“Robbie, Robbie, do you know who has come to see you?” said Liza, bending over him.
“Ey, mother, ey, here I am, home at last,” muttered Robbie.
“He’s ram’lin’ agen,” said Mattha from the chimney corner.
“Bless your old heart, mammy, but I’ll mend my management. I will, that I will. It’s true this time, mammy, ey, it is. No, no; try me again just once, mammy!”
“He’s forever running on that, poor lad,” whispered Mattha. “I reckon it’s been a sair point with him sin’ he put auld Martha intil t’ grund.”
“Don’t greet, mammy; don’t greet.”
Poor Liza found the gown wanted close attention at that moment. It went near enough to her eyes.
“I say it was fifty strides to the north of the bridge! Swear it? Ey, swear it!” cried Robbie at a fuller pitch of his weakened voice.
“He’s olas running on that, too,” whispered Mattha to Rotha. “Dusta mind ’at laal Reuben said the same?”
In a soft and pleading tone Robbie mumbled on,—
“Don’t greet, mammy, or ye’ll kill me sure enough. Killing you? Ey, it’s true it’s true; but I’ll mend my management—I will.” There were sobs in Robbie’s voice, but no tears in his bloodshot eyes.
“There, there, Robbie,” whispered Mrs. Branthwaite soothingly in his ear; “rest thee still, Robbie, rest thee still.”
It was a pitiful scene. The remorse of the poor, worn, wayward, tender-hearted lad seemed to rend the soul in his unconscious body.
“If he could but sleep!” said Mrs. Branthwaite; “but he cannot.”
Liza got up and went out.
Robbie struggled to raise himself on one elbow. His face, red as a furnace, was turned aside as though in the act of listening for some noise far away. Then in a thick whisper he said,—
“Fifty strides north of the bridge. No dreaming about it—north, I say, north.”
Robbie sank back exhausted, and Rotha prepared to leave.
“It were that ducking of his heed did it, sure enough,” said Mattha, “that and the drink together. I mind Bobbie’s father—just sic like, just sic like! Poor auld Martha, she hed a sad bout of it, she hed, what with father and son. And baith good at the bottom, too, baith, poor lads.”
A graver result than any that Mattha dreamt of hung at this moment on Robbie’s insensibility, and when consciousness returned the catastrophe had fallen.
GARTH AND THE QUAKERS.
As Rotha left the weaver’s cottage she found Liza in the porch.
“I’m just laughing at the new preachers,” she said huskily. She was turning her head aside slyly to brush the tears from her eyes into a shawl which was over her head.
“There they are by the Lion. It’s wrong to laugh, but they are real funny, aye!”