Further triumph was not allowed her. With one accord, and as if prompted by an irresistible impulse, the men rushed upon her, seized her, and cast her into the fire.
Her wild laughter was heard for a moment above the roaring of the flames, and then ceased altogether.
Again the flame shot high in air, again roared and raged, again broke into a multitude of lambent points, after which it suddenly expired.
All was darkness on the summit of Pendle Hill.
And in silence and in gloom scarcely more profound than that Weighing in every breast, the melancholy troop pursued its way to Whalley.
END OF THE SECOND BOOK.
CHAPTER I.—DOWNHAM MANOR-HOUSE.
On a lovely morning, about the middle of July, in the same year as the events previously narrated, Nicholas Assheton, always astir with the lark, issued from his own dwelling, and sauntered across the smooth lawn in front of it. The green eminence on which he stood was sheltered on the right by a grove of sycamores, forming the boundary of the park, and sloped down into a valley threaded by a small clear stream, whose murmuring, as it danced over its pebbly bed, distinctly reached his ear in the stillness of early day. On the left, partly in the valley, and partly on the side of the acclivity on which the hall was situated, nestled the little village whose inhabitants owned Nicholas as lord; and, to judge from their habitations, they had reason to rejoice in their master; for certainly there was a cheerful air about Downham which the neighbouring hamlets, especially those in Pendle Forest, sadly wanted.
On the left of the mansion, and only separated from it by the garden walls, stood the church, a venerable structure, dating back to a period more remote even than Whalley Abbey. From the churchyard a view, almost similar to that enjoyed by the squire, was obtained, though partially interrupted by the thick rounded foliage of a large tree growing beneath it; and many a traveller who came that way lingered within the hallowed precincts to contemplate the prospect. At the foot of the hill was a small stone bridge crossing the stream.
Across the road, and scarce thirty paces from the church-gate, stood a little alehouse, whose comfortable fireside nook and good liquors were not disdained by the squire. In fact, to his shame be it spoken, he was quite as often to be found there of an evening as at the hall. This had more particularly been the case since the house was tenanted by Richard Baldwyn, who having given up the mill at Rough Lee, and taken to wife Bess Whitaker of Goldshaw Booth, had removed with her to Downham, where he now flourished under the special protection of the squire. Bess had lost none of her old habits of command, and it must be confessed that poor Richard played a very secondary part in the establishment. Nicholas, as may be supposed, was permitted considerable licence by her, but even he had limits, which she took good care he should not exceed.