“He’s not my brother.”
“Sweetheart, then, ey? Why, these passages are as dark as the grave.”
“I wish they were as silent, and as deep too, for those who enter them.”
“Ay, what, Jonathan? Grave, silent, deep—but then you would be buried with us, my pretty lassie.”
“And what of that? Here’s your room, sirs. Peradventure it will serve until you take every room.” “Remember the breakfast,” cried the little man, after Rotha’s retreating figure. “We’re as hungry as—as—”
“Hold your tongue, and come in, David. Brush the mud from your pantaloons, and leave the girl to herself.”
“The brazen young noddle,” muttered David.
It was less than an hour later when Rotha, having got through her immediate duties, was hastening with all speed to Mattha Brander’s cottage. In her hand, tightly grasped beneath her cloak, was a bunch of keys, and on her lips were the words of the woman’s evidence and of Robbie’s delirium. “It was fifty yards to the north of the bridge.”
This was her sole clew. What could she make of it?
THE CLEW DISCOVERED.
An hour before Rotha left Shoulthwaite, Robbie Anderson was lying on a settle before the fire in the old weaver’s kitchen. Mattha himself and his wife were abroad, but Liza had generously and courageously undertaken the task of attending to the needs of the convalescent.
“Where’s all my hair gone?” asked Robbie, with a puzzled expression. He was rubbing his close-cropped head.
Liza laughed roguishly.
“Maybe it’s fifty yards north of the bridge,” she said, with her head aside.
Robbie looked at her with blank amazement.
“Why, who told you that, Liza?” he said.
“Told me what?”
“Ey? That!” repeated Robbie, no more explicit.
“Foolish boy! Didn’t you tell us yourself fifty times?”
“So I did. Did I though? What am I saying? When did I tell you?”
Robbie’s eyes were staring out of his head. His face, not too ruddy at first, was now as pale as ashes.
Liza began to whimper.
“Why do you look like that?” she said.
“Look? Oh, ey, ey! I’m a ruffian, that’s what I am. Never mind, lass.”
Robbie’s eyes regained their accustomed expression, and his features, which had been drawn down, returned to their natural proportions.
Liza’s face underwent a corresponding change.
“Robbie, have you ‘downed’ him—that Garth?”
The glaring eyes were coming back. Liza, frightened again, began once more to whimper prettily.
“I didn’t mean to flayte you, Liza,” Robbie said coaxingly. “You’re a fair coax when you want something,” said Liza, trying to disengage herself from the grasp of Robbie’s arm about her waist. He might be an invalid, Liza thought, but he was wonderfully strong, and he was holding her shockingly tight. What was the good of struggling?