There's some news afoot. Papa English has heard some gossip about big bro's ship, the William and Susanna—apparently the ship is trying to avoid pirates, which doesn't sound too great.
But Susanna doesn't dwell on this. She's got more drama brewing at home, this time about Deliverance and William Hobbs, whose sixteen-year-old daughter Abigail has run away. Again. Apparently she likes to run away and live in the woods. Oh—and she reads books. Books. Heavens to Betsy.
The Salem Puritans consider all these behaviors like living in the woods and reading books that aren't the bible to be super dangerous in their own right, and for a woman, they're totally off limits. It all goes back to this real life lady named Anne Hutchinson who lived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s. She was a freethinking lass, so she was driven out of town. Yep—Puritans took naysayers pretty seriously back in the day.
By the way, Papa English doesn't mind the whole book-reading thing. His daughters both read, and it's cool by him.
So back to Abigail. The Hobbses don't know what to do about their daughter, but they're super worried. Susanna pipes up and says she'll try to talk to Abigail herself—they went to school together and are old chums.
Out in the woods, Susanna finds Abigail and learns that all this girl wants is a wee bit of freedom. Is that too much to ask for? Sorry, Abigail, but looks like the folks in Salem aren't a huge fan of gals who frolic in the woods.
Here's what Abigail really likes about being in the forest: she gets to see and hear everything that goes on in the town. She's basically eavesdropping on everyone. This is how she learns that Reverend Parris beats Tituba, and that Ann Putnam and her gaggle of mean girls are up to something.
Well speak of the devil because Ann pops out of the parsonage. Ann isn't Abigail's biggest fan. But here's the real deal: Ann wants to make sure that Susanna is going to keep her mouth shut. You know, she doesn't want Susanna spilling the beans about how freaked out Betty Parris is.
Abigail is having none of this, so she calls Ann and her clique "the little coven of witches" (6.93). Yikes. Ann tells Abigail and Susanna to scram, and they do.