Harold approached the girl carefully, circling around behind her so that he could see her pale face mirrored in the bookstore window. She must have known he was there, but she stayed where she was, quite still, one hand clasping her hood around her head, the other hanging with almost unnatural stillness by her side.354Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1W3F4MFEBP
They both stood there in silence for quite a long time. A man in a woolly ski-hat came out of the store with a package under his arm, saw them, stopped for a moment in shock, and then went hurrying off.
The girl said, "Why are you following me?"
"Funny, I was about to ask you the same question. Everywhere I've been in the past few days, I've seen you."
She turned around and looked at Harold. There was something strangely familiar about her, though he couldn't think what it was. She was very pale, yet quite pretty, with the darkest of eyes; yet her eyes were liquid and animated, not like the dead and lightless eyes of Nancy, or Donald Baylor, or Jerry Price.
"You're not one of them," Harold said.
"The manifestations, the ghosts."
"No," she smiled. "I'm not one of them."
"You know who I mean?"
Harold took out his handkerchief and dabbed at his forehead. He felt hot and uncomfortable and he wasn't quite sure what to say. The girl watched him placidly, still smiling; although it was a quiet and friendly smile, not supercilious, or sly, or marked with that coaxing twist of the lip that had characterized Nancy's smiles whenever she had appeared.
"I was only watching you," she said. "Just to make sure that no harm came to you. Just to make sure that you were safe. Of course, you have always been fairly safe, because of your unborn son; but you might have unwittingly put yourself into a more dangerous situation than you realize."
"You were watching me?" Harold asked her. "Who are you? And what were you watching me for? You don't have any right to watch people."
"These days," said the girl, not at all upset by his aggressiveness, "everybody has a right to watch everybody else. You never know, after all, who your very best friend might be."
"I want to know who you are," Harold insisted.
"You have already met some of us," she said. "Cotton Mather met you on Salem Common; Sarah Prentiss you met at Mr. Knight's house. My name is Anne Putnam."
"Cotton Mather? Anne Putnam?" Harold asked. "Aren't those the names of …."
The girl smiled even more broadly, and held out here hand. Hesitantly, Harold took it, not sure of why. It just seemed impolite to refuse. Her fingers were long and cool, and there was a silver ring on every one of them, including her thumb.
"You're right," she said. "They are the names of witches. Not our real names, of course; but names we have adopted. They have power, those names; and besides, they remind us of the days when Salem was in the grip of the Devil-In-Gold."
"You mean Supay?" From what I've seen, Salem is still in his grip, 'Ol Spithead, too. But you're not seriously telling me that you're a witch."
"Call us whatever you like," said Anne. "Listen---take me back with you to your cottage, and then I can tell you everything. Now that you have found me out, I think it's better that you know."
Harold looked down at their joined hand. "All right," he said at least. "I've always wanted to meet a genuine witch."
They walked out of Acorn Lane and into Ol' Spithead Square, hand-in-hand; and, just his luck, Suzy was stepping out of Broken Heart on the far side of the square, and she stopped and stared at them with her hands planted firmly on her hips to indicate to him that she had seen them, and that she thought he was more than a pig. In fact, she thought Harold was a don't-know-what.
As they descending the winding hall to Ol' Spithead Harbor, Anne said, "You are troubled today. I can feel it. Why are you so troubled?"
"You know about Mrs. Donald Baylor? The way she died?"
"I saw you with her last night, when I was out on the road.
"Well, I just witnessed another death; Wilbur Price, the guy who owns the Ol' Spithead Market."
"Where did it happen?"
"Where? Down at the Angel Hill Cemetery. He was crushed, somehow I can't even describe it. But it seemed like the tombstones came together and crushed the life out of him."
Anne gave Harold's hand a conciliatory squeeze. "I'm sorry," she said. "But there is a great power here. The Devil-In-Gold is about to be free; and all the energy he has been storing for three hundred years is about to strike us."
They reached his car, and he opened the door for Anne and then climbed in himself. "I'm surprised you know so much about this," he told her, as he started the engine. He twisted around in his seat as he backed out into the roadway. "Michael and I and the rest of us, we were working in the dark until we went to talk to Mr. Knight."
"You forget that all of Salem's witches can trace their ancestry directly back to George Badger," she said. "It was George Badger who brought the power of the Devil-In-Gold to Salem, in his attempts to impose some kind of hellfire morality on the people of Essex County; and the first witches were girls and women whom the Devil-In-Gold had killed and then reincarnated as its handmaidens, to entice their own relatives and friends to one gruesome death after another, in order that the Devil-In-Gold could have their hearts."
"That's what old man Knight told us," Harold said, turning left on West Shore Drive.
"Not all of the witches were named and caught, though, said Anne. "And many of those who were caught were released from jail when Ahab Marsh disposed of the Devil-In-Gold. They were very much weakened, because the Devil-In-Gold was trapped in its copper vessel underneath the sea; but they survived for long enough to be able to educate their daughters in the ways of witchcraft, and to pass on the knowledge of what had happened, if not the power."
"And you're one of those to whom the knowledge was passed down?"
Anne nodded. "Seven Salem families were witch families---the Putnams, the Mathers, the Prentisses, the Lewises, the Sutherlands, the Knights, the Coreys, and the Proctors. During the 18th and 19th centuries, their descendants met at various times and performed pacifying rituals against Supay, the Devil-In-Gold, and sacrificed pigs and sheep and, once, they killed a girl who was found wandering at Swampscott suffering from amnesia. The witch-groups were illegal, and so was the banner of George Badger under which they met; but there is no question that they kept the Devil-In-Gold somnolent for three hundred years, and protected Salem from terrors which you can only imagine."
"So the witches---who started off as Supay's minions---have actually become our protectors against it?"
"That's right. As much as we are able. We still meet from time to time, but there are only five us left now; and many of the older rituals have been lost to us. That is why Sarah lives and works with Colin Knight, not only to serve him and to look after him, but to research as much as she can into the ancient magic, in order that the Salem witches can be strong again."
Harold cleared his throat. "I thought Sarah was old man Knight's granddaughter."
"She is----in a way."
"In a way? What does that mean?"
"That means that they are related, in a curious way; but nobody quite knows how. You mustn't see that I mentioned it, but I believe there was rather a lot of incest in the Knight family, back in the early part of the family, when the roads were bad."
"I see," Harold said, even though he didn't quite.
They drove past Ol' Spithead Market, and he saw that there were two police cars parked outside, with their lights flashing.
"That's Wilbur Price's place," Harold told Anne. "Somebody's obviously found him."
"Aren't you going to stop?"
"Are you kidding? Do you think they'd believe me about the tombstones? I'm already under suspicion for two other deaths. This time, they'd be sure to lock me up. I won't be any good to anybody if I'm shut up in a cell."
Anne looked across at him carefully. She was very attractive, in a thin, poetic kind of way, with long dark hair that had been gathered on each side of her face into three or four narrow braids. Not actually his type: too ethereal and pedantic and inclined to speak as if she were reading from an encyclopedia, but nice to have around, all the same. It was hard to believe that she was truly a witch!
"What does a witch find to do nowadays?" Harold asked her. "Can you work spells, stuff like that?"
"I hope you're not laughing at me."
"No, not really. I've seen too much horror in the past few days to laugh at a witch. Do you call yourselves witches?"
"No. We call ourselves by the old name, wonder-workers."
"And what wonders can you work?"
"Do you want me to show you?"
"I'd be delighted."
Harold drove back up Harvest Mills, and parked outside the cottage. Anne got out of the car and stood staring at the cottage in silence. When he walked towards the front door she made no immediate move to follow him.
"What's wrong?" he asked her.
"There is a very strong and evil influence here."
Harold stayed where he was, halfway down the garden path, jingling his keys in his hand. He looked up at the bedroom windows, shuttered and blind; at the dead fingers of creeper that tapped so persistently against the weatherboard; and at the dark and distressed garden. There was green scum all over the surface of the ornamental pool, unnaturally bright in the leaden afternoon light.
"That's my dead wife you're feeling," said Harold. "She comes back to me almost every night."
Anne approached the cottage with obvious trepidation. The loose upstairs shutter suddenly banged, and she reached for his hand in fright. Harold unlocked the front door, and they stepped inside, still holding hands; Anne raising her head slightly as if she were sniffing the darkness for evil and mischievous spirits.
Harold turned the light on. "I wouldn't have expected a witch to be scared."
"On the contrary," she said. "When you're a witch, you're far more sensitive to occult manifestations, and you can sense how malevolent they are, far more accurately than an ordinary person."
"That bad, huh?"
She shivered. "Like a cold draft from hell itself," she told him. "Because your wife used to live here, this cottage has become one of the gateways through which the dead have been returning to the world of the living. Can you feel how cold it is? Especially here, where your library is. Do you mind if I go in?"
"Knock yourself out."
Anne pushed the library door open a little wider, and stepped inside. As she did so, Harold felt a chilly wind run through the room, and the papers on his desk started to shift and stir, and one or two of them floated to the floor. Anne stood in the very middle of the room, and looked around, and he could see her breath, as if she were standing outside in five degree cold. There was a smell, too: a sour, cold smell, as if something had gone rotten in the icebox. Harold must have unconsciously noticed it yesterday, and that was why he had checked the icebox to see if anything had gone bad. But it wasn't that at all: it was freezing and sickly, like chilled vomit, and he felt his stomach tighten into knots of nausea.
Anne whispered, "It knows I'm here. Have you ever felt it as strongly as this before? It knows I'm here, and it's restless."
"Can you do anything?"
"Not at the moment, no. There's nothing I can do. There's no point in closing this gateway, because the Devil-In-Gold will only find another. There are probably several more around here in any case. Every time someone dies, his home becomes susceptible to visitations not only from him, but from any ghost whom the Devil-In-Gold chooses to send. Have you heard whispering, talking, anything like that?"
Harold nodded. The way Anne was going on, he was beginning to fell more than a little terrified. He felt that he could cope with Nancy's ghost, thanks to their unborn son. But if the cottage was a gateway to the region of the dead, through which any number of specters might be rustling and shuffling, then it was time to move, as far as he was concerned. It was like living on the brink of a gaping mass grave, in the bottom of which all the corpses were sightlessly waving and calling.
'I think I need a drink," Harold said, unsteadily. "Hold on a minute, I left a bottle of Chivas Regal in the car."
He went outside, leaving the front door open, and walked down the garden path to the car. Unlocking it, he took out the bottle of whiskey, and then turned to go back to the house.
He stopped where he was, and almost dropped the bottle on the ground. Standing behind the laurel hedge, smiling at him, was Nancy. Just as real, just as solid as she'd been last night. Except that she was standing exactly where she had been standing in that altered photograph, on the surface of the ornamental pool. And in the library window, just behind her, he could see Anne's face looking out in horror, just the same as in the photograph.
He took two stiff steps toward the garden path, then another. Nancy rotated where she was, without moving her feet. She was smiling at him, coaxing, encouraging. But his own face was set into an oxolyte mask, nerveless and expressionless. As soon as he had passed the laurel hedge he saw that Nancy's bare feet were resting on the weedy surface of the water without even breaking the water's green meniscus.
"Harold," she said. "Remember that you can have me back. Don't forget, Harold, you can have me back. And Claudia. And our son. You can have us back alive, Harold, if you set me free."
Slowly, still smiling, Nancy began to sink into the pool. She didn't even disturb the surface as first her legs vanished beneath it, then her body, then her face. The green water passed over her wide-open eyes and she didn't close them, or even blink. Then she was gone. And the most disturbing thing was that the pool was just two feet deep.
He walked over to the edge of the water and stared down at it. Then he picked up a dead stick, and cautiously prodded beneath the scum. There was nothing there, only stinking weed, and the white fungous body of a dead goldfish.
Anne was standing in the front porch when he turned around, paler than ever. "I saw her,' she said, and gave a sudden and slightly hysterical giggle. "I really saw her."
"She's becoming stronger," I said. "First of all, she only appeared as a flickering light, and only at night. But then she started to look more solid. Now she's appearing just as frequently in the daylight."
"The Devil-In-Gold must be breaking free from his casket," said Anne. "Did Nancy say anything to you? I thought I heard a voice, but I couldn't make out what the words were."
"She said that if I---well, she said that I had to be careful."
"Was that all?"
Harold felt guilty, not telling Anne that Supay had promised to return my wife and my child to me; but then it was something I wanted to think about. There was no question of my doing anything to prevent Michael and Hubert and Emil from taking charge of the living mummy, and eventually delivering it to old man Knight; but all the said, I had been made an extraordinary offer, and there was no harm in considering it, thinking it through. He thought of all those days and evenings when Nancy and he had been driving the length and breadth of the North Shore, looking for likely antiques to put in the shop, and the remembered happiness of those times was almost too sweet to bear.
"Let's have that drink," Anne, and led the way back into the cottage.
He lit a fire, switched on the TV, and poured them each a sizeable whiskey. Then he took his shoes off and warmed his toes by the crackling logs. Anne knelt on the floor beside him, the firelight reflected in her eyes and in her long shiny hair.
"We first began to feel vibrations about you when your wife was killed," she said. "We were having a meeting at Cotton Mathers's house; she's our senior wonder-worker, if you wish. It was Sarah who sensed that something was in the air. She said that an Ol' Spithead girl had died, she cold feel it, and that her ghost had fled back to Ol' Spithead and been ensnared by the Devil-In-Gold. Not all ghosts are caught; only those which the Devil-In-Gold believes will bring him more hearts, and more blood, and more years of unlived life.
"Because your wife's ghost was caught, we immediately sought your name."
"By magic?" Harold asked.
Anne smiled. "I'm afraid not. We looked in the obituary columns of the Ol' Spithead Sentinel. And there she was. Nancy Winstanley. We started watching you straight away, or I did, mostly, since I don't live too far away. I even went to the funeral."
"That's where I've seen you before," he told her. "I thought your face was familiar."
"Anyway," she said, "the more we watched you, the more limited we realized our abilities to help you. Our power, what we have of it, comes from the Devil-In-Gold himself, the very one we are determined to keep in check. That is why it would be better for you and your friends from the Peabody to raise the George Badger and extricate Supay, and then for we witches to pacify it with ritual sacrifices and prayer, before Colin Knight and Tyee finally destroy it. It is quite possible, and all of we witches are prepared for this, that when the Devil-In-Gold is brought up from the ocean floor, we shall be completely in his thrall. But Colin Knight and Tyee are satisfied that they can handle this eventuality, and that the only way in which they can bring the Devil-In-gold to total destruction is by using us to serve and exalt him."
"Where does Tyee come into this?" Harold asked her. "I thought he was the butler."
"He helps Mr. Knight to run the house, yes. But he is also the last of the great Narragansett wonder-workers. He was trained from childhood in the higher arts of Indian magic; and I have seen him with my own eyes set fire to pieces of paper just by looking at them, and making a whole row of chairs fall over backwards one by one."
"Quite a trickster, that guy."
"Not a trickster, Harold. Definitely not a trickster. Not Tyee. He's been helping Colin Knight for years to invoke some ancient Indian spirit that was suppose to have taken the soul of one of his Knight ancestors, way back in 1624, when the Puritans first came to Salem and it was still called Naumkeag. It's very secret. Neither of them will tell me what they've achieved. Even Sarah isn't allowed to know. But she says that they lock themselves in that library for days on end sometimes, and you can hear these terrible shouting and groaning noises, so loud and deep that they make the doors and windows rattle, and that quite a few Tewksbury people got up a petition because of the strange lights that were appearing in the sky."
Harold sat back, cupping his whiskey-glass in his hands. "Tell me I'm going to wake up in a minute," he told her. "Tell me that I feel asleep last week and I'm still dreaming."
"I wish you were dreaming, Harold," she said. "The spirits and demons and ghosts are all real. Within their own sphere, they're all much more real than you and I appear to be. They've always been here, and they always will be. They're the ones who inherited the earth, not us. We're just usurpers, shadowy little beings who have been meddling and trying to manipulate whole realms of power and grandeur that we don't even begin to understand. Supay is real. It's really down there, and what it can do to us is real."
"I don't know," Harold said tiredly. "I think I've seen enough death and enough pain and enough spiritual torture to last me a lifetime."
"You're thinking of quitting?"
"You could say that."
Anne looked away. "I don't blame you," she said. "If I didn't care about the lives of other people; if I didn't care whether my own dead wife ever found any rest or not. Then I'd quit."
Upstairs, a bedroom door banged shut. Harold looked up, and then at Anne. There was a creak right above our heads as something stepped on a floorboard. There was a lengthy silence, and then another creak, as if the same something were walking back across the room again. The living-room door suddenly opened by itself, and a cold draft blew in, stirring up the ashes of the fire.
"Close," said Anne, and raised one hand forwards, towards the door. There was a moment's hesitation, and then the door closed, apparently on its own.
"I'm impressed," said Harold.
"It's a simple enough thing to do if you've got the power," she said, but she wasn't smiling. "But the spirits are in the house, and they feel unsettled."
"Can't you do anything about it?"
"I can dismiss them for now; just for one night. That's if the Devil-In-Gold hasn't increased his influence very much more than usual."
"In that case, please dismiss them. It'll be a change to get a night's sleep that isn't disturbed by walking apparitions."
Anne stood up. "Do you have any candles?" she asked him. "I shall also need a bowl of water."
"Surely," he said, and went into the kitchen to fetch what she wanted. As he crossed the hallway, he was conscious of the coldness and the restlessness of unhallowed spirits, and even the clock seemed to be ticking differently, almost as if it were ticking backwards. There was a dim flickering light under the library door, but the last thing in the world he was going to do was open it.
He brought Anne back two heavy brass candlesticks, complete with bright blue candles, and a copper mixing-bowl half-filled with water. She set them down in front of the fire, one candle on each side and the bowl in-between. She mad a sign over each of them, not the sign of the cross, but some other, more complicated sign, like a pentacle. She bent her head and whispered a lengthy chant, of which he could hear almost nothing except the repeated chorus,
"Dream not, wake not, say not, hear not;
Weep not, walk not, speak not, fear not."
After the chant was finished, she remained with her head bent for three or four minutes, praying or chanting in silence. Then she turned to him abruptly, and said, "I shall have to be naked. You don't mind that, do you?"
"No, of course not. I mean, no, why not? Go ahead."
She tugged off her black sweater, revealing thin arms, a narrow chest, and small dark-nippled breasts. Then she unbuckled her belt and stepped out of her black corduroy jeans. She was very slim, very boyish; her dark hair swung right down to the middle of her back, and when she turned around and faced Harold she saw that her sex was shaved totally bare. A beautiful but very strange girl. There were silver bands around her ankles and silver rings on every toe. She raised he arms, completely composed and unembarrassed, and said, "Now let us see who has the greater power. Those poor lost spirits, or me."
She knelt down in front of the candles and the bowl of water, and lit the candles with a sputtering piece of kindling from the fire. "I can't use matches: there mustn't be an Sulphur in the flame." Harold watched in fascination as she bent forward and stared at her own reflection in the bowl of water, holding her hair back with her hands.
"All you who seek to penetrate the mirror here, turn back," she said, in a sing-song tone. "All you who try to cross again the borders of the region of the dead, go back. Tonight you must rest. Tonight you must sleep. There will be other times, other places; but tonight you must think on what you are, and turn away from the mirror which leads to the life you knew."
The cottage turned quiet, as quiet as it had been last night. All Harold could hear was that odd backward-sounding tickling of the long-case clock, and the fizzing sound of the candles as they burned into their bright blue wax.
Anne stayed hunched over, her breasts pressed against her thighs, staring into the copper bowl. She wasn't saying anything, but she gave no indication that the working of this particular wonder was over yet; nor that it was going to be successful.
To Harold's astonishment, the water in the bowl started to bubble a little, and steam, and then to boil. Anne sat up straight, her arms crossed over her chest, and closed her eyes. "Go back," she whispered. "Do not try to penetrate the mirror tonight. Go back, and rest."
The water in the bowl boiled even more noisily, and Harold stared at it in disbelief. Anne knelt where she was, her eyes tight closed, and he could see little beads of perspiration on her forehead, and on her upper lip. Whatever she was doing, it obviously needed enormous effort and intense concentration.
"Go....back," she whispered, as if it was a struggle to get the words out. "Do not cross....do not cross...."
It was then that Harold began to get the feeling that she was involved in a struggle with something or someone, and that she was losing. He watched her anxiously as she started to shiver and shake, and the sweat ran down her cheeks and runneled between her breasts. Her thighs quaked as if she was being prodded with an electric prod, and she started to give little involuntary spasms and jumps.
The living-room door opened again, just a fraction; and again that coldness began to pour into the room. The fire cowered down amongst its ashes and the candles guttered and blew. In the bowl, the water stopped boiling, and as suddenly as it had bubbled, began to form a thin skin of ice upon its surface.
"Anne," Harold said urgently. "Anne, what's going on? Anne!"
But Anne couldn't reply. She was losing whatever mental boxing-match she was involved in; yet obviously she didn't dare to break her concentration or release her grip, in case she would suddenly free the beast with which she was struggling. She was still sweating and shivering, and every now and then she let out a little gasp of strain.
The living-room door opened wider. There, in her funeral dress, stood Nancy. Her face was different now, ghastlier, as if decay had begun to set. Her eyes were wide and staring, and her teeth were drawn back in a grisly grin.
"Nancy!" Harold shouted. "Nancy, leave her alone, for God's sake! I'll do what you want! You know that I'll do what you want! But leave her alone!"
Nancy didn't seem to hear him. She came gliding into the room, her white funeral robes swayed by the chilly wind, and stood only a few feet away from them, her eyes still staring, her grin just as skeletal and horrifying. Harold prayed to God that she wouldn't do to Anne Putnam what she had done to Claudia, her own mother.
"Nancy, listen," Harold said, trying to keep his composure. "Please, Nancy. Just leave her alone and I'll get her out of here. She was just trying to help me. You know that I'll do what you want. I promise you, Nancy. But leave her alone, please."
Nancy lifted both her arms. As she did so, Anne was lifted up, so that she was standing, her knees slightly bent, her eyes still closed, shaking and trembling as she tried to break free of the influence that gripped her. She looked as if she were being held up by two invisible helpers.
"Leave her, Nancy," Harold begged. "Nancy, for God's sake, don't hurt her."
Nancy made a circling motion with her hand. Without a sound, Anne rotated in the air until she was upside-down, her feet nearly touching the ceiling, her dark hair spread out on the carpet beneath. Harold watched in terrified silence. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop whatever was going to happen now. Nancy was proving to be a fatally jealous bride; a bride who would take her revenge on any woman who came near him.
The cold wind blew up more ashes from the fire. Nancy stretched out her arms, and, in response, Anne's legs were opened wide, so wide that the tendons cracked, and her naked sex was exposed. She was suspended there in front of Harold, in inverted splits, her body slippery with sweat, her eyes tight closed, her teeth grimly clamped together. Nancy stretched out her arms again, and Anne's arms stretched out, too. There were two inches of clear space between the top of Anne's head and the floor, although because of the length of the hair, it looked as if she were somehow balancing supernaturally on her braids.
"Nancy, please," Harold said, but Nancy didn't even turn and look at him.
Slowly, Nancy described a curve in the air with her hands; and equally slowly, Anne's body was bent back in midair. Anne grunted with effort and pain, struggling as hard as she could to resist the force that was attempting to snap her spine, but he could tell that it was no use. The power of the Devil-In-gold was comparatively weak, but it was strong enough to overwhelm one of its own witches.
Harold heard another crack, as cartilage snapped in Anne's left knee. She said, "Aaaah!" and grimaced, but she was reserving all her energy for fighting against her demonic master.
"Nancy!" Harold shouted. He got to his feet, but instantly he was hurtled back by a force with the power of a truck. He hit his head against the side of the chair, and stumbled over the crashing fire-irons; but then he scrambled up to his feet again and yelled, "Nancy!"
Nancy ignored him. In utter helplessness, he saw Anne's back being bent over as if she were being forced over a barrel, or the back of a chair. The veins stood out on her narrow hips, and her neck tendons were swollen with effort.
"God, you're going to kill her!" Harold screamed. "Supay! Stop it! Supay!"
There was a strange shimmering sound, like the blade of a saw being wobbled. Nancy raised her eyes and stared at him; and her face wasn't Nancy's face at al, it was the mummified face of an ancient demon, the living mummy that George Badger had stolen from the Inca magicians. Supay, the lord of Ukhu Pacha, the prince of the region of the dead.
"It is dangerous to call me by name," Nancy said threateningly, in a voice that was blaring and harsh.
"Don't kill her," Harold said, feeling the sweat chilling under his armpits. "She's just trying to protect me, that's all."
"She is my servant. I shall do whatever I wish with her."
"I'm asking you not to kill her."
There was a long pause. Nancy looked at Anne's naked suspended body, and then reached out with her palm facing downwards. Anne slowly sank to the floor, and lay on the carpet shaking and panting, and holding her hand to her back in an attempt to ease the pain.
Harold began to kneel beside her, but Nancy said, "Go no further, sir. I offer you no guarantees of my handmaiden's life. First, you most promise that you will serve me; and that you will accept the bargain that I have proposed unto you. Help you friends to raise me from the waters, and then set me free. Your wife and son shall be returned to you, and your wife's mothers, as well; and you shall remain invulnerable to harm."
"Can I trust you?"
"I cannot answer that. You will simply have to accept the risk."
"And if I tell you to go to hell?"
"Then I will snap this wench's back."
He glanced down at Anne. She was lying flat on her back now, her hands held over her face as she tried to contain the agony that she was feeling in her back and thighs.
The point was, he had already been considering the possibility of letting Supay free; he had already been tempted by the offer of having Nancy restored to me, so what difference would it make if he actually said yes? It would save Anne; it would bring back all the people he loved; and who knew, the consequences might not really be so bad. If Supay had reigned unchecked before the days of George Badger and Ahab Marsh, what difference would it make it if reigned again now? As Supay itself had told him yesterday, it was part of the order of the universe, just as the sun was and the planets, and God Himself.
Anne croaked loudly, "No!----Harold----No! Don't promise him----anything! Don't----listen to him!"
Instantly, her arm was twisted right her back, so violently that her wrist was snapped. She screamed out in pain, but the demonic force wouldn't let her go, and deliberately pressed her body down so that her own shoulderblade rubbed against her fractured bones. She screamed and screamed, writhing and thrashing, but Supay would not let her go.
"All right!" He yelled at Nancy. "Damn you! I'll do it!"354Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1UtVc6hrWZ
Gradually, the pressure on Anne's body was relieved. Harold knelt down and helped her to ease her arm out from under her back, and rest it gently on her stomach. Her wrist was swollen and misshapen, and he could hear the broken bones grating against one another under the skin. Nancy watched over them, smiling malevolently.
"You have made a binding promise," she told him, in her own voice. "You must keep your promise thus, or believe me, you shall be forever cursed; and your heirs will be forever cursed; and anyone who ever knew you will regret the day they first saw you. You shall be damned for all time: you will never know peace again. My mark is upon you now; you have freely bargained with me; and whatever rewards and punishments are due, you will surely receive them in the fullest measure."354Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4S0syAoKTK
Harold rose to his feet. He was physically and emotionally exhausted. "Supay, I want you to leave me now. Leave us in peace. I've agreed to do what you want, now just get out of here."354Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkoQBWMV7Kx
Nancy smiled, and began to fade. He looked down to make sure Anne was all right, and when he looked back, Nancy had vanished altogether. The door, however, stayed open; and the draft that blew through it was as cold and unrelenting as ever.
Anne said. "You should have let me die, Harold. You have absolutely no idea what you've done."
"Let you die? No way!" Harold said. "Here, I'll help you up onto the sofa, and then I'll call the doctor."354Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkjlbZqPuag
"God, my wrist," she winced.
"Don't take His name in vain," Harold said wearily. "We may have to turn to Him for help, if all else fails."ns 22.214.171.124da2