“I do,” said Sim; “it was the time of the war. The neighbors told of some maiden aunt, an old crone like herself, who had left Joe’s mother aboon a hundred pound.”
“Wilson knew that much better than our neighbors. He knew, too, where his wife had hidden herself, as she thought, though it had served his turn to seem ignorant of it until then. Sim, he used me to get to Wythburn.”
“Once here, it was not long before he had made his wife aware of his coming. I had kept an eye on him, and I knew his movements. I saw that he meant to ruin the Garths, mother and son, to strip them and leave them destitute. I determined that he should not do it. I felt that mine was the blame that he was here to molest them. ’Tamper with them,’ I said, ’show once more by word or look that you know anything of them, and I’ll hand you over as a traitor to the nearest sheriff.’”
“Why didn’t you do it anyhow, why didn’t you?” said Sim eagerly.
“That would have been unwise. He now hated me for defeating his designs.
“You had saved his life.”
“He hated me none the less for that. There was only one way now to serve either the Garths or myself, and that was to keep the man in hand. I neither sent him away nor let him go.”
“You were more than a match for him to the last,” said Sim, “and you saved me and my lass from him too. But what about Joe Garth and his old mother? They don’t look over-thankful to you, they don’t.”
“They think that I brought Wilson back to torment them. No words of mine would upset the notion. I’m sorry for that, but leave such mistakes for time to set right. And when the truth comes in such a case it comes to some purpose.”
“Aye, when it comes—when it comes.”
Sim spoke in an undertone, and as though to himself.
“It’s long in the coming sometimes, it is.”
“It seems long, truly.” The dalesman had caught Sim’s drift, and with his old trick of manner, more expressive than his words, he had put his hand on Sim’s arm.
“And now there is but one chance that has made it quite worth the while that we should have talked frankly on the subject, you and I, and that is the chance that others may come to do what Wilson tried to do. The authorities who issued this warrant will hardly forget that they issued it. There was a stranger here the day after the inquest. I think I know what he was.”
Sim shuddered perceptibly.
“He went away then, but we’ll see him once more, depend upon it.”
“Is it true, as Wilson said, that Oliver’s men are like to be taken?”
“There’s a spy in every village, so they say, and blank warrants, duly signed, in every sheriff’s court, ready to be filled in with any name that malice may suggest. These men mean that Puritanism shall be rooted out of England. We cannot be too well prepared.”