“What! is it you, Sir Thomas Metcalfe?” cried the squire. “Do you commit such outrages as this—do you break into habitations like a robber, rifle them, and murder their inmates? Explain yourself, sir, or I will treat you as I would a common plunderer; shoot you through the head, or hang you to the first tree if I take you.”
“Zounds and fury!” rejoined Metcalfe. “Do you dare to liken me to a common robber and murderer? Take care you do not experience the same fate as that with which you threaten me, with this difference only, that the hangman—the common hangman of Lancaster—shall serve your turn. I am come hither to arrest a notorious witch, and to release two gentlemen who are unlawfully detained prisoners by her; and if you do not instantly deliver her up to me, and produce the two individuals in question, Master Roger Nowell and Master Potts, I will force my way into the house, and all injury done to those who oppose me will rest on your head.”
“The two gentlemen you have named are perfectly safe and contented in their quarters,” replied Nicholas; “and as to the foul and false aspersions you have thrown out against Mistress Nutter, I cast them back in your teeth. Your purpose in coming hither is to redress some private wrong. How is it you have such a rout with you? How is it I behold two notorious bravos by your side—men who have stood in the pillory, and undergone other ignominious punishment for their offences? You cannot answer, and their oaths and threats go for nothing. I now tell you, Sir Thomas, if you do not instantly withdraw your men, and quit these premises, grievous consequences will ensue to you and them.”
“I will hear no more,” cried Sir Thomas, infuriated to the last degree. “Follow me into the house, and spare none who oppose you.”
“You are not in yet,” cried Nicholas.
And as he spoke a row of pikes bristled around him, holding the knight at bay, while a hook was fixed in the doublet of each of the Alsatian captains, and they were plucked forward and dragged into the house. This done, Nicholas and his men quickly retreated, and the door was closed and barred upon the enraged and discomfited knight.
Many hours had passed by, and night had come on—a night profoundly dark. Richard was still lying where he had fallen at the foot of Malkin Tower; for though he had regained his sensibility, he was so bruised and shaken as to be wholly unable to move. His limbs, stiffened and powerless, refused their office, and, after each unsuccessful effort, he sank back with a groan.
His sole hope was that Mistress Nutter, alarmed by his prolonged absence, might come to her daughter’s assistance, and so discover his forlorn situation; but as time flew by, and nothing occurred, he gave himself up for lost.