“Who said so, Rotha?”
There was another start of recovering consciousness. Then the wide eyes looked full into his, and the tongue that would have spoken refused that instant to speak. The name that trembled in a half-articulate whisper on the parted lips came upwards from the heart.
But the girl was ignorant of her own secret even yet.
“We’ll say no more about it now, Rotha,” repeated Willy in a broken voice. “If you wish it, we’ll talk again; give me a sign, and perhaps we’ll talk on this matter again.”
In another moment the young man was gone.
It was not till she was alone that the girl realized the situation. She put her hand over her eyes—the hand that still tingled with the light pressure of his touch.
What had happened? Had Willy asked her to become his wife? And had she seemed to say No?
The sound of his voice was still lingering on her ears; it was a low broken murmur, such as might have fallen to a sob.
Had she, then, refused? That could not be. She was but a poor homeless girl, with nothing to recommend her to such a man as he was. Yet she knew—she had heard—that he loved her, and would one day ask her to be his wife. She had thought that day was far distant. She had never realized that it would be now. Why had he not given her time to think? If Ralph knew what she had done!
For an hour or two Rotha went about the house with a look of bewilderment in her eyes.
Willy came back soon afterwards, and helped her to wheel his mother in her chair to her place by the hearth. He had regained his wonted composure, and spoke to her as if nothing unusual had occurred. Perhaps it had been something like a dream, all this that haunted her. Willy was speaking cheerfully enough. Just then her father came into the kitchen, and slunk away silently to a seat in the remotest corner of the wide ingle. Willy went out almost immediately. Everything was in a maze. Could it be that she had seemed to say No?
Rotha was rudely awakened from her trance by the entrance at this moment of the parson of the chapel on the Raise. The present was the first visit the Reverend Nicholas Stevens had paid since the day of the funeral. He had heard of the latest disaster which had befallen the family at the Moss. He had also learned something of the paralytic seizure which the disaster had occasioned. He could not any longer put away the solemn duty of visitation. To take the comfort of his presence, to give the light of his countenance to the smitten, was a part of his sacred function. These accidents were among the sore trials incident to a cure of souls. The Reverend Nicholas had brushed himself spick-and-span that morning, and, taking up his gold-headed cane, had walked the two miles to Shoulthwaite.
Rotha was tying the ribbons of Mrs. Ray’s white cap under her chin as the vicar entered. She took up a chair for him, and placed it near the invalid. But he did not sit immediately. His eye traversed the kitchen at a glance. He saw Mrs. Ray propped up with her pillows, and looking vacantly about her, but his attention seemed to be riveted on Sim, who sat uneasily on the bench, apparently trying to escape the concentrated gaze.