Parris: In my house? In my house, Thomas? They will topple me with this! They will make of it a -
Enter Mercy Lewis, the PutnamsL servant, a fat, sly, merciless girl of eighteen.
Mercy: Your pardons. I only thought to see how Betty i
Putnam: Why arenNt you home? WhoNs with Ruth?
Mercy: Her grandma come. SheNs improved a little, I think - she give a powerful sneeze before.
Mrs. Putnam: Ah, thereNs a sign of life!
Mercy: INd fear no more, Goody Putnam. It were a grand sneeze; another like it will shake her wits together, INm sure. She goes to the bed to look.
Parris: Will you leave me now, Thomas? I would pray a while alone.
Abigail: Uncle, youNve prayed since midnight. Why do you not go down and -
PARRis: No - no. To Putnam: I have no answer for that crowd. INll wait till Mr.
Hale arrives. To get Mrs. Putnam to leave: If you will, Goody Ann...
PutnAM: Now look you, sir. Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it! Come down, speak to them - pray with them. TheyNre thirsting for your word, Mister! Surely youNll pray with them.
Parris, swayed: INll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had enough contention since I came; I want no more.
Mrs. Putnam: Mercy, you go home to Ruth, dNyNhear?
Mercy: Aye, mum.
Mrs. Putnam goes out.
Parris, to Abigail: If she starts for the window, cry for me at once.
Abigail: I will, uncle.
Orris, to Putnam: There is a terrible power in her arms to-day. He goes out withPutnam.
18 The Crucible
Abigail, with hushed trepidation: How is Ruth sick?
Mercy! ItNs weirdish, I know not - she seems to walk like a dead one since last night.
Abigail, turns at once and goes to Betty, and now, with fear in her voice: Betty? Betty doesnLt move. She shakes her. Now stop this! Betty! Sit up now!
Betty doesnLt stir. Mercy comes over.
Mercy: Have you tried beatinN her? I gave Ruth a good one and it waked her for a minute. Here, let me have her.
Abigail, holding Mercy back: No, heNll be cominN up. Listen, now; if they be questioning us, tell them we danced - I told him as much already,
Mercy: Aye. And what more?
Abigail: He knows Tituba conjured RuthNs sisters to come out of the grave. Mercy: And what more?
Abigail: He saw you naked.
Mercy: clapping her hands together with a frightened laugh: Oh, Jesus!
Enter Mary Warren, breathless. She is seventeen, a subservient, naive, lonely girl.
Mary Warren: WhatNll we do? The village is out! I just come from the farm; the whole countryNs talkinN witchcraft! TheyNll be callinN us witches, Abby!
Mercy, pointing and looking at Mary Warren: She means to tell, I know it.
Mary Warren: Abby, weNve got to tell. WitcheryNs a hanginN error, a hanginN like they done in Boston two year ago! We
must tell the truth, Abby! YouNll only be whipped for dancinN, and the other things!
Abigail: Oh,-weLll be whipped!
Mary Warren: I never done none of it, Abby. I only looked!
Mercy, moving menacingly toward Mary: Oh, youNre a great one for lookinN, arenNt you, Mary Warren? What a grand peeping courage you have!
Betty, on the bed, whimpers. Abigail turns to her at once.
Abigail: Betty? She goes to Betty. Now, Betty, dear, wake up now. ItNs Abigail. She sitsBetty up and furiously shakes her. INll beat you, Betty! Betty whimpers. My, you seemimproving. I talked to your papa and I told him everything. So thereNs nothing to -
Betty, darts op the bed, frightened of Abigail, and flattens her-self against the wall: I want my mama!
ABIGAIL, with alarm, as she cautiously approaches Betty: What ails you, Betty? Your mamaNs dead and buried.
Betty: INll fly to Mama. Let me fly! She raises her arms as though to fly, and streaks forthe window, gets one leg out.
Abigail, pulling her away from the window: I told him every-thing,' he knows now, he knows everything we -
Betty: You drank blood, Abby! You didnNt tell him that! Abigail: Betty, you never say that again! You will never--
Betty: You did, you did! You drank a charm to kill John ProctorNs wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!
Abigail, smashes her across the face: Shut it! Now shut it!
Barry, collapsing on the bed: Mama, Mama! She dissolves into sobs.
20 The Crucible
Abigail: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth PutnamNs dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parentsN heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! She goes to Betty and roughly sits her up. Now, you - sit up and stop this'
But Betty collapses in her hands and lies inert on the bed.
Marry Warren, with hysterical fright, WhatNs got her? Abigail stares in fright at Betty.
Abby, sheNs going to die! ItNs a sin to conjure, and we -
Abigail, starting for Mary: I say shut it, Mary Warren!
Enter John Proctor. On seeing him, Mary Warren leaps in fright,
Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties, He need not have been a partisan of any faction in the town, but there is evidence to suggest that he had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites. He was the kind of man - powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led - who cannot refuse support to partisans with-out drawing their deepest resentment. In ProctorNs presence a fool felt his foolishness instantly - and a Proctor is always marked for calumny therefore.
But as we shall see, the steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul. He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct. These people had no ritual for the washing away of sins. It is another trait we inherited from them. and it has helped to discipline us as well as to breed hypocrisy among us. Proctor, respected and even feared in Salem, has
come to regard himself as a kind of fraud. But no hint of this has yet appeared on the surface, and as he enters from the crowded parlor below it is a man in his prime we see, with a quiet confidence and an unexpressed, hidden force. Mary War-ren, his servant, can barely speak for embarrassment and fear.
Mary Warren: Oh! INm just going home, Mr. Proctor.
Proctor: Be you foolish, Mary Warren? Be you deaf? I for-bid you leave the house, did I not? Why shall I pay you? I am looking for you more often than my cows!
Mary Warren: I only come to see the great doings in the world.
Proctor: INll show you a great doin' on your arse one of these days. Now get you home; my wife is waitinN with your work! Trying to retain a shred of dignity,she goes slowly out.
Mercy Lewis, both afraid of him and strangely titillated: INd best be off. I have my Ruth to watch. Good morning, Mr. Proctor.
Mercy sidles out. Since ProctorLs entrance, Abigail has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence, wide-eyed. He glances at her, then goes to Betty on the bed.
Abigail: Gah! INd almost forgot how strong you are, John Proctor!
Proctor, looking at Abigail now, the faintest suggestion of a knowing smile onhis face: WhatNs this mischief here?
Abigail, with a nervous laugh: Oh, sheNs only gone silly some-how.
Proctor: The road past my house is a pilgrimage to Salem all morning. The townNs mumbling witchcraft.
Abigail: Oh, posh! Winningly she comes a little closer, with a
22 The Crucible
confidential, wicked air. We were dancinN in the woods last night, and my uncle leapedin on us. She took fright, is all.
Proctor, his smile widening: Ah, youNre wicked yet, arenNt yN! A trill ofexpectant laughter escapes her, and she dares come closer, feverishly looking into his eyes. YouNll be clapped in the stocks before youNre twenty.
Abigail: Give me a word, John. A soft word. Her concentrated desire destroyshis smile.
Proctor: No, no, Abby. ThatNs done with.
Abigail, tauntingly: You come five mile to see a silly girl fly? I know you better.
Proctor, setting her firmly out of his path: I come to see what mischief your uncleNs brewinN now. With final emphasis: Put it out of mind, Abby.
Abigail, grasping his hand before he can release her: John - I am waitinN for you every night.
Proctor: Abby, I never give you hope to wait for me.
Abigail, now beginning to anger - she canLt believe it: I have something better than hope, I think!
Proctor: Abby, youNll put it out of mind. INll not be cominN for you more.
Abigail: YouNre surely sportinN with me.
Proctor: You know me better.
Abigail: I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near! Or did I dream that? ItNs she put me out, you cannot pretend it were you. I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!
Proctor: Abby, thatNs a wild thing to say -
Abigail: A wild thing may say wild things. But not so wild, I think. I have seen you since she put me out; I have seen you nights.
Proctor: I have hardly stepped off my farm this sevenmonth.
Abigail: I have a sense for heat, John, and yours has drawn me to my window, and I have seen you looking up, burning in your loneliness. Do you tell me youNve never looked up at my window?
Proctor: I may have looked up.
Abigail, now softening: And you must. You are no wintry man. I know you, John. I know you. She is weeping. I cannot sleep for dreamini; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though INd find you cominN through some door. She clutches him desperately.
Proctor, gently pressing her from him, with great sympathy but firmly: Child -
Abigail, with a pash of anger: How do you call me child!
Proctor: Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before INll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.
Abigail: Aye, but we did.
Proctor: Aye, but we did not.
Abigail, with a bitter anger: Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be -
Proctor, angered - at himself as well: YouNll speak nothinN of Elizabeth!
Abigail: She is blackening my name in the village! She is tell-
24 The Crucibie
ing lies about me! .She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a -
Proctor, shaking her: Do you look for whippinN?
A psalm is heard being sung below.
Abigail, in tears: I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet! He turns abruptly to go out. She rushes to him. John, pity me, pity me!
The words Sgoing up to JesusT are heard in the psalm and Betty claps her ears suddenly and whines loudly.
Abigail: Betty? She hurries to Betty, who is now sitting up and screaming. Proctor goesto Betty as Abigail is trying to pull her hands down, calling SBetty!T
Proctor, growing unnerved: WhatNs she doing? Girl, what ails you? Stop that wailing!
The singing has stopped in the midst of this, and now Parris rushes in.
Parris: What happened? What are you doing to her? Betty! He rushes to the bed, crying,SBetty, Betty!T Mrs. Putnam enters, feverish with curiosity, and with her Thomas Putnam and Mercy lewis. Parris, at the bed, keeps lightly slapping BettyLs face, while she moans and tries to get up.
Abigail: She heard you singinN and suddenly sheNs up and screaminN.
Mrs. Putnam: The psalm! The psalm! She cannot bear to hear the LordNs name!
Parris: No. God forbid. Mercy, run to the doctor! Tell him whatNs happened here! Mercy Lewis rushes out.
Mrs. Putnam: Mark it for a sign, mark it!
Rebecca Nurse, seventy-two, enters. She is white-haired, leaning upon her walking-stick.
Putnam, pointing at the whimpering Betty: That is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot, Goody Nurse, a prodigious sign!
Mrs. Putnam: My mother told me that! When they cannot bear to hear the name of -
Parris, trembling: Rebecca, Rebecca, go to her, weNre lost. She suddenly cannot bear to hear the LordNs -
Giles Corey, eighty-three, enters. He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.
Rebecca: There is hard sickness here, Giles Corey, so please to keep the quiet.
GILEs: INve not said a word. No one here can testify INve said a word. Is she going to fly again? I hear she flies.
Putnam: Man, be quiet now!
Everything is quiet. Rebecca walks across the room to the bed. Gentleness exudes from her. Betty is quietly whimpering, eyes shut, Rebecca simply stands over the child, who gradually quiets.
And while they are so absorbed, we may put a word in for Rebecca. Rebecca was the wife of Francis Nurse, who, from all accounts, was one of those men for whom both sides of the argument had to have respect. He was called upon to arbitrate disputes as though he were an unofficial judge, and Rebecca also enjoyed the high opinion most people had for him. By the time of the delusion, they had three hundred acres, and their children were settled in separate homesteads within the same
26 The Crucible
estate. However, Francis had originally rented the land, and one theory has it that, as he gradually paid for it and raised hi: social status, there were those who resented his rise.
Another suggestion to explain the systematic campaign against Rebecca, and inferentially against Francis, is the land war he fought with his neighbors, one of whom was a Putnam. This squabble grew to the proportions of a battle in the woods be-tween partisans of both sides, and it is said to have lasted for two days. As for Rebecca herself, the general opinion of her character was so high that to explain how anyone dared cry her out for a witch - and more, how adults could bring them-selves to lay hands on her - we must look to the fields and boundaries of that time.
As we have seen, Thomas PutnamNs man for the Salem min-istry was Bayley. The Nurse clan had been in the faction that prevented BayleyNs taking office. In addition, certain families allied to the Nurses by blood or friendship, and whose farms were contiguous with the Nurse farm or close to it, combined to break away from the Salem town authority and set up Tops-field, a new and independent entity whose existence was re-sented by old Salemites.
That the guiding hand behind the outcry was PutnamNs is, indicated by the fact that, as soon as it began, this Topsfield-Nurse Nfaction absented themselves from church in protest and disbelief. It was Edward and Jonathan Putnam who signed the first complaint against Rebecca; and Thomas PutnamNs little daughter was the one who fell into a fit at the hearing and pointed to Rebecca as her attacker. To top it all, Mrs. Putnam - who is now staring at the bewitched child on the bed - soon accused RebeccaNs spirit of Ktempting her to iniquity,M a charge that had more truth in it than Mrs. Putnam could know,
Mrs. Putnam, astonished: What have you done?
Rebecca, in thought, now leaves the bedside and sits.
Parris, wondrous and relieved: What do you make of it, Rebecca?
Putnam, eagerly: Goody Nurse, will you go to my Ruth and see if you can wake her?
Rebecca, sitting: I think sheNll wake in time. Pray calm your-selves. I have eleven children, and I am twenty-six times a grandma, and I have seen them all through their silly seasons, and when it come on them they will run the Devil bowlegged keeping up with their mischief. I think sheNll wake when she tires of it. A childNs spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back,
Proctor: Aye, thatNs the truth of it, Rebecca.
Mrs. Putnam: This is no silly season, Rebecca. My Ruth is bewildered, Rebecca; she cannot eat.
Rebecca: Perhaps she is not hungered yet. To Parris: I hope you are not decided to go in search of loose spirits, Mr. Parris. INve heard.promise of that outside.
Parris: A wide opinionNs running in the parish that the Devil may be among us, and I would satisfy them that they are wrong.
Proctor: Then let you come out and call them wrong. Did you consult the wardens before you called this minister to look for devils?
Parris: He is not coming to look for devils!
Proctor: Then whatNs he coming for?
Putnam: There be children dyinN in the village, Mister!
Proctor: I seen none dyinN. This society will not be a bag to swing around your head, Mr. Putnam. To Parris: Did you call a meeting before you - ?
Rebecca: Pray, John, be calm. Pause. He defers to her. Mr. Parris, I think youNd best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguinN again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year; I think we ought rely on the doctor now, and good prayer.
Mrs. Putnam: Rebecca, the doctorNs baffled!
Rebecca: If so he is, then let us go to God for the cause of it. There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it. Let us rather blame ourselves and -
PutNAM: How may we blame ourselves? I am one of nine sons; the Putnam seed have peopled this province. And yet I have but one child left of eight - and now she shrivels!
Rebecca: I cannot fathom that.
Mrs. Putnam, with a growing edge of sarcasm: But I must! You think it GodNs work you should never lose a child, nor grand-child either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
PuTNAM, to Parris: When Reverend Hale comes, you will pro-ceed to look for signs of witchcraft here.
Proctor, to Putnam: You cannot command Mr. Parris. We vote by name in this society, not by acreage.
Putnam: I never heard you worried so on this society, Mr. Proctor. I do not think I saw you at Sabbath meeting since snow flew.
Proctor: I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it
to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.
Parris, now aroused: Why, thatNs a drastic charge!
Rebecca: ItNs somewhat true; there are many that quail to bring their children -
Parris: I do not preach for children, Rebecca. It is not the children who are unmindful of their obligations toward this ministry.
Rebecca: Are there really those unmindful?
Parris: I should say the better half of Salem village -
PuTNAM: And more than that!
Parris: Where is my wood? My contract provides I be supplied with all my firewood. I am waiting since November for a stick, and even in November I had to show my frostbitten hands like some London beggar!
Giles: You are allowed six pound a year to buy your wood, Mr. Parris.
Parris: I regard that six pound as part of my salary. I am paid little enough without I spend six pound on firewood.
Proctor: Sixty, plus six for firewood -
PARRis: The salary is sixty-six pound, Mr. Proctor! I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College.
Giles: Aye, and well instructed in arithmetic!
Parris: Mr. Corey, you will look far for a man of my kind at sixty pound a year! I am not used to this poverty; I left a thrifty business in the Barbados to serve the Lord. I do not
30 The Crucible
fathom it, why am I persecuted here? I cannot offer one propo-sition but there be a howling riot of argument. I have often wondered if the Devil be in it somewhere; I cannot understand you people otherwise.
Proctor: Mr. Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed to this house -
Parris: Man! DonNt a minister deserve a house to live in?
Proctor: To live in, yes. But to ask ownership is like you shall own the meeting house itself; the last meeting I were at you spoke so long on deeds and mortgages I thought it were an auction.
Parris: I want a mark of confidence, is all! I am your third preacher in seven years. I do not wish to be put out like the cat whenever some majority feels the whim. You people seem not to comprehend that a minister is the LordNs man in the parish; a minister is not to be so lightly crossed and contra-dicted -
Parris: There is either obedience or the church will burn like Hell is burning!
Proctor: Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!
Parris: It is not for you to say what is good for you to hear!
Proctor: I may speak my heart, I think!
Parris, in a fury: What, are we Quakers? We are not Quakers here yet, Mr. Proctor. And you may tell that to your followers!
Proctor: My followers!
PARRis - now heLs out with it: There is a party in this church. l am not blind; there is a faction and a party.
Proctor: Against you?
PuTNAM: Against him and all authority!
PRoctoR: Why, then I must find it and join it.
There is shock among the others.
Rebecca: He does not mean that.
Putnam: He confessed it now!
Proctor: I mean it solemnly, Rebecca; I like not the smell of this Kauthority.M
Rebecca: No, you cannot break charity with your minister. You are another kind, John. Clasp his hand, make your peace.
Proctor: I have a crop to sow and lumber to drag home. He goes angrily to thedoor and turns to Corey with a smile. What say you, Giles, letNs find the party.He says thereNs a party.
Giles: INve changed my opinion of this man, John. Mr. Parris, I beg your pardon. I never thought you had so much iron in you.
Parris, surprised: Why, thank you, Giles!
Giles: It suggests to the mind what the trouble be among us all these years. Toall: Think on it. Wherefore is everybody suing everybody else? Think on itnow, itNs a deep thing, and dark as a pit. l have been six time in court this year -