A Story by Peter Rogerson

What would your last words be if you were facing certain agonizing death?


Sir, when I said that bit about the devil takin' the sod I wasn't prayin' or anything, I wasn't beggin' for that bad ole Necromancer to come up from 'is kingdom in the depths and actually be here and do things! I was frustrated, that's what I was, 'cause the big man's kid, that oh so brave noble lord's brat, thought he was so much better than me, yes 'e did, an' frustration at the little swine - I mean gennelman - getting in the way o' my work an stoppin' my toils, got at me in the end and I said it, not meanin' no offence or anything, just needin' t' get on wi' mi' work before dark comes along, with the cold of a dire November hangin' in the air like it does and my few rags so thin.... An' the young gennelman in 'is fine clothes, all warm an' frisky, comes an' messes wi' me things, throws stones at me as 'as never 'urt nobody, I swear it, an' gets in my way, stops me doin' my necessary! An' now you says, you with your collar all starched an' stiff an' that big bible in your hands, you says as I'm a witch an' I swears to you here and now that I'm no such creature! You're a man of God, you are, an' surely must see through lies to the truth beneath...An' those as ought to know better, the good Christian souls o' this village, they calls for my life an' all I ever did was help 'em, young Martha when her pains were bad and 'er baby next door t' death, I gave 'er the right herbs to ease all that distress and her babe lived on, grew strong like 'e is now as everyone can see. An' there's Master Thomas when 'e 'ad the fever, I mixed root and leaf like my ma used to mix 'em, an' he who might 'ave died lives now, an' yet 'e calls for my life on account of witchcraft which I never knew! Look you there at 'im, face all brazen an' beggin' t'see me burn, an' I saved 'im from certain death...

An' you're takin' me t' the burnin' field like you've taken other good honest souls afore me, an' you're goin' to set flame to kindling until my flesh is all scorched and the agony is in me, an' I die afore you, me as was never a witch, me as only 'ad good intentions. An' who will you turn to next time the black death comes a-visitin', eh? Who will you beg to like you did last fall, aye, beg to save your little ones as they cough their darlin' lungs into the foul air of this cruel world? Not me if I'm burned, an' that's a fact...

Please, sir, don't. I ain't so old as I rightly ought t' die! Untie me an' put that f****t down! The Lord will 'ave mercy on you, that 'e will, if you spares this old woman's life … there is no pain like this, no stench of cooking flesh so foul, my own cooking flesh as it sizzles away an even now I can smell it an' hear it, no agony, no life...

An', sir, I never was no witch, not ever.... never …. the good Lord bless you, sir, not … ever....

© 2015 Peter Rogerson

Author's Note

Peter Rogerson
Is it a story? I'd say yes, told through the last words of an old woman condemned to die...

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Added on November 1, 2015
Last Updated on November 1, 2015
Tags: witchcraft, herbs, medicine, cure, conviction, stake, burning


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..