A minute later there rushed past Joan, in the darkness, two men,—stumbling and cursing as they went, out of breath, horror-stricken and running at the top of their speed.
"It wur Lowrie hissen, by ——!" she heard one say, as he dashed by.
"Feyther! Feyther, wheer are yo'? Feyther, are yo' nigh me?" she cried, for she heard both the blows and the shriek.
But there came no answer to her ear. The rapid feet beating upon the road, their echo dying in the distance, made the only sound that broke the stillness. There was not even a groan. Yet a few paces from her, lay a battered, bleeding form. There was no starlight now, she could see only the vague outline of the figure, which might be that of either one man or the other. For an instant, the similarity in stature which had deceived his blundering companions, deceived her also; but when she knelt down and touched the shoulder, she knew it was not the master who lay before her.
"It's feyther hissen," she said, and then she drew away her hand, shuddering. "It's wet wi' blood," she said. "It's wet wi' blood!"
He did not hear her when she spoke; he was not conscious that she tried to raise him; his head hung forward when she lifted him; he lay heavily, and without motion, upon her arms.