The Lancashire Witches eBook

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

“What! is the knave a warlock and a riever?” demanded James, regarding Demdike with abhorrence, mingled with alarm.

“Both, sire,” replied Nicholas, “and an assassin to boot.  He is a diabolical villain.”

“Let him be taken to Hoghton Tower, and kept in some strong and secure place till we have leisure to examine him,” said James,—­“and see that he be visited by some skilful chirurgeon, for we wadna hae him dee, and sae rob the woodie.”

Demdike, who appeared to be in great agony, now forced himself to speak.

“I can make important disclosures to your Majesty,” he said, in hoarse and broken tones, “if you will hear them.  I am not the only offender who has escaped from justice,” he added, glancing vindictively at Nicholas—­“there is another, a notorious witch and murderess, who is still screened from justice.  I can reveal her hiding-place.”

“Your Majesty will not give heed to such a villain’s fabrications?” said Nicholas.

“Are they fabrications, sir?” rejoined James, somewhat sharply.  “We maun hear and judge.  The snake, though scotched, will still bite, it seems.  We hae hangit a Highland cateran without trial afore this, and we may be tempted to tak the law into our ain hands again.  Bear the villain hence.  See he be disposed of as already directed, and take good care he is strictly guarded.  And now gie us a crossbow, Sir Richard Hoghton, and bid the prickers drive the deer afore us, for we wad try our skill as a marksman.”

And while Demdike was placed on the litter of green boughs which had recently sustained a nobler burthen in the fallen hart, and in this sort was conveyed to Hoghton Tower, James rode with his retinue towards a long glade, where, receiving a crossbow from the huntsman, he took up a favourable position behind a large oak, and several herds of deer being driven before him, he selected his quarries, and deliberately took aim at them, contriving in the course of an hour to bring down four fat bucks, and to maim as many others, which were pulled down by the hounds.  And with this slaughter he was content.

Sir Richard Hoghton then informed his Majesty that a huge boar, which, in sporting phrase, had left the sounder five years, had broken into the park the night before, and had been routing amongst the fern.  The age and size of the animal were known by the print of the feet, the toes being round and thick, the edge of the hoof worn and blunt, the heel large, and the guards, or dew-claws, great and open, from all which appearances it was adjudged by the baronet to be “a great old boar, not to be refused.”

James at once agreed to hunt him, and the hounds being taken away, six couples of magnificent mastiffs, of the Lancashire breed, were brought forward, and the monarch, under the guidance of Sir Richard Hoghton and the chief huntsman, repaired to an adjoining thicket, in which the boar fed and couched.

On arriving near his den, a boar-spear was given to the King, and the prickers advancing into the wood, presently afterwards reared the enormous brute.  Sallying forth, and freaming furiously, he was instantly assailed by the mastiffs; but, notwithstanding the number of his assailants, he made light of them, shaking them from his bristly hide, crushing them beneath his horny feet, thrusting at them with his sharpened tusks, and committing terrible devastation among them.

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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