“Curses on thee, Richard Assheton!” cried the infuriated hag,—“and on thee too, Alizon Device, I cannot work ye the immediate ill I wish. I cannot make ye loathsome in one another’s eyes. I cannot maim your limbs, or blight your beauty. I cannot deliver you over to devilish possession. But I can bequeath you a legacy of hate. What I say will come to pass. Thou, Alizon, wilt never wed Richard Assheton—never! Vainly shall ye struggle with your destiny—vainly indulge hopes of happiness. Misery and despair, and an early grave, are in store for both of you. He shall be to you your worst enemy, and you shall be to him destruction. Think of the witch’s prediction and tremble, and may her deadliest curse rest upon your heads.”
“Oh, Richard!” exclaimed Alizon, who would have sunk to the ground if he had not sustained her. “Why did you not prevent this terrible malediction?”
“He could not,” replied Mother Demdike, with a laugh of exultation; “it shall work, and thy doom shall be accomplished. And now to make an end of old Chattox, and then they may take me where they please.”
And she was approaching her old enemy with the intention of putting her threat into execution, when James Device, who appeared to start from the ground, rushed swiftly towards her.
“What art thou doing here, Jem?” cried the hag, regarding him with angry surprise. “Dost thou not see we are surrounded by enemies. I cannot escape them—but thou art young and active. Away with thee!”
“Not without yo, granny,” replied Jem. “Ey ha’ run os fast os ey could to help yo. Stick fast howld on me,” he added, snatching her up in his arms, “an ey’n bring yo clear off yet.”
And he set off at a rapid pace with his burthen, Richard being too much occupied with Alizon to oppose him.
Soon after this, Nicholas Assheton, attended by two or three men, came up, and asked whither the old witch had flown.
Mistress Nutter pointed out the course taken by the fugitive, who had run towards the northern extremity of the hill, down the sides of which he had already plunged.
“She has been carried off by her grandson, Jem Device,” said Mistress Nutter; “be quick, or you will lose her.”
“Ay, be quick—be quick!” added Mother Chattox. “Yonder they went, to the back of the beacon.”
Casting a look at the wretched speaker, and finding she was too grievously wounded to be able to move, Nicholas bestowed no further thought upon her, but set off with his companions in the direction pointed out. He speedily arrived at the edge of the hill, and, looking down it, sought in vain for any appearance of the fugitives. The sides were here steep and shelving, and some hundred yards lower down were broken into ridges, behind one of which it was possible the old witch and her grandson might be concealed; so,