“I have no misunderstanding with you, madam,” replied Nowell; “I do not quarrel with persons like you. But be assured, though you may escape now, a day of reckoning will come.”
“Your chief cause of grievance against me, I am aware,” replied Mistress Nutter, calmly, “is, that I have beaten you in the matter of the land. Now, I have a proposal to make to you respecting it.”
“I cannot listen to it,” rejoined Nowell, sternly; “I can have no dealings with a witch.”
At this moment his cloak was plucked behind by Potts, who looked at him as much as to say, “Do not exasperate her. Hear what she has got to offer.”
“I shall be happy to act as mediator between you, if possible,” observed Nicholas; “but in that case I must request you, Master Nowell, to abstain from any offensive language.”
“What is it you have to propose to me, then, madam!” demanded the magistrate, gruffly.
“Come with me into the house, and you shall hear,” replied Mistress Nutter.
Nowell was about to refuse peremptorily, when his cloak was again plucked by Potts, who whispered him to go.
“This is not a snare laid to entrap me, madam?” he said, regarding the lady suspiciously.
“I will answer for her good faith,” interposed Nicholas.
Nowell still hesitated, but the counsel of his legal adviser was enforced by a heavy shower of rain, which just then began to descend upon them.
“You can take shelter beneath my roof,” said Mistress Nutter; “and before the shower is over we can settle the matter.”
“And my wounds can be dressed at the same time,” said Potts, with a groan, “for they pain me sorely.”
“Blackadder has a sovereign balsam, which, with a patch or two of diachylon, will make all right,” replied Nicholas, unable to repress a laugh. “Here, lift him up between you,” he added to the grooms, “and convey him into the house.”
The orders were obeyed, and Mistress Nutter led the way through the now wide-opened gates; her slow and majestic march by no means accelerated by the drenching shower. What Roger Nowell’s sensations were at following her in such a way, after his previous threats and boastings, may be easily conceived.
The magistrate was ushered by the lady into a small chamber, opening out of the entrance-hall, which, in consequence of having only one small narrow window, with a clipped yew-tree before it, was extremely dark and gloomy. The walls were covered with sombre tapestry, and on entering, Mistress Nutter not only carefully closed the door, but drew the arras before it, so as to prevent the possibility of their conversation being heard outside. These precautions taken, she motioned the magistrate to a chair, and seated herself opposite him.
“We can now deal unreservedly with each other, Master Nowell,” she said, fixing her eyes steadily upon him; “and, as our discourse cannot be overheard and repeated, may use perfect freedom of speech.”