Parris, to Danforth, instantly: Oh, good morning, sir, thank you
for coming, I beg your pardon wakinN you so early. Good morn-ing, Judge Hathorne. Danforth: Reverend Hale have no right to enter this -
Parris: Excellency, a moment. He hurries back and shuts the door.
Hathorne: Do you leave him alone with the prisoners?
Danforth: WhatNs his business here?
Parris, prayerfully holding up his hands: Excellency, hear me. It is a providence. Reverend Hale has returned to bring Rebecca Nurse to God.
Danforth, surprised: He bids her confess?
Parris, sitting: Hear me. Rebecca have not given me a word this three month since she came. Now she sits with him, and her sister and Martha Corey and two or three others, and he pleads with them, confess their crimes and save their lives.
Danforth: Why - this is indeed a providence. And they soften, they soften?
Parris: Not yet, not yet. But I thought to summon you, sir, that we might think on whether it be not wise, to - He dares notL
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say it. I had thought to put a question, sir, and I hope you will not -Danforth: Mr. Parris, be plain, what troubles you?
Parris: There is news, sir, that the court - the court must reckon with. My niece, sir, my niece - I believe she has van-ished.
Parris: I had thought to advise you of it earlier in the week, but -
Danforth: Why? How long is she gone?
Parris: This be the third night. You see, sir, she told me she would stay a night with Mercy Lewis. And next day, when she does not return, I send to Mr. Lewis to inquire. Mercy told him she would sleep in my house for a night.
Danforth: They are both gone?!
Parris, in fear of him: They are, sir.
Danforth, alarmed: I will send a party for them. Where may they be?
Parris: Excellency, I think they be aboard a ship. Danforth stands agape. My daughter tells me how she heard them speaking of ships last week, and tonight I discover my - my strongbox is broke into. He presses his fingers against hiseyes to keep back tears.
Hathorne, astonished: She have robbed you?
Parris: Thirty-one pound is gone. I am penniless. He covers his face and sobs.
Danforth: Mr. Parris, you are a brainless man! He walks in thought, deeplyworried.
Parris: Excellency, it profit nothing you should blame me. I cannot think they would run off except they fear to keep in Salem any more. He is pleading. Mark it, sir, Abigail had close knowledge of the town, and since the news of Andover has broken here - '
Danforth: Andover is remedied. The court returns there on Friday, and will resume examinations.
Parris: I am sure of it, sir. But the rumor here speaks rebellion in Andover, and it -
Danforth: There is no rebellion in Andover!
Parris: I tell you what is said here, sir. Andover have thrown out the court, they say, and will have no part of witchcraft. There be a faction here, feeding on that news, and I tell you true, sir, I fear there will be riot here.
Hathorne: Riot! Why at every execution I have seen naught but high satisfaction in the town.
Parris: Judge Hathorne - it were another sort that hanged till now. Rebecca Nurse is no Bridget that lived three year with Bishop before she married him. John Proctor is not Isaac Ward that drank his family to ruin. To Danforth: I would to God it were not so, Excellency, but these people have great weight jet in the town. Let Rebecca stand upon the gibbet and send up some righteous prayer, and I fear sheNll wake a vengeance on
Hathorne: Excellency, she is condemned a witch. The court have -
Danforth, in deep concern, raising a hand to Hathorne: Pray you. To Parris:
How do you propose, then?
Parris: Excellency, I would postpone these hanginNs for a time. Danforth: There will be no postponement.
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Parris: Now Mr. HaleNs returned, there is hope, I think - for if he bring even one of these to God, that confession surely damns the others in the public eye, and none may doubt more that they are all linked to Hell. This way, unconfessed and claiming innocence, doubts are multiplied, many honest people will weep for them, and our good purpose is lost in their tears.
Danforth, after thinking a moment, then going to Cheever: Give me the list.
Cheever opens the dispatch case, searches.
Parris: It cannot be forgot, sir, that when I summoned the con-gregation for John ProctorNs excommnnication there were hardly thirty people come to hear it. That speak a discontent, I think, and -
Danforth, studying the list: There will be no postponement.
Parris: Excellency -
Danforth: Now, sir - which of these in your opinion may be brought to God? I will myself strive with him till dawn. He hands she list to Parris, who merelyglances at it.
Parris: There is not sufficient time till dawn.
Danforth: I shall do my utmost. Which of them do you have hope for?
Parris, not even glancing at the list now, and in a quavering voice, quietly:
Excellency - a dagger - He chokes up.
DANFoRth: What do you say?
Parris: Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house - a dagger clattered to the ground. Silence. Danforth absorbs this. Now Parris cries out: You cannot hang this sort. There is danger for me. I dare not step outside at night!
Reverend Hale enters. They look at.him for an instant in silence-
He is steeped in sorrow, exhausted, and more direct than he ever was.
Danforth: Accept my congratulations, Reverend Hale; we are gladdened to see you returned to your good work.
Hale, coming to Danforth now: You must pardon them. They will not budge.
Herrick enters, waits.
Danforth, conciliatory: You misunderstand, sir; I cannot par-don these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.
Parris, with failing heart: Rebecca will not confess?
HAr.E: The sun will rise in a few minutes. Excellency, I must have more time.
Danforth: Now hear me, and beguile yourselves no more. I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement. Them that will not confess will hang. Twelve are already executed; the names of these seven are given out, and the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floun-dering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak GodNs law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. If retaliation is your fear, know this - I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes. Now draw yourselves up like men and help me, as you are bound by Heaven to do. Have you spoken with them all, Mr. Hale?
Hale: All but Proctor. He is in the dungeon. Danforth, to Herrick: WhatNs ProctorNs way now?
Herrick: He sits like some great bird; youNd not know he lived except he will take food from time to time.
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Danforth, after thinking a moment: His wife - his wife must be well on with child now.
Herrick: She is, sir.
Danforth: What think you, Mr. Parris? You have closer knowledge of this man; might her presence soften him?
Parris: It is possible, sir. He have not laid eyes on her these three months. I should summon her,
' Danforth, to Herrick: Is he yet adamant? Has he struck at you again?
Herrick: He cannot, sir, he is chained to the wall now.
Danforth, after thinking on it: Fetch Goody Proctor to me. Then let you bring him up.
Herrick: Aye, sir. Herrick goes. There is silence.
Hale: Excellency, if you postpone a week and publish to the town that you are striving for their confessions, that speak mercy on your part, not faltering.
Danforth: Mr. Hale, as God have not empowered me like Joshua to stop this sun from rising, so I cannot withhold from them the perfection of their punishment.
Hale, harder now: If you think God wills you to raise rebellion, Mr. Danforth, you are mistaken!
Danforth, instantly: You have heard rebellion spoken in the town?
Hale: Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlotsN cry will end his life - and you wonder yet if rebellionNs spoke? Better you should marvel how they do not burn your province!
Danforth: Mr. Hale, have you preached in Andover this month?
Hale: Thank God they have no need of me in Andover.
Danforth; You baffle me, sir. Why have you returned here?
Hale: Why, it is all simple. I come to do the DevilNs work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves. His sarcasm collapses. There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!
Parris: Hush! For he has heard footsteps. They all face the door. Herrick enterswith Elizabeth. Her wrists are linked by heavy chain, which Herrick now removes. Her clothes are dirty; her face is pale and gaunt. Herrick goes out.
Danforth, very politely: Goody Proctor. She is silent. I hope you are hearty?
Elizabeth, as a warning reminder: I am yet six month before my time.
Danforth: Pray be at your ease, we come not for your life. We - uncertain howto plead, for he is not accustomed to it. Mr. Hale, will you speak with thewoman?
Hale: Goody Proctor, your husband is marked to hang this morning,
Elizabeth, quietly: I have heard it.
Hale: You know, do you not, that I have no connection with the court? Sheseems to doubt it. I come of my own, Goody Proctor. I would save yourhusbandNs life, for if he is taken I count myself hi: murderer. Do you understand me?
Elizabeth: What do you want of me?
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Hale: Goody Proctor, I have gone this three month like our Lord into the wilderness. I have sought a Christian way, for damnationNs doubled on a minister who counsels men to lie.
Hathorne: It is no lie, you cannot speak of lies.
Hale: It is a lie! They are innocent!
Danforth: INll hear no more of that!
Hale, continuing to Elizabeth: Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confi-dence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up. Beware, Goody Proctor - cleave to no faith when faith brings blood. It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is GodNs most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it. I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess. Let him give his lie. Quail not before GodNs judgment in this, for it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride. Will you plead with him? I cannot think he will listen to another.
Elizabeth, quietly: I think that be the DevilNs argument.
Hale, with a climactic desperation: Woman, before the laws of God we are as swine! We cannot read His will!
Elizabeth: l cannot dispute with you, sir; I lack learning for it.
DANFoRth, going to her: Goody Proctor, you are not sum-moned here for disputation. Be there no wifely tenderness within you? He will die with the sunrise. Your husband. Do you under-stand it? She only looks at him. What say you? Will you contend with him? She is silent. Are you stone? I tell you true, woman, had I no other proof of your unnatural life, your dry eyes now would be sufficient evidence that you delivered up your soul to
Hell! A very ape would weep at such calamity! Have the devil dried up any tear of pity in you? She is silent. Take her out. It profit nothing she should speak to him!
Parris, with hope: YouNll strive with him? She hesitates.
Danforth: Will you plead for his confession or will you not?
Elizabeth: I promise nothing. Let me speak with him.
A sound - the sibilance of dragging feet on stone. They turn. A pause. Herrick enters with John Proctor. His wrists are chained. He is another man, bearded, filthy, his eyes misty as though webs had overgrown them. He halts inside the doorway, his eye caught by the sight of Elizabeth. The emotion flowing between them prevents anyone from speaking for an instant. Wow Hale, visibly affected, goes to Danforth and speaks quietly.
Hale: Pray, leave them, Excellency.
Danforth, pressing Rale impatiently aside: Mr. Proctor, you have been notified, have you not? Proctor is silent, staring at Elizabeth. I see light in the sky, Mister; let you counsel with your wife, and may God help you turn your back on Hell. Proctor is silent, staring at Elizabeth.
Hale, quietly: Excellency, let -
Danforth brushes past Hale and walks out. Hale follows. Cheever stands and follows, Hathorne behind. Herrick goes. Parris, from a safe distance, ayers:
Parris: If you desire a cup of cider, Mr. Proctor, I am sure I - Proctor turns anicy stare at him, and he breaks op. Parris raises his palms toward Proctor. Godlead you now. Parris goes
Alone. Proctor walks to her, halts. It is as though they stood m a spinning world. It is beyond sorrow, above i,". He reaches out
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his hand as though toward an embodiment not quite real, and as he touches her, a strange soft sound, half laughter, half amazement, comes from his throat. He pats her hand. She covers his hand with hers. And then, weak, he sits. Then she sits, facing him.
Proctor: The child?
Elizabeth: It Slows.
Proctor: There is no word of the boys?
Elizabeth: TheyNre well. RebeccaNs Samuel keeps them.
Proctor: You have not seen them?
Elizabeth: I have not. She catches a weakening in herself and downs it.
Proctor: You are a - marvel, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: You - have been tortured?
Proctor: Aye. Pause. She will not let herself be drowned in the sea thatthreatens her. They come for my life now.
Elizabeth: I know it.
Proctor: None - have yet confessed?
Elizabeth: There be many confessed.
Proctor: Who are they?
Elizabeth: There be a hundred or more, they say. Goody Ballard is one; Isaiah Goodkind is one. There be many.
Elizabeth: Not Rebecca. She is one foot in Heaven now; naught may hurt her more.
Proctor: And Giles?
Elizabeth: .You have not heard of it?
Proctor: I hear nothinN, where I am kept.
Elizabeth: Giles is dead.
He looks at her incredulously.
Proctor: When were he hanged?
Elizabeth, quietly, factually: He were not hanged. He would not answer aye or nay to his indictment; for if he denied the charge theyNd hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. It is the law, for he could not be con-demned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay.
Proctor: Then how does he die?
Elizabeth, gently: They press him, John.
Elizabeth: Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. With atender smile for the old man: They say he give them but two words. KMoreweight,M he says. And died.
Proctor, numbed - a thread to weave into his agony: KMore weight,M
Elizabeth: Aye. It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey.
Proctor, with great force of will, but not quite looking at her: I have been thinking I would confess to them, Elizabeth. She shows nothing. What say you? If I give them that?
Elizabeth: I cannot judge you, John.
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Proctor, simply - a pure question: What would you have me do?
Elizabeth: As you will, I would have it. Slight pause: I want you living, John. ThatNs sure.
Proctor, pauses, then with a flailing of hope: GilesN wife? Have she confessed?
Elizabeth: She will not.
Proctor: It is a pretense, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: What is?
Proctor: I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. .' am not that man. She is silent. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. NothingNsspoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before.
Elizabeth: And yet youNve not confessed till now. That speak goodness in you.
Proctor: Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs. Pause, for thefirst time he turns directly to her. I would have your forgiveness, Elizabeth,
Proctor: INd have you see some honesty in it. Let them, that never lied die now to keep their souls. It is pretense for me, a vanity that will not blind God nor keep my children out of the wind. Pause. What say you?
Elizabeth, upon a heaving sob that always threatens: John, it come to naught that I should forgive you, if youNll not forgive yourself. Now he turns away alittle, in great agony. It is not my soul, John, it is yours. He stands, as though in physical pain, slowly rising to his feet with a great immortal longing to find his
Act Four 137 answer. It is difficult to say,.and she is on the verge of tears. Only be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it. He turns his doubting, searching gaze upon her. I have read my heart this three month, John. Pause. I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.
Proctor, in great pain: Enough, enough -
Elizabeth, now pouring out her heart; Better you should know me!
Proctor: I will not hear it! I know you!
Elizabeth: You take my sins upon you, John -
Proctor, in agony: No, I take my own, my own!
Elizabeth: John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept! In fright, she swerves, as Hathorneenters.
Hathorne: What say you, Proctor? The sun is soon up.
Proctor, his chest heaving, stares, turns to Elizabeth. She comes to him as though to plead, her voice quaking.
Elizabeth: Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgive me, John - I never knew such goodness in the world! She covers her face, weeping.
Proctor turns from her to Hathorne; he is op the earth, his voice hollow.
Hathorne, with a mystical tone: God be praised! It is a provi-
138 The Crucible
dence! He rushes out the door, and his voice is heard calling dawn the corridor: He will confess! Proctor will confess!
Proctor, with a cry, as he strides to the door: Why do you cry it? In great pain he turnsback to her. It is evil, is it not? It is evil.
Elizabeth, in terror, weeping: I cannot judge you, John, I cannot!
Proctor: Then who will judge me? Suddenly clasping his hands: God in Heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor? He moves as an animal, and a fury is riding in him,a tantalized search. I think it is honest, I think so; I am no saint. As though she had denied this he calls angrily at her: Let Rebecca go like a saint; for me it is fraud!
Voices are heard in the hall, speaking together in suppressed excitement.
Elizabeth: I am not your judge, I cannot be. As though giving him release: Do as you will, do as you will!
Proctor: Would you give them such a lie? Say it. Would you ever give them this? Shecannot answer. You would not; if tongs of fire were singeing you you would not! It isevil. Good, then - it is evil, and I do it!
Hathorne enters with Danforth, and, with them, Cheever, Parris, and Hale. It is a businesslike, rapid entrance, as though the ice had been broken.
Danforth, with great relief and gratitude: Praise to God, man, praise to God; you shall be blessed in Heaven for this. Cheever has hurried to the bench with pen, ink, andpaper. Proctor watches him. Now then, let us have it. Are you ready, Mr. Cheever?
Proctor, with a cold, cold horror at their efficiency: Why must it be written?
Danforth: Why, for the good instruction of the village, Mister; this we shall post upon the church door! To Parris, urgently: Where is the marshal?
Parris, runs to the door and calls down the corridor: Marshal! Hurry!
Danforth: Now, then, Mister, will you speak slowly, and directly to the point, for Mr. CheeverNs sake. He is on record now, and is really dictating to Cheever,who writes. Mr. Proctor, have you seen the Devil in your life? ProctorLs jaws lock. Come, man, there is light in the sky; the town waits at the scaffold; Iwould give out this news. Did you see the Devil?
Proctor: I did.
Parris: Praise God!
Danforth: And when he come to you, what were his demand? Proctor is silent.Danforth helps. Did he bid you to do his work upon the earth?
Proctor: He did.
Danforth: And you bound yourself to his service? Danforth turns, as RebeccaNurse enters, with Herrick helping to sup-port her. She is barely able to walk.
Come in, come in, woman! Rebecca, brightening as she sees Proctor: Ah, John! You are well, then, eh?
Proctor turns his face to the wall.
DANFoRTh: Courage, man, courage - let her witness your good example that she may come to God herself. Now hear it, Goody Nurse! Say on, Mr, Proctor. Did you bind yourself to the DevilNs service?
Rebecca, astonished: Why, John!
Proctor, through his teeth, his face turned from Rebecca: I did.
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Danforth: Now, woman, you surely see it profit nothinN to keep this conspiracy any further. Will you confess yourself with him?
REBECCA: Oh, John - God send his mercy on you! Danforth: I say, will you confess yourself, Goody Nurse?
Rebecca: Why, it is a lie, it is a lie; how may I damn myself? I cannot, I cannot.
Danforth: Mr. Proctor. When the Devil came to you did you see Rebecca Nurse in his company? Proctor is silent. Come, man, take courage - did you ever see her with the Devil?
Proctor, almost inaudibly: No.
Daiforth, now sensing trouble, glances at John and goes to the table, and picks up a sheet - the list of condemned.
Danforth: Did you ever see her sister, Mary Easty, with the Devil?