“And you could not catch hold on it, any of you, ey?” asked one of the company with a shadow of a sneer.
“Shaf! dost thoo think yon fell’s like a blind lonnin?” said Matthew.
“Nay, but it’s a bent place,” continued Mr. Jackson. “How it dizzied and dozzled, too! And what a fratch yon was! My word! but Ralph did ding them over, both of them!”
“He favors his father, does Ralph,” said Matthew.
“Ey! he’s his father’s awn git,” chimed Reuben. “But that Joe Garth is a merry-begot, I’ll swear.”
“Shaf! he hesn’t a bit of nater intil him, nowther back nor end. He’s now’t but riffraff,” said Matthew. Ralph Ray’s peril and escape were incidents too unimportant to break the spell of the accident to the body of his father.
Robbie Anderson turned in late in the evening.
“Here’s a sorry home coming,” he said as he entered.
It was easy to see that Robbie was profoundly agitated. His eyes were aflame; he rose and sat, walked a pace or two and stood, passed his fingers repeatedly through his short curly beard, slapped his knee, and called again and again for ale. When he spoke of the accident on the fell, he laughed with a wild effort at a forced and unnatural gayety.
“It’s all along of my being dintless, so it is,” he muttered, after little Reuben Thwaite had repeated for some fresh batch of inquirers the story, so often told, of how the mare took to flight, and of how Ralph leaped on to the young horse in pursuit of it.
“All along of you, Robbie; how’s that, man?”
“If I’d chained the young horse at the bottom of the hill there would have been no mare to run away, none.”
“It’s like that were thy orders, then, Robbie?”
“It were that, damn me, it were—the schoolmaster there, he knows it.”
“Ralph told him to do it; I heard him myself,” said Monsey, from his place in the chimney-nook, where he sat bereft of his sportive spirit, yet quite oblivious of the important part which his own loquacity had unwittingly played in the direful tragedy.
“But never bother now. Bring me more ale, mistress: quick now, my lass.”
Robbie had risen once more, and was tramping across the floor in his excitement. “What’s come over Robbie?” whispered Reuben to Matthew. “What fettle’s he in—doldrums, I reckon.”
“Tak na note on him. Robbie’s going off agen I’m afeart. He’s broken loose. This awesome thing is like to turn the lad’s heed, for he’d the say ower it all.”
“Come, lass, quick with the ale.”
“Ye’ve had eneuf, Robbie,” said the hostess. “Go thy ways home. Thou findst the beer very heady, lad. Thou shalt have more in the morning.”
“To-night, lass; I must have some to-night, that I must.”
“Robbie is going off agen, surely,” whispered Reuben. “It’s a sorry sight when yon lad takes to the drink. He’ll be deed drunk soon.”