Thus addressed, the abbot raised his eyes, and beheld a rustic figure standing beside him, divested of his clouted shoes, and armed with a long bare wood-knife.
“Dunna yo knoa me, lort abbut?” cried the person. “Ey’m a freent—Hal o’ Nabs, o’ Wiswall. Yo’n moind Wiswall, yeawr own birthplace, abbut? Dunna be feert, ey sey. Ey’n getten a steigh clapt to yon windaw, an’ you con be down it i’ a trice—an’ along t’ covert way be t’ river soide to t’ mill.”
But the abbot stirred not.
“Quick! quick!” implored Hal o’ Nabs, venturing to pluck the abbot’s sleeve. “Every minute’s precious. Dunna be feert. Ebil Croft, t’ miller, is below. Poor Cuthbert Ashbead would ha’ been here i’stead o’ meh if he couldn; boh that accursed wizard, Nick Demdike, turned my hont agen him, an’ drove t’ poike head intended for himself into poor Cuthbert’s side. They clapt meh i’ a dungeon, boh Ebil monaged to get me out, an’ ey then swore to do whot poor Cuthbert would ha’ done, if he’d been livin’—so here ey am, lort abbut, cum to set yo free. An’ neaw yo knoan aw abowt it, yo con ha nah more hesitation. Cum, time presses, an ey’m feert o’ t’ guard owerhearing us.”
“I thank you, my good friend, from the bottom of my heart,” replied the abbot, rising; “but, however strong may be the temptation of life and liberty which you hold out to me, I cannot yield to it. I have pledged my word to the Earl of Derby to make no attempt to escape. Were the doors thrown open, and the guard removed, I should remain where I am.”
“Whot!” exclaimed Hal o’ Nabs, in a tone of bitter disappointment; “yo winnaw go, neaw aw’s prepared. By th’ Mess, boh yo shan. Ey’st nah go back to Ebil empty-handed. If yo’n sworn to stay here, ey’n sworn to set yo free, and ey’st keep meh oath. Willy nilly, yo shan go wi’ meh, lort abbut!”
“Forbear to urge me further, my good Hal,” rejoined Paslew. “I fully appreciate your devotion; and I only regret that you and Abel Croft have exposed yourselves to so much peril on my account. Poor Cuthbert Ashbead! when I beheld his body on the bier, I had a sad feeling that he had died in my behalf.”
“Cuthbert meant to rescue yo, lort abbut,” replied Hal, “and deed resisting Nick Demdike’s attempt to arrest him. Boh, be aw t’ devils!” he added, brandishing his knife fiercely, “t’ warlock shall ha’ three inches o’ cowd steel betwixt his ribs, t’ furst time ey cum across him.”
“Peace, my son,” rejoined the abbot, “and forego your bloody design. Leave the wretched man to the chastisement of Heaven. And now, farewell! All your kindly efforts to induce me to fly are vain.”
“Yo winnaw go?” cried Hal o’Nabs, scratching his head.
“I cannot,” replied the abbot.
“Cum wi’ meh to t’ windaw, then,” pursued Hal, “and tell Ebil so. He’ll think ey’n failed else.”
“Willingly,” replied the abbot.
And with noiseless footsteps he followed the other across the chamber. The window was open, and outside it was reared a ladder.