The Dark Shape came on. It stood beside Mistress Nutter, and she prostrated herself before it. The gestures of the figure were angry and imperious—those of Mistress Nutter supplicating. Their converse was drowned by the rattling of the storm. At last the figure pointed to Alizon, and the word “midnight” broke in tones louder than the thunder from its lips. All consciousness then forsook her.
How long she continued in this state she knew not, but the touch of a finger applied to her brow seemed to recall her suddenly to animation. She heaved a deep sigh, and looked around. A wondrous change had occurred. The storm had passed off, and the moon was shining brightly over the top of the cypress-tree, flooding the chamber with its gentle radiance, while her mother was bending over her with looks of tenderest affection.
“You are better now, sweet child,” said Mistress Nutter. “You were overcome by the storm. It was sudden and terrible.”
“Terrible, indeed!” replied Alizon, imperfectly recalling what had passed. “But it was not alone the storm that frightened me. This chamber has been invaded by evil beings. Methought I beheld a dark figure come from out yon closet, and stand before you.”
“You have been thrown into a state of stupor by the influence of the electric fluid,” replied Mistress Nutter, “and while in that condition visions have passed through your brain. That is all, my child.”
“Oh! I hope so,” said Alizon.
“Such ecstasies are of frequent occurrence,” replied Mistress Nutter. “But, since you are quite recovered, we will descend to Lady Assheton, who may wonder at our absence. You will share this room with me to-night, my child; for, as I have already said, you cannot return to Elizabeth Device. I will make all needful explanations to Lady Assheton, and will see Elizabeth in the morning—perhaps to-night. Reassure yourself, sweet child. There is nothing to fear.”
“I trust not, mother,” replied Alizon. “But it would ease my mind to look into that closet.”
“Do so, then, by all means,” replied Mistress Nutter with a forced smile.
Alizon peeped timorously into the little room, which was lighted up by the moon’s rays. There was a faded white habit, like the robe of a Cistertian monk, hanging in one corner, and beneath it an old chest. Alizon would fain have opened the chest, but Mistress Nutter called out to her impatiently, “You will discover nothing, I am sure. Come, let us go down-stairs.”
And they quitted the room together.