ROBBIE’S QUEST ENDED.
It was all over now. The weary chase was done, and Robbie Anderson came late. Ralph had surrendered, and a sadder possibility than Robbie guessed at, a more terrible catastrophe than Rotha Stagg or Willy Ray had feared or looked for, lay in the sequel now to be unfolded.
The soldiers and their prisoner had gone; the crowd had gone with them, and Robbie stood alone in the Market Place. From his station on the steps of the cross he turned and looked after the motley company. They took the way down English Street.
How hot and tired his forehead felt! It had ached before, but now it burned like fire. Robbie pressed it hard against the cold stone of the cross. Then he walked aimlessly away. He had nowhere to go; he had nothing to do; and hour after hour he rambled through the narrow streets of the old town. The snow still hung in heavy flakes from the overhanging eaves and porches of the houses, and toppled at intervals in thick clots on to the streets. The causeways were swept dry.
Up and down, through Blackfriars Street, past the gaol that stood on the ruins of the monastery, along Abbey Street, and past the cathedral, across Head Lane, and into the Market Place again; then along the banks of the Caldew, and over the western wall that looked across the hills that stretched into the south; round Shaddon-gate to the bridge that lay under the shadow of the castle, and up to the river Eden and the wide Scotch-gate to the north. On and on, he knew not where, he cared not wherefore; on and on, till his weary limbs were sinking beneath him, until the long lines of houses, with their whitened timbers standing out from their walls, and their pediments and the windows that were dormered into their roofs seemed to reel about him and dance in fantastic figures before his eyes.
The incident of that morning had created an impression among the townspeople. There was a curious absence of unanimity as to the crime with which the prisoner would stand charged; but Robbie noticed that everybody agreed that it was something terrible, and that nobody seemed to suffer much in good humor by reason of the fate that hung over a fellow-creature. “Very shocking, very. Come, John, let’s have a glass together!”
Robbie had turned into a byway that bore the name of King’s Arms Lane. He paused without purpose or thought before a narrow recess in which a quaint old house stood back from the street. With its low flat windows deeply recessed into the stone, its curious heads carved long ago into bosses that were now ruined by frost and rain, it might have been a wing of the old abbey that had wandered somehow away. A little man, far in years, pottered about in front, brushing the snow and cleaning the windows.
“Yon man is just in time for the ’sizes,” said a young fellow as he swung by with another, who was pointing to the house and muttering something that was inaudible to Robbie.