“I wish I could save you, Ralph; leastways, I wish it were myself instead, I do.”
“You thought to save me, old friend, when you went out to meet Wilson that night three months ago. My father, too, he thought to save me when he did what he did. You were both rash, both wrong. You could not have helped me at all in that way. Poor father! How little he has helped me, Heaven knows—Heaven alone knows—yet.”
Ralph drew his hand across his eyes.
Sim accompanied Ralph half-way down the hill when he rose to go. Robbie Anderson could be seen hastening towards them. His mission must be with Ralph, so Sim went back.
“I’ve been to Shoulthwaite to look for you,” said Robbie. “They told me you’d taken the hills for it, so I followed on.”
“You look troubled, my lad,” said Ralph; “has anything happened to you?”
“No, Ralph, but something may happen to you if you don’t heed me what I say.”
“Nothing that will trouble me much, Robbie—nothing of that kind can happen now.”
“Yon gommarel of a Joe Garth, the blacksmith, has never forgotten the thrashing you gave him years ago for killing your dog—Laddie’s mother that was.”
“No, he’ll never forgive me; but what of that? I’ve not looked for his forgiveness.”
“But, I’m afeared, Ralph, he means to pay you back more than four to the quarter. Do you know he has spies lodging with him? They’ve come down here to take you off. Joe has been at the Red Lion this morning—drunk, early as it is. He blurted it out about the spies, so I ran off to find you.”
“It isn’t Joe that has done the mischief, my lad, though the spies, or whatever they are, may pay him to play underspy while it serves their turn.”
“Joe or not Joe, they mean to take you the first chance. Folks say everything has got upside down with the laws and the country now that the great man himself is dead. Hadn’t you best get off somewhere?
“It was good of you, Robbie, to warn me; but I can’t leave home yet; my father must be buried, you know.”
“Ah!” said Robbie in an altered tone, “poor Angus!”
Ralph looked closely at his companion, and thought of Robbie’s question last night in the inn.
“Tell me,” he said, glancing searchingly into Robbie’s eyes, “did you know anything about old Wilson’s death?”
The young dalesman seemed abashed. He dropped his head, and appeared unable to look up.
“Tell me, Robbie; I know much already.”
“I took the money,” said the young man; “I took it, but I threw it into the beck the minute after.”
“How was it, lad? Let me know.”
Robbie was still standing, with his head down, pawing the ground as he said,—