When Reverend Parris and Mr. Putnam go downstairs, Mary Warren tells Abigail Williams that there are rumors everywhere about witchcraft. People believe that Betty Parris is the victim of witchcraft, and Mary is afraid that people will soon “be callin’ [the girls] witches.” She insists that Abby and the other girls have to tell the truth about what they were doing in the forest with Tituba, an enslaved Barbadian woman who belongs to Parris. Mary seems to think that everything can be put right if Abigail and the other girls will only tell the truth about what they did.
Mary argues that “Witchery’s a hangin’ error,” or, in other words, a crime for which the girls could hang if they are accused and found guilty. Mary evidently recalls that a witch was hanged in Boston just two years prior, so such things do happen and have happened in recent memory. Mary is scared, and she tries to compel Abigail to confess to dancing in the woods and conjuring spirits with Anne Putnam, Mercy Lewis, and Tituba. She reasons, “you’ll only be whipped for dancin’, and the other things!” Mary is afraid that the punishment for keeping quiet will be far worse than it could be for speaking up now and telling the truth.