“Where are the foes you spoke of?” he asked with some uneasiness, as Demdike led his horse slowly and carefully down the hill-side.
“You shall see anon,” replied the other.
“You are taking me to the spot where you traced the magic circle,” cried Paslew in alarm. “I know it from its unnaturally green hue. I will not go thither.”
“I do not mean you should, lord abbot,” replied Demdike, halting. “Remain on this firm ground. Nay, be not alarmed; you are in no danger. Now bid your men advance, and prepare their weapons.”
The abbot would have demanded wherefore, but at a glance from Demdike he complied, and the two men-at-arms, and the herdsmen, arranged themselves beside him, while Fathers Eastgate and Haydocke, who had gotten upon their mules, took up a position behind.
Scarcely were they thus placed, when a loud shout was raised below, and a band of armed men, to the number of thirty or forty, leapt the stone wall, and began to scale the hill with great rapidity. They came up a deep dry channel, apparently worn in the hill-side by some former torrent, and which led directly to the spot where Demdike and the abbot stood. The beacon-fire still blazed brightly, and illuminated the whole proceeding, showing that these men, from their accoutrements, were royalist soldiers.
“Stir not, as you value your life,” said the wizard to Paslew; “but observe what shall follow.”
Demdike went a little further down the hill, stopping when he came to the green patch. He then plunged his staff into the sod at the first point where he had cast a tuft of heather, and with such force that it sank more than three feet. The next moment he plucked it forth, as if with a great effort, and a jet of black water spouted into the air; but, heedless of this, he went to the next marked spot, and again plunged the sharp point of the implement into the ground. Again it sank to the same depth, and, on being drawn out, a second black jet sprung forth.
Meanwhile the hostile party continued to advance up the dry channel before mentioned, and shouted on beholding these strange preparations, but they did not relax their speed. Once more the staff sank into the ground, and a third black fountain followed its extraction. By this time, the royalist soldiers were close at hand, and the features of their two leaders, John Braddyll and Richard Assheton, could be plainly distinguished, and their voices heard.
“’Tis he! ’tis the rebel abbot!” vociferated Braddyll, pressing forward. “We were not misinformed. He has been watching by the beacon. The devil has delivered him into our hands.”
“Ho! ho!” laughed Demdike.
“Abbot no longer—’tis the Earl of Poverty you mean,” responded Assheton. “The villain shall be gibbeted on the spot where he has fired the beacon, as a warning to all traitors.”