a lonely little house some distance from the foot of Pendle, there
dwelt a farmer and his family, together with a labourer whom he
Entirely illiterate, and living in a wild and weird district, with but
few houses nearer than a mile away, the household believed firmly in
all the dreadful boggart, witch, and feeorin stones current in the district. For a long time, however, the farmer had not any
experience of the power of either witch or boggart ; but at length his
turn came. After a tempestuous night, when the windows
rattled in their frames, and the wind, dashing the big rain drops
against the little diamond-shaped panes, moaned and shrieked
the lonely dwelling, three of the beasts were found dead in the
shippon. A few days afterwards two of the children sickened, and
' th' edge o' dark' was creeping up the hill-side one of them died. As
though this trouble was not enough, the crops were blighted. With
reluctance the farmer saw in these things proof that he had in some
unknown manner incurred the displeasure of the invisible powers, and
that the horse-shoe over his door, the branches of ash over the
entrance to the shippon, and the hag stones hung up at the head of his
own and of the children's bed, had lost their power of protection.
family council, at which the unprotected condition of the house was
discussed, was of the saddest kind, for even the rough labourer
missed the prattle of the little one whose untimely end had cast a shadow over the dwelling, and he thoroughly sympathised with
master in his losses ; while, as for the farmer and his wife, dread of
what the future might have in store for them mingled with their sor-
row, and added to the heaviness of their hearts.
Isaac, yo' may as weel tek' th' wiggin 27 an' th' horse shoes deawn,
for onny use they seem to be on. We 'en nowt to keep th' feorin' off
fra' us, an' I deawt we'es come off bud badly till November,' said the farmer, as he knocked the ashes from his pipe.
why nobbut till November, Ralph,' asked the wife in a terrified
voice, as she gazed anxiously towards the little window through
which Pendle could be dimly seen looming against the evening sky.
'Because on O' Hallow neet, mi lass, I meean to leet th' witches on Pendle.'
' Heaven save us !' cried the woman. ' Tha 'be lost as sewer as th' whorld.'
There was a short silence, and then old Isaac spoke
'If th' mestur goes, Isik guz too. Wis be company, at onny rate/
farmer gratefully accepted this offer of fellowship, and the appeals of
his wife, who implored him to abandon the notion, were of
avail. Others had lighted the witches, and thereby secured a
twelvemonth's immunity from harm, and why should not he go and do
likewise ? Ruin was staring him in the face if things did not improve,
thought he, and his determination to ' leet' his unseen enemies
grew stronger and stronger.
length the last day of October came, bringing with it huge clouds and a
misty rain, which quite obscured the weird hill ; but at
nightfall the wind rose, the rain ceased, the stars began to appear, and the huge outline of Pendle became visible:.
When the day's work was over, the farmer and Isaac sat in the kitchen, waiting for the hour at which they were to start for the
mountain, and the dread and lonesome building where the witches from
all parts gathered in mysterious and infernal conclave.
the men looked forward to the excursion with pleasurable feelings, for,
as the emotion caused by the losses had somewhat
of the beings who were supposed to assemble in the Malkin Tower resumed
its sway ; but soon after the old clock
had chimed ten they rose
from the settle and began their preparations for the lighting. Each man
grasped a branch of mountain ash,
to which several sprigs of bay
were tied as a double protection against thunder and lightning, and any
stray fiends that might happen to
be lurking about, and each carried in the other hand an unlighted candle.
they passed from the house the tearful goodwife cried a blessing upon
them, and a massive old bulldog crept from a corner of the
yard and took its place at their heels.
three stepped along bravely, and before long they had crossed the brook
and reached the foot of Pendle. Rapidly making their way
well-known ravine they paused to light the candles. This operation,
performed by means of a flint and steel and a box of tinder,
occupied som e time ; and while they were so engaged clouds obscured the moon, a few heavy drops of rain fell, the wind ceased
whisper, and an ominous silence reigned, and the dog, as though
terrified, crept closer to its master and uttered a low whine.
hev' a storm, I daat, Isik said the farmer. ' Ise think mysen weel off
an' win nowt else bud a storm,' drily replied the old man, as,
lighted candle in hand, he began to climb the hill-side, his master and the dog following closely behind.
they had almost reached the top of the ravine a flash of lightning
suddenly pierced the darkness, and a peal of thunder seemed to shake
the earth beneath them ; while a weird and unearthly shriek of laughter
rang in their ears as a black figure flew slowly past them,
brushing against their faces in its flight. The dog immediately turned
and fled, howling terribly as it ran down the hill-side ; but the men
went on, each one carefully shading his light with the hand in which
the branch of ash was grasped. The road gradually became rougher, and
occasionally Isaac stumbled over a stone, and almost fell, the farmer
frantically shouting to him to be careful of his candle, but without
any serious mishap the pair managed to get within sight of the tower.
some infernal revelry was going on, for light streamed from the
window-open- ings, and above the crash of the thunder came
of discordant laughter. Every now and again a dark figure floated over
their heads and whirled in at one of the windows,
and the noise became louder, by the addition of another shrill voice.
It mon be drawin' nee midneet,' said the farmer. ' If we con but pass
th' hour wis be reet for a twelvemonth. Let 's mek for whoam
men readily turned their backs to the building, but no sooner had they
done so than a Satanic face, with gleaming eyes, was visible
for a moment, and instantaneously both lights were extinguished.
' God bless us!' immediately cried both men.
before the words had left their lips the tower was plunged in total
darkness, the shrieks of unholy laughter were suddenly
and sounds were heard as of the rapid flight of the hags and their
familiars, for the ejaculations had broken up the gathering.
beyond measure at the extinction of their lights, but still clinging
tenaciously to the branches, which apparently had proved so
to preserve them against the power of the witches, the men hurried
away. They had not proceeded far in the direction in which
supposed the farm lay, when, with a cry, the farmer, who was a little
in advance of his aged companion, fell alfd vanished. He had
slipped down the cleft, on the brink of which Isaac stood, tremblingly endeavouring to pierce the darkness below.
a sound came up to tell the old man that his master had escaped with
his life ; and, as no response came to his shouts, at length he turned
away, feeling sure that he was masterless, and hoping to be able to
reach the farm, and obtain assistance. After wandering about for some
time, however, half-blinded by the lightning, and terrified beyond
measure at the result of their mutual boldness, Isaac crept under a
large stone, to wait for the dawn. Influenced by the cold and by
fatigue, the old man fell asleep; but no sooner had the first faint
rays of coming day kissed the hill-summit, than he was aroused by the
old bulldog licking his face, and as he gazed around in sleepy
astonishment some men appeared. The farmer's wife, terrified by the
arrival of the howling dog, and the non-arrival of the ' leeters,' had
made her way to a distant farm-house and alarmed the inmates, and a
party of sturdy fellows had started off to find the missing men.
Isaac's story was soon told ; and when the searchers reached the gorge
the farmer was found nursing a broken leg.
Great were the
rejoicings of the goodwife when the cavalcade reached the farm, for,
bad as matters were, she had expected even a worse ending; and
afterwards, when unwont ed prosperity had blessed the household, she
used to say, drily, ' Yo' met ha' kept th' candles in to leet yo'
whoam, for it mon ha' bin after midneet when he blew 'em aat,' a joke
which invariably caused the farmer and old Isaac to smile grimly.