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The Death of Agnes Nutter
[this is FICTION]

A witch burning
The English, by and large being a crass and indolent race, were not as keen on burning women as other countries in Europe.   In Germany, the bonfires were built and burned with regular Teutonic thoroughness.   Even the pious Scots, locked throughout history in a long-drawn-out battle with their arch-enemies the Scots, managed a few burnings to while away the long winter evenings.   But the English never seemed to have the heart for it.

One reason for this may have to do with the manner of Agnes Nutter's death, which more or less marked the end of the serious witch-hunting craze in England.   A howling mob, reduced to utter fury by her habit of going around being intelligent and curing people, arrived at her house one April evening to find her sitting with her coat on, waiting for them.

"Ye're tardie," she said to them.   "I shoulde have beene aflame ten minutes since."

Then she got up and hobbled slowly through the suddenly silent crowd, out of the cottage, and to the bonfire that had been hastily thrown together on the village green.   Legend says that she climbed awkwardly onto the pyre and thrust her arms around the stake behind her.

"Tye yt well," she said to the astonished witchfinder.   And then, as the villagers sidled toward the pyre, she raised her handsome head in the firelight and said, "Gather ye ryte close, goode people.   Come close untyl the fire near scorch ye, for I charge ye that alle must see how thee last true wytch in England dies.   For wytch I am, for soe I am judged, yette I know not what my true Cryme may be.   And therefore let myne deathe be a message to the worlde.   Gather ye ryte close, I saye, and mark well the fate of alle who meddle with suche as they do notte understande."

And, apparently, she smiled and looked up at the sky over the village and added, "That goes for you as welle, yowe daft old foole."

And after that strange blasphemy she said no more.   She let them gag her, and stood imperiously as the torches were put to the dry wood.

The crowd grew nearer, one or two of its members a little uncertain as to whether they'd done the right thing, now they came to think about it.

Thirty seconds later, an explosion took out the village green, scythed the valley clean of every living thing, and was seen as far away as Halifax.

There was much subsequent debate as to whether this had been sent by God or Satan, but a note later found in Agnes Nutter's cottage indicated that any divine or devilish intervention had been materially helped by the contents of Agnes Nutter's petticoats, wherein she had with some foresight concealed eighty pounds of gunpowder and forty pounds of roofing nails.

      —   from Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett