“I am glad of it,” replied Nowell, “because it will save circumlocution, which I dislike; and therefore, before proceeding further, I must tell you, directly and distinctly, that if there be aught of witchcraft in what you are about to propose to me, I will have nought to do with it, and our conference may as well never begin.”
“Then you really believe me to be a witch?” said the lady.
“I do,” replied Nowell, unflinchingly.
“Since you believe this, you must also believe that I have absolute power over you,” rejoined Mistress Nutter, “and might strike you with sickness, cripple you, or kill you if I thought fit.”
“I know not that,” returned Nowell. “There are limits even to the power of evil beings; and your charms and enchantments, however strong and baneful, may be wholly inoperative against a magistrate in the discharge of his duty. If it were not so, you would scarcely think it worth while to treat with me.”
“Humph!” exclaimed the lady. “Now, tell me frankly, what you will do when you depart hence?”
“Ride off with the utmost speed to Whalley,” replied Nowell, “and, acquainting Sir Ralph with all that has occurred, claim his assistance; and then, with all the force we can jointly muster, return hither, and finish the work I have left undone.”
“You will forego this intention,” said Mistress Nutter, with a bitter smile.
The magistrate shook his head.
“I am not easily turned from my purpose,” he remarked.
“But you have not yet quitted Rough Lee,” said the lady, “and after such an announcement I shall scarce think of parting with you.”
“You dare not detain me,” replied Nowell. “I have Nicholas Assheton’s word for my security, and I know he will not break it. Besides, you will gain nothing by my detention. My absence will soon be discovered, and if living I shall be set free; if dead, avenged.”
“That may, or may not be,” replied Mistress Nutter; “and in any case I can, if I choose, wreak my vengeance upon you. I am glad to have ascertained your intentions, for I now know how to treat with you. You shall not go hence, except on certain conditions. You have said you will proclaim me a witch, and will come back with sufficient force to accomplish my arrest. Instead of doing this, I advise you to return to Sir Ralph Assheton, and admit to him that you find yourself in error in respect to the boundaries of the land—”
“Never,” interrupted Nowell.
“I advise you to do this,” pursued the lady, calmly, “and I advise you, also, on quitting this room, to retract all you have uttered to my prejudice, in the presence of Nicholas Assheton and other credible witnesses; in which case I will not only lay aside all feelings of animosity towards you, but will make over to you the whole of the land under dispute, and that without purchase money on your part.”
Roger Nowell was of an avaricious nature, and caught at the bait.