“Come, father,” said Rotha, “do as they wish.”
The little man permitted himself to be led into the room above. Ralph followed with a reluctant step. He had cleared his friend, but looked more troubled than before. When the company reached the bedside, Ralph stood at its head while one of the men took a cloth off the dead man’s face.
There was a stain of earth on it.
Then they drew Sim up in front of it. When his eyes fell on the white, upturned face, he uttered a wild cry and fell senseless to the floor. Ha! The murmur rose afresh. Then there was a dead silence. Rotha was the first to break the awful stillness. She knelt over her father’s prostrate form, and said amid stifling sobs,—
“Tell them it is not true; tell them so, father.”
The murmur came again. She understood it, and rose up with flashing eyes.
“I tell them it is not true,” she said. Then stepping firmly to the bedside, she cried, “Look you all! I, his daughter, touch here this dead man’s hand, and call on God to give a sign if my father did this thing.”
So saying, she took the hand of the murdered man, and held it convulsively in her own.
The murmur died to a hush of suspense and horror. The body remained unchanged. Loosing her grip, she turned on the bystanders with a look of mingled pride and scorn.
“Take this from heaven for a witness that my father is innocent.”
The tension was too much for the spectators, and one by one they left the room. Ralph only remained, and when Sim returned to consciousness he raised him up, and took him back to Fornside.
In the red Lion.
What hempen homespuns have we
Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Time out of mind there had stood on the high street of Wythburn a modest house of entertainment, known by the sign of the Red Lion. Occasionally it accommodated the casual traveller who took the valley road to the north, but it was intended for the dalesmen, who came there after the darkness had gathered in, and drank a pot of home-brewed ale as they sat above the red turf fire.
This was the house to which Wilson’s body had been carried on the morning it was found on the road. That was about Martinmas. One night, early in the ensuing winter, a larger company than usual was seated in the parlor of the little inn. It was a quaint old room, twice as long as it was broad, and with a roof so low that the taller shepherds stooped as they walked under its open beams.