“He is certainly bewitched,” observed Parson Holden in an under-tone to the attorney.
“It was by your advice I entered this house,” thundered Nowell, “and may all the ill arising from it alight upon your head!”
“My respected client!” implored Potts.
“I am no longer your client!” shrieked the infuriated magistrate. “I dismiss you. I will have nought to do with you more. I wish I had never seen your ugly little face!”
“You were quite right, reverend sir,” observed Potts aside to the divine; “he is certainly bewitched, or he never would behave in this way to his best friend. My excellent sir,” he added to Nowell, “I beseech you to calm yourself, and listen to me. My motive for wishing you to comply with Mistress Nutter’s request was this: We were in a dilemma from which there was no escape, my wounded condition preventing me from flight, and all your followers being dispersed. Knowing your discretion, I apprehended that, finding the tables turned against you, you would not desire to play a losing game, and I therefore counselled apparent submission as the best means of disarming your antagonist. Whatever arrangement you have made with Mistress Nutter is neither morally nor legally binding upon you.”
“You think not!” cried Nowell. “’May I become subject to the Fiend if I violate my promise!’”
“What promise have you made, sir?” inquired Potts and Holden together.
“Do not question me,” cried Nowell; “it is sufficient that I am tied and bound by it.”
The attorney reflected a little, and then observed to Holden, “It is evident some unfair practices have been resorted to with our respected friend, to extort a promise from him which he cannot violate. It is also possible, from what he let fall at first, that an attempt may be made to detain us prisoners within this house, and, for aught I know, Master Nowell may have given his word not to go forth without Mistress Nutter’s permission. Under these circumstances, I would beg of you, reverend sir, as an especial favour to us both, to ride over to Whalley, and acquaint Sir Ralph Assheton with our situation.”
As this suggestion was made, Nowell’s countenance brightened up. The expression was not lost upon the attorney, who perceived he was on the right tack.
“Tell the worthy baronet,” continued Potts, “that his old and esteemed friend, Master Roger Nowell, is in great jeopardy—am I not right, sir?”
The magistrate nodded.
“Tell him he is forcibly detained a prisoner, and requires sufficient force to effect his immediate liberation. Tell him, also, that Master Nowell charges Mistress Nutter with robbing him of his land by witchcraft.”
“No, no!” interrupted Nowell; “do not tell him that. I no longer charge her with it.”
“Then, tell him that I do,” cried Potts; “and that Master Nowell has strangely, very strangely, altered his mind.”