Crystal had seen Mr Twiggard leave the table earlier and kept starting at every voice behind her.

Since she had shattered that vase earlier, she had been withdrawn with fear. She was a witch. She had magic powers. She could make things break. That was a bad power!

She kept expecting the Witch-hunter to lay his hand on her shoulder and declare her as one of the Devil’s women.


Crystal jerked at the shout and felt a short-lived relief that nobody’s finger was pointed at her. Mr Twiggard had emerged from the Horse & Rider Inn with the young barmaid in his grasp. She was only the same age as Crystal!

“WITCH!” He yelled again, making sure that everybody was looking his way, stunned into silence.

“Come on now, Sir,” the Mayor said uneasily. That’s only young Miss Springs, the barmaid! Did she refuse to serve you ale?”

There were some uneasy chuckles.

Mr Twiggard’s eyes blazed angrily. The Mayor stood up and walked to his side. “Pray tell, sir, how you come to accuse this poor woman of witchcraft?”

“Well -” Mr Twiggard hesitated a moment.

“He had a Hand of Glory!” the girl screamed. “He was robbing Mr Taylor!”

There were many shocked intakes of air.

“It’s true!” she began to sob, “He has it there, inside his coat, with Mr Taylor’s purse!”

“Believe not her lies!” Mr Twiggard bellowed. Crystal cowered on the bench. The girl opposite was staring in horror at the barmaid.

“This woman used her devilry to put out my candle in her own attempt to rob Mr Taylor! It is lucky I was there to stop her!”

“Sir, do you know how grave these accusations are? Not to mention absurd!” The Mayor grabbed the barmaid’s shoulder. “Anyone can put out a candle, sir, with a single breath!”

He turned and blew the flame out on a lantern. There was scattered laughter at this. Mr Twiggard’s face was steadily reddening. “See? Do you not see! She has already woven her spells on some of you!”

People gasped and muttered at this claim. Someone muttered, “Always thought she was shifty, her. Just turned up out of the blue, she did.”

“Enough! I will take her and prove that she is indeed a Devil’s maiden. I have a series of tests. I shall imprison her in my lodgings on Haporth Lane!”

He began to stride away, dragging the terrified Miss Springs behind her.

Crystal’s insides were twisting horribly. She could not sit and watch as the poor girl was dragged away to a certain death sentence.

Barrel, explode, she thought. Her necklace grew hot again. As the Witch-hunter strode past a barrel of beer, it exploded suddenly. The man was knocked sideways and loosened his hold on the maid. She saw her chance and started to run up the road towards the church.

“Stop her!” spluttered Mr Twiggard, floundering in a pool of beer. Two men strode after her and to Crystal’s dismay grabbed her by the arms and began to drag her back, kicking and protesting her innocence.

Crystal turned and saw the man next to her pointing a shaking finger at her face. It was encrusted with the food he had been chewing like a dog all evening.

“That was you,” he hissed. Crystal’s heart sank. In her panic, she had spoken the words aloud.

“Mr Twiggard, sir! Another one!”

Everyone turned to stare. Enjoying the attention, the vagrant stood up and raised his voice.


In a blur two more villagers, taken in by Mr Twiggard, were on either side of her.

They grabbed her and pulled her off the bench.

Crystal’s father and mother were up at the church, preparing for his musical pieces. She was helpless.

Again, the girl opposite was gazing at her. Not in horror, in surprise. Crystal’s necklace was hanging outside her dress. The girl was pulling an identical chain from under her own, staring at it in wonder.

She’s like me, Crystal thought suddenly. She’s like me. She must have powers too! She found herself wondering if the barmaid was too, or if she really was innocent.

Only for an instant though, as she was dragged before the soaked Mr Twiggard, who had managed to stagger to his feet.

“Well, well, another witchy little maid!” he sneered. He grabbed both girls by the shoulders and began to march them away. “Be sure, Mr Sandforth, that I will not rest until these Devil wenches are proven and punished for their crimes against God.”

Crystal’s mind was a blur of thoughts as they turned into Haporth Lane and approached a squat stone building. Around the back, and through a door into a small barn.

Crystal saw the other girl’s panicked face, and the rats on the floor, and Mr Twiggard’s evil smile as he closed and locked the door.

Then the darkness of the barn deepened as she fainted.

The End

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