“Say nowt to him,” answered Matthew. “He’s fair daft to-neet.”
The evening was far advanced when the dalesmen rose to go.
“Our work’s cut out for us in the morning, men.” said John Jackson. “Let’s off to our beds.”
UNTIL THE DAY BREAK.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.
It was not at first that Ralph was a prey to sentiments of horror. His physical energy dominated all emotion, and left no room for terrible imaginings—no room for a full realization of what had occurred. That which appeared to paralyze the others—that which by its ghastly reality appeared to fix them to the earth with the rigidity of stone—endowed him with a power that seemed all but superhuman, and inspired him with an impulse that leapt to its fulfilment.
Mounted on the young horse, he galloped after the mare along the long range of the pikes, in and out of their deep cavernous alcoves, up and down their hillocks and hollows, over bowlders, over streams, across ghylls, through sinking sloughs and with a drizzling rain overhead. At one moment he caught sight of the mare and her burden as they passed swiftly over a protruding headland which was capped from his point of view by nothing but the mist and the sky. Then he followed on the harder; but faster than his horse could gallop over the pathless mountains galloped the horse of which he was in pursuit. He could see the mare no more. Yet he rode on and on.
When he reached the extremity of the dark range and stood at that point where Great Howe fringes downward to the plain, he turned about and rode back on the opposite side of the pikes. Once more he rode in and out of cavernous alcoves, up and down hillocks and hollows, over bowlders, over streams, across rivers, through sinking sloughs, and still with a drizzling rain overhead. The mare was nowhere to be seen.
Then he rode on to where the three ranges of mountains meet at Angle Tarn and taking first the range nearest the pikes he rode under the Bow Fell, past the Crinkle Crags to the Three-Shire Stones at the foot of Greyfriars, where the mountains slope downward to the Duddon valley. Still the mare was nowhere to be seen.
Returning then to the Angle Tarn, he followed the only remaining range past the Pike of Stickle until he looked into the black depths of the Dungeon Ghyll. And still the mare was nowhere to be seen. Fear was behind her, and only by fear could she be overtaken. It was at about two o’clock in the afternoon that the disaster had occurred. It was now fully three hours later, and the horse Ralph rode, fatigued and wellnigh spent, was slipping its feet in the gathering darkness. He turned its head towards Wythburn, and rode down to the city by Harrop Tarn.
At the first house—it was Luke Cockrigg’s, and it stood on the bank above the burn—he left the horse, and borrowed a lantern. The family would have dissuaded him from an attempt to return to the fells, but he was resolved. There was no reasoning against the resolution pictured on his rigid and cadaverous countenance.