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Parris is afraid that if people like Rebecca Nurse get hung, in conjunction with rumors of Andover's rebellion and Abby's bailing, that people will turn against him and the courts, and declare them frauds. So, he proposes that they should "postpone these hangin's for a time." Danforth refuses, but compromises by saying if Elizabeth can get John to confess, then maybe the people will be struck by a man of such "weight" actually confessing, and maybe John's confession will prompt the others to confess too.
Parris thinks that Abby and Mercy left because "they fear to keep in Salem any more", which means that they fear that people will turn against them. Since the rumors that Andover had overthrown the courts and turned against the accusers, Abby was fearful that would happen to her, so she bolts, stealing Parris' money first.
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