With this, he peered about among the crowd in search of the magistrate, but though he thrust his little turned-up nose in every direction, he could not find him, and therefore set out for the Abbey, concluding he had gone thither.
As Mistress Nutter walked along, she perceived James Device among the crowd, holding Jennet by the hand, and motioned him to come to her. Jem instantly understood the sign, and quitting his little sister, drew near.
“Tell thy mother,” said Mistress Nutter, in a tone calculated only for his hearing, “to come to me, at the Abbey, quickly and secretly. I shall be in the ruins of the old convent church. I have somewhat to say to her, that concerns herself as well as me. Thou wilt have to go to Rough Lee and Malkin Tower to-night.”
Jem nodded, to show his perfect apprehension of what was said and his assent to it, and while Mistress Nutter moved on with a slow and dignified step, he returned to Jennet, and told her she must go home directly, a piece of intelligence which was not received very graciously by the little maiden; but nothing heeding her unwillingness, Jem walked her off quickly in the direction of the cottage; but while on the way to it, they accidentally encountered their mother, Elizabeth Device, and therefore stopped.
“Yo mun go up to th’ Abbey directly, mother,” said Jem, with a wink, “Mistress Nutter wishes to see ye. Yo’n find her i’ t’ ruins o’ t’ owd convent church. Tak kere yo’re neaw seen. Yo onderstond.”
“Yeigh,” replied Elizabeth, nodding her head significantly, “ey’n go at wonst, an see efter Alizon ot t’ same time. Fo ey’m towd hoo has fainted, an been ta’en to th’ Abbey by Lady Assheton.”
“Never heed Alizon,” replied Jem, gruffly. “Hoo’s i’ good hands. Ye munna be seen, ey tell ye. Ey’m going to Malkin Tower to-neet, if yo’n owt to send.”
“To-neet, Jem,” echoed little Jennet.
“Eigh,” rejoined Jem, sharply. “Howd te tongue, wench. Dunna lose time, mother.”
And as he and his little sister pursued their way to the cottage, Elizabeth hobbled off towards the Abbey, muttering, as she went, “I hope Alizon an Mistress Nutter winna meet. Nah that it matters, boh still it’s better not. Strange, the wench should ha’ fainted. Boh she’s always foolish an timmersome, an ey half fear has lost her heart to young Richard Assheton. Ey’n watch her narrowly, an if it turn out to be so, she mun be cured, or be secured—ha! ha!”
And muttering in this way, she passed through the Abbey gateway, the wicket being left open, and proceeded towards the ruinous convent church, taking care as much as possible to avoid observation.