The woman was coming from her house with a cup of milk in her hand; but, without waiting to accept of it, Sim started away and ran at his utmost speed over the fell. The woman stood with the cup in her hand, watching the thin figure vanishing in the distance, and wondering if it had been an apparition.
“You can’t understand why Mr. Wilfrey Lawson is so keen to lay hands on this man Ray?” said Constable David.
“That I cannot,” said Constable Jonathan.
“Why, isn’t it enough that he was in the trained bands of the Parliament?”
“Enough for the King—and this new law of Puritan extermination— yes; for Master Wilfrey—no. Besides, the people can’t stand this hanging of the old Puritan soldiers much longer. The country had been worried and flurried by the Parliament, and cried out like a wearied man for rest—any sort of rest—and it has got it—got it with a vengeance. But there’s no rest more restless than that of an active man except that of an active country, and England won’t put up with this butchering of men to-day for doing what was their duty yesterday—yes, their duty, for that’s what you call it.”
“So you think Master Wilfrey means to set a double trap for Ray?”
“I don’t know what he means; but he doesn’t hunt down a common Roundhead out of thousands with nothing but ‘duty’ in his head; that’s not Master Wilfrey Lawson’s way.”
“But this man was a captain of the trained bands latterly,” said the little constable. “Fellow,” he cried to Mr. Garth, who rode along moodily enough in front of them, “did this Ray ever brag to you of what he did as captain in the army?”
“What was he? Capt’n? I never heard on’t,” growled the blacksmith.
“Brag—pshaw! He’s hardly the man for that,” said Constable Jonathan.
“I mind they crack’t of his saving the life of old Wilson,” said Mr. Garth, growling again.
“And if he took it afterwards, what matter?” said Constable Jonathan, with an expression of contempt. “Push on, there. Here we’re at the top. Is it down now? What’s that below? A house, truly—a house at last. Who’s that running from it? We must be near our trysting place. Is that our man? Come, if we are to do this thing, let us do it.”
“It’s the fellow Ray, to a certainty,” said the little man, pricking his horse into a canter as soon as he reached the first fields of Ennerdale.
In a few minutes the three men had drawn up at the cottage on the breast of Brandreth where Sim had asked for a drink.
“Mistress! Hegh! hegh! Who was the man that left you just now?”
“I dunnet know wha’t war—some feckless body, I’m afeart. He was a’ wizzent and savvorless. He begged ma a drink o’ milk, but lang ere a cud cum tul him he was gane his gate like yan dazt-like.”
“Who could this be? It’s not our man clearly. Who could it be, blacksmith?”