The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 680 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.

“All will be over with you, lad, if you don’t mind; and that’s, perhaps, what you mean,” replied Nicholas; “but as soon as the royal festivities at Hoghton are over, I’ll set about your cure; and, what’s more, I’ll accomplish it—­for I know where the seat of the disease lies better than Dr. Morphew, your family physician at Middleton.  ’Tis near the heart, Dick—­near the heart.  Ha!  I see I have touched you, lad.  But, beshrew me, you are very strangely attired—­in a suit of sable velvet, with a black Spanish hat and feather, for a festival!  You look as if going to a funeral I am fearful his Majesty may take it amiss.  Why not wear the livery of our house?”

“Nay, if it comes to that,” rejoined Richard, “why do not you and Sherborne wear it, instead of flaunting like daws in borrowed plumage?  I scarce know you in your strange garb, and certainly should not take you for an Assheton, or aught pertaining to our family, from your gaudy colours and the strange badge on your shoulder.”

“I don’t wonder at it, Dick,” said Nicholas; “I scarce know myself; and though the clothes I wear are well made enough, they seem to sit awkwardly on me, and trouble me as much as the shirt of Nessus did Hercules of old.  For the nonce I am Sir Richard Hoghton’s retainer.  I must own I was angry with myself when I saw Sir Ralph Assheton with his long train of gentlemen, all in murrey-coloured cloaks and doublets, at Myerscough Lodge, while I, his cousin, was habited like one of another house.  And when I would have excused my apparent defection to Sir Ralph, he answered coldly, ’It was better as it was, for he could scarcely have found room for me among his friends.’”

“Do not fret yourself, Nicholas,” rejoined Sherborne; “Sir Ralph cannot reasonably take offence at a mere piece of good-nature on your part.  But this does not explain why Richard affects a colour so sombre.”

“I am the retainer of one whose livery is sombre,” replied the young man, with a ghastly smile.  “But enough of this,” he added, endeavouring to assume a livelier air; “I suppose you are on the way to Hoghton Tower.  I thought to reach Preston before you were up, but I might have recollected you are no lag-a-bed, Nicholas, not even after hard drinking overnight, as witness your feats at Whalley.  To be frank with you, I feared being led into like excesses, and so preferred passing the night at the quiet little inn at Walton-le-Dale, to coming on to you at the Castle at Preston, which I knew would be full of noisy roysterers.”

“Full it was, even to overflowing,” replied the squire; “but you should have come, Dick, for, by my troth! we had a right merry night of it.  Stephen Hamerton, of Hellyfield Peel, with his wife, and her sister, sweet Mistress Doll Lister, supped with us; and we had music, dancing, and singing, and abundance of good cheer.  Nouns!  Dick, Doll Lister is a delightful lass, and if you can only get Alizon out of your head, would be just the wife for you.  She sings like an angel, has the most captivating sigh-and-die-away manner, and the prettiest rounded figure ever bodice kept in.  Were I in your place I should know where to choose.  But you will see her at Hoghton to-day, for she is to be at the banquet and masque.”

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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