“Eigh, eigh,” replied Elizabeth, bending down to pat him, “he’s a trusty cat.” But the ill-tempered animal would not be propitiated, but erected his back, and menaced her with his claws.
“Yo han offended him, mother,” said Jem. “One word efore ey start. Are ye quite sure Potts didna owerhear your conversation wi’ Mistress Nutter?”
“Why d’ye ask, Jem?” she replied.
“Fro’ summat the knave threw out to Squoire Nicholas just now,” rejoined Jem. “He said he’d another case o’ witchcraft nearer whoam. Whot could he mean?”
“Whot, indeed?” cried Elizabeth, quickly.
“Look at Tib,” exclaimed her son.
As he spoke, the cat sprang towards the inner door, and scratched violently against it.
Elizabeth immediately raised the latch, and found Jennet behind it, with a face like scarlet.
“Yo’n been listenin, ye young eavesdropper,” cried Elizabeth, boxing her ears soundly; “take that fo’ your pains—an that.”
“Touch me again, an Mester Potts shan knoa aw ey’n heer’d,” said the little girl, repressing her tears.
Elizabeth regarded her angrily; but the looks of the child were so spiteful, that she did not dare to strike her. She glanced too at Tib; but the uncertain cat was now rubbing himself in the most friendly manner against Jennet.
“Yo shan pay for this, lass, presently,” said Elizabeth.
“Best nah provoke me, mother,” rejoined Jennet in a determined tone; “if ye dun, aw secrets shan out. Ey knoa why Jem’s goin’ to Malkin-Tower to-neet—an why yo’re afeerd o’ Mester Potts.”
“Howd thy tongue or ey’n choke thee, little pest,” cried her mother, fiercely.
Jennet replied with a mocking laugh, while Tib rubbed against her more fondly than ever.
“Let her alone,” interposed Jem. “An now ey mun be off. So, fare ye weel, mother,—an yo, too, Jennet.” And with this, he put on his cap, seized his cudgel, and quitted the cottage.
Beneath a wild cherry-tree, planted by chance in the Abbey gardens, and of such remarkable size that it almost rivalled the elms and lime trees surrounding it, and when in bloom resembled an enormous garland, stood two young maidens, both of rare beauty, though in totally different styles;—the one being fair-haired and blue-eyed, with a snowy skin tinged with delicate bloom, like that of roses seen through milk, to borrow a simile from old Anacreon; while the other far eclipsed her in the brilliancy of her complexion, the dark splendour of her eyes, and the luxuriance of her jetty tresses, which, unbound and knotted with ribands, flowed down almost to the ground. In age, there was little disparity between them, though perhaps the dark-haired girl might be a year nearer twenty than the other, and somewhat more of seriousness, though not much, sat upon her lovely countenance than