“Take heed,” said Bess, in a deep whisper; “if thou save him not, by the devil thou servest! thou shalt lose me and thy child.”
Demdike did not think proper to contest the point, but, approaching Assheton, requested that the wounded man might be conveyed to an arched recess, which he pointed out. Assent being given, Ashbead was taken there, and placed upon the ground, after which the arquebussiers and their leader marched off; while Bess, kneeling down, supported the head of the wounded man upon her knee, and Demdike, taking a small phial from his doublet, poured some of its contents clown his throat. The wizard then took a fold of linen, with which he was likewise provided, and, dipping it in the elixir, applied it to the wound.
In a few moments Ashbead opened his eyes, and looking round wildly, fixed his gaze upon Bess, who placed her finger upon her lips to enjoin silence, but he could not, or would not, understand the sign.
“Aw’s o’er wi’ meh, Bess,” he groaned; “but ey’d reyther dee thus, wi’ thee besoide meh, than i’ ony other wey.”
“Hush!” exclaimed Bess, “Nicholas is here.”
“Oh! ey see,” replied the wounded man, looking round; “but whot matters it? Ey’st be gone soon. Ah, Bess, dear lass, if theawdst promise to break thy compact wi’ Satan—to repent and save thy precious sowl—ey should dee content.”
“Oh, do not talk thus!” cried Bess. “You will soon be well again.”
“Listen to me,” continued Ashbead, earnestly; “dust na knoa that if thy babe be na bapteesed efore to-morrow neet, it’ll be sacrificed to t’ Prince o’ Darkness. Go to some o’ t’ oly feythers—confess thy sins an’ implore heaven’s forgiveness—an’ mayhap they’ll save thee an’ thy infant.”
“And be burned as a witch,” rejoined Bess, fiercely. “It is useless, Cuthbert; I have tried them all. I have knelt to them, implored them, but their hearts are hard as flints. They will not heed me. They will not disobey the abbot’s cruel injunctions, though he be their superior no longer. But I shall be avenged upon him—terribly avenged.”
“Leave meh, theaw wicked woman.” cried Ashbead; “ey dunna wish to ha’ thee near meh. Let meh dee i’ peace.”
“Thou wilt not die, I tell thee, Cuthbert,” cried Bess; “Nicholas hath staunched thy wound.”
“He stawncht it, seyst to?” cried Ashbead, raising. “Ey’st never owe meh loife to him.”
And before he could be prevented he tore off the bandage, and the blood burst forth anew.
“It is not my fault if he perishes now,” observed Demdike, moodily.
“Help him—help him!” implored Bess.
“He shanna touch meh,” cried Ashbead, struggling and increasing the effusion. “Keep him off, ey adjure thee. Farewell, Bess,” he added, sinking back utterly exhausted by the effort.
“Cuthbert!” screamed Bess, terrified by his looks, “Cuthbert! art thou really dying? Look at me, speak to me! Ha!” she cried, as if seized by a sudden idea, “they say the blessing of a dying man will avail. Bless my child, Cuthbert, bless it!”