‘Mrs. Wallwork,’ said he, ’you ought not to be crossing the moors a night like this, uncovered as you are. You are tempting Nature to do her worst with you, you know.’
‘Ne’er heed me, doctor. It’s mi lad yon aw want yo’ to heed. I shall be all reet if he’s nobbud reet. I con walk faster if yo’ con,’ and so saying, the jaded woman sprang, like a stung horse, under the spur of love.
‘But I have two lives to think of,’ replied Dr. Hale, ’both mother’s and son’s.’
‘Mine’s naught, doctor, when he’s i’ danger. Who bothers their yeds abaat theirsels when them as they care more for are i’ need? Let’s hurry up, doctor.’
And again she sprang forward, to struggle with renewed effort through the yielding snow. Then, turning towards her companion, she cried:
‘Where wur he hurt, doctor? Did they tell yo’?’
But the doctor was silent.
Seizing his arm with eager grip, she continued:
‘Dun yo’ think he’s livin’, doctor? Or is he deead? Did they say he wur deead?’
‘We must be patient a little longer,’ was the doctor’s kind reply. ‘See! there’s the light in the window of Granny Houses!’
And there shone the light—distant across the fields, and blurred and indistinct through the falling snow. Without waiting to find the path, the mother ran in a direct line towards it, scaling the walls with the nimbleness of youth, to fall exhausted on the threshold of the farmstead.
Raising herself, she looked round with a blank stare, dazed with the glow of the fire and the light of the lamp. In the further corners of the room, and away from each other, sat the old woman and Mr. Penrose and Malachi o’ the Mount, while on the settle beneath the window lay the sheeted dead.
‘Where’s th’ lad?’ cried the mother, the torture of a great fear racking her features and agonizing her voice.
There was no reply, the three watchers by the dead helplessly and mutely gazing at the snow-covered figure that stood beneath the open doorway within a yard of her child.
‘Gronny, doesto yer? Where’s my lad? And yo’, Malachi—yo’ took him daan th’ shaft wi’ yo’; what ban yo’ done wi’ him?’
Still there was no response. A paralysis silenced each lip. None of the three possessed a heart that dared disclose the secret.
Seeing the sheeted covering on the settle, the woman, with frantic gesture, tore it aside, and when her eye fell on the little face, grand in death’s calm, a great rigor took hold of her, and then she became rigid as the dead on whom her gaze was fixed.
In a little while she stooped over the boy, and, baring the cold body, looked long at the crushed and discoloured parts, at last bending low her face and kissing them until they were warm with her caress. Then old granny, turning round to Mr. Penrose, whispered:
‘Thank God, hoo’s weepin’!’
‘Let her weep,’ said Dr. Hale; ‘there’s no medicine like tears.’