, he crawled under the bed. His hands felt around the wall, searching, searching. Finally, his hand lay upon it. Here was a concealed nook in the wall, which he had used to hide things of value he took from his mother. When his mother had found it out, she had been furious, and had rightly shown him so. He smiled as his hand met the unfamiliar touch of a page.
Judge Hathorne looked up from the page that he read, and his eyes returned to the boy's face. The boy did not speak, and did not seem to even hear Hathorne's voice, but his hands moved frequently, forming symbol after symbol in no intelligible code. Hathorne's eyes moved back to the page, and the lone words written there.
"I havve founde it oute that I, beinge of seemingely small Rightes, holdeth no Swaye with the Court of Salem. Inne this Notice, I highely entreate their Honnore, the Judges of this pressente Daye, to refer to the Booke of Exodusse, Chapter One-and-Twenty, Versses Twelve throughe Thirteen in their Holey Booke."
Hathorne's hands were already trembling. Chapter twenty-one of the Book of Exodus, although highly ignored, was in fact, the Lord's word, and must be obeyed. Hathorne had never himself read the Book of Exodus, thinking the Old Testament of little importance in the Courts of Christ. He took up the Bible, and, with trembling fingers, turned to chapter twenty-one. Verses twelve to thirteen said:
"Anyone who doth strike or kille a Man in any Way, or for any Reasone, shalle surely be putte to deathe."
Now Hathorne's hands grew firm with resolve. He knew that Abigail, the children, and even himself, must now also be put to death. They could not escape it. It was God's will. When Hathorne, the next day, mounted the gallows, he was beginning to doubt the sacrifice he was making.
In my new room in the McCaughanys' former abode, I waited. That was all there is to do. I didn't even know if my plan would even work. I had written after Proctor's execution, a notice that I didn't mean to be read by anyone until I was long since rotted away in my grave. Therefore, I had hidden it in Horace's cubby-hole, hoping that some future childish resident of the house might, out of curiosity, find the notice and present it to an adult of the town.
A rap on the door interrupted my thoughts, and I looked up as a guard, looking astonished, stuck his head through the door. "Judge Hathorne," he said, "has proclaimed that, as according to the Holy Book, he and a few village girls were sinful of murder, and must be put to death. He also says," the guard continued reluctantly, "that since you are guilty of no known sin, you are free to go back to your daily life."
I excitedly stood up, and left my cell, and rushed through the house to the front door, whereupon opening it I, weeping, fell to embrace the kind earth. Looking to the town, I could see the residents of Salem going through the streets, calling to children, and joyfully breathing the crisp Salem air.