Violet Gibbons should not be scared. Or at least that was what the minister was telling her. She sat in a damp prison cell in the bowels of a public office in England, waiting. Always waiting.
“And you truly do not worship Satan, the fiery one?” Minister Brown asked, looking at her suspiciously.
“No!” she replied vehemently. “I was just going for a walk in the woods - I was not dancing or chanting, I do not know-”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Of course,” Violet replied. “God is our savior. I could quote you the Bible right here, right now.”
Minister Brown shook his head. “There is no need. I believe you, but the court will not. There are too many against you.”
Violet turned away. Just because the other girls thought she was odd, just because she never quite fit in - did that mean she deserved to die? How had she missed the cruelty of her peers, just itching to rise to the surface and manifest itself in the perfect moment? Like the moment when the cry of “witch” had escaped their lips.
In the year 1630, in England, such an accusation was not taken lightly, as Violet knew all too well.
“Please, Minister,” she begged, lowering her voice to a desperate plea. “Tell them to let me go.”
“I do not have the authority,” he said, seeming genuinely regretful.
Minister Brown held up a hand. “Silence, child. The trial is set for this afternoon and there will be no changing it. I wish I could, but... Have no fear. Your faith in the Lord will save you.”
With that he stood abruptly, tucking his Bible under his arm and heading for the door.
“Best of luck, my dear.”
The bars slammed shut behind him. Violet stared blankly at her cage as the footsteps faded down the hallway. Her faith in God would save her. Violet dearly hoped that was the truth, for it was her last chance.
Mr. Kent turned to the assembled. “Allow me to introduce Violet Gibbons, Your Honor. On trial for witchcraft.”
Governor Williams looked her over with a critical eye. “Evidence?” he snapped.
“Witnesses, sir. These girls saw her dancing in the woods,” Kent replied, gesturing to the trio who had tormented Violet for years. They stood clutching each other, huddled together and feigning fear. The sight filled Violet with hatred.
“I was not dancing,” Violet protested.
“Silence!” Governor Williams ordered. “Allow the witnesses to speak.”
“She was dancing, sir! Dancing and chanting and shouting to the devil himself!” the lead girl, Sara, insisted.
Without conscious thought, Violet shot her a glare. That was the wrong move. Sara raised a shaking hand. “Sh-she is doing it now! C-can you not feel the heat? She will burn us all!”
Sara began fanning herself with a hand and the other two followed her lead. They let out fluttering breaths and, amazingly, began to sweat. Sara seemed to hold her breath until her face flushed red with “heat”.
“Stop!” one of the townspeople shouted. “Make her stop! She will kill them, she will!”
Two burly men rushed at Violet, grabbing her by the arms and shaking her. “Stop! Stop what you are doing!”
One of the girls fainted.
“STOP!” This time it was Governor William’s voice that echoed through the building. He slammed his gavel on the wooden table. He raised a shaking fist and hesitated for a very long moment. “I...I hereby sentence Violet Gibbons to death!”
Violet’s heart skipped a beat. Surely she had heard wrong. Surely this wasn’t happening. She looked across the courtroom and caught Minister Brown’s eye.
“Wait!” he called, standing up. “Your Honor, I believe this girl to be innocent. I have questioned her extensively about the faith and she does not seem to be possessed.”
“Then how do you explain this?” the Governor replied, gesturing lividly at the girls. “Whose work could this be but the work of Satan?”
Minister Brown looked at them darkly and muttered in a tone too low for the court to hear, “Oh, yes, his work alright.” He raised his voice. “Satan’s work for sure, but how can you be certain Ms. Gibbons is the instrument?”
“There is evidence!” Governor Williams spat.
“Insubstantial,” Minister Brown dismissed. It was not often that someone had the bravery to challenge the Governor.
Governor Williams’s face was bright red with anger. “Minister, you will concede or I will have you removed from this courtroom. My word goes and I have made my ruling. Do I make myself clear?”
The Minister looked back at him with gritted teeth. “Quite.” He spun and stormed to his seat. Violet could do nothing but watch in horror.
Governor Williams snapped his fingers. “Take her to the stake.”
“No,” Violet said breathlessly. “NO! Please! Please! ”
The gray haired man simply looked away as the men grabbed her arms and pulled her from the room. Outside, there was already a crowd gathered. It parted to let them through to a wooden stake pounded in the ground amidst a circle of wooden logs. Violet had to suppress a sob.
She was led to the stake, but didn’t even notice herself being tied up. She was far too distant for that. Violet had seen this happen before. She knew what was to come. The day was unnervingly sunny, a direct contrast to the dark deed that was being carried out on that hill in that moment. Violet looked out over the landscape of her home, the place where she had lived for her whole life. She took in the rolling green hills and the shaded forests where she had so loved to walk. It was the same love of the forest that directly led to her death.
Violet took one last look and then closed her eyes, resting her head back against the pole.
“Confess!” someone in the crowd shouted desperately. It sounded like her brother-in-law. “Confess, Violet, and show your conversion! Perhaps they will change their mind!”
Violet lifted her head and looked down at him sadly. She gave a soft smile. “To confess something untrue would be to deny God. Let me have my final moments of righteousness so that I may live forever in the heavens.”
She cast her gaze towards the clouds and closed her eyes again. Standing still and serene, proud and dignified, Violet waited to reach her reward in heaven.