Without retiring, the jury found a verdict of guilty against both prisoners.
The crier made proclamation of silence, and the awful sentence of death was pronounced.
It was remarked that Justice Hide muttered something about a “writ of error,” and that when he rose from the bench he motioned the sheriff to follow him.
LOVE KNOWN AT LAST.
Early next morning Willy Ray arrived at Shoulthwaite, splashed from head to foot, worn and torn. He had ridden hard from Carlisle, but not so fast but that two unwelcome visitors were less than half an hour’s ride behind him.
“Home again,” he said, in a dejected tone, throwing down his whip as he entered the kitchen, “yet home no longer.”
Rotha struggled to speak. “Ralph, where is he? Is he on the way?” These questions were on her lips, but a great gulp was in her throat, and not a word would come.
“Ralph’s a dead man,” said Willy with affected deliberation, pushing off his long boots.
Rotha fell back apace. Willy glanced up at her.
“As good as dead,” he added, perceiving that she had taken his words too literally. “Ah, well, it’s over now, it’s over; and if you had a hand in it, girl, may God forgive you!”
Willy said this with the air of a man who reconciles himself to an injury, and is persuading his conscience that he pardons it. “Could you not give me something to eat?” he asked, after a pause.
“Is that all you have to say to me?” said Rotha, in a voice as husky as the raven’s.
Willie glanced at her again. He felt a passing pang of remorse.
“I had forgotten, Rotha; your father, he is in the same case with Ralph.”
Then he told her all; told her in a simple way, such as he believed would appeal to what he thought her simple nature; told her of the two trials and final conviction, and counselled her to bear her trouble with as stout a heart as might be.
“It will be ended in a week,” he said, in closing his narrative; “and then, Heaven knows what next.” Rotha stood speechless by the chair of the unconscious invalid, with a face more pale than ashes, and fingers clinched in front of her.
“It comes as a shock to you, Rotha, for you seemed somehow to love your poor father.”
Still the girl was silent. Then Willy’s sympathies, which had for two minutes been as unselfish as short-sighted, began to revolve afresh about his own sorrows.
“I can scarce blame you for what you did,” he said; “no, I can scarce blame you, when I think of it. He was not your brother, as he was mine. You could know nothing of a brother’s love; no, you could know nothing of that.”
“What is the love of a brother?” said Rotha.
Willy started at the unfamiliar voice.
“What would be the love of a world of brothers to such a love as mine?”