“‘May I become subject to the Fiend if I violate my promise!’” said the magistrate.
“Ay, tell him that,” cried the attorney—“tell him the worthy gentleman is constantly repeating that sentence. It will explain all. And now, reverend sir, let me entreat you to set out without delay, or your departure may be prevented.”
“I will go at once,” said Holden.
As he was about to quit the apartment, Mistress Nutter appeared at the door. Confusion was painted on the countenances of all three.
“Whither go you, sir?” demanded the lady, sharply.
“On a mission which cannot be delayed, madam,” replied Holden.
“You cannot quit my house at present,” she rejoined, peremptorily. “These gentlemen stay to dine with me, and I cannot dispense with your company.”
“My duty calls me hence,” returned the divine. “With all thanks for your proffered hospitality, I must perforce decline it.”
“Not when I command you to stay,” she rejoined, raising her hand; “I am absolute mistress here.”
“Not over the servants of heaven, madam,” replied the divine, taking a Bible from his pocket, and placing it before him. “By this sacred volume I shield myself against your spells, and command you to let me pass.”
And as he went forth, Mistress Nutter, unable to oppose him, shrank back.
CHAPTER XI.—MOTHER DEMDIKE.
The heavy rain, which began to fall as Roger Nowell entered Rough Lee, had now ceased, and the sun shone forth again brilliantly, making the garden look so fresh and beautiful that Richard proposed a stroll within it to Alizon. The young girl seemed doubtful at first whether to comply with the invitation; but she finally assented, and they went forth together alone, for Nicholas, fancying they could dispense with his company, only attended them as far as the door, where he remained looking after them, laughing to himself, and wondering how matters would end. “No good will come of it, I fear,” mused the worthy squire, shaking his head, “and I am scarcely doing right in allowing Dick to entangle himself in this fashion. But where is the use of giving advice to a young man who is over head and ears in love? He will never listen to it, and will only resent interference. Dick must take his chance. I have already pointed out the danger to him, and if he chooses to run headlong into the pit, why, I cannot hinder him. After all, I am not much surprised. Alizon’s beauty is quite irresistible, and, were all smooth and straightforward in her history, there could be no reason why—pshaw! I am as foolish as the lad himself. Sir Richard Assheton, the proudest man in the shire, would disown his son if he married against his inclinations. No, my pretty youthful pair, since nothing but misery awaits you, I advise you to make the most of your brief season of happiness. I should certainly do so were the case my own.”