Then, with the first moment of reflection, the truth flashed upon him. It was he who had been pursued, and he had thrown himself into the arms of his pursuers.
They were standing by the gap in the furze bushes. The mourners were at the top of the pass, and they saw what had happened. Robbie Anderson was coming along faster with the mare. The two men saw that help for their prisoner was at hand. They dropped the manacles, and tried to throw Ralph on to the back of one of their horses. Sim was dragging their horse away. The dog was barking furiously and tearing at their legs. But they were succeeding: they were overpowering him; they had him on the ground.
Now, they were all in the gap of the furze bushes, struggling in the shallow stream. Robbie dropped the reins of the mare, and ran to Ralph’s aid. At that moment a mighty gust of wind came down from the fell, and swept through the channel. It caught the mare, and startled by the loud cries of the men and the barking of the dog, and affrighted by the tempest, she started away at a terrific gallop over the mountains, with the coffin on her back.
“The mare, the mare!” cried Ralph, who had seen the accident as Robbie dropped the reins; “for God’s sake, after her!”
The strength of ten men came into his limbs at this. He rose from where the men held him down, and threw them from him as if they had been green withes that he snapped asunder. They fell on either side, and lay where they fell. Then he ran to where the young horse stood a few paces away, and lifting the boy from the saddle leapt into it himself. In a moment he was galloping after the mare.
But she had already gone far. She was flying before the wind towards the great dark pikes in the distance. Already the mists were obscuring her. Ralph followed on and on, until the company that stood as though paralyzed on the pass could see him no mere.
A ’BATABLE POINT.
When Constable David tried to rise after that fall, he discovered too many reasons to believe that his leg had been broken. Constable Jonathan had fared better as to wind and limb, but upon regaining his feet he found the voice of duty silent within him as to the necessity of any further action such as might expose him to more serious disabilities. With the spirit of the professional combatant, he rather admired the prowess of their adversary, and certainly bore him no ill-will because he had vanquished them.
“The man’s six foot high if he’s an inch, and has the strength of an ox,” he said, as he bent over his coadjutor and inquired into the nature of his bruises.
Constable David seemed disposed to exhibit less of the resignation of a brave humility that can find solace and even food for self-flattery in defeat, than of the vexation of a cowardly pride that cannot reconcile itself to a stumble and a fall.