Infomotions, Inc.The Lancashire Witches A Romance of Pendle Forest / Ainsworth, William Harrison, 1805-1882



Author: Ainsworth, William Harrison, 1805-1882
Title: The Lancashire Witches A Romance of Pendle Forest
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): alizon; mistress nutter; nutter; demdike; nicholas; assheton; potts; nowell; mother demdike; richard; mother chattox; richard assheton; roger nowell; mistress; abbot; master potts; malkin tower; nicholas assheton; pendle hill; squire; replied alizon; rejo
Contributor(s): Flanery, M. L. [Illustrator]
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Title: The Lancashire Witches
       A Romance of Pendle Forest

Author: William Harrison Ainsworth

Release Date: March 29, 2005 [EBook #15493]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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[Illustration: NICHOLAS ASSHETON AND THE THREE DOLL WANGOS LEAVING
HOGHTON HALL.]




THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES.
A Romance of Pendle Forest.


By
William Harrison Ainsworth, Esq.


    _Sir Jeffery_.--Is there a justice in Lancashire has so much
    skill in witches as I have? Nay, I'll speak a proud word; you
    shall turn me loose against any Witch-finder in Europe. I'd
    make an ass of Hopkins if he were alive.--SHADWELL.


Third Edition.


Illustrated by John Gilbert.


London:
George Routledge & Co., Farringdon Street.
1854.


To
James Crossley, Esq.,
(of Manchester,)

President of the Chetham Society,
And the Learned Editor Of
"The Discoverie of Witches in the County of Lancaster,"--

The groundwork of the following pages,--
This Romance,
undertaken at his suggestion,
is inscribed
by his old, and sincerely attached friend,
The Author.




CONTENTS.



INTRODUCTION.

The Last Abbot of Whalley.

   I.    THE BEACON ON PENDLE HILL
  II.    THE ERUPTION
 III.    WHALLEY ABBEY
  IV.    THE MALEDICTION
   V.    THE MIDNIGHT MASS
  VI.    TETER ET FORTIS CARCER
 VII.    THE ABBEY MILL
VIII.    THE EXECUTIONER
  IX.    WISWALL HALL
   X.    THE HOLEHOUSES



BOOK THE FIRST.

Alizon Device.

   I.    THE MAY QUEEN
  II.    THE BLACK CAT AND THE WHITE DOVE
 III.    THE ASSHETONS
  IV.    ALICE NUTTER
   V.    MOTHER CHATTOX
  VI.    THE ORDEAL BY SWIMMING
 VII.    THE RUINED CONVENTUAL CHURCH
VIII.    THE REVELATION
  IX.    THE TWO PORTRAITS IN THE BANQUETING-HALL
   X.    THE NOCTURNAL MEETING



BOOK THE SECOND.

Pendle Forest.

   I.    FLINT
  II.    READ HALL
 III.    THE BOGGART'S GLEN
  IV.    THE REEVE OF THE FOREST
   V.    BESS'S O' TH' BOOTH
  VI.    THE TEMPTATION
 VII.    THE PERAMBULATION OF THE BOUNDARIES
VIII.    ROUGH LEE
  IX.    HOW ROUGH LEE WAS DEFENDED BY NICHOLAS
   X.    ROGER NOWELL AND HIS DOUBLE
  XI.    MOTHER DEMDIKE
 XII.    THE MYSTERIES OF MALKIN TOWER
XIII.    THE TWO FAMILIARS
 XIV.    HOW ROUGH LEE WAS AGAIN BESIEGED
  XV.    THE PHANTOM MONK
 XVI.    ONE O'CLOCK!
XVII.    HOW THE BEACON FIRE WAS EXTINGUISHED


BOOK THE THIRD.

Hoghton Tower.

   I.    DOWNHAM MANOR-HOUSE
  II.    THE PENITENT'S RETREAT
 III.    MIDDLETON HALL
  IV.    THE GORGE OF CLIVIGER
   V.    THE END OF MALKIN TOWER
  VI.    HOGHTON TOWER
 VII.    THE ROYAL DECLARATION CONCERNING LAWFUL SPORTS ON THE SUNDAY
VIII.    HOW KING JAMES HUNTED THE HART AND THE WILD-BOAR IN HOGHTON
            PARK
  IX.    THE BANQUET
   X.    EVENING ENTERTAINMENTS
  XI.    FATALITY
 XII.    THE LAST HOUR
XIII.    THE MASQUE OF DEATH
 XIV.    "ONE GRAVE"
  XV.    LANCASTER CASTLE




INTRODUCTION.

The Last Abbot of Whalley.




CHAPTER I.--THE BEACON ON PENDLE HILL.


There were eight watchers by the beacon on Pendle Hill in Lancashire.
Two were stationed on either side of the north-eastern extremity of the
mountain. One looked over the castled heights of Clithero; the woody
eminences of Bowland; the bleak ridges of Thornley; the broad moors of
Bleasdale; the Trough of Bolland, and Wolf Crag; and even brought within
his ken the black fells overhanging Lancaster. The other tracked the
stream called Pendle Water, almost from its source amid the neighbouring
hills, and followed its windings through the leafless forest, until it
united its waters to those of the Calder, and swept on in swifter and
clearer current, to wash the base of Whalley Abbey. But the watcher's
survey did not stop here. Noting the sharp spire of Burnley Church,
relieved against the rounded masses of timber constituting Townley Park;
as well as the entrance of the gloomy mountain gorge, known as the
Grange of Cliviger; his far-reaching gaze passed over Todmorden, and
settled upon the distant summits of Blackstone Edge.

Dreary was the prospect on all sides. Black moor, bleak fell, straggling
forest, intersected with sullen streams as black as ink, with here and
there a small tarn, or moss-pool, with waters of the same hue--these
constituted the chief features of the scene. The whole district was
barren and thinly-populated. Of towns, only Clithero, Colne, and
Burnley--the latter little more than a village--were in view. In the
valleys there were a few hamlets and scattered cottages, and on the
uplands an occasional "booth," as the hut of the herdsman was termed;
but of more important mansions there were only six, as Merley,
Twistleton, Alcancoats, Saxfeld, Ightenhill, and Gawthorpe. The
"vaccaries" for the cattle, of which the herdsmen had the care, and the
"lawnds," or parks within the forest, appertaining to some of the halls
before mentioned, offered the only evidences of cultivation. All else
was heathy waste, morass, and wood.

Still, in the eye of the sportsman--and the Lancashire gentlemen of the
sixteenth century were keen lovers of sport--the country had a strong
interest. Pendle forest abounded with game. Grouse, plover, and bittern
were found upon its moors; woodcock and snipe on its marshes; mallard,
teal, and widgeon upon its pools. In its chases ranged herds of deer,
protected by the terrible forest-laws, then in full force: and the
hardier huntsman might follow the wolf to his lair in the mountains;
might spear the boar in the oaken glades, or the otter on the river's
brink; might unearth the badger or the fox, or smite the fierce
cat-a-mountain with a quarrel from his bow. A nobler victim sometimes,
also, awaited him in the shape of a wild mountain bull, a denizen of the
forest, and a remnant of the herds that had once browsed upon the hills,
but which had almost all been captured, and removed to stock the park of
the Abbot of Whalley. The streams and pools were full of fish: the
stately heron frequented the meres; and on the craggy heights built the
kite, the falcon, and the kingly eagle.

There were eight watchers by the beacon. Two stood apart from the
others, looking to the right and the left of the hill. Both were armed
with swords and arquebuses, and wore steel caps and coats of buff. Their
sleeves were embroidered with the five wounds of Christ, encircling the
name of Jesus--the badge of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Between them, on
the verge of the mountain, was planted a great banner, displaying a
silver cross, the chalice, and the Host, together with an ecclesiastical
figure, but wearing a helmet instead of a mitre, and holding a sword in
place of a crosier, with the unoccupied hand pointing to the two towers
of a monastic structure, as if to intimate that he was armed for its
defence. This figure, as the device beneath it showed, represented John
Paslew, Abbot of Whalley, or, as he styled himself in his military
capacity, Earl of Poverty.

There were eight watchers by the beacon. Two have been described. Of the
other six, two were stout herdsmen carrying crooks, and holding a couple
of mules, and a richly-caparisoned war-horse by the bridle. Near them
stood a broad-shouldered, athletic young man, with the fresh complexion,
curling brown hair, light eyes, and open Saxon countenance, best seen in
his native county of Lancaster. He wore a Lincoln-green tunic, with a
bugle suspended from the shoulder by a silken cord; and a silver plate
engraved with the three luces, the ensign of the Abbot of Whalley, hung
by a chain from his neck. A hunting knife was in his girdle, and an
eagle's plume in his cap, and he leaned upon the but-end of a crossbow,
regarding three persons who stood together by a peat fire, on the
sheltered side of the beacon. Two of these were elderly men, in the
white gowns and scapularies of Cistertian monks, doubtless from Whalley,
as the abbey belonged to that order. The third and last, and evidently
their superior, was a tall man in a riding dress, wrapped in a long
mantle of black velvet, trimmed with minever, and displaying the same
badges as those upon the sleeves of the sentinels, only wrought in
richer material. His features were strongly marked and stern, and bore
traces of age; but his eye was bright, and his carriage erect and
dignified.

The beacon, near which the watchers stood, consisted of a vast pile of
logs of timber, heaped upon a circular range of stones, with openings to
admit air, and having the centre filled with fagots, and other quickly
combustible materials. Torches were placed near at hand, so that the
pile could be lighted on the instant.

The watch was held one afternoon at the latter end of November, 1536. In
that year had arisen a formidable rebellion in the northern counties of
England, the members of which, while engaging to respect the person of
the king, Henry VIII., and his issue, bound themselves by solemn oath to
accomplish the restoration of Papal supremacy throughout the realm, and
the restitution of religious establishments and lands to their late
ejected possessors. They bound themselves, also, to punish the enemies
of the Romish church, and suppress heresy. From its religious character
the insurrection assumed the name of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and
numbered among its adherents all who had not embraced the new doctrines
in Yorkshire and Lancashire. That such an outbreak should occur on the
suppression of the monasteries, was not marvellous. The desecration and
spoliation of so many sacred structures--the destruction of shrines and
images long regarded with veneration--the ejection of so many
ecclesiastics, renowned for hospitality and revered for piety and
learning--the violence and rapacity of the commissioners appointed by
the Vicar-General Cromwell to carry out these severe measures--all these
outrages were regarded by the people with abhorrence, and disposed them
to aid the sufferers in resistance. As yet the wealthier monasteries in
the north had been spared, and it was to preserve them from the greedy
hands of the visiters, Doctors Lee and Layton, that the insurrection had
been undertaken. A simultaneous rising took place in Lincolnshire,
headed by Makarel, Abbot of Barlings, but it was speedily quelled by the
vigour and skill of the Duke of Suffolk, and its leader executed. But
the northern outbreak was better organized, and of greater force, for it
now numbered thirty thousand men, under the command of a skilful and
resolute leader named Robert Aske.

As may be supposed, the priesthood were main movers in a revolt having
their especial benefit for its aim; and many of them, following the
example of the Abbot of Barlings, clothed themselves in steel instead of
woollen garments, and girded on the sword and the breastplate for the
redress of their grievances and the maintenance of their rights. Amongst
these were the Abbots of Jervaux, Furness, Fountains, Rivaulx, and
Salley, and, lastly, the Abbot of Whalley, before mentioned; a fiery and
energetic prelate, who had ever been constant and determined in his
opposition to the aggressive measures of the king. Such was the
Pilgrimage of Grace, such its design, and such its supporters.

Several large towns had already fallen into the hands of the insurgents.
York, Hull, and Pontefract had yielded; Skipton Castle was besieged, and
defended by the Earl of Cumberland; and battle was offered to the Duke
of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury, who headed the king's forces at
Doncaster. But the object of the Royalist leaders was to temporise, and
an armistice was offered to the rebels and accepted. Terms were next
proposed and debated.

During the continuance of this armistice all hostilities ceased; but
beacons were reared upon the mountains, and their fires were to be taken
as a new summons to arms. This signal the eight watchers expected.

Though late in November, the day had been unusually fine, and, in
consequence, the whole hilly ranges around were clearly discernible, but
now the shades of evening were fast drawing on.

"Night is approaching," cried the tall man in the velvet mantle,
impatiently; "and still the signal comes not. Wherefore this delay? Can
Norfolk have accepted our conditions? Impossible. The last messenger
from our camp at Scawsby Lees brought word that the duke's sole terms
would be the king's pardon to the whole insurgent army, provided they at
once dispersed--except ten persons, six named and four unnamed."

"And were you amongst those named, lord abbot?" demanded one of the
monks.

"John Paslew, Abbot of Whalley, it was said, headed the list," replied
the other, with a bitter smile. "Next came William Trafford, Abbot of
Salley. Next Adam Sudbury, Abbot of Jervaux. Then our leader, Robert
Aske. Then John Eastgate, Monk of Whalley--"

"How, lord abbot!" exclaimed the monk. "Was my name mentioned?"

"It was," rejoined the abbot. "And that of William Haydocke, also Monk
of Whalley, closed the list."

"The unrelenting tyrant!" muttered the other monk. "But these terms
could not be accepted?"

"Assuredly not," replied Paslew; "they were rejected with scorn. But the
negotiations were continued by Sir Ralph Ellerker and Sir Robert Bowas,
who were to claim on our part a free pardon for all; the establishment
of a Parliament and courts of justice at York; the restoration of the
Princess Mary to the succession; the Pope to his jurisdiction; and our
brethren to their houses. But such conditions will never be granted.
With my consent no armistice should have been agreed to. We are sure to
lose by the delay. But I was overruled by the Archbishop of York and the
Lord Darcy. Their voices prevailed against the Abbot of Whalley--or, if
it please you, the Earl of Poverty."

"It is the assumption of that derisive title which has drawn upon you
the full force of the king's resentment, lord abbot," observed Father
Eastgate.

"It may be," replied the abbot. "I took it in mockery of Cromwell and
the ecclesiastical commissioners, and I rejoice that they have felt the
sting. The Abbot of Barlings called himself Captain Cobbler, because, as
he affirmed, the state wanted mending like old shoon. And is not my
title equally well chosen? Is not the Church smitten with poverty? Have
not ten thousand of our brethren been driven from their homes to beg or
to starve? Have not the houseless poor, whom we fed at our gates, and
lodged within our wards, gone away hungry and without rest? Have not the
sick, whom we would have relieved, died untended by the hedge-side? I am
the head of the poor in Lancashire, the redresser of their grievances,
and therefore I style myself Earl of Poverty. Have I not done well?"

"You have, lord abbot," replied Father Eastgate.

"Poverty will not alone be the fate of the Church, but of the whole
realm, if the rapacious designs of the monarch and his heretical
counsellors are carried forth," pursued the abbot. "Cromwell, Audeley,
and Rich, have wisely ordained that no infant shall be baptised without
tribute to the king; that no man who owns not above twenty pounds a year
shall consume wheaten bread, or eat the flesh of fowl or swine without
tribute; and that all ploughed land shall pay tribute likewise. Thus the
Church is to be beggared, the poor plundered, and all men burthened, to
fatten the king, and fill his exchequer."

"This must be a jest," observed Father Haydocke.

"It is a jest no man laughs at," rejoined the abbot, sternly; "any more
than the king's counsellors will laugh at the Earl of Poverty, whose
title they themselves have created. But wherefore comes not the signal?
Can aught have gone wrong? I will not think it. The whole country, from
the Tweed to the Humber, and from the Lune to the Mersey, is ours; and,
if we but hold together, our cause must prevail."

"Yet we have many and powerful enemies," observed Father Eastgate; "and
the king, it is said, hath sworn never to make terms with us. Tidings
were brought to the abbey this morning, that the Earl of Derby is
assembling forces at Preston, to march upon us."

"We will give him a warm reception if he comes," replied Paslew,
fiercely. "He will find that our walls have not been kernelled and
embattled by licence of good King Edward the Third for nothing; and that
our brethren can fight as well as their predecessors fought in the time
of Abbot Holden, when they took tithe by force from Sir Christopher
Parsons of Slaydburn. The abbey is strong, and right well defended, and
we need not fear a surprise. But it grows dark fast, and yet no signal
comes."

"Perchance the waters of the Don have again risen, so as to prevent the
army from fording the stream," observed Father Haydocke; "or it may be
that some disaster hath befallen our leader."

"Nay, I will not believe the latter," said the abbot; "Robert Aske is
chosen by Heaven to be our deliverer. It has been prophesied that a
'worm with one eye' shall work the redemption of the fallen faith, and
you know that Robert Aske hath been deprived of his left orb by an
arrow."

"Therefore it is," observed Father Eastgate, "that the Pilgrims of Grace
chant the following ditty:--

          "'Forth shall come an Aske with one eye,
          He shall be chief of the company--
          Chief of the northern chivalry.'"

"What more?" demanded the abbot, seeing that the monk appeared to
hesitate.

"Nay, I know not whether the rest of the rhymes may please you, lord
abbot," replied Father Eastgate.

"Let me hear them, and I will judge," said Paslew. Thus urged, the monk
went on:--

          "'One shall sit at a solemn feast,
          Half warrior, half priest,
          The greatest there shall be the least.'"

"The last verse," observed the monk, "has been added to the ditty by
Nicholas Demdike. I heard him sing it the other day at the abbey gate."

"What, Nicholas Demdike of Worston?" cried the abbot; "he whose wife is
a witch?"

"The same," replied Eastgate.

"Hoo be so ceawnted, sure eno," remarked the forester, who had been
listening attentively to their discourse, and who now stepped forward;
"boh dunna yo think it. Beleemy, lort abbut, Bess Demdike's too yunk an
too protty for a witch."

"Thou art bewitched by her thyself, Cuthbert," said the abbot, angrily.
"I shall impose a penance upon thee, to free thee from the evil
influence. Thou must recite twenty paternosters daily, fasting, for one
month; and afterwards perform a pilgrimage to the shrine of our Lady of
Gilsland. Bess Demdike is an approved and notorious witch, and hath been
seen by credible witnesses attending a devil's sabbath on this very
hill--Heaven shield us! It is therefore that I have placed her and her
husband under the ban of the Church; pronounced sentence of
excommunication against them; and commanded all my clergy to refuse
baptism to their infant daughter, newly born."

"Wea's me! ey knoas 't reet weel, lort abbut," replied Ashbead, "and
Bess taks t' sentence sore ta 'ert!"

"Then let her amend her ways, or heavier punishment will befall her,"
cried Paslew, severely. "'_Sortilegam non patieris vivere_' saith the
Levitical law. If she be convicted she shall die the death. That she is
comely I admit; but it is the comeliness of a child of sin. Dost thou
know the man with whom she is wedded--or supposed to be wedded--for I
have seen no proof of the marriage? He is a stranger here."

"Ey knoas neawt abowt him, lort abbut, 'cept that he cum to Pendle a
twalmont agoa," replied Ashbead; "boh ey knoas fu' weel that
t'eawtcumbling felly robt me ot prettiest lass i' aw Lonkyshiar--aigh,
or i' aw Englondshiar, fo' t' matter o' that."

"What manner of man is he?" inquired the abbot.

"Oh, he's a feaw teyke--a varra feaw teyke," replied Ashbead; "wi' a
feace as black as a boggart, sooty shiny hewr loike a mowdywarp, an' een
loike a stanniel. Boh for running, rostling, an' throwing t' stoan, he'n
no match i' this keawntry. Ey'n triet him at aw three gams, so ey con
speak. For't most part he'n a big, black bandyhewit wi' him, and, by th'
Mess, ey canna help thinkin he meys free sumtoimes wi' yor lortship's
bucks."

"Ha! this must be looked to," cried the abbot. "You say you know not
whence he comes? 'Tis strange."

"T' missmannert carl'll boide naw questionin', odd rottle him!" replied
Ashbead. "He awnsurs wi' a gibe, or a thwack o' his staff. Whon ey last
seet him, he threatened t' raddle me booans weel, boh ey sooan lowert
him a peg."

"We will find a way of making him speak," said the abbot.

"He can speak, and right well if he pleases," remarked Father Eastgate;
"for though ordinarily silent and sullen enough, yet when he doth talk
it is not like one of the hinds with whom he consorts, but in good set
phrase; and his bearing is as bold as that of one who hath seen service
in the field."

"My curiosity is aroused," said the abbot. "I must see him."

"Noa sooner said than done," cried Ashbead, "for, be t' Lort Harry, ey
see him stonding be yon moss poo' o' top t' hill, though how he'n getten
theer t' Dule owny knoas."

And he pointed out a tall dark figure standing near a little pool on the
summit of the mountain, about a hundred yards from them.

"Talk of ill, and ill cometh," observed Father Haydocke. "And see, the
wizard hath a black hound with him! It may be his wife, in that
likeness."

"Naw, ey knoas t' hount reet weel, Feyther Haydocke," replied the
forester; "it's a Saint Hubert, an' a rareun fo' fox or badgert. Odds
loife, feyther, whoy that's t' black bandyhewit I war speaking on."

"I like not the appearance of the knave at this juncture," said the
abbot; "yet I wish to confront him, and charge him with his
midemeanours."

"Hark; he sings," cried Father Haydocke. And as he spoke a voice was
heard chanting,--

          "One shall sit at a solemn feast,
          Half warrior, half priest,
          The greatest there shall be the least."

"The very ditty I heard," cried Father Eastgate; "but list, he has more
of it." And the voice resumed,--

          "He shall be rich, yet poor as me,
          Abbot, and Earl of Poverty.
          Monk and soldier, rich and poor,
          He shall be hang'd at his own door."

Loud derisive laughter followed the song.

"By our Lady of Whalley, the knave is mocking us," cried the abbot;
"send a bolt to silence him, Cuthbert."

The forester instantly bent his bow, and a quarrel whistled off in the
direction of the singer; but whether his aim were not truly taken, or he
meant not to hit the mark, it is certain that Demdike remained
untouched. The reputed wizard laughed aloud, took off his felt cap in
acknowledgment, and marched deliberately down the side of the hill.

"Thou art not wont to miss thy aim, Cuthbert," cried the abbot, with a
look of displeasure. "Take good heed thou producest this scurril knave
before me, when these troublous times are over. But what is this?--he
stops--ha! he is practising his devilries on the mountain's side."

It would seem that the abbot had good warrant for what he said, as
Demdike, having paused at a broad green patch on the hill-side, was now
busied in tracing a circle round it with his staff. He then spoke aloud
some words, which the superstitious beholders construed into an
incantation, and after tracing the circle once again, and casting some
tufts of dry heather, which he plucked from an adjoining hillock, on
three particular spots, he ran quickly downwards, followed by his hound,
and leaping a stone wall, surrounding a little orchard at the foot of
the hill, disappeared from view.

"Go and see what he hath done," cried the abbot to the forester, "for I
like it not."

Ashbead instantly obeyed, and on reaching the green spot in question,
shouted out that he could discern nothing; but presently added, as he
moved about, that the turf heaved like a sway-bed beneath his feet, and
he thought--to use his own phraseology--would "brast." The abbot then
commanded him to go down to the orchard below, and if he could find
Demdike to bring him to him instantly. The forester did as he was
bidden, ran down the hill, and, leaping the orchard wall as the other
had done, was lost to sight.

Ere long, it became quite dark, and as Ashbead did not reappear, the
abbot gave vent to his impatience and uneasiness, and was proposing to
send one of the herdsmen in search of him, when his attention was
suddenly diverted by a loud shout from one of the sentinels, and a fire
was seen on a distant hill on the right.

"The signal! the signal!" cried Paslew, joyfully. "Kindle a
torch!--quick, quick!"

And as he spoke, he seized a brand and plunged it into the peat fire,
while his example was followed by the two monks.

"It is the beacon on Blackstone Edge," cried the abbot; "and look! a
second blazes over the Grange of Cliviger--another on Ightenhill--
another on Boulsworth Hill--and the last on the neighbouring
heights of Padiham. Our own comes next. May it light the enemies of our
holy Church to perdition!"

With this, he applied the burning brand to the combustible matter of the
beacon. The monks did the same; and in an instant a tall, pointed flame,
rose up from a thick cloud of smoke. Ere another minute had elapsed,
similar fires shot up to the right and the left, on the high lands of
Trawden Forest, on the jagged points of Foulridge, on the summit of
Cowling Hill, and so on to Skipton. Other fires again blazed on the
towers of Clithero, on Longridge and Ribchester, on the woody eminences
of Bowland, on Wolf Crag, and on fell and scar all the way to Lancaster.
It seemed the work of enchantment, so suddenly and so strangely did the
fires shoot forth. As the beacon flame increased, it lighted up the
whole of the extensive table-land on the summit of Pendle Hill; and a
long lurid streak fell on the darkling moss-pool near which the wizard
had stood. But when it attained its utmost height, it revealed the
depths of the forest below, and a red reflection, here and there, marked
the course of Pendle Water. The excitement of the abbot and his
companions momently increased, and the sentinels shouted as each new
beacon was lighted. At last, almost every hill had its watch-fire, and
so extraordinary was the spectacle, that it seemed as if weird beings
were abroad, and holding their revels on the heights.

Then it was that the abbot, mounting his steed, called out to the
monks--"Holy fathers, you will follow to the abbey as you may. I shall
ride fleetly on, and despatch two hundred archers to Huddersfield and
Wakefield. The abbots of Salley and Jervaux, with the Prior of
Burlington, will be with me at midnight, and at daybreak we shall march
our forces to join the main army. Heaven be with you!"

"Stay!" cried a harsh, imperious voice. "Stay!"

And, to his surprise, the abbot beheld Nicholas Demdike standing before
him. The aspect of the wizard was dark and forbidding, and, seen by the
beacon light, his savage features, blazing eyes, tall gaunt frame, and
fantastic garb, made him look like something unearthly. Flinging his
staff over his shoulder, he slowly approached, with his black hound
following close by at his heels.

"I have a caution to give you, lord abbot," he said; "hear me speak
before you set out for the abbey, or ill will befall you."

"Ill _will_ befall me if I listen to thee, thou wicked churl," cried the
abbot. "What hast thou done with Cuthbert Ashbead?"

"I have seen nothing of him since he sent a bolt after me at your
bidding, lord abbot," replied Demdike.

"Beware lest any harm come to him, or thou wilt rue it," cried Paslew.
"But I have no time to waste on thee. Farewell, fathers. High mass will
be said in the convent church before we set out on the expedition
to-morrow morning. You will both attend it."

"You will never set out upon the expedition, lord abbot," cried Demdike,
planting his staff so suddenly into the ground before the horse's head
that the animal reared and nearly threw his rider.

"How now, fellow, what mean you?" cried the abbot, furiously.

"To warn you," replied Demdike.

"Stand aside," cried the abbot, spurring his steed, "or I will trample
you beneath my horse's feet."

"I might let you ride to your own doom," rejoined Demdike, with a
scornful laugh, as he seized the abbot's bridle. "But you shall hear me.
I tell you, you will never go forth on this expedition. I tell you that,
ere to-morrow, Whalley Abbey will have passed for ever from your
possession; and that, if you go thither again, your life will be
forfeited. Now will you listen to me?"

"I am wrong in doing so," cried the abbot, who could not, however,
repress some feelings of misgiving at this alarming address. "Speak,
what would you say?"

"Come out of earshot of the others, and I will tell you," replied
Demdike. And he led the abbot's horse to some distance further on the
hill.

"Your cause will fail, lord abbot," he then said. "Nay, it is lost
already."

"Lost!" cried the abbot, out of all patience. "Lost! Look around. Twenty
fires are in sight--ay, thirty, and every fire thou seest will summon a
hundred men, at the least, to arms. Before an hour, five hundred men
will be gathered before the gates of Whalley Abbey."

"True," replied Demdike; "but they will not own the Earl of Poverty for
their leader."

"What leader will they own, then?" demanded the abbot, scornfully.

"The Earl of Derby," replied Demdike. "He is on his way thither with
Lord Mounteagle from Preston."

"Ha!" exclaimed Paslew, "let me go meet them, then. But thou triflest
with me, fellow. Thou canst know nothing of this. Whence gott'st thou
thine information?"

"Heed it not," replied the other; "thou wilt find it correct. I tell
thee, proud abbot, that this grand scheme of thine and of thy fellows,
for the restitution of the Catholic Church, has failed--utterly failed."

"I tell thee thou liest, false knave!" cried the abbot, striking him on
the hand with his scourge. "Quit thy hold, and let me go."

"Not till I have done," replied Demdike, maintaining his grasp. "Well
hast thou styled thyself Earl of Poverty, for thou art poor and
miserable enough. Abbot of Whalley thou art no longer. Thy possessions
will be taken from thee, and if thou returnest thy life also will be
taken. If thou fleest, a price will be set upon thy head. I alone can
save thee, and I will do so on one condition."

"Condition! make conditions with thee, bond-slave of Satan!" cried the
abbot, gnashing his teeth. "I reproach myself that I have listened to
thee so long. Stand aside, or I will strike thee dead."

"You are wholly in my power," cried Demdike with a disdainful laugh. And
as he spoke he pressed the large sharp bit against the charger's mouth,
and backed him quickly to the very edge of the hill, the sides of which
here sloped precipitously down. The abbot would have uttered a cry, but
surprise and terror kept him silent.

"Were it my desire to injure you, I could cast you down the
mountain-side to certain death," pursued Demdike. "But I have no such
wish. On the contrary, I will serve you, as I have said, on one
condition."

"Thy condition would imperil my soul," said the abbot, full of wrath and
alarm. "Thou seekest in vain to terrify me into compliance. _Vade retro,
Sathanas_. I defy thee and all thy works."

Demdike laughed scornfully.

"The thunders of the Church do not frighten me," he cried. "But, look,"
he added, "you doubted my word when I told you the rising was at an end.
The beacon fires on Boulsworth Hill and on the Grange of Cliviger are
extinguished; that on Padiham Heights is expiring--nay, it is out; and
ere many minutes all these mountain watch-fires will have disappeared
like lamps at the close of a feast."

"By our Lady, it is so," cried the abbot, in increasing terror. "What
new jugglery is this?"

"It is no jugglery, I tell you," replied the other.

"The waters of the Don have again arisen; the insurgents have accepted
the king's pardon, have deserted their leaders, and dispersed. There
will be no rising to-night or on the morrow. The abbots of Jervaux and
Salley will strive to capitulate, but in vain. The Pilgrimage of Grace
is ended. The stake for which thou playedst is lost. Thirty years hast
thou governed here, but thy rule is over. Seventeen abbots have there
been of Whalley--the last thou!--but there shall be none more."

"It must be the Demon in person that speaks thus to me," cried the
abbot, his hair bristling on his head, and a cold perspiration bursting
from his pores.

"No matter who I am," replied the other; "I have said I will aid thee on
one condition. It is not much. Remove thy ban from my wife, and baptise
her infant daughter, and I am content. I would not ask thee for this
service, slight though it be, but the poor soul hath set her mind upon
it. Wilt thou do it?"

"No," replied the abbot, shuddering; "I will not baptise a daughter of
Satan. I will not sell my soul to the powers of darkness. I adjure thee
to depart from me, and tempt me no longer."

"Vainly thou seekest to cast me off," rejoined Demdike. "What if I
deliver thine adversaries into thine hands, and revenge thee upon them?
Even now there are a party of armed men waiting at the foot of the hill
to seize thee and thy brethren. Shall I show thee how to destroy them?"

"Who are they?" demanded the abbot, surprised.

"Their leaders are John Braddyll and Richard Assheton, who shall divide
Whalley Abbey between them, if thou stayest them not," replied Demdike.

"Hell consume them!" cried the abbot.

"Thy speech shows consent," rejoined Demdike. "Come this way."

And, without awaiting the abbot's reply, he dragged his horse towards
the but-end of the mountain. As they went on, the two monks, who had
been filled with surprise at the interview, though they did not dare to
interrupt it, advanced towards their superior, and looked earnestly and
inquiringly at him, but he remained silent; while to the men-at-arms and
the herdsmen, who demanded whether their own beacon-fire should be
extinguished as the others had been, he answered moodily in the
negative.

"Where are the foes you spoke of?" he asked with some uneasiness, as
Demdike led his horse slowly and carefully down the hill-side.

"You shall see anon," replied the other.

"You are taking me to the spot where you traced the magic circle," cried
Paslew in alarm. "I know it from its unnaturally green hue. I will not
go thither."

"I do not mean you should, lord abbot," replied Demdike, halting.
"Remain on this firm ground. Nay, be not alarmed; you are in no danger.
Now bid your men advance, and prepare their weapons."

The abbot would have demanded wherefore, but at a glance from Demdike he
complied, and the two men-at-arms, and the herdsmen, arranged
themselves beside him, while Fathers Eastgate and Haydocke, who had
gotten upon their mules, took up a position behind.

Scarcely were they thus placed, when a loud shout was raised below, and
a band of armed men, to the number of thirty or forty, leapt the stone
wall, and began to scale the hill with great rapidity. They came up a
deep dry channel, apparently worn in the hill-side by some former
torrent, and which led directly to the spot where Demdike and the abbot
stood. The beacon-fire still blazed brightly, and illuminated the whole
proceeding, showing that these men, from their accoutrements, were
royalist soldiers.

"Stir not, as you value your life," said the wizard to Paslew; "but
observe what shall follow."




CHAPTER II.--THE ERUPTION.


Demdike went a little further down the hill, stopping when he came to
the green patch. He then plunged his staff into the sod at the first
point where he had cast a tuft of heather, and with such force that it
sank more than three feet. The next moment he plucked it forth, as if
with a great effort, and a jet of black water spouted into the air; but,
heedless of this, he went to the next marked spot, and again plunged the
sharp point of the implement into the ground. Again it sank to the same
depth, and, on being drawn out, a second black jet sprung forth.

Meanwhile the hostile party continued to advance up the dry channel
before mentioned, and shouted on beholding these strange preparations,
but they did not relax their speed. Once more the staff sank into the
ground, and a third black fountain followed its extraction. By this
time, the royalist soldiers were close at hand, and the features of
their two leaders, John Braddyll and Richard Assheton, could be plainly
distinguished, and their voices heard.

"'Tis he! 'tis the rebel abbot!" vociferated Braddyll, pressing forward.
"We were not misinformed. He has been watching by the beacon. The devil
has delivered him into our hands."

"Ho! ho!" laughed Demdike.

"Abbot no longer--'tis the Earl of Poverty you mean," responded
Assheton. "The villain shall be gibbeted on the spot where he has fired
the beacon, as a warning to all traitors."

"Ha, heretics!--ha, blasphemers!--I can at least avenge myself upon
you," cried Paslew, striking spurs into his charger. But ere he could
execute his purpose, Demdike had sprung backward, and, catching the
bridle, restrained the animal by a powerful effort.

"Hold!" he cried, in a voice of thunder, "or you will share their fate."

As the words were uttered, a dull, booming, subterranean sound was
heard, and instantly afterwards, with a crash like thunder, the whole of
the green circle beneath slipped off, and from a yawning rent under it
burst forth with irresistible fury, a thick inky-coloured torrent,
which, rising almost breast high, fell upon the devoted royalist
soldiers, who were advancing right in its course. Unable to avoid the
watery eruption, or to resist its fury when it came upon them, they were
instantly swept from their feet, and carried down the channel.

A sight of horror was it to behold the sudden rise of that swarthy
stream, whose waters, tinged by the ruddy glare of the beacon-fire,
looked like waves of blood. Nor less fearful was it to hear the first
wild despairing cry raised by the victims, or the quickly stifled
shrieks and groans that followed, mixed with the deafening roar of the
stream, and the crashing fall of the stones, which accompanied its
course. Down, down went the poor wretches, now utterly overwhelmed by
the torrent, now regaining their feet only to utter a scream, and then
be swept off. Here a miserable struggler, whirled onward, would clutch
at the banks and try to scramble forth, but the soft turf giving way
beneath him, he was hurried off to eternity.

At another point where the stream encountered some trifling opposition,
some two or three managed to gain a footing, but they were unable to
extricate themselves. The vast quantity of boggy soil brought down by
the current, and which rapidly collected here, embedded them and held
them fast, so that the momently deepening water, already up to their
chins, threatened speedy immersion. Others were stricken down by great
masses of turf, or huge rocky fragments, which, bounding from point to
point with the torrent, bruised or crushed all they encountered, or,
lodging in some difficult place, slightly diverted the course of the
torrent, and rendered it yet more dangerous.

On one of these stones, larger than the rest, which had been stopped in
its course, a man contrived to creep, and with difficulty kept his post
amid the raging flood. Vainly did he extend his hand to such of his
fellows as were swept shrieking past him. He could not lend them aid,
while his own position was so desperately hazardous that he did not dare
to quit it. To leap on either bank was impossible, and to breast the
headlong stream certain death.

On goes the current, madly, furiously, as if rejoicing in the work of
destruction, while the white foam of its eddies presents a fearful
contrast to the prevailing blackness of the surface. Over the last
declivity it leaps, hissing, foaming, crashing like an avalanche. The
stone wall for a moment opposes its force, but falls the next, with a
mighty splash, carrying the spray far and wide, while its own fragments
roll onwards with the stream. The trees of the orchard are uprooted in
an instant, and an old elm falls prostrate. The outbuildings of a
cottage are invaded, and the porkers and cattle, divining their danger,
squeal and bellow in affright. But they are quickly silenced. The
resistless foe has broken down wall and door, and buried the poor
creatures in mud and rubbish.

The stream next invades the cottage, breaks in through door and window,
and filling all the lower part of the tenement, in a few minutes
converts it into a heap of ruin. On goes the destroyer, tearing up more
trees, levelling more houses, and filling up a small pool, till the
latter bursts its banks, and, with an accession to its force, pours
itself into a mill-dam. Here its waters are stayed until they find a
vent underneath, and the action of the stream, as it rushes downwards
through this exit, forms a great eddy above, in which swim some living
things, cattle and sheep from the fold not yet drowned, mixed with
furniture from the cottages, and amidst them the bodies of some of the
unfortunate men-at-arms which have been washed hither.

But, ha! another thundering crash. The dam has burst. The torrent roars
and rushes on furiously as before, joins its forces with Pendle Water,
swells up the river, and devastates the country far and wide.[1]

The abbot and his companions beheld this work of destruction with
amazement and dread. Blanched terror sat in their cheeks, and the blood
was frozen in Paslew's veins; for he thought it the work of the powers
of darkness, and that he was leagued with them. He tried to mutter a
prayer, but his lips refused their office. He would have moved, but his
limbs were stiffened and paralysed, and he could only gaze aghast at the
terrible spectacle.

Amidst it all he heard a wild burst of unearthly laughter, proceeding,
he thought, from Demdike, and it filled him with new dread. But he could
not check the sound, neither could he stop his ears, though he would
fain have done so. Like him, his companions were petrified and
speechless with fear.

After this had endured for some time, though still the black torrent
rushed on impetuously as ever, Demdike turned to the abbot and said,--

"Your vengeance has been fully gratified. You will now baptise my
child?"

"Never, never, accursed being!" shrieked the abbot. "Thou mayst
sacrifice her at thine own impious rites. But see, there is one poor
wretch yet struggling with the foaming torrent. I may save him."

"That is John Braddyll, thy worst enemy," replied Demdike. "If he lives
he shall possess half Whalley Abbey. Thou hadst best also save Richard
Assheton, who yet clings to the great stone below, as if he escapes he
shall have the other half. Mark him, and make haste, for in five minutes
both shall be gone."

"I will save them if I can, be the consequence to myself what it may,"
replied the abbot.

And, regardless of the derisive laughter of the other, who yelled in his
ears as he went, "Bess shall see thee hanged at thy own door!" he dashed
down the hill to the spot where a small object, distinguishable above
the stream, showed that some one still kept his head above water, his
tall stature having preserved him.

"Is it you, John Braddyll?" cried the abbot, as he rode up.

"Ay," replied the head. "Forgive me for the wrong I intended you, and
deliver me from this great peril."

"I am come for that purpose," replied the abbot, dismounting, and
disencumbering himself of his heavy cloak.

By this time the two herdsmen had come up, and the abbot, taking a crook
from one of them, clutched hold of the fellow, and, plunging fearlessly
into the stream, extended it towards the drowning man, who instantly
lifted up his hand to grasp it. In doing so Braddyll lost his balance,
but, as he did not quit his hold, he was plucked forth from the
tenacious mud by the combined efforts of the abbot and his assistant,
and with some difficulty dragged ashore.

"Now for the other," cried Paslew, as he placed Braddyll in safety.

"One-half the abbey is gone from thee," shouted a voice in his ears as
he rushed on.

Presently he reached the rocky fragment on which Ralph Assheton rested.
The latter was in great danger from the surging torrent, and the stone
on which he had taken refuge tottered at its base, and threatened to
roll over.

"In Heaven's name, help me, lord abbot, as thou thyself shall be holpen
at thy need!" shrieked Assheton.

"Be not afraid, Richard Assheton," replied Paslew. "I will deliver thee
as I have delivered John Braddyll."

But the task was not of easy accomplishment. The abbot made his
preparations as before; grasped the hand of the herdsman and held out
the crook to Assheton; but when the latter caught it, the stream swung
him round with such force that the abbot must either abandon him or
advance further into the water. Bent on Assheton's preservation, he
adopted the latter expedient, and instantly lost his feet; while the
herdsman, unable longer to hold him, let go the crook, and the abbot and
Assheton were swept down the stream together.

Down--down they went, destruction apparently awaiting them; but the
abbot, though sometimes quite under the water, and bruised by the rough
stones and gravel with which he came in contact, still retained his
self-possession, and encouraged his companion to hope for succour. In
this way they were borne down to the foot of the hill, the monks, the
herdsmen, and the men-at-arms having given them up as lost. But they yet
lived--yet floated--though greatly injured, and almost senseless, when
they were cast into a pool formed by the eddying waters at the foot of
the hill. Here, wholly unable to assist himself, Assheton was seized by
a black hound belonging to a tall man who stood on the bank, and who
shouted to Paslew, as he helped the animal to bring the drowning man
ashore, "The other half of the abbey is gone from thee. Wilt thou
baptise my child if I send my dog to save thee?"

"Never!" replied the other, sinking as he spoke.

Flashes of fire glanced in the abbot's eyes, and stunning sounds seemed
to burst his ears. A few more struggles, and he became senseless.

But he was not destined to die thus. What happened afterwards he knew
not; but when he recovered full consciousness, he found himself
stretched, with aching limbs and throbbing head, upon a couch in a
monastic room, with a richly-painted and gilded ceiling, with shields at
the corners emblazoned with the three luces of Whalley, and with panels
hung with tapestry from the looms of Flanders, representing divers
Scriptural subjects.

"Have I been dreaming?" he murmured.

"No," replied a tall man standing by his bedside; "thou hast been saved
from one death to suffer another more ignominious."

"Ha!" cried the abbot, starting up and pressing his hand to his temples;
"thou here?"

"Ay, I am appointed to watch thee," replied Demdike. "Thou art a
prisoner in thine own chamber at Whalley. All has befallen as I told
thee. The Earl of Derby is master of the abbey; thy adherents are
dispersed; and thy brethren are driven forth. Thy two partners in
rebellion, the abbots of Jervaux and Salley, have been conveyed to
Lancaster Castle, whither thou wilt go as soon as thou canst be moved."

"I will surrender all--silver and gold, land and possessions--to the
king, if I may die in peace," groaned the abbot.

"It is not needed," rejoined the other. "Attainted of felony, thy lands
and abbey will be forfeited to the crown, and they shall be sold, as I
have told thee, to John Braddyll and Richard Assheton, who will be
rulers here in thy stead."

"Would I had perished in the flood!" groaned the abbot.

"Well mayst thou wish so," returned his tormentor; "but thou wert not
destined to die by water. As I have said, thou shalt be hanged at thy
own door, and my wife shall witness thy end."

"Who art thou? I have heard thy voice before," cried the abbot. "It is
like the voice of one whom I knew years ago, and thy features are like
his--though changed--greatly changed. Who art thou?"

"Thou shalt know before thou diest," replied the other, with a look of
gratified vengeance. "Farewell, and reflect upon thy fate."

So saying, he strode towards the door, while the miserable abbot arose,
and marching with uncertain steps to a little oratory adjoining, which
he himself had built, knelt down before the altar, and strove to pray.




CHAPTER III.--WHALLEY ABBEY.


A sad, sad change hath come over the fair Abbey of Whalley. It knoweth
its old masters no longer. For upwards of two centuries and a half hath
the "Blessed Place"[2] grown in beauty and riches. Seventeen abbots have
exercised unbounded hospitality within it, but now they are all gone,
save one!--and he is attainted of felony and treason. The grave monk
walketh no more in the cloisters, nor seeketh his pallet in the
dormitory. Vesper or matin-song resound not as of old within the fine
conventual church. Stripped are the altars of their silver crosses, and
the shrines of their votive offerings and saintly relics. Pyx and
chalice, thuribule and vial, golden-headed pastoral staff, and mitre
embossed with pearls, candlestick and Christmas ship of silver; salver,
basin, and ewer--all are gone--the splendid sacristy hath been
despoiled.

A sad, sad change hath come over Whalley Abbey. The libraries, well
stored with reverend tomes, have been pillaged, and their contents cast
to the flames; and thus long laboured manuscript, the fruit of years of
patient industry, with gloriously illuminated missal, are irrecoverably
lost. The large infirmary no longer receiveth the sick; in the locutory
sitteth no more the guest. No longer in the mighty kitchens are prepared
the prodigious supply of meats destined for the support of the poor or
the entertainment of the traveller. No kindly porter stands at the gate,
to bid the stranger enter and partake of the munificent abbot's
hospitality, but a churlish guard bids him hie away, and menaces him if
he tarries with his halbert. Closed are the buttery-hatches and the
pantries; and the daily dole of bread hath ceased. Closed, also, to the
brethren is the refectory. The cellarer's office is ended. The strong
ale which he brewed in October, is tapped in March by roystering
troopers. The rich muscadel and malmsey, and the wines of Gascoigne and
the Rhine, are no longer quaffed by the abbot and his more honoured
guests, but drunk to his destruction by his foes. The great gallery, a
hundred and fifty feet in length, the pride of the abbot's lodging, and
a model of architecture, is filled not with white-robed ecclesiastics,
but with an armed earl and his retainers. Neglected is the little
oratory dedicated to Our Lady of Whalley, where night and morn the abbot
used to pray. All the old religious and hospitable uses of the abbey are
foregone. The reverend stillness of the cloisters, scarce broken by the
quiet tread of the monks, is now disturbed by armed heel and clank of
sword; while in its saintly courts are heard the ribald song, the
profane jest, and the angry brawl. Of the brethren, only those tenanting
the cemetery are left. All else are gone, driven forth, as vagabonds,
with stripes and curses, to seek refuge where they may.

A sad, sad change has come over Whalley Abbey. In the plenitude of its
pride and power has it been cast down, desecrated, despoiled. Its
treasures are carried off, its ornaments sold, its granaries emptied,
its possessions wasted, its storehouses sacked, its cattle slaughtered
and sold. But, though stripped of its wealth and splendour; though
deprived of all the religious graces that, like rich incense, lent an
odour to the fane, its external beauty is yet unimpaired, and its vast
proportions undiminished.

A stately pile was Whalley--one of the loveliest as well as the largest
in the realm. Carefully had it been preserved by its reverend rulers,
and where reparations or additions were needed they were judiciously
made. Thus age had lent it beauty, by mellowing its freshness and toning
its hues, while no decay was perceptible. Without a struggle had it
yielded to the captor, so that no part of its wide belt of walls or
towers, though so strongly constructed as to have offered effectual
resistance, were injured.

Never had Whalley Abbey looked more beautiful than on a bright clear
morning in March, when this sad change had been wrought, and when, from
a peaceful monastic establishment, it had been converted into a menacing
fortress. The sunlight sparkled upon its grey walls, and filled its
three great quadrangular courts with light and life, piercing the
exquisite carving of its cloisters, and revealing all the intricate
beauty and combinations of the arches. Stains of painted glass fell upon
the floor of the magnificent conventual church, and dyed with rainbow
hues the marble tombs of the Lacies, the founders of the establishment,
brought thither when the monastery was removed from Stanlaw in Cheshire,
and upon the brass-covered gravestones of the abbots in the presbytery.
There lay Gregory de Northbury, eighth abbot of Stanlaw and first of
Whalley, and William Rede, the last abbot; but there was never to lie
John Paslew. The slumber of the ancient prelates was soon to be
disturbed, and the sacred structure within which they had so often
worshipped, up-reared by sacrilegious hands. But all was bright and
beauteous now, and if no solemn strains were heard in the holy pile, its
stillness was scarcely less reverential and awe-inspiring. The old abbey
wreathed itself in all its attractions, as if to welcome back its former
ruler, whereas it was only to receive him as a captive doomed to a
felon's death.

But this was outward show. Within all was terrible preparation. Such
was the discontented state of the country, that fearing some new revolt,
the Earl of Derby had taken measures for the defence of the abbey, and
along the wide-circling walls of the close were placed ordnance and men,
and within the grange stores of ammunition. A strong guard was set at
each of the gates, and the courts were filled with troops. The bray of
the trumpet echoed within the close, where rounds were set for the
archers, and martial music resounded within the area of the cloisters.
Over the great north-eastern gateway, which formed the chief entrance to
the abbot's lodging, floated the royal banner. Despite these warlike
proceedings the fair abbey smiled beneath the sun, in all, or more than
all, its pristine beauty, its green hills sloping gently down towards
it, and the clear and sparkling Calder dashing merrily over the stones
at its base.

But upon the bridge, and by the river side, and within the little
village, many persons were assembled, conversing gravely and anxiously
together, and looking out towards the hills, where other groups were
gathered, as if in expectation of some afflicting event. Most of these
were herdsmen and farming men, but some among them were poor monks in
the white habits of the Cistertian brotherhood, but which were now
stained and threadbare, while their countenances bore traces of severest
privation and suffering. All the herdsmen and farmers had been retainers
of the abbot. The poor monks looked wistfully at their former
habitation, but replied not except by a gentle bowing of the head to the
cruel scoffs and taunts with which they were greeted by the passing
soldiers; but the sturdy rustics did not bear these outrages so tamely,
and more than one brawl ensued, in which blood flowed, while a ruffianly
arquebussier would have been drowned in the Calder but for the exertions
to save him of a monk whom he had attacked.

This took place on the eleventh of March, 1537--more than three months
after the date of the watching by the beacon before recorded--and the
event anticipated by the concourse without the abbey, as well as by
those within its walls, was the arrival of Abbot Paslew and Fathers
Eastgate and Haydocke, who were to be brought on that day from
Lancaster, and executed on the following morning before the abbey,
according to sentence passed upon them.

The gloomiest object in the picture remains to be described, but yet it
is necessary to its completion. This was a gallows of unusual form and
height, erected on the summit of a gentle hill, rising immediately in
front of the abbot's lodgings, called the Holehouses, whose rounded,
bosomy beauty it completely destroyed. This terrible apparatus of
condign punishment was regarded with abhorrence by the rustics, and it
required a strong guard to be kept constantly round it to preserve it
from demolition.

Amongst a group of rustics collected on the road leading to the
north-east gateway, was Cuthbert Ashbead, who having been deprived of
his forester's office, was now habited in a frieze doublet and hose with
a short camlet cloak on his shoulder, and a fox-skin cap, embellished
with the grinning jaws of the beast on his head.

"Eigh, Ruchot o' Roaph's," he observed to a bystander, "that's a fearfo
sect that gallas. Yoan been up to t' Holehouses to tey a look at it,
beloike?"

"Naw, naw, ey dunna loike such sects," replied Ruchot o' Roaph's;
"besoide there wor a great rabblement at t' geate, an one o' them lunjus
archer chaps knockt meh o' t' nob wi' his poike, an towd me he'd hong me
wi' t' abbut, if ey didna keep owt ot wey."

"An sarve te reet too, theaw craddinly carl!" cried Ashbead, doubling
his horny fists. "Odds flesh! whey didna yo ha' a tussle wi' him? Mey
honts are itchen for a bowt wi' t' heretic robbers. Walladey! walladey!
that we should live to see t' oly feythers driven loike hummobees owt o'
t' owd neest. Whey they sayn ot King Harry hon decreet ot we're to ha'
naw more monks or friars i' aw Englondshiar. Ony think o' that. An dunna
yo knoa that t' Abbuts o' Jervaux an Salley wor hongt o' Tizeday at
Loncaster Castle?"

"Good lorjus bless us!" exclaimed a sturdy hind, "we'n a protty king.
Furst he chops off his woife's heaod, an then hongs aw t' priests.
Whot'll t' warlt cum 'to?

"Eigh by t' mess, whot _win_ it cum to?" cried Ruchot o' Roaph's. "But
we darrna oppen owr mows fo' fear o' a gog."

"Naw, beleady! boh eyst oppen moine woide enuff," cried Ashbead; "an' if
a dozen o' yo chaps win join me, eyn try to set t' poor abbut free whon
they brinks him here."

"Ey'd as leef boide till to-morrow," said Ruchot o'Roaph's, uneasily.

"Eigh, thou'rt a timmersome teyke, os ey towd te efore," replied
Ashbead. "But whot dust theaw say, Hal o' Nabs?" he added, to the sturdy
hind who had recently spoken.

"Ey'n spill t' last drop o' meh blood i' t' owd abbut's keawse," replied
Hal o' Nabs. "We winna stond by, an see him hongt loike a dog. Abbut
Paslew to t' reskew, lads!"

"Eigh, Abbut Paslew to t' reskew!" responded all the others, except
Ruchot o' Roaph's.

"This must be prevented," muttered a voice near them. And immediately
afterwards a tall man quitted the group.

"Whoa wor it spoake?" cried Hal o' Nabs. "Oh, ey seen, that he-witch,
Nick Demdike."

"Nick Demdike here!" cried Ashbead, looking round in alarm. "Has he
owerheert us?"

"Loike enow," replied Hal o' Nabs. "But ey didna moind him efore."

"Naw ey noather," cried Ruchot o' Roaph's, crossing himself, and
spitting on the ground. "Owr Leady o' Whalley shielt us fro' t'
warlock!"

"Tawkin o' Nick Demdike," cried Hal o' Nabs, "yo'd a strawnge odventer
wi' him t' neet o' t' great brast o' Pendle Hill, hadna yo, Cuthbert?"

"Yeigh, t' firrups tak' him, ey hadn," replied Ashbead. "Theawst hear aw
abowt it if t' will. Ey wur sent be t' abbut down t' hill to Owen o'
Gab's, o' Perkin's, o' Dannel's, o' Noll's, o' Oamfrey's orchert i'
Warston lone, to luk efter him. Weel, whon ey gets ower t' stoan wa',
whot dun yo think ey sees! twanty or throtty poikemen stonding behint
it, an they deshes at meh os thick os leet, an efore ey con roor oot,
they blintfowlt meh, an clap an iron gog i' meh mouth. Weel, I con
noather speak nor see, boh ey con use meh feet, soh ey punses at 'em
reet an' laft; an be mah troath, lads, yood'n a leawght t' hear how they
roart, an ey should a roart too, if I couldn, whon they began to thwack
me wi' their raddling pows, and ding'd meh so abowt t' heoad, that ey
fell i' a swownd. Whon ey cum to, ey wur loyin o' meh back i' Rimington
Moor. Every booan i' meh hoide wratcht, an meh hewr war clottert wi'
gore, boh t' eebond an t' gog wur gone, soh ey gets o' meh feet, and
daddles along os weel os ey con, whon aw ot wunce ey spies a leet
glenting efore meh, an dawncing abowt loike an awf or a wull-o'-whisp.
Thinks ey, that's Friar Rush an' his lantern, an he'll lead me into a
quagmire, soh ey stops a bit, to consider where ey'd getten, for ey
didna knoa t' reet road exactly; boh whon ey stood still, t' leet stood
still too, on then ey meyd owt that it cum fro an owd ruint tower, an
whot ey'd fancied wur one lantern proved twanty, fo' whon ey reacht t'
tower an peept in thro' a brok'n winda, ey beheld a seet ey'st neer
forgit--apack o' witches--eigh, witches!--sittin' in a ring, wi' their
broomsticks an lanterns abowt em!"

"Good lorjus deys!" cried Hal o' Nabs. "An whot else didsta see, mon?"

"Whoy," replied Ashbead, "t'owd hags had a little figure i' t' midst on
'em, mowded i' cley, representing t' abbut o' Whalley,--ey knoad it be't
moitre and crosier,--an efter each o' t' varment had stickt a pin i' its
'eart, a tall black mon stepped for'ard, an teed a cord rownd its
throttle, an hongt it up."

"An' t' black mon," cried Hal o' Nabs, breathlessly,--"t' black mon wur
Nick Demdike?"

"Yoan guest it," replied Ashbead, "'t wur he! Ey wur so glopp'nt, ey
couldna speak, an' meh blud fruz i' meh veins, when ey heerd a fearfo
voice ask Nick wheere his woife an' chilt were. 'The infant is
unbaptised,' roart t' voice, 'at the next meeting it must be sacrificed.
See that thou bring it.' Demdike then bowed to Summat I couldna see; an
axt when t' next meeting wur to be held. 'On the night of Abbot
Paslew's execution,' awnsert t' voice. On hearing this, ey could bear
nah lunger, boh shouted out, 'Witches! devils! Lort deliver us fro' ye!'
An' os ey spoke, ey tried t' barst thro' t' winda. In a trice, aw t'
leets went out; thar wur a great rash to t' dooer; a whirrin sound i'
th' air loike a covey o' partriches fleeing off; and then ey heerd nowt
more; for a great stoan fell o' meh scoance, an' knockt me down
senseless. When I cum' to, I wur i' Nick Demdike's cottage, wi' his
woife watching ower me, and th' unbapteesed chilt i' her arms."

All exclamations of wonder on the part of the rustics, and inquiries as
to the issue of the adventure, were checked by the approach of a monk,
who, joining the assemblage, called their attention to a priestly train
slowly advancing along the road.

"It is headed," he said, "by Fathers Chatburne and Chester, late bursers
of the abbey. Alack! alack! they now need the charity themselves which
they once so lavishly bestowed on others."

"Waes me!" ejaculated Ashbead. "Monry a broad merk han ey getten fro
'em."

"They'n been koind to us aw," added the others.

"Next come Father Burnley, granger, and Father Haworth, cellarer,"
pursued the monk; "and after them Father Dinkley, sacristan, and Father
Moore, porter."

"Yo remember Feyther Moore, lads," cried Ashbead.

"Yeigh, to be sure we done," replied the others; "a good mon, a reet
good mon! He never sent away t' poor--naw he!"

"After Father Moore," said the monk, pleased with their warmth, "comes
Father Forrest, the procurator, with Fathers Rede, Clough, and Bancroft,
and the procession is closed by Father Smith, the late prior."

"Down o' yer whirlybooans, lads, as t' oly feythers pass," cried
Ashbead, "and crave their blessing."

And as the priestly train slowly approached, with heads bowed down, and
looks fixed sadly upon the ground, the rustic assemblage fell upon their
knees, and implored their benediction. The foremost in the procession
passed on in silence, but the prior stopped, and extending his hands
over the kneeling group, cried in a solemn voice,

"Heaven bless ye, my children! Ye are about to witness a sad spectacle.
You will see him who hath clothed you, fed you, and taught you the way
to heaven, brought hither a prisoner, to suffer a shameful death."

"Boh we'st set him free, oly prior," cried Ashbead. "We'n meayed up our
moinds to 't. Yo just wait till he cums."

"Nay, I command you to desist from the attempt, if any such you
meditate," rejoined the prior; "it will avail nothing, and you will
only sacrifice your own lives. Our enemies are too strong. The abbot
himself would give you like counsel."

Scarcely were the words uttered than from the great gate of the abbey
there issued a dozen arquebussiers with an officer at their head, who
marched directly towards the kneeling hinds, evidently with the
intention of dispersing them. Behind them strode Nicholas Demdike. In an
instant the alarmed rustics were on their feet, and Ruchot o' Roaph's,
and some few among them, took to their heels, but Ashbead, Hal o' Nabs,
with half a dozen others, stood their ground manfully. The monks
remained in the hope of preventing any violence. Presently the
halberdiers came up.

"That is the ringleader," cried the officer, who proved to be Richard
Assheton, pointing out Ashbead; "seize him!"

"Naw mon shall lay honts o' meh," cried Cuthbert.

And as the guard pushed past the monks to execute their leader's order,
he sprang forward, and, wresting a halbert from the foremost of them,
stood upon his defence.

"Seize him, I say!" shouted Assheton, irritated at the resistance
offered.

"Keep off," cried Ashbead; "yo'd best. Loike a stag at bey ey'm
dawngerous. Waar horns! waar horns! ey sey."

The arquebussiers looked irresolute. It was evident Ashbead would only
be taken with life, and they were not sure that it was their leader's
purpose to destroy him.

"Put down thy weapon, Cuthbert," interposed the prior; "it will avail
thee nothing against odds like these."

"Mey be, 'oly prior," rejoined Ashbead, flourishing the pike: "boh ey'st
ony yield wi' loife."

"I will disarm him," cried Demdike, stepping forward.

"Theaw!" retorted Ashbead, with a scornful laugh, "Cum on, then. Hadsta
aw t' fiends i' hell at te back, ey shouldna fear thee."

"Yield!" cried Demdike in a voice of thunder, and fixing a terrible
glance upon him.

"Cum on, wizard," rejoined Ashbead undauntedly. But, observing that his
opponent was wholly unarmed, he gave the pike to Hal o' Nabs, who was
close beside him, observing, "It shall never be said that Cuthbert
Ashbead feawt t' dule himsel unfairly. Nah, touch me if theaw dar'st."

Demdike required no further provocation. With almost supernatural force
and quickness he sprung upon the forester, and seized him by the throat.
But the active young man freed himself from the gripe, and closed with
his assailant. But though of Herculean build, it soon became evident
that Ashbead would have the worst of it; when Hal o' Nabs, who had
watched the struggle with intense interest, could not help coming to his
friend's assistance, and made a push at Demdike with the halbert.

Could it be that the wrestlers shifted their position, or that the
wizard was indeed aided by the powers of darkness? None could tell, but
so it was that the pike pierced the side of Ashbead, who instantly fell
to the ground, with his adversary upon him. The next instant his hold
relaxed, and the wizard sprang to his feet unharmed, but deluged in
blood. Hal o' Nabs uttered a cry of keenest anguish, and, flinging
himself upon the body of the forester, tried to staunch the wound; but
he was quickly seized by the arquebussiers, and his hands tied behind
his back with a thong, while Ashbead was lifted up and borne towards the
abbey, the monks and rustics following slowly after; but the latter were
not permitted to enter the gate.

As the unfortunate keeper, who by this time had become insensible from
loss of blood, was carried along the walled enclosure leading to the
abbot's lodging, a female with a child in her arms was seen advancing
from the opposite side. She was tall, finely formed, with features of
remarkable beauty, though of a masculine and somewhat savage character,
and with magnificent but fierce black eyes. Her skin was dark, and her
hair raven black, contrasting strongly with the red band wound around
it. Her kirtle was of murrey-coloured serge; simply, but becomingly
fashioned. A glance sufficed to show her how matters stood with poor
Ashbead, and, uttering a sharp angry cry, she rushed towards him.

"What have you done?" she cried, fixing a keen reproachful look on
Demdike, who walked beside the wounded man.

"Nothing," replied Demdike with a bitter laugh; "the fool has been hurt
with a pike. Stand out of the way, Bess, and let the men pass. They are
about to carry him to the cell under the chapter-house."

"You shall not take him there," cried Bess Demdike, fiercely. "He may
recover if his wound be dressed. Let him go to the infirmary--ha, I
forgot--there is no one there now."

"Father Bancroft is at the gate," observed one of the arquebussiers; "he
used to act as chirurgeon in the abbey."

"No monk must enter the gate except the prisoners when they arrive,"
observed Assheton; "such are the positive orders of the Earl of Derby."

"It is not needed," observed Demdike, "no human aid can save the man."

"But can other aid save him?" said Bess, breathing the words in her
husband's ears.

"Go to!" cried Demdike, pushing her roughly aside; "wouldst have me save
thy lover?"

"Take heed," said Bess, in a deep whisper; "if thou save him not, by the
devil thou servest! thou shalt lose me and thy child."

Demdike did not think proper to contest the point, but, approaching
Assheton, requested that the wounded man might be conveyed to an arched
recess, which he pointed out. Assent being given, Ashbead was taken
there, and placed upon the ground, after which the arquebussiers and
their leader marched off; while Bess, kneeling down, supported the head
of the wounded man upon her knee, and Demdike, taking a small phial from
his doublet, poured some of its contents clown his throat. The wizard
then took a fold of linen, with which he was likewise provided, and,
dipping it in the elixir, applied it to the wound.

In a few moments Ashbead opened his eyes, and looking round wildly,
fixed his gaze upon Bess, who placed her finger upon her lips to enjoin
silence, but he could not, or would not, understand the sign.

"Aw's o'er wi' meh, Bess," he groaned; "but ey'd reyther dee thus, wi'
thee besoide meh, than i' ony other wey."

"Hush!" exclaimed Bess, "Nicholas is here."

"Oh! ey see," replied the wounded man, looking round; "but whot matters
it? Ey'st be gone soon. Ah, Bess, dear lass, if theawdst promise to
break thy compact wi' Satan--to repent and save thy precious sowl--ey
should dee content."

"Oh, do not talk thus!" cried Bess. "You will soon be well again."

"Listen to me," continued Ashbead, earnestly; "dust na knoa that if thy
babe be na bapteesed efore to-morrow neet, it'll be sacrificed to t'
Prince o' Darkness. Go to some o' t' oly feythers--confess thy sins an'
implore heaven's forgiveness--an' mayhap they'll save thee an' thy
infant."

"And be burned as a witch," rejoined Bess, fiercely. "It is useless,
Cuthbert; I have tried them all. I have knelt to them, implored them,
but their hearts are hard as flints. They will not heed me. They will
not disobey the abbot's cruel injunctions, though he be their superior
no longer. But I shall be avenged upon him--terribly avenged."

"Leave meh, theaw wicked woman." cried Ashbead; "ey dunna wish to ha'
thee near meh. Let meh dee i' peace."

"Thou wilt not die, I tell thee, Cuthbert," cried Bess; "Nicholas hath
staunched thy wound."

"He stawncht it, seyst to?" cried Ashbead, raising. "Ey'st never owe meh
loife to him."

And before he could be prevented he tore off the bandage, and the blood
burst forth anew.

"It is not my fault if he perishes now," observed Demdike, moodily.

"Help him--help him!" implored Bess.

"He shanna touch meh," cried Ashbead, struggling and increasing the
effusion. "Keep him off, ey adjure thee. Farewell, Bess," he added,
sinking back utterly exhausted by the effort.

"Cuthbert!" screamed Bess, terrified by his looks, "Cuthbert! art thou
really dying? Look at me, speak to me! Ha!" she cried, as if seized by a
sudden idea, "they say the blessing of a dying man will avail. Bless my
child, Cuthbert, bless it!"

"Give it me!" groaned the forester.

Bess held the infant towards him; but before he could place his hands
upon it all power forsook him, and he fell back and expired.

"Lost! lost! for ever lost!" cried Bess, with a wild shriek.

At this moment a loud blast was blown from the gate-tower, and a
trumpeter called out,

"The abbot and the two other prisoners are coming."

"To thy feet, wench!" cried Demdike, imperiously, and seizing the
bewildered woman by the arm; "to thy feet, and come with me to meet
him!"




CHAPTER IV.--THE MALEDICTION.


The captive ecclesiastics, together with the strong escort by which they
were attended, under the command of John Braddyll, the high sheriff of
the county, had passed the previous night at Whitewell, in Bowland
Forest; and the abbot, before setting out on his final journey, was
permitted to spend an hour in prayer in a little chapel on an adjoining
hill, overlooking a most picturesque portion of the forest, the beauties
of which were enhanced by the windings of the Hodder, one of the
loveliest streams in Lancashire. His devotions performed, Paslew,
attended by a guard, slowly descended the hill, and gazed his last on
scenes familiar to him almost from infancy. Noble trees, which now
looked like old friends, to whom he was bidding an eternal adieu, stood
around him. Beneath them, at the end of a glade, couched a herd of deer,
which started off at sight of the intruders, and made him envy their
freedom and fleetness as he followed them in thought to their solitudes.
At the foot of a steep rock ran the Hodder, making the pleasant music of
other days as it dashed over its pebbly bed, and recalling times, when,
free from all care, he had strayed by its wood-fringed banks, to listen
to the pleasant sound of running waters, and watch the shining pebbles
beneath them, and the swift trout and dainty umber glancing past.

A bitter pang was it to part with scenes so fair, and the abbot spoke no
word, nor even looked up, until, passing Little Mitton, he came in sight
of Whalley Abbey. Then, collecting all his energies, he prepared for the
shock he was about to endure. But nerved as he was, his firmness was
sorely tried when he beheld the stately pile, once his own, now gone
from him and his for ever. He gave one fond glance towards it, and then
painfully averting his gaze, recited, in a low voice, this
supplication:--

    "_Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. Et
    secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem
    meam. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo
    munda me._"

But other thoughts and other emotions crowded upon him, when he beheld
the groups of his old retainers advancing to meet him: men, women, and
children pouring forth loud lamentations, prostrating themselves at his
feet, and deploring his doom. The abbot's fortitude had a severe trial
here, and the tears sprung to his eyes. The devotion of these poor
people touched him more sharply than the severity of his adversaries.

"Bless ye! bless ye! my children," he cried; "repine not for me, for I
bear my cross with resignation. It is for me to bewail your lot, much
fearing that the flock I have so long and so zealously tended will fall
into the hands of other and less heedful pastors, or, still worse, of
devouring wolves. Bless ye, my children, and be comforted. Think of the
end of Abbot Paslew, and for what he suffered."

"Think that he was a traitor to the king, and took up arms in rebellion
against him," cried the sheriff, riding up, and speaking in a loud
voice; "and that for his heinous offences he was justly condemned to
death."

Murmurs arose at this speech, but they were instantly checked by the
escort.

"Think charitably of me, my children," said the abbot; "and the blessed
Virgin keep you steadfast in your faith. Benedicite!"

"Be silent, traitor, I command thee," cried the sheriff, striking him
with his gauntlet in the face.

The abbot's pale check burnt crimson, and his eye flashed fire, but he
controlled himself, and answered meekly,--

"Thou didst not speak in such wise, John Braddyll, when I saved thee
from the flood."

"Which flood thou thyself caused to burst forth by devilish arts,"
rejoined the sheriff. "I owe thee little for the service. If for naught
else, thou deservest death for thy evil doings on that night."

The abbot made no reply, for Braddyll's allusion conjured up a sombre
train of thought within his breast, awakening apprehensions which he
could neither account for, nor shake off. Meanwhile, the cavalcade
slowly approached the north-east gateway of the abbey--passing through
crowds of kneeling and sorrowing bystanders;--but so deeply was the
abbot engrossed by the one dread idea that possessed him, that he saw
them not, and scarce heard their woful lamentations. All at once the
cavalcade stopped, and the sheriff rode on to the gate, in the opening
of which some ceremony was observed. Then it was that Paslew raised his
eyes, and beheld standing before him a tall man, with a woman beside him
bearing an infant in her arms. The eyes of the pair were fixed upon him
with vindictive exultation. He would have averted his gaze, but an
irresistible fascination withheld him.

"Thou seest all is prepared," said Demdike, coming close up the mule on
which Paslew was mounted, and pointing to the gigantic gallows, looming
above the abbey walls; "wilt them now accede to my request?" And then he
added, significantly--"on the same terms as before."

The abbot understood his meaning well. Life and freedom were offered him
by a being, whose power to accomplish his promise he did not doubt. The
struggle was hard; but he resisted the temptation, and answered
firmly,--

"No."

"Then die the felon death thou meritest," cried Bess, fiercely; "and I
will glut mine eyes with the spectacle."

Incensed beyond endurance, the abbot looked sternly at her, and raised
his hand in denunciation. The action and the look were so appalling,
that the affrighted woman would have fled if her husband had not
restrained her.

"By the holy patriarchs and prophets; by the prelates and confessors; by
the doctors of the church; by the holy abbots, monks, and eremites, who
dwelt in solitudes, in mountains, and in caverns; by the holy saints and
martyrs, who suffered torture and death for their faith, I curse thee,
witch!" cried Paslew. "May the malediction of Heaven and all its hosts
alight on the head of thy infant--"

"Oh! holy abbot," shrieked Bess, breaking from her husband, and flinging
herself at Paslew's feet, "curse me, if thou wilt, but spare my innocent
child. Save it, and we will save thee."

"Avoid thee, wretched and impious woman," rejoined the abbot; "I have
pronounced the dread anathema, and it cannot be recalled. Look at the
dripping garments of thy child. In blood has it been baptised, and
through blood-stained paths shall its course be taken."

"Ha!" shrieked Bess, noticing for the first time the ensanguined
condition of the infant's attire. "Cuthbert's blood--oh!"

"Listen to me, wicked woman," pursued the abbot, as if filled with a
prophetic spirit. "Thy child's life shall be long--beyond the ordinary
term of woman--but it shall be a life of woe and ill."

"Oh! stay him--stay him; or I shall die!" cried Bess.

But the wizard could not speak. A greater power than his own apparently
overmastered him.

"Children shall she have," continued the abbot, "and children's
children, but they shall be a race doomed and accursed--a brood of
adders, that the world shall flee from and crush. A thing accursed, and
shunned by her fellows, shall thy daughter be--evil reputed and evil
doing. No hand to help her--no lip to bless her--life a burden; and
death--long, long in coming--finding her in a dismal dungeon. Now,
depart from me, and trouble me no more."

Bess made a motion as if she would go, and then turning, partly round,
dropped heavily on the ground. Demdike caught the child ere she fell.

"Thou hast killed her!" he cried to the abbot.

"A stronger voice than mine hath spoken, if it be so," rejoined Paslew.
"_Fuge miserrime, fuge malefice, quia judex adest iratus_."

At this moment the trumpet again sounded, and the cavalcade being put in
motion, the abbot and his fellow-captives passed through the gate.

Dismounting from their mules within the court, before the chapter-house,
the captive ecclesiastics, preceded by the sheriff were led to the
principal chamber of the structure, where the Earl of Derby awaited
them, seated in the Gothic carved oak chair, formerly occupied by the
Abbots of Whalley on the occasions of conferences or elections. The earl
was surrounded by his officers, and the chamber was filled with armed
men. The abbot slowly advanced towards the earl. His deportment was
dignified and firm, even majestic. The exaltation of spirit, occasioned
by the interview with Demdike and his wife, had passed away, and was
succeeded by a profound calm. The hue of his cheek was livid, but
otherwise he seemed wholly unmoved.

The ceremony of delivering up the bodies of the prisoners to the earl
was gone through by the sheriff, and their sentences were then read
aloud by a clerk. After this the earl, who had hitherto remained
covered, took off his cap, and in a solemn voice spoke:--

"John Paslew, somewhile Abbot of Whalley, but now an attainted and
condemned felon, and John Eastgate and William Haydocke, formerly
brethren of the same monastery, and confederates with him in crime, ye
have heard your doom. To-morrow you shall die the ignominious death of
traitors; but the king in his mercy, having regard not so much to the
heinous nature of your offences towards his sovereign majesty as to the
sacred offices you once held, and of which you have been shamefully
deprived, is graciously pleased to remit that part of your sentence,
whereby ye are condemned to be quartered alive, willing that the hearts
which conceived so much malice and violence against him should cease to
beat within your own bosoms, and that the arms which were raised in
rebellion against him should be interred in one common grave with the
trunks to which they belong."

"God save the high and puissant king, Henry the Eighth, and free him
from all traitors!" cried the clerk.

"We humbly thank his majesty for his clemency," said the abbot, amid the
profound silence that ensued; "and I pray you, my good lord, when you
shall write to the king concerning us, to say to his majesty that we
died penitent of many and grave offences, amongst the which is chiefly
that of having taken up arms unlawfully against him, but that we did so
solely with the view of freeing his highness from evil counsellors, and
of re-establishing our holy church, for the which we would willingly
die, if our death might in anywise profit it."

"Amen!" exclaimed Father Eastgate, who stood with his hands crossed upon
his breast, close behind Paslew. "The abbot hath uttered my sentiments."

"He hath not uttered mine," cried Father Haydocke. "I ask no grace from
the bloody Herodias, and will accept none. What I have done I would do
again, were the past to return--nay, I would do more--I would find a way
to reach the tyrant's heart, and thus free our church from its worst
enemy, and the land from a ruthless oppressor."

"Remove him," said the earl; "the vile traitor shall be dealt with as he
merits. For you," he added, as the order was obeyed, and addressing the
other prisoners, "and especially you, John Paslew, who have shown some
compunction for your crimes, and to prove to you that the king is not
the ruthless tyrant he hath been just represented, I hereby in his name
promise you any boon, which you may ask consistently with your
situation. What favour would you have shown you?"

The abbot reflected for a moment.

"Speak thou, John Eastgate," said the Earl of Derby, seeing that the
abbot was occupied in thought.

"If I may proffer a request, my lord," replied the monk, "it is that our
poor distraught brother, William Haydocke, be spared the quartering
block. He meant not what he said."

"Well, be it as thou wilt," replied the earl, bending his brows, "though
he ill deserves such grace. Now, John Paslew, what wouldst thou?"

Thus addressed, the abbot looked up.

"I would have made the same request as my brother, John Eastgate, if he
had not anticipated me, my lord," said Paslew; "but since his petition
is granted, I would, on my own part, entreat that mass be said for us in
the convent church. Many of the brethren are without the abbey, and, if
permitted, will assist at its performance."

"I know not if I shall not incur the king's displeasure in assenting,"
replied the Earl of Derby, after a little reflection; "but I will hazard
it. Mass for the dead shall be said in the church at midnight, and all
the brethren who choose to come thither shall be permitted to assist at
it. They will attend, I doubt not, for it will be the last time the
rites of the Romish Church will be performed in those Walls. They shall
have all required for the ceremonial."

"Heaven's blessings on you, my lord," said the abbot.

"But first pledge me your sacred word," said the earl, "by the holy
office you once held, and by the saints in whom you trust, that this
concession shall not be made the means of any attempt at flight."

"I swear it," replied the abbot, earnestly.

"And I also swear it," added Father Eastgate.

"Enough," said the earl. "I will give the requisite orders. Notice of
the celebration of mass at midnight shall be proclaimed without the
abbey. Now remove the prisoners."

Upon this the captive ecclesiastics were led forth. Father Eastgate was
taken to a strong room in the lower part of the chapter-house, where all
acts of discipline had been performed by the monks, and where the
knotted lash, the spiked girdle, and the hair shirt had once hung; while
the abbot was conveyed to his old chamber, which had been prepared for
his reception, and there left alone.




CHAPTER V.--THE MIDNIGHT MASS.


Dolefully sounds the All Souls' bell from the tower of the convent
church. The bell is one of five, and has obtained the name because it is
tolled only for those about to pass away from life. Now it rings the
knell of three souls to depart on the morrow. Brightly illumined is the
fane, within which no taper hath gleamed since the old worship ceased,
showing that preparations are made for the last service. The organ, dumb
so long, breathes a low prelude. Sad is it to hear that knell--sad to
view those gloriously-dyed panes--and to think why the one rings and the
other is lighted up.

Word having gone forth of the midnight mass, all the ejected brethren
flock to the abbey. Some have toiled through miry and scarce passable
roads. Others have come down from the hills, and forded deep streams at
the hazard of life, rather than go round by the far-off bridge, and
arrive too late. Others, who conceive themselves in peril from the share
they have taken in the late insurrection, quit their secure retreats,
and expose themselves to capture. It may be a snare laid for them, but
they run the risk. Others, coming from a yet greater distance, beholding
the illuminated church from afar, and catching the sound of the bell
tolling at intervals, hurry on, and reach the gate breathless and
wellnigh exhausted. But no questions are asked. All who present
themselves in ecclesiastical habits are permitted to enter, and take
part in the procession forming in the cloister, or proceed at once to
the church, if they prefer it.

Dolefully sounds the bell. Barefooted brethren meet together,
sorrowfully salute each other, and form in a long line in the great area
of the cloisters. At their head are six monks bearing tall lighted
candles. After them come the quiristers, and then one carrying the Host,
between the incense-bearers. Next comes a youth holding the bell. Next
are placed the dignitaries of the church, the prior ranking first, and
the others standing two and two according to their degrees. Near the
entrance of the refectory, which occupies the whole south side of the
quadrangle, stand a band of halberdiers, whose torches cast a ruddy
glare on the opposite tower and buttresses of the convent church,
revealing the statues not yet plucked from their niches, the crosses on
the pinnacles, and the gilt image of Saint Gregory de Northbury, still
holding its place over the porch. Another band are stationed near the
mouth of the vaulted passage, under the chapter-house and vestry, whose
grey, irregular walls, pierced by numberless richly ornamented windows,
and surmounted by small turrets, form a beautiful boundary on the right;
while a third party are planted on the left, in the open space, beneath
the dormitory, the torchlight flashing ruddily upon the hoary pillars
and groined arches sustaining the vast structure above them.

Dolefully sounds the bell. And the ghostly procession thrice tracks the
four ambulatories of the cloisters, solemnly chanting a requiem for the
dead.

Dolefully sounds the bell. And at its summons all the old retainers of
the abbot press to the gate, and sue for admittance, but in vain. They,
therefore, mount the neighbouring hill commanding the abbey, and as the
solemn sounds float faintly by, and glimpses are caught of the
white-robed brethren gliding along the cloisters, and rendered
phantom-like by the torchlight, the beholders half imagine it must be a
company of sprites, and that the departed monks have been permitted for
an hour to assume their old forms, and revisit their old haunts.

Dolefully sounds the bell. And two biers, covered with palls, are borne
slowly towards the church, followed by a tall monk.

The clock was on the stroke of twelve. The procession having drawn up
within the court in front of the abbot's lodging, the prisoners were
brought forth, and at sight of the abbot the whole of the monks fell on
their knees. A touching sight was it to see those reverend men prostrate
before their ancient superior,--he condemned to die, and they deprived
of their monastic home,--and the officer had not the heart to interfere.
Deeply affected, Paslew advanced to the prior, and raising him,
affectionately embraced him. After this, he addressed some words of
comfort to the others, who arose as he enjoined them, and at a signal
from the officer, the procession set out for the church, singing the
"_Placebo_." The abbot and his fellow captives brought up the rear, with
a guard on either side of them. All Souls' bell tolled dolefully the
while.

Meanwhile an officer entered the great hall, where the Earl of Derby was
feasting with his retainers, and informed him that the hour appointed
for the ceremonial was close at hand. The earl arose and went to the
church attended by Braddyll and Assheton. He entered by the western
porch, and, proceeding to the choir, seated himself in the
magnificently-carved stall formerly used by Paslew, and placed where it
stood, a hundred years before, by John Eccles, ninth abbot.

Midnight struck. The great door of the church swung open, and the organ
pealed forth the "_De profundis_." The aisles were filled with armed
men, but a clear space was left for the procession, which presently
entered in the same order as before, and moved slowly along the
transept. Those who came first thought it a dream, so strange was it to
find themselves once again in the old accustomed church. The good prior
melted into tears.

At length the abbot came. To him the whole scene appeared like a vision.
The lights streaming from the altar--the incense loading the air--the
deep diapasons rolling overhead--the well-known faces of the
brethren--the familiar aspect of the sacred edifice--all these filled
him with emotions too painful almost for endurance. It was the last time
he should visit this holy place--the last time he should hear those
solemn sounds--the last time he should behold those familiar
objects--ay, the last! Death could have no pang like this! And with
heart wellnigh bursting, and limbs scarcely serving their office, he
tottered on.

Another trial awaited him, and one for which he was wholly unprepared.
As he drew near the chancel, he looked down an opening on the right,
which seemed purposely preserved by the guard. Why were those tapers
burning in the side chapel? What was within it? He looked again, and
beheld two uncovered biers. On one lay the body of a woman. He started.
In the beautiful, but fierce features of the dead, he beheld the witch,
Bess Demdike. She was gone to her account before him. The malediction he
had pronounced upon her child had killed her.

Appalled, he turned to the other bier, and recognised Cuthbert Ashbead.
He shuddered, but comforted himself that he was at least guiltless of
his death; though he had a strange feeling that the poor forester had in
some way perished for him.

But his attention was diverted towards a tall monk in the Cistertian
habit, standing between the bodies, with the cowl drawn over his face.
As Paslew gazed at him, the monk slowly raised his hood, and partially
disclosed features that smote the abbot as if he had beheld a spectre.
Could it be? Could fancy cheat him thus? He looked again. The monk was
still standing there, but the cowl had dropped over his face. Striving
to shake off the horror that possessed him, the abbot staggered forward,
and reaching the presbytery, sank upon his knees.

The ceremonial then commenced. The solemn requiem was sung by the choir;
and three yet living heard the hymn for the repose of their souls.
Always deeply impressive, the service was unusually so on this sad
occasion, and the melodious voices of the singers never sounded so
mournfully sweet as then--the demeanour of the prior never seemed so
dignified, nor his accents so touching and solemn. The sternest hearts
were softened.

But the abbot found it impossible to fix his attention on the service.
The lights at the altar burnt dimly in his eyes--the loud antiphon and
the supplicatory prayer fell upon a listless ear. His whole life was
passing in review before him. He saw himself as he was when he first
professed his faith, and felt the zeal and holy aspirations that filled
him then. Years flew by at a glance, and he found himself sub-deacon;
the sub-deacon became deacon; and the deacon, sub-prior, and the end of
his ambition seemed plain before him. But he had a rival; his fears told
him a superior in zeal and learning: one who, though many years younger
than he, had risen so rapidly in favour with the ecclesiastical
authorities, that he threatened to outstrip him, even now, when the goal
was full in view. The darkest passage of his life approached: a crime
which should cast a deep shadow over the whole of his brilliant
after-career. He would have shunned its contemplation, if he could. In
vain. It stood out more palpably than all the rest. His rival was no
longer in his path. How he was removed the abbot did not dare to think.
But he was gone for ever, unless the tall monk were he!

Unable to endure this terrible retrospect, Paslew strove to bend his
thoughts on other things. The choir was singing the "_Dies Irae_," and
their voices thundered forth:--

          Rex tremendae majestatis,
          Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
          Salva me, fons pietatis!

Fain would the abbot have closed his ears, and, hoping to stifle the
remorseful pangs that seized upon his very vitals with the sharpness of
serpents' teeth, he strove to dwell upon the frequent and severe acts of
penance he had performed. But he now found that his penitence had never
been sincere and efficacious. This one damning sin obscured all his good
actions; and he felt if he died unconfessed, and with the weight of
guilt upon his soul, he should perish everlastingly. Again he fled from
the torment of retrospection, and again heard the choir thundering
forth--

          Lacrymosa dies illa,
          Qua resurget ex favilla
          Judicandus homo reus.
          Huic ergo parce, Deus!
          Pie Jesu Domine!
          Dona eis requiem.

"Amen!" exclaimed the abbot. And bowing his head to the ground, he
earnestly repeated--

          "Pie Jesu Domine!
          Dona eis requiem."

Then he looked up, and resolved to ask for a confessor, and unburthen
his soul without delay.

The offertory and post-communion were over; the "_requiescant in
pace_"--awful words addressed to living ears--were pronounced; and the
mass was ended.

All prepared to depart. The prior descended from the altar to embrace
and take leave of the abbot; and at the same time the Earl of Derby came
from the stall.

"Has all been done to your satisfaction, John Paslew?" demanded the
earl, as he drew near.

"All, my good lord," replied the abbot, lowly inclining his head; "and I
pray you think me not importunate, if I prefer one other request. I
would fain have a confessor visit me, that I may lay bare my inmost
heart to him, and receive absolution."

"I have already anticipated the request," replied the earl, "and have
provided a priest for you. He shall attend you, within an hour, in your
own chamber. You will have ample time between this and daybreak, to
settle your accounts with Heaven, should they be ever so weighty."

"I trust so, my lord," replied Paslew; "but a whole life is scarcely
long enough for repentance, much less a few short hours. But in regard
to the confessor," he continued, filled with misgiving by the earl's
manner, "I should be glad to be shriven by Father Christopher Smith,
late prior of the abbey."

"It may not be," replied the earl, sternly and decidedly. "You will find
all you can require in him I shall send."

The abbot sighed, seeing that remonstrance was useless.

"One further question I would address to you, my lord," he said, "and
that refers to the place of my interment. Beneath our feet lie buried
all my predecessors--Abbots of Whalley. Here lies John Eccles, for whom
was carved the stall in which your lordship hath sat, and from which I
have been dethroned. Here rests the learned John Lyndelay, fifth abbot;
and beside him his immediate predecessor, Robert de Topcliffe, who, two
hundred and thirty years ago, on the festival of Saint Gregory, our
canonised abbot, commenced the erection of the sacred edifice above us.
At that epoch were here enshrined the remains of the saintly Gregory,
and here were also brought the bodies of Helias de Workesley and John de
Belfield, both prelates of piety and wisdom. You may read the names
where you stand, my lord. You may count the graves of all the abbots.
They are sixteen in number. There is one grave yet unoccupied--one stone
yet unfurnished with an effigy in brass."

"Well!" said the Earl of Derby.

"When I sat in that stall, my lord," pursued Paslew, pointing to the
abbot's chair; "when I was head of this church, it was my thought to
rest here among my brother abbots."

"You have forfeited the right," replied the earl, sternly. "All the
abbots, whose dust is crumbling beneath us, died in the odour of
sanctity; loyal to their sovereigns, and true to their country, whereas
you will die an attainted felon and rebel. You can have no place amongst
them. Concern not yourself further in the matter. I will find a fitting
grave for you,--perchance at the foot of the gallows."

And, turning abruptly away, he gave the signal for general departure.

Ere the clock in the church tower had tolled one, the lights were
extinguished, and of the priestly train who had recently thronged the
fane, all were gone, like a troop of ghosts evoked at midnight by
necromantic skill, and then suddenly dismissed. Deep silence again
brooded in the aisles; hushed was the organ; mute the melodious choir.
The only light penetrating the convent church proceeded from the moon,
whose rays, shining through the painted windows, fell upon the graves of
the old abbots in the presbytery, and on the two biers within the
adjoining chapel, whose stark burthens they quickened into fearful
semblance of life.




CHAPTER VI.--TETER ET FORTIS CARCER.


Left alone, and unable to pray, the abbot strove to dissipate his
agitation of spirit by walking to and fro within his chamber; and while
thus occupied, he was interrupted by a guard, who told him that the
priest sent by the Earl of Derby was without, and immediately afterwards
the confessor was ushered in. It was the tall monk, who had been
standing between the biers, and his features were still shrouded by his
cowl. At sight of him, Paslew sank upon a seat and buried his face in
his hands. The monk offered him no consolation, but waited in silence
till he should again look up. At last Paslew took courage and spoke.

"Who, and what are you?" he demanded.

"A brother of the same order as yourself," replied the monk, in deep and
thrilling accents, but without raising his hood; "and I am come to hear
your confession by command of the Earl of Derby."

"Are you of this abbey?" asked Paslew, tremblingly.

"I was," replied the monk, in a stern tone; "but the monastery is
dissolved, and all the brethren ejected."

"Your name?" cried Paslew.

"I am not come here to answer questions, but to hear a confession,"
rejoined the monk. "Bethink you of the awful situation in which you are
placed, and that before many hours you must answer for the sins you have
committed. You have yet time for repentance, if you delay it not."

"You are right, father," replied the abbot. "Be seated, I pray you, and
listen to me, for I have much to tell. Thirty and one years ago I was
prior of this abbey. Up to that period my life had been blameless, or,
if not wholly free from fault, I had little wherewith to reproach
myself--little to fear from a merciful judge--unless it were that I
indulged too strongly the desire of ruling absolutely in the house in
which I was then only second. But Satan had laid a snare for me, into
which I blindly fell. Among the brethren was one named Borlace Alvetham,
a young man of rare attainment, and singular skill in the occult
sciences. He had risen in favour, and at the time I speak of was elected
sub-prior."

"Go on," said the monk.

"It began to be whispered about within the abbey," pursued Paslew, "that
on the death of William Rede, then abbot, Borlace Alvetham would succeed
him, and then it was that bitter feelings of animosity were awakened in
my breast against the sub-prior, and, after many struggles, I resolved
upon his destruction."

"A wicked resolution," cried the monk; "but proceed."

"I pondered over the means of accomplishing my purpose," resumed Paslew,
"and at last decided upon accusing Alvetham of sorcery and magical
practices. The accusation was easy, for the occult studies in which he
indulged laid him open to the charge. He occupied a chamber overlooking
the Calder, and used to break the monastic rules by wandering forth at
night upon the hills. When he was absent thus one night, accompanied by
others of the brethren, I visited his chamber, and examined his papers,
some of which were covered with mystical figures and cabalistic
characters. These papers I seized, and a watch was set to make prisoner
of Alvetham on his return. Before dawn he appeared, and was instantly
secured, and placed in close confinement. On the next day he was brought
before the assembled conclave in the chapter-house, and examined. His
defence was unavailing. I charged him with the terrible crime of
witchcraft, and he was found guilty."

A hollow groan broke from the monk, but he offered no other
interruption.

"He was condemned to die a fearful and lingering death," pursued the
abbot; "and it devolved upon me to see the sentence carried out."

"And no pity for the innocent moved you?" cried the monk. "You had no
compunction?"

"None," replied the abbot; "I rather rejoiced in the successful
accomplishment of my scheme. The prey was fairly in my toils, and I
would give him no chance of escape. Not to bring scandal upon the
abbey, it was decided that Alvetham's punishment should be secret."

"A wise resolve," observed the monk.

"Within the thickness of the dormitory walls is contrived a small
singularly-formed dungeon," continued the abbot. "It consists of an
arched cell, just large enough to hold the body of a captive, and permit
him to stretch himself upon a straw pallet. A narrow staircase mounts
upwards to a grated aperture in one of the buttresses to admit air and
light. Other opening is there none. '_Teter et fortis carcer_' is this
dungeon styled in our monastic rolls, and it is well described, for it
is black and strong enough. Food is admitted to the miserable inmate of
the cell by means of a revolving stone, but no interchange of speech can
be held with those without. A large stone is removed from the wall to
admit the prisoner, and once immured, the masonry is mortised, and made
solid as before. The wretched captive does not long survive his doom, or
it may be he lives too long, for death must be a release from such
protracted misery. In this dark cell one of the evil-minded brethren,
who essayed to stab the Abbot of Kirkstall in the chapter-house, was
thrust, and ere a year was over, the provisions were untouched--and the
man being known to be dead, they were stayed. His skeleton was found
within the cell when it was opened to admit Borlace Alvetham."

"Poor captive!" groaned the monk.

"Ay, poor captive!" echoed Paslew. "Mine eyes have often striven to
pierce those stone walls, and see him lying there in that narrow
chamber, or forcing his way upwards, to catch a glimpse of the blue sky
above him. When I have seen the swallows settle on the old buttress, or
the thin grass growing between the stones waving there, I have thought
of him."

"Go on," said the monk.

"I scarce can proceed," rejoined Paslew. "Little time was allowed
Alvetham for preparation. That very night the fearful sentence was
carried out. The stone was removed, and a new pallet placed in the cell.
At midnight the prisoner was brought to the dormitory, the brethren
chanting a doleful hymn. There he stood amidst them, his tall form
towering above the rest, and his features pale as death. He protested
his innocence, but he exhibited no fear, even when he saw the terrible
preparations. When all was ready he was led to the breach. At that awful
moment, his eye met mine, and I shall never forget the look. I might
have saved him if I had spoken, but I would not speak. I turned away,
and he was thrust into the breach. A fearful cry then rang in my ears,
but it was instantly drowned by the mallets of the masons employed to
fasten up the stone."

There was a pause for a few moments, broken only by the sobs of the
abbot. At length, the monk spoke.

"And the prisoner perished in the cell?" he demanded in a hollow voice.

"I thought so till to-night," replied the abbot. "But if he escaped it,
it must have been by miracle; or by aid of those powers with whom he was
charged with holding commerce."

"He did escape!" thundered the monk, throwing back his hood. "Look up,
John Paslew. Look up, false abbot, and recognise thy victim."

"Borlace Alvetham!" cried the abbot. "Is it, indeed, you?"

"You see, and can you doubt?" replied the other. "But you shall now hear
how I avoided the terrible death to which you procured my condemnation.
You shall now learn how I am here to repay the wrong you did me. We have
changed places, John Paslew, since the night when I was thrust into the
cell, never, as you hoped, to come forth. You are now the criminal, and
I the witness of the punishment."

"Forgive me! oh, forgive me! Borlace Alvetham, since you are, indeed,
he!" cried the abbot, falling on his knees.

"Arise, John Paslew!" cried the other, sternly. "Arise, and listen to
me. For the damning offences into which I have been led, I hold you
responsible. But for you I might have died free from sin. It is fit you
should know the amount of my iniquity. Give ear to me, I say. When first
shut within that dungeon, I yielded to the promptings of despair.
Cursing you, I threw myself upon the pallet, resolved to taste no food,
and hoping death would soon release me. But love of life prevailed. On
the second day I took the bread and water allotted me, and ate and
drank; after which I scaled the narrow staircase, and gazed through the
thin barred loophole at the bright blue sky above, sometimes catching
the shadow of a bird as it flew past. Oh, how I yearned for freedom
then! Oh, how I wished to break through the stone walls that held me
fast! Oh, what a weight of despair crushed my heart as I crept back to
my narrow bed! The cell seemed like a grave, and indeed it was little
better. Horrible thoughts possessed me. What if I should be wilfully
forgotten? What if no food should be given me, and I should be left to
perish by the slow pangs of hunger? At this idea I shrieked aloud, but
the walls alone returned a dull echo to my cries. I beat my hands
against the stones, till the blood flowed from them, but no answer was
returned; and at last I desisted from sheer exhaustion. Day after day,
and night after night, passed in this way. My food regularly came. But I
became maddened by solitude; and with terrible imprecations invoked aid
from the powers of darkness to set me free. One night, while thus
employed, I was startled by a mocking voice which said,

"'All this fury is needless. Thou hast only to wish for me, and I come.'

[Illustration: ALVETHAM AND JOHN PASLEW.]

"It was profoundly dark. I could see nothing but a pair of red orbs,
glowing like flaming carbuncles.

"'Thou wouldst be free,' continued the voice. 'Thou shalt be so. Arise,
and follow me.'

"At this I felt myself grasped by an iron arm, against which all
resistance would have been unavailing, even if I had dared to offer it,
and in an instant I was dragged up the narrow steps. The stone wall
opened before my unseen conductor, and in another moment we were upon
the roof of the dormitory. By the bright starbeams shooting down from
above, I discerned a tall shadowy figure standing by my side.

"'Thou art mine,' he cried, in accents graven for ever on my memory;
'but I am a generous master, and will give thee a long term of freedom.
Thou shalt be avenged upon thine enemy--deeply avenged.'

"'Grant this, and I am thine,' I replied, a spirit of infernal vengeance
possessing me. And I knelt before the fiend.

"'But thou must tarry for awhile,' he answered, 'for thine enemy's time
will be long in coming; but it _will_ come. I cannot work him immediate
harm; but I will lead him to a height from which he will assuredly fall
headlong. Thou must depart from this place; for it is perilous to thee,
and if thou stayest here, ill will befall thee. I will send a rat to thy
dungeon, which shall daily devour the provisions, so that the monks
shall not know thou hast fled. In thirty and one years shall the abbot's
doom be accomplished. Two years before that time thou mayst return. Then
come alone to Pendle Hill on a Friday night, and beat the water of the
moss pool on the summit, and I will appear to thee and tell thee more.
Nine and twenty years, remember!'

"With these words the shadowy figure melted away, and I found myself
standing alone on the mossy roof of the dormitory. The cold stars were
shining down upon me, and I heard the howl of the watch-dogs near the
gate. The fair abbey slept in beauty around me, and I gnashed my teeth
with rage to think that you had made me an outcast from it, and robbed
me of a dignity which might have been mine. I was wroth also that my
vengeance should be so long delayed. But I could not remain where I was,
so I clambered down the buttress, and fled away."

"Can this be?" cried the abbot, who had listened in rapt wonderment to
the narration. "Two years after your immurement in the cell, the food
having been for some time untouched, the wall was opened, and upon the
pallet was found a decayed carcase in mouldering, monkish vestments."

"It was a body taken from the charnel, and placed there by the demon,"
replied the monk. "Of my long wanderings in other lands and beneath
brighter skies I need not tell you; but neither absence nor lapse of
years cooled my desire of vengeance, and when the appointed time drew
nigh I returned to my own country, and came hither in a lowly garb,
under the name of Nicholas Demdike."

"Ha!" exclaimed the abbot.

"I went to Pendle Hill, as directed," pursued the monk, "and saw the
Dark Shape there as I beheld it on the dormitory roof. All things were
then told me, and I learnt how the late rebellion should rise, and how
it should be crushed. I learnt also how my vengeance should be
satisfied."

Paslew groaned aloud. A brief pause ensued, and deep emotion marked the
accents of the wizard as he proceeded.

"When I came back, all this part of Lancashire resounded with praises of
the beauty of Bess Blackburn, a rustic lass who dwelt in Barrowford. She
was called the Flower of Pendle, and inflamed all the youths with love,
and all the maidens with jealousy. But she favoured none except Cuthbert
Ashbead, forester to the Abbot of Whalley. Her mother would fain have
given her to the forester in marriage, but Bess would not be disposed of
so easily. I saw her, and became at once enamoured. I thought my heart
was seared; but it was not so. The savage beauty of Bess pleased me more
than the most refined charms could have done, and her fierce character
harmonised with my own. How I won her matters not, but she cast off all
thoughts of Ashbead, and clung to me. My wild life suited her; and she
roamed the wastes with me, scaled the hills in my company, and shrank
not from the weird meetings I attended. Ill repute quickly attended her,
and she became branded as a witch. Her aged mother closed her doors upon
her, and those who would have gone miles to meet her, now avoided her.
Bess heeded this little. She was of a nature to repay the world's
contumely with like scorn, but when her child was born the case became
different. She wished to save it. Then it was," pursued Demdike,
vehemently, and regarding the abbot with flashing eyes--"then it was
that I was again mortally injured by you. Then your ruthless decree to
the clergy went forth. My child was denied baptism, and became subject
to the fiend."

"Alas! alas!" exclaimed Paslew.

"And as if this were not injury enough," thundered Demdike, "you have
called down a withering and lasting curse upon its innocent head, and
through it transfixed its mother's heart. If you had complied with that
poor girl's request, I would have forgiven you your wrong to me, and
have saved you."

There was a long, fearful silence. At last Demdike advanced to the
abbot, and, seizing his arm, fixed his eyes upon him, as if to search
into his soul.

"Answer me, John Paslew!" he cried; "answer me, as you shall speedily
answer your Maker. Can that malediction be recalled? Dare not to trifle
with me, or I will tear forth your black heart, and cast it in your
face. Can that curse be recalled? Speak!"

"It cannot," replied the abbot, half dead with terror.

"Away, then!" thundered Demdike, casting him from him. "To the
gallows!--to the gallows!" And he rushed out of the room.




CHAPTER VII.--THE ABBEY MILL.


For a while the abbot remained shattered and stupefied by this terrible
interview. At length he arose, and made his way, he scarce knew how, to
the oratory. But it was long before the tumult of his thoughts could be
at all allayed, and he had only just regained something like composure
when he was disturbed by hearing a slight sound in the adjoining
chamber. A mortal chill came over him, for he thought it might be
Demdike returned. Presently, he distinguished a footstep stealthily
approaching him, and almost hoped that the wizard would consummate his
vengeance by taking his life. But he was quickly undeceived, for a hand
was placed on his shoulder, and a friendly voice whispered in his ears,
"Cum along wi' meh, lort abbut. Get up, quick--quick!"

Thus addressed, the abbot raised his eyes, and beheld a rustic figure
standing beside him, divested of his clouted shoes, and armed with a
long bare wood-knife.

"Dunna yo knoa me, lort abbut?" cried the person. "Ey'm a freent--Hal o'
Nabs, o' Wiswall. Yo'n moind Wiswall, yeawr own birthplace, abbut? Dunna
be feert, ey sey. Ey'n getten a steigh clapt to yon windaw, an' you con
be down it i' a trice--an' along t' covert way be t' river soide to t'
mill."

But the abbot stirred not.

"Quick! quick!" implored Hal o' Nabs, venturing to pluck the abbot's
sleeve. "Every minute's precious. Dunna be feert. Ebil Croft, t' miller,
is below. Poor Cuthbert Ashbead would ha' been here i'stead o' meh if he
couldn; boh that accursed wizard, Nick Demdike, turned my hont agen him,
an' drove t' poike head intended for himself into poor Cuthbert's side.
They clapt meh i' a dungeon, boh Ebil monaged to get me out, an' ey then
swore to do whot poor Cuthbert would ha' done, if he'd been livin'--so
here ey am, lort abbut, cum to set yo free. An' neaw yo knoan aw abowt
it, yo con ha nah more hesitation. Cum, time presses, an ey'm feert o'
t' guard owerhearing us."

"I thank you, my good friend, from the bottom of my heart," replied the
abbot, rising; "but, however strong may be the temptation of life and
liberty which you hold out to me, I cannot yield to it. I have pledged
my word to the Earl of Derby to make no attempt to escape. Were the
doors thrown open, and the guard removed, I should remain where I am."

"Whot!" exclaimed Hal o' Nabs, in a tone of bitter disappointment; "yo
winnaw go, neaw aw's prepared. By th' Mess, boh yo shan. Ey'st nah go
back to Ebil empty-handed. If yo'n sworn to stay here, ey'n sworn to set
yo free, and ey'st keep meh oath. Willy nilly, yo shan go wi' meh, lort
abbut!"

"Forbear to urge me further, my good Hal," rejoined Paslew. "I fully
appreciate your devotion; and I only regret that you and Abel Croft have
exposed yourselves to so much peril on my account. Poor Cuthbert
Ashbead! when I beheld his body on the bier, I had a sad feeling that he
had died in my behalf."

"Cuthbert meant to rescue yo, lort abbut," replied Hal, "and deed
resisting Nick Demdike's attempt to arrest him. Boh, be aw t' devils!"
he added, brandishing his knife fiercely, "t' warlock shall ha' three
inches o' cowd steel betwixt his ribs, t' furst time ey cum across him."

"Peace, my son," rejoined the abbot, "and forego your bloody design.
Leave the wretched man to the chastisement of Heaven. And now, farewell!
All your kindly efforts to induce me to fly are vain."

"Yo winnaw go?" cried Hal o'Nabs, scratching his head.

"I cannot," replied the abbot.

"Cum wi' meh to t' windaw, then," pursued Hal, "and tell Ebil so. He'll
think ey'n failed else."

"Willingly," replied the abbot.

And with noiseless footsteps he followed the other across the chamber.
The window was open, and outside it was reared a ladder.

"Yo mun go down a few steps," said Hal o' Nabs, "or else he'll nah hear
yo."

The abbot complied, and partly descended the ladder.

"I see no one," he said.

"T' neet's dark," replied Hal o' Nabs, who was close behind him. "Ebil
canna be far off. Hist! ey hear him--go on."

The abbot was now obliged to comply, though he did so with, reluctance.
Presently he found himself upon the roof of a building, which he knew to
be connected with the mill by a covered passage running along the south
bank of the Calder. Scarcely had he set foot there, than Hal o' Nabs
jumped after him, and, seizing the ladder, cast it into the stream, thus
rendering Paslew's return impossible.

"Neaw, lort abbut," he cried, with a low, exulting laugh, "yo hanna
brok'n yor word, an ey'n kept moine. Yo're free agen your will."

"You have destroyed me by your mistaken zeal," cried the abbot,
reproachfully.

"Nowt o't sort," replied Hal; "ey'n saved yo' fro' destruction. This
way, lort abbut--this way."

And taking Paslew's arm he led him to a low parapet, overlooking the
covered passage before described. Half an hour before it had been bright
moonlight, but, as if to favour the fugitive, the heavens had become
overcast, and a thick mist had arisen from the river.

"Ebil! Ebil!" cried Hal o' Nabs, leaning over the parapet.

"Here," replied a voice below. "Is aw reet? Is he wi' yo?"

"Yeigh," replied Hal.

"Whot han yo dun wi' t' steigh?" cried Ebil.

"Never yo moind," returned Hal, "boh help t' abbut down."

Paslew thought it vain to resist further, and with the help of Hal o'
Nabs and the miller, and further aided by some irregularities in the
wall, he was soon safely landed near the entrance of the passage. Abel
fell on his knees, and pressed the abbot's hand to his lips.

"Owr Blessed Leady be praised, yo are free," he cried.

"Dunna stond tawking here, Ebil," interposed Hal o' Nabs, who by this
time had reached the ground, and who was fearful of some new
remonstrance on the abbot's part. "Ey'm feerd o' pursuit."

"Yo' needna be afeerd o' that, Hal," replied the miller. "T' guard are
safe enough. One o' owr chaps has just tuk em up a big black jack fu' o'
stout ele; an ey warrant me they winnaw stir yet awhoile. Win it please
yo to cum wi' me, lort abbut?"

With this, he marched along the passage, followed by the others, and
presently arrived at a door, against which he tapped. A bolt being
withdrawn, it was instantly opened to admit the party, after which it
was as quickly shut, and secured. In answer to a call from the miller, a
light appeared at the top of a steep, ladder-like flight of wooden
steps, and up these Paslew, at the entreaty of Abel, mounted, and found
himself in a large, low chamber, the roof of which was crossed by great
beams, covered thickly with cobwebs, whitened by flour, while the floor
was strewn with empty sacks and sieves.

The person who held the light proved to be the miller's daughter,
Dorothy, a blooming lass of eighteen, and at the other end of the
chamber, seated on a bench before a turf fire, with an infant on her
knees, was the miller's wife. The latter instantly arose on beholding
the abbot, and, placing the child on a corn bin, advanced towards him,
and dropped on her knees, while her daughter imitated her example. The
abbot extended his hands over them, and pronounced a solemn benediction.

"Bring your child also to me, that I may bless it," he said, when he
concluded.

"It's nah my child, lort abbut," replied the miller's wife, taking up
the infant and bringing it to him; "it wur brought to me this varry neet
by Ebil. Ey wish it wur far enough, ey'm sure, for it's a deformed
little urchon. One o' its een is lower set than t' other; an t' reet
looks up, while t' laft looks down."

And as she spoke she pointed to the infant's face, which was disfigured
as she had stated, by a strange and unnatural disposition of the eyes,
one of which was set much lower in the head than the other. Awakened
from sleep, the child uttered a feeble cry, and stretched out its tiny
arms to Dorothy.

"You ought to pity it for its deformity, poor little creature, rather
than reproach it, mother," observed the young damsel.

"Marry kem eawt!" cried her mother, sharply, "yo'n getten fine feelings
wi' your larning fro t' good feythers, Dolly. Os ey said efore, ey wish
t' brat wur far enough."

"You forget it has no mother," suggested Dorothy, kindly.

"An naw great matter, if it hasn't," returned the miller's wife. "Bess
Demdike's neaw great loss."

"Is this Bess Demdike's child?" cried Paslew, recoiling.

"Yeigh," exclaimed the miller's wife. And mistaking the cause of
Paslew's emotion, she added, triumphantly, to her daughter, "Ey towd te,
wench, ot t' lort abbut would be of my way o' thinking. T' chilt has got
the witch's mark plain upon her. Look, lort abbut, look!"

But Paslew heeded her not, but murmured to himself:--

"Ever in my path, go where I will. It is vain to struggle with my fate.
I will go back and surrender myself to the Earl of Derby."

"Nah,--nah!--yo shanna do that," replied Hal o' Nabs, who, with the
miller, was close beside him. "Sit down o' that stoo' be t' fire, and
take a cup o' wine t' cheer yo, and then we'n set out to Pendle Forest,
where ey'st find yo a safe hiding-place. An t' ony reward ey'n ever ask
for t' sarvice shan be, that yo'n perform a marriage sarvice fo' me and
Dolly one of these days." And he nudged the damsel's elbow, who turned
away, covered with blushes.

The abbot moved mechanically to the fire, and sat down, while the
miller's wife, surrendering the child with a shrug of the shoulders and
a grimace to her daughter, went in search of some viands and a flask of
wine, which she set before Paslew. The miller then filled a
drinking-horn, and presented it to his guest, who was about to raise it
to his lips, when a loud knocking was heard at the door below.

The knocking continued with increased violence, and voices were heard
calling upon the miller to open the door, or it would be broken down. On
the first alarm Abel had flown to a small window whence he could
reconnoitre those below, and he now returned with a face white with
terror, to say that a party of arquebussiers, with the sheriff at their
head, were without, and that some of the men were provided with torches.

"They have discovered my evasion, and are come in search of me,"
observed the abbot rising, but without betraying any anxiety. "Do not
concern yourselves further for me, my good friends, but open the door,
and deliver me to them."

"Nah, nah, that we winnaw," cried Hal o' Nabs, "yo're neaw taen yet,
feyther abbut, an' ey knoa a way to baffle 'em. If y'on let him down
into t' river, Ebil, ey'n manage to get him off."

"Weel thowt on, Nab," cried the miller, "theawst nah been mey mon seven
year fo nowt. Theaw knoas t' ways o' t' pleck."

"Os weel os onny rotten abowt it," replied Hal o' Nabs. "Go down to t'
grindin'-room, an ey'n follow i' a troice."

And as Abel snatched up the light, and hastily descended the steps with
Paslew, Hal whispered in Dorothy's ears--

"Tak care neaw one fonds that chilt, Dolly, if they break in. Hide it
safely; an whon they're gone, tak it to't church, and place it near t'
altar, where no ill con cum to it or thee. Mey life may hong upon it."

And as the poor girl, who, as well as her mother, was almost frightened
out of her wits, promised compliance, he hurried down the steps after
the others, muttering, as the clamour without was redoubled--

"Eigh, roar on till yo're hoarse. Yo winnaw get in yet awhile, ey'n
promise ye."

Meantime, the abbot had been led to the chief room of the mill, where
all the corn formerly consumed within the monastery had been prepared,
and which the size of the chamber itself, together with the vastness of
the stones used in the operation of grinding, and connected with the
huge water-wheel outside, proved to be by no means inconsiderable.
Strong shafts of timber supported the flooring above, and were crossed
by other boards placed horizontally, from which various implements in
use at the mill depended, giving the chamber, imperfectly lighted as it
now was by the lamp borne by Abel, a strange and almost mysterious
appearance. Three or four of the miller's men, armed with pikes, had
followed their master, and, though much alarmed, they vowed to die
rather than give up the abbot.

By this time Hal o' Nabs had joined the group, and proceeding towards a
raised part of the chamber where the grinding-stones were set, he knelt
down, and laying hold of a small ring, raised up a trapdoor. The fresh
air which blew up through the aperture, combined with the rushing sound
of water, showed that the Calder flowed immediately beneath; and, having
made some slight preparation, Hal let himself down into the stream.

At this moment a loud crash was heard, and one of the miller's men cried
out that the arquebussiers had burst open the door.

"Be hondy, then, lads, and let him down!" cried Hal o' Nabs, who had
some difficulty in maintaining his footing on the rough, stony bottom of
the swift stream.

Passively yielding, the abbot suffered the miller and one of the
stoutest of his men to assist him through the trapdoor, while a third
held down the lamp, and showed Hal o' Nabs, up to his middle in the
darkling current, and stretching out his arms to receive the burden. The
light fell upon the huge black circle of the watershed now stopped, and
upon the dripping arches supporting the mill. In another moment the
abbot plunged into the water, the trapdoor was replaced, and bolted
underneath by Hal, who, while guiding his companion along, and bidding
him catch hold of the wood-work of the wheel, heard a heavy trampling of
many feet on the boards above, showing that the pursuers had obtained
admittance.

Encumbered by his heavy vestments, the abbot could with difficulty
contend against the strong current, and he momently expected to be swept
away; but he had a stout and active assistant by his side, who soon
placed him under shelter of the wheel. The trampling overhead continued
for a few minutes, after which all was quiet, and Hal judged that,
finding their search within ineffectual, the enemy would speedily come
forth. Nor was he deceived. Shouts were soon heard at the door of the
mill, and the glare of torches was cast on the stream. Then it was that
Hal dragged his companion into a deep hole, formed by some decay in the
masonry, behind the wheel, where the water rose nearly to their chins,
and where they were completely concealed. Scarcely were they thus
ensconced, than two or three armed men, holding torches aloft, were seen
wading under the archway; but after looking carefully around, and even
approaching close to the water-wheel, these persons could detect
nothing, and withdrew, muttering curses of rage and disappointment.
By-and-by the lights almost wholly disappeared, and the shouts becoming
fainter and more distant, it was evident that the men had gone lower
down the river. Upon this, Hal thought they might venture to quit their
retreat, and accordingly, grasping the abbot's arm, he proceeded to wade
up the stream.

Benumbed with cold, and half dead with terror, Paslew needed all his
companion's support, for he could do little to help himself, added to
which, they occasionally encountered some large stone, or stepped into a
deep hole, so that it required Hal's utmost exertion and strength to
force a way on. At last they were out of the arch, and though both banks
seemed unguarded, yet, for fear of surprise, Hal deemed it prudent still
to keep to the river. Their course was completely sheltered from
observation by the mist that enveloped them; and after proceeding in
this way for some distance, Hal stopped to listen, and while debating
with himself whether he should now quit the river, he fancied he beheld
a black object swimming towards him. Taking it for an otter, with which
voracious animal the Calder, a stream swarming with trout, abounded, and
knowing the creature would not meddle with them unless first attacked,
he paid little attention to it; but he was soon made sensible of his
error. His arm was suddenly seized by a large black hound, whose sharp
fangs met in his flesh. Unable to repress a cry of pain, Hal strove to
disengage himself from his assailant, and, finding it impossible, flung
himself into the water in the hope of drowning him, but, as the hound
still maintained his hold, he searched for his knife to slay him. But he
could not find it, and in his distress applied to Paslew.

"Ha yo onny weepun abowt yo, lort abbut," he cried, "wi' which ey con
free mysel fro' this accussed hound?"

"Alas! no, my son," replied Paslew, "and I fear no weapon will prevail
against it, for I recognise in the animal the hound of the wizard,
Demdike."

"Ey thowt t' dule wur in it," rejoined Hal; "boh leave me to fight it
owt, and do you gain t' bonk, an mey t' best o' your way to t' Wiswall.
Ey'n join ye os soon os ey con scrush this varment's heaod agen a stoan.
Ha!" he added, joyfully, "Ey'n found t' thwittle. Go--go. Ey'n soon be
efter ye."

Feeling he should sink if he remained where he was, and wholly unable to
offer any effectual assistance to his companion, the abbot turned to the
left, where a large oak overhung the stream, and he was climbing the
bank, aided by the roots of the tree, when a man suddenly came from
behind it, seized his hand, and dragged him up forcibly. At the same
moment his captor placed a bugle to his lips, and winding a few notes,
he was instantly answered by shouts, and soon afterwards half a dozen
armed men ran up, bearing torches. Not a word passed between the
fugitive and his captor; but when the men came up, and the torchlight
fell upon the features of the latter, the abbot's worst fears were
realised. It was Demdike.

"False to your king!--false to your oath!--false to all men!" cried the
wizard. "You seek to escape in vain!"

"I merit all your reproaches," replied the abbot; "but it may he some
satisfaction, to you to learn, that I have endured far greater suffering
than if I had patiently awaited my doom."

"I am glad of it," rejoined Demdike, with a savage laugh; "but you have
destroyed others beside yourself. Where is the fellow in the water?
What, ho, Uriel!"

But as no sound reached him, he snatched a torch from one of the
arquebussiers and held it to the river's brink. But he could see neither
hound nor man.

"Strange!" he cried. "He cannot have escaped. Uriel is more than a match
for any man. Secure the prisoner while I examine the stream."

With this, he ran along the bank with great quickness, holding his torch
far over the water, so as to reveal any thing floating within it, but
nothing met his view until he came within a short distance of the mill,
when he beheld a black object struggling in the current, and soon found
that it was his dog making feeble efforts to gain the bank.

"Ah recreant! thou hast let him go," cried Demdike, furiously.

Seeing his master the animal redoubled its efforts, crept ashore, and
fell at his feet, with a last effort to lick his hands.

Demdike held down the torch, and then perceived that the hound was
quite dead. There was a deep gash in its side, and another in the
throat, showing how it had perished.

"Poor Uriel!" he exclaimed; "the only true friend I had. And thou art
gone! The villain has killed thee, but he shall pay for it with his
life."

And hurrying back he dispatched four of the men in quest of the
fugitive, while accompanied by the two others he conveyed Paslew back to
the abbey, where he was placed in a strong cell, from which there was no
possibility of escape, and a guard set over him.

Half an hour after this, two of the arquebussiers returned with Hal o'
Nabs, whom they had succeeded in capturing after a desperate resistance,
about a mile from the abbey, on the road to Wiswall. He was taken to the
guard-room, which had been appointed in one of the lower chambers of the
chapter-house, and Demdike was immediately apprised of his arrival.
Satisfied by an inspection of the prisoner, whose demeanour was sullen
and resolved, Demdike proceeded to the great hall, where the Earl of
Derby, who had returned thither after the midnight mass, was still
sitting with his retainers. An audience was readily obtained by the
wizard, and, apparently well pleased with the result, he returned to the
guard-room. The prisoner was seated by himself in one corner of the
chamber, with his hands tied behind his back with a leathern thong, and
Demdike approaching him, told him that, for having aided the escape of a
condemned rebel and traitor, and violently assaulting the king's lieges
in the execution of their duty, he would be hanged on the morrow, the
Earl of Derby, who had power of life or death in such cases, having so
decreed it. And he exhibited the warrant.

"Soh, yo mean to hong me, eh, wizard?" cried Hal o' Nabs, kicking his
heels with great apparent indifference.

"I do," replied Demdike; "if for nothing else, for slaying my hound."

"Ey dunna think it," replied Hal. "Yo'n alter your moind. Do, mon. Ey'm
nah prepared to dee just yet."

"Then perish in your sins," cried Demdike, "I will not give you an
hour's respite."

"Yo'n be sorry when it's too late," said Hal.

"Tush!" cried Demdike, "my only regret will be that Uriel's slaughter is
paid for by such a worthless life as thine."

"Then whoy tak it?" demanded Hal. "'Specially whon yo'n lose your chilt
by doing so."

"My child!" exclaimed Demdike, surprised. "How mean you, sirrah?"

"Ey mean this," replied Hal, coolly; "that if ey dee to-morrow mornin'
your chilt dees too. Whon ey ondertook this job ey calkilated mey
chances, an' tuk precautions eforehond. Your chilt's a hostage fo mey
safety."

"Curses on thee and thy cunning," cried Demdike; "but I will not be
outwitted by a hind like thee. I will have the child, and yet not be
baulked of my revenge."

"Yo'n never ha' it, except os a breathless corpse, 'bowt mey consent,"
rejoined Hal.

"We shall see," cried Demdike, rushing forth, and bidding the guards
look well to the prisoner.

But ere long he returned with a gloomy and disappointed expression of
countenance, and again approaching the prisoner said, "Thou hast spoken
the truth. The infant is in the hands of some innocent being over whom I
have no power."

"Ey towdee so, wizard," replied Hal, laughing. "Hoind os ey be, ey'm a
match fo' thee,--ha! ha! Neaw, mey life agen t' chilt's. Win yo set me
free?"

Demdike deliberated.

"Harkee, wizard," cried Hal, "if yo're hatching treason ey'n dun. T'
sartunty o' revenge win sweeten mey last moments."

"Will you swear to deliver the child to me unharmed, if I set you free?"
asked Demdike.

"It's a bargain, wizard," rejoined Hal o' Nabs; "ey swear. Boh yo mun
set me free furst, fo' ey winnaw tak your word."

Demdike turned away disdainfully, and addressing the arquebussiers,
said, "You behold this warrant, guard. The prisoner is committed to my
custody. I will produce him on the morrow, or account for his absence to
the Earl of Derby."

One of the arquebussiers examined the order, and vouching for its
correctness, the others signified their assent to the arrangement, upon
which Demdike motioned the prisoner to follow him, and quitted the
chamber. No interruption was offered to Hal's egress, but he stopped
within the court-yard, where Demdike awaited him, and unfastened the
leathern thong that bound together his hands.

"Now go and bring the child to me," said the wizard.

"Nah, ey'st neaw bring it ye myself," rejoined Hal. "Ey knoas better nor
that. Be at t' church porch i' half an hour, an t' bantlin shan be
delivered to ye safe an sound."

And without waiting for a reply, he ran off with great swiftness.

At the appointed time Demdike sought the church, and as he drew near it
there issued from the porch a female, who hastily placing the child,
wrapped in a mantle, in his arms, tarried for no speech from him, but
instantly disappeared. Demdike, however, recognised in her the miller's
daughter, Dorothy Croft.




CHAPTER VIII.--THE EXECUTIONER.


Dawn came at last, after a long and weary night to many within and
without the abbey. Every thing betokened a dismal day. The atmosphere
was damp, and oppressive to the spirits, while the raw cold sensibly
affected the frame. All astir were filled with gloom and despondency,
and secretly breathed a wish that, the tragical business of the day were
ended. The vast range of Pendle was obscured by clouds, and ere long the
vapours descended into the valleys, and rain began to fall; at first
slightly, but afterwards in heavy continuous showers. Melancholy was the
aspect of the abbey, and it required no stretch of imagination to fancy
that the old structure was deploring the fate of its former ruler. To
those impressed with the idea--and many there were who were so--the very
stones of the convent church seemed dissolving into tears. The statues
of the saints appeared to weep, and the great statue of Saint Gregory de
Northbury over the porch seemed bowed down with grief. The grotesquely
carved heads on the spouts grinned horribly at the abbot's destroyers,
and spouted forth cascades of water, as if with the intent of drowning
them. So deluging and incessant were the showers, that it seemed,
indeed, as if the abbey would be flooded. All the inequalities of ground
within the great quadrangle of the cloisters looked like ponds, and the
various water-spouts from the dormitory, the refectory, and the
chapter-house, continuing to jet forth streams into the court below, the
ambulatories were soon filled ankle-deep, and even the lower apartments,
on which they opened, invaded.

Surcharged with moisture, the royal banner on the gate drooped and clung
to the staff, as if it too shared in the general depression, or as if
the sovereign authority it represented had given way. The countenances
and deportment of the men harmonized with the weather; they moved about
gloomily and despondently, their bright accoutrements sullied with the
wet, and their buskins clogged with mire. A forlorn sight it was to
watch the shivering sentinels on the walls; and yet more forlorn to see
the groups of the abbot's old retainers gathering without, wrapped in
their blue woollen cloaks, patiently enduring the drenching showers, and
awaiting the last awful scene. But the saddest sight of all was on the
hill, already described, called the Holehouses. Here two other lesser
gibbets had been erected during the night, one on either hand of the
loftier instrument of justice, and the carpenters were yet employed in
finishing their work, having been delayed by the badness of the weather.
Half drowned by the torrents that fell upon them, the poor fellows were
protected from interference with their disagreeable occupation by half a
dozen well-mounted and well-armed troopers, and by as many halberdiers;
and this company, completely exposed to the weather, suffered severely
from wet and cold. The rain beat against the gallows, ran down its tall
naked posts, and collected in pools at its feet. Attracted by some
strange instinct, which seemed to give them a knowledge of the object of
these terrible preparations, two ravens wheeled screaming round the
fatal tree, and at length one of them settled on the cross-beam, and
could with difficulty be dislodged by the shouts of the men, when it
flew away, croaking hoarsely. Up this gentle hill, ordinarily so soft
and beautiful, but now abhorrent as a Golgotha, in the eyes of the
beholders, groups of rustics and monks had climbed over ground rendered
slippery with moisture, and had gathered round the paling encircling the
terrible apparatus, looking the images of despair and woe.

Even those within the abbey, and sheltered from the storm, shared the
all-pervading despondency. The refectory looked dull and comfortless,
and the logs on the hearth hissed and sputtered, and would not burn.
Green wood had been brought instead of dry fuel by the drowsy henchman.
The viands on the board provoked not the appetite, and the men emptied
their cups of ale, yawned and stretched their arms, as if they would
fain sleep an hour or two longer. The sense of discomfort, was
heightened by the entrance of those whose term of watch had been
relieved, and who cast their dripping cloaks on the floor, while two or
three savage dogs, steaming with moisture, stretched their huge lengths
before the sullen fire, and disputed all approach to it.

Within the great hall were already gathered the retainers of the Earl of
Derby, but the nobleman himself had not appeared. Having passed the
greater part of the night in conference with one person or another, and
the abbot's flight having caused him much disquietude, though he did not
hear of it till the fugitive was recovered; the earl would not seek his
couch until within an hour of daybreak, and his attendants, considering
the state of the weather, and that it yet wanted full two hours to the
time appointed for the execution, did not think it needful to disturb
him. Braddyll and Assheton, however, were up and ready; but, despite
their firmness of nerve, they yielded like the rest to the depressing
influence of the weather, and began to have some misgivings as to their
own share in the tragedy about to be enacted. The various gentlemen in
attendance paced to and fro within the hall, holding but slight converse
together, anxiously counting the minutes, for the time appeared to pass
on with unwonted slowness, and ever and anon glancing through the
diamond panes of the window at the rain pouring down steadily without,
and coming back again hopeless of amendment in the weather.

If such were the disheartening influence of the day on those who had
nothing to apprehend, what must its effect have been on the poor
captives! Woful indeed. The two monks suffered a complete prostration of
spirit. All the resolution which Father Haydocke had displayed in his
interview with the Earl of Derby, failed him now, and he yielded to the
agonies of despair. Father Eastgate was in little better condition, and
gave vent to unavailing lamentations, instead of paying heed to the
consolatory discourse of the monk who had been permitted to visit him.

The abbot was better sustained. Though greatly enfeebled by the
occurrences of the night, yet in proportion as his bodily strength
decreased, his mental energies rallied. Since the confession of his
secret offence, and the conviction he had obtained that his supposed
victim still lived, a weight seemed taken from his breast, and he had no
longer any dread of death. Rather he looked to the speedy termination of
existence with hopeful pleasure. He prepared himself as decently as the
means afforded him permitted for his last appearance before the world,
but refused all refreshment except a cup of water, and being left to
himself was praying fervently, when a man was admitted into his cell.
Thinking it might be the executioner come to summon him, he arose, and
to his surprise beheld Hal o' Nabs. The countenance of the rustic was
pale, but his bearing was determined.

"You here, my son," cried Paslew. "I hoped you had escaped."

"Ey'm i' nah dawnger, feyther abbut," replied Hal. "Ey'n getten leef to
visit ye fo a minute only, so ey mun be brief. Mey yourself easy, ye
shanna dee be't hongmon's honds."

"How, my son!" cried Paslew. "I understand you not."

"Yo'n onderstond me weel enough by-and-by," replied Hal. "Dunnah be
feart whon ye see me next; an comfort yoursel that whotever cums and
goes, your death shall be avenged o' your warst foe."

Paslew would have sought some further explanation, but Hal stepped
quickly backwards, and striking his foot against the door, it was
instantly opened by the guard, and he went forth.

Not long after this, the Earl of Derby entered the great hall, and his
first inquiry was as to the safety of the prisoners. When satisfied of
this, he looked forth, and shuddered at the dismal state of the weather.
While he was addressing some remarks on this subject, and on its
interference with the tragical exhibition about to take place, an
officer entered the hall, followed by several persons of inferior
condition, amongst whom was Hal o' Nabs, and marched up to the earl,
while the others remained standing at a respectful distance.

"What news do you bring me, sir?" cried the earl, noticing the officer's
evident uneasiness of manner. "Nothing hath happened to the prisoners?
God's death! if it hath, you shall all answer for it with your bodies."

"Nothing hath happened to them, my lord," said the officer,--"but--"

"But what?" interrupted the earl. "Out with it quickly."

"The executioner from Lancaster and his two aids have fled," replied the
officer.

"Fled!" exclaimed the earl, stamping his foot with rage; "now as I live,
this is a device to delay the execution till some new attempt at rescue
can be made. But it shall fail, if I string up the abbot myself. Death!
can no other hangmen be found? ha!"

"Of a surety, my lord; but all have an aversion to the office, and hold
it opprobrious, especially to put churchmen to death," replied the
officer.

"Opprobrious or not, it must be done," replied the earl. "See that
fitting persons are provided."

At this moment Hal o' Nabs stepped forward.

"Ey'm willing t' ondertake t' job, my lord, an' t' hong t' abbut,
without fee or rewort," he said.

"Thou bears't him a grudge, I suppose, good fellow," replied the earl,
laughing at the rustic's uncouth appearance; "but thou seem'st a stout
fellow, and one not likely to flinch, and may discharge the office as
well as another. If no better man can be found, let him do it," he added
to the officer.

"Ey humbly thonk your lortship," replied Hal, inwardly rejoicing at the
success of his scheme. But his countenance fell when he perceived
Demdike advance from behind the others.

"This man is not to be trusted, my lord," said Demdike, coming forward;
"he has some mischievous design in making the request. So far from
bearing enmity to the abbot, it was he who assisted him in his attempt
to escape last night."

"What!" exclaimed the earl, "is this a new trick? Bring the fellow
forward, that I may examine him."

But Hal was gone. Instantly divining Demdike's purpose, and seeing his
chance lost, he mingled with the lookers-on, who covered his retreat.
Nor could he be found when sought for by the guard.

"See you provide a substitute quickly, sir," cried the earl, angrily, to
the officer.

"It is needless to take further trouble, my lord," replied Demdike "I am
come to offer myself as executioner."

"Thou!" exclaimed the earl.

"Ay," replied the other. "When I heard that the men from Lancaster were
fled, I instantly knew that some scheme to frustrate the ends of justice
was on foot, and I at once resolved to undertake the office myself
rather than delay or risk should occur. What this man's aim was, who
hath just offered himself, I partly guess, but it hath failed; and if
your lordship will intrust the matter to me, I will answer that no
further impediment shall arise, but that the sentence shall be fully
carried out, and the law satisfied. Your lordship can trust me."

"I know it," replied the earl. "Be it as you will. It is now on the
stroke of nine. At ten, let all be in readiness to set out for Wiswall
Hall. The rain may have ceased by that time, but no weather must stay
you. Go forth with the new executioner, sir," he added to the officer,
"and see all necessary preparations made."

And as Demdike bowed, and departed with the officer, the earl sat down
with his retainers to break his fast.




CHAPTER IX.--WISWALL HALL.


Shortly before ten o'clock a numerous cortege, consisting of a troop of
horse in their full equipments, a band of archers with their bows over
their shoulders, and a long train of barefoot monks, who had been
permitted to attend, set out from the abbey. Behind them came a varlet
with a paper mitre on his head, and a lathen crosier in his hand,
covered with a surcoat, on which was emblazoned, but torn and reversed,
the arms of Paslew; argent, a fess between three mullets, sable, pierced
of the field, a crescent for difference. After him came another varlet
bearing a banner, on which was painted a grotesque figure in a
half-military, half-monastic garb, representing the "Earl of Poverty,"
with this distich beneath it:--

          Priest and warrior--rich and poor,
          He shall be hanged at his own door.

Next followed a tumbrel, drawn by two horses, in which sat the abbot
alone, the two other prisoners being kept back for the present. Then
came Demdike, in a leathern jerkin and blood-red hose, fitting closely
to his sinewy limbs, and wrapped in a houppeland of the same colour as
the hose, with a coil of rope round his neck. He walked between two
ill-favoured personages habited in black, whom he had chosen as
assistants. A band of halberdiers brought up the rear. The procession
moved slowly along,--the passing-bell tolling each minute, and a muffled
drum sounding hollowly at intervals.

Shortly before the procession started the rain ceased, but the air felt
damp and chill, and the roads were inundated. Passing out at the
north-eastern gateway, the gloomy train skirted the south side of the
convent church, and went on in the direction of the village of Whalley.
When near the east end of the holy edifice, the abbot beheld two coffins
borne along, and, on inquiry, learnt that they contained the bodies of
Bess Demdike and Cuthbert Ashbead, who were about to be interred in the
cemetery. At this moment his eye for the first time encountered that of
his implacable foe, and he then discovered that he was to serve as his
executioner.

At first Paslew felt much trouble at this thought, but the feeling
quickly passed away. On reaching Whalley, every door was found closed,
and every window shut; so that the spectacle was lost upon the
inhabitants; and after a brief halt, the cavalcade get out for Wiswall
Hall.

Sprung from an ancient family residing in the neighbourhood Of Whalley,
Abbot Paslew was the second son of Francis Paslew Of Wiswall Hall, a
great gloomy stone mansion, situated at the foot of the south-western
side of Pendle Hill, where his brother Francis still resided. Of a cold
and cautious character, Francis Paslew, second of the name, held aloof
from the insurrection, and when his brother was arrested he wholly
abandoned him. Still the owner of Wiswall had not altogether escaped
suspicion, and it was probably as much with the view of degrading him as
of adding to the abbot's punishment, that the latter was taken to the
hall on the morning of his execution. Be this as it may, the cortege
toiled thither through roads bad in the best of seasons, but now, since
the heavy rain, scarcely passable; and it arrived there in about half an
hour, and drew up on the broad green lawn. Window and door of the hall
were closed; no smoke issued from the heavy pile of chimneys; and to all
outward seeming the place was utterly deserted. In answer to inquiries,
it appeared that Francis Paslew had departed for Northumberland on the
previous day, taking all his household with him.

In earlier years, a quarrel having occurred between the haughty abbot
and the churlish Francis, the brothers rarely met, whence it chanced
that John Paslew had seldom visited the place of his birth of late,
though lying so near to the abbey, and, indeed, forming part of its
ancient dependencies. It was sad to view it now; and yet the house,
gloomy as it was, recalled seasons with which, though they might awaken
regret, no guilty associations were connected. Dark was the hall, and
desolate, but on the fine old trees around it the rooks were settling,
and their loud cawings pleased him, and excited gentle emotions. For a
few moments he grew young again, and forgot why he was there. Fondly
surveying the house, the terraced garden, in which, as a boy, he had so
often strayed, and the park beyond it, where he had chased the deer; his
gaze rose to the cloudy heights of Pendle, springing immediately behind
the mansion, and up which he had frequently climbed. The flood-gates of
memory were opened at once, and a whole tide of long-buried feelings
rushed upon his heart.

From this half-painful, half-pleasurable retrospect he was aroused by
the loud blast of a trumpet, thrice blown. A recapitulation of his
offences, together with his sentence, was read by a herald, after which
the reversed blazonry was fastened upon the door of the hall, just below
a stone escutcheon on which was carved the arms of the family; while the
paper mitre was torn and trampled under foot, the lathen crosier broken
in twain, and the scurril banner hacked in pieces.

While this degrading act was performed, a man in a miller's white garb,
with the hood drawn over his face, forced his way towards the tumbrel,
and while the attention of the guard was otherwise engaged, whispered in
Paslew's ear,

"Ey han failed i' mey scheme, feyther abbut, boh rest assured ey'n
avenge you. Demdike shan ha' mey Sheffield thwittle i' his heart 'efore
he's a day older."

"The wizard has a charm against steel, my son, and indeed is proof
against all weapons forged by men," replied Paslew, who recognised the
voice of Hal o' Nabs, and hoped by this assertion to divert him from his
purpose.

"Ha! say yo so, feythur abbut?" cried Hal. "Then ey'n reach him wi'
summot sacred." And he disappeared.

At this moment, word was given to return, and in half an hour the
cavalcade arrived at the abbey in the same order it had left it.

Though the rain had ceased, heavy clouds still hung overhead,
threatening another deluge, and the aspect of the abbey remained gloomy
as ever. The bell continued to toll; drums were beaten; and trumpets
sounded from the outer and inner gateway, and from the three
quadrangles. The cavalcade drew up in front of the great northern
entrance; and its return being announced within, the two other captives
were brought forth, each fastened upon a hurdle, harnessed to a stout
horse. They looked dead already, so ghastly was the hue of their cheeks.

The abbot's turn came next. Another hurdle was brought forward, and
Demdike advanced to the tumbrel. But Paslew recoiled from his touch, and
sprang to the ground unaided. He was then laid on his back upon the
hurdle, and his hands and feet were bound fast with ropes to the twisted
timbers. While this painful task was roughly performed by the wizard's
two ill-favoured assistants, the crowd of rustics who looked on,
murmured and exhibited such strong tokens of displeasure, that the guard
thought it prudent to keep them off with their halberts. But when all
was done, Demdike motioned to a man standing behind him to advance, and
the person who was wrapped in a russet cloak complied, drew forth an
infant, and held it in such way that the abbot could see it. Paslew
understood what was meant, but he uttered not a word. Demdike then knelt
down beside him, as if ascertaining the security of the cords, and
whispered in his ear:--

"Recall thy malediction, and my dagger shall save thee from the last
indignity."

"Never," replied Paslew; "the curse is irrevocable. But I would not
recall it if I could. As I have said, thy child shall be a witch, and
the mother of witches--but all shall be swept off--all!"

"Hell's torments seize thee!" cried the wizard, furiously.

"Nay, thou hast done thy worst to me," rejoined Paslew, meekly, "thou
canst not harm me beyond the grave. Look to thyself, for even as thou
speakest, thy child is taken from thee."

And so it was. While Demdike knelt beside Paslew, a hand was put forth,
and, before the man who had custody of the infant could prevent it, his
little charge was snatched from him. Thus the abbot saw, though the
wizard perceived it not. The latter instantly sprang to his feet.

"Where is the child?" he demanded of the fellow in the russet cloak.

"It was taken from me by yon tall man who is disappearing through the
gateway," replied the other, in great trepidation.

"Ha! _he_ here!" exclaimed Demdike, regarding the dark figure with a
look of despair. "It is gone from me for ever!"

"Ay, for ever!" echoed the abbot, solemnly.

"But revenge is still left me--revenge!" cried Demdike, with an
infuriated gesture.

"Then glut thyself with it speedily," replied the abbot; "for thy time
here is short."

"I care not if it be," replied Demdike; "I shall live long enough if I
survive thee."




CHAPTER X.--THE HOLEHOUSES.


At this moment the blast of a trumpet resounded from the gateway, and
the Earl of Derby, with the sheriff on his right hand, and Assheton on
the left, and mounted on a richly caparisoned charger, rode forth. He
was preceded by four javelin-men, and followed by two heralds in their
tabards.

To doleful tolling of bells--to solemn music--to plaintive hymn chanted
by monks--to roll of muffled drum at intervals--the sad cortege set
forth. Loud cries from the bystanders marked its departure, and some of
them followed it, but many turned away, unable to endure the sight of
horror about to ensue. Amongst those who went on was Hal o' Nabs, but he
took care to keep out of the way of the guard, though he was little
likely to be recognised, owing to his disguise.

Despite the miserable state of the weather, a great multitude was
assembled at the place of execution, and they watched the approaching
cavalcade with moody curiosity. To prevent disturbance, arquebussiers
were stationed in parties here and there, and a clear course for the
cortege was preserved by two lines of halberdiers with crossed pikes.
But notwithstanding this, much difficulty was experienced in mounting
the hill. Rendered slippery by the wet, and yet more so by the trampling
of the crowd, the road was so bad in places that the horses could
scarcely drag the hurdles up it, and more than one delay occurred. The
stoppages were always denounced by groans, yells, and hootings from the
mob, and these neither the menaces of the Earl of Derby, nor the active
measures of the guard, could repress.

At length, however, the cavalcade reached its destination. Then the
crowd struggled forward, and settled into a dense compact ring, round
the circular railing enclosing the place of execution, within which were
drawn up the Earl of Derby, the sheriff, Assheton, and the principal
gentlemen, together with Demdike and his assistants; the guard forming a
circle three deep round them.

Paslew was first unloosed, and when he stood up, he found Father Smith,
the late prior, beside him, and tenderly embraced him.

"Be of good courage, Father Abbot," said the prior; "a few moments, and
you will be numbered with the just."

"My hope is in the infinite mercy of Heaven, father," replied Paslew,
sighing deeply. "Pray for me at the last."

"Doubt it not," returned the prior, fervently. "I will pray for you now
and ever."

Meanwhile, the bonds of the two other captives were unfastened, but they
were found wholly unable to stand without support. A lofty ladder had
been placed against the central scaffold, and up this Demdike, having
cast off his houppeland, mounted and adjusted the rope. His tall gaunt
figure, fully displayed in his tight-fitting red garb, made him look
like a hideous scarecrow. His appearance was greeted by the mob with a
perfect hurricane of indignant outcries and yells. But he heeded them
not, but calmly pursued his task. Above him wheeled the two ravens, who
had never quitted the place since daybreak, uttering their discordant
cries. When all was done, he descended a few steps, and, taking a black
hood from his girdle to place over the head of his victim, called out in
a voice which had little human in its tone, "I wait for you, John
Paslew."

"Are you ready, Paslew?" demanded the Earl of Derby.

"I am, my lord," replied the abbot. And embracing the prior for the last
time, he added, "_Vale, carissime frater, in aeternum vale! et Dominus
tecum sit in ultionem inimicorum nostrorum_!"

"It is the king's pleasure that you say not a word in your justification
to the mob, Paslew," observed the earl.

"I had no such intention, my lord," replied the abbot.

"Then tarry no longer," said the earl; "if you need aid you shall have
it."

"I require none," replied Paslew, resolutely.

With this he mounted the ladder, with as much firmness and dignity as if
ascending the steps of a tribune.

Hitherto nothing but yells and angry outcries had stunned the ears of
the lookers-on, and several missiles had been hurled at Demdike, some of
which took effect, though without occasioning discomfiture; but when
the abbot appeared above the heads of the guard, the tumult instantly
subsided, and profound silence ensued. Not a breath was drawn by the
spectators. The ravens alone continued their ominous croaking.

Hal o' Nabs, who stood on the outskirts of the ring, saw thus far but he
could bear it no longer, and rushed down the hill. Just as he reached
the level ground, a culverin was fired from the gateway, and the next
moment a loud wailing cry bursting from the mob told that the abbot was
launched into eternity.

Hal would not look back, but went slowly on, and presently afterwards
other horrid sounds dinned in his ears, telling that all was over with
the two other sufferers. Sickened and faint, he leaned against a wall
for support. How long he continued thus, he knew not, but he heard the
cavalcade coming down the hill, and saw the Earl of Derby and his
attendants ride past. Glancing toward the place of execution, Hal then
perceived that the abbot had been cut down, and, rousing himself, he
joined the crowd now rushing towards the gate, and ascertained that the
body of Paslew was to be taken to the convent church, and deposited
there till orders were to be given respecting its interment. He learnt,
also, that the removal of the corpse was intrusted to Demdike. Fired by
this intelligence, and suddenly conceiving a wild project of vengeance,
founded upon what he had heard from the abbot of the wizard being proof
against weapons forged by men, he hurried to the church, entered it, the
door being thrown open, and rushing up to the gallery, contrived to get
out through a window upon the top of the porch, where he secreted
himself behind the great stone statue of Saint Gregory.

The information he had obtained proved correct. Ere long a mournful
train approached the church, and a bier was set down before the porch. A
black hood covered the face of the dead, but the vestments showed that
it was the body of Paslew.

At the head of the bearers was Demdike, and when the body was set down
he advanced towards it, and, removing the hood, gazed at the livid and
distorted features.

"At length I am fully avenged," he said.

"And Abbot Paslew, also," cried a voice above him.

Demdike looked up, but the look was his last, for the ponderous statue
of Saint Gregory de Northbury, launched from its pedestal, fell upon his
head, and crushed him to the ground. A mangled and breathless mass was
taken from beneath the image, and the hands and visage of Paslew were
found spotted with blood dashed from the gory carcass. The author of the
wizard's destruction was suspected, but never found, nor was it
positively known who had done the deed till years after, when Hal o'
Nabs, who meanwhile had married pretty Dorothy Croft, and had been
blessed by numerous offspring in the union, made his last confession,
and then he exhibited no remarkable or becoming penitence for the act,
neither was he refused absolution.

Thus it came to pass that the abbot and his enemy perished together. The
mutilated remains of the wizard were placed in a shell, and huddled into
the grave where his wife had that morning been laid. But no prayer was
said over him. And the superstitious believed that the body was carried
off that very night by the Fiend, and taken to a witch's sabbath in the
ruined tower on Rimington Moor. Certain it was, that the unhallowed
grave was disturbed. The body of Paslew was decently interred in the
north aisle of the parish church of Whalley, beneath a stone with a
Gothic cross sculptured upon it, and bearing the piteous
inscription:--"_Miserere mei_."

But in the belief of the vulgar the abbot did not rest tranquilly. For
many years afterwards a white-robed monastic figure was seen to flit
along the cloisters, pass out at the gate, and disappear with a wailing
cry over the Holehouses. And the same ghostly figure was often seen to
glide through the corridor in the abbot's lodging, and vanish at the
door of the chamber leading to the little oratory. Thus Whalley Abbey
was supposed to be haunted, and few liked to wander through its deserted
cloisters, or ruined church, after dark. The abbot's tragical end was
thus recorded:--


          Johannes Paslew: Capitali Effectus Supplicio.
          12 Mensis Martii, 1537.

As to the infant, upon whom the abbot's malediction fell, it was
reserved for the dark destinies shadowed forth in the dread anathema he
had uttered: to the development of which the tragic drama about to
follow is devoted, and to which the fate of Abbot Paslew forms a
necessary and fitting prologue. Thus far the veil of the Future may be
drawn aside. That infant and her progeny became the LANCASHIRE WITCHES.


END OF THE INTRODUCTION.




THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES.

BOOK THE FIRST.

Alizon Device.




CHAPTER I.--THE MAY QUEEN.


On a May-day in the early part of the seventeenth century, and a most
lovely May-day, too, admirably adapted to usher in the merriest month of
the year, and seemingly made expressly for the occasion, a wake was held
at Whalley, to which all the neighbouring country folk resorted, and
indeed many of the gentry as well, for in the good old times, when
England was still merry England, a wake had attractions for all classes
alike, and especially in Lancashire; for, with pride I speak it, there
were no lads who, in running, vaulting, wrestling, dancing, or in any
other manly exercise, could compare with the Lancashire lads. In
archery, above all, none could match them; for were not their ancestors
the stout bowmen and billmen whose cloth-yard shafts, and trenchant
weapons, won the day at Flodden? And were they not true sons of their
fathers? And then, I speak it with yet greater pride, there were few, if
any, lasses who could compare in comeliness with the rosy-cheeked,
dark-haired, bright-eyed lasses of Lancashire.

Assemblages of this kind, therefore, where the best specimens of either
sex were to be met with, were sure to be well attended, and in spite of
an enactment passed in the preceding reign of Elizabeth, prohibiting
"piping, playing, bear-baiting, and bull-baiting on the Sabbath-days, or
on any other days, and also superstitious ringing of bells, wakes, and
common feasts," they were not only not interfered with, but rather
encouraged by the higher orders. Indeed, it was well known that the
reigning monarch, James the First, inclined the other way, and, desirous
of checking the growing spirit of Puritanism throughout the kingdom, had
openly expressed himself in favour of honest recreation after evening
prayers and upon holidays; and, furthermore, had declared that he liked
well the spirit of his good subjects in Lancashire, and would not see
them punished for indulging in lawful exercises, but that ere long he
would pay them a visit in one of his progresses, and judge for himself,
and if he found all things as they had been represented to him, he would
grant them still further licence. Meanwhile, this expression of the
royal opinion removed every restriction, and old sports and pastimes,
May-games, Whitsun-ales, and morris-dances, with rush-bearings,
bell-ringings, wakes, and feasts, were as much practised as before the
passing of the obnoxious enactment of Elizabeth. The Puritans and
Precisians discountenanced them, it is true, as much as ever, and would
have put them down, if they could, as savouring of papistry and
idolatry, and some rigid divines thundered against them from the pulpit;
but with the king and the authorities in their favour, the people little
heeded these denunciations against them, and abstained not from any
"honest recreation" whenever a holiday occurred.

If Lancashire was famous for wakes, the wakes of Whalley were famous
even in Lancashire. The men of the district were in general a hardy,
handsome race, of the genuine Saxon breed, and passionately fond of all
kinds of pastime, and the women had their full share of the beauty
indigenous to the soil. Besides, it was a secluded spot, in the heart of
a wild mountainous region, and though occasionally visited by travellers
journeying northward, or by others coming from the opposite direction,
retained a primitive simplicity of manners, and a great partiality for
old customs and habits.

The natural beauties of the place, contrasted with the dreary region
around it, and heightened by the picturesque ruins of the ancient abbey,
part of which, namely, the old abbot's lodgings, had been converted into
a residence by the Asshetons, and was now occupied by Sir Ralph
Assheton, while the other was left to the ravages of time, made it
always an object of attraction to those residing near it; but when on
the May-day in question, there was not only to be a wake, but a May-pole
set on the green, and a rush-bearing with morris-dancers besides,
together with Whitsun-ale at the abbey, crowds flocked to Whalley from
Wiswall, Cold Coates, and Clithero, from Ribchester and Blackburn, from
Padiham and Pendle, and even from places more remote. Not only was John
Lawe's of the Dragon full, but the Chequers, and the Swan also, and the
roadside alehouse to boot. Sir Ralph Assheton had several guests at the
abbey, and others were expected in the course of the day, while Doctor
Ormerod had friends staying with him at the vicarage.

Soon after midnight, on the morning of the festival, many young persons
of the village, of both sexes, had arisen, and, to the sound of horn,
had repaired to the neighbouring woods, and there gathered a vast stock
of green boughs and flowering branches of the sweetly-perfumed hawthorn,
wild roses, and honeysuckle, with baskets of violets, cowslips,
primroses, blue-bells, and other wild flowers, and returning in the same
order they went forth, fashioned the branches into green bowers within
the churchyard, or round about the May-pole set up on the green, and
decorated them afterwards with garlands and crowns of flowers. This
morning ceremonial ought to have been performed without wetting the
feet: but though some pains were taken in the matter, few could achieve
the difficult task, except those carried over the dewy grass by their
lusty swains. On the day before the rushes had been gathered, and the
rush cart piled, shaped, trimmed, and adorned by those experienced in
the task, (and it was one requiring both taste and skill, as will be
seen when the cart itself shall come forth,) while others had borrowed
for its adornment, from the abbey and elsewhere, silver tankards,
drinking-cups, spoons, ladles, brooches, watches, chains, and bracelets,
so as to make an imposing show.

Day was ushered in by a merry peal of bells from the tower of the old
parish church, and the ringers practised all kinds of joyous changes
during the morning, and fired many a clanging volley. The whole village
was early astir; and as these were times when good hours were kept; and
as early rising is a famous sharpener of the appetite, especially when
attended with exercise, so an hour before noon the rustics one and all
sat down to dinner, the strangers being entertained by their friends,
and if they had no friends, throwing themselves upon the general
hospitality. The alehouses were reserved for tippling at a later hour,
for it was then customary for both gentleman and commoner, male as well
as female, as will be more fully shown hereafter, to take their meals at
home, and repair afterwards to houses of public entertainment for wine
or other liquors. Private chambers were, of course, reserved for the
gentry; but not unfrequently the squire and his friends would take their
bottle with the other guests. Such was the invariable practice in the
northern counties in the reign of James the First.

Soon after mid-day, and when the bells began to peal merrily again (for
even ringers must recruit themselves), at a small cottage in the
outskirts of the village, and close to the Calder, whose waters swept
past the trimly kept garden attached to it, two young girls were
employed in attiring a third, who was to represent Maid Marian, or Queen
of May, in the pageant then about to ensue. And, certainly, by sovereign
and prescriptive right of beauty, no one better deserved the high title
and distinction conferred upon her than this fair girl. Lovelier maiden
in the whole county, and however high her degree, than this rustic
damsel, it was impossible to find; and though the becoming and fanciful
costume in which she was decked could not heighten her natural charms,
it certainly displayed them to advantage. Upon her smooth and beautiful
brow sat a gilt crown, while her dark and luxuriant hair, covered behind
with a scarlet coif, embroidered with gold; and tied with yellow, white,
and crimson ribands, but otherwise wholly unconfirmed, swept down
almost to the ground. Slight and fragile, her figure was of such just
proportion that every movement and gesture had an indescribable charm.
The most courtly dame might have envied her fine and taper fingers, and
fancied she could improve them by protecting them against the sun, or by
rendering them snowy white with paste or cosmetic, but this was
questionable; nothing certainly could improve the small foot and
finely-turned ankle, so well displayed in the red hose and smart little
yellow buskin, fringed with gold. A stomacher of scarlet cloth, braided
with yellow lace in cross bars, confined her slender waist. Her robe was
of carnation-coloured silk, with wide sleeves, and the gold-fringed
skirt descended only a little below the knee, like the dress of a modern
Swiss peasant, so as to reveal the exquisite symmetry of her limbs. Over
all she wore a surcoat of azure silk, lined with white, and edged with
gold. In her left hand she held a red pink as an emblem of the season.
So enchanting was her appearance altogether, so fresh the character of
her beauty, so bright the bloom that dyed her lovely checks, that she
might have been taken for a personification of May herself. She was
indeed in the very May of life--the mingling of spring and summer in
womanhood; and the tender blue eyes, bright and clear as diamonds of
purest water, the soft regular features, and the merry mouth, whose
ruddy parted lips ever and anon displayed two rows of pearls, completed
the similitude to the attributes of the jocund month.

Her handmaidens, both of whom were simple girls, and though not
destitute of some pretensions to beauty themselves, in nowise to be
compared with her, were at the moment employed in knotting the ribands
in her hair, and adjusting the azure surcoat.

Attentively watching these proceedings sat on a stool, placed in a
corner, a little girl, some nine or ten years old, with a basket of
flowers on her knee. The child was very diminutive, even for her age,
and her smallness was increased by personal deformity, occasioned by
contraction of the chest, and spinal curvature, which raised her back
above her shoulders; but her features were sharp and cunning, indeed
almost malignant, and there was a singular and unpleasant look about the
eyes, which were not placed evenly in the head. Altogether she had a
strange old-fashioned look, and from her habitual bitterness of speech,
as well as from her vindictive character, which, young as she was, had
been displayed, with some effect, on more than one occasion, she was no
great favourite with any one. It was curious now to watch the eager and
envious interest she took in the progress of her sister's adornment--for
such was the degree of relationship in which she stood to the May
Queen--and when the surcoat was finally adjusted, and the last riband
tied, she broke forth, having hitherto preserved a sullen silence.

[Illustration: THE MAY QUEEN.]

"Weel, sister Alizon, ye may a farrently May Queen, ey mun say" she
observed, spitefully, "but to my mind other Suky Worseley, or Nancy
Holt, here, would ha' looked prottier."

"Nah, nah, that we shouldna," rejoined one of the damsels referred to;
"there is na a lass i' Lonkyshiar to hold a condle near Alizon Device."

"Fie upon ye, for an ill-favort minx, Jennet," cried Nancy Holt; "yo're
jealous o' your protty sister."

"Ey jealous," cried Jennet, reddening, "an whoy the firrups should ey be
jealous, ey, thou saucy jade! Whon ey grow older ey'st may a prottier
May Queen than onny on you, an so the lads aw tell me."

"And so you will, Jennet," said Alizon Device, checking, by a gentle
look, the jeering laugh in which Nancy seemed disposed to indulge--"so
you will, my pretty little sister," she added, kissing her; "and I will
'tire you as well and as carefully as Susan and Nancy have just 'tired
me."

"Mayhap ey shanna live till then," rejoined Jennet, peevishly, "and when
ey'm dead an' gone, an' laid i' t' cowld churchyard, yo an they win be
sorry fo having werreted me so."

"I have never intentionally vexed you, Jennet, love," said Alizon, "and
I am sure these two girls love you dearly."

"Eigh, we may allowance fo her feaw tempers," observed Susan Worseley;
"fo we knoa that ailments an deformities are sure to may folk fretful."

"Eigh, there it is," cried Jennet, sharply. "My high shoulthers an sma
size are always thrown i' my feace. Boh ey'st grow tall i' time, an get
straight--eigh straighter than yo, Suky, wi' your broad back an short
neck--boh if ey dunna, whot matters it? Ey shall be feared at onny
rate--ay, feared, wenches, by ye both."

"Nah doubt on't, theaw little good-fo'-nothin piece o' mischief,"
muttered Susan.

"Whot's that yo sayn, Suky?" cried Jennet, whose quick ears had caught
the words, "Tak care whot ye do to offend me, lass," she added, shaking
her thin fingers, armed with talon-like claws, threateningly at her, "or
ey'll ask my granddame, Mother Demdike, to quieten ye."

At the mention of this name a sudden shade came over Susan's
countenance. Changing colour, and slightly trembling, she turned away
from the child, who, noticing the effect of her threat, could not
repress her triumph. But again Alizon interposed.

"Do not be alarmed, Susan," she said, "my grandmother will never harm
you, I am sure; indeed, she will never harm any one; and do not heed
what little Jennet says, for she is not aware of the effect of her own
words, or of the injury they might do our grandmother, if repeated."

"Ey dunna wish to repeat them, or to think of em," sobbed Susan.

"That's good, that's kind of you, Susan," replied Alizon, taking her
hand. "Do not be cross any more, Jennet. You see you have made her
weep."

"Ey'm glad on it," rejoined the little girl, laughing; "let her cry on.
It'll do her good, an teach her to mend her manners, and nah offend me
again."

"Ey didna mean to offend ye, Jennet," sobbed Susan, "boh yo're so
wrythen an marr'd, a body canna speak to please ye."

"Weel, if ye confess your fault, ey'm satisfied," replied the little
girl; "boh let it be a lesson to ye, Suky, to keep guard o' your tongue
i' future."

"It shall, ey promise ye," replied Susan, drying her eyes.

At this moment a door opened, and a woman entered from an inner room,
having a high-crowned, conical-shaped hat on her head, and broad white
pinners over her cheeks. Her dress was of dark red camlet, with
high-heeled shoes. She stooped slightly, and being rather lame,
supported herself on a crutch-handled stick. In age she might be between
forty and fifty, but she looked much older, and her features were not at
all prepossessing from a hooked nose and chin, while their sinister
effect was increased by a formation of the eyes similar to that in
Jennet, only more strongly noticeable in her case. This woman was
Elizabeth Device, widow of John Device, about whose death there was a
mystery to be inquired into hereafter, and mother of Alizon and Jennet,
though how she came to have a daughter so unlike herself in all respects
as the former, no one could conceive; but so it was.

"Soh, ye ha donned your finery at last, Alizon," said Elizabeth. "Your
brother Jem has just run up to say that t' rush-cart has set out, and
that Robin Hood and his merry men are comin' for their Queen."

"And their Queen is quite ready for them," replied Alizon, moving
towards the door.

"Neigh, let's ha' a look at ye fust, wench," cried Elizabeth, staying
her; "fine fitthers may fine brids--ey warrant me now yo'n getten these
May gewgaws on, yo fancy yourself a queen in arnest."

"A queen of a day, mother; a queen of a little village festival; nothing
more," replied Alizon. "Oh, if I were a queen in right earnest, or even
a great lady--"

"Whot would yo do?" demanded Elizabeth Device, sourly.

"I'd make you rich, mother, and build you a grand house to live in,"
replied Alizon; "much grander than Browsholme, or Downham, or
Middleton."

"Pity yo're nah a queen then, Alizon," replied Elizabeth, relaxing her
harsh features into a wintry smile.

"Whot would ye do fo me, Alizon, if ye were a queen?" asked little
Jennet, looking up at her.

"Why, let me see," was the reply; "I'd indulge every one of your whims
and wishes. You should only need ask to have."

"Poh--poh--yo'd never content her," observed Elizabeth, testily.

"It's nah your way to try an content me, mother, even whon ye might,"
rejoined Jennet, who, if she loved few people, loved her mother least of
all, and never lost an opportunity of testifying her dislike to her.

"Awt o'pontee, little wasp," cried her mother; "theaw desarves nowt boh
whot theaw dustna get often enough--a good whipping."

"Yo hanna towd us whot yo'd do fo yurself if yo war a great lady,
Alizon?" interposed Susan.

"Oh, I haven't thought about myself," replied the other, laughing.

"Ey con tell ye what she'd do, Suky," replied little Jennet, knowingly;
"she'd marry Master Richard Assheton, o' Middleton."

"Jennet!" exclaimed Alizon, blushing crimson.

"It's true," replied the little girl; "ye knoa ye would, Alizon, Look at
her feace," she added, with a screaming laugh.

"Howd te tongue, little plague," cried Elizabeth, rapping her knuckles
with her stick, "and behave thyself, or theaw shanna go out to t' wake."

Jennet dealt her mother a bitterly vindictive look, but she neither
uttered cry, nor made remark.

In the momentary silence that ensued the blithe jingling of bells was
heard, accompanied by the merry sound of tabor and pipe.

"Ah! here come the rush-cart and the morris-dancers," cried Alizon,
rushing joyously to the window, which, being left partly open, admitted
the scent of the woodbine and eglantine by which it was overgrown, as
well as the humming sound of the bees by which the flowers were invaded.

Almost immediately afterwards a frolic troop, like a band of masquers,
approached the cottage, and drew up before it, while the jingling of
bells ceasing at the same moment, told that the rush-cart had stopped
likewise. Chief amongst the party was Robin Hood clad in a suit of
Lincoln green, with a sheaf of arrows at his back, a bugle dangling from
his baldric, a bow in his hand, and a broad-leaved green hat on his
head, looped up on one side, and decorated with a heron's feather. The
hero of Sherwood was personated by a tall, well-limbed fellow, to whom,
being really a forester of Bowland, the character was natural. Beside
him stood a very different figure, a jovial friar, with shaven crown,
rubicund cheeks, bull throat, and mighty paunch, covered by a russet
habit, and girded in by a red cord, decorated with golden twist and
tassel. He wore red hose and sandal shoon, and carried in his girdle a
Wallet, to contain a roast capon, a neat's tongue, or any other dainty
given him. Friar Tuck, for such he was, found his representative in Ned
Huddlestone, porter at the abbey, who, as the largest and stoutest man
in the village, was chosen on that account to the part. Next to him came
a character of no little importance, and upon whom much of the mirth of
the pageant depended, and this devolved upon the village cobbler, Jack
Roby, a dapper little fellow, who fitted the part of the Fool to a
nicety. With bauble in hand, and blue coxcomb hood adorned with long
white asses' ears on head, with jerkin of green, striped with yellow;
hose of different colours, the left leg being yellow, with a red
pantoufle, and the right blue, terminated with a yellow shoe; with bells
hung upon various parts of his motley attire, so that he could not move
without producing a jingling sound, Jack Roby looked wonderful indeed;
and was constantly dancing about, and dealing a blow with his bauble.
Next came Will Scarlet, Stukely, and Little John, all proper men and
tall, attired in Lincoln green, like Robin Hood, and similarly equipped.
Like him, too, they were all foresters of Bowland, owning service to the
bow-bearer, Mr. Parker of Browsholme hall; and the representative of
Little John, who was six feet and a half high, and stout in proportion,
was Lawrence Blackrod, Mr. Parker's head keeper. After the foresters
came Tom the Piper, a wandering minstrel, habited for the occasion in a
blue doublet, with sleeves of the same colour, turned up with yellow,
red hose, and brown buskins, red bonnet, and green surcoat lined with
yellow. Beside the piper was another minstrel, similarly attired, and
provided with a tabor. Lastly came one of the main features of the
pageant, and which, together with the Fool, contributed most materially
to the amusement of the spectators. This was the Hobby-horse. The hue of
this, spirited charger was a pinkish white, and his housings were of
crimson cloth hanging to the ground, so as to conceal the rider's real
legs, though a pair of sham ones dangled at the side. His bit was of
gold, and his bridle red morocco leather, while his rider was very
sumptuously arrayed in a purple mantle, bordered with gold, with a rich
cap of the same regal hue on his head, encircled with gold, and having a
red feather stuck in it. The hobby-horse had a plume of nodding feathers
on his head, and careered from side to side, now rearing in front, now
kicking behind, now prancing, now gently ambling, and in short indulging
in playful fancies and vagaries, such as horse never indulged in before,
to the imminent danger, it seemed, of his rider, and to the huge delight
of the beholders. Nor must it be omitted, as it was matter of great
wonderment to the lookers-on, that by some legerdemain contrivance the
rider of the hobby-horse had a couple of daggers stuck in his cheeks,
while from his steed's bridle hung a silver ladle, which he held now and
then to the crowd, and in which, when he did so, a few coins were sure
to rattle. After the hobby-horse came the May-pole, not the tall pole so
called and which was already planted in the green, but a stout staff
elevated some six feet above the head of the bearer, with a coronal of
flowers atop, and four long garlands hanging down, each held by a
morris-dancer. Then came the May Queen's gentleman usher, a fantastic
personage in habiliments of blue guarded with white, and holding a long
willow wand in his hand. After the usher came the main troop of
morris-dancers--the men attired in a graceful costume, which set off
their light active figures to advantage, consisting of a slashed-jerkin
of black and white velvet, with cut sleeves left open so as to reveal
the snowy shirt beneath, white hose, and shoes of black Spanish leather
with large roses. Ribands were every where in their dresses--ribands and
tinsel adorned their caps, ribands crossed their hose, and ribands were
tied round their arms. In either hand they held a long white
handkerchief knotted with ribands. The female morris-dancers were
habited in white, decorated like the dresses of the men; they had
ribands and wreaths of flowers round their heads, bows in their hair,
and in their hands long white knotted kerchiefs.

In the rear of the performers in the pageant came the rush-cart drawn by
a team of eight stout horses, with their manes and tails tied with
ribands, their collars fringed with red and yellow worsted, and hung
with bells, which jingled blithely at every movement, and their heads
decked with flowers. The cart itself consisted of an enormous pile of
rushes, banded and twisted together, rising to a considerable height,
and terminated in a sharp ridge, like the point of a Gothic window. The
sides and top were decorated with flowers and ribands, and there were
eaves in front and at the back, and on the space within them, which was
covered with white paper, were strings of gaudy flowers, embedded in
moss, amongst which were suspended all the ornaments and finery that
could be collected for the occasion: to wit, flagons of silver, spoons,
ladles, chains, watches, and bracelets, so as to make a brave and
resplendent show. The wonder was how articles of so much value would be
trusted forth on such an occasion; but nothing was ever lost. On the top
of the rush-cart, and bestriding its sharp ridges, sat half a dozen men,
habited somewhat like the morris-dancers, in garments bedecked with
tinsel and ribands, holding garlands formed by hoops, decorated with
flowers, and attached to poles ornamented with silver paper, cut into
various figures and devices, and diminishing gradually in size as they
rose to a point, where they were crowned with wreaths of daffodils.

A large crowd of rustics, of all ages, accompanied the morris-dancers
and rush-cart.

This gay troop having come to a halt, as described, before the cottage,
the gentleman-usher entered it, and, tapping against the inner door with
his wand, took off his cap as soon as it was opened, and bowing
deferentially to the ground, said he was come to invite the Queen of May
to join the pageant, and that it only awaited her presence to proceed to
the green. Having delivered this speech in as good set phrase as he
could command, and being the parish clerk and schoolmaster to boot,
Sampson Harrop by name, he was somewhat more polished than the rest of
the hinds; and having, moreover, received a gracious response from the
May Queen, who condescendingly replied that she was quite ready to
accompany him, he took her hand, and led her ceremoniously to the door,
whither they were followed by the others.

Loud was the shout that greeted Alizon's appearance, and tremendous was
the pushing to obtain a sight of her; and so much was she abashed by the
enthusiastic greeting, which was wholly unexpected on her part, that she
would have drawn back again, if it had been possible; but the usher led
her forward, and Robin Hood and the foresters having bent the knee
before her, the hobby-horse began to curvet anew among the spectators,
and tread on their toes, the fool to rap their knuckles with his bauble,
the piper to play, the taborer to beat his tambourine, and the
morris-dancers to toss their kerchiefs over their heads. Thus the
pageant being put in motion, the rush-cart began to roll on, its horses'
bells jingling merrily, and the spectators cheering lustily.




CHAPTER II.--THE BLACK CAT AND THE WHITE DOVE.


Little Jennet watched her sister's triumphant departure with a look in
which there was far more of envy than sympathy, and, when her mother
took her hand to lead her forth, she would not go, but saying she did
not care for any such idle sights, went back sullenly to the inner room.
When there, however, she could not help peeping through the window, and
saw Susan and Nancy join the revel rout, with feelings of increased
bitterness.

"Ey wish it would rain an spile their finery," she said, sitting down on
her stool, and plucking the flowers from her basket in pieces. "An yet,
why canna ey enjoy such seets like other folk? Truth is, ey've nah heart
for it."

"Folks say," she continued, after a pause, "that grandmother Demdike is
a witch, an con do os she pleases. Ey wonder if she made Alizon so
protty. Nah, that canna be, fo' Alizon's na favourite o' hern. If she
loves onny one it's me. Why dunna she make me good-looking, then? They
say it's sinfu' to be a witch--if so, how comes grandmother Demdike to
be one? Boh ey'n observed that those folks os caws her witch are afeard
on her, so it may be pure spite o' their pert."

As she thus mused, a great black cat belonging to her mother, which had
followed her into the room, rubbed himself against her, putting up his
back, and purring loudly.

"Ah, Tib," said the little girl, "how are ye, Tib? Ey didna knoa ye were
here. Lemme ask ye some questions, Tib?"

The cat mewed, looked up, and fixed his great yellow eyes upon her.

"One 'ud think ye onderstud whot wos said to ye, Tib," pursued little
Jennet. "We'n see whot ye say to this! Shan ey ever be Queen o' May,
like sister Alizon?"

The cat mewed in a manner that the little girl found no difficulty in
interpreting the reply into "No."

"How's that, Tib?" cried Jennet, sharply. "If ey thought ye meant it,
ey'd beat ye, sirrah. Answer me another question, ye saucy knave. Who
will be luckiest, Alizon or me?"

This time the cat darted away from her, and made two or three skirmishes
round the room, as if gone suddenly mad.

"Ey con may nowt o' that," observed Jennet, laughing.

All at once the cat bounded upon the chimney board, over which was
placed a sampler, worked with the name "ALIZON."

"Why Tib really seems to onderstond me, ey declare," observed Jennet,
uneasily. "Ey should like to ask him a few more questions, if ey durst,"
she added, regarding with some distrust the animal, who now returned,
and began rubbing against her as before. "Tib--Tib!"

The cat looked up, and mewed.

"Protty Tib--sweet Tib," continued the little girl, coaxingly. "Whot mun
one do to be a witch like grandmother Demdike?"

The cat again dashed twice or thrice madly round the room, and then
stopping suddenly at the hearth, sprang up the chimney.

"Ey'n frightened ye away ot onny rate," observed Jennet, laughing. "And
yet it may mean summot," she added, reflecting a little, "fo ey'n heerd
say os how witches fly up chimleys o' broomsticks to attend their
sabbaths. Ey should like to fly i' that manner, an change myself into
another shape--onny shape boh my own. Oh that ey could be os protty os
Alizon! Ey dunna knoa whot ey'd nah do to be like her!"

Again the great black cat was beside her, rubbing against her, and
purring. The child was a good deal startled, for she had not seen him
return, and the door was shut, though he might have come in through the
open window, only she had been looking that way all the time, and had
never noticed him. Strange!

"Tib," said the child, patting him, "thou hasna answered my last
question--how is one to become a witch?"

As she made this inquiry the cat suddenly scratched her in the arm, so
that the blood came. The little girl was a good deal frightened, as well
as hurt, and, withdrawing her arm quickly, made a motion of striking the
animal. But starting backwards, erecting his tail, and spitting, the cat
assumed such a formidable appearance, that she did not dare to touch
him, and she then perceived that some drops of blood stained her white
sleeve, giving the spots a certain resemblance to the letters J. and D.,
her own initials.

At this moment, when she was about to scream for help, though she knew
no one was in the house, all having gone away with the May-day
revellers, a small white dove flew in at the open window, and skimming
round the room, alighted near her. No sooner had the cat caught sight of
this beautiful bird, than instead of preparing to pounce upon it, as
might have been expected, he instantly abandoned his fierce attitude,
and, uttering a sort of howl, sprang up the chimney as before. But the
child scarcely observed this, her attention being directed towards the
bird, whose extreme beauty delighted her. It seemed quite tame too, and
allowed itself to be touched, and even drawn towards her, without an
effort to escape. Never, surely, was seen so beautiful a bird--with such
milkwhite feathers, such red legs, and such pretty yellow eyes, with
crimson circles round them! So thought the little girl, as she gazed at
it, and pressed it to her bosom. In doing this, gentle and good thoughts
came upon her, and she reflected what a nice present this pretty bird
would make to her sister Alizon on her return from the merry-making, and
how pleased she should feel to give it to her. And then she thought of
Alizon's constant kindness to her, and half reproached herself with the
poor return she made for it, wondering she could entertain any feelings
of envy towards one so good and amiable. All this while the dove nestled
in her bosom.

While thus pondering, the little girl felt an unaccountable drowsiness
steal over her, and presently afterwards dropped asleep, when she had a
very strange dream. It seemed to her that there was a contest going on
between two spirits, a good one and a bad,--the bad one being
represented by the great black cat, and the good spirit by the white
dove. What they were striving about she could not exactly tell, but she
felt that the conflict had some relation to herself. The dove at first
appeared to have but a poor chance against the claws of its sable
adversary, but the sharp talons of the latter made no impression upon
the white plumage of the bird, which now shone like silver armour, and
in the end the cat fled, yelling as it darted off--"Thou art victorious
now, but her soul shall yet be mine."

Something awakened the little sleeper at the same moment, and she felt
very much terrified at her dream, as she could not help thinking her own
soul might be the one in jeopardy, and her first impulse was to see
whether the white dove was safe. Yes, there it was still nestling in her
bosom, with its head under its wing.

Just then she was startled at hearing her own name pronounced by a
hoarse voice, and, looking up, she beheld a tall young man standing at
the window. He had a somewhat gipsy look, having a dark olive
complexion, and fine black eyes, though set strangely in his head, like
those of Jennet and her mother, coal black hair, and very prominent
features, of a sullen and almost savage cast. His figure was gaunt but
very muscular, his arms being extremely long and his hands unusually
large and bony--personal advantages which made him a formidable
antagonist in any rustic encounter, and in such he was frequently
engaged, being of a very irascible temper, and turbulent disposition. He
was clad in a holiday suit of dark-green serge, which fitted him well,
and carried a nosegay in one hand, and a stout blackthorn cudgel in the
other. This young man was James Device, son of Elizabeth, and some four
or five years older than Alizon. He did not live with his mother in
Whalley, but in Pendle Forest, near his old relative, Mother Demdike,
and had come over that morning to attend the wake.

"Whot are ye abowt, Jennet?" inquired James Device, in tones naturally
hoarse and deep, and which he took as little pains to soften, as he did
to polish his manners, which were more than ordinarily rude and
churlish.

"Whot are ye abowt, ey sey, wench?" he repeated, "Why dunna ye go to t'
green to see the morris-dancers foot it round t' May-pow? Cum along wi'
me."

"Ey dunna want to go, Jem," replied the little girl.

"Boh yo shan go, ey tell ey," rejoined her brother; "ye shan see your
sister dawnce. Ye con sit a whoam onny day; boh May-day cums ony wonst a
year, an Alizon winna be Queen twice i' her life. Soh cum along wi' me,
dereckly, or ey'n may ye."

"Ey should like to see Alizon dance, an so ey win go wi' ye, Jem,"
replied Jennet, getting up, "otherwise your orders shouldna may me stir,
ey con tell ye."

As she came out, she found her brother whistling the blithe air of
"Green Sleeves," cutting strange capers, in imitation of the
morris-dancers, and whirling his cudgel over his head instead of a
kerchief. The gaiety of the day seemed infectious, and to have seized
even him. People stared to see Black Jem, or Surly Jem, as he was
indifferently called, so joyous, and wondered what it could mean. He
then fell to singing a snatch of a local ballad at that time in vogue in
the neighbourhood:--


          "If thou wi' nah my secret tell,
              Ne bruit abroad i' Whalley parish,
          And swear to keep my counsel well,
              Ey win declare my day of marriage."

"Cum along, lass," he cried stopping suddenly in his song, and snatching
his sister's hand. "What han ye getten there, lapped up i' your kirtle,
eh?"

"A white dove," replied Jennet, determined not to tell him any thing
about her strange dream.

"A white dove!" echoed Jem. "Gi' it me, an ey'n wring its neck, an get
it roasted for supper."

"Ye shan do nah such thing, Jem," replied Jennet. "Ey mean to gi' it to
Alizon."

"Weel, weel, that's reet," rejoined Jem, blandly, "it'll may a protty
offering. Let's look at it."

"Nah, nah," said Jennet, pressing the bird gently to her bosom, "neaw
one shan see it efore Alizon."

"Cum along then," cried Jem, rather testily, and mending his pace, "or
we'st be too late fo' t' round. Whoy yo'n scratted yourself," he added,
noticing the red spots on her sleeve.

"Han ey?" she rejoined, evasively. "Oh now ey rekilect, it wos Tib did
it."

"Tib!" echoed Jem, gravely, and glancing uneasily at the marks.

Meanwhile, on quitting the cottage, the May-day revellers had proceeded
slowly towards the green, increasing the number of their followers at
each little tenement they passed, and being welcomed every where with
shouts and cheers. The hobby-horse curveted and capered; the Fool
fleered at the girls, and flouted the men, jesting with every one, and
when failing in a point rapping the knuckles of his auditors; Friar Tuck
chucked the pretty girls under the chin, in defiance of their
sweethearts, and stole a kiss from every buxom dame that stood in his
way, and then snapped his fingers, or made a broad grimace at the
husband; the piper played, and the taborer rattled his tambourine; the
morris-dancers tossed their kerchiefs aloft; and the bells of the
rush-cart jingled merrily; the men on the top being on a level with the
roofs of the cottages, and the summits of the haystacks they passed, but
in spite of their exalted position jesting with the crowd below. But in
spite of these multiplied attractions, and in spite of the gambols of
Fool and Horse, though the latter elicited prodigious laughter, the main
attention was fixed on the May Queen, who tripped lightly along by the
side of her faithful squire, Robin Hood, followed by the three bold
foresters of Sherwood, and her usher.

In this way they reached the green, where already a large crowd was
collected to see them, and where in the midst of it, and above the heads
of the assemblage, rose the lofty May-pole, with all its flowery
garlands glittering in the sunshine, and its ribands fluttering in the
breeze. Pleasant was it to see those cheerful groups, composed of happy
rustics, youths in their holiday attire, and maidens neatly habited too,
and fresh and bright as the day itself. Summer sunshine sparkled in
their eyes, and weather and circumstance as well as genial natures
disposed them to enjoyment. Every lass above eighteen had her
sweetheart, and old couples nodded and smiled at each other when any
tender speech, broadly conveyed but tenderly conceived, reached their
ears, and said it recalled the days of their youth. Pleasant was it to
hear such honest laughter, and such good homely jests.

Laugh on, my merry lads, you are made of good old English stuff, loyal
to church and king, and while you, and such as you, last, our land will
be in no danger from foreign foe! Laugh on, and praise your sweethearts
how you will. Laugh on, and blessings on your honest hearts!

The frolic train had just reached the precincts of the green, when the
usher waving his wand aloft, called a momentary halt, announcing that
Sir Ralph Assheton and the gentry were coming forth from the Abbey gate
to meet them.




CHAPTER III.--THE ASSHETONS.


Between Sir Ralph Assheton of the Abbey and the inhabitants of Whalley,
many of whom were his tenants, he being joint lord of the manor with
John Braddyll of Portfield, the best possible feeling subsisted; for
though somewhat austere in manner, and tinctured with Puritanism, the
worthy knight was sufficiently shrewd, or, more correctly speaking,
sufficiently liberal-minded, to be tolerant of the opinions of others,
and being moreover sincere in his own religious views, no man could call
him in question for them; besides which, he was very hospitable to his
friends, very bountiful to the poor, a good landlord, and a humane man.
His very austerity of manner, tempered by stately courtesy, added to the
respect he inspired, especially as he could now and then relax into
gaiety, and, when he did so, his smile was accounted singularly sweet.
But in general he was grave and formal; stiff in attire, and stiff in
gait; cold and punctilious in manner, precise in speech, and exacting in
due respect from both high and low, which was seldom, if ever, refused
him. Amongst Sir Ralph's other good qualities, for such it was esteemed
by his friends and retainers, and they were, of course, the best judges,
was a strong love of the chase, and perhaps he indulged a little too
freely in the sports of the field, for a gentleman of a character so
staid and decorous; but his popularity was far from being diminished by
the circumstance; neither did he suffer the rude and boisterous
companionship into which he was brought by indulgence in this his
favourite pursuit in any way to affect him. Though still young, Sir
Ralph was prematurely grey, and this, combined with the sad severity of
his aspect, gave him the air of one considerably past the middle term of
life, though this appearance was contradicted again by the youthful fire
of his eagle eye. His features were handsome and strongly marked, and he
wore a pointed beard and mustaches, with a shaved cheek. Sir Ralph
Assheton had married twice, his first wife being a daughter of Sir James
Bellingham of Levens, in Northumberland, by whom he had two children;
while his second choice fell upon Eleanor Shuttleworth, the lovely and
well-endowed heiress of Gawthorpe, to whom he had been recently united.
In his attire, even when habited for the chase or a merry-making, like
the present, the Knight of Whalley affected a sombre colour, and
ordinarily wore a quilted doublet of black silk, immense trunk hose of
the same material, stiffened with whalebone, puffed out well-wadded
sleeves, falling bands, for he eschewed the ruff as savouring of vanity,
boots of black flexible leather, ascending to the hose, and armed with
spurs with gigantic rowels, a round-crowned small-brimmed black hat,
with an ostrich feather placed in the side and hanging over the top, a
long rapier on his hip, and a dagger in his girdle. This buckram attire,
it will be easily conceived, contributed no little to the natural
stiffness of his thin tall figure.

Sir Ralph Assheton was great grandson of Richard Assheton, who
flourished in the time of Abbot Paslew, and who, in conjunction with
John Braddyll, fourteen years after the unfortunate prelate's attainder
and the dissolution of the monastery, had purchased the abbey and
domains of Whalley from the Crown, subsequently to which, a division of
the property so granted took place between them, the abbey and part of
the manor falling to the share of Richard Assheton, whose descendants
had now for three generations made it their residence. Thus the whole of
Whalley belonged to the families of Assheton and Braddyll, which had
intermarried; the latter, as has been stated, dwelling at Portfield, a
fine old seat in the neighbourhood.

A very different person from Sir Ralph was his cousin, Nicholas Assheton
of Downham, who, except as regards his Puritanism, might be considered a
type of the Lancashire squire of the day. A precisian in religious
notions, and constant in attendance at church and lecture, he put no
sort of restraint upon himself, but mixed up fox-hunting, otter-hunting,
shooting at the mark, and perhaps shooting with the long-bow,
foot-racing, horse-racing, and, in fact, every other kind of country
diversion, not forgetting tippling, cards, and dicing, with daily
devotion, discourses, and psalm-singing in the oddest way imaginable. A
thorough sportsman was Squire Nicholas Assheton, well versed in all the
arts and mysteries of hawking and hunting. Not a man in the county could
ride harder, hunt deer, unkennel fox, unearth badger, or spear otter,
better than he. And then, as to tippling, he would sit you a whole
afternoon at the alehouse, and be the merriest man there, and drink a
bout with every farmer present. And if the parson chanced to be out of
hearing, he would never make a mouth at a round oath, nor choose a
second expression when the first would serve his turn. Then, who so
constant at church or lecture as Squire Nicholas--though he did snore
sometimes during the long sermons of his cousin, the Rector of
Middleton? A great man was he at all weddings, christenings, churchings,
and funerals, and never neglected his bottle at these ceremonies, nor
any sport in doors or out of doors, meanwhile. In short, such a
roystering Puritan was never known. A good-looking young man was the
Squire of Downham, possessed of a very athletic frame, and a most
vigorous constitution, which helped him, together with the prodigious
exercise he took, through any excess. He had a sanguine complexion, with
a broad, good-natured visage, which he could lengthen at will in a
surprising manner. His hair was cropped close to his head, and the razor
did daily duty over his cheek and chin, giving him the roundhead look,
some years later, characteristic of the Puritanical party. Nicholas had
taken to wife Dorothy, daughter of Richard Greenacres of Worston, and
was most fortunate in his choice, which is more than can be said for his
lady, for I cannot uphold the squire as a model of conjugal fidelity.
Report affirmed that he loved more than one pretty girl under the rose.
Squire Nicholas was not particular as to the quality or make of his
clothes, provided they wore well and protected him against the weather,
and was generally to be seen in doublet and hose of stout fustian, which
had seen some service, with a broad-leaved hat, originally green, but of
late bleached to a much lighter colour; but he was clad on this
particular occasion in ash-coloured habiliments fresh from the tailor's
hands, with buff boots drawn up to the knee, and a new round hat from
York with a green feather in it. His legs were slightly embowed, and he
bore himself like a man rarely out of the saddle.

Downham, the residence of the squire, was a fine old house, very
charmingly situated to the north of Pendle Hill, of which it commanded a
magnificent view, and a few miles from Clithero. The grounds about it
were well-wooded and beautifully broken and diversified, watered by the
Ribble, and opening upon the lovely and extensive valley deriving its
name from that stream. The house was in good order and well maintained,
and the stables plentifully furnished with horses, while the hall was
adorned with various trophies and implements of the chase; but as I
propose paying its owner a visit, I shall defer any further description
of the place till an opportunity arrives for examining it in detail.

A third cousin of Sir Ralph's, though in the second degree, likewise
present on the May-day in question, was the Reverend Abdias Assheton,
Rector of Middleton, a very worthy man, who, though differing from his
kinsmen upon some religious points, and not altogether approving of the
conduct of one of them, was on good terms with both. The Rector of
Middleton was portly and middle-aged, fond of ease and reading, and by
no means indifferent to the good things of life. He was unmarried, and
passed much of his time at Middleton Hall, the seat of his near relative
Sir Richard Assheton, to whose family he was greatly attached, and whose
residence closely adjoined the rectory.

A fourth cousin, also present, was young Richard Assheton of Middleton,
eldest son and heir of the owner of that estate. Possessed of all the
good qualities largely distributed among his kinsmen, with none of their
drawbacks, this young man was as tolerant and bountiful as Sir Ralph,
without his austerity and sectarianism; as keen a sportsman and as bold
a rider as Nicholas, without his propensities to excess; as studious, at
times, and as well read as Abdias, without his laziness and
self-indulgence; and as courtly and well-bred as his father, Sir
Richard, who was esteemed one of the most perfect gentlemen in the
county, without his haughtiness. Then he was the handsomest of his race,
though the Asshetons were accounted the handsomest family in Lancashire,
and no one minded yielding the palm to young Richard, even if it could
be contested, he was so modest and unassuming. At this time, Richard
Assheton was about two-and-twenty, tall, gracefully and slightly formed,
but possessed of such remarkable vigour, that even his cousin Nicholas
could scarcely compete with him in athletic exercises. His features were
fine and regular, with an almost Phrygian precision of outline; his hair
was of a dark brown, and fell in clustering curls over his brow and
neck; and his complexion was fresh and blooming, and set off by a slight
beard and mustache, carefully trimmed and pointed. His dress consisted
of a dark-green doublet, with wide velvet hose, embroidered and fringed,
descending nearly to the knee, where they were tied with points and
ribands, met by dark stockings, and terminated by red velvet shoes with
roses in them. A white feather adorned his black broad-leaved hat, and
he had a rapier by his side.

Amongst Sir Ralph Assheton's guests were Richard Greenacres, of Worston,
Nicholas Assheton's father-in-law; Richard Sherborne of Dunnow, near
Sladeburne, who had married Dorothy, Nicholas's sister; Mistress
Robinson of Raydale House, aunt to the knight and the squire, and two of
her sons, both stout youths, with John Braddyll and his wife, of
Portfield. Besides these there was Master Roger Nowell, a justice of the
peace in the county, and a very active and busy one too, who had been
invited for an especial purpose, to be explained hereafter. Head of an
ancient Lancashire family, residing at Read, a fine old hall, some
little distance from Whalley, Roger Nowell, though a worthy,
well-meaning man, dealt hard measure from the bench, and seldom tempered
justice with mercy. He was sharp-featured, dry, and sarcastic, and being
adverse to country sports, his presence on the occasion was the only
thing likely to impose restraint on the revellers. Other guests there
were, but none of particular note.

The ladies of the party consisted of Lady Assheton, Mistress Nicholas
Assheton of Downham, Dorothy Assheton of Middleton, sister to Richard, a
lovely girl of eighteen, with light fleecy hair, summer blue eyes, and a
complexion of exquisite purity, Mistress Sherborne of Dunnow, Mistress
Robinson of Raydale, and Mistress Braddyll of Portfield, before
mentioned, together with the wives and daughters of some others of the
neighbouring gentry; most noticeable amongst whom was Mistress Alice
Nutter of Rough Lee, in Pendle Forest, a widow lady and a relative of
the Assheton family.

Mistress Nutter might be a year or two turned of forty, but she still
retained a very fine figure, and much beauty of feature, though of a
cold and disagreeable cast. She was dressed in mourning, though her
husband had been dead several years, and her rich dark habiliments well
became her pale complexion and raven hair. A proud poor gentleman was
Richard Nutter, her late husband, and his scanty means not enabling him
to keep up as large an establishment as he desired, or to be as
hospitable as his nature prompted, his temper became soured, and he
visited his ill humours upon his wife, who, devotedly attached to him,
to all outward appearance at least, never resented his ill treatment.
All at once, and without any previous symptoms of ailment, or apparent
cause, unless it might be over-fatigue in hunting the day before,
Richard Nutter was seized with a strange and violent illness, which,
after three or four days of acute suffering, brought him to the grave.
During his illness he was constantly and zealously tended by his wife,
but he displayed great aversion to her, declaring himself bewitched, and
that an old woman was ever in the corner of his room mumbling wicked
enchantments against him. But as no such old woman could be seen, these
assertions were treated as delirious ravings. They were not, however,
forgotten after his death, and some people said that he had certainly
been bewitched, and that a waxen image made in his likeness, and stuck
full of pins, had been picked up in his chamber by Mistress Alice and
cast into the fire, and as soon as it melted he had expired. Such tales
only obtained credence with the common folk; but as Pendle Forest was a
sort of weird region, many reputed witches dwelling in it, they were the
more readily believed, even by those who acquitted Mistress Nutter of
all share in the dark transaction.

Mistress Nutter gave the best proof that she respected her husband's
memory by not marrying again, and she continued to lead a very secluded
life at Rough Lee, a lonesome house in the heart of the forest. She
lived quite by herself, for she had no children, her only daughter
having perished somewhat strangely when quite an infant. Though a
relative of the Asshetons, she kept up little intimacy with them, and it
was a matter of surprise to all that she had been drawn from her
seclusion to attend the present revel. Her motive, however, in visiting
the Abbey, was to obtain the assistance of Sir Ralph Assheton, in
settling a dispute between her and Roger Nowell, relative to the
boundary line of part of their properties which came together; and this
was the reason why the magistrate had been invited to Whalley. After
hearing both sides of the question, and examining plans of the estates,
which he knew to be accurate, Sir Ralph, who had been appointed umpire,
pronounced a decision in favour of Roger Nowell, but Mistress Nutter
refusing to abide by it, the settlement of the matter was postponed till
the day but one following, between which time the landmarks were to be
investigated by a certain little lawyer named Potts, who attended on
behalf of Roger Nowell; together with Nicholas and Richard Assheton, on
behalf of Mistress Nutter. Upon their evidence it was agreed by both
parties that Sir Ralph should pronounce a final decision, to be accepted
by them, and to that effect they signed an agreement. The three persons
appointed to the investigation settled to start for Rough Lee early on
the following morning.

A word as to Master Thomas Potts. This worthy was an attorney from
London, who had officiated as clerk of the court at the assizes at
Lancaster, where his quickness had so much pleased Roger Nowell, that he
sent for him to Read to manage this particular business. A sharp-witted
fellow was Potts, and versed in all the quirks and tricks of a very
subtle profession--not over-scrupulous, provided a client would pay
well; prepared to resort to any expedient to gain his object, and quite
conversant enough with both practice and precedent to keep himself
straight. A bustling, consequential little personage was he, moreover;
very fond of delivering an opinion, even when unasked, and of a
meddling, make-mischief turn, constantly setting men by the ears. A suit
of rusty black, a parchment-coloured skin, small wizen features, a
turn-up nose, scant eyebrows, and a great yellow forehead, constituted
his external man. He partook of the hospitality at the Abbey, but had
his quarters at the Dragon. He it was who counselled Roger Nowell to
abide by the decision of Sir Ralph, confidently assuring him that he
must carry his point.

This dispute was not, however, the only one the knight had to adjust, or
in which Master Potts was concerned. A claim had recently been made by a
certain Sir Thomas Metcalfe of Nappay, in Wensleydale, near Bainbridge,
to the house and manor of Raydale, belonging to his neighbour, John
Robinson, whose lady, as has been shown, was a relative of the
Asshetons. Robinson himself had gone to London to obtain advice on the
subject, while Sir Thomas Metcalfe, who was a man of violent
disposition, had threatened to take forcible possession of Raydale, if
it were not delivered to him without delay, and to eject the Robinson
family. Having consulted Potts, however, on the subject, whom he had met
at Read, the latter strongly dissuaded him from the course, and
recommended him to call to his aid the strong arm of the law: but this
he rejected, though he ultimately agreed to refer the matter to Sir
Ralph Assheton, and for this purpose he had come over to Whalley, and
was at present a guest at the vicarage. Thus it will be seen that Sir
Ralph Assheton had his hands full, while the little London lawyer,
Master Potts, was tolerably well occupied. Besides Sir Thomas Metcalfe,
Sir Richard Molyneux, and Mr. Parker of Browsholme, were guests of Dr.
Ormerod at the vicarage.

Such was the large company assembled to witness the May-day revels at
Whalley, and if harmonious feelings did not exist amongst all of them,
little outward manifestation was made of enmity. The dresses and
appointments of the pageant having been provided by Sir Ralph Assheton,
who, Puritan as he was, encouraged all harmless country pastimes, it was
deemed necessary to pay him every respect, even if no other feeling
would have prompted the attention, and therefore the troop had stopped
on seeing him and his guests issue from the Abbey gate. At pretty nearly
the same time Doctor Ormerod and his party came from the vicarage
towards the green.

No order of march was observed, but Sir Ralph and his lady, with two of
his children by the former marriage, walked first. Then came some of the
other ladies, with the Rector of Middleton, John Braddyll, and the two
sons of Mistress Robinson. Next came Mistress Nutter, Roger Nowell and
Potts walking after her, eyeing her maliciously, as her proud figure
swept on before them. Even if she saw their looks or overheard their
jeers, she did not deign to notice them. Lastly came young Richard
Assheton, of Middleton, and Squire Nicholas, both in high spirits, and
laughing and chatting together.

"A brave day for the morris-dancers, cousin Dick," observed Nicholas
Assheton, as they approached the green, "and plenty of folk to witness
the sport. Half my lads from Downham are here, and I see a good many of
your Middleton chaps among them. How are you, Farmer Tetlow?" he added
to a stout, hale-looking man, with a blooming country woman by his
side--"brought your pretty young wife to the rush-bearing, I see."

"Yeigh, squoire," rejoined the farmer, "an mightily pleased hoo be wi'
it, too."

"Happy to hear if, Master Tetlow," replied Nicholas, "she'll be better
pleased before the day's over, I'll warrant her. I'll dance a round with
her myself in the hall at night."

"Theere now, Meg, whoy dunna ye may t' squoire a curtsy, wench, an thonk
him," said Tetlow, nudging his pretty wife, who had turned away, rather
embarrassed by the free gaze of the squire. Nicholas, however, did not
wait for the curtsy, but went away, laughing, to overtake Richard
Assheton, who had walked on.

"Ah, here's Frank Garside," he continued, espying another rustic
acquaintance. "Halloa, Frank, I'll come over one day next week, and try
for a fox in Easington Woods. We missed the last, you know. Tom
Brockholes, are you here? Just ridden over from Sladeburne, eh? When is
that shooting match at the bodkin to come off, eh? Mind, it is to be at
twenty-two roods' distance. Ride over to Downham on Thursday next, Tom.
We're to have a foot-race, and I'll show you good sport, and at night
we'll have a lusty drinking bout at the alehouse. On Friday, we'll take
out the great nets, and try for salmon in the Ribble. I took some fine
fish on Monday--one salmon of ten pounds' weight, the largest I've got
the whole season.--I brought it with me to-day to the Abbey. There's an
otter in the river, and I won't hunt him till you come, Tom. I shall see
you on Thursday, eh?"

Receiving an answer in the affirmative, squire Nicholas walked on,
nodding right and left, jesting with the farmers, and ogling their
pretty wives and daughters.

"I tell you what, cousin Dick," he said, calling after Richard Assheton,
who had got in advance of him, "I'll match my dun nag against your grey
gelding for twenty pieces, that I reach the boundary line of the Rough
Lee lands before you to-morrow. What, you won't have it? You know I
shall beat you--ha! ha! Well, we'll try the speed of the two tits the
first day we hunt the stag in Bowland Forest. Odds my life!" he cried,
suddenly altering his deportment and lengthening his visage, "if there
isn't our parson here. Stay with me, cousin Dick, stay with me. Give you
good-day, worthy Mr. Dewhurst," he added, taking off his hat to the
divine, who respectfully returned his salutation, "I did not look to see
your reverence here, taking part in these vanities and idle sports. I
propose to call on you on Saturday, and pass an hour in serious
discourse. I would call to-morrow, but I have to ride over to Pendle on
business. Tarry a moment for me, I pray you, good cousin Richard. I
fear, reverend sir, that you will see much here that will scandalise
you; much lightness and indecorum. Pleasanter far would it be to me to
see a large congregation of the elders flocking together to a godly
meeting, than crowds assembled for such a profane purpose. Another
moment, Richard. My cousin is a young man, Mr. Dewhurst, and wishes to
join the revel. But we must make allowances, worthy and reverend sir,
until the world shall improve. An excellent discourse you gave us, good
sir, on Sunday: viii. Rom. 12 and 13 verses: it is graven upon my
memory, but I have made a note of it in my diary. I come to you, cousin,
I come. I pray you walk on to the Abbey, good Mr. Dewhurst, where you
will be right welcome, and call for any refreshment you may desire--a
glass of good sack, and a slice of venison pasty, on which we have just
dined--and there is some famous old ale, which I would commend to you,
but that I know you care not, any more than myself, for creature
comforts. Farewell, reverend sir. I will join you ere long, for these
scenes have little attraction for me. But I must take care that my young
cousin falleth not into harm."

And as the divine took his way to the Abbey, he added, laughingly, to
Richard,--"A good riddance, Dick. I would not have the old fellow play
the spy upon us.--Ah, Giles Mercer," he added, stopping again,--"and
Jeff Rushton--well met, lads! what, are you come to the wake? I shall be
at John Lawe's in the evening, and we'll have a glass together--John
brews sack rarely, and spareth not the eggs."

"Boh yo'n be at th' dawncing at th' Abbey, squoire," said one of the
farmers.

"Curse the dancing!" cried Nicholas--"I hope the parson didn't hear me,"
he added, turning round quickly. "Well, well, I'll come down when the
dancing's over, and we'll make a night of it." And he ran on to overtake
Richard Assheton.

By this time the respective parties from the Abbey and the Vicarage
having united, they walked on together, Sir Ralph Assheton, after
courteously exchanging salutations with Dr. Ormerod's guests, still
keeping a little in advance of the company. Sir Thomas Metcalfe
comported himself with more than his wonted haughtiness, and bowed so
superciliously to Mistress Robinson, that her two sons glanced angrily
at each other, as if in doubt whether they should not instantly resent
the affront. Observing this, as well as what had previously taken place,
Nicholas Assheton stepped quickly up to them, and said--

"Keep quiet, lads. Leave this dunghill cock to me, and I'll lower his
crest."

With this he pushed forward, and elbowing Sir Thomas rudely out of the
way, turned round, and, instead of apologising, eyed him coolly and
contemptuously from head to foot.

"Are you drunk, sir, that you forget your manners?" asked Sir Thomas,
laying his hand upon his sword.

"Not so drunk but that I know how to conduct myself like a gentleman,
Sir Thomas," rejoined Nicholas, "which is more than can be said for a
certain person of my acquaintance, who, for aught I know, has only taken
his morning pint."

"You wish to pick a quarrel with me, Master Nicholas Assheton, I
perceive," said Sir Thomas, stepping close up to him, "and I will not
disappoint you. You shall render me good reason for this affront before
I leave Whalley."

"When and where you please, Sir Thomas," rejoined Nicholas, laughing.
"At any hour, and at any weapon, I am your man."

At this moment, Master Potts, who had scented a quarrel afar, and who
would have liked it well enough if its prosecution had not run counter
to his own interests, quitted Roger Nowell, and ran back to Metcalfe,
and plucking him by the sleeve, said, in a low voice--

"This is not the way to obtain quiet possession of Raydale House, Sir
Thomas. Master Nicholas Assheton," he added, turning to him, "I must
entreat you, my good sir, to be moderate. Gentlemen, both, I caution you
that I have my eye upon you. You well know there is a magistrate here,
my singular good friend and honoured client, Master Roger Nowell, and if
you pursue this quarrel further, I shall hold it my duty to have you
bound over by that worthy gentleman in sufficient securities to keep the
peace towards our sovereign lord the king and all his lieges, and
particularly towards each other. You understand me, gentlemen?"

"Perfectly," replied Nicholas. "I drink at John Lawe's to-night, Sir
Thomas."

So saying, he walked away. Metcalfe would have followed him, but was
withheld by Potts.

"Let him go, Sir Thomas," said the little man of law; "let him go. Once
master of Raydale, you can do as you please. Leave the settlement of the
matter to me. I'll just whisper a word in Sir Ralph Assheton's ear, and
you'll hear no more of it."

"Fire and fury!" growled Sir Thomas. "I like not this mode of settling a
quarrel; and unless this hot-headed psalm-singing puritan apologises, I
shall assuredly cut his throat."

"Or he yours, good Sir Thomas," rejoined Potts. "Better sit in Raydale
Hall, than lie in the Abbey vaults."

"Well, we'll talk over the matter, Master Potts," replied the knight.

"A nice morning's work I've made of it," mused Nicholas, as he walked
along; "here I have a dance with a farmer's pretty wife, a discourse
with a parson, a drinking-bout with a couple of clowns, and a duello
with a blustering knight on my hands. Quite enough, o' my conscience!
but I must get through it the best way I can. And now, hey for the
May-pole and the morris-dancers!"

Nicholas just got up in time to witness the presentation of the May
Queen to Sir Ralph Assheton and his lady, and like every one else he was
greatly struck by her extreme beauty and natural grace.

The little ceremony was thus conducted. When the company from the Abbey
drew near the troop of revellers, the usher taking Alizon's hand in the
tips of his fingers as before, strutted forward with her to Sir Ralph
and his lady, and falling upon one knee before them, said,--"Most
worshipful and honoured knight, and you his lovely dame, and you the
tender and cherished olive branches growing round about their tables, I
hereby crave your gracious permission to present unto your honours our
chosen Queen of May."

Somewhat fluttered by the presentation, Alizon yet maintained sufficient
composure to bend gracefully before Lady Assheton, and say in a very
sweet voice, "I fear your ladyship will think the choice of the village
hath fallen ill in alighting upon me; and, indeed, I feel myself
altogether unworthy the distinction; nevertheless I will endeavour to
discharge my office fittingly, and therefore pray you, fair lady, and
the worshipful knight, your husband, together with your beauteous
children, and the gentles all by whom you are surrounded, to grace our
little festival with your presence, hoping you may find as much pleasure
in the sight as we shall do in offering it to you."

"A fair maid, and modest as she is fair," observed Sir Ralph, with a
condescending smile.

"In sooth is she," replied Lady Assheton, raising her kindly, and
saying, as she did so--

"Nay, you must not kneel to us, sweet maid. You are queen of May, and it
is for us to show respect to you during your day of sovereignty. Your
wishes are commands; and, in behalf of my husband, my children, and our
guests, I answer, that we will gladly attend your revels on the green."

"Well said, dear Nell," observed Sir Ralph. "We should be churlish,
indeed, were we to refuse the bidding of so lovely a queen."

"Nay, you have called the roses in earnest to her cheek, now, Sir
Ralph," observed Lady Assheton, smiling. "Lead on, fair queen," she
continued, "and tell your companions to begin their sports when they
please.--Only remember this, that we shall hope to see all your gay
troop this evening at the Abbey, to a merry dance."

"Where I will strive to find her majesty a suitable partner," added Sir
Ralph. "Stay, she shall make her choice now, as a royal personage
should; for you know, Nell, a queen ever chooseth her partner, whether
it be for the throne or for the brawl. How gay you, fair one? Shall it
be either of our young cousins, Joe or Will Robinson of Raydale; or our
cousin who still thinketh himself young, Squire Nicholas of Downham."

"Ay, let it be me, I implore of you, fair queen," interposed Nicholas.

"He is engaged already," observed Richard Assheton, coming forward. "I
heard him ask pretty Mistress Tetlow, the farmer's wife, to dance with
him this evening at the Abbey."

A loud laugh from those around followed this piece of information, but
Nicholas was in no wise disconcerted.

"Dick would have her choose him, and that is why he interferes with me,"
he observed. "How say you, fair queen! Shall it be our hopeful cousin? I
will answer for him that he danceth the coranto and lavolta
indifferently well."

On hearing Richard Assheton's voice, all the colour had forsaken
Alizon's cheeks; but at this direct appeal to her by Nicholas, it
returned with additional force, and the change did not escape the quick
eye of Lady Assheton.

"You perplex her, cousin Nicholas," she said.

"Not a whit, Eleanor," answered the squire; "but if she like not Dick
Assheton, there is another Dick, Dick Sherburne of Sladeburn; or our
cousin, Jack Braddyll; or, if she prefer an older and discreeter man,
there is Father Greenacres of Worston, or Master Roger Nowell of
Read--plenty of choice."

"Nay, if I must choose a partner, it shall be a young one," said Alizon.

"Right, fair queen, right," cried Nicholas, laughing. "Ever choose a
young man if you can. Who shall it be?"

"You have named him yourself, sir," replied Alizon, in a voice which she
endeavoured to keep firm, but which, in spite of all her efforts,
sounded tremulously--"Master Richard Assheton."

"Next to choosing me, you could not have chosen better," observed
Nicholas, approvingly. "Dick, lad, I congratulate thee."

"I congratulate myself," replied the young man. "Fair queen," he added,
advancing, "highly flattered am I by your choice, and shall so demean
myself, I trust, as to prove myself worthy of it. Before I go, I would
beg a boon from you--that flower."

"This pink," cried Alizon. "It is yours, fair sir."

Young Assheton took the flower and took the hand that offered it at the
same time, and pressed the latter to his lips; while Lady Assheton, who
had been made a little uneasy by Alizon's apparent emotion, and who with
true feminine tact immediately detected its cause, called out: "Now,
forward--forward to the May-pole! We have interrupted the revel too
long."

Upon this the May Queen stepped blushingly back with the usher, who,
with his white wand in hand, had stood bolt upright behind her,
immensely delighted with the scene in which his pupil--for Alizon had
been tutored by him for the occasion--had taken part. Sir Ralph then
clapped his hands loudly, and at this signal the tabor and pipe struck
up; the Fool and the Hobby-horse, who, though idle all the time, had
indulged in a little quiet fun with the rustics, recommenced their
gambols; the Morris-dancers their lively dance; and the whole train
moved towards the May-pole, followed by the rush-cart, with all its
bells jingling, and all its garlands waving.

As to Alizon, her brain was in a whirl, and her bosom heaved so quickly,
that she thought she should faint. To think that the choice of a partner
in the dance at the Abbey had been offered her, and that she should
venture to choose Master Richard Assheton! She could scarcely credit her
own temerity. And then to think that she should give him a flower, and,
more than all, that he should kiss her hand in return for it! She felt
the tingling pressure of his lips upon her finger still, and her little
heart palpitated strangely.

As she approached the May-pole, and the troop again halted for a few
minutes, she saw her brother James holding little Jennet by the hand,
standing in the front line to look at her.

"Oh, how I'm glad to see you here, Jennet!" she cried.

"An ey'm glad to see yo, Alizon," replied the little girl. "Jem has towd
me whot a grand partner you're to ha' this e'en." And, she added, with
playful malice, "Who was wrong whon she said the queen could choose
Master Richard--"

"Hush, Jennet, not a word more," interrupted Alizon, blushing.

"Oh! ey dunna mean to vex ye, ey'm sure," replied Jennet. "Ey've got a
present for ye."

"A present for me, Jennet," cried Alizon; "what is it?"

"A beautiful white dove," replied the little girl.

"A white dove! Where did you get it? Let me see it," cried Alizon, in a
breath.

"Here it is," replied Jennet, opening her kirtle.

"A beautiful bird, indeed," cried Alizon. "Take care of it for me till I
come home."

"Which winna be till late, ey fancy," rejoined Jennet, roguishly. "Ah!"
she added, uttering a cry.

The latter exclamation was occasioned by the sudden flight of the dove,
which, escaping from her hold, soared aloft. Jennet followed the course
of its silver wings, as they cleaved the blue sky, and then all at once
saw a large hawk, which apparently had been hovering about, swoop down
upon it, and bear it off. Some white feathers fell down near the little
girl, and she picked up one of them and put it in her breast.

"Poor bird!" exclaimed the May Queen.

"Eigh, poor bird!" echoed Jennet, tearfully. "Ah, ye dunna knoa aw,
Alizon."

"Weel, there's neaw use whimpering abowt a duv," observed Jem, gruffly.
"Ey'n bring ye another t' furst time ey go to Cown."

"There's nah another bird like that," sobbed the little girl. "Shoot
that cruel hawk fo' me, Jem, win ye."

"How conney wench, whon its flown away?" he replied. "Boh ey'n rob a
hawk's neest fo ye, if that'll do os weel."

"Yo dunna understand me, Jem," replied the child, sadly.

At this moment, the music, which had ceased while some arrangements were
made, commenced a very lively tune, known as "Round about the May-pole,"
and Robin Hood, taking the May Queen's hand, led her towards the pole,
and placing her near it, the whole of her attendants took hands, while a
second circle was formed by the morris-dancers, and both began to wheel
rapidly round her, the music momently increasing in spirit and
quickness. An irresistible desire to join in the measure seized some of
the lads and lasses around, and they likewise took hands, and presently
a third and still wider circle was formed, wheeling gaily round the
other two. Other dances were formed here and there, and presently the
whole green was in movement.

"If you come off heart-whole to-night, Dick, I shall be surprised,"
observed Nicholas, who with his young relative had approached as near
the May-pole as the three rounds of dancers would allow them.

Richard Assheton made no reply, but glanced at the pink which he had
placed in his doublet.

"Who is the May Queen?" inquired Sir Thomas Metcalfe, who had likewise
drawn near, of a tall man holding a little girl by the hand.

"Alizon, dowter of Elizabeth Device, an mey sister," replied James
Device, gruffly.

"Humph!" muttered Sir Thomas, "she is a well-looking lass. And she
dwells here--in Whalley, fellow?" he added.

"Hoo dwells i' Whalley," responded Jem, sullenly.

"I can easily find her abode," muttered the knight, walking away.

"What was it Sir Thomas said to you, Jem?" inquired Nicholas, who had
watched the knight's gestures, coming up.

Jem related what had passed between them.

"What the devil does he want with her?" cried Nicholas. "No good, I'm
sure. But I'll spoil his sport."

"Say boh t' word, squoire, an ey'n break every boan i' his body,"
remarked Jem.

"No, no, Jem," replied Nicholas. "Take care of your pretty sister, and
I'll take care of him."

At this juncture, Sir Thomas, who, in spite of the efforts of the
pacific Master Potts to tranquillise him, had been burning with wrath at
the affront he had received from Nicholas, came up to Richard Assheton,
and, noticing the pink in his bosom, snatched it away suddenly.

"I want a flower," he said, smelling at it.

"Instantly restore it, Sir Thomas!" cried Richard Assheton, pale with
rage, "or--"

"What will you do, young sir?" rejoined the knight tauntingly, and
plucking the flower in pieces. "You can get another from the fair nymph
who gave you this."

Further speech was not allowed the knight, for he received a violent
blow on the chest from the hand of Richard Assheton, which sent him
reeling backwards, and would have felled him to the ground if he had not
been caught by some of the bystanders. The moment he recovered, Sir
Thomas drew his sword, and furiously assaulted young Assheton, who stood
ready for him, and after the exchange of a few passes, for none of the
bystanders dared to interfere, sent his sword whirling over their heads
through the air.

"Bravo, Dick," cried Nicholas, stepping up, and clapping his cousin on
the back, "you have read him a good lesson, and taught him that he
cannot always insult folks with impunity, ha! ha!" And he laughed loudly
at the discomfited knight.

"He is an insolent coward," said Richard Assheton. "Give him his sword
and let him come on again."

"No, no," said Nicholas, "he has had enough this time. And if he has
not, he must settle an account with me. Put up your blade, lad."

"I'll be revenged upon you both," said Sir Thomas, taking his sword,
which had been brought him by a bystander, and stalking away.

"You leave us in mortal dread, doughty knight," cried Nicholas, shouting
after him, derisively--"ha! ha! ha!"

Richard Assheton's attention was, however, turned in a different
direction, for the music suddenly ceasing, and the dancers stopping, he
learnt that the May Queen had fainted, and presently afterwards the
crowd opened to give passage to Robin Hood, who bore her inanimate form
in his arms.




CHAPTER IV.--ALICE NUTTER.


The quarrel between Nicholas Assheton and Sir Thomas Metcalfe had
already been made known to Sir Ralph by the officious Master Potts, and
though it occasioned the knight much displeasure; as interfering with
the amicable arrangement he hoped to effect with Sir Thomas for his
relatives the Robinsons, still he felt sure that he had sufficient
influence with his hot-headed cousin, the squire, to prevent the dispute
from being carried further, and he only waited the conclusion of the
sports on the green, to take him to task. What was the knight's surprise
and annoyance, therefore, to find that a new brawl had sprung up, and,
ignorant of its precise cause, he laid it entirely at the door of the
turbulent Nicholas. Indeed, on the commencement of the fray he imagined
that the squire was personally concerned in it, and full of wroth, flew
to the scene of action; but before he got there, the affair, which, as
has been seen, was of short duration, was fully settled, and he only
heard the jeers addressed to the retreating combatant by Nicholas. It
was not Sir Ralph's way to vent his choler in words, but the squire knew
in an instant, from the expression of his countenance, that he was
greatly incensed, and therefore hastened to explain.

"What means this unseemly disturbance, Nicholas?" cried Sir Ralph, not
allowing the other to speak. "You are ever brawling like an Alsatian
squire. Independently of the ill example set to these good folk, who
have met here for tranquil amusement, you have counteracted all my plans
for the adjustment of the differences between Sir Thomas Metcalfe and
our aunt of Raydale. If you forget what is due to yourself, sir, do not
forget what is due to me, and to the name you bear."

"No one but yourself should say as much to me, Sir Ralph," rejoined
Nicholas somewhat haughtily; "but you are under a misapprehension. It is
not I who have been fighting, though I should have acted in precisely
the same manner as our cousin Dick, if I had received the same affront,
and so I make bold to say would you. Our name shall suffer no discredit
from me; and as a gentleman, I assert, that Sir Thomas Metcalfe has
only received due chastisement, as you yourself will admit, cousin, when
you know all."

"I know him to be overbearing," observed Sir Ralph.

"Overbearing is not the word, cousin," interrupted Nicholas; "he is as
proud as a peacock, and would trample upon us all, and gore us too, like
one of the wild bulls of Bowland, if we would let him have his way. But
I would treat him as I would the bull aforesaid, a wild boar, or any
other savage and intractable beast, hunt him down, and poll his horns,
or pluck out his tusks."

"Come, come, Nicholas, this is no very gentle language," remarked Sir
Ralph.

"Why, to speak truth, cousin, I do not feel in any very gentle frame of
mind," rejoined the squire; "my ire has been roused by this insolent
braggart, my blood is up, and I long to be doing."

"Unchristian feelings, Nicholas," said Sir Ralph, severely, "and should
be overcome. Turn the other cheek to the smiter. I trust you bear no
malice to Sir Thomas."

"I bear him no malice, for I hope malice is not in my nature, cousin,"
replied Nicholas, "but I owe him a grudge, and when a fitting
opportunity occurs--"

"No more of this, unless you would really incur my displeasure,"
rejoined Sir Ralph; "the matter has gone far enough, too far, perhaps
for amendment, and if you know it not, I can tell you that Sir Thomas's
claims to Raydale will be difficult to dispute, and so our uncle
Robinson has found since he hath taken counsel on the case."

"Have a care, Sir Ralph," said Nicholas, noticing that Master Potts was
approaching them, with his ears evidently wide open, "there is that
little London lawyer hovering about. But I'll give the cunning fox a
double. I'm glad to hear you say so, Sir Ralph," he added, in a tone
calculated to reach Potts, "and since our uncle Robinson is so sure of
his cause, it may be better to let this blustering knight be. Perchance,
it is the certainty of failure that makes him so insensate."

"This is meant to blind me, but it shall not serve your turn, cautelous
squire," muttered Potts; "I caught enough of what fell just now from Sir
Ralph to satisfy me that he hath strong misgivings. But it is best not
to appear too secure.--Ah, Sir Ralph," he added, coming forward, "I was
right, you see, in my caution. I am a man of peace, and strive to
prevent quarrels and bloodshed. Quarrel if you please--and unfortunately
men are prone to anger--but always settle your disputes in a court of
law; always in a court of law, Sir Ralph. That is the only arena where a
sensible man should ever fight. Take good advice, fee your counsel well,
and the chances are ten to one in your favour. That is what I say to my
worthy and singular good client, Sir Thomas; but he is somewhat
headstrong and vehement, and will not listen to me. He is for settling
matters by the sword, for making forcible entries and detainers, and
ousting the tenants in possession, whereby he would render himself
liable to arrest, fine, ransom, and forfeiture; instead of proceeding
cautiously and decorously as the law directs, and as I advise, Sir
Ralph, by writ of _ejectione firmae_ or action of trespass, the which
would assuredly establish his title, and restore him the house and
lands. Or he may proceed by writ of right, which perhaps, in his case,
considering the long absence of possession, and the doubts supposed to
perplex the title--though I myself have no doubts about it--would be the
most efficacious. These are your only true weapons, Sir Ralph--your
writs of entry, assise, and right--your pleas of novel disseisin,
post-disseisin, and re-disseisin--your remitters, your praecipes, your
pones, and your recordari faciases. These are the sword, shield, and
armour of proof of a wise man."

"Zounds! you take away one's breath with this hail-storm of writs and
pleas, master lawyer!" cried Nicholas. "But in one respect I am of your
'worthy and singular good' client's, opinion, and would rather trust to
my own hand for the defence of my property than to the law to keep it
for me."

"Then you would do wrong, good Master Nicholas," rejoined Potts, with a
smile of supreme contempt; "for the law is the better guardian and the
stronger adversary of the two, and so Sir Thomas will find if he takes
my advice, and obtains, as he can and will do, a perfect title _juris et
seisinae conjunctionem_."

"Sir Thomas is still willing to refer the case to my arbitrament, I
believe, sir?" demanded Sir Ralph, uneasily.

"He was so, Sir Ralph," rejoined Potts, "unless the assaults and
batteries, with intent to do him grievous corporeal hurt, which he hath
sustained from your relatives, have induced a change of mind in him. But
as I premised, Sir Ralph, I am a man of peace, and willing to
intermediate."

"Provided you get your fee, master lawyer," observed Nicholas,
sarcastically.

"Certainly, I object not to the _quiddam honorarium_, Master Nicholas,"
rejoined Potts; "and if my client hath the _quid pro quo_, and gaineth
his point, he cannot complain.--But what is this? Some fresh
disturbance!"

"Something hath happened to the May Queen," cried Nicholas.

"I trust not," said Sir Ralph, with real concern. "Ha! she has fainted.
They are bringing her this way. Poor maid! what can have occasioned this
sudden seizure?"

"I think I could give a guess," muttered Nicholas. "Better remove her to
the Abbey," he added aloud to the knight.

"You are right," said Sir Ralph. "Our cousin Dick is near her, I
observe. He shall see her conveyed there at once."

At this moment Lady Assheton and Mrs. Nutter, with some of the other
ladies, came up.

"Just in time, Nell," cried the knight. "Have you your smelling-bottle
about you? The May Queen has fainted."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Lady Assheton, springing towards Alizon, who was now
sustained by young Richard Assheton; the forester having surrendered her
to him. "How has this happened?" she inquired, giving her to breathe at
a small phial.

"That I cannot tell you, cousin," replied Richard Assheton, "unless from
some sudden fright."

"That was it, Master Richard," cried Robin Hood; "she cried out on
hearing the clashing of swords just now, and, I think, pronounced your
name, on finding you engaged with Sir Thomas, and immediately after
turned pale, and would have fallen if I had not caught her."

"Ah, indeed!" exclaimed Lady Assheton, glancing at Richard, whose eyes
fell before her inquiring gaze. "But see, she revives," pursued the
lady. "Let me support her head."

As she spoke Alizon opened her eyes, and perceiving Richard Assheton,
who had relinquished her to his relative, standing beside her, she
exclaimed, "Oh! you are safe! I feared"--And then she stopped, greatly
embarrassed.

"You feared he might be in danger from his fierce adversary," supplied
Lady Assheton; "but no. The conflict is happily over, and he is unhurt."

"I am glad of it," said Alizon, earnestly.

"She had better be taken to the Abbey," remarked Sir Ralph, coming up.

"Nay, she will be more at ease at home," observed Lady Assheton with a
significant look, which, however, failed in reaching her husband.

"Yes, truly shall I, gracious lady," replied Alizon, "far more so. I
have given you trouble enough already."

"No trouble at all," said Sir Ralph, kindly; "her ladyship is too happy
to be of service in a case like this. Are you not, Nell? The faintness
will pass off presently. But let her go to the Abbey at once, and remain
there till the evening's festivities, in which she takes part, commence.
Give her your arm, Dick."

Sir Ralph's word was law, and therefore Lady Assheton made no
remonstrance. But she said quickly, "I will take care of her myself."

"I require no assistance, madam," replied Alizon, "since Sir Ralph will
have me go. Nay, you are too kind, too condescending," she added,
reluctantly taking Lady Assheton's proffered arm.

And in this way they proceeded slowly towards the Abbey, escorted by
Richard Assheton, and attended by Mistress Braddyll and some others of
the ladies.

Amongst those who had watched the progress of the May Queen's
restoration with most interest was Mistress Nutter, though she had not
interfered; and as Alizon departed with Lady Assheton, she observed to
Nicholas, who was standing near,

"Can this be the daughter of Elizabeth Device, and grand-daughter of--"

"Your old Pendle witch, Mother Demdike," supplied Nicholas; "the very
same, I assure you, Mistress Nutter."

"She is wholly unlike the family," observed the lady, "and her features
resemble some I have seen before."

"She does not resemble her mother, undoubtedly," replied Nicholas,
"though what her grand-dame may have been some sixty years ago, when she
was Alizon's age, it would be difficult to say.--She is no beauty now."

"Those finely modelled features, that graceful figure, and those
delicate hands, cannot surely belong to one lowly born and bred?" said
Mistress Nutter.

"They differ from the ordinary peasant mould, truly," replied Nicholas.
"If you ask me for the lineage of a steed, I can give a guess at it on
sight of the animal, but as regards our own race I'm at fault, Mistress
Nutter."

"I must question Elizabeth Device about her," observed Alice. "Strange,
I should never have seen her before, though I know the family so well."

"I wish you did not know Mother Demdike quite so well, Mistress Nutter,"
remarked Nicholas--"a mischievous and malignant old witch, who deserves
the tar barrel. The only marvel is, that she has not been burned long
ago. I am of opinion, with many others, that it was she who bewitched
your poor husband, Richard Nutter."

"I do not think it," replied Mistress Nutter, with a mournful shake of
the head. "Alas, poor man! he died from hard riding, after hard
drinking. That was the only witchcraft in his case. Be warned by his
fate yourself, Nicholas."

"Hard riding after drinking was more likely to sober him than to kill
him," rejoined the squire. "But, as I said just now, I like not this
Mother Demdike, nor her rival in iniquity, old Mother Chattox. The devil
only knows which of the two is worst. But if the former hag did not
bewitch your husband to death, as I shrewdly suspect, it is certain that
the latter mumbling old miscreant killed my elder brother, Richard, by
her sorceries."

"Mother Chattox did you a good turn then, Nicholas," observed Mistress
Nutter, "in making you master of the fair estates of Downham."

"So far, perhaps, she might," rejoined Nicholas, "but I do not like the
manner of it, and would gladly see her burned; nay, I would fire the
fagots myself."

"You are superstitious as the rest, Nicholas," said Mistress Nutter.
"For my part I do not believe in the existence of witches."

"Not believe in witches, with these two living proofs to the contrary!"
cried Nicholas, in amazement. "Why, Pendle Forest swarms with witches.
They burrow in the hill-side like rabbits in a warren. They are the
terror of the whole country. No man's cattle, goods, nor even life, are
safe from them; and the only reason why these two old hags, who hold
sovereign sway over the others, have 'scaped justice so long, is because
every one is afraid to go near them. Their solitary habitations are more
strongly guarded than fortresses. Not believe in witches! Why I should
as soon misdoubt the Holy Scriptures."

"It may be because I reside near them that I have so little
apprehension, or rather no apprehension at all," replied Mistress
Nutter; "but to me Mother Demdike and Mother Chattox appear two harmless
old women."

"They're a couple of dangerous and damnable old hags, and deserve the
stake," cried Nicholas, emphatically.

All this discourse had been swallowed with greedy ears by the
ever-vigilant Master Potts, who had approached the speakers unperceived;
and he now threw in a word.

"So there are suspected witches in Pendle Forest, I find," he said. "I
shall make it my business to institute inquiries concerning them, when I
visit the place to-morrow. Even if merely ill-reputed, they must be
examined, and if found innocent cleared; if not, punished according to
the statute. Our sovereign lord the king holdeth witches in especial
abhorrence, and would gladly see all such noxious vermin extirpated from
the land, and it will rejoice me to promote his laudable designs. I must
pray you to afford me all the assistance you can in the discovery of
these dreadful delinquents, good Master Nicholas, and I will care that
your services are duly represented in the proper quarter. As I have just
said, the king taketh singular interest in witchcraft, as you may judge
if the learned tractate he hath put forth, in form of a dialogue,
intituled "_Daemonologie_" hath ever met your eye; and he is never so
well pleased as when the truth of his tenets are proved by such secret
offenders being brought to light, and duly punished."

"The king's known superstitious dread of witches makes men seek them out
to win his favour," observed Mistress Nutter. "They have wonderfully
increased since the publication of that baneful book!"

"Not so, madam," replied Potts. "Our sovereign lord the king hath a
wholesome and just hatred of such evil-doers and traitors to himself and
heaven, and it may be dread of them, as indeed all good men must have;
but he would protect his subjects from them, and therefore, in the first
year of his reign, which I trust will be long and prosperous, he hath
passed a statute, whereby it is enacted 'that all persons invoking any
evil spirit, or consulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing,
feeding, or rewarding any evil spirit; or taking up dead bodies from
their graves to be used in any witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or
enchantment; or killing or otherwise hurting any person by such infernal
arts, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy, and suffer
death.' This statute, madam, was intended to check the crimes of
necromancy, sorcery, and witchcraft, and not to increase them. And I
maintain that it has checked them, and will continue to check them."

"It is a wicked and bloody statute," observed Mrs. Nutter, in a deep
tone, "and many an innocent life will be sacrificed thereby."

"How, madam!" cried Master Potts, staring aghast. "Do you mean to impugn
the sagacity and justice of our high and mighty king, the head of the
law, and defender of the faith?"

"I affirm that this is a sanguinary enactment," replied Mistress Nutter,
"and will put power into hands that will abuse it, and destroy many
guiltless persons. It will make more witches than it will find."

"Some are ready made, methinks," muttered Potts, "and we need not go far
to find them. You are a zealous advocate for witches, I must say,
madam," he added aloud, "and I shall not forget your arguments in their
favour."

"To my prejudice, I doubt not," she rejoined, bitterly.

"No, to the credit of your humanity," he answered, bowing, with
pretended conviction.

"Well, I will aid you in your search for witches, Master Potts,"
observed Nicholas; "for I would gladly see the country rid of these
pests. But I warn you the quest will be attended with risk, and you will
get few to accompany you, for all the folk hereabouts are mortally
afraid of these terrible old hags."

"I fear nothing in the discharge of my duty," replied Master Potts,
courageously, "for as our high and mighty sovereign hath well and
learnedly observed--'if witches be but apprehended and detained by any
private person, upon other private respects, their power, no doubt,
either in escaping, or in doing hurt, is no less than ever it was
before. But if, on the other part, their apprehending and detention be
by the lawful magistrate upon the just respect of their guiltiness in
that craft, their power is then no greater than before that ever they
meddled with their master. For where God begins justly to strike by his
lawful lieutenants, it is not in the devil's power to defraud or bereave
him of the office or effect of his powerful and revenging sceptre.' Thus
I am safe; and I shall take care to go armed with a proper warrant,
which I shall obtain from a magistrate, my honoured friend and singular
good client, Master Roger Newell. This will obtain me such assistance as
I may require, and for due observance of my authority. I shall likewise
take with me a peace-officer, or constable."

"You will do well, Master Potts," said Nicholas; "still you must not
put faith in all the idle tales told you, for the common folk hereabouts
are blindly and foolishly superstitious, and fancy they discern
witchcraft in every mischance, however slight, that befalls them. If ale
turn sour after a thunder-storm, the witch hath done it; and if the
butter cometh not quickly, she hindereth it. If the meat roast ill the
witch hath turned the spit; and if the lumber pie taste ill she hath had
a finger in it. If your sheep have the foot-rot--your horses the
staggers or string-halt--your swine the measles--your hounds a
surfeit--or your cow slippeth her calf--the witch is at the bottom of it
all. If your maid hath a fit of the sullens, or doeth her work amiss, or
your man breaketh a dish, the witch is in fault, and her shoulders can
bear the blame. On this very day of the year--namely, May Day,--the
foolish folk hold any aged crone who fetcheth fire to be a witch, and if
they catch a hedge-hog among their cattle, they will instantly beat it
to death with sticks, concluding it to be an old hag in that form come
to dry up the milk of their kine."

"These are what Master Potts's royal authority would style 'mere old
wives' trattles about the fire,'" observed Mistress Nutter, scornfully.

"Better be over-credulous than over-sceptical," replied Potts. "Even at
my lodging in Chancery Lane I have a horseshoe nailed against the door.
One cannot be too cautious when one has to fight against the devil, or
those in league with him. Your witch should be put to every ordeal. She
should be scratched with pins to draw blood from her; weighed against
the church bible, though this is not always proof; forced to weep, for a
witch can only shed three tears, and those only from the left eye; or,
as our sovereign lord the king truly observeth--no offence to you,
Mistress Nutter--'Not so much as their eyes are able to shed tears,
albeit the womenkind especially be able otherwise to shed tears at every
light occasion when they will, yea, although it were dissemblingly like
the crocodile;' and set on a stool for twenty-four hours, with her legs
tied across, and suffered neither to eat, drink, nor sleep during the
time. This is the surest Way to make her confess her guilt next to
swimming. If it fails, then cast her with her thumbs and toes tied
across into a pond, and if she sink not then is she certainly a witch.
Other trials there are, as that by scalding water--sticking knives
across--heating of the horseshoe--tying of knots--the sieve and the
shears; but the only ordeals safely to be relied on, are the swimming
and the stool before mentioned, and from these your witch shall rarely
escape. Above all, be sure and search carefully for the witch-mark. I
doubt not we shall find it fairly and legibly writ in the devil's
characters on Mother Demdike and Mother Chattox. They shall undergo the
stool and the pool, and other trials, if required. These old hags shall
no longer vex you, good Master Nicholas. Leave them to me, and doubt
not I will bring them to condign punishment."

"You will do us good service then, Master Potts," replied Nicholas. "But
since you are so learned in the matter of witchcraft, resolve me, I pray
you, how it is, that women are so much more addicted to the practice of
the black art than our own sex."

"The answer to the inquiry hath been given by our British Solomon,"
replied Potts, "and I will deliver it to you in his own words. 'The
reason is easy,' he saith; 'for as that sex is frailer than man is, so
it is easier to be entrapped in those gross snares of the devil, as was
overwell proved to be true, by the serpent's deceiving of Eva at the
beginning, which makes him the homelier with that sex sensine.'"

"A good and sufficient reason, Master Potts," said Nicholas, laughing;
"is it not so, Mistress Nutter?"

"Ay, marry, if it satisfies you," she answered, drily. "It is of a piece
with the rest of the reasoning of the royal pedant, whom Master Potts
styles the British Solomon."

"I only give the learned monarch the title by which he is recognised
throughout Christendom," rejoined Potts, sharply.

"Well, there is comfort in the thought, that I shall never be taken for
a wizard," said the squire.

"Be not too sure of that, good Master Nicholas," returned Potts. "Our
present prince seems to have had you in his eye when he penned his
description of a wizard, for, he saith, 'A great number of them that
ever have been convict or confessors of witchcraft, as may be presently
seen by many that have at this time confessed, are some of them rich and
worldly-wise; some of them fat or corpulent in their bodies; and most
part of them altogether given over to the pleasures of the flesh,
continual haunting of company, and all kinds of merriness, lawful and
unlawful.' This hitteth you exactly, Master Nicholas."

"Zounds!" exclaimed the squire, "if this be exact, it toucheth me too
nearly to be altogether agreeable."

"The passage is truly quoted, Nicholas," observed Mistress Nutter, with
a cold smile. "I perfectly remember it. Master Potts seems to have the
'Daemonologie' at his fingers' ends."

"I have made it my study, madam," replied the lawyer, somewhat mollified
by the remark, "as I have the statute on witchcraft, and indeed most
other statutes."

"We have wasted time enough in this unprofitable talk," said Mistress
Nutter, abruptly quitting them without bestowing the slightest
salutation on Potts.

"I was but jesting in what I said just now, good Master Nicholas,"
observed the little lawyer, nowise disconcerted at the slight "though
they were the king's exact words I quoted. No one would suspect you of
being a wizard--ha!--ha! But I am resolved to prosecute the search, and
I calculate upon your aid, and that of Master Richard Assheton, who goes
with us."

"You shall have mine, at all events, Master Potts," replied Nicholas;
"and I doubt not, my cousin Dick's, too."

"Our May Queen, Alizon Device, is Mother Demdike's grand-daughter, is
she not?" asked Potts, after a moment's reflection.

"Ay, why do you ask?" demanded Nicholas.

"For a good and sufficing reason," replied Potts. "She might be an
important witness; for, as King James saith, 'bairns or wives may, of
our law, serve for sufficient witnesses and proofs.' And he goeth on to
say, 'For who but witches can be proofs, and so witnesses of the doings
of witches?'"

"You do not mean to aver that Alizon Device is a witch, sir?" cried
Nicholas, sharply.

"I aver nothing," replied Potts; "but, as a relative of a suspected
witch, she will be the best witness against her."

"If you design to meddle with Alizon Device, expect no assistance from
me, Master Potts," said Nicholas, sternly, "but rather the contrary."

"Nay, I but threw out the hint, good Master Nicholas," replied Potts.
"Another witness will do equally well. There are other children, no
doubt. I rely on you, sir--I rely on you. I shall now go in search of
Master Nowell, and obtain the warrant and the constable."

"And I shall go keep my appointment with Parson Dewhurst, at the Abbey,"
said Nicholas, bowing slightly to the attorney, and taking his
departure.

"It will not do to alarm him at present," said Potts, looking after him,
"but I'll have that girl as a witness, and I know how to terrify her
into compliance. A singular woman, that Mistress Alice Nutter. I must
inquire into her history. Odd, how obstinately she set her face against
witchcraft. And yet she lives at Rough Lee, in the very heart of a witch
district, for such Master Nicholas Assheton calls this Pendle Forest. I
shouldn't wonder if she has dealings with the old hags she
defends--Mother Demdike and Mother Chattox. Chattox! Lord bless us, what
a name!--There's caldron and broomstick in the very sound! And Demdike
is little better. Both seem of diabolical invention. If I can unearth a
pack of witches, I shall gain much credit from my honourable good lords
the judges of assize in these northern parts, besides pleasing the King
himself, who is sure to hear of it, and reward my praiseworthy zeal.
Look to yourself, Mistress Nutter, and take care you are not caught
tripping. And now, for Master Roger Nowell."

With this, he peered about among the crowd in search of the magistrate,
but though he thrust his little turned-up nose in every direction, he
could not find him, and therefore set out for the Abbey, concluding he
had gone thither.

As Mistress Nutter walked along, she perceived James Device among the
crowd, holding Jennet by the hand, and motioned him to come to her. Jem
instantly understood the sign, and quitting his little sister, drew
near.

"Tell thy mother," said Mistress Nutter, in a tone calculated only for
his hearing, "to come to me, at the Abbey, quickly and secretly. I shall
be in the ruins of the old convent church. I have somewhat to say to
her, that concerns herself as well as me. Thou wilt have to go to Rough
Lee and Malkin Tower to-night."

Jem nodded, to show his perfect apprehension of what was said and his
assent to it, and while Mistress Nutter moved on with a slow and
dignified step, he returned to Jennet, and told her she must go home
directly, a piece of intelligence which was not received very graciously
by the little maiden; but nothing heeding her unwillingness, Jem walked
her off quickly in the direction of the cottage; but while on the way to
it, they accidentally encountered their mother, Elizabeth Device, and
therefore stopped.

"Yo mun go up to th' Abbey directly, mother," said Jem, with a wink,
"Mistress Nutter wishes to see ye. Yo'n find her i' t' ruins o' t' owd
convent church. Tak kere yo're neaw seen. Yo onderstond."

"Yeigh," replied Elizabeth, nodding her head significantly, "ey'n go at
wonst, an see efter Alizon ot t' same time. Fo ey'm towd hoo has
fainted, an been ta'en to th' Abbey by Lady Assheton."

"Never heed Alizon," replied Jem, gruffly. "Hoo's i' good hands. Ye
munna be seen, ey tell ye. Ey'm going to Malkin Tower to-neet, if yo'n
owt to send."

"To-neet, Jem," echoed little Jennet.

"Eigh," rejoined Jem, sharply. "Howd te tongue, wench. Dunna lose time,
mother."

And as he and his little sister pursued their way to the cottage,
Elizabeth hobbled off towards the Abbey, muttering, as she went, "I hope
Alizon an Mistress Nutter winna meet. Nah that it matters, boh still
it's better not. Strange, the wench should ha' fainted. Boh she's always
foolish an timmersome, an ey half fear has lost her heart to young
Richard Assheton. Ey'n watch her narrowly, an if it turn out to be so,
she mun be cured, or be secured--ha! ha!"

And muttering in this way, she passed through the Abbey gateway, the
wicket being left open, and proceeded towards the ruinous convent
church, taking care as much as possible to avoid observation.




CHAPTER V.--MOTHER CHATTOX.


Not far from the green where the May-day revels were held, stood the
ancient parish church of Whalley, its square tower surmounted with a
flag-staff and banner, and shaking with the joyous peals of the ringers.
A picturesque and beautiful structure it was, though full of
architectural incongruities; and its grey walls and hoary buttresses,
with the lancet-shaped windows of the choir, and the ramified tracery of
the fine eastern window, could not fail to please any taste not quite so
critical as to require absolute harmony and perfection in a building.
Parts of the venerable fabric were older than the Abbey itself, dating
back as far as the eleventh century, when a chapel occupied the site;
and though many alterations had been made in the subsequent structure at
various times, and many beauties destroyed, especially during the period
of the Reformation, enough of its pristine character remained to render
it a very good specimen of an old country church. Internally, the
cylindrical columns of the north aisle, the construction of the choir,
and the three stone seats supported on rounded columns near the altar,
proclaimed its high antiquity. Within the choir were preserved the
eighteen richly-carved stalls once occupying a similar position in the
desecrated conventual church: and though exquisite in themselves, they
seemed here sadly out of place, not being proportionate to the
structure. Their elaborately-carved seats projected far into the body of
the church, and their crocketed pinnacles shot up almost to the ceiling.
But it was well they had not shared the destruction in which almost all
the other ornaments of the magnificent fane they once decorated were
involved. Carefully preserved, the black varnished oak well displayed
the quaint and grotesque designs with which many of them--the Prior's
stall in especial--were embellished. Chief among them was the abbot's
stall, festooned with sculptured vine wreaths and clustering grapes, and
bearing the auspicious inscription:

          Semper gaudentes sint ista sede sedentes:

singularly inapplicable, however, to the last prelate who filled it.
Some fine old monuments, and warlike trophies of neighbouring wealthy
families, adorned the walls, and within the nave was a magnificent pew,
with a canopy and pillars of elaborately-carved oak, and lattice-work at
the sides, allotted to the manor of Read, and recently erected by Roger
Nowell; while in the north and south aisles were two small chapels,
converted since the reformed faith had obtained, into pews--the one
called Saint Mary's Cage, belonging to the Assheton family; and the
other appertaining to the Catterals of Little Mitton, and designated
Saint Nicholas's Cage. Under the last-named chapel were interred some
of the Paslews of Wiswall, and here lay the last unfortunate Abbot of
Whalley, between whoso grave, and the Assheton and Braddyll families, a
fatal relation was supposed to subsist. Another large pew, allotted to
the Towneleys, and designated Saint Anthony's Cage, was rendered
remarkable, by a characteristic speech of Sir John Towneley, which gave
much offence to the neighbouring dames. Called upon to decide as to the
position of the sittings in the church, the discourteous knight made
choice of Saint Anthony's Cage, already mentioned, declaring, "My man,
Shuttleworth of Hacking, made this form, and here will I sit when I
come; and my cousin Nowell may make a seat behind me if he please, and
my son Sherburne shall make one on the other side, and Master Catteral
another behind him, and for the residue the use shall be, first come
first speed, and that will make the proud wives of Whalley rise betimes
to come to church." One can fancy the rough knight's chuckle, as he
addressed these words to the old clerk, certain of their being quickly
repeated to the "proud wives" in question.

Within the churchyard grew two fine old yew-trees, now long since
decayed and gone, but then spreading their dark-green arms over the
little turf-covered graves. Reared against the buttresses of the church
was an old stone coffin, together with a fragment of a curious
monumental effigy, likewise of stone; but the most striking objects in
the place, and deservedly ranked amongst the wonders of Whalley, were
three remarkable obelisk-shaped crosses, set in a line upon pedestals,
covered with singular devices in fretwork, and all three differing in
size and design. Evidently of remotest antiquity, these crosses were
traditionally assigned to Paullinus, who, according to the Venerable
Bede, first preached the Gospel in these parts, in the early part of the
seventh century; but other legends were attached to them by the vulgar,
and dim mystery brooded over them.

Vestiges of another people and another faith were likewise here
discernible, for where the Saxon forefathers of the village prayed and
slumbered in death, the Roman invaders of the isle had trodden, and
perchance performed their religious rites; some traces of an encampment
being found in the churchyard by the historian of the spot, while the
north boundary of the hallowed precincts was formed by a deep foss, once
encompassing the nigh-obliterated fortification. Besides these records
of an elder people, there was another memento of bygone days and creeds,
in a little hermitage and chapel adjoining it, founded in the reign of
Edward III., by Henry, Duke of Lancaster, for the support of two
recluses and a priest to say masses daily for him and his descendants;
but this pious bequest being grievously abused in the subsequent reign
of Henry VI., by Isole de Heton, a fair widow, who in the first
transports of grief, vowing herself to heaven, took up her abode in the
hermitage, and led a very disorderly life therein, to the great scandal
of the Abbey, and the great prejudice of the morals of its brethren, and
at last, tired even of the slight restraint imposed upon her, fled away
"contrary to her oath and profession, not willing, nor intending to be
restored again;" the hermitage was dissolved by the pious monarch, and
masses ordered to be said daily in the parish church for the repose of
the soul of the founder. Such was the legend attached to the little
cell, and tradition went on to say that the anchoress broke her leg in
crossing Whalley Nab, and limped ever afterwards; a just judgment on
such a heinous offender. Both these little structures were picturesque
objects, being overgrown with ivy and woodbine. The chapel was
completely in ruins, while the cell, profaned by the misdoings of the
dissolute votaress Isole, had been converted into a cage for vagrants
and offenders, and made secure by a grated window, and a strong door
studded with broad-headed nails.

The view from the churchyard, embracing the vicarage-house, a
comfortable residence, surrounded by a large walled-in garden, well
stocked with fruit-trees, and sheltered by a fine grove of rook-haunted
timber, extended on the one hand over the village, and on the other over
the Abbey, and was bounded by the towering and well-wooded heights of
Whalley Nab. On the side of the Abbey, the most conspicuous objects were
the great north-eastern gateway, with the ruined conventual church. Ever
beautiful, the view was especially so on the present occasion, from the
animated scene combined with it; and the pleasant prospect was enjoyed
by a large assemblage, who had adjourned thither to witness the
concluding part of the festival.

Within the green and flower-decked bowers which, as has before been
mentioned, were erected in the churchyard, were seated Doctor Ormerod
and Sir Ralph Assheton, with such of their respective guests as had not
already retired, including Richard and Nicholas Assheton, both of whom
had returned from the abbey; the former having been dismissed by Lady
Assheton from further attendance upon Alizon, and the latter having
concluded his discourse with Parson Dewhurst, who, indeed, accompanied
him to the church, and was now placed between the Vicar and the Rector
of Middleton. From this gentle elevation the gay company on the green
could be fully discerned, the tall May-pole, with its garlands and
ribands, forming a pivot, about which the throng ever revolved, while
stationary amidst the moving masses, the rush-cart reared on high its
broad green back, as if to resist the living waves constantly dashed
against it. By-and-by a new kind of movement was perceptible, and it
soon became evident that a procession was being formed. Immediately
afterwards, the rush-cart was put in motion, and winded slowly along the
narrow street leading to the church, preceded by the morris-dancers and
the other May-day revellers, and followed by a great concourse of
people, shouting, dancing, and singing.

On came the crowd. The jingling of bells, and the sound of music grew
louder and louder, and the procession, lost for awhile behind some
intervening habitations, though the men bestriding the rush-cart could
be discerned over their summits, burst suddenly into view; and the
revellers entering the churchyard, drew up on either side of the little
path leading to the porch, while the rush-cart coming up the next
moment, stopped at the gate. Then four young maidens dressed in white,
and having baskets in their hands, advanced and scattered flowers along
the path; after which ladders were reared against the sides of the
rush-cart, and the men, descending from their exalted position, bore the
garlands to the church, preceded by the vicar and the two other divines,
and followed by Robin Hood and his band, the morris-dancers, and a troop
of little children singing a hymn. The next step was to unfasten the
bundles of rushes, of which the cart was composed, and this was very
quickly and skilfully performed, the utmost care being taken of the
trinkets and valuables with which it was ornamented. These were gathered
together in baskets and conveyed to the vestry, and there locked up.
This done, the bundles of rushes were taken up by several old women, who
strewed the aisles with them, and placed such as had been tied up as
mats in the pews. At the same time, two casks of ale set near the gate,
and given for the occasion by the vicar, were broached, and their
foaming contents freely distributed among the dancers and the thirsty
crowd. Very merry were they, as may be supposed, in consequence, but
their mirth was happily kept within due limits of decorum.

When the rush-cart was wellnigh unladen Richard Assheton entered the
church, and greatly pleased with the effect of the flowery garlands with
which the various pews were decorated, said as much to the vicar, who
smilingly replied, that he was glad to find he approved of the practice,
"even though it might savour of superstition;" and as the good doctor
walked away, being called forth, the young man almost unconsciously
turned into the chapel on the north aisle. Here he stood for a few
moments gazing round the church, wrapt in pleasing meditation, in which
many objects, somewhat foreign to the place and time, passed through his
mind, when, chancing to look down, he saw a small funeral wreath, of
mingled yew and cypress, lying at his feet, and a slight tremor passed
over his frame, as he found he was standing on the ill-omened grave of
Abbot Paslew. Before he could ask himself by whom this sad garland had
been so deposited, Nicholas Assheton came up to him, and with a look of
great uneasiness cried, "Come away instantly, Dick. Do you know where
you are standing?"

"On the grave of the last Abbot of Whalley," replied Richard, smiling.

"Have you forgotten the common saying," cried Nicholas--"that the
Assheton who stands on that unlucky grave shall die within the year?
Come away at once."

"It is too late," replied Richard, "I have incurred the fate, if such a
fate be attached to the tomb; and as my moving away will not preserve
me, so my tarrying here cannot injure me further. But I have no fear."

"You have more courage than I possess," rejoined Nicholas. "I would not
set foot on that accursed stone for half the county. Its malign
influence on our house has been approved too often. The first to
experience the fatal destiny were Richard Assheton and John Braddyll,
the purchasers of the Abbey. Both met here together on the anniversary
of the abbot's execution--some forty years after its occurrence, it is
true, and when they were both pretty well stricken in years--and within
that year, namely 1578, both died, and were buried in the vault on the
opposite side of the church, not many paces from their old enemy. The
last instance was my poor brother Richard, who, being incredulous as you
are, was resolved to brave the destiny, and stationed himself upon the
tomb during divine service, but he too died within the appointed time."

"He was bewitched to death--so, at least, it is affirmed," said Richard
Assheton, with a smile. "But I believe in one evil influence just as
much as in the other."

"It matters not how the destiny be accomplished, so it come to pass,"
rejoined the squire, turning away. "Heaven shield you from it!"

"Stay!" said Richard, picking up the wreath. "Who, think you, can have
placed this funeral garland on the abbot's grave?"

"I cannot guess!" cried Nicholas, staring at it in amazement--"an enemy
of ours, most likely. It is neither customary nor lawful in our
Protestant country so to ornament graves. Put it down, Dick."

"I shall not displace it, certainly," replied Richard, laying it down
again; "but I as little think it has been placed here by a hostile hand,
as I do that harm will ensue to me from standing here. To relieve your
anxiety, however, I will come forth," he added, stepping into the aisle.
"Why should an enemy deposit a garland on the abbot's tomb, since it was
by mere chance that it hath met my eyes?"

"Mere chance!" cried Nicholas; "every thing is mere chance with you
philosophers. There is more than chance in it. My mind misgives me
strangely. That terrible old Abbot Paslew is as troublesome to us in
death, as he was during life to our predecessor, Richard Assheton. Not
content with making his tombstone a weapon of destruction to us, he
pays the Abbey itself an occasional visit, and his appearance always
betides some disaster to the family. I have never seen him myself, and
trust I never shall; but other people have, and have been nigh scared
out of their senses by the apparition."

"Idle tales, the invention of overheated brains," rejoined Richard.
"Trust me, the abbot's rest will not be broken till the day when all
shall rise from their tombs; though if ever the dead (supposing such a
thing possible) could be justified in injuring and affrighting the
living, it might be in his case, since he mainly owed his destruction to
our ancestor. On the same principle it has been held that church-lands
are unlucky to their lay possessors; but see how this superstitious
notion has been disproved in our own family, to whom Whalley Abbey and
its domains have brought wealth, power, and worldly happiness."

"There is something in the notion, nevertheless," replied Nicholas; "and
though our case may, I hope, continue an exception to the rule, most
grantees of ecclesiastical houses have found them a curse, and the time
may come when the Abbey may prove so to our descendants. But, without
discussing the point, there is one instance in which the malignant
influence of the vindictive abbot has undoubtedly extended long after
his death. You have heard, I suppose, that he pronounced a dreadful
anathema upon the child of a man who had the reputation of being a
wizard, and who afterwards acted as his executioner. I know not the
whole particulars of the dark story, but I know that Paslew fixed a
curse upon the child, declaring it should become a witch, and the mother
of witches. And the prediction has been verified. Nigh eighty years have
flown by since then, and the infant still lives--a fearful and
mischievous witch--and all her family are similarly fated--all are
witches."

"I never heard the story before," said Richard, somewhat thoughtfully;
"but I guess to whom you allude--Mother Demdike of Pendle Forest, and
her family."

"Precisely," rejoined Nicholas; "they are a brood of witches."

"In that case Alizon Device must be a witch," cried Richard; "and I
think you will hardly venture upon such an assertion after what you have
seen of her to-day. If she be a witch, I would there were many such--as
fair and gentle. And see you not how easily the matter is explained?
'Give a dog an ill name and hang him'--a proverb with which you are
familiar enough. So with Mother Demdike. Whether really uttered or not,
the abbot's curse upon her and her issue has been bruited abroad, and
hence she is made a witch, and her children are supposed to inherit the
infamous taint. So it is with yon tomb. It is said to be dangerous to
our family, and dangerous no doubt it is to those who believe in the
saying, which, luckily, I do not. The prophecy works its own fulfilment.
The absurdity and injustice of yielding to the opinion are manifest. No
wrong can have been done the abbot by Mother Demdike, any more than by
her children, and yet they are to be punished for the misdeeds of their
predecessor."

"Ay, just as you and I, who are of the third and fourth generation, may
be punished for the sins of our fathers," rejoined Nicholas. "You have
Scripture against you, Dick. The only thing I see in favour of your
argument is, the instance you allege of Alizon. She does not look like a
witch, certainly; but there is no saying. She may be only the more
dangerous for her rare beauty, and apparent innocence!"

"I would answer for her truth with my life," cried Richard, quickly. "It
is impossible to look at her countenance, in which candour and purity
shine forth, and doubt her goodness."

"She hath cast her spells over you, Dick, that is certain," rejoined
Nicholas, laughing; "but to be serious. Alizon, I admit, is an exception
to the rest of the family, but that only strengthens the general rule.
Did you ever remark the strange look they all--save the fair maid in
question--have about the eyes?"

Richard answered in the negative.

"It is very singular, and I wonder you have not noticed it," pursued
Nicholas; "but the question of reputed witchcraft in Mother Demdike has
some chance of being speedily settled; for Master Potts, the little
London lawyer, who goes with us to Pendle Forest to-morrow, is about to
have her arrested and examined before a magistrate."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Richard, "this must be prevented."

"Why so?" exclaimed Nicholas, in surprise.

"Because the prejudice existing against her is sure to convict and
destroy her," replied Richard. "Her great age, infirmities, and poverty,
will be proofs against her. How can she, or any old enfeebled creature
like her, whose decrepitude and misery should move compassion rather
than excite fear--how can such a person defend herself against charges
easily made, and impossible to refute? I do not deny the possibility of
witchcraft, even in our own days, though I think it of very unlikely
occurrence; but I would determinately resist giving credit to any tales
told by the superstitious vulgar, who, naturally prone to cruelty, have
so many motives for revenging imaginary wrongs. It is placing a dreadful
weapon in their hands, of which they have cunning enough to know the
use, but neither mercy nor justice enough to restrain them from using
it. Better let one guilty person escape, than many innocent perish. So
many undefined charges have been brought against Mother Demdike, that at
last they have fixed a stigma on her name, and made her an object of
dread and suspicion. She is endowed with mysterious power, which would
have no effect if not believed in; and now must be burned because she is
called a witch, and is doting and vain enough to accept the title."

"There is something in a witch difficult, nay, almost impossible to
describe," said Nicholas, "but you cannot be mistaken about her. By her
general ill course of life, by repeated acts of mischief, and by
threats, followed by the consequences menaced, she becomes known. There
is much mystery in the matter, not permitted human knowledge entirely to
penetrate; but, as we know from the Scriptures that the sin of
witchcraft did exist, and as we have no evidence that it has ceased, so
it is fair to conclude, that there may be practisers of the dark offence
in our own days, and such I hold to be Mother Demdike and Mother
Chattox. Rival potentates in evil, they contend which shall do most
mischief, but it must be admitted the former bears away the bell."

"If all the ill attributed to her were really caused by her
machinations, this might be correct," replied Richard, "but it only
shows her to be more calumniated than the other. In a word, cousin
Nicholas, I look upon them as two poor old creatures, who, persuaded
they really possess the supernatural power accorded to them by the
vulgar, strive to act up to their parts, and are mainly assisted in
doing so by the credulity and fears of their audience."

"Admitting the blind credulity of the multitude," said Nicholas, "and
their proneness to discern the hand of the witch in the most trifling
accidents; admitting also, their readiness to accuse any old crone
unlucky enough to offend them of sorcery; I still believe that there are
actual practisers of the black art, who, for a brief term of power, have
entered into a league with Satan, worship him and attend his sabbaths,
and have a familiar, in the shape of a cat, dog, toad, or mole, to obey
their behests, transform themselves into various shapes--as a hound,
horse, or hare,--raise storms of wind or hail, maim cattle, bewitch and
slay human beings, and ride whither they will on broomsticks. But,
holding the contrary opinion, you will not, I apprehend, aid Master
Potts in his quest of witches."

"I will not," rejoined Richard. "On the contrary, I will oppose him. But
enough of this. Let us go forth."

And they quitted the church together.

As they issued into the churchyard, they found the principal arbours
occupied by the morris-dancers, Robin Hood and his troop, Doctor Ormerod
and Sir Ralph having retired to the vicarage-house.

Many merry groups were scattered about, talking, laughing, and singing;
but two persons, seemingly objects of suspicion and alarm, and shunned
by every one who crossed their path, were advancing slowly towards the
three crosses of Paullinus, which stood in a line, not far from the
church-porch. They were females, one about five-and-twenty, very comely,
and habited in smart holiday attire, put on with considerable rustic
coquetry, so as to display a very neat foot and ankle, and with plenty
of ribands in her fine chestnut hair. The other was a very different
person, far advanced in years, bent almost double, palsy-stricken, her
arms and limbs shaking, her head nodding, her chin wagging, her snowy
locks hanging about her wrinkled visage, her brows and upper lip frore,
and her eyes almost sightless, the pupils being cased with a thin white
film. Her dress, of antiquated make and faded stuff, had been once deep
red in colour, and her old black hat was high-crowned and broad-brimmed.
She partly aided herself in walking with a crutch-handled stick, and
partly leaned upon her younger companion for support.

"Why, there is one of the old women we have just been speaking
of--Mother Chattox," said Richard, pointing them out, "and with her, her
grand-daughter, pretty Nan Redferne."

"So it is," cried Nicholas, "what makes the old hag here, I marvel! I
will go question her."

So saying, he strode quickly towards her.

"How now, Mother Chattox!" he cried. "What mischief is afoot? What makes
the darkness-loving owl abroad in the glare of day? What brings the
grisly she-wolf from her forest lair? Back to thy den, old witch! Ar't
crazed, as well as blind and palsied, that thou knowest not that this is
a merry-making, and not a devil's sabbath? Back to thy hut, I say! These
sacred precincts are no place for thee."

"Who is it speaks to me?" demanded the old hag, halting, and fixing her
glazed eyes upon him.

"One thou hast much injured," replied Nicholas. "One into whose house
thou hast brought quick-wasting sickness and death by thy infernal arts.
One thou hast good reason to fear; for learn, to thy confusion, thou
damned and murtherous witch, it is Nicholas, brother to thy victim,
Richard Assheton of Downham, who speaks to thee."

"I know none I have reason to fear," replied Mother Chattox; "especially
thee, Nicholas Assheton. Thy brother was no victim of mine. Thou wert
the gainer by his death, not I. Why should I slay him?"

"I will tell thee why, old hag," cried Nicholas; "he was inflamed by the
beauty of thy grand-daughter Nancy here, and it was to please Tom
Redferne, her sweetheart then, but her spouse since, that thou
bewitchedst him to death."

"That reason will not avail thee, Nicholas," rejoined Mother Chattox,
with a derisive laugh. "If I had any hand in his death, it was to serve
and pleasure thee, and that all men shall know, if I am questioned on
the subject--ha! ha! Take me to the crosses, Nance."

"Thou shalt not 'scape thus, thou murtherous hag," cried Nicholas,
furiously.

"Nay, let her go her way," said Richard, who had drawn near during the
colloquy. "No good will come of meddling with her."

"Who's that?" asked Mother Chattox, quickly.

[Illustration: NAN REDFERNE AND MOTHER CHATTOX.]

"Master Richard Assheton, o' Middleton," whispered Nan Redferne.

"Another of these accursed Asshetons," cried Mother Chattox. "A plague
seize them!"

"Boh he's weel-favourt an kindly," remarked her grand-daughter.

"Well-favoured or not, kindly or cruel, I hate them all," cried Mother
Chattox. "To the crosses, I say!"

But Nicholas placed himself in their path.

"Is it to pray to Beelzebub, thy master, that thou wouldst go to the
crosses?" he asked.

"Out of my way, pestilent fool!" cried the hag.

"Thou shalt not stir till I have had an answer," rejoined Nicholas.
"They say those are Runic obelisks, and not Christian crosses, and that
the carvings upon them have a magical signification. The first, it is
averred, is written o'er with deadly curses, and the forms in which they
are traced, as serpentine, triangular, or round, indicate and rule their
swift or slow effect. The second bears charms against diseases, storms,
and lightning. And on the third is inscribed a verse which will render
him who can read it rightly, invisible to mortal view. Thou shouldst be
learned in such lore, old Pythoness. Is it so?"

The hag's chin wagged fearfully, and her frame trembled with passion,
but she spoke not.

"Have you been in the church, old woman?" interposed Richard.

"Ay, wherefore?" she rejoined.

"Some one has placed a cypress wreath on Abbot Paslew's grave. Was it
you?" he asked.

"What! hast thou found it?" cried the hag. "It shall bring thee rare
luck, lad--rare luck. Now let me pass."

"Not yet," cried Nicholas, forcibly grasping her withered arm.

The hag uttered a scream of rage.

"Let me go, Nicholas Assheton," she shrieked, "or thou shalt rue it.
Cramps and aches shall wring and rack thy flesh and bones; fever shall
consume thee; ague shake thee--shake thee--ha!"

And Nicholas recoiled, appalled by her fearful gestures.

"You carry your malignity too far, old woman," said Richard severely.

"And thou darest tell me so," cried the hag. "Set me before him, Nance,
that I may curse him," she added, raising her palsied arm.

"Nah, nah--yo'n cursed ower much already, grandmother," cried Nan
Redferne, endeavouring to drag her away. But the old woman resisted.

"I will teach him to cross my path," she vociferated, in accents shrill
and jarring as the cry of the goat-sucker.

"Handsome he is, it may be, now, but he shall not be so long. The bloom
shall fade from his cheek, the fire be extinguished in his eyes, the
strength depart from his limbs. Sorrow shall be her portion who loves
him--sorrow and shame!"

"Horrible!" exclaimed Richard, endeavouring to exclude the voice of the
crone, which pierced his ears like some sharp instrument.

"Ha! ha! you fear me now," she cried. "By this, and this, the spell
shall work," she added, describing a circle in the air with her stick,
then crossing it twice, and finally scattering over him a handful of
grave dust, snatched from an adjoining hillock.

"Now lead me quickly to the smaller cross, Nance," she added, in a low
tone.

Her grand-daughter complied, with a glance of deep commiseration at
Richard, who remained stupefied at the ominous proceeding.

"Ah! this must indeed be a witch!" he cried, recovering from the
momentary shock.

"So you are convinced at last," rejoined Nicholas. "I can take breath
now the old hell-cat is gone. But she shall not escape us. Keep an eye
upon her, while I see if Simon Sparshot, the beadle, be within the
churchyard, and if so he shall take her into custody, and lock her in
the cage."

With this, he ran towards the throng, shouting lustily for the beadle.
Presently a big, burly fellow, in a scarlet doublet, laced with gold, a
black velvet cap trimmed with red ribands, yellow hose, and shoes with
great roses in them, and bearing a long silver-headed staff, answered
the summons, and upon being told why his services were required,
immediately roared out at the top of a stentorian voice, "A witch,
lads!--a witch!"

All was astir in an instant. Robin Hood and his merry men, with the
morris-dancers, rushed out of their bowers, and the whole churchyard was
in agitation. Above the din was heard the loud voice of Simon Sparshot,
still shouting, "A witch!--witch!--Mother Chattox!"

"Where--where?" demanded several voices.

"Yonder," replied Nicholas, pointing to the further cross.

A general movement took place in that direction, the crowd being headed
by the squire and the beadle, but when they came up, they found only Nan
Redferne standing behind the obelisk.

"Where the devil is the old witch gone, Dick?" cried Nicholas, in
dismay.

"I thought I saw her standing there with her grand-daughter," replied
Richard; "but in truth I did not watch very closely."

"Search for her--search for her," cried Nicholas.

But neither behind the crosses, nor behind any monument, nor in any hole
or corner, nor on the other side of the churchyard wall, nor at the
back of the little hermitage or chapel, though all were quickly
examined, could the old hag be found.

On being questioned, Nan Redferne refused to say aught concerning her
grandmother's flight or place of concealment.

"I begin to think there is some truth in that strange legend of the
cross," said Nicholas. "Notwithstanding her blindness, the old hag must
have managed to read the magic verse upon it, and so have rendered
herself invisible. But we have got the young witch safe."

"Yeigh, squoire!" responded Sparshot, who had seized hold of Nance--"hoo
be safe enough."

"Nan Redferne is no witch," said Richard Assheton, authoritatively.

"Neaw witch, Mester Ruchot!" cried the beadle in amazement.

"No more than any of these lasses around us," said Richard. "Release
her, Sparshot."

"I forbid him to do so, till she has been examined," cried a sharp
voice. And the next moment Master Potts was seen pushing his way through
the crowd. "So you have found a witch, my masters. I heard your shouts,
and hurried on as fast as I could. Just in time, Master Nicholas--just
in time," he added, rubbing his hands gleefully.

"Lemme go, Simon," besought Nance.

"Neaw, neaw, lass, that munnot be," rejoined Sparshot.

"Help--save me, Master Richard!" cried the young woman.

By this time the crowd had gathered round her, yelling, hooting, and
shaking their hands at her, as if about to tear her in pieces; but
Richard Assheton planted himself resolutely before her, and pushed back
the foremost of them.

"Remove her instantly to the Abbey, Sparshot," he cried, "and let her be
kept in safe custody till Sir Ralph has time to examine her. Will that
content you, masters?"

"Neaw--neaw," responded several rough voices; "swim her!--swim her!"

"Quite right, my worthy friends, quite right," said Potts. "_Primo_, let
us make sure she is a witch--_secundo_, let us take her to the Abbey."

"There can be no doubt as to her being a witch, Master Potts," rejoined
Nicholas; "her old grand-dame, Mother Chattox, has just vanished from
our sight."

"Has Mother Chattox been here?" cried Potts, opening his round eyes to
their widest extent.

"Not many minutes since," replied Nicholas. "In fact, she may be here
still for aught I know."

"Here!--where?" cried Potts, looking round.

"You won't discover her for all your quickness," replied Nicholas. "She
has rendered herself invisible, by reciting the magical verses inscribed
on that cross."

"Indeed!" exclaimed the attorney, closely examining the mysterious
inscriptions. "What strange, uncouth characters! I can make neither head
nor tail, unless it be the devil's tail, of them."

At this moment a whoop was raised by Jem Device, who, having taken his
little sister home, had returned to the sports on the green, and now
formed part of the assemblage in the churchyard. Between the rival witch
potentates, Mothers Demdike and Chattox, it has already been said a
deadly enmity existed, and the feud was carried on with equal animosity
by their descendants; and though Jem himself came under the same
suspicion as Nan Redferne, that circumstance created no tie of interest
between them, but the contrary, and he was the most active of her
assailants. He had set up the above-mentioned cry from observing a large
rat running along the side of the wall.

"Theere hoo goes," whooped Jem, "t'owd witch, i' th' shape ov a
rotten!--loo-loo-loo!"

Half the crowd started in pursuit of the animal, and twenty sticks were
thrown at it, but a stone cast by Jem stayed its progress, and it was
instantly despatched. It did not change, however, as was expected by the
credulous hinds, into an old woman, and they gave vent to their
disappointment and rage in renewed threats against Nan Redferne. The
dead rat was hurled at her by Jem, but missing its mark, it hit Master
Potts on the head, and nearly knocked him off the cross, upon which he
had mounted to obtain a better view of the proceedings. Irritated by
this circumstance, as well as by the failure of the experiment, the
little attorney jumped down and fell to kicking the unfortunate rat,
after which, his fury being somewhat appeased, he turned to Nance, who
had sunk for support against the pedestal, and said to her--"If you will
tell us what has become of the old witch your grandmother, and undertake
to bear witness against her, you shall be set free."

"Ey'n tell ye nowt, mon," replied Nance, doggedly. "Put me to onny trial
ye like, ye shanna get a word fro me."

"That remains to be seen," retorted Potts, "but I apprehend we shall
make you speak, and pretty plainly too, before we've done with you.--You
hear what this perverse and wrong-headed young witch declares, masters,"
he shouted, again clambering upon the cross. "I have offered her
liberty, on condition of disclosing to us the manner of her diabolical
old relative's evasion, and she rejects it."

An angry roar followed, mixed with cries from Jem Device, of "swim
her!--swim her!"

"You had better tell them what you know, Nance," said Richard, in a low
tone, "or I shall have difficulty in preserving you from their fury."

"Ey darena, Master Richard," she replied, shaking her head; and then she
added firmly, "Ey winna."

Finding it useless to reason with her, and fearing also that the
infuriated crowd might attempt to put their threats into execution,
Richard turned to his cousin Nicholas, and said: "We must get her away,
or violence will be done."

"She does not deserve your compassion, Dick," replied Nicholas; "she is
only a few degrees better than the old hag who has escaped. Sparshot
here tells me she is noted for her skill in modelling clay figures."

"Yeigh, that hoo be," replied the broad-faced beadle; "hoo's
unaccountable cliver ot that sort o' wark. A clay figger os big os a six
months' barn, fashiont i' th' likeness o' Farmer Grimble o' Briercliffe
lawnd, os died last month, war seen i' her cottage, an monny others
besoide. Amongst 'em a moddle o' your lamented brother, Squoire Ruchot
Assheton o' Downham, wi' t' yeod pood off, and th' 'eart pieret thro'
an' thro' wi' pins and needles."

"Ye lien i' your teeth, Simon Sparshot!" cried Nance; regarding him
furiously.

"If the head were off, Simon, I don't see how the likeness to my poor
brother could well be recognised," said Nicholas, with a half smile.
"But let her be put to some mild trial--weighed against the church
Bible."

"Be it so," replied Potts, jumping down; "but if that fail, we must have
recourse to stronger measures. Take notice that, with all her fright,
she has not been able to shed a tear, not a single tear--a clear
witch--a clear witch!"

"Ey'd scorn to weep fo t' like o' yo!" cried Nance, disdainfully, having
now completely recovered her natural audacity.

"We'll soon break your spirit, young woman, I can promise you," rejoined
Potts.

As soon as it was known what was about to occur, the whole crowd moved
towards the church porch, Nan Redferne walking between Richard Assheton
and the beadle, who kept hold of her arm to prevent any attempt at
escape; and by the time they reached the appointed place, Ben Baggiley,
the baker, who had been despatched for the purpose, appeared with an
enormous pair of wooden scales, while Sampson Harrop, the clerk, having
visited the pulpit, came forth with the church Bible, an immense volume,
bound in black, with great silver clasps.

"Come, that's a good big Bible at all events," cried Potts, eyeing it
with satisfaction. "It looks like my honourable and singular good Lord
Chief-Justice Sir Edward Coke's learned 'Institutes of the Laws of
England,' only that that great legal tome is generally bound in
calf--law calf, as we say."

"Large as the book is, it will scarce prove heavy enough to weigh down
the witch, I opine," observed Nicholas, with a smile.

"We shall see, sir," replied Potts. "We shall see."

By this time, the scales having been affixed to a hook in the porch by
Baggiley, the sacred volume was placed on one side, and Nance set down
by the beadle on the other. The result of the experiment was precisely
what might have been anticipated--the moment the young woman took her
place in the balance, it sank down to the ground, while the other kicked
the beam.

"I hope you are satisfied now, Master Potts," cried Richard Assheton.
"By your own trial her innocence is approved."

"Your pardon, Master Richard, this is Squire Nicholas's trial, not
mine," replied Potts. "I am for the ordeal of swimming. How say you,
masters! Shall we be content with this doubtful experiment?"

"Neaw--neaw," responded Jem Device, who acted as spokesman to the crowd,
"swim her--swim her!"

"I knew you would have it so," said Potts, approvingly. "Where is a
fitting place for the trial?"

"Th' Abbey pool is nah fur off," replied Jem, "or ye con tay her to th'
Calder."

"The river, by all means--nothing like a running stream," said Potts.
"Let cords be procured to bind her."

"Run fo 'em quickly, Ben," said Jem to Baggiley, who was very zealous in
the cause.

"Oh!" groaned Nance, again losing courage, and glancing piteously at
Richard.

"No outrage like this shall be perpetrated," cried the young man,
firmly; "I call upon you, cousin Nicholas, to help me. Go into the
church," he added, thrusting Nance backward, and presenting his sword at
the breast of Jem Device, who attempted to follow her, and who retired
muttering threats and curses; "I will run the first man through the body
who attempts to pass."

As Nan Redferne made good her retreat, and shut the church-door after
her, Master Potts, pale with rage, cried out to Richard, "You have aided
the escape of a desperate and notorious offender--actually in custody,
sir, and have rendered yourself liable to indictment for it, sir, with
consequences of fine and imprisonment, sir:--heavy fine and long
imprisonment, sir. Do you mark me, Master Richard?"

"I will answer the consequences of my act to those empowered to question
it, sir," replied Richard, sternly.

"Well, sir, I have given you notice," rejoined Potts, "due notice. We
shall hear what Sir Ralph will say to the matter, and Master Roger
Nowell, and--"

"You forget me, good Master Potts," interrupted Nicholas, laughingly; "I
entirely disapprove of it. It is a most flagrant breach of duty.
Nevertheless, I am glad the poor wench has got off."

"She is safe within the church," said Potts, "and I command Master
Richard, in the king's name, to let us pass. Beadle! Sharpshot,
Sparshot, or whatever be your confounded name do your duty, sirrah.
Enter the church, and bring forth the witch."

"Ey darna, mester," replied Simon; "young mester Ruchot ud slit mey
weasand os soon os look ot meh."

Richard put an end to further altercation, by stepping back quickly,
locking the door, and then taking out the key, and putting it into his
pocket.

"She is quite safe now," he cried, with a smile at the discomfited
lawyer.

"Is there no other door?" inquired Potts of the beadle, in a low tone.

"Yeigh, theere be one ot t'other soide," replied Sparshot, "boh it be
locked, ey reckon, an maybe hoo'n getten out that way."

"Quick, quick, and let's see," cried Potts; "justice must not be
thwarted in this shameful manner."

While the greater part of the crowd set off after Potts and the beadle,
Richard Assheton, anxious to know what had become of the fugitive, and
determined not to abandon her while any danger existed, unlocked the
church-door, and entered the holy structure, followed by Nicholas. On
looking around, Nance was nowhere to be seen, neither did she answer to
his repeated calls, and Richard concluded she must have escaped, when
all at once a loud exulting shout was heard without, leaving no doubt
that the poor young woman had again fallen into the hands of her
captors. The next moment a sharp, piercing scream in a female key
confirmed the supposition. On hearing this cry, Richard instantly flew
to the opposite door, through which Nance must have passed, but on
trying it he found it fastened outside; and filled with sudden
misgiving, for he now recollected leaving the key in the other door, he
called to Nicholas to come with him, and hurried back to it. His
apprehensions were verified; the door was locked. At first Nicholas was
inclined to laugh at the trick played them; but a single look from
Richard checked his tendency to merriment, and he followed his young
relative, who had sprung to a window looking upon that part of the
churchyard whence the shouts came, and flung it open. Richard's egress,
however, was prevented by an iron bar, and he called out loudly and
fiercely to the beadle, whom he saw standing in the midst of the crowd,
to unlock the door.

"Have a little patience, good Master Richard," replied Potts, turning up
his provoking little visage, now charged with triumphant malice. "You
shall come out presently. We are busy just now--engaged in binding the
witch, as you see. Both keys are safely in my pocket, and I will send
you one of them when we start for the river, good Master Richard. We
lawyers are not to be overreached you see--ha! ha!"

"You shall repent this conduct when I do get out," cried Richard,
furiously. "Sparshot, I command you to bring the key instantly."

But, encouraged by the attorney, the beadle affected not to hear
Richard's angry vociferations, and the others were unable to aid the
young man, if they had been so disposed, and all were too much
interested in what was going forward to run off to the vicarage, and
acquaint Sir Ralph with the circumstances in which his relatives were
placed, even though enjoined to do so.

On being set free by Richard, Nance had flown quickly through the
church, and passed out at the side door, and was making good her retreat
at the back of the edifice, when her flying figure was descried by Jem
Device, who, failing in his first attempt, had run round that way,
fancying he should catch her.

He instantly dashed after her with all the fury of a bloodhound, and,
being possessed of remarkable activity, speedily overtook her, and,
heedless of her threats and entreaties, secured her.

"Lemme go, Jem," she cried, "an ey win do thee a good turn one o' these
days, when theaw may chonce to be i' th' same strait os me." But seeing
him inexorable, she added, "My granddame shan rack thy boans sorely,
lad, for this."

Jem replied by a coarse laugh of defiance, and, dragging her along,
delivered her to Master Potts and the beadle, who were then hurrying to
the other door of the church. To prevent interruption, the cunning
attorney, having ascertained that the two Asshetons were inside,
instantly gave orders to have both doors locked, and the injunctions
being promptly obeyed, he took possession of the keys himself, chuckling
at the success of the stratagem. "A fair reprisal," he muttered; "this
young milksop shall find he is no match for a skilful lawyer like me.
Now, the cords--the cords!"

It was at the sight of the bonds, which were quickly brought by
Baggiley, that Nance uttered the piercing cry that had roused Richard's
indignation. Feeling secure of his prisoner, and now no longer
apprehensive of interruption, Master Potts was in no hurry to conclude
the arrangements, but rather prolonged them to exasperate Richard.
Little consideration was shown the unfortunate captive. The new shoes
and stockings of which she had been so vain a short time before, were
torn from her feet and limbs by the rude hands of the remorseless Jem
and the beadle, and bent down by the main force of these two strong men,
her thumbs and great toes were tightly bound together, crosswise, by the
cords. The churchyard rang with her shrieks, and, with his blood boiling
with indignation at the sight, Richard redoubled his exertions to burst
through the window and fly to her assistance. But though Nicholas now
lent his powerful aid to the task, their combined efforts to obtain
liberation were unavailing; and with rage almost amounting to frenzy,
Richard beheld the poor young woman borne shrieking away by her captors.
Nor was Nicholas much less incensed, and he swore a deep oath when he
did get at liberty that Master Potts should pay dearly for his rascally
conduct.




CHAPTER VI.--THE ORDEAL BY SWIMMING.


Bound hand and foot in the painful posture before described, roughly and
insolently handled on all sides, in peril of her life from the frightful
ordeal to which she was about to be subjected, the miserable captive was
borne along on the shoulders of Jem Device and Sparshot, her long, fine
chestnut hair trailing upon the ground, her white shoulders exposed to
the insolent gaze of the crowd, and her trim holiday attire torn to rags
by the rough treatment she had experienced. Nance Redferne, it has been
said, was a very comely young woman; but neither her beauty, her youth,
nor her sex, had any effect upon the ferocious crowd, who were too much
accustomed to such brutal and debasing exhibitions, to feel any thing
but savage delight in the spectacle of a fellow-creature so scandalously
treated and tormented, and the only excuse to be offered for their
barbarity, is the firm belief they entertained that they were dealing
with a witch. And when even in our own day so many revolting scenes are
enacted to gratify the brutal passions of the mob, while prize-fights
are tolerated, and wretched animals goaded on to tear each other in
pieces, it is not to be wondered at that, in times of less enlightenment
and refinement, greater cruelties should be practised. Indeed, it may be
well to consider how far we have really advanced in civilisation since
then; for until cruelty, whether to man or beast, be wholly banished
from our sports, we cannot justly reproach our ancestors, or
congratulate ourselves on our improvement.

Nance's cries of distress were only answered by jeers, and renewed
insults, and wearied out at length, the poor creature ceased struggling
and shrieking, the dogged resolution she had before exhibited again
coming to her aid.

But her fortitude was to be yet more severely tested. Revealed by the
disorder of her habiliments, and contrasting strongly with the extreme
whiteness of her skin, a dun-coloured mole was discovered upon her
breast. It was pointed out to Potts by Jem Device, who declared it to be
a witch-mark, and the spot where her familiar drained her blood.

"This is one of the 'good helps' to the discovery of a witch, pointed
out by our sovereign lord the king," said the attorney, narrowly
examining the spot. "'The one,' saith our wise prince, 'is the finding
of their mark, and the trying the insensibleness thereof. The other is
their fleeting on the water.' The water-ordeal will come presently, but
the insensibility of the mark might be at once attested."

"Yeigh, that con soon be tried," cried Jem, with a savage laugh.

And taking a pin from his sleeve, the ruffian plunged it deeply into the
poor creature's flesh. Nance winced, but she set her teeth hardly, and
repressed the cry that must otherwise have been wrung from her.

"A clear witch!" cried Jem, drawing forth the pin; "not a drop o' blood
flows, an hoo feels nowt!"

"Feel nowt?" rejoined Nance, between her ground teeth. "May ye ha a pang
os sharp i' your cancart eart, ye villain."

After this barbarous test, the crowd, confirmed by it in their notions
of Nan's guiltiness, hurried on, their numbers increasing as they
proceeded along the main street of the village leading towards the
river; all the villagers left at home rushing forth on hearing a witch
was about to be swum, and when they came within a bow-shot of the
stream, Sparshot called to Baggiley to lay hold of Nance, while he
himself, accompanied by several of the crowd, ran over the bridge, the
part he had to enact requiring him to be on the other side of the water.

Meantime, the main party turned down a little footpath protected by a
gate on the left, which led between garden hedges to the grassy banks of
the Calder, and in taking this course they passed by the cottage of
Elizabeth Device. Hearing the shouts of the rabble, little Jennet, who
had been in no very happy frame of mind since she had been brought home,
came forth, and seeing her brother, called out to him, in her usual
sharp tones, "What's the matter, Jem? Who han ye gotten there?"

"A witch," replied Jem, gruffly. "Nance Redferne, Mother Chattox's
grand-daughter. Come an see her swum i' th' Calder."

Jennet readily complied, for her curiosity was aroused, and she shared
in the family feelings of dislike to Mother Chattox and her descendants.

"Is this Nance Redferne?" she cried, keeping close to her brother, "Ey'm
glad yo'n caught her at last. How dun ye find yersel, Nance?"

"Ill at ease, Jennet," replied Nance, with a bitter look; "boh it ill
becomes ye to jeer me, lass, seein' yo're a born witch yoursel."

"Aha!" cried Potts, looking at the little girl, "So this is a born
witch--eh, Nance?"

"A born an' bred witch," rejoined Nance; "jist as her brother Jem here
is a wizard. They're the gran-childer o' Mother Demdike o' Pendle, the
greatest witch i' these parts, an childer o' Bess Device, who's nah much
better. Ask me to witness agen 'em, that's aw."

"Howd thy tongue, woman, or ey'n drown thee," muttered Jem, in a tone of
deep menace.

"Ye canna, mon, if ey'm the witch ye ca' me," rejoined Nance. "Jennet's
turn'll come os weel os mine, one o' these days. Mark my words."

"Efore that ey shan see ye burned, ye faggot," cried Jennet, almost
fiercely.

"Ye'n gotten the fiend's mark o' your sleeve," cried Nance. "Ey see it
written i' letters ov blood."

"That's where our cat scratted me," replied Jennet, hiding her arm
quickly.

"Good!--very good!" observed Potts, rubbing his hands. "'Who but witches
can be proof against witches?' saith our sagacious sovereign. I shall
make something of this girl. She seems a remarkably quick
child--remarkably quick--ha, ha!"

By this time, the party having gained the broad flat mead through which
the Calder flowed, took their way quickly towards its banks, the spot
selected for the ordeal lying about fifty yards above the weir, where
the current, ordinarily rapid, was checked by the dam, offering a smooth
surface, with considerable depth of water. If soft natural beauties
could have subdued the hearts of those engaged in this cruel and wicked
experiment, never was scene better calculated for the purpose than that
under contemplation. Through a lovely green valley meandered the Calder,
now winding round some verdant knoll, now washing the base of lofty
heights feathered with timber to their very summits, now lost amid thick
woods, and only discernible at intervals by a glimmer amongst the trees.
Immediately in front of the assemblage rose Whalley Nab, its steep sides
and brow partially covered with timber, with green patches in the
uplands where sheep and cattle fed. Just below the spot where the crowd
were collected, the stream, here of some width, passed over the weir,
and swept in a foaming cascade over the huge stones supporting the dam,
giving the rushing current the semblance and almost the beauty of a
natural waterfall. Below this the stream ran brawling on in a wider, but
shallower channel, making pleasant music as it went, and leaving many
dry beds of sand and gravel in the midst; while a hundred yards lower
down, it was crossed by the arches of the bridge. Further still, a row
of tall cypresses lined the bank of the river, and screened that part of
the Abbey, converted into a residence by the Asshetons; and after this
came the ruins of the refectory, the cloisters, the dormitory, the
conventual church, and other parts of the venerable structure,
overshadowed by noble lime-trees and elms. Lovelier or more peaceful
scene could not be imagined. The green meads, the bright clear stream,
with its white foaming weir, the woody heights reflected in the glassy
waters, the picturesque old bridge, and the dark grey ruins beyond it,
all might have engaged the attention and melted the heart. Then the
hour, when evening was coming on, and when each beautiful object,
deriving new beauty from the medium through which it was viewed,
exercised a softening influence, and awakened kindly emotions. To most
the scene was familiar, and therefore could have no charm of novelty. To
Potts, however, it was altogether new; but he was susceptible of few
gentle impressions, and neither the tender beauty of the evening, nor
the wooing loveliness of the spot, awakened any responsive emotion in
his breast. He was dead to every thing except the ruthless experiment
about to be made.

Almost at the same time that Jem Device and his party reached the near
bank of the stream, the beadle and the others appeared on the opposite
side. Little was said, but instant preparations were made for the
ordeal. Two long coils of rope having been brought by Baggiley, one of
them was made fast to the right arm of the victim, and the other to the
left; and this done, Jem Device, shouting to Sparshot to look out, flung
one coil of rope across the river, where it was caught with much
dexterity by the beadle. The assemblage then spread out on the bank,
while Jem, taking the poor young woman in his arms, who neither spoke
nor struggled, but held her breath tightly, approached the river.

"Dunna drown her, Jem," said Jennet, who had turned very pale.

"Be quiet, wench," rejoined Jem, gruffly.

And without bestowing further attention upon her, he let down his burden
carefully into the water; and this achieved, he called out to the
beadle, who drew her slowly towards him, while Jem guided her with the
other rope.

The crowd watched the experiment for a few moments in profound silence,
but as the poor young woman, who had now reached the centre of the
stream, still floated, being supported either by the tension of the
cords, or by her woollen apparel, a loud shout was raised that she could
not sink, and was, therefore, an undeniable witch.

"Steady, lads--steady a moment," cried Potts, enchanted with the success
of the experiment; "leave her where she is, that her buoyancy may be
fully attested. You know, masters," he cried, with a loud voice, "the
meaning of this water ordeal. Our sovereign lord and master the king, in
his wisdom, hath graciously vouchsafed to explain the matter thus:
'Water,' he saith, 'shall refuse to receive them (meaning witches, of
course) in her bosom, that have shaken off their sacred water of
baptism, and wilfully refused the benefit thereof.' It is manifest, you
see, that this diabolical young woman hath renounced her baptism, for
the water rejecteth her. _Non potest mergi_, as Pliny saith. She floats
like a cork, or as if the clear water of the Calder had suddenly become
like the slab, salt waves of the Dead Sea, in which, nothing can sink.
You behold the marvel with your own eyes, my masters."

"Ay, ay!" rejoined Baggiley and several others.

"Hoo be a witch fo sartin," cried Jem Device. But as he spoke, chancing
slightly to slacken the rope, the tension of which maintained the
equilibrium of the body, the poor woman instantly sank.

A groan, as much of disappointment as sympathy, broke from the
spectators, but none attempted to aid her; and on seeing her sink, Jem
abandoned the rope altogether.

But assistance was at hand. Two persons rushed quickly and furiously to
the spot. They were Richard and Nicholas Assheton. The iron bar had at
length yielded to their efforts, and the first use they made of their
freedom was to hurry to the river. A glance showed them what had
occurred, and the younger Assheton, unhesitatingly plunging into the
water, seized the rope dropped by Jem, and calling to the beadle to let
go his hold, dragged forth the poor half-drowned young woman, and placed
her on the bank, hewing asunder the cords that bound her hands and feet
with his sword. But though still sensible, Nance was so much exhausted
by the shock she had undergone, and her muscles were so severely
strained by the painful and unnatural posture to which she had been
compelled, that she was wholly unable to move. Her thumbs were blackened
and swollen, and the cords had cut into the flesh, while blood trickled
down from the puncture in her breast. Fixing a look of inexpressible
gratitude upon her preserver, she made an effort to speak, but the
exertion was too great; violent hysterical sobbing came on, and her
senses soon after forsook her. Richard called loudly for assistance, and
the sentiments of the most humane part of the crowd having undergone a
change since the failure of the ordeal, some females came forward, and
took steps for her restoration. Sensibility having returned, a cloak was
wrapped around her, and she was conveyed to a neighbouring cottage and
put to bed, where her stiffened limbs were chafed and warm drinks
administered, and it began to be hoped that no serious consequences
would ensue.

Meanwhile, a catastrophe had wellnigh occurred in another quarter. With
eyes flashing with fury, Nicholas Assheton pushed aside the crowd, and
made his way to the bank whereon Master Potts stood. Not liking his
looks, the little attorney would have taken to his heels, but finding
escape impossible, he called upon Baggiley to protect him. But he was
instantly in the forcible gripe of the squire, who shouted, "I'll teach
you, mongrel hound, to play tricks with gentlemen."

"Master Nicholas," cried the terrified and half-strangled attorney, "my
very good sir, I entreat you to let me alone. This is a breach of the
king's peace, sir. Assault and battery, under aggravated circumstances,
and punishable with ignominious corporal penalties, besides fine and
imprisonment, sir. I take you to witness the assault, Master Baggiley. I
shall bring my ac--ac--ah--o--o--oh!"

"Then you shall have something to bring your ac--ac--action for,
rascal," cried Nicholas. And, seizing the attorney by the nape of the
neck with one hand, and the hind wings of his doublet with the other, he
cast him to a considerable distance into the river, where he fell with a
tremendous splash.

"He is no wizard, at all events," laughed Nicholas, as Potts went down
like a lump of lead.

But the attorney was not born to be drowned; at least, at this period of
his career. On rising to the surface, a few seconds after his immersion,
he roared lustily for help, but would infallibly have been carried over
the weir, if Jem Device had not flung him the rope now disengaged from
Nance Redferne, and which he succeeded in catching. In this way he was
dragged out; and as he crept up the bank, with the wet pouring from his
apparel, which now clung tightly to his lathy limbs, he was greeted by
the jeers of Nicholas.

"How like you the water-ordeal--eh, Master Attorney? No occasion for a
second trial, I think. If Jem Device had known his own interest, he
would have left you to fatten the Calder eels; but he will find it out
in time."

"You will find it out too, Master Nicholas," rejoined Potts, clapping on
his wet cap. "Take me to the Dragon quickly, good fellow," he added, to
Jem Device, "and I will recompense thee for thy pains, as well as for
the service thou hast just rendered me. I shall have rheumatism in my
joints, pains in my loins, and rheum in my head, oh dear--oh dear!"

"In which case you will not be able to pay Mother Demdike your purposed
visit to-morrow," jeered Nicholas. "You forgot you were to arrest her,
and bring her before a magistrate."

"Thy arm, good fellow, thy arm!" said Potts, to Jem Device.

"To the fiend wi' thee," cried Jem, shaking him off roughly. "The
squoire is reet. Wouldee had let thee drown."

"What, have you changed your mind already, Jem?" cried Nicholas, in a
taunting tone. "You'll have your grandmother's thanks for the service
you've rendered her, lad--ha! ha!"

"Fo' t' matter o' two pins ey'd pitch him again," growled Jem, eyeing
the attorney askance.

"No, no, Jem," observed Nicholas, "things must take their course. What's
done is done. But if Master Potts be wise, he'll take himself out of
court without delay."

"You'll be glad to get me out of court one of these days, squire,"
muttered Potts, "and so will you too, Master James Device.--A day of
reckoning will come for both--heavy reckoning. Ugh! ugh!" he added,
shivering, "how my teeth chatter!"

"Make what haste you can to the Dragon," cried the good-natured squire;
"get your clothes dried, and bid John Lawe brew you a pottle of strong
sack, swallow it scalding hot, and you'll never look behind you."

"Nor before me either," retorted Potts, "Scalding sack! This
bloodthirsty squire has a new design upon my life!"

"Ey'n go wi' ye to th' Dragon, mester," said Baggiley; "lean o' me."

"Thanke'e friend," replied Potts, taking his arm. "A word at parting,
Master Nicholas. This is not the only discovery of witchcraft I've made.
I've another case, somewhat nearer home. Ha! ha!"

With this, he hobbled off in the direction of the alehouse, his steps
being traceable along the dusty road like the course of a watering-cart.

"Ey'n go efter him," growled Jem.

"No you won't, lad," rejoined Nicholas, "and if you'll take my advice,
you'll get out of Whalley as fast as you can. You will be safer on the
heath of Pendle than here, when Sir Ralph and Master Roger Nowell come
to know what has taken place. And mind this, sirrah--the hounds will be
out in the forest to-morrow. D'ye heed?"

Jem growled something in reply, and, seizing his little sister's hand,
strode off with her towards his mother's dwelling, uttering not a word
by the way.

Having seen Nance Redferne conveyed to the cottage, as before mentioned,
Richard Assheton, regardless of the wet state of his own apparel, now
joined his cousin, the squire, and they walked to the Abbey together,
conversing on what had taken place, while the crowd dispersed, some
returning to the bowers in the churchyard, and others to the green,
their merriment in nowise damped by the recent occurrences, which they
looked upon as part of the day's sport. As some of them passed by,
laughing, singing, and dancing, Richard Assheton remarked, "I can
scarcely believe these to be the same people I so lately saw in the
churchyard. They then seemed totally devoid of humanity."

"Pshaw! they are humane enough," rejoined Nicholas; "but you cannot
expect them to show mercy to a witch, any more than to a wolf, or other
savage and devouring beast."

"But the means taken to prove her guilt were as absurd as iniquitous,"
said Richard, "and savour of the barbarous ages. If she had perished,
all concerned in the trial would have been guilty of murder."

"But no judge would condemn them," returned Nicholas; "and they have the
highest authority in the realm to uphold them. As to leniency to
witches, in a general way, I would show none. Traitors alike to God and
man, and bond slaves of Satan, they are out of the pale of Christian
charity."

"No criminal, however great, is out of the pale of Christian charity,"
replied Richard; "but such scenes as we have just witnessed are a
disgrace to humanity, and a mockery of justice. In seeking to discover
and punish one offence, a greater is committed. Suppose this poor young
woman really guilty--what then? Our laws are made for protection, as
well as punishment of wrong. She should he arraigned, convicted, and
condemned before punishment."

"Our laws admit of torture, Richard," observed Nicholas.

"True," said the young man, with a shudder, "and it is another relic of
a ruthless age. But torture is only allowed under the eye of the law,
and can be inflicted by none but its sworn servants. But, supposing this
poor young woman innocent of the crime imputed to her, which I really
believe her to be, how, then, will you excuse the atrocities to which
she has been subjected?"

"I do not believe her innocent," rejoined Nicholas; "her relationship to
a notorious witch, and her fabrication of clay images, make her justly
suspected."

"Then let her be examined by a magistrate," said Richard; "but, even
then, woe betide her! When I think that Alizon Device is liable to the
same atrocious treatment, in consequence of her relationship to Mother
Demdike, I can scarce contain my indignation."

"It is unlucky for her, indeed," rejoined Nicholas; "but of all Nance's
assailants the most infuriated was Alizon's brother, Jem Device."

"I saw it," cried Richard--an uneasy expression passing over his
countenance. "Would she could be removed from that family!"

"To what purpose?" demanded Nicholas, quickly. "Her family are more
likely to be removed from her if Master Potts stay in the
neighbourhood."

"Poor girl!" exclaimed Richard.

And he fell into a reverie which was not broken till they reached the
Abbey.

To return to Jem Device. On reaching the cottage, the ruffian flung
himself into a chair, and for a time seemed lost in reflection. At last
he looked up, and said gruffly to Jennet, who stood watching him, "See
if mother be come whoam?"

"Eigh, eigh, ey'm here, Jem," said Elizabeth Device, opening the inner
door and coming forth. "So, ye ha been swimmin' Nance Redferne, lad, eh!
Ey'm glad on it--ha! ha!"

Jem gave her a significant look, upon which she motioned Jennet to
withdraw, and the injunction being complied with, though with evident
reluctance, by the little girl, she closed the door upon her.

"Now, Jem, what hast got to say to me, lad, eh?" demanded Elizabeth,
stepping up to him.

"Neaw great deal, mother," he replied; "boh ey keawnsel ye to look weel
efter yersel. We're aw i' dawnger."


"Ey knoas it, lad, ey knoas it," replied Elizabeth; "boh fo my own pert
ey'm nah afeerd. They darna touch me; an' if they dun, ey con defend
mysel reet weel. Here's a letter to thy gran-mother," she added, giving
him a sealed packet. "Take care on it."

"Fro Mistress Nutter, ey suppose?" asked Jem.

"Eigh, who else should it be from?" rejoined Elizabeth. "Your
gran-mother win' ha' enough to do to neet, an so win yo, too, Jem,
lettin alone the walk fro here to Malkin Tower."

"Weel, gi' me mey supper, an ey'n set out," rejoined Jem. "So ye ha'
seen Mistress Nutter?"

"Ey found her i' th' Abbey garden," replied Elizabeth, "an we had some
tawk together, abowt th' boundary line o' th' Rough Lee estates, and
other matters."

And, as she spoke, she set a cold pasty, with oat cakes, cheese, and
butter, before her son, and next proceeded to draw him a jug of ale.

"What other matters dun you mean, mother?" inquired Jem, attacking the
pasty. "War it owt relatin' to that little Lunnon lawyer, Mester Potts?"

"Theawst hit it, Jem," replied Elizabeth, seating herself near him.
"That Potts means to visit thy gran-mother to morrow."

"Weel!" said Jem, grimly.

"An arrest her," pursued Elizabeth.

"Easily said," laughed Jem, scornfully, "boh neaw quite so easily done."

"Nah quite, Jem," responded Elizabeth, joining in the laugh. "'Specially
when th' owd dame's prepared, as she win be now."

"Potts may set out 'o that journey, boh he winna come back again,"
remarked Jem, in a sombre tone.

"Wait till yo'n seen your gran-mother efore ye do owt, lad," said
Elizabeth.

"Ay, wait," added a voice.

"What's that?" demanded Jem, laving down his knife and fork.

Elizabeth did not answer in words, but her significant looks were quite
response enough for her son.

"Os ye win, mother," he said in an altered tone. After a pause, employed
in eating, he added, "Did Mistress Nutter put onny questions to ye about
Alizon?"

"More nor enough, lad," replied Elizabeth; "fo what had ey to tell her?
She praised her beauty, an said how unlike she wur to Jennet an thee,
lad--ha! ha!--An wondert how ey cum to ha such a dowter, an monny other
things besoide. An what could ey say to it aw, except--"

"Except what, mother?" interrupted Jem.

"Except that she wur my child just os much os Jennet an thee!"

"Humph!" exclaimed Jem.

"Humph!" echoed the voice that had previously spoken.

Jem looked at his mother, and took a long pull at the ale-jug.

"Any more messages to Malkin Tower?" he asked, getting up.

"Neaw--mother will onderstond," replied Elizabeth. "Bid her be on her
guard, fo' the enemy is abroad."

"Meanin' Potts?" said Jem.

"Meaning Potts," answered the voice.

"There are strange echoes here," said Jem, looking round suspiciously.

At this moment, Tib came from under a piece of furniture, where he had
apparently been lying, and rubbed himself familiarly against his legs.

"Ey needna be afeerd o' owt happenin to ye, mother," said Jem, patting
the cat's back. "Tib win tay care on yo."

"Eigh, eigh," replied Elizabeth, bending down to pat him, "he's a trusty
cat." But the ill-tempered animal would not be propitiated, but erected
his back, and menaced her with his claws.

"Yo han offended him, mother," said Jem. "One word efore ey start. Are
ye quite sure Potts didna owerhear your conversation wi' Mistress
Nutter?"

"Why d'ye ask, Jem?" she replied.

"Fro' summat the knave threw out to Squoire Nicholas just now," rejoined
Jem. "He said he'd another case o' witchcraft nearer whoam. Whot could
he mean?"

"Whot, indeed?" cried Elizabeth, quickly.

"Look at Tib," exclaimed her son.

As he spoke, the cat sprang towards the inner door, and scratched
violently against it.

Elizabeth immediately raised the latch, and found Jennet behind it, with
a face like scarlet.

"Yo'n been listenin, ye young eavesdropper," cried Elizabeth, boxing her
ears soundly; "take that fo' your pains--an that."

"Touch me again, an Mester Potts shan knoa aw ey'n heer'd," said the
little girl, repressing her tears.

Elizabeth regarded her angrily; but the looks of the child were so
spiteful, that she did not dare to strike her. She glanced too at Tib;
but the uncertain cat was now rubbing himself in the most friendly
manner against Jennet.

"Yo shan pay for this, lass, presently," said Elizabeth.

"Best nah provoke me, mother," rejoined Jennet in a determined tone; "if
ye dun, aw secrets shan out. Ey knoa why Jem's goin' to Malkin-Tower
to-neet--an why yo're afeerd o' Mester Potts."

"Howd thy tongue or ey'n choke thee, little pest," cried her mother,
fiercely.

Jennet replied with a mocking laugh, while Tib rubbed against her more
fondly than ever.

"Let her alone," interposed Jem. "An now ey mun be off. So, fare ye
weel, mother,--an yo, too, Jennet." And with this, he put on his cap,
seized his cudgel, and quitted the cottage.




CHAPTER VII.--THE RUINED CONVENTUAL CHURCH.


Beneath a wild cherry-tree, planted by chance in the Abbey gardens, and
of such remarkable size that it almost rivalled the elms and lime trees
surrounding it, and when in bloom resembled an enormous garland, stood
two young maidens, both of rare beauty, though in totally different
styles;--the one being fair-haired and blue-eyed, with a snowy skin
tinged with delicate bloom, like that of roses seen through milk, to
borrow a simile from old Anacreon; while the other far eclipsed her in
the brilliancy of her complexion, the dark splendour of her eyes, and
the luxuriance of her jetty tresses, which, unbound and knotted with
ribands, flowed down almost to the ground. In age, there was little
disparity between them, though perhaps the dark-haired girl might be a
year nearer twenty than the other, and somewhat more of seriousness,
though not much, sat upon her lovely countenance than on the other's
laughing features. Different were they too, in degree, and here social
position was infinitely in favour of the fairer girl, but no one would
have judged it so if not previously acquainted with their history.
Indeed, it was rather the one having least title to be proud (if any one
has such title) who now seemed to look up to her companion with mingled
admiration and regard; the latter being enthralled at the moment by the
rich notes of a thrush poured from a neighbouring lime-tree.

Pleasant was the garden where the two girls stood, shaded by great
trees, laid out in exquisite parterres, with knots and figures, quaint
flower-beds, shorn trees and hedges, covered alleys and arbours,
terraces and mounds, in the taste of the time, and above all an
admirably kept bowling-green. It was bounded on the one hand by the
ruined chapter-house and vestry of the old monastic structure, and on
the other by the stately pile of buildings formerly making part of the
Abbot's lodging, in which the long gallery was situated, some of its
windows looking upon the bowling-green, and then kept in excellent
condition, but now roofless and desolate. Behind them, on the right,
half hidden by trees, lay the desecrated and despoiled conventual
church. Reared at such cost, and with so much magnificence, by thirteen
abbots--the great work having been commenced, as heretofore stated, by
Robert de Topcliffe, in 1330, and only completed in all its details by
John Paslew; this splendid structure, surpassing, according to Whitaker,
"many cathedrals in extent," was now abandoned to the slow ravages of
decay. Would it had never encountered worse enemy! But some half
century later, the hand of man was called in to accelerate its
destruction, and it was then almost entirely rased to the ground. At the
period in question though partially unroofed, and with some of the walls
destroyed, it was still beautiful and picturesque--more picturesque,
indeed than in the days of its pride and splendour. The tower with its
lofty crocketed spire was still standing, though the latter was cracked
and tottering, and the jackdaws roosted within its windows and belfry.
Two ranges of broken columns told of the bygone glories of the aisles;
and the beautiful side chapels having escaped injury better than other
parts of the fabric, remained in tolerable preservation. But the choir
and high altar were stripped of all their rich carving and ornaments,
and the rain descended through the open rood-loft upon the now
grass-grown graves of the abbots in the presbytery. Here and there the
ramified mullions still retained their wealth of painted glass, and the
grand eastern window shone gorgeously as of yore. All else was neglect
and ruin. Briers and turf usurped the place of the marble pavement; many
of the pillars were festooned with ivy; and, in some places, the
shattered walls were covered with creepers, and trees had taken root in
the crevices of the masonry. Beautiful at all times were these
magnificent ruins; but never so beautiful as when seen by the witching
light of the moon--the hour, according to the best authority, when all
ruins should be viewed--when the long lines of broken pillars, the
mouldering arches, and the still glowing panes over the altar, had a
magical effect.

In front of the maidens stood a square tower, part of the defences of
the religious establishment, erected by Abbot Lyndelay, in the reign of
Edward III., but disused and decaying. It was sustained by high and
richly groined arches, crossing the swift mill-race, and faced the
river. A path led through the ruined chapter-house to the spacious
cloister quadrangle, once used as a cemetery for the monks, but now
converted into a kitchen garden, its broad area being planted out, and
fruit-trees trained against the hoary walls. Little of the old refectory
was left, except the dilapidated stairs once conducting to the gallery
where the brethren were wont to take their meals, but the inner wall
still served to enclose the garden on that side. Of the dormitory,
formerly constituting the eastern angle of the cloisters, the shell was
still left, and it was used partly as a grange, partly as a shed for
cattle, the farm-yard and tenements lying on this side.

Thus it will be seen that the garden and grounds, filling up the ruins
of Whalley Abbey, offered abundant points of picturesque attraction, all
of which--with the exception of the ruined conventual church--had been
visited by the two girls. They had tracked the labyrinths of passages,
scaled the broken staircases, crept into the roofless and neglected
chambers, peered timorously into the black and yawning vaults, and now,
having finished their investigations, had paused for awhile, previous to
extending their ramble to the church, beneath the wild cherry-tree to
listen to the warbling of the birds.

"You should hear the nightingales at Middleton, Alizon," observed
Dorothy Assheton, breaking silence; "they sing even more exquisitely
than yon thrush. You must come and see me. I should like to show you the
old house and gardens, though they are very different from these, and we
have no ancient monastic ruins to ornament them. Still, they are very
beautiful; and, as I find you are fond of flowers, I will show you some
I have reared myself, for I am something of a gardener, Alizon. Promise
you will come."

"I wish I dared promise it," replied Alizon.

"And why not, then?" cried Dorothy. "What should prevent you? Do you
know, Alizon, what I should like better than all? You are so amiable,
and so good, and so--so very pretty; nay, don't blush--there is no one
by to hear me--you are so charming altogether, that I should like you to
come and live with me. You shall be my handmaiden if you will."

"I should desire nothing better, sweet young lady," replied Alizon;
"but--"

"But what?" cried Dorothy. "You have only your own consent to obtain."

"Alas! I have," replied Alizon.

"How can that be!" cried Dorothy, with a disappointed look. "It is not
likely your mother will stand in the way of your advancement, and you
have not, I suppose, any other tie? Nay, forgive me if I appear too
inquisitive. My curiosity only proceeds from the interest I take in
you."

"I know it--I feel it, dear, kind young lady," replied Alizon, with the
colour again mounting her cheeks. "I have no tie in the world except my
family. But I am persuaded my mother will never allow me to quit her,
however great the advantage might be to me."

"Well, though sorry, I am scarcely surprised at it," said Dorothy. "She
must love you too dearly to part with you."

"I wish I could think so," sighed Alizon. "Proud of me in some sort,
though with little reason, she may be, but love me, most assuredly, she
does not. Nay more, I am persuaded she would be glad to be freed from my
presence, which is an evident restraint and annoyance to her, were it
not for some motive stronger than natural affection that binds her to
me."

"Now, in good sooth, you amaze me, Alizon!" cried Dorothy. "What
possible motive can it be, if not of affection?"

"Of interest, I think," replied Alizon. "I speak to you without reserve,
dear young lady, for the sympathy you have shown me deserves and
demands confidence on my part, and there are none with whom I can freely
converse, so that every emotion has been locked up in my own bosom. My
mother fancies I shall one day be of use to her, and therefore keeps me
with her. Hints to this effect she has thrown out, when indulging in the
uncontrollable fits of passion to which she is liable. And yet I have no
just reason to complain; for though she has shown me little maternal
tenderness, and repelled all exhibition of affection on my part, she has
treated me very differently from her other children, and with much
greater consideration. I can make slight boast of education, but the
best the village could afford has been given me; and I have derived much
religious culture from good Doctor Ormerod. The kind ladies of the
vicarage proposed, as you have done, that I should live with them, but
my mother forbade it; enjoining me, on the peril of incurring her
displeasure, not to leave her, and reminding me of all the benefits I
have received from her, and of the necessity of making an adequate
return. And, ungrateful indeed I should be, if I did not comply; for,
though her manner is harsh and cold to me, she has never ill-used me, as
she has done her favourite child, my little sister Jennet, but has
always allowed me a separate chamber, where I can retire when I please,
to read, or meditate, or pray. For, alas! dear young lady, I dare not
pray before my mother. Be not shocked at what I tell you, but I cannot
hide it. My poor mother denies herself the consolation of
religion--never addresses herself to Heaven in prayer--never opens the
book of Life and Truth--never enters church. In her own mistaken way she
has brought up poor little Jennet, who has been taught to make a scoff
at religious truths and ordinances, and has never been suffered to keep
holy the Sabbath-day. Happy and thankful am I, that no such evil lessons
have been taught me, but rather, that I have profited by the sad
example. In my own secret chamber I have prayed, daily and nightly, for
both--prayed that their hearts might be turned. Often have I besought my
mother to let me take Jennet to church, but she never would consent. And
in that poor misguided child, dear young lady, there is a strange
mixture of good and ill. Afflicted with personal deformity, and delicate
in health, the mind perhaps sympathising with the body, she is wayward
and uncertain in temper, but sensitive and keenly alive to kindness, and
with a shrewdness beyond her years. At the risk of offending my mother,
for I felt confident I was acting rightly, I have endeavoured to instil
religious principles into her heart, and to inspire her with a love of
truth. Sometimes she has listened to me; and I have observed strange
struggles in her nature, as if the good were obtaining mastery of the
evil principle, and I have striven the more to convince her, and win her
over, but never with entire success, for my efforts have been overcome
by pernicious counsels, and sceptical sneers. Oh, dear young lady, what
would I not do to be the instrument of her salvation!"

"You pain me much by this relation, Alizon," said Dorothy Assheton, who
had listened with profound attention, "and I now wish more ardently than
ever to take you from such a family."

"I cannot leave them, dear young lady," replied Alizon; "for I feel I
may be of infinite service--especially to Jennet--by staying with them.
Where there is a soul to be saved, especially the soul of one dear as a
sister, no sacrifice can be too great to make--no price too heavy to
pay. By the blessing of Heaven I hope to save her! And that is the great
tie that binds me to a home, only so in name."

"I will not oppose your virtuous intentions, dear Alizon," replied
Dorothy; "but I must now mention a circumstance in connexion with your
mother, of which you are perhaps in ignorance, but which it is right you
should know, and therefore no false delicacy on my part shall restrain
me from mentioning it. Your grandmother, Old Demdike, is in very ill
depute in Pendle, and is stigmatised by the common folk, and even by
others, as a witch. Your mother, too, shares in the opprobrium attaching
to her."

"I dreaded this," replied Alizon, turning deadly pale, and trembling
violently, "I feared you had heard the terrible report. But oh, believe
it not! My poor mother is erring enough, but she is not so bad as that.
Oh, believe it not!"

"I will not believe it," said Dorothy, "since she is blessed with such a
daughter as you. But what I fear is that you--you so kind, so good, so
beautiful--may come under the same ban."

"I must run this risk also, in the good work I have appointed myself,"
replied Alizon. "If I am ill thought of by men, I shall have the
approval of my own conscience to uphold me. Whatever betide, and
whatever be said, do not you think ill of me, dear young lady."

"Fear it not," returned Dorothy, earnestly.

While thus conversing, they gradually strayed away from the cherry-tree,
and taking a winding path leading in that direction, entered the
conventual church, about the middle of the south aisle. After gazing
with wonder and delight at the still majestic pillars, that, like ghosts
of the departed brethren, seemed to protest against the desolation
around them, they took their way along the nave, through broken arches,
and over prostrate fragments of stone, to the eastern extremity of the
fane, and having admired the light shafts and clerestory windows of the
choir, as well as the magnificent painted glass over the altar, they
stopped before an arched doorway on the right, with two Gothic niches,
in one of which was a small stone statue of Saint Agnes with her lamb,
and in the other a similar representation of Saint Margaret, crowned,
and piercing the dragon with a cross. Both were sculptures of much
merit, and it was wonderful they had escaped destruction. The door was
closed, but it easily opened when tried by Dorothy, and they found
themselves in a small but beautiful chapel. What struck them chiefly in
it was a magnificent monument of white marble, enriched with numerous
small shields, painted and gilt, supporting two recumbent figures,
representing Henry de Lacy, one of the founders of the Abbey, and his
consort. The knight was cased in plate armour, covered with a surcoat,
emblazoned with his arms, and his feet resting upon a hound. This superb
monument was wholly uninjured, the painting and gilding being still
fresh and bright. Behind it a flag had been removed, discovering a
flight of steep stone steps, leading to a vault, or other subterranean
chamber.

After looking round this chapel, Dorothy remarked, "There is something
else that has just occurred to me. When a child, a strange dark tale was
told me, to the effect that the last ill-fated Abbot of Whalley laid his
dying curse upon your grandmother, then an infant, predicting that she
should be a witch, and the mother of witches."

"I have heard the dread tradition, too," rejoined Alizon; "but I cannot,
will not, believe it. An all-benign Power will never sanction such
terrible imprecations."

"Far be it from me to affirm the contrary," replied Dorothy; "but it is
undoubted that some families have been, and are, under the influence of
an inevitable fatality. In one respect, connected also with the same
unfortunate prelate, I might instance our own family. Abbot Paslew is
said to be unlucky to us even in his grave. If such a curse, as I have
described, hangs over the head of your family, all your efforts to
remove it will be ineffectual."

"I trust not," said Alizon. "Oh! dear young lady, you have now
penetrated the secret of my heart. The mystery of my life is laid open
to you. Disguise it as I may, I cannot but believe my mother to be under
some baneful influence. Her unholy life, her strange actions, all
impress me with the idea. And there is the same tendency in Jennet."

"You have a brother, have you not?" inquired Dorothy.

"I have," returned Alizon, slightly colouring; "but I see little of him,
for he lives near my grandmother, in Pendle Forest, and always avoids me
in his rare visits here. You will think it strange when I tell you I
have never beheld my grandmother Demdike."

"I am glad to hear it," exclaimed Dorothy.

"I have never even been to Pendle," pursued Alizon, "though Jennet and
my mother go there frequently. At one time I much wished to see my aged
relative, and pressed my mother to take me with her; but she refused,
and now I have no desire to go."

"Strange!" exclaimed Dorothy. "Every thing you tell me strengthens the
idea I conceived, the moment I saw you, and which my brother also
entertained, that you are not the daughter of Elizabeth Device."

"Did your brother think this?" cried Alizon, eagerly. But she
immediately cast down her eyes.

"He did," replied Dorothy, not noticing her confusion. "'It is
impossible,' he said, 'that that lovely girl can be sprung from'--but I
will not wound you by adding the rest."

"I cannot disown my kindred," said Alizon. "Still, I must confess that
some notions of the sort have crossed me, arising, probably, from my
mother's extraordinary treatment, and from many other circumstances,
which, though trifling in themselves, were not without weight in leading
me to the conclusion. Hitherto I have treated it only as a passing
fancy, but if you and Master Richard Assheton"--and her voice slightly
faltered as she pronounced the name--"think so, it may warrant me in
more seriously considering the matter."

"Do consider it most seriously, dear Alizon," cried Dorothy. "I have
made up my mind, and Richard has made up his mind, too, that you are not
Mother Demdike's grand-daughter, nor Elizabeth Device's daughter, nor
Jennet's sister--nor any relation of theirs. We are sure of it, and we
will have you of our mind."

The fair and animated speaker could not help noticing the blushes that
mantled Alizon's cheeks as she spoke, but she attributed them to other
than the true cause. Nor did she mend the matter as she proceeded.

"I am sure you are well born, Alizon," she said, "and so it will be
found in the end. And Richard thinks so, too, for he said so to me; and
Richard is my oracle, Alizon."

In spite of herself Alizon's eyes sparkled with pleasure; but she
speedily checked the emotion.

"I must not indulge the dream," she said, with a sigh.

"Why not?" cried Dorothy. "I will have strict inquiries made as to your
history."

"I cannot consent to it," replied Alizon. "I cannot leave one who, if
she be not my parent, has stood to me in that relation. Neither can I
have her brought into trouble on my account. What will she think of me,
if she learns I have indulged such a notion? She will say, and with
truth, that I am the most ungrateful of human beings, as well as the
most unnatural of children. No, dear young lady, it must not be. These
fancies are brilliant, but fallacious, and, like bubbles, burst as soon
as formed."

"I admire your sentiments, though I do not admit the justice of your
reasoning," rejoined Dorothy. "It is not on your own account merely,
though that is much, that the secret of your birth--if there be
one--ought to be cleared up; but, for the sake of those with whom you
may be connected. There may be a mother, like mine, weeping for you as
lost--a brother, like Richard, mourning you as dead. Think of the sad
hearts your restoration will make joyful. As to Elizabeth Device, no
consideration should be shown her. If she has stolen you from your
parents, as I suspect, she deserves no pity."

"All this is mere surmise, dear young lady," replied Alizon.

At this juncture they were startled, by seeing an old woman come from
behind the monument and plant herself before them. Both uttered a cry,
and would have fled, but a gesture from the crone detained them. Very
old was she, and of strange and sinister aspect, almost blind, bent
double, with frosted brows and chin, and shaking with palsy.

"Stay where you are," cried the hag, in an imperious tone. "I want to
speak to you. Come nearer to me, my pretty wheans; nearer--nearer."

And as they complied, drawn towards her by an impulse they could not
resist, the old woman caught hold of Alizon's arm, and said with a
chuckle. "So you are the wench they call Alizon Device, eh!"

"Ay," replied Alizon, trembling like a dove in the talons of a hawk.

"Do you know who I am?" cried the hag, grasping her yet more tightly.
"Do you know who I am, I say? If not, I will tell you. I am Mother
Chattox of Pendle Forest, the rival of Mother Demdike, and the enemy of
all her accursed brood. Now, do you know me, wench? Men call me witch.
Whether I am so or not, I have some power, as they and you shall find.
Mother Demdike has often defied me--often injured me, but I will have my
revenge upon her--ha! ha!"

"Let me go," cried Alizon, greatly terrified.

"I will run and bring assistance," cried Dorothy. And she flew to the
door, but it resisted her attempts to open it.

"Come back," screamed the hag. "You strive in vain. The door is fast
shut--fast shut. Come back, I say. Who are you?" she added, as the maid
drew near, ready to sink with terror. "Your voice is an Assheton's
voice. I know you now. You are Dorothy Assheton--whey-skinned, blue-eyed
Dorothy. Listen to me, Dorothy. I owe your family a grudge, and, if you
provoke me, I will pay it off in part on you. Stir not, as you value
your life."

The poor girl did not dare to move, and Alizon remained as if fascinated
by the terrible old woman.

"I will tell you what has happened, Dorothy," pursued Mother Chattox. "I
came hither to Whalley on business of my own; meddling with no one;
harming no one. Tread upon the adder and it will bite; and, when
molested, I bite like the adder. Your cousin, Nick Assheton, came in my
way, called me 'witch,' and menaced me. I cursed him--ha! ha! And then
your brother, Richard--"

[Illustration: MOTHER CHATTOX, ALIZON, AND DOROTHY.]

"What of him, in Heaven's name?" almost shrieked Alizon.

"How's this?" exclaimed Mother Chattox, placing her hand on the beating
heart of the girl.

"What of Richard Assheton?" repeated Alizon.

"You love him, I feel you do, wench," cried the old crone with fierce
exultation.

"Release me, wicked woman," cried Alizon.

"Wicked, am I? ha! ha!" rejoined Mother Chattox, chuckling maliciously,
"because, forsooth, I read thy heart, and betray its secrets. Wicked,
eh! I tell thee wench again, Richard Assheton is lord and master here.
Every pulse in thy bosom beats for him--for him alone. But beware of his
love. Beware of it, I say. It shall bring thee ruin and despair."

"For pity's sake, release me," implored Alizon.

"Not yet," replied the inexorable old woman, "not yet. My tale is not
half told. My curse fell on Richard's head, as it did on Nicholas's. And
then the hell-hounds thought to catch me; but they were at fault. I
tricked them nicely--ha! ha! However, they took my Nance--my pretty
Nance--they seized her, bound her, bore her to the Calder--and there
swam her. Curses light on them all!--all!--but chief on him who did it!"

"Who was he?" inquired Alizon, tremblingly.

"Jem Device," replied the old woman--"it was he who bound her--he who
plunged her in the river, he who swam her. But I will pinch and plague
him for it, I will strew his couch with nettles, and all wholesome food
shall be poison to him. His blood shall be as water, and his flesh
shrink from his bones. He shall waste away slowly--slowly--slowly--till
he drops like a skeleton into the grave ready digged for him. All
connected with him shall feel my fury. I would kill thee now, if thou
wert aught of his."

"Aught of his! What mean you, old woman?" demanded Alizon.

"Why, this," rejoined Mother Chattox, "and let the knowledge work in
thee, to the confusion of Bess Device. Thou art not her daughter."

"It is as I thought," cried Dorothy Assheton, roused by the intelligence
from her terror.

"I tell thee not this secret to pleasure thee," continued Mother
Chattox, "but to confound Elizabeth Device. I have no other motive. She
hath provoked my vengeance, and she shall feel it. Thou art not her
child, I say. The secret of thy birth is known to me, but the time is
not yet come for its disclosure. It shall out, one day, to the confusion
of those who offend me. When thou goest home tell thy reputed mother
what I have said, and mark how she takes the information. Ha! who comes
here?"

The hag's last exclamation was occasioned by the sudden appearance of
Mistress Nutter, who opened the door of the chapel, and, staring in
astonishment at the group, came quickly forward.

"What makes you here, Mother Chattox?" she cried.

"I came here to avoid pursuit," replied the old hag, with a cowed
manner, and in accents sounding strangely submissive after her late
infuriated tone.

"What have you been saying to these girls?" demanded Mistress Nutter,
authoritatively.

"Ask them," the hag replied.

"She declares that Alizon is not the daughter of Elizabeth Device,"
cried Dorothy Assheton.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter quickly, and as if a spring of
extraordinary interest had been suddenly touched. "What reason hast thou
for this assertion?"

"No good reason," replied the old woman evasively, yet with evident
apprehension of her questioner.

"Good reason or bad, I will have it," cried Mistress Nutter.

"What you, too, take an interest in the wench, like the rest!" returned
Mother Chattox. "Is she so very winning?"

"That is no answer to my question," said the lady. "Whose child is she?"

"Ask Bess Device, or Mother Demdike," replied Mother Chattox; "they know
more about the matter than me."

"I will have thee speak, and to the purpose," cried the lady, angrily.

"Many an one has lost a child who would gladly have it back again," said
the old hag, mysteriously.

"Who has lost one?" asked Mistress Nutter.

"Nay, it passeth me to tell," replied the old woman with affected
ignorance. "Question those who stole her. I have set you on the track.
If you fail in pursuing it, come to me. You know where to find me."

"You shall not go thus," said Mistress Nutter. "I will have a direct
answer now."

And as she spoke she waved her hands twice or thrice over the old woman.
In doing this her figure seemed to dilate, and her countenance underwent
a marked and fearful change. All her beauty vanished, her eyes blazed,
and terror sat on her wrinkled brow. The hag, on the contrary, crouched
lower down, and seemed to dwindle less than her ordinary size. Writhing
as from heavy blows, and with a mixture of malice and fear in her
countenance, she cried, "Were I to speak, you would not thank me. Let me
go."

"Answer," vociferated Mistress Nutter, disregarding the caution, and
speaking in a sharp piercing voice, strangely contrasting with her
ordinary utterance. "Answer, I say, or I will beat thee to the dust."

And she continued her gestures, while the sufferings of the old hag
evidently increased, and she crouched nearer and nearer to the ground,
moaning out the words, "Do not force me to speak. You will repent
it!--you will repent it!"

"Do not torment her thus, madam," cried Alizon, who with Dorothy looked
at the strange scene with mingled apprehension and wonderment. "Much as
I desire to know the secret of my birth, I would not obtain it thus."

As she uttered these words, the old woman contrived to shuffle off, and
disappeared behind the tomb.

"Why did you interpose, Alizon," cried Mistress Nutter, somewhat
angrily, and dropping her hands. "You broke the power I had over her. I
would have compelled her to speak."

"I thank you, gracious lady, for your consideration," replied Alizon,
gratefully; "but the sight was too painful."

"What has become of her--where is she gone?" cried Dorothy, peeping
behind the tomb. "She has crept into this vault, I suppose."

"Do not trouble yourelf about her more, Dorothy," said Mistress Nutter,
resuming her wonted voice and wonted looks. "Let us return to the house.
Thus much is ascertained, Alizon, that you are no child of your supposed
parent. Wait a little, and the rest shall be found out for you. And,
meantime, be assured that I take strong interest in you."

"That we all do," added Dorothy.

"Thank you! thank you!" exclaimed Alizon, almost overpowered.

With this they went forth, and, traversing the shafted aisle, quitted
the conventual church, and took their way along the alley leading to the
garden.

"Say not a word at present to Elizabeth Device of the information you
have obtained, Alizon," observed Mistress Nutter. "I have reasons for
this counsel, which I will afterwards explain to you. And do you keep
silence on the subject, Dorothy."

"May I not tell Richard?" said the young lady.

"Not Richard--not any one," returned Mistress Nutter, "or you may
seriously affect Alizon's prospects."

"You have cautioned me in time," cried Dorothy, "for here comes my
brother with our cousin Nicholas."

And as she spoke a turn in the alley showed Richard and Nicholas
Assheton advancing towards them.

A strange revolution had been produced in Alizon's feelings by the
events of the last half hour. The opinions expressed by Dorothy
Assheton, as to her birth, had been singularly confirmed by Mother
Chattox; but could reliance be placed on the old woman's assertions?
Might they not have been made with mischievous intent? And was it not
possible, nay, probable, that, in her place of concealment behind the
tomb, the vindictive hag had overheard the previous conversation with
Dorothy, and based her own declaration upon it? All these suggestions
occurred to Alizon, but the previous idea having once gained admission
to her breast, soon established itself firmly there, in spite of doubts
and misgivings, and began to mix itself up with new thoughts and
wishes, with which other persons were connected; for she could not help
fancying she might be well-born, and if so the vast distance heretofore
existing between her and Richard Assheton might be greatly diminished,
if not altogether removed. So rapid is the progress of thought, that
only a few minutes were required for this long train of reflections to
pass through her mind, and it was merely put to flight by the approach
of the main object of her thoughts.

On joining the party, Richard Assheton saw plainly that something had
happened; but as both his sister and Alizon laboured under evident
embarrassment, he abstained from making inquiries as to its cause for
the present, hoping a better opportunity of doing so would occur, and
the conversation was kept up by Nicholas Assheton, who described, in his
wonted lively manner, the encounter with Mother Chattox and Nance
Redferne, the swimming of the latter, and the trickery and punishment of
Potts. During the recital Mistress Nutter often glanced uneasily at the
two girls, but neither of them offered any interruption until Nicholas
had finished, when Dorothy, taking her brother's hand, said, with a look
of affectionate admiration, "You acted like yourself, dear Richard."

Alizon did not venture to give utterance to the same sentiment, but her
looks plainly expressed it.

"I only wish you had punished that cruel James Device, as well as saved
poor Nance," added Dorothy.

"Hush!" exclaimed Richard, glancing at Alizon.

"You need not be afraid of hurting her feelings," cried the young lady.
"She does not mind him now."

"What do you mean, Dorothy?" cried Richard, in surprise.

"Oh, nothing--nothing," she replied, hastily.

"Perhaps you will explain," said Richard to Alizon.

"Indeed I cannot," she answered in confusion.

"You would have laughed to see Potts creep out of the river," said
Nicholas, turning to Dorothy; "he looked just like a drowned
rat--ha!--ha!"

"You have made a bitter enemy of him, Nicholas," observed Mistress
Nutter; "so look well to yourself."

"I heed him not," rejoined the squire; "he knows me now too well to
meddle with me again, and I shall take good care how I put myself in his
power. One thing I may mention, to show the impotent malice of the
knave. Just as he was setting off, he said, 'This is not the only
discovery of witchcraft I have made to-day. I have another case nearer
home.' What could he mean?"

"I know not," replied Mistress Nutter, a shade of disquietude passing
over her countenance. "But he is quite capable of bringing the charge
against you or any of us."

"He is so," said Nicholas. "After what has occurred, I wonder whether
he will go over to Rough Lee to-morrow?"

"Very likely not," replied Mistress Nutter, "and in that case Master
Roger Nowell must provide some other person competent to examine the
boundary-line of the properties on his behalf."

"Then you are confident of the adjudication being in your favour?" said
Nicholas.

"Quite so," replied Mistress Nutter, with a self-satisfied smile.

"The result, I hope, may justify your expectation," said Nicholas; "but
it is right to tell you, that Sir Ralph, in consenting to postpone his
decision, has only done so out of consideration to you. If the division
of the properties be as represented by him, Master Nowell will
unquestionably obtain an award in his favour."

"Under such circumstances he may," said Mistress Nutter; "but you will
find the contrary turn out to be the fact. I will show you a plan I have
had lately prepared, and you can then judge for yourself."

While thus conversing, the party passed through a door in the high stone
wall dividing the garden from the court, and proceeded towards the
principal entrance of the mansion. Built out of the ruins of the Abbey,
which had served as a very convenient quarry for the construction of
this edifice, as well as for Portfield, the house was large and
irregular, planned chiefly with the view of embodying part of the old
abbot's lodging, and consisting of a wide front, with two wings, one of
which looked into the court, and the other, comprehending the long
gallery, into the garden. The old north-east gate of the Abbey, with its
lofty archway and embattled walls, served as an entrance to the great
court-yard, and at its wicket ordinarily stood Ned Huddlestone, the
porter, though he was absent on the present occasion, being occupied
with the May-day festivities. Immediately opposite the gateway sprang a
flight of stone steps, with a double landing-place and a broad
balustrade of the same material, on the lowest pillar of which was
placed a large escutcheon sculptured with the arms of the
family--argent, a mullet sable--with a rebus on the name--an ash on a
tun. The great door to which these steps conducted stood wide open, and
before it, on the upper landing-place, were collected Lady Assheton,
Mistress Braddyll, Mistress Nicholas Assheton, and some other dames,
laughing and conversing together. Some long-eared spaniels, favourites
of the lady of the house, were chasing each other up and down the steps,
disturbing the slumbers of a couple of fine blood-hounds in the
court-yard; or persecuting the proud peafowl that strutted about to
display their gorgeous plumage to the spectators.

On seeing the party approach, Lady Assheton came down to meet them.

"You have been long absent," she said to Dorothy; "but I suppose you
have been exploring the ruins?"

"Yes, we have not left a hole or corner unvisited," was the reply.

"That is right," said Lady Assheton. "I knew you would make a good
guide, Dorothy. Of course you have often seen the old conventual church
before, Alizon?"

"I am ashamed to say I have not, your ladyship," she replied.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Lady Assheton; "and yet you have lived all your life
in the village?"

"Quite true, your ladyship," answered Alizon; "but these ruins have been
prohibited to me."

"Not by us," said Lady Assheton; "they are open to every one."

"I was forbidden to visit them by my mother," said Alizon. And for the
first time the word "mother" seemed strange to her.

Lady Assheton looked surprised, but made no remark, and mounting the
steps, led the way to a spacious though not very lofty chamber, with
huge uncovered rafters, and a floor of polished oak. Over a great
fireplace at one side, furnished with immense andirons, hung a noble
pair of antlers, and similar trophies of the chase were affixed to other
parts of the walls. Here and there were likewise hung rusty skull-caps,
breastplates, two-handed and single-handed swords, maces, halberts, and
arquebusses, with chain-shirts, buff-jerkins, matchlocks, and other
warlike implements, amongst which were several shields painted with the
arms of the Asshetons and their alliances. High-backed chairs of gilt
leather were ranged against the walls, and ebony cabinets inlaid with
ivory were set between them at intervals, supporting rare specimens of
glass and earthenware. Opposite the fireplace, stood a large clock,
curiously painted and decorated with emblematical devices, with the
signs of the zodiac, and provided with movable figures to strike the
hours on a bell; while from the centre of the roof hung a great
chandelier of stag's horn.

Lady Assheton did not tarry long within the entrance hall, for such it
was, but conducted her guests through an arched doorway on the right
into the long gallery. One hundred and fifty feet in length, and
proportionately wide and lofty, this vast chamber had undergone little
change since its original construction by the old owners of the Abbey.
Panelled and floored with lustrous oak, and hung in some parts with
antique tapestry, representing scriptural subjects, one side was pierced
with lofty pointed windows, looking out upon the garden, while the
southern extremity boasted a magnificent window, with heavy stone
mullions, though of more recent workmanship than the framework,
commanding Whalley Nab and the river. The furniture of the apartment was
grand but gloomy, and consisted of antique chairs and tables belonging
to the Abbey. Some curious ecclesiastical sculptures, wood carvings, and
saintly images, were placed at intervals near the walls, and on the
upper panels were hung a row of family portraits.

Quitting the rest of the company, and proceeding to the southern
window, Dorothy invited Alizon and her brother to place themselves
beside her on the cushioned seats of the deep embrasure. Little
conversation, however, ensued; Alizon's heart being too full for
utterance, and recent occurrences engrossing Dorothy's thoughts, to the
exclusion of every thing else. Having made one or two unsuccessful
efforts to engage them in talk, Richard likewise lapsed into silence,
and gazed out on the lovely scenery before him. The evening has been
described as beautiful; and the swift Calder, as it hurried by, was
tinged with rays of the declining sun, whilst the woody heights of
Whalley Nab were steeped in the same rosy light. But the view failed to
interest Richard in his present mood, and after a brief survey, he stole
a look at Alizon, and was surprised to find her in tears.

"What saddening thoughts cross you, fair girl?" he inquired, with deep
interest.

"I can hardly account for my sudden despondency," she replied; "but I
have heard that great happiness is the precursor of dejection, and the
saying I suppose must be true, for I have been happier to-day than I
ever was before in my life. But the feeling of sadness is now past," she
added, smiling.

"I am glad of it," said Richard. "May I not know what has occurred to
you?"

"Not at present," interposed Dorothy; "but I am sure you will be pleased
when you are made acquainted with the circumstance. I would tell you now
if I might."

"May I guess?" said Richard.

"I don't know," rejoined Dorothy, who was dying to tell him. "May he?"

"Oh no, no!" cried Alizon.

"You are very perverse," said Richard, with a look of disappointment.
"There can be no harm in guessing; and you can please yourself as to
giving an answer. I fancy, then, that Alizon has made some discovery."

Dorothy nodded.

"Relative to her parentage?" pursued Richard.

Another nod.

"She has found out she is not Elizabeth Device's daughter?" said
Richard.

"Some witch must have told you this," exclaimed Dorothy.

"Have I indeed guessed rightly?" cried Richard, with an eagerness that
startled his sister. "Do not keep me in suspense. Speak plainly."

"How am I to answer him, Alizon?" said Dorothy.

"Nay, do not appeal to me, dear young lady," she answered, blushing.

"I have gone too far to retreat," rejoined Dorothy, "and therefore,
despite Mistress Nutter's interdiction, the truth shall out. You have
guessed shrewdly, Richard. A discovery _has_ been made--a very great
discovery. Alizon is not the daughter of Elizabeth Device."

"The intelligence delights me, though it scarcely surprises me," cried
Richard, gazing with heartfelt pleasure at the blushing girl; "for I was
sure of the fact from the first. Nothing so good and charming as Alizon
could spring from so foul a source. How and by what means you have
derived this information, as well as whose daughter you are, I shall
wait patiently to learn. Enough for me you are not the sister of James
Device--enough you are not the grandchild of Mother Demdike."

"You know all I know, in knowing thus much," replied Alizon, timidly.
"And secrecy has been enjoined by Mistress Nutter, in order that the
rest may be found out. But oh! should the hopes I have--perhaps too
hastily--indulged, prove fallacious--"

"They cannot be fallacious, Alizon," interrupted Richard, eagerly. "On
that score rest easy. Your connexion with that wretched family is for
ever broken. But I can see the necessity of caution, and shall observe
it. And so Mistress Nutter takes an interest in you?"

"The strongest," replied Dorothy; "but see! she comes this way."

But we must now go back for a short space.

While Mistress Nutter and Nicholas were seated at a table examining a
plan of the Rough Lee estates, the latter was greatly astonished to see
the door open and give admittance to Master Potts, who he fancied snugly
lying between a couple of blankets, at the Dragon. The attorney was clad
in a riding-dress, which he had exchanged for his wet habiliments, and
was accompanied by Sir Ralph Assheton and Master Roger Nowell. On seeing
Nicholas, he instantly stepped up to him.

"Aha! squire," he cried, "you did not expect to see me again so soon,
eh! A pottle of hot sack put my blood into circulation, and having,
luckily, a change of raiment in my valise, I am all right again. Not so
easily got rid of, you see!"

"So it appears," replied Nicholas, laughing.

"We have a trifling account to settle together, sir," said the attorney,
putting on a serious look.

"Whenever you please, sir," replied Nicholas, good-humouredly, tapping
the hilt of his sword.

"Not in that way," cried Potts, darting quickly back. "I never fight
with those weapons--never. Our dispute must be settled in a court of
law, sir--in a court of law. You understand, Master Nicholas?"

"There is a shrewd maxim, Master Potts, that he who is his own lawyer
has a fool for his client," observed Nicholas, drily. "Would it not be
better to stick to the defence of others, rather than practise in your
own behalf?"

"You have expressed my opinion, Master Nicholas," observed Roger
Nowell; "and I hope Master Potts will not commence any action on his own
account till he has finished my business."

"Assuredly not, sir, since you desire it," replied the attorney,
obsequiously. "But my motives must not be mistaken. I have a clear case
of assault and battery against Master Nicholas Assheton, or I may
proceed against him criminally for an attempt on my life."

"Have you given him no provocation, sir?" demanded Sir Ralph, sternly.

"No provocation can justify the treatment I have experienced, Sir
Ralph," replied Potts. "However, to show I am a man of peace, and
harbour no resentment, however just grounds I may have for such a
feeling, I am willing to make up the matter with Master Nicholas,
provided--"

"He offers you a handsome consideration, eh?" said the squire.

"Provided he offers me a handsome apology--such as a gentleman may
accept," rejoined Potts, consequentially.

"And which he will not refuse, I am sure," said Sir Ralph, glancing at
his cousin.

"I should certainly be sorry to have drowned you," said the
squire--"very sorry."

"Enough--enough--I am content," cried Potts, holding out his hand, which
Nicholas grasped with an energy that brought tears into the little man's
eyes.

"I am glad the matter is amicably adjusted," observed Roger Nowell, "for
I suspect both parties have been to blame. And I must now request you,
Master Potts, to forego your search, and inquiries after witches, till
such time as you have settled this question of the boundary line for me.
One matter at a time, my good sir."

"But, Master Nowell," cried Potts, "my much esteemed and singular good
client--"

"I will have no nay," interrupted Nowell, peremptorily.

"Hum!" muttered Potts; "I shall lose the best chance of distinction ever
thrown in my way."

"I care not," said Nowell.

"Just as you came up, Master Nowell," observed Nicholas, "I was
examining a plan of the disputed estates in Pendle Forest. It differs
from yours, and, if correct, certainly substantiates Mistress Nutter's
claim."

"I have mine with me," replied Nowell, producing a plan, and opening it.
"We can compare the two, if you please. The line runs thus:--From the
foot of Pendle Hill, beginning with Barley Booth, the boundary is marked
by a stone wall, as far as certain fields in the occupation of John
Ogden. Is it not so?"

"It is," replied Nicholas, comparing the statement with the other plan.

"It then runs on in a northerly direction," pursued Nowell, "towards
Burst Clough, and here the landmarks are certain stones placed in the
moor, one hundred yards apart, and giving me twenty acres of this land,
and Mistress Nutter ten."

"On the contrary," replied Nicholas. "This plan gives Mistress Nutter
twenty acres, and you ten."

"Then the plan is wrong," cried Nowell, sharply.

"It has been carefully prepared," said Mistress Nutter, who had
approached the table.

"No matter; it is wrong, I say," cried Nowell, angrily.

"You see where the landmarks are placed, Master Nowell," said Nicholas,
pointing to the measurement. "I merely go by them."

"The landmarks are improperly placed in that plan," cried Nowell.

"I will examine them myself to-morrow," said Potts, taking out a large
memorandum-hook; "there cannot be an error of ten acres--ten perches--or
ten feet, possibly, but acres--pshaw!"

"Laugh as you please; but go on," said Mrs. Nutter.

"Well, then," pursued Nicholas, "the line approaches the bank of a
rivulet, called Moss Brook--a rare place for woodcocks and snipes that
Moss Brook, I may remark--the land on the left consisting of five acres
of waste land, marked by a sheepfold, and two posts set up in a line
with it, belonging to Mistress Nutter."

"To Mistress Nutter!" exclaimed Nowell, indignantly. "To me, you mean."

"It is here set down to Mistress Nutter," said Nicholas.

"Then it is set down wrongfully," cried Nowell. "That plan is altogether
incorrect."

"On which side of the field does the rivulet flow?" inquired Potts.

"On the right," replied Nicholas.

"On the left," cried Nowell.

"There must be some extraordinary mistake," said Potts. "I shall make a
note of that, and examine it to-morrow.--N.B. Waste land--sheepfold--
rivulet called Moss Brook, flowing on the left."

"On the right," cried Mistress Nutter.

"That remains to be seen," rejoined Potts, "I have made the entry as on
the left."

"Go on, Master Nicholas," said Nowell, "I should like to see how many
other errors that plan contains."

"Passing the rivulet," pursued the squire, "we come to a footpath
leading to the limestone quarry, about which there can be no mistake.
Then by Cat Gallows Wood and Swallow Hole; and then by another path to
Worston Moor, skirting a hut in the occupation of James Device--ha! ha!
Master Jem, are you here? I thought you dwelt with your grandmother at
Malkin Tower--excuse me, Master Nowell, but one must relieve the dulness
of this plan by an exclamation or so--and here being waste land again,
the landmarks are certain stones set at intervals towards Hook Cliff,
and giving Mistress Nutter two-thirds of the whole moor, and Master
Roger Nowell one-third."

"False again," cried Nowell, furiously. "The two-thirds are mine, the
one-third Mistress Nutter's."

"Somebody must be very wrong," cried Nicholas.

"Very wrong indeed," added Potts; "and I suspect that that somebody
is--"

"Master Nowell," said Mistress Nutter.

"Mistress Nutter," cried Master Nowell.

"Both are wrong and both right, according to your own showing," said
Nicholas, laughing.

"To-morrow will decide the question," said Potts.

"Better wait till then," interposed Sir Ralph. "Take both plans with
you, and you will then ascertain which is correct."

"Agreed," cried Nowell. "Here is mine."

"And here is mine," said Mistress Nutter. "I will abide by the
investigation."

"And Master Potts and I will verify the statements," said Nicholas.

"We will, sir," replied the attorney, putting his memorandum book in his
pocket. "We will."

The plans were then delivered to the custody of Sir Ralph, who promised
to hand them over to Potts and Nicholas on the morrow.

The party then separated; Mistress Nutter shaping her course towards the
window where Alizon and the two other young people were seated, while
Potts, plucking the squire's sleeve, said, with a very mysterious look,
that he desired a word with him in private. Wondering what could be the
nature of the communication the attorney desired to make, Nicholas
withdrew with him into a corner, and Nowell, who saw them retire, and
could not help watching them with some curiosity, remarked that the
squire's hilarious countenance fell as he listened to the attorney,
while, on the contrary, the features of the latter gleamed with
malicious satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Mistress Nutter approached Alizon, and beckoning her towards
her, they quitted the room together. As the young girl went forth, she
cast a wistful look at Dorothy and her brother.

"You think with me, that that lovely girl is well born?" said Dorothy,
as Alizon disappeared.

"It were heresy to doubt it," answered Richard.

"Shall I tell you another secret?" she continued, regarding him
fixedly--"if, indeed, it be a secret, for you must be sadly wanting in
discernment if you have not found it out ere this. She loves you."

"Dorothy!" exclaimed Richard.

"I am sure of it," she rejoined. "But I would not tell you this, if I
were not quite equally sure that you love her in return."

"On my faith, Dorothy, you give yourself credit for wonderful
penetration," cried Richard.

"Not a whit more than I am entitled to," she answered. "Nay, it will not
do to attempt concealment with me. If I had not been certain of the
matter before, your manner now would convince me. I am very glad of it.
She will make a charming sister, and I shall he very fond of her."

"How you do run on, madcap!" cried her brother, trying to look
displeased, but totally failing in assuming the expression.

"Stranger things have come to pass," said Dorothy; "and one reads in
story-hooks of young nobles marrying village maidens in spite of
parental opposition. I dare say you will get nobody's consent to the
marriage but mine, Richard."

"I dare say not," he replied, rather blankly.

"That is, if she should not turn out to be somebody's daughter," pursued
Dorothy; "somebody, I mean, quite as great as the heir of Middleton,
which I make no doubt she will."

"I hope she may," replied Richard.

"Why, you don't mean to say you wouldn't marry her if she didn't!" cried
Dorothy. "I'm ashamed of you, Richard."

"It would remove all opposition, at all events," said her brother.

"So it would," said Dorothy; "and now I'll tell you another notion of
mine, Richard. Somehow or other, it has come into my head that Alizon is
the daughter of--whom do you think?"

"Whom!" he cried.

"Guess," she rejoined.

"I can't," he exclaimed, impatiently.

"Well, then, I'll tell you without more ado," she answered. "Mind, it's
only my notion, and I've no precise grounds for it. But, in my opinion,
she's the daughter of the lady who has just left the room."

"Of Mistress Nutter!" ejaculated Richard, starting. "What makes you
think so?"

"The extraordinary and otherwise unaccountable interest she takes in
her," replied Dorothy. "And, if you recollect, Mistress Nutter had an
infant daughter who was lost in a strange manner."

"I thought the child died," replied Richard; "but it may be as you say.
I hope it is so."

"Time will show," said Dorothy; "but I have made up my mind about the
matter."

At this moment Nicholas Assheton came up to them, looking grave and
uneasy.

"What has happened?" asked Richard, anxiously.

"I have just received some very unpleasant intelligence," replied
Nicholas. "I told you of a menace uttered by that confounded Potts, on
quitting me after his ducking. He has now spoken out plainly, and
declares he overheard part of a conversation between Mistress Nutter and
Elizabeth Device, which took place in the ruins of the convent church
this morning, and he is satisfied that--"

"Well!" cried Richard, breathlessly.

"That Mistress Nutter is a witch, and in league with witches," continued
Nicholas.

"Ha!" exclaimed Richard, turning deathly pale.

"I suspect the rascal has invented the charge," said Nicholas; "but he
is quite unscrupulous enough to make it; and, if made, it will be fatal
to our relative's reputation, if not to her life."

"It is false, I am sure of it," cried Richard, torn by conflicting
emotions.

"Would I could think so!" cried Dorothy, suddenly recollecting Mistress
Nutter's strange demeanour in the little chapel, and the unaccountable
influence she seemed to exercise over the old crone. "But something has
occurred to-day that leads me to a contrary conviction."

"What is it? Speak!" cried Richard.

"Not now--not now," replied Dorothy.

"Whatever suspicions you may entertain, keep silence, or you will
destroy Mistress Nutter," said Nicholas.

"Fear me not," rejoined Dorothy. "Oh, Alizon!" she murmured, "that this
unhappy question should arise at such a moment."

"Do you indeed believe the charge, Dorothy?" asked Richard, in a low
voice.

"I do," she answered in the same tone. "If Alizon be her daughter, she
can never be your wife."

"How?" cried Richard.

"Never--never!" repeated Dorothy, emphatically. "The daughter of a
witch, be that witch named Elizabeth Device or Alice Nutter, is no mate
for you."

"You prejudge Mistress Nutter, Dorothy," he cried.

"Alas! Richard. I have too good reason for what I say," she answered,
sadly.

Richard uttered an exclamation of despair. And on the instant the lively
sounds of tabor and pipe, mixed with the jingling of bells, arose from
the court-yard, and presently afterwards an attendant entered to
announce that the May-day revellers were without, and directions were
given by Sir Ralph that they should be shown into the great
banqueting-hall below the gallery, which had been prepared for their
reception.




CHAPTER VIII.--THE REVELATION.


On quitting the long gallery, Mistress Nutter and Alizon ascended a wide
staircase, and, traversing a corridor, came to an antique, tapestried
chamber, richly but cumbrously furnished, having a carved oak bedstead
with sombre hangings, a few high-backed chairs of the same material, and
a massive wardrobe, with shrine-work atop, and two finely sculptured
figures, of the size of life, in the habits of Cistertian monks, placed
as supporters at either extremity. At one side of the bed the tapestry
was drawn aside, showing the entrance to a closet or inner room, and
opposite it there was a great yawning fireplace, with a lofty
mantelpiece and chimney projecting beyond the walls. The windows were
narrow, and darkened by heavy transom bars and small diamond panes while
the view without, looking upon Whalley Nab, was obstructed by the
contiguity of a tall cypress, whose funereal branches added to the
general gloom. The room was one of those formerly allotted to their
guests by the hospitable abbots, and had undergone little change since
their time, except in regard to furniture; and even that appeared old
and faded now. What with the gloomy arras, the shrouded bedstead, and
the Gothic wardrobe with its mysterious figures, the chamber had a grim,
ghostly air, and so the young girl thought on entering it.

"I have brought you hither, Alizon," said Mistress Nutter, motioning her
to a seat, "that we may converse without chance of interruption, for I
have much to say. On first seeing you to-day, your appearance, so
superior to the rest of the May-day mummers, struck me forcibly, and I
resolved to question Elizabeth Device about you. Accordingly I bade her
join me in the Abbey gardens. She did so, and had not long left me when
I accidentally met you and the others in the Lacy Chapel. When
questioned, Elizabeth affected great surprise, and denied positively
that there was any foundation for the idea that you were other than her
child; but, notwithstanding her asseverations, I could see from her
confused manner that there was more in the notion than she chose to
admit, and I determined to have recourse to other means of arriving at
the truth, little expecting my suspicions would be so soon confirmed by
Mother Chattox. To my interrogation of that old woman, you were yourself
a party, and I am now rejoiced that you interfered to prevent me from
prosecuting my inquiries to the utmost. There was one present from whom
the secret of your birth must be strictly kept--at least, for
awhile--and my impatience carried me too far."

"I only obeyed a natural impulse, madam," said Alizon; "but I am at a
loss to conceive what claim I can possibly have to the consideration you
show me."

"Listen to me, and you shall learn," replied Mistress Nutter. "It is a
sad tale, and its recital will tear open old wounds, but it must not be
withheld on that account. I do not ask you to bury the secrets I am
about to impart in the recesses of your bosom. You will do so when you
learn them, without my telling you. When little more than your age I was
wedded; but not to him I would have chosen if choice had been permitted
me. The union I need scarcely say was unhappy--most unhappy--though my
discomforts were scrupulously concealed, and I was looked upon as a
devoted wife, and my husband as a model of conjugal affection. But this
was merely the surface--internally all was strife and misery. Erelong my
dislike of my husband increased to absolute hate, while on his part,
though he still regarded me with as much passion as heretofore, he
became frantically jealous--and above all of Edward Braddyll of
Portfield, who, as his bosom friend, and my distant relative, was a
frequent visiter at the house. To relate the numerous exhibitions of
jealousy that occurred would answer little purpose, and it will be
enough to say that not a word or look passed between Edward and myself
but was misconstrued. I took care never to be alone with our guest--nor
to give any just ground for suspicion--but my caution availed nothing.
An easy remedy would have been to forbid Edward the house, but this my
husband's pride rejected. He preferred to endure the jealous torment
occasioned by the presence of his wife's fancied lover, and inflict
needless anguish on her, rather than brook the jeers of a few
indifferent acquaintances. The same feeling made him desire to keep up
an apparent good understanding with me; and so far I seconded his views,
for I shared in his pride, if in nothing else. Our quarrels were all in
private, when no eye could see us--no ear listen."

"Yours is a melancholy history, madam," remarked Alizon, in a tone of
profound interest.

"You will think so ere I have done," returned the lady, sadly. "The only
person in my confidence, and aware of my secret sorrows, was Elizabeth
Device, who with her husband, John Device, then lived at Rough Lee.
Serving me in the quality of tire-woman and personal attendant, she
could not be kept in ignorance of what took place, and the poor soul
offered me all the sympathy in her power. Much was it needed, for I had
no other sympathy. After awhile, I know not from what cause, unless from
some imprudence on the part of Edward Braddyll, who was wild and
reckless, my husband conceived worse suspicions than ever of me, and
began to treat me with such harshness and cruelty, that, unable longer
to endure his violence, I appealed to my father. But he was of a stern
and arbitrary nature, and, having forced me into the match, would not
listen to my complaints, but bade me submit. 'It was my duty to do so,'
he said, and he added some cutting expressions to the effect that I
deserved the treatment I experienced, and dismissed me. Driven to
desperation, I sought counsel and assistance from one I should most have
avoided--from Edward Braddyll--and he proposed flight from my husband's
roof--flight with him."

"But you were saved, madam?" cried Alizon, greatly shocked by the
narration. "You were saved?"

"Hear me out," rejoined Mistress Nutter. "Outraged as my feelings were,
and loathsome as my husband was to me, I spurned the base proposal, and
instantly quitted my false friend. Nor would I have seen him more, if
permitted; but that secret interview with him was my first and
last;--for it had been witnessed by my husband."

"Ha!" exclaimed Alizon.

"Concealed behind the arras, Richard Nutter heard enough to confirm his
worst suspicions," pursued the lady; "but he did not hear my
justification. He saw Edward Braddyll at my feet--he heard him urge me
to fly--but he did not wait to learn if I consented, and, looking upon
me as guilty, left his hiding-place to take measures for frustrating the
plan, he supposed concerted between us. That night I was made prisoner
in my room, and endured treatment the most inhuman. But a proposal was
made by my husband, that promised some alleviation of my suffering.
Henceforth we were to meet only in public, when a semblance of affection
was to be maintained on both sides. This was done, he said, to save my
character, and preserve his own name unspotted in the eyes of others,
however tarnished it might be in his own. I willingly consented to the
arrangement; and thus for a brief space I became tranquil, if not happy.
But another and severer trial awaited me."

"Alas, madam!" exclaimed Alizon, sympathisingly.

"My cup of sorrow, I thought, was full," pursued Mistress Nutter; "but
the drop was wanting to make it overflow. It came soon enough. Amidst my
griefs I expected to be a mother, and with that thought how many fond
and cheering anticipations mingled! In my child I hoped to find a balm
for my woes: in its smiles and innocent endearments a compensation for
the harshness and injustice I had experienced. How little did I foresee
that it was to be a new instrument of torture to me; and that I should
be cruelly robbed of the only blessing ever vouchsafed me!"

"Did the child die, madam?" asked Alizon.

"You shall hear," replied Mistress Nutter. "A daughter was born to me. I
was made happy by its birth. A new existence, bright and unclouded,
seemed dawning upon me; but it was like a sunburst on a stormy day. Some
two months before this event Elizabeth Device had given birth to a
daughter, and she now took my child under her fostering care; for
weakness prevented me from affording it the support it is a mother's
blessed privilege to bestow. She seemed as fond of it as myself; and
never was babe more calculated to win love than my little Millicent. Oh!
how shall I go on? The retrospect I am compelled to take is frightful,
but I cannot shun it. The foul and false suspicions entertained by my
husband began to settle on the child. He would not believe it to be his
own. With violent oaths and threats he first announced his odious
suspicions to Elizabeth Device, and she, full of terror, communicated
them to me. The tidings filled me with inexpressible alarm; for I knew,
if the dread idea had once taken possession of him, it would never be
removed, while what he threatened would be executed. I would have fled
at once with my poor babe if I had known where to go; but I had no place
of shelter. It would be in vain to seek refuge with my father; and I had
no other relative or friend whom I could trust. Where then should I fly?
At last I bethought me of a retreat, and arranged a plan of escape with
Elizabeth Device. Vain were my precautions. On that very night, I was
startled from slumber by a sudden cry from the nurse, who was seated by
the fire, with the child on her knees. It was long past midnight, and
all the household were at rest. Two persons had entered the room. One
was my ruthless husband, Richard Nutter; the other was John Device, a
powerful ruffianly fellow, who planted himself near the door.

"Marching quickly towards Elizabeth, who had arisen on seeing him, my
husband snatched the child from her before I could seize it, and with a
violent blow on the chest felled me to the ground, where I lay helpless,
speechless. With reeling senses I heard Elizabeth cry out that it was
her own child, and call upon her husband to save it. Richard Nutter
paused, but re-assured by a laugh of disbelief from his ruffianly
follower, he told Elizabeth the pitiful excuse would not avail to save
the brat. And then I saw a weapon gleam--there was a feeble piteous
cry--a cry that might have moved a demon--but it did not move _him_.
With wicked words and blood-imbrued hands he cast the body on the fire.
The horrid sight was too much for me, and I became senseless."

"A dreadful tale, indeed, madam!" cried Alizon, frozen with horror.

"The crime was hidden--hidden from the eyes of men, but mark the
retribution that followed," said Mistress Nutter; her eyes sparkling
with vindictive joy. "Of the two murderers both perished miserably. John
Device was drowned in a moss-pool. Richard Nutter's end was terrible,
sharpened by the pangs of remorse, and marked by frightful suffering.
But another dark event preceded his death, which may have laid a crime
the more on his already heavily-burdened soul. Edward Braddyll, the
object of his jealousy and hate, suddenly sickened of a malady so
strange and fearful, that all who saw him affirmed it the result of
witchcraft. None thought of my husband's agency in the dark affair
except myself; but knowing he had held many secret conferences about the
time with Mother Chattox, I more than suspected him. The sick man died;
and from that hour Richard Nutter knew no rest. Ever on horseback, or
fiercely carousing, he sought in vain to stifle remorse. Visions scared
him by night, and vague fears pursued him by day. He would start at
shadows, and talk wildly. To me his whole demeanour was altered; and he
strove by every means in his power to win my love. But he could not give
me back the treasure he had taken. He could not bring to life my
murdered babe. Like his victim, he fell ill on a sudden, and of a
strange and terrible sickness. I saw he could not recover, and therefore
tended him carefully. He died; and I shed no tear."

"Alas!" exclaimed Alizon, "though guilty, I cannot but compassionate
him."

"You are right to do so, Alizon," said Mistress Nutter, rising, while
the young girl rose too; "for he was your father."

"My father!" she exclaimed, in amazement. "Then you are my mother?"

"I am--I am," replied Mistress Nutter, straining her to her bosom. "Oh,
my child!--my dear child!" she cried. "The voice of nature from the
first pleaded eloquently in your behalf, and I should have been deaf to
all impulses of affection if I had not listened to the call. I now trace
in every feature the lineaments of the babe I thought lost for ever. All
is clear to me. The exclamation of Elizabeth Device, which, like my
ruthless husband, I looked upon as an artifice to save the infant's
life, I now find to be the truth. Her child perished instead of mine.
How or why she exchanged the infants on that night remains to be
explained, but that she did so is certain; while that she should
afterwards conceal the circumstance is easily comprehended, from a
natural dread of her own husband as well as of mine. It is possible that
from some cause she may still deny the truth, but I can make it her
interest to speak plainly. The main difficulty will lie in my public
acknowledgment of you. But, at whatever cost, it shall be made."

"Oh! consider it well;" said Alizon, "I will be your daughter in
love--in duty--in all but name. But sully not my poor father's honour,
which even at the peril of his soul he sought to maintain! How can I be
owned as your daughter without involving the discovery of this tragic
history?"

"You are right, Alizon," rejoined Mistress Nutter, thoughtfully. "It
will bring the dark deed to light. But you shall never return to
Elizabeth Device. You shall go with me to Rough Lee, and take up your
abode in the house where I was once so wretched--but where I shall now
be full of happiness with you. You shall see the dark spots on the
hearth, which I took to be your blood."

"If not mine, it was blood spilt by my father," said Alizon, with a
shudder.

Was it fancy, or did a low groan break upon her ear? It must be
imaginary, for Mistress Nutter seemed unconscious of the dismal sound.
It was now growing rapidly dark, and the more distant objects in the
room were wrapped in obscurity; but Alizon's gaze rested on the two
monkish figures supporting the wardrobe.

"Look there, mother," she said to Mistress Nutter.

"Where?" cried the lady, turning round quickly, "Ah! I see. You alarm
yourself needlessly, my child. Those are only carved figures of two
brethren of the Abbey. They are said, I know not with what truth--to be
statues of John Paslew and Borlace Alvetham."

"I thought they stirred," said Alizon.

"It was mere fancy," replied Mistress Nutter. "Calm yourself, sweet
child. Let us think of other things--of our newly discovered
relationship. Henceforth, to me you are Millicent Nutter; though to
others you must still be Alizon Device. My sweet Millicent," she cried,
embracing her again and again. "Ah, little--little did I think to see
you more!"

Alizon's fears were speedily chased away.

"Forgive me, dear mother," she cried, "if I have failed to express the
full delight I experience in my restitution to you. The shock of your
sad tale at first deadened my joy, while the suddenness of the
information respecting myself so overwhelmed me, that like one chancing
upon a hidden treasure, and gazing at it confounded, I was unable to
credit my own good fortune. Even now I am quite bewildered; and no
wonder, for many thoughts, each of different import, throng upon me.
Independently of the pleasure and natural pride I must feel in being
acknowledged by you as a daughter, it is a source of the deepest
satisfaction to me to know that I am not, in any way, connected with
Elizabeth Device--not from her humble station--for poverty weighs little
with me in comparison with virtue and goodness--but from her sinfulness.
You know the dark offence laid to her charge?"

"I do," replied Mistress Nutter, in a low deep tone, "but I do not
believe it."

"Nor I," returned Alizon. "Still, she acts as if she were the wicked
thing she is called; avoids all religious offices; shuns all places of
worship; and derides the Holy Scriptures. Oh, mother! you will
comprehend the frequent conflict of feelings I must have endured. You
will understand my horror when I have sometimes thought myself the
daughter of a witch."

"Why did you not leave her if you thought so?" said Mistress Nutter,
frowning.

"I could not leave her," replied Alizon, "for I then thought her my
mother."

Mistress Nutter fell upon her daughter's neck, and wept aloud. "You have
an excellent heart, my child," she said at length, checking her emotion.

"I have nothing to complain of in Elizabeth Device, dear mother," she
replied. "What she denied herself, she did not refuse me; and though I
have necessarily many and great deficiencies, you will find in me, I
trust, no evil principles. And, oh! shall we not strive to rescue that
poor benighted creature from the pit? We may yet save her."

"It is too late," replied Mistress Nutter in a sombre tone.

"It cannot be too late," said Alizon, confidently. "She cannot be beyond
redemption. But even if she should prove intractable, poor little Jennet
may be preserved. She is yet a child, with some good--though, alas! much
evil, also--in her nature. Let our united efforts be exerted in this
good work, and we must succeed. The weeds extirpated, the flowers will
spring up freely, and bloom in beauty."

"I can have nothing to do with her," said Mistress Nutter, in a freezing
tone--"nor must you."

"Oh! say not so, mother," cried Alizon. "You rob me of half the
happiness I feel in being restored to you. When I was Jennets sister, I
devoted myself to the task of reclaiming her. I hoped to be her guardian
angel--to step between her and the assaults of evil--and I cannot, will
not, now abandon her. If no longer my sister, she is still dear to me.
And recollect that I owe a deep debt of gratitude to her mother--a debt
I can never pay."

"How so?" cried Mistress Nutter. "You owe her nothing--but the
contrary."

"I owe her a life," said Alizon. "Was not her infant's blood poured out
for mine! And shall I not save the child left her, if I can?"

"I shall not oppose your inclinations," replied Mistress Nutter, with
reluctant assent; "but Elizabeth, I suspect, will thank you little for
your interference."

"Not now, perhaps," returned Alizon; "but a time will come when she will
do so."

While this conversation took place, it had been rapidly growing dark,
and the gloom at length increased so much, that the speakers could
scarcely see each other's faces. The sudden and portentous darkness was
accounted for by a vivid flash of lightning, followed by a low growl of
thunder rumbling over Whalley Nab. The mother and daughter drew close
together, and Mistress Nutter passed her arm round Alizon's neck.

The storm came quickly on, with forked and dangerous lightning, and
loud claps of thunder threatening mischief. Presently, all its fury
seemed collected over the Abbey. The red flashes hissed, and the peals
of thunder rolled overhead. But other terrors were added to Alizon's
natural dread of the elemental warfare. Again she fancied the two
monkish figures, which had before excited her alarm, moved, and even
shook their arms menacingly at her. At first she attributed this wild
idea to her overwrought imagination, and strove to convince herself of
its fallacy by keeping her eyes steadily fixed upon them. But each
succeeding flash only served to confirm her superstitious apprehensions.

Another circumstance contributed to heighten her alarm. Scared most
probably by the storm, a large white owl fluttered down the chimney, and
after wheeling twice or thrice round the chamber, settled upon the bed,
hooting, puffing, ruffling its feathers, and glaring at her with eyes
that glowed like fiery coals.

Mistress Nutter seemed little moved by the storm, though she kept a
profound silence, but when Alizon gazed in her face, she was frightened
by its expression, which reminded her of the terrible aspect she had
worn at the interview with Mother Chattox.

All at once Mistress Nutter arose, and, rapid as the lightning playing
around her and revealing her movements, made several passes, with
extended hands, over her daughter; and on this the latter instantly fell
back, as if fainting, though still retaining her consciousness; and,
what was stranger still, though her eyes were closed, her power of sight
remained.

In this condition she fancied invisible forms were moving about her.
Strange sounds seemed to salute her ears, like the gibbering of ghosts,
and she thought she felt the flapping of unseen wings around her.

All at once her attention was drawn--she knew not why--towards the
closet, and from out it she fancied she saw issue the tall dark figure
of a man. She was sure she saw him; for her imagination could not body
forth features charged with such a fiendish expression, or eyes of such
unearthly lustre. He was clothed in black, but the fashion of his
raiments was unlike aught she had ever seen. His stature was gigantic,
and a pale phosphoric light enshrouded him. As he advanced, forked
lightnings shot into the room, and the thunder split overhead. The owl
hooted fearfully, quitted its perch, and flew off by the way it had
entered the chamber.

The Dark Shape came on. It stood beside Mistress Nutter, and she
prostrated herself before it. The gestures of the figure were angry and
imperious--those of Mistress Nutter supplicating. Their converse was
drowned by the rattling of the storm. At last the figure pointed to
Alizon, and the word "midnight" broke in tones louder than the thunder
from its lips. All consciousness then forsook her.

How long she continued in this state she knew not, but the touch of a
finger applied to her brow seemed to recall her suddenly to animation.
She heaved a deep sigh, and looked around. A wondrous change had
occurred. The storm had passed off, and the moon was shining brightly
over the top of the cypress-tree, flooding the chamber with its gentle
radiance, while her mother was bending over her with looks of tenderest
affection.

"You are better now, sweet child," said Mistress Nutter. "You were
overcome by the storm. It was sudden and terrible."

"Terrible, indeed!" replied Alizon, imperfectly recalling what had
passed. "But it was not alone the storm that frightened me. This chamber
has been invaded by evil beings. Methought I beheld a dark figure come
from out yon closet, and stand before you."

"You have been thrown into a state of stupor by the influence of the
electric fluid," replied Mistress Nutter, "and while in that condition
visions have passed through your brain. That is all, my child."

"Oh! I hope so," said Alizon.

"Such ecstasies are of frequent occurrence," replied Mistress Nutter.
"But, since you are quite recovered, we will descend to Lady Assheton,
who may wonder at our absence. You will share this room with me
to-night, my child; for, as I have already said, you cannot return to
Elizabeth Device. I will make all needful explanations to Lady Assheton,
and will see Elizabeth in the morning--perhaps to-night. Reassure
yourself, sweet child. There is nothing to fear."

"I trust not, mother," replied Alizon. "But it would ease my mind to
look into that closet."

"Do so, then, by all means," replied Mistress Nutter with a forced
smile.

Alizon peeped timorously into the little room, which was lighted up by
the moon's rays. There was a faded white habit, like the robe of a
Cistertian monk, hanging in one corner, and beneath it an old chest.
Alizon would fain have opened the chest, but Mistress Nutter called out
to her impatiently, "You will discover nothing, I am sure. Come, let us
go down-stairs."

And they quitted the room together.




CHAPTER IX.--THE TWO PORTRAITS IN THE BANQUETING-HALL.


The banqueting-hall lay immediately under the long gallery,
corresponding with it in all but height; and though in this respect it
fell somewhat short of the magnificent upper room, it was quite lofty
enough to admit of a gallery of its own for spectators and minstrels.
Great pains had been taken in decorating the hall for the occasion.
Between the forest of stags' horns that branched from the gallery rails
were hung rich carpets, intermixed with garlands of flowers, and banners
painted with the arms of the Assheton family, were suspended from the
corners. Over the fireplace, where, despite the advanced season, a pile
of turf and wood was burning, were hung two panoplies of arms, and above
them, on a bracket, was set a complete suit of mail, once belonging to
Richard Assheton, the first possessor of the mansion. On the opposite
wall hung two remarkable portraits--the one representing a religious
votaress in a loose robe of black, with wide sleeves, holding a rosary
and missal in her hand, and having her brow and neck entirely concealed
by the wimple, in which her head and shoulders were enveloped. Such of
her features as could be seen were of extraordinary loveliness, though
of a voluptuous character, the eyes being dark and languishing, and
shaded by long lashes, and the lips carnation-hued and full. This was
the fair votaress, Isole de Heton, who brought such scandal on the Abbey
in the reign of Henry VI. The other portrait was that of an abbot, in
the white gown and scapulary of the Cistertian order. The countenance
was proud and stern, but tinctured with melancholy. In a small shield at
one corner the arms were blazoned--argent, a fess between three mullets,
sable, pierced of the field, a crescent for difference--proving it to be
the portrait of John Paslew. Both pictures had been found in the abbot's
lodgings, when taken possession of by Richard Assheton, but they owed
their present position to his descendant, Sir Ralph, who discovering
them in an out-of-the-way closet, where they had been cast aside, and
struck with their extraordinary merit, hung them up as above stated.

The long oaken table, usually standing in the middle of the hall, had
been removed to one side, to allow free scope for dancing and other
pastimes, but it was still devoted to hospitable uses, being covered
with trenchers and drinking-cups, and spread for a substantial repast.
Near it stood two carvers, with aprons round their waists, brandishing
long knives, while other yeomen of the kitchen and cellar were at hand
to keep the trenchers well supplied, and the cups filled with strong
ale, or bragget, as might suit the taste of the guests. Nor were these
the only festive preparations. The upper part of the hall was reserved
for Sir Ralph's immediate friends, and here, on a slightly raised
elevation, stood a cross table, spread for a goodly supper, the snowy
napery being ornamented with wreaths and ropes of flowers, and shining
with costly vessels. At the lower end of the room, beneath the gallery,
which it served to support, was a Gothic screen, embellishing an open
armoury, which made a grand display of silver plates and flagons.
Through one of the doorways contrived in this screen, the May-day
revellers were ushered into the hall by old Adam Whitworth, the
white-headed steward.

"I pray you be seated, good masters, and you, too, comely dames," said
Adam, leading them to the table, and assigning each a place with his
wand. "Fall to, and spare not, for it is my honoured master's desire you
should sup well. You will find that venison pasty worth a trial, and the
baked red deer in the centre of the table is a noble dish. The fellow to
it was served at Sir Ralph's own table at dinner, and was pronounced
excellent. I pray you try it, masters.--Here, Ned Scargill, mind your
office, good fellow, and break me that deer. And you, Paul Pimlot,
exercise your craft on the venison pasty."

And as trencher after trencher was rapidly filled by the two carvers,
who demeaned themselves in their task like men acquainted with the
powers of rustic appetite, the old steward addressed himself to the
dames.

"What can I do for you, fair mistresses?" he said. "Here be sack
possets, junkets and cream, for such as like them--French puffs and
Italian puddings, right good, I warrant you, and especially admired by
my honourable good lady. Indeed, I am not sure she hath not lent a hand
herself in their preparation. Then here be fritters in the court
fashion, made with curds of sack posset, eggs and ale, and seasoned with
nutmeg and pepper. You will taste them, I am sure, for they are
favourites with our sovereign lady, the queen. Here, Gregory,
Dickon--bestir yourselves, knaves, and pour forth a cup of sack for each
of these dames. As you drink, mistresses, neglect not the health of our
honourable good master Sir Ralph, and his lady. It is well--it is well.
I will convey to them both your dutiful good wishes. But I must see all
your wants supplied. Good Dame Openshaw, you have nought before you. Be
prevailed upon to taste these dropt raisins or a fond pudding. And you,
too, sweet Dame Tetlow. Squire Nicholas gave me special caution to take
care of you, but the injunction was unneeded, as I should have done so
without it.--Another cup of canary to Dame Tetlow, Gregory. Fill to the
brim, knave--to the very brim. To the health of Squire Nicholas," he
added in a low tone, as he handed the brimming goblet to the blushing
dame; "and be sure and tell him, if he questions you, that I obeyed his
behests to the best of my ability. I pray you taste this pippin jelly,
dame. It is as red as rubies, but not so red as your lips, or some leach
of almonds, which, lily-white though it be, is not to be compared with
the teeth that shall touch it."

"Odd's heart! mester steward, yo mun ha' larnt that protty speech fro'
th' squoire himself," replied Dame Tetlow, laughing.

"It may be the recollection of something said to me by him, brought to
mind by your presence," replied Adam Whitworth, gallantly. "If I can
serve you in aught else, sign to me, dame.--Now, knaves, fill the
cups--ale or bragget, at your pleasure, masters. Drink and stint not,
and you will the better please your liberal entertainer and my honoured
master."

Thus exhorted, the guests set seriously to work to fulfil the
hospitable intentions of the provider of the feast. Cups flowed fast and
freely, and erelong little was left of the venison pasty but the outer
crust, and nothing more than a few fragments of the baked red deer. The
lighter articles then came in for a share of attention, and salmon from
the Ribble, jack, trout, and eels from the Hodder and Calder, boiled,
broiled, stewed, and pickled, and of delicious flavour, were discussed
with infinite relish. Puddings and pastry were left to more delicate
stomachs--the solids only being in request with the men. Hitherto, the
demolition of the viands had given sufficient employment, but now the
edge of appetite beginning to be dulled, tongues were unloosed, and much
merriment prevailed. More than eighty in number, the guests were
dispersed without any regard to order, and thus the chief actors in the
revel were scattered promiscuously about the table, diversifying it with
their gay costumes. Robin Hood sat between two pretty female
morris-dancers, whose partners had got to the other end of the table;
while Ned Huddlestone, the representative of Friar Tuck, was equally
fortunate, having a buxom dame on either side of him, towards whom he
distributed his favours with singular impartiality. As porter to the
Abbey, Ned made himself at home; and, next to Adam Whitworth, was
perhaps the most important personage present, continually roaring for
ale, and pledging the damsels around him. From the way he went on, it
seemed highly probable he would be under the table before supper was
over; but Ned Huddlestone, like the burly priest whose gown he wore, had
a stout bullet head, proof against all assaults of liquor; and the
copious draughts he swallowed, instead of subduing him, only tended to
make him more uproarious. Blessed also with lusty lungs, his shouts of
laughter made the roof ring again. But if the strong liquor failed to
make due impression upon him, the like cannot be said of Jack Roby, who,
it will be remembered, took the part of the Fool, and who, having drunk
overmuch, mistook the hobby-horse for a real steed, and in an effort to
bestride it, fell head-foremost on the floor, and, being found incapable
of rising, was carried out to an adjoining room, and laid on a bench.
This, however, was the only case of excess; for though the Sherwood
foresters emptied their cups often enough to heighten their mirth, none
of them seemed the worse for what they drank. Lawrence Blackrod, Mr.
Parker's keeper, had fortunately got next to his old flame, Sukey
Worseley; while Phil Rawson, the forester, who enacted Will Scarlet, and
Nancy Holt, between whom an equally tender feeling subsisted, had
likewise got together. A little beyond them sat the gentleman usher and
parish clerk, Sampson Harrop, who, piquing himself on his good manners,
drank very sparingly, and was content to sup on sweetmeats and a bowl of
fleetings, as curds separated from whey are termed in this district. Tom
the piper, and his companion the taborer, ate for the next week, but
were somewhat more sparing in the matter of drink, their services as
minstrels being required later on. Thus the various guests enjoyed
themselves according to their bent, and universal hilarity prevailed. It
would be strange indeed if it had been otherwise; for what with the good
cheer, and the bright eyes around them, the rustics had attained a point
of felicity not likely to be surpassed. Of the numerous assemblage more
than half were of the fairer sex; and of these the greater portion were
young and good-looking, while in the case of the morris-dancers, their
natural charms were heightened by their fanciful attire.

Before supper was half over, it became so dark that it was found
necessary to illuminate the great lamp suspended from the centre of the
roof, while other lights were set on the board, and two flaming torches
placed in sockets on either side of the chimney-piece. Scarcely was this
accomplished when the storm came on, much to the surprise of the
weatherwise, who had not calculated upon such an occurrence, not having
seen any indications whatever of it in the heavens. But all were too
comfortably sheltered, and too well employed, to pay much attention to
what was going on without; and, unless when a flash of lightning more
than usually vivid dazzled the gaze, or a peal of thunder more appalling
than the rest broke overhead, no alarm was expressed, even by the women.
To be sure, a little pretty trepidation was now and then evinced by the
younger damsels; but even this was only done with the view of exacting
attention on the part of their swains, and never failed in effect. The
thunder-storm, therefore, instead of putting a stop to the general
enjoyment, only tended to increase it. However the last peal was loud
enough to silence the most uproarious. The women turned pale, and the
men looked at each other anxiously, listening to hear if any damage had
been done. But, as nothing transpired, their spirits revived. A few
minutes afterwards word was brought that the Conventual Church had been
struck by a thunderbolt, but this was not regarded as a very serious
disaster. The bearer of the intelligence was little Jennet, who said she
had been caught in the ruins by the storm, and after being dreadfully
frightened by the lightning, had seen a bolt strike the steeple, and
heard some stones rattle down, after which she ran away. No one thought
of inquiring what she had been doing there at the time, but room was
made for her at the supper-table next to Sampson Harrop, while the good
steward, patting her on the head, filled her a cup of canary with his
own hand, and gave her some cates to eat.

"Ey dunna see Alizon" observed the little girl, looking round the table,
after she had drunk the wine.

"Your sister is not here, Jennet," replied Adam Whitworth, with a smile.
"She is too great a lady for us now. Since she came up with her ladyship
from the green she has been treated quite like one of the guests, and
has been walking about the garden and ruins all the afternoon with young
Mistress Dorothy, who has taken quite a fancy to her. Indeed, for the
matter of that, all the ladies seem to have taken a fancy to her, and
she is now closeted with Mistress Nutter in her own room."

This was gall and wormwood to Jennet.

"She'll be hard to please when she goes home again, after playing the
fine dame here," pursued the steward.

"Then ey hope she'll never come home again," rejoined Jennet;
spitefully, "fo' we dunna want fine dames i' our poor cottage."

"For my part I do not wonder Alizon pleases the gentle folks," observed
Sampson Harrop, "since such pains have been taken with her manners and
education; and I must say she does great credit to her instructor, who,
for reasons unnecessary to mention, shall be nameless. I wish I could
say the same for you, Jennet; but though you're not deficient in
ability, you've no perseverance or pleasure in study."

"Ey knoa os much os ey care to knoa," replied Jennet, "an more than yo
con teach me, Mester Harrop. Why is Alizon always to be thrown i' my
teeth?"

"Because she's the best model you can have," rejoined Sampson. "Ah! if
I'd my own way wi' ye, lass, I'd mend your temper and manners. But you
come of an ill stock, ye saucy hussy."

"Ey come fro' th' same stock as Alizon, onny how," said Jennet.

"Unluckily that cannot be denied," replied Sampson; "but you're as
different from her as light from darkness."

Jennet eyed him bitterly, and then rose from the table.

"Ey'n go," she said.

"No--no; sit down," interposed the good-natured steward. "The dancing
and pastimes will begin presently, and you will see your sister. She
will come down with the ladies."

"That's the very reason she wishes to go," said Sampson Harrop. "The
spiteful little creature cannot bear to see her sister better treated
than herself. Go your ways, then. It is the best thing you can do.
Alizon would blush to see you here."

"Then ey'n een stay an vex her," replied Jennet, sharply; "boh ey winna
sit near yo onny longer, Mester Sampson Harrop, who ca' yersel gentleman
usher, boh who are nah gentleman at aw, nor owt like it, boh merely
parish clerk an schoolmester, an a poor schoolmester to boot. Eyn go an
sit by Sukey Worseley an Nancy Holt, whom ey see yonder."

"You've found your match, Master Harrop," said the steward, laughing, as
the little girl walked away.

"I should account it a disgrace to bandy words with the like of her,
Adam," rejoined the clerk, angrily; "but I'm greatly out in my
reckoning, if she does not make a second Mother Demdike, and worse could
not well befall her."

Jennet's society could have been very well dispensed with by her two
friends, but she would not be shaken off. On the contrary, finding
herself in the way, she only determined the more pertinaciously to
remain, and began to exercise all her powers of teasing, which have been
described as considerable, and which on this occasion proved eminently
successful. And the worst of it was, there was no crushing the plaguy
little insect; any effort made to catch her only resulting in an escape
on her part, and a new charge on some undefended quarter, with sharper
stinging and more intolerable buzzing than ever.

Out of all patience, Sukey Worseley at length exclaimed, "Ey should
loike to see ye swum, crosswise, i' th' Calder, Jennet, as Nance
Redferne war this efternoon."

"May be ye would, Sukey," replied the little girl, "boh eym nah so
likely to be tried that way as yourself, lass; an if ey war swum ey
should sink, while yo, wi' your broad back and shouthers, would be sure
to float, an then yo'd be counted a witch."

"Heed her not, Sukey," said Blackrod, unable to resist a laugh, though
the poor girl was greatly discomfited by this personal allusion; "ye may
ha' a broad back o' our own, an the broader the better to my mind, boh
mey word on't ye'll never be ta'en fo a witch. Yo're far too comely."

This assurance was a balm to poor Sukey's wounded spirit, and she
replied with a well-pleased smile, "Ey hope ey dunna look like one,
Lorry."

"Not a bit, lass," said Blackrod, lifting a huge ale-cup to his lips.
"Your health, sweetheart."

"What think ye then o' Nance Redferne?" observed Jennet. "Is she neaw
comely?--ay, comelier far than fat, fubsy Sukey here--or than Nancy
Holt, wi' her yallo hure an frecklet feace--an yet ye ca' her a witch."

"Ey ca' thee one, theaw feaw little whean--an the dowter--an grandowter
o' one--an that's more," cried Nancy. "Freckles i' your own feace, ye
mismannert minx."

"Ne'er heed her, Nance," said Phil Rawson, putting his arm round the
angry damsel's waist, and drawing her gently down. "Every one to his
taste, an freckles an yellow hure are so to mine. So dunna fret about
it, an spoil your protty lips wi' pouting. Better ha' freckles o' your
feace than spots o' your heart, loike that ill-favort little hussy."

"Dunna offend her, Phil," said Nancy Holt, noticing with alarm the
malignant look fixed upon her lover by Jennet. "She's dawngerous."

"Firrups tak her!" replied Phil Eawson. "Boh who the dole's that? Ey
didna notice him efore, an he's neaw one o' our party."

The latter observation was occasioned by the entrance of a tall
personage, in the garb of a Cistertian monk, who issued from one of the
doorways in the screen, and glided towards the upper table, attracting
general attention and misgiving as he proceeded. His countenance was
cadaverous, his lips livid, and his eyes black and deep sunken in their
sockets, with a bistre-coloured circle around them. His frame was meagre
and bony. What remained of hair on his head was raven black, but either
he was bald on the crown, or carried his attention to costume so far as
to adopt the priestly tonsure. His forehead was lofty and sallow, and
seemed stamped, like his features, with profound gloom. His garments
were faded and mouldering, and materially contributed to his ghostly
appearance.

"Who is it?" cried Sukey and Nance together.

But no one could answer the question.

"He dusna look loike a bein' o' this warld," observed Blackrod, gaping
with alarm, for the stout keeper was easily assailable on the side of
superstition; "an there is a mowdy air about him, that gies one the
shivers to see. Ey've often heer'd say the Abbey is haanted; an that
pale-feaced chap looks like one o' th' owd monks risen fro' his grave to
join our revel."

"An see, he looks this way," cried Phil Rawson.

"What flaming een! they mey the very flesh crawl o' one's booans."

"Is it a ghost, Lorry?" said Sukey, drawing nearer to the stalwart
keeper.

"By th' maskins, lass, ey conna tell," replied Blackrod; "boh whotever
it be, ey'll protect ye."

"Tak care o' me, Phil," ejaculated Nancy Holt, pressing close to her
lover's side.

"Eigh, that I win," rejoined the forester.

"Ey dunna care for ghosts so long as yo are near me, Phil," said Nancy,
tenderly.

"Then ey'n never leave ye, Nance," replied Phil.

"Ghost or not," said Jennet, who had been occupied in regarding the
new-comer attentively, "ey'n go an speak to it. Ey'm nah afeerd, if yo
are."

"Eigh do, Jennet, that's a brave little lass," said Blackrod, glad to be
rid of her in any way.

"Stay!" cried Adam Whitworth, coming up at the moment, and overhearing
what was said--"you must not go near the gentleman. I will not have him
molested, or even spoken with, till Sir Ralph appears."

Meanwhile, the stranger, without returning the glances fixed upon him,
or deigning to notice any of the company, pursued his way, and sat down
in a chair at the upper table.

But his entrance had been witnessed by others besides the rustic guests
and servitors. Nicholas and Richard Assheton chanced to be in the
gallery at the time, and, greatly struck by the singularity of his
appearance, immediately descended to make inquiries respecting him. As
they appeared below, the old steward advanced to meet them.

"Who the devil have you got there, Adam?" asked the squire.

"It passeth me almost to tell you, Master Nicholas," replied the
steward; "and, not knowing whether the gentleman be invited or not, I am
fain to wait Sir Ralph's pleasure in regard to him."

"Have you no notion who he is?" inquired Richard.

"All I know about him may be soon told, Master Richard," replied Adam.
"He is a stranger in these parts, and hath very recently taken up his
abode in Wiswall Hall, which has been abandoned of late years, as you
know, and suffered to go to decay. Some few months ago an aged couple
from Colne, named Hewit, took possession of part of the hall, and were
suffered to remain there, though old Katty Hewit, or Mould-heels, as she
is familiarly termed by the common folk, is in no very good repute
hereabouts, and was driven, it is said from Colne, owing to her
practices as a witch. Be that as it may, soon after these Hewits were
settled at Wiswall, comes this stranger, and fixes himself in another
part of the hall. How he lives no one can tell, but it is said he
rambles all night long, like a troubled spirit, about the deserted
rooms, attended by Mother Mould-heels; while in the daytime he is never
seen."

"Can he be of sound mind?" asked Richard.

"Hardly so, I should think, Master Richard," replied the steward. "As to
who he may be there are many opinions; and some aver he is Francis
Paslew, grandson of Francis, brother to the abbot, and being a Jesuit
priest, for you know the Paslews have all strictly adhered to the old
faith--and that is why they have fled the country and abandoned their
residence--he is obliged to keep himself concealed."

"If such be the case, he must be crazed indeed to venture here,"
observed Nicholas; "and yet I am half inclined to credit the report.
Look at him, Dick. He is the very image of the old abbot."

"Yon portrait might have been painted for him," said Richard, gazing at
the picture on the wall, and from it to the monk as he spoke; "the very
same garb, too."

"There is an old monastic robe up-stairs, in the closet adjoining the
room occupied by Mistress Nutter," observed the steward, "said to be the
garment in which Abbot Paslew suffered death. Some stains are upon it,
supposed to be the blood of the wizard Demdike, who perished in an
extraordinary manner on the same day."

"I have seen it," cried Nicholas, "and the monk's habit looks precisely
like it, and, if my eyes deceive me not, is stained in the same manner."

"I see the spots plainly on the breast," cried Richard. "How can he have
procured the robe?"

"Heaven only knows," replied the old steward. "It is a very strange
occurrence."

"I will go question him," said Richard.

So saying, he proceeded to the upper table, accompanied by Nicholas. As
they drew near, the stranger arose, and fixed a grim look upon Richard,
who was a little in advance.

"It is the abbot's ghost!" cried Nicholas, stopping, and detaining his
cousin. "You shall not address it."

During the contention that ensued, the monk glided towards a side-door
at the upper end of the hall, and passed through it. So general was the
consternation, that no one attempted to stay him, nor would any one
follow to see whither he went. Released, at length, from the strong
grasp of the squire, Richard rushed forth, and not returning, Nicholas,
after the lapse of a few minutes, went in search of him, but came back
presently, and told the old steward he could neither find him nor the
monk.

"Master Richard will be back anon, I dare say, Adam," he remarked; "if
not, I will make further search for him; but you had better not mention
this mysterious occurrence to Sir Ralph, at all events not until the
festivities are over, and the ladies have retired. It might disturb
them. I fear the appearance of this monk bodes no good to our family;
and what makes it worse is, it is not the first ill omen that has
befallen us to-day, Master Richard was unlucky enough to stand on Abbot
Paslew's grave!"

"Mercy on us! that was unlucky indeed!" cried Adam, in great
trepidation. "Poor dear young gentleman! Bid him take especial care of
himself, good Master Nicholas. I noticed just now, that yon fearsome
monk regarded him more attentively than you. Bid him be careful, I
conjure you, sir. But here comes my honoured master and his guests.
Here, Gregory, Dickon, bestir yourselves, knaves; and serve supper at
the upper table in a trice."

Any apprehensions Nicholas might entertain for Richard were at this
moment relieved, for as Sir Ralph and his guests came in at one door,
the young man entered by another. He looked deathly pale. Nicholas put
his finger to his lips in token of silence--a gesture which the other
signified that he understood.

Sir Ralph and his guests having taken their places at the table, an
excellent and plentiful repast was speedily set before them, and if they
did not do quite such ample justice to it as the hungry rustics at the
lower board had done to the good things provided for them, the cook
could not reasonably complain. No allusion whatever being made to the
recent strange occurrence, the cheerfulness of the company was
uninterrupted; but the noise in the lower part of the hall had in a
great measure subsided, partly out of respect to the host, and partly in
consequence of the alarm occasioned by the supposed supernatural
visitation. Richard continued silent and preoccupied, and neither ate
nor drank; but Nicholas appearing to think his courage would be best
sustained by an extra allowance of clary and sack, applied himself
frequently to the goblet with that view, and erelong his spirits
improved so wonderfully, and his natural boldness was so much increased,
that he was ready to confront Abbot Paslew, or any other abbot of them
all, wherever they might chance to cross him. In this enterprising frame
of mind he drew Richard aside, and questioned him as to what had taken
place in his pursuit of the mysterious monk.

"You overtook him, Dick, of course?" he said, "and put it to him roundly
why he came hither, where neither ghosts nor Jesuit priests, whichever
he may be, are wanted. What answered he, eh? Would I had been there to
interrogate him! He should have declared how he became possessed of that
old moth-eaten, blood-stained, monkish gown, or I would have unfrocked
him, even if he had proved to be a skeleton. But I interrupt you. You
have not told me what occurred at the interview?"

"There was no interview," replied Richard, gravely.

"No interview!" echoed Nicholas. "S'blood, man!--but I must be careful,
for Doctor Ormerod and Parson Dewhurst are within hearing, and may
lecture me on the wantonness and profanity of swearing. By Saint Gregory
de Northbury!--no, that's an oath too, and, what is worse, a Popish
oath. By--I have several tremendous imprecations at my tongue's end, but
they shall not out. It is a sinful propensity, and must be controlled.
In a word, then, you let him escape, Dick?"

"If you were so anxious to stay him, I wonder you came not with me,"
replied Richard; "but you now hold very different language from what you
used when I quitted the hall."

"Ah, true--right--Dick," replied Nicholas; "my sentiments have undergone
a wonderful change since then. I now regret having stopped you. By my
troth! if I meet that confounded monk again, he shall give a good
account of himself, I promise him. But what said he to you, Dick? Make
an end of your story."

"I have not begun it yet," replied Richard. "But pay attention, and you
shall hear what occurred. When I rushed forth, the monk had already
gained the entrance-hall. No one was within it at the time, all the
serving-men being busied here with the feasting. I summoned him to stay,
but he answered not, and, still grimly regarding me, glided towards the
outer door, which (I know not by what chance) stood open, and passing
through it, closed it upon me. This delayed me a moment; and when I got
out, he had already descended the steps, and was moving towards the
garden. It was bright moonlight, so I could see him distinctly. And mark
this, Nicholas--the two great blood-hounds were running about at large
in the court-yard, but they slunk off, as if alarmed at his appearance.
The monk had now gained the garden, and was shaping his course swiftly
towards the ruined Conventual Church. Determined to overtake him, I
quickened my pace; but he gained the old fane before me, and threaded
the broken aisles with noiseless celerity. In the choir he paused and
confronted me. When within a few yards of him, I paused, arrested by his
fixed and terrible gaze. Nicholas, his look froze my blood. I would have
spoken, but I could not. My tongue clove to the roof of my mouth for
very fear. Before I could shake off this apprehension the figure raised
its hand menacingly thrice, and passed into the Lacy Chapel. As soon as
he was gone my courage returned, and I followed. The little chapel was
brilliantly illuminated by the moon; but it was empty. I could only see
the white monument of Sir Henry de Lacy glistening in the pale
radiance."

"I must take a cup of wine after this horrific relation," said Nicholas,
replenishing his goblet. "It has chilled my blood, as the monk's icy
gaze froze yours. Body o' me! but this is strange indeed. Another oath.
Lord help me!--I shall never get rid of the infernal--I mean, the evil
habit. Will you not pledge me, Dick?"

The young man shook his head.

"You are wrong," pursued Nicholas,--"decidedly wrong. Wine gladdeneth
the heart of man, and restoreth courage. A short while ago I was
downcast as you, melancholy as an owl, and timorous as a kid, but now I
am resolute as an eagle, stout of heart, and cheerful of spirit; and all
owing to a cup of wine. Try the remedy, Dick, and get rid of your gloom.
You look like a death's-head at a festival. What if you have stumbled on
an ill-omened grave! What if you have been banned by a witch! What if
you have stood face to face with the devil--or a ghost! Heed them not!
Drink, and set care at defiance. And, not to gainsay my own counsel, I
shall fill my cup again. For, in good sooth, this is rare clary, Dick;
and, talking of wine, you should taste some of the wonderful Rhenish
found in the abbot's cellar by our ancestor, Richard Assheton--a century
old if it be a day, and yet cordial and corroborative as ever. Those
monks were lusty tipplers, Dick. I sometimes wish I had been an abbot
myself. I should have made a rare father confessor--especially to a
pretty penitent. Here, Gregory, hie thee to the master cellarer, and bid
him fill me a goblet of the old Rhenish--the wine from the abbot's
cellar. Thou understandest--or, stay, better bring the flask. I have a
profound respect for the venerable bottle, and would pay my devoirs to
it. Hie away, good fellow!"

"You will drink too much if you go on thus," remarked Richard.

"Not a drop," rejoined Nicholas. "I am blithe as a lark, and would keep
so. That is why I drink. But to return to our ghosts. Since this place
must be haunted, I would it were visited by spirits of a livelier kind
than old Paslew. There is Isole de Heton, for instance. The fair
votaress would be the sort of ghost for me. I would not turn my back on
her, but face her manfully. Look at her picture, Dick. Was ever
countenance sweeter than hers--lips more tempting, or eyes more melting!
Is she not adorable? Zounds!" he exclaimed, suddenly pausing, and
staring at the portrait--"Would you believe it, Dick? The fair Isole
winked at me--I'll swear she did. I mean--I will venture to affirm upon
oath, if required, that she winked."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Richard. "The fumes of the wine have mounted to your
brain, and disordered it."

"No such thing," cried Nicholas, regarding the picture as steadily as he
could--"she's leering at me now. By the Queen of Paphos! another wink.
Nay, if you doubt me, watch her well yourself. A pleasant adventure
this--ha!--ha!"

"A truce to this drunken foolery," cried Richard, moving away.

"Drunken! s'death! recall that epithet, Dick," cried Nicholas, angrily.
"I am no more drunk than yourself, you dog. I can walk as steadily, and
see as plainly, as you; and I will maintain it at the point of the
sword, that the eyes of that picture have lovingly regarded me; nay,
that they follow me now."

"A common delusion with a portrait," said Richard; "they appear to
follow _me_."

"But they do not wink at you as they do at me," said Nicholas, "neither
do the lips break into smiles, and display the pearly teeth beneath
them, as occurs in my case. Grim old abbots frown on you, but fair,
though frail, votaresses smile on me. I am the favoured mortal, Dick."

"Were it as you represent, Nicholas," replied Richard, gravely, "I
should say, indeed, that some evil principle was at work to lure you
through your passions to perdition. But I know they are all fancies
engendered by your heated brain, which in your calmer moments you will
discard, as I discard them now. If I have any weight with you, I counsel
you to drink no more, or you will commit some mad foolery, of which you
will be ashamed hereafter. The discreeter course would be to retire
altogether; and for this you have ample excuse, as you will have to
arise betimes to-morrow, to set out for Pendle Forest with Master
Potts."

"Retire!" exclaimed Nicholas, bursting into a loud, contemptuous laugh.
"I like thy counsel, lad. Yes, I will retire when I have finished the
old monastic Rhenish which Gregory is bringing me. I will retire when I
have danced the Morisco with the May Queen--the Cushion Dance with Dame
Tetlow--and the Brawl with the lovely Isole de Heton. Another wink,
Dick. By our Lady! she assents to my proposition. When I have done all
this, and somewhat more, it will be time to think of retiring. But I
have the night before me, Dick--not to be spent in drowsy
unconsciousness, as thou recommendest, but in active, pleasurable
enjoyment. No man requires less sleep than I do. Ordinarily, I 'retire,'
as thou termest it, at ten, and rise with the sun. In summer I am abroad
soon after three, and mend that if thou canst, Dick. To-night I shall
seek my couch about midnight, and yet I'll warrant me I shall be the
first stirring in the Abbey; and, in any case, I shall be in the saddle
before thee."

"It may be," replied Richard; "but it was to preserve you from
extravagance to-night that I volunteered advice, which, from my
knowledge of your character, I might as well have withheld. But let me
caution you on another point. Dance with Dame Tetlow, or any other dame
you please--dance with the fair Isole de Heton, if you can prevail upon
her to descend from her frame and give you her hand; but I object--most
decidedly object--to your dancing with Alizon Device."

"Why so?" cried Nicholas; "why should I not dance with whom I please?
And what right hast thou to forbid me Alizon? Troth, lad, art thou so
ignorant of human nature as not to know that forbidden fruit is the
sweetest. It hath ever been so since the fall. I am now only the more
bent upon dancing with the prohibited damsel. But I would fain know the
principle on which thou erectest thyself into her guardian. Is it
because she fainted when thy sword was crossed with that hot-headed
fool, Sir Thomas Metcalfe, that thou flatterest thyself she is in love
with thee? Be not too sure of it, Dick. Many a timid wench has swooned
at the sight of a naked weapon, without being enamoured of the
swordsman. The fainting proves nothing. But grant she loves thee--what
then! An end must speedily come of it; so better finish at once, before
she be entangled in a mesh from which she cannot be extricated without
danger. For hark thee, Dick, whatever thou mayst think, I am not so far
gone that I know not what I say, neither is my vision so much obscured
that I see not some matters plainly enough, and I understand thee and
Alizon well, and see through you both. This matter must go no further.
It has gone too far already. After to-night you must see her no more. I
am serious in this--serious _inter pocula_, if such a thing can be. It
is necessary to observe caution, for reasons that will at once occur to
thee. Thou canst not wed this girl--then why trifle with her till her
heart be broken."

"Broken it shall never be by me!" cried Richard.

"But I tell you it will be broken, if you do not desist at once,"
rejoined Nicholas. "I was but jesting when I said I would rob you of her
in the Morisco, though it would be charity to both, and spare you many a
pang hereafter, were I to put my threat into execution. However, I have
a soft heart where aught of love is concerned, and, having pointed out
the risk you will incur, I shall leave you to follow your own devices.
But, for Alizon's sake, stop in time."

"You now speak soberly and sensibly enough, Nicholas," replied Richard,
"and I thank you heartily for your counsel; and if I do not follow it by
withdrawing at once from a pursuit which may appear to you hopeless, if
not dangerous, you will, I hope, give me credit for being actuated by
worthy motives. I will at once, and frankly admit, that I love Alizon;
and loving her, you may rest assured I would sacrifice my life a
thousand times rather than endanger her happiness. But there is a point
in her history, with which if you were acquainted, it might alter your
view of the case; but this is not the season for its disclosure,
neither, I am bound to say, does the circumstance so materially alter
the apparent posture of affairs as to remove all difficulty. On the
contrary, it leaves an insurmountable obstacle behind it."

"Are you wise, then, in going on?" asked Nicholas.

"I know not," answered Richard, "but I feel as if I were the sport of
fate. Uncertain whither to turn for the best, I leave the disposition of
my course to chance. But, alas!" he added, sadly, "all seems to point
out that this meeting with Alizon will be my last."

"Well, cheer up, lad," said Nicholas. "These afflictions are hard to
bear, it is true; but somehow they are got over. Just as if your horse
should fling you in the midst of a hedge when you are making a flying
leap, you get scratched and bruised, but you scramble out, and in a day
or two are on your legs again. Love breaks no bones, that's one comfort.
When at your age, I was desperately in love, not with Mistress Nicholas
Assheton--Heaven help the fond soul! but with--never mind with whom; but
it was not a very prudent match, and so, in my worldly wisdom, I was
obliged to cry off. A sad business it was. I thought I should have died
of it, and I made quite sure that the devoted girl would die first, in
which case we were to occupy the same grave. But I was not driven to
such a dire extremity, for before I had kept house a week, Jack Walker,
the keeper of Downham, made his appearance in my room, and after telling
me of the mischief done by a pair of otters in the Ribble, finding me in
a very desponding state, ventured to inquire if I had heard the news.
Expecting to hear of the death of the girl, I prepared myself for an
outburst of grief, and resolved to give immediate directions for a
double funeral, when he informed me--what do you think, Dick?--that she
was going to be married to himself. I recovered at once, and immediately
went out to hunt the otters, and rare sport we had. But here comes
Gregory with the famous old Rhenish. Better take a cup, Dick; this is
the best cure for the heartache, and for all other aches and grievances.
Ah! glorious stuff--miraculous wine!" he added, smacking his lips with
extraordinary satisfaction after a deep draught; "those worthy fathers
were excellent judges. I have a great reverence for them. But where can
Alizon be all this while? Supper is wellnigh over, and the dancing and
pastimes will commence anon, and yet she comes not."

"She is here," cried Richard.

And as he spoke Mistress Nutter and Alizon entered the hall.

Richard endeavoured to read in the young girl's countenance some
intimation of what had passed between her and Mistress Nutter, but he
only remarked that she was paler than before, and had traces of anxiety
about her. Mistress Nutter also looked gloomy and thoughtful, and there
was nothing in the manner or deportment of either to lead to the
conclusion, that a discovery of relationship between them had taken
place. As Alizon moved on, her eyes met those of Richard--but the look
was intercepted by Mistress Nutter, who instantly called off her
daughter's attention to herself; and, while the young man hesitated to
join them, his sister came quickly up to him, and drew him away in
another direction. Left to himself, Nicholas tossed off another cup of
the miraculous Rhenish, which improved in flavour as he discussed it,
and then, placing a chair opposite the portrait of Isole de Heton,
filled a bumper, and, uttering the name of the fair votaress, drained it
to her. This time he was quite certain he received a significant glance
in return, and no one being near to contradict him, he went on indulging
the idea of an amorous understanding between himself and the picture,
till he had finished the bottle, and obtained as many ogles as he
swallowed draughts of wine, upon which he arose and staggered off in
search of Dame Tetlow.

Meanwhile, Mistress Nutter having made her excuses to Lady Assheton for
not attending the supper, walked down the hall with her daughter, until
such time as the dancing and pastimes should commence. As will be
readily supposed under the circumstances, this part of the entertainment
was distasteful to both of them; but it could not be avoided without
entering into explanations, which Mistress Nutter was unwilling to make,
and she, therefore, counselled her daughter to act in all respects as if
she were still Alizon Device, and in no way connected with her.

"I shall take an early opportunity of announcing my intention to adopt
you," she said, "and then you can act differently. Meantime, keep near
me as much as you can. Say little to Dorothy or Richard Assheton, and
prepare to retire early; for this noisy and riotous assemblage is not
much to my taste, and I care not how soon I quit it."

Alizon assented to what was said, and stole a timid glance towards
Richard and Dorothy; but the latter, who alone perceived it, instantly
averted her head, in such way as to make it evident she wished to shun
her regards. Slight as it was, this circumstance occasioned Alizon much
pain, for she could not conceive how she had offended her new-made
friend, and it was some relief to encounter a party of acquaintances who
had risen from the lower table at her approach, though they did not
presume to address her while she was with Mistress Nutter, but waited
respectfully at a little distance. Alizon, however, flew towards them.

"Ah, Susan!--ah, Nancy!" she cried taking the hand of each--"how glad I
am to see you here; and you too, Lawrence Blackrod--and you, Phil
Rawson--and you, also, good Master Harrop. How happy you all look!"

"An wi' good reason, sweet Alizon," replied Blackrod. "Boh we began to
be afeerd we'd lost ye, an that wad ha' bin a sore mishap--to lose our
May Queen--an th' prettiest May Queen os ever dawnced i' this ha', or i'
onny other ha' i' Lonkyshiar."

"We ha drunk your health, sweet Alizon," added Phil--"an wishin' ye may
be os happy os ye desarve, wi' the mon o' your heart, if onny sich lucky
chap there be."

"Thank you--thank you both," replied Alizon, blushing; "and in return I
cannot wish you better fortune, Philip, than to be united to the good
girl near you, for I know her kindly disposition so well, that I am sure
she will make you happy."

"Ey'm satisfied on't myself," replied Rawson; "an ey hope ere long
she'll be missus o' a little cot i' Bowland Forest, an that yo'll pay us
a visit, Alizon, an see an judge fo' yourself how happy we be. Nance win
make a rare forester's wife."

"Not a bit better than my Sukey," cried Lawrence Blackrod. "Ye shanna
get th' start o' me, Phil, fo' by th' mess! the very same day os sees yo
wedded to Nancy Holt shan find me united to Sukey Worseley. An so Alizon
win ha' two cottages i' Bowland Forest to visit i'stead o' one."

"And well pleased I shall be to visit them both," she rejoined. At this
moment Mistress Nutter came up.

"My good friends," she said, "as you appear to take so much interest in
Alizon, you may be glad to learn that it is my intention to adopt her as
a daughter, having no child of my own; and, though her position
henceforth will be very different from what it has been, I am sure she
will never forget her old friends."

"Never, indeed, never!" cried Alizon, earnestly.

"This is good news, indeed," cried Sampson Harrop, joyfully, while the
others joined in his exclamation. "We all rejoice in Alizon's good
fortune, and think she richly deserves it. For my own part, I was always
sure she would have rare luck, but I did not expect such luck as this."

"What's to become o' me?" cried Jennet, coming from behind a chair,
where she had hitherto concealed herself.

"I will always take care of you," replied Alizon, stooping, and kissing
her.

"Do not promise more than you may be able to perform, Alizon," observed
Mistress Nutter, coldly, and regarding the little girl with a look of
disgust; "an ill-favour'd little creature, with the Demdike eyes."

"And as ill-tempered as she is ill-favoured," rejoined Sampson Harrop;
"and, though she cannot help being ugly, she might help being
malicious."

Jennet gave him a bitter look.

"You do her injustice, Master Harrop," said Alizon. "Poor little Jennet
is quick-tempered, but not malevolent."

"Ey con hate weel if ey conna love," replied Jennet, "an con recollect
injuries if ey forget kindnesses.--Boh dunna trouble yourself about me,
sister. Ey dunna envy ye your luck. Ey dunna want to be adopted by a
grand-dame. Ey'm content os ey am. Boh are na ye gettin' on rayther too
fast, lass? Mother's consent has to be axed, ey suppose, efore ye leave
her."

"There is little fear of her refusal," observed Mistress Nutter.

"Ey dunna knoa that," rejoined Jennet. "If she were to refuse, it wadna
surprise me."

"Nothing spiteful she could do would surprise me," remarked Harrop. "But
how are you likely to know what your mother will think and do, you
forward little hussy?"

"Ey judge fro circumstances," replied the little girl. "Mother has often
said she conna weel spare Alizon. An mayhap Mistress Nutter may knoa,
that she con be very obstinate when she tays a whim into her head."

"I _do_ know it," replied Mistress Nutter; "and, from my experience of
her temper in former days, I should be loath to have you near me, who
seem to inherit her obstinacy."

"Wi' sich misgivings ey wonder ye wish to tak Alizon, madam," said
Jennet; "fo she's os much o' her mother about her os me, onny she dunna
choose to show it."

"Peace, thou mischievous urchin," cried Mistress Nutter, losing all
patience.

"Shall I take her away?" said Harrop--seizing her hand.

"Ay, do," said Mistress Nutter.

"No, no, let her stay!" cried Alizon, quickly; "I shall be miserable if
she goes."

"Oh, ey'm quite ready to go," said Jennet, "fo ey care little fo sich
seets os this--boh efore ey leave ey wad fain say a few words to Mester
Potts, whom ey see yonder."

"What can you want with him, Jennet," cried Alizon, in surprise.

"Onny to tell him what brother Jem is gone to Pendle fo to-neet,"
replied the little girl, with a significant and malicious look at
Mistress Nutter.

"Ha!" muttered the lady. "There is more malice in this little wasp than
I thought. But I must rob it of its sting."

And while thus communing with herself, she fixed a searching look on
Jennet, and then raising her hand quickly, waved it in her face.

"Oh!" cried the little girl, falling suddenly backwards.

"What's the matter?" demanded Alizon, flying to her.

"Ey dunna reetly knoa," replied Jennet.

"She's seized with a sudden faintness," said Harrop. "Better she should
go home then at once. I'll find somebody to take her."

"Neaw, neaw, ey'n sit down here," said Jennet; "ey shan be better soon."

"Come along, Alizon," said Mistress Nutter, apparently unconcerned at
the circumstance.

Having confided the little girl, who was now recovered from the shock,
to the care of Nancy Holt, Alizon followed her mother.

At this moment Sir Ralph, who had quitted the supper-table, clapped his
hands loudly, thus giving the signal to the minstrels, who, having
repaired to the gallery, now struck up a merry tune, and instantly the
whole hall was in motion. Snatching up his wand Sampson Harrop hurried
after Alizon, beseeching her to return with him, and join a procession
about to be formed by the revellers, and of course, as May Queen, and
the most important personage in it, she could not refuse. Very short
space sufficed the morris-dancers to find their partners; Robin Hood and
the foresters got into their places; the hobby-horse curveted and
capered; Friar Tuck resumed his drolleries; and even Jack Roby was so
far recovered as to be able to get on his legs, though he could not walk
very steadily. Marshalled by the gentleman-usher, and headed by Robin
Hood and the May Queen, the procession marched round the hall, the
minstrels playing merrily the while, and then drew up before the upper
table, where a brief oration was pronounced by Sir Ralph. A shout that
made the rafters ring again followed the address, after which a couranto
was called for by the host, who, taking Mistress Nicholas Assheton by
the hand, led her into the body of the hall, whither he was speedily
followed by the other guests, who had found partners in like manner.

Before relating how the ball was opened a word must be bestowed upon
Mistress Nicholas Assheton, whom I have neglected nearly as much as she
was neglected by her unworthy spouse, and I therefore hasten to repair
the injustice by declaring that she was a very amiable and very charming
woman, and danced delightfully. And recollect, ladies, these were
dancing days--I mean days when knowledge of figures as well as skill was
required, more than twenty forgotten dances being in vogue, the very
names of which may surprise you as I recapitulate them. There was the
Passamezzo, a great favourite with Queen Elizabeth, who used to foot it
merrily, when, as you are told by Gray--

          "The great Lord-keeper led the brawls,
          And seals and maces danced before him!"

the grave Pavane, likewise a favourite with the Virgin Queen, and which
I should like to see supersede the eternal polka at Almack's and
elsewhere, and in which--

          "Five was the number of the music's feet
          Which still the dance did with live paces meet;"

the Couranto, with its "current traverses," "sliding passages," and
solemn tune, wherein, according to Sir John Davies--

          --"that dancer greatest praise hath won
          Who with best order can all order shun;"

the Lavolta, also delineated by the same knowing hand--

          "Where arm in arm two dancers are entwined,
          And whirl themselves with strict embracements bound,
          their feet an anapest do sound."

Is not this very much like a waltz? Yes, ladies, you have been dancing
the lavolta of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries without being
aware of it. But there was another waltz still older, called the
Sauteuse, which I suspect answered to your favourite polka. Then there
were brawls, galliards, paspys, sarabands, country-dances of various
figures, cushion dances (another dance I long to see revived), kissing
dances, and rounds, any of which are better than the objectionable
polka. Thus you will see that there was infinite variety at least at the
period under consideration, and that you have rather retrograded than
advanced in the saltatory art. But to return to the ball.

Mistress Nicholas Assheton, I have said, excelled in the graceful
accomplishment of dancing, and that was probably the reason why she had
been selected for the couranto by Sir Ralph, who knew the value of a
good partner. By many persons she was accounted the handsomest woman in
the room, and in dignity of carriage she was certainly unrivalled. This
was precisely what Sir Ralph required, and having executed a few
"current traverses and sliding passages" with her, with a gravity and
stateliness worthy of Sir Christopher Hatton himself, when graced by the
hand of his sovereign mistress, he conducted her, amid the hushed
admiration of the beholders, to a seat. Still the dance continued with
unabated spirit; all those engaged in it running up and down, or
"turning and winding with unlooked-for change." Alizon's hand had been
claimed by Richard Assheton, and next to the stately host and his
dignified partner, they came in for the largest share of admiration and
attention; and if the untutored girl fell short of the accomplished dame
in precision and skill, she made up for the want of them in natural
grace and freedom of movement, for the display of which the couranto,
with its frequent and impromptu changes, afforded ample opportunity.
Even Sir Ralph was struck with her extreme gracefulness, and pointed her
out to Mistress Nicholas, who, unenvying and amiable, joined heartily in
his praises. Overhearing what was said, Mrs. Nutter thought it a fitting
opportunity to announce her intention of adopting the young girl; and
though Sir Ralph seemed a good deal surprised at the suddenness of the
declaration, he raised no objection to the plan; but, on the contrary,
applauded it. But another person, by no means disposed to regard it in
an equally favourable light became acquainted with the intelligence at
the same time. This was Master Potts, who instantly set his wits at work
to discover its import. Ever on the alert, his little eyes, sharp as
needles, had detected Jennet amongst the rustic company, and he now made
his way towards her, resolved, by dint of cross-questioning and
otherwise, to extract all the information he possibly could from her.

The dance over, Richard and his partner wandered towards a more retired
part of the hall.

"Why does your sister shun me?" inquired Alizon, with a look of great
distress. "What can I have done to offend her? Whenever I regard her she
averts her head, and as I approached her just now, she moved away,
making it evident she designed to avoid me. If I could think myself in
any way different from what I was this morning, when she treated me with
such unbounded confidence and kindness, or accuse myself of any offence
towards her, even in thought, I could understand it; but as it is, her
present coldness appears inexplicable and unreasonable, and gives me
great pain. I would not forfeit her regard for worlds, and therefore
beseech you to tell me what I have done amiss, that I may endeavour to
repair it."

"You have done nothing--nothing whatever, sweet girl," replied Richard.
"It is only caprice on Dorothy's part, and except that it distresses
you, her conduct, which you justly call 'unreasonable,' does not deserve
a moment's serious consideration."

"Oh no! you cannot deceive me thus," cried Alizon. "She is too kind--too
well-judging, to be capricious. Something must have occurred to make her
change her opinion of me, though what it is I cannot conjecture. I have
gained much to-day--more than I had any right to expect; but if I have
forfeited the good opinion of your sister, the loss of her friendship
will counterbalance all the rest."

"But you have not lost it, Alizon," replied Richard, earnestly. "Dorothy
has got some strange notions into her head, which only require to be
combated. She does not like Mistress Nutter, and is piqued and
displeased by the extraordinary interest which that lady displays
towards you. That is all."

"But why should she not like Mistress Nutter?" inquired Alizon.

"Nay, there is no accounting for fancies," returned Richard, with a
faint smile. "I do not attempt to defend her, but simply offer the only
excuse in my power for her conduct."

"I am concerned to hear it," said Alizon, sadly, "because henceforth I
shall be so intimately connected with Mistress Nutter, that this
estrangement, which I hoped arose only from some trivial cause, and
merely required a little explanation to be set aside, may become widened
and lasting. Owing every thing to Mistress Nutter, I must espouse her
cause; and if your sister likes her not, she likes me not in
consequence, and therefore we must continue divided. But surely her
dislike is of very recent date, and cannot have any strong hold upon
her; for when she and Mistress Nutter met this morning, a very different
feeling seemed to animate her."

"So, indeed, it did," replied Richard, visibly embarrassed and
distressed. "And since you have made me acquainted with the new tie and
interests you have formed, I can only regret alluding to the
circumstance."

"That you may not misunderstand me," said Alizon, "I will explain the
extent of my obligations to Mistress Nutter, and then you will perceive
how much I am bounden to her. Childless herself, greatly interested in
me, and feeling for my unfortunate situation, with infinite goodness of
heart she has declared her intention of removing me from all chance of
baneful influence, from the family with whom I have been heretofore
connected, by adopting me as her daughter."

"I should indeed rejoice at this," said Richard, "were it not that--"

And he stopped, gazing anxiously at her.

"Were not what?" cried Alizon, alarmed by his looks. "What do you mean?"

"Do not press me further," he rejoined; "I cannot answer you. Indeed I
have said too much already."

"You have said too much or too little," cried Alizon. "Speak, I implore
you. What mean these dark hints which you throw out, and which like
shadows elude all attempts to grasp them! Do not keep me in this state
of suspense and agitation. Your looks speak more than your words. Oh,
give your thoughts utterance!"

"I cannot," replied Richard. "I do not believe what I have heard, and
therefore will not repeat it. It would only increase the mischief. But
oh! tell me this! Was it, indeed, to remove you from the baneful
influence of Elizabeth Device that Mistress Nutter adopted you?"

"Other motives may have swayed her, and I have said they did so,"
replied Alizon; "but that wish, no doubt, had great weight with her.
Nay, notwithstanding her abhorrence of the family, she has kindly
consented to use her best endeavours to preserve little Jennet from
further ill, as well as to reclaim poor misguided Elizabeth herself."

"Oh! what a weight you have taken from my heart," cried Richard,
joyfully. "I will tell Dorothy what you say, and it will at once remove
all her doubts and suspicions. She will now be the same to you as ever,
and to Mistress Nutter."

"I will not ask you what those doubts and suspicions were, since you so
confidently promise me this, which is all I desire," replied Alizon,
smiling; "but any unfavourable opinions entertained of Mistress Nutter
are wholly undeserved. Poor lady! she has endured many severe trials and
sufferings, and whenever you learn the whole of her history, she will, I
am sure, have your sincere sympathy."

"You have certainly produced a complete revolution in my feelings
towards her," said Richard, "and I shall not be easy till I have made a
like convert of Dorothy."

At this moment a loud clapping of hands was heard, and Nicholas was seen
marching towards the centre of the hall, preceded by the minstrels, who
had descended for the purpose from the gallery, and bearing in his arms
a large red velvet cushion. As soon as the dancers had formed a wide
circle round him, a very lively tune called "Joan Sanderson," from which
the dance about to be executed sometimes received its name, was struck
up, and the squire, after a few preliminary flourishes, set down the
cushion, and gave chase to Dame Tetlow, who, threading her way rapidly
through the ring, contrived to elude him. This chase, accompanied by
music, excited shouts of laughter on all hands, and no one knew which
most to admire, the eagerness of the squire, or the dexterity of the
lissom dame in avoiding him.

Exhausted at length, and baffled in his quest, Nicholas came to a halt
before Tom the Piper, and, taking up the cushion, thus preferred his
complaint:--"This dance it can no further go--no further go."

Whereupon the piper chanted in reply,--"I pray you, good sir, why say
you so--why say you so?"

Amidst general laughter, the squire tenderly and touchingly
responded--"Because Dame Tetlow will not come to--will not come to."

Whereupon Tom the Piper, waxing furious, blew a shrill whistle,
accompanied by an encouraging rattle of the tambarine, and enforcing the
mandate by two or three energetic stamps on the floor, delivered himself
in this fashion:--"She _must_ come to, and she SHALL come to. And she
must come, whether she will or no."

Upon this two of the prettiest female morris-dancers, taking each a hand
of the blushing and overheated Dame Tetlow, for she had found the chase
rather warm work, led her forward; while the squire advancing very
gallantly placed the cushion upon the ground before her, and as she
knelt down upon it, bestowed a smacking kiss upon her lips. This
ceremony being performed amidst much tittering and flustering,
accompanied by many knowing looks and some expressed wishes among the
swains, who hoped that their turn might come next, Dame Tetlow arose,
and the squire seizing her hand, they began to whisk round in a sort of
jig, singing merrily as they danced--

          "Prinkum prankum is a fine dance,
          And we shall go dance it once again!
                                   Once again,
          And we shall go dance it once again!"

And they made good the words too; for on coming to a stop, Dame Tetlow
snatched up the cushion, and ran in search of the squire, who retreating
among the surrounding damsels, made sad havoc among them, scarcely
leaving a pretty pair of lips unvisited. Oh Nicholas! Nicholas! I am
thoroughly ashamed of you, and regret becoming your historian. You get
me into an infinitude of scrapes. But there is a rod in pickle for you,
sir, which shall be used with good effect presently. Tired of such an
unprofitable quest, Dame Tetlow came to a sudden halt, addressed the
piper as Nicholas had addressed him, and receiving a like answer,
summoned the delinquent to come forward; but as he knelt down on the
cushion, instead of receiving the anticipated salute, he got a sound box
on the ears, the dame, actuated probably by some feeling of jealousy,
taking advantage of the favourable opportunity afforded her of avenging
herself. No one could refrain from laughing at this unexpected turn in
affairs, and Nicholas, to do him justice, took it in excellent part, and
laughed louder than the rest. Springing to his feet, he snatched the
kiss denied him by the spirited dame, and led her to obtain some
refreshment at the lower table, of which they both stood in need, while
the cushion being appropriated by other couples, other boxes on the ear
and kisses were interchanged, leading to an infinitude of merriment.

Long before this Master Potts had found his way to Jennet, and as he
drew near, affecting to notice her for the first time, he made some
remarks upon her not looking very well.

"'Deed, an ey'm nah varry weel," replied the little girl, "boh ey knoa
who ey han to thonk fo' my ailment."

"Your sister, most probably," suggested the attorney. "It must be very
vexatious to see her so much noticed, and be yourself so much
neglected--very vexatious, indeed--I quite feel for you."

"By dunna want your feelin'," replied Jennet, nettled by the remark;
"boh it wasna my sister os made me ill."

"Who was it then, my little dear," said Potts.

"Dunna 'dear' me," retorted Jennet; "yo're too ceevil by half, os the
lamb said to the wolf. Boh sin ye mun knoa, it wur Mistress Nutter."

"Aha! very good--I mean--very bad," cried Potts. "What did Mistress
Nutter do to you, my little dear? Don't be afraid of telling me. If I
can do any thing for you I shall be very happy. Speak out--and don't be
afraid."

"Nay fo' shure, ey'm nah afeerd," returned Jennet. "Boh whot mays ye so
inqueesitive? Ye want to get summat out'n me, ey con see that plain
enough, an os ye stand there glenting at me wi' your sly little een, ye
look loike an owd fox ready to snap up a chicken o' th' furst
opportunity."

"Your comparison is not very flattering, Jennet," replied Potts; "but I
pass it by for the sake of its cleverness. You are a sharp child,
Jennet--a very sharp child. I remarked that from the first moment I saw
you. But in regard to Mistress Nutter, she seems a very nice lady--and
must be a very kind lady, since she has made up her mind to adopt your
sister. Not that I am surprised at her determination, for really Alizon
is so superior--so unlike--"

"Me, ye wad say," interrupted Jennet. "Dunna be efeerd to speak out,
sir."

"No, no," replied Potts, "on the contrary, there's a very great likeness
between you. I saw you were sisters at once. I don't know which is the
cleverest or prettiest--but perhaps you are the sharpest. Yes, you are
the sharpest, undoubtedly, Jennet. If I wished to adopt any one, which
unfortunately I'm not in a condition to do, having only bachelor's
chambers in Chancery Lane, it should be you. But I can put you in a way
of making your fortune, Jennet, and that's the next best thing to
adopting you. Indeed, it's much better in my case."

"May my fortune!" cried the little girl, pricking up her ears, "ey
should loike to knoa how ye wad contrive that."

"I'll show you how directly, Jennet," returned Potts. "Pay particular
attention to what I say, and think it over carefully, when you are by
yourself. You are quite aware that there is a great talk about witches
in these parts; and, I may speak it without offence to you, your own
family come under the charge. There is your grandmother Demdike, for
instance, a notorious witch--your mother, Dame Device, suspected--your
brother James suspected."

"Weel, sir," cried Jennet, eyeing him sharply, "what does all this
suspicion tend to?"

"You shall hear, my little dear," returned Potts. "It would not surprise
me, if every one of your family, including yourself, should be arrested,
shut up in Lancaster Castle, and burnt for witches!"

"Alack a day! an this ye ca' makin my fortin," cried Jennet, derisively.
"Much obleeged to ye, sir, boh ey'd leefer be without the luck."

"Listen to me," pursued Potts, chuckling, "and I will point out to you a
way of escaping the general fate of your family--not merely of escaping
it--but of acquiring a large reward. And that is by giving evidence
against them--by telling all you know--you understand--eh!"

"Yeigh, ey think ey _do_ onderstond," replied Jennet, sullenly. "An so
this is your grand scheme, eh, sir?"

"This is my scheme, Jennet," said Potts, "and a notable scheme it is,
my little lass. Think it over. You're an admissible and indeed a
desirable witness; for our sagacious sovereign has expressly observed
that 'bairns,' (I believe you call children 'bairns' in Lancashire,
Jennet; your uncouth dialect very much resembles the Scottish language,
in which our learned monarch writes as well as speaks)--'bairns,' says
he, 'or wives, or never so defamed persons, may of our law serve for
sufficient witnesses and proofs; for who but witches can be proofs, and
so witnesses of the doings of witches.'"

"Boh, ey am neaw witch, ey tell ye, mon," cried Jennet, angrily.

"But you're a witch's bairn, my little lassy," replied Potts, "and
that's just as bad, and you'll grow up to be a witch in due time--that
is, if your career be not cut short. I'm sure you must have witnessed
some strange things when you visited your grandmother at Malkin
Tower--that, if I mistake not, is the name of her abode?--and a fearful
and witch-like name it is;--you must have heard frequent mutterings and
curses, spells, charms, and diabolical incantations--beheld strange and
monstrous visions--listened to threats uttered against people who have
afterwards perished unaccountably."

"Ey've heerd an seen nowt o't sort," replied Jennet; "boh ey' han heerd
my mother threaten yo."

"Ah, indeed," cried Potts, forcing a laugh, but looking rather blank
afterwards; "and how did she threaten me, Jennet, eh?--But no matter.
Let that pass for the moment. As I was saying, you must have seen
mysterious proceedings both at Malkin Tower and your own house. A black
gentleman with a club foot must visit you occasionally, and your mother
must, now and then--say once a week--take a fancy to riding on a
broomstick. Are you quite sure you have never ridden on one yourself,
Jennet, and got whisked up the chimney without being aware of it? It's
the common witch conveyance, and said to be very expeditious and
agreeable--but I can't vouch for it myself--ha! ha! Possibly--though you
are rather young--but possibly, I say, you may have attended a witch's
Sabbath, and seen a huge He-Goat, with four horns on his head, and a
large tail, seated in the midst of a large circle of devoted admirers.
If you have seen this, and can recollect the names and faces of the
assembly, it would be highly important."

"When ey see it, ey shanna forget it," replied Jennet. "Boh ey am nah
quite so familiar wi' Owd Scrat os yo seem to suppose."

"Has it ever occurred to you that Alizon might be addicted to these
practices?" pursued Potts, "and that she obtained her extraordinary and
otherwise unaccountable beauty by some magical process--some charm--some
diabolical unguent prepared, as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seals, the
singularly learned Lord Bacon, declares, from fat of unbaptised babes,
compounded with henbane, hemlock, mandrake, moonshade, and other
terrible ingredients. She could not be so beautiful without some such
aid."

"That shows how little yo knoaw about it," replied Jennet. "Alizon is os
good as she's protty, and dunna yo think to wheedle me into sayin' out
agen her, fo' yo winna do it. Ey'd dee rayther than harm a hure o' her
heaod."

"Very praiseworthy, indeed, my little dear," replied Potts, ironically.
"I honour you for your sisterly affection; but, notwithstanding all
this, I cannot help thinking she has bewitched Mistress Nutter."

"Licker, Mistress Nutter has bewitched her," replied Jennet.

"Then you think Mistress Nutter is a witch, eh?" cried Potts, eagerly.

"Ey'st neaw tell ye what ey think, mon," rejoined Jennet, doggedly.

"But hear me," cried Potts, "I have my own suspicions, also, nay, more
than suspicions."

"If ye're shure, yo dunna want me," said Jennet.

"But I want a witness," pursued Potts, "and if you'll serve as one--"

"Whot'll ye gi' me?" said Jennet.

"Whatever you like," rejoined Potts. "Only name the sum. So you can
prove the practice of witchcraft against Mistress Nutter--eh?"

Jennet nodded. "Wad ye loike to knoa why brother Jem is gone to Pendle
to-neet?" she said.

"Very much, indeed," replied Potts, drawing still nearer to her. "Very
much, indeed."

The little girl was about to speak, but on a sudden a sharp convulsion
agitated her frame; her utterance totally failed her; and she fell back
in the seat insensible.

Very much startled, Potts flew in search of some restorative, and on
doing so, he perceived Mistress Nutter moving away from this part of the
hall.

"She has done it," he cried. "A piece of witchcraft before my very eyes.
Has she killed the child? No; she breathes, and her pulse beats, though
faintly. She is only in a swoon, but a deep and deathlike one. It would
be useless to attempt to revive her; she must come to in her own way, or
at the pleasure of the wicked woman who has thrown her into this
condition. I have now an assured witness in this girl. But I must keep
watch upon Mistress Nutter's further movements."

And he walked cautiously after her.

As Richard had anticipated, his explanation was perfectly satisfactory
to Dorothy; and the young lady, who had suffered greatly from the
restraint she had imposed upon herself, flew to Alizon, and poured
forth excuses, which were as readily accepted as they were freely made.
They were instantly as great friends as before, and their brief
estrangement only seemed to make them dearer to each other. Dorothy
could not forgive herself, and Alizon assured her there was nothing to
be forgiven, and so they took hands upon it, and promised to forget all
that had passed. Richard stood by, delighted with the change, and
wrapped in the contemplation of the object of his love, who, thus
engaged, seemed to him more beautiful than he had ever beheld her.

Towards the close of the evening, while all three were still together.
Nicholas came up and took Richard aside. The squire looked flushed; and
there was an undefined expression of alarm in his countenance.

"What is the matter?" inquired Richard, dreading to hear of some new
calamity.

"Have you not noticed it, Dick?" said Nicholas, in a hollow tone. "The
portrait is gone."

"What portrait?" exclaimed Richard, forgetting the previous
circumstances.

"The portrait of Isole de Heton," returned Nicholas, becoming more
sepulchral in his accents as he proceeded; "it has vanished from the
wall. See and believe."

"Who has taken it down?" cried Richard, remarking that the picture had
certainly disappeared.

"No mortal hand," replied Nicholas. "It has come down of itself. I knew
what would happen, Dick. I told you the fair votaress gave me the _clin
d'oeil_--the wink. You would not believe me then--and now you see your
mistake."

"I see nothing but the bare wall," said Richard.

"But you will see something anon, Dick," rejoined Nicholas, with a
hollow laugh, and in a dismally deep tone. "You will see Isole herself.
I was foolhardy enough to invite her to dance the brawl with me. She
smiled her assent, and winked at me thus--very significantly, I protest
to you--and she will be as good as her word."

"Absurd!" exclaimed Richard.

"Absurd, sayest thou--thou art an infidel, and believest nothing, Dick,"
cried Nicholas. "Dost thou not see that the picture is gone? She will be
here presently. Ha! the brawl is called for--the very dance I invited
her to. She must be in the room now. I will go in search of her. Look
out, Dick. Thou wilt behold a sight presently shall make thine hair
stand on end."

And he moved away with a rapid but uncertain step.

"The potent wine has confused his brain," said Richard. "I must see that
no mischance befalls him."

And, waving his hand to his sister, he followed the squire, who moved
on, staring inquisitively into the countenance of every pretty damsel he
encountered.

Time had flown fleetly with Dorothy and Alizon, who, occupied with each
other, had taken little note of its progress, and were surprised to find
how quickly the hours had gone by. Meanwhile several dances had been
performed; a Morisco, in which all the May-day revellers took part, with
the exception of the queen herself, who, notwithstanding the united
entreaties of Robin Hood and her gentleman-usher, could not be prevailed
upon to join it: a trenchmore, a sort of long country-dance, extending
from top to bottom of the hall, and in which the whole of the rustics
stood up: a galliard, confined to the more important guests, and in
which both Alizon and Dorothy were included, the former dancing, of
course, with Richard, and the latter with one of her cousins, young
Joseph Robinson: and a jig, quite promiscuous and unexclusive, and not
the less merry on that account. In this way, what with the dances, which
were of some duration--the trenchmore alone occupying more than an
hour--and the necessary breathing-time between them, it was on the
stroke of ten without any body being aware of it. Now this, though a
very early hour for a modern party, being about the time when the first
guest would arrive, was a very late one even in fashionable assemblages
at the period in question, and the guests began to think of retiring,
when the brawl, intended to wind up the entertainment, was called. The
highest animation still prevailed throughout the company, for the
generous host had taken care that the intervals between the dances
should be well filled up with refreshments, and large bowls of spiced
wines, with burnt oranges and crabs floating in them, were placed on the
side-table, and liberally dispensed to all applicants. Thus all seemed
destined to be brought to a happy conclusion.

Throughout the evening Alizon had been closely watched by Mistress
Nutter, who remarked, with feelings akin to jealousy and distrust, the
marked predilection exhibited by her for Richard and Dorothy Assheton,
as well as her inattention to her own expressed injunctions in remaining
constantly near them. Though secretly displeased by this, she put a calm
face upon it, and neither remonstrated by word or look. Thus Alizon,
feeling encouraged in the course she had adopted, and prompted by her
inclinations, soon forgot the interdiction she had received. Mistress
Nutter even went so far in her duplicity as to promise Dorothy, that
Alizon should pay her an early visit at Middleton--though inwardly
resolving no such visit should ever take place. However, she now
received the proposal very graciously, and made Alizon quite happy in
acceding to it.

"I would fain have her go back with me to Middleton when I return," said
Dorothy, "but I fear you would not like to part with your newly-adopted
daughter so soon; neither would it be quite fair to rob you of her. But
I shall hold you to your promise of an early visit."

Mistress Nutter replied by a bland smile, and then observed to Alizon
that it was time for them to retire, and that she had stayed on her
account far later than she intended--a mark of consideration duly
appreciated by Alizon. Farewells for the night were then exchanged
between the two girls, and Alizon looked round to bid adieu to Richard,
but unfortunately, at this very juncture, he was engaged in pursuit of
Nicholas. Before quitting the hall she made inquiries after Jennet, and
receiving for answer that she was still in the hall, but had fallen
asleep in a chair at one corner of the side-table, and could not be
wakened, she instantly flew thither and tried to rouse her, but in vain;
when Mistress Nutter, coming up the next moment, merely touched her
brow, and the little girl opened her eyes and gazed about her with a
bewildered look.

"She is unused to these late hours, poor child," said Alizon. "Some one
must be found to take her home."

"You need not go far in search of a convoy," said Potts, who had been
hovering about, and now stepped up; "I am going to the Dragon myself,
and shall be happy to take charge of her."

"You are over-officious, sir," rejoined Mistress Nutter, coldly; "when
we need your assistance we will ask it. My own servant, Simon
Blackadder, will see her safely home."

And at a sign from her, a tall fellow with a dark, scowling countenance,
came from among the other serving-men, and, receiving his instructions
from his mistress, seized Jennet's hand, and strode off with her. During
all this time, Mistress Nutter kept her eyes steadily fixed on the
little girl, who spoke not a word, nor replied even by a gesture to
Alizon's affectionate good-night, retaining her dazed look to the moment
of quitting the hall.

"I never saw her thus before," said Alizon. "What can be the matter with
her?"

"I think I could tell you," rejoined Potts, glancing maliciously and
significantly at Mistress Nutter.

The lady darted an ireful and piercing look at him, which seemed to
produce much the same consequences as those experienced by Jennet, for
his visage instantly elongated, and he sank back in a chair.

"Oh dear!" he cried, putting his hand to his head; "I'm struck all of a
heap. I feel a sudden qualm--a giddiness--a sort of don't-know-
howishness. Ho, there! some aquavitae--or imperial water--or
cinnamon water--or whatever reviving cordial may be at hand. I feel very
ill--very ill, indeed--oh dear!"

While his requirements were attended to, Mistress Nutter moved away with
her daughter; but they had not proceeded far when they encountered
Richard, who, having fortunately descried them, came up to say
good-night.

The brawl, meanwhile, had commenced, and the dancers were whirling
round giddily in every direction, somewhat like the couples in a grand
polka, danced after a very boisterous, romping, and extravagant fashion.

"Who is Nicholas dancing with?" asked Mistress Nutter suddenly.

"Is he dancing with any one?" rejoined Richard, looking amidst the
crowd.

"Do you not see her?" said Mistress Nutter; "a very beautiful woman with
flashing eyes: they move so quickly, that I can scarce discern her
features; but she is habited like a nun."

"Like a nun!" cried Richard, his blood growing chill in his veins. "'Tis
she indeed, then! Where is he?"

"Yonder, yonder, whirling madly round," replied Mistress Nutter.

"I see him now," said Richard, "but he is alone. He has lost his wits to
dance in that strange manner by himself. How wild, too, is his gaze!"

"I tell you he is dancing with a very beautiful woman in the habit of a
nun," said Mistress Nutter. "Strange I should never have remarked her
before. No one in the room is to be compared with her in loveliness--not
even Alizon. Her eyes seem to flash fire, and she bounds like the wild
roe."

"Does she resemble the portrait of Isole de Heton?" asked Richard,
shuddering.

"She does--she does," replied Mistress Nutter. "See! she whirls past us
now."

"I can see no one but Nicholas," cried Richard.

"Nor I," added Alizon, who shared in the young man's alarm.

"Are you sure you behold that figure?" said Richard, drawing Mistress
Nutter aside, and breathing the words in her ear. "If so, it is a
phantom--or he is in the power of the fiend. He was rash enough to
invite that wicked votaress, Isole de Heton, condemned, it is said, to
penal fires for her earthly enormities, to dance with him, and she has
come."

"Ha!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter.

"She will whirl him round till he expires," cried Richard; "I must free
him at all hazards."

"Stay," said Mistress Nutter; "it is I who have been deceived. Now I
look again, I see that Nicholas is alone."

"But the nun's dress--the wondrous beauty--the flashing eyes!" cried
Richard. "You described Isole exactly."

"It was mere fancy," said Mistress Nutter. "I had just been looking at
her portrait, and it dwelt on my mind, and created the image."

"The portrait is gone," cried Richard, pointing to the empty wall.

Mistress Nutter looked confounded.

And without a word more, she took Alizon, who was full of alarm and
astonishment, by the arm, and hurried her out of the hall.

As they disappeared, the young man flew towards Nicholas, whose
extraordinary proceedings had excited general amazement. The other
dancers had moved out of the way, so that free space was left for his
mad gyrations. Greatly scandalised by the exhibition, which he looked
upon as the effect of intoxication, Sir Ralph called loudly to him to
stop, but he paid no attention to the summons, but whirled on with
momently-increasing velocity, oversetting old Adam Whitworth, Gregory,
and Dickon, who severally ventured to place themselves in his path, to
enforce their master's injunctions, until at last, just as Richard
reached him, he uttered a loud cry, and fell to the ground insensible.
By Sir Ralph's command he was instantly lifted up and transported to his
own chamber.

This unexpected and extraordinary incident put an end to the ball, and
the whole of the guests, after taking a respectful and grateful leave of
the host, departed--not in "most admired" disorder, but full of wonder.
By most persons the squire's "fantastical vagaries," as they were
termed, were traced to the vast quantity of wine he had drunk, but a few
others shook their heads, and said he was evidently bewitched, and that
Mother Chattox and Nance Redferne were at the bottom of it. As to the
portrait of Isole de Heton, it was found under the table, and it was
said that Nicholas himself had pulled it down; but this he obstinately
denied, when afterwards taken to task for his indecorous behaviour; and
to his dying day he asserted, and believed, that he had danced the brawl
with Isole de Heton. "And never," he would say, "had mortal man such a
partner."

From that night the two portraits in the banqueting-hall were regarded
with great awe by the inmates of the Abbey.




CHAPTER X.--THE NOCTURNAL MEETING.


On gaining the head of the staircase leading to the corridor, Mistress
Nutter, whose movements had hitherto been extremely rapid, paused with
her daughter to listen to the sounds arising from below. Suddenly was
heard a loud cry, and the music, which had waxed fast and furious in
order to keep pace with the frenzied boundings of the squire, ceased at
once, showing some interruption had occurred, while from the confused
noise that ensued, it was evident the sudden stoppage had been the
result of accident. With blanched cheek Alizon listened, scarcely daring
to look at her mother, whose expression of countenance, revealed by the
lamp she held in her hand, almost frightened her; and it was a great
relief to hear the voices and laughter of the serving-men as they came
forth with Nicholas, and bore him towards another part of the mansion;
and though much shocked, she was glad when one of them, who appeared to
be Nicholas's own servant, assured the others "that it was only a
drunken fit and that the squire would wake up next morning as if nothing
had happened."

Apparently satisfied with this explanation, Mistress Nutter moved on;
but a new feeling of uneasiness came over Alizon as she followed her
down the long dusky corridor, in the direction of the mysterious
chamber, where they were to pass the night. The fitful flame of the lamp
fell upon many a grim painting depicting the sufferings of the early
martyrs; and these ghastly representations did not serve to re-assure
her. The grotesque carvings on the panels and ribs of the vaulted roof,
likewise impressed her with vague terror, and there was one large piece
of sculpture--Saint Theodora subjected to diabolical temptation, as
described in the Golden Legend--that absolutely scared her. Their
footsteps echoed hollowly overhead, and more than once, deceived by the
sound, Alizon turned to see if any one was behind them. At the end of
the corridor lay the room once occupied by the superior of the religious
establishment, and still known from that circumstance as the "Abbot's
Chamber." Connected with this apartment was the beautiful oratory built
by Paslew, wherein he had kept his last vigils; and though now no longer
applied to purposes of worship, still wearing from the character of its
architecture, its sculptured ornaments, and the painted glass in its
casements, a dim religious air. The abbot's room was allotted to Dorothy
Assheton; and from its sombre magnificence, as well as the ghostly tales
connected with it, had impressed her with so much superstitious
misgiving, that she besought Alizon to share her couch with her, but the
young girl did not dare to assent. Just, however, as Mistress Nutter was
about to enter her own room, Dorothy appeared on the corridor, and,
calling to Alizon to stay a moment, flew quickly towards her, and
renewed the proposition. Alizon looked at her mother, but the latter
decidedly, and somewhat sternly, negatived it.

The young girls then said good-night, kissing each other affectionately,
after which Alizon entered the room with Mistress Nutter, and the door
was closed. Two tapers were burning on the dressing-table, and their
light fell upon the carved figures of the wardrobe, which still
exercised the same weird influence over her. Mistress Nutter neither
seemed disposed to retire to rest immediately, nor willing to talk, but
sat down, and was soon lost in thought. After awhile, an impulse of
curiosity which she could not resist, prompted Alizon to peep into the
closet, and pushing aside the tapestry, partly drawn over the entrance,
she held the lamp forward so as to throw its light into the little
chamber. A mere glance was all she was allowed, but it sufficed to show
her the large oak chest, though the monkish robe lately suspended above
it, and which had particularly attracted her attention, was gone.
Mistress Nutter had noticed the movement, and instantly and somewhat
sharply recalled her.

As Alizon obeyed, a slight tap was heard at the door. The young girl
turned pale, for in her present frame of mind any little matter affected
her. Nor were her apprehensions materially allayed by the entrance of
Dorothy, who, looking white as a sheet, said she did not dare to remain
in her own room, having been terribly frightened, by seeing a monkish
figure in mouldering white garments, exactly resembling one of the
carved images on the wardrobe, issue from behind the hangings on the
wall, and glide into the oratory, and she entreated Mistress Nutter to
let Alizon go back with her. The request was peremptorily refused, and
the lady, ridiculing Dorothy for her fears, bade her return; but she
still lingered. This relation filled Alizon with inexpressible alarm,
for though she did not dare to allude to the disappearance of the
monkish gown, she could not help connecting the circumstance with the
ghostly figure seen by Dorothy.

Unable otherwise to get rid of the terrified intruder, whose presence
was an evident restraint to her, Mistress Nutter, at length, consented
to accompany her to her room, and convince her of the folly of her
fears, by an examination of the oratory. Alizon went with them, her
mother not choosing to leave her behind, and indeed she herself was most
anxious to go.

The abbot's chamber was large and gloomy, nearly twice the size of the
room occupied by Mistress Nutter, but resembling it in many respects, as
well as in the No interdusky hue of its hangings and furniture, most of
which had been undisturbed since the days of Paslew. The very bed, of
carved oak, was that in which he had slept, and his arms were still
displayed upon it, and on the painted glass of the windows. As Alizon
entered she looked round with apprehension, but nothing occurred to
justify her uneasiness. Having raised the arras, from behind which
Dorothy averred the figure had issued, and discovering nothing but a
panel of oak; with a smile of incredulity, Mistress Nutter walked boldly
towards the oratory, the two girls, hand in hand, following tremblingly
after her; but no fearful object met their view. A dressing-table, with
a large mirror upon it, occupied the spot where the altar had formerly
stood; but, in spite of this, and of other furniture, the little place
of prayer, as has previously been observed, retained much of its
original character, and seemed more calculated to inspire sentiments of
devotional awe than any other.

After remaining for a short time in the oratory, during which she
pointed out the impossibility of any one being concealed there, Mistress
Nutter assured Dorothy she might rest quite easy that nothing further
would occur to alarm her, and recommending her to lose the sense of her
fears as speedily as she could in sleep, took her departure with Alizon.

But the recommendation was of little avail. The poor girl's heart died
within her, and all her former terrors returned, and with additional
force. Sitting down, she looked fixedly at the hangings till her eyes
ached, and then covering her face with her hands, and scarcely daring to
breathe, she listened intently for the slightest sound. A rustle would
have made her scream--but all was still as death, so profoundly quiet,
that the very hush and silence became a new cause of disquietude, and
longing for some cheerful sound to break it, she would have spoken aloud
but from a fear of hearing her own voice. A book lay before her, and she
essayed to read it, but in vain. She was ever glancing fearfully
round--ever listening intently. This state could not endure for ever,
and feeling a drowsiness steal over her she yielded to it, and at length
dropped asleep in her chair. Her dreams, however, were influenced by her
mental condition, and slumber was no refuge, as promised by Mistress
Nutter, from the hauntings of terror.

At last a jarring sound aroused her, and she found she had been awakened
by the clock striking twelve. Her lamp required trimming and burnt
dimly, but by its imperfect light she saw the arras move. This could be
no fancy, for the next moment the hangings were raised, and a figure
looked from behind them; and this time it was not the monk, but a female
robed in white. A glimpse of the figure was all Dorothy caught, for it
instantly retreated, and the tapestry fell back to its place against the
wall. Scared by this apparition, Dorothy rushed out of the room so
hurriedly that she forgot to take her lamp, and made her way, she
scarcely knew how, to the adjoining chamber. She did not tap at the
door, but trying it, and finding it unfastened, opened it softly, and
closed it after her, resolved if the occupants of the room were asleep
not to disturb them, but to pass the night in a chair, the presence of
some living beings beside her sufficing, in some degree, to dispel her
terrors. The room was buried in darkness, the tapers being extinguished.

Advancing on tiptoe she soon discovered a seat, when what was her
surprise to find Alizon asleep within it. She was sure it was
Alizon--for she had touched her hair and face, and she felt surprised
that the contact had not awakened her. Still more surprised did she feel
that the young girl had not retired to rest. Again she stepped forward
in search of another chair, when a gleam of light suddenly shot from one
side of the bed, and the tapestry, masking the entrance to the closet,
was slowly drawn aside. From behind it, the next moment, appeared the
same female figure, robed in white, that she had previously beheld in
the abbot's chamber. The figure held a lamp in one hand, and a small
box in the other, and, to her unspeakable horror, disclosed the livid
and contorted countenance of Mistress Nutter.

[Illustration: ALIZON ALARMED AT THE APPEARANCE OF MRS. NUTTER.]

Dreadful though undefined suspicions crossed her mind, and she feared,
if discovered, she should be sacrificed to the fury of this strange and
terrible woman. Luckily, where she stood, though Mistress Nutter was
revealed to her, she herself was screened from view by the hangings of
the bed, and looking around for a hiding-place, she observed that the
mysterious wardrobe, close behind her, was open, and without a moment's
hesitation, she slipped into the covert and drew the door to,
noiselessly. But her curiosity overmastered her fear, and, firmly
believing some magical rite was about to be performed, she sought for
means of beholding it; nor was she long in discovering a small
eyelet-hole in the carving which commanded the room.

Unconscious of any other presence than that of Alizon, whose stupor
appeared to occasion her no uneasiness, Mistress Nutter, placed the lamp
upon the table, made fast the door, and, muttering some unintelligible
words, unlocked the box. It contained two singularly-shaped glass
vessels, the one filled with a bright sparkling liquid, and the other
with a greenish-coloured unguent. Pouring forth a few drops of the
liquid into a glass near her, Mistress Nutter swallowed them, and then
taking some of the unguent upon her hands, proceeded to anoint her face
and neck with it, exclaiming as she did so, "Emen hetan! Emen
hetan!"--words that fixed themselves upon the listener's memory.

Wondering what would follow, Dorothy gazed on, when she suddenly lost
sight of Mistress Nutter, and after looking for her as far as her range
of vision, limited by the aperture, would extend, she became convinced
that she had left the room. All remaining quiet, she ventured, after
awhile, to quit her hiding-place, and flying to Alizon, tried to waken
her, but in vain. The poor girl retained the same moveless attitude, and
appeared plunged in a deathly stupor.

Much frightened, Dorothy resolved to alarm the house, but some fears of
Mistress Nutter restrained her, and she crept towards the closet to see
whether that dread lady could be there. All was perfectly still; and
somewhat emboldened, she returned to the table, where the box, which was
left open and its contents unguarded, attracted her attention.

What was the liquid in the phial? What could it do? These were questions
she asked herself, and longing to try the effect, she ventured at last
to pour forth a few drops and taste it. It was like a potent
distillation, and she became instantly sensible of a strange bewildering
excitement. Presently her brain reeled, and she laughed wildly. Never
before had she felt so light and buoyant, and wings seemed scarcely
wanting to enable her to fly. An idea occurred to her. The wondrous
liquid might arouse Alizon. The experiment should be tried at once, and,
dipping her finger in the phial, she touched the lips of the sleeper,
who sighed deeply and opened her eyes. Another drop, and Alizon was on
her feet, gazing at her in astonishment, and laughing wildly as herself.

Poor girls! how wild and strange they looked--and how unlike themselves!

"Whither are you going?" cried Alizon.

"To the moon! to the stars!--any where!" rejoined Dorothy, with a laugh
of frantic glee.

"I will go with you," cried Alizon, echoing the laugh.

"Here and there!--here and there!" exclaimed Dorothy, taking her hand.
"Emen hetan! Emen hetan!"

As the mystic words were uttered they started away. It seemed as if no
impediments could stop them; how they crossed the closet, passed through
a sliding panel into the abbot's room, entered the oratory, and from it
descended, by a secret staircase, to the garden, they knew not--but
there they were, gliding swiftly along in the moonlight, like winged
spirits. What took them towards the conventual church they could not
say. But they were drawn thither, as the ship was irresistibly dragged
towards the loadstone rock described in the Eastern legend. Nothing
surprised them then, or they might have been struck by the dense vapour,
enveloping the monastic ruins, and shrouding them from view; nor was it
until they entered the desecrated fabric, that any consciousness of what
was passing around returned to them.

Their ears were then assailed by a wild hubbub of discordant sounds,
hootings and croakings as of owls and ravens, shrieks and jarring cries
as of night-birds, bellowings as of cattle, groans and dismal sounds,
mixed with unearthly laughter. Undefined and extraordinary shapes,
whether men or women, beings of this world or of another they could not
tell, though they judged them the latter, flew past with wild whoops and
piercing cries, flapping the air as if with great leathern bat-like
wings, or bestriding black, monstrous, misshapen steeds. Fantastical and
grotesque were these objects, yet hideous and appalling. Now and then a
red and fiery star would whiz crackling through the air, and then
exploding break into numerous pale phosphoric lights, that danced awhile
overhead, and then flitted away among the ruins. The ground seemed to
heave and tremble beneath the footsteps, as if the graves were opening
to give forth their dead, while toads and hissing reptiles crept forth.

Appalled, yet partly restored to herself by this confused and horrible
din, Alizon stood still and kept fast hold of Dorothy, who, seemingly
under a stronger influence than herself, was drawn towards the eastern
end of the fane, where a fire appeared to be blazing, a strong ruddy
glare being cast upon the broken roof of the choir, and the mouldering
arches around it. The noises around them suddenly ceased, and all the
uproar seemed concentrated near the spot where the fire was burning.
Dorothy besought her friend so earnestly to let her see what was going
forward, that Alizon reluctantly and tremblingly assented, and they
moved slowly towards the transept, taking care to keep under the shelter
of the columns.

On reaching the last pillar, behind which they remained, an
extraordinary and fearful spectacle burst upon them. As they had
supposed, a large fire was burning in the midst of the choir, the smoke
of which, ascending in eddying wreaths, formed a dark canopy overhead,
where it was mixed with the steam issuing from a large black bubbling
caldron set on the blazing embers. Around the fire were ranged, in a
wide circle, an assemblage of men and women, but chiefly the latter, and
of these almost all old, hideous, and of malignant aspect, their grim
and sinister features looking ghastly in the lurid light. Above them,
amid the smoke and steam, wheeled bat and flitter-mouse, horned owl and
screech-owl, in mazy circles. The weird assemblage chattered together in
some wild jargon, mumbling and muttering spells and incantations,
chanting fearfully with hoarse, cracked voices a wild chorus, and anon
breaking into a loud and long-continued peal of laughter. Then there was
more mumbling, chattering, and singing, and one of the troop producing a
wallet, hobbled forward.

She was a fearful old crone; hunchbacked, toothless, blear-eyed,
bearded, halt, with huge gouty feet swathed in flannel. As she cast in
the ingredients one by one, she chanted thus:--


          "Head of monkey, brain of cat,
           Eye of weasel, tail of rat,
           Juice of mugwort, mastic, myrrh--
           All within the pot I stir."

"Well sung, Mother Mould-heels," cried a little old man, whose doublet
and hose were of rusty black, with a short cloak, of the same hue, over
his shoulders. "Well sung, Mother Mould-heels," he cried, advancing as
the old witch retired, amidst a roar of laughter from the others, and
chanting as he filled the caldron:

          "Here is foam from a mad dog's lips,
           Gather'd beneath the moon's eclipse,
           Ashes of a shroud consumed,
           And with deadly vapour fumed.
           These within the mess I cast--
           Stir the caldron--stir it fast!"

A red-haired witch then took his place, singing,

          "Here are snakes from out the river,
           Bones of toad and sea-calf's liver;
           Swine's flesh fatten'd on her brood,
           Wolf's tooth, hare's foot, weasel's blood.
           Skull of ape and fierce baboon,
           And panther spotted like the moon;
           Feathers of the horned owl,
           Daw, pie, and other fatal fowl.
           Fruit from fig-tree never sown,
           Seed from cypress never grown.
           All within the mess I cast,
           Stir the caldron--stir it fast!"

Nance Redferne then advanced, and, taking from her wallet a small clay
image, tricked out in attire intended to resemble that of James Device,
plunged several pins deeply into its breast, singing as she did so,
thus,--

          "In his likeness it is moulded,
           In his vestments 'tis enfolded.
           Ye may know it, as I show it!
           In its breast sharp pins I stick,
           And I drive them to the quick.
           They are in--they are in--
           And the wretch's pangs begin.
           Now his heart,
           Feels the smart;
           Through his marrow,
           Sharp as arrow,
           Torments quiver
           He shall shiver,
           He shall burn,
           He shall toss, and he shall turn.
           Unavailingly.
           Aches shall rack him,
           Cramps attack him,
           He shall wail,
           Strength shall fail,
           Till he die
           Miserably!"

As Nance retired, another witch advanced, and sung thus:

          "Over mountain, over valley, over woodland, over waste,
           On our gallant broomsticks riding we have come with
               frantic haste,
           And the reason of our coming, as ye wot well, is to see
           Who this night, as new-made witch, to our ranks shall
               added be."

A wild burst of laughter followed this address, and another wizard
succeeded, chanting thus:

          "Beat the water, Demdike's daughter!
               Till the tempest gather o'er us;
           Till the thunder strike with wonder
               And the lightnings flash before us!
           Beat the water, Demdike's daughter!
           Ruin seize our foes and slaughter!"

As the words were uttered, a woman stepped from out the circle, and
throwing back the grey-hooded cloak in which she was enveloped,
disclosed the features of Elizabeth Device. Her presence in that fearful
assemblage occasioned no surprise to Alizon, though it increased her
horror. A pail of water was next set before the witch, and a broom being
placed in her hand, she struck the lymph with it, sprinkling it aloft,
and uttering this spell:

          "Mount, water, to the skies!
           Bid the sudden storm arise.
           Bid the pitchy clouds advance,
           Bid the forked lightnings glance,
           Bid the angry thunder growl,
           Bid the wild wind fiercely howl!
           Bid the tempest come amain,
           Thunder, lightning, wind, and rain!"

[Illustration: THE INCANTATION.]

As she concluded, clouds gathered thickly overhead, obscuring the
stars that had hitherto shone down from the heavens. The wind suddenly
arose, but in lieu of dispersing the vapours it seemed only to condense
them. A flash of forked lightning cut through the air, and a loud peal
of thunder rolled overhead.

Then the whole troop sang together--

          "Beat the water, Demdike's daughter!
               See the tempests gathers o'er us,
           Lightning flashes--thunder crashes,
               Wild winds sing in lusty chorus!"

For a brief space the storm raged fearfully, and recalled the terror of
that previously witnessed by Alizon, which she now began to think might
have originated in a similar manner. The wind raved around the ruined
pile, but its breath was not felt within it, and the rain was heard
descending in deluging showers without, though no drop came through the
open roof. The thunder shook the walls and pillars of the old fabric,
and threatened to topple them down from their foundations, but they
resisted the shocks. The lightning played around the tall spire
springing from this part of the fane, and ran down from its shattered
summit to its base, without doing any damage. The red bolts struck the
ground innocuously, though they fell at the very feet of the weird
assemblage, who laughed wildly at the awful tumult.

Whilst the storm was at its worst, while the lightning was flashing
fiercely, and the thunder rattling loudly, Mother Chattox, with a
chafing-dish in her hand, advanced towards the fire, and placing the pan
upon it, threw certain herbs and roots into it, chanting thus:--


          "Here is juice of poppy bruised,
           With black hellebore infused;
           Here is mandrake's bleeding root,
           Mixed with moonshade's deadly fruit;
           Viper's bag with venom fill'd,
           Taken ere the beast was kill'd;
           Adder's skin and raven's feather,
           With shell of beetle blent together;
           Dragonwort and barbatus,
           Hemlock black and poisonous;
           Horn of hart, and storax red,
           Lapwing's blood, at midnight shed.
           In the heated pan they burn,
           And to pungent vapours turn.
           By this strong suffumigation,
           By this potent invocation,
           Spirits! I compel you here!
           All who list may call appear!"

After a moment's pause, she resumed as follows:--

          "White-robed brethren, who of old,
           Nightly paced yon cloisters cold,
           Sleeping now beneath the mould!
                              I bid ye rise.

          "Abbots! by the weakling fear'd,
           By the credulous revered,
           Who this mighty fabric rear'd!
                              I bid ye rise!

          "And thou last and guilty one!
           By thy lust of power undone,
           Whom in death thy fellows shun!
                              I bid thee come!

          "And thou fair one, who disdain'd
           To keep the vows thy lips had feign'd;
           And thy snowy garments stain'd!
                              I bid thee come!"

During this invocation, the glee of the assemblage ceased, and they
looked around in hushed expectation of the result. Slowly then did a
long procession of monkish forms, robed in white, glide along the
aisles, and gather round the altar. The brass-covered stones within the
presbytery were lifted up, as if they moved on hinges, and from the
yawning graves beneath them arose solemn shapes, sixteen in number, each
with mitre on head and crosier in hand, which likewise proceeded to the
altar. Then a loud cry was heard, and from a side chapel burst the
monkish form, in mouldering garments, which Dorothy had seen enter the
oratory, and which would have mingled with its brethren at the altar,
but they waved it off menacingly. Another piercing shriek followed, and
a female shape, habited like a nun, and of surpassing loveliness, issued
from the opposite chapel, and hovered near the fire. Content with this
proof of her power, Mother Chattox waved her hand, and the long shadowy
train glided off as they came. The ghostly abbots returned to their
tombs, and the stones closed over them. But the shades of Paslew and
Isole de Heton still lingered.

The storm had wellnigh ceased, the thunder rolled hollowly at intervals,
and a flash of lightning now and then licked the walls. The weird crew
had resumed their rites, when the door of the Lacy chapel flew open, and
a tall female figure came forward.

Alizon doubted if she beheld aright. Could that terrific woman in the
strangely-fashioned robe of white, girt by a brazen zone graven with
mystic characters, with a long glittering blade in her hand, infernal
fury in her wildly-rolling orbs, the livid hue of death on her cheeks,
and the red brand upon her brow--could that fearful woman, with the
black dishevelled tresses floating over her bare shoulders, and whose
gestures were so imperious, be Mistress Nutter? Mother no longer, if it
indeed were she! How came she there amid that weird assemblage? Why did
they so humbly salute her, and fall prostrate before her, kissing the
hem of her garment? Why did she stand proudly in the midst of them, and
extend her hand, armed with the knife, over them? Was she their
sovereign mistress, that they bent so lowly at her coming, and rose so
reverentially at her bidding? Was this terrible woman, now seated oh a
dilapidated tomb, and regarding the dark conclave with the eye of a
queen who held their lives in her hands--was she her mother? Oh,
no!--no!--it could not be! It must be some fiend that usurped her
likeness.

Still, though Alizon thus strove to discredit the evidence of her
senses, and to hold all she saw to be delusion, and the work of
darkness, she could not entirely convince herself, but imperfectly
recalling the fearful vision she had witnessed during her former stupor,
began to connect it with the scene now passing before her. The storm had
wholly ceased, and the stars again twinkled down through the shattered
roof. Deep silence prevailed, broken only by the hissing and bubbling of
the caldron.

Alizon's gaze was riveted upon her mother, whose slightest gestures she
watched. After numbering the assemblage thrice, Mistress Nutter
majestically arose, and motioning Mother Chattox towards her, the old
witch tremblingly advanced, and some words passed between them, the
import of which did not reach the listener's ear. In conclusion,
however, Mistress Nutter exclaimed aloud, in accents of command--"Go,
bring it at once, the sacrifice must be made."--And on this, Mother
Chattox hobbled off to one of the side chapels.

A mortal terror seized Alizon, and she could scarcely draw breath. Dark
tales had been told her that unbaptised infants were sometimes
sacrificed by witches, and their flesh boiled and devoured at their
impious banquets, and dreading lest some such atrocity was now about to
be practised, she mustered all her resolution, determined, at any risk,
to interfere, and, if possible, prevent its accomplishment.

In another moment, Mother Chattox returned bearing some living thing,
wrapped in a white cloth, which struggled feebly for liberation,
apparently confirming Alizon's suspicions, and she was about to rush
forward, when Mistress Nutter, snatching the bundle from the old witch,
opened it, and disclosed a beautiful bird, with plumage white as driven
snow, whose legs were tied together, so that it could not escape.
Conjecturing what was to follow, Alizon averted her eyes, and when she
looked round again the bird had been slain, while Mother Chattox was in
the act of throwing its body into the caldron, muttering a charm as she
did so. Mistress Nutter held the ensanguined knife aloft, and casting
some ruddy drops upon the glowing embers, pronounced, as they hissed and
smoked, the following adjuration:--

          "Thy aid I seek, infernal Power!
           Be thy word sent to Malkin Tower,
           That the beldame old may know
           Where I will, thou'dst have her go--
           What I will, thou'dst have her do!"

An immediate response was made by an awful voice issuing apparently from
the bowels of the earth.

          "Thou who seek'st the Demon's aid,
           Know'st the price that must be paid."

The queen witch rejoined--

          "I do. But grant the aid I crave,
           And that thou wishest thou shalt have.
           Another worshipper is won,
           Thine to be, when all is done."

Again the deep voice spake, with something of mockery in its accents:--

           "Enough proud witch, I am content.
           To Malkin Tower the word is sent,
           Forth to her task the beldame goes,
           And where she points the streamlet flows;
           Its customary bed forsaking,
           Another distant channel making.
           Round about like elfets tripping,
           Stock and stone, and tree are skipping;
           Halting where she plants her staff,
           With a wild exulting laugh.
               Ho! ho! 'tis a merry sight,
               Thou hast given the hag to-night.

           Lo! the sheepfold, and the herd,
           To another site are stirr'd!
           And the rugged limestone quarry,
           Where 'twas digg'd may no more tarry;
           While the goblin haunted dingle,
           With another dell must mingle.
           Pendle Moor is in commotion,
           Like the billows of the ocean,
           When the winds are o'er it ranging,
           Heaving, falling, bursting, changing.
               Ho! ho! 'tis a merry sight
               Thou hast given the hag to-night.

           Lo! the moss-pool sudden flies,
           In another spot to rise;
           And the scanty-grown plantation,
           Finds another situation,
           And a more congenial soil,
           Without needing woodman's toil.
           Now the warren moves--and see!
           How the burrowing rabbits flee,
           Hither, thither till they find it,
           With another brake behind it.
               Ho! ho! 'tis a merry sight
               Thou hast given the hag to-night.

           Lo! new lines the witch is tracing,
           Every well-known mark effacing,
           Elsewhere, other bounds erecting,
           So the old there's no detecting.
               Ho! ho! 'tis a pastime quite,
               Thou hast given the hag to-night!

           The hind at eve, who wander'd o'er
           The dreary waste of Pendle Moor,
           Shall wake at dawn, and in surprise,
           Doubt the strange sight that meets his eyes.
           The pathway leading to his hut
           Winds differently,--the gate is shut.
           The ruin on the right that stood.
           Lies on the left, and nigh the wood;
           The paddock fenced with wall of stone,
           Wcll-stock'd with kine, a mile hath flown,
           The sheepfold and the herd are gone.
           Through channels new the brooklet rushes,
           Its ancient course conceal'd by bushes.
           Where the hollow was, a mound
           Rises from the upheaved ground.
           Doubting, shouting with surprise,
           How the fool stares, and rubs his eyes!
           All's so changed, the simple elf
           Fancies he is changed himself!
           Ho! ho! 'tis a merry sight
           The hag shall have when dawns the light.
           But see! she halts and waves her hand.
           All is done as thou hast plann'd."

After a moment's pause the voice added,

          "I have done as thou hast will'd--
           Now be thy path straight fulfill'd."

"It shall be," replied Mistress Nutter, whose features gleamed with
fierce exultation. "Bring forth the proselyte!" she shouted.

And at the words, her swarthy serving-man, Blackadder, came forth from
the Lacy chapel, leading Jennet by the hand. They were followed by Tib,
who, dilated to twice his former size, walked with tail erect, and eyes
glowing like carbuncles.

At sight of her daughter a loud cry of rage and astonishment burst from
Elizabeth Device, and, rushing forward, she would have seized her, if
Tib had not kept her off by a formidable display of teeth and talons.
Jennet made no effort to join her mother, but regarded her with a
malicious and triumphant grin.

"This is my chilt," screamed Elizabeth. "She canna be baptised without
my consent, an ey refuse it. Ey dunna want her to be a witch--at least
not yet awhile. What mays yo here, yo little plague?"

"Ey wur brought here, mother," replied Jennet, with affected simplicity.

"Then get whoam at once, and keep there," rejoined Elizabeth, furiously.

"Nay, eyst nah go just yet," replied Jennet. "Ey'd fain be a witch as
weel as yo."

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed the voice from below.

"Nah, nah--ey forbid it," shrieked Elizabeth, "ye shanna be bapteesed.
Whoy ha ye brought her here, madam?" she added to Mistress Nutter. "Yo
ha' stolen her fro' me. Boh ey protest agen it."

"Your consent is not required," replied Mistress Nutter, waving her off.
"Your daughter is anxious to become a witch. That is enough."

"She is not owd enough to act for herself," said Elizabeth.

"Age matters not," replied Mistress Nutter.

"What mun ey do to become a witch?" asked Jennet.

"You must renounce all hopes of heaven," replied Mistress Nutter, "and
devote yourself to Satan. You will then be baptised in his name, and
become one of his worshippers. You will have power to afflict all
persons with bodily ailments--to destroy cattle--blight corn--burn
dwellings--and, if you be so minded, kill those you hate, or who molest
you. Do you desire to do all this?"

"Eigh, that ey do," replied Jennet. "Ey ha' more pleasure in evil than
in good, an wad rayther see folk weep than laugh; an if ey had the
power, ey wad so punish them os jeer at me, that they should rue it to
their deein' day."

"All this you shall do, and more," rejoined Mistress Nutter. "You
renounce all hopes of salvation, then, and devote yourself, soul and
body, to the Powers of Darkness."

Elizabeth, who was still kept at bay by Tib, shaking her arms, and
gnashing her teeth, in impotent rage, now groaned aloud; but ere Jennet
could answer, a piercing cry was heard, which thrilled through Mistress
Nutter's bosom, and Alizon, rushing from her place of concealment,
passed through the weird circle, and stood beside the group in the midst
of it.

"Forbear, Jennet," she cried; "forbear! Pronounce not those impious
words, or you are lost for ever. Come with me, and I will save you."

"Sister Alizon," cried Jennet, staring at her in surprise, "what makes
you here?"

"Do not ask--but come," cried Alizon, trying to take her hand.

"Oh! what is this?" cried Mistress Nutter, now partly recovered from the
consternation and astonishment into which she had been thrown by
Alizon's unexpected appearance. "Why are you here? How have you broken
the chains of slumber in which I bound you? Fly--fly--at once, this girl
is past your help. You cannot save her. She is already devoted. Fly. I
am powerless to protect you here."

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed the voice.

"Do you not hear that laughter?" cried Mistress Nutter, with a haggard
look. "Go!"

"Never, without Jennet," replied Alizon, firmly.

"My child--my child--on my knees I implore you to depart," cried
Mistress Nutter, throwing herself before her--"You know not your
danger--oh, fly--fly!"

But Alizon continued inflexible.

"Yo are caught i' your own snare, madam," cried Elizabeth Device, with a
taunting laugh. "Sin Jennet mun be a witch, Alizon con be bapteesed os
weel. Your consent is not required--and age matters not--ha! ha!"

"Curses upon thy malice," cried Mistress Nutter, rising. "What can be
done in this extremity?"

"Nothing," replied the voice. "Jennet is mine already. If not brought
hither by thee, or by her mother, she would have come of her own accord.
I have watched her, and marked her for my own. Besides, she is fated.
The curse of Paslew clings to her."

As the words were uttered, the shade of the abbot glided forwards, and,
touching the shuddering child upon the brow with its finger, vanished
with a lamentable cry.

"Kneel, Jennet," cried Alizon; "kneel, and pray!"

"To me," rejoined the voice; "she can bend to no other power. Alice
Nutter, thou hast sought to deceive me, but in vain. I bade thee bring
thy daughter here, and in place of her thou offerest me the child of
another, who is mine already. I am not to be thus trifled with. Thou
knowest my will. Sprinkle water over her head, and devote her to me."

Alizon would fain have thrown herself on her knees, but extremity of
horror, or some overmastering influence, held her fast; and she remained
with her gaze fixed upon her mother, who seemed torn by conflicting
emotions.

"Is there no way to avoid this?" cried Mistress Nutter.

"No way but one," replied the voice. "I have been offered a new devotee,
and I claim fulfilment of the promise. Thy daughter or another, it
matters not--but not Jennet."

"I embrace the alternative," cried Mistress Nutter.

"It must be done upon the instant," said the voice.

"It shall be," replied Mistress Nutter. And, stretching her arm in the
direction of the mansion, she called in a loud imperious voice, "Dorothy
Assheton, come hither!"

A minute elapsed, but no one appeared, and, with a look of
disappointment, Mistress Nutter repeated the gesture and the words.

Still no one came.

"Baffled!" she exclaimed, "what can it mean?"

"There is a maiden within the south transept, who is not one of my
servants," cried the voice. "Call her."

"'Tis she!" cried Mistress Nutter, stretching her arm towards the
transept. "This time I am answered," she added, as with a wild laugh
Dorothy obeyed the summons.

"I have anointed myself with the unguent, and drank of the potion, ha!
ha! ha!" cried Dorothy, with a wild gesture, and wilder laughter.

"Ha! this accounts for her presence here," muttered Mistress Nutter.
"But it could not be better. She is in no mood to offer resistance.
Dorothy, thou shalt be a witch."

"A witch!" exclaimed the bewildered maiden. "Is Alizon a witch?"

"We are all witches here," replied Mistress Nutter.

Alizon had no power to contradict her.

"A merry company!" exclaimed Dorothy, laughing loudly.

"You will say so anon," replied Mistress Nutter, waving her hand over
her, and muttering a spell; "but you see them not in their true forms,
Dorothy. Look again--what do you behold now?"

"In place of a troop of old wrinkled crones in wretched habiliments,"
replied Dorothy, "I behold a band of lovely nymphs in light gauzy
attire, wreathed with flowers, and holding myrtle and olive branches in
their hands. See they rise, and prepare for the dance. Strains of
ravishing music salute the ear. I never heard sounds so sweet and
stirring. The round is formed. The dance begins. How gracefully--how
lightly they move--ha! ha!"

Alizon could not check her--could not undeceive her--for power of speech
as of movement was denied her, but she comprehended the strange delusion
under which the poor girl laboured. The figures Dorothy described as
young and lovely, were still to her the same loathsome and abhorrent
witches; the ravishing music jarred discordantly on her ear, as if
produced by a shrill cornemuse; and the lightsome dance was a fantastic
round, performed with shouts and laughter by the whole unhallowed crew.

Jennet laughed immoderately, and seemed delighted by the antics of the
troop.

"Ey never wished to dance efore," she cried, "boh ey should like to try
now."

"Join them, then," said Mistress Nutter.

And to the little girl's infinite delight a place was made for her in
the round, and, taking hands with Mother Mould-heels and the red-haired
witch, she footed it as merrily as the rest.

"Who is she in the nunlike habit?" inquired Dorothy, pointing to the
shade of Isole de Heton, which still hovered near the weird assemblage.
"She seems more beautiful than all the others. Will she not dance with
me?"

"Heed her not," said Mistress Nutter.

Dorothy, however, would not be gainsaid, but, spite of the caution,
beckoned the figure towards her. It came at once, and in another instant
its arms were enlaced around her. The same frenzy that had seized
Nicholas now took possession of Dorothy, and her dance with Isole might
have come to a similar conclusion, if it had not been abruptly checked
by Mistress Nutter, who, waving her hand, and pronouncing a spell, the
figure instantly quitted Dorothy, and, with a wild shriek, fled.

"How like you these diversions?" said Mistress Nutter to the panting and
almost breathless maiden.

"Marvellously," replied Dorothy; "but why have you scared my partner
away?"

"Because she would have done you a mischief," rejoined Mistress Nutter.
"But now let me put a question to you. Are you willing to renounce your
baptism, and enter into a covenant with the Prince of Darkness?"

Dorothy did not seem in the least to comprehend what was said to her;
but she nevertheless replied, "I am."

"Bring water and salt," said Mistress Nutter to Mother Chattox. "By
these drops I baptise you," she added, dipping her fingers in the
liquid, and preparing to sprinkle it over the brow of the proselyte.

Then it was that Alizon, by an almost superhuman effort, burst the
spell that bound her, and clasped Dorothy in her arms.

"You know not what you do, dear Dorothy," she cried. "I answer for you.
You will not yield to the snares and temptations of Satan, however
subtly devised. You defy him and all his works. You will make no
covenant with him. Though surrounded by his bond-slaves, you fear him
not. Is it not so? Speak!"

But Dorothy could only answer with an insane laugh--"I will be a witch."

"It is too late," interposed Mistress Nutter. "You cannot save her. And,
remember! she stands in your place. Or you or she must be devoted."

"I will never desert her," cried Alizon, twining her arms round her.
"Dorothy--dear Dorothy--address yourself to Heaven."

An angry growl of thunder was heard.

"Beware!" cried Mistress Nutter.

"I am not to be discouraged," rejoined Alizon, firmly. "You cannot gain
a victory over a soul in this condition, and I shall effect her
deliverance. Heaven will aid us, Dorothy."

A louder roll of thunder was heard, followed by a forked flash of
lightning.

"Provoke not the vengeance of the Prince of Darkness," said Mistress
Nutter.

"I have no fear," replied Alizon. "Cling to me, Dorothy. No harm shall
befall you."

"Be speedy!" cried the voice.

"Let her go," cried Mistress Nutter to Alizon, "or you will rue this
disobedience. Why should you interfere with my projects, and bring ruin
on yourself! I would save you. What, still obstinate? Nay, then, I will
no longer show forbearance. Help me, sisters. Force the new witch from
her. But beware how you harm my child."

At these words the troop gathered round the two girls. But Alizon only
clasped her hands more tightly round Dorothy; while the latter, on whose
brain the maddening potion still worked, laughed frantically at them. It
was at this moment that Elizabeth Device, who had conceived a project of
revenge, put it into execution. While near Dorothy, she stamped, spat on
the ground, and then cast a little mould over her, breathing in her ear,
"Thou art bewitched--bewitched by Alizon Device."

Dorothy instantly struggled to free herself from Alizon.

"Oh! do not you strive against me, dear Dorothy," cried Alizon. "Remain
with me, or you are lost."

"Hence! off! set me free!" shrieked Dorothy; "you have bewitched me. I
heard it this moment."

"Do not believe the false suggestion," cried Alizon.

"It is true," exclaimed all the other witches together. "Alizon has
bewitched you, and will kill you. Shake her off--shake her off!"

"Away!" cried Dorothy, mustering all her force. "Away!"

But Alizon was still too strong for her, and, in spite of her efforts at
liberation, detained her.

"My patience is wellnigh exhausted," exclaimed the voice.

"Alizon!" cried Mistress Nutter, imploringly.

And again the witches gathered furiously round the two girls.

"Kneel, Dorothy, kneel!" whispered Alizon. And forcing her down, she
fell on her knees beside her, exclaiming, with uplifted hands, "Gracious
heaven! deliver us."

As the words were uttered, a fearful cry was heard, and the weird troop
fled away screaming, like ill-omened birds. The caldron sank into the
ground; the dense mist arose like a curtain; and the moon and stars
shone brightly down upon the ruined pile.

Alizon prayed long and fervently, with clasped hands and closed eyes,
for deliverance from evil. When she looked round again, all was so calm,
so beautiful, so holy in its rest, that she could scarcely believe in
the recent fearful occurrences. Her hair and garments were damp with the
dews of night; and at her feet lay Dorothy, insensible.

She tried to raise her--to revive her, but in vain; when at this moment
footsteps were heard approaching, and the next moment Mistress Nutter,
accompanied by Adam Whitworth and some other serving-men, entered the
choir.

"I see them--they are here!" cried the lady, rushing forward.

"Heaven be praised you have found them, madam!" exclaimed the old
steward, coming quickly after her.

"Oh! what an alarm you have given me, Alizon," said Mistress Nutter.
"What could induce you to go forth secretly at night in this way with
Dorothy! I dreamed you were here, and missing you when I awoke, roused
the house and came in search of you. What is the matter with Dorothy?
She has been frightened, I suppose. I will give her to breathe at this
phial. It will revive her. See, she opens her eyes."

Dorothy looked round wildly for a moment, and then pointing her finger
at Alizon, said--

"She has bewitched me."

"Poor thing! she rambles," observed Mistress Nutter to Adam Whitworth,
who, with the other serving-men, stared aghast at the accusation; "she
has been scared out of her senses by some fearful sight. Let her be
conveyed quickly to my chamber, and I will see her cared for."

The orders were obeyed. Dorothy was raised gently by the serving-men,
but she still kept pointing to Alizon, and repeatedly exclaimed--

"She has bewitched me!"

The serving-men shook their heads, and looked significantly at each
other, while Mistress Nutter lingered to speak to her daughter.

"You look greatly disturbed, Alizon, as if you had been visited by a
nightmare in your sleep, and were still under its influence."

Alizon made no reply.

"A few hours' tranquil sleep will restore you," pursued Mistress Nutter,
"and you will forget your fears. You must not indulge in these nocturnal
rambles again, or they may be attended with dangerous consequences. I
may not have a second warning dream. Come to the house."

And, as Alizon followed her along the garden path, she could not help
asking herself, though with little hope in the question, if all she had
witnessed was indeed nothing more than a troubled dream.


END OF THE FIRST BOOK.




THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES.

BOOK THE SECOND.

Pendle Forest.




CHAPTER I.--FLINT.


A lovely morning succeeded the strange and terrible night. Brightly
shone the sun upon the fair Calder as it winded along the green meads
above the bridge, as it rushed rejoicingly over the weir, and pursued
its rapid course through the broad plain below the Abbey. A few white
vapours hung upon the summit of Whalley Nab, but the warm rays tinging
them with gold, and tipping with fire the tree-tops that pierced through
them, augured their speedy dispersion. So beautiful, so tranquil, looked
the old monastic fane, that none would have deemed its midnight rest had
been broken by the impious rites of a foul troop. The choir, where the
unearthly scream and the demon laughter had resounded, was now vocal
with the melodies of the blackbird, the thrush, and other songsters of
the grove. Bells of dew glittered upon the bushes rooted in the walls,
and upon the ivy-grown pillars; and gemming the countless spiders' webs
stretched from bough to bough, showed they were all unbroken. No traces
were visible on the sod where the unhallowed crew had danced their
round; nor were any ashes left where the fire had burnt and the caldron
had bubbled. The brass-covered tombs of the abbots in the presbytery
looked as if a century had passed over them without disturbance; while
the graves in the cloister cemetery, obliterated, and only to be
detected when a broken coffin or a mouldering bone was turned up by the
tiller of the ground, preserved their wonted appearance. The face of
nature had received neither impress nor injury from the fantastic freaks
and necromantic exhibitions of the witches. Every thing looked as it was
left overnight; and the only footprints to be detected were those of the
two girls, and of the party who came in quest of them. All else had
passed by like a vision or a dream. The rooks cawed loudly in the
neighbouring trees, as if discussing the question of breakfast, and the
jackdaws wheeled merrily round the tall spire, which sprang from the
eastern end of the fane.

Brightly shone the sun upon the noble timber embowering the mansion of
the Asshetons; upon the ancient gateway, in the upper chamber of which
Ned Huddlestone, the porter, and the burly representative of Friar Tuck,
was rubbing his sleepy eyes, preparatory to habiting himself in his
ordinary attire; and upon the wide court-yard, across which Nicholas was
walking in the direction of the stables. Notwithstanding his excesses
overnight, the squire was astir, as he had declared he should be, before
daybreak; and a plunge into the Calder had cooled his feverish limbs and
cured his racking headache, while a draught of ale set his stomach
right. Still, in modern parlance, he looked rather "seedy," and his
recollection of the events of the previous night was somewhat confused.
Aware he had committed many fooleries, he did not desire to investigate
matters too closely, and only hoped he should not be reminded of them by
Sir Ralph, or worse still, by Parson Dewhurst. As to his poor, dear,
uncomplaining wife, he never once troubled his head about her, feeling
quite sure she would not upbraid him. On his appearance in the
court-yard, the two noble blood-hounds and several lesser dogs came
forward to greet him, and, attended by this noisy pack, he marched up to
a groom, who was rubbing down his horse at the stable-door.

"Poor Robin," he cried to the steed, who neighed at his approach. "Poor
Robin," he said, patting his neck affectionately, "there is not thy
match for speed or endurance, for fence or ditch, for beck or stone
wall, in the country. Half an hour on thy back will make all right with
me; but I would rather take thee to Bowland Forest, and hunt the stag
there, than go and perambulate the boundaries of the Rough Lee estates
with a rascally attorney. I wonder how the fellow will be mounted."

"If yo be speering about Mester Potts, squoire," observed the groom, "ey
con tell ye. He's to ha' little Flint, the Welsh pony."

"Why, zounds, you don't say, Peter!" exclaimed Nicholas, laughing;
"he'll never be able to manage him. Flint's the wickedest and most
wilful little brute I ever knew. We shall have Master Potts run away
with, or thrown into a moss-pit. Better give him something quieter."

"It's Sir Roaph's orders," replied Peter, "an ey darna disobey 'em. Boh
Flint's far steadier than when yo seed him last, squoire. Ey dar say
he'll carry Mester Potts weel enough, if he dusna mislest him."

"You think nothing of the sort, Peter," said Nicholas. "You expect to
see the little gentleman fly over the pony's head, and perhaps break his
own at starting. But if Sir Ralph has ordered it, he must abide by the
consequences. I sha'n't interfere further. How goes on the young colt
you were breaking in? You should take care to show him the saddle in the
manger, let him smell it, and jingle the stirrups in his ears, before
you put it on his back. Better ground for his first lessons could not be
desired than the field below the grange, near the Calder. Sir Ralph was
saying yesterday, that the roan mare had pricked her foot. You must wash
the sore well with white wine and salt, rub it with the ointment the
farriers call aegyptiacum, and then put upon it a hot plaster compounded
of flax hards, turpentine, oil and wax, bathing the top of the hoof with
bole armeniac and vinegar. This is the best and quickest remedy. And
recollect, Peter, that for a new strain, vinegar, bole armeniac, whites
of eggs, and bean-flour, make the best salve. How goes on Sir Ralph's
black charger, Dragon? A brave horse that, Peter, and the only one in
your master's whole stud to compare with my Robin! But Dragon, though of
high courage and great swiftness, has not the strength and endurance of
Robin--neither can he leap so well. Why, Robin would almost clear the
Calder, Peter, and makes nothing of Smithies Brook, near Downham, and
you know how wide that stream is. I once tried him at the Ribble, at a
narrow point, and if horse could have done it, he would--but it was too
much to expect."

"A great deal, ey should say, squoire," replied the groom, opening his
eyes to their widest extent. "Whoy, th' Ribble, where yo speak on, mun
be twenty yards across, if it be an inch; and no nag os ever wur bred
could clear that, onless a witch wur on his back."

"Don't allude to witches, Peter," said Nicholas. "I've had enough of
them. But to come back to our steeds. Colour is matter of taste, and a
man must please his own eye with bay or grey, chestnut, sorrel, or
black; but dun is my fancy. A good horse, Peter, should be clean-limbed,
short-jointed, strong-hoofed, out-ribbed, broad-chested, deep-necked,
loose-throttled, thin-crested, lean-headed, full-eyed, with wide
nostrils. A horse with half these points would not be wrong, and Robin
has them all."

"So he has, sure enough, squoire," replied Peter, regarding the animal
with an approving eye, as Nicholas enumerated his merits. "Boh, if ey
might choose betwixt him an yunk Mester Ruchot Assheton's grey gelding,
Merlin, ey knoas which ey'd tak."

"Robin, of course," said Nicholas.

"Nah, squoire, it should be t'other," replied the groom.

"You're no judge of a horse, Peter," rejoined Nicholas, shrugging his
shoulders.

"May be not," said the groom, "boh ey'm bound to speak truth. An see!
Tum Lomax is bringin' out Merlin. We con put th' two nags soide by
soide, if yo choose."

"They shall be put side by side in the field, Peter--that's the way to
test their respective merit," returned Nicholas, "and they won't remain
long together, I'll warrant you. I offered to make a match for twenty
pieces with Master Richard, but he declined the offer. Harkee, Peter,
break an egg in Robin's mouth before you put on his bridle. It
strengthens the wind, and adds to a horse's power of endurance. You
understand?"

"Parfitly, squoire," replied the groom. "By th' mess! that's a secret
worth knoain'. Onny more orders?"

"No," replied Nicholas. "We shall set out in an hour--or it may be
sooner."

"Aw shan be ready," said Peter. And he added to himself, as Nicholas
moved away, "Ey'st tak care Tum Lomax gies an egg to Merlin, an that'll
may aw fair, if they chance to try their osses' mettle."

As Nicholas returned to the house, he perceived to his dismay Sir Ralph
and Parson Dewhurst standing upon the steps; and convinced, from their
grave looks, that they were prepared to lecture him, he endeavoured to
nerve himself for the infliction.

"Two to one are awkward odds," said the squire to himself, "especially
when they have the 'vantage ground. But I must face them, and make the
best fight circumstances will allow. I shall never be able to explain
that mad dance with Isole de Heton. No one but Dick will believe me, and
the chances are he will not support my story. But I must put on an air
of penitence, and sooth to say, in my present state, it is not very
difficult to assume."

Thus pondering, with slow step, affectedly humble demeanour, and
surprisingly-lengthened visage, he approached the pair who were waiting
for him, and regarding him with severe looks.

Thinking it the best plan to open the fire himself, Nicholas saluted
them, and said--

"Give you good-day, Sir Ralph, and you too, worthy Master Dewhurst. I
scarcely expected to see you so early astir, good sirs; but the morning
is too beautiful to allow us to be sluggards. For my own part I have
been awake for hours, and have passed the time wholly in self-reproaches
for my folly and sinfulness last night, as well as in forming
resolutions for self-amendment, and better governance in future."

"I hope you will adhere to those resolutions, then, Nicholas," rejoined
Sir Ralph, sternly; "for change of conduct is absolutely necessary, if
you would maintain your character as a gentleman. I can make allowance
for high animal spirits, and can excuse some licence, though I do not
approve of it; But I will not permit decorum to be outraged in my house,
and suffer so ill an example to be set to my tenantry."

"Fortunately I was not present at the exhibition," said Dewhurst; "but I
am told you conducted yourself like one possessed, and committed such
freaks as are rarely, if ever, acted by a rational being."

"I can offer no defence, worthy sir, and you my respected relative,"
returned Nicholas, with a contrite air; "neither can you reprove me
more strongly than I deserve, nor than I upbraid myself. I allowed
myself to be overcome by wine, and in that condition was undoubtedly
guilty of follies I must ever regret."

"Amongst others, I believe you stood upon your head," remarked Dewhurst.

"I am not aware of the circumstance, reverend sir," replied Nicholas,
with difficulty repressing a smile; "but as I certainly lost my head, I
may have stood upon it unconsciously. But I do recollect enough to make
me heartily ashamed of myself, and determine to avoid all such excesses
in future."

"In that case, sir," rejoined Dewhurst, "the occurrences of last night,
though sufficiently discreditable to you, will not be without profit;
for I have observed to my infinite regret, that you are apt to indulge
in immoderate potations, and when under their influence to lose due
command of yourself, and commit follies which your sober reason must
condemn. At such times I scarcely recognise you. You speak with
unbecoming levity, and even allow oaths to escape your lips."

"It is too true, reverend sir," said Nicholas; "but, zounds!--a plague
upon my tongue--it is an unruly member. Forgive me, good sir, but my
brain is a little confused."

"I do not wonder, from the grievous assaults made upon it last night,
Nicholas," observed Sir Ralph. "Perhaps you are not aware that your
crowning act was whisking wildly round the room by yourself, like a
frantic dervish."

"I was dancing with Isole de Heton," said Nicholas.

"With whom?" inquired Dewhurst, in surprise.

"With a wicked votaress, who has been dead nearly a couple of
centuries," interposed Sir Ralph; "and who, by her sinful life, merited
the punishment she is said to have incurred. This delusion shows how
dreadfully intoxicated you were, Nicholas. For the time you had quite
lost your reason."

"I am sober enough now, at all events," rejoined Nicholas; "and I am
convinced that Isole did dance with me, nor will any arguments reason me
out of that belief."

"I am sorry to hear you say so, Nicholas," returned Sir Ralph. "That you
were under the impression at the time I can easily understand; but that
you should persist in such a senseless and wicked notion is more than I
can comprehend."

"I saw her with my own eyes as plainly as I see you, Sir Ralph," replied
Nicholas, warmly; "that I declare upon my honour and conscience, and I
also felt the pressure of her arms. Whether it may not have been the
Fiend in her likeness I will not take upon me to declare--and indeed I
have some misgivings on the subject; but that a beautiful creature,
exactly resembling the votaress, danced with me, I will ever maintain."

"If so, she was invisible to others, for I beheld her not," said Sir
Ralph; "and, though I cannot yield credence to your explanation, yet,
granting it to be correct, I do not see how it mends your case."

"On the contrary, it only proves that Master Nicholas yielded to the
snares of Satan," said Dewhurst, shaking his head. "I would recommend
you long fasting and frequent prayer, my good sir, and I shall prepare a
lecture for your special edification, which I will propound to you on
your return to Downham, and, if it fails in effect, I will persevere
with other godly discourses."

"With your aid, I trust to be set free, reverend sir," returned
Nicholas; "but, as I have already passed two or three hours in prayer, I
hope they may stand me in lieu of any present fasting, and induce you to
omit the article of penance, or postpone it to some future occasion,
when I may be better able to perform it; for I am just now particularly
hungry, and am always better able to resist temptation with a full
stomach than an empty one. As I find it displeasing to Sir Ralph, I will
not insist upon my visionary partner in the dance, at least until I am
better able to substantiate the fact; and I shall listen to your
lectures, worthy sir, with great delight, and, I doubt not, with equal
benefit; but in the meantime, as carnal wants must be supplied, and
mundane matters attended to, I propose, with our excellent host's
permission, that we proceed to breakfast."

Sir Ralph made no answer, but ascended the steps, and was followed by
Dewhurst, heaving a deep sigh, and turning up the whites of his eyes,
and by Nicholas, who felt his bosom eased of half its load, and secretly
congratulated himself upon getting out of the scrape so easily.

In the hall they found Richard Assheton habited in a riding-dress,
booted, spurred, and in all respects prepared for the expedition. There
were such evident traces of anxiety and suffering about him, that Sir
Ralph questioned him as to the cause, and Richard replied that he had
passed a most restless night. He did not add, that he had been made
acquainted by Adam Whitworth with the midnight visit of the two girls to
the conventual church, because he was well aware Sir Ralph would be
greatly displeased by the circumstance, and because Mistress Nutter had
expressed a wish that it should be kept secret. Sir Ralph, however, saw
there was more upon his young relative's mind than he chose to confess,
but he did not urge any further admission into his confidence.

Meantime, the party had been increased by the arrival of Master Potts,
who was likewise equipped for the ride. The hour was too early, it might
be, for him, or he had not rested well like Richard, or had been
troubled with bad dreams, but certainly he did not look very well, or in
very good-humour. He had slept at the Abbey, having been accommodated
with a bed after the sudden seizure which he attributed to the
instrumentality of Mistress Nutter. The little attorney bowed
obsequiously to Sir Ralph, who returned his salutation very stiffly,
nor was he much better received by the rest of the company.

At a sign from Sir Ralph, his guests then knelt down, and a prayer was
uttered by the divine--or rather a discourse, for it partook more of the
latter character than the former. In the course of it he took occasion
to paint in strong colours the terrible consequences of intemperance,
and Nicholas was obliged to endure a well-merited lecture of half an
hour's duration. But even Parson Dewhurst could not hold out for ever,
and, to the relief of all his hearers, he at length brought this
discourse to a close.

Breakfast at this period was a much more substantial affair than a
modern morning repast, and differed little from dinner or supper, except
in respect to quantity. On the present occasion, there were carbonadoes
of fish and fowl, a cold chine, a huge pasty, a capon, neat's tongues,
sausages, botargos, and other matters as provocative of thirst as
sufficing to the appetite. Nicholas set to work bravely. Broiled trout,
steaks, and a huge slice of venison pasty, disappeared quickly before
him, and he was not quite so sparing of the ale as seemed consistent
with his previously-expressed resolutions of temperance. In vain Parson
Dewhurst filled a goblet with water, and looked significantly at him. He
would not take the hint, and turned a deaf ear to the admonitory cough
of Sir Ralph. He had little help from the others, for Richard ate
sparingly, and Master Potts made a very poor figure beside him. At
length, having cleared his plate, emptied his cup, and wiped his lips,
the squire arose, and said he must bid adieu to his wife, and should
then be ready to attend them.

While he quitted the hall for this purpose, Mistress Nutter entered it.
She looked paler than ever, and her eyes seemed larger, darker, and
brighter. Nicholas shuddered slightly as she approached, and even Potts
felt a thrill of apprehension pass through his frame. He scarcely,
indeed, ventured a look at her, for he dreaded her mysterious power, and
feared she could fathom the designs he secretly entertained against her.
But she took no notice whatever of him. Acknowledging Sir Ralph's
salutation, she motioned Richard to follow her to the further end of the
room.

"Your sister is very ill, Richard," she said, as the young man attended
her, "feverish, and almost light-headed. Adam Whitworth has told you, I
know, that she was imprudent enough, in company with Alizon, to visit
the ruins of the conventual church late last night, and she there
sustained some fright, which has produced a great shock upon her system.
When found, she was fainting, and though I have taken every care of her,
she still continues much excited, and rambles strangely. You will be
surprised as well as grieved when I tell you, that she charges Alizon
with having bewitched her."

"How, madam!" cried Richard. "Alizon bewitch her! It is impossible."

"You are right, Richard," replied Mistress Nutter; "the thing is
impossible; but the accusation will find easy credence among the
superstitious household here, and may be highly prejudicial, if not
fatal to poor Alizon. It is most unlucky she should have gone out in
this way, for the circumstance cannot be explained, and in itself serves
to throw suspicion upon her."

"I must see Dorothy before I go," said Richard; "perhaps I may be able
to soothe her."

"It was for that end I came hither," replied Mistress Nutter; "but I
thought it well you should be prepared. Now come with me."

Upon this they left the hall together, and proceeded to the abbot's
chamber, where Dorothy was lodged. Richard was greatly shocked at the
sight of his sister, so utterly changed was she from the blithe being of
yesterday--then so full of health and happiness. Her cheeks burnt with
fever, her eyes were unnaturally bright, and her fair hair hung about
her face in disorder. She kept fast hold of Alizon, who stood beside
her.

"Ah, Richard!" she cried on seeing him, "I am glad you are come. You
will persuade this girl to restore me to reason--to free me from the
terrors that beset me. She can do so if she will."

"Calm yourself, dear sister," said Richard, gently endeavouring to free
Alizon from her grasp.

"No, do not take her from me," said Dorothy, wildly; "I am better when
she is near me--much better. My brow does not throb so violently, and my
limbs are not twisted so painfully. Do you know what ails me, Richard?"

"You have caught cold from wandering out indiscreetly last night," said
Richard.

"I am bewitched!" rejoined Dorothy, in tones that pierced her brother's
brain--"bewitched by Alizon Device--by your love--ha! ha! She wishes to
kill me, Richard, because she thinks I am in her way. But you will not
let her do it."

"You are mistaken, dear Dorothy. She means you no harm," said Richard.

"Heaven knows how much I grieve for her, and how fondly I love her!"
exclaimed Alizon, tearfully.

"It is false!" cried Dorothy. "She will tell a different tale when you
are gone. She is a witch, and you shall never marry her,
Richard--never!--never!"

Mistress Nutter, who stood at a little distance, anxiously observing
what was passing, waved her hand several times towards the sufferer, but
without effect.

"I have no influence over her," she muttered. "She is really bewitched.
I must find other means to quieten her."

Though both greatly distressed, Alizon and Richard redoubled their
attentions to the poor sufferer. For a few moments she remained quiet,
but with her eyes constantly fixed on Alizon, and then said, quickly
and fiercely, "I have been told, if you scratch one who has bewitched
you till you draw blood, you will be cured. I will plunge my nails in
her flesh."

"I will not oppose you," replied Alizon, gently; "tear my flesh if you
will. You should have my life's blood if it would cure you; but if the
success of the experiment depends on my having bewitched you, it will
assuredly fail."

"This is dreadful," interposed Richard. "Leave her, Alizon, I entreat of
you. She will do you an injury."

"I care not," replied the young maid. "I will stay by her till she
voluntarily releases me."

The almost tigress fury with which Dorothy had seized upon the
unresisting girl here suddenly deserted her, and, sobbing hysterically,
she fell upon her neck. Oh, with what delight Alizon pressed her to her
bosom!

"Dorothy, dear Dorothy!" she cried.

"Alizon, dear Alizon!" responded Dorothy. "Oh! how could I suspect you
of any ill design against me!"

"She is no witch, dear sister, be assured of that!" said Richard.

"Oh, no--no--no! I am quite sure she is not," cried Dorothy, kissing her
affectionately.

This change had been wrought by the low-breathed spells of Mistress
Nutter.

"The access is over," she mentally ejaculated; "but I must get him away
before the fit returns." "You had better go now, Richard," she added
aloud, and touching his arm, "I will answer for your sister's
restoration. An opiate will produce sleep, and if possible, she shall
return to Middleton to-day."

"If I go, Alizon must go with me," said Dorothy. "Well, well, I will not
thwart your desires," rejoined Mistress Nutter. And she made a sign to
Richard to depart.

The young man pressed his sister's hand, bade a tender farewell to
Alizon, and, infinitely relieved by the improvement which had taken
place in the former, and which he firmly believed would speedily lead to
her entire restoration, descended to the entrance-hall, where he found
Sir Ralph and Parson Dewhurst, who told him that Nicholas and Potts were
in the court-yard, and impatient to set out.

Shouts of laughter saluted the ears of the trio as they descended the
steps. The cause of the merriment was speedily explained when they
looked towards the stables, and beheld Potts struggling for mastery with
a stout Welsh pony, who showed every disposition, by plunging, kicking,
and rearing, to remove him from his seat, though without success, for
the attorney was not quite such a contemptible horseman as might be
imagined. A wicked-looking little fellow was Flint, with a rough,
rusty-black coat, a thick tail that swept the ground, a mane to match,
and an eye of mixed fire and cunning. When brought forth he had allowed
Potts to mount him quietly enough; but no sooner was the attorney
comfortably in possession, than he was served with a notice of
ejectment. Down went Flint's head and up went his heels; while on the
next instant he was rearing aloft, with his fore-feet beating the air,
so nearly perpendicular, that the chances seemed in favour of his coming
down on his back. Then he whirled suddenly round, shook himself
violently, threatened to roll over, and performed antics of the most
extraordinary kind, to the dismay of his rider, but to the infinite
amusement of the spectators, who were ready to split their sides with
laughter--indeed, tears fairly streamed down the squire's cheeks.
However, when Sir Ralph appeared, it was thought desirable to put an end
to the fun; and Peter, the groom, advanced to seize the restive little
animal's bridle, but, eluding the grasp, Flint started off at full
gallop, and, accompanied by the two blood-hounds, careered round the
court-yard, as if running in a ring. Vainly did poor Potts tug at the
bridle. Flint, having the bit firmly between his teeth, defied his
utmost efforts. Away he went with the hounds at his heels, as if, said
Nicholas, "the devil were behind him." Though annoyed and angry, Sir
Ralph could not help laughing at the ridiculous scene, and even a smile
crossed Parson Dewhurst's grave countenance as Flint and his rider
scampered madly past them. Sir Ralph called to the grooms, and attempts
were instantly made to check the furious pony's career; but he baffled
them all, swerving suddenly round when an endeavour was made to
intercept him, leaping over any trifling obstacle, and occasionally
charging any one who stood in his path. What with the grooms running
hither and thither, vociferating and swearing, the barking and springing
of the hounds, the yelping of lesser dogs, and the screaming of poultry,
the whole yard was in a state of uproar and confusion.

"Flint mun be possessed," cried Peter. "Ey never seed him go on i' this
way efore. Ey noticed Elizabeth Device near th' stables last neet, an ey
shouldna wonder if hoo ha' bewitched him."

"Neaw doubt on't," replied another groom. "Howsomever we mun contrive to
ketch him, or Sir Roaph win send us aw abowt our business.

"Ey wish yo'd contrive to do it, then, Tum Lomax," replied Peter, "fo'
ey'm fairly blowd. Dang me, if ey ever seed sich hey-go-mad wark i' my
born days. What's to be done, squoire?" he added to Nicholas.

"The devil only knows," replied the latter; "but it seems we must wait
till the little rascal chooses to stop."

This occurred sooner than was expected. Thinking, possibly, that he had
done enough to induce Master Potts to give up all idea of riding him,
Flint suddenly slackened his pace, and trotted, as if nothing had
happened, to the stable-door; but if he had formed any such notion as
the above, he was deceived, for the attorney, who was quite as obstinate
and wilful as himself, and who through all his perils had managed to
maintain his seat, was resolved not to abandon it, and positively
refused to dismount when urged to do so by Nicholas and the grooms.

"He will go quietly enough now, I dare say," observed Potts, "and if
not, and you will lend me a hunting-whip, I will undertake to cure him
of his tricks."

Flint seemed to understand what was said, for he laid back his ears as
if meditating more mischief; but being surrounded by the grooms, he
deemed it advisable to postpone the attempt to a more convenient
opportunity. In compliance with his request, a heavy hunting-whip was
handed to Potts, and, armed with this formidable weapon, the little
attorney quite longed for an opportunity of effacing his disgrace.
Meanwhile, Sir Ralph had come up and ordered a steady horse out for him;
but Master Potts adhered to his resolution, and Flint remaining
perfectly quiet, the baronet let him have his own way.

Soon after this, Nicholas and Richard having mounted their steeds, the
party set forth. As they were passing through the gateway, which had
been thrown wide open by Ned Huddlestone, they were joined by Simon
Sparshot, who had been engaged by Potts to attend him on the expedition
in his capacity of constable. Simon was mounted on a mule, and brought
word that Master Roger Nowell begged they would ride round by Read Hall,
where he would be ready to accompany them, as he wished to be present at
the perambulation of the boundaries. Assenting to the arrangement, the
party set forth in that direction, Richard and Nicholas riding a little
in advance of the others.




CHAPTER II.--READ HALL.


The road taken by the party on quitting Whalley led up the side of a
hill, which, broken into picturesque inequalities, and partially clothed
with trees, sloped down to the very brink of the Calder. Winding round
the broad green plain, heretofore described, with the lovely knoll in
the midst of it, and which formed, with the woody hills encircling it, a
perfect amphitheatre, the river was ever an object of beauty--sometimes
lost beneath over-hanging boughs or high banks, anon bursting forth
where least expected, now rushing swiftly over its shallow and rocky
bed, now subsiding into a smooth full current. The Abbey and the village
were screened from view by the lower part of the hill which the horsemen
were scaling; but the old bridge and a few cottages at the foot of
Whalley Nab, with their thin blue smoke mounting into the pure morning
air, gave life and interest to the picture. Hence, from base to summit,
Whalley Nab stood revealed, and the verdant lawns opening out amidst the
woods feathering its heights, were fully discernible. Placed by Nature
as the guardian of this fair valley, the lofty eminence well became the
post assigned to it. None of the belt of hills connected with it were so
well wooded as their leader, nor so beautiful in form; while some of
them were overtopped by the bleak fells of Longridge, rising at a
distance behind them.

Nor were those exquisite contrasts wanting, which are only to be seen in
full perfection when the day is freshest and the dew is still heavy on
the grass. The near side of the hill was plunged in deep shade; thin,
gauzy vapour hung on the stream beneath, while on the opposite heights,
and where the great boulder stones were visible in the bed of the river,
all was sparkling with sunshine. So enchanting was the prospect, that
though perfectly familiar with it, the two foremost horsemen drew in the
rein to contemplate it. High above them, on a sandbank, through which
their giant roots protruded, shot up two tall silver-stemm'd
beech-trees, forming with their newly opened foliage a canopy of
tenderest green. Further on appeared a grove of oaks scarcely in leaf;
and below were several fine sycamores, already green and umbrageous,
intermingled with elms, ashes, and horse-chestnuts, and overshadowing
brakes, covered with maples, alders, and hazels. The other spaces among
the trees were enlivened by patches of yellow flowering and odorous
gorse. Mixed with the warblings of innumerable feathered songsters were
heard the cheering notes of the cuckoo; and the newly-arrived swallows
were seen chasing the flies along the plain, or skimming over the
surface of the river. Already had Richard's depression yielded to the
exhilarating freshness of the morning, and the same kindly influence
produced a more salutary effect on Nicholas than Parson Dewhurst's
lecture had been able to accomplish. The worthy squire was a true lover
of Nature; admiring her in all her forms, whether arrayed in pomp of
wood and verdure, as in the lovely landscape before him, or dreary and
desolate, as in the heathy forest wastes they were about to traverse.
While breathing the fresh morning air, inhaling the fragrance of the
wild-flowers, and listening to the warbling of the birds, he took a
well-pleased survey of the scene, commencing with the bridge, passing
over Whalley Nab and the mountainous circle conjoined with it, till his
gaze settled on Morton Hall, a noble mansion finely situated on a
shoulder of the hill beyond him, and commanding the entire valley.

"Were I not owner of Downham," he observed to Richard, "I should wish to
be master of Morton." And then, pointing to the green area below, he
added, "What a capital spot for a race! There we might try the speed of
our nags for the twenty pieces I talked of yesterday; and the judges of
the match and those who chose to look on might station themselves on
yon knoll, which seems made for the express purpose. Three years ago I
remember a fair was held upon that plain, and the foot-races, the
wrestling matches, and the various sports and pastimes of the rustics,
viewed from the knoll, formed the prettiest sight ever looked upon. But,
pleasant as the prospect is, we must not tarry here all day."

Before setting forward, he cast a glance towards Pendle Hill, which
formed the most prominent object of view on the left, and lay like a
leviathan basking in the sunshine. The vast mass rose up gradually until
at its further extremity it attained an altitude of more than 1800 feet
above the sea. At the present moment it was without a cloud, and the
whole of its broad outline was distinctly visible.

"I love Pendle Hill," cried Nicholas, enthusiastically; "and from
whatever side I view it--whether from this place, where I see it from
end to end, from its lowest point to its highest; from Padiham, where it
frowns upon me; from Clithero, where it smiles; or from Downham, where
it rises in full majesty before me--from all points and under all
aspects, whether robed in mist or radiant with sunshine, I delight in
it. Born beneath its giant shadow, I look upon it with filial regard.
Some folks say Pendle Hill wants grandeur and sublimity, but they
themselves must be wanting in taste. Its broad, round, smooth mass is
better than the roughest, craggiest, shaggiest, most sharply splintered
mountain of them all. And then what a view it commands!--Lancaster with
its grey old castle on one hand; York with its reverend minster on the
other--the Irish Sea and its wild coast--fell, forest, moor, and valley,
watered by the Ribble, the Hodder, the Calder, and the Lime--rivers not
to be matched for beauty. You recollect the old distich--

          'Ingleborough, Pendle Hill, and Pennygent,
           Are the highest hills between Scotland and Trent.'

This vouches for its height, but there are two other doggerel lines
still more to the purpose--

          'Pendle Hill, Pennygent, and Ingleborough,
           Are three such hills as you'll not find by seeking England
               thorough.'

With this opinion I quite agree. There is no hill in England like Pendle
Hill."

"Every man to his taste, squire," observed Potts; "but to my mind,
Pendle Hill has no other recommendation than its size. I think it a
great, brown, ugly, lumpy mass, without beauty of form or any striking
character. I hate your bleak Lancashire hills, with heathy ranges on the
top, fit only for the sustenance of a few poor half-starved sheep; and
as to the view from them, it is little else than a continuous range of
moors and dwarfed forests. Highgate Hill is quite mountain enough for
me, and Hampstead Heath wild enough for any civilised purpose."

"A veritable son of Cockayne!" muttered Nicholas, contemptuously.

Riding on, and entering the grove of oaks, he lost sight of his
favourite hill, though glimpses were occasionally caught through the
trees of the lovely valley below. Soon afterwards the party turned off
on the left, and presently arrived at a gate which admitted them to Read
Park. Five minutes' canter over the springy turf then brought them to
the house.

The manor of Reved or Read came into the possession of the Nowell family
in the time of Edward III., and extended on one side, within a mile of
Whalley, from which township it was divided by a deep woody ravine,
taking its name from the little village of Sabden, and on the other
stretched far into Pendle Forest. The hall was situated on an eminence
forming part of the heights of Padiham, and faced a wide valley, watered
by the Calder, and consisting chiefly of barren tracts of moor and
forest land, bounded by the high hills near Accrington and Rossendale.
On the left, some half-dozen miles off, lay Burnley, and the greater
part of the land in this direction, being uninclosed and thinly peopled,
had a dark dreary look, that served to enhance the green beauty of the
well-cultivated district on the right. Behind the mansion, thick woods
extended to the very confines of Pendle Forest, of which, indeed, they
originally formed part, and here, if the course of the stream, flowing
through the gully of Sabden, were followed, every variety of brake,
glen, and dingle, might be found. Read Hall was a large and commodious
mansion, forming, with a centre and two advancing wings, three sides of
a square, between which was a grass-plot ornamented with a dial. The
gardens were laid out in the taste of the time, with trim alleys and
parterres, terraces and steps, stone statues, and clipped yews.

The house was kept up well and consistently by its owner, who lived like
a country gentleman with a good estate, entertained his friends
hospitably, but without any parade, and was never needlessly lavish in
his expenditure, unless, perhaps, in the instance of the large
ostentatious pew erected by him in the parish church of Whalley; and
which, considering he had a private chapel at home, and maintained a
domestic chaplain to do duty in it, seemed little required, and drew
upon him the censure of the neighbouring gossips, who said there was
more of pride than religion in his pew. With the chapel at the hall a
curious history was afterwards connected. Converted into a dining-room
by a descendant of Roger Nowell, the apartment was incautiously occupied
by the planner of the alterations before the plaster was thoroughly
dried; in consequence of which he caught a severe cold, and died in the
desecrated chamber, his fate being looked upon as a judgment.

With many good qualities Roger Nowell was little liked. His austere and
sarcastic manner repelled his equals, and his harshness made him an
object of dislike and dread among his inferiors. Besides being the
terror of all evil-doers, he was a hard man in his dealings, though he
endeavoured to be just, and persuaded himself he was so. A year or two
before, having been appointed sheriff of the county, he had discharged
the important office with so much zeal and ability, as well as
liberality, that he rose considerably in public estimation. It was
during this period that Master Potts came under his notice at Lancaster,
and the little attorney's shrewdness gained him an excellent client in
the owner of Read. Roger Newell was a widower; but his son, who resided
with him, was married, and had a family, so that the hall was fully
occupied.

Roger Nowell was turned sixty, but he was still in the full vigour of
mind and body, his temperate and active habits keeping him healthy; he
was of a spare muscular frame, somewhat bent in the shoulders, and had
very sharp features, keen grey eyes, a close mouth, and prominent chin.
His hair was white as silver, but his eyebrows were still black and
bushy.

Seeing the party approach, the lord of the mansion came forth to meet
them, and begged them to dismount for a moment and refresh themselves.
Richard excused himself, but Nicholas sprang from his saddle, and Potts,
though somewhat more slowly, imitated his example. An open door admitted
them to the entrance hall, where a repast was spread, of which the host
pressed his guests to partake; but Nicholas declined on the score of
having just breakfasted, notwithstanding which he was easily prevailed
upon to take a cup of ale. Leaving him to discuss it, Nowell led the
attorney to a well-furnished library, where he usually transacted his
magisterial business, and held a few minutes' private conference with
him, after which they returned to Nicholas, and by this time the
magistrate's own horse being brought round, the party mounted once more.
The attorney regretted abandoning his seat; for Flint indulged him with
another exhibition somewhat similar to the first, though of less
duration, for a vigorous application of the hunting-whip brought the
wrong-headed little animal to reason.

Elated by the victory he had obtained over Flint, and anticipating a
successful issue to the expedition, Master Potts was in excellent
spirits, and found a great deal to admire in the domain of his honoured
and singular good client. Though not very genuine, his admiration was
deservedly bestowed. The portion of the park they were now traversing
was extremely diversified and beautiful, with long sweeping lawns
studded with fine trees, among which were many ancient thorns, now in
full bloom, and richly scenting the gale. Herds of deer were nipping the
short grass, browsing the lower spray of the ashes, or couching amid the
ferny hollows.

It was now that Nicholas, who had been all along anxious to try the
speed of his horse, proposed to Richard a gallop towards a clump of
trees about a mile off, and the young man assenting, away they started.
Master Potts started too, for Flint did not like to be left behind, but
the mettlesome pony was soon distanced. For some time the two horses
kept so closely together, that it was difficult to say which would
arrive at the goal first; but, by-and-by, Robin got a-head. Though at
first indifferent to the issue of the race, the spirit of emulation soon
seized upon Richard, and spurring Merlin, the noble animal sprang
forward, and was once again by the side of his opponent.

For a quarter of a mile the ground had been tolerably level, and the sod
firm; but they now approached a swamp, and, in his eagerness, Nicholas
did not take sufficient precaution, and got involved in it before he was
aware. Richard was more fortunate, having kept on the right, where the
ground was hard. Seeing Nicholas struggling out of the marshy soil, he
would have stayed for him; but the latter bade him go on, saying he
would soon be up with him, and he made good his words. Shortly after
this their course was intercepted by a brook, and both horses having
cleared it excellently, they kept well together again for a short time,
when they neared a deep dyke which lay between them and the clump of
trees. On descrying it, Richard pointed out a course to the left, but
Nicholas held on, unheeding the caution. Fully expecting to see him
break his neck, for the dyke was of formidable width, Richard watched
him with apprehension, but the squire gave him a re-assuring nod, and
went on. Neither horse nor man faltered, though failure would have been
certain destruction to both. The wide trench now yawned before
them--they were upon its edge, and without trusting himself to measure
it with his eye, Nicholas clapped spurs into Robin's sides. The brave
horse sprang forward and landed him safely on the opposite bank.
Hallooing cheerily, as soon as he could check his courser the squire
wheeled round, and rode back to look at the dyke he had crossed. Its
width was terrific, and fairly astounded him. Robin snorted loudly, as
if proud of his achievement, and showed some disposition to return, but
the squire was quite content with what he had done. The exploit
afterwards became a theme of wonder throughout the country, and the spot
was long afterwards pointed out as "Squire Nicholas's Leap"; but there
was not another horseman found daring enough to repeat the experiment.

Richard had to make a considerable circuit to join his cousin, and,
while he was going round, Nicholas looked out for the others. In the
distance, he could see Roger Nowell riding leisurely on, followed by
Sparshot and a couple of grooms, who had come with their master from the
hall; while midway, to his surprise, he perceived Flint galloping
without a rider. A closer examination showed the squire what had
happened. Like himself, Master Potts had incautiously approached the
swamp, and, getting entangled in it, was thrown, head foremost, into the
slough; out of which he was now floundering, covered from head to foot
with inky-coloured slime. As soon as they were aware of the accident,
the two grooms pushed forward, and one of them galloped after Flint,
whom he succeeded at last in catching; while the other, with difficulty
preserving his countenance at the woful plight of the attorney, who
looked as black as a negro, pointed out a cottage in the hollow which
belonged to one of the keepers, and offered to conduct him thither.
Potts gladly assented, and soon gained the little tenement, where he was
being washed and rubbed down by a couple of stout wenches when the rest
of the party came up. It was impossible to help laughing at him, but
Potts took the merriment in good part; and, to show he was not
disheartened by the misadventure, as soon as circumstances would permit
he mounted the unlucky pony, and the cavalcade set forward again.




CHAPTER III.--THE BOGGART'S GLEN.


The manor of Read, it has been said, was skirted by a deep woody ravine
of three or four miles in length, extending from the little village of
Sabden, in Pendle Forest, to within a short distance of Whalley; and
through this gully flowed a stream which, taking its rise near Barley,
at the foot of Pendle Hill, added its waters to those of the Calder at a
place called Cock Bridge. In summer, or in dry seasons, this stream
proceeded quietly enough, and left the greater part of its stony bed
unoccupied; but in winter, or after continuous rains, it assumed all the
character of a mountain torrent, and swept every thing before it. A
narrow bridle road led through the ravine to Sabden, and along it, after
quitting the park, the cavalcade proceeded, headed by Nicholas.

The little river danced merrily past them, singing as it went, the
sunshine sparkling on its bright clear waters, and glittering on the
pebbles beneath them. Now the stream would chafe and foam against some
larger impediment to its course; now it would dash down some rocky
height, and form a beautiful cascade; then it would hurry on for some
time with little interruption, till stayed by a projecting bank it would
form a small deep basin, where, beneath the far-cast shadow of an
overhanging oak, or under its huge twisted and denuded roots, the angler
might be sure of finding the speckled trout, the dainty greyling, or
their mutual enemy, the voracious jack. The ravine was well wooded
throughout, and in many parts singularly beautiful, from the disposition
of the timber on its banks, as well as from the varied form and
character of the trees. Here might be seen an acclivity covered with
waving birch, or a top crowned with a mountain ash--there, on a smooth
expanse of greensward, stood a range of noble elms, whose mighty arms
stretched completely across the ravine. Further on, there were chestnut
and walnut trees; willows, with hoary stems and silver leaves, almost
encroaching upon the stream; larches upon the heights; and here and
there, upon some sandy eminence, a spreading beech-tree. For the most
part the bottom of the glen was overgrown with brushwood, and, where its
sides were too abrupt to admit the growth of larger trees, they were
matted with woodbine and brambles. Out of these would sometimes start a
sharp pinnacle, or fantastically-formed crag, adding greatly to the
picturesque beauty of the scene. On such points were not unfrequently
found perched a hawk, a falcon, or some large bird of prey; for the
gully, with its brakes and thickets, was a favourite haunt of the
feathered tribe. The hollies, of which there were plenty, with their
green prickly leaves and scarlet berries, afforded shelter and support
to the blackbird; the thorns were frequented by the thrush; and
numberless lesser songsters filled every other tree. In the covert there
were pheasants and partridges in abundance, and snipe and wild-fowl
resorted to the river in winter. Thither also, at all seasons, repaired
the stately heron, to devour the finny race; and thither came, on like
errand, the splendidly-plumed kingfisher. The magpie chattered, the jay
screamed and flew deeper into the woods as the horsemen approached, and
the shy bittern hid herself amid the rushes. Occasionally, too, was
heard the deep ominous croaking of a raven.

[Illustration: POTTS AFTER BEING THROWN FROM HIS HORSE.]

Hitherto, the glen had been remarkable for its softness and beauty, but
it now began to assume a savage and sombre character. The banks drew
closer together, and became rugged and precipitous; while the trees met
overhead, and, intermingling their branches, formed a canopy impervious
to the sun's rays. The stream was likewise contracted in its bed, and
its current, which, owing to the gloom, looked black as ink, flowed
swiftly on, as if anxious to escape to livelier scenes. A large raven,
which had attended the horsemen all the way, now alighted near them, and
croaked ominously.

This part of the glen was in very ill repute, and was never traversed,
even at noonday, without apprehension. Its wild and savage aspect, its
horrent precipices, its shaggy woods, its strangely-shaped rocks and
tenebrous depths, where every imperfectly-seen object appeared doubly
frightful--all combined to invest it with mystery and terror. No one
willingly lingered here, but hurried on, afraid of the sound of his own
footsteps. No one dared to gaze at the rocks, lest he should see some
hideous hobgoblin peering out of their fissures. No one glanced at the
water, for fear some terrible kelpy, with twining snakes for hair and
scaly hide, should issue from it and drag him down to devour him with
his shark-like teeth. Among the common folk, this part of the ravine was
known as "the boggart's glen", and was supposed to be haunted by
mischievous beings, who made the unfortunate wanderer their sport.

For the last half-mile the road had been so narrow and intricate in its
windings, that the party were obliged to proceed singly; but this did
not prevent conversation; and Nicholas, throwing the bridle over Robin's
neck, left the surefooted animal to pursue his course unguided, while he
himself, leaning back, chatted with Roger Nowell. At the entrance of the
gloomy gorge above described, Robin came to a stand, and refusing to
move at a jerk from his master, the latter raised himself, and looked
forward to see what could be the cause of the stoppage. No impediment
was visible, but the animal obstinately refused to go on, though urged
both by word and spur. This stoppage necessarily delayed the rest of the
cavalcade.

Well aware of the ill reputation of the place, when Simon Sparshot and
the grooms found that Robin would not go on, they declared he must see
the boggart, and urged the squire to turn back, or some mischief would
befall him. But Nicholas, though not without misgivings, did not like to
yield thus, especially when urged on by Roger Nowell. Indeed, the party
could not get out of the ravine without going back nearly a mile, while
Sabden was only half that distance from them. What was to be done? Robin
still continued obstinate, and for the first time paid no attention to
his master's commands. The poor animal was evidently a prey to violent
terror, and snorted and reared, while his limbs were bathed in cold
sweat.

Dismounting, and leaving him in charge of Roger Nowell, Nicholas walked
on by himself to see if he could discover any cause for the horse's
alarm; and he had not advanced far, when his eye rested upon a blasted
oak forming a conspicuous object on a crag before him, on a scathed
branch of which sat the raven.

Croak! croak! croak!

"Accursed bird, it is thou who hast frightened my horse," cried
Nicholas. "Would I had a crossbow or an arquebuss to stop thy croaking."

And as he picked up a stone to cast at the raven, a crashing noise was
heard among the bushes high up on the rock, and the next moment a huge
fragment dislodged from the cliff rolled down and would have crushed
him, if he had not nimbly avoided it.

Croak! croak! croak!

Nicholas almost fancied hoarse laughter was mingled with the cries of
the bird.

The raven nodded its head and expanded its wings, and the squire, whose
recent experience had prepared him for any wonder, fully expected to
hear it speak, but it only croaked loudly and exultingly, or if it
laughed, the sound was like the creaking of rusty hinges.

Nicholas did not like it at all, and he resolved to go back; but ere he
could do so, he was startled by a buffet on the ear, and turning angrily
round to see who had dealt it, he could distinguish no one, but at the
same moment received a second buffet on the other ear.

The raven croaked merrily.

"Would I could wring thy neck, accursed bird!" cried the enraged squire.

Scarcely was the vindictive wish uttered than a shower of blows fell
upon him, and kicks from unseen feet were applied to his person.

All the while the raven croaked merrily, and flapped his big black
wings.

Infuriated by the attack, the squire hit right and left manfully, and
dashed out his feet in every direction; but his blows and kicks only met
the empty air, while those of his unseen antagonist told upon his own
person with increased effect.

The spectacle seemed to afford infinite amusement to the raven. The
mischievous bird almost crowed with glee.

There was no standing it any longer. So, amid a perfect hurricane of
blows and kicks, and with the infernal voice of the raven ringing in his
ears, the squire took to his heels. On reaching his companions he found
they had not fared much better than himself. The two grooms were
belabouring each other lustily; and Master Potts was exercising his
hunting-whip on the broad shoulders of Sparshot, who in return was
making him acquainted with the taste of a stout ash-plant. Assailed in
the same manner as the squire, and naturally attributing the attack to
their nearest neighbours, they waited for no explanation, but fell upon
each other. Richard Assheton and Roger Nowell endeavoured to interfere
and separate the combatants, and in doing so received some hard knocks
for their pains; but all their pacific efforts were fruitless, until the
squire appeared, and telling them they were merely the sport of
hobgoblins, they desisted, but still the blows fell heavily on them as
before, proving the truth of Nicholas's assertion.

Meanwhile the squire had mounted Robin, and, finding the horse no longer
exhibit the same reluctance to proceed, he dashed at full speed through
the haunted glen; but even above the clatter, of hoofs, and the noise of
the party galloping after him, he could hear the hoarse exulting
croaking of the raven.

As the gully expanded, and the sun once more found its way through the
trees, and shone upon the river, Nicholas began to breathe more freely;
but it was not until fairly out of the wood that he relaxed his speed.
Not caring to enter into any explanation of the occurrence, he rode a
little apart to avoid conversation; as the others, who were still
smarting from the blows they had received, were in no very good-humour,
a sullen silence prevailed throughout the party, as they mounted the
bare hill-side in the direction of the few scattered huts constituting
the village of Sabden.

A blight seemed to have fallen upon the place. Roger Nowell, who had
visited it a few months ago, could scarcely believe his eyes, so changed
was its appearance. His inquiries as to the cause of its altered
condition were every where met by the same answer--the poor people were
all bewitched. Here a child was ill of a strange sickness, tossed and
tumbled in its bed, and contorted its limbs so violently, that its
parents could scarcely hold it down. Another family was afflicted in a
different manner, two of its number pining away and losing strength
daily, as if a prey to some consuming disease. In a third, another child
was sick, and vomited pins, nails, and other extraordinary substances. A
fourth household was tormented by an imp in the form of a monkey, who
came at night and pinched them all black and blue, spilt the milk, broke
the dishes and platters, got under the bed, and, raising it to the roof,
let it fall with a terrible crash; putting them all in mental terror. In
the next cottage there was no end to calamities, though they took a more
absurd form. Sometimes the fire would not burn, or when it did it
emitted no heat, so that the pot would not boil, nor the meat roast.
Then the oatcakes would stick to the bake-stone, and no force could get
them away from it till they were burnt and spoiled; the milk turned
sour, the cheese became so hard that not even rats' teeth could gnaw it,
the stools and settles broke down if sat upon, and the list of petty
grievances was completed by a whole side of bacon being devoured in a
single night. Roger Nowell and Nicholas listened patiently to a detail
of all these grievances, and expressed strong sympathy for the
sufferers, promising assistance and redress if possible. All the
complainants taxed either Mother Demdike or Mother Chattox with
afflicting them, and said they had incurred the anger of the two
malevolent old witches by refusing to supply them with poultry, eggs,
milk, butter, or other articles, which they had demanded. Master Potts
made ample notes of the strange relations, and took down the name of
every cottager.

At length, they arrived at the last cottage, and here a man, with a very
doleful countenance, besought them to stop and listen to his tale.

"What is the matter, friend?" demanded Roger Nowell, halting with the
others. "Are you bewitched, like your neighbours?"

"Troth am ey, your warship," replied the man, "an ey hope yo may be able
to deliver me. Yo mun knoa, that somehow ey wor unlucky enough last Yule
to offend Mother Chattox, an ever sin then aw's gone wrang wi' me. Th'
good-wife con never may butter come without stickin' a redhot poker into
t' churn; and last week, when our brindlt sow farrowed, and had fifteen
to t' litter, an' fine uns os ever yo seed, seign on um deed. Sad wark!
sad wark, mesters. The week efore that t' keaw deed; an th' week efore
her th' owd mare, so that aw my stock be gone. Waes me! waes me! Nowt
prospers wi' me. My poor dame is besoide hersel, an' th' chilter seems
possessed. Ey ha' tried every remedy, boh without success. Ey ha'
followed th' owd witch whoam, plucked a hontle o' thatch fro' her roof,
sprinklet it wi' sawt an weter, burnt it an' buried th' ess at th'
change o' t' moon. No use, mesters. Then again, ey ha' getten a
horseshoe, heated it redhot, quenched it i' brine, an' nailed it to t'
threshold wi' three nails, heel uppard. No more use nor t'other. Then ey
ha' taen sawt weter, and put it in a bottle wi' three rusty nails,
needles, and pins, boh ey hanna found that th' witch ha' suffered
thereby. An, lastly, ey ha' let myself blood, when the moon wur at full,
an in opposition to th' owd hag's planet, an minglin' it wi' sawt, ha'
burnt it i' a trivet, in hopes of afflictin' her; boh without avail, fo'
ey seed her two days ago, an she flouted me an scoffed at me. What mun
ey do, good mesters? What mun ey do?"

"Have you offended any one besides Mother Chattox, my poor fellow?" said
Nowell.

"Mother Demdike, may be, your warship," replied the man.

"You suspect Mother Demdike and Mother Chattox of bewitching you," said
Potts, taking out his memorandum-book, and making a note in it. "Your
name, good fellow?"

"Oamfrey o' Will's o' Ben's o' Tummas' o' Sabden," replied the man.

"Is that all?" asked Potts.

"What more would you have?" said Richard. "The description is
sufficiently particular."

"Scarcely precise enough," returned Potts. "However, it may do. We will
help you in the matter, good Humphrey Etcetera. You shall not be
troubled with these pestilent witches much longer. The neighbourhood
shall be cleared of them."

"Ey'm reet glad to hear, mester," replied the man.

"You promise much, Master Potts," observed Richard.

"Not a jot more than I am able to perform," replied the attorney.

"That remains to be seen," said Richard. "If these old women are as
powerful as represented, they will not be so readily defeated."

"There you are in error, Master Richard," replied Potts. "The devil,
whose vassals they are, will deliver them into our hands."

"Granting what you say to be correct, the devil must have little regard
for his servants if he abandons them so easily," observed Richard,
drily.

"What else can you expect from him?" cried Potts. "It is his custom to
ensnare his victims, and then leave them to their fate."

"You are rather describing the course pursued by certain members of
your own profession, Master Potts," said Richard. "The devil behaves
with greater fairness to his clients."

"You are not going to defend him, I hope, sir?" said the attorney.

"No; I only desire to give him his due," returned Richard.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Nicholas. "You had better have done, Master Potts;
you will never get the better in the argument. But we must be moving, or
we shall not get our business done before nightfall. As to you, Numps,"
he added, to the poor man, "we will not forget you. If any thing can be
done for your relief, rely upon it, it shall not be neglected."

"Ay, ay," said Nowell, "the matter shall be looked into--and speedily."

"And the witches brought to justice," said Potts; "comfort yourself with
that, good Humphrey Etcetera."

"Ay, comfort yourself with that," observed Nicholas.

Soon after this they entered a wide dreary waste forming the bottom of
the valley, lying between the heights of Padiham and Pendle Hill, and
while wending their way across it, they heard a shout from the
hill-side, and presently afterwards perceived a man, mounted on a
powerful black horse, galloping swiftly towards them. The party awaited
his approach, and the stranger speedily came up. He was a small man
habited in a suit of rusty black, and bore a most extraordinary and
marked resemblance to Master Potts. He had the same perky features, the
same parchment complexion, the same yellow forehead, as the little
attorney. So surprising was the likeness, that Nicholas unconsciously
looked round for Potts, and beheld him staring at the new-comer in angry
wonder.




CHAPTER IV.--THE REEVE OF THE FOREST.


The surprise of the party was by no means diminished when the stranger
spoke. His voice exactly resembled the sharp cracked tones of the
attorney.

"I crave pardon for the freedom I have taken in stopping you, good
masters," he said, doffing his cap, and saluting them respectfully;
"but, being aware of your errand, I am come to attend you on it."

"And who are you, fellow, who thus volunteer your services?" demanded
Roger Nowell, sharply.

"I am one of the reeves of the forest of Blackburnshire, worshipful
sir," replied the stranger, "and as such my presence, at the intended
perambulation of the boundaries of her property, has been deemed
necessary by Mrs. Nutter, as I shall have to make a representation of
the matter at the next court of swainmote."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Nowell, "but how knew you we were coming?"

"Mistress Nutter sent me word last night," replied the reeve, "that
Master Nicholas Assheton and certain other gentlemen, would come to
Rough Lee for the purpose of ascertaining the marks, meres, and
boundaries of her property, early this morning, and desired my
attendance on the occasion. Accordingly I stationed myself on yon high
ground to look out for you, and have been on the watch for more than an
hour."

"Humph!" exclaimed Roger Nowell, "and you live in the forest?"

"I live at Barrowford, worshipful sir," replied the reeve, "but I have
only lately come there, having succeeded Maurice Mottisfont, the other
reeve, who has been removed by the master forester to Rossendale, where
I formerly dwelt."

"That may account for my not having seen you before," rejoined Nowell.
"You are well mounted, sirrah. I did not know the master forester
allowed his men such horses as the one you ride."

"This horse does not belong to me, sir," replied the reeve; "it has been
lent me by Mistress Nutter."

"Aha! I see how it is now," cried Nowell; "you are suborned to give
false testimony, knave. I object to his attendance, Master Nicholas."

"Nay, I think you do the man injustice," said the squire. "He speaks
frankly and fairly enough, and seems to know his business. The worst
that can be said against him is, that he resembles somewhat too closely
our little legal friend there. That, however, ought to be no objection
to you, Master Nowell, but rather the contrary."

"Well, take the responsibility of the matter upon your own shoulders,"
said Nowell; "if any ill comes of it I shall blame you."

"Be it so," replied the squire; "my shoulders are broad enough to bear
the burthen. You may ride with us, master reeve."

"May I inquire your name, friend?" said Potts, as the stranger fell back
to the rear of the party.

"Thomas Potts, at your service, sir," replied the reeve.

"What!--Thomas Potts!" exclaimed the astonished attorney.

"That is my name, sir," replied the reeve, quietly.

"Why, zounds!" exclaimed Nicholas, who overheard the reply, "you do not
mean to say your name is Thomas Potts? This is more wonderful still. You
must be this gentleman's twin brother."

"The gentleman certainly seems to resemble me very strongly," replied
the reeve, apparently surprised in his turn. "Is he of these parts?"

"No, I am not," returned Potts, angrily, "I am from London, where I
reside in Chancery-lane, and practise the law, though I likewise attend
as clerk of the court at the assizes at Lancaster, where I may
possibly, one of these days, have the pleasure of seeing you, my
pretended namesake."

"Possibly, sir," said the reeve, with provoking calmness. "I myself am
from Chester, and like yourself was brought up to the law, but I
abandoned my profession, or rather it abandoned me, for I had few
clients; so I took to an honester calling, and became a forester, as you
see. My father was a draper in the city I have mentioned, and dwelt in
Watergate-street--his name was Peter Potts."

"Peter Potts your father!" exclaimed the attorney, in the last state of
astonishment--"Why, he was mine! But I am his only son."

"Up to this moment I conceived myself an only son," said the reeve; "but
it seems I was mistaken, since I find I have an elder brother."

"Elder brother!" exclaimed Potts, wrathfully. "You are older than I am
by twenty years. But it is all a fabrication. I deny the relationship
entirely."

"You cannot make me other than the son of my father," said the reeve,
with a smile.

"Well, Master Potts," interposed Nicholas, laughing, "I see no reason
why you should be ashamed of your brother. There is a strong family
likeness between you. So old Peter Potts, the draper of Chester, was
your father, eh? I was not aware of the circumstance before--ha, ha!"

"And, but for this intrusive fellow, you would never have become aware
of it," muttered the attorney. "Give ear to me, squire," he said, urging
Flint close up to the other's side, and speaking in a low tone, "I do
not like the fellow's looks at all."

"I am surprised at that," rejoined the squire, "for he exactly resembles
you."

"That is why I do not like him," said Potts; "I believe him to be a
wizard."

"You are no wizard to think so," rejoined the squire. And he rode on to
join Roger Nowell, who was a little in advance.

"I will try him on the subject of witchcraft," thought Potts. "As you
dwell in the forest," he said to the reeve, "you have no doubt seen
those two terrible beings, Mothers Demdike and Chattox."

"Frequently," replied the reeve, "but I would rather not talk about them
in their own territories. You may judge of their power by the appearance
of the village you have just quitted. The inhabitants of that unlucky
place refused them their customary tributes, and have therefore incurred
their resentment. You will meet other instances of the like kind before
you have gone far."

"I am glad of it, for I want to collect as many cases as I can of
witchcraft," observed Potts.

"They will be of little use to you," observed the reeve.

"How so?" inquired Potts.

"Because if the witches discover what you are about, as they will not
fail to do, you will never leave the forest alive," returned the other.

"You think not?" cried Potts.

"I am sure of it," replied the reeve.

"I will not be deterred from the performance of my duty," said Potts. "I
defy the devil and all his works."

"You may have reason to repent your temerity," replied the reeve.

And anxious, apparently, to avoid further conversation on the subject,
he drew in the rein for a moment, and allowed the attorney to pass on.

Notwithstanding his boasting, Master Potts was not without much secret
misgiving; but his constitutional obstinacy made him determine to
prosecute his plans at any risk, and he comforted himself by recalling
the opinion of his sovereign authority on such matters.

"Let me ponder over the exact words of our British Solomon," he thought.
"I have his learned treatise by heart, and it is fortunate my memory
serves me so well, for the sagacious prince's dictum will fortify me in
my resolution, which has been somewhat shaken by this fellow, whom I
believe to be no better than he should be, for all he calls himself my
father's son, and hath assumed my likeness, doubtless for some
mischievous purpose. 'If the magistrate,' saith the King, 'be slothful
towards witches, God is very able to make them instruments to waken and
punish his sloth.' No one can accuse me of slothfulness and want of
zeal. My best exertions have been used against the accursed creatures.
And now for the rest. 'But if, on the contrary, he be diligent in
examining and punishing them, God will not permit their master to
trouble or hinder so good a work!' Exactly what I have done. I am quite
easy now, and shall go on fearlessly as before. I am one of the 'lawful
lieutenants' described by the King, and cannot be 'defrauded or
deprived' of my office."

As these thoughts passed through the attorney's mind a low derisive
laugh sounded in his ears, and, connecting it with the reeve, he looked
back and found the object of his suspicions gazing at him, and chuckling
maliciously. So fiendishly malignant, indeed, was the gaze fixed upon
him, that Potts was glad to turn his head away to avoid it.

"I am confirmed in my suspicions," he thought; "he is evidently a
wizard, if he be not--"

Again the mocking laugh sounded in his ears, but he did not venture to
look round this time, being fearful of once more encountering the
terrible gaze.

Meanwhile the party had traversed the valley, and to avoid a dangerous
morass stretching across its lower extremity, and shorten the
distance--for the ordinary road would have led them too much to the
right--they began to climb one of the ridges of Pendle Hill, which lay
between them and the vale they wished to gain. On obtaining the top of
this eminence, an extensive view on either side opened upon them. Behind
was the sterile valley they had just crossed, its black soil, hoary
grass, and heathy wastes, only enlivened at one end by patches of bright
sulphur-coloured moss, which masked a treacherous quagmire lurking
beneath it. Some of the cottages in Sabden were visible, and, from the
sad circumstances connected with them, and which oppressed the thoughts
of the beholders, added to the dreary character of the prospect. The
day, too, had lost its previous splendour, and there were clouds
overhead which cast deep shadows on the ground. But on the crest of
Pendle Hill, which rose above them, a sun-burst fell, and attracted
attention from its brilliant contrast to the prevailing gloom. Before
them lay a deep gully, the sinuosities of which could be traced from the
elevated position where they stood, though its termination was hidden by
other projecting ridges. Further on, the sides of the mountain were bare
and rugged, and covered with shelving stone. Beyond the defile before
mentioned, and over the last mountain ridge, lay a wide valley, bounded
on the further side by the hills overlooking Colne, and the mountain
defile, now laid open to the travellers, exhibiting in the midst of the
dark heathy ranges, which were its distinguishing features, some marks
of cultivation. In parts it was inclosed and divided into paddocks by
stone walls, and here and there a few cottages were collected together,
dignified, as in the case of Sabden, by the name of a village. Amongst
these were the Hey-houses, an assemblage of small stone tenements, the
earliest that arose in the forest; Goldshaw Booth, now a populous place,
and even then the largest hamlet in the district; and in the distance
Ogden and Barley, the two latter scarcely comprising a dozen
habitations, and those little better than huts. In some sheltered nook
on the hill-side might be discerned the solitary cottage of a cowherd,
and not far from it the certain accompaniment of a sheepfold. Throughout
this weird region, thinly peopled it is true, but still of great extent,
and apparently abandoned to the powers of darkness, only one edifice
could be found where its inhabitants could meet to pray, and this was an
ancient chapel at Goldshaw Booth, originally erected in the reign of
Henry III., though subsequently in part rebuilt in 1544, and which, with
its low grey tower peeping from out the trees, was just discernible. Two
halls were in view; one of which, Sabden, was of considerable antiquity,
and gave its name to the village; and the other was Hoarstones, a much
more recently erected mansion, strikingly situated on an acclivity of
Pendle Hill. In general, the upper parts of this mountain monarch of the
waste were bare and heathy, while the heights overhanging Ogden and
Barley were rocky, shelving, and precipitous; but the lower ridges were
well covered with wood, and a thicket, once forming part of the ancieut
forest, ran far out into the plain near Goldshaw Booth. Numerous springs
burst from the mountain side, and these collecting their forces, formed
a considerable stream, which, under the name of Pendle Water, flowed
through the valley above described, and, after many picturesque
windings, entered the rugged glen in which Rough Lee was situated, and
swept past the foot of Mistress Nutter's residence.

Descending the hill, and passing through the thicket, the party came
within a short distance of Goldshaw Booth, when they were met by a
cowherd, who, with looks of great alarm, told them that John Law, the
pedlar, had fallen down in a fit in the clough, and would perish if they
did not stay to help him. As the poor man in question was well known
both to Nicholas and Roger Nowell, they immediately agreed to go to his
assistance, and accompanied the cowherd along a by-road which led
through the clough to the village. They had not gone far when they heard
loud groans, and presently afterwards found the unfortunate pedlar lying
on his back, and writhing in agony. He was a large, powerfully-built
man, of middle age, and had been in the full enjoyment of health and
vigour, so that his sudden prostration was the more terrible. His face
was greatly disfigured, the mouth and neck drawn awry, the left eye
pulled down, and the whole power of the same side gone.

"Why, John, this is a bad business," cried Nicholas. "You have had a
paralytic stroke, I fear."

"Nah--nah--squoire," replied the sufferer, speaking with difficulty,
"it's neaw nat'ral ailment--it's witchcraft."

"Witchcraft!" exclaimed Potts, who had come up, and producing his
memorandum book. "Another case. Your name and description, friend?"

"John Law o' Cown, pedlar," replied the man.

"John Law of Colne, I suppose, petty chapman," said Potts, making an
entry. "Now, John, my good man, be pleased to tell us by whom you have
been bewitched?"

"By Mother Demdike," groaned the man.

"Mother Demdike, ah?" exclaimed Potts, "good! very good. Now, John, as
to the cause of your quarrel with the old hag?"

"Ey con scarcely rekillect it, my head be so confused, mester," replied
the pedlar.

"Make an effort, John," persisted Potts; "it is most desirable such a
dreadful offender should not escape justice."

"Weel, weel, ey'n try an tell it then," replied the pedlar. "Yo mun knoa
ey wur crossing the hill fro' Cown to Rough Lee, wi' my pack upon my
shouthers, when who should ey meet boh Mother Demdike, an hoo axt me to
gi' her some scithers an pins, boh, os ill luck wad ha' it, ey refused.
'Yo had better do it, John,' hoo said, 'or yo'll rue it efore to-morrow
neet.' Ey laughed at her, an trudged on, boh when I looked back, an seed
her shakin' her skinny hond at me, ey repented and thowt ey would go
back, an gi' her the choice o' my wares. Boh my pride wur too strong, an
ey walked on to Barley an Ogden, an slept at Bess's o th' Booth, an woke
this mornin' stout and strong, fully persuaded th' owd witch's threat
would come to nowt. Alack-a-day! ey wur out i' my reckonin', fo'
scarcely had ey reached this kloof, o' my way to Sabden, than ey wur
seized wi' a sudden shock, os if a thunder-bowt had hit me, an ey lost
the use o' my lower limbs, an t' laft soide, an should ha' deed most
likely, if it hadna bin fo' Ebil o' Jem's o' Dan's who spied me out, an
brought me help."

"Yours is a deplorable case indeed, John," said Richard--"especially if
it be the result of witchcraft."

"You do not surely doubt that it is so, Master Richard?" cried Potts.

"I offer no opinion," replied the young man; "but a paralytic stroke
would produce the same effect. But, instead of discussing the matter,
the best thing we can do will be to transport the poor man to Bess's o'
th' Booth, where he can be attended to."

"Tom and I can carry him there, if Abel will take charge of his pack,"
said one of the grooms.

"That I win," replied the cowherd, unstrapping the box, upon which the
sufferer's head rested, and placing it on his own shoulders.

Meanwhile, a gate having been taken from its hinges by Sparshot and the
reeve, the poor pedlar, who groaned deeply during the operation, was
placed upon it by the men, and borne towards the village, followed by
the others, leading their horses.

Great consternation was occasioned in Goldshaw Booth by the entrance of
the cavalcade, and still more, when it became known that John Law, the
pedlar, who was a favourite with all, had had a frightful seizure. Old
and young flocked forth to see him, and the former shook their heads,
while the latter were appalled at the hideous sight. Master Potts took
care to tell them that the poor fellow was bewitched by Mother Demdike;
but the information failed to produce the effect he anticipated, and
served rather to repress than heighten their sympathy for the sufferer.
The attorney concluded, and justly, that they were afraid of incurring
the displeasure of the vindictive old hag by an open expression of
interest in his fate. So strongly did this feeling operate, that after
bestowing a glance of commiseration at the pedlar, most of them
returned, without a word, to their dwellings.

On their way to the little hostel, whither they were conveying the poor
pedlar, the party passed the church, and the sexton, who was digging a
grave in the yard, came forward to look at them; but on seeing John Law
he seemed to understand what had happened, and resumed his employment. A
wide-spreading yew-tree grew in this part of the churchyard, and near it
stood a small cross rudely carved in granite, marking the spot where, in
the reign of Henry VI., Ralph Cliderhow, tenth abbot of Whalley, held a
meeting of the tenantry, to check encroachments. Not far from this
ancient cross the sexton, a hale old man, with a fresh complexion and
silvery hair, was at work, and while the others went on, Master Potts
paused to say a word to him.

"You have a funeral here to-day, I suppose, Master Sexton?" he said.

"Yeigh," replied the man, gruffly.

"One of the villagers?" inquired the attorney.

"Neaw; hoo were na o' Goldshey," replied the sexton.

"Where then--who was it?" persevered Potts.

The sexton seemed disinclined to answer; but at length said, "Meary
Baldwyn, the miller's dowter o' Rough Lee, os protty a lass os ever yo
see, mester. Hoo wur the apple o' her feyther's ee, an he hasna had a
dry ee sin hoo deed. Wall-a-dey! we mun aw go, owd an young--owd an
young--an protty Meary Baldwyn went young enough. Poor lass! poor lass!"
and he brushed the dew from his eyes with his brawny hand.

"Was her death sudden?" asked Potts.

"Neaw, not so sudden, mester," replied the sexton. "Ruchot Baldwyn had
fair warnin'. Six months ago Meary wur ta'en ill, an fro' t' furst he
knoad how it wad eend."

"How so, friend?" asked Potts, whose curiosity began to be aroused.

"Becose--" replied the sexton, and he stopped suddenly short.

"She was bewitched?" suggested Potts.

The sexton nodded his head, and began to ply his mattock vigorously.

"By Mother Demdike?" inquired Potts, taking out his memorandum book.

The sexton again nodded his head, but spake no word, and, meeting some
obstruction in the ground, took up his pick to remove it.

"Another case!" muttered Potts, making an entry. "Mary Baldwyn, daughter
of Richard Baldwyn of Rough Lee, aged--How old was she, sexton?"

"Throtteen," replied the man; "boh dunna ax me ony more questions,
mester. Th' berrin takes place i' an hour, an ey hanna half digg'd th'
grave."

"Your own name, Master Sexton, and I have done?" said Potts.

"Zachariah Worms," answered the man.

"Worms--ha! an excellent name for a sexton," cried Potts. "You provide
food for your family, eh, Zachariah?"

"Tut--tut," rejoined the sexton, testily, "go an' moind yer own
bus'ness, mon, an' leave me to moind mine."

"Very well, Zachariah," replied Potts. And having obtained all he
required, he proceeded to the little hostel, where, finding the rest of
the party had dismounted, he consigned Flint to a cowherd, and entered
the house.




CHAPTER V.--BESS'S O' TH' BOOTH.


Bess's o' th' Booth--for so the little hostel at Goldshaw was called,
after its mistress Bess Whitaker--was far more comfortable and
commodious than its unpretending exterior seemed to warrant. Stouter and
brighter ale was not to be drunk in Lancashire than Bess brewed; nor was
better sherris or clary to be found, go where you would, than in her
cellars. The traveller crossing those dreary wastes, and riding from
Burnley to Clithero, or from Colne to Whalley, as the case might be,
might well halt at Bess's, and be sure of a roast fowl for dinner, with
the addition, perhaps, of some trout from Pendle Water, or, if the
season permitted, a heath-cock or a pheasant; or, if he tarried there
for the night, he was equally sure of a good supper and fair linen. It
has already been mentioned, that at this period it was the custom of all
classes in the northern counties, men and women, to resort to the
alehouses to drink, and the hostel at Goldshaw was the general
rendezvous of the neighbourhood. For those who could afford it Bess
would brew incomparable sack; but if a guest called for wine, and she
liked not his looks, she would flatly tell him her ale was good enough
for him, and if it pleased him not he should have nothing. Submission
always followed in such cases, for there was no disputing with Bess.
Neither would she permit the frequenters of the hostel to sit later than
she chose, and would clear the house in a way equally characteristic and
effectual. At a certain hour, and that by no means a late one, she would
take down a large horsewhip, which hung on a convenient peg in the
principal room, and after bluntly ordering her guests to go home, if any
resistance were offered, she would lay the whip across their shoulders,
and forcibly eject them from the premises; but, as her determined
character was well known, this violence was seldom necessary. In
strength Bess was a match for any man, and assistance from her
cowherds--for she was a farmer as well as hostess--was at hand if
required. As will be surmised from the above, Bess was large and
masculine-looking, but well-proportioned nevertheless, and possessed a
certain coarse kind of beauty, which in earlier years had inflamed
Richard Baldwyn, the miller of Rough Lee, who made overtures of marriage
to her. These were favourably entertained, but a slight quarrel
occurring between them, the lover, in her own phrase, got "his jacket
soundly dusted" by her, and declared off, taking to wife a more docile
and light-handed maiden. As to Bess, though she had given this
unmistakable proof of her ability to manage a husband, she did not
receive a second offer, nor, as she had now attained the mature age of
forty, did it seem likely she would ever receive one.

Bess's o' th' Booth was an extremely clean and comfortable house. The
floor, it is true, was of hard clay, and the windows little more than
narrow slits, with heavy stone frames, further darkened by minute
diamond panes; but the benches were scrupulously clean, and so was the
long oak table in the centre of the principal and only large room in the
house. A roundabout fireplace occupied one end of the chamber, sheltered
from the draught of the door by a dark oak screen, with a bench on the
warm side of it; and here, or in the deep ingle-nooks, on winter nights,
the neighbours would sit and chat by the blazing hearth, discussing pots
of "nappy ale, good and stale," as the old ballad hath it; and as
persons of both sexes came thither, young as well as old, many a match
was struck up by Bess's cheery fireside. From the blackened rafters hung
a goodly supply of hams, sides of bacon, and dried tongues, with a
profusion of oatcakes in a bread-flake; while, in case this store should
be exhausted, means of replenishment were at hand in the huge,
full-crammed meal-chest standing in one corner. Altogether, there was a
look of abundance as well as of comfort about the place.

Great was Bess's consternation when the poor pedlar, who had quitted her
house little more than an hour ago, full of health and spirits, was
brought back to it in such a deplorable condition; and when she saw him
deposited at her door, notwithstanding her masculine character, she had
some difficulty in repressing a scream. She did not, however, yield to
the weakness, but seeing at once what was best to be done, caused him to
be transported by the grooms to the chamber he had occupied over-night,
and laid upon the bed. Medical assistance was fortunately at hand; for
it chanced that Master Sudall, the chirurgeon of Colne, was in the house
at the time, having been brought to Goldshaw by the great sickness that
prevailed at Sabden and elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Sudall was
immediately in attendance upon the sufferer, and bled him copiously,
after which the poor man seemed much easier; and Richard Assheton,
taking the chirurgeon aside, asked his opinion of the case, and was told
by Sudall that he did not think the pedlar's life in danger, but he
doubted whether he would ever recover the use of his limbs.

"You do not attribute the attack to witchcraft, I suppose, Master
Sudall?" said Richard.

"I do not like to deliver an opinion, sir," replied the chirurgeon. "It
is impossible to decide, when all the appearances are precisely like
those of an ordinary attack of paralysis. But a sad case has recently
come under my observation, as to which I can have no doubt--I mean as to
its being the result of witchcraft--but I will tell you more about it
presently, for I must now return to my patient."

It being agreed among the party to rest for an hour at the little
hostel, and partake of some refreshment, Nicholas went to look after the
horses, while Roger Nowell and Richard remained in the room with the
pedlar. Bess Whitaker owned an extensive farm-yard, provided with
cow-houses, stables, and a large barn; and it was to the latter place
that the two grooms proposed to repair with Sparshot and play a game at
loggats on the clay floor. No one knew what had become of the reeve;
for, on depositing the poor pedlar at the door of the hostel, he had
mounted his horse and ridden away. Having ordered some fried eggs and
bacon, Nicholas wended his way to the stable, while Bess, assisted by a
stout kitchen wench, busied herself in preparing the eatables, and it
was at this juncture that Master Potts entered the house.

Bess eyed him narrowly, and was by no means prepossessed by his looks,
while the muddy condition of his habiliments did not tend to exalt him
in her opinion.

"Yo mey yersel a' whoam, mon, ey mun say," she observed, as the attorney
seated himself on the bench beside her.

"To be sure," rejoined Potts; "where should a man make himself at home,
if not at an inn? Those eggs and bacon look very tempting. I'll try some
presently; and, as soon as you've done with the frying-pan, I'll have a
pottle of sack."

"Neaw, yo winna," replied Bess. "Yo'n get nother eggs nor bacon nor sack
here, ey can promise ye. Ele an whoat-kekes mun sarve your turn. Go to
t' barn wi' t' other grooms, and play at kittle-pins or nine-holes wi'
hin, an ey'n send ye some ele."

"I'm quite comfortable where I am, thank you, hostess," replied Potts,
"and have no desire to play at kittle-pins or nine-holes. But what does
this bottle contain?"

"Sherris," replied Bess.

"Sherris!" echoed Potts, "and yet you say I can have no sack. Get me
some sugar and eggs, and I'll show you how to brew the drink. I was
taught the art by my friend, Ben Jonson--rare Ben--ha, ha!"

"Set the bottle down," cried Bess, angrily.

"What do you mean, woman!" said Potts, staring at her in surprise. "I
told you to fetch sugar and eggs, and I now repeat the order--sugar, and
half-a-dozen eggs at least."

"An ey repeat my order to yo," cried Bess, "to set the bottle down, or
ey'st may ye."

"Make me! ha, ha! I like that," cried Potts. "Let me tell you, woman, I
am not accustomed to be ordered in this way. I shall do no such thing.
If you will not bring the eggs I shall drink the wine, neat and
unsophisticate." And he filled a flagon near him.

"If yo dun, yo shan pay dearly for it," said Bess, putting aside the
frying-pan and taking down the horsewhip.

"I daresay I shall," replied Potts merrily; "you hostesses generally do
make one pay dearly. Very good sherris this, i' faith!--the true nutty
flavour. Now do go and fetch me some eggs, my good woman. You must have
plenty, with all the poultry I saw in the farm-yard; and then I'll teach
you the whole art and mystery of brewing sack."

"Ey'n teach yo to dispute my orders," cried Bess. And, catching the
attorney by the collar, she began to belabour him soundly with the whip.

"Holloa! ho! what's the meaning of this?" cried Potts, struggling to get
free. "Assault and battery; ho!"

"Ey'n sawt an batter yo, ay, an baste yo too!" replied Bess, continuing
to lay on the whip.

"Why, zounds! this passes a joke," cried the attorney. "How desperately
strong she is! I shall be murdered! Help! help! The woman must be a
witch."

"A witch! Ey'n teach yo' to ca' me feaw names," cried the enraged
hostess, laying on with greater fury.

"Help! help!" roared Potts.

At this moment Nicholas returned from the stables, and, seeing how
matters stood, flew to the attorney's assistance.

"Come, come, Bess," he cried, laying hold of her arm, "you've given him
enough. What has Master Potts been about? Not insulting you, I hope?"

"Neaw, ey'd tak keare he didna do that, squoire," replied the hostess.
"Ey towd him he'd get nowt boh ele here, an' he made free wi't wine
bottle, so ey brought down t' whip jist to teach him manners."

"You teach me! you ignorant and insolent hussy," cried Potts, furiously;
"do you think I'm to be taught manners by an overgrown Lancashire witch
like you? I'll teach you what it is to assault a gentleman. I'll prefer
an instant complaint against you to my singular good friend and client,
Master Roger, who is in your house, and you'll soon find whom you've got
to deal with--"

"Marry--kem--eawt!" exclaimed Bess; "who con it be? Ey took yo fo' one
o't grooms, mon."

"Fire and fury!" exclaimed Potts; "this is intolerable. Master Nowell
shall let you know who I am, woman."

"Nay, I'll tell you, Bess," interposed Nicholas, laughing. "This little
gentleman is a London lawyer, who is going to Rough Lee on business with
Master Roger Nowell. Unluckily, he got pitched into a quagmire in Read
Park, and that is the reason why his countenance and habiliments have
got begrimed."

"Eigh! ey thowt he wur i' a strawnge fettle," replied Bess; "an so he be
a lawyer fro' Lunnon, eh? Weel," she added, laughing, and displaying two
ranges of very white teeth, "he'll remember Bess Whitaker, t' next time
he comes to Pendle Forest."

"And she'll remember me," rejoined Potts.

"Neaw more sawce, mon," cried Bess, "or ey'n raddle thy boans again."

"No you won't, woman," cried Potts, snatching up his horsewhip, which he
had dropped in the previous scuffle, and brandishing it fiercely. "I
dare you to touch me."

Nicholas was obliged once more to interfere, and as he passed his arms
round the hostess's waist, he thought a kiss might tend to bring matters
to a peaceable issue, so he took one.

"Ha' done wi' ye, squoire," cried Bess, who, however, did not look very
seriously offended by the liberty.

"By my faith, your lips are so sweet that I must have another," cried
Nicholas. "I tell you what, Bess, you're the finest woman in Lancashire,
and you owe it to the county to get married."

"Whoy so?" said Bess.

"Because it would be a pity to lose the breed," replied Nicholas. "What
say you to Master Potts there? Will he suit you?"

"He--pooh! Do you think ey'd put up wi' sich powsement os he! Neaw; when
Bess Whitaker, the lonleydey o' Goldshey, weds, it shan be to a mon, and
nah to a ninny-hommer."

"Bravely resolved, Bess," cried Nicholas. "You deserve another kiss for
your spirit."

"Ha' done, ey say," cried Bess, dealing him a gentle tap that sounded
very much like a buffet. "See how yon jobberknow is grinning at ye."

"Jobberknow and ninny-hammer," cried Potts, furiously; "really, woman, I
cannot permit such names to be applied to me."

"Os yo please, boh ey'st gi' ye nah better," rejoined the hostess.

"Come, Bess, a truce to this," observed Nicholas; "the eggs and bacon
are spoiling, and I'm dying with hunger. There--there," he added,
clapping her on the shoulder, "set the dish before us, that's a good
soul--a couple of plates, some oatcakes and butter, and we shall do."

And while Bess attended to these requirements, he observed, "This sudden
seizure of poor John Law is a bad business."

"'Deed on it is, squoire," replied Bess, "ey wur quite glopp'nt at seet
on him. Lorjus o' me! whoy, it's scarcely an hour sin he left here,
looking os strong an os 'earty os yersel. Boh it's a kazzardly onsartin
loife we lead. Here to-day an gone the morrow, as Parson Houlden says.
Wall-a-day!"

"True, true, Bess," replied the squire, "and the best plan therefore is,
to make the most of the passing moment. So brew us each a lusty pottle
of sack, and fry us some more eggs and bacon."

And while the hostess proceeded to prepare the sack, Potts remarked to
Nicholas, "I have got another case of witchcraft, squire. Mary Baldwyn,
the miller's daughter, of Rough Lee."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Nicholas. "What, is the poor girl bewitched?"

"Bewitched to death--that's all," said Potts.

"Eigh--poor Meary! hoo's to be berried here this mornin," observed Bess,
emptying the bottle of sherris into a pot, and placing the latter on the
fire.

"And you think she was forespoken?" said Nicholas, addressing her.

"Folk sayn so," replied Bess; "boh I'd leyther howd my tung about it."

"Then I suppose you pay tribute to Mother Chattox, hostess?" cried
Potts,--"butter, eggs, and milk from the farm, ale and wine from the
cellar, with a flitch of bacon now and then, ey?"

"Nay, by th' maskins! ey gi' her nowt," cried Bess.

"Then you bribe Mother Demdike, and that comes to the same thing," said
Potts.

"Weel, yo're neaw so fur fro' t' mark this time," replied Bess, adding
eggs, sugar, and spice to the now boiling wine, and stirring up the
compound.

"I wonder where your brother, the reeve of the forest, can be, Master
Potts!" observed Nicholas. "I did not see either him or his horse at the
stables."

"Perhaps the arch impostor has taken himself off altogether," said
Potts; "and if so, I shall be sorry, for I have not done with him."

The sack was now set before them, and pronounced excellent, and while
they were engaged in discussing it, together with a fresh supply of eggs
and bacon, fried by the kitchen wench, Roger Nowell came out of the
inner room, accompanied by Richard and the chirurgeon.

"Well, Master Sudall, how goes on your patient?" inquired Nicholas of
the latter.

"Much more favourably than I expected, squire," replied the chirurgeon.
"He will be better left alone for awhile, and, as I shall not quit the
village till evening, I shall be able to look well after him."

"You think the attack occasioned by witchcraft of course, sir?" said
Potts.

"The poor fellow affirms it to be so, but I can give no opinion,"
replied Sudall, evasively.

"You must make up your mind as to the matter, for I think it right to
tell you your evidence will be required," said Potts. "Perhaps, you may
have seen poor Mary Baldwyn, the miller's daughter of Rough Lee, and can
speak more positively as to her case."

"I can, sir," replied the chirurgeon, seating himself beside Potts,
while Roger Nowell and Richard placed themselves on the opposite side of
the table. "This is the case I referred to a short time ago, when
answering your inquiries on the same subject, Master Richard, and a most
afflicting one it is. But you shall have the particulars. Six months
ago, Mary Baldwyn was as lovely and blooming a lass as could be seen,
the joy of her widowed father's heart. A hot-headed, obstinate man is
Richard Baldwyn, and he was unwise enough to incur the displeasure of
Mother Demdike, by favouring her rival, old Chattox, to whom he gave
flour and meal, while he refused the same tribute to the other. The
first time Mother Demdike was dismissed without the customary dole, one
of his millstones broke, and, instead of taking this as a warning, he
became more obstinate. She came a second time, and he sent her away with
curses. Then all his flour grew damp and musty, and no one would buy it.
Still he remained obstinate, and, when she appeared again, he would have
laid hands upon her. But she raised her staff, and the blows fell short.
'I have given thee two warnings, Richard,' she said, 'and thou hast paid
no heed to them. Now I will make thee smart, lad, in right earnest. That
which thou lovest best thou shalt lose.' Upon this, bethinking him that
the dearest thing he had in the world was his daughter Mary, and afraid
of harm happening to her, Richard would fain have made up his quarrel
with the old witch; but it had now gone too far, and she would not
listen to him, but uttering some words, with which the name of the girl
was mingled, shook her staff at the house and departed. The next day
poor Mary was taken ill, and her father, in despair, applied to old
Chattox, who promised him help, and did her best, I make no doubt--for
she would have willingly thwarted her rival, and robbed her of her prey;
but the latter was too strong for her, and the hapless victim got daily
worse and worse. Her blooming cheek grew white and hollow, her dark eyes
glistened with unnatural lustre, and she was seen no more on the banks
of Pendle water. Before this my aid had been called in by the afflicted
father--and I did all I could--but I knew she would die--and I told him
so. The information I feared had killed him, for he fell down like a
stone--and I repented having spoken. However he recovered, and made a
last appeal to Mother Demdike; but the unrelenting hag derided him and
cursed him, telling him if he brought her all his mill contained, and
added to that all his substance, she would not spare his child. He
returned heart-broken, and never quitted the poor girl's bedside till
she breathed her last."

"Poor Ruchot! Robb'd o' his ownly dowter--an neaw woife to cheer him! Ey
pity him fro' t' bottom o' my heart," said Bess, whose tears had flowed
freely during the narration.

"He is wellnigh crazed with grief," said the chirurgeon. "I hope he will
commit no rash act."

Expressions of deep commiseration for the untimely death of the miller's
daughter had been uttered by all the party, and they were talking over
the strange circumstances attending it, when they were roused by the
trampling of horses' feet at the door, and the moment after, a
middle-aged man, clad in deep mourning, but put on in a manner that
betrayed the disorder of his mind, entered the house. His looks were
wild and frenzied, his cheeks haggard, and he rushed into the room so
abruptly that he did not at first observe the company assembled.

"Why, Richard Baldwyn, is that you?" cried the chirurgeon.

"What! is this the father?" exclaimed Potts, taking out his
memorandum-book; "I must prepare to interrogate him."

"Sit thee down, Ruchot,--sit thee down, mon," said Bess, taking his hand
kindly, and leading him to a bench. "Con ey get thee onny thing?"

"Neaw--neaw, Bess," replied the miller; "ey ha lost aw ey vallied i'
this warlt, an ey care na how soon ey quit it mysel."

"Neigh, dunna talk on thus, Ruchot," said Bess, in accents of sincere
sympathy. "Theaw win live to see happier an brighter days."

"Ey win live to be revenged, Bess," cried the miller, rising suddenly,
and stamping his foot on the ground,--"that accursed witch has robbed me
o' my' eart's chief treasure--hoo has crushed a poor innocent os never
injured her i' thowt or deed--an has struck the heaviest blow that could
be dealt me; but by the heaven above us ey win requite her! A feyther's
deep an lasting curse leet on her guilty heoad, an on those of aw her
accursed race. Nah rest, neet nor day, win ey know, till ey ha brought
em to the stake."

"Right--right--my good friend--an excellent resolution--bring them to
the stake!" cried Potts.

But his enthusiasm was suddenly checked by observing the reeve of the
forest peeping from behind the wainscot, and earnestly regarding the
miller, and he called the attention of the latter to him.

Richard Baldwyn mechanically followed the expressive gestures of the
attorney,--but he saw no one, for the reeve had disappeared.

The incident passed unnoticed by the others, who had been, too deeply
moved by poor Baldwyn's outburst of grief to pay attention to it.

After a little while Bess Whitaker succeeded in prevailing upon the
miller to sit down, and when he became more composed he told her that
the funeral procession, consisting of some of his neighbours who had
undertaken to attend his ill-fated daughter to her last home, was coming
from Rough Lee to Goldshaw, but that, unable to bear them company, he
had ridden on by himself. It appeared also, from his muttered threats,
that he had meditated some wild project of vengeance against Mother
Demdike, which he intended to put into execution, before the day was
over; but Master Potts endeavoured to dissuade him from this course,
assuring him that the most certain and efficacious mode of revenge he
could adopt would be through the medium of the law, and that he would
give him his best advice and assistance in the matter. While they were
talking thus, the bell began to toll, and every stroke seemed to vibrate
through the heart of the afflicted father, who was at last so
overpowered by grief, that the hostess deemed it expedient to lead him
into an inner room, where he might indulge his sorrow unobserved.

Without awaiting the issue of this painful scene, Richard, who was much
affected by it, went forth, and taking his horse from the stable, with
the intention of riding on slowly before the others, led the animal
towards the churchyard. When within a short distance of the grey old
fabric he paused. The bell continued to toll mournfully, and deepened
the melancholy hue of his thoughts. The sad tale he had heard held
possession of his mind, and while he pitied poor Mary Baldwyn, he began
to entertain apprehensions that Alizon might meet a similar fate. So
many strange circumstances had taken place during the morning's ride; he
had listened to so many dismal relations, that, coupled with the dark
and mysterious events of the previous night, he was quite bewildered,
and felt oppressed as if by a hideous nightmare, which it was impossible
to shake off. He thought of Mothers Demdike and Chattox. Could these
dread beings be permitted to exercise such baneful influence over
mankind? With all the apparent proofs of their power he had received, he
still strove to doubt, and to persuade himself that the various cases of
witchcraft described to him were only held to be such by the timid and
the credulous.

Full of these meditations, he tied his horse to a tree and entered the
churchyard, and while pursuing a path shaded by a row of young
lime-trees leading to the porch, he perceived at a little distance from
him, near the cross erected by Abbot Cliderhow, two persons who
attracted his attention. One was the sexton, who was now deep in the
grave; and the other an old woman, with her back towards him. Neither
had remarked his approach, and, influenced by an unaccountable feeling
of curiosity, he stood still to watch their proceedings. Presently, the
sexton, who was shovelling out the mould, paused in his task; and the
old woman, in a hoarse voice, which seemed familiar to the listener,
said, "What hast found, Zachariah?"

[Illustration: RICHARD OVERHEARS THE MOTHER CHATTOX AND THE SEXTON.]

"That which yo lack, mother," replied the sexton, "a mazzard wi' aw th'
teeth in't."

"Pluck out eight, and give them me," replied the hag.

And, as the sexton complied with her injunction, she added, "Now I must
have three scalps."

"Here they be, mother," replied Zachariah, uncovering a heap of mould
with his spade. "Two brain-pans bleached loike snow, an the third wi'
more hewr on it than ey ha' o' my own sconce. Fro' its size an shape ey
should tak it to be a female. Ey ha' laid these three skulls aside fo'
ye. Whot dun yo mean to do wi' 'em?"

"Question me not, Zachariah," said the hag, sternly; "now give me some
pieces of the mouldering coffin, and fill this box with the dust of the
corpse it contained."

The sexton complied with her request.

"Now yo ha' getten aw yo seek, mother," he said, "ey wad pray you to tay
your departure, fo' the berrin folk win be here presently."

"I'm going," replied the hag, "but first I must have my funeral rites
performed--ha! ha! Bury this for me, Zachariah," she said, giving him a
small clay figure. "Bury it deep, and as it moulders away, may she it
represents pine and wither, till she come to the grave likewise!"

"An whoam doth it represent, mother?" asked the sexton, regarding the
image with curiosity. "Ey dunna knoa the feace?"

"How should you know it, fool, since you have never seen her in whose
likeness it is made?" replied the hag. "She is connected with the race I
hate."

"Wi' the Demdikes?" inquired the sexton.

"Ay," replied the hag, "with the Demdikes. She passes for one of
them--but she is not of them. Nevertheless, I hate her as though she
were."

"Yo dunna mean Alizon Device?" said the sexton. "Ey ha' heerd say hoo be
varry comely an kind-hearted, an ey should be sorry onny harm befell
her."

"Mary Baldwyn, who will soon lie there, was quite as comely and
kind-hearted as Alizon," cried the hag, "and yet Mother Demdike had no
pity on her."

"An that's true," replied the sexton. "Weel, weel; ey'n do your
bidding."

"Hold!" exclaimed Richard, stepping forward. "I will not suffer this
abomination to be practised."

"Who is it speaks to me?" cried the hag, turning round, and disclosing
the hideous countenance of Mother Chattox. "The voice is that of Richard
Assheton."

"It is Richard Assheton who speaks," cried the young man, "and I command
you to desist from this wickedness. Give me that clay image," he cried,
snatching it from the sexton, and trampling it to dust beneath his feet.
"Thus I destroy thy impious handiwork, and defeat thy evil intentions."

"Ah! think'st thou so, lad," rejoined Mother Chattox. "Thou wilt find
thyself mistaken. My curse has already alighted upon thee, and it shall
work. Thou lov'st Alizon.--I know it. But she shall never be thine. Now,
go thy ways."

"I will go," replied Richard--"but you shall come with me, old woman."

"Dare you lay hands on me?" screamed the hag.

"Nay, let her be, mester," interposed the sexton, "yo had better."

"You are as bad as she is," said Richard, "and deserve equal punishment.
You escaped yesterday at Whalley, old woman, but you shall not escape me
now."

"Be not too sure of that," cried the hag, disabling him for the moment,
by a severe blow on the arm from her staff. And shuffling off with an
agility which could scarcely have been expected from her, she passed
through a gate near her, and disappeared behind a high wall.

Richard would have followed, but he was detained by the sexton, who
besought him, as he valued his life, not to interfere, and when at last
he broke away from the old man, he could see nothing of her, and only
heard the sound of horses' feet in the distance. Either his eyes
deceived him, or at a turn in the woody lane skirting the church he
descried the reeve of the forest galloping off with the old woman behind
him. This lane led towards Rough Lee, and, without a moment's
hesitation, Richard flew to the spot where he had left his horse, and,
mounting him, rode swiftly along it.




CHAPTER VI.--THE TEMPTATION.


Shortly after Richard's departure, a round, rosy-faced personage, whose
rusty black cassock, hastily huddled over a dark riding-dress,
proclaimed him a churchman, entered the hostel. This was the rector of
Goldshaw, Parson Holden, a very worthy little man, though rather,
perhaps, too fond of the sports of the field and the bottle. To Roger
Nowell and Nicholas Assheton he was of course well known, and was much
esteemed by the latter, often riding over to hunt and fish, or carouse,
at Downham. Parson Holden had been sent for by Bess to administer
spiritual consolation to poor Richard Baldwyn, who she thought stood in
need of it, and having respectfully saluted the magistrate, of whom he
stood somewhat in awe, and shaken hands cordially with Nicholas, who was
delighted to see him, he repaired to the inner room, promising to come
back speedily. And he kept his word; for in less than five minutes he
reappeared with the satisfactory intelligence that the afflicted miller
was considerably calmer, and had listened to his counsels with much
edification.

"Take him a glass of aquavitae, Bess," he said to the hostess. "He is
evidently a cup too low, and will be the better for it. Strong water is
a specific I always recommend under such circumstances, Master Sudall,
and indeed adopt myself, and I am sure you will approve of it.--Harkee,
Bess, when you have ministered to poor Baldwyn's wants, I must crave
your attention to my own, and beg you to fill me a tankard with your
oldest ale, and toast me an oatcake to eat with it.--I must keep up my
spirits, worthy sir," he added to Roger Nowell, "for I have a painful
duty to perform. I do not know when I have been more shocked than by the
death of poor Mary Baldwyn. A fair flower, and early nipped."

"Nipped, indeed, if all we have heard be correct," rejoined Newell. "The
forest is in a sad state, reverend sir. It would seem as if the enemy of
mankind, by means of his abominable agents, were permitted to exercise
uncontrolled dominion over it. I must needs say, the forlorn condition
of the people reflects little credit on those who have them in charge.
The powers of darkness could never have prevailed to such an extent if
duly resisted."

"I lament to hear you say so, good Master Nowell," replied the rector.
"I have done my best, I assure you, to keep my small and
widely-scattered flock together, and to save them from the ravening
wolves and cunning foxes that infest the country; and if now and then
some sheep have gone astray, or a poor lamb, as in the instance of Mary
Baldwyn, hath fallen a victim, I am scarcely to blame for the mischance.
Rather let me say, sir, that you, as an active and zealous magistrate,
should take the matter in hand, and by severe dealing with the
offenders, arrest the progress of the evil. No defence, spiritual or
otherwise, as yet set up against them, has proved effectual."

"Justly remarked, reverend sir," observed Potts, looking up from the
memorandum book in which he was writing, "and I am sure your advice will
not be lost upon Master Roger Nowell. As regards the persons who may be
afflicted by witchcraft, hath not our sagacious monarch observed, that
'There are three kind of folks who may be tempted or troubled: the
wicked for their horrible sins, to punish them in the like measure; the
godly that are sleeping in any great sins or infirmities, and weakness
in faith, to waken them up the faster by such an uncouth form; and even
some of the best, that their patience may be tried before the world as
Job's was tried. For why may not God use any kind of extraordinary
punishment, when it pleases Him, as well as the ordinary rods of
sickness, or other adversities?'"

"Very true, sir," replied Holden. "And we are undergoing this severe
trial now. Fortunate are they who profit by it!"

"Hear what is said further, sir, by the king," pursued Potts. "'No
man,' declares that wise prince, 'ought to presume so far as to promise
any impunity to himself.' But further on he gives us courage, for he
adds, 'and yet we ought not to be afraid for that, of any thing that the
devil and his wicked instruments can do against us, for we daily fight
against him in a hundred other ways, and therefore as a valiant captain
affrays no more being at the combat, nor stays from his purpose for the
rummishing shot of a cannon, nor the small clack of a pistolet; not
being certain what may light on him; even so ought we boldly to go
forward in fighting against the devil without any greater terror, for
these his rarest weapons, than the ordinary, whereof we have daily the
proof.'"

"His majesty is quite right," observed Holden, "and I am glad to hear
his convincing words so judiciously cited. I myself have no fear of
these wicked instruments of Satan."

"In what manner, may I ask, have you proved your courage, sir?" inquired
Roger Nowell. "Have you preached against them, and denounced their
wickedness, menacing them with the thunders of the Church?"

"I cannot say I have," replied Holden, rather abashed, "but I shall
henceforth adopt a very different course.--Ah! here comes the ale!" he
added, taking the foaming tankard from Bess; "this is the best cordial
wherewith to sustain one's courage in these trying times."

"Some remedy must be found for this intolerable grievance," observed
Roger Nowell, after a few moments' reflection. "Till this morning I was
not aware of the extent of the evil, but supposed that the two malignant
hags, who seem to reign supreme here, confined their operations to
blighting corn, maiming cattle, turning milk sour; and even these
reports I fancied were greatly exaggerated; but I now find, from what I
have seen at Sabden and elsewhere, that they fall very far short of the
reality."

"It would be difficult to increase the darkness of the picture," said
the chirurgeon; "but what remedy will you apply?"

"The cautery, sir," replied Potts,--"the actual cautery--we will burn
out this plague-spot. The two old hags and their noxious brood shall be
brought to the stake. That will effect a radical cure."

"It may when it is accomplished, but I fear it will be long ere that
happens," replied the chirurgeon, shaking his head doubtfully. "Are you
acquainted with Mother Demdike's history, sir?" he added to Potts.

"In part," replied the attorney; "but I shall be glad to hear any thing
you may have to bring forward on the subject."

"The peculiarity in her case," observed Sudall, "and the circumstance
distinguishing her dark and dread career from that of all other witches
is, that it has been shaped out by destiny. When an infant, a
malediction was pronounced upon her head by the unfortunate Abbot
Paslew. She is also the offspring of a man reputed to have bartered his
soul to the Enemy of Mankind, while her mother was a witch. Both parents
perished lamentably, about the time of Paslew's execution at Whalley."

"It is a pity their miserable infant did not perish with them," observed
Holden. "How much crime and misery would have been spared!"

"It was otherwise ordained," replied Sudall. "Bereft of her parents in
this way, the infant was taken charge of and reared by Dame Croft, the
miller's wife of Whalley; but even in those early days she exhibited
such a malicious and vindictive disposition, and became so unmanageable,
that the good dame was glad to get rid of her, and sent her into the
forest, where she found a home at Rough Lee, then occupied by Miles
Nutter, the grandfather of the late Richard Nutter."

"Aha!" exclaimed Potts, "was Mother Demdike so early connected with that
family? I must make a note of that circumstance."

"She remained at Rough Lee for some years," returned Sudall, "and though
accounted of an ill disposition, there was nothing to be alleged against
her at the time; though afterwards, it was said, that some mishaps that
befell the neighbours were owing to her agency, and that she was always
attended by a familiar in the form of a rat or a mole. Whether this were
so or not, I cannot say; but it is certain that she helped Miles Nutter
to get rid of his wife, and procured him a second spouse, in return for
which services he bestowed upon her an old ruined tower on his domains."

"You mean Malkin Tower?" said Nicholas.

"Ay, Malkin Tower," replied the chirurgeon. "There is a legend connected
with that structure, which I will relate to you anon, if you desire it.
But to proceed. Scarcely had Bess Demdike taken up her abode in this
lone tower, than it began to be rumoured that she was a witch, and
attended sabbaths on the summit of Pendle Hill, and on Rimington Moor.
Few would consort with her, and ill-luck invariably attended those with
whom she quarrelled. Though of hideous and forbidding aspect, and with
one eye lower set than the other, she had subtlety enough to induce a
young man named Sothernes to marry her, and two children, a son and a
daughter, were the fruit of the union."

"The daughter I have seen at Whalley," observed Potts; "but I have never
encountered the son."

"Christopher Demdike still lives, I believe," replied the chirurgeon,
"though what has become of him I know not, for he has quitted these
parts. He is as ill-reputed as his mother, and has the same strange and
fearful look about the eyes."

"I shall recognise him if I see him," observed Potts.

"You are scarcely likely to meet him," returned Sudall, "for, as I have
said, he has left the forest. But to return to my story. The marriage
state was little suitable to Bess Demdike, and in five years she
contrived to free herself from her husband's restraint, and ruled alone
in the tower. Her malignant influence now began to be felt throughout
the whole district, and by dint of menaces and positive acts of
mischief, she extorted all she required. Whosoever refused her requests
speedily experienced her resentment. When she was in the fulness of her
power, a rival sprang up in the person of Anne Whittle, since known by
the name of Chattox, which she obtained in marriage, and this woman
disputed Bess Demdike's supremacy. Each strove to injure the adherents
of her rival--and terrible was the mischief they wrought. In the end,
however, Mother Demdike got the upper hand. Years have flown over the
old hag's head, and her guilty career has been hitherto attended with
impunity. Plans have been formed to bring her to justice, but they have
ever failed. And so in the case of old Chattox. Her career has been as
baneful and as successful as that of Mother Demdike."

"But their course is wellnigh run," said Potts, "and the time is come
for the extirpation of the old serpents."

"Ah! who is that at the window?" cried Sudall; "but that you are sitting
near me, I should declare you were looking in at us."

"It must be Master Potts's brother, the reeve of the forest," observed
Nicholas, with a laugh.

"Heed him not," cried the attorney, angrily, "but let us have the
promised legend of Malkin Tower."

"Willingly!" replied the chirurgeon. "But before I begin I must recruit
myself with a can of ale."

The flagon being set before him, Sudall commenced his story:

    The Legend of Malkin Tower.

    "On the brow of a high hill forming part of the range of
    Pendle, and commanding an extensive view over the forest, and
    the wild and mountainous region around it, stands a stern
    solitary tower. Old as the Anglo-Saxons, and built as a
    stronghold by Wulstan, a Northumbrian thane, in the time of
    Edmund or Edred, it is circular in form and very lofty, and
    serves as a landmark to the country round. Placed high up in
    the building the door was formerly reached by a steep flight
    of stone steps, but these were removed some fifty or sixty
    years ago by Mother Demdike, and a ladder capable of being
    raised or let down at pleasure substituted for them,
    affording the only apparent means of entrance. The tower is
    otherwise inaccessible, the walls being of immense thickness,
    with no window lower than five-and-twenty feet from the
    ground, though it is thought there must be a secret outlet;
    for the old witch, when she wants to come forth, does not
    wait for the ladder to be let down. But this may be otherwise
    explained. Internally there are three floors, the lowest
    being placed on a level with the door, and this is the
    apartment chiefly occupied by the hag. In the centre of this
    room is a trapdoor opening upon a deep vault, which forms the
    basement story of the structure, and which was once used as a
    dungeon, but is now tenanted, it is said, by a fiend, who can
    be summoned by the witch on stamping her foot. Round the room
    runs a gallery contrived in the thickness of the walls, while
    the upper chambers are gained by a secret staircase, and
    closed by movable stones, the machinery of which is only
    known to the inmate of the tower. All the rooms are lighted
    by narrow loopholes. Thus you will see that the fortress is
    still capable of sustaining a siege, and old Demdike has been
    heard to declare that she would hold it for a month against a
    hundred men. Hitherto it has proved impregnable.

    "On the Norman invasion, Malkin Tower was held by Ughtred, a
    descendant of Wulstan, who kept possession of Pendle Forest
    and the hills around it, and successfully resisted the
    aggressions of the conquerors. His enemies affirmed he was
    assisted by a demon, whom he had propitiated by some fearful
    sacrifice made in the tower, and the notion seemed borne out
    by the success uniformly attending his conflicts. Ughtred's
    prowess was stained by cruelty and rapine. Merciless in the
    treatment of his captives, putting them to death by horrible
    tortures, or immuring them in the dark and noisome dungeon of
    his tower, he would hold his revels over their heads, and
    deride their groans. Heaps of treasure, obtained by pillage,
    were secured by him in the tower. From his frequent acts of
    treachery, and the many foul murders he perpetrated, Ughtred
    was styled the 'Scourge of the Normans.' For a long period he
    enjoyed complete immunity from punishment; but after the
    siege of York, and the defeat of the insurgents, his
    destruction was vowed by Ilbert de Lacy, lord of
    Blackburnshire, and this fierce chieftain set fire to part of
    the forest in which the Saxon thane and his followers were
    concealed; drove them to Malkin Tower; took it after an
    obstinate and prolonged defence, and considerable loss to
    himself, and put them all to the sword, except the leader,
    whom he hanged from the top of his own fortress. In the
    dungeon were found many carcasses, and the greater part of
    Ughtred's treasure served to enrich the victor.

    "Once again, in the reign of Henry VI., Malkin Tower became a
    robber's stronghold, and gave protection to a freebooter
    named Blackburn, who, with a band of daring and desperate
    marauders, took advantage of the troubled state of the
    country, ravaged it far and wide, and committed unheard of
    atrocities, even levying contributions upon the Abbeys of
    Whalley and Salley, and the heads of these religious
    establishments were glad to make terms with him to save their
    herds and stores, the rather that all attempts to dislodge
    him from his mountain fastness, and destroy his band, had
    failed. Blackburn seemed to enjoy the same kind of protection
    as Ughtred, and practised the same atrocities, torturing and
    imprisoning his captives unless they were heavily ransomed.
    He also led a life of wildest licence, and, when not engaged
    in some predatory exploit, spent his time in carousing with
    his followers.

    "Upon one occasion it chanced that he made a visit in
    disguise to Whalley Abbey, and, passing the little hermitage
    near the church, beheld the votaress who tenanted it. This
    was Isole de Heton. Ravished by her wondrous beauty,
    Blackburn soon found an opportunity of making his passion
    known to her, and his handsome though fierce lineaments
    pleasing her, he did not long sigh in vain. He frequently
    visited her in the garb of a Cistertian monk, and, being
    taken for one of the brethren, his conduct brought great
    scandal upon the Abbey. The abandoned votaress bore him a
    daughter, and the infant was conveyed away by the lover, and
    placed under the care of a peasant's wife, at Barrowford.
    From that child sprung Bess Blackburn, the mother of old
    Demdike; so that the witch is a direct descendant of Isole de
    Heton.

    "Notwithstanding all precautions, Isole's dark offence became
    known, and she would have paid the penalty of it at the
    stake, if she had not fled. In scaling Whalley Nab, in the
    woody heights of which she was to remain concealed till her
    lover could come to her, she fell from a rock, shattering her
    limbs, and disfiguring her features. Some say she was lamed
    for life, and became as hideous as she had heretofore been
    lovely; but this is erroneous, for apprehensive of such a
    result, attended by the loss of her lover, she invoked the
    powers of darkness, and proffered her soul in return for five
    years of unimpaired beauty.

    "The compact was made, and when Blackburn came he found her
    more beautiful than ever. Enraptured, he conveyed her to
    Malkin Tower, and lived with her there in security, laughing
    to scorn the menaces of Abbot Eccles, by whom he was
    excommunicated.

    "Time went on, and as Isole's charms underwent no change, her
    lover's ardour continued unabated. Five years passed in
    guilty pleasures, and the last day of the allotted term
    arrived. No change was manifest in Isole's demeanour; neither
    remorse nor fear were exhibited by her. Never had she
    appeared more lovely, never in higher or more exuberant
    spirits. She besought her lover, who was still madly
    intoxicated by her infernal charms, to give a banquet that
    night to ten of his trustiest followers. He willingly
    assented, and bade them to the feast. They ate and drank
    merrily, and the gayest of the company was the lovely Isole.
    Her spirits seemed somewhat too wild even to Blackburn, but
    he did not check her, though surprised at the excessive
    liveliness and freedom of her sallies. Her eyes flashed like
    fire, and there was not a man present but was madly in love
    with her, and ready to dispute for her smiles with his
    captain.

    "The wine flowed freely, and song and jest went on till
    midnight. When the hour struck, Isole filled a cup to the
    brim, and called upon them to pledge her. All arose, and
    drained their goblets enthusiastically. 'It was a farewell
    cup,' she said; 'I am going away with one of you.' 'How!'
    exclaimed Blackburn, in angry surprise. 'Let any one but
    touch your hand, and I will strike him dead at my feet.' The
    rest of the company regarded each other with surprise, and it
    was then discovered that a stranger was amongst them; a tall
    dark man, whose looks were so terrible and demoniacal that no
    one dared lay hands upon him. 'I am come,' he said, with
    fearful significance, to Isole. 'And I am ready,' she
    answered boldly. 'I will go with you were it to the
    bottomless pit,' cried Blackburn catching hold of her. 'It is
    thither I am going,' she answered with a scream of laughter.
    'I shall be glad of a companion.'

    "When the paroxysm of laughter was over, she fell down on the
    floor. Her lover would have raised her, when what was his
    horror to find that he held in his arms an old woman, with
    frightfully disfigured features, and evidently in the agonies
    of death. She fixed one look upon him and expired.

    "Terrified by the occurrence the guests hurried away, and
    when they returned next day, they found Blackburn stretched
    on the floor, and quite dead. They cast his body, together
    with that of the wretched Isole, into the vault beneath the
    room where they were lying, and then, taking possession of
    his treasure, removed to some other retreat.

    "Thenceforth, Malkin Tower became haunted. Though wholly
    deserted, lights were constantly seen shining from it at
    night, and sounds of wild revelry, succeeded by shrieks and
    groans, issued from it. The figure of Isole was often seen to
    come forth, and flit across the wastes in the direction of
    Whalley Abbey. On stormy nights a huge black cat, with
    flaming eyes, was frequently descried on the summit of the
    structure, whence it obtained its name of Grimalkin, or
    Malkin Tower. The ill-omened pile ultimately came into the
    possession of the Nutter family, but it was never tenanted,
    until assigned, as I have already mentioned, to Mother
    Demdike."

       *       *       *       *       *

The chirurgeon's marvellous story was listened to with great attention
by his auditors. Most of them were familiar with different versions of
it; but to Master Potts it was altogether new, and he made rapid notes
of it, questioning the narrator as to one or two points which appeared
to him to require explanation. Nicholas, as may be supposed, was
particularly interested in that part of the legend which referred to
Isole de Heton. He now for the first time heard of her unhallowed
intercourse with the freebooter Blackburn, of her compact on Whalley Nab
with the fiend, of her mysterious connection with Malkin Tower, and of
her being the ancestress of Mother Demdike. The consideration of all
these points, coupled with a vivid recollection of his own strange
adventure with the impious votaress at the Abbey on the previous night,
plunged him into a deep train of thought, and he began seriously to
consider whether he might not have committed some heinous sin, and,
indeed, jeopardised his soul's welfare by dancing with her. "What if I
should share the same fate as the robber Blackburn," he ruminated, "and
be dragged to perdition by her? It is a very awful reflection. But
though my fate might operate as a warning to others, I am by no means
anxious to be held up as a moral scarecrow. Rather let me take warning
myself, amend my life, abandon intemperance, which leads to all manner
of wickedness, and suffer myself no more to be ensnared by the wiles and
delusions of the tempter in the form of a fair woman. No--no--I will
alter and amend my life."

I regret, however, to say that these praiseworthy resolutions were but
transient, and that the squire, quite forgetting that the work of
reform, if intended to be really accomplished, ought to commence at
once, and by no means be postponed till the morrow, yielded to the
seductions of a fresh pottle of sack, which was presented to him at the
moment by Bess, and in taking it could not help squeezing the hand of
the bouncing hostess, and gazing at her more tenderly than became a
married man. Oh! Nicholas--Nicholas--the work of reform, I am afraid,
proceeds very slowly and imperfectly with you. Your friend, Parson.
Dewhurst, would have told you that it is much easier to form good
resolutions than to keep them.

Leaving the squire, however, to his cogitations and his sack, the
attorney to his memorandum-book, in which he was still engaged in
writing, and the others to their talk, we shall proceed to the chamber
whither the poor miller had been led by Bess. When visited by the
rector, he had been apparently soothed by the worthy man's consolatory
advice, but when left alone he speedily relapsed into his former dark
and gloomy state of mind. He did not notice Bess, who, according to
Holden's directions, placed the aquavitae bottle before him, but, as long
as she stayed, remained with his face buried in his hands. As soon as
she was gone he arose, and began to pace the room to and fro. The window
was open, and he could hear the funeral bell tolling mournfully at
intervals. Each recurrence of the dismal sound added sharpness and
intensity to his grief. His sufferings became almost intolerable, and
drove him to the very verge of despair and madness. If a weapon had
been at hand, he might have seized it, and put a sudden period to his
existence. His breast was a chaos of fierce and troubled thoughts, in
which one black and terrible idea arose and overpowered all the rest. It
was the desire of vengeance, deep and complete, upon her whom he looked
upon as the murderess of his child. He cared not how it were
accomplished so it were done; but such was the opinion he entertained of
the old hag's power, that he doubted his ability to the task. Still, as
the bell tolled on, the furies at his heart lashed and goaded him on,
and yelled in his ear revenge--revenge! Now, indeed, he was crazed with
grief and rage; he tore off handfuls of hair, plunged his nails deeply
into his breast, and while committing these and other wild excesses,
with frantic imprecations he called down Heaven's judgments on his own
head. He was in that lost and helpless state when the enemy of mankind
has power over man. Nor was the opportunity neglected; for when the
wretched Baldwyn, who, exhausted by the violence of his motions, had
leaned for a moment against the wall, he perceived to his surprise that
there was a man in the room--a small personage attired in rusty black,
whom he thought had been one of the party in the adjoining chamber.

There was an expression of mockery about this person's countenance which
did not please the miller, and he asked him, sternly, what he wanted.

"Leave off grinnin, mon," he said, fiercely, "or ey may be tempted to
tay yo be t' throttle, an may yo laugh o't wrong side o' your mouth."

"No, no, you will not, Richard Baldwyn, when you know my errand,"
replied the man. "You are thirsting for vengeance upon Mother Demdike.
You shall have it."

"Eigh, eigh, you promised me vengeance efore," cried the
miller--"vengeance by the law. Boh ey mun wait lung for it. Ey wad ha'
it swift and sure--deep and deadly. Ey wad blast her wi' curses, os hoo
blasted my poor Meary. Ey wad strike her deeod at my feet. That's my
vengeance, mon."

"You shall have it," replied the other.

"Yo talk differently fro' what yo did just now, mon," said the miller,
regarding him narrowly and distrustfully. "An yo look differently too.
There's a queer glimmer abowt your een that ey didna notice efore, and
that ey mislike."

The man laughed bitterly.

"Leave off grinnin' or begone," cried Baldwyn, furiously. And he raised
his hand to strike the man, but he instantly dropped it, appalled by a
look which the other threw at him. "Who the dule are yo?"

"The dule must answer you, since you appeal to him," replied the other,
with the same mocking smile; "but you are mistaken in supposing that you
have spoken to me before. He with whom you conversed in the other room,
resembles me in more respects than one, but he does not possess power
equal to mine. The law will not aid you against Mother Demdike. She will
escape all the snares laid for her. But she will not escape _me_."

"Who are ye?" cried the miller, his hair erecting on his head, and cold
damps breaking out upon his brow. "Yo are nah mortal, an nah good, to
tawk i' this fashion."

"Heed not who and what I am," replied the other; "I am known here as a
reeve of the forest--that is enough. Would you have vengeance on the
murtheress of your child?"

"Yeigh," rejoined Baldwyn.

"And you are willing to pay for it at the price of your soul?" demanded
the other, advancing towards him.

Baldwyn reeled. He saw at once the fearful peril in which he was placed,
and averted his gaze from the scorching glance of the reeve.

At this moment the door was tried without, and the voice of Bess was
heard, saying, "Who ha' yo got wi' yo, Ruchot; and whoy ha' yo fastened
t' door?"

"Your answer?" demanded the reeve.

"Ey canna gi' it now," replied the miller. "Come in, Bess; come in."

"Ey conna," she replied. "Open t' door, mon."

"Your answer, I say?" said the reeve.

"Gi' me an hour to think on't," said the miller.

"Agreed," replied the other. "I will be with you after the funeral."

And he sprang through the window, and disappeared before Baldwyn could
open the door and admit Bess.




CHAPTER VII.--THE PERAMBULATION OF THE BOUNDARIES.


The lane along which Richard Assheton galloped in pursuit of Mother
Chattox, made so many turns, and was, moreover, so completely hemmed in
by high banks and hedges, that he could sec nothing on either side of
him, and very little in advance; but, guided by the clatter of hoofs, he
urged Merlin to his utmost speed, fancying he should soon come up with
the fugitives. In this, however, he was deceived. The sound that had led
him on became fainter and fainter, till at last it died away altogether;
and on quitting the lane and gaining the moor, where the view was wholly
uninterrupted, no traces either of witch or reeve could be discerned.

With a feeling of angry disappointment, Richard was about to turn back,
when a large black greyhound came from out an adjoining clough, and
made towards him. The singularity of the circumstance induced him to
halt and regard the dog with attention. On nearing him, the animal
looked wistfully in his face, and seemed to invite him to follow; and
the young man was so struck by the dog's manner, that he complied, and
had not gone far when a hare of unusual size and grey with age bounded
from beneath a gorse-bush and speeded away, the greyhound starting in
pursuit.

Aware of the prevailing notion, that a witch most commonly assumed such
a form when desirous of escaping, or performing some act of mischief,
such as drying the milk of kine, Richard at once came to the conclusion
that the hare could be no other than Mother Chattox; and without pausing
to inquire what the hound could be, or why it should appear at such a
singular and apparently fortunate juncture, he at once joined the run,
and cheered on the dog with whoop and holloa.

Old as it was, apparently, the hare ran with extraordinary swiftness,
clearing every stone wall and other impediment in the way, and more than
once cunningly doubling upon its pursuers. But every feint and stratagem
were defeated by the fleet and sagacious hound, and the hunted animal at
length took to the open waste, where the run became so rapid, that
Richard had enough to do to keep up with it, though Merlin, almost as
furiously excited as his master, strained every sinew to the task.

In this way the chasers and the chased scoured the dark and heathy
plain, skirting moss-pool and clearing dyke, till they almost reached
the but-end of Pendle Hill, which rose like an impassable barrier before
them. Hitherto the chances had seemed in favour of the hare; but they
now began to turn, and as it seemed certain she must fall into the
hound's jaws, Richard expected every moment to find her resume her
natural form. The run having brought him within, a quarter of a mile of
Barley, the rude hovels composing which little booth were clearly
discernible, the young man began to think the hag's dwelling must he
among them, and that she was hurrying thither as to a place of refuge.
But before this could be accomplished, he hoped to effect her capture,
and once more cheered on the hound, and plunged his spurs into Merlin's
sides. An obstacle, however, occurred which he had not counted on.
Directly in the course taken by the hare lay a deep, disused limestone
quarry, completely screened from view by a fringe of brushwood. When
within a few yards of this pit, the hound made a dash at the flying
hare, but eluding him, the latter sprang forward, and both went over the
edge of the quarry together. Richard had wellnigh followed, and in that
case would have been inevitably dashed in pieces; but, discovering the
danger ere it was too late, by a powerful effort, which threw Merlin
upon his haunches, he pulled him back on the very brink of the pit.

The young man shuddered as he gazed into the depths of the quarry, and
saw the jagged points and heaps of broken stone that would have received
him; but he looked in vain for the old witch, whose mangled body,
together with that of the hound, he expected to behold; and he then
asked himself whether the chase might not have been a snare set for him
by the hag and her familiar, with the intent of luring him to
destruction. If so, he had been providentially preserved.

Quitting the pit, his first idea was to proceed to Barley, which was now
only a few hundred yards off, to make inquiries respecting Mother
Chattox, and ascertain whether she really dwelt there; but, on further
consideration, he judged it best to return without further delay to
Goldshaw, lest his friends, ignorant as to what had befallen him, might
become alarmed on his account; but he resolved, as soon as he had
disposed of the business in hand, to prosecute his search after the hag.
Riding rapidly, he soon cleared the ground between the quarry and
Goldshaw Lane, and was about to enter the latter, when the sound of
voices singing a funeral hymn caught his ear, and, pausing to listen to
it, he beheld a little procession, the meaning of which he readily
comprehended, wending its slow and melancholy way in the same direction
as himself. It was headed by four men in deep mourning, bearing upon
their shoulders a small coffin, covered with a pall, and having a
garland of white flowers in front of it. Behind them followed about a
dozen young men and maidens, likewise in mourning, walking two and two,
with gait and aspect of unfeigned affliction. Many of the women, though
merely rustics, seemed to possess considerable personal attraction; but
their features were in a great measure concealed by their large white
kerchiefs, disposed in the form of hoods. All carried sprigs of rosemary
and bunches of flowers in their hands. Plaintive was the hymn they sang,
and their voices, though untaught, were sweet and touching, and went to
the heart of the listener.

Much moved, Richard suffered the funeral procession to precede him along
the deep and devious lane, and as it winded beneath the hedges, the
sight was inexpressibly affecting. Fastening his horse to a tree at the
end of the lane, Richard followed on foot. Notice of the approach of the
train having been given in the village, all the inhabitants flocked
forth to meet it, and there was scarcely a dry eye among them. Arrived
within a short distance of the church, the coffin was met by the
minister, attended by the clerk, behind whom came Roger Nowell,
Nicholas, and the rest of the company from the hostel. With great
difficulty poor Baldwyn could be brought to take his place as chief
mourner. These arrangements completed, the body of the ill-fated girl
was borne into the churchyard, the minister reading the solemn texts
appointed for the occasion, and leading the way to the grave, beside
which stood the sexton, together with the beadle of Goldshaw and
Sparshot. The coffin was then laid on trestles, and amidst profound
silence, broken only by the sobs of the mourners, the service was read,
and preparations made for lowering the body into the grave.

Then it was that poor Baldwyn, with a wild, heart-piercing cry, flung
himself upon the shell containing all that remained of his lost
treasure, and could with difficulty be removed from it by Bess and
Sudall, both of whom were in attendance. The bunches of flowers and
sprigs of rosemary having been laid upon the coffin by the maidens,
amidst loud sobbing and audibly expressed lamentations from the
bystanders, it was let down into the grave, and earth thrown over it.

Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

The ceremony was over, the mourners betook themselves to the little
hostel, and the spectators slowly dispersed; but the bereaved father
still lingered, unable to tear himself away. Leaning for support against
the yew-tree, he fiercely bade Bess, who would have led him home with
her, begone. The kind-hearted hostess complied in appearance, but
remained nigh at hand though concealed from view.

Once more the dark cloud overshadowed the spirit of the wretched
man--once more the same infernal desire of vengeance possessed him--once
more he subjected himself to temptation. Striding to the foot of the
grave he raised his hand, and with terrible imprecations vowed to lay
the murtheress of his child as low as she herself was now laid. At that
moment he felt an eye like a burning-glass fixed upon him, and, looking
up, beheld the reeve of the forest standing on the further side of the
grave.

"Kneel down, and swear to be mine, and your wish shall be gratified,"
said the reeve.

Beside himself with grief and rage, Baldwyn would have complied, but he
was arrested by a powerful grasp. Fearing he was about to commit some
rash act, Bess rushed forward and caught hold of his doublet.

"Bethink thee whot theaw has just heerd fro' t' minister, Ruchot," she
cried in a voice of solemn warning. "'Blessed are the dead that dee i'
the Lord, for they rest fro their labours.' An again, 'Suffer us not at
our last hour, for onny pains o' death, to fa' fro thee.' Oh Ruchot,
dear! fo' the love theaw hadst fo' thy poor chilt, who is now delivert
fro' the burthen o' th' flesh, an' dwellin' i' joy an felicity wi' God
an his angels, dunna endanger thy precious sowl. Pray that theaw may'st
depart hence i' th' Lord, wi' whom are the sowls of the faithful, an
Meary's, ey trust, among the number. Pray that thy eend may be like
hers."

"Ey conna pray, Bess," replied the miller, striking his breast. "The
Lord has turned his feace fro' me."

"Becose thy heart is hardened, Ruchot," she replied. "Theaw 'rt
nourishin' nowt boh black an wicked thowts. Cast em off ye, I adjure
thee, an come whoam wi me."

Meanwhile, the reeve had sprung across the grave.

"Thy answer at once," he said, grasping the miller's arm, and breathing
the words in his ears. "Vengeance is in thy power. A word, and it is
thine."

The miller groaned bitterly. He was sorely tempted.

"What is that mon sayin' to thee, Ruchot?" inquired Bess.

"Dunna ax, boh tak me away," he answered. "Ey am lost else."

"Let him lay a finger on yo if he dare," said Bess, sturdily.

"Leave him alone--yo dunna knoa who he is," whispered the miller.

"Ey con partly guess," she rejoined; "boh ey care nother fo' mon nor
dule when ey'm acting reetly. Come along wi' me, Ruchot."

"Fool!" cried the reeve, in the same low tone as before; "you will lose
your revenge, but you will not escape me."

And he turned away, while Bess almost carried the trembling and
enfeebled miller towards the hostel.

Roger Nowell and his friends had only waited the conclusion of the
funeral to set forth, and their horses being in readiness, they mounted
them on leaving the churchyard, and rode slowly along the lane leading
towards Rough Lee. The melancholy scene they had witnessed, and the
afflicting circumstances connected with it, had painfully affected the
party, and little conversation occurred until they were overtaken by
Parson Holden, who, having been made acquainted with their errand by
Nicholas, was desirous of accompanying them. Soon after this, also, the
reeve of the forest joined them, and on seeing him, Richard sternly
demanded why he had aided Mother Chattox in her night from the
churchyard, and what had become of her.

"You are entirely mistaken, sir," replied the reeve, with affected
astonishment. "I have seen nothing whatever of the old hag, and would
rather lend a hand to her capture than abet her flight. I hold all
witches in abhorrence, and Mother Chattox especially so."

"Your horse looks fresh enough, certainly," said Richard, somewhat
shaken in his suspicions. "Where have you been during our stay at
Goldshaw? You did not put up at the hostel?"

"I went to Farmer Johnson's," replied the reeve, "and you will find upon
inquiry that my horse has not been out of his stables for the last hour.
I myself have been loitering about Bess's grange and farmyard, as your
grooms will testify, for they have seen me."

"Humph!" exclaimed Richard, "I suppose I must credit assertions made
with such confidence, but I could have sworn I saw you ride off with the
hag behind you."

"I hope I shall never be caught in such bad company, sir," replied the
reeve, with a laugh. "If I ride off with any one, it shall not be with
an old witch, depend upon it."

Though by no means satisfied with the explanation, Richard was forced to
be content with it; but he thought he would address a few more questions
to the reeve.

"Have you any knowledge," he said, "when the boundaries of Pendle Forest
were first settled and appointed?"

"The first perambulation was made by Henry de Lacy, about the middle of
the twelfth century," replied the reeve. "Pendle Forest, you may be
aware, sir, is one of the four divisions of the great forest of
Blackburnshire, of which the Lacys were lords, the three other divisions
being Accrington, Trawden, and Rossendale, and it comprehends an extent
of about twenty-five miles, part of which you have traversed to-day. At
a later period, namely in 1311, after the death of another Henry de
Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, the last of his line, and one of the bravest of
Edward the First's barons, an inquisition was held in the forest, and it
was subdivided into eleven vaccaries, one of which is the place to which
you are bound, Rough Lee."

"The learned Sir Edward Coke defines a vaccary to signify a dairy,"
observed Potts.

"Here it means the farm and land as well," replied the reeve; "and the
word 'booth,' which is in general use in this district, signifies the
mansion erected upon such vaccary: Mistress Nutter's residence, for
instance, being nothing more than the booth of Rough Lee: while a
'lawnd,' another local term, is a park inclosed within the forest for
the preservation of the deer, and the convenience of the chase, and of
such inclosures we have two, namely, the Old and New Lawnd. By a
commission in the reign of Henry VII., these vaccaries, originally
granted only to tenants at will, were converted into copyholds of
inheritance, but--and here is a legal point for your consideration,
Master Potts--as it seems very questionable whether titles obtained
under letters-patent are secure, not unreasonable fears are entertained
by the holders of the lands lest they should be seized, and appropriated
by the crown."

"Ah! ah! an excellent idea, Master Reeve," exclaimed Potts, his little
eyes twinkling with pleasure. "Our gracious and sagacious monarch would
grasp at the suggestion, ay, and grasp at the lands too--ha! ha! Many
thanks for the hint, good reeve. I will not fail to profit by it. If
their titles are uncertain, the landholders would be glad to compromise
the matter with the crown, even to the value of half their estates
rather than lose the whole."

"Most assuredly they would," replied the reeve; "and furthermore, they
would pay the lawyer well who could manage the matter adroitly for them.
This would answer your purpose better than hunting up witches, Master
Potts."

"One pursuit does not interfere with the other in the slightest degree,
worthy reeve," observed Potts. "I cannot consent to give up my quest of
the witches. My honour is concerned in their extermination. But to turn
to Pendle Forest--the greater part of it has been disafforested, I
presume?"

"It has," replied the other--"and we are now in one of the purlieus."

"Pourallee is the better word, most excellent reeve," said Potts. "I
tell you thus much, because you appear to be a man of learning. Manwood,
our great authority in such matters, declares a pourallee to be 'a
certain territory of ground adjoining unto the forest, mered and bounded
with immovable marks, meres, and boundaries, known by matter of record
only.' And as it applies to the perambulation we are about to make, I
may as well repeat what the same learned writer further saith touching
marks, meres, and boundaries, and how they may be known. 'For although,'
he saith, 'a forest doth lie open, and not inclosed with hedge, ditch,
pale, or stone-wall, which some other inclosures have; yet in the eye
and consideration of the law, the same hath as strong an inclosure by
those marks, meres, and boundaries, as if there were a brick wall to
encircle the same.' Marks, learned reeve, are deemed unremovable--
_primo, quia omnes metae forestae sunt integrae domino regi_--and those
who take them away are punishable for the trespass at the assizes of
the forest. _Secundo_, because the marks are things that cannot be
stirred, as rivers, highways, hills, and the like. Now, such
unremoveable marks, meres, and boundaries we have between the estate of
my excellent client, Master Roger Nowell, and that of Mistress Nutter,
so that the matter at issue will be easily decided."

A singular smile crossed the reeve's countenance, but he made no
observation.

"Unless the lady can turn aside streams, remove hills, and pluck up huge
trees, we shall win," pursued Potts, with a chuckle.

Again the reeve smiled, but he forebore to speak.

"You talk of marks, meres, and boundaries, Master Potts," remarked
Richard. "Are not the words synonymous?"

"Not precisely so, sir," replied the attorney; "there is a slight
difference in their signification, which I will explain to you. The
words of the statute are '_metas, meras, et bundas_,'--now _meta_, or
mark, is an object rising from the ground, as a church, a wall, or a
tree; _mera_, or mere, is the space or interval between the forest and
the land adjoining, whereupon the mark may chance to stand; and _bunda_
is the boundary, lying on a level with the forest, as a river, a
highway, a pool, or a bog."

"I comprehend the distinction," replied Richard. "And now, as we are on
this subject," he added to the reeve, "I would gladly know the precise
nature of your office?"

"My duty," replied the other, "is to range daily throughout all the
purlieus, or pourallees, as Master Potts more properly terms them, and
disafforested lands, and inquire into all trespasses and offences
against vert or venison, and present them at the king's next court of
attachment or swainmote. It is also my business to drive into the forest
such wild beasts as have strayed from it; to attend to the lawing and
expeditation of mastiffs; and to raise hue and cry against any
malefactors or trespassers within the forest."

"I will give you the exact words of the statute," said Potts--'_Si quis
viderit malefactores infra metas forestae, debet illos capere secundum
posse suum, et si non possit; debet levare hutesium et clamorem_.' And
the penalty for refusing to follow hue and cry is heavy fine."

"I would that that part of your duty relating to the hock-sinewing, and
lawing of mastiffs, could be discontinued," said Richard. "I grieve to
see a noble animal so mutilated."

"In Bowland Forest, as you are probably aware, sir," rejoined the reeve,
"only the larger mastiffs are lamed, a small stirrup or gauge being kept
by the master forester, Squire Robert Parker of Browsholme, and the dog
whose foot will pass through it escapes mutilation."

"The practice is a cruel one, and I would it were abolished with some of
our other barbarous forest laws," observed Richard.

While this conversation had been going on, the party had proceeded well
on their way. For some time the road, which consisted of little more
than tracts of wheels along the turf, led along a plain, thrown up into
heathy hillocks, and then passing through a thicket, evidently part of
the old forest, it brought them to the foot of a hill, which they
mounted, and descended into another valley. Here they came upon Pendle
Water, and while skirting its banks, could see at a great depth below,
the river rushing over its rocky bed like an Alpine torrent. The scenery
had now begun to assume a savage and sombre character. The deep rift
through which the river ran was evidently the result of some terrible
convulsion of the earth, and the rocky strata were strangely and
fantastically displayed. On the further side the banks rose up
precipitously, consisting for the most part of bare cliffs, though now
and then a tree would root itself in some crevice. Below this the stream
sank over a wide shelf of rock, in a broad full cascade, and boiled and
foamed in the stony basin that received it, after which, grown less
impetuous, it ran tranquilly on for a couple of hundred yards, and was
then artificially restrained by a dam, which, diverting it in part from
its course, caused it to turn the wheels of a mill. Here was the abode
of the unfortunate Richard Baldwyn, and here had blossomed forth the
fair flower so untimely gathered. An air of gloom hung over this once
cheerful spot: its very beauty contributing to this saddening effect.
The mill-race flowed swiftly and brightly on; but the wheel was
stopped, windows and doors were closed, and death kept his grim holiday
undisturbed. No one was to be seen about the premises, nor was any sound
heard except the bark of the lonely watch-dog. Many a sorrowing glance
was cast at this forlorn habitation as the party rode past it, and many
a sigh was heaved for the poor girl who had so lately been its pride and
ornament; but if any one had noticed the bitter sneer curling the
reeve's lip, or caught the malignant fire gleaming in his eye, it would
scarcely have been thought that he shared in the general regret.

After the cavalcade had passed the mill, one or two other cottages
appeared on the near side of the river, while the opposite banks began
to be clothed with timber. The glen became more and more contracted, and
a stone bridge crossed the stream, near which, and on the same side of
the river as the party, stood a cluster of cottages constituting the
little village of Rough Lee.

On reaching the bridge, Mistress Nutter's habitation came in view, and
it was pointed out by Nicholas to Potts, who contemplated it with much
curiosity. In his eyes it seemed exactly adapted to its owner, and
formed to hide dark and guilty deeds. It was a stern, sombre-looking
mansion, built of a dark grey stone, with tall square chimneys, and
windows with heavy mullions. High stone walls, hoary and moss-grown, ran
round the gardens and courts, except on the side of the river, where
there was a terrace overlooking the stream, and forming a pleasant
summer's walk. At the back of the house were a few ancient oaks and
sycamores, and in the gardens were some old clipped yews.

Part of this ancient mansion is still standing, and retains much of its
original character, though subdivided and tenanted by several humble
families. The garden is cut up into paddocks, and the approach environed
by a labyrinth of low stone walls, while miserable sheds and other
buildings are appended to it; the terrace is wholly obliterated; and the
grange and offices are pulled down, but sufficient is still left of the
place to give an idea of its pristine appearance and character. Its
situation is striking and peculiar. In front rises a high hill, forming
the last link of the chain of Pendle, and looking upon Barrowford and
Colne, on the further side of which, and therefore not discernible from
the mansion, stood Malkin Tower. At the period in question the lower
part of this hill was well wooded, and washed by the Pendle Water, which
swept past it through banks picturesque and beautiful, though not so
bold and rocky as those in the neighbourhood of the mill. In the rear of
the house the ground gradually rose for more than a quarter of a mile,
when it obtained a considerable elevation, following the course of the
stream, and looking down the gorge, another hill appeared, so that the
house was completely shut in by mountainous acclivities. In winter,
when the snow lay on the heights, or when the mists hung upon them for
weeks together, or descended in continuous rain, Rough Lee was
sufficiently desolate, and seemed cut off from all communication with
the outer world; but at the season when the party beheld it, though the
approaches were rugged and difficult, and almost inaccessible except to
the horseman or pedestrian, bidding defiance to any vehicle except of
the strongest construction, still the place was not without a certain
charm, mainly, however, derived from its seclusion. The scenery was
stern and sombre, the hills were dark and dreary; but the very wildness
of the place was attractive, and the old house, with its grey walls, its
lofty chimneys, its gardens with their clipped yews, and its
rook-haunted trees, harmonised well with all around it.

As the party drew near the house, the gates were thrown open by an old
porter with two other servants, who besought them to stay and partake of
some refreshment; but Roger Nowell haughtily and peremptorily declined
the invitation, and rode on, and the others, though some of them would
fain have complied, followed him.

Scarcely were they gone, than James Device, who had been in the garden,
issued from the gate and speeded after them.

Passing through a close at the back of the mansion, and tracking a short
narrow lane, edged by stone walls, the party, which had received some
accessions from the cottages of Rough Lee, as well as from the huts on
the hill-side, again approached the river, and proceeded along its
banks.

The new-comers, being all of them tenants of Mrs. Nutter, and acting
apparently under the directions of James Device, who had now joined the
troop, stoutly and loudly maintained that the lady would be found right
in the inquiry, with the exception of one old man named Henry Mitton;
and he shook his head gravely when appealed to by Jem, and could by no
efforts be induced to join him in the clamour.

Notwithstanding this demonstration, Roger Nowell and his legal adviser
were both very sanguine as to the result of the survey being in their
favour, and Master Potts turned to ascertain from Sparshot that the two
plans, which had been rolled up and consigned to his custody, were quite
safe.

Meanwhile, the party having followed the course of Pendle Water through
the glen for about half a mile, during which they kept close to the
brawling current, entered a little thicket, and then striking off on the
left, passed over the foot of a hill, and came to the edge of a wide
moor, where a halt was called by Nowell.

It being now announced that they were on the confines of the disputed
property, preparations were immediately made for the survey; the plans
were taken out of a quiver, in which they had been carefully deposited
by Sparshot, and handed to Potts, who, giving one to Roger Nowell and
the other to Nicholas, and opening his memorandum-book, declared that
all was ready, and the two leaders rode slowly forward, while the rest
of the troop followed, their curiosity being stimulated to the highest
pitch.

Presently Roger Nowell again stopped, and pointed to a woody brake.

"We are now come," he said, "to a wood forming part of my property, and
which from an eruption, caused by a spring, that took place in it many
years ago, is called Burst Clough."

"Exactly, sir--exactly," cried Potts; "Burst Clough--I have it
here--landmarks, five grey stones, lying apart at a distance of one
hundred yards or thereabouts, and giving you, sir, twenty acres of moor
land. Is it not so, Master Nicholas? The marks are such as I have
described, eh?"

"They are, sir," replied the squire; "with this slight difference in the
allotment of the land--namely, that Mistress Nutter claims the twenty
acres, while she assigns you only ten."

"Ten devils!" cried Roger Nowell, furiously. "Twenty acres are mine, and
I will have them."

"To the proof, then," rejoined Nicholas. "The first of the grey stones
is here."

"And the second on the left, in that hollow," said Roger Nowell. "Come
on, my masters, come on."

"Ay, come on!" cried Nicholas; "this perambulation will be rare sport.
Who wins, for a piece of gold, cousin Richard?"

"Nay, I will place no wager on the event," replied the young man.

"Well, as you please," cried the squire; "but I would lay five to one
that Mistress Nutter beats the magistrate."

Meanwhile, the whole troop having set forward, they soon arrived at the
second stone. Grey and moss-grown, it was deeply imbedded in the soil,
and to all appearance had rested undisturbed for many a year.

"You measure from the clough, I presume, sir?" remarked Potts to Nowell.

"To be sure," replied the magistrate; "but how is this?--This stone
seems to me much nearer the clough than it used to be."

"Yeigh, so it dun, mester," observed old Mitton.

"It does not appear to have been disturbed, at all events," said
Nicholas, dismounting and examining it.

"It would seem not," said Nowell--"and yet it certainly is not in its
old place."

"Yo are mistaen, mester," observed Jem Device; "ey knoa th' lond weel,
an this stoan has stood where it does fo' t' last twenty year. Ha'n't
it, neeburs?"

"Yeigh--yeigh," responded several voices.

"Well, let us go on to the next stone," said Potts, looking rather
blank.

Accordingly they went forward, the hinds exchanging significant looks,
and Roger Nowell and Nicholas carefully examining their respective maps.

"These landmarks exactly tally with my plan," said the squire, as they
arrived at the third stone.

"But not with mine," said Nowell; "this stone ought to be two hundred
yards to the right. Some trickery has been practised."

"Impossible!" exclaimed the squire; "these ponderous masses could never
have been moved. Besides, there are several persons here who know every
inch of the ground, and will give you their unbiassed testimony. What
say you, my men? Are these the old boundary stones?"

All answered in the affirmative except old Mitton, who still raised a
dissenting voice.

"They be th' owd boundary marks, sure enough," he said; "boh they are
neaw i' their owd places."

"It is quite clear that the twenty acres belong to Mistress Nutter,"
observed Nicholas, "and that you must content yourself with ten, Master
Nowell. Make an entry to that effect, Master Potts, unless you will have
the ground measured."

"No, it is needless," replied the magistrate, sharply; "let us go on."

During this survey, some of the features of the country appeared changed
to the rustics, but how or in what way they could not precisely tell,
and they were easily induced by James Device to give their testimony in
Mistress Nutter's favour.

A small rivulet was now reached, and another halt being called upon its
sedgy banks, the plans were again consulted.

"What have we here, Master Potts--marks or boundaries?" inquired
Richard, with a smile.

"Both," replied Potts, angrily. "This rivulet, which I take to be Moss
Brook, is a boundary, and that sheepfold and the two posts standing in a
line with it are marks. But hold! how is this?" he cried, regarding the
plan in dismay; "the five acres of waste land should be on the left of
the brook."

"It would doubtless suit Master Nowell better if it were so," said
Nicholas; "but as they chance to be on the right, they belong to
Mistress Nutter. I merely speak from the plan."

"Your plan is naught, sir," cried Nowell, furiously, "By what foul
practice these changes have been wrought I pretend not to say, though I
can give a good guess; but the audacious witch who has thus deluded me
shall bitterly rue it."

"Hold, hold, Master Nowell!" rejoined Nicholas; "I can make great
allowance for your anger, which is natural considering your
disappointment, but I will not permit such unwarrantable insinuations to
be thrown out against Mistress Nutter. You agreed to abide by Sir Ralph
Assheton's award, and you must not complain if it be made against you.
Do you imagine that this stream can have changed its course in a single
night; or that yon sheepfold has been removed to the further side of
it?"

"I do," replied Nowell.

"And so do I," cried Potts; "it has been accomplished by the aid of--"

But feeling himself checked by a glance from the reeve, he stammered
out, "of--of Mother Demdike."

"You declared just now that marks, meres, and boundaries, were
unremovable, Master Potts," said the reeve, with a sneer; "you have
altered your opinion."

The crestfallen attorney was dumb.

"Master Roger Nowell must find some better plea than the imputation of
witchcraft to set aside Mistress Nutter's claim," observed Richard.

"Yeigh, that he mun," cried James Device, and the hinds who supported
him.

The magistrate bit his lips with vexation.

"There is witchcraft in it, I repeat," he said.

"Yeigh, that there be," responded old Mitton.

But the words were scarcely uttered, when he was felled to the ground by
the bludgeon of James Device.

"Ey'd sarve thee i' t' same way, fo' two pins," said Jem, regarding
Potts with a savage look.

"No violence, Jem," cried Nicholas, authoritatively--"you do harm to the
cause you would serve by your outrageous conduct."

"Beg pardon, squoire," replied Jem, "boh ey winna hear lies towd abowt
Mistress Nutter."

"No one shan speak ill on her here," cried the hinds.

"Well, Master Nowell," said Nicholas, "are you willing to concede the
matter at once, or will you pursue the investigation further?"

"I will ascertain the extent of the mischief done to me before I stop,"
rejoined the magistrate, angrily.

"Forward, then," cried Nicholas. "Our course now lies along this
footpath, with a croft on the left, and an old barn on the right. Here
the plans correspond, I believe, Master Potts?"

The attorney yielded a reluctant assent.

"There is next a small spring and trough on the right, and we then come
to a limestone quarry--then by a plantation called Cat Gallows Wood--so
named, because some troublesome mouser has been hanged there, I suppose,
and next by a deep moss-pit, called Swallow Hole. All right, eh, Master
Potts? We shall now enter upon Worston Moor, and come to the hut
occupied by Jem Device, who can, it is presumed, speak positively as to
its situation."

"Very true," cried Potts, as if struck by an idea. "Let the rascal step
forward. I wish to put a few questions to him respecting his tenement.
I think I shall catch him now," he added in a low tone to Nowell.

"Here ey be," cried Jem, stepping up with an insolent and defying look.
"Whot d'ye want wi' me?"

"First of all I would caution you to speak the truth," commenced Potts,
impressively, "as I shall take down your answers in my memorandum book,
and they will be produced against you hereafter."

"If he utters a falsehood I will commit him," said Roger Nowell,
sharply.

"Speak ceevily, an ey win gi' yo a ceevil answer," rejoined Jem, in a
surly tone; "boh ey'm nah to be browbeaten."

"First, then, is your hut in sight?" asked Potts.

"Neaw," replied Jem.

"But you can point out its situation, I suppose?" pursued the attorney.

"Sartinly ey con," replied Jem, without heeding a significant glance
cast at him by the reeve. "It stonds behind yon kloof, ot soide o' t'
moor, wi' a rindle in front."

"Now mind what you say, sirrah," cried Potts. "You are quite sure the
hut is behind the clough; and the rindle, which, being interpreted from
your base vernacular, I believe means a gutter, in front of it?"

The reeve coughed slightly, but failed to attract Jem's attention, who
replied quickly, that he was quite sure of the circumstances.

"Very well," said Potts--"you have all heard the answer. He is quite
sure as to what he states. Now, then, I suppose you can tell whether the
hut looks to the north or the south; whether the door opens to the moor
or to the clough; and whether there is a path leading from it to a spot
called Hook Cliff?"

At this moment Jem caught the eye of the reeve, and the look given him
by the latter completely puzzled him.

"Ey dunna reetly recollect which way it looks," he answered.

"What! you prevaricating rascal, do you pretend to say that you do not
know which way your own dwelling stands," thundered Roger Nowell. "Speak
out, sirrah, or Sparshot shall take you into custody at once."

"Ey'm ready, your worship," replied the beadle.

"Weel, then," said Jem, imperfectly comprehending the signs made to him
by the reeve, "the hut looks nather to t' south naw to t' north, but to
t' west; it feaces t' moor; an there is a path fro' it to Hook Cliff."

As he finished speaking, he saw from the reeve's angry gestures that he
had made a mistake, but it was now too late to recall his words.
However, he determined to make an effort.

"Now ey bethink me, ey'm naw sure that ey'm reet," he said.

"You must be sure, sirrah," said Roger Nowell, bending his awful brows
upon him. "You cannot be mistaken as to your own dwelling. Take down his
description, Master Potts, and proceed with your interrogatories if you
have any more to put to him."

"I wish to ask him whether he has been at home to-day," said Potts.

"Answer, fellow," thundered the magistrate.

Before replying, Jem would fain have consulted the reeve, but the latter
had turned away in displeasure. Not knowing whether a lie would serve
his turn, and fearing he might be contradicted by some of the
bystanders, he said he had not been at home for two days, but had
returned the night before at a late hour from Whalley, and had slept at
Rough Lee.

"Then you cannot tell what changes may have taken place in your dwelling
during your absence?" said Potts.

"Of course not," replied Jem, "boh ey dunna see how ony chawnges con ha'
happent i' so short a time."

"But I do, if you do not, sirrah," said Potts. "Be pleased to give me
your plan, Master Newell. I have a further question to ask him," he
added, after consulting it for a moment.

"Ey win awnser nowt more," replied Jem, gruffly.

"You will answer whatever questions Master Potts may put to you, or you
are taken into custody," said the magistrate, sternly.

Jem would have willingly beaten a retreat; but being surrounded by the
two grooms and Sparshot, who only waited a sign from Nowell to secure
him, or knock him down if he attempted to fly, he gave a surly
intimation that he was ready to speak.

"You are aware that a dyke intersects the heath before us, namely,
Worston Moor?" said Potts.

Jem nodded his head.

"I must request particular attention to your plan as I proceed, Master
Nicholas," pursued the attorney. "I now wish to be informed by you,
James Device, whether that dyke cuts through the middle of the moor, or
traverses the side; and if so, which side? I desire also to be informed
where it commences, and where, it ends?"

Jem scratched his head, and reflected a moment.

"The matter does not require consideration, sirrah," cried Nowell. "I
must have an instant answer."

"So yo shan," replied Jem; "weel, then, th' dyke begins near a little
mound ca'd Turn Heaod, about a hundert yards fro' my dwellin', an runs
across th' easterly soide o't moor till it reaches Knowl Bottom."

"You will swear this?" cried Potts, scarcely able to conceal his
satisfaction.

"Swere it! eigh," replied Jem.

"Eigh, we'n aw swere it," chorused the hinds.

"I'm delighted to hear it," cried Potts, radiant with delight, "for
your description corresponds exactly with Master Nowell's plan, and
differs materially from that of Mistress Nutter, as Squire Nicholas
Assheton will tell you."

"I cannot deny it," replied Nicholas, in some confusion.

"Ey should ha' said 'westerly' i' stead o' 'yeasterly,'" cried Jem, "boh
yo puzzle a mon so wi' your lawyerly questins, that he dusna knoa his
reet hond fro' his laft."

"Yeigh, yeigh, we aw meant to say 'yeasterly,'" added the hinds.

"You have sworn the contrary," cried Nowell. "Secure him," he added to
the grooms and Sparshot, "and do not let him go till we have completed
the survey. We will now see how far the reality corresponds with the
description, and what further devilish tricks have been played with the
property."

Upon this the troop was again put in motion, James Device walking
between the two grooms, with Sparshot behind him.

So wonderfully elated was Master Potts by the successful hit he had just
made, and which, in his opinion, quite counterbalanced his previous
failure, that he could not help communicating his satisfaction to Flint,
and this in such manner, that the fiery little animal, who had been for
some time exceedingly tractable and good-natured, took umbrage at it,
and threatened to dislodge him if he did not desist from his
vagaries--delivering the hint so clearly and unmistakeably that it was
not lost upon his rider, who endeavoured to calm him down. In proportion
as the attorney's spirits rose, those of James Device and his followers
sank, for they felt they were caught in a snare, from which they could
not easily escape.

By this time they had reached the borders of Worston Moor, which had
been hitherto concealed by a piece of rising ground, covered with gorse
and brushwood, and Jem's hut, together with the clough, the rindle, and
the dyke, came distinctly into view. The plans were again produced, and,
on comparing them, it appeared that the various landmarks were precisely
situated as laid down by Mistress Nutter, while their disposition was
entirely at variance with James Device's statement.

Master Potts then rose in his stirrups, and calling for silence,
addressed the assemblage.

"There stands the hut," he said, "and instead of being behind the
clough, it is on one side of it, while the door certainly does _not_
face the moor, neither is the rindle in front of the dwelling or near
it; while the dyke, which is the main and important boundary line
between the properties, runs above two hundred yards further west than
formerly. Now, observe the original position of these marks, meres, and
boundaries--that is, of this hut, this clough, this rindle, and this
dyke--exactly corresponds with the description given of them by the man
Device, who dwells in the place, and who is, therefore, a person most
likely to be accurately acquainted with the country; and yet, though he
has only been absent two days, changes the most surprising have taken
place--changes so surprising, indeed, that he scarcely knows the way to
his own house, and certainly never could find the path which he has
described as leading to Hook Cliff, since it is entirely obliterated.
Observe, further, all these extraordinary and incomprehensible changes
in the appearance of the country, and in the situation of the marks,
meres, and boundaries, are favourable to Mistress Nutter, and give her
the advantage she seeks over my honoured and honourable client. They are
set down in Mistress Nutter's plan, it is true; but when, let me ask,
was that plan prepared? In my opinion it was prepared first, and the
changes in the land made after it by diabolical fraud and contrivance. I
am sorry to have to declare this to you, Master Nicholas, and to you,
Master Richard, but such is my firm conviction."

"And mine, also," added Nowell; "and I here charge Mistress Nutter with
sorcery and witchcraft, and on my return I will immediately issue a
warrant for her arrest. Sparshot, I command you to attach the person of
James Device, for aiding and abetting her in her foul practices."

"I will help you to take charge of him," said the reeve, riding forward.

Probably this was done to give Jem a chance of escape, and if so, it was
successful, for as the reeve pushed among his captors, and thrust
Sparshot aside, the ruffian broke from them; and running with great
swiftness across the moor, plunged into the clough, and disappeared.

Nicholas and Richard instantly gave chase, as did Master Potts, but the
fugitive led them over the treacherous bog in such a manner as to baffle
all pursuit. A second disaster here overtook the unlucky attorney, and
damped him in his hour of triumph. Flint, who had apparently not
forgotten or forgiven the joyous kicks he had recently received from the
attorney's heels, came to a sudden halt by the side of the quagmire,
and, putting down his head, and flinging up his legs, cast him into it.
While Potts was scrambling out, the animal galloped off in the direction
of the clough, and had just reached it when he was seized upon by James
Device, who suddenly started from the covert, and vaulted upon his back.




CHAPTER VIII.--ROUGH LEE.


On returning from their unsuccessful pursuit of James Device, the two
Asshetons found Roger Nowell haranguing the hinds, who, on the flight of
their leader, would have taken to their heels likewise, if they had not
been detained, partly by the energetic efforts of Sparshot and the
grooms, and partly by the exhortations and menaces of the magistrate and
Holden. As it was, two or three contrived to get away, and fled across
the moor, whither the reeve pretended to pursue them; while those left
behind were taken sharply to task by Roger Nowell.

"Listen to me," he cried, "and take good heed to what I say, for it
concerns you nearly. Strange and dreadful things have come under my
observation on my way hither. I have seen a whole village stricken as by
a plague--a poor pedlar deprived of the use of his limbs and put in
peril of his life--and a young maiden, once the pride and ornament of
your own village, snatched from a fond father's care, and borne to an
untimely grave. These things I have seen with my own eyes; and I am
resolved that the perpetrators of these enormities, Mothers Demdike and
Chattox, shall be brought to justice. As to you, the deluded victims of
the impious hags, I can easily understand why you shut your eyes to
their evil doings. Terrified by their threats you submit to their
exactions, and so become their slaves--slaves of the bond-slaves of
Satan. What miserable servitude is this! By so doing you not only
endanger the welfare of your souls, by leaguing with the enemies of
Heaven, and render yourselves unworthy to be classed with a religious
and Christian people, but you place your lives in jeopardy by becoming
accessories to the crimes of those great offenders, and render
yourselves liable to like punishment with them. Seeing, then, the
imminency of the peril in which you stand, you will do well to avoid it
while there is yet time. Nor is this your only risk. Your servitude to
Mistress Nutter is equally perilous. What if she be owner of the land
you till, and the flocks you tend! You owe her no fealty. She has
forfeited all title to your service--and, so far from aiding her, you
ought to regard her as a great criminal, whom you are bound to bring to
justice. I have now incontestable proofs of her dealing in the black
art, and can show that by witchcraft she has altered the face of this
country, with the intent to rob me of my land."

Holden now took up the theme. "The finger of Heaven is pointed against
such robbery," he cried. "'Cursed is he,' saith the scripture, 'that
removeth his neighbour's landmark.' And again, it is written, 'Cursed is
he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.' Both these things hath Mistress
Nutter done, and for both shall she incur divine vengeance."

"Neither shall she escape that of man," added Nowell, severely; "for our
sovereign lord hath enacted that all persons employing or rewarding any
evil spirit, shall be held guilty of felony, and shall suffer death. And
death will be her portion, for such demoniacal agency most assuredly
hath she employed."

The magistrate here paused for a moment to regard his audience, and
reading in their terrified looks that his address had produced the
desired impression, he continued with increased severity--

"These wicked women shall trouble the land no longer. They shall be
arrested and brought to judgment; and if you do not heartily bestir
yourselves in their capture, and undertake to appear in evidence against
them, you shall be held and dealt with as accessories in their crimes."

Upon this, the hinds, who were greatly alarmed, declared with one accord
their willingness to act as the magistrate should direct.

"You do wisely," cried Potts, who by this time had made his way back to
the assemblage, covered from head to foot with ooze, as on his former
misadventure. "Mistress Nutter and the two old hags who hold you in
thrall would lead you to destruction. For understand it is the firm
determination of my respected client, Master Roger Nowell, as well as of
myself, not to relax in our exertions till the whole of these pestilent
witches who trouble the country be swept away, and to spare none who
assist and uphold them."

The hinds stared aghast, for so grim was the appearance of the attorney,
that they almost thought Hobthurst, the lubber-fiend, was addressing
them.

At this moment old Henry Mitton came up. He had partially recovered from
the stunning effects of the blow dealt him by James Device, but his head
was cut open, and his white locks were dabbled in blood. Pushing his way
through the assemblage, he stood before the magistrate.

"If yo want a witness agen that foul murtheress and witch, Alice Nutter,
ca' me, Master Roger Nowell," he said. "Ey con tay my Bible oath that
the whole feace o' this keawntry has been chaunged sin yester neet, by
her hondywark. Ca' me also to speak to her former life--to her intimacy
wi' Mother Demdike an owd Chattox. Ca' me to prove her constant
attendance at devils' sabbaths on Pendle Hill, and elsewhere, wi' other
black and damning offences--an among 'em the murder, by witchcraft, o'
her husband, Ruchot Nutter."

A thrill of horror pervaded the assemblage at this denunciation; and
Master Potts, who was being cleansed from his sable stains by one of the
grooms, cried out--

"This is the very man for us, my excellent client. Your name and abode,
friend?"

"Harry Mitton o' Rough Lee," replied the old man. "Ey ha' dwelt there
seventy year an uppards, an ha' known the feyther and granfeyther o'
Ruchot Nutter, an also Alice Nutter, when hoo war Alice Assheton. Ca'
me, sir, an aw' ye want to knoa ye shan larn."

"We will call you, my good friend," said Potts; "and, if you have
sustained any private wrongs from Mistress Nutter, they shall be amply
redressed."

"Ey ha' endured much ot her honts," rejoined Mitton; "boh ey dunna speak
o' mysel'. It be high time that Owd Scrat should ha' his claws clipt, an
honest folk be allowed to live in peace."

"Very true, my worthy friend--very true," assented Potts.

An immediate return to Whalley was now proposed by Nowell; but Master
Potts was of opinion that, as they were in the neighbourhood of Malkin
Tower, they should proceed thither at once, and effect the arrest of
Mother Demdike, after which Mother Chattox could be sought out and
secured. The presence of these two witches would be most important, he
declared, in the examination of Mistress Nutter. Hue and cry for the
fugitive, James Device, ought also to be made throughout the forest.

Confounded by what they heard, Richard and Nicholas had hitherto taken
no part in the proceedings, but they now seconded Master Potts's
proposition, hoping that the time occupied by the visit to Malkin Tower
would prove serviceable to Mistress Nutter; for they did not doubt that
intelligence would be conveyed to her by some of her agents, of Nowell's
intention to arrest her.

Additional encouragement was given to the plan by the arrival of Richard
Baldwyn, who, at this juncture, rode furiously up to the party.

"Weel, han yo settled your business here, Mester Nowell?" he asked, in
breathless anxiety.

"We have so far settled it, that we have established proofs of
witchcraft against Mistress Nutter," replied Nowell. "Can you speak to
her character, Baldwyn?"

"Yeigh, that ey con," rejoined the miller, "an nowt good. Ey wish to see
aw these mischeevous witches burnt; an that's why ey ha' ridden efter
yo, Mester Nowell. Ey want your help os a magistrate agen Mother
Demdike. Yo ha a constable wi' ye, and so can arrest her at wonst."

"You have come most opportunely, Baldwyn," observed Potts. "We were just
considering whether we should go to Malkin Tower."

"Then decide upon 't," rejoined the miller, "or th' owd hag win escape
ye. Tak her unaweares."

"I don't know that we shall take her unawares, Baldwyn," said Potts;
"but I am decidedly of opinion that we should go thither without delay.
Is Malkin Tower far off?"

"About a mile fro' Rough Lee," replied the miller. "Go back wi' me to t'
mill, where yo con refresh yourselves, an ey'n get together some dozen
o' my friends, an then we'n aw go up to t' Tower together."

"A very good suggestion," said Potts; "and no doubt Master Nowell will
accede to it."

"We have force enough already, it appears to me," observed Nowell.

"I should think so," replied Richard. "Some dozen men, armed, against a
poor defenceless old woman, are surely enough."

"Owd, boh neaw defenceless, Mester Ruchot," rejoined Baldwyn. "Yo canna
go i' too great force on an expedition like this. Malkin Tower is a
varry strong place, os yo'n find."

"Well," said Nowell, "since we are here, I agree with Master Potts, that
it would be better to secure these two offenders, and convey them to
Whalley, where their examination can be taken at the same time with that
of Mistress Nutter. We therefore accept your offer of refreshment,
Baldwyn, as some of our party may stand in need of it, and will at once
proceed to the mill."

"Well resolved, sir," said Potts.

"We'n tae th' owd witch, dead or alive," cried Baldwyn.

"Alive--we must have her alive, good Baldwyn," said Potts. "You must see
her perish at the stake."

"Reet, mon," cried the miller, his eyes blazing with fury; "that's true
vengeance. Ey'n ride whoam an get aw ready fo ye. Yo knoa t' road."

So saying, he struck spurs into his horse and galloped off. Scarcely was
he gone than the reeve, who had kept out of his sight, came forward.

"Since you have resolved upon going to Malkin Tower," he said to Nowell,
"and have a sufficiently numerous party for the purpose, my further
attendance can be dispensed with. I will ride in search of James
Device."

"Do so," replied the magistrate, "and let hue and cry be made after
him."

"It shall be," replied the reeve, "and, if taken, he shall be conveyed
to Whalley."

And he made towards the clough, as if with the intention of putting his
words into execution.

Word was now given to set forward, and Master Potts having been
accommodated with a horse by one of the grooms, who proceeded on foot,
the party began to retrace their course to the mill.

They were soon again by the side of Pendle Water, and erelong reached
Rough Lee. As they rode through the close at the back of the mansion,
Roger Nowell halted for a moment, and observed with a grim smile to
Richard--

"Never more shall Mistress Nutter enter that house. Within a week she
shall be lodged in Lancaster Castle, as a felon of the darkest dye, and
she shall meet a felon's fate. And not only shall she be sent thither,
but all her partners in guilt--Mother Demdike and her accursed brood,
the Devices; old Chattox and her grand-daughter, Nance Redferne: not one
shall escape."

"You do not include Alizon Device in your list?" cried Richard.

"I include all--I will spare none," rejoined Nowell, sternly.

"Then I will move no further with you," said Richard.

"How!" cried Newell, "are you an upholder of these witches? Beware what
you do, young man. Beware how you take part with them. You will bring
suspicion upon yourself, and get entangled in a net from which you will
not easily escape."

"I care not what may happen to me," rejoined Richard; "I will never lend
myself to gross injustice--such as you are about to practise. Since you
announce your intention of including the innocent with the guilty, of
exterminating a whole family for the crimes of one or two of its
members, I have done. You have made dark accusations against Mistress
Nutter, but you have proved nothing. You assert that, by witchcraft, she
has changed the features of your land, but in what way can you make good
the charge? Old Mitton has, indeed, volunteered himself as a witness
against her, and has accused her of most heinous offences; but he has at
the same time shown that he is her enemy, and his testimony will be
regarded with doubt. I will not believe her guilty on mere suspicion,
and I deny that you have aught more to proceed upon."

"I shall not argue the point with you now, sir," replied Nowell;
angrily. "Mistress Nutter will be fairly tried, and if I fail in my
proofs against her, she will be acquitted. But I have little fear of
such a result," he added, with a sinister smile.

"You are confident, sir, because you know there would be every
disposition to find her guilty," replied Richard. "She will not be
fairly tried. All the prejudices of ignorance and superstition,
heightened by the published opinions of the King, will be arrayed
against her. Were she as free from crime, or thought of crime, as the
new-born babe, once charged with the horrible and inexplicable offence
of witchcraft, she would scarce escape. You go determined to destroy
her."

"I will not deny it," said Roger Newell, "and I am satisfied that I
shall render good service to society by freeing it from so vile a
member. So abhorrent is the crime of witchcraft, that were my own son
suspected, I would be the first to deliver him to justice. Like a
noxious and poisonous plant, the offence has taken deep root in this
country, and is spreading its baneful influence around, so that, if it
be not extirpated, it may spring up anew, and cause incalculable
mischief. But it shall now be effectually checked. Of the families I
have mentioned, not one shall escape; and if Mistress Nutter herself had
a daughter, she should be brought to judgment. In such cases, children
must suffer for the sins of the parents."

"You have no regard, then, for their innocence?" said Richard, who felt
as if a weight of calamity was crushing him down.

"Their innocence must be proved at the proper tribunal," rejoined
Nowell. "It is not for me to judge them."

"But you do judge them," cried Richard, sharply. "In making the charge,
you know that you pronounce the sentence of condemnation as well. This
is why the humane man--why the just--would hesitate to bring an
accusation even where he suspected guilt--but where suspicion could not
possibly attach, he would never suffer himself, however urged on by
feelings of animosity, to injure the innocent."

"You ascribe most unworthy motives to me, young sir," rejoined Nowell,
sternly. "I am influenced only by a desire to see justice administered,
and I shall not swerve from my duty, because my humanity may be called
in question by a love-sick boy. I understand why you plead thus warmly
for these infamous persons. You are enthralled by the beauty of the
young witch, Alizon Device. I noted how you were struck by her
yesterday--and I heard what Sir Thomas Metcalfe said on the subject. But
take heed what you do. You may jeopardise both soul and body in the
indulgence of this fatal passion. Witchcraft is exercised in many ways.
Its professors have not only power to maim and to kill, and to do other
active mischief, but to ensnare the affections and endanger the souls of
their victims, by enticing them to unhallowed love. Alizon Device is
comely to view, no doubt, but who shall say whence her beauty is
derived? Hell may have arrayed her in its fatal charms. Sin is
beautiful, but all-destructive. And the time will come when you may
thank me for delivering you from the snares of this seductive siren."
Richard uttered an angry exclamation.

"Not now--I do not expect it--you are too much besotted by her," pursued
Nowell; "but I conjure you to cast off this wicked and senseless
passion, which, unless checked, will lead you to perdition. You have
heard what abominable rites are practised at those unholy meetings
called Devil's Sabbaths, and how can you say that some demon may not be
your rival in Alizon's love?"

"You pass all licence, sir," cried Richard, infuriated past endurance;
"and, if you do not instantly retract the infamous accusation you have
made, neither your age nor your office shall protect you."

"I can fortunately protect myself, young man," replied Nowell, coldly;
"and if aught were wanting to confirm my suspicions that you were under
some evil influence, it would be supplied by your present conduct. You
are bewitched by this girl."

"It is false!" cried Richard.

And he raised his hand against the magistrate, when Nicholas quickly
interposed.

"Nay, cousin Dick," cried the squire, "this must not be. You must take
other means of defending the poor girl, whose innocence I will maintain
as stoutly as yourself. But, since Master Roger Nowell is resolved to
proceed to extremities, I shall likewise take leave to retire."

"Your pardon, sir," rejoined Nowell; "you will not withdraw till I think
fit. Master Richard Assheton, forgetful alike of the respect due to age
and constituted authority, has ventured to raise his hand against me,
for which, if I chose, I could place him in immediate arrest. But I
have no such intention. On the contrary, I am willing to overlook the
insult, attributing it to the frenzy by which he is possessed. But both
he and you, Master Nicholas, are mistaken if you suppose I will permit
you to retire. As a magistrate in the exercise of my office, I call upon
you both to aid me in the capture of the two notorious witches, Mothers
Demdike and Chattox, and not to desist or depart from me till such
capture be effected. You know the penalty of refusal."

"Heavy fine or imprisonment, at the option of the magistrate," remarked
Potts.

"My cousin Nicholas will do as he pleases," observed Richard; "but, for
my part, I will not stir a step further."

"Nor will I," added Nicholas, "unless I have Master Nowell's solemn
pledge that he will take no proceedings against Alizon Device."

"You can give no such assurance, sir," whispered Potts, seeing that the
magistrate wavered in his resolution.

"You must go, then," said Nowell, "and take the consequences of your
refusal to act with me. Your relationship to Mistress Nutter will not
tell in your favour."

"I understand the implied threat," said Nicholas, "and laugh at it.
Richard, lad, I am with you. Let him catch the witches himself, if he
can. I will not budge an inch further with him."

"Farewell, then, gentlemen," replied Roger Nowell; "I am sorry to part
company with you thus, but when next we meet--" and he paused.

"We meet as enemies, I presume" supplied Nicholas.

"We meet no longer as friends," rejoined the magistrate, coldly.

With this he moved forward with the rest of the troop, while the two
Asshetons, after a moment's consultation, passed through a gate and made
their way to the back of the mansion, where they found one or two men on
the look-out, from whom they received intelligence, which induced them
immediately to spring from their horses and hurry into the house.

Arrived at the principal entrance of the mansion, which was formed by
large gates of open iron-work, admitting a view of the garden and front
of the house, Roger Nowell again called a halt, and Master Potts, at his
request, addressed the porter and two other serving-men who were
standing in the garden, in this fashion--

"Pay attention to what I say to you, my men," he cried in a loud and
authoritative voice--"a warrant will this day be issued for the arrest
of Alice Nutter of Rough Lee, in whose service you have hitherto dwelt,
and who is charged with the dreadful crime of witchcraft, and with
invoking, consulting, and covenanting with, entertaining, employing,
feeding, and rewarding evil spirits, contrary to the laws of God and
man, and in express violation of his Majesty's statute. Now take
notice, that if the said Alice Nutter shall at any time hereafter return
to this her former abode, or take refuge within it, you are hereby bound
to deliver her up forthwith to the nearest constable, to be by him
brought before the worshipful Master Roger Nowell of Read, in this
county, so that she may be examined by him on these charges. You hear
what I have said?"

The men exchanged significant glances, but made no reply.

Potts was about to address them, but to his surprise he saw the central
door of the house thrown open, and Mistress Nutter issue from it. She
marched slowly and majestically down the broad gravel walk towards the
gate. The attorney could scarcely believe his eyes, and he exclaimed to
the magistrate with a chuckle--

"Who would have thought of this! We have her safe enough now. Ha! ha!"

But no corresponding smile played upon Nowell's hard lips. His gaze was
fixed inquiringly upon the lady.

Another surprise. From the same door issued Alizon Device, escorted by
Nicholas and Richard Assheton, who walked on either side of her, and the
three followed Mistress Nutter slowly down the broad walk. Such a
display seemed to argue no want of confidence. Alizon did not look
towards the group outside the gates, but seemed listening eagerly to
what Richard was saying to her.

"So, Master Nowell," cried Mistress Nutter, boldly, "since you find
yourself defeated in the claims you have made against my property, you
are seeking to revenge yourself, I understand, by bringing charges
against me as false as they are calumnious. But I defy your malice, and
can defend myself against your violence."

"If I could be astonished at any thing in you, madam, I should be at
your audacity," rejoined Nowell, "but I am glad that you have presented
yourself before me; for it was my fixed intention, on my return to
Whalley, to cause your arrest, and your unexpected appearance here
enables me to put my design into execution somewhat sooner than I
anticipated."

Mistress Nutter laughed scornfully.

"Sparshot," vociferated Nowell, "enter those gates, and arrest the lady
in the King's name."

The beadle looked irresolute. He did not like the task.

"The gates are fastened," cried Mistress Nutter.

"Force them open, then," roared Nowell, dismounting and shaking them
furiously. "Bring me a heavy stone. By heaven I I will not be baulked of
my prey."

"My servants are armed," cried Mistress Nutter, "and the first man who
enters shall pay the penalty of has rashness with life. Bring me a
petronel, Blackadder."

The order was promptly obeyed by the ill-favoured attendant, who was
stationed near the gate.

"I am in earnest," said Mistress Nutter, aiming the petronel, "and
seldom miss my mark."

"Give attention to me, my men," cried Roger Nowell. "I charge you in the
King's name to throw open the gate."

"And I charge you in mine to keep it fast," rejoined Mistress Nutter.
"We shall see who will be obeyed."

One of the grooms now advanced with a large stone taken from an
adjoining wall, which he threw with great force against the gates, but
though it shook them violently the fastenings continued firm. Blackadder
and the two other serving-men, all of whom were armed with halberts, now
advanced to the gates, and, thrusting the points of their weapons
through the bars, drove back those who were near them.

A short consultation now took place between Nowell and Potts, after
which the latter, taking care to keep out of the reach of the halberts,
thus delivered himself in a loud voice:--

"Alice Nutter, in order to avoid the serious consequences which might
ensue were the necessary measures taken to effect a forcible entrance
into your habitation, the worshipful Master Nowell has thought fit to
grant you an hour's respite for reflection; at the expiration of which
time he trusts that you, seeing the futility of resisting the law, will
quietly yield yourself a prisoner. Otherwise, no further leniency will
be shown you and those who may uphold you in your contumacy."

Mistress Nutter laughed loudly and contemptuously.

"At the same time," pursued Potts, on a suggestion from the magistrate,
"Master Roger Nowell demands that Alizon Device, daughter of Elizabeth
Device, whom he beholds in your company, and who is likewise suspected
of witchcraft, be likewised delivered up to him."

"Aught more?" inquired Mistress Nutter.

"Only this," replied Potts, in a taunting tone, "the worshipful
magistrate would offer a friendly counsel to Master Nicholas Assheton,
and Master Richard Assheton, whom, to his infinite surprise, he
perceives in a hostile position before him, that they in nowise
interfere with his injunctions, but, on the contrary, lend their aid in
furtherance of them, otherwise he may be compelled to adopt measures
towards them, which must be a source of regret to him. I have
furthermore to state, on the part of his worship, that strict watch will
be kept at all the approaches of your house, and that no one, on any
pretence whatever, during the appointed time of respite, will be
suffered to enter it, or depart from it. In an hour his worship will
return."

"And in an hour he shall have my answer," replied Mistress Nutter,
turning away.




CHAPTER IX.--HOW ROUGH LEE WAS DEFENDED BY NICHOLAS.


When skies are darkest, and storms are gathering thickest overhead, the
star of love will oft shine out with greatest brilliancy; and so, while
Mistress Nutter was hurling defiance against her foes at the gate, and
laughing their menaces to scorn--while those very foes were threatening
Alizon's liberty and life--she had become wholly insensible to the peril
environing her, and almost unconscious of any other presence save that
of Richard, now her avowed lover; for, impelled by the irresistible
violence of his feelings, the young man had chosen that moment,
apparently so unpropitious, and so fraught with danger and alarm, for
the declaration of his passion, and the offer of his life in her
service. A few low-murmured words were all Alizon could utter in reply,
but they were enough. They told Richard his passion was requited, and
his devotion fully appreciated. Sweet were those moments to both--sweet,
though sad. Like Alizon, her lover had become insensible to all around
him. Engrossed by one thought and one object, he was lost to aught else,
and was only at last aroused to what was passing by the squire, who,
having good-naturedly removed to a little distance from the pair, now
gave utterance to a low whistle, to let them know that Mistress Nutter
was coming towards them. The lady, however, did not stop, but motioning
them to follow, entered the house.

"You have heard what has passed," she said. "In an hour Master Nowell
threatens to return and arrest me and Alizon."

"That shall never be," cried Richard, with a passionate look at the
young girl. "We will defend you with our lives."

"Much may be done in an hour," observed Nicholas to Mistress Nutter,
"and my advice to you is to use the time allowed you in making good your
retreat, so that, when the hawks come back, they may find the doves
flown."

"I have no intention of quitting my dovecot," replied Mistress Nutter,
with a bitter smile.

"Unless you are forcibly taken from it, I suppose," said the squire; "a
contingency not impossible if you await Roger Nowell's return. This
time, be assured, he will not go away empty-handed."

"He may not go away at all," rejoined Mistress Nutter, sternly.

"Then you mean to make a determined resistance?" said Nicholas.
"Recollect that you are resisting the law. I wish I could induce you to
resort to the safer expedient of flight. This affair is already dark and
perplexed enough, and does not require further complication. Find any
place of concealment, no matter where, till some arrangement can be made
with Roger Nowell."

"I should rather urge you to fly, Nicholas," rejoined the lady; "for it
is evident you have strong misgivings as to the justice of my cause,
and would not willingly compromise yourself. I will not surrender to
this magistrate, because, by so doing, my life would assuredly be
forfeited, for my innocence could never be established before the
iniquitous and bloody tribunal to which I should be brought. Neither,
for the same reason, will I surrender Alizon, who, with a refinement of
malignity, has been similarly accused. I shall now proceed to make
preparations for my defence. Go, if you think fitting--or stay--but if
you _do_ stay, I shall calculate upon your active services."

"You may," replied the squire. "Whatever I may think, I admire your
spirit, and will stand by you. But time is passing, and the foe will
return and find us engaged in deliberation when we ought to be prepared.
You have a dozen men on the premises on whom you can rely. Half of these
must be placed at the back of the house to prevent any entrance from
being effected in that quarter. The rest can remain within the entrance
hall, and be ready to rush forth when summoned by us; but we will not so
summon them unless we are hardly put to it, and their aid is
indispensable. All should be well armed, but I trust they will not have
to use their weapons. Are you agreed to this, madam?"

"I am," replied Mistress Nutter, "and I will give instant directions
that your wishes are complied with. All approaches to the back of the
house shall be strictly guarded as you direct, and my trusty man,
Blackadder, on whose fidelity and courage I can entirely rely, shall
take the command of the party in the hall, and act under your orders.
Your prowess will not be unobserved, for Alizon and I shall be in the
upper room commanding the garden, whence we can see all that takes
place."

A slight smile was exchanged between the lovers; but it was evident,
from her anxious looks, that Alizon did not share in Richard's
confidence. An opportunity, however, was presently afforded him of again
endeavouring to reassure her, for Mistress Nutter went forth to give
Blackadder his orders, and Nicholas betook himself to the back of the
house to ascertain, from personal inspection, its chance of security.

"You are still uneasy, dear Alizon," said Richard, taking her hand; "but
do not be cast down. No harm shall befall you."

"It is not for myself I am apprehensive," she replied, "but for you, who
are about to expose yourself to needless risk in this encounter; and, if
any thing should happen to you, I shall be for ever wretched. I would
far rather you left me to my fate."

"And can you think I would allow you to be borne away a captive to
ignominy and certain destruction?" cried Richard. "No, I will shed my
heart's best blood before such a calamity shall occur."

"Alas!" said Alizon, "I have no means of requiting your devotion. All I
can offer you in return is my love, and that, I fear, will prove fatal
to you."

"Oh! do not say so," cried Richard. "Why should this sad presentiment
still haunt you? I strove to chase it away just now, and hoped I had
succeeded. You are dearer to me than life. Why, therefore, should I not
risk it in your defence? And why should your love prove fatal to me?"

"I know not," replied Alizon, in a tone of deepest anguish, "but I feel
as if my destiny were evil; and that, against my will, I shall drag
those I most love on earth into the same dark gulf with myself. I have
the greatest affection for your sister Dorothy, and yet I have been the
unconscious instrument of injury to her. And you too, Richard, who are
yet dearer to me, are now put in peril on my account. I fear, too, when
you know my whole history, you will think of me as a thing of evil, and
shun me."

"What mean you, Alizon?" he cried.

"Richard, I can have no secrets from you," she replied; "and though I
was forbidden to tell you what I am now about to disclose, I will not
withhold it. I was born in this house, and am the daughter of its
mistress."

"You tell me only what I guessed, Alizon," rejoined the young man; "but
I see nothing in this why I should shun you."

Alizon hid her face for a moment in her hands; and then looking up, said
wildly and hurriedly, "Would I had never known the secret of my birth;
or, knowing it, had never seen what I beheld last night!"

"What did you behold?" asked Richard, greatly agitated.

"Enough to convince me, that in gaining a mother I was lost myself,"
replied Alizon; "for oh! how can I survive the shock of telling you I am
bound, by ties that can never be dissevered, to one abandoned alike of
God and man--who has devoted herself to the Fiend! Pity me,
Richard--pity me, and shun me!"

There was a moment's dreadful pause, which the young man was unable to
break.

"Was I not right in saying my love would be fatal to you?" continued
Alizon. "Fly from me while you can, Richard. Fly from this house, or you
are lost for ever!"

"Never, never! I will not stir without you," cried Richard. "Come with
me, and escape all the dangers by which you are menaced, and leave your
sinning parent to the doom she so richly merits."

"No, no; sinful though she be, she is still my mother. I cannot leave
her," cried Alizon.

"If you stay, I stay, be the consequences what they may," replied the
young man; "but you have rendered my arm powerless by what you have told
me. How can I defend one whom I know to be guilty?"

"Therefore I urge you to fly," she rejoined.

"I can reconcile myself to it thus," said Richard--"in defending you,
whom I know to be innocent, I cannot avoid defending her. The plea is
not a good one, but it will suffice to allay my scruples of conscience."

At this moment Mistress Nutter entered the hall, followed by Blackadder
and three other men, armed with calivers.

"All is ready, Richard," she said, "and it wants but a few minutes of
the appointed time. Perhaps you shrink from the task you have
undertaken?" she added, regarding him sharply; "if so, say so at once,
and I will adopt my own line of defence."

"Nay, I shall be ready to go forth in a moment," rejoined the young man,
glancing at Alizon. "Where is Nicholas?"

"Here," replied the squire, clapping him on the shoulder. "All is secure
at the back of the house, and the horses are coming round. We must mount
at once."

Richard arose without a word.

"Blackadder will attend to your orders," said Mistress Nutter; "he only
waits a sign from you to issue forth with his three companions, or to
fire through the windows upon the aggressors, if you see occasion for
it."

"I trust it will not come to such a pass," rejoined the squire; "a few
blows from these weapons will convince them we are in earnest, and will,
I hope, save further trouble."

And as he spoke he took down a couple of stout staves, and gave one of
them to Richard.

"Farewell, then, _preux chevaliers_" cried Mistress Nutter, with
affected gaiety; "demean yourselves valiantly, and remember that bright
eyes will be upon you. Now, Alizon, to our chamber."

Richard did not hazard a look at the young girl as she quitted the hall
with her mother, but followed the squire mechanically into the garden,
where they found the horses. Scarcely were they mounted than a loud
hubbub, arising from the little village, proclaimed that their opponents
had arrived, and presently after a large company of horse and foot
appeared at the gate.

At sight of the large force brought against them, the countenance of the
squire lost its confident and jovial expression. Pie counted nearly
forty men, each of whom was armed in some way or other, and began to
fear the affair would terminate awkwardly, and entail unpleasant
consequences upon himself and his cousin. He was, therefore, by no means
at his ease. As to Richard, he did not dare to ask himself how things
would end, neither did he know how to act. His mind was in utter
confusion, and his breast oppressed as if by a nightmare. He cast one
look towards the upper window, and beheld at it the white face of
Mistress Nutter, intently gazing at what was going forward, but Alizon
was not to be seen.

Within the last half hour the sky had darkened, and a heavy cloud hung
over the house, threatening a storm. Richard hoped it would come on
fiercely and fast.

Meanwhile, Roger Newell had dismounted and advanced to the gate.

"Gentlemen," he cried, addressing the two Asshetons, "I expected to find
free access given to me and my followers; but as these gates are still
barred against me, I call upon you, as loyal subjects of the King, not
to resist or impede the course of law, but to throw them instantly
open."

"You must unbar them yourself, Master Nowell," replied Nicholas. "We
shall give you no help."

"Nor offer any opposition, I hope, sir?" said the magistrate, sternly.

"You are twenty to one, or thereabout," returned the squire, with a
laugh; "we shall stand a poor chance with you."

"But other defensive and offensive preparations have been made, I doubt
not," said Nowell; "nay, I descry some armed men through the windows of
the hall. Before coming to extremities, I will make a last appeal to you
and your kinsman. I have granted Mistress Nutter and the girl with her
an hour's delay, in the hope that, seeing the futility of resistance,
they would quietly surrender. But I find my clemency thrown away, and
undue advantage taken of the time allowed for respite; therefore, I
shall show them no further consideration. But to you, my friends, I
would offer a last warning. Forget not that you are acting in direct
opposition to the law; that we are here armed with full authority and
power to carry out our intentions; and that all opposition on your part
will be fruitless, and will be visited upon you hereafter with severe
pains and penalties. Forget not, also, that your characters will be
irrecoverably damaged from your connexion with parties charged with the
heinous offence of witchcraft. Meddle not, therefore, in the matter, but
go your ways, or, if you would act as best becomes you, aid me in the
arrest of the offenders."

"Master Roger Nowell," replied Nicholas, walking his horse slowly
towards the gate, "as you have given me a caution, I will give you one
in return; and that is, to put a bridle on your tongue when you address
gentlemen, or, by my fay, you are likely to get answers little to your
taste. You have said that our characters are likely to suffer in this
transaction, but, in my humble opinion, they will not suffer so much as
your own. The magistrate who uses the arm of the law for purposes of
private vengeance, and who brings a false and foul charge against his
enemy, knowing that it cannot be repelled, is not entitled to any
particular respect or honour. Thus have you acted towards Mistress
Nutter. Defeated by her in the boundary question, without leaving its
decision to those to whom you had referred it, you instantly accuse her
of witchcraft, and seek to destroy her, as well as an innocent and
unoffending girl, by whom she is attended. Is such conduct worthy of
you, or likely to redound to your credit? I think not. But this is not
all. Aided by your crafty and unscrupulous ally, Master Potts, you get
together a number of Mistress Nutter's tenants, and, by threats and
misrepresentations, induce them to become instruments of your vengeance.
But when these misguided men come to know the truth of the case--when
they learn that you have no proofs whatever against Mistress Nutter, and
that you are influenced solely by animosity to her, they are quite as
likely to desert you as to stand by you. At all events, we are
determined to resist this unjust arrest, and, at the hazard of our
lives, to oppose your entrance into the house."

Nowell and Potts were greatly exasperated by this speech, but they were
little prepared for its consequences. Many of those who had been induced
to accompany them, as has been shown, wavered in their resolution of
acting against Mistress Nutter, but they now began to declare in her
favour. In vain Potts repeated all his former arguments. They were no
longer of any avail. Of the troop assembled at the gate more than half
marched off, and shaped their course towards the rear of the house--with
what intention it was easy to surmise--while of those who remained it
was very doubtful whether the whole of them would act.

The result of his oration was quite as surprising to Nicholas as to his
opponents, and, enchanted by the effect of his eloquence, he could not
help glancing up at the window, where he perceived Mistress Nutter,
whose smiles showed that she was equally well pleased.

Seeing that, if any further desertions took place, his chances would be
at an end, with a menacing gesture at the squire, Roger Nowell ordered
the attack to commence immediately.

While some of his men, amongst whom were Baldwyn and old Mitton,
battered against the gate with stones, another party, headed by Potts,
scaled the walls, which, though of considerable height, presented no
very serious obstacles in the way of active assailants. Elevated on the
shoulders of Sparshot, Potts was soon on the summit of the wall, and was
about to drop into the garden, when he heard a sound that caused him to
suspend his intention.

"What are you about to do, cousin Nicholas?" inquired Richard, as the
word of assault was given by the magistrate.

"Let loose Mistress Nutter's stag-hounds upon them," replied the squire.
"They are kept in leash by a varlet stationed behind yon yew-tree hedge,
who only awaits my signal to let them slip; and by my faith it is time
he had it."

As he spoke, he applied a dog-whistle to his lips, and, blowing a loud
call, it was immediately answered by a savage barking, and half a dozen
hounds, rough-haired, of prodigious size and power, resembling in make,
colour, and ferocity, the Irish wolf-hound bounded towards him.

"Aha!" exclaimed Nicholas, clapping his hands to encourage them: "we
could have dispersed the whole rout with these assistants. Hyke,
Tristam!--hyke, Hubert! Upon them!--upon them!"

It was the savage barking of the hounds that had caught the ears of the
alarmed attorney, and made him desirous to scramble back again. But this
was no such easy matter. Sparshot's broad shoulders were wanting to
place his feet upon, and while he was bruising his knees against the
roughened sides of the wall in vain attempts to raise himself to the top
of it unaided, Hubert's sharp teeth met in the calf of his leg, while
those of Tristam were fixed in the skirts of his doublet, and penetrated
deeply into the flesh that filled it. A terrific yell proclaimed the
attorney's anguish and alarm, and he redoubled his efforts to escape.
But, if before it was difficult to get up, the feat was now impossible.
All he could do was to cling with desperate tenacity to the coping of
the wall, for he made no doubt, if dragged down, he should be torn in
pieces. Roaring lustily for help, he besought Nicholas to have
compassion upon him; but the squire appeared little moved by his
distress, and laughed heartily at his yells and vociferations.

"You will not come again on a like errand, in a hurry, I fancy Master
Potts," he said.

"I will not, good Master Nicholas," rejoined Potts; "for pity's sake
call off these infernal hounds. They will rend me asunder as they would
a fox."

"You were a cunning fox, in good sooth, to come hither," rejoined
Nicholas, in a taunting tone; "but will you go hence if I liberate you?"

"I will--indeed I will!" replied Potts.

"And will no more molest Mistress Nutter?" thundered Nicholas.

"Take heed what you promise," roared Nowell from the other side of the
wall.

"If you do _not_ promise it, the hounds shall pull you down, and make a
meal of you!" cried Nicholas.

"I do--I swear--whatever you desire!" cried the terrified attorney.

The hounds were then called off by the squire, and, nerved by fright,
Potts sprang upon the wall, and tumbled over it upon the other side,
alighting upon the head of his respected and singular good client, whom
he brought to the ground.

Meanwhile, all those unlucky persons who had succeeded in scaling the
wall were attacked by the hounds, and, unable to stand against them,
were chased round the garden, to the infinite amusement of the squire.
Frightened to death, and unable otherwise to escape, for the gate
allowed them no means of exit, the poor wretches fled towards the
terrace overlooking Pendle Water, and, leaping into the stream, gained
the opposite bank. There they were safe, for the hounds were not allowed
to follow them further. In this way the garden was completely cleared of
the enemy, and Nicholas and Richard were left masters of the field.

Leaning out of the window, Mistress Nutter laughingly congratulated them
on their success, and, as no further disposition was manifested on the
part of Nowell and such of his troop that remained to renew the attack,
the contest, for the present at least, was supposed to be at an end.

By this time, also, intimation had been conveyed by the deserters from
Nowell's troop, who, it will be remembered, had made their way to the
back of the premises, that they were anxious to offer their services to
Mistress Nutter; and, as soon as this was told her, she ordered them to
be admitted, and descended to give them welcome. Thus things wore a
promising aspect for the besieged, while the assailing party were
proportionately disheartened.

Long ere this, Baldwyn and old Mitton had desisted from their attempts
to break open the gate, and, indeed, rejoiced that such a barrier was
interposed between them and the hounds, whose furious onslaughts they
witnessed. A bolt was launched against these four-footed guardians of
the premises by the bearer of the crossbow, but the man proved but an
indifferent marksman, for, instead of hitting the hound, he disabled one
of his companions who was battling with him. Finding things in this
state, and that neither Nowell nor Potts returned to their charge, while
their followers were withdrawn from before the gate, Nicholas thought he
might fairly infer that a victory had been obtained. But, like a prudent
leader, he did not choose to expose himself till the enemy had
absolutely yielded, and he therefore signed to Blackadder and his men to
come forth from the hall. The order was obeyed, not only by them, but by
the seceders from the hostile troop, and some thirty men issued from the
principal door, and, ranging themselves upon the lawn, set up a
deafening and triumphant shout, very different from that raised by the
same individuals when under the command of Nowell. At the same moment
Mistress Nutter and Alizon appeared at the door, and at the sight of
them the shouting was renewed.

The unexpected turn in affairs had not been without its effect upon
Richard and Alizon, and tended to revive the spirits of both. The
immediate danger by which they were threatened had vanished, and time
was given for the consideration of new plans. Richard had been firmly
resolved to take no further part in the affray than should be required
for the protection of Alizon, and, consequently, it was no little
satisfaction to him to reflect that the victory had been accomplished
without him, and by means which could not afterwards be questioned.

Meanwhile, Mistress Nutter had joined Nicholas, and the gates being
unbarred by Blackadder, they passed through them. At a little distance
stood Roger Nowell, now altogether abandoned, except by his own
immediate followers, with Baldwyn and old Mitton. Poor Potts was lying
on the ground, piteously bemoaning the lacerations his skin had
undergone.

"Well, you have got the worst of it, Master Nowell," said Nicholas, as
he and Mistress Nutter approached the discomfited magistrate, "and must
own yourself fairly defeated."

"Defeated as I am, I would rather be in my place than in yours, sir,"
retorted Nowell, sourly.

"You have had a wholesome lesson read you, Master Nowell," said Mistress
Nutter; "but I do not come hither to taunt you. I am quite satisfied
with the victory I have obtained, and am anxious to put an end to the
misunderstanding between us."

"I have no misunderstanding with you, madam," replied Nowell; "I do not
quarrel with persons like you. But be assured, though you may escape
now, a day of reckoning will come."

"Your chief cause of grievance against me, I am aware," replied Mistress
Nutter, calmly, "is, that I have beaten you in the matter of the land.
Now, I have a proposal to make to you respecting it."

"I cannot listen to it," rejoined Nowell, sternly; "I can have no
dealings with a witch."

At this moment his cloak was plucked behind by Potts, who looked at him
as much as to say, "Do not exasperate her. Hear what she has got to
offer."

"I shall be happy to act as mediator between you, if possible," observed
Nicholas; "but in that case I must request you, Master Nowell, to
abstain from any offensive language."

"What is it you have to propose to me, then, madam!" demanded the
magistrate, gruffly.

"Come with me into the house, and you shall hear," replied Mistress
Nutter.

Nowell was about to refuse peremptorily, when his cloak was again
plucked by Potts, who whispered him to go.

"This is not a snare laid to entrap me, madam?" he said, regarding the
lady suspiciously.

"I will answer for her good faith," interposed Nicholas.

Nowell still hesitated, but the counsel of his legal adviser was
enforced by a heavy shower of rain, which just then began to descend
upon them.

"You can take shelter beneath my roof," said Mistress Nutter; "and
before the shower is over we can settle the matter."

"And my wounds can be dressed at the same time," said Potts, with a
groan, "for they pain me sorely."

"Blackadder has a sovereign balsam, which, with a patch or two of
diachylon, will make all right," replied Nicholas, unable to repress a
laugh. "Here, lift him up between you," he added to the grooms, "and
convey him into the house."

The orders were obeyed, and Mistress Nutter led the way through the now
wide-opened gates; her slow and majestic march by no means accelerated
by the drenching shower. What Roger Nowell's sensations were at
following her in such a way, after his previous threats and boastings,
may be easily conceived.




CHAPTER X.--ROGER NOWELL AND HIS DOUBLE.


The magistrate was ushered by the lady into a small chamber, opening out
of the entrance-hall, which, in consequence of having only one small
narrow window, with a clipped yew-tree before it, was extremely dark and
gloomy. The walls were covered with sombre tapestry, and on entering,
Mistress Nutter not only carefully closed the door, but drew the arras
before it, so as to prevent the possibility of their conversation being
heard outside. These precautions taken, she motioned the magistrate to a
chair, and seated herself opposite him.

"We can now deal unreservedly with each other, Master Nowell," she said,
fixing her eyes steadily upon him; "and, as our discourse cannot be
overheard and repeated, may use perfect freedom of speech."

"I am glad of it," replied Nowell, "because it will save circumlocution,
which I dislike; and therefore, before proceeding further, I must tell
you, directly and distinctly, that if there be aught of witchcraft in
what you are about to propose to me, I will have nought to do with it,
and our conference may as well never begin."

"Then you really believe me to be a witch?" said the lady.

"I do," replied Nowell, unflinchingly.

"Since you believe this, you must also believe that I have absolute
power over you," rejoined Mistress Nutter, "and might strike you with
sickness, cripple you, or kill you if I thought fit."

"I know not that," returned Nowell. "There are limits even to the power
of evil beings; and your charms and enchantments, however strong and
baneful, may be wholly inoperative against a magistrate in the discharge
of his duty. If it were not so, you would scarcely think it worth while
to treat with me."

"Humph!" exclaimed the lady. "Now, tell me frankly, what you will do
when you depart hence?"

"Ride off with the utmost speed to Whalley," replied Nowell, "and,
acquainting Sir Ralph with all that has occurred, claim his assistance;
and then, with all the force we can jointly muster, return hither, and
finish the work I have left undone."

"You will forego this intention," said Mistress Nutter, with a bitter
smile.

The magistrate shook his head.

"I am not easily turned from my purpose," he remarked.

"But you have not yet quitted Rough Lee," said the lady, "and after such
an announcement I shall scarce think of parting with you."

"You dare not detain me," replied Nowell. "I have Nicholas Assheton's
word for my security, and I know he will not break it. Besides, you will
gain nothing by my detention. My absence will soon be discovered, and if
living I shall be set free; if dead, avenged."

"That may, or may not be," replied Mistress Nutter; "and in any case I
can, if I choose, wreak my vengeance upon you. I am glad to have
ascertained your intentions, for I now know how to treat with you. You
shall not go hence, except on certain conditions. You have said you will
proclaim me a witch, and will come back with sufficient force to
accomplish my arrest. Instead of doing this, I advise you to return to
Sir Ralph Assheton, and admit to him that you find yourself in error in
respect to the boundaries of the land--"

"Never," interrupted Nowell.

"I advise you to do this," pursued the lady, calmly, "and I advise you,
also, on quitting this room, to retract all you have uttered to my
prejudice, in the presence of Nicholas Assheton and other credible
witnesses; in which case I will not only lay aside all feelings of
animosity towards you, but will make over to you the whole of the land
under dispute, and that without purchase money on your part."

Roger Nowell was of an avaricious nature, and caught at the bait.

"How, madam!" he cried, "the whole of the land mine without payment?"

"The whole," she replied.

"If she should be arraigned and convicted it will be forfeited to the
crown," thought Nowell; "the offer is tempting."

"Your attorney is here, and can prepare the conveyance at once," pursued
Mistress Nutter; "a sum can be stated to lend a colour to the
proceeding, and I will give you a private memorandum that I will not
claim it. All I require is, that you clear me completely from the dark
aspersions cast upon my character, and you abandon your projects against
my adopted daughter, Alizon, as well as against those two poor old
women, Mothers Demdike and Chattox."

"How can I be sure that I shall not be deluded in the matter?" asked
Nowell; "the writing may disappear from the parchment you give me, or
the parchment itself may turn to ashes. Such things have occurred in
transactions with witches. Or it be that, by consenting to the compact,
I may imperil my own soul."

"Tush!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter; "these are idle fears. But it is no
idle threat on my part, when I tell you you shall not go forth unless
you consent."

"You cannot hinder me, woman," cried Nowell, rising.

"You shall see," rejoined the lady, making two or three rapid passes
before him, which instantly stiffened his limbs, and deprived him of the
power of motion. "Now, stir if you can," she added with a laugh.

Nowell essayed to cry out, but his tongue refused its office. Hearing
and sight, however, were left him, and he saw Mistress Nutter take a
large volume, bound in black, from the shelf, and open it at a page
covered with cabalistic characters, after which she pronounced some
words that sounded like an invocation.

As she concluded, the tapestry against the wall was raised, and from
behind it appeared a figure in all respects resembling the magistrate:
it had the same sharp features, the same keen eyes and bushy eyebrows,
the same stoop in the shoulders, the same habiliments. It was, in short,
his double.

Mistress Nutter regarded him with a look of triumph.

"Since you refuse, with my injunctions," she said, "your double will
prove more tractable. He will go forth and do all I would have you do,
while I have but to stamp upon the floor and a dungeon will yawn beneath
your feet, where you will lie immured till doomsday. The same fate will
attend your crafty associate, Master Potts--so that neither of you will
be missed--ha! ha!"

The unfortunate magistrate fully comprehended his danger, but he could
now neither offer remonstrance nor entreaty. What was passing in his
breast seemed known to Mistress Nutter; for she motioned the double to
stay, and, touching the brow of Nowell with the point of her forefinger,
instantly restored his power of speech.

"I will give you a last chance," she said. "Will you obey me now?"

"I must, perforce," replied Nowell: "the contest is too unequal."

"You may retire, then," she cried to the double. And stepping backwards,
the figure lifted up the tapestry, and disappeared behind it.

"I can breathe, now that infernal being is gone," cried Nowell, sinking
into the chair. "Oh! madam, you have indeed terrible power."

"You will do well not to brave it again," she rejoined. "Shall I summon
Master Potts to prepare the conveyance?"

"Oh! no--no!" cried Nowell. "I do not desire the land. I will not have
it. I shall pay too dearly for it. Only let me get out of this horrible
place?"

"Not so quickly, sir," rejoined Mistress Nutter. "Before you go hence,
I must bind you to the performance of my injunctions. Pronounce these
words after me,--'May I become subject to the Fiend if I fail in my
promise.'"

"I will never utter them!" cried Nowell, shuddering.

"Then I shall recall your double," said the lady.

"Hold, hold!" exclaimed Nowell. "Let me know what you require of me."

"I require absolute silence on your part, as to all you have seen and
heard here, and cessation of hostility towards me and the persons I have
already named," replied Mistress Nutter; "and I require a declaration
from you, in the presence of the two Asshetons, that you are fully
satisfied of the justice of my claims in respect to the land; and that,
mortified by your defeat, you have brought a false charge against me,
which you now sincerely regret. This I require from you; and you must
ratify the promise by the abjuration I have proposed. 'May I become
subject to the Fiend if I fail in my promise.'"

The magistrate repeated the words after her. As he finished, mocking
laughter, apparently resounding from below, smote his ears.

"Enough!" cried Mistress Nutter, triumphantly; "and now take good heed
that you swerve not in the slightest degree from your word, or you are
for ever lost."

Again the mocking laughter was heard, and Nowell would have rushed
forth, if Mistress Nutter had not withheld him.

"Stay!" she cried, "I have not done with you yet! My witnesses must hear
your declaration. Remember!"

And placing her finger upon her lips, in token of silence, she stepped
backwards, drew aside the tapestry, and, opening the door, called to the
two Asshetons, both of whom instantly came to her, and were not a little
surprised to learn that all differences had been adjusted, and that
Roger Nowell acknowledged himself entirely in error, retracting all the
charges he had brought against her; while, on her part, she was fully
satisfied with his explanations and apologies, and promised not to
entertain any feelings of resentment towards him.

"You have made up the matter, indeed," cried Nicholas, "and, as Master
Roger Nowell is a widower, perhaps a match may come of it. Such an
arrangement"--

"This is no occasion for jesting, Nicholas," interrupted the lady,
sharply.

"Nay, I but threw out a hint," rejoined the squire. "It would set the
question of the land for ever at rest."

"It is set at rest--for ever!" replied the lady, with a side look at the
magistrate.

"'May I become subject to the Fiend if I fail in my promise,'" repeated
Nowell to himself. "Those words bind me like a chain of iron. I must get
out of this accursed house as fast as I can."

As if his thoughts had been divined by Mistress Nutter, she here
observed to him, "To make our reconciliation complete, Master Nowell, I
must entreat you to pass the day with me. I will give you the best
entertainment my house affords--nay, I will take no denial; and you too,
Nicholas, and you, Richard, you will stay and keep the worthy magistrate
company."

The two Asshetons willingly assented, but Roger Nowell would fain have
been excused. A look, however, from his hostess enforced compliance.

"The proposal will be highly agreeable, I am sure, to Master Potts,"
remarked Nicholas, with a laugh; "for though much better, in consequence
of the balsam applied by Blackadder, he is scarcely in condition for the
saddle."

"I will warrant him well to-morrow morning," said Mistress Nutter.

"Where is he?" inquired Nowell.

"In the library with Parson Holden," replied Nicholas; "making himself
as comfortable as circumstances will permit, with a flask of Rhenish
before him."

"I will go to him, then," said Nowell.

"Take care what you say to him," observed Mistress Nutter, in a low
tone, and raising her finger to her lips.

Heaving a deep sigh, the magistrate then repaired to the library, a
small room panelled with black oak, and furnished with a few cases of
ancient tomes. The attorney and the divine were seated at a table, with
a big square-built bottle and long-stemmed glasses before them, and
Master Potts, with a wry grimace, excused himself from rising on his
respected and singular good client's approach.

"Do not disturb yourself," said Nowell, gruffly; "we shall not leave
Rough Lee to-day."

"I am glad to hear it," replied Potts, moving the cushions on his chair
and eyeing the square-built bottle affectionately.

"Nor to-morrow, it may be--nor the day after--nor at all, possibly,"
said Nowell.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Potts, starting, and wincing with pain. "What is the
meaning of all this, worthy sir?"

"'May I become the subject of the Fiend if I fail in my promise,'"
rejoined Nowell, with a groan.

"What promise, worshipful sir?" cried Potts, staring with surprise.

The magistrate got out the words, "My promise to--" and then he stopped
suddenly.

"To Mistress Nutter?" suggested Potts.

"Don't ask me," exclaimed Nowell, fiercely. "Don't draw any erroneous
conclusions, man. I mean nothing--I say nothing!"

"He is certainly bewitched," observed Parson Holden in an under-tone to
the attorney.

"It was by your advice I entered this house," thundered Nowell, "and
may all the ill arising from it alight upon your head!"

"My respected client!" implored Potts.

"I am no longer your client!" shrieked the infuriated magistrate. "I
dismiss you. I will have nought to do with you more. I wish I had never
seen your ugly little face!"

"You were quite right, reverend sir," observed Potts aside to the
divine; "he is certainly bewitched, or he never would behave in this way
to his best friend. My excellent sir," he added to Nowell, "I beseech
you to calm yourself, and listen to me. My motive for wishing you to
comply with Mistress Nutter's request was this: We were in a dilemma
from which there was no escape, my wounded condition preventing me from
flight, and all your followers being dispersed. Knowing your discretion,
I apprehended that, finding the tables turned against you, you would not
desire to play a losing game, and I therefore counselled apparent
submission as the best means of disarming your antagonist. Whatever
arrangement you have made with Mistress Nutter is neither morally nor
legally binding upon you."

"You think not!" cried Nowell. "'May I become subject to the Fiend if I
violate my promise!'"

"What promise have you made, sir?" inquired Potts and Holden together.

"Do not question me," cried Nowell; "it is sufficient that I am tied and
bound by it."

The attorney reflected a little, and then observed to Holden, "It is
evident some unfair practices have been resorted to with our respected
friend, to extort a promise from him which he cannot violate. It is also
possible, from what he let fall at first, that an attempt may be made to
detain us prisoners within this house, and, for aught I know, Master
Nowell may have given his word not to go forth without Mistress Nutter's
permission. Under these circumstances, I would beg of you, reverend sir,
as an especial favour to us both, to ride over to Whalley, and acquaint
Sir Ralph Assheton with our situation."

As this suggestion was made, Nowell's countenance brightened up. The
expression was not lost upon the attorney, who perceived he was on the
right tack.

"Tell the worthy baronet," continued Potts, "that his old and esteemed
friend, Master Roger Nowell, is in great jeopardy--am I not right, sir?"

The magistrate nodded.

"Tell him he is forcibly detained a prisoner, and requires sufficient
force to effect his immediate liberation. Tell him, also, that Master
Nowell charges Mistress Nutter with robbing him of his land by
witchcraft."

"No, no!" interrupted Nowell; "do not tell him that. I no longer charge
her with it."

"Then, tell him that I do," cried Potts; "and that Master Nowell has
strangely, very strangely, altered his mind."

"'May I become subject to the Fiend if I violate my promise!'" said the
magistrate.

"Ay, tell him that," cried the attorney--"tell him the worthy gentleman
is constantly repeating that sentence. It will explain all. And now,
reverend sir, let me entreat you to set out without delay, or your
departure may be prevented."

"I will go at once," said Holden.

As he was about to quit the apartment, Mistress Nutter appeared at the
door. Confusion was painted on the countenances of all three.

"Whither go you, sir?" demanded the lady, sharply.

"On a mission which cannot be delayed, madam," replied Holden.

"You cannot quit my house at present," she rejoined, peremptorily.
"These gentlemen stay to dine with me, and I cannot dispense with your
company."

"My duty calls me hence," returned the divine. "With all thanks for your
proffered hospitality, I must perforce decline it."

"Not when I command you to stay," she rejoined, raising her hand; "I am
absolute mistress here."

"Not over the servants of heaven, madam," replied the divine, taking a
Bible from his pocket, and placing it before him. "By this sacred volume
I shield myself against your spells, and command you to let me pass."

And as he went forth, Mistress Nutter, unable to oppose him, shrank
back.




CHAPTER XI.--MOTHER DEMDIKE.


The heavy rain, which began to fall as Roger Nowell entered Rough Lee,
had now ceased, and the sun shone forth again brilliantly, making the
garden look so fresh and beautiful that Richard proposed a stroll within
it to Alizon. The young girl seemed doubtful at first whether to comply
with the invitation; but she finally assented, and they went forth
together alone, for Nicholas, fancying they could dispense with his
company, only attended them as far as the door, where he remained
looking after them, laughing to himself, and wondering how matters would
end. "No good will come of it, I fear," mused the worthy squire, shaking
his head, "and I am scarcely doing right in allowing Dick to entangle
himself in this fashion. But where is the use of giving advice to a
young man who is over head and ears in love? He will never listen to it,
and will only resent interference. Dick must take his chance. I have
already pointed out the danger to him, and if he chooses to run
headlong into the pit, why, I cannot hinder him. After all, I am not
much surprised. Alizon's beauty is quite irresistible, and, were all
smooth and straightforward in her history, there could be no reason
why--pshaw! I am as foolish as the lad himself. Sir Richard Assheton,
the proudest man in the shire, would disown his son if he married
against his inclinations. No, my pretty youthful pair, since nothing but
misery awaits you, I advise you to make the most of your brief season of
happiness. I should certainly do so were the case my own."

Meanwhile, the objects of these ruminations had reached the terrace
overlooking Pendle Water, and were pacing slowly backwards and forwards
along it.

"One might be very happy in this sequestered spot, Alizon," observed
Richard. "To some persons it might appear dull, but to me, if blessed
with you, it would be little short of Paradise."

"Alas! Richard," she replied, forcing a smile, "why conjure up visions
of happiness which never can be realised? But even with you I do not
think I could be happy here. There is something about the house which,
when I first beheld it, filled me with unaccountable terror. Never since
I was a mere infant have I been within it till to-day, and yet it was
quite familiar to me--horribly familiar. I knew the hall in which we
stood together, with its huge arched fireplace, and the armorial
bearings upon it, and could point out the stone on which were carved my
father's initials 'R.N.,' with the date '1572.' I knew the tapestry on
the walls, and the painted glass in the long range windows. I knew the
old oak staircase, and the gallery beyond it, and the room to which my
mother led me. I knew the portraits painted on the panels, and at once
recognised my father. I knew the great carved oak bedstead in this room,
and the high chimney-piece, and the raised hearthstone, and shuddered as
I gazed at it. You will ask me how these things could be familiar to me?
I will tell you. I had seen them repeatedly in my dreams. They have
haunted me for years, but I only to-day knew they had an actual
existence, or were in any way connected with my own history. The sight
of that house inspired me with a horror I have not been able to
overcome; and I have a presentiment that some ill will befall me within
it. I would never willingly dwell there."

"The warning voice within you, which should never be despised, prompts
you to quit it," cried Richard; "and I also urge you in like manner."

"In vain," sighed Alizon. "This terrace is beautiful," she added, as
they resumed their walk, "and I shall often come hither, if I am
permitted. At sunset, this river, and the woody heights above it, must
be enchanting; and I do not dislike the savage character of the
surrounding scenery. It enhances, by contrast, the beauty of this
solitude. I only wish the spot commanded a view of Pendle Hill."

"You are like my cousin Nicholas, who thinks no prospect complete
unless that hill forms part of it," said Richard; "but since I find that
you will often come hither at sunset, I shall not despair of seeing and
conversing with you again, even if I am forbidden the house by Mistress
Nutter. That thicket is an excellent hiding-place, and this stream is
easily crossed."

"We can have no secret interviews, Richard," replied Alizon; "I shall
come hither to think of you, but not to meet you. You must never return
to Rough Lee again--that is, not unless some change takes place, which I
dare not anticipate--but, hist! I am called. I must go back to the
house."

"The voice came from the other side of the river," said Richard--"and,
hark! it calls again. Who can it be?"

"It is Jennet," replied Alizon; "I see her now."

And she pointed out the little girl standing beside an alder on the
opposite bank.

"Yo didna notice me efore, Alizon," cried Jennet in her sharp tone, and
with her customary provoking laugh, "boh ey seed yo plain enuff, an
heer'd yo too; and ey heer'd Mester Ruchot say he wad hide i' this
thicket, an cross the river to meet ye at sunset. Little pigs, they say,
ha' lang ears, an mine werena gi'en me fo' nowt."

"They have somewhat misinformed you in this instance," replied Alizon;
"but how, in the name of wonder, did you come here?"

"Varry easily," replied Jennet, "boh ey hanna time to tell ye now.
Granny Demdike has sent me hither wi' a message to ye and Mistress
Nutter. Boh may be ye winna loike Mester Ruchot to hear what ey ha'
getten to tell ye."

"I will leave you," said Richard, about to depart.

"Oh! no, no!" cried Alizon, "she can have nothing to say which you may
not hear."

"Shan ey go back to Granny Demdike, an tell her yo're too proud to
receive her message?" asked the child.

"On no account," whispered Richard. "Do not let her anger the old hag."

"Speak, Jennet," said Alizon, in a tone of kind persuasion.

"Ey shanna speak onless ye cum ower t' wetur to me," replied the little
girl; "an whot ey ha to tell consarns ye mitch."

"I can easily cross," observed Alizon to Richard. "Those stones seem
placed on purpose."

Upon this, descending from the terrace to the river's brink, and
springing lightly upon the first stone which reared its head above the
foaming tide, she bounded to another, and so in an instant was across
the stream. Richard saw her ascend the opposite bank, and approach
Jennet, who withdrew behind the alder; and then he fancied he perceived
an old beldame, partly concealed by the intervening branches of the
tree, advance and seize hold of her. Then there was a scream; and the
sound had scarcely reached the young man's ears before he was down the
bank and across the river, but when he reached the alder, neither
Alizon, nor Jennet, nor the old beldame were to be seen.

The terrible conviction that she had been carried off by Mother Demdike
then smote him, and though he continued his search for her among the
adjoining bushes, it was with fearful misgivings. No answer was returned
to his shouts, nor could he discover any trace of the means by which
Alizon had been spirited away.

After some time spent in ineffectual search, uncertain what course to
pursue, and with a heart full of despair, Richard crossed the river, and
proceeded towards the house, in front of which he found Mistress Nutter
and Nicholas, both of whom seemed surprised when they perceived he was
unaccompanied by Alizon. The lady immediately, and somewhat sharply,
questioned him as to what had become of her adopted daughter, and
appeared at first to doubt his answer; but at length, unable to question
his sincerity, she became violently agitated.

"The poor girl has been conveyed away by Mother Demdike," she cried,
"though for what purpose I am at a loss to conceive. The old hag could
not cross the running water, and therefore resorted to that stratagem."

"Alizon must not be left in her hands, madam," said Richard.

"She must not," replied the lady. "If Blackadder, whom I have sent after
Parson Holden, were here, I would despatch him instantly to Malkin
Tower."

"I will go instead," said Richard.

"You had better accept his offer," interposed Nicholas; "he will serve
you as well as Blackadder."

"Go I shall, madam," cried Richard; "if not on your account, on my own."

"Come, then, with me," said the lady, entering the house, "and I will
furnish you with that which shall be your safeguard in the enterprise."

With this, she proceeded to the closet where her interview with Roger
Nowell had been held; and, unlocking an ebony cabinet, took from a
drawer within it a small flat piece of gold, graven with mystic
characters, and having a slender chain of the same metal attached to it.
Throwing the chain over Richard's neck, she said, "Place this talisman,
which is of sovereign virtue, near your heart, and no witchcraft shall
have power over you. But be careful that you are not by any artifice
deprived of it, for the old hag will soon discover that you possess some
charm to protect you against her spells. You are impatient to be gone,
but I have not yet done," she continued, taking down a small silver
bugle from a hook, and giving it him. "On reaching Malkin Tower, wind
this horn thrice, and the old witch will appear at the upper window.
Demand admittance in my name, and she will not dare to refuse you; or,
if she does, tell her you know the secret entrance to her stronghold,
and will have recourse to it. And in case this should be needful, I will
now disclose it to you, but you must not use it till other means fail.
When opposite the door, which you will find is high up in the building,
take ten paces to the left, and if you examine the masonry at the foot
of the tower, you will perceive one stone somewhat darker than the rest.
At the bottom of this stone, and concealed by a patch of heath, you will
discover a knob of iron. Touch it, and it will give you an opening to a
vaulted chamber, whence you can mount to the upper room. Even then you
may experience some difficulty, but with resolution you will surmount
all obstacles."

"I have no fear of success, madam," replied Richard, confidently.

And quitting her, he proceeded to the stables, and calling for his
horse, vaulted into the saddle, and galloped off towards the bridge.

Fast as Richard rode up the steep hill-side, still faster did the black
clouds gather over his head. No natural cause could have produced so
instantaneous a change in the aspect of the sky, and the young man
viewed it with uneasiness, and wished to get out of the thicket in which
he was now involved, before the threatened thunder-storm commenced. But
the hill was steep and the road bad, being full of loose stones, and
crossed in many places by bare roots of trees. Though ordinarily
surefooted, Merlin stumbled frequently, and Richard was obliged to
slacken his pace. It grew darker and darker, and the storm seemed ready
to burst upon him. The smaller birds ceased singing, and screened
themselves under the thickest foliage; the pie chattered incessantly;
the jay screamed; the bittern flew past, booming heavily in the air; the
raven croaked; the heron arose from the river, and speeded off with his
long neck stretched out; and the falcon, who had been hovering over him,
sweeped sidelong down and sought shelter beneath an impending rock; the
rabbit scudded off to his burrow in the brake; and the hare, erecting
himself for a moment, as if to listen to the note of danger, crept
timorously off into the long dry grass.

It grew so dark at last that the road was difficult to discern, and the
dense rows of trees on either side assumed a fantastic appearance in the
deep gloom. Richard was now more than half-way up the hill, and the
thicket had become more tangled and intricate, and the road narrower and
more rugged. All at once Merlin stopped, quivering in every limb, as if
in extremity of terror.

Before the rider, and right in his path, glared a pair of red fiery
orbs, with something dusky and obscure linked to them; but whether of
man or beast he could not distinguish.

Richard called to it. No answer. He struck spurs into the reeking flanks
of his horse. The animal refused to stir. Just then there was a moaning
sound in the wood, as of some one in pain. He turned in the direction,
shouted, but received no answer. When he looked back the red eyes were
gone.

Then Merlin moved forward of his own accord, but ere he had gone far,
the eyes were visible again, glaring at the rider from the wood. This
time they approached, dilating, and increasing in glowing intensity,
till they scorched him like burning-glasses. Bethinking him of the
talisman, Richard drew it forth. The light was instantly extinguished,
and the indistinct figure accompanying it melted into darkness.

Once more Merlin resumed his toilsome way, and Richard was marvelling
that the storm so long suspended its fury, when the sky was riven by a
sudden blaze, and a crackling bolt shot down and struck the earth at his
feet. The affrighted steed reared aloft, and was with difficulty
prevented from falling backwards upon his rider. Almost before he could
be brought to his feet, an awful peal of thunder burst overhead, and it
required Richard's utmost efforts to prevent him from rushing madly down
the hill.

The storm had now fairly commenced. Flash followed flash, and peal
succeeded peal, without intermission. The rain descended hissing and
spouting, and presently ran down the hill in a torrent, adding to the
horseman's other difficulties and dangers. To heighten the terror of the
scene, strange shapes, revealed by the lightning, were seen flitting
among the trees, and strange sounds were heard, though overpowered by
the dreadful rolling of the thunder.

But Richard's resolution continued unshaken, and he forced Merlin on. He
had not proceeded far, however, when the animal uttered a cry of fright,
and began beating the air with his fore hoofs. The lightning enabled
Richard to discern the cause of this new distress. Coiled round the poor
beast's legs, all whose efforts to disengage himself from the terrible
assailant were ineffectual, was a large black snake, seemingly about to
plunge its poisonous fangs into the flesh. Again having recourse to the
talisman, and bending down, Richard stretched it towards the snake, upon
which the reptile instantly darted its arrow-shaped head against him,
but instead of wounding him, its forked teeth encountered the piece of
gold, and, as if stricken a violent blow, it swiftly untwined itself,
and fled, hissing, into the thicket.

Richard was now obliged to dismount and lead his horse. In this way he
toiled slowly up the hill. The storm continued with unabated fury: the
red lightning played around him, the brattling thunder stunned him, and
the pelting rain poured down upon his head. But he was no more
molested. Save for the vivid flashes, it had become dark as night, but
they served to guide him on his way.

At length he got out of the thicket, and trod upon the turf, but it was
rendered so slippery by moisture, that he could scarcely keep his feet,
while the lightning no longer aided him. Fearing he had taken a wrong
course, he stood still, and while debating with himself a blaze of light
illumined the wide heath, and showed him the object of his search,
Malkin Tower, standing alone, like a beacon, at about a quarter of a
mile's distance, on the further side of the hill. Was it disturbed
fancy, or did he really behold on the summit of the structure a grisly
shape resembling--if it resembled any thing human--a gigantic black cat,
with roughened staring skin, and flaming eyeballs?

Nerved by the sight of the tower, Richard was on his steed's back in an
instant, and the animal, having in some degree recovered his spirits,
galloped off with him, and kept his feet in spite of the slippery state
of the road. Erelong, another flash showed the young man that he was
drawing rapidly near the tower, and dismounting, he tied Merlin to a
tree, and hurried towards the unhallowed pile. When within twenty paces
of it, mindful of Mistress Nutter's injunctions, he placed the bugle to
his lips, and winded it thrice. The summons, though clear and loud,
sounded strangely in the portentous silence.

Scarcely had the last notes died away, when a light shone through the
dark red curtains hanging before a casement in the upper part of the
tower. The next moment these were drawn aside, and a face appeared, so
frightful, so charged with infernal wickedness and malice, that
Richard's blood grew chill at the sight. Was it man or woman? The white
beard, and the large, broad, masculine character of the countenance,
seemed to denote the, former, but the garb was that of a female. The
face was at once hideous and fantastic--the eyes set across--the mouth
awry--the right cheek marked by a mole shining with black hair, and
horrible from its contrast to the rest of the visage, and the brow
branded as if by a streak of blood. A black thrum cap constituted the
old witch's head-gear, and from beneath it her hoary hair escaped in
long elf-locks. The lower part of her person was hidden from view, but
she appeared to be as broad-shouldered as a man, and her bulky person
was wrapped in a tawny-coloured robe. Throwing open the window, she
looked forth, and demanded in harsh imperious tones--

"Who dares to summon Mother Demdike?"

"A messenger from Mistress Nutter," replied Richard. "I am come in her
name to demand the restitution of Alizon Device, whom thou hast forcibly
and wrongfully taken from her."

"Alizon Device is my grand-daughter, and, as such, belongs to me, and
not to Mistress Nutter," rejoined Mother Demdike.

"Thou knowest thou speakest false, foul hag!" cried Richard. "Alizon is
no blood of thine. Open the door and cast down the ladder, or I will
find other means of entrance."

"Try them, then," rejoined Mother Demdike. And she closed the casement
sharply, and drew the curtains over it.

After reconnoitring the building for a moment, Richard moved quickly to
the left, and counting ten paces, as directed by Mistress Nutter, began
to search among the thick grass growing near the base of the tower for
the concealed entrance. It was too dark to distinguish any difference in
the colour of the masonry, but he was sure he could not be far wrong,
and presently his hand came in contact with a knob of iron. He pressed
it, but it did not yield to the touch. Again more forcibly, but with
like ill success. Could he be mistaken? He tried the next stone, and
discovered another knob upon it, but this was as immovable as the first.
He went on, and then found that each stone was alike, and that if
amongst the number he had chanced upon the one worked by the secret
spring, it had refused to act. On examining the structure so far as he
was able to do in the gloom, he found he had described the whole circle
of the tower, and was about to commence the search anew, when a creaking
sound was heard above, and a light streamed suddenly down upon him. The
door had been opened by the old witch, and she stood there with a lamp
in her hand, its yellow flame illumining her hideous visage, and short,
square, powerfully built frame. Her throat was like that of a bull; her
hands of extraordinary size; and her arms, which were bare to the
shoulder, brawny and muscular.

"What, still outside?" she cried in a jeering tone, and with a wild
discordant laugh. "Methought thou affirmedst thou couldst find a way
into my dwelling."

"I do not yet despair of finding it," replied Richard.

"Fool!" screamed the hag. "I tell thee it is in vain to attempt it
without my consent. With a word, I could make these walls one solid
mass, without window or outlet from base to summit. With a word, I could
shower stones upon thy head, and crush thee to dust. With a word, I
could make the earth swallow thee up. With a word, I could whisk thee
hence to the top of Pendle Hill. Ha! ha! Dost fear me now?"

"No," replied Richard, undauntedly. "And the word thou menacest me with
shall never be uttered."

"Why not?" asked Mother Demdike, derisively.

"Because thou wouldst not brave the resentment of one whose power is
equal to thine own--if not greater," replied the young man.

"Greater it is not--neither equal," rejoined the old hag, haughtily;
"but I do not desire a quarrel with Alice Nutter. Only let her not
meddle with me."

"Once more, art thou willing to admit me?" demanded Richard.

"Ay, upon one condition," replied Mother Demdike. "Thou shalt learn it
anon. Stand aside while I let down the ladder."

Richard obeyed, and a pair of narrow wooden steps dropped to the ground.

"Now mount, if thou hast the courage," cried the hag.

The young man was instantly beside her, but she stood in the doorway,
and barred his further progress with her extended staff. Now that he was
face to face with her, he wondered at his own temerity. There was
nothing human in her countenance, and infernal light gleamed in her
strangely-set eyes. Her personal strength, evidently unimpaired by age,
or preserved by magical art, seemed equal to her malice; and she
appeared as capable of executing any atrocity, as of conceiving it. She
saw the effect produced upon him, and chuckled with malicious
satisfaction.

"Saw'st thou ever face like mine?" she cried. "No, I wot not. But I
would rather inspire aversion and terror than love. Love!--foh! I would
rather see men shrink from me, and shudder at my approach, than smile
upon me and court me. I would rather freeze the blood in their veins,
than set it boiling with passion. Ho! ho!"

"Thou art a fearful being, indeed!" exclaimed Richard, appalled.

"Fearful, am I?" ejaculated the old witch, with renewed laughter. "At
last thou own'st it. Why, ay, I _am_ fearful. It is my wish to be so. I
live to plague mankind--to blight and blast them--to scare them with my
looks--to work them mischief. Ho! ho! And now, let us look at thee," she
continued, holding the lamp over him. "Why, soh?--a comely youth! And
the young maids doat upon thee, I doubt not, and praise thy blooming
cheeks, thy bright eyes, thy flowing locks, and thy fine limbs. I hate
thy beauty, boy, and would mar it!--would canker thy wholesome flesh,
dim thy lustrous eyes, and strike thy vigorous limbs with palsy, till
they should shake like mine! I am half-minded to do it," she added,
raising her staff, and glaring at him with inconceivable malignity.

"Hold!" exclaimed Richard, taking the talisman from his breast, and
displaying it to her. "I am armed against thy malice!"

Mother Demdike's staff fell from her grasp.

"I knew thou wert in some way protected," she cried furiously. "And so
it is a piece of gold--with magic characters upon it, eh?" she added,
suddenly changing her tone; "Let me look at it."

"Thou seest it plain enough," rejoined Richard. "Now, stand aside and
let me pass, for thou perceivest I have power to force an entrance."

"I see it--I see it," replied Mother Demdike, with affected humility. "I
see it is in vain to struggle with thee, or rather with the potent lady
who sent thee. Tarry where thou art, and i will bring Alizon to thee."

"I almost mistrust thee," said Richard--"but be speedy."

"I will be scarce a moment," said the witch; "but I must warn thee that
she is--"

"What--what hast thou done to her, thou wicked hag?" cried Richard, in
alarm.

"She is distraught," said Mother Demdike.

"Distraught!" echoed Richard.

"But thou canst easily cure her," said the old hag, significantly.

"Ay, so I can," cried Richard with sudden joy--"the talisman! Bring her
to me at once."

Mother Demdike departed, leaving him in a state of indescribable
agitation. The walls of the tower were of immense thickness, and the
entrance to the chamber towards which the arched doorway led was covered
by a curtain of old arras, behind which the hag had disappeared.
Scarcely had she entered the room when a scream was heard, and Richard
heard his own name pronounced by a voice which, in spite of its agonised
tones, he at once recognised. The cries were repeated, and he then heard
Mother Demdike call out, "Come hither! come hither!"

Instantly rushing forward and dashing aside the tapestry, he found
himself in a mysterious-looking circular chamber, with a massive oak
table in the midst of it. There were many strange objects in the room,
but he saw only Alizon, who was struggling with the old witch, and
clinging desperately to the table. He called to her by name as he
advanced, but her bewildered looks proved that she did not know him.

"Alizon--dear Alizon! I am come to free you," he exclaimed.

But in place of answering him she uttered a piercing scream.

"The talisman, the talisman?" cried the hag. "I cannot undo my own work.
Place the chain round her neck, and the gold near her heart, that she
may experience its full virtue."

Richard unsuspectingly complied with the suggestion of the temptress;
but the moment he had parted with the piece of gold the figure of Alizon
vanished, the chamber was buried in gloom, and, amidst a hubbub of wild
laughter, he was dragged by the powerful arm of the witch through the
arched doorway, and flung from it to the ground, the shock of the fall
producing immediate insensibility.




CHAPTER XII.--THE MYSTERIES OF MALKIN TOWER.


It was a subterranean chamber; gloomy, and of vast extent; the roof low,
and supported by nine ponderous stone columns, to which rings and rusty
chains were attached, still retaining the mouldering bones of those they
had held captive in life. Amongst others was a gigantic skeleton, quite
entire, with an iron girdle round the middle. Fragments of mortality
were elsewhere scattered about, showing the numbers who had perished in
the place. On either side were cells closed by massive doors, secured by
bolts and locks. At one end were three immense coffers made of oak,
hooped with iron, and fastened by large padlocks. Near them stood a
large armoury, likewise of oak, and sculptured with the ensigns of
Whalley Abbey, proving it had once belonged to that establishment.
Probably it had been carried off by some robber band. At the opposite
end of the vault were two niches, each occupied by a rough-hewn
statue--the one representing a warlike figure, with a visage of
extraordinary ferocity, and the other an anchoress, in her hood and
wimple, with a rosary in her hand. On the ground beneath lay a plain
flag, covering the mortal remains of the wicked pair, and proclaiming
them to be Isole de Heton and Blackburn, the freebooter. The pillars
were ranged in three lines, so as to form, with the arches above them, a
series of short passages, in the midst of which stood an altar, and near
it a large caldron. In front, elevated on a block of granite, was a
marvellous piece of sculpture, wrought in jet, and representing a demon
seated on a throne. The visage was human, but the beard that of a goat,
while the feet and lower limbs were like those of the same animal. Two
curled horns grew behind the ears, and a third, shaped like a conch,
sprang from the centre of the forehead, from which burst a blue flame,
throwing a ghastly light on the objects surrounding it.

The only discernible approach to the vault was a steep narrow stone
staircase, closed at the top by a heavy trapdoor. Other outlet
apparently there was none. Some little air was admitted to this foul
abode through flues contrived in the walls, the entrances to which were
grated, but the light of day never came there. The flame, however,
issuing from the brow of the demon image, like the lamps in the
sepulchres of the disciples of the Rosy Cross, was ever-burning. Behind
the sable statue was a deep well, with water as black as ink, wherein
swarmed snakes, and toads, and other noxious reptiles; and as the lurid
light fell upon its surface it glittered like a dusky mirror, unless
when broken by the horrible things that lurked beneath, or crawled about
upon its slimy brim. But snakes and toads were not the only tenants of
the vault. At the head of the steps squatted a monstrous and misshapen
animal, bearing some resemblance to a cat, but as big as a tiger. Its
skin was black and shaggy; its eyes glowed like those of the hyaena; and
its cry was like that of the same treacherous beast. Among the gloomy
colonnades other swart and bestial shapes could be indistinctly seen
moving to and fro.

In this abode of horror were two human beings--one, a young maiden of
exquisite beauty; and the other, almost a child, and strangely deformed.
The elder, overpowered by terror, was clinging to a pillar for support,
while the younger, who might naturally be expected to exhibit the
greatest alarm, appeared wholly unconcerned, and derided her companion's
fears.

"Oh, Jennet!" exclaimed the elder of the two, "is there no means of
escape?"

"None whatever," replied the other. "Yo mun stay here till Granny
Demdike cums fo ye."

"Oh! that the earth would open and snatch me from these horrors," cried
Alizon. "My reason is forsaking me. Would I could kneel and pray for
deliverance! But something prevents me."

"Reet!" replied Jennet. "It's os mitch os yer loife's worth to kneel an
pray here, onless yo choose to ge an throw yersel at th' feet o' yon
black image."

"Kneel to that idol--never!" exclaimed Alizon. And while striving to
call upon heaven for aid, a sharp convulsion seized her, and deprived
her of the power of utterance.

"Ey towd yo how it wad be," remarked Jennet, who watched her narrowly.
"Yo 're neaw i' a church here, an if yo want to warship, it mun be at
yon altar. Dunna yo hear how angry the cats are--how they growl an spit?
An see how their een gliss'n! They'll tare yo i' pieces, loike so many
tigers, if yo offend em."

"Tell me why I am brought here, Jennet?" inquired Alizon, after a brief
pause.

"Granny Demdike will tell yo that," replied the little girl; "boh to my
belief," she added, with a mocking laugh, "hoo means to may a witch o'
ye, loike aw the rest on us."

"She cannot do that without my consent," cried Alizon, "and I would die
a thousand deaths rather than yield it."

"That remains to be seen," replied Jennet, tauntingly. "Yo 're obstinate
enuff, nah doubt. Boh Granny Demdike is used to deal wi' sich folk."

"Oh! why was I born?" cried Alizon, bitterly.

"Yo may weel ask that," responded Jennet, with a loud unfeeling laugh;
"fo ey see neaw great use yo're on, wi' yer protty feace an bright een,
onless it be to may one hate ye."

"Is it possible you can say this to me, Jennet?" cried Alizon. "What
have I done to incur your hatred? I have ever loved you, and striven to
please and serve you. I have always taken your part against others, even
when you were in the wrong. Oh! Jennet, you cannot hate me."

"Boh ey do," replied the little girl, spitefully. "Ey hate yo now warser
than onny wan else. Ey hate yo because yo are neaw lunger my
sister--becose yo 're a grand ledy's dowter, an a grand ledy yersel. Ey
hate yo becose yung Ruchot Assheton loves yo--an becose yo ha better
luck i' aw things than ey have, or con expect to have. That's why I hate
yo, Alizon. When yo are a witch ey shan love yo, for then we shan be
equals once more."

"That will never be, Jennet," said Alizon, sadly, but firmly. "Your
grandmother may immure me in this dungeon, and scare away my senses; but
she will never rob me of my hopes of salvation."

As the words were uttered, a clang like that produced by a stricken gong
shook the vault; the beasts roared fiercely; the black waters of the
fountain bubbled up, and were lashed into foam by the angry reptiles;
and a larger jet of flame than before burst from the brow of the demon
statue.

"Ey ha' warned ye, Alizon," said Jennet, alarmed by these
demonstrations; "boh since ye pay no heed to owt ey say, ey'st leave yo
to yer fate."

"Oh! stay with me, stay with me, Jennet!" shrieked Alizon, "By our past
sisterly affection I implore you to remain! You are some protection to
me from these dreadful beings."

"Ey dunna want to protect yo onless yo do os yo're bidd'n," replied
Jennet! "Whoy should yo be better than me?"

"Ah! why, indeed?" cried Alizon. "Would I had the power to turn your
heart--to open your eyes to evil--to save you, Jennet."

These words were followed by another clang, louder and more brattling
than the first. The solid walls of the dungeon were shaken, and the
heavy columns rocked; while, to Alizon's affrighted gaze, it seemed as
if the sable statue arose upon its ebon throne, and stretched out its
arm menacingly towards her. The poor girl was saved from further terror
by insensibility.

How long she remained in this condition she could not tell, nor did it
appear that any efforts were made to restore her; but when she
recovered, she found herself stretched upon a rude pallet within an
arched recess, the entrance to which was screened by a piece of
tapestry. On lifting it aside she perceived she was no longer in the
vault, but in an upper chamber, as she judged, and not incorrectly, of
the tower. The room was lofty and circular, and the walls of enormous
thickness, as shown by the deep embrasures of the windows; in one of
which, the outlet having been built up, the pallet was placed. A massive
oak table, two or three chairs of antique shape, and a wooden stool,
constituted the furniture of the room. The stool was set near the
fireplace, and beside it stood a strangely-fashioned spinning-wheel,
which had apparently been recently used; but neither the old hag nor her
grand-daughter were visible. Alizon could not tell whether it was night
or day; but a lamp was burning upon the table, its feeble light only
imperfectly illumining the chamber, and scarcely revealing several
strange objects dangling from the huge beams that supported the roof.
Faded arras were hung against the walls, representing in one compartment
the last banquet of Isole de Heton and her lover, Blackburn; in another,
the Saxon Ughtred hanging from the summit of Malkin Tower; and in a
third, the execution of Abbot Paslew. The subjects were as large as
life, admirably depicted, and evidently worked at wondrous looms. As
they swayed to and fro in the gusts, that found entrance into the
chamber through some unprotected loopholes, the figures had a grim and
ghostly air.

Weak, trembling, bewildered, Alizon stepped forth, and staggering
towards the table sank upon a chair beside it. A fearful storm was
raging without--thunder, lightning, deluging rain. Stunned and blinded,
she covered her eyes, and remained thus till the fury of the tempest had
in some degree abated. She was roused at length by a creaking sound not
far from her, and found it proceeded from a trapdoor rising slowly on
its hinges.

A thrum cap first appeared above the level of the floor; then a broad,
bloated face, the mouth and chin fringed with a white beard like the
whiskers of a cat; then a thick, bull throat; then a pair of brawny
shoulders; then a square, thick-set frame; and Mother Demdike stood
before her. A malignant smile played upon her hideous countenance, and
gleamed from her eyes--those eyes so strangely placed by nature, as if
to intimate her doom, and that of her fated race, to whom the horrible
blemish was transmitted. As the old witch leaped heavily upon the
ground, the trapdoor closed behind her.

"Soh, you are better, Alizon, and have quitted your couch, I find," she
cried, striking her staff upon the floor. "But you look faint and feeble
still. I will give you something to revive you. I have a wondrous
cordial in yon closet--a rare restorative--ha! ha! It will make you well
the moment it has passed your lips. I will fetch it at once."

"I will have none of it," replied Alizon; "I would rather die."

"Rather die!" echoed Mother Demdike, sarcastically, "because, forsooth,
you are crossed in love. But you shall have the man of your heart yet,
if you will only follow my counsel, and do as I bid you. Richard
Assheton shall be yours, and with your mother's consent, provided--"

"I understand the condition you annex to the promise," interrupted
Alizon, "and the terms upon which you would fulfil it: but you seek in
vain to tempt me, old woman. I now comprehend why I am brought hither."

"Ay, indeed!" exclaimed the old witch. "And why is it, then, since you
are so quick-witted?"

"You desire to make an offering to the evil being you serve," cried
Alizon, with sudden energy. "You have entered into some dark compact,
which compels you to deliver up a victim in each year to the Fiend, or
your own soul becomes forfeit. Thus you have hitherto lengthened out
your wretched life, and you hope to extend the term yet farther through
me. I have heard this tale before, but I would not believe it. Now I
do. This is why you have stolen me from my mother--have braved her
anger--and brought me to this impious tower."

The old hag laughed hoarsely.

"The tale thou hast heard respecting me is true," she said. "I _have_ a
compact which requires me to make a proselyte to the power I serve
within each year, and if I fail in doing so, I must pay the penalty thou
hast mentioned. A like compact exists between Mistress Nutter and the
Fiend."

She paused for a moment, to watch the effect of her words on Alizon, and
then resumed.

"Thy mother would have sacrificed thee if thou hadst been left with her;
but I have carried thee off, because I conceive I am best entitled to
thee. Thou wert brought up as my grand-daughter, and therefore I claim
thee as my own."

"And you think to deal with me as if I were a puppet in your hands?"
cried Alizon.

"Ay, marry, do I," rejoined Mother Demdike, with a scream of laughter,
"Thou art nothing more than a puppet--a puppet--ho! ho."

"And you deem you can dispose of my soul without my consent?" said
Alizon.

"Thy full consent will be obtained," rejoined the old hag.

"Think it not! think it not!" exclaimed Alizon. "Oh! I shall yet be
delivered from this infernal bondage."

At this moment the notes of a bugle were heard.

"Saved! saved!" cried the poor girl, starting. "It is Richard come to my
rescue!"

"How know'st thou that?" cried Mother Demdike, with a spiteful look.

"By an instinct that never deceives," replied Alizon, as the blast was
again heard.

"This must be stopped," said the hag, waving her staff over the maiden,
and transfixing her where she sat; after which she took up the lamp, and
strode towards the window.

The few words that passed between her and Richard have been already
recounted. Having closed the casement and drawn the curtain before it,
Mother Demdike traced a circle on the floor, muttered a spell, and then,
waving her staff over Alizon, restored her power of speech and motion.

"'Twas he!" exclaimed the young girl, as soon as she could find
utterance. "I heard his voice."

"Why, ay, 'twas he, sure enough," rejoined the beldame. "He has come on
a fool's errand, but he shall never return from it. Does Mistress Nutter
think I will give up my prize the moment I have obtained it, for the
mere asking? Does she imagine she can frighten me as she frightens
others? Does she know whom she has to deal with? If not, I will tell
her. I am the oldest, the boldest, and the strongest of the witches. No
mystery of the black art but is known to me. I can do what mischief I
will, and my desolating hand has been felt throughout this district. You
may trace it like a pestilence. No one has offended me but I have
terribly repaid him. I rule over the land like a queen. I exact
tributes, and, if they are not rendered, I smite with a sharper edge
than the sword. My worship is paid to the Prince of Darkness. This tower
is his temple, and yon subterranean chamber the place where the mystical
rites, which thou wouldst call impious and damnable, are performed.
Countless sabbaths have I attended within it; or upon Rumbles Moor, or
on the summit of Pendle Hill, or within the ruins of Whalley Abbey. Many
proselytes have I made; many unbaptised babes offered up in sacrifice. I
am high-priestess to the Demon, and thy mother would usurp mine office."

"Oh! spare me this horrible recital!" exclaimed Alizon, vainly trying to
shut out the hag's piercing voice.

"I will spare thee nothing," pursued Mother Demdike. "Thy mother, I say,
would be high-priestess in my stead. There are degrees among witches, as
among other sects, and mine is the first. Mistress Nutter would deprive
me of mine office; but not till her hair is as white as mine, her
knowledge equal to mine, and her hatred of mankind as intense as
mine--not till then shall she have it."

"No more of this, in pity!" cried Alizon.

"Often have I aided thy mother in her dark schemes," pursued the
implacable hag; "nay, no later than last night I obliterated the old
boundaries of her land, and erected new marks to serve her. It was a
strong exercise of power; but the command came to me, and I obeyed it.
No other witch could have achieved so much, not even the accursed
Chattox, and she is next to myself. And how does thy mother purpose to
requite me? By thrusting me aside, and stepping into my throne."

"You must be in error," cried Alizon, scarcely knowing what to say.

"My information never fails me," replied the hag, with a disdainful
laugh. "Her plans are made known to me as soon as formed. I have those
about her who keep strict watch upon her actions, and report them
faithfully. I know why she brought thee so suddenly to Rough Lee, though
thou know'st it not."

"She brought me there for safety," remarked the young girl, hoping to
allay the beldame's fury, "and because she herself desired to know how
the survey of the boundaries would end."

"She brought thee there to sacrifice thee to the Fiend!" cried the hag,
infernal rage and malice blazing in her eyes. "She failed in
propitiating him at the meeting in the ruined church of Whalley last
night, when thou thyself wert present, and deliveredst Dorothy Assheton
from the snare in which she was taken. And since then all has gone wrong
with her. Having demanded from her familiar the cause why all things ran
counter, she was told she had failed in the fulfilment of her
promise--that a proselyte was required--and that thou alone wouldst be
accepted."

"I!" exclaimed Alizon, horror-stricken.

"Ay, thou!" cried the hag. "No choice was allowed her, and the offering
must be made to-night. After a long and painful struggle, thy mother
consented."

"Oh! no--impossible! you deceive me," cried the wretched girl.

"I tell thee she consented," rejoined Mother Demdike, coldly; "and on
this she made instant arrangements to return home, and in spite--as thou
know'st--of Sir Ralph and Lady Assheton's efforts to detain her, set
forth with thee."

"All this I know," observed Alizon, sadly--"and intelligence of our
departure from the Abbey was conveyed to you, I conclude, by Jennet, to
whom I bade adieu."

"Thou art right--it was," returned the hag; "but I have yet more to tell
thee, for I will lay the secrets of thy mother's dark breast fully
before thee. Her time is wellnigh run. Thou wert made the price of its
extension. If she fails in offering thee up to-night, and thou art here
in my keeping, the Fiend, her master, will abandon her, and she will be
delivered up to the justice of man."

Alizon covered her face with horror.

After awhile she looked up, and exclaimed, with unutterable anguish--

"And I cannot help her!"

The unpitying hag laughed derisively.

"She cannot be utterly lost," continued the young girl. "Were I near
her, I would show her that heaven is merciful to the greatest sinner who
repents; and teach her how to regain the lost path to salvation."

"Peace!" thundered the witch, shaking her huge hand at her, and stamping
her heavy foot upon the ground. "Such words must not be uttered here.
They are an offence to me. Thy mother has renounced all hopes of heaven.
She has been baptised in the baptism of hell, and branded on the brow by
the red finger of its ruler, and cannot be wrested from him. It is too
late."

"No, no--it never can be too late!" cried Alizon. "It is not even too
late for you."

"Thou know'st not what thou talk'st about, foolish wench," rejoined the
hag. "Our master would tear us instantly in pieces if but a thought of
penitence, as thou callest it, crossed our minds. We are both doomed to
an eternity of torture. But thy mother will go first--ay, first. If she
had yielded thee up to-night, another term would have been allowed her;
but as I hold thee instead, the benefit of the sacrifice will be mine.
But, hist! what was that? The youth again! Alice Nutter must have given
him some potent counter-charm."

"He comes to deliver me," cried Alizon. "Richard!"

And she arose, and would have flown to the window, but Mother Demdike
waved her staff over her, and rooted her to the ground.

"Stay there till I require thee," chuckled the hag, moving, with
ponderous footsteps, to the door.

After parleying with Richard, as already related, Mother Demdike
suddenly returned to Alizon, and, restoring her to sensibility, placed
her hideous face close to her, breathing upon her, and uttering these
words, "Be thine eyes blinded and thy brain confused, so that thou mayst
not know him when thou seest him, but think him another."

The spell took instant effect. Alizon staggered towards the table,
Richard was summoned, and on his appearance the scene took place which
has already been detailed, and which ended in his losing the talisman,
and being ejected from the tower.

Alizon had been rendered invisible by the old witch, and was afterwards
dragged into the arched recess by her, where, snatching the piece of
gold from the young girl's neck, she exclaimed triumphantly--

"Now I defy thee, Alice Nutter. Thou canst never recover thy child. The
offering shall be made to-night, and another year be added to my long
term."

Alizon groaned deeply, but, at a gesture from the hag, she became
motionless and speechless.

A dusky indistinctly-seen figure hovered near the entrance of the
embrasure. Mother Demdike beckoned it to her.

"Convey this girl to the vault, and watch over her," she said. "I will
descend anon."

Upon this the shadowy arms enveloped Alizon, the trapdoor flew open, and
the figure disappeared with its inanimate burthen.




CHAPTER XIII.--THE TWO FAMILIARS.


After seeing Richard depart on his perilous mission to Malkin Tower,
Mistress Nutter retired to her own chamber, and held long and anxious
self-communion. The course of her thoughts may be gathered from the
terrible revelations made by Mother Demdike to Alizon. A prey to the
most agonising emotions, it may be questioned if she could have endured
greater torment if her heart had been consumed by living fire, as in the
punishment assigned to the damned in the fabled halls of Eblis. For the
first time remorse assailed her, and she felt compunction for the evil
she had committed. The whole of her dark career passed in review before
her. The long catalogue of her crimes unfolded itself like a scroll of
flame, and at its foot were written in blazing characters the awful
words, JUDGMENT AND CONDEMNATION! There was no escape--none! Hell, with
its unquenchable fires and unimaginable horrors, yawned to receive her;
and she felt, with anguish and self-reproach not to be described, how
wretched a bargain she had made, and how dearly the brief gratification
of her evil passions had been purchased at the cost of an eternity of
woe and torture.

This change of feeling had been produced by her newly-awakened affection
for her daughter, long supposed dead, and now restored to her, only to
be snatched away again in a manner which added to the sharpness of the
loss. She saw herself the sport of a juggling fiend, whose aim was to
win over her daughter's soul through her instrumentality, and she
resolved, if possible, to defeat his purposes. This, she was aware,
could only be accomplished by her own destruction, but even this dread
alternative she was prepared to embrace. Alizon's sinless nature and
devotion to herself had so wrought upon her, that, though she had at
first resisted the better impulses kindled within her bosom, in the end
they completely overmastered her.

Was it, she asked herself, too late to repent? Was there no way of
breaking her compact? She remembered to have read of a young man who had
signed away his own soul, being restored to heaven by the intercession
of the great reformer of the church, Martin Luther. But, on the other
hand, she had heard of many others, who, on the slightest manifestation
of penitence, had been rent in pieces by the Fiend. Still the idea
recurred to her. Might not her daughter, armed with perfect purity and
holiness, with a soul free from stain as an unspotted mirror; might not
she, who had avouched herself ready to risk all for her--for she had
overheard her declaration to Richard;--might not she be able to work out
her salvation? Would confession of her sins and voluntary submission to
earthly justice save her? Alas!--no. She was without hope. She had an
inexorable master to deal with, who would grant her no grace, except
upon conditions she would not assent to.

She would have thrown herself on her knees, but they refused to bend.
She would have prayed, but the words turned to blasphemies. She would
have wept, but the fountains of tears were dry. The witch could never
weep.

Then came despair and frenzy, and, like furies, lashed her with whips of
scorpions, goading her with the memory of her abominations and
idolatries, and her infinite and varied iniquities. They showed her, as
in a swiftly-fleeting vision, all who had suffered wrong by her, or whom
her malice had afflicted in body or estate. They mocked her with a
glimpse of the paradise she had forfeited. She saw her daughter in a
beatified state about to enter its golden portals, and would have clung
to her robes in the hope of being carried in with her, but she was
driven away by an angel with a flaming sword, who cried out, "Thou hast
abjured heaven, and heaven rejects thee. Satan's brand is upon thy brow
and, unless it be effaced, thou canst never enter here. Down to Tophet,
thou witch!" Then she implored her daughter to touch her brow with the
tip of her finger; and, as the latter was about to comply, a dark
demoniacal shape suddenly rose, and, seizing her by the hair, plunged
with her down--down--millions of miles--till she beheld a world of fire
appear beneath her, consisting of a multitude of volcanoes, roaring and
raging like furnaces, boiling over with redhot lava, and casting forth
huge burning stones. In each of these beds of fire thousands upon
thousands of sufferers were writhing, and their groans and lamentations
arose in one frightful, incessant wail, too terrible for human hearing.

Over this place of torment the demon held her suspended. She shrieked
aloud in her agony, and, shaking off the oppression, rejoiced to find
the vision had been caused by her own distempered imagination.

Meanwhile, the storm, which had obstructed Richard as he climbed the
hill, had come on, though Mistress Nutter had not noticed it; but now a
loud peal of thunder shook the room, and rousing herself she walked to
the window. The sight she beheld increased her alarm. Heavy
thunder-clouds rested upon the hill-side, and seemed ready to discharge
their artillery upon the course which she knew must be taken by the
young man.

The chamber in which she stood, it has been said, was large and gloomy,
with a wainscoting of dark oak. On one of the panels was painted a
picture of herself in her days of youth, innocence, and beauty; and on
another, a portrait of her unfortunate husband, who appeared a handsome
young man, with a stern countenance, attired in a black velvet doublet
and cloak, of the fashion of Elizabeth's day. Between these paintings
stood a carved oak bedstead, with a high tester and dark heavy drapery,
opposite which was a wide window, occupying almost the whole length of
the room, but darkened by thick bars and glass, crowded with armorial
bearings, or otherwise deeply dyed. The high mantelpiece and its
carvings have been previously described, as well as the bloody
hearthstone, where the tragical incident occurred connected with
Alizon's early history.

As Mistress Nutter returned to the fireplace, a plaintive cry arose from
it, and starting--for the sound revived terrible memories within her
breast--she beheld the ineffaceable stains upon the flag traced out by
blue phosphoric fire, while above them hovered the shape of a bleeding
infant. Horror-stricken, she averted her gaze, but it encountered
another object, equally appalling--her husband's portrait; or rather,
it would seem, a phantom in its place; for the eyes, lighted up by
infernal fire, glared at her from beneath the frowning and contracted
brows, while the hand significantly pointed to the hearthstone, on which
the sanguinary stains had now formed themselves into the fatal word
"VENGEANCE!"

In a few minutes the fiery characters died away, and the portrait
resumed its wonted expression; but ere Mistress Nutter had recovered
from her terror the back of the fireplace opened, and a tall swarthy man
stepped out from it. As he appeared, a flash of lightning illumined the
chamber, and revealed his fiendish countenance. On seeing him, the lady
immediately regained her courage, and addressed him in a haughty and
commanding tone--

"Why this intrusion? I did not summon thee, and do not require thee."

"You are mistaken, madam," he replied; "you had never more occasion for
me than at this moment; and, so far from intruding upon you, I have
avoided coming near you, even though enjoined to do so by my lord. He is
perfectly aware of the change which has just taken place in your
opinions, and the anxiety you now feel to break the contract you have
entered into with him, and which he has scrupulously fulfilled on his
part; but he wishes you distinctly to understand, that he has no
intention of abandoning his claims upon you, but will most assuredly
enforce them at the proper time. I need not remind you that your term
draws to a close, and ere many months must expire; but means of
extending it have been offered you, if you choose to avail yourself of
them."

"I have no such intention," replied Mistress Nutter, in a decided tone.

"So be it, madam," replied the other; "but you will not preserve your
daughter, who is in the hands of a tried and faithful servant of my
lord, and what you hesitate to do that servant will perform, and so reap
the benefit of the sacrifice."

"Not so," rejoined Mistress Nutter.

"I say yea," retorted the familiar.

"Thou art my slave, I command thee to bring Alizon hither at once."

The familiar shook his head.

"Thou refusest!" cried Mistress Nutter, menacingly.

"Knows't thou not I have the means of chastising thee?"

"You had, madam," replied the other; "but the moment a thought of
penitence crossed your breast, the power you were invested with
departed. My lord, however, is willing to give you an hour of grace,
when, if you voluntarily renew your oaths to him, he will accept them,
and place me at your disposal once more; but if you still continue
obstinate--"

"He will abandon me," interrupted Mistress Nutter; "I knew it. Fool
that I was to trust one who, from the beginning, has been a deceiver."

"You have a short memory, and but little gratitude, madam and seem
entirely to forget the important favour conferred upon you last night.
At your solicitation, the boundaries of your property were changed, and
large slips of land filched from another, to be given to you. But if you
fail in your duty, you cannot expect this to continue. The boundary
marks will be set up in their old places, and the land restored to its
rightful owner."

"I expected as much," observed Mistress Nutter, disdainfully.

"Thus all our pains will be thrown away," pursued the familiar; "and
though you may make light of the labour, it is no easy task to change
the face of a whole country--to turn streams from their course, move
bogs, transplant trees, and shift houses, all of which has been done,
and will now have to be undone, because of your inconstancy. I, myself,
have been obliged to act as many parts as a poor player to please you,
and now you dismiss me at a moment's notice, as if I had played them
indifferently, whereas the most fastidious audience would have been
ravished with my performance. This morning I was the reeve of the
forest, and as such obliged to assume the shape of a rascally attorney.
I felt it a degradation, I assure you. Nor was I better pleased when you
compelled me to put on the likeness of old Roger Nowell; for, whatever
you may think, I am not so entirely destitute of personal vanity as to
prefer either of their figures to my own. However, I showed no
disinclination to oblige you. You are strangely unreasonable to-day. Is
it my lord's fault if your desire of vengeance expires in its
fruition--if, when you have accomplished an object, you no longer care
for it? You ask for revenge--for power. You have them, and cast them
aside like childish baubles!"

"Thy lord is an arch deceiver," rejoined Mistress Nutter; "and cannot
perform his promises. They are empty delusions--profitless,
unsubstantial as shadows. His power prevails not against any thing holy,
as I myself have just now experienced. His money turns to withered
leaves; his treasures are dust and ashes. Strong only is he in power of
mischief, and even his mischief, like curses, recoils on those who use
it. His vengeance is no true vengeance, for it troubles the conscience,
and engenders remorse; whereas the servant of heaven heaps coals of fire
on the head of his adversary by kindness, and satisfies his own heart."

"You should have thought of all this before you vowed yourself to him,"
said the familiar; "it is too late to reflect now."

"Perchance not," rejoined Mistress Nutter.

"Beware!" thundered the demon, with a terrible gesture; "any overt act
of disobedience, and your limbs shall be scattered over this chamber."

"If I do not dare thee to it, it is not because I fear thee," replied
Mistress Nutter, in no way dismayed by the threat. "Thou canst not
control my tongue. Thou speakest of the services rendered by thy lord,
and I repeat they are like his promises, naught. Show me the witch he
has enriched. Of what profit is her worship of the false deity--of what
avail the sacrifices she makes at his foul altars? It is ever the same
spilling of blood, ever the same working of mischief. The wheels Of
crime roll on like the car of the Indian idol, crushing all before them.
Doth thy master ever help his servants in their need? Doth he not ever
abandon them when they are no longer useful, and can win him no more
proselytes? Miserable servants--miserable master! Look at the murtherous
Demdike and the malignant Chattox, and examine the means whereby they
have prolonged their baleful career. Enormities of all kinds committed,
and all their families devoted to the Fiend--all wizards or witches!
Look at them, I say. What profit to them is their long service? Are they
rich? Are they in possession of unfading youth and beauty? Are they
splendidly lodged? Have they all they desire? No!--the one dwells in a
solitary turret, and the other in a wretched hovel; and both are
miserable creatures, living only on the dole wrung by threats from
terrified peasants, and capable of no gratification but such as results
from practices of malice."

"Is that nothing?" asked the familiar. "To them it is every thing. They
care neither for splendid mansions, nor wealth, nor youth, nor beauty.
If they did, they could have them all. They care only for the dread and
mysterious power they possess, to be able to fascinate with a glance, to
transfix by a gesture, to inflict strange ailments by a word, and to
kill by a curse. This is the privilege they seek, and this privilege
they enjoy."

"And what is the end of it all?" demanded Mistress Nutter, sternly.
"Erelong, they will be unable to furnish victims to their insatiate
master, who will then abandon them. Their bodies will go to the hangman,
and their souls to endless bale!"

The familiar laughed as if a good joke had been repeated to him, and
rubbed his hands gleefully.

"Very true," he said; "very true. You have stated the case exactly,
madam. Such will certainly be the course of events. But what of that?
The old hags will have enjoyed a long term--much longer than might have
been anticipated. Mother Demdike, however, as I have intimated, will
extend hers, and it is fortunate for her she is enabled to do so, as it
would otherwise expire an hour after midnight, and could not be
renewed."

"Thou liest!" cried Mistress Nutter--"liest like thy lord, who is the
father of lies. My innocent child can never be offered up at his impious
shrine. I have no fear for her. Neither he, nor Mother Demdike, nor any
of the accursed sisterhood, can harm her. Her goodness will cover her
like armour, which no evil can penetrate. Let him wreak his vengeance,
if he will, on me. Let him treat me as a slave who has cast off his
yoke. Let him abridge the scanty time allotted me, and bear me hence to
his burning kingdom; but injure my child, he cannot--shall not!"

"Go to Malkin Tower at midnight, and thou wilt see," replied the
familiar, with a mocking laugh.

"I will go there, but it shall be to deliver her," rejoined Mistress
Nutter. "And now get thee gone! I need thee no more."

"Be not deceived, proud woman," said the familiar. "Once dismissed, I
may not be recalled, while thou wilt be wholly unable to defend thyself
against thy enemies."

"I care not," she rejoined; "begone!"

The familiar stepped back, and, stamping upon the hearthstone, it sank
like a trapdoor, and he disappeared beneath it, a flash of lightning
playing round his dusky figure.

Notwithstanding her vaunted resolution, and the boldness with which she
had comported herself before the familiar, Mistress Nutter now
completely gave way, and for awhile abandoned herself to despair.
Aroused at length by the absolute necessity of action, she again walked
to the window and looked forth. The storm still raged furiously
without--so furiously, indeed, that it would be madness to brave it, now
that she was deprived of her power, and reduced to the ordinary level of
humanity. Its very violence, however, assured her it must soon cease,
and she would then set out for Malkin Tower. But what chance had she now
in a struggle with the old hag, with all the energies of hell at her
command?--what hope was there of her being able to effect her daughter's
liberation? No matter, however desperate, the attempt should be made.
Meanwhile, it would be necessary so see what was going on below, and
ascertain whether Blackadder had returned with Parson Holden. With this
view, she descended to the hall, where she found Nicholas Assheton fast
asleep in a great arm-chair, and rocked rather than disturbed by the
loud concussions of thunder. The squire was, no doubt, overcome by the
fatigues of the day, or it might be by the potency of the wine he had
swallowed, for an empty flask stood on the table beside him. Mistress
Nutter did not awaken him, but proceeded to the chamber where she had
left Nowell and Potts prisoners, both of whom rose on her entrance.

"Be seated, gentlemen, I pray you," she said, courteously. "I am come to
see if you need any thing; for when this fearful storm abates, I am
going forth for a short time."

"Indeed, madam," replied Potts. "For myself I require nothing further;
but perhaps another bottle of wine might be agreeable to my honoured and
singular good client."

"Speak for yourself, sir," cried Roger Nowell, sharply.

"You shall have it," interposed Mistress Nutter. "I shall be glad of a
word with you before I go, Master Nowell. I am sorry this dispute has
arisen between us."

"Humph!" exclaimed the magistrate.

"Very sorry," pursued Mistress Nutter; "and I wish to make every
reparation in my power."

"Reparation, madam!" cried Nowell. "Give back the land you have stolen
from me--restore the boundary lines--sign the deed in Sir Ralph's
possession--that is the only reparation you can make."

"I will," replied Mistress Nutter.

"You will!" exclaimed Nowell. "Then the fellow did not deceive us,
Master Potts."

"Has any one been with you?" asked the lady, uneasily.

"Ay, the reeve of the forest," replied Nowell. "He told us you would be
with us presently, and would make fair offers to us."

"And he told us also _why_ you would make them, madam," added Potts, in
an insolent and menacing tone; "he told us you would make a merit of
doing what you could not help--that your power had gone from you--that
your works of darkness would be destroyed--and that, in a word, you were
abandoned by the devil, your master."

"He deceived you," replied Mistress Nutter. "I have made you the offer
out of pure good-will, and you can reject it or not, as you please. All
I stipulate, if you do accept it, is, that you pledge me your word not
to bring any charge of witchcraft against me."

"Do not give the pledge," whispered a voice in the ear of the
magistrate.

"Did you speak?" he said, turning to Potts.

"No, sir," replied the attorney, in a low tone; "but I thought you
cautioned me against--"

"Hush!" interrupted Nowell; "it must be the reeve. We cannot comply with
your request, madam," he added, aloud.

"Certainly not," said Potts. "We can make no bargain with an avowed
witch. We should gain nothing by it; on the contrary, we should be
losers, for we have the positive assurance of a gentleman whom we
believe to be upon terms of intimacy with a certain black gentleman of
your acquaintance, madam, that the latter has given you up entirely, and
that law and justice may, therefore, take their course. We protest
against our unlawful detention; but we give ourselves small concern
about it, as Sir Ralph Assheton, who will be advised of our situation by
Parson Holden, will speedily come to our liberation."

"Yes, we are now quite easy on that score, madam," added Nowell; "and
to-morrow we shall have the pleasure of escorting you to Lancaster
Castle."

"And your trial will come on at the next assizes, about the middle of
August," said Potts, "You have only four months to run."

"That is indeed my term," muttered the lady. "I shall not tarry to
listen to your taunts," she added, aloud. "You may possibly regret
rejecting my proposal."

So saying, she quitted the room.

As she returned to the hall, Nicholas awoke.

"What a devil of a storm!" he exclaimed, stretching himself and rubbing
his eyes. "Zounds! that flash of lightning was enough to blind me, and
the thunder wellnigh splits one's ears."

"Yet you have slept through louder peals, Nicholas," said Mistress
Nutter, coming up to him. "Richard has not returned from his mission,
and I must go myself to Malkin Tower. In my absence, I must entrust you
with the defence of my house."

"I am willing to undertake it," replied Nicholas, "provided no
witchcraft be used."

"Nay, you need not fear that," said the lady, with a forced smile.

"Well, then, leave it to me," said the squire; "but you will not set out
till the storm is over?"

"I must," replied Mistress Nutter; "there seems no likelihood of its
cessation, and each moment is fraught with peril to Alizon. If aught
happens to me, Nicholas--if I should--whatever mischance may befall
me--promise me you will stand by her."

The squire gave the required promise.

"Enough, I hold you to your word," said Mistress Nutter. "Take this
parchment. It is a deed of gift, assigning this mansion and all my
estates to her. Under certain circumstances you will produce it."

"What circumstances? I am at a loss to understand you, madam," said the
squire.

"Do not question me further, but take especial care of the deed, and
produce it, as I have said, at the fitting moment. You will know when
that arrives. Ha! I am wanted."

The latter exclamation had been occasioned by the appearance of an old
woman at the further end of the hall, beckoning to her. On seeing her,
Mistress Nutter immediately quitted the squire, and followed her into a
small chamber opening from this part of the hall, and into which she
retreated.

"What brings you here, Mother Chattox?" exclaimed the lady, closing the
door.

"Can you not guess?" replied the hag. "I am come to help you, not for
any love I bear you, but to avenge myself on old Demdike. Do not
interrupt me. My familiar, Fancy, has told me all. I know how you are
circumstanced. I know Alizon is in old Demdike's clutches, and you are
unable to extricate her. But I can, and will; because if the hateful old
hag fails in offering up her sacrifice before the first hour of day, her
term will be out, and I shall be rid of her, and reign in her stead.
To-morrow she will be on her way to Lancaster Castle. Ha! ha! The
dungeon is prepared for her--the stake driven into the ground--the
fagots heaped around it. The torch has only to be lighted. Ho! Ho!"

[Illustration: THE RIDE THROUGH THE MURKY AIR.]

"Shall we go to Malkin Tower?" asked Mistress Nutter, shuddering.

"No; to the summit of Pendle Hill," rejoined Mother Chattox; "for there
the girl will be taken, and there only can we secure her. But first we
must proceed to my hut, and make some preparations. I have three scalps
and eight teeth, taken from a grave in Goldshaw churchyard this very
day. We can make a charm with them."

"You must prepare it alone," said Mistress Nutter; "I can have nought to
do with it."

"True--true--I had forgotten," cried the hag, with a chuckling
laugh--"you are no longer one of us. Well, then, I will do it alone. But
come with me. You will not object to mount upon my broomstick. It is the
only safe conveyance in this storm of the devil's raising. Come--away!"

And she threw open the window and sprang forth, followed by Mistress
Nutter.

Through the murky air, and borne as if on the wings of the wind, two
dark forms are flying swiftly. Over the tops of the tempest-shaken trees
they go, and as they gain the skirts of the thicket an oak beneath is
shivered by a thunderbolt. They hear the fearful crash, and see the
splinters fly far and wide; and the foremost of the two, who, with her
skinny arm extended, seems to direct their course, utters a wild scream
of laughter, while a raven, speeding on broad black wing before them,
croaks hoarsely. Now the torrent rages below, and they see its white
waters tumbling over a ledge of rock; now they pass over the brow of a
hill; now skim over a dreary waste and dangerous morass. Fearful it is
to behold those two flying figures, as the lightning shows them,
bestriding their fantastical steed; the one an old hag with hideous
lineaments and distorted person, and the other a proud dame, still
beautiful, though no longer young, pale as death, and her loose jetty
hair streaming like a meteor in the breeze.

The ride is over, and they alight near the door of a solitary hovel. The
raven has preceded them, and, perched on the chimney top, flies down it
as they enter, and greets them with hoarse croaking. The inside of the
hut corresponds with its miserable exterior, consisting only of two
rooms, in one of which is a wretched pallet; in the other are a couple
of large chests, a crazy table, a bench, a three-legged stool, and a
spinning-wheel. A caldron is suspended above a peat fire, smouldering on
the hearth. There is only one window, and a thick curtain is drawn
across it, to secure the inmate of the hut from prying eyes.

Mother Chattox closes and bars the door, and, motioning Mistress Nutter
to seat herself upon the stool, kneels down near the hearth, and blows
the turf into a flame, the raven helping her, by flapping his big black
wings, and uttering a variety of strange sounds, as the sparks fly
about. Heaping on more turf, and shifting the caldron, so that it may
receive the full influence of the flame, the hag proceeds to one of the
chests, and takes out sundry small matters, which she places one by one
with great care on the table. The raven has now fixed his great talons
on her shoulder, and chuckles and croaks in her ear as she pursues her
occupation. Suddenly a piece of bone attracts his attention, and darting
out his beak, he seizes it, and hops away.

"Give me that scalp, thou mischievous imp!" cries the hag, "I need it
for the charm I am about to prepare. Give it me, I say!"

But the raven still held it fast, and hopped here and there so nimbly
that she was unable to catch him. At length, when he had exhausted her
patience, he alighted on Mistress Nutter's shoulder, and dropped it into
her lap. Engrossed by her own painful thoughts, the lady had paid no
attention to what was passing, and she shuddered as she took up the
fragment of mortality, and placed it upon the table. A few tufts of
hair, the texture of which showed they had belonged to a female, still
adhered to the scalp. Mistress Nutter regarded it fixedly, and with an
interest for which she could not account.

After sharply chiding the raven, Mother Chattox put forth her hand to
grasp the prize she had been robbed of, when Mistress Nutter checked her
by observing, "You said you got this scalp from Goldshaw churchyard.
Know you ought concerning it?"

"Ay, a good deal," replied the old woman, chuckling. "It comes from a
grave near the yew-tree, and not far from Abbot Cliderhow's cross. Old
Zachariah Worms, the sexton, digged it up for me. That yellow skull had
once a fair face attached to it, and those few dull tufts were once
bright flowing tresses. She who owned them died young; but, young as she
was, she survived all her beauty. Hollow cheeks and hollow eyes, wasted
flesh, and cruel cough, were hers--and she pined and pined away. Folks
said she was forespoken, and that I had done it. I, forsooth! She had
never done me harm. You know whether I was rightly accused, madam."

"Take it away," cried Mistress Nutter, hurriedly, and as if struggling
against some overmastering feeling. "I cannot bear to look at it. I
wanted not this horrible reminder of my crimes."

"This was the reason, then, why Ralph stole the scalp from me," muttered
the hag, as she threw it, together with some other matters, into the
caldron. "He wanted to show you his sagacity. I might have guessed as
much."

"I will go into the other room while you make your preparations," said
Mistress Nutter, rising; "the sight of them disturbs me. You can summon
me when you are ready."

"I will, madam," replied the old hag, "and you must control your
impatience, for the spell requires time for its confection."

Mistress Nutter made no reply, but, walking into the inner room, closed
the door, and threw herself upon the pallet. Here, despite her anxiety,
sleep stole upon her, and though her dreams were troubled, she did not
awake till Mother Chattox stood beside her.

"Have I slept long?" she inquired.

"More than three hours," replied the hag.

"Three hours!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter. "Why did you not wake me
before? You would have saved me from terrible dreams. We are not too
late?"

"No, no," replied Mother Chattox; "there is plenty of time. Come into
the other room. All is ready."

As Mistress Nutter followed the old hag into the adjoining room, a
strong odour, arising from a chafing-dish, in which herbs, roots, and
other ingredients were burning, assailed her, and, versed in all weird
ceremonials, she knew that a powerful suffumigation had been made,
though with what intent she had yet to learn. The scanty furniture had
been cleared away, and a circle was described on the clay floor by
skulls and bones, alternated by dried toads, adders, and other reptiles.
In the midst of this magical circle, the caldron, which had been brought
from the chimney, was placed, and, the lid being removed, a thick vapour
arose from it. Mistress Nutter looked around for the raven, but the bird
was nowhere to be seen, nor did any other living thing appear to be
present beside themselves.

Taking the lady's hand, Mother Chattox drew her into the circle, and
began to mutter a spell; after which, still maintaining her hold of her
companion, she bade her look into the caldron, and declare what she saw.

"I see nothing," replied the lady, after she had gazed upon the bubbling
waters for a few moments. "Ah! yes--I discern certain figures, but they
are confused by the steam, and broken by the agitation of the water."

"Caldron--cease boiling! and smoke--disperse!" cried Mother Chattox,
stamping her foot. "Now, can you see more plainly?"

"I can," replied Mistress Nutter; "I behold the subterranean chamber
beneath Malkin Tower, with its nine ponderous columns, its altar in the
midst of them, its demon image, and the well with waters black as Lethe
beside it."

"The water within the caldron came from that well," said Mother Chattox,
with a chuckling laugh; "my familiar risked his liberty to bring it, but
he succeeded. Ha! ha! My precious Fancy, thou art the best of servants,
and shalt have my best blood to reward thee to-morrow--thou shalt, my
sweetheart, my chuck, my dandyprat. But hie thee back to Malkin Tower,
and contrive that this lady may hear, as well as see, all that passes.
Away!"

Mistress Nutter concluded that the injunction would be obeyed; but, as
the familiar was invisible to her, she could not detect his departure.

"Do you see no one within the dungeon?" inquired Mother Chattox.

"Ah! yes," exclaimed the lady; "I have at last discovered Alizon. She
was behind one of the pillars. A little girl is with her. It is Jennet
Device, and, from the spiteful looks of the latter, I judge she is
mocking her. Oh! what malice lurks in the breast of that hateful child!
She is a true descendant of Mother Demdike. But Alizon--sweet, patient
Alizon--she seems to bear all her taunts with a meekness and resignation
enough to move the hardest heart. I would weep for her if I could. And
now Jennet shakes her hand at her, and leaves her. She is alone. What
will she do now? Has she no thoughts of escape? Oh, yes! She looks about
her distractedly--runs round the vault--tries the door of every cell:
they are all bolted and barred--there is no outlet--none!"

"What next?" inquired the hag.

"She shrieks aloud," rejoined Mistress Nutter, "and the cry thrills
through every fibre in my frame. She calls upon me for aid--upon me, her
mother, and little thinks I hear her, and am unable to help her. Oh! it
is horrible. Take me to her, good Chattox--take me to her, I implore
you!"

"Impossible!" replied the hag: "you must await the fitting time. If you
cannot control yourself, I shall remove the caldron."

"Oh! no, no," cried the distracted lady. "I will be calm. Ah! what is
this I see?" she added, belying her former words by sudden vehemence,
while rage and astonishment were depicted upon her countenance. "What
infernal delusion is practised upon my child! This is monstrous--
intolerable. Oh! that I could undeceive her--could warn her
of the snare!"

"What is the nature of the delusion?" asked Mother Chattox, with some
curiosity. "I am so blind I cannot see the figures on the water."

"It is an evil spirit in my likeness," replied Mistress Nutter.

"In your likeness!" exclaimed the hag. "A cunning device--and worthy of
old Demdike--ho! ho!"

"I can scarce bear to look on," cried Mistress Nutter; "but I must,
though it tears my heart in pieces to witness such cruelty. The poor
girl has rushed to her false parent--has thrown her arms around her, and
is weeping on her shoulder. Oh! it is a maddening sight. But it is
nothing to what follows. The temptress, with the subtlety of the old
serpent, is pouring lies into her ear, telling her they both are
captives, and both will perish unless she consents to purchase their
deliverance at the price of her soul, and she offers her a bond to
sign--such a bond as, alas! thou and I, Chattox, have signed. But Alizon
rejects it with horror, and gazes at her false mother as if she
suspected the delusion. But the temptress is not to be beaten thus. She
renews her entreaties, casts herself on the ground, and clasps my
child's knees in humblest supplication. Oh! that Alizon would place her
foot upon her neck and crush her. But it is not so the good act. She
raises her, and tells her she will willingly die for her; but her soul
was given to her by her Creator, and must be returned to him. Oh! that I
had thought of this."

"And what answer makes the spirit?" asked the witch.

"It laughs derisively," replied Mistress Nutter; "and proceeds to use
all those sophistical arguments, which we have so often heard, to
pervert her mind, and overthrow her principles. But Alizon is proof
against them all. Religion and virtue support her, and make her more
than a match for her opponent. Equally vain are the spirit's attempts to
seduce her by the offer of a life of sinful enjoyment. She rejects it
with angry scorn. Failing in argument and entreaty, the spirit now
endeavours to work upon her fears, and paints, in appalling colours, the
tortures she will have to endure, contrasting them with the delight she
is voluntarily abandoning, with the lover she might espouse, with the
high worldly position she might fill. 'What are worldly joys and honours
compared with those of heaven!' exclaims Alizon; 'I would not exchange
them.' The spirit then, in a vision, shows her her lover, Richard, and
asks her if she can resist his entreaties. The trial is very sore, as
she gazes on that beloved form, seeming, by its passionate gestures, to
implore her to assent, but she is firm, and the vision disappears. The
ordeal is now over. Alizon has triumphed over all their arts. The spirit
in my likeness resumes its fiendish shape, and, with a dreadful menace
against the poor girl, vanishes from her sight."

"Mother Demdike has not done with her yet," observed Chattox.

"You are right," replied Mistress Nutter. "The old hag descends the
staircase leading to the vault, and approaches the miserable captive.
With her there are no supplications--no arguments; but commands and
terrible threats. She is as unsuccessful as her envoy. Alizon has gained
courage and defies her."

"Ha! does she so?" exclaimed Mother Chattox. "I am glad of it."

"The solid floor resounds with the stamping of the enraged witch,"
pursued Mistress Nutter. "She tells Alizon she will take her to Pendle
Hill at midnight, and there offer her up as a sacrifice to the Fiend. My
child replies that she trusts for her deliverance to Heaven--that her
body may be destroyed--that her soul cannot be harmed. Scarcely are the
words uttered than a terrible clangour is heard. The walls of the
dungeon seem breaking down, and the ponderous columns reel. The demon
statue rises on its throne, and a stream of flame issues from its brow.
The doors of the cells burst open, and with the clanking of chains, and
other dismal noises, skeleton shapes stalk forth, from them, each with a
pale blue light above its head. Monstrous beasts, like tiger-cats, with
rough black skins and flaming eyes, are moving about, and looking as if
they would spring upon the captive. Two gravestones are now pushed
aside, and from the cold earth arise the forms of Blackburn, the robber,
and his paramour, the dissolute Isole de Heton. She joins the grisly
throng now approaching the distracted girl, who falls insensible to the
ground."

"Can you see aught more?" asked the hag, as Mistress Nutter still bent
eagerly over the caldron.

"No; the whole chamber is buried in darkness," replied the lady; "I can
see nothing of my poor child. What will become of her?"

"I will question Fancy," replied the hag, throwing some fresh
ingredients into the chafing-dish; and, as the smoke arose, she
vociferated, "Come hither, Fancy; I want thee, my fondling, my sweet.
Come quickly! ha! thou art here."

The familiar was still invisible to Mistress Nutter, but a slight sound
made her aware of his presence.

"And now, my sweet Fancy," pursued the hag, "tell us, if thou canst,
what will be done with Alizon, and what course we must pursue to free
her from old Demdike?"

"At present she is in a state of insensibility," replied a harsh voice,
"and she will be kept in that condition till she is conveyed to the
summit of Pendle Hill. I have already told you it is useless to attempt
to take her from Malkin Tower. It is too well guarded. Your only chance
will be to interrupt the sacrifice."

"But how, my sweet Fancy? how, my little darling?" inquired the hag.

"It is a perplexing question," replied the voice; "for, by showing you
how to obtain possession of the girl, I disobey my lord."

"Ay, but you serve me--you please me, my pretty Fancy," cried the hag.
"You shall quaff your fill of blood on the morrow, if you do this for
me. I want to get rid of my old enemy--to catch her in her own toils--to
send her to a dungeon--to burn her--ha! ha! You must help me, my little
sweetheart."

"I will do all I can," replied the voice; "but Mother Demdike is cunning
and powerful, and high in favour with my lord. You must have mortal aid
as well as mine. The officers of justice must be there to seize her at
the moment when the victim is snatched from her, or she will baffle all
your schemes."

"And how shall we accomplish this?" asked Mother Chattox.

"I will tell you," said Mistress Nutter to the hag. "Let him put on the
form of Richard Assheton, and in that guise hasten to Rough Lee, where
he will find the young man's cousin, Nicholas, to whom he must make
known the dreadful deed about to be enacted on Pendle Hill. Nicholas
will at once engage to interrupt it. He can arm himself with the weapons
of justice by taking with him Roger Nowell, the magistrate, and his
myrmidon, Potts, the attorney, both of whom are detained prisoners in
the house by my orders."

"The scheme promises well, and shall be adopted," replied the hag; "but
suppose Richard himself should appear first on the scene. Dost know
where he is, my sweet Fancy?"

"When I last saw him," replied the voice, "he was lying senseless on the
ground, at the foot of Malkin Tower, having been precipitated from the
doorway by Mother Demdike. You need apprehend no interference from him."

"It is well," replied Mother Chattox. "Then take his form, my pet,
though it is not half as handsome as thy own."

"A black skin and goat-like limbs are to thy taste, I know," replied the
familiar, with a laugh.

"Let me look upon him before he goes, that I may be sure the likeness is
exact," said Mistress Nutter.

"Thou hearest, Fancy! Become visible to her," cried the hag.

And as she spoke, a figure in all respects resembling Richard stood
before them.

"What think you of him? Will he do?" said Mother Chattox.

"Ay," replied the lady; "and now send him off at once. There is no time
to lose."

"I shall be there in the twinkling of an eye," said the familiar; "but I
own I like not the task."

"There is no help for it, my sweet Fancy," cried the hag. "I cannot
forego my triumph over old Demdike. Now, away with thee, and when thou
hast executed thy mission, return and tell us how thou hast sped in the
matter."

The familiar promised obedience to her commands, and disappeared.




CHAPTER XIV.--HOW ROUGH LEE WAS AGAIN BESIEGED.


Parson Holden, it will be remembered, left Rough Lee, charged by Potts
with a message to Sir Ralph Assheton, informing him of his detention and
that of Roger Nowell, by Mistress Nutter, and imploring him to come to
their assistance without delay. Congratulating himself on his escape,
but apprehensive of pursuit, the worthy rector, who, as a keen
huntsman, was extremely well mounted, made the best of his way, and had
already passed the gloomy gorge through which Pendle Water swept, had
climbed the hill beyond it, and was crossing the moor now alone lying
between him and Goldshaw, when he heard a shout behind him, and, turning
at the sound, beheld Blackadder and another mounted serving-man issuing
from a thicket, and spurring furiously after him. Relying upon the speed
of his horse, he disregarded their cries, and accelerated his pace; but,
in spite of this, his pursuers gained upon him rapidly.

While debating the question of resistance or surrender, the rector
descried Bess Whitaker coming towards him from the opposite direction--a
circumstance that greatly rejoiced him; for, aware of her strength and
courage, he felt sure he could place as much dependence upon her in this
emergency as on any man in the county. Bess was riding a stout,
rough-looking nag, apparently well able to sustain her weight, and
carried the redoubtable horsewhip with her.

On the other hand, Holden had been recognised by Bess, who came up just
as he was overtaken and seized by his assailants, one of whom caught
hold of his cassock, and tore it from his back, while the other, seizing
hold of his bridle, endeavoured, in spite of his efforts to the
contrary, to turn his horse round. Many oaths, threats, and blows were
exchanged during the scuffle, which no doubt would have terminated in
the rector's defeat, and his compulsory return to Rough Lee, had it not
been for the opportune arrival of Bess, who, swearing as lustily as the
serving-men, and brandishing the horsewhip, dashed into the scene of
action, and, with a few well-applied cuts, liberated the divine. Enraged
at her interference, and smarting from the application of the whip,
Blackadder drew a petronel from his girdle, and levelled it at her head;
but, ere he could discharge it, the weapon was stricken from his grasp,
and a second blow on the head from the but-end of the whip felled him
from his horse. Seeing the fate of his companion, the other serving-man
fled, leaving Bess mistress of the field.

The rector thanked her heartily for the service she had rendered him,
and complimented her on her prowess.

"Ey'n neaw dun mitch to boast on i' leatherin' them two seawr-feaced
rapscallions," said Bess, with becoming modesty. "Simon Blackadder an ey
ha' had mony a tussle together efore this, fo he's a feaw tempert felly,
an canna drink abowt fightin', boh he has awlus found me more nor his
match. Boh save us, your reverence, what were the ill-favort gullions
ridin' after ye for? Firrups tak 'em! they didna mean to rob ye,
surely?"

"Their object was to make me prisoner, and carry me back to Rough Lee,
Bess," replied Holden. "They wished to prevent my going to Whalley,
whither I am bound, to procure help from Sir Ralph Assheton to liberate
Master Roger Nowell and his attorney, who are forcibly detained by
Mistress Nutter."

"Yo may spare yer horse an yersel the jorney, then, reverend sir,"
replied Bess; "for yo'n foind Sir Tummus Metcawfe, wi' some twanty or
throtty followers, armed wi' bills, hawberts, petronels, and calivers,
at Goldshaw, an they win go wi' ye at wanst, ey'm sartin. Ey heerd sum
o' t' chaps say os ow Sir Tummus is goin' to tak' possession o' Mistress
Robinson's house, Raydale Ha', i' Wensley Dale, boh nah doubt he'n go
furst wi' yer rev'rence, 'specially as he bears Mistress Nutter a
grudge."

"At all events, I will ask him," said Holden. "Are he and his followers
lodged at your house, Bess?"

"Yeigh," replied the hostess, "some on 'en are i' th' house, some i' th'
barn, an some i' th' stables. The place is awtogether owerrun wi' 'em.
Ey wur so moydert an wurrotit wi' their ca'in an bawlin fo' ele an
drink, that ey swore they shouldna ha' another drawp wi' my consent; an,
to be os good os my word, ey clapt key o' t' cellar i' my pocket, an
leavin' our Margit to answer 'em, ey set out os yo see, intendin' to go
os far as t' mill, an comfort poor deeavely Ruchot Baldwyn in his
trouble."

"A most praiseworthy resolution, Bess," said the rector; "but what is to
be done with this fellow?" he added, pointing to Blackadder, who, though
badly hurt, was trying to creep towards the petronel, which was lying at
a little distance from him on the ground.

Perceiving his intention, Bess quickly dismounted, and possessing
herself of the weapon, stepped aside, and slipping off one of the bands
that confined the hose on her well-shaped leg, grasped the wounded man
by the shoulders, and with great expedition tied his hands behind his
back. She then lifted him up with as much ease as if he had been an
infant, and set him upon his horse, with his face towards the tail. This
done, she gave the bridle to the rector, and handing him the petronel at
the same time, told him to take care of his prisoner, for she must
pursue her journey. And with this, in spite of his renewed entreaties
that she would go back with him, she sprang on her horse and rode off.

On arriving at Goldshaw with his prisoner, the rector at once proceeded
to the hostel, in front of which he found several of the villagers
assembled, attracted by the numerous company within doors, whose shouts
and laughter could be heard at a considerable distance. Holden's
appearance with Blackadder occasioned considerable surprise, and all
eagerly gathered round him to learn what had occurred; but, without
satisfying their curiosity, beyond telling them he had been attacked by
the prisoner, he left him in their custody and entered the house, where
he found all the benches in the principal room occupied by a crew of
half-drunken roysterers, with flagons of ale before them; for, after
Bess's departure with the key, they had broken into the cellar, and,
broaching a cask, helped themselves to its contents. Various weapons
were scattered about the tables or reared against the walls, and the
whole scene looked like a carouse by a band of marauders. Little respect
was shown the rector, and he was saluted by many a ribald jest as he
pushed his way towards the inner room.

Sir Thomas was drinking with a couple of desperadoes, whose long rapiers
and tarnished military equipments seemed to announce that they had, at
some time or other, belonged to the army, though their ruffianly looks
and braggadocio air and discourse, strongly seasoned with oaths and
slang, made it evident that they were now little better than Alsatian
bullies. They had, in fact, been hired by Sir Thomas for the expedition
on which he was bent, as he could find no one in the country upon whom
he could so well count as on them. Eyeing the rector fiercely, as he
intruded upon their privacy, they glanced at their leader to ask whether
they should turn him out; but, receiving no encouragement for such
rudeness, they contented themselves with scowling at him from beneath
their bent brows, twisting up their shaggy mustaches, and trifling with
the hilts of their rapiers. Holden opened his business at once; and as
soon as Sir Thomas heard it, he sprang to his feet, and, swearing a
great oath, declared he would storm Rough Lee, and burn it to the
ground, if Mistress Nutter did not set the two captives free.

"As to the audacious witch herself, I will carry her off, in spite of
the devil, her master!" he cried. "How say you, Captain Gauntlet--and
you too, Captain Storks, is not this an expedition to your tastes--ha?"

The two worthies appealed to responded joyously, that it was so; and it
was then agreed that Blackadder should be brought in and interrogated,
as some important information might be obtained from him. Upon this,
Captain Gauntlet left the room to fetch him, and presently afterwards
returned dragging in the prisoner, who looked dogged and angry, by the
shoulders.

"Harkye, fellow," said Sir Thomas, sternly, "if you do not answer the
questions I shall put to you, truly and satisfactorily, I will have you
taken out into the yard, and shot like a dog. Thus much premised, I
shall proceed with my examination. Master Roger Nowell and Master Thomas
Potts, you are aware, are unlawfully detained prisoners by Mistress
Alice Nutter. Now I have been called upon by the reverend gentleman here
to undertake their liberation, but, before doing so, I desire to know
from you what defensive and offensive preparations your mistress has
made, and whether you judge it likely she will attempt to hold out her
house against us?"

"Most assuredly she will," replied Blackadder, "and against twice your
force. Rough Lee is as strong as a castle; and as those within it are
well-armed, vigilant, and of good courage, there is little fear of its
capture. If your worship should propose terms to my mistress for the
release of her prisoners, she may possibly assent to them; but if you
approach her in hostile fashion, and demand their liberation, I am well
assured she will resist you, and well assured, also, she will resist you
effectually."

"I shall approach her in no other sort than that of an enemy," rejoined
Sir Thomas; "but thou art over confident, knave. Unless thy mistress
have a legion of devils at her back, and they hold us in check, we will
force a way into her dwelling. Fire and fury! dost presume to laugh at
me, fellow? Take him hence, and let him be soundly cudgeled for his
insolence, Gauntlet."

"Pardon me, your worship," cried Blackadder, "I only smiled at the
strange notions you entertain of my mistress."

"Why, dost mean to deny that she is a witch?" demanded Metcalfe.

"Nay, if your worship will have it so, it is not for me to contradict
you," replied Blackadder.

"But I ask thee is she not a servant of Satan?--dost thou not know
it?--canst thou not prove it?" cried the knight. "Shall we put him to
the torture to make him confess?"

"Ay, tie his thumbs together till the blood burst forth, Sir Thomas,"
said Gauntlet.

"Or hang him up to yon beam by the heels," suggested Captain Storks.

"On no account," interposed Holden. "I did not bring him hither to be
dealt with in this way, and I will not permit it. If torture is to be
administered it must be by the hands of justice, into which I require
him to be delivered; and then, if he can testify aught against his
mistress, he will be made to do it."

"Torture shall never wring a word from me, whether wrongfully or
rightfully applied," said Blackadder, doggedly; "though I could tell
much if I chose. Now give heed to me, Sir Thomas. You will never take
Rough Lee, still less its mistress, without my help."

"What are thy terms, knave?" exclaimed the knight, pondering upon the
offer. "And take heed thou triflest not with me, or I will have thee
flogged within an inch of thy life, in spite of parson or justice. What
are thy terms, I repeat?"

"They are for your worship's ear alone," replied Blackadder.

"Beware what you do, Sir Thomas," interposed Holden. "I hold it my duty
to tell you, you are compromising justice in listening to the base
proposals of this man, who, while offering to betray his mistress, will
assuredly deceive you. You will equally deceive him in feigning to agree
to terms which you cannot fulfil."

"Cannot fulfil!" ejaculated the knight, highly offended; "I would have
you to know, sir, that Sir Thomas Metcalfe's word is his bond, and that
whatsoever he promises he _will_ fulfil in spite of the devil! Body o'
me! but for the respect I owe your cloth, I would give you a very
different answer, reverend sir. But since you have chosen to thrust
yourself unasked into the affair, I take leave to say that I _will_ hear
this knave's proposals, and judge for myself of the expediency of
acceding to them. I must pray you therefore, to withdraw. Nay, if you
will not go hence peaceably, you shall perforce. Take him away,
gentlemen."

Thus enjoined, the Alsatian captains took each an arm of the rector, and
forced him out of the room, leaving Sir Thomas alone with the prisoner.
Greatly incensed at the treatment he had experienced, Holden instantly
quitted the house, hastened to the rectory, which adjoined the church,
and having given some messages to his household, rode off to Whalley,
with the intention of acquainting Sir Ralph Assheton with all that had
occurred.

Sir Thomas Metcalfe remained closeted with the prisoner for a few
minutes, and then coming forth, issued orders that all should get ready
to start for Rough Lee without delay; whereupon each man emptied his
flagon, pocketed the dice he had been cogging, pushed aside the
shuffle-board, left the loggats on the clay floor of the barn, and,
grasping his weapon--halbert or caliver, as it might be--prepared to
attend his leader. Sir Thomas did not relate, even to the Alsatian
captains, what had passed between him and Blackadder; but it did not
appear that he placed entire confidence in the latter; for though he
caused his hands to be unbound, and allowed him in consideration of his
wounded state to ride, he secretly directed Gauntlet and Storks to keep
near him, and shoot him through the head if he attempted to escape. Both
these personages were provided with horses as well as their leader, but
all the rest of the party were on foot. Metcalfe made some inquiries
after the rector, but finding he was gone, he did not concern himself
further about him. Before starting, the knight, who, with all his
recklessness, had a certain sense of honesty, called the girl who had
been left in charge of the hostel by Bess, and gave her a sum amply
sufficient to cover all the excesses of his men, adding a handsome
gratuity to herself.

The first part of the journey was accomplished without mischance, and
the party bade fair to arrive at the end of it in safety; but as they
entered the gorge, at the extremity of which Rough Lee was situated, a
terrific storm burst upon them, compelling them to seek shelter in the
mill, from which they were luckily not far distant at the time. The
house was completely deserted, but they were well able to shift for
themselves, and not over scrupulous in the manner of doing so; and as
the remains of the funeral feast were not removed from the table, some
of the company sat down to them, while others found their way to the
cellar.

The storm was of long continuance, much longer than was agreeable to Sir
Thomas, and he paced the room to and fro impatiently, ever and anon
walking to the window or door, to see whether it had in any degree
abated, and was constantly doomed to disappointment. Instead of
diminishing, it increased in violence, and it was now impossible to quit
the house with safety. The lightning blazed, the thunder rattled among
the overhanging rocks, and the swollen stream of Pendle Water roared at
their feet. Blackadder was left under the care of the two Alsatians, but
while they had shielded their eyes from the glare of the lightning, he
threw open the window, and, springing through it, made good his retreat.
In such a storm it was in vain to follow him, even if they had dared to
attempt it.

In vain Sir Thomas Metcalfe fumed and fretted--in vain he heaped curses
upon the bullies for their negligence--in vain he hurled menaces after
the fugitive: the former paid little heed to his imprecations, and the
latter was beyond his reach. The notion began to gain ground amongst the
rest of the troop that the storm was the work of witchcraft, and
occasioned general consternation. Even the knight's anger yielded to
superstitious fear, and as a terrific explosion shook the rafters
overhead, and threatened to bring them down upon him, he fell on his
knees, and essayed, with unaccustomed lips, to murmur a prayer. But he
was interrupted; for amid the deep silence succeeding the awful crash, a
mocking laugh was heard, and the villainous countenance of Blackadder,
rendered doubly hideous by the white lightning, was seen at the
casement. The sight restored Sir Thomas at once. Drawing his sword he
flew to the window, but before he could reach it Blackadder was gone.
The next flash showed what had befallen him. In stepping backwards, he
tumbled into the mill-race; and the current, increased in depth and
force by the deluging rain, instantly swept him away.

Half an hour after this, the violence of the storm had perceptibly
diminished, and Sir Thomas and his companions began to hope that their
speedy release was at hand. Latterly the knight had abandoned all idea
of attacking Rough Lee, but with the prospect of fair weather his
courage returned, and he once more resolved to attempt it. He was moving
about among his followers, striving to dispel their fears, and persuade
them that the tempest was only the result of natural causes, when the
door was suddenly thrown open, giving entrance to Bess Whitaker, who
bore the miller in her arms. She stared on seeing the party assembled,
and knit her brows, but said nothing till she had deposited Baldwyn in a
seat, when she observed to Sir Thomas, that he seemed to have little
scruple in taking possession of a house in its owner's absence. The
knight excused himself for the intrusion by saying, he had been
compelled by the storm to take refuge there with his followers--a plea
readily admitted by Baldwyn, who was now able to speak for himself; and
the miller next explained that he had been to Rough Lee, and after many
perilous adventures, into the particulars of which he did not enter,
had been brought away by Bess, who had carried him home. That home he
now felt would be a lonely and insecure one unless she would consent to
occupy it with him; and Bess, on being thus appealed to, affirmed that
the only motive that would induce her to consent to such an arrangement
would be her desire to protect him from his mischievous neighbours.
While they were thus discoursing, Old Mitton, who it appeared had
followed them, arrived wellnigh exhausted, and Baldwyn went in search of
some refreshment for him.

By this time the storm had sufficiently cleared off to allow the others
to take their departure; and though the miller and Bess would fain have
dissuaded the knight from the enterprise, he was not to be turned aside,
but, bidding his men attend him, set forth. The rain had ceased, but it
was still very dark. Under cover of the gloom, however, they thought
they could approach the house unobserved, and obtain an entrance before
Mistress Nutter could be aware of their arrival. In this expectation
they pursued their way in silence, and soon stood before the gates.
These were fastened, but as no one appeared to be on the watch, Sir
Thomas, in a low tone, ordered some of his men to scale the walls, with
the intention of following himself; but scarcely had a head risen above
the level of the brickwork than the flash of an arquebuss was seen, and
the man jumped backwards, luckily just in time to avoid the bullet that
whistled over him. An alarm was then instantly given, voices were heard
in the garden, mingled with the furious barking of hounds. A bell was
rung from the upper part of the house, and lights appeared at the
windows.

Meanwhile, some of the men, less alarmed than their comrade, contrived
to scramble over the wall, and were soon engaged hand to hand with those
on the opposite side. But not alone had they to contend with adversaries
like themselves. The stag-hounds, which had done so much execution
during the first attack upon the house by Roger Nowell, raged amongst
them like so many lions, rending their limbs, and seizing their throats.
To free themselves from these formidable antagonists was their first
business, and by dint of thrust from pike, cut from sword, and ball from
caliver, they succeeded in slaughtering two of them, and driving the
others, badly wounded, and savagely howling, away. In doing this,
however, they themselves had sustained considerable injury. Three of
their number were lying on the ground, in no condition, from their
broken heads, or shattered limbs, for renewing the combat.

Thus, so far as the siege had gone, success seemed to declare itself
rather for the defenders than the assailants, when a new impulse was
given to the latter, by the bursting open of the gates, and the sudden
influx of Sir Thomas Metcalfe and the rest of his troop. The knight was
closely followed by the Alsatian captains, who, with tremendous oaths in
their mouths, and slashing blades in their hands, declared they would
make minced meat of any one opposing their progress. Sir Thomas was
equally truculent in expression and ferocious in tone, and as the whole
party laid about them right and left, they speedily routed the defenders
of the garden, and drove them towards the house. Flushed by their
success, the besiegers shouted loudly, and Sir Thomas roared out, that
ere many minutes Nowell and Potts should be set free, and Alice Nutter
captured. But before he could reach the main door, Nicholas Assheton,
well armed, and attended by some dozen men, presented himself at it.
These were instantly joined by the retreating party, and the whole
offered a formidable array of opponents, quite sufficient to check the
progress of the besiegers. Two or three of the men near Nicholas carried
torches, and their light revealed the numbers on both sides.

"What! is it you, Sir Thomas Metcalfe?" cried the squire. "Do you commit
such outrages as this--do you break into habitations like a robber,
rifle them, and murder their inmates? Explain yourself, sir, or I will
treat you as I would a common plunderer; shoot you through the head, or
hang you to the first tree if I take you."

"Zounds and fury!" rejoined Metcalfe. "Do you dare to liken me to a
common robber and murderer? Take care you do not experience the same
fate as that with which you threaten me, with this difference only, that
the hangman--the common hangman of Lancaster--shall serve your turn. I
am come hither to arrest a notorious witch, and to release two gentlemen
who are unlawfully detained prisoners by her; and if you do not
instantly deliver her up to me, and produce the two individuals in
question, Master Roger Nowell and Master Potts, I will force my way into
the house, and all injury done to those who oppose me will rest on your
head."

"The two gentlemen you have named are perfectly safe and contented in
their quarters," replied Nicholas; "and as to the foul and false
aspersions you have thrown out against Mistress Nutter, I cast them back
in your teeth. Your purpose in coming hither is to redress some private
wrong. How is it you have such a rout with you? How is it I behold two
notorious bravos by your side--men who have stood in the pillory, and
undergone other ignominious punishment for their offences? You cannot
answer, and their oaths and threats go for nothing. I now tell you, Sir
Thomas, if you do not instantly withdraw your men, and quit these
premises, grievous consequences will ensue to you and them."

"I will hear no more," cried Sir Thomas, infuriated to the last degree.
"Follow me into the house, and spare none who oppose you."

"You are not in yet," cried Nicholas.

And as he spoke a row of pikes bristled around him, holding the knight
at bay, while a hook was fixed in the doublet of each of the Alsatian
captains, and they were plucked forward and dragged into the house. This
done, Nicholas and his men quickly retreated, and the door was closed
and barred upon the enraged and discomfited knight.




CHAPTER XV.--THE PHANTOM MONK.


Many hours had passed by, and night had come on--a night profoundly
dark. Richard was still lying where he had fallen at the foot of Malkin
Tower; for though he had regained his sensibility, he was so bruised and
shaken as to be wholly unable to move. His limbs, stiffened and
powerless, refused their office, and, after each unsuccessful effort, he
sank back with a groan.

His sole hope was that Mistress Nutter, alarmed by his prolonged
absence, might come to her daughter's assistance, and so discover his
forlorn situation; but as time flew by, and nothing occurred, he gave
himself up for lost.

On a sudden the gloom was dispersed, and a silvery light shed over the
scene. The moon had broken through a rack of clouds, and illumined the
tall mysterious tower, and the dreary waste around it. With the light a
ghostly figure near him became visible to Richard, which under other
circumstances would have excited terror in his breast, but which now
only filled him with wonder. It was that of a Cistertian monk; the
vestments were old and faded, the visage white and corpse-like. Richard
at once recognised the phantom he had seen in the banquet-hall at the
Abbey, and had afterwards so rashly followed to the conventual church.
It touched him with its icy fingers, and a dullness like death shot
through his heart.

"Why dost thou trouble me thus, unhappy spirit?" said the young man.
"Leave me, I adjure thee, and let me die in peace!"

"Thou wilt not die yet, Richard Assheton," returned the phantom; "and my
intention is not to trouble thee, but to serve thee. Without my aid thou
wouldst perish where thou liest, but I will raise thee up, and set thee
on thy way."

"Wilt thou help me to liberate Alizon?" demanded Richard.

"Do not concern thyself further about her," replied the phantom; "she
must pass through an ordeal with which nothing human may interfere. If
she escape it you will meet again. If not, it were better thou shouldst
be in thy grave than see her. Take this phial. Drink thou the liquid it
contains, and thy strength will return to thee."

"How do I know thou art not sent hither by Mother Demdike to tempt
me?" demanded Richard, doubtfully. "I have already fallen into her
snares," he added, with a groan.

[Illustration: THE PHANTOM MONK.]

"I am Mother Demdike's enemy, and the appointed instrument of her
punishment," replied the monk, in a tone that did not admit of question.
"Drink, and fear nothing."

Richard obeyed, and the next moment sprang to his feet.

"Thou hast indeed restored me!" he cried. "I would fain reach the secret
entrance to the tower."

"Attempt it not, I charge thee!" cried the phantom; "but depart
instantly for Pendle Hill."

"Wherefore should I go thither?" demanded Richard.

"Thou wilt learn anon," returned the monk. "I cannot tell thee more now.
Dismount at the foot of the hill, and proceed to the beacon. Thou
know'st it?"

"I do," replied Richard. "There a fire was lighted which was meant to
set all England in a blaze."

"And which led many good men to destruction," said the monk, in a tone
of indescribable sadness. "Alas! for him who kindled it. The offence is
not yet worked out. But depart without more delay; and look not back."

As Richard hastened towards the spot where he had left Merlin, he
fancied he was followed by the phantom; but, obedient to the injunction
he received, he did not turn his head. As he mounted the horse, who
neighed cheerily as he drew near, he found he was right in supposing the
monk to be behind him, for he heard his voice calling out, "Linger not
by the way. To the beacon!--to the beacon!"

Thus exhorted, the young man dashed off, and, to his great surprise,
found Merlin as fresh as if he had undergone no fatigue during the day.
It would almost seem, from his spirit, that he had partaken of the same
wondrous elixir which had revived his master. Down the hill he plunged,
regardless of the steep descent, and soon entered the thicket where the
storm had fallen upon them, and where so many acts of witchcraft were
performed. Now, neither accident nor obstacle occurred to check the
headlong pace of the animal, though the stones rattled after him as he
struck them with his flying hoof. The moonlight quivered on the branches
of the trees, and on the tender spray, and all looked as tranquil and
beautiful as it had so lately been gloomy and disturbed. The wood was
passed, and the last and steepest descent cleared. The little bridge was
at hand, and beneath was Pendle Water, rushing over its rocky bed, and
glittering like silver in the moon's rays. But here Richard had wellnigh
received a check. A party of armed men, it proved, occupied the road
leading to Rough Lee, about a bow-shot from the bridge, and as soon as
they perceived he was taking the opposite course, with the apparent
intention of avoiding them, they shouted to him to stay. This shout made
Richard aware of their presence, for he had not before observed them,
as they were concealed by the intervention of some small trees; but
though surprised at the circumstance, and not without apprehension that
they might be there with a hostile design to Mistress Nutter, he did not
slacken his pace. A horseman, who appeared to be their leader, rode
after him for a short distance, but finding pursuit futile, he desisted,
pouring forth a volley of oaths and threats, in a voice that proclaimed
him as Sir Thomas Metcalfe. This discovery confirmed Richard in his
supposition that mischief was intended Mistress Nutter; but even this
conviction, strengthened by his antipathy to Metcalfe, was not
sufficiently strong to induce him to stop. Promising himself to return
on the morrow, and settle accounts with the insolent knight, he speeded
on, and, passing the mill, tracked the rocky gorge above it, and began
to mount another hill. Despite the ascent, Merlin never slackened his
pace, but, though his master would have restrained him, held on as
before. But the brow of the hill attained, Richard compelled him to a
brief halt.

By this time the sky was comparatively clear, but small clouds were
sailing across the heavens, and at one moment the moon would be obscured
by them, and the next, burst forth with sudden effulgence. These
alternations produced corresponding effects on the broad, brown, heathy
plain extending below, and fantastic shadows were cast upon it, which it
needed not Richard's heated imagination to liken to evil beings flying
past. The wind, too, lay in the direction of the north end of Pendle
Hill, whither Richard was about to shape his course, and the shadows
consequently trooped off towards that quarter. The vast mass of Pendle
rose in gloomy majesty before him, being thrown into shade, except at
its crown, where a flood of radiance rested.

Like an eagle swooping upon his prey, Richard descended into the valley,
and like a stag pursued by the huntsman he speeded across it. Neither
dyke, morass, nor stone wall checked him, or made him turn aside; and
almost as fast as the clouds hurrying above him, and their shadows
travelling at his feet, did he reach the base of Pendle Hill.

Making up to a shed, which, though empty, luckily contained a wisp or
two of hay, he turned Merlin into it, and commenced the ascent of the
hill on foot. After attaining a considerable elevation, he looked down
from the giddy heights upon the valley he had just traversed. A few
huts, forming the little village of Barley, lay sleeping in the
moonlight beneath him, while further off could be just discerned
Goldshaw, with its embowered church. A line of thin vapour marked the
course of Pendle Water, and thicker mists hovered over the mosses. The
shadows were still passing over the plain.

Pressing on, Richard soon came among the rocks protruding from the
higher part of the hill, and as the path was here not more than a foot
wide, rarely taken except by the sheep and their guardians, it was
necessary to proceed with the utmost caution, as a single false step
would have been fatal. After some toil, and not without considerable
risk, he reached the summit of the hill.

As he bounded over the springy turf, and inhaled the pure air of that
exalted region, his spirits revived, and new elasticity was communicated
to his limbs. He shaped his course near the edge of the hill, so that
the extensive view it commanded was fully displayed. But his eye rested
on the mountainous range on the opposite side of the valley, where
Malkin Tower was situated. Even in broad day the accursed structure
would have been invisible, as it stood on the further side of the hill,
overlooking Barrowford and Colne; but Richard knew its position well,
and while his gaze was fixed upon the point, he saw a star shoot down
from the heavens and apparently alight near the spot. The circumstance
alarmed him, for he could not help thinking it ominous of ill to Alizon.

Nothing, however, followed to increase his misgivings, and erelong he
came in sight of the beacon. The ground had been gradually rising, and
if he had proceeded a few hundred yards further, a vast panorama would
have opened upon him, comprising a large part of Lancashire on the one
hand, and on the other an equally extensive portion of Yorkshire. Forest
and fell, black moor and bright stream, old castle and stately hall,
would have then been laid before him as in a map. But other thoughts
engrossed him, and he went straight on. As far as he could discern he
was alone on the hill top; and the silence and solitude, coupled with
the ill report of the place, which at this hour was said to be often
visited by foul hags, for the performance of their unhallowed rites,
awakened superstitious fears in his breast.

He was soon by the side of the beacon. The stones were still standing as
they had been reared by Paslew, and on looking at them he was astonished
to find the hollow within them filled with dry furze, brushwood, and
fagots, as if in readiness for another signal. In passing round the
circle, his surprise was still further increased by discovering a torch,
and not far from it, in one of the interstices of the stones, a dark
lantern, in which, on removing the shade, he found a candle burning. It
was now clear the beacon was to be kindled that night, though for what
end he could not conjecture, and equally clear that he was brought
thither to fire it. He put back the lantern into its place, took up the
torch, and held himself in readiness.

Half an hour elapsed, and nothing occurred. During this interval it had
become dark. A curtain of clouds was drawn over the moon and stars.

Suddenly, a hurtling noise was heard in the air, and it seemed to the
watcher as if a troop of witches were alighting at a distance from him.

A loud hubbub of voices ensued--then there was a trampling of feet,
accompanied by discordant strains of music--after which a momentary
silence ensued, and a harsh voice asked--

"Why are we brought hither?"

"It is not for a sabbath," shouted another voice, "for there is neither
fire nor caldron."

"Mother Demdike would not summon us without good reason," cried a third.
"We shall learn presently what we have to do."

"The more mischief the better," rejoined another voice.

"Ay, mischief! mischief! mischief!" echoed the rest of the crew.

"You shall have enough of it to content you," rejoined Mother Demdike.
"I have called you hither to be present at a sacrifice."

Hideous screams of laughter followed this announcement, and the voice
that had spoken first asked--

"A sacrifice of whom?"

"An unbaptised babe, stolen from its sleeping mother's breast," rejoined
another. "Mother Demdike has often played that trick before--ho! ho!"

"Peace!" thundered the hag--"It is no babe I am about to kill, but a
full-grown maid--ay, and one of rarest beauty, too. What think ye of
Alizon Device?"

"Thy grand-daughter!" cried several voices, in surprise.

"Alice Nutter's daughter--for such she is," rejoined the hag. "I have
held her captive in Malkin Tower, and have subjected her to every trial
and temptation I could devise, but I have failed in shaking her courage,
or in winning her over to our master. All the horrors of the vault have
been tried upon her in vain. Even the last terrible ordeal, which no one
has hitherto sustained, proved ineffectual. She went through it
unmoved."

"Heaven be praised!" murmured Richard.

"It seems I have no power over her soul" pursued the hag; "but I have
over her body, and she shall die here, and by my hand. But mind me, not
a drop of blood must fall to the ground."

"Have no fear," cried several voices, "we will catch it in our palms and
quaff it."

"Hast thou thy knife, Mould-heels?" asked Mother Demdike.

"Ay," replied the other, "it is long and sharp, and will do thy business
well. Thy grandson, Jem Device, notched it by killing swine, and my
goodman ground it only yesterday. Take it."

"I will plunge it to her heart!" cried Mother Demdike, with an infernal
laugh. "And now I will tell you why we have neither fire nor caldron. On
questioning the ebon image in the vault as to the place where the
sacrifice should be made, I received for answer that it must be here,
and in darkness. No human eye but our own must behold it. We are safe on
this score, for no one is likely to come hither at this hour. No fire
must be kindled, or the sacrifice will result in destruction to us all.
Ye have heard, and understand?"

"We do," replied several husky voices.

"And so do I," said Richard, taking hold of the dark lantern.

"And now for the girl," cried Mother Demdike.




CHAPTER XVI.--ONE O'CLOCK!


Mistress Nutter and Mother Chattox were still at the hut, impatiently
awaiting the return of Fancy. But nearly an hour elapsed before he
appeared.

"What has detained thee so long?" demanded the hag, sharply, as he stood
before them.

"You shall hear, mistress," replied Fancy: "I have had a busy time of
it, I assure you, and thought I should never accomplish my errand. On
arriving at Rough Lee, I found the place invested by Sir Thomas Metcalfe
and a host of armed men, who had been sent thither by Parson Holden, for
the joint purpose of arresting you, madam," addressing Mistress Nutter,
"and liberating Nowell and Potts. The knight was in a great fume; for,
in spite of the force brought against it, the house had been stoutly
defended by Nicholas Assheton, who had worsted the besieging party, and
captured two Alsatian captains, hangers on of Sir Thomas. Appearing in
the character of an enemy, I was immediately surrounded by Metcalfe and
his men, who swore they would cut my throat unless I undertook to
procure the liberation of the two bravos in question, as well as that of
Nowell and Potts. I told them I was come for the express purpose of
setting free the two last-named gentlemen; but, with respect to the
former, I had no instructions, and they must arrange the matter with
Master Nicholas himself. Upon this Sir Thomas became exceedingly wroth
and insolent, and proceeded to such lengths that I resolved to chastise
him, and in so doing performed a feat which will tend greatly to exalt
Richard's character for courage and strength."

"Let us hear it, my doughty champion," cried Mother Chattox.

"While Metcalfe was pouring forth his rage, and menacing me with
uplifted hand," pursued the familiar, "I seized him by the throat,
dragged him from his horse, and in spite of the efforts of his men,
whose blows fell upon me thick as hail, and quite as harmlessly, I bore
him through the garden to the back of the house, where my shouts soon
brought Nicholas and others to my assistance, and after delivering my
captive to them, I dismounted. The squire, you will imagine, was
astonished to see me, and greatly applauded my prowess. I replied, with
the modesty becoming my assumed character, that I had done nothing, and,
in reality, the feat was nothing to me; but I told him I had something
of the utmost importance to communicate, and which could not be delayed
a moment; whereupon he led me to a small room adjoining the hall, while
the crestfallen knight was left to vent his rage and mortification on
the grooms to whose custody he was committed."

"You acted your part to perfection," said Mistress Nutter.

"Ay, trust my sweet Fancy for that," said the hag--"there is no familiar
like him--none whatever."

"Your praises make me blush," rejoined Fancy. "But to proceed. I
fulfilled your instructions to the letter, and excited Nicholas's horror
and indignation by the tale I told him. I laughed in my sleeve all the
while, but I maintained a very different countenance with him. He
thought me full of anguish and despair. He questioned me as to my
proceedings at Malkin Tower, and I amazed him with the description of a
fearful storm I had encountered--of my interview with old Demdike, and
her atrocious treatment of Alizon--to all of which he listened with
profound interest. Richard himself could not have moved him
more--perhaps not so much. As soon as I had finished, he vowed he would
rescue Alizon from the murtherous hag, and prevent the latter from
committing further mischief; and bidding me come with him, we repaired
to the room in which Nowell and Potts were confined. We found them both
fast asleep in their chairs; but Nicholas quickly awakened them, and
some explanations ensued, which did not at first appear very clear and
satisfactory to either magistrate or attorney, but in the end they
agreed to accompany us on the expedition, Master Potts declaring it
would compensate him for all his mischances if he could arrest Mother
Demdike."

"I hope he may have his wish," said Mother Chattox.

"Ay, but he declared that his next step should be to arrest you,
mistress," observed Fancy, with a laugh.

"Arrest me!" cried the hag. "Marry, let him touch me, if he dares. My
term is not out yet, and, with thee to defend me, my brave Fancy, I have
no fear."

"Right!" replied the familiar; "but to go on with my story. Sir Thomas
Metcalfe was next brought forward; and after some warm altercation,
peace was at length established between him and the squire, and hands
were shaken all round. Wine was then called for by Nicholas, who, at the
same time, directed that the two Alsatian captains should be brought up
from the cellar, where they had been placed for safety. The first part
of the order was obeyed, but the second was found impracticable,
inasmuch as the two heroes had found their way to the inner cellar, and
had emptied so many flasks that they were utterly incapable of moving.
While the wine was being discussed, an unexpected arrival took place."

"An arrival!--of whom?" inquired Mistress Nutter, eagerly.

"Sir Ralph Assheton and a large party," replied Fancy. "Parson Holden,
it seems, not content with sending Sir Thomas and his rout to the aid of
his friends, had proceeded for the same purpose to Whalley, and the
result was the appearance of the new party. A brief explanation from
Nicholas and myself served to put Sir Ralph in possession of all that
had occurred, and he declared his readiness to accompany the expedition
to Pendle Hill, and to take all his followers with him. Sir Thomas
Metcalfe expressed an equally strong desire to go with him, and of
course it was acceded to. I am bound to tell you, madam," added Fancy to
Mistress Nutter, "that your conduct is viewed in a most suspicious light
by every one of these persons, except Nicholas, who made an effort to
defend you."

"I care not what happens to me, if I succeed in rescuing my child," said
the lady. "But have they set out on the expedition?"

"By this time, no doubt they have," replied Fancy. "I got off by saying
I would ride on to Pendle Hill, and, stationing myself on its summit,
give them a signal when they should advance upon their prey. And now,
good mistress, I pray you dismiss me. I want to cast off this shape,
which I find an incumbrance, and resume my own. I will return when it is
time for you to set out."

The hag waved her hand, and the familiar was gone.

Half an hour elapsed, and he returned not. Mistress Nutter became
fearfully impatient. Three-quarters, and even the old hag was uneasy. An
hour, and he stood before them--dwarfish, fiendish, monstrous.

"It is time," he said, in a harsh voice; but the tones were music in the
wretched mother's ears.

"Come, then," she cried, rushing wildly forth.

"Ay, ay, I come," replied the hag, following her. "Not so fast. You
cannot go without me."

"Nor either of you without me," added Fancy. "Here, good mistress, is
your broomstick."

"Away for Pendle Hill!" screamed the hag.

"Ay, for Pendle Hill!" echoed Fancy.

And there was a whirling of dark figures through the air as before.

Presently they alighted on the summit of Pendle Hill, which seemed to be
wrapped in a dense cloud, for Mistress Nutter could scarcely see a yard
before her. Fancy's eyes, however, were powerful enough to penetrate the
gloom, for stepping back a few yards, he said--

"The expedition is at the foot of the hill, where they have made a
halt. We must wait a few moments, till I can ascertain what they mean to
do. Ah! I see. They are dividing into three parties. One detachment,
headed by Nicholas Assheton, with whom are Potts and Nowell, is about to
make the ascent from the spot where they now stand; another, commanded
by Sir Ralph Assheton, is moving towards the but-end of the hill; and
the third, headed by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, is proceeding to the right.
These are goodly preparations--ha! ha! But, what do I behold? The first
detachment have a prisoner with them. It is Jem Device, whom they have
captured on the way, I suppose. I can tell from the rascal's looks that
he is planning an escape. Patience, madam, I must see how he executes
his design. There is no hurry. They are all scrambling up the
hill-sides. Some one slips, and rolls down, and bruises himself severely
against the loose stones. Ho! ho! it is Master Potts. He is picked up by
James Device, who takes him on his shoulders. What means the knave by
such attention? We shall see anon. They continue to fight their way
upward, and have now reached the narrow path among the rocks. Take heed,
or your necks will be broken. Ho! ho! Well done, Jem,--bravo! lad. Thy
scheme is out now--ho! ho!"

"What has he done?" asked Mother Chattox.

"Run off with the attorney--with Master Potts," replied Fancy;
"disappeared in the gloom, so that it is impossible Nicholas can follow
him--ho! ho!"

"But my child!--where is my child?" cried Mistress Nutter, in agitated
impatience.

"Come with me, and I will lead you to her," replied Fancy, taking her
hand; "and do you keep close to us, mistress," he added to Mother
Chattox.

Moving quickly along the heathy plain, they soon reached a small dry
hollow, about a hundred paces from the beacon, in the midst of which, as
in a grave, was deposited the inanimate form of Alizon. When the spot
was indicated to her by Fancy, the miserable mother flew to it, and,
with indescribable delight, clasped her child to her breast. But the
next moment, a new fear seized her, for the limbs were stiff and cold,
and the heart had apparently ceased to beat.

"She is dead!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter, frantically.

"No; she is only in a magical trance," said Fancy; "my mistress can
instantly revive her."

"Prithee do so, then, good Chattox," implored the lady.

"Better defer it till we have taken her hence," rejoined the hag.

"Oh! no, now--now! Let me be assured she lives!" cried Mistress Nutter.

Mother Chattox reluctantly assented, and, touching Alizon with her
skinny finger, first upon the heart and then upon the brow, the poor
girl began to show symptoms of life.

"My child--my child!" cried Mistress Nutter, straining her to her
breast; "I am come to save thee!"

"You will scarce succeed, if you tarry here longer," said Fancy. "Away!"

"Ay, come away!" shrieked the hag, seizing Alizon's arm.

"Where are you about to take her?" asked Mistress Nutter.

"To my hut," replied Mother Chattox.

"No, no--she shall not go there," returned the lady.

"And wherefore not?" screamed the hag. "She is mine now, and I say she
_shall_ go."

"Right, mistress," said Fancy; "and leave the lady here if she objects
to accompany her. But be quick."

"You shall not take her from me!" shrieked Mistress Nutter, holding her
daughter fast. "I see through your diabolical purpose. You have the same
dark design as Mother Demdike, and would sacrifice her; but she shall
not go with you, neither will I."

"Tut!" exclaimed the hag, "you have lost your senses on a sudden. I do
not want your daughter. But come away, or Mother Demdike will surprise
us."

"Do not trifle with her longer," whispered Fancy to the hag; "drag the
girl away, or you will lose her. A few moments, and it will be too
late."

Mother Chattox made an attempt to obey him, but Mistress Nutter resisted
her.

"Curses on her!" she muttered, "she is too strong for me. Do thou help
me," she added, appealing to Fancy.

"I cannot," he replied; "I have done all I dare to help you. You must
accomplish the rest yourself."

"But, my sweet imp, recollect--"

"I recollect I have a master," interrupted the familiar.

"And a mistress, too," cried the hag; "and she will chastise thee if
thou art disobedient. I command thee to carry off this girl."

"I have already told you I dare not, and I now say I will not," replied
Fancy.

"Will not!" shrieked the hag. "Thou shalt smart for this. I will bury
thee in the heart of this mountain, and make thee labour within it like
a gnome. I will set thee to count the sands on the river's bed, and the
leaves on the forest trees. Thou shalt know neither rest nor respite."

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Fancy, mockingly.

"Dost deride me?" cried the hag. "I will do it, thou saucy jackanapes.
For the last time, wilt obey me?"

"No," replied Fancy, "and for this reason--your term is out. It expired
at midnight."

"It is false!" shrieked the hag, in accents of mixed terror and rage. "I
have months to run, and will renew it."

"Before midnight, you might have done so; but it is now too late--your
reign is over," rejoined Fancy. "Farewell, sweet mistress. We shall meet
once again, though scarcely under such pleasant circumstances as
heretofore."

"It cannot be, my darling Fancy; thou art jesting with me," whimpered
the hag; "thou wouldst not delude thy doating mistress thus."

"I have done with thee, foul hag," rejoined the familiar, "and am right
glad my service is ended. I could have saved thee, but would not, and
delayed my return for that very purpose. Thy soul was forfeited when I
came back to thy hut."

"Then curses on thee for thy treachery," cried the hag, "and on thy
master, who deceived me in the bond he placed before me."

The familiar laughed hoarsely.

"But what of Mother Demdike?" pursued the hag. "Hast thou no comfort for
me? Tell me her hour is likewise come, and I will forgive thee. But do
not let her triumph over me."

The familiar made no answer, but, laughing derisively, stamped upon the
ground, and it opened to receive him.

"Alizon!" cried Mistress Nutter, who in the mean time had vainly
endeavoured to rouse her daughter to full consciousness, "fly with me,
my child. The enemy is at hand."

"What enemy?" asked Alizon, faintly. "I have so many, that I know not
whom you mean."

"But this is the worst of all--this is Mother Demdike," cried Mistress
Nutter. "She would take your life. If we can but conceal ourselves for a
short while, we are safe."

"I am too weak to move," said Alizon; "besides, I dare not trust you. I
have been deceived already. You may be an evil spirit in the likeness of
my mother."

"Oh! no, I am indeed your own--own mother," rejoined Mistress Nutter.
"Ask this old woman if it is not so."

"She is a witch herself," replied Alizon. "I will not trust either of
you. You are both in league with Mother Demdike."

"We are in league to save thee from her, foolish wench!" cried Mother
Chattox, "but thy perverseness will defeat all our schemes."

"Since you will not fly, my child," cried Mistress Nutter, "kneel down,
and pray earnestly for deliverance. Pray, while there is yet time."

As she spoke, a growl like thunder was heard in the air, and the earth
trembled beneath their feet.

"Nay, now I am sure you are my mother!" cried Alizon, flinging herself
into Mistress Nutter's arms; "and I will go with you."

But before they could move, several dusky figures were seen rushing
towards them.

"Be on your guard!" cried Mother Chattox; "here comes old Demdike with
her troop. I will aid you all I can."

"Down on your knees!" exclaimed Mistress Nutter.

Alizon obeyed, but ere a word could pass her lips, the infuriated hag,
attended by her beldame band, stood beside them.

"Ha! who is here?" she cried. "Let me see who dares interrupt my mystic
rites."

And raising her hand, the black cloud hanging over the hill was rent
asunder, and the moon shone down upon them, revealing the old witch,
armed with the sacrificial knife, her limbs shaking with fury, and her
eyes flashing with preternatural light. It revealed, also, her weird
attendants, as well as the group before her, consisting of the kneeling
figure of Alizon, protected by the outstretched arms of her mother, and
further defended by Mother Chattox, who planted herself in front of
them.

Mother Demdike eyed the group for a moment as if she would, annihilate
them.

"Out of my way, Chattox!" she vociferated--"out of my way, or I will
drive my knife to thy heart." And as her old antagonist maintained her
ground, she unhesitatingly advanced upon her, smote her with the weapon,
and, as she fell to the ground, stepped over her bleeding body.

"Now what dost thou here, Alice Nutter?" she cried, menacing her with
the reeking blade.

"I am come for my child, whom thou hast stolen from me," replied the
lady.

"Thou art come to witness her slaughter," replied the witch, fiercely.
"Begone, or I will serve thee as I have just served old Chattox."

"I am not sped yet," cried the wounded hag; "I shall live to see thee
bound hand and foot by the officers of justice, and, certain thou wilt
perish miserably, I shall die content."

"Spit out thy last drops of venom, black viper," rejoined Mother
Demdike; "when I have done with the others, I will return and finish
thee. Alice Nutter, thou knowest it is vain to struggle with me. Give me
up the girl."

"Wilt thou accept my life for hers?" said Mistress Nutter.

"Of what account would thy life be to me?" rejoined Mother Demdike,
disdainfully. "If it would profit me to take it, I would do so without
thy consent, but I am about to make an oblation to our master, and thou
art his already. Snatch her child from her--we waste time," she added,
to her attendants.

And immediately the weird crew rushed forward, and in spite of the
miserable mother's efforts tore Alizon from her.

"I told you it was in vain to contend with me," said Mother Demdike.

"Oh, that I could call down heaven's vengeance upon thy accursed head!"
cried Mistress Nutter; "but I am forsaken alike of God and man, and
shall die despairing."

"Rave on, thou wilt have ample leisure," replied the hag. "And now
bring the girl this way," she added to the beldames; "the sacrifice must
be made near the beacon."

And as Alizon was borne away, Mistress Nutter uttered a cry of anguish.

"Do not stay here," said Mother Chattox, raising herself with
difficulty. "Go after her; you may yet save your daughter."

"But how?" cried Mistress Nutter, distractedly. "I have no power now."

As she spoke a dusky form rose up beside her. It was her familiar.

"Will you return to your duty if I help you in this extremity?" he said.

"Ay, do, do!" cried Mother Chattox. "Anything to avenge yourself upon
that murtherous hag."

"Peace!" cried the familiar, spurning her with his cloven foot.

"I do not want vengeance," said Mistress Nutter; "I only want to save my
child."

"Then you consent on that condition?" said the familiar.

"No!" replied Mistress Nutter, firmly. "I now perceive I am not utterly
lost, since you try to regain me. I have renounced thy master, and will
make no new bargain with him. Get hence, tempter!"

"Think not to escape us," cried the familiar; "no penitence--no
absolution can save thee. Thy name is written on the judgment scroll,
and cannot be effaced. I would have aided thee, but, since my offer is
rejected, I leave thee."

"You will not let him go!" screamed Mother Chattox. "Oh that the chance
were mine!"

"Be silent, or I will beat thy brains out!" said the familiar. "Once
more, am I dismissed?"

"Ay, for ever!" replied Mistress Nutter.

And as the familiar disappeared, she flew to the spot where her child
had been taken.

About twenty paces from the beacon, a circle had again been formed by
the unhallowed crew, in the midst of which stood Mother Demdike, with
the gory knife in her hand, muttering spells and incantations, and
performing mystical ceremonials.

Every now and then her companions joined in these rites, and chanted a
song couched in a wild, unintelligible jargon. Beside the witch knelt
Alizon, with her hands tied behind her back, so that she could not raise
them in supplication; her hair unbound, and cast loosely over her
person, and a thick bandage fastened over her eyes and mouth.

The initiatory ceremonies over, the old hag approached her victim, when
Mistress Nutter forced herself through the circle, and cast herself at
her feet.

"Spare her!" she cried, clinging to her knees; "it shall be well for
thee if thou dost so."

"Again interrupted!" cried the witch, furiously. "This time I will show
thee no mercy. Take thy fate, meddlesome woman!"

And she raised the knife, but ere the weapon could descend, it was
seized by Mistress Nutter, and wrested from her grasp. In another
instant, Alizon's arms were liberated, and the bandage removed from her
eyes.

"Now it is my turn to threaten. I have thee in my power, infernal hag!"
cried Mistress Nutter, holding the knife to the witch's throat, and
clasping her daughter with the other arm. "Wilt let us go?"

"No!" replied Mother Demdike, springing nimbly backwards. "You shall
both die. I will soon disarm thee."

And making one or two passes with her hands, Mistress Nutter dropped the
weapon, and instantly became fixed and motionless, with her daughter,
equally rigid, in her arms. They looked as if suddenly turned to marble.

"Now to complete the ceremonial," cried Mother Demdike, picking up the
knife.

And then she began to mutter an impious address preparatory to the
sacrifice, when a loud clangour was heard like the stroke of a hammer
upon a bell.

"What was that?" exclaimed the witch, in alarm.

"Were there a clock here, I should say it had struck one," replied
Mould-heels.

"It must be our master's timepiece," said another witch.

"One o'clock!" exclaimed Mother Demdike, who appeared stupefied with
fear, "and the sacrifice not made--then I am lost!"

A derisive laugh reached her ears. It proceeded from Mother Chattox, who
had contrived to raise herself to her feet, and, tottering forward, now
passed through the appalled circle.

"Ay, thy term is out--thy soul is forfeited like mine--ha! ha!" And she
fell to the ground.

"Perhaps it may not be too late," cried Mother Demdike, grasping the
knife, and rushing towards Alizon.

But at this moment a bright flame shot up from the beacon.

Astonishment and terror seized the hag, and she uttered a loud cry,
which was echoed by the rest of the crew.

The flame mounted higher and higher, and burnt each moment more
brightly, illumining the whole summit of the hill. By its light could be
seen a band of men, some of whom were on horseback, speeding towards the
place of meeting.

Scared by the sight, the witches fled, but were turned by another band
advancing from the opposite quarter. They then made towards the spot
where their broomsticks were deposited, but ere they could reach it, a
third party gained the summit of the hill at this precise point, and
immediately started in pursuit of them.

Meanwhile, a young man issuing from behind the beacon, flew towards
Mistress Nutter and her daughter. The moment the flame burst forth, the
spell cast over them by Mother Demdike was broken, and motion and speech
restored.

"Alizon!" exclaimed the young man, as he came up, "your trials are over.
You are safe."

"Oh, Richard!" she replied, falling into his arms, "have we been
preserved by you?"

"I am a mere instrument in the hands of Heaven," he replied.

Mother Demdike made no attempt at flight with the rest of the witches,
but remained for a few moments absorbed in contemplation of the flaming
beacon. Her hand still grasped the murderous weapon she had raised
against Alizon, but it had dropped to her side when the fire burst
forth. At length she turned fiercely to Richard, and demanded--

"Was it thou who kindled the beacon?"

"It was!" replied the young man.

"And who bade thee do it--who brought thee hither?" pursued the witch.

"An enemy of thine, old woman!" replied Richard, "His vengeance has been
slow in coming, but it has arrived at last."

"But who is he? I see him not!" rejoined Mother Demdike.

"You will see him before yon flame expires," said Richard. "I should
have come to your assistance sooner, Alizon," he continued, turning to
her, "but I was forbidden. And I knew I should best ensure your safety
by compliance with the injunctions I had received."

"Some guardian spirit must have interposed to preserve us," replied
Alizon; "for such only could have successfully combated with the evil
beings from whom we have been delivered."

"Thy spirit is unable to preserve thee now!" cried Mother Demdike,
aiming a deadly blow at her with the knife. But, fortunately, the
attempt was foreseen by Richard, who caught her arm, and wrested the
weapon from her.

"Curses on thee, Richard Assheton!" cried the infuriated hag,--"and on
thee too, Alizon Device, I cannot work ye the immediate ill I wish. I
cannot make ye loathsome in one another's eyes. I cannot maim your
limbs, or blight your beauty. I cannot deliver you over to devilish
possession. But I can bequeath you a legacy of hate. What I say will
come to pass. Thou, Alizon, wilt never wed Richard Assheton--never!
Vainly shall ye struggle with your destiny--vainly indulge hopes of
happiness. Misery and despair, and an early grave, are in store for both
of you. He shall be to you your worst enemy, and you shall be to him
destruction. Think of the witch's prediction and tremble, and may her
deadliest curse rest upon your heads."

"Oh, Richard!" exclaimed Alizon, who would have sunk to the ground if he
had not sustained her. "Why did you not prevent this terrible
malediction?"

"He could not," replied Mother Demdike, with a laugh of exultation; "it
shall work, and thy doom shall be accomplished. And now to make an end
of old Chattox, and then they may take me where they please."

And she was approaching her old enemy with the intention of putting her
threat into execution, when James Device, who appeared to start from the
ground, rushed swiftly towards her.

"What art thou doing here, Jem?" cried the hag, regarding him with angry
surprise. "Dost thou not see we are surrounded by enemies. I cannot
escape them--but thou art young and active. Away with thee!"

"Not without yo, granny," replied Jem. "Ey ha' run os fast os ey could
to help yo. Stick fast howld on me," he added, snatching her up in his
arms, "an ey'n bring yo clear off yet."

And he set off at a rapid pace with his burthen, Richard being too much
occupied with Alizon to oppose him.




CHAPTER XVII.--HOW THE BEACON FIRE WAS EXTINGUISHED.


Soon after this, Nicholas Assheton, attended by two or three men, came
up, and asked whither the old witch had flown.

Mistress Nutter pointed out the course taken by the fugitive, who had
run towards the northern extremity of the hill, down the sides of which
he had already plunged.

"She has been carried off by her grandson, Jem Device," said Mistress
Nutter; "be quick, or you will lose her."

"Ay, be quick--be quick!" added Mother Chattox. "Yonder they went, to
the back of the beacon."

Casting a look at the wretched speaker, and finding she was too
grievously wounded to be able to move, Nicholas bestowed no further
thought upon her, but set off with his companions in the direction
pointed out. He speedily arrived at the edge of the hill, and, looking
down it, sought in vain for any appearance of the fugitives. The sides
were here steep and shelving, and some hundred yards lower down were
broken into ridges, behind one of which it was possible the old witch
and her grandson might be concealed; so, without a moment's hesitation,
the squire descended, and began to search about in the hollows,
scrambling over the loose stones, or sliding down for some paces with
the uncertain boggy soil, when he fancied he heard a plaintive cry. He
looked around, but could see no one. The whole side of the mountain was
lighted up by the fire from the beacon, which, instead of diminishing,
burnt with increased ardour, so that every object was as easily to be
discerned as in the day-time; but, notwithstanding this, he could not
detect whence the sound proceeded. It was repeated, but more faintly
than before, and Nicholas almost persuaded himself it was the voice of
Potts calling for help. Motioning to his followers, who were engaged in
the search like himself, to keep still, the squire listened intently,
and again caught the sound, being this time convinced it arose from the
ground. Was it possible the unfortunate attorney had been buried alive?
Or had he been thrust into some hole, and a stone placed over it, which
he found it impossible to remove? The latter idea seemed the more
probable, and Nicholas was guided by a feeble repetition of the noise
towards a large fragment of rock, which, on examination, had evidently
been rolled from a point immediately over the mouth of a hollow. The
squire instantly set himself to work to dislodge the ponderous stone,
and, aided by two of his men, who lent their broad shoulders to the
task, quickly accomplished his object, disclosing what appeared to be
the mouth of a cavernous recess. From out of this, as soon as the stone
was removed, popped the head of Master Potts, and Nicholas, bidding him
be of good cheer, laid hold of him to draw him forth, as he seemed to
have some difficulty in extricating himself, when the attorney cried
out--

"Do not pull so hard, squire! That accursed Jem Device has got hold of
my legs. Not so hard, sir, I entreat."

"Bid him let go," said Nicholas, unable to refrain from laughing, "or we
will unearth him from his badger's hole."

"He pays no heed to what I say to him," cried Potts. "Oh, dear! oh,
dear! he is dragging me down again!"

And, as he spoke, the attorney, notwithstanding all Nicholas's efforts
to restrain him, was pulled down into the hole. The squire was at a loss
what to do, and was considering whether he should resort to the tedious
process of digging him out, when a scrambling noise was heard, and the
captive's head once more appeared above ground.

"Are you coming out now?" asked Nicholas.

"Alas, no!" replied the attorney, "unless you will make terms with the
rascal. He declares he will strangle me, if you do not promise to set
him and his grandmother free."

"Is Mother Demdike with him?" asked Nicholas.

"To be sure," replied Potts; "and we are as badly off for room as three
foxes in a hole."

"And there is no other outlet said the squire?"

"I conclude not," replied the attorney. "I groped about like a mole when
I was first thrust into the cavern by Jem Device, but I could find no
means of exit. The entrance was blocked up by the great stone which you
had some difficulty in moving, but which Jem could shift at will; for he
pushed it aside in a moment, and brought it back to its place, when he
returned just now with the old hag; but probably that was effected by
witchcraft."

"Most likely," said Nicholas, "But for your being in it, we would stop
up this hole, and bury the two wretches alive."

"Get me out first, good Master Nicholas, I implore of you, and then do
what you please," cried Potts. "Jem is tugging at my legs as if he would
pull them off."

"We will try who is strongest," said Nicholas, again seizing hold of
Potts by the shoulders.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! I can't bear it--let go!" shrieked the attorney. "I
shall be stretched to twice my natural length. My joints are starting
from their sockets, my legs are coming off--oh! oh!"

"Lend a hand here, one of you," cried Nicholas to the men; "we'll have
him out, whatever be the consequence."

"But I won't come!" roared Potts. "You have no right to use me thus.
Torture! oh! oh! my loins are ruptured--my back is breaking--I am a dead
man.--The hag has got hold of my right leg, while Jem is tugging with
all his force at the left."

"Pull away!" cried Nicholas; "he is coming."

"My legs are off," yelled Potts, as he was plucked suddenly forth, with
a jerk that threw the squire and his assistants on their backs. "I shall
never be able to walk more. No, Heaven be praised!" he added, looking
down on his lower limbs, "I have only lost my boots."

"Never mind it, then," cried Nicholas; "but thank your stars you are
above ground once more. Hark'ee, Jem!" he continued, shouting down the
hole; "If you don't come forth at once, and bring Mother Demdike with
you, we'll close up the mouth of this hole in such a way that you
sha'n't require another grave. D'ye hear?"

"Yeigh," replied Jem, his voice coming hoarsely and hollowly up like the
accents of a ghost. "Am ey to go free if ey comply?"

"Certainly not," replied the squire. "You have a choice between this
hole and the hangman's cord at Lancaster, that is all. In either case
you will die by suffocation. But be quick--we have wasted time enough
already with you."

"Then if that's aw yo'll do fo' me, squire, eyn e'en stay wheere ey am,"
rejoined Jem.

"Very well," replied Nicholas. "Here, my man, stop up this hole with
earth and stones. Master Potts, you will lend a hand to the task."

"Readily, sir," replied the attorney, "though I shall lose the pleasure
I had anticipated of seeing that old carrion crow roasted alive."

"Stay a bit, squoire," roared Jem, as preparations were actively made
for carrying Nicholas's orders into execution. "Stay a bit, an ey'n cum
owt, an bring t' owd woman wi' me."

"I thought you'd change your mind," replied Nicholas, laughing. "Be
upon your guard," he added, in a low tone to the others, "and seize him
the moment he appears."

But Jem evidently found it no easy matter to perform his promise, for
stifled shrieks and other noises proclaimed that a desperate struggle
was going on between him and his grandmother.

"Aha!" exclaimed Nicholas, placing his ear to the hole. "The old hag is
unwilling to come forth, and spits and scratches like a cat-a-mountain,
while Jem gripes her like a terrier. It is a hard tussle between them,
but he is getting the better of it, and is pushing her forth. Now look
out."

And as he spoke, Mother Demdike's terrible head protruded from the
ground, and, despite of the execrations she poured forth upon her
enemies, she was instantly seized by them, drawn out of the cavern, and
secured. While the men were thus engaged, and while Nicholas's attention
was for an instant diverted, Jem bounded forth as suddenly as a wolf
from his lair, and, dashing aside all opposition, plunged down the hill.

"It is useless to pursue him," said Nicholas. "He will not escape. The
whole country will be roused by the beacon fire, and hue and cry shall
be made after him."

"Right!" exclaimed Potts; "and now let some one creep into that cavern,
and bring out my boots, and then I shall be in a better condition to
attend you."

The request being complied with, and the attorney being once more
equipped for walking, the party climbed the hill-side, and, bringing
Mother Demdike with them, shaped their course towards the beacon.

And now to see what had taken place in the interim.

Scarcely had the squire quitted Mistress Nutter than Sir Ralph Assheton
rode up to her.

"Why do you loiter here, madam?" he said, in a stern tone, somewhat
tempered by sorrow. "I have held back to give you an opportunity of
escape. The hill is invested by your enemies. On that side Roger Nowell
is advancing, and on this Sir Thomas Metcalfe and his followers. You may
possibly effect a retreat in the opposite direction, but not a moment
must be lost."

"I will go with you," said Alizon.

"No, no," interposed Richard. "You have not strength for the effort, and
will only retard her."

"I thank you for your devotion, my child," said Mistress Nutter, with a
look of grateful tenderness; "but it is unneeded. I have no intention of
flying. I shall surrender myself into the hands of justice."

"Do not mistake the matter, madam," said Sir Ralph, "and delude yourself
with the notion that either your rank or wealth will screen you from
punishment. Your guilt is too clearly established to allow you a chance
of escape, and, though I myself am acting wrongfully in counselling
flight to you, I am led to do so from the friendship once subsisting
between us, and the relationship which, unfortunately, I cannot
destroy."

"It is you who are mistaken, not I, Sir Ralph," replied Mistress Nutter.
"I have no thought of turning aside the sword of justice, but shall
court its sharpest edge, hoping by a full avowal of my offences, in some
degree to atone for them. My only regret is, that I shall leave my child
unprotected, and that my fate will bring dishonour upon her."

"Oh, think not of me, dear mother!" cried Alizon, "but persist
unhesitatingly in the course you have laid down. Far rather would I see
you act thus--far rather hear the sentiments you have uttered, even
though they may be attended by the saddest, consequences, than behold
you in your former proud position, and impenitent. Think not of me,
then. Or, rather, think only how I rejoice that your eyes are at length
opened, and that you have cast off the bonds of iniquity. I can now pray
for you with the full hope that my intercessions will prevail, and in
parting with you in this world shall be sustained by the conviction that
we shall meet in eternal happiness hereafter."

Mistress Nutter threw her arms about her daughter's neck, and they
mingled their tears together, Sir Ralph Assheton was much moved.

"It is a pity she should fall into their hands," he observed to Richard.

"I know not how to advise," replied the latter, greatly troubled.

"Ah! it is too late," exclaimed the knight; "here come Nowell and
Metcalfe. The poor lady's firmness will be severely tested."

The next moment the magistrate and the knight came up, with such of
their attendants as were not engaged in pursuing the witches, several of
whom had already been captured. On seeing Mistress Nutter, Sir Thomas
Metcalfe sprang from his horse, and would have seized her, but Sir Ralph
interposed, saying "She has surrendered herself to me. I will be
answerable for her safe custody."

"Your pardon, Sir Ralph," observed Nowell; "the arrest must be formally
made, and by a constable. Sparshot, execute your warrant."

Upon this, the official, leaping from his horse, displayed his staff and
a piece of parchment to Mistress Nutter, telling her she was his
prisoner.

The lady bowed her head.

"Shan ey tee her hands, yer warship?" demanded the constable of the
magistrate.

"On no account, fellow," interposed Sir Ralph. "I will have no indignity
offered her. I have already said I will be responsible for her."

"You will recollect she is arrested for witchcraft, Sir Ralph," observed
Nowell.

"She shall answer to the charges brought against her. I pledge myself
to that," replied Sir Ralph.

"And by a full confession," said Mistress Nutter. "You may pledge
yourself to that also, Sir Ralph."

"She avows her guilt," cried Nowell. "I take you all to witness it."

"I shall not forget it," said Sir Thomas Metcalfe.

"Nor I--nor I!" cried Sparshot, and two or three others of the
attendants.

"This girl is my prisoner," said Sir Thomas Metcalfe, dismounting, and
advancing towards Alizon, "She is a witch, as well as the rest."

"It is false," cried Richard! "and if you attempt to lay hands upon her
I will strike you to the earth."

"'Sdeath!" exclaimed Metcalfe, drawing his sword, "I will not let this
insolence pass unpunished. I have other affronts to chastise. Stand
aside, or I will cut your throat."

"Hold, Sir Thomas," cried Sir Ralph Assheton, authoritatively. "Settle
your quarrels hereafter, if you have any to adjust; but I will have no
fighting now. Alizon is no witch. You are well aware that she was about
to be impiously and cruelly sacrificed by Mother Demdike, and her rescue
was the main object of our coming hither."

"Still suspicion attaches to her," said Metcalfe; "whether she be the
daughter of Elizabeth Device or Alice Nutter, she comes of a bad stock,
and I protest against her being allowed to go free. However, if you are
resolved upon it, I have nothing more to say. I shall find other time
and place to adjust my differences with Master Richard Assheton."

"When you please, sir," replied the young man, sternly.

"And I will answer for the propriety of the course I have pursued," said
Sir Ralph; "but here comes Nicholas with Mother Demdike."

"Demdike taken! I am glad of it," cried Mother Chattox, slightly raising
herself as she spoke. "Kill her, or she will 'scape you."

When Nicholas came up with the old hag, both Sir Ralph Assheton and
Roger Nowell put several questions to her, but she refused to answer
their interrogations; and, horrified by her blasphemies and
imprecations, they caused her to be removed to a short distance, while a
consultation was held as to the course to be pursued.

"We have made half a dozen of these miscreants prisoners," said Roger
Nowell, "and the whole of them had better be taken to Whalley, where
they can be safely confined in the old dungeons of the Abbey, and after
their examination on the morrow can be removed to Lancaster Castle."

"Be it so," replied Sir Ralph; "but must yon unfortunate lady," he
added, pointing to Mistress Nutter, "be taken with them?"

"Assuredly," replied Nowell. "We can make no distinction among such
offenders; or, if there are any degrees in guilt, hers is of the highest
class."

"You had better take leave of your daughter," said Sir Ralph to Mistress
Nutter.

"I thank you for the hint," replied the lady. "Farewell, dear Alizon,"
she added, straining her to her bosom. "We must part for some time. Once
more before I quit this world, in which I have played so wicked a part,
I would fain look upon you--fain bless you, if I have the power--but
this must be at the last, when my trials are wellnigh over, and when all
is about to close upon me!"

"Oh! must it be thus?" exclaimed Alizon, in a voice half suffocated by
emotion.

"It must," replied her mother. "Do not attempt to shake my resolution,
my sweet child--do not weep for me. Amidst all the terrors that surround
me, I am happier now than I have been for years. I shall strive to work
out my redemption by prayers."

"And you will succeed!" cried Alizon.

"Not so!" shrieked Mother Demdike; "the Fiend will have his own. She is
bound to him by a compact which nought can annul."

"I should like to see the instrument," said Potts. "I might give a legal
opinion upon it. Perhaps it might be avoided; and in any case its
production in court would have an admirable effect. I think I see the
counsel examining it, and hear the judges calling for it to be placed
before them. His infernal Majesty's signature must be a curiosity in its
way. Our gracious and sagacious monarch would delight in it."

"Peace!" exclaimed Nicholas; "and take care," he cried, "that no further
interruptions are offered by that infernal hag. Have you done, madam?"
he added to Mistress Nutter, who still remained with her daughter folded
in her arms.

"Not yet," replied the lady. "Oh! what happiness I have thrown away!
What anguish--what remorse brought upon myself by the evil life I have
led! As I gaze on this fair face, and think it might long, long have
brightened my dark and desolate life with its sunshine--as I think upon
all this, my fortitude wellnigh deserts me, and I have need of support
from on high to carry me through my trial. But I fear it will be denied
me. Nicholas Assheton, you have the deed of the gift of Rough Lee in
your possession. Henceforth Alizon is mistress of the mansion and
domains."

"Provided always they are not forfeited to the crown, which I apprehend
will be the case," suggested Potts.

"I will take care she is put in possession of them," said Nicholas.

"As to you, Richard," continued Mistress Nutter, "the time may come
when your devotion to my daughter may be rewarded and I could not bestow
a greater boon upon you than by giving you her hand. It may be well I
should give my consent now, and, if no other obstacle should arise to
the union, may she be yours, and happiness I am sure will attend you!"

Overpowered by conflicting emotions, Alizon hid her face in her mother's
bosom, and Richard, who was almost equally overcome, was about to reply,
when Mother Demdike broke upon them.

"They will never be united!" she screamed. "Never! I have said it, and
my words will come true. Think'st thou a witch like thee can bless an
union, Alice Nutter? Thy blessings are curses, thy wishes
disappointments and despair. Thriftless love shall be Alizon's, and the
grave shall be her bridal bed. The witch's daughter shall share the
witch's fate."

These boding words produced a terrible effect upon the hearers.

"Heed her not, my sweet child--she speaks falsely," said Mistress
Nutter, endeavouring to re-assure her daughter; but the tone in which
the words were uttered showed that she herself was greatly alarmed.

"I have cursed them both, and I will curse them again," yelled Mother
Demdike.

"Away with the old screech-owl," cried Nicholas. "Take her to the
beacon, and, if she continues troublesome, hurl her into the flame."

And, notwithstanding the hag's struggles and imprecations, she was
removed.

"Whatever may betide, Alizon," cried Richard, "my life shall be devoted
to you; and, if you should not be mine, I will have no other bride. With
your permission, madam," he added, to Mistress Nutter, "I will take your
daughter to Middleton, where she will find companionship and solace, I
trust, in the attentions of my sister, who has the strongest affection
for her."

"I could wish nothing better," replied the lady, "and now to put an end
to this harrowing scene. Farewell, my child. Take her, Richard, take
her!" she cried, as she disengaged herself from the relaxing embrace of
her daughter. "Now, Master Nowell, I am ready."

"It is well, madam," he replied. "You will join the other prisoners, and
we will set forth."

But at this juncture a terrific shriek was heard, which drew all eyes
towards the beacon.

When Mother Demdike had been removed, in accordance with the squire's
directions, her conduct became more violent and outrageous than ever,
and those who had charge of her threatened, if she did not desist, to
carry out the full instructions they had received, and cast her into the
flames. The old hag defied and incensed them to such a degree by her
violence and blasphemies, that they carried her to the very edge of the
fire.

At this moment the figure of a monk, in mouldering white habiliments,
came from behind the beacon, and stood beside the old hag. He slowly
raised his hood, and disclosed features that looked like those of the
dead.

"Thy hour is come, accursed woman!" cried the phantom, in thrilling
accents. "Thy term on earth is ended, and thou shalt be delivered to
unquenchable fire. The curse of Paslew is fulfilled upon thee, and will
be fulfilled upon all thy viperous brood."

"Art thou the abbot's shade?" demanded the hag.

"I am thy implacable enemy," replied the phantom. "Thy judgment and thy
punishment are committed to me. To the flames with her!"

Such was the awe inspired by the monk, and such the authority of his
tones and gesture, that the command was unhesitatingly obeyed, and the
witch was cast, shrieking, into the fire.

She was instantly swallowed up as in a gulf of flame, which raged, and
roared, and shot up in a hundred lambent points, as if exulting in its
prey.

The wretched creature was seen for a moment to rise up in it in
extremity of anguish, with arms extended, and uttering a dreadful yell,
but the flames wreathed round her, and she sank for ever.

When those who had assisted at this fearful execution looked around for
the mysterious being who had commanded it, they could nowhere behold
him.

Then was heard a laugh of gratified hate--such a laugh as only a demon,
or one bound to a demon, can utter--and the appalled listeners looked
around, and beheld Mother Chattox standing behind them.

"My rival is gone!" cried the hag. "I have seen the last of her. She is
burnt--ah! ah!"

Further triumph was not allowed her. With one accord, and as if prompted
by an irresistible impulse, the men rushed upon her, seized her, and
cast her into the fire.

Her wild laughter was heard for a moment above the roaring of the
flames, and then ceased altogether.

Again the flame shot high in air, again roared and raged, again broke
into a multitude of lambent points, after which it suddenly expired.

All was darkness on the summit of Pendle Hill.

And in silence and in gloom scarcely more profound than that Weighing in
every breast, the melancholy troop pursued its way to Whalley.


END OF THE SECOND BOOK.




BOOK THE THIRD.

Hoghton tower




CHAPTER I.--DOWNHAM MANOR-HOUSE.


On a lovely morning, about the middle of July, in the same year as the
events previously narrated, Nicholas Assheton, always astir with the
lark, issued from his own dwelling, and sauntered across the smooth lawn
in front of it. The green eminence on which he stood was sheltered on
the right by a grove of sycamores, forming the boundary of the park, and
sloped down into a valley threaded by a small clear stream, whose
murmuring, as it danced over its pebbly bed, distinctly reached his ear
in the stillness of early day. On the left, partly in the valley, and
partly on the side of the acclivity on which the hall was situated,
nestled the little village whose inhabitants owned Nicholas as lord;
and, to judge from their habitations, they had reason to rejoice in
their master; for certainly there was a cheerful air about Downham which
the neighbouring hamlets, especially those in Pendle Forest, sadly
wanted.

On the left of the mansion, and only separated from it by the garden
walls, stood the church, a venerable structure, dating back to a period
more remote even than Whalley Abbey. From the churchyard a view, almost
similar to that enjoyed by the squire, was obtained, though partially
interrupted by the thick rounded foliage of a large tree growing beneath
it; and many a traveller who came that way lingered within the hallowed
precincts to contemplate the prospect. At the foot of the hill was a
small stone bridge crossing the stream.

Across the road, and scarce thirty paces from the church-gate, stood a
little alehouse, whose comfortable fireside nook and good liquors were
not disdained by the squire. In fact, to his shame be it spoken, he was
quite as often to be found there of an evening as at the hall. This had
more particularly been the case since the house was tenanted by Richard
Baldwyn, who having given up the mill at Rough Lee, and taken to wife
Bess Whitaker of Goldshaw Booth, had removed with her to Downham, where
he now flourished under the special protection of the squire. Bess had
lost none of her old habits of command, and it must be confessed that
poor Richard played a very secondary part in the establishment.
Nicholas, as may be supposed, was permitted considerable licence by her,
but even he had limits, which she took good care he should not exceed.

The Downham domains were well cultivated; the line of demarcation
between them and the heathy wastes adjoining, being clearly traced out,
and you had only to follow the course of the brook to see at a glance
where the purlieus of the forest ended, and where Nicholas Assheton's
property commenced: the one being a dreary moor, with here and there a
thicket upon it, but more frequently a dangerous morass, covered with
sulphur-coloured moss; and the other consisting of green meadows,
bordered in most instances by magnificent timber. The contrast, however,
was not without its charm; and while the sterile wastes set off the fair
and fertile fields around them, and enhanced their beauty, they offered
a wide, uninterrupted expanse, over which the eye could range at will.

On the further side of the valley, and immediately opposite the lawn
whereon Nicholas stood, the ground gradually arose, until it reached the
foot of Pendle Hill, which here assuming its most majestic aspect,
constituted the grand and peculiar feature of the scene. Nowhere could
the lordly eminence be seen to the same advantage as from this point,
and Nicholas contemplated it with feelings of rapture, which no
familiarity could diminish. The sun shone brightly upon its rounded
summit, and upon its seamy sides, revealing all its rifts and ridges;
adding depth of tint to its dusky soil, laid bare in places by the
winter torrents; lending new beauty to its purple heath, and making its
grey sod glow as with fire. So exhilarating was the prospect, that
Nicholas felt half tempted to cross the valley and scale the hill before
breaking his fast; but other feelings checked him, and he turned towards
the right. Here, beyond a paddock and some outbuildings, lay the park,
small in extent, but beautifully diversified, well stocked with deer,
and boasting much noble timber. In the midst was an exquisite knoll,
which, besides commanding a fine view of Pendle Hill, Downham, and all
the adjacent country, brought within its scope, on the one hand, the
ancient castle of Clithero and the heights overlooking Whalley; and, on
the other, the lovely and extensive vale through which the Ribble
wandered. This, also, was a favourite point of view with the squire, and
he had some idea of walking towards it, when he was arrested by a person
who came from the house, and who shouted to him, hoarsely but blithely,
to stay.

The new-comer was a man of middle age, with a skin almost as tawny as a
gipsy's, a hooked nose, black beetling brows, and eyes so strangely set
in his head, that they communicated a sinister expression to his
countenance. He possessed a burly frame, square, and somewhat heavy,
though not so much so as to impede his activity. In deportment and
stature, though not in feature, he resembled the squire himself; and the
likeness was heightened by his habiliments being part of Nicholas's old
wardrobe, the doublet and hose, and even the green hat and boots, being
those in which Nicholas made his first appearance in this history. The
personage who thus condescended to be fed and clothed at the squire's
expense, and who filled a situation something between guest and menial,
without receiving the precise attention of the one or the wages of the
other, but who made himself so useful to Nicholas that he could not
dispense with him--neither, perhaps would he have been shaken off, even
if it had been desired--was named Lawrence Fogg, an entire stranger to
the country, whom Nicholas had picked up at Colne, and whom he had
invited to Downham for a few weeks' hunting, and had never been able to
get rid of him since.

Lawrence Fogg liked his quarters immensely, and determined to remain in
them; and as a means to so desirable an end, he studied all the squire's
weak points and peculiarities, and these not being very difficult to be
understood, he soon mastered them, and mastered the squire into the
bargain, but without allowing his success to become manifest. Nicholas
was delighted to find one with tastes so congenial to his own, who was
so willing to hunt or fish with him--who could train a hawk as well as
Phil Royle, the falconer--diet a fighting-cock as well as Tom Shaw, the
cock-master--enter a hound better than Charlie Crouch, the old
huntsman--shoot with the long-bow further than any one except himself,
and was willing to toss off a pot with him, or sing a merry stave
whenever he felt inclined. Such a companion was invaluable, and Nicholas
congratulated himself upon the discovery, especially when he found
Lawrence Fogg not unwilling to undertake some delicate commissions for
him, which he could not well execute himself, and which he was unwilling
should reach Mistress Assheton's ears. These were managed with equal
adroitness and caution. About the same time, too, Nicholas finding money
scarce, and, not liking to borrow it in person, delegated Fogg, and sent
him round to his friends to ask for a loan; but, in this instance, the
mission was attended with very indifferent success, for not one of them
would lend him so small a sum as thirty pounds, all averring they stood
in need of it quite as much as himself. Though somewhat inconvenienced
by their refusal, Nicholas bore the disappointment with his customary
equanimity, and made merry with his friend as if nothing had happened.
Fogg showed an equal accommodating spirit in all religious observances,
and, though much against his inclination, attended morning discourses
and lectures with his patron, and even made an attempt at psalm-singing;
but on one occasion, missing the tune and coming in with a bacchanalian
chorus, he was severely rebuked by the minister, and enjoined to keep
silence in future. Such was the friendly relation subsisting between
the parties when they met together on the lawn on the morning in
question.

"Well, Fogg," cried Nicholas, after exchanging salutations with his
friend, "what say you to hunting the otter in the Ribble after
breakfast? 'Tis a rare day for the sport, and the hounds are in
excellent order. There is an old dam and her litter whom we must kill,
for she has been playing the very devil with the fish for a space of
more than two miles; and if we let her off for another week, we shall
have neither salmon, trout, nor umber, as all will have passed down the
maws of her voracious brood."

"And that would be a pity, in good sooth, squire," replied Fogg; "for
there are no fish like those of the Ribble. Nothing I should prefer to
the sport you promise; but I thought you had other business for me
to-day? Another attempt to borrow money--eh?"

"Ay, from my cousin, Dick Assheton," rejoined Nicholas; "he will lend me
the thirty pounds, I am quite sure. But you had better defer the visit
till to-morrow, when his father, Sir Richard, will be at Whalley, and
when you can have him to yourself. Dick will not say you nay, depend
on't; he is too good a fellow for that. A murrain on those close-fisted
curmudgeons, Roger Nowell, Nicholas Townley, and Tom Whitaker. They
ought to be delighted to oblige me."

"But they declare they have no money," said Fogg.

"No money!--pshaw!" exclaimed Nicholas; "an idle excuse. They have
chests full. Would I had all Roger Nowell's gold, I should not require
another supply for years. But, 'sdeath! I will not trouble myself for a
paltry thirty pounds."

"If I might venture to suggest, squire, while you are about it, I would
ask for a hundred pounds, or even two or three hundred," said Fogg.
"Your friends will think all the better of you, and feel more satisfied
you intend to repay them."

"Do you think so!" cried Nicholas. "Then, by Plutus, it shall be three
hundred pounds--three hundred at interest. Dick will have to borrow the
amount to lend it to me; but, no matter, he will easily obtain it.
Harkye, Fogg, while you are at Middleton, endeavour to ascertain whether
any thing has been arranged about the marriage of a certain young lady
to a certain young gentleman. I am curious to know the precise state of
affairs in that quarter."

"I will arrive at the truth, if possible, squire," replied Fogg; "but I
should scarcely think Sir Richard would assent to his son's union with
the daughter of a notorious witch."

"Sir Richard's son is scarcely likely to ask Sir Richard's consent,"
said Nicholas; "and as to Mistress Nutter, though heavy charges have
been brought against her, nothing has been proved, for you know she
escaped, or rather was rescued, on her way to Lancaster Castle."

"I am fully aware of it, squire," replied Fogg; "and I more than
suspect a worthy friend of mine had a hand in her deliverance and could
tell where to find her if needful. But that is neither here nor there.
The lady is quite innocent, I dare say. Indeed, I am quite sure of it,
since you espouse her cause so warmly. But the world is malicious, and
strange things are reported of her."

"Heed not the world, Fogg," rejoined Nicholas. "The world speaks well of
no man, be his deserts what they may. The world says that I waste my
estate in wine, women, and horseflesh--that I spend time in pleasures
which might be profitably employed--that I neglect my wife, forget my
religious observances, am on horseback when I should be afoot, at the
alehouse when I should be at home, at a marriage when I should be at a
funeral, shooting when I should be keeping my books--in short, it has
not a good word to say for me. And as for thee, Fogg, it says thou art
an idle, good-for-nothing fellow; or, if thou art good for aught, it is
only for something that leads to evil. It says thou drinkest
prodigiously, liest confoundedly, and swearest most profanely; that thou
art ever more ready to go to the alehouse than to church, and that none
of the girls can 'scape thee. Nay, the slanderers even go so far as to
assert thou wouldst not hesitate to say, 'Stand and deliver!' to a true
man on the highway. That is what the world says of thee. But, hang it!
never look chapfallen, man. Let us go to the stables, and then we will
in to breakfast; after which we will proceed to the Ribble, and spear
the old otter."

A fine old manorial residence was Downham, and beautifully situated, as
has been shown, on a woody eminence to the north of Pendle Hill. It was
of great antiquity, and first came into the possession of the Assheton
family in 1558. Considerable additions had been made to it by its
present owner, Nicholas, and the outlay necessarily required, combined
with his lavish expenditure, had contributed to embarrass him. The
stables were large, and full of horses; the kennels on the same scale,
and equally well supplied with hounds; and there was a princely retinue
of servants in the yard--grooms, keepers, falconers, huntsmen, and their
assistants--to say nothing of their fellows within doors. In short, if
it had been your fortune to accompany the squire and his friend round
the premises--if you had walked through the stables and counted the
horses--if you had viewed the kennels and examined the various
hounds--the great Lancashire dogs, tall, shaggy, and heavy, a race now
extinct; the Worcestershire hounds, then also in much repute; the
greyhounds, the harriers, the beagles, the lurchers, and, lastly, the
verminers, or, as we should call them, the terriers,--if you had seen
all these, you would not have wondered that money was scarce with him.
Still further would your surprise at such a consequence have diminished
if you had gone on to the falconry, and seen on the perches the goshawk
and her tercel, the sparrowhawk and her musket, under the care of the
ostringer; and further on the falcon-gentle, the gerfalcon, the lanner,
the merlin, and the hobby, all of which were attended to by the head
falconer. It would have done you good to hear Nicholas inquiring from
his men if they had "set out their birds that morning, and weathered
them;" if they had mummy powder in readiness, then esteemed a sovereign
remedy; if the lures, hoods, jesses, buets, and all other needful
furniture, were in good order; and if the meat were sweet and wholesome.
You might next have followed him to the pens where the fighting cocks
were kept, and where you would have found another source of expense in
the cock-master, Tom Shaw--a knave who not only got high wages from his
master, but understood so well the dieting of his birds that he could
make them win or lose a battle as he thought proper. Here, again,
Nicholas had much to say, and was in raptures with one cock, which he
told Fogg he would back to any amount, utterly unconscious of a
significant look that passed between his friend and the cock-master.

"Look at him," cried the squire; "how proud and erect he stands! His
head is as small as that of a sparrowhawk, his eye large and quick, his
body thick, his leg strong in the beam, and his spurs long, rough, and
sharp. That is the bird for me. I will take him over to the cockpit at
Prescot next week, and match him against any bird Sir John Talbot, or my
cousin Braddyll, can bring."

"And yo'n win, squoire," replied the cock-master; "ey ha' been feedin'
him these five weeks, so he'll be i' rare condition then, and winna fail
yo. Yo may lay what yo loike upon him," he added, with a sly wink at
Fogg.

"You may win the thirty pounds you want," observed the latter, in a low
tone to the squire.

"Or, mayhap, lose it," replied Nicholas. "I shall not risk so much,
unless I get the three hundred from Dick Assheton. I have been unlucky
of late. You beat me constantly at tables now, Fogg, and when I first
knew you this was not wont to be the case. Nay, never make any excuses,
man; you cannot help it. Let us in to breakfast."

With this, he proceeded towards the house, followed by Fogg and a couple
of large Lancashire hounds, and, entering at the back of the premises,
made his way through the scullery into the kitchen. Here there were
plentiful evidences of the hospitality, not to say profusion, reigning
throughout the mansion. An open door showed a larder stocked with all
kinds of provisions, and before the fire joints of meat and poultry were
roasting. Pies were baking in the oven; and over the flames, in the
chimney, was suspended a black pot large enough for a witch's caldron.
The cook was busied in preparing for the gridiron some freshly-caught
trout, intended for the squire's own breakfast; and a kitchen-maid was
toasting oatcakes, of which there was a large supply in the bread-flake
depending from the ceiling.

Casting a look around, and exchanging a few words with the cook,
Nicholas moved on, still followed by Fogg and the hounds, and, tracking
a long stone passage, entered the great hall. Here the same disorder and
irregularity prevailed as in his own character and conduct. All was
litter and confusion. Around the walls were hung breastplates and
buff-coats, morions, shields, and two-handed swords; but they were half
hidden by fishing-nets, fowling-nets, dogs' collars, saddles and
bridles, housings, cross-bows, long-bows, quivers, baldricks, horns,
spears, guns, and every other implement then used in the sports of the
river or the field. The floor was in an equal state of disorder. The
rushes were filled with half-gnawed bones, brought thither by the
hounds; and in one corner, on a mat, was a favourite spaniel and her
whelps. The squire however was, happily, insensible to the condition of
the chamber, and looked around it with an air of satisfaction, as if he
thought it the perfection of comfort.

A table was spread for breakfast, near a window looking out upon the
lawn, and two covers only were laid, for Mistress Nicholas Assheton did
not make her appearance at this early hour. And now was exhibited one of
those strange contradictions of which the squire's character was
composed. Kneeling down by the side of the table, and without noticing
the mocking expression of Fogg's countenance as he followed his example,
Nicholas prayed loudly and fervently for upwards of ten minutes, after
which he arose and gave a shout which proved that his lungs were
unimpaired, and not only roused the whole house, but set all the dogs
barking.

Presently a couple of serving-men answered this lusty summons, and the
table was covered with good and substantial dishes, which he and his
companion attacked with a vigour such as only the most valiant
trencherman can display. Already has it been remarked that a breakfast
at the period in question resembled a modern dinner; and better proof
could not have been afforded of the correctness of the description than
the meal under discussion, which comprised fish, flesh, and fowl,
boiled, broiled, and roast, together with strong ale and sack. After an
hour thus agreeably employed, and while they were still seated, though
breakfast had pretty nearly come to an end, a serving-man entered,
announcing Master Richard Sherborne of Dunnow. The squire instantly
sprang to his feet, and hastened to welcome his brother-in-law.

"Ah! good-day to you, Dick," he cried, shaking him heartily by the hand;
"what happy chance brings you here so early? But first sit down and
eat--eat, and talk afterwards. Here, Roger, Harry, bring another platter
and napkin, and let us have more broiled trout and a cold capon, a
pasty, or whatever you can find in the larder. Try some of this gammon
meanwhile, Dick. It will help down a can of ale. And now what brings
thee hither, lad? Pressing business, no doubt. Thou mayest speak before
Fogg. I have no secrets from him. He is my second self."

"I have no secrets to divulge, Nicholas," replied Sherborne, "and I will
tell you at once what I am come about. Have you heard that the King is
about to visit Hoghton Tower in August?"

"No; this is news to me," replied Nicholas; "does your business relate
to his visit?"

"It does," replied Sherborne. "Last night a messenger came to me from
Sir Richard Hoghton, entreating me to move you to do him the favour and
courtesy to attend him at the King's coming, and wear his livery."

"I wear his livery!" exclaimed Nicholas, indignantly. "'Sdeath! what do
you take me for, cousin Dick?"

"For a right good fellow, who I am sure will comply with his friend's
request, especially when he finds there is no sort of degradation in
it," replied Sherborne. "Why, I shall wear Sir Richard's cloth, and so
will several others of our friends. There will be rare doings at
Hoghton--masquings, mummings, and all sorts of revels, besides hunting,
shooting, racing, wrestling, and the devil knows what. You may feast and
carouse to your heart's content. The Dukes of Buckingham and Richmond
will be there, and the Earls of Nottingham and Pembroke, and Sir Gilbert
Hoghton, the King's great favourite, who married the Duchess of
Buckingham's sister. Besides these, you will have all the beauty of
Lancashire. I would not miss the sight for thirty pounds."

"Thirty pounds!" echoed Nicholas, as if struck with a sudden thought.
"Do you think Sir Thomas Hoghton would lend me that sum if I consent to
wear his cloth, and attend him?"

"I have no doubt of it," replied Sherborne; "and if he won't, I will."

"Then I will put my pride in my pocket, and go," said Nicholas. "And
now, Dick, dispatch your breakfast as quickly as you can, and then I
will take you to the Ribble, and show you some sport with an otter."

Sherborne was not long in concluding his repast, and having received an
otter spear from the squire, who had already provided himself and Fogg
with like weapons, all three adjourned to the kennels, where they found
the old huntsman, Charlie Crouch, awaiting them, attended by four stout
varlets, armed with forked staves, meant for the double purpose of
beating the river's banks, and striking the poor beast they were about
to hunt, and each man having a couple of hounds, well entered for the
chase, in leash. Old Crouch was a thin, grey-bearded fellow, but
possessed of a tough, muscular frame, which served him quite as well in
the long run as the younger, and apparently more vigorous, limbs of his
assistants. His cheek was hale, and his eye still bright and quick, and
a certain fierceness was imparted to his countenance by a large
aquiline nose. He was attired in a greasy leathern jerkin, tight hose of
the same material, and had a bugle suspended from his neck, and a sharp
hunting-knife thrust into his girdle. In his hand he bore a spear like
his master, and was followed by a grey old lurcher, who, though wanting
an ear and an eye, and disfigured by sundry scars on throat and back,
was hardy, untiring, and sagacious. This ancient dog was called Grip,
from his tenacity in holding any thing he set his teeth upon, and he and
Crouch were inseparable.

Great was the clamour occasioned by the squire's appearance in the yard.
The coupled hounds gave tongue at once, and sang out most melodiously,
and all the other dogs within the kennels, or roaming at will about the
yard, joined the concert. After much swearing, cracking of whips, and
yelping consequent upon the cracking, silence was in some degree
restored, and a consultation was then held between Nicholas and Crouch
as to where their steps should first be bent. The old huntsman was for
drawing the river near a place called Bean Hill Wood, as the trees
thereabouts, growing close to the water's edge, it was pretty certain
the otter would have her couch amid the roots of some of them. This was
objected to by one of the varlets, who declared that the beast lodged in
a hollow tree, standing on a bank nearly a mile higher up the stream,
and close by the point of junction between Swanside Beck and the Ribble.
He was certain of the fact, he avouched, because he had noticed her
marks on the moist grass near the tree.

"Hoo goes theere to fish, mon?" cried Crouch, "for it is the natur o'
the wary varmint to feed at a distance fro' her lodgin; boh ey'm sure we
shan leet on her among the roots o' them big trees o'erhanging th' river
near Bean Hill Wood, an if the squire 'll tay my advice, he'n go theere
first."

"I put myself entirely under your guidance, Crouch," said Nicholas.

"An yo'n be aw reet, sir," replied the huntsman; "we'n beat the bonks
weel, an two o' these chaps shan go up the stream, an two down, one o'
one side, and one o' t'other; an i' that manner hoo canna escape us, fo'
Grip can swim an dive os weel as onny otter i' aw Englondshiar, an he'n
be efter her an her litter the moment they tak to t' wotur. Some folk,
os maybe yo ha' seen, squoire, tak howd on a cord by both eends, an
droppin it into t' river, draw it slowly along, so that they can tell by
th' jerk when th' otter touches it; boh this is an onsartin method, an
is nowt like Grip's plan, for wherever yo see him swimmin, t'other beast
yo may be sure is nah far ahead."

"A brave dog, but confoundedly ugly!" exclaimed the squire, regarding
the old one-eared, one-eyed lurcher with mingled admiration and disgust;
"and now, that all is arranged, let us be off."

Accordingly they quitted the court-yard, and, shaping their course in
the direction indicated by the huntsman, entered the park, and proceeded
along a glade, checkered by the early sunbeams. Here the noise they made
in their progress speedily disturbed a herd of deer browsing beneath the
trees, and, as the dappled foresters darted off to a thicker covert,
great difficulty was experienced by the varlets in restraining the
hounds, who struggled eagerly to follow them, and made the welkin
resound with their baying.

"Yonder is a tall fellow," cried Nicholas, pointing out a noble buck to
Crouch; "I must kill him next week, for I want to send a haunch of
venison to Middleton, and another to Whalley Abbey for Sir Ralph."

"Better hunt him, squoire," said Crouch; "he will gi' ye good sport."

Soon after this they attained an eminence, where a charming sweep of
country opened upon them, including the finest part of Ribblesdale, with
its richly-wooded plains, and the swift and beautiful river from which
it derived its name. The view was enchanting, and the squire and his
companions paused for a moment to contemplate it, and then, stepping
gleefully forward, made their way over the elastic turf towards a small
thicket skirting the park. All were in high spirits, for the freshness
and beauty of the morning had not been without effect, and the squire's
tongue kept pace with his legs as he strode briskly along; but as they
entered the thicket in question, and caught sight of the river through
the trees, the old huntsman enjoined silence, and he was obliged to put
a check upon his loquacity.

When within a bowshot from the water, the party came to a halt, and two
of the men were directed by Crouch to cross the stream at different
points, and then commence beating the banks, while the other two were
ordered to pursue a like course, but to keep on the near side of the
river. The hounds were next uncoupled, and the men set off to execute
the orders they had received, and soon afterwards the crashing of
branches, and the splashing of water, accompanied by the deep baying of
the hounds, told they were at work.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and the others had not remained idle. As the varlets
struck off in different directions, they went straight on, and forcing
their way through the brushwood, came to a high bank overlooking the
Ribble, on the top of which grew three or four large trees, whose roots,
laid bare on the further side by the swollen currents of winter, formed
a convenient resting-place for the fish-loving creature they hoped to
surprise. Receiving a hint from Crouch to make for the central tree,
Nicholas grasped his spear, and sprang forward; but, quick as he was, he
was too late, though he saw enough to convince him that the crafty old
huntsman had been correct in his judgment; for a dark, slimy object
dropped from out the roots of the tree beneath him, and glided into the
water as swiftly and as noiselessly as if its skin had been oiled. A few
bubbles rose to the surface of the water, but these were all the
indications marking the course of the wondrous diver.

But other eyes, sharper than those of Nicholas, were on the watch, and
the old huntsman shouted out, "There hoo goes, Grip--efter her, lad,
efter her!" The words were scarcely uttered when the dog sprang from the
top of the bank and sank under the water. For some seconds no trace
could be observed of either animal, and then the shaggy nose of the
lurcher was seen nearly fifty yards higher up the river, and after
sniffing around for a moment, and fixing his single eye on his master,
who was standing on the bank, and encouraging him with his voice and
gesture, he dived again.

"Station yourselves on the bank, fifty paces apart," cried Crouch; "run,
run, or yo'n be too late, an' strike os quick os leet if yo've a chance.
Stay wheere you are, squoire," he added, to Nicholas. "Yo canna be
better placed."

All was now animation and excitement. Perceiving from the noise that the
otter had been found, the four varlets hastened towards the scene of
action, and, by their shouts and the clatter of their staves,
contributed greatly to its spirit. Two were on one side of the stream,
and two on the other, and up to this moment the hounds were similarly
separated; but now most of them had taken to the water, some swimming
about, others standing up to the middle in the shallower part of the
current, watching with keen gaze for the appearance of their anticipated
victim.

Having descended the bank, Nicholas had so placed himself among the huge
twisted roots of the tree, that if the otter, alarmed by the presence of
so many foes, and unable to escape either up or down the river, should
return to her couch, he made certain of striking her. At first there
seemed little chance of such an occurrence, for Fogg, who had gone a
hundred yards higher up, suddenly dashed into the stream, and, plunging
his spear into the mud, cried out that he had hit the beast; but the
next moment, when he drew the weapon forth, and exhibited a large rat
which he had transfixed, his mistake excited much merriment.

Old Crouch, meantime, did not suffer his attention to be drawn from his
dog. Every now and then he saw him come to the surface to breathe, but
as he kept within a short distance, though rising at different points,
the old huntsman felt certain the otter had not got away, and, having
the utmost reliance upon Grip's perseverance and sagacity, he felt
confident he would bring the quarry to him if the thing were possible.
The varlets kept up an incessant clatter, beating the water with their
staves, and casting large stones into it, while the hounds bayed
furiously, so that the poor fugitive was turned on whichever side she
attempted a retreat.

While this was going on, Nicholas was cautioned by the huntsman to look
out, and scarcely had the admonition reached him than the sleek shining
body of the otter emerged from the water, and wreathed itself among the
roots. The squire instantly dealt a blow which he expected to prove
fatal, but his mortification was excessive when he found he had driven
the spear-head so deeply into the tree that he could scarcely disengage
it, while an almost noiseless plunge told that his prey had escaped.
Almost at the same moment that the poor hunted beast had sought its old
lodging, the untiring lurcher had appeared at the edge of the bank, and,
as the former again went down, he dived likewise.

Secretly laughing at the squire's failure, the old huntsman prepared to
take advantage of a similar opportunity if it should present itself, and
with this view ensconced himself behind a pollard willow, which stood
close beside the stream, and whence he could watch closely all that
passed, without being exposed to view. The prudence of the step was soon
manifest. After the lapse of a few seconds, during which neither dog nor
otter had risen to breathe, a slight, very slight, undulation was
perceptible on the surface of the water. Crouch's grasp tightened upon
his staff--he waited another moment--then dashed forward, struck down
his spear, and raised it aloft, with the poor otter transfixed and
writhing upon its point.

Loudly and exultingly did the old man shout at his triumph, and loudly
were his vociferations answered by the others. All flew to the spot
where he was standing, and the hounds, gathering round him, yelled
furiously at the otter, and showed every disposition to tear her in
pieces, if they could get at her. Kicking the noisiest and fiercest of
them out of the way, Crouch approached the river's brink, and lowered
the spear-head till it came within reach of his favourite Grip, who had
not yet come out of the water, but stood within his depth, with his one
red eye fixed on the enemy he had so hotly pursued, and fully expecting
his reward. It now came; his sharp teeth instantly met in the otter's
throat, and when Crouch swung them both in the air, he still maintained
his hold, showing how well he deserved his name, nor could he be
disengaged until long after the sufferings of the tortured animal had
ceased.

To say that Nicholas was neither chagrined at his ill success, nor
jealous of the old huntsman's superior skill, would be to affirm an
untruth; but he put the best face he could upon the matter, and praised
Grip very highly, alleging that the whole merit of the hunt rested with
him. Old Crouch let him go on, and when he had done, quietly observed
that the otter they had destroyed was not the one they came in search
of, as they had seen nothing of her litter; and that, most likely, the
beast that had done so much mischief had her lodging in the hollow tree
near the Swanside Beck, as described by the varlet, and he wished to
know whether the squire would like to go and hunt her. Nicholas replied
that he was quite willing to do so, and hoped he should have better luck
on the second occasion; and with this they set forward again, taking
their way along the side of the stream, beating the banks as they went,
but without rousing any thing beyond an occasional water-rat, which was
killed almost as soon as found by Grip.

Somehow or other, without any one being aware what led to it the
conversation fell upon the two old witches, Mothers Demdike and Chattox,
and the strange manner in which their career had terminated on the
summit of Pendle Hill--if, indeed it could be said to have terminated,
when their spirits were reported to haunt the spot, and might be seen,
it was asserted, at midnight, flitting round the beacon, and shrieking
dismally. The restless shades were pursued, it was added, by the figure
of a monk in white mouldering robes, supposed to be the ghost of Paslew.
It was difficult to understand how these apparitions could be witnessed,
since no one, even for a reward, could be prevailed upon to ascend
Pendle Hill after nightfall; but the shepherds affirmed they had seen
them from below, and that was testimony sufficient to shake the most
sceptical. One singular circumstance was mentioned, which must not be
passed by without notice; and this was, that when the cinders of the
extinct beacon-fire came to be examined, no remains whatever of the two
hags could be discovered, though the ashes were carefully sifted, and it
was quite certain that the flames had expired long before their bodies
could be consumed. The explanation attempted for this marvel was, that
Satan had carried them off while yet living, to finish their combustion
in a still more fiery region.

Mention of Mother Demdike naturally led to her grandson, Jem Device,
who, having escaped in a remarkable manner on the night in question,
notwithstanding the hue and cry made after him, had not, as yet, been
captured, though he had been occasionally seen at night, and under
peculiar circumstances, by various individuals, and amongst others by
old Crouch, who, however, declared he had been unable to lay hands upon
him.

Allusion was then made to Mistress Nutter, whereupon it was observed
that the squire changed the conversation quickly; while sundry sly winks
and shrugs were exchanged among the varlets of the kennel, seeming to
intimate that they knew more about the matter than they cared to admit.
Nothing more, however, was elicited than that the escort conducting her
to Lancaster Castle, together with the other witches, after their
examination before the magistrates at Whalley, and committal, had been
attacked, while it was passing through a woody defile in Bowland Forest,
by a party of men in the garb of foresters, and the lady set free. Nor
had she been heard of since. What made this rescue the more
extraordinary was, that none of the other witches were liberated at the
same time, but some of them who seemed disposed to take advantage of the
favourable interposition, and endeavoured to get away, were brought back
by the foresters to the officers of justice; thus clearly proving that
the attempt was solely made on Mistress Nutter's account, and must have
been undertaken by her friends. Nothing, it was asserted, could equal
the rage and mortification of Roger Nowell and Potts, on learning that
their chief prey had thus escaped them; and by their directions, for
more than a week, the strictest search was made for the fugitive
throughout the neighbourhood, but without effect--no clue could be
discovered to her retreat. Suspicion naturally fell upon the two
Asshetons, Nicholas and Richard, and Roger Nowell roundly taxed them
with contriving and executing the enterprise in person; while Potts told
them they were guilty of misprision of felony, and threatened them with
imprisonment for life, forfeiture of goods and of rents, for the
offence; but as the charge could not be proved against them,
notwithstanding all the efforts of the magistrate and attorney, it fell
to the ground; and Master Potts, full of chagrin at this unexpected and
vexatious termination of the affair, returned to London, and settled
himself in his chambers in Chancery Lane. His duties, however, as clerk
of the court, would necessarily call him to Lancaster in August, when
the assizes commenced, and when he would assist at the trials of such of
the witches as were still in durance.

From Mother Demdike it was natural that the conversation should turn to
her weird retreat, Malkin Tower; and Richard Sherborne expressed his
surprise that the unhallowed structure should be suffered to remain
standing after her removal. Nicholas said he was equally anxious with
his brother-in-law for its demolition, but it was not so easily to be
accomplished as it might appear; for the deserted structure was in such
ill repute with the common folk, as well as every one else, that no one
dared approach it, even in the daytime. A boggart, it was said, had
taken possession of its vaults, and scared away all who ventured near
it; sometimes showing himself in one frightful shape, and sometimes in
another; now as a monstrous goat, now as an equally monstrous cat,
uttering fearful cries, glaring with fiery eyes from out of the windows,
or appearing in all his terror on the summit of the tower. Moreover, the
haunted structure was frequently lighted up at dead of night, strains of
unearthly music were heard resounding from it, and wild figures were
seen flitting past the windows, as if engaged in dancing and revelry; so
that it appeared that no alteration for the better had taken place
there, and that things were still quite as improperly conducted now, as
they had been in the time of Mother Demdike, or in those of her
predecessors, Isole de Heton and Blackburn, the robber. The common
opinion was, that Satan and all his imps had taken up their abode in the
tower, and, as they liked their quarters, led a jolly life there,
dancing and drinking all night long, it would be useless at present to
give them notice to quit, still less to attempt to pull down the house
about their ears. Richard Sherborne heard this wondrous relation in
silence, but with a look of incredulity; and when it was done he winked
slily at his brother-in-law. A strange expression, half comical, half
suspicious, might also have been observed on Fogg's countenance; and he
narrowly watched the squire as the latter spoke.

"But with the disappearance of the malignant old hags who had so long
infested the neighbourhood, had all mischief and calamity ceased, or
were people as much afflicted as heretofore? Were there, in short, so
many cases of witchcraft, real or supposed?" This was the question next
addressed by Sherborne to Nicholas. The squire answered decidedly there
were not. Since the burning of the two old beldames, and the
imprisonment of the others, the whole district of Pendle had improved.
All those who had been smitten with strange illnesses had recovered; and
the inhabitants of the little village of Sabden, who had experienced the
fullest effects of their malignity, were entirely free from sickness.
And not only had they and their families suddenly regained health and
strength, but all belonging to them had undergone a similar beneficial
change. The kine that had lost their milk now yielded it abundantly; the
lame horse halted no longer; the murrain ceased among the sheep; the
pigs that had grown lean amidst abundance fattened rapidly; and though
the farrows that had perished during the evil ascendency of the witches
could not be brought back again, their place promised speedily to be
supplied by others. The corn blighted early in the year had sprung forth
anew, and the trees nipped in the bud were laden with fruit. In short,
all was as fair and as flourishing as it had recently been the reverse.
Amongst others, John Law, the pedlar, who had been deprived of the use
of his limbs by the damnable arts of Mother Demdike, had marvellously
recovered on the very night of her destruction, and was now as strong
and as active as ever. "Such happy results having followed the removal
of the witches, it was to be hoped," Sherborne said, "that the riddance
would be complete, and that none of the obnoxious brood would be left to
inflict future miseries on their fellows. This could not be the case so
long as James Device was allowed to go at large; nor while his mother,
Elizabeth Device, a notorious witch, was suffered to escape with
impunity. There was also Jennet, Elizabeth's daughter, a mischievous and
ill-favoured little creature, who inherited all the ill qualities of her
parents. These were the spawn of the old snake, and, until they were
entirely exterminated, there could be no security against a recurrence
of the evil. Again, there was Nance Redferne, old Chattox's
grand-daughter, a comely woman enough, but a reputed witch, and an
undoubted fabricator of clay images. She was still at liberty, though
she ought to be with the rest in the dungeons of Lancaster Castle. It
was useless to allege that with the destruction of the old hags all
danger had ceased. Common prudence would keep the others quiet now; but
the moment the storm passed over, they would resume their atrocious
practices, and all would be as bad as ever. No, no! the tree must be
utterly uprooted, or it would inevitably burst forth anew."

With these opinions Nicholas generally concurred; but he expressed some
sympathy for Nance Redferne, whom he thought far too good-looking to be
as wicked and malicious as represented. But however that might be, and
however much he might desire to get rid of the family of the Devices, he
feared such a step might be attended with danger to Alizon, and that she
might in some way or other be implicated with them. This last remark he
addressed in an under-tone to his brother-in-law. Sherborne did not at
first feel any apprehension on that score, but, on reflection, he
admitted that Nicholas was perhaps right; and though Alizon was now the
recognised daughter of Mistress Nutter, yet her long and intimate
connection with the Device family might operate to her prejudice, while
her near relationship to an avowed witch would not tend to remove the
unfavourable impression. Sherborne then went on to speak in the most
rapturous terms of the beauty and goodness of the young girl who formed
the subject of their conversation, and declared he was not in the least
surprised that Richard Assheton was so much in love with her. And yet,
he added, a most extraordinary change had taken place in her since the
dreadful night on Pendle Hill, when her mother's guilt had been
proclaimed, and when her arrest had taken place as an offender of the
darkest dye. Alizon, he said, had lost none of her beauty, but her light
and joyous expression of countenance had been supplanted by a look of
profound sadness, which nothing could remove. Gentle and meek in her
deportment, she seemed to look upon herself as under a ban, and as if
she were unfit to associate with the rest of the world. In vain Richard
Assheton and his sister endeavoured to remove this impression by the
tenderest assiduities; in vain they sought to induce her to enter into
amusements consistent with her years; she declined all society but their
own, and passed the greater part of her time in prayer. Sherborne had
seen her so engaged, and the expression of her countenance, he declared,
was seraphic.

On the extreme verge of a high bank situated at the point of junction
between Swanside Beck and the Ribble, stood an old, decayed oak. Little
of the once mighty tree beyond the gnarled trunk was left, and this was
completely hollow; while there was a great rift near the bottom through
which a man might easily creep, and, when once in, stand erect without
inconvenience. Beneath the bank the river was deep and still, forming a
pool, where the largest and fattest fish were to be met with. In
addition to this, the spot was extremely secluded, being rarely visited
by the angler on account of the thick copse by which it was surrounded
and which extended along the back, from the point of confluence between
the lesser and the larger stream, to Downham mill, nearly half a mile
distant.

The sides of the Ribble were here, as elsewhere, beautifully wooded, and
as the clear stream winded along through banks of every diversity of
shape and character, and covered by forest trees of every description,
and of the most luxuriant growth, the effect was enchanting; the more
so, that the sun, having now risen high in the heavens, poured down a
flood of summer heat and radiance, that rendered these cool shades
inexpressibly delightful. Pleasant was it, as the huntsmen leaped from
stone to stone, to listen to the sound of the waters rushing past them.
Pleasant as they sprang upon some green holm or fairy islet, standing in
the midst of the stream, and dividing its lucid waters, to suffer the
eye to follow the course of the rapid current, and to see it here
sparkling in the bright sunshine, there plunged in shade by the
overhanging trees--now fringed with osiers and rushes, now embanked with
smoothest sward of emerald green; anon defended by steep rocks,
sometimes bold and bare, but more frequently clothed with timber; then
sinking down by one of those sudden but exquisite transitions, which
nature alone dares display, from this savage and sombre character into
the softest and gentlest expression; every where varied, yet every where
beautiful.

Through such scenes of silvan loveliness had the huntsmen passed on
their way to the hollow oak, and they had ample leisure to enjoy them,
because the squire and his brother-in-law being engaged in conversation,
as before related, made frequent pauses, and, during these, the others
halted likewise; and even the hounds, glad of a respite, stood still, or
amused themselves by splashing about amid the shallows without any
definite object unless of cooling themselves. Then, as the leaders once
more moved forward, arose the cheering shout, the loud deep bay, the
clattering of staves, the crashing of branches, and all the other
inspiriting noises accompanying the progress of the hunt. But for some
minutes these had again ceased, and as Nicholas and Sherborne lingered
beneath the shade of a wide-spread beech-tree growing on a sandy hillock
near the stream, and seemed deeply interested in their talk--as well
they might, for it related to Alizon--the whole troop, including Fogg,
held respectfully aloof, and awaited their pleasure to go on.

The signal to move was, at length, given by the squire, who saw they
were now not more than a hundred yards from the bank on which stood the
hollow tree they were anxious to reach. As the river here made a turn,
and swept round the point in question, forming, owing to this
detention, the deep pool previously mentioned, the bank almost faced
them, and, as nothing intervened, they could almost look into the rift
near the base of the tree, forming, they supposed, the entrance to the
otter's couch. But, though this was easily distinguished, no traces of
the predatory animal could be seen; and though many sharp eyes were
fixed upon the spot during the prolonged discourse of the two gentlemen,
nothing had occurred to attract their attention, and to prove that the
object of their quest was really there.

After some little consultation between the squire and Crouch, it was
agreed that the former should alone force his way to the tree, while the
others were to station themselves with the hounds at various points of
the stream, above and below the bank, so that, if the otter and her
litter escaped their first assailant, they should infallibly perish by
the hands of some of the others. This being agreed upon, the plan was
instantly put into execution--two of the varlets remaining where they
were--two going higher up; while Sherborne and Fogg stationed themselves
on great stones in the middle of the stream, whence they could command
all around them, and Crouch, wading on with Grip, planted himself at the
entrance of Swanside Beck into the Ribble.

Meanwhile, the squire having scaled the bank, entered the thick covert
encircling it, and, not without some damage to his face and hands from
the numerous thorns and brambles growing amongst it, forced his way
upwards until he reached the bare space surrounding the hollow tree; and
this attained, his first business was to ascertain that all was in
readiness below before commencing the attack. A glance showed him on one
side old Crouch standing up to his middle in the beck, grasping his long
otter spear, and with Grip beating the water in front of him in anxious
expectation of employment; and in front Fogg, Sherborne, and two of the
varlets, with their hounds so disposed that they could immediately
advance upon the otter if it plunged into the river, while its passage
up or down would be stopped by their comrades. All this he discerned at
a glance; and comprehending from a sign made him by the old huntsman
that he should not delay, he advanced towards the tree, and was about to
plunge his spear into the hole, hoping to transfix one at least of its
occupants, when he was startled by hearing a deep voice apparently issue
from the hollows of the timber, bidding him "Beware!"

Nicholas recoiled aghast, for he thought it might be Hobthurst, or the
demon of the wood, who thus bespoke him.

"What accursed thing addresses me?" he said, standing on his guard.
"What is it? Speak!"

"Get hence, Nicholas Assheton," replied the voice; "an' meddle not wi'
them os meddles not wi' thee."

"Aha!" exclaimed the squire, recovering courage, for he thought this
did not sound like the language of a demon. "I am known am I? Why should
I go hence, and at whose bidding?"

"Ask neaw questions, mon, boh ge," replied the voice, "or it shan be
warse fo' thee. Ey am the boggart o' th' clough, an' if theaw bringst me
out, ey'n tear thee i' pieces wi' my claws, an' cast thee into t'
Ribble, so that thine own hounts shan eat thee up."

"Ha! say'st thou so, master boggart," cried Nicholas. "For a spirit,
thou usest the vernacular of the county fairly enough. But before trying
whether thy hide be proof against mortal weapons I command thee to come
forth and declare thyself, that I may judge what manner of thing thou
art."

"Thoud'st best lem me be, ey tell thee," replied the boggart gruffly.

"Ah! methinks I should know those accents," exclaimed the squire; "they
marvellously resemble the voice of an offender who has too long evaded
justice, and whom I have now fairly entrapped. Jem Device, thou art
known, lad, and if thou dost not surrender at discretion, I will strike
my spear through this rotten tree, and spit thee as I would the beast I
came in quest of."

"An' which yo wad more easily than me," retorted Jem. And suddenly
springing from the hole at the foot of the tree, he passed between the
squire's legs with great promptitude, and flinging him face foremost
upon the ground, crawled to the edge of the bank, and thence dropped
into the deep pool below.

The plunge roused all the spectators, who, though they had heard what
had passed, and had seen the squire upset in the manner described, had
been so much astounded that they could render no assistance; but they
now, one and all, bestirred themselves actively to seize the diver when
he should rise to the surface. But though every eye was on the look-out,
and every arm raised; though the hounds were as eager as their masters,
and yelling fiercely, swam round the pool, ready to pounce upon the
swimmer as upon a duck, all were disappointed; for, even after a longer
interval than their patience could brook, he did not appear.

By this time, Nicholas had regained his legs, and, infuriated by his
discomfiture, approached the edge of the bank, and peering down below,
hoped to detect the fugitive immediately beneath him, resolved to show
him no mercy when he caught him. But he was equally at fault with the
others, and after more than five minutes spent in ineffectual search, he
ordered Crouch to send Grip into the pool.

The old keeper replied that the dog was not used to this kind of chase,
and might not display his usual skill in it; but as the squire would
take no nay, he was obliged to consent, and the other hounds were called
off lest they should puzzle him. Twice did the shrewd lurcher swim round
the pool, sniffing the air, after which he approached the shore, and
scented close to the bank; still it was evident he could detect
nothing, and Nicholas began to despair, when the dog suddenly dived.
Expectation was then raised to the utmost, and all were on the watch
again, Nicholas leaning over the edge of the bank with his spear in
hand, prepared to strike; but the dog was so long in reappearing, that
all had given him up for lost, and his master was giving utterance to
ejaculations of grief and rage, and vowing vengeance against the
warlock, when Grip's grisly head was once more seen above the surface of
the water, and this time he had a piece of blue serge in his jaws,
proving that he had had hold of the raiments of the fugitive, and that
therefore the latter could not be far off, but had most probably got
into some hole beneath the bank.

No sooner was this notion suggested than it was acted on by the old
huntsman and Fogg, and, wading forward, they pricked the bank with their
spears at various points below the level of the water. All at once Fogg
fell forward. His spear had entered a hole, and had penetrated so deeply
that he had lost his balance. But though, soused over head and ears, he
had made a successful hit, for the next moment Jem Device appeared above
the water, and ere he could dive again his throat was seized by Grip,
and while struggling to free himself from the fangs of the tenacious
animal, he was laid hold of by Crouch, and the varlets rushing forward
to the latter's assistance, the ruffian was captured.

Some difficulty was experienced in rescuing the captive from the jaws of
the hounds, who, infuriated by his struggles, and perhaps mistaking him
for some strange beast of chase, made their sharp teeth meet in various
parts of his person, rending his garments from his limbs, and would no
doubt have rent the flesh also, if they had been permitted. At length,
after much fighting and struggling, mingled with yells and
vociferations, Jem was borne ashore, and flung on the ground, where he
presented a wretched spectacle; bleeding, half-drowned, and covered with
slime acquired during his occupation of the hole in the bank. But though
unable to offer further resistance, his spirit was not quelled, and his
eye glared terribly at his captors. Fearing they might have further
trouble with him when he recovered from his present exhausted condition,
Crouch had his hands bound tightly together with one of the dog leashes,
and then would fain have questioned him as to how he managed to breathe
in a hole below the level of the water; but Jem refused to satisfy his
curiosity, and returned only a sullen rejoinder to any questions
addressed to him, until the squire, who had crossed the river at some
stepping-stones lower down, came up, and the ruffian then inquired, in a
half-menacing tone, what he meant to do with him?

"What do I mean to do with you?" cried Nicholas. "I will tell you, lad.
I shall send you at once to Whalley to be examined before the
magistrates; and, as the proofs are pretty clear against you, you will
be forwarded without any material delay to Lancaster Castle."

"An yo winna rescue me by the way, os yo ha dun a sartin notorious witch
an murtheress!" replied Jem, fiercely. "Tak heed whot yo dun, squoire.
If ey speak at aw, ey shan speak out, and to some purpose, ey'n warrant
ye. If ey ge to Lonkester Castle, ey winna ge alone. Wan o' yer friends
shan ge wi' me."

"Cursed villain! I guess thy meaning," replied Nicholas; "but thy
vindictive purposes will be frustrated. No credence will be attached to
thy false charges; while, as to the lady thou aimest at, she is luckily
beyond reach of thy malice."

"Dunna be too sure o' that, squoire," replied Jem. "Ey con put t'
officers o' jestis os surely on her track os owd Crouch could set these
hounds on an otter. Lay yer account on it, ey winna dee unavenged."

"Heed him not," interposed Sherborne, seeing that the squire was shaken
by his threat, and taking him apart; "it will not do to let such a
villain escape. He can do you no injury, and as to Mistress Nutter, if
you know where she is, it will be easy to give her a hint to get out of
the way."

"I don't know that," replied Nicholas, thoughtfully.

"If ey might be so bowd os offer my advice, squoire," said old Crouch,
advancing towards his master, "ey'd tee a heavy stoan round the felly's
throttle, an chuck him into t' poo', an' he'n tell no teles fo' all his
bragging."

"That would silence him effectually, no doubt, Crouch," replied
Nicholas, laughing; "but a dog's death is too good for him, and besides
I am pretty sure his destiny is not drowning. No, no--at all risks he
shall go to Whalley. Harkee, Fogg," he added, beckoning that worthy to
him, "I commit the conduct and custody of the prisoner to you. Clap him
on a horse, get on another yourself, take these four varlets with you,
and deliver him into the hands of Sir Ralph Assheton, who will relieve
you of a