“I am thinking,” said Mrs. Ray to her husband, as she was spinning in the kitchen at Shoulthwaite Moss,—“I am thinking,” she said, stopping the wheel and running her fingers through the wool, “that Willy is partial to the little tailor’s winsome lass.”
“And what aboot Ralph?” asked Angus.
The crime in the night.
On the evening of the day upon which old Wilson was expected back at Fornside, Ralph Ray turned in at the tailor’s cottage. Sim’s distress was, if possible, even greater than before. It seemed as if the gloomy forebodings of the villagers were actually about to be realized, and Sim’s mind was really giving way. His staring eyes, his unconscious, preoccupied manner as he tramped to and fro in his little work-room, sitting at intervals, rising again and resuming his perambulations, now gathering up his tools and now opening them out afresh, talking meantime in fitful outbursts, sometimes wholly irrelevantly and occasionally with a startling pertinency,—all this, though no more than an excess of his customary habit, seemed to denote a mind unstrung. The landlord had called that morning for his rent, which was long in arrears. He must have it. Sim laughed when he told Ralph this, but it was a shocking laugh; there was no heart in it. Ralph would rather have heard him whimper and shuffle as he had done before.
“You shall not be homeless, Sim, if the worst comes to the worst,” he said.
“Homeless, not I!” and the little man laughed again. Ralph felt unease. This change was not for the better. Rotha had been sitting at the window to catch the last glimmer of daylight as she spun. It was dusk, but not yet too dark for Ralph to see the tears standing in her eyes. Presently she rose and went out of the room.
“Never fear that I shall be clemm’d,” said Sim. “No, no,” he said, with a grin of satisfied assurance.
“God forbid!” said Ralph, “but things should be better soon. This is the back end, you know.”
“Aye,” answered the tailor, with a shrug that resembled a shiver.
“And they say,” continued Ralph, “the back end is always the bare end.”
“And they say, too,” said Sim, “change is leetsome, if it’s only out of bed into the beck!”