“What has happened, lass?” said Liza fearfully.
Then Rotha, having no other heart to trust with her haunting secret, confided it to this simple girl.
“And what can I do?” she added in a last word.
During the narration, Liza had been kneeling, with her arms in her friend’s lap. Jumping up when Rotha had ceased, she cried, in reply to the last inquiry, “I know. I’ll just slip away to Robbie. He shall be off and fetch your father back.”
“Robbie?” said Rotha, looking astonished.
“Never fear, I’ll manage him. And now, cheer up, my lass; cheer up.”
In another moment Liza was running at her utmost speed down the lonnin.
When she reached the road, the little woman turned towards Wythburn. Never pausing for an instant, she ran on and on, passing sundry groups of the country folks, and rarely waiting to exchange more than the scant civilities of a hasty greeting.
It was Sunday morning, and through the dense atmosphere that preceded rain came the sound of the bells of the chapel on the Raise, which rang for morning service.
“What’s come over little Liza?” said a young dalesman, who, in the solemnity of Sunday apparel, was wending his way thither, as the little woman flew past him, “tearing,” as he said, “like a crazy thing.”
“Some barn to be christened afore the service, Liza?” called another young dalesman after her, with the memory of the girl’s enjoyment of a similar ceremony not long before.
Liza heeded neither the questions nor the banter. Her destination was certainly not the church, but she ran with greater speed in that direction than the love of the Reverend Nicholas’s ministrations had yet prompted her to compass.
The village was reached at length, and her father’s house was near at hand; but the girl ran on, without stopping to exchange a word with her sententious parent, who stood in the porch, pipe in hand, and clad in those “Cheppel Sunday” garments with which, we fear, the sanctuary was rarely graced.
“Why, theer’s Liza,” said Matthew, turning his head into the house to speak to his wife, who sat within; “flying ower the road like a mad greyhound.”
Mrs. Branthwaite had been peeling apples towards the family’s one great dinner in the week. Putting down the bowl which contained them, she stepped to the door and looked after her daughter’s vanishing figure.
“Sure enough, it is,” she said. “Whatever’s amiss? The lass went over to the Moss. Why, she stopping, isn’t she?” “Ey, at the Lion,” answered Mattha. “I reckon there’s summat wrang agen with that Robbie. I’ll just slip away and see.”
Panting and heated on this winter’s day, red up to the roots of the hair and down to the nape of the neck, Liza had come to a full pause at the door of the village inn. It was not a false instinct that had led the girl to choose this destination. Sunday as it was, the young man whom she sought was there, and, morning though it might be, he was already in that condition of partial inebriation which Liza had recognized as the sign of a facetious mood.