No, Your Honor, I do not regret what I have done. I suppose I should, since ordinarily I eschew violence in every form. I renounced that sort of behavior when I became a Quaker. But some things, some activities, some crimes, cannot be allowed to continue, even if it means the death of a human being, if one can call the devil that.
Pray, allow me to explain myself.
As I have said, I am a Quaker, and as a member of the Society of Friends, I am a pacifist. I believe in the principals of non-violence. I believe in turning the other cheek. I would never, under ordinary circumstances, raise my hand to another child of God in violence. Why, Your Honor, if you can believe it, I will not even kill a mouse who enters my home! Instead, I will capture it, unharmed, and take it a few miles away and let it go, complete with a tin can for shelter, nesting material, and even some kibble from the cat’s bowl so it will not go hungry.
I am not a monster, bent on the destruction of others. No, I am not a monster. But do I believe monsters should not live? God forgive me, but yes. I do believe that. And, in my eyes, and perhaps even in the eyes of God, I did not kill a human being.
I killed a monster. I killed the devil.
When my husband died, I was left with three small children to raise alone. It was not easy. I worked three jobs, Your Honor. Three! I cleaned houses, I waited tables, I cared for other people’s children. But I had three hungry mouths to feed, and I did not mind the work. It was enough that my babies had a roof over their heads, and food in their bellies, and shoes on their feet. I did not get to see them much, but it was worth it.
Still, I fell farther and farther behind on my bills. I was at risk of losing my home, and I despaired of what I could possibly do to keep my children safe and in the home and schools they loved.
It was then that the devil entered my house, and I did not recognize him.
The woman who watched my children while I was at work fell ill and could no longer care for them. I was at my wit’s end, Your Honor. I did not know what to do. I could not afford the exorbitant cost of day care for the little one, even though my older girls were old enough to care for themselves after school. So, at Meeting for Worship one Sunday, I shared my concern.
And my concern was answered when a Friend, who was currently without a place to live, said she would come and care for my children at no cost if only she could come and live with me. It seemed like an answer directly from God Himself. Of course, I said yes.
In the beginning, all was well. The children liked her, or seemed to, in the beginning. The house was always clean, the meals on the table at appropriate times, the beds made and homework done. All went along smoothly for quite some time.
And then I noticed a change in my children. A subtle change, but a change all the same. They began to be more quiet, more reserved, more distant. When I came home, instead of coming to greet me in the usual manner, they held back and looked at me with distrust, and dare I say it? Perhaps even loathing. I did not understand, but put it down to my imagination and my exhaustion. They seemed well cared for, though, and that was all I cared about.
She could have no children of her own, this woman who came into my home under false pretenses. She could have none of her own, so she wanted mine. I often saw her with the little one on her lap, reading her a bedtime story, brushing her hair, singing her little songs. It took a little longer with the older girls, but soon enough they came around, and before long, they were coming to her with their little problems, and with their little joys. They no longer came to me, and wanted only that she tuck them in at night, and say their prayers with them, and gave her the kisses that rightly belonged to me.
I was jealous. There. I’ve said it, and may God forgive me for it, but that is the truth. I was jealous, and I was angry. I looked for a way to rid my household of this usurper, but could think of none. I was still deeply in debt due to my husband’s long struggle with cancer. I was still working three jobs, and still could not afford child care. I was exhausted with the constant working, and tortured in my soul as I saw my children slipping farther and farther away from me. I was caught, as they say, between a rock and a hard place.
My jealousy turned to hatred. It is not in my nature to hate. It truly is not, Your Honor. I am a loving, kind, gentle soul. You can ask anyone. I do not raise my voice when I am confronted, nor do I lash out with violence at any time, for any reason. But, and I am sorry so to say, but every day I felt a hate burning in my heart that I could not deny. I prayed and I prayed to be relieved of this burden, but could find no relief. Why had God abandoned me? Why?
I spent the hours I was not working on my knees, in prayer. I did not sleep. I did not eat. I did not bathe. I only asked, “Why?” And eventually, the truth came to me.
This was no Friend, sent by God to help me. This woman was the devil himself, come to steal my children away and make them slaves to his own dark will. And I could not let that happen.
She had to go. She had to leave my house. But how? In the beginning, I truly only wanted her gone. I did not plan to kill her. But then I thought, “why not? Why should the devil remain alive to steal someone else’s children?” So, I decided to kill her.
I planned it well, Your Honor. I did not want to give my plot away, lest she take my children and run away with them. I continued to go to work, I continued to pray, I continued to try to make my children love me again. But every day, they grew farther and farther away from me, and closer and closer to her.
I could no longer wait.
I went to the library and researched ways to kill her. I wanted her to suffer, for should the devil not suffer?
Luckily for me, she became quite ill with a cold. She had a fever and congestion. She couldn’t taste anything. She was still thirsty and hungry, though, and that worked well for me. I had seen a few Deadly Nightshade plants in the field behind my house. Have you ever seen it? It’s not a bad looking plant, green leaves with dark purple berries. I went to the field and collected a number of berries, and some of the leaves as well.
I came home and made a pie with the berries, and infused the leaves into a large pot of tea. She was so grateful that I was taking care of her. I treated her gently, and insisted she drink all of the tea, and even made more. I made her eat three pieces of the pie, saying that she would feel better if she only had some food in her stomach. Trusting me, she did as I asked.
She grew sicker as the day wore on. She began to have chills, and grew nauseous and dizzy. Eventually, she began to have hallucinations. She saw vermin crawling on the walls, and claimed the devil was after her. I believe the devil had come to claim his own!
It took some hours, but I was glad when she finally died. I stayed with her and watched her torment, and was glad. I was glad I could make the devil suffer. Yes, I’ll say it! I was glad! My children, I thought, would finally be safe from her, and would love me again.
It was when I returned to the kitchen that I discovered that all three of my children had eaten the remainder of the pie.
So, you ask me if I regret what I have done. Do I regret that I killed the devil? That I killed this monster? No, I do not. But my children…yes, that I regret. Though, perhaps I should not be, for now they will not have to see their mother on the gallows, and carry that image to their graves.