“Let me go; let me go,” he cried.
Robbie Anderson came up and took him by the hand; but Sim’s brain seemed rent in twain, and in a burst of hysterical passion he fell back into his seat, and buried his head in his breast.
“He’ll be hanged with the foulest collier yet,” growled one of the men. It was Joe Garth again. He was silenced once more. The others had begun to relent.
“I’ve not yet asked him if he is innocent,” continued Ralph; “but this persecution drives me to it, and I ask him now.”
“Yes, yes,” cried Sim, raising his head, and revealing an awful countenance. A direful memory seemed to haunt every feature.
“Do you know the murderer?”
“I do—that is—what am I saying?—let me go.”
Sim had got up, and was tramping across the floor. Ralph got up too, and faced him.
“It is your duty, in the sight of Heaven, to give that man’s name.”
“No, no; heaven forbid,” cried Sim.
“It is your duty to yourself and to—”
“I care nothing for myself.”
“And to your daughter—think of that. Would you tarnish the child’s name with the sin laid on the father’s—”
“God in heaven help me!” cried Sim, tremulous with emotion. “Ralph, Ralph, ask me no more—you don’t know what you ask.”
“It is your duty to Heaven, I say.”
He put his hand on Sim’s shoulder, and looked steadily in his eyes. With a fearful cry Sim broke from his grasp, sprung to the door, and in an instant was lost in the darkness without. Ralph stood where Sim had left him, transfixed by some horrible consciousness. A slow paralysis seemed to possess all his senses. What had he read in those eyes that seemed to live before him still?
“Good neet,” said old Matthew as he got up and trudged out. Most of the company rose to go. “Good night,” said more than one, but Ralph answered nothing. Robbie Anderson was last.
“Good night, Ralph,” he said. His gruff voice was thick in his throat.
“Aye, good night, lad,” Ralph answered vacantly.
Robbie had got to the door, and was leaning with one hand on the door-frame. Coming back, he said,—
“Ralph, where may your father be to-night?”
“At Gaskarth—it’s market day—he took the last shearing.”
He spoke like one in a sleep. Then Robbie left him.
“Is Rotha ready to go?” he asked.
THE EMPTY SADDLE.
The night has been unruly:...
Lamentings heard i’ the air; strange screams of death.