“He may not go away at all,” rejoined Mistress Nutter, sternly.
“Then you mean to make a determined resistance?” said Nicholas. “Recollect that you are resisting the law. I wish I could induce you to resort to the safer expedient of flight. This affair is already dark and perplexed enough, and does not require further complication. Find any place of concealment, no matter where, till some arrangement can be made with Roger Nowell.”
“I should rather urge you to fly, Nicholas,” rejoined the lady; “for it is evident you have strong misgivings as to the justice of my cause, and would not willingly compromise yourself. I will not surrender to this magistrate, because, by so doing, my life would assuredly be forfeited, for my innocence could never be established before the iniquitous and bloody tribunal to which I should be brought. Neither, for the same reason, will I surrender Alizon, who, with a refinement of malignity, has been similarly accused. I shall now proceed to make preparations for my defence. Go, if you think fitting—or stay—but if you do stay, I shall calculate upon your active services.”
“You may,” replied the squire. “Whatever I may think, I admire your spirit, and will stand by you. But time is passing, and the foe will return and find us engaged in deliberation when we ought to be prepared. You have a dozen men on the premises on whom you can rely. Half of these must be placed at the back of the house to prevent any entrance from being effected in that quarter. The rest can remain within the entrance hall, and be ready to rush forth when summoned by us; but we will not so summon them unless we are hardly put to it, and their aid is indispensable. All should be well armed, but I trust they will not have to use their weapons. Are you agreed to this, madam?”
“I am,” replied Mistress Nutter, “and I will give instant directions that your wishes are complied with. All approaches to the back of the house shall be strictly guarded as you direct, and my trusty man, Blackadder, on whose fidelity and courage I can entirely rely, shall take the command of the party in the hall, and act under your orders. Your prowess will not be unobserved, for Alizon and I shall be in the upper room commanding the garden, whence we can see all that takes place.”
A slight smile was exchanged between the lovers; but it was evident, from her anxious looks, that Alizon did not share in Richard’s confidence. An opportunity, however, was presently afforded him of again endeavouring to reassure her, for Mistress Nutter went forth to give Blackadder his orders, and Nicholas betook himself to the back of the house to ascertain, from personal inspection, its chance of security.
“You are still uneasy, dear Alizon,” said Richard, taking her hand; “but do not be cast down. No harm shall befall you.”
“It is not for myself I am apprehensive,” she replied, “but for you, who are about to expose yourself to needless risk in this encounter; and, if any thing should happen to you, I shall be for ever wretched. I would far rather you left me to my fate.”