“I want to write to him—to Ralph—Ralph Ray,” he said, in a voice quite unlike his own.
Rotha ran to the chest in the kitchen and opened it. In a side shelf pens were there and paper too. She came back, and put them before the sick man.
But he was unconscious of what she had done.
She looked into his face. His eyes seemed not to see.
“The paper and pen!” he cried again, yet more eagerly.
She put the quill into his hand and spread the paper before him.
“What writing is this,” he cried, pointing to the white sheet; “this writing in red?”
The pen dropped from his nerveless fingers.
“To think they will take a dying man!” he said. “You would scarce think they would have the heart, these people. You would scarce think it, would you?” he said, lifting his poor glassy eyes to Rotha’s face.
“Perhaps they don’t know,” she answered soothingly, and tried to replace him on his pillow.
“That’s true,” he muttered; “perhaps they don’t know how ill I am.”
At that instant he caught sight of his mother’s ill-shapen figure cowering over the fire. Clutching Rotha’s arm with one hand, he pointed at his mother with the other, and said, with an access of strength,—
“I’ve found her out; I’ve found her out.”
Then he laughed till it seemed to Rotha that the blood stood still in her heart.
When the full flood of daylight streamed into the little room, Garth had sunk into a deep sleep.
“OUT, OUT, BRIEF CANDLE.”
As the clock struck eight Rotha drew her shawls about her shoulders and hurried up the road.
At the turning of the lonnin to Shoulthwaite she met Willy Ray. “I was coming to meet you,” he said, approaching.
“Come no closer,” said Rotha, thrusting out the palm of one hand; “you know where I’ve been—there, that is near enough.”
“Nonsense, Rotha!” said Willy, stepping up to her and putting a hand on her arm. There was confidence in the touch.
“To-morrow is the day,” Willy added, in an altered tone. “I am leaving for Carlisle at noon—that is, in four hours.”
“Could you not wait four hours longer?” said Rotha.
“I could if you wish it; but why?”
“I don’t know—that is, I can’t say—but wait until four o’clock, I beg of you.”
The girl spoke with deep earnestness.
“I shall wait,” said Willy, after a pause.
“And you’ll meet me at the bridge by the smithy?” said Rotha.
Willy nodded assent.
“At four precisely,” he said.
“This is all I came to ask. I must go back.”
“Rotha, a word: what is your interest in these Garths? Does it concern your father and Ralph?”
“I’ll tell you at the bridge,” said Rotha, sidling off.