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?”
[Illustration: RICHARD OVERHEARS THE MOTHER CHATTOX AND THE SEXTON.]
“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.”