On the Sunday—that is, the day before the burning—the Abbot came again.
“Three days ago,” he said, addressing them both, “I offered you a chance of life upon certain conditions, but, obstinate witches that you are, you refused to listen. Now I offer you the last boon in my power—not life, indeed; it is too late for that—but a merciful death. If you will give me what I seek, the executioner shall dispatch you both before the fire bites—never mind how. If not—well, as I have told you, there has been much rain, and they say the faggots are somewhat green.”
Cicely paled a little—who would not, even in those cruel days?—then asked—
“And what is it that you seek, or that we can give? A confession of our guilt, to cover up your crime in the eyes of the world? If so, you shall never have it, though we burn by inches.”
“Yes, I seek that, but for your own sakes, not for mine, since those who confess and repent may receive absolution. Also I seek more—the rich jewels which you have in hiding, that they may be used for the purposes of the Church.”
Then it was that Cicely showed the courage of her blood.
“Never, never!” she cried, turning on him with eyes ablaze. “Torture and slay me if you will, but my wealth you shall not thieve. I know not where these jewels are, but wherever they may be, there let them lie till my heirs find them, or they rot.”
The Abbot’s face grew very evil.
“Is that your last word, Cicely Foterell?” he asked.
She bowed her head, and he repeated the question to Emlyn, who answered—
“What my mistress says, I say.”
“So be it!” he exclaimed. “Doubtless you sorceresses put your trust in the devil. Well, we shall see if he will help you to-morrow.”
“God will help us,” replied Cicely in a quiet voice. “Remember my words when the time comes.”
Then he went.
It was an awful night. Let those who have followed this history think of the state of these two women, one of them still but a girl, who on the morrow, amidst the jeers and curses of superstitious men, were to suffer the cruelest of deaths for no crime at all, unless the traffickings of Emlyn with Thomas Bolle, in which Cicely had small share, could be held a crime. Well, thousands quite as blameless were called on to undergo that, and even worse fates in the days which some name good and old, the days of chivalry and gallant knights, when even little children were tormented and burned by holy and learned folk who feared a visible or at least a tangible devil and his works.