Late the same evening, as the weary sun went down behind the smithy, Rotha hastened from the cottage at Fornside back to the house on the Moss at Shoulthwaite. She had a bundle of papers beneath her cloak, and the light of hope in her face.
The clew was found.
THE CONDEMNED IN DOOMSDALE.
When Ralph, accompanied by Sim, arrived at Carlisle and surrendered himself to the high sheriff, Wilfrey Lawson, he was at once taken before the magistrates, and, after a brief examination, was ordered to wait his trial at the forthcoming assizes. He was then committed to the common gaol, which stood in the ruins of the old convent of Black Friars. The cell he occupied was shared by two other prisoners—a man and a woman. It was a room of small dimensions, down a small flight of steps from the courtyard, noisome to the only two senses to which it appealed—gloomy and cold. It was entered from a passage in an outer cell, and the doors to both were narrow, without so much as the ventilation of an eye-hole, strongly bound with iron, and double locked. The floor was the bare earth, and there was no furniture except such as the prisoners themselves provided. A little window near to the ceiling admitted all the light and air and discharged all the foul vapor that found entrance and egress.
The prisoners boarded themselves. For an impost of 7s per week, an under gaoler undertook to provide food for Ralph and to lend him a mattress. His companions in this wretched plight were a miserable pair who were suspected of a barbarous and unnatural murder. They had been paramours, and their victim had been the woman’s husband. Once and again they had been before the judges, and though none doubted their guilt, they had been sent back to await more conclusive or more circumstantial evidence. Whatever might hitherto have been the ardor of their guilty passion, their confinement together in this foul cell had resulted in a mutual loathing. Within the narrow limits of these walls neither seemed able to support the barest contact with the other. They glared at each other in the dim light with ghoul-like eyes, and at night they lay down at opposite sides of the floor on bundles of straw for beds. This straw, having served them in their poverty for weeks and even months, had fermented and become filthy and damp.
Such was the place and such the society in which Ralph spent the seven days between the day on which he surrendered and that on which he was indicted for treason.
The little window looked out into the streets, and once or twice daily Simeon Stagg, who discovered the locality of Ralph’s confinement, came and exchanged some words of what were meant for solace with his friend. It was small comfort Ralph found in the daily sight of the poor fellow’s sorrowful face; but perhaps Ralph’s own brighter countenance and cheerier tone did something for the comforter himself.