“But how—in what way?” asked Nicholas.
“Leave that to me,” replied Nance, breaking off a long branch of hazel. “Tak howld o’ this,” she cried.
The squire obeyed, and was instantly carried off his legs, and whisked through the air at a prodigious rate.
He felt giddy and confused, but did not dare to leave go, lest he should be dashed in pieces, while Nance’s wild laughter rang in his ears.
Over the bleached and perpendicular crag—startling the eagle from his eyry—over the yawning gully with the torrent roaring beneath him—over the sharp ridges of the hill—over Townley park—over Burnley steeple—over the wide valley beyond, he went—until at last, bewildered, out of breath, and like one in a dream, he alighted on a brown, bare, heathy expanse, and within a hundred yards of a tall, circular stone structure, which he knew to be Malkin Tower.
The shades of night had fallen on Downham manor-house, and with an aching heart, and a strong presentiment of ill, Mistress Nutter prepared to quit the little chamber which had sheltered her for more than two months, and where she would willingly have breathed her latest sigh, if it had been so permitted her. Closing the Bible she had been reading, she placed the sacred volume under her arm, and taking up a small bundle, containing her slender preparations for travel, extinguished the taper, and then descending by a secret staircase, passed through a door, fashioned externally like a cupboard, and entered a summer-house, where she found old Crouch awaiting her.
A few whispered words only passed between her and the huntsman, and informing her that the horses were in waiting at the back of the garden, he took the bundle from her, and would fain have relieved her also of the Bible, but she would not part with it, and pressing it more closely to her bosom, said she was quite ready to attend him.
It was a beautiful, starlight night; the air soft and balmy, and laden with the perfume of the flowers. A nightingale was singing plaintively in an adjoining tree, and presently came a response equally tender from another part of the grove. Mistress Nutter could not choose but listen, and the melody so touched her that she was half suffocated by repressed emotion, for, alas! the relief of tears was denied her.
Motioning her somewhat impatiently to come on, Crouch struck into a sombre alley, edged by clipped yew-trees, and terminating in a plantation, through which a winding path led to the foot of the hill whereon the mansion was situated. By daylight this was a beautiful walk, affording exquisite glimpses through the trees of the surrounding scenery, and commanding a noble view of Pendle Hill, the dominant point in the prospect. But even now to the poor lady, so long immured in her cell-like chamber, and deprived of many of nature’s