Members of a religious group, the Believers, settle outside of the town of Glenville. Jeremiah runs up to their elder, Jedidiah, and says that the Widow Harper is coming again and has brought a man with a gun. Harper and the Glenville sheriff, Gaines, arrive, and Harper tells the sheriff to run them off before the pestilence strikes the entire village. She insists that they put a hex on the town, and Gaines tells Jedidiah that he's received a lot of complaints. Jedidiah insists that they've neither bothered nor convert anyone. Gaines warns that the townspeople think that the group is the cause of the strange things that have happened, and Jedidiah invites him to look around. As Gaines starts to leave, satisfied, a crow flies overhead and Harper insists that it means death. Gaines points out that he hasn't seen a crow in six months, and Jedidiah says that it has nothing to do with anything but superstition. Unsatisfied, Gaines draws his gun and shoots the crow... and his revolver backfires. Jedidiah confirms that he's dead.
Several days later, Hoby arrives in Glenville in response to a letter from Dr. John Walters. The streets are deserted, and Walters finally calls Hoby into his office. Walters says that everyone is inside behind locked doors, scared. He explains that two months ago the Believers bought some land and a house on the edge of town. Since then, Harper lives near them and has been trying to make trouble for them. She claims that they're disciples of the Devil, and she's slowly built up a following. After Gaines died, everyone was forced to listen to her. Everyone knew that Gaines made his own cartridges, but they still questioned the timing. Now a flock of chickens died and Will Stoddard's son was paralyzed and found near the settlement without a mark on him. Several other children have become ill, and Walters sent for Hoby. The people won't let Walters examine the sick people because he's not equipped to deal with witchcraft.
A townsman, Gus, comes in and says that Harper is claiming that a Believer made one of her cows stop giving milk. Hoby goes to examine some of the children, figuring that he'd have to find out what was happening before someone gives the town a push into chaos.
Hoby and Walters go to the Stoddard house, but he refuses to let them see his son. They figure that Will is one of the ringleaders. The two men visit the other homes without success, trying to break through the wall of prejudice. When they go back to the office, Gus tells them that Jim Brown's son has come down with paralysis and the men are preparing a lynching party at Harper's house that night.
When the two men arrive at Harper's farm, she grabs a shotgun and tells them to stay where they are. Walters introduces Hoby, and Harper says that he should be running off the Believers. She insists that she knows they're the Devil's spawn, and says that her father told her that if outsiders came in then people would die. Harper tried to stop them, but the Believers settled the land. She insists that the children will die unless the Believers are driven out. When Hoby objects, Harper wonders if he's one of them. He tells her to stop stirring up her neighbors, but Harper orders him off her land.
Hoby goes to the Believer settlement and Jedidiah talks to him. He explains that he's the elder, and admits that there is trouble. Jedidiah invites Hoby to look around but assures him that there are no practitioners of witchcraft. He calls over Jeremiah and asks if he's seen any witches, and Jeremiah says that there are no witches. As they look around, Jedidiah explains that there are a few things that they buy and they don't believe in luxuries. He tells Hoby about their beliefs, and takes him to where Gaines was killed. Jedidiah insists that it was an accident, and didn't keep the pieces of the gun. He tells Hoby that he's glad that he came and hopes that things become better. Hoby tells him that he can protect his property, and Jedidiah explains that they don't believe in violence no matter what the reason. They put their trust in God, and Jedidiah tells Hoby to go in peace.
That night, Hoby and Walters go to the meeting at the Harper farm. Walters points out that Harper's barn was freshly painted, and sometimes it will upset a cow and it won't give milk. He suggests that the townspeople have made their children sick with their talk of hexes, but Harper yells at the townspeople to get rid of the Believers. Hoby concedes that they're different, and points out that the Believers think the same thing. Harper walks out and a few seconds later, a crow flies in and perches on the rafters. The old woman insists that it means death when she comes back in, and promises that someone will die. Hoby dismisses it as superstition, but Harper says that one of the children will die. When Hoby tries to stop them, a townsman clubs him unconscious.
Walters helps Hoby up while Harper goes into her house. The crow flies out of the barn to the house window, and Hoby sees it. He tells Walters to go after the mob and try to stall them. Once the doctor leaves, Hoby goes to the house and breaks in. He finds Harper putting the crow in a cage, and he takes her and the crow to the settlement.
The Believers are preparing their wagon when the mob arrives. They confront Jedidiah and Will demands that Jedidiah gives his son his legs back. Jedidiah says that he knows nothing of it, and Will hits him. Walters runs up and tells them to stop, but Will says that he'll shoot him if he doesn't step aside. The townspeople pull Walters aside and attack the unresisting Believers, tearing down their settlement.
Hoby arrives with Harper and the crow and releases the crow. The townsmen notice and Hoby tells Harper to call the crow or she'll go to jail and never see her land again. Harper summons the crow back and Hoby tells the townsmen that Harper sent their "omen." Harper walks off as the townsmen stare at her.
Once the mob leaves, Jedidiah tells Hoby that they will leave as soon as the men are ready to travel. He figures that they're not meant to stay, and they've been unwanted before. Jedidiah figures that it's fear of the unknown, and the fear turns man into an unreasonable animal. The townspeople come back with their children--now fine--and Will asks the Believers to stay. He offers the group supplies
Written by Gadfly on May 16, 2017