The Witch Wore Pink
“But witches don’t wear pink!” protested Mary as the baron’s henchmen bundled her away. “Look at my hat!” The one with the big nose snorted and his cross-eyed friend said,
“Typical witch’s trick that. You’ve got the tumbledown cottage in the forest and the black cat and the besom to fly away on…”
“Not quite,” said the third man, even heftier than the other two. There was a loud crack. “That’s the end of that, at least. Snapped like a twig it did,” he added, flexing his muscles and grinning. The display of broken and blackened teeth was horrible, but Mary refrained from comment. She had more brains than the three men put together but was decidedly their inferior when it came to brawn.
“Where are you taking me?” she enquired mildly.
“To his Lordship’s, of course,” replied the besom snapper. “The Witchfinder General is staying overnight and will put you to the test. Then he’ll make you pay for your sins.”
“But what if he finds me innocent?”
“That’ll be a first!” As the men leered in unison, Mary thought rapidly. The prospect of being tested by someone paid by results and for whom those results were a foregone conclusion was an ominous one. Being stripped of everything, even her favourite headgear, and poked with sticks and goodness knew what else was more than enough to make any girl quake in her boots. It was a long walk to the castle, though, and…Mmmm. The unpleasant trio had been out all day on the hunt for witches and looked weary. Maybe they would relish a break, especially one that might afford them some entertainment.
“Are you absolutely sure about this?” she ventured. “You’re going to look very silly if you take me all that way and he finds I’m not a witch after all.” The men looked at each other and shuffled their feet. The baron had the reputation of not being a forgiving man and, if he were made to look foolish in front of the great Witchfinder General…”
“I’ll tell you what,” continued Mary. “There’s a river just over that hill. Why not test me yourselves. If I float, you’ll know I’m a witch and will be rewarded for handing me over. If I drown, you’ll know I wasn’t and you can look for someone else.”
There was a long pause and then Nosey said uncertainly, “It’s not a bad idea, I suppose.” The others looked doubtful, but he continued, “No ducking stool, of course, but we could just throw her in and see what happens.”
“Tie her up first?” suggested the besom snapper.
“With what? Did either of you bring any rope?” They shook their heads and there was another pause.
“Oh come on,” said Squinty at last. “With three of us to watch her, she’s hardly going to get away, is she?” A sudden thought struck him. “You can’t swim, can you?”
Mary hung her head. “Never learned, sir,” she replied.
“That’s it then.”
It was getting late by the time they reached the river bank and the water looked dark and uninviting. Rough hands seized Mary’s arms and legs and in she went.
Holding her breath, she swam and then slithered underwater until … Yes! There they were! Now all she had to do was brace herself against the current and find her footing.
The men watched with amazement as first her pink woolly hat and then the rest of their witch rose from the water and strode off purposefully towards the far bank. As she disappeared into the trees, Nosey said,
“Well, now I’ve seen everything. It’s a miracle. That’s what it is. The lass walked on water, just like Our Lord.”
“She must be a blessed saint,” agreed Squinty, “not a witch full of sin after all.” The besom snapper was too busy crossing himself to contribute to the conversation.
Stopping only to pray, they went on their way and never hunted for witches again in that part of the forest. That was just as well, because in the full light of day they could hardly have missed the stepping stones.
Written in response to a Ripon Writers' Group challenge to incorporate a pink woolly hat, a besom and some stepping stones into a 600 word story.