The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.
choicest blessings, it appeared delightful.  The fresh air, redolent of new-mown hay, fanned her pale cheek and feverish brow, and allayed her agitation and excitement.  The perfect stillness, broken only by the lowing of the cattle in the adjoining pastures, by the drowsy hum of the dor-fly, or the rippling of the beck in the valley, further calmed her; and the soothing influence was completed by a contemplation of the serene heavens, wherein were seen the starry host, with the thin bright crescent of the new moon in the midst of them, diffusing a pearly light around her.  One blot alone appeared in the otherwise smiling sky, and this was a great, ugly, black cloud lowering over the summit of Pendle Hill.

Mistress Nutter noticed the portentous cloud, and noticed also its shadow on the hill, which might have been cast by the Fiend himself, so like was it to a demoniacal shape with outstretched wings; but, though shuddering at the idea it suggested, she would not suffer it to obtain possession of her mind, but resolutely fixed her attention on other and more pleasing objects.

By this time they had reached the foot of the hill, and a gate admitted them to a road running by the side of Downham beck.  Here they found the horses in charge of a man in the dark red livery of Nicholas Assheton, and who was no other than Tom Shaw, the rascally cock-master.  Delivering the bridles to Crouch, the knave hastily strode away, but he lingered at a little distance to see the lady mount; and then leaping the hedge, struck through the plantation towards the hall, chinking the money in his pockets as he went, and thinking how cleverly he had earned it.  But he did not go unpunished; for it is a satisfaction to record that, in walking through the woods, he was caught in a gin placed there by Crouch, which held him fast in its iron teeth till morning, when he was discovered by one of the under-keepers while going his rounds, in a deplorable condition, and lamed for life.

Meanwhile, unconscious either of the manner in which she had been betrayed, or of the punishment awaiting her betrayer, Mistress Nutter followed her conductor in silence.  For a while the road continued by the side of the brook, and then quitting it, commenced a long and tedious ascent, running between high banks fringed with trees.  The overhanging boughs rendered it so dark that Mistress Nutter could scarcely distinguish the old huntsman, though he was not many yards in advance of her, but she heard the tramp of his horse, and that was enough.

All at once, where the boughs were thickest, and the road darkest, she perceived a small fiery object on the bank, and in her alarm called out to the huntsman, who, looking back for a moment, laughed, and told her not to be uneasy, for it was only a glow-worm.  Ashamed of her idle fears she rode on, but had not proceeded far, when, looking again at the bank, she saw it studded with the same lights.  This time she did not call out or scream, but gazed steadily at the twinkling fires, hoping to get the better of her fears.  Her alarm, however, rose to absolute terror, as she beheld the glow-worms—­if glow-worms they were—­twist together and form themselves into a flaming brand, such as she had seen in her vision, grasped by the angel who had driven her from the gates of Paradise.

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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