The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.
without a moment’s hesitation, the squire descended, and began to search about in the hollows, scrambling over the loose stones, or sliding down for some paces with the uncertain boggy soil, when he fancied he heard a plaintive cry.  He looked around, but could see no one.  The whole side of the mountain was lighted up by the fire from the beacon, which, instead of diminishing, burnt with increased ardour, so that every object was as easily to be discerned as in the day-time; but, notwithstanding this, he could not detect whence the sound proceeded.  It was repeated, but more faintly than before, and Nicholas almost persuaded himself it was the voice of Potts calling for help.  Motioning to his followers, who were engaged in the search like himself, to keep still, the squire listened intently, and again caught the sound, being this time convinced it arose from the ground.  Was it possible the unfortunate attorney had been buried alive?  Or had he been thrust into some hole, and a stone placed over it, which he found it impossible to remove?  The latter idea seemed the more probable, and Nicholas was guided by a feeble repetition of the noise towards a large fragment of rock, which, on examination, had evidently been rolled from a point immediately over the mouth of a hollow.  The squire instantly set himself to work to dislodge the ponderous stone, and, aided by two of his men, who lent their broad shoulders to the task, quickly accomplished his object, disclosing what appeared to be the mouth of a cavernous recess.  From out of this, as soon as the stone was removed, popped the head of Master Potts, and Nicholas, bidding him be of good cheer, laid hold of him to draw him forth, as he seemed to have some difficulty in extricating himself, when the attorney cried out—­

“Do not pull so hard, squire!  That accursed Jem Device has got hold of my legs.  Not so hard, sir, I entreat.”

“Bid him let go,” said Nicholas, unable to refrain from laughing, “or we will unearth him from his badger’s hole.”

“He pays no heed to what I say to him,” cried Potts.  “Oh, dear! oh, dear! he is dragging me down again!”

And, as he spoke, the attorney, notwithstanding all Nicholas’s efforts to restrain him, was pulled down into the hole.  The squire was at a loss what to do, and was considering whether he should resort to the tedious process of digging him out, when a scrambling noise was heard, and the captive’s head once more appeared above ground.

“Are you coming out now?” asked Nicholas.

“Alas, no!” replied the attorney, “unless you will make terms with the rascal.  He declares he will strangle me, if you do not promise to set him and his grandmother free.”

“Is Mother Demdike with him?” asked Nicholas.

“To be sure,” replied Potts; “and we are as badly off for room as three foxes in a hole.”

“And there is no other outlet said the squire?”

“I conclude not,” replied the attorney.  “I groped about like a mole when I was first thrust into the cavern by Jem Device, but I could find no means of exit.  The entrance was blocked up by the great stone which you had some difficulty in moving, but which Jem could shift at will; for he pushed it aside in a moment, and brought it back to its place, when he returned just now with the old hag; but probably that was effected by witchcraft.”

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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