“Fro Mistress Nutter, ey suppose?” asked Jem.
“Eigh, who else should it be from?” rejoined Elizabeth. “Your gran-mother win’ ha’ enough to do to neet, an so win yo, too, Jem, lettin alone the walk fro here to Malkin Tower.”
“Weel, gi’ me mey supper, an ey’n set out,” rejoined Jem. “So ye ha’ seen Mistress Nutter?”
“Ey found her i’ th’ Abbey garden,” replied Elizabeth, “an we had some tawk together, abowt th’ boundary line o’ th’ Rough Lee estates, and other matters.”
And, as she spoke, she set a cold pasty, with oat cakes, cheese, and butter, before her son, and next proceeded to draw him a jug of ale.
“What other matters dun you mean, mother?” inquired Jem, attacking the pasty. “War it owt relatin’ to that little Lunnon lawyer, Mester Potts?”
“Theawst hit it, Jem,” replied Elizabeth, seating herself near him. “That Potts means to visit thy gran-mother to morrow.”
“Weel!” said Jem, grimly.
“An arrest her,” pursued Elizabeth.
“Easily said,” laughed Jem, scornfully, “boh neaw quite so easily done.”
“Nah quite, Jem,” responded Elizabeth, joining in the laugh. “’Specially when th’ owd dame’s prepared, as she win be now.”
“Potts may set out ’o that journey, boh he winna come back again,” remarked Jem, in a sombre tone.
“Wait till yo’n seen your gran-mother efore ye do owt, lad,” said Elizabeth.
“Ay, wait,” added a voice.
“What’s that?” demanded Jem, laving down his knife and fork.
Elizabeth did not answer in words, but her significant looks were quite response enough for her son.
“Os ye win, mother,” he said in an altered tone. After a pause, employed in eating, he added, “Did Mistress Nutter put onny questions to ye about Alizon?”
“More nor enough, lad,” replied Elizabeth; “fo what had ey to tell her? She praised her beauty, an said how unlike she wur to Jennet an thee, lad—ha! ha!—An wondert how ey cum to ha such a dowter, an monny other things besoide. An what could ey say to it aw, except—”
“Except what, mother?” interrupted Jem.
“Except that she wur my child just os much os Jennet an thee!”
“Humph!” exclaimed Jem.
“Humph!” echoed the voice that had previously spoken.
Jem looked at his mother, and took a long pull at the ale-jug.
“Any more messages to Malkin Tower?” he asked, getting up.
“Neaw—mother will onderstond,” replied Elizabeth. “Bid her be on her guard, fo’ the enemy is abroad.”
“Meanin’ Potts?” said Jem.
“Meaning Potts,” answered the voice.
“There are strange echoes here,” said Jem, looking round suspiciously.
At this moment, Tib came from under a piece of furniture, where he had apparently been lying, and rubbed himself familiarly against his legs.
“Ey needna be afeerd o’ owt happenin to ye, mother,” said Jem, patting the cat’s back. “Tib win tay care on yo.”