They were Richard and Alizon.
It was a deeply touching sight, and for some time none spake. The solemn dirge continued, interrupted only by the stifled sobs of the listeners.
“Both gone!” exclaimed Nicholas, in accents broken by emotion; “and so young—so good—so beautiful! Alas! alas!”
“She could not have bewitched him,” said the King.
“Alizon was all purity and goodness,” cried Nicholas, “and is now numbered with the angels.”
“The guilty one is in thy hands, O King!” said the voice. “It is for thee to punish.”
“And I will not hold my hand,” said James. “The Devices shall assuredly perish. When I go from this chamber, I will have them conveyed under a strong escort to Lancaster Castle. They shall die by the hands of the common executioner.”
“My mission, then, is complete,” replied the voice. “I can rest in peace.”.
“Who art thou?” demanded the King.
“One who sinned deeply, but is now pardoned,” replied the voice.
The King was for a moment lost in reflection, and then turned to depart. At this moment a kneeling figure, whom no one had hitherto noticed, arose from behind the bier. It was a lady, robed in mourning. So ghastly pale were her features, and so skeleton-like her attenuated frame, that James thought he beheld a spectre, and recoiled in terror. The figure advanced slowly towards him.
“Who, and what art thou, in Heaven’s name?” he exclaimed.
“I am Alice Nutter, sire,” replied the lady, prostrating herself before him.
“Alice Nutter, the witch!” cried the King. “Why—ay, I recollect thou wert here. I sent for thee, but recent terrible events had put thee clean out of my head. But expect no grace from me, evil woman. I will show thee none.”
“I ask none, sire,” replied the penitent. “I came to place myself in your hands, that justice may be done upon me.”
“Ah!” exclaimed James. “Dost thou, indeed, repent thee of thy iniquities? Dost thou abjure the devil and all his works?”
“I do,” replied the lady, fervently. “My compact with the Evil One has been broken by the prayers of my devoted daughter, who sacrificed herself for me, and thereby saved my soul alive. But human justice requires an expiation, and I am anxious to make it.”
“Arise, ill-fated woman,” said the king, much moved. “You must go to Lancaster, but, in consideration of your penitence, no indignity shall be shown you. You must be strictly guarded, but you shall not be taken with the other prisoners.”
“I humbly thank your Majesty,” replied the lady. “May I take a last farewell of my child?”
“Do so,” replied James.
Alice Nutter then approached the bier, and, after gazing for a moment with deepest fondness upon the features of her daughter, imprinted a kiss upon her marble brow. In doing this her tears fell fast.
“You can weep, I see,” observed the King. “You are a witch no longer.”