"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?"
"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."