It's winter now and a seriously brutal one at that.
One day, Elizabeth Putnam wanders into Mama English's shop. (In case you need a refresher: Elizabeth is married to Joseph Putnam, who is uncle to Ann Putnam, the mean clique leader).
Mama E and Elizabeth chat about the town. Apparently word has spread that Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail are seriously sick… and when we say sick we don't mean a fever anymore. According to the doctor, the "evil hand" is to blame (7.17)—yep, witchcraft has officially come to Salem.
But here's the good news for Betty and Abigail: they don't have to do chores anymore. Hmm, this is starting to sound suspicious to us.
Elizabeth says she and her hubby don't care a lick for this witchcraft nonsense, and Mama English agrees.
Before Elizabeth leaves, she's got one other tidbit to share. Apparently a few more girls, including Ann Putnam, are acting disturbed now too. Susanna recognizes all the names and, you guessed it, they're all part of the secret circle.
Susanna is freaked out by all this talk, but she also has a theory: What if Betty and the others are worried about getting in trouble for their secret meetings, and they're pretending to be under the "evil hand" so that they're in the clear?
Our gal Susanna wants to get to the bottom of this mess, so she offers to visit Ann with some apple tarts. But Mama English thinks Ann Putnam Sr. and Ann Putnam Jr. are the pits.
You see, years ago Ann Sr.'s older sister, Mary, gave birth to a lot of children who all died immediately, and Mary blamed the neighbors because they bullied her husband. Mary has died already, but Ann Sr. is still upset. Plus, like her big sis, Ann Sr. gave birth to a number of babies who died too. So Ann and Mary have had some rough times, for sure, but they also blame every misfortune on their neighbors. And that's just causing trouble.
Mama English talks to her hubby and he says Susanna can go visit Ann. Cue the foreboding music.