“Pray thou, mother!” cried Alizon.
“I cannot,” replied the lady.
“I will kill her if she but makes the attempt,” howled the demon.
“But try, mother, try!” cried Alizon.
The poor lady dropped on her knees, and raised her hands in humble supplication—“Heaven forgive me!” she exclaimed.
The demon seized the hourglass.
“The sand is out—her term has expired—she is mine!” he cried.
“Clasp thy arms tightly round me, my child. He cannot take me from thee,” shrieked the agonised woman.
“Release her, Alizon, or I will slay thee likewise,” roared the demon.
“Never,” she replied; “thou canst not overcome me. Ha!” she added joyfully, “the brand has disappeared from her brow.”
“And the writing from the parchment,” howled the demon; “but I will have her notwithstanding.”
And he plunged his claws into Alice Nutter’s flesh. But her daughter held her fast.
“Oh! hold me, my child—hold me, or I am lost!” shrieked the lady.
“Be warned, and let her go, or thy life shall pay for her’s,” cried the demon.
“My life for her’s, willingly,” replied Alizon.
“Then take thy fate,” rejoined the evil spirit.
And placing his hand upon her heart, it instantly ceased to beat.
“Mother, thou art saved—saved!” exclaimed Alizon, throwing out her arms.
And gazing at her for an instant with a seraphic look, she fell backwards, and expired.
“Thou art mine,” roared the demon, seizing Mistress Nutter by the hair, and dragging her from her daughter’s body, to which she clung desperately.
“Help!—help!” she cried.
“Thou mayst call, but thy cries will be unheeded,” rejoined the familiar with mocking laughter.
“Thou liest, false fiend!” said Mistress Nutter. “Heaven will help me now.”
And, as she spoke, the Cistertian monk stood before them.
“Hence!” he cried with an imperious gesture to the demon. “She is no longer in thy power. Hence!”
And with a howl of rage and disappointment the familiar vanished.
“Alice Nutter,” continued the monk, “thy safety has been purchased at the price of thy daughter’s life. But it is of little moment, for she could not live long. Her gentle heart was broken, and, when the demon stopped it for ever, he performed unintentionally a merciful act. She must rest in the same grave with him she loved so well during life. This tell to those who will come to thee anon. Thou art delivered from the yoke of Satan. Full expiation has been made. But earthly justice must be satisfied. Thou must pay the penalty for crimes committed in the flesh, but what thou sufferest here shall avail thee hereafter.”
“I am content,” she replied.
“Pass the rest of thy life in penitence and prayer,” pursued the monk, “and let nothing divert thee from it; for, though free now, thou wilt be subject to evil influence and temptations to the last. Remember this.”