The next day, Walter persuades John Carr to talk honestly with him. He’s the only villager who’s still kind towards him. Walter urges him to open up and tell the whole story, and after he reassures John that he’s not deceiving the villagers in any way, John explains that the sidemen kept them waiting outside the house, refusing to let them see Master Kent or Master Jordan. Instead, Mr. Baynham came to the door and suggested cryptically that there’s “witchery about.” Walter is surprised because no one has mentioned witchcraft before, and worried because such an accusation always brings serious punishment.
It’s notable that Walter’s closest friends have to be reassured he’s still on their side, when he hasn’t done anything to display disloyalty. Mr. Baynham’s vague accusations of witchcraft are disturbing and important; since persecution of “witches” is usually organized by religious authorities, it’s another demonstration of the harm that Jordan’s brand of Christianity brings to the village.
When Mr. Baynham says tauntingly that the three women in custody are “she-devils” and that they might soon be burned, the villagers lose their temper and begin to make their own accusations. John says heavily that they didn’t do Walter “any favors,” but they “had to take care of our own.” Walter is unsurprised he’s no longer included in the category “our own.”
After refusing to speak to Walter about what’s going on, the villagers are falsely accusing him of wrongdoing just as they’ve accused other strangers in the past. Walter is losing his identity as a villager and becoming more of an outsider.
According to John Carr, the villagers suggested that Mr. Quill, whom they’ve renamed the “Chart-Maker,” is somehow in league with the three strangers, who arrived at the same time he did. His kind behavior to Mistress Beldam and the young man proves they’re scheming together. Moreover, since Walter now spends too much time with the Chart-Maker and didn’t even come to the manor house when his own paramour was inside, they’ve accused him of being the Chart-Maker’s accomplice. With so many more logical culprits to pursue, the villagers assume that Jordan will free the women.
The villagers’ accusations are completely groundless, but that doesn’t make them less dangerous—it serves Master Jordan’s interests to accuse as many criminals as possible in order to intimidate others and drive them from the village. Even though they are enemies, both Master Jordan and the villagers are complicit in implicating the most vulnerable among them.
John suggests that Walter flee the village, as Brooker Higgs and the Derby twins have already done. Indeed, Walter is worried for himself and all the villagers. He refers to the community as “a moonball that’s been kicked, just for the devilry, by some vexatious foot.”
While comparisons to nature are usually positive and soothing, here Walter’s language shows that the natural world doesn’t always promise stability and sometimes delivers destruction instead.
Soon afterwards, Master Kent visits Walter in his cottage to present his own version of events. He spent the night locked in his room, but he heard Jordan’s men torturing Anne and Kitty and probably raping them until they confessed to witchcraft. Master Kent supposes that Jordan allowed his men to do whatever they wanted to the women as long as they produced a confession. He tells Walter that Jordan “means to shear us all, then turn us into mutton.”
Here, Master Kent makes the most explicit comparison between villagers and sheep. As he tells it, to Jordan, the villagers are not people but merely livestock to control and from which to profit, just like the sheep Jordan will import soon. These comparisons point out the dehumanization that comes along with Jordan’s ideas of progress.
Master Kent is evidently ashamed to have been powerless to stop the men, but Walter imagines they were especially cruel to Anne and Kitty because they were away from their own homes and families, and in charge of someone else for the first time in their lives.
Walter evaluates the servants’ behavior shrewdly; implicitly, he points out the role of a strong community in policing its members’ behavior and shows the kind of abuse to which the villagers will be vulnerable once their community is disbanded.
Master Kent says that Kitty Gosse identified herself as a witch while trying to spare Anne and Lizzie. Moreover, she said that all three of them were only followers and named half a dozen other villagers. Master Kent believes she chose people who were not relative or close friends. Walter is surprised to learn she didn’t name him.
For the first time, the women have to act in order to preserve themselves at the expense of the larger group. Kitty’s first assertion of individuality occurs in terrifying and heart-wrenching circumstances, rather than as a moment of positive personal development.
However, the men weren’t satisfied with the names of “followers,” and demanded to know the leader. Master Kent heard Anne Rogers name “the gentleman,” and imagines she mimicked Mr. Quill’s walk to implicate him.
Both of the women are more comfortable implicating Mr. Quill, an outsider, than other villagers they’ve known all their lives.
The sidemen brought these confessions to Master Jordan, who was smoking downstairs. Next, they brought in the confused Lizzie Carr and induced her to corroborate the women’s testimony by saying that Mr. Quill “made me Queen and tried to put his hand on me.”
Lizzie is describing the Gleaning Ceremony, the village’s most important ritual. However, for Jordan, who wants to dismantle the way of life these rituals support, her description is easily twisted into evidence of something sinister.
However, when they looked for Mr. Quill, they couldn’t find him. By that time, he was with Walter at the pillory. However, the men interpret the tools of his craft—pestles, paints, and books about plants—as evidence of sorcery.
By this point, the investigation is becoming a mockery; Jordan is seeking to implicate Mr. Quill for the tools with which he does the work Jordan has ordered.
By the time the villagers approached the manor house, Anne and Kitty had already confessed and it was too late. In any case, their accusations were in line with Anne and Kitty’s confessions, implicating Mr. Quill and connecting him to the strangers. Master Kent says that Mr. Quill is still at large, but that Jordan’s men are searching for him now.
Instead of helping them, accusing the strangers has only strengthened the witchcraft case in Jordan’s eyes. This incident shows that scapegoating outsiders rarely has good results for anyone.