“Let me have but a glance at him—one glance—for the dear God’s sake let me but see him—only once—only for a moment.”
The judge called for silence, and the officer was hurrying the woman away when Ralph turned his face full towards the door.
“I see him now,” said the woman. “He’s not my husband. No,” she added, “but I’ve seen him before somewhere.”
“Where, my good woman? Where have you seen him before the day?”
This was whispered in her ear by a man who had struggled his way to her side.
“Does he come from beyond Gaskarth?” she asked.
“This commotion ill befits the gravity of a trial of such grave concernment,” said one of the judges in an austere tone.
In another moment the woman and her eager interlocutor had left the court together.
There was then a brief consultation between the occupants of the bench.
“The pardon is binding,” said one; “if it were otherwise it were the hardest case that could be for half the people of England.”
“Yet the King came back without conditions,” replied the other.
There was a general bustle in the court. The crier proclaimed silence.
“The prisoner stands remanded for one week.”
Then Ralph was removed from the bar.
THE FIERY HAND.
They drove Robbie Anderson that night to the house of the old woman with whom he lodged, but their errand was an idle one. Reuben Thwaite jumped from the cart and rapped at the door. Old ’Becca Rudd opened it, held a candle over her head, and peered into the darkness. When she heard what sick guest they had brought her, she trembled from head to foot, and cried to them not to shorten the life of a poor old soul whose days were numbered.
“Nay, nay; take him away, take him away,” she said.
“Art daft, or what dusta mean?” said Mattha from his seat in the cart.
“Nay, but have mercy on me, have mercy on me,” cried ’Becca beseechingly.
“Weel, weel,” said Mattha, “they do say as theer’s no fools like auld fools. Why, the lad’s ram’lin’. Canst hear?—ram’lin’. Wadst hev us keck him intil the dike to die like ony dog?”
“Take him away, take him away,” cried ’Becca, retiring inwards, her importunity becoming every moment louder and more vehement.
“I reckon ye wad be a better stepmother to yon brocken-backt bitch of yours an it had the mange?” said Mattha.
“Nay, but the plague—the plague. Ye’ve heard what the new preachers are telling about the plague. Robbie’s got it, Robbie’s got the plague; I’m sure of it, sure.”
’Becca set down the candle to wring her hands.
“So thoo’s sure of it, ista?” said Mattha. “Weel, I’ll tell thee what I’s sure on, and that is that thoo art yan o’ them folks as waddant part with the reek off their kail. Ye’r nobbut an auld blatherskite, ’Becca, as preaches mair charity in a day ner ye’r ready to stand by in a twelvemonth. Come, Reuben, whip up yer dobbin. Let’s away to my own house. I’d hev to be as poor as a kirk louse afore I’d turn my back on a motherless lad as is nigh to death’s door.”