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´╗┐Title: Dark Hollow
Author: Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dark Hollow" ***

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Html version by Chuck Greif


BEFORE HIM (Page 61)]



Author of "The House of the Whispering Pines," "Initials Only," "That
Affair Next Door," Etc.

With Four Illustrations By THOMAS FOGARTY

[Illustration: COLOPHON]




    BOOK I


    I     WHERE IS BELA?
    X     THE SHADOW



    XVI  "DON'T! DON'T!"





On the instant he recognised that no common interview lay before him

After one look he assumed some show of his old commanding presence and
advanced bravely down the steps

Silence! Not even Heaven spoke

"Tell me what this means," said he, but he did not turn his head as he
made this request





A high and narrow gate of carefully joined boards, standing ajar in a
fence of the same construction! What is there in this to rouse a whole
neighbourhood and collect before it a group of eager, anxious,
hesitating people?

I will tell you.

This fence is no ordinary fence, and this gate no ordinary gate; nor is
the fact of the latter standing a trifle open, one to be lightly
regarded or taken an inconsiderate advantage of. For this is Judge
Ostrander's place, and any one who knows Shelby or the gossip of its
suburbs, knows that this house of his has not opened its doors to any
outsider, man or woman, for over a dozen years; nor have his gates--in
saying which, I include the great one in front--been seen in all that
time to gape at any one's instance or to stand unclosed to public
intrusion, no, not for a moment. The seclusion sought was absolute. The
men and women who passed and repassed this corner many times a day were
as ignorant as the townspeople in general of what lay behind the grey,
monotonous exterior of the weather-beaten boards they so frequently
brushed against. The house was there, of course,--they all knew the
house, or did once--but there were rumours (no one ever knew how they
originated) of another fence, a second barrier, standing a few feet
inside the first and similar to it in all respects, even to the gates
which corresponded exactly with these outer and visible ones and
probably were just as fully provided with bolts and bars.

To be sure, these were reports rather than acknowledged facts, but the
possibility of their truth roused endless wonder and gave to the
eccentricities of this well-known man a mysterious significance which
lost little or nothing in the slow passage of years.

And now! in the freshness of this summer morning, without warning or any
seeming reason for the change, the strict habit of years has been broken
into and this gate of gates is not only standing unlocked before their
eyes, but a woman--a stranger to the town as her very act shows--has
been seen to enter there!--to enter, but not come out; which means that
she must still be inside, and possibly in the very presence of the

Where is Bela? Why does he allow his errands--But it was Bela, or so
they have been told, who left this gate ajar ... he, the awe and terror
of the town, the enormous, redoubtable, close-mouthed negro, trusted as
man is seldom trusted, and faithful to his trust, yes, up to this very
hour, as all must acknowledge, in spite of every temptation (and they
had been many and alluring) to disclose the secret of this home of which
he was not the least interesting factor. What has made him thus suddenly
careless, he who has never been careless before? Money? A bribe from the
woman who had entered there?

Impossible to believe, his virtue has always been so impeccable, his
devotion to his strange and dominating master so sturdy and so seemingly
unaffected by time and chance!

Yet, what else was there to believe? There stood the gate with the
pebble holding it away from the post; and here stood half the
neighbourhood, staring at that pebble and at the all but invisible crack
it made where an opening had never been seen before, in a fascination
which had for its motif, not so much the knowledge that these forbidden
precincts had been invaded by a stranger, as that they were open to any
intruding foot--that they, themselves, if they had courage enough, might
go in, just as this woman had gone in, and see--why, what she is seeing
now--the unknown, unguessed reason for all these mysteries;--the hidden
treasure or the hidden sorrow which would explain why he, their first
citizen, the respected, even revered judge of their highest court,
should make use of such precautions and show such unvarying
determination to bar out all comers from the place he called his home.

It had not always been so. Within the memory of many there it had been
an abode of cheer and good fellowship. Not a few of the men and women
now hesitating before its portals could boast of meals taken at the
judge's ample board, and of evenings spent in animated conversation in
the great room where he kept his books and did his writing.

But that was before his son left him in so unaccountable a manner;
before--yes, all were agreed on this point--before that other bitter
ordeal of his middle age, the trial and condemnation of the man who had
waylaid and murdered his best friend.

Though the effect of these combined sorrows had not seemed to be
immediate (one month had seen both); though a half-year had elapsed
before all sociability was lost in extreme self-absorption, and a full
one before he took down the picket-fence which had hitherto been
considered a sufficient protection to his simple grounds, and put up
these boards which had so completely isolated him from the rest of the
world, it was evident enough to the friends who recalled his look and
step as he walked the streets with Algernon Etheridge on one side and
his brilliant, ever-successful son on the other, that the change now
observable in him was due to the violent sundering of these two ties.
Affections so centred wreck the lives from which they are torn; and
Time, which reconciles most men to their losses, had failed to reconcile
him to his. Grief slowly settled into confirmed melancholy, and
melancholy into the eccentricities of which I have spoken and upon which
I must now enlarge a trifle further, in order that the curiosity and
subsequent action of the small group of people in whom we are interested
may be fully understood and, possibly, in some degree pardoned.

Judge Ostrander was, as I have certainly made you see, a recluse of the
most uncompromising type; but he was such for only half his time. From
ten in the morning till five in the afternoon, he came and went like any
other citizen, fulfilling his judicial duties with the same scrupulous
care as formerly and with more affability. Indeed, he showed at times,
and often when it was least expected, a mellowness of temper quite
foreign to him in his early days. The admiration awakened by his fine
appearance on the bench was never marred now by those quick and rasping
tones of an easily disturbed temper which had given edge to his
invective when he stood as pleader in the very court where he now
presided as judge. But away from the bench, once quit of the courthouse
and the town, the man who attempted to accost him on his way to his
carriage or sought to waylay him at his own gate, had need of all his
courage to sustain the rebuff his presumption incurred.

One more detail and I will proceed with my story.

The son, a man of great ability who was making his way as a journalist
in another city, had no explanation to give of his father's
peculiarities. Though he never came to Shelby--the rupture between the
two, if rupture it were, seeming to be complete--there were many who had
visited him in his own place of business and put such questions
concerning the judge and his eccentric manner of living as must have
provoked response had the young man had any response to give. But he
appeared to have none. Either he was as ignorant as themselves of the
causes which had led to his father's habit of extreme isolation, or he
showed powers of dissimulation hardly in accordance with the other
traits of his admirable character.

All of which closed inquiry in this direction, but left the maw of
curiosity unsatisfied.

And unsatisfied it had remained up to this hour, when through
accident--or was it treachery--the barrier to knowledge was down and the
question of years seemed at last upon the point of being answered.



Meantime, a fussy, talkative man was endeavouring to impress the rapidly
collecting crowd with the advisability of their entering all together
and approaching the judge in a body.

"We can say that we felt it to be our dooty to follow this woman in," he
argued. "We don't know who she is, or what her errand is. She may mean
harm; I've heard of such things, and are we goin' to see the judge in
danger and do nothin'?"

"Oh, the woman's all right," spoke up another voice. "She has a child
with her. Didn't you say she had a child with her, Miss Weeks?"

"Yes, and--"

"Tell us the whole story, Miss Weeks. Some of us haven't heard it. Then
if it seems our duty as his neighbours and well-wishers to go in, we'll
just go in."

The little woman towards whom this appeal--or shall I say command--was
directed, flushed a fine colour under so many eyes, but immediately
began her ingenuous tale. She had already related it a half dozen times
into as many sympathising ears, but she was not one to shirk publicity,
for all her retiring manners and meekness of disposition.

It was to this effect:

She was sitting in her front window sewing. (Everybody knew that this
window faced the end of the lane in which they were then standing.) The
blinds were drawn but not quite, being held in just the desired position
by a string. Naturally, she could see out without being very plainly
seen herself; and quite naturally, too, since she had watched the same
proceeding for years, she had her eyes on this gate when Bela, prompt to
the minute as he always was, issued forth on his morning walk to town
for the day's supplies.

Always exact, always in a hurry--knowing as he did that the judge would
not leave for court till his return--he had never, in all the eight
years she had been sitting in that window making button-holes, shown any
hesitation in his methodical relocking of the gate and subsequent quick

But this morning he had neither borne himself with his usual spirit nor
moved with his usual promptitude. Instead of stepping at once into the
lane, he had lingered in the gateway peering to right and left and
pushing the gravel aside with his foot in a way so unlike himself that
the moment he was out of sight, she could not help running down the lane
to see if her suspicions were correct.

And they were. Not only had he left the gate unlocked, but he had done
so purposely. The movement he had made with his foot had been done for
the purpose of pushing into place a small pebble, which, as all could
see, lay where it would best prevent the gate from closing.

What could such treachery mean, and what was her neighbourly duty under
circumstances so unparalleled? Should she go away, or stop and take one
peep just to see that there really was another and similar fence inside
of this one? She had about decided that it was only proper for her to
enter and make sure that all was right with the judge, when she
experienced that peculiar sense of being watched with which all of us
are familiar, and turning quickly round, saw a woman looking at her from
the road,--a woman all in purple even to the veil which hid her
features. A little child was with her, and the two must have stepped
into the road from behind some of the bushes, as neither of them were
anywhere in sight when she herself came running down from the corner.

It was enough to startle any one, especially as the woman did not speak
but just stood silent and watchful till Miss Weeks in her embarrassment
began to edge away towards home in the hope that the other would follow
her example and so leave the place free for her to return and take the
little peep she had promised herself.

But before she had gone far, she realised that the other was not
following her, but was still standing in the same spot, watching her
through a veil the like of which is not to be found in Shelby, and which
in itself was enough to rouse a decent woman's suspicions.

She was so amazed at this that she stepped back and attempted to address
the stranger. But before she had got much further than a timid and
hesitating Madam, the woman, roused into action possibly by her
interference, made a quick gesture suggestive of impatience if not
rebuke, and moving resolutely towards the gate Miss Weeks had so
indiscreetly left unguarded, pushed it open and disappeared within,
dragging the little child after her.

The audacity of this act, perpetrated without apology before Miss Weeks'
very eyes, was too much for that lady's equanimity. She stopped
stock-still, and, as she did so, beheld the gate swing heavily to and
stop an inch from the post, hindered as we know by the intervening
pebble. She had scarcely got over the shock of this when plainly from
the space beyond she heard a second creaking noise, then the swinging to
of another gate, followed, after a breathless moment of intense
listening, by a series of more distant sounds, which could only be
explained by the supposition that the house door had been reached,
opened and passed.

"And you didn't follow?"

"I didn't dare."

"And she's in there still?"

"I haven't seen her come out."

"Then what's the matter with you?" called out a burly, high-strung
woman, stepping hastily from the group and laying her hand upon the gate
still standing temptingly ajar. "It's no time for nonsense," she
announced, as she pushed it open and stepped promptly in, followed by
the motley group of men and women who, if they lacked courage to lead,
certainly showed willingness enough to follow.

One glance and they felt their courage rewarded.

Rumour, which so often deceives, proved itself correct in this case. A
second gate confronted them exactly like the first even to the point of
being held open by a pebble placed against the post. And a second fence
also! built upon the same pattern as the one they had just passed
through; the two forming a double barrier as mysterious to contemplate
in fact as it had ever been in fancy. In gazing at these fences and the
canyon-like walk stretching between them, the band of curious invaders
forgot their prime errand. Many were for entering this path whose
terminus they could not see for the sharp turns it took in rounding
either corner. Among them was a couple of girls who had but one thought,
as was evinced by their hurried whispers. "If it looks like this in the
daytime, what must it be at night!" To which came the quick retort:
"I've heard that the judge walks here. Imagine it under the moon!"

But whatever the mysteries of the place, a greater one awaited them
beyond, and presently realising this, they burst with one accord through
the second gate into the mass of greenery, which, either from neglect or
intention, masked this side of the Ostrander homestead.

Never before had they beheld so lawless a growth or a house so
completely lost amid vines and shrubbery. So unchecked had been the
spread of verdure from base to chimney, that the impression made by the
indistinguishable mass was one of studied secrecy and concealment. Not a
window remained in view, and had it not been for some chance glimmers
here and there where some small, unguarded portion of the enshrouded
panes caught and reflected the sunbeams, they could not have told where
they were located in these once well-known walls.

Two solemn fir trees, which were all that remained of an old-time and
famous group, kept guard over the untended lawn, adding their suggestion
of age and brooding melancholy to the air of desolation infecting the
whole place. One might be approaching a tomb for all token that appeared
of human presence. Even sound was lacking. It was like a painted
scene--a dream of human extinction.

Instinctively the women faltered and the men drew back; then the very
silence caused a sudden reaction, and with one simultaneous rush, they
made for the only entrance they saw and burst without further ceremony
into the house.

A common hall and common furnishings confronted them. They had entered
at the side and were evidently close upon the kitchen. More they could
not gather; for blocked as the doorway was by their crowding figures,
the little light which sifted in over their heads was not enough to show
up details.

But it was even darker in the room towards which their determined leader
now piloted them. Here there was no light at all; or if some stray
glimmer forced its way through the network of leaves swathing the outer
walls, it was of too faint a character to reach the corners or even to
make the furniture about them distinguishable.

Halting with one accord in what seemed to be the middle of the
uncarpeted floor, they waited for some indication of a clear passageway
to the great room where the judge would undoubtedly be found in
conversation with his strange guest, unless, forewarned by their noisy
entrance, he should have risen already to meet them. In that case they
might expect at any minute to see his tall form emerging in anger upon
them through some door at present unseen.

This possibility, new to some but recognised from the first by others,
fluttered the breasts of such as were not quite impervious to a sense of
their own presumption, and as they stood in a close group, swaying from
side to side in a vain endeavour to see their way through the gloom
before them, the whimper of a child and the muttered ejaculations of the
men testified that the general feeling was one of discontent which might
very easily end in an outburst of vociferous expression.

But the demon of curiosity holds fast and as soon as their eyes had
become sufficiently used to the darkness to notice the faint line of
light marking the sill of a door directly in front of them, they all
plunged forward in spite of the fear I have mentioned.

The woman of the harsh voice and self-satisfied demeanour, who had
started them upon this adventure, was still ahead; but even she quailed
when, upon laying her hand upon the panel of the door she was the first
to reach, she felt it to be cold and knew it to be made not of wood but
of iron. How great must be the treasure or terrible the secret to make
necessary such extraordinary precautions! Was it for her to push open
this door, and so come upon discoveries which--

But here her doubts were cut short by finding herself face to face with
a heavy curtain instead of a yielding door. The pressure of the crowd
behind had precipitated her past the latter into a small vestibule which
acted as an ante-chamber to the very room they were in search of.

The shock restored her self-possession. Bracing herself, she held her
place for a moment, while she looked back, with a finger laid on her
lip. The light was much better here and they could all see both the move
she made and the expression which accompanied it.

"Look at this!" she whispered, pushing the curtain inward with a quick

Her hand had encountered no resistance. There was nothing between them
and the room beyond but a bit of drapery.

"Now hark, all of you," fell almost soundlessly from her lips, as she
laid her own ear against the curtain.

And they hearkened.

Not a murmur came from within, not so much as the faintest rustle of
clothing or the flutter of a withheld breath. All was perfectly
still--too still. As the full force of this fact impressed itself upon
them, a blankness settled over their features. The significance of this
undisturbed quiet was making itself felt. If the two were there, or if
he were there alone, they would certainly hear some movement, voluntary
or involuntary--and they could hear nothing. Was the woman gone? Had she
found her way out front while they approached from the rear? And the
judge! Was he gone also?--this man of inalterable habits--gone before
Bela's return--a thing he had not been known to do in the last twelve
years? No, no, this could not be. Yet even this supposition was not so
incredible as that he should still be here and SILENT. Men like him do
not hold their peace under a provocation so great as the intrusion of a
mob of strangers into a spot where he never anticipated seeing anybody,
nor had seen anybody but his man Bela for years. Soon they would hear
his voice. It was not in nature for him to be as quiet as this in face
of such audacity.

Yet who could count upon the actions of an Ostrander, or reckon with the
imperious whims of a man mysterious beyond all precedent?--He may be
there but silent, or--

A single glance would settle all.

The woman drew the curtain.

Sunshine! A stream of it, dazzling them almost to blindness and sending
them, one and all, pellmell back upon each other! However dismal the
approach, here all was in brilliant light with every evidence before
them of busy life.

The room was not only filled, but crammed, with furniture. This was the
first thing they noticed; then, as their blinking eyes became accustomed
to the glare and to the unexpected confusion of tables and chairs and
screens and standing receptacles for books and pamphlets and boxes
labelled and padlocked, they beheld something else; something, which
once seen, held the eye from further wandering and made the
apprehensions from which they had suffered sink into insignificance
before a real and only too present terror.

The judge was there! but in what a condition.

From the end of the forty foot room, his seated figure confronted them,
silent, staring and unmoving. With clenched fingers gripping the arms of
his great chair, and head held forward, he looked like one frozen at the
moment of doom, such the expression of features usually so noble, and
now almost unrecognisable were it not for the snow of his locks and his
unmistakable brow.

Frozen! Not an eyelash quivered, nor was there any perceptible movement
in his sturdy chest. His eyes were on their eyes, but he saw no one; and
down upon his head and over his whole form the sunshine poured from a
large window let into the ceiling directly above him, lighting up the
strained and unnatural aspect of his remarkable countenance and bringing
into sharp prominence the commonplace objects cluttering the table at
his elbow; such as his hat and gloves, and the bundle of papers he had
doubtless made ready for court.

Was he living? Was he dead?--stricken by the sight of so many faces in a
doorway considered sacred from all intrusion? No! the emotion capable of
thus transforming the features of so strong a man must have a deeper
source than that. The woman was to blame for this--the audacious, the
unknown, the mysteriously clad woman. Let her be found. Let her be made
to explain herself and the condition into which she had thrown this good

Indignation burst into words, and pity was beginning to voice itself in
inarticulate murmurs which swelled and ebbed, now louder, now more
faintly as the crowd surged forward or drew back, appalled by that
moveless, breathless, awe-compelling figure. Indignation and pity were
at their height when the strain which held them all in one common leash
was loosed by the movement of a little child.

Attracted possibly by what it did not understand, or simply made
fearless because of its non-comprehension of the mystery before him, a
curly-haired boy suddenly escaped its mother's clutch, and, toddling up
by a pathway of his own to the awesome form in the great chair, laid his
little hand on the judge's rigid arm and, looking up into his face,
babbled out:

"Why don't you get up, man? I like oo better up."

A breathless moment; then the horrified murmur rose here, there and
everywhere: "He's dead! He's dead!" and the mother, with a rush, caught
the child back, and confusion began its reign, when quietly and
convincingly a bluff and masculine voice spoke from the doorway behind
them and they heard:

"You needn't be frightened. In an hour or a half-hour he will be the
same as ever. My aunt has such attacks. They call it catalepsy."




A dread word to the ignorant.

Imperceptibly the crowd dwindled; the most discreet among them quite
content to leave the house; others, with their curiosity inflamed anew,
to poke about and peer into corners and curtained recesses while the
opportunity remained theirs and the man of whom they stood in fear sat
lapsed in helpless unconsciousness. A few, and these the most
thoughtful, devoted all their energies to a serious quest for the woman
and child whom they continued to believe to be in hiding somewhere
inside the walls she had so audaciously entered.

Among these was Miss Weeks whose importance none felt more than herself,
and it was at her insistence and under her advice (for she only, of all
who remained, had ever had a previous acquaintance with the house) that
the small party decided to start their search by a hasty inspection of
the front hall. As this could not be reached from the room where its
owner's motionless figure sat at its grim watch, they were sidling
hastily out, with eyes still turned back in awful fascination upon those
other eyes which seemed to follow all their movements and yet gave no
token of life, when a shout and scramble in the passages beyond cut
short their intent and held them panting and eager, each to his place.

"They've seen her! They've found her!" ran in quick, whispered
suggestion from lip to lip, and some were for rushing to see.

But Miss Weeks' trim and precise figure blocked the doorway, and she did
not move.

"Hark!" she murmured in quick admonishment; "what is that other sound?
Something is happening--something dreadful. What is it? It does not seem
to be near here yet, but it is coming--coming."

Frightened in spite of themselves, both by her manner and tone, they
drew their gaze from the rigid figure in the chair, and, with bated
breaths and rapidly paling cheeks, listened to the distant murmur on the
far-off road, plainly to be heard pulsing through the nearer sounds of
rushing feet and chattering voices in the rooms about.

What was it? They could not guess, and it was with unbounded relief they
pressed forward to greet the shadowy form of a young girl hurrying
towards them from the rear, with news in her face. She spoke quickly and
before Miss Weeks could frame her question.

"The woman is gone. Harry Doane saw her sliding out behind us just after
we came in. She was hiding in some of the corners here, and slipped out
by the kitchen-way when we were not looking. He has gone to see--"

But interesting as this was, the wonder of the now rapidly increasing
hubbub was more so. A mob was at the gates! Men, women and children
shouting, panting and making loud calls.

Breathlessly Miss Weeks cut the girl's story short; breathlessly she
rushed to the nearest window, and, helped by willing hands, succeeded in
forcing it up and tearing a hole in the vines, through which they one
and all looked out in eager excitement.

A motley throng of people were crowding in through the double gateway.
Some one was in their grasp. Was it the woman? No; it was Bela! Bela,
the giant! Bela, the terror of the town, but no longer a terror now but
a struggling, half-fainting figure, fighting to free itself and get in
advance, despite some awful hurt which blanched his coal-black features
into an indescribable hue and made his great limbs falter and his
gasping mouth writhe in anguish while still keeping his own and making
his way, by sheer force of will, up the path and the two steps of
entrance--his body alternately sinking back or plunging forward as those
in the rear or those in front got the upper hand.

It was an awful and a terrifying sight to little Miss Weeks and,
screaming loudly, she left her window and ran, scattering her small
party before her like sheep, not into the near refuge of the front hall
and its quiet parlours, but into the very spot towards which this mob
seemed headed--the great library pulsing with its own terror, in the
shape of the yet speechless and unconscious man to whom the loudest
noise and the most utter silence were yet as one, and the worst struggle
of human passion a blank lost in unmeaning chaos.

Why this instinctive move? She could not tell. Impulse prevailed, and
without a thought she flew into Judge Ostrander's presence, and, gazing
wildly about, wormed her way towards a heavily carved screen guarding a
distant corner, and cowered down behind it.

What awaited her?

What awaited the judge?

As the little woman shook with terror in her secret hiding-place she
felt that she had played him false; that she had no right to save
herself by the violation of a privacy she should have held in awe. She
was paying for her temerity now, paying for it with every terrible
moment that her suspense endured. The gasping, struggling men, the
frantic negro, were in the next room now--she could catch the sound of
the latter's panting breath rising above the clamour of strange
entreaties and excited cries with which the air was full; then a quick,
hoarse shout of "Judge! Judge!" rose in the doorway, and she became
conscious of the presence of a headlong, rushing force struck midway
into silence as the frozen figure of his master flashed upon the negro's
eyes;--then,--a growl of concentrated emotion, uttered almost in her
ear, and the screen which had been her refuge was violently thrust away
from before her, and in its place she beheld a terrible being standing
over her, in whose eyes, dilating under this fresh surprise, she beheld
her doom, even while recognising that if she must suffer it would be
simply as an obstacle to some goal at her back which he must
reach--now--before he fell in his blood and died.

What was this goal? As she felt herself lifted, nay, almost hurled
aside, she turned to see and found it to be a door before which the
devoted Bela had now thrown himself, guarding it with every inch of his
powerful but rapidly sinking body, and chattering defiance with his
bloodless, quivering lips--a figure terrible in anger, sublime in
purpose, and piteous in its failing energies.

"Back! all of you!" he cried, and stopped, clutching at the door-casing
on either side to hold himself erect. "You cannot come in here. This is
the judge's--"

Not even his iron resolve or once unequalled physique could stand the
sapping of the terrible gash which disfigured his forehead. He had been
run over by an automobile in a moment of blind abstraction, and his hurt
was mortal. But though his tongue refused to finish, his eye still
possessed its power to awe and restrain. Though the crowd had followed
him almost into the centre of the room, they felt themselves held back
by the spirit of this man, who as long as he lived and breathed would
hold himself a determined barrier between them and what he had been set
to guard.

As long as he lived and breathed. Alas! that would be but a little while
now. Already his head, held erect by the passion of his purpose, was
sinking on his breast; already his glazing eye was losing its power of
concentration, when with a final rally of his decaying strength, he
started erect again and cried out in terrible appeal:

"I have disobeyed the judge, and, as you see, it has killed him. Do not
make me guilty of giving away his secret. Swear that you will leave this
door unpassed; swear that no one but his son shall ever turn this lock;
or I will haunt you, I, Bela, man by man, till you sink in terror to
your graves. Swear! sw--"

The last adjuration ended in a moan. His head fell forward again and in
that intense moment of complete silence they could hear the splash of
his life-blood as it dropped from his forehead on to the polished boards
beneath; then he threw up his arms and fell in a heap to the floor.

They had not been driven to answer. Wherever that great soul had gone,
his ears were no longer open to mortal promise, nor would any oath from
the lip of man avail to smooth his way into the shadowy unknown.

"Dead!" broke from little Miss Weeks as she flung herself down in
reckless abandonment at his side. She had never known an agitation
beyond some fluttering woman's hope she had stifled as soon as born, and
now she knelt in blood. "Dead!" she again repeated. And there was no one
this time to cry: "You need not be frightened; in a few minutes he will
be himself again." The master might reawaken to life, but never more the

A solemn hush, then a mighty sigh of accumulated emotion swept from lip
to lip, and the crowd of later invaders, already abashed if not
terrified by the unexpected spectacle of suspended animation which
confronted them from the judge's chair, shrank tumultuously back as
little Miss Weeks advanced upon them, holding out her meagre arms in
late defence of the secret to save which she had just seen a man die.

"Let us do as he wished," she prayed. "I feel myself much to blame. What
right had we to come in here?"

"The fellow was hurt. We were just bringing him home," spoke up a voice,
rough with the surprise of unaccustomed feeling. "If he had let us carry
him, he might have been alive this minute; but he would run and struggle
to keep us back. He says he killed his master. If so, his death is a
retribution. Don't you say so, fellows? The judge was a good man---"

"Hush! hush! the judge is all right," admonished one of the party;
"he'll be waking up soon"; and then, as every eye flew in fresh wonder
towards the chair and its impassive occupant, the low whisper was
heard,--no one ever could tell from whose lips it fell: "If we are ever
to know this wonderful secret, now is the time, before he wakes and
turns us out of the house."

No one in authority was present; no one representing the law, not even a
doctor; only haphazard persons from the street and a few neighbours who
had not been on social terms with the judge for years and never expected
to be so again. His secret!--always a source of wonder to every
inhabitant of Shelby, but lifted now into a matter of vital importance
by the events of the day and the tragic death of the negro! Were they to
miss its solution, when only a door lay between it and them--a door
which they might not even have to unlock? If the judge should rouse,--if
from a source of superstitious terror he became an active one, how pat
their excuse might be. They were but seeking a proper place--a couch--a
bed--on which to lay the dead man. They had been witness to his hurt;
they had been witness to his death, and were they to leave him lying in
his blood, to shock the eyes of his master when he came out of his long
swoon? No tongue spoke these words, but the cunning visible in many an
eye and the slight start made by more than one eager foot in the
direction of the forbidden door gave Miss Weeks sufficient warning of
what she might expect in another moment. Making the most of her
diminutive figure,--such a startling contrast to the one which had just
dominated there!--she was about to utter an impassioned appeal to their
honour, when the current of her and their thoughts, as well as the
direction of all looks, was changed by a sudden sense common to all, of
some strange new influence at work in the room, and turning, they beheld
the judge upon his feet, his mind awakened, but his eyes still fixed--an
awesome figure; some thought more awesome than before; for the terror
which still held him removed from all about, was no longer passive but
active and had to do with what no man there could understand or
alleviate. Death was present with them--he saw it not. Strangers were
making havoc with his solitude--he was as oblivious of their presence as
he had been unconscious of it before. His faculties and all his
attention were absorbed by the thought which had filled his brain when
the cogs of that subtle mechanism had slipped and his faculties paused

This was shown by his first question:


It was a cry of fear; not of mastery.



The intensity of the question, the compelling, self-forgetful passion of
the man, had a startling effect upon the crowd of people huddled before
him. With one accord, and without stopping to pick their way, they made
for the open doorway, knocking the smaller pieces of furniture about and
creating havoc generally. Some fled the house; others stopped to peer in
again from behind the folds of the curtain which had been only partially
torn from its fastenings. Miss Weeks was the only one to stand her

When the room was quite cleared and the noise abated (it was a frightful
experience to see how little the judge had been affected by all this
hubbub of combined movement and sound), she stepped within the line of
his vision and lifted her feeble and ineffectual hand in an effort to
attract his attention to herself.

But he did not notice her, any more than he had noticed the others.
Still looking in the one direction, he cried aloud in troubled tones:

"She stood there! the woman stood there and I saw her! Where is she

"She is no longer in the house," came in gentle reply from the only one
in or out of the room courageous enough to speak. "She went out when she
saw us coming. We knew that she had no right to be here. That is why we
intruded ourselves, sir. We did not like the looks of her, and so
followed her in to prevent mischief."


The expletive fell unconsciously. He seemed to be trying to adjust
himself to some mental experience he could neither share with others nor
explain to himself.

"She was here, then?--a woman with a little child? It wasn't an
illusion, a--." Memory was coming back and with it a realisation of his
position. Stopping short, he gazed down from his great height upon the
trembling little body of whose identity he had but a vague idea, and
thundered out in great indignation:

"How dared you! How dared she!" Then as his mind regained its full
poise, "And how, even if you had the temerity to venture an entrance
here, did you manage to pass my gates? They are never open. Bela sees to


He may have observed the pallor which blanched her small, tense features
as this name fell so naturally from his lips, or some instinct of his
own may have led him to suspect tragedy where all was so abnormally
still, for, as she watched, she saw his eyes, fixed up to now upon her
face, leave it and pass furtively and with many hesitations from object
to object, towards that spot behind him, where lay the source of her
great terror, if not of his. So lingeringly and with such dread was this
done, that she could barely hold back her weak woman's scream in the
intensity of her suspense. She knew just where his glances fell without
following them with her own. She saw them pass the door where so many
faces yet peered in (he saw them not), and creep along the wall beyond,
inch by inch, breathlessly and with dread, till finally, with fatal
precision, they reached the point where the screen had stood, and not
finding it, flew in open terror to the door it was set there to
conceal--when that something else, huddled in oozing blood, on the floor
beneath, drew them unto itself with the irresistibleness of grim
reality, and he forgot all else in the horror of a sight for which his
fears, however great, had failed to prepare him.

Dead! BELA! Dead! and lying in his blood! The rest may have been no
dream, but this was surely one, or his eyes, used to inner visions, were
playing him false.

Grasping the table at his side to steady his failing limbs, he pulled
himself along by its curving edge till he came almost abreast of the
helpless figure which for so many years had been the embodiment of
faithful and unwearied service.

Then and then only, did the truth of his great misfortune burst upon his
bewildered soul; and with a cry which tore the ears of all hearers and
was never forgotten by any one there, he flung himself down beside the
dead negro, and, turning him hastily over, gazed in his face.

Was that a sob? Yes; thus much the heart gave; but next moment the
piteous fact of loss was swallowed up in the recognition of its manner,
and, bounding to his feet with the cry, "Killed! Killed at his post!" he
confronted the one witness of his anguish of whose presence he was
aware, and fiercely demanded: "Where are the wretches who have done
this? No single arm could have knocked down Bela. He has been set
upon--beaten with clubs, and--" Here his thought was caught up by
another, and that one so fearsome and unsettling that bewilderment again
followed rage, and with the look of a haunted spirit, he demanded in a
voice made low by awe and dread of its own sound, "AND WHERE WAS I, WHEN

"You? You were seated there," murmured the little woman, pointing at the
great chair. "You were not--quite--quite yourself," she softly
explained, wondering at her own composure. Then quickly, as she saw his
thoughts revert to the dead friend at his feet, "Bela was not hurt here.
He was down town when it happened; but he managed to struggle home and
gain this place, which he tried to hold against the men who followed
him. He thought you were dead, you sat there so rigid and so white, and,
before he quite gave up, he asked us all to promise not to let any one
enter this room till your son Oliver came."

Understanding partly, but not yet quite clear in his mind, the judge
sighed, and stooping again, straightened the faithful negro's limbs.
Then, with a side-long look in her direction, he felt in one of the
pockets of the dead negro's coat, and drawing out a small key, held it
in one hand while he fumbled in his own for another, which found, he
became on the instant his own man again.

Miss Weeks, seeing the difference in him, and seeing too, that the
doorway was now clear of the wondering, awestruck group which had
previously blocked it, bowed her slight body and proceeded to withdraw;
but the judge, staying her by a gesture, she waited patiently near one
of the book-racks against which she had stumbled, to hear what he had to

"I must have had an attack of some kind," he calmly remarked. "Will you
be good enough to explain exactly what occurred here that I may more
fully comprehend my own misfortune and the death of this faithful

Then she saw that his faculties were now fully restored, and came a step
forward. But before she could begin her story, he added this searching

"Was it he who let you in--you and others--I think you said others? Was
it he who unlocked my gates?"

Miss Weeks sighed and betrayed fluster. It was not easy to relate her
story; besides it was wofully incomplete. She knew nothing of what had
happened down town, she could only tell what had passed before her eyes.
But there was one thing she could make clear, to him, and that was how
the seemingly impassable gates had been made ready for the woman's
entrance and afterwards taken such advantage of by herself and others. A
pebble had done it all,--a pebble placed in the gateway by Bela's hands.

As she described this, and insisted upon the fact in face of the judge's
almost frenzied disclaimer, she thought she saw the hair move on his
forehead. Bela a traitor, and in the interests of the woman who had
fronted him from the other end of the room at the moment consciousness
had left him! Evidently this intrusive little body did not know Bela or
his story, or--

Why should interruption come then? Why was he stopped, when in the
passion of the moment, he might have let fall some word of enlightenment
which would have eased the agitated curiosity of the whole town! Miss
Weeks often asked herself this question, and bewailed the sudden access
of sounds in the rooms without, which proclaimed the entrance of the
police and put a new strain upon the judge's faculty of self-control and
attention to the one matter in hand.

The commonplaces of an official inquiry were about to supersede the play
of a startled spirit struggling with a problem of whose complexities he
had received but a glimpse.



The library again! but how changed! Evening light now instead of blazing
sunshine; and evening light so shaded that the corners seemed far and
the many articles of furniture, cumbering the spaces between, larger for
the shadows in which they stood hidden. Perhaps the man who sat there in
company with the judge regretted this. Perhaps, he would have preferred
to see more perfectly that portion of the room where Bela had taken his
stand and finally fallen. It would have been interesting to note whether
the screen had been replaced before the mysterious door which this most
devoted of servants had protected to his last gasp. Curiosity is
admissible, even in a man, when the cause is really great.

But from the place where he sat there was no getting any possible view
of that part of the wall or of anything connected with it; and so, with
every appearance of satisfaction at being allowed in the room at all,
Sergeant Doolittle from Headquarters, drank the judge's wine and
listened for the judge's commands.

These were slow in coming, and they were unexpected when they came.

"Sergeant, I have lost a faithful servant under circumstances which have
called an unfortunate attention to my house. I should like to have this
place guarded--carefully guarded, you understand--from any and all
intrusion till I can look about me and secure protection of my own. May
I rely upon the police to do this, beginning to-night at an early hour?
There are loiterers already at the corner and in front of the two gates.
I am not accustomed to these attentions, and ask to have my fence

"Two men are already detailed for the job, your honour. I heard the
order given just as I left Headquarters."

The judge showed small satisfaction. Indeed, in his silence there was
the hint of something like displeasure. This surprised Sergeant
Doolittle and led him to attempt to read its cause in his host's
countenance. But the shade of the lamp intervened too completely, and he
had to be content to wait till the judge chose to speak, which he
presently did, though not in the exact tones the Sergeant expected.

"Two men! Couldn't I have three? One for each gate and one to patrol the
fence separating these grounds from the adjoining lot?"

The sergeant hesitated; he felt an emotion of wonder--a sense of
something more nearly approaching the uncanny than was usual to his
matter-of-fact mind. He had heard, often enough, what store the judge
set on his privacy and of the extraordinary measures he had taken to
insure it, but that a man, even if he aped the hermit, should consider
three men necessary to hold the public away from a two hundred and fifty
foot lot argued apprehensions of a character verging on the ridiculous.
But he refrained from expressing his surprise and replied, after a
minute of thought:

"If two men are not enough to ensure you a quiet sleep, you shall have
three or four or even more, Judge Ostrander. Do you want one of them to
stay inside? That might do the business better than a dozen out."

"No. While Bela lies above ground, we want no third here. When he is
buried, I may call upon you for a special to watch my room door. But
it's of outside protection we're talking now. Only, who is to protect me
against your men?"

"What do you mean by that, your honour?"

"They are human, are they not? They have instincts of curiosity like the
rest of us. How can I be made sure that they won't yield to the
temptation of their position and climb the fences they are detailed to

"And would this be so fatal to your peace, judge?" A smile tempered the

"It would be a breach of trust which would greatly disturb me. I want
nobody on my grounds, nobody at all. Has not my long life of solitude
within these walls sufficiently proved this? I want to feel that these
men of yours would no more climb my fence than they would burst into my
house without a warrant."

"Judge, I will be one of the men. You can trust me."

"Thank you, sergeant; I appreciate the favour. I shall rest now as
quietly as any man can who has met with a great loss. The coroner's
inquiry has decided that the injuries which Bela received in the street
were of a fatal character and would have killed him within an hour, even
if he had not exhausted his strength in the effort he made to return to
his home and die in my presence. But I shall always suffer from regret
that I was not in a condition to receive his last sigh. He was a man in
a thousand. One seldom sees his like among white or black."

"He was a very powerfully built man. It took a sixty horse-power racing
machine, going at a high rate of speed, to kill him."

A spasm of grief or unavailing regret crossed the judge's face as his
head sank back again against the high back of his chair.

"Enough," said he; "tread softly when you go by the sofa on which he
lies. Will you fill your glass again, sergeant?"

The sergeant declined.

"Not if my watch is to be effective to-night," he smiled, and rose to

The judge, grown suddenly thoughtful, rapped with his finger-tips on the
table-edge. He had not yet risen to show his visitor out.

"I should like to ask a question," he finally observed, motioning the
other to re-seat himself. "You were not at the inquiry this afternoon,
and may not know that just as Bela and the crowd about him turned this
corner, they ran into a woman leading a small child, who stopped the
whole throng in order to address him. No one heard what she said; and no
one could give any information as to who she was or in what direction
she vanished. But I saw that woman myself, earlier. She was in this
house. She was in this room. She came as far as that open space just
inside the doorway. I can describe her, and will, if you will consent to
look for her. It is to be a money transaction, sergeant, and if she is
found and no stir made and no talk started among the Force, I will pay
all that you think it right to demand."

"Let me hear her description, your honour." The judge, who had withdrawn
into the shadow, considered for a moment, then said:

"I cannot describe her features, for she was heavily veiled; neither can
I describe her figure except to say that she is tall and slender. But
her dress I remember to the last detail, though I am not usually so
observant. She wore purple; not an old woman's purple, but a soft shade
which did not take from her youth. There was something floating round
her shoulders of the same colour, and on her arms were long gloves such
as you see our young ladies wear. The child did not seem to belong to
her, though she held her tightly by the hand. I mean by that, that its
clothes were of a coarser material than hers and perhaps were a little
soiled. If the child wore a hat, I do not remember it. In age it
appeared to be about six--or that was the impression I received

The sergeant, who had been watching the speaker very closely, leaned
forward with a hasty, inquiring glance expressive of something like
consternation. Was the judge falling again into unconsciousness? Was he
destined to witness in this solitary meeting a return of the phenomenon
which had so startled the intruding populace that morning?

No, or if he had been witness to something of the kind, it was for a
moment only; for the eyes which had gone blank had turned his way again,
and only a disconnected expression which fell from the judge's lips,
showed that his mind had been wandering.

"It's not the same but another one; that's all."

Inconsequent words, but the sergeant meant to remember them, for with
their utterance, a change passed over the judge; and his manner, which
had been constrained and hurried during his attempted description,
became at once more natural, and therefore more courteous.

"Do you think you can find her with such insufficient data? A woman
dressed in purple, leading a little child without any hat?"

"Judge, I not only feel sure that I can find her, but I think she is
found already. Do you remember the old tavern on the Rushville road? I
believe they call it an inn now, or some such fancy name."

The judge sat quiet, but the sergeant who dared not peer too closely,
noticed a sudden constriction in the fingers of the hand with which his
host fingered a paper-cutter lying on the table between them.

"The one where--"

"I respect your hesitation, judge. Yes, the one run by the man you

A gesture had stopped him. He waited respectfully for the judge's next

They came quickly and with stern and solemn emphasis.

"For a hideous and wholly unprovoked crime. Why do you mention it
and--and his tavern?"

"Because of something I have lately heard in its connection. You know
that the old house has been all made over since that time and run as a
place of resort for automobilists in search of light refreshments. The
proprietor's name is Yardley. We have nothing against him; the place is
highly respectable. But it harbours a boarder, a permanent one, I
believe, who has occasioned no little comment. No one has ever seen her
face; unless it is the landlord's wife. She has all her meals served in
her room, and when she goes out she wears the purple dress and purple
veil you've been talking about. Perhaps she's your visitor of to-day.
Hadn't I better find out?"

"Has she a child? Is she a mother?"

"I haven't heard of any child, but Mrs. Yardley has seven."

The judge's hand withdrew from the table and for an instant the room was
so quiet that you could hear some far-off clock ticking out the minutes.
Then Judge Ostrander rose and in a peremptory tone said:

"To-morrow. After you hear from me again. Make no move to-night. Let me
feel that all your energies are devoted to securing my privacy."

The sergeant, who had sprung to his feet at the same instant as the
judge, cast a last look about him, curiosity burning in his heart and a
sort of desperate desire to get all he could out of his present
opportunity. For he felt absolutely sure that he would never be allowed
to enter this room again.

But the arrangement of light was such as to hold in shadow all but the
central portion of the room; and this central portion held nothing out
of the common--nothing to explain the mysteries of the dwelling or the
apprehensions of its suspicious owner. With a sigh, the sergeant dropped
his eyes from the walls he could barely distinguish, and following Judge
Ostrander's lead, passed with him under the torn folds of the curtain
and through the narrow vestibule whose door was made of iron, into the
room, where, in a stronger blaze of light than they had left, lay the
body of the dead negro awaiting the last rites.

Would the judge pass this body, or turn away from it towards a door
leading front? The sergeant had come in at the rear, but he greatly
desired to go out front, as this would give him so much additional
knowledge of the house. Unexpectedly to himself, the judge's intentions
were in the direction of his own wishes. He was led front; and, entering
an old-fashioned hall dimly lighted, passed a staircase and two closed
doors, both of which gave him the impression of having been shut upon a
past it had pleasured no one to revive in many years.

Beyond them was the great front door of Colonial style and workmanship,
a fine specimen once, but greatly disfigured now by the bolts and bars
which had been added to it in satisfaction of the judge's ideas of

Many years had passed since Judge Ostrander had played the host; but he
had not lost a sense of its obligations. It was for him to shoot the
bolts and lift the bars; but he went about it so clumsily and with such
evident aversion to the task, that the sergeant instinctively sprang to
help him.

"I shall miss Bela at every turn," remarked the judge, turning with a
sad smile as he finally pulled the door open. "This is an unaccustomed
effort for me. Excuse my awkwardness."

Something in his attitude, something in the way he lifted his hand to
push back a fallen lock from his forehead, impressed itself upon the
sergeant's mind so vividly that he always remembered the judge as he
appeared to him at that minute. Certainly there were but few men like
him in the country, and none in his own town. Of a commanding
personality by reason of his height, his features were of a cast to
express his mental attributes and enforce attention, and the incongruity
between his dominating figure and the apprehensions which he displayed
in these multiplied and extraordinary arrangements for personal security
was forcible enough to arouse any man's interest.

The sergeant was so occupied by the mystery of the man and the mystery
of the house that they had passed the first gate (which the judge had
unlocked without much difficulty) before he realised that there still
remained something of interest for him to see and to talk about later.
The two dark openings on either side, raised questions which the most
unimaginative mind would feel glad to hear explained. Ere the second
gate swung open and he found himself again in the street, he had built
up more than one theory in explanation of this freak of parallel fences
with the strip of gloom between.

Would he have felt the suggestion of the spot still more deeply, had it
been given him to see the anxious and hesitating figure which,
immediately upon his departure entered this dark maze, and with feeling
hands and cautious step, wound its way from corner to corner--now
stopping abruptly to listen, now shrinking from some imaginary
presence--a shadow among shadows--till it stood again between the gates
from which it had started.

Possibly; even the hardiest of men respond to the unusual, and prove
themselves not ungifted with imagination when brought face to face with
that for which their experience furnishes no precedent.



It was ten o'clock, not later, when the judge re-entered his front door.
He was alone,--absolutely alone, as he had never been since that night
of long ago, when with the inner fence completed and the gates all
locked, he turned to the great negro at his side and quietly said:

"We are done with the world, Bela. Are you satisfied to share this
solitude with me?" And Bela had replied: "Night and day, your honour.
And when you are not here,--when you are at court, to bear it alone."

And now this faithful friend was dead, and it was he who must bear it
alone,--alone! How could he face it! He sought for no answer, nor did he
allow himself to dwell for one minute on the thought. There was
something else he must do first,--do this very night, if possible.

Taking down his hat from the rack he turned and went out again, this
time carefully locking the door behind him, also the first gate. But he
stopped to listen before lifting his hand to the second one.

A sound of steady breathing, accompanied by a few impatient movements,
came from the other side. A man was posted there within a foot of the
gate. Noiselessly the judge recoiled, and made his way around to the
other set of gates. Here all was quiet enough, and sliding quickly out,
he cast a hasty glance up and down the lane, and seeing nothing more
alarming than the back of a second officer lounging at the corner,
pulled the gate quietly to, and locked it.

He was well down the road towards the ravine, before the officer turned.

The time has now come for giving you a clearer idea of this especial
neighbourhood. Judge Ostrander's house, situated as you all know at the
juncture of an unimportant road with the main highway, had in its rear
three small houses, two of them let and one still unrented. Farther on,
but on the opposite side of the way, stood a very old dwelling in which
there lived and presumably worked, a solitary woman, the sole and final
survivor of a large family. Beyond was the ravine, cutting across the
road and terminating it. This ravine merits some description.

It was a picturesque addition to the town through which it cut at the
point of greatest activity. With the various bridges connecting the
residence portion with the lower business streets we have nothing to do.
But there was a nearer one of which the demands of my story necessitate
a clear presentation.

This bridge was called Long, and spanned the ravine and its shallow
stream of water not a quarter of a mile below the short road or lane we
have just seen Judge Ostrander enter. Between it and this lane, a narrow
path ran amid the trees and bushes bordering the ravine. This path was
seldom used, but when it was, it acted as a short cut to a certain part
of the town mostly given over to factories. Indeed the road of which
this bridge formed a part was called Factory on this account. Starting
from the main highway a half mile or so below Ostrander Lane, it ran
diagonally back to the bridge, where it received a turn which sent it
south and east again towards the lower town. A high bluff rose at this
point, which made the farther side of the ravine much more imposing than
the one on the near side where the slope was gradual.

This path, and even the bridge itself, were almost wholly unlighted.
They were seldom used at night--seldom used at any time. But it was by
this route the judge elected to go into town; not for the pleasure of
the walk, as was very apparent from the extreme depression of his
manner, but from some inward necessity which drove him on, against his
wishes, possibly against his secret misgivings.

He had met no one in his short walk down the lane, but for all that, he
paused before entering the path just mentioned, to glance back and see
if he were being watched or followed. When satisfied that he was not, he
looked up, from the solitary waste where he stood, to the cheerless
heavens and sighed; then forward into the mass of impenetrable shadow
that he must yet traverse and shuddered as many another had shuddered
ere beginning this walk. For it was near the end of this path, in full
sight of the bridge he must cross, that his friend, Algernon Etheridge,
had been set upon and murdered so many years before; and the shadow of
this ancient crime still lingered over the spot, deepening its natural
gloom even for minds much less sympathetic and responsive to spiritual
influences than Judge Ostrander.

But this shudder, whether premonitory or just the involuntary tribute of
friend to friend, did not prevent his entering the path or following its
line of shadow as it rose and dipped in its course down the gorge.

I have spoken of the cheerlessness of the heavens. It was one of those
nights when the sky, piled thick with hurrying clouds, hangs above one
like a pall. But the moon, hidden behind these rushing masses, was at
its full, and the judge soon found that he could see his way better than
he had anticipated--better than was desirable, perhaps. He had been on
the descent of the path for some little time now, and could not be far
from the more level ground which marked the approach to Long Bridge.
Determined not to stop or to cast one faltering look to right or left,
he hurried on with his eyes fixed upon the ground and every nerve braced
to resist the influence of the place and its undying memories. But with
the striking of his foot against the boards of the bridge, nature was
too much for him, and his resolve vanished. Instead of hastening on, he
stopped; and, having stopped, paused long enough to take in all the
features of the scene, and any changes which time might have wrought. He
even forced his shrinking eyes to turn and gaze upon the exact spot
where his beloved Algernon had been found, with his sightless eyes
turned to the sky.

This latter place, singular in that it lay open to the opposite bank
without the mask of bush or tree to hide it, was in immediate proximity
to the end of the bridge he had attempted to cross. It bore the name of
Dark Hollow, and hollow and dark it looked in the universal gloom. But
the power of its associations was upon him, and before he knew it, he
was retracing his steps as though drawn by a magnetism he could not
resist, till he stood within this hollow and possibly on the very foot
of ground from the mere memory of which he had recoiled for years.

A moment of contemplation--a sigh, such as only escapes the bursting
heart in moments of extreme grief or desolation--and he tore his eyes
from the ground to raise them slowly but with deep meaning to where the
high line of trees on the opposite side of the ravine met the grey vault
of the sky. Darkness piled itself against darkness, but with a
difference to one who knew all the undulations of this bluff and just
where it ended in the sheer fall which gave a turn to the road at the
farther end of the bridge.

But it was not upon the mass of undistinguishable tree-tops or the line
they made against the sky that his gaze lingered. It was on something
more material; something which rose from the brow of the hill in stark
and curious outline not explainable in itself, but clear enough to one
who had seen its shape by daylight. Judge Ostrander had thus seen it
many times in the past, and knew just where to look for the one
remaining chimney and solitary gable of a house struck many years before
by lightning and left a grinning shell to mock the eye of all who walked
this path or crossed this bridge.

Black amid blackness, with just the contrast of its straight lines to
the curve of natural objects about it, it commanded the bluff, summoning
up memories of an evil race cut short in a moment by an outraged
Providence, and Judge Ostrander marking it, found himself muttering
aloud as he dragged himself slowly away: "Why should Time, so
destructive elsewhere, leave one stone upon another of this accursed

Alas! Heaven has no answer for such questions.

When he had reached the middle of the bridge, he stopped short to look
back at Dark Hollow and utter in a smothered groan, which would not be
repressed, a name which by all the rights of the spot should have been
Algernon's, but was not.

The utterance of this name seemed to startle him, for, with a shuddering
look around, he hastily traversed the rest of the bridge, and took the
turn about the hill to where Factory Road branched off towards the town.
Here he stopped again and for the first time revealed the true nature of
his destination. For when he moved on again it was to take the road
along the bluff, and not the one leading directly into town.

This meant a speedy passing by the lightning-struck house. He knew this
of course, and evidently shrunk from the ordeal, for once up the hill
and on the level stretch above, he resolutely forbore to cast a glance
at its dilapidated fence and decayed gate posts. Had he not done
this--had his eyes followed the long line of the path leading from these
toppling posts to the face of the ruin, he would have been witness to a
strange sight. For gleaming through the demolished heart of it,--between
the chimney on the one side and the broken line of the gable on the
other--could be seen the half circle of the moon suddenly released from
the clouds which had hitherto enshrouded it. A weird sight, to be seen
only when all conditions favoured. It was to be seen here to-night; but
the judge's eye was bent another way, and he passed on, unnoting.

The ground was high along this bluff; almost fifty feet above the level
of the city upon, which he had just turned his back. Of stony formation
and much exposed to the elements, it had been considered an undesirable
site by builders, and not a house was to be seen between the broken
shell of the one he had just left, and the long, low, brilliantly
illuminated structure ahead, for which he was evidently making. The
sight of these lights and of the trees by which the house was
surrounded, suggested festival and caused a qualm of indecision to
momentarily disturb him in his purpose. But this purpose was too strong,
and the circumstances too urgent for him to be deterred by anything less
potent than a stroke of lightning. He rather increased his pace than
slackened it and was rewarded by seeing lamp after lamp go out as he

The pant of a dozen motors, the shouting of various farewells and then
the sudden rushing forth of a long line of automobiles, proclaimed that
the fete of the day was about over and that peace and order would soon
prevail again in Claymore Inn.

Without waiting for the final one to pass, the judge slid around to the
rear and peered in at the kitchen door. If Mrs. Yardley were the woman
he supposed her to be from the sergeant's description, she would be just
then in the thick of the dish-washing. And it was Mrs. Yardley he wished
to see.

Three women were at work in this busiest of scenes, and, deciding at a
glance which was the able mistress of the house, he approached the
large, pleasant and commanding figure piling plates at the farther end
of the room and courteously remarked:

"Mrs. Yardley, I believe?"

The answer came quickly, and not without a curious smile of constraint:

"Oh, no. Mrs. Yardley is in the entry behind."

Bowing his thanks, he stepped in the direction named, just as the three
women's heads came simultaneously together. There was reason for their
whispers. His figure, his head, his face, were all unusual, and at that
moment highly expressive, and coming as he did out of the darkness, his
presence had an uncanny effect upon their simple minds. They had been
laughing before; they ceased to laugh now. Why?

Meanwhile, Judge Ostrander was looking about him for Mrs. Yardley. The
quiet figure of a squat little body blocked up a certain doorway.

"I am looking for Mrs. Yardley," he ventured.

The little figure turned; he was conscious of two very piercing eyes
being raised to his, and heard in shaking accents, which yet were not
the accents of weakness, the surprised ejaculation:

"Judge Ostrander!"

Next minute they were together in a small room, with the door shut
behind them. The energy and decision of this mite of a woman were

"I was going--to you--in the morning--" she panted in her excitement.
"To apologise," she respectfully finished.

"Then," said he, "it was your child who visited my house to-day?"

She nodded. Her large head was somewhat disproportioned to her short and
stocky body. But her glance and manner were not unpleasing. There was a
moment of silence which she hastened to break.

"Peggy is very young; it was not her fault. She is so young she doesn't
even know where she went. She was found loitering around the bridge--a
dangerous place for a child, but we've been very busy all day--and she
was found there and taken along by--by the other person. I hope that you
will excuse it, sir."

Was she giving the judge an opportunity to recover from his
embarrassment, or was she simply making good her own cause? Whichever
impulse animated her, the result was favourable to both. Judge Ostrander
lost something of his strained look, and it was no longer difficult for
her to meet his eye.

Nevertheless, what he had to say came with a decided abruptness.

"Who is the woman, Mrs. Yardley? That's what I have come to learn, and
not to complain of your child."

The answer struck him very strangely, though he saw nothing to lead him
to distrust her candour.

"I don't know, Judge Ostrander. She calls herself Averill, but that
doesn't make me sure of her. You wonder that I should keep a lodger
about whom I have any doubts, but there are times when Mr. Yardley uses
his own judgment, and this is one of the times. The woman pays well and
promptly," she added in a lower tone.

"Her status? Is she maid, wife or widow?"

"Oh, she says she is a widow, and I see every reason to believe her."

A slight grimness in her manner, the smallest possible edge to her
voice, led the judge to remark:

"She's good-looking, I suppose."

A laugh, short and unmusical but not without a biting humour, broke
unexpectedly from the landlady's lips.

"If she is, HE don't know it. He hasn't seen her."

"Not seen her?"

"No. Her veil was very thick the night she came and she did not lift it
as long as he was by. If she had--"

"Well, what?"

"I'm afraid that he wouldn't have exacted as much from her as he did.
She's one of those women--"

"Don't hesitate, Mrs. Yardley."

"I'm thinking how to put it. Who has her will of your sex, I might say.
Now I'm not."


"Not like a girl, sir. She's old enough to show fade; but I don't
believe that a man would mind that. She has a look--a way, that even
women feel. You may judge, sir, if we, old stagers at the business, have
been willing to take her in and keep her, at any price,--a woman who
won't show her face except to me, and who will not leave her room
without her veil and then only for walks in places where no one else
wants to go,--she must have some queer sort of charm to overcome all
scruples. But she's gone too far to-day. She shall leave the Inn
to-morrow. I promise you that, sir, whatever Samuel says. But sit down;
sit down; you look tired, judge. Is there anything you would like? Shall
I call Samuel?"

"No. I'm not much used to walking. Besides, I have had a great loss
to-day. My man, Bela--" Then with his former abruptness: "Have you no
idea who this Mrs. Averill is, or why she broke into my house?"

"There's but one explanation, sir. I've been thinking about it ever
since I got wind of where she took my Peggy. The woman is not
responsible. She has some sort of mania. Why else should she go into a
strange gate just because she saw it open?"

"She hasn't confided in you?"

"No, sir. I haven't seen her since she brought Peggy back. We've had
this big automobile party, and I thought my reckoning with her would
keep. I heard about what had happened at your place from the man who
brought us fruit."

"Mrs. Yardley, you've seen this woman's face?"

"Yes, I've seen her."

"Describe it more particularly."

"I can't. She has brown hair, brown eyes and a skin as white as milk;
but that don't describe her. Lots of women have all that."

"No, it doesn't describe her." His manner seemed to pray for further
details, but she stared back, unresponsive. In fact, she felt quite
helpless. With a sigh of impatience, he resorted again to question.

"You speak of her as a stranger. Are you quite sure that she is a
stranger to Shelby? You have not been so very many years here, and her
constant wearing of a veil in-doors and out is very suspicious."

"So I'm beginning to think. And there is something else, judge, which
makes me suspect you may be quite correct about her not being an entire
stranger here. She knows this house too well."

The judge started. The strength of his self-control had relaxed a bit,
and he showed in the look he cast about him what it had cost him to
enter these doors.

"It is not the same, of course," continued Mrs. Yardley, affected in a
peculiar way by the glimpse she had caught of the other's emotion
unnatural and incomprehensible as it appeared to her. "The place has
been greatly changed, but there is a certain portion of the old house
left which only a person who knew it as it originally was would be apt
to find; and yesterday, on going into one of these remote rooms I came
upon her sitting in one of the windows looking out. How she got there or
why she went, I cannot tell you. She didn't choose to tell me, and I
didn't ask. But I've not felt real easy about her since."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Yardley, it may be a matter of no moment, but do you
mind telling me where this room is?"

"It's on the top floor, sir; and it looks out over the ravine. Perhaps
she was spying out the path to your house."

The judge's face hardened. He felt baffled and greatly disturbed; but he
spoke kindly enough when he again addressed Mrs. Yardley:

"I am as ignorant as you of this woman's personality and of her reasons
for intruding into my presence this morning. But there is something so
peculiar about this presumptuous attempt of hers at an interview, that I
feel impelled to inquire into it more fully, even if I have to approach
the only source of information capable of giving me what I want--that
is, herself. Mrs. Yardley, will you procure me an immediate interview
with this woman? I am sure that you can be relied upon to do this and to
do it with caution. You have the countenance of a woman unusually

The subtle flattery did its work. She was not blind to the fact that he
had introduced it for that very purpose, but it was not in her nature to
withstand any appeal from so exalted a source however made. Lifting her
eyes fearlessly to his, she responded earnestly:

"I am proud to serve you. I will see what I can do. Will you wait here
for just a few minutes?"

He bowed quietly enough; but he was very restless when once he found
himself alone. Those few minutes of waiting seemed interminable to him.
Would the woman come? Was she as anxious to see him now as she had been
in the early morning? Much depended on her mood, but more on the nature
of the errand which had taken her into his house. If that errand was a
vital one, he would soon hear her steps; indeed, he was hearing her
steps now--he was sure of it. Those of Mrs. Yardley were quicker,
shorter, more businesslike. These, now advancing through the corridor,
lingered as if held back by dread or a fateful indecision.

He would fain hasten them, but discretion forbade.

They faltered, turned, then, in an instant, all hesitation was lost in
purpose and they again advanced this time to the threshold. Judge
Ostrander had just time to brace himself to meet the unknown, when the
door fell back and the woman of the morning appeared in the opening.



On the instant he recognised that no common interview lay before him.
She was still the mysterious stranger, and she still wore her veil--a
fact all the more impressive that it was no longer the accompaniment of
a hat, but flung freely over her bare head. He frowned as he met her
eyes through this disguising gauze. This attempt at an incognito for
which there seemed to be no adequate reason, had a theatrical look
wholly out of keeping with the situation. But he made no allusion to it,
nor was the bow with which he acknowledged her presence and ushered her
into the room, other than courteous. Nevertheless, she was the first to

"This is very good of you, Judge Ostrander," she remarked, in a voice
both cultured and pleasant. "I could hardly have hoped for this honour.
After what happened this morning at your house, I feared that my wish
for an interview would not only be disregarded by you, but that you
would utterly refuse me the privilege of seeing you. I own to feeling
greatly relieved. Such consideration shown to a stranger, argues a
spirit of unusual kindliness."

A tirade. He simply bowed.

"Or perhaps I am mistaken in my supposition," she suggested, advancing a
step, but no more. "Perhaps I am no stranger to you? Perhaps you know my

"Averill? No."

She paused, showing her disappointment quite openly. Then drawing up a
chair, she leaned heavily on its back, saying in low, monotonous tones
from which the former eager thrill had departed:

"I see that the intended marriage of your son has made very little
impression upon you."

Aghast for the moment, this was such a different topic from the one he
expected, the judge regarded her in silence before remarking:

"I have known nothing of it. My son's concerns are no longer mine. If
you have broken into my course of life for no other purpose than to
discuss the affairs of Oliver Ostrander, I must beg you to excuse me. I
have nothing to say in his connection to you or to any one."

"Is the breach between you so deep as that!"

This she said in a low tone and more as if to herself than to him. Then,
with a renewal of courage indicated by the steadying of her form and a
spirited uplift of her head, she observed with a touch of command in her

"There are some things which must be discussed whatever our wishes or
preconceived resolves. The separation between you and Mr. Oliver
Ostrander cannot be so absolute (since whatever your cause of complaint
you are still his father and he your son) that you will allow his whole
life's happiness to be destroyed for the lack of a few words between
yourself and me."

He had made his bow, and he now proceeded to depart, severity in his
face and an implacable resolution in his eye. But some impulse made him
stop; some secret call from deeply hidden, possibly unrecognised,
affections gave him the will to say:

"A plea uttered through a veil is like an unsigned message. It partakes
too much of the indefinite. Will you lift your veil, madam?"

"In a minute," she assured him. "The voice can convey truth as certainly
as the features. I will not deny you a glimpse of the latter after you
have heard my story. Will you hear it, judge? Issues of no common
importance hang upon your decision. I entreat--but no, you are a just
man; I will rely upon your sense of right. If your son's happiness fails
to appeal to you, let that of a young and innocent girl lovely as few
are lovely either in body or mind."

"Yourself, madam?"

"No, my daughter! Oliver Ostrander has done us that honour, sir. He had
every wish and had made every preparation to marry my child, when--Shall
I go on?"

"You may."

It was shortly said, but a burden seemed to fall from her shoulders at
its utterance. Her whole graceful form relaxed swiftly into its natural
curves, and an atmosphere of charm from this moment enveloped her, which
justified the description of Mrs. Yardley, even without a sight of the
features she still kept hidden.

"I am a widow, sir." Thus she began with studied simplicity. "With my
one child I have been living in Detroit these many years,--ever since my
husband's death, in fact. We are not unliked there, nor have we lacked
respect. When some six months ago, your son, who stands high in every
one's regard, as befits his parentage and his varied talents, met my
daughter and fell seriously in love with her, no one, so far as I know,
criticised his taste or found fault with his choice. I was happy, after
many years of anxiety; for I idolised my child and I had suffered from
many apprehensions as to her future. Not that I had the right to be
happy; I see that now. A woman with a secret,--and my heart held a woful
and desperate one,--should never feel that that secret lacks power to
destroy her because it has long lain quiescent. I thought my child safe,
and rejoiced as any woman might rejoice, and as I would rejoice now, if
Fate were to obliterate that secret and emancipate us all from the
horror of it."

She paused, waiting for some acknowledgment of his interest, but not
getting it, went on bitterly enough, for his stolidity was a very great
mystery to her:

"And she WAS safe, to all appearance, up to the very morning of her
marriage--the marriage of which you say you had received no intimation
though Oliver seems a very dutiful son."

"Madam!"--The hoarseness of his tone possibly increased its peremptory
character--"I really must ask you to lay aside your veil."

It was a rebuke and she felt it to be so; but though she blushed behind
her veil, she did not remove it.

"Pardon me," she begged and very humbly, "but I cannot yet. You will see
why later.--Let me reveal my secret first. I am coming to it, Judge
Ostrander; I cannot keep it back much longer."

He was too much of a gentleman to insist upon his wishes, but she saw by
the gloom of his eye and a certain nervous twitching of his hands that
it was not from mere impassiveness that his features had acquired their
rigidity. Smitten with compunction, she altered her tone into one more

"My story will be best told," she now said, "if I keep all personal
element out of it. You must imagine Reuther, dressed in her wedding
finery, waiting for her bridegroom to take her to church. We were
sitting, she and I, in our little parlour, watching the clock,--for it
was very near the hour. At times, her face turned towards me for a brief
moment, and I felt all the pang of motherhood again, for her loveliness
was not of this earth but of a land where there is no sin, no--There!
the memory was a little too much for me, sir; but I'll not transgress
again; the future holds too many possibilities of suffering for me to
dwell upon the past. She was lovely and her loveliness sprang from a
pure hope. We will let that suffice, and what I dreaded was not what
happened, inexcusable as such blindness and presumption may appear in a
woman who has had her troubles and seen the desperate side of life.

"A carriage had driven up; and we heard his step; but it was not the
step of a bridegroom, Judge Ostrander, nor was the gentleman he left
behind him at the kerb, the friend who was to stand up with him. To
Reuther, innocent of all deception, this occasioned only surprise, but
to me it meant the end of Reuther's marriage and of my own hopes. I
shrank from the ordeal and stood with my back half turned when, dashed
by his own emotions, he bounded into our presence.

"One look my way and his question was answered before he put it. Judge
Ostrander, the name under which I had lived in Detroit was not my real
one. I had let him court and all but marry my daughter, without warning
him in any way of what this deception on my part covered. But
others--one other, I have reason now to believe--had detected my
identity under the altered circumstances of my new life, and surprised
him with the news at this late hour. We are--Judge Ostrander, you know
who we are. This is not the first time you and I have seen each other
face to face." And lifting up a hand, trembling with emotion, she put
aside her veil.




"You recognise me?"

"Too well." The tone was deep with meaning but there was no accusation
in it; nor was there any note of relief. It was more as if some hope
deeply, and perhaps unconsciously, cherished had suffered a sudden and
complete extinction.

The change this made in him was too perceptible for her not to observe
it. The shadow lying deep in her eyes now darkened her whole face. She
had tried to prepare him for this moment; tried to prepare herself. But
who can prepare the soul for the return of old troubles or make other
than startling the resurrection of a ghost laid, as men thought,

"You see that it was no fault of my own I was trying to hide," she
finally remarked in her rich and sympathetic voice.

"Put back your veil."

It was all he said.

Trembling she complied, murmuring as she fumbled with its folds:

"Disgrace to an Ostrander! I know that I was mad to risk it for a
moment. Forgive me for the attempt, and listen to my errand. Oliver was
willing to marry my child, even after he knew the shame it would entail.
But Reuther would not accept the sacrifice. When she learned, as she was
obliged to now, that her father had not only been sentenced to death for
the worst crime in the calendar, but had suffered the full penalty,
leaving only a legacy of eternal disgrace to his wife and innocent
child, she showed a spirit becoming a better parentage. In his presence,
and in spite of his dissuasions (for he acted with all the nobility one
might expect) she took off her veil with her own hands and laid it aside
with a look expressive of eternal renunciation. She loves him, sir; and
there is no selfishness in her heart and never has been. For all her
frail appearance and the mildness of her temper, she is like flint where
principle is involved or the welfare of those she loves is at stake. My
daughter may die from shock or shame, but she will never cloud your
son's prospects with the obloquy which has settled over her own. Judge
Ostrander, I am not worthy of such a child, but such she is. If John--"

"We will not speak his name," broke in Judge Ostrander, assuming a
peremptory bearing quite unlike his former one of dignified reserve. "I
should like to hear, instead, your explanation of how my son became
inveigled into an engagement of which you, if no one else, knew the
preposterous nature."

"Judge Ostrander, you do right to blame me. I should never have given my
consent, never. But I thought our past so completely hidden--our
identity so entirely lost under the accepted name of Averill."

"You thought!" He towered over her in his anger. He looked and acted as
in the old days, when witnesses cowered under his eye and voice. "Say
that you KNEW, madam; that you planned this unholy trap for my son. You
had a pretty daughter, and you saw to it that she came under his notice;
nay, more, ignoring the claims of decency, you allowed the folly to
proceed, if you did not help it on in your misguided ambition to marry
your daughter well."

"Judge Ostrander, I did not plan their meeting, nor did I at first
encourage his addresses. Not till I saw the extent of their mutual
attachment, did I yield to the event and accept the consequences. But I
was wrong, wholly wrong to allow him to visit her a second time; but now
that the mischief is done--"

Judge Ostrander was not listening.

"I have a question to put you," said he, when he realised that she had
ceased speaking. "Oliver was never a fool. When he was told who your
daughter was, what did he say of the coincidence which made him the
lover of the woman against whose father, his father had uttered a
sentence of death? Didn't he marvel and call it extraordinary--the work
of the devil?"

"Possibly; but if he did, it was not in any conversation he had with

"Detroit is a large city and must possess hundreds of sweet young girls
within its borders. Could he contemplate without wonder the fact that he
had been led to the door of the one above all others between whom and
himself Fate had set such an insurmountable barrier? He must have been
struck deeply by the coincidence; he must have been, madam."

Astonished at his manner, at the emphasis he placed upon this point
which seemed to her so much less serious than many others, she regarded
him doubtfully before saying:

"I was if he was not. From the very first I wondered. But I got used to
the fact during the five months of his courtship. And I got used to
another fact too; that my secret was safe so far as it ran the risk of
being endangered by a meeting with yourself. Mr. Ostrander made it very
plain to us that we need never expect to see you in Detroit."

"He did? Did he offer any explanation for this lack of--of sympathy
between us?"

"Never. It was a topic he forbore to enter into and I think he only said
what he did, to prevent any expectations on our part of ever seeing

"And your daughter? Was he as close-mouthed in speaking of me to her as
he was to you?"

"I have no doubt of it. Reuther betrays no knowledge of you or of your
habits, and has never expressed but one curiosity in your regard. As you
can imagine what that is, I will not mention it."

"You are at liberty to. I have listened to much and can well listen to a
little more."

"Judge, she is of a very affectionate nature and her appreciation of
your son's virtues is very great. Though her conception of yourself is
naturally a very vague one, it is only to be expected that she should
wonder how you could live so long without a visit from Oliver."

Expectant as he was of this reply, and resolved as he was, to hear it
unmoved, he had miscalculated his strength or his power of concealment,
for he turned aside immediately upon hearing it, and walked away from
her towards the further extremity of the room. Covertly she watched him;
first through her veil, and then with it partly removed. She did not
understand his mood; and she hardly understood her own. When she entered
upon this interview, her mind had been so intent upon one purpose that
it seemed to absorb all her faculties and reach every corner of her
heart; yet here she was, after the exchange of many words between them,
with her purpose uncommunicated and her heart unrelieved, staring at him
not in the interest of her own griefs, but in commiseration of his.

Yet when he faced her once more every thought vanished from her mind
save the one which had sustained her through the extraordinary measures
she had taken to secure herself this opportunity of presenting her lost
cause to the judgment of the only man from whom she could expect aid.

But her impulse was stayed and her thoughts sent wandering again by the
penetrating look he gave her before she let her veil fall again.

"How long have you been in Detroit?" he asked.

"Ever since--"

"And how old is Reuther?"

"Eighteen, but--"

"Twelve years ago, then." He paused and glanced about him before adding,
"She was about the age of the child you brought to my house to-day."

"Yes, sir, very nearly."

His lips took a strange twist. There was self-contempt in it, and some
other very peculiar and contradictory emotion. But when this semblance
of a smile had passed, it was no longer Oliver's father she saw before
her, but the county's judge. Even his tone partook of the change as he
dryly remarked:

"What you have told me concerning your daughter and my son is very
interesting. But it was not for the simple purpose of informing me that
this untoward engagement was at an end that you came to Shelby. You have
another purpose. What is it? I can remain with you just five minutes

Five minutes! It only takes one to kill a hope but five are far too few
for the reconstruction of one. But she gave no sign of her secret
doubts, as she plunged at once into her subject.

"I will be brief," said she; "as brief as any mother can be who is
pleading for her daughter's life as well as happiness. Reuther has no
real ailment, but her constitution is abnormally weak, and she will die
of this grief if some miracle does not save her. Strong as her will is,
determined as she is to do her duty at all cost, she has very little
physical stamina. See! here is her photograph taken but a short time
ago. Look at it I beg. See what she was like when life was full of hope;
and then imagine her with all hope eliminated."

"Excuse me. What use? I can do nothing. I am very sorry for the child,
but--" His very attitude showed his disinclination to look at the

But she would not be denied. She thrust it upon him and once his eyes
had fallen upon it, they clung there though evidently against his will.
Ah, she knew that Reuther's exquisite countenance would plead for
itself! God seldom grants to such beauty, so lovely a spirit. If the
features themselves failed to appeal, certainly he must feel the charm
of an expression which had already netted so many hearts. Breathlessly
she watched him, and, as she watched, she noted the heavy lines carved
in his face by thought and possibly by sorrow, slowly relax and his eyes
fill with a wistful tenderness.

In the egotism of her relief, she thought to deepen the impression she
had made by one vivid picture of her daughter as she was now. Mistaking
his temperament or his story, classing him in with other strong men, the
well of whose feeling once roused overflows in sympathetic emotion, she
observed very gently but, as she soon saw, unwisely:

"Such delicacy can withstand a blow, but not a steady heartbreak. When,
on that dreadful night I crept in from my sleepless bed to see how my
darling was bearing her long watch, this was what I saw. She had not
moved, no, not an inch in the long hours which had passed since I left
her. She had not even stirred the hand from which, at her request, I had
myself drawn her engagement ring. I doubt even if her lids had shut once
over her strained and wide-staring eyes. It was as if she were laid out
for her grave--"


The harsh tone recalled her to herself. She took back the picture he was
holding towards her and was hardly surprised when he said:

"Parents must learn to endure bitterness. I have not been exempt myself
from such. Your child will not die. You have years of mutual
companionship before you, while I have nothing. And now let us end this
interview so painful to both. You have said--"

"No," she broke in with sudden vehemence, all the more startling from
the restraint in which she had--held herself up to this moment, "I have
not said--I have not begun to say what seethes like a consuming fire in
my breast. Judge Ostrander, I do not know what has estranged you from
Oliver. It must be something serious;--for you are both good men. But
whatever it is, of this I am certain: you would not wilfully deliver an
innocent child like mine to a wretched fate which a well-directed effort
might avert. I spoke of a miracle--Will you not listen, judge? I am not
wild; I am not unconscious of presumption. I am only in earnest, in
deadly earnest. A miracle is possible. The gulf between these two may
yet be spanned. I see a way--"

What change was this to which she had suddenly become witness? The face
which had not lost all its underlying benignancy even when it looked its
coldest, had now become settled and hard. His manner was absolutely
repellent as he broke in with the quick disclaimer:

"But there IS no way. What miracle could ever make your daughter, lovely
as she undoubtedly is, a fitting match for my son! None, madam,
absolutely none. Such an alliance would be monstrous; unnatural."

"Why?" The word came out boldly. If she was intimidated by this
unexpected attack from a man accustomed to deference and altogether able
to exact it, she did not show it. "Because her father died the death of
a criminal?" she asked.

The answer was equally blunt:

"Yes; a criminal over whose trial his father presided as judge."

Was she daunted? No. Quick as a flash came the retort.

"A judge, however, who showed him every consideration possible. I was
told at the time and I have been assured by many since that you were
more than just to him in your rulings. Such a memory creates a bond of
gratitude, not hate. Judge Ostrander"--He had taken a step towards the
hall-door; but he paused at this utterance of his name--"answer me this
one question. Why did you do this? As his widow, as the mother of his
child, I implore you to tell me why you showed him this leniency? You
must have hated him deeply--"

"Yes. I have never hated any one more."

"The slayer of your dearest friend; of your inseparable companion; of
the one person who stood next to your son in your affections and

He put up his hand. The gesture, the way he turned his face aside showed
that she had touched the raw of a wound still unhealed. Insensibly, the
woman in her responded to this evidence of an undying sorrow, and
modulating her voice, she went on, with just a touch of the subtle
fascination which made her always listened to:

"Your feeling for Mr. Etheridge was well known. THEN WHY SUCH

Unaccustomed to be questioned, though living in an atmosphere of
continual yes and no, he stared at the veiled features of one who so
dared, as if he found it hard to excuse such presumption. But he
answered her nevertheless, and with decided emphasis:

"Possibly because his victim was my friend and lifelong companion. A
judge fears his own prejudices."

"Possibly; but you had another reason, judge; a reason which justified
you in your own eyes at the time and which justifies you in mine now and
always. Am I not right? This is no court-room; the case is one of the
past; it can never be reopened; the prisoner is dead. Answer me then, as
one sorrowing mortal replies to another, hadn't you another reason?"

The judge, panoplied though he was or thought he was, against all
conceivable attack, winced at this repetition of a question he had hoped
to ignore, and in his anxiety to hide this involuntary betrayal of
weakness, allowed his anger to have full vent, as he cried out in no
measured terms:

"What is the meaning of all this? What are you after? Why are you raking
up these bygones which only make the present condition of affairs darker
and more hopeless? You say that you know some way of making the match
between your daughter and my son feasible and proper. I say that nothing
can do this. Fact--the sternest of facts is against it. If you found a
way, I shouldn't accept it. Oliver Ostrander, under no circumstances and
by means of no sophistries, can ever marry the daughter of John
Scoville. I should think you would see that for yourself."

"But if John should be proved to have suffered wrongfully? If he should
be shown to have been innocent?"


"Yes. I have always had doubts of his guilt, even when circumstances
bore most heavily against him; and now, as I look back upon the trial
and remember certain things, I feel sure that you had doubts of it,

His rebuke was quick, instant. With a force and earnestness which
recalled the court-room he replied:

"Madam, your hopes and wishes have misled you. Your husband was a guilty
man; as guilty a man as any judge ever passed sentence upon."

"Oh!" she wailed forth, reeling heavily back and almost succumbing to
the shock, she had so thoroughly convinced herself that what she said
was true. But hers was a courageous soul. She rallied instantly and
approaching him again with face uncovered and her whole potent
personality alive with magnetism, she retorted:

"You say that, eye to my eye, hand on my hand, heart beating with my
heart above the grave of our children's mutual happiness?"

"I do."

Convinced; for there was no wavering in his eye, no trembling in the
hand she had clasped; convinced but ready notwithstanding to repudiate
her own convictions, so much of the mother-passion, if not the wife's,
tugged at her heart, she remained immovable for a moment, waiting for
the impossible, hoping against hope for a withdrawal of his words and
the reillumination of hope. Then her hand fell away from his; she gave a
great sob, and, lowering her head, muttered:

"John Scoville smote down Algernon Etheridge! O God! O God! what

A sigh from her one auditor welled up in the silence, holding a note
which startled her erect and brought back a memory which drove her again
into passionate speech:

"But he swore the day I last visited him in the prison, with his arms
pressed tight about me and his eye looking straight into mine as you are
looking now, that he never struck that blow. I did not believe him then,
there were too many dark spots in my memory of old lies premeditated and
destructive of my happiness; but I believed him later, AND I BELIEVE HIM

"Madam, this is quite unprofitable. A jury of his peers condemned him as
guilty and the law compelled me to pass sentence upon him. That his
innocent child should be forced, by the inexorable decrees of fate, to
suffer for a father's misdoing, I regret as much, perhaps more, than you
do; for my son--beloved, though irreconcilably separated from
me--suffers with her, you say. But I see no remedy;--NO REMEDY, I
repeat. Were Oliver to forget himself so far as to ignore the past and
marry Reuther Scoville, a stigma would fall upon them both for which no
amount of domestic happiness could ever compensate. Indeed, there can be
no domestic happiness for a man and woman so situated. The inevitable
must be accepted. Madam, I have said my last word."

"But not heard mine," she panted. "For me to acknowledge the inevitable
where my daughter's life and happiness are concerned would make me seem
a coward in my own eyes. Helped or unhelped, with the sympathy or
without the sympathy of one who I hoped would show himself my friend, I
shall proceed with the task to which I have dedicated myself. You will
forgive me, judge. You see that John's last declaration of innocence
goes farther with me than your belief, backed as it is by the full
weight of the law."

Gazing at her as at one gone suddenly demented, he said:

"I fail to understand you, Mrs.--I will call you Mrs. Averill. You speak
of a task. What task?"

"The only one I have heart for: the proving that Reuther is not the
child of a wilful murderer; that another man did the deed for which he
suffered. I can do it. I feel confident that I can do it; and if you
will not help me--"

"Help you! After what I have said and reiterated that he is guilty,

Advancing upon her with each repetition of the word, he towered before
her, an imposing, almost formidable figure. Where was her courage now?
In what pit of despair had it finally gone down? She eyed him
fascinated, feeling her inconsequence and all the madness of her
romantic, ill-digested effort, when from somewhere in the maze of
confused memories there came to her a cry, not of the disappointed heart
but of a daughter's shame, and she saw again the desperate, haunted look
with which the stricken child had said in answer to some plea, "A
criminal's daughter has no place in this world but with the suffering
and the lost"; and nerved anew, she faced again his anger which might
well be righteous, and with almost preternatural insight, boldly

"You are too vehement to quite convince me, Judge Ostrander. Acknowledge
it or not, there is more doubt than certainty in your mind; a doubt
which ultimately will lead you to help me. You are too honest not to.
When you see that I have some reason for the hopes I express, your sense
of justice will prevail and you will confide to me the point untouched
or the fact unmet, which has left this rankling dissatisfaction to
fester in your mind. That known, my way should broaden;--a way, at the
end of which I see a united couple--my daughter and your son. Oh, she is
worthy of him--" the woman broke forth, as he made another repellent and
imperative gesture. "Ask any one in the town where we have lived."

Abruptly, and without apology for his rudeness, Judge Ostrander again
turned his back and walked away from her to an old-fashioned bookcase
which stood in one corner of the room. Halting mechanically before it,
he let his eyes roam up and down over the shelves, seeing nothing, as
she was well aware, but weighing, as she hoped, the merits of the
problem she had propounded him. She was, therefore, unduly startled when
with a quick whirl about which brought him face to face with her once
more, he impetuously asked:

"Madam, you were in my house this morning. You came in through a gate
which Bela had left unlocked. Will you explain how you came to do this?
Did you know that he was going down street, leaving the way open behind
him? Was there collusion between you?"

Her eyes looked up clearly into his. She felt that she had nothing to
disguise or conceal.

"I had urged him to do this, Judge Ostrander. I had met him more than
once in the street when he went out to do your errands, and I used all
my persuasion to induce him to give me this one opportunity of pleading
my cause with you. He was your devoted servant, he showed it in his
death, but he never got over his affection for Oliver. He told me that
he would wake oftentimes in the night feeling about for the boy he used
to carry in his arms. When I told him--"

"Enough! He knew who you were then?"

"He remembered me when I lifted my veil. Oh, I know very well that I had
not the right to influence your own man to disobey your orders. But my
cause was so pressing and your seclusion seemingly so arbitrary. How
could I dream that your nerves could not bear any sudden shock? or that
Bela--that giant among negroes--would be so affected by his emotions
that he would not see or hear an approaching automobile? You must not
blame me for these tragedies; and you must not blame Bela. He was torn
by conflicting duties, and only yielded because of his great love for
the absent."

"I do not blame Bela."

Startled, she looked at him with wondering eyes. There was a brooding
despair in his tone which caught at her heart, and for an instant made
her feel the full extent of her temerity. In a vain endeavour to regain
her confidence, she falteringly remarked.

"I had listened to what folks said. I had heard that you would receive
nobody; talk to nobody. Bela was my only resource."

"Madam, I do not blame YOU."

He was scrutinising her keenly and for the first time understandingly.
Whatever her station past or present, she was certainly no ordinary
woman, nor was her face without beauty, lit as it was by passion and
every ardour of which a loving woman is capable. No man would be likely
to resist it unless his armour were thrice forged. Would he himself be
able to? He began to experience a cold fear,--a dread which drew a black
veil over the future; a blacker veil than that which had hitherto rested
upon it.

But his face showed nothing. He was master of that yet. Only his tone.
That silenced her. She was therefore scarcely surprised when, with a
slight change of attitude which brought their faces more closely
together, he proceeded, with a piercing intensity not to be withstood:

"When you entered my house this morning, did you come directly to my

"Yes. Bela told me just how to reach it."

"And when you saw me indisposed--unable, in fact, to greet you--what did
you do then?"

With the force and meaning of one who takes an oath, she brought her
hand, palm downward on the table before her, as she steadily replied:

"I flew back into the room through which I had come, undecided whether
to fly the house or wait for what might happen to you, I had never seen
any one in such an attack before, and almost expected to hear you fall
forward to the floor. But when you did not and the silence, which seemed
so awful, remained unbroken, I pulled the curtain aside and looked in
again. There was no change in your posture; and, alarmed now for your
sake rather than for my own, I did not dare to go till Bela came back.
So I stayed watching."

"Stayed where?"

"In a dark corner of that same room. I never left it till the crowd came
in. Then I slid out behind them."

"Was the child with you--at your side I mean, all this time?"

"I never let go her hand."

"Woman, you are keeping nothing back?"

"Nothing but my terror at the sight of Bela running in all bloody to
escape the people pressing after him. I thought then that I had been the
death of servant as well as master. You can imagine my relief when I
heard that yours was but a passing attack."

Sincerity was in her manner and in her voice. The judge breathed more
easily, and made the remark:

"No one with hearing unimpaired can realise the suspicion of the deaf,
nor can any one who is not subject to attacks like mine conceive the
doubts with which a man so cursed views those who have been active about
him while the world to him was blank."

Thus he dismissed the present subject, to surprise her by a renewal of
the old one.

"What are your reasons," said he, "for the hopes you have just
expressed? I think it your duty to tell me before we go any further."

It was an acknowledgment, uttered after his own fashion, of the truth of
her plea and the correctness of her woman's insight. She contemplated
his face anew, and wondered that the dart she had so inconsiderately
launched should have found the one weak joint in this strong man's
armour. But she made no immediate reply, rather stopped to ponder,
finally saying, with drooped head and nervously working fingers:

"Excuse me for to-night. What I have to tell--or rather, what I have to
show you,--requires daylight." Then, as she became conscious of his
astonishment, added falteringly:

"Have you any objection to meeting me to-morrow on the bluff overlooking

The voice of the clock, and that only! Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick! That
only! Why then had she felt it impossible to finish her sentence? The
judge was looking at her; he had not moved; nor had an eyelash stirred,
but the rest of that sentence had stuck in her throat, and she found
herself standing as immovably quiet as he.

Then she remembered. He had loved Algernon Etheridge. Memory still
lived. The spot she had mentioned was a horror to him. Weakly she strove
to apologise.

"I am sorry," she began, but he cut her short at once.

"Why there?" he asked.

"Because"--her words came slowly, haltingly, as she tremulously, almost
fearfully, felt her way with him--"because--there--is--no--other
place--where--I can make--my point."

He smiled. It was his first smile in years and naturally was a little
constrained,--and to her eyes at least, almost more terrifying than his

"You have a point, then, to make?"

"A good one."

He started as if to approach her, and then stood stock-still.

"Why have you waited till NOW?" he called out, forgetful that they were
not alone in the house, forgetful apparently of everything but his
surprise and repulsion. "Why not have made use of this point before it
was too late? You were at your husband's trial; you were even on the

She nodded, thoroughly cowed at last both by his indignation and the
revelation contained in this question of the judicial mind--"Why now,
when the time was THEN?"

Happily, she had an answer.

"Judge Ostrander, I had a reason for that too; and, like my point, it is
a good one. But do not ask me for it to-night. To-morrow I will tell you
everything. But it will have to be in the place I have mentioned. Will
you come to the bluff where the ruins are one-half hour before sunset?
Please, be exact as to the time. You will see why, if you come."

He leaned across the table--they were on opposite sides of it--and
plunging his eyes into hers stood so, while the clock ticked out one
slow minute more, then he drew back, and remarking with an aspect of
gloom but with much less appearance of distrust:

"A very odd request, madam. I hope you have good reason for it;" adding,
"I bury Bela to-morrow and the cemetery is in this direction. I will
meet you where you say and at the hour you name."

And, regarding him closely as he spoke, she saw that for all the
correctness of his manner and the bow of respectful courtesy with which
he instantly withdrew, that deep would be his anger and unquestionable
the results to her if she failed to satisfy him at this meeting of the
value of her POINT in reawakening justice and changing public opinion.



One of the lodgers at the Claymore Inn had great cause for complaint the
next morning. A restless tramping over his head had kept him awake all
night. That it was intermittent had made it all the more intolerable.
Just when he thought it had stopped, it would start up again,--to and
fro, to and fro, as regular as clockwork and much more disturbing.

But the complaint never reached Mrs. Averill. The landlady had been
restless herself. Indeed, the night had been one of thought and feeling
to more than one person in whom we are interested. The feeling we can
understand; the thought--that is, Mrs. Averill's thought--we should do
well to follow.

The one great question which had agitated her was this: Should she trust
the judge? Ever since the discovery which had changed Reuther's
prospects, she had instinctively looked to this one source for aid and
sympathy. Her reasons she has already given. His bearing during the
trial, the compunction he showed in uttering her husband's sentence were
sufficient proof to her that for all his natural revulsion against the
crime which had robbed him of his dearest friend, he was the victim of
an undercurrent of sympathy for the accused which could mean but one
thing--a doubt of the prisoner's actual guilt.

But her faith had been sorely shaken in the interview just related. He
was not the friend she had hoped to find. He had insisted upon her
husband's guilt, when she had expected consideration and a thoughtful
recapitulation of the evidence; and he had remained unmoved, or but very
little moved, by the disappointment of his son--his only remaining link
to life.

Why? Was the alienation between these two so complete as to block out
natural sympathy? Had the separation of years rendered them callous to
every mutual impression? She dwelt in tenderness upon the bond uniting
herself and Reuther and could not believe in such unresponsiveness. No
parent could carry resentment or even righteous anger so far as that.
Judge Ostrander might seem cold,--both manner and temper would naturally
be much affected by his unique and solitary mode of life,--but at heart
he must love Oliver. It was not in nature for it to be otherwise. And

It was at this point in her musing that there came one of the breaks in
her restless pacing. She was always of an impulsive temperament, and
always giving way to it. Sitting down before paper and ink she wrote the
following lines:

     My Darling if Unhappy Child:

     I know that this sudden journey on my part must strike you as
     cruel, when, if ever, you need your mother's presence and care. But
     the love I feel for you, my Reuther, is deep enough to cause you
     momentary pain for the sake of the great good I hope to bring you
     out of this shadowy quest. I believe, what I said to you on
     leaving, that a great injustice was done your father. Feeling so,
     shall I remain quiescent and see youth and love slip from you,
     without any effort on my part to set this matter straight? I
     cannot. I have done you the wrong of silence when knowledge would
     have saved you shock and bitter disillusion, but I will not add to
     my fault the inertia of a cowardly soul. Have patience with me,
     then; and continue to cherish those treasures of truth and
     affection which you may one day feel free to bestow once more upon
     one who has a right to each and all of them.

     This is your mother's prayer.


It was not easy for her to sign herself thus. It was a name which she
had tried her best to forget for twelve long, preoccupied years. But how
could she use any other in addressing her daughter who had already
declared her intention of resuming her father's name, despite the
opprobrium it carried and the everlasting bar it must in itself raise
between herself and Oliver Ostrander?

Deborah Scoville!

A groan broke from her lips as she rapidly folded that name in, and hid
it out of sight in the envelope she as rapidly addressed.

But her purpose had been accomplished, or would be when once this letter
reached Reuther. With these words in declaration against her she could
not retreat from the stand she had therein taken. It was another
instance of burning one's ships upon disembarking, and the effect made
upon the writer showed itself at once in her altered manner. Henceforth,
the question should be not what awaited her, but how she should show her
strength in face of the opposition she now expected to meet from this
clear-minded, amply equipped lawyer and judge she had called to her aid.


"A task for his equal, not for an ignorant, untried woman like myself,"
she thought; and, following another of her impulses, she leaped from her
seat at the table and rushed across to her dresser on which she placed
two candles, one at her right and another at her left. Then she sat down
between them and in the stillness of midnight surveyed herself in the
glass, as she might survey the face of a stranger.

What did she see? A countenance no longer young, and yet with some of
the charm of youth still lingering in the brooding eyes and in the
dangerous curves of a mobile and expressive mouth. But it was not for
charm she was looking, but for some signs of power quite apart from that
of sex. Did her face express intellect, persistence and, above all,
courage? The brow was good;--she would so characterise it in another.
Surely a woman with such a forehead might do something even against
odds. Nor was her chin weak; sometimes she had thought it too pronounced
for beauty; but what had she to do with beauty now? And the neck so
proudly erect! the heaving breast! the heart all aflame! Defeat is not
for such; or only such defeat as bears within it the germ of future

Is her reading correct? Time will prove. Meanwhile she will have
confidence in herself, and that this confidence might be well founded
she decided to spend the rest of the night in formulating her plans and
laying out her imaginary campaign.

Leaving the dresser she recommenced that rapid walking to and fro which
was working such havoc in the nerves of the man in the room below her.
When she paused, it was to ransack a trunk and bring out a flat wallet
filled with newspaper clippings, many of them discoloured by time, and
all of them showing marks of frequent handling.

A handling now to be repeated. For after a few moments spent in
arranging them, she deliberately set about their complete reperusal, a
task in which it has now become necessary for us to join her.

The first was black with old head-lines:

[Illustration: CRIME IN DARK HOLLOW]



Algernon Etheridge, One of Our Most Esteemed
Citizens, Waylaid and Murdered at Long Bridge.




 The Stick With Which the Crime was Committed
         Easily Traced to Its Owner.
      The Landlord of Claymore Tavern
        in the Toils. He Denies His
        Guilt But Submits Sullenly
               to Arrest.

Particulars followed.

"Last evening Shelby's clean record was blackened by outrageous crime.
Some time after nightfall a carter was driving home by Factory Road,
when just as he was nearing Long Bridge one of his horses shied so
violently that he barely escaped being thrown from his seat. As he had
never known the animal to shy like this before, he was curious enough to
get down and look about him for the cause. Dark Hollow is never light,
but it is impenetrable after dark, and not being able to see anything,
he knelt down in the road and began to feel about with his hand. This
brought results. In a few moments he came upon the body of a man lying
without movement, and seemingly without life.

"Long Bridge is not a favourite spot at night, and, knowing that in all
probability an hour might elapse before assistance would arrive in the
shape of another passer-by, he decided to carry his story straight to
Claymore Tavern. Afterwards he was heard to declare that it was
fortunate his horses were headed that way instead of the other, or he
might have missed seeing the skulking figure which slipped down into the
ravine as he made the turn at the far end of the bridge--a figure which
had no other response to his loud 'Hola!' than a short cough, hurriedly
choked back. He could not see the face or identify the figure, but he
knew the cough. He had heard it a hundred times; and, saying to himself,
'I'll find fellers enough at the tavern, but there's one I won't find
there and that's John Scoville,' he whipped his horse up the hill and
took the road to Claymore.

"And he was right. A dozen fellows started up at his call, but Scoville
was not among them. He had been out for two hours; which the carter
having heard, he looked down, but said nothing except 'Come along, boys!
I'll drive you to the turn of the bridge.'

"But just as they were starting Scoville appeared. He was hatless and
dishevelled and reeled heavily with liquor. He also tried to smile,
which made the carter lean quickly down and with very little ceremony
drag him up into the cart. So with Scoville amongst them they rode
quickly back to the bridge, the landlord coughing, the men all grimly

"In crossing the bridge he made more than one effort to escape, but the
men were determined, and when they finally stooped over the man lying in
Dark Hollow, he was in their midst and was forced to stoop also.

"One flash of the lantern told the dismal tale. The man was not only
dead, but murdered. His forehead had been battered in with a knotted
stick; all his pockets hung out empty; and from the general disorder of
his dress it was evident that his watch had been torn away by a ruthless
hand. But the face they failed to recognise till some people, running
down from the upper town where the alarm had by this time spread, sent
up the shout of 'It's Mr. Etheridge! Judge Ostrander's great friend. Let
some one run and notify the judge.'

"But the fact was settled long before the judge came upon the scene, and
another fact too. In beating the bushes, they had lighted on a heavy
stick. When it was brought forward and held under the strong light made
by a circle of lanterns, a big movement took place in the crowd. The
stick had been recognised. Indeed, it was well known to all the Claymore
men. They had seen it in Scoville's hands a dozen times. Even he could
not deny its ownership; explaining, or trying to, that he had been in
the ravine looking for this stick only a little while before, and
adding, as he met their eyes:

"'I lost it in these woods this afternoon. I hadn't anything to do with
this killing.'

"He had not been accused; but he found it impossible to escape after
this, and when at the instance of Coroner Haines he was carefully looked
over and a small red ribbon found in one of his pockets, he was
immediately put under arrest and taken to the city lock-up. For the
ribbon had been identified as well as the stick. Oliver Ostrander, who
had accompanied his father to the scene of crime, declared that he had
observed it that very afternoon, dangling from one end of Mr.
Etheridge's watch-chain where it had been used to fasten temporarily a
broken link.

"As we go to press we hear that Judge Ostrander has been prostrated by
this blow. The deceased had been playing chess up at his house, and in
taking the short cut home had met with his death.

"Long Bridge should be provided with lights. It is a dangerous place for
foot passengers on a dark night."

A later paragraph.

"The detectives were busy this morning, going over the whole ground in
the vicinity of the bridge.

"They were rewarded by two important discoveries. The impression of a
foot in a certain soft place halfway up the bluff; and a small heap of
fresh earth nearby which, on being dug into, revealed the watch of the
murdered man. The broken chain lay with it.

"The footprint has been measured. It coincides exactly with the shoe
worn that night by the suspect.

"The case will be laid before the Grand Jury next week."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The prisoner continues to deny his guilt. The story he gives out is to
the effect that he left the tavern some few minutes before seven
o'clock, to look for his child who had wandered into the ravine. That he
entered the woods from the road running by his house, and was searching
the bushes skirting the stream when he heard little Reuther's shout from
somewhere up on the bluff. He had his stick with him, for he never went
out without it, but, finding it in his way, he leaned it against a tree
and went plunging up the bluff without it. Why he didn't call out the
child's name he doesn't know; he guessed he thought he would surprise
her; and why, when he got to the top of the bluff and didn't find her,
he should turn about for his stick instead of hunting for her on the
road, he also fails to explain, saying again, he doesn't know. What
circumstances force him to tell and what he declares to be true is this:
That instead of going back diagonally through the woods to the lone
chestnut where he had left his stick, he crossed the bridge and took the
path running along the edge of the ravine: That in doing this he came
upon the body of a man in the black recesses of the Hollow, a man so
evidently beyond all help that he would have hurried by without a second
look if it had not been for the watch he saw lying on the ground close
to the dead man's side. It was a very fine watch, and it seemed like
tempting Providence to leave it lying there exposed to the view of any
chance tramp who might come along. It seemed better for him to take it
into his own charge till he found some responsible person willing to
carry it to Police Headquarters. So, without stopping to consider what
the consequences might be to himself, he tore it away by the chain from
the hold it had on the dead man's coat and put it in his pocket. He also
took some other little things; after which he fled away into town, where
the sight of a saloon was too much for him and he went in to have a
drink to take the horrors out of him. Since then, the detectives have
followed all his movements and know just how much liquor he drank and to
whom, in tipsy bravado, he showed the contents of his pockets. But he
wasn't so far gone as not to have moments of apprehension when he
thought of the dead man lying with his feet in Dark Hollow, and of the
hue and cry which would soon be raised, and what folks might think if
that accursed watch he had taken so innocently should be found in his
pocket. Finally his fears overcame his scruples, and, starting for home,
he stopped at the bluff, meaning to run down over the bridge and drop
the watch as near as possible to the spot where he had found it. But as
he turned to descend, he heard a team approaching from the other side
and, terrified still more, he dashed into the woods, and, tearing up the
ground with his hands, buried his booty in the loose soil, and made for
home. Even then he had no intention of appropriating the watch, only of
safe-guarding himself, nor did he have any hand at all in the murder of
Mr. Etheridge. This he would swear to; also, to the leaving of the stick
where he said.

"It is understood that in case of his indictment, his lawyer will follow
the line of defence thus indicated."

       *       *       *       *       *

"To-day, John Scoville was taken to the tree where he insists he left
his stick. It is a big chestnut some hundred and fifty feet beyond the
point where the ravine turns west. It has a big enough trunk for a stick
to stand upright against it, as was shown by Inspector Snow who had
charge of this affair. But we are told that after demonstrating this
fact with the same bludgeon which had done its bloody work in the
Hollow, the prisoner showed a sudden interest in this weapon and begged
to see it closer. This being granted, he pointed out where a splinter or
two had been freshly whittled from the handle, and declared that no
knife had touched it while it remained in his hands. But, as he had no
evidence to support this statement (a knife having been found amongst
the other effects taken from his pocket at the time of his arrest), the
impression made by this declaration is not likely to go far towards
influencing public opinion in his favour.

"A true bill was found to-day against John Scoville for the murder of
Algernon Etheridge."

       *       *       *       *       *

A third clipping:

"We feel it our duty, as the one independent paper of this city, to
insist upon the right of a man to the consideration of the public till a
jury of his peers has pronounced upon his guilt and thus rendered him a
criminal before the law. The way our hitherto sufficiently respected
citizen, John Scoville, has been maligned and his every fault and
failing magnified for the delectation of a greedy public is unworthy of
a Christian community. No man saw him kill Algernon Etheridge, and he
himself denies most strenuously that he did so, yet from the first
moment of his arrest till now, not a voice has been raised in his
favour, or the least account taken of his defence. Yet he is the husband
of an estimable wife and the father of a child of such exceptional
loveliness that she has been the petted darling of high and low ever
since John Scoville became the proprietor of Claymore Tavern.

"Give the man a chance. It is our wish to see justice vindicated and the
guilty punished; but not before the jury has pronounced its verdict."

"The Star was his only friend," sighed Deborah Scoville, as she laid
this clipping aside and took up another headed by a picture of her
husband. This picture she subjected to the same scrutiny she had just
given to her own reflection in the glass: "Seeing him anew," as she said
to herself, "after all these years of determined forgetfulness."

It was not an unhandsome face. Indeed, it was his good looks which had
prevailed over her judgment in the early days of their courtship.
Reuther had inherited her harmony of feature from him,--the chiselled
nose, the well-modelled chin, and all the other physical graces which
had made him a fine figure behind his bar. But even with the softening
of her feelings towards him since she had thus set herself up in his
defence, Deborah could not fail to perceive under all these surface
attractions an expression of unreliability, or, as some would say, of
actual cruelty. Ruddy-haired and fair of skin, he should have had an
optimistic temperament; but, on the contrary, he was of a gloomy nature,
and only infrequently social. No company was better for his being in it.
Never had she seen any man sit out the evening with him without effort.
Yet the house had prospered. How often had she said to herself, in
noting these facts: "Yet the house prospers!" There was always money in
the till even when the patronage was small. Their difficulties were
never financial ones. She was still living on the proceeds of what they
had laid by in those old days.

Her mind continued to plunge back. He had had no business worries; yet
his temper was always uncertain. She had not often suffered from it
herself, for her ascendency over men extended even to him. But Reuther
had shrunk before it more than once--the gentle Reuther, who was the
refined, the etherealised picture of himself. And he had loved the child
as well as he could love anybody. Great gusts of fondness would come
over him at times, and then he would pet and cajole the child almost
beyond a parent's prerogative. But he was capable of striking her
too--had struck her frequently. And for nothing--an innocent look; a
shrinking movement; a smile when he wasn't in the mood for smiles. It
was for this Deborah had hated him; and it was for this the mother in
her now held him responsible for the doubts which had shadowed their
final parting. Was not the man, who could bring his hand down upon so
frail and exquisite a creature as Reuther was in those days, capable of
any act of violence? Yes; but in this case he had been guiltless. She
could not but concede this even while yielding to extreme revulsion as
she laid his picture aside.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next slip she took up contained an eulogy of the victim.

"The sudden death of Algernon Etheridge has been in more than one sense
a great shock to the community. Though a man of passive rather than
active qualities, his scholarly figure, long, lean and bowed, has been
seen too often in our streets not to be missed, when thus suddenly
withdrawn. His method of living; the rigid habits of an almost ascetic
life; such an hour for this thing, such an hour for that--his smile,
which made you soon forget his irascibility and pride of learning; made
up a character unique in our town and one that we can ill afford to
spare. The closed doors of the little cottage, so associated with his
name that it will be hard to imagine it occupied by any one else,
possess a pathos of their own which is felt by young and old alike. The
gate that never would latch, the garden, where at a stated hour in the
morning his bowed figure would always be seen hoeing or weeding or
raking, the windows without curtains showing the stacks of books within,
are eloquent of a presence gone, which can never be duplicated. Alone on
its desolate corner, it seems to mourn the child, the boy, the man who
gave it life, and made it, in its simplicity, more noted and more
frequently pointed at than any other house in town.

"Why he should have become the target of Fate is one of the mysteries of
life. His watch, which aside from his books was his most valuable
possession, was the gift of Judge Ostrander. That it should be
associated in any way with the tragic circumstances of his death is a
source of the deepest regret to the unhappy donor."

       *       *       *       *       *

This excerpt she hardly looked at; but the following she studied

"Judge Ostrander has from the first expressed a strong desire that some
associate judge should be called upon to preside over the trial of John
Scoville for the murder of Algernon Etheridge. But Judge Saunders'
sudden illness and Judge Dole's departure for Europe have put an end to
these hopes. Judge Ostrander will take his seat on the bench as usual
next Monday. Fortunately for the accused, his well-known judicial mind
will prevent any unfair treatment of the defence."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The prosecution, in the able hands of District Attorney Foss, made all
its points this morning. Unless the defence has some very strong plea in
the background, the verdict seems foredoomed. A dogged look has replaced
the callous and indifferent sneer on the prisoner's face, and sympathy,
if sympathy there is, is centred entirely upon the wife, the able,
agreeable and bitterly humiliated landlady of Claymore Tavern. She it is
who has attracted the most attention during this trial, little as she
seems to court it."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Only one new detail of evidence was laid before the jury to-day.
Scoville has been known for some time to have a great hankering after a
repeating watch. He had once seen that of Algernon Etheridge, and was
never tired of talking about it. Several witnesses testified to his
various remarks on this subject. Thus the motive for his dastardly
assault upon an unoffending citizen, which to many minds has seemed
lacking, has been supplied.

"The full particulars of this day's proceedings will be found below."

       *       *       *       *       *

We omit these to save repetition; but they were very carefully conned by
Deborah Scoville. Also the following:

"The defence is in a line with the statement already given out. The
prisoner acknowledges taking the watch but from motives quite opposed to
those of thievery. Unfortunately he can produce no witnesses to
substantiate his declaration that he had heard voices in the direction
of the bridge while he was wandering the woods in search of his lost
child. No evidence of any other presence there is promised or likely to
be produced. It was thought that when his wife was called to the stand
she might have something to say helpful to his case. She had been the
one to ultimately find and lead home the child, and, silent as she had
been up to this time, it has been thought possible that she might swear
to having heard these voices also.

"But her testimony was very disappointing. She had seen nobody, heard
nobody but the child whom she had found playing with stones in the old
ruin. Though by a close calculation of time she could not have been far
from Dark Hollow at the instant of the crime, yet neither on direct or
cross-examination could anything more be elicited from her than what has
been mentioned above. Nevertheless, we feel obliged to state that,
irreproachable as her conduct was on the stand, the impression she made
was, on the whole, whether intentionally or unintentionally,
unfavourable to her husband.

"Some anxiety was felt during the morning session that an adjournment
would have to be called, owing to some slight signs of indisposition on
the part of the presiding judge. But he rallied very speedily, and the
proceedings continued without interruption."

       *       *       *       *       *


The exclamation escaped the lips of Deborah Scoville as she laid this
clipping aside. "I remember his appearance well. He had the ghost of one
of those attacks, the full force of which I was a witness to this
morning. I am sure of this now, though nobody thought of it then. I
happened to glance his way as I left the stand, and he was certainly for
one minute without consciousness of himself or his surroundings. But it
passed so quickly it drew little attention; not so, the attack of
to-day. What a misfortune rests upon this man. Will they let him
continue on the bench when his full condition is known?" These were her
thoughts, as she recalled that day and compared it with the present.

There were other slips, which she read but which we may pass by. The
fate of the prisoner was in the hands of a jury. The possibility
suggested by the defence made no appeal to men who had the unfortunate
prisoner under their eye at every stage of the proceedings. The shifty
eye, the hang-dog look, outweighed the plea of his counsel and the call
for strict impartiality from the bench. He was adjudged guilty of murder
in the first degree, and sentence called for.

This was the end; and as she read these words, the horror which
overwhelmed her was infinitely greater than when she heard them uttered
in that fatal court room. For then she regarded him as guilty and
deserving his fate and now she knew him to be innocent.

Well, well! too much dwelling on this point would only unfit her for
what lay before her on the morrow. She would read no more. Sleep were a
better preparation for her second interview with the judge than this
reconsideration of facts already known to their last detail.

Alas, when her eyelids finally obeyed the dictates of her will, the
first glimmering rays of dawn were beginning to scatter the gloom of her
darkened chamber!



Bela was to be buried at four. As Judge Ostrander prepared to lock his
gate behind the simple cortege which was destined to grow into a vast
crowd before it reached the cemetery, he was stopped by the sergeant who
whispered in his ear:

"I thought your honour might like to know that the woman--you know the
one I mean without my naming her--has been amusing herself this morning
in a very peculiar manner. She broke down some branches in the
ravine,--small ones, of course,--and would give no account of herself
when one of my men asked her what she was up to. It may mean nothing,
but I thought you would like to know."

"Have you found out who she is?"

"No, sir. The man couldn't very well ask her to lift her veil, and at
the tavern they have nothing to say about her."

"It's a small matter. I will see her myself to-day and find out what she
wants of me. Meanwhile, remember that I leave this house and grounds
absolutely to your protection for the next three hours. I shall be known
to be absent, so that a more careful watch than ever is necessary. Not a
man, boy or child is to climb the fence. I may rely on you?"

"You may, judge."

"On my return you can all go. I will guard my own property after to-day.
You understand me, sergeant?"

"Perfectly, your honour."

This ended the colloquy.

Spencer's Folly, as the old ruin on the bluff was called in memory of
the vanished magnificence which was once the talk of the county,
presented a very different appearance to the eye in broad daylight from
what it did at night with a low moon sending its mellow rays through the
great gap made in its walls by that ancient stroke of lightning. Even
the enkindling beams of the westering sun striking level through the
forest failed to adorn its broken walls and battered foundations. To the
judge, approaching it from the highway, it was as ugly a sight as the
world contained. He hated its arid desolation and all the litter of
blackened bricks blocking up the site of former feastings and reckless
merriment, and, above all, the incongruous aspect of the one gable still
standing undemolished, with the zigzag marks of vanished staircases
outlined upon its mildewed walls. But, most of all, he shrank from a
sight of the one corner still intact where the ghosts of dead memories
lingered, making the whole place horrible to his eye and one to be
shunned by all men. How long it had been shunned by him he realised when
he noticed the increased decay of the walls and the growth of the
verdure encompassing the abominable place!

The cemetery from which he had come looked less lonesome to his eyes and
far less ominous; and, for a passing instant, as he contemplated the
scene hideous with old memories and threatening new sorrows, he envied
Bela his narrow bed and honourable rest.

A tall figure and an impressive presence are not without their
disadvantages. This he felt as he left the highway and proceeded up the
path which had once led through a double box hedge to the high, pillared
entrance. He abhorred scandal and shrank with almost a woman's distaste
from anything which savoured of the clandestine. Yet here he was about
to meet on a spot open to the view of every passing vehicle, a woman
who, if known to him, was a mystery to every one else. His expression
showed the scorn with which he regarded his own compliance, yet he knew
that no instinct of threatened dignity, no generous thought for her or
selfish one for himself would turn him back from this interview till he
had learned what she had to tell him and why she had so carefully
exacted that he should hear her story in a spot overlooking the Hollow
it would beseem them both to shun.

There had originally been in the days of Spencer's magnificence a lordly
portico at the end of this approach, girt by pillars of extraordinary
height. But no sign remained of pillar, or doorway--only a gap, as I
have said. Towards this gap he stepped, feeling a strange reluctance in
entering it. But he had no choice. He knew what he should see--No, he
did not know what he should see, for when he finally stepped in, it was
not an open view of the Hollow which met his eyes, but the purple-clad
figure of Mrs. Averill with little Peggy at her side. He had not
expected to see the child, and, standing as they were with their backs
to him, they presented a picture which, for some reason to be found in
the mysterious recesses of his disordered mind, was exceedingly
repellent to him. Indeed, he was so stricken by it that he had actually
made a move to withdraw, when the exigency of the occasion returned upon
him in full force, and, with a smothered oath, he overcame his weakness
and stepped firmly up into the ruins.

The noise he made should have caused Deborah's tall and graceful figure
to turn. But the spell of her own thoughts was too great; and he would
have found himself compelled to utter the first word, if the child, who
had heard him plainly enough, had not dragged at the woman's hand and so
woke her from her dream.

"Ah, Judge Ostrander," she exclaimed in a hasty but not ungraceful
greeting, "you are very punctual. I was not looking for you yet." Then,
as she noted the gloom under which he was labouring, she continued with
real feeling, "Indeed, I appreciate this sacrifice you have made to my
wishes. It was asking a great deal of you to come here; but I saw no
other way of making my point clear. Come over here, Peggy, and build me
a little house out of these stones. You don't mind the child, do you,
judge? She may offer a diversion if our retreat is invaded."

The gesture of disavowal which he made was courteous but insincere. He
did mind the child, but he could not explain why; besides he must
overcome such folly.

"Now," she continued as she rejoined him on the place where he had taken
his stand, "I will ask you to go back with me to the hour when John
Scoville left the tavern on that fatal day. I am not now on oath, but I
might as well be for any slip I shall make in the exact truth. I was
making pies in the kitchen, when some one came running in to say that
Reuther had strayed away from the front yard. She was about the age of
the little one over there, and we never allowed her out alone for fear
of her tumbling off the bluff. So I set down the pie I was just putting
in the oven, and was about to run out after her when my husband called
to me from the front, and said he would go. I didn't like his tone--it
was sullen and impatient, but I knew he loved the child too well to see
her suffer any danger, and so I settled back to work and was satisfied
enough till the pies were all in. Then I got uneasy, and, hearing
nothing of either of them, I started in this direction because they told
me John had taken the other. And here I found her, sir, right in the
heart of these ruins. She was playing with stones just as Peggy dear is
doing now. Greatly relieved, I was taking her away when I thought I
heard John calling. Stepping up to the edge just behind where you are
standing, sir--yes, there, where you get such a broad outlook up and
down the ravine, I glanced in the direction from which I had heard his
call--Just wait a moment, sir; I want to know the exact time."

Stopping, she pulled out her watch and looked at it, while he, faltering
up to the verge which she had pointed out, followed her movements with
strange intensity as she went on to say in explanation of her act:

"The time is important, on account of a certain demonstration I am
anxious to make. You will remember that I was expecting to see John,
having heard his voice in the ravine. Now if you will lean a little
forward and look where I am pointing, you will notice at the turn of the
stream, a spot of ground more open than the rest. Please keep your eyes
on that spot, for it was there I saw at this very hour twelve years ago
the shadow of an approaching figure; and it is there you will presently
see one similar, if the boy I have tried to interest in this experiment
does not fail me. Now, now, sir! We should see his shadow before we see
him. Oh, I hope the underbrush and trees have not grown up too thick! I
tried to thin them out to-day. Are you watching, sir?"

He seemed to be, but she dared not turn to look. Both figures leaned,
intent, and in another moment she had gripped his arm and clung there.

"Did you see?" she whispered, "Don't mind the boy; it's the shadow I
wanted you to notice. Did you observe anything marked about it?"

She had drawn him back into the ruins. They were standing in that one
secluded corner under the ruinous gable, and she was gazing up at him
very earnestly. "Tell me, judge," she entreated as he made no effort to

With a hurried moistening of his lips, he met her look and responded,
with a slight emphasis:

"The boy held a stick. I should say that he was whittling it."

"Ah!" Her tone was triumphant. "That was what I told him to do. Did you
see anything else?"

"No. I do not understand this experiment or what you hope from it."

"I will tell you. The shadow which I saw at a moment very like this,
twelve years ago, showed a man whittling a stick and wearing a cap with
a decided peak in front. My husband wore such a cap--the only one I knew
of in town. What more did I need as proof that it was his shadow I saw?"

"And wasn't it?"

"Judge Ostrander, I never thought differently till after the trial--till
after the earth closed over my poor husband's remains. That was why I
could say nothing in his defence--why I did not believe him when he
declared that he had left his stick behind him when he ran up the bluff
after Reuther. The tree he pointed out as the one against which he had
stood it, was far behind the place where I saw this advancing shadow.
Even the oath he made to me of his innocence at the last interview we
held in prison did not impress me at the time as truthful. But later,
when it was all over, when the disgrace of his death and the necessity
of seeking a home elsewhere drove me into selling the tavern and all its
effects, I found something which changed my mind in this regard, and
made me confident that I had done my husband a great injustice."

"You found? What do you mean by that? What could you have found?"

"His peaked cap lying in a corner of the garret. He had not worn it that

The judge stared. She repeated her statement, and with more emphasis:

"He had not worn it that day; for when he came back to be hustled off
again by the crowd, he was without hat of any kind, and he never
returned again to his home--you know that, judge. I had seen the shadow
of some other man approaching Dark Hollow. WHOSE, I AM IN THIS TOWN NOW



Judge Ostrander was a man of keen perception, quick to grasp an idea,
quick to form an opinion. But his mind acted slowly to-night. Deborah
Scoville wondered at the blankness of his gaze and the slow way in which
he seemed to take in this astounding fact.

At last he found voice and with it gave some evidence of his usual

"Madam, a shadow is an uncertain foundation on which to build such an
edifice as you plan. How do you know that the fact you mention was
coincident with the crime? Mr. Etheridge's body was not found till after
dark. A dozen men might have come down that path with or without sticks
before he reached the bridge and fell a victim to the assault which laid
him low."

"I thought the time was pretty clearly settled by the hour he left your
house. The sun had not set when he turned your corner on his way home.
So several people said who saw him. Besides--"

"Yes; there is a BESIDES. I'm sure of it."

"I saw the tall figure of a man, whom I afterwards made sure was Mr.
Etheridge, coming down Factory Road on his way to the bridge when I
turned about to get Reuther."

"All of which you suppressed at the trial."

"I was not questioned on this point, sir."

"Madam,"--he was standing very near to her now, hemming her as it were
into that decaying corner--"I should have a very much higher opinion of
your candour if you told me the whole story."

"I have, sir."

His hands rose, one to the right hand wall, the other to the left, and
remained there with their palms resting heavily against the rotting
plaster. She was more than ever hemmed in; but, though she felt a trifle
frightened at his aspect which certainly was not usual, she faced him
without shrinking and in very evident surprise.

"You went immediately home with the child after that glimpse you got of
Mr. Etheridge?"

"Yes; I had no reason in the world to suppose that anything was going to
happen in the ravine below us. Of course, I went straight on; there were
things to be done at home, and--you don't believe me, sir."

His hands fell; an indefinable change had come over his aspect; he bowed
and seemed about to utter an ironic apology. She felt puzzled and
unconsciously she began to think. What was lacking in her statement?
Something. Could she remember what? Something which he had expected;
something which as presiding judge over John's trial he had been made
aware of and now recalled to render her story futile. It couldn't be
that one little thing--But yes, it might be. Nothing is little where a
great crime is concerned. She smiled a dubious smile, then she said:

"It seems too slight a fact to mention, and, indeed, I had forgotten it
till you pressed me, but after we had passed the gates and were well out
on the highway, I found that Reuther had left her little pail behind her
here, and we came back and got it. Did you mean that, sir?"

"I meant nothing; but I felt sure you had not told all you could about
that fatal ten minutes. You came back. It is quite a walk from the road.
The man whose shadow you saw must have reached the bridge by this time.
What did you see then or--hear?"

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing, judge. I was intent on finding the baby's
pail, and having found it I hurried back home all the faster."

"And tragedy was going on or was just completed, in plain sight from
this gap!"

"I have no doubt, sir; and if I had looked, possibly John might have
been saved."

The silence following this was broken by a crash and a little cry.
Peggy's house had tumbled down.

The small incident was a relief. Both assumed more natural postures.

"So the shadow is your great and only point," remarked the judge.

"It is sufficient for me."

"Ah, perhaps."

"But not enough for the public?"


"Not enough for you, either?"

"Madam, I have already told you that, in my opinion, John Scoville was a
guilty man."

"And this fact, with which I have just acquainted you, has done nothing
to alter this opinion?"

"I can only repeat what I have just said."

"Oh, Reuther! Oh, Oliver!"

"Do not speak my son's name. I am in no mood for it. The boy and girl
are two and can never become one. I have other views for her--she is an
innocent victim and she has my sympathy. You, too, madam, though I
consider you as following a will-o'-the-wisp which will only lead you
hopelessly astray."

"I shall not desist, Judge Ostrander."

"You are going to pursue this Jack-o'-Lanthorn?"

"I am determined to. If you deny me aid and advice, I shall seek another
counsellor. John's name must be vindicated."

"Obstinacy, madam."

"No; conscience."

He gave her a look, turned and glanced down at the child piling stone on
stone and whimpering just a little when they fell.

"Watch that baby for a while," he remarked, "and you will learn the
lesson of most human endeavour. Madam, I have a proposition to make you.
You cannot wish to remain at the inn, nor can you be long happy
separated from your daughter. I have lost Bela. I do not know how, nor
would I be willing, to replace him by another servant. I need a
housekeeper; some one devoted to my interests and who will not ask me to
change my habits too materially. Will you accept the position, if I add
as an inducement my desire to have Reuther also as an inmate of my home?
This does not mean that I countenance or in any way anticipate her union
with my son. I do not; but any other advantages she may desire, she
shall have. I will not be strict with her."

"Judge Ostrander!"

Deborah Scoville was never more taken aback in her life. The recluse
opening his doors to two women! The man of mystery flinging aside the
reticences of years to harbour an innocence which he refused to let
weigh against the claims of a son he has seen fit to banish from his
heart and home!

"You may take time to think of it," he continued, as he watched the
confused emotions change from moment to moment the character of her
mobile features. "I shall not have my affairs adjusted for such a change
before a week. If you accept, I shall be very grateful. If you decline,
I shall close up my two rear gates, and go into solitary seclusion. I
can cook a meal if I have to."

And she saw that he would do it; saw and wondered still more.

"I shall have to write to Reuther," she murmured. "How soon do you want
my decision?"

"In four days."

"I am too disturbed to thank you, judge. Should--should we have to keep
the gates locked?"

"No. But you would have to keep out unwelcome intruders. And the rights
of my library will have to be respected. In all other regards I should
wish, under these new circumstances, to live as other people live. I
have been very lonely these past twelve years."

"I will think about it."

"And you may make note of these two conditions: Oliver's name is not to
be mentioned in my hearing, and you and Reuther are to be known by your
real names."

"You would--"

"Yes, madam. No secrecy is to be maintained in future as to your
identity or my reasons for desiring you in my house. I need a
housekeeper and you please me. That you have a past to forget and
Reuther a disappointment to overcome, gives additional point to the

Her answer was:

"I cannot take back what I have said about my determined purpose." In
repeating this, she looked up at him askance.

He smiled. She remembered that smile long after the interview was over
and only its memory remained.



Dearest Mother:

Where could we go that disgrace would not follow us? Let us
then accept the judge's offer. I am the more inclined to do
this because of the possible hope that some day he may come
to care for me and allow me to make life a little brighter
for him. The fact that for some mysterious reason he feels
himself cut off from all intercourse with his son, may prove
a bond of sympathy between us. I, too, am cut off from all
companionship with Oliver. Between us also a wall is raised.
Do not mind that tear-drop, mamma. It is the last.

Kisses for my comforter. Come soon.


Over this letter Deborah Scoville sat for two hours, then she rang for
Mrs. Yardley.

The maid who answered her summons surveyed her in amazement. It was the
first time that she had seen her uncovered face.

Mrs. Yardley was not long in coming up.

"Mrs. Averill--" she began in a sort of fluster, as she met her strange
guest's quiet eye.

But she got no further. That guest had a correction to make.

"My name is not Averill," she protested. "You must excuse the temporary
deception. It is Scoville. I once occupied your present position in this

Mrs. Yardley had heard all about the Scovilles; and, while a flush rose
to her cheeks, her eyes snapped with sudden interest.

"Ah!" came in quick exclamation, followed, however, by an apologetic
cough and the somewhat forced and conventional remark: "You find the
place changed, no doubt?"

"Very much so, and for the better, Mrs. Yardley." Then, with a
straightforward meeting of the other's eye calculated to disarm whatever
criticism the situation might evoke, she quietly added, "You need no
longer trouble yourself with serving me my meals in my room. I will eat
dinner in the public dining-room to-day with the rest of the boarders. I
have no further reason for concealing who I am or what my future
intentions are. I am going to live with Judge Ostrander, Mrs.
Yardley;--keep house for him, myself and daughter. His man is dead and
he feels very helpless. I hope that I shall be able to make him

Mrs. Yardley's face was a study. In all her life she had never heard
news that surprised her more. In fact, she was mentally aghast. Judge
Ostrander admitting any one into his home, and this woman above all!
Yet, why not? He, certainly, would have to have some one. And this woman
had always been known as a notable housekeeper. In another moment, she
had accepted the situation, like the very sensible woman she was, and
Mrs. Scoville had the satisfaction of seeing the promise of real
friendly support in the smile with which Mrs. Yardley remarked:

"It's a good thing for you and a very good thing for the judge. It may
shake him out of his habit of seclusion. If it does, you will be the
city's benefactor. Good luck to you, madam. And you have a daughter, you

       *       *       *       *       *

After Mrs. Yardley's departure, Mrs. Scoville, as she now expected
herself to be called, sat for a long time brooding. Would her quest be
facilitated or irretrievably hindered by her presence in the judge's
house? She had that yet to learn. Meanwhile, there was one thing more to
be accomplished. She set about it that evening.

Veiled, but in black now, she went into town. Getting down at the corner
of Colburn Avenue and Perry Street, she walked a short distance on
Perry, then rang the bell of an attractive-looking house of moderate
dimensions. Being admitted, she asked to see Mr. Black, and for an hour
sat in close conversation with him. Then she took a trolley-car which
carried her into the suburbs. When she alighted, it was unusually late
for a woman to be out alone; but she had very little physical fear, and
walked on steadily enough for a block or two till she came to a corner,
where a high fence loomed forbiddingly between her and a house so dark
that it was impossible to distinguish between its chimneys and the
encompassing trees whose swaying tops could be heard swishing about
uneasily in the keen night air. An eerie accompaniment, this latter, to
the beating of Deborah's heart already throbbing with anticipation and
keyed to an unusual pitch by her own daring.

Was she quite alone in the seemingly quiet street? She could hear no
one, see no one. A lamp burned in front of Miss Weeks' small house, but
the road it illumined (I speak of the one running down to the ravine)
showed only darkened houses.

She had left the corner and was passing the gate of the Ostrander
homestead, when she heard, coming from some distant point within, a low
and peculiar sound which held her immovable for a moment, then sent her
on shuddering.

It was the sound of hammering.

What is there in a rat-tat-tat in the dead of night which rouses the
imagination and fills the mind with suggestions which we had rather not
harbour when in the dark and alone? Deborah Scoville was not
superstitious, but she had keen senses and mercurial spirits and was
easily moved by suggestion.

Hearing this sound and locating it where she did, she remembered, with a
quick inner disturbance, that the judge's house held a secret; a secret
of such import to its owner that the dying Bela had sought to preserve
it at the cost of his life.

Oh, she had heard all about that! The gossip at Claymore Inn had been
great, and nothing had been spared her curiosity. There was something in
this house which it behooved the judge to secrete from sight yet more
completely before her own and Reuther's entrance, and he was at work
upon it now, hammering with his own hand while other persons slept! No
wonder she edged her way along the fence with a shrinking, yet
persistent, step. She was circling her future home and that house held a

And yet, like any other imaginative person under a stress of aroused
feeling, she might very easily be magnifying some commonplace act into
one of terrifying possibilities. One can hammer very innocently in his
own house, even at night, when making preparations to receive fresh
inmates after many years of household neglect.

She recognised her folly before reaching the adjoining field. But she
went on. Where the fence turned, she turned, there being no obstruction
to her doing so. This brought her into a wilderness of tangled grasses
where free stepping was difficult. As she groped her way along, she had
ample opportunity to hear again the intermittent sounds of the hammer,
and to note that they reached their maximum at a point where the ell of
the judge's study approached the fences.

Rat-tat-tat; rat-tat-tat. She hated the sound even while she whispered
to herself:

"It is just some household matter he is at work upon;--rehanging
pictures or putting up shelves. It can be nothing else."

Yet on laying her ear to the fence, she felt her sinister fears return;
and, with shrinking glances into a darkness which told her nothing, she
added in fearful murmur to herself:

"What am I taking Reuther into? I wish I knew. I wish I knew."





"When are you going to Judge Ostrander's?"

"To-morrow. This is my last free day. So if there is anything for me to
do, do tell me, Mr. Black, and let me get to work at once."

"There is nothing you can do. The matter is hopeless."

"You think so?"

There was misery in the tone, but the seasoned old lawyer, who had
conducted her husband's defence, did not allow his sympathies to run
away with his judgment.

"I certainly do, madam. I told you so the other night, and now, after a
couple of days of thought on the subject, I am obliged to repeat my
assertion. Your own convictions in the matter, and your story of the
shadow and the peaked cap may appeal to the public and assure you some
sympathy, but for an entire reversal of its opinion you will need
substantial and incontrovertible evidence. You must remember--you will
pardon my frankness--that your husband's character failed to stand the
test of inquiry. His principles were slack, his temper violent. You have
suffered from both and must know. A poor foundation I found it for his
defence; and a poor one you will find it for that reversal of public
opinion upon which you count, without very strong proof that the crime
for which he was punished was committed by another man. You think you
have such proof, but it is meagre, very meagre. Find me something
definite to go upon and we will talk."

"Discouragement; discouragement everywhere," she complained. "Yet I know
John to have been innocent of this crime."

The lawyer raised his brows, and toyed impatiently with his watch-chain.
If her convictions found any echo in his own mind, he gave no evidence
of it. Doubtfully she eyed him.

"What you want," she observed at length, with a sigh, "is the name of
the man who sauntered down the ravine ahead of my husband. I cannot give
it to you now, but I do not despair of learning it."

"Twelve years ago, madam; twelve years ago."

"I know; but I have too much confidence in my cause to be daunted even
by so serious an obstacle as that. I shall yet put my finger on this
man. But I do not say that it will be immediately. I have got to renew
old acquaintances; revive old gossip; possibly, recall to life almost
obliterated memories."

Mr. Black, dropping his hand from his vest, gave her his first look of
unqualified admiration.

"You ring true," said he. "I have met men qualified to lead a Forlorn
Hope; but never before a woman. Allow me to express my regret that it is
such a forlorn one." Then, with a twinkle in his eye which bespoke a
lighter mood, he remarked in a curiously casual tone.

"Talking of gossip, there is but one person in town who is a complete
repository of all that is said or known this side of Colchester." (The
next town.) "I never knew her to forget anything; and I never knew her
to be very far from the truth. She lives near Judge Ostrander--a quaint
little body, not uninteresting to talk to; a regular character, in fact.
Do you know what they say about her house? That everything on God's
earth can be found in it. That you've but to name an object, and she
will produce it. She's had strange opportunities for collecting odds and
ends, and she's never neglected one of them. Yet her house is but a box.
Miss Weeks is her name."

"I will remember it."

Mrs. Scoville rose. Then she sat down again, with the remark:

"I have a strange notion. It's a hard thing to explain and you may not
understand me, but I should like to see, if it still exists, the
stick--my husband's stick--with which this crime was committed. Do the
police retain such things? Is there any possibility of my finding it
laid away in some drawer at Headquarters or on some dusty shelf?"

Mr. Black was again astonished. Was this callousness or a very deep and
determined purpose.

"I don't know. I never go pottering about at Headquarters. What do you
want to see that for? What help can you get out of that?"

"None probably; but in the presence of defeat you grasp at every hope. I
dreamt of that stick last night. I was in an awful wilderness, all
rocks, terrific gorges and cloud-covered, unassailable peaks. A
light--one ray and one only--shone on me through the darkness. Towards
this ray I was driven through great gaps in the yawning rocks and along
narrow galleries sloping above an unfathomable abyss. Hope lay beyond,
rescue, light. But a wall reared its black length between. I came upon
it suddenly; a barrier mighty and impenetrable with its ends lost in
obscurity. And the ray! the one long beam! It was still there. It shone
directly upon me from an opening in this wall. It marked a gate,--a gate
for which I only lacked the key. Where should I find one to fit a lock
so gigantic! Nowhere! unless the something which I held--which had been
in my hands from the first--would be found to move its stubborn wards. I
tried it and it did! it did! I hear the squeak of those tremendous
hinges now, and--Mr. Black, you must have guessed what that something
was. My husband's stick! the bludgeon with whose shape I was so familiar
twelve years ago! It is that and that only which will lead us to the
light. Of this I feel quite sure."

A short and ironical grunt answered her. Mr. Black was not always the
pink of politeness even in the presence of ladies.

"Most interesting," he commented sarcastically. "The squeak you heard
was probably the protest of the bed you were reclining on against such a
misuse of the opportunities it offered you. A dream listened to as
evidence in this office! You must have a woman's idea of the value of my

Flushing with discomfiture, she attempted to apologise, when he cut her
short. "Nevertheless, you shall see the stick if it is still to be
found. I will take you to Police Headquarters if you will go heavily
veiled. We don't want any recognition of you there YET."

"You will take me--"

"The fact that I never go there may make my visit not unwelcome. I'll do
it; yes, I'll do it."

"Mr. Black, you are very good. How soon--"

"Now," he announced, jumping up to get his hat. "A woman who can take up
a man's time, with poetry and dreams, might as well have the whole
afternoon. Are you ready? Shall we go?"

All alacrity, in spite of the irony of his bow and smile, he stood at
the door waiting for her to follow him. This she did slowly and with
manifest hesitation. She did not understand the man. People often said
of her that she did not understand her own charm.

There was one little fact of which Mr. Black was ignorant;--that the
police had had their eye on the veiled lady at Claymore Inn for several
days now and knew who his companion was the instant they stepped into
Headquarters. In vain his plausible excuses for showing his lady friend
the curiosities of the place; her interest in the details of criminology
was well understood by Sergeant Doolittle, though of course he had not
sounded its full depths, and could not know from any one but Judge
Ostrander himself, her grave reasons for steeping her mind again in the
horrors of her husband's long-since expiated crime. And Judge Ostrander
was the last man who would be likely to give him this information.

Therefore, when he saw the small, mocking eye of the lawyer begin to
roam over the shelves, and beheld his jaw drop as it sometimes did when
he sought to veil his purpose in an air of mild preoccupation, he knew
what the next request would be, as well as if the low sounds which left
Mr. Black's lips at intervals had been words instead of inarticulate
grunts. He was, therefore, prepared when the question did come.

"Any memorial of the Etheridge case?"

"Nothing but a stick with blood-marks on it. That, I'm afraid, wouldn't
be a very agreeable sight for a lady's eye."

"She's proof," the lawyer whispered in the officer's ear. "Let's see the

The sergeant considered this a very interesting experience--quite a
jolly break in the dull monotony of the day. Hunting up the stick, he
laid it in the lawyer's hands, and then turned his eye upon the lady.

She had gone pale, but it took her but an instant to regain her
equanimity and hold out her own hand for the weapon.

With what purpose? What did she expect to see in it which others had not
seen many times? She did not know, herself. She was simply following an
impulse, just as she had felt herself borne on by some irresistible
force in her dream. And so, the three stood there, the men's faces
ironic, inquisitive, wondering at the woman's phlegm if not at her
motive; hers, hidden behind her veil, but bent forward over the weapon
in an attitude of devouring interest. Thus for a long, slow minute; then
she impulsively raised her head and, beckoning the two men nearer, she
directed attention to a splintered portion of the handle and asked them
what they saw there.

"Nothing; just stick," declared the sergeant. "The marks you are looking
for are higher up."

"And you, Mr. Black?"

He saw nothing either but stick. But he was little less abrupt in his

"Do you mean those roughnesses?" he asked. "That's where the stick was
whittled. You remember that he had been whittling at the stick--"


The word shot from her lips so violently that for a moment both men
looked staggered by it. Then Mr. Black, with unaccustomed forbearance,
answered gently enough:

"Why, Scoville, madam; or so the prosecution congratulated itself upon
having proved to the jury's satisfaction. It did not tally with
Scoville's story or with common sense I know. You remember,--pardon
me,--I mean that any one who read a report of the case, will remember
how I handled the matter in my speech. But the prejudice in favour of
the prosecution--I will not say against the defence--was too much for
me, and common sense, the defendant's declarations, and my eloquence all
went for nothing."

"Of course they produced the knife?"

"Yes, they produced the knife."

"It was in his pocket?"


"Have they that here?"

"No, we haven't that here."

"But you remember it?"

"Remember it?"

"Was it a new knife, a whole one, I mean, with all its blades sharp and
in good order?"

"Yes. I can say that. I handled it several times."

"Then, whose blade left that?" And again she pointed to the same place
on the stick where her finger had fallen before.

"I don't know what you mean." The sergeant looked puzzled. Perhaps, his
eyesight was not very keen.

"Have you a magnifying-glass? There is something embedded in this wood.
Try and find out what it is."

The sergeant, with a queer look at Mr. Black, who returned it with
interest, went for a glass, and when he had used it, the stare he gave
the heavily veiled woman drove Mr. Black to reach out his own hand for
the glass.

"Well," he burst forth, after a prolonged scrutiny, "there is something

"The point of a knife blade. The extreme point," she emphasised. "It
might easily escape the observation even of the most critical, without
such aid as is given by this glass."

"No one thought of using a magnifying-glass on this," blurted out the
sergeant. "The marks made by the knife were plain enough for all to see,
and that was all which seemed important."

Mr. Black said nothing; he was feeling a trifle cheap;--something which
did not agree with his crusty nature. Not having seen Mrs. Scoville for
a half-hour without her veil, her influence over him was on the wane,
and he began to regret that he had laid himself open to this

She saw that it would be left for her to wind up the interview and get
out of the place without arousing too much attention. With a
self-possession which astonished both men, knowing her immense interest
in this matter, she laid down the stick, and, with a gentle shrug of her
shoulders, remarked in an easy tone:

"Well, it's curious! The inns and outs of a crime, I mean. Such a
discovery ten years after the event (I think you said ten years) is very
interesting." Then she sighed: "Alas! it's too late to benefit the one
whose life it might have saved. Mr. Black, shall we be going? I have
spent a most entertaining quarter of an hour."

Mr. Black glanced from her to the sergeant before he joined her. Then,
with one of his sour smiles directed towards the former, he said:

"I wouldn't be talking about this, sergeant. It will do no good, and may
subject us to ridicule."

The sergeant, none too well pleased, nodded slightly. Seeing which, she
spoke up:

"I don't know about that, I should think it but proper reparation to the
dead to let it be known that his own story of innocence has received
this late confirmation."

But the lawyer continued to shake his head, with a very sharp look at
the sergeant. If he could have his way, he would have this matter stop
just where it was.

Alas! he was not to have his way, as he saw, when at parting he essayed
to make a final protest against a public as well as premature reopening
of this old case. She did not see her position as he did, and wound up
her plea by saying:

"The public must lend their aid, if we are to get the evidence we need
to help us. Can we find the man who whittled that stick? Never. But some
one else may. I am going to give the men and women of this town a
chance. I'm too anxious to clear my husband's memory to shrink from any
publicity. You see, I believe that the real culprit will yet be found."

The lawyer dropped argument. When a woman speaks in that tone,
persuasion is worse than useless. Besides, she had raised her veil.
Strange, what a sensitive countenance will do!



"This is my daughter, Judge Ostrander, Reuther, this is the judge."

The introduction took place at the outer gates whither the judge had
gone to receive them.

Reuther threw aside her veil, and looked up into the face bent
courteously towards her. It had no look of Oliver. Somehow she felt
glad. She could hardly have restrained herself if he had met her gaze
with Oliver's eyes. They were fine eyes notwithstanding, piercing by
nature but just now misty with a feeling that took away all her fear. He
was going to like her; she saw it in every trembling line of his
countenance, and at the thought a smile rose to her lips which, if
fleeting, lent such an ethereal aspect to her beauty that he forgave
Oliver then and there for a love which never could be crowned, but which
henceforth could no longer be regarded by him as despicable.

With a courteous gesture he invited them in, but stopping to lock one
gate before leading them through the other, Mrs. Scoville had time to
observe that since her last visit with its accompanying inroad of the
populace, the two openings which at this point gave access to the walk
between the fences had been closed up with boards so rude and dingy that
they must have come from some old lumber pile in attic or cellar.

The judge detected her looking at them.

"I have cut off my nightly promenade," said he. "With youth in the
house, more cheerful habits must prevail. To-morrow I shall have my lawn
cut, and if I must walk after sundown I will walk there."

The two women exchanged glances. Perhaps their gloomy anticipations were
not going to be realised.

But once within the house, the judge showed embarrassment. He was
conscious of its unfitness for their fastidious taste and yet he had not
known how to improve matters. In his best days he had concerned himself
very little with household affairs, and for the last few years he had
not given a thought to anything outside his own rooms. Bela had done
all--and Bela was pre-eminently a cook, not a general house-servant. How
would these women regard the disorder and the dust?

"I have few comforts to offer," said he, opening a door at his right and
then hastily closing it again. "This part of the house is, as you see,
completely dismantled and not--very clean. But you shall have carte
blanche to arrange to your liking one of these rooms for your
sitting-room and parlour. There is furniture in the attic and you may
buy freely whatever else is necessary. I don't want to discourage little
Reuther. As for your bedrooms--" He stopped, hemmed a little and flushed
a vivid red as he pointed up the dingy flight of uncarpeted stairs
towards which he had led them. "They are above; but it is with shame I
admit that I have not gone above this floor for many years.
Consequently, I don't know how it looks up there or whether you can even
find towels and things. Perhaps you will go up first, Mrs. Scoville. I
will stay here while you take a look. I really, couldn't have a strange
cleaning-woman here, or any one who would make remarks. Have I counted
too much on your good-nature?"

"No; not at all. In fact, you simply arouse all the housekeeping
instincts within me. I will be down in a minute. Reuther, I leave you
with the judge."

She ran lightly up. The next instant they heard her sneeze, then they
caught the sound of a window rattling up, followed by a streak of light
falling slant-wise across the dismal stairs.

The judge drew a breath of relief and led Reuther towards a door at the
end of the hall.

"This is the way to the dining-room and kitchen," he explained. "I have
been accustomed to having my meals served in my own room, but after this
I shall join you at table. Here," he continued, leading her up to the
iron door, "is the entrance to my den. You may knock here if you want
me, but there is a curtain beyond, which no one lifts but myself. You
understand, my dear, and will excuse an old man's eccentricities?"

She smiled, rejoicing only in the caressing voice, and in the yearning,
almost fatherly, manner with which he surveyed her.

"I quite understand," said she; "and so will mother."

"Reuther," he now observed with a strange intermixture of gentleness and
authority, "there is one thing I wish to say to you at the very start. I
may grow to love you--God knows that a little affection would be a
welcome change in my life--but I want you to know and know now, that all
the love in the world will not change my decision as to the impropriety
of a match between you and my son Oliver. That settled, there is no
reason why all should not be clear between us."

"All is clear."

Faint and far off the words sounded, though she was standing so near he
could have laid his hand on her shoulder. Then she gave one sob as
though in saying this she heard the last clod fall upon what would never
see resurrection again in this life, and, lifting her head, looked him
straight in the eye with a decision and a sweetness which bowed his
spirit and caused his head in turn to fall upon his breast.

"What a father can do for a child, I will do for you," he murmured, and
led her back to her mother, who was now coming down stairs.

A week, and Deborah Scoville had evolved a home out of chaos. That is,
within limits. There was one door on that upper story which she had
simply opened and shut; nor had she entered the judge's rooms, or even
offered to do so. The ban which had been laid upon her daughter she felt
applied equally to herself; that is for the present. Later, there must
be a change. So particular a man as the judge would soon find himself
too uncomfortable to endure the lack of those attentions which he had
been used to in Bela's day. He had not even asked for clean sheets, and
sometimes she had found herself wondering, with a strange shrinking of
her heart, if his bed was ever made, or whether he had not been driven
at times to lie down in his clothes.

She had some reason for these doubtful conclusions. In her ramblings
through the house she had come upon Bela's room. It was in a loft over
the kitchen and she had been much amazed at its condition. In some
respects it looked as decent as she could expect, but in the matter of
bed and bedclothes it presented an aspect somewhat startling. The
clothes were there, tossed in a heap on the floor, but there was no bed
in sight nor anything which could have served as such.

IT HAD BEEN DRAGGED OUT. Evidences of this were everywhere; dragged out,
and down the narrow, twisted staircase which was the only medium of
communication between the lower floor and this loft. As she noted the
marks made by its passage down the steps, the unhappy vision rose before
her of the judge, immaculate in attire and unaccustomed of hand, tugging
at this bed and alternately pushing and pulling it by main strength down
this contracted, many-cornered staircase. A smile, half pitiful, half
self-scornful curved her lips as she remembered the rat-tat-tat she had
heard on that dismal night when she clung listening to the fence, and
wondered now if it had not been the bumping of this cot sliding from
step to step.

But no! the repeated stroke of a hammer is unmistakable. He had played
the carpenter that night as well as the mover, and with no visible
results. Mystery still reigned in the house for all the charm and order
she had brought into it; a mystery which deeply interested her, and
which she yet hoped to solve, notwithstanding its remoteness from the
real problem of her existence.



NIGHT! and Deborah Scoville waiting anxiously for Reuther to sleep, that
she might brood undisturbed over a new and disturbing event which for
the whole day had shaken her out of her wonted poise, and given, as it
were, a new phase to her life in this house.

Already had she stepped several times to her daughter's room and looked
in, only to meet Reuther's unquiet eye turned towards hers in silent
inquiry. Was her own uneasiness infectious? Was the child determined to
share her vigil? She would wait a little longer this time and see.

Their rooms were over the parlour and thus as far removed as possible
from the judge's den. In her own, which was front, she felt at perfect
ease, and it was without any fear of disturbing either him or Reuther
that she finally raised her window and allowed the cool wind to soothe
her heated cheeks.

How calm the aspect of the lawn and its clustering shrubs. Dimly seen
though they were through the leaves of the vines she had but partially
clipped, she felt the element of peace which comes with perfect quiet,
and was fain to forget for awhile the terrors it so frequently conceals.
The moon, which had been invisible up to this moment, emerged from
skurrying clouds as she quietly watched the scene; and in an instant her
peace was gone and all the thronging difficulties of her position came
rushing back upon her in full force, as all the details of the scene, so
mercifully hidden just now, flashed again upon her vision.

Perched, as she was, in a window overlooking the lane, she had but to
lift her eyes from the double fence (that symbol of sad seclusion) to
light on the trees rising above that unspeakable ravine, black with
memories she felt strangely like forgetting to-night. Beyond ... how it
stood out on the bluff! it had never seemed to stand out more
threateningly!... the bifurcated mass of dismal ruin from which men had
turned their eyes these many years now! But the moon loved it; caressed
it; dallied with it, lighting up its toppling chimney and empty, staring
gable. There, where the black streak could be seen, she had stood with
the judge in that struggle of wills which had left its scars upon them
both to this very day. There, hidden but always seen by those who
remembered the traditions of the place, mouldered away the walls of that
old closet where the timorous, God-stricken suicide had breathed out his
soul. She had stood in it only the other day, penned from outsiders'
view by the judge's outstretched arms. Then, she had no mind for bygone
horrors, her own tragedy weighed too heavily upon her; but to-night, as
she gazed, fascinated, anxious to forget herself, anxious to indulge in
any thought which would relieve her from dwelling on the question she
must settle before she slept, she allowed her wonder and her revulsion
to have free course. Instead of ignoring, she would recall the story of
the place as it had been told her when she first came to settle in its

Spencer's Folly! Well, it had been that, and Spencer's den of
dissipation too! There were great tales--but it was not of these she was
thinking, but of the night of storm--(of the greatest storm of which any
record remained in Shelby) when the wind tore down branches and toppled
down chimneys; when cattle were smitten in the field and men on the
highway; when the old bridge, since replaced, buckled up and sank in the
roaring flood it could no longer span, and the bluff towering overhead,
flared into flame, and the house which was its glory, was smitten apart
by the descending bolt as by a Titan sword, and blazed like a beacon to
the sky.

This was long before she herself had come to Shelby; but she had been
told the story so often that it was quite as vivid to her as if she had
been one of the innumerable men and women who had crowded the
glistening, swimming streets to view this spectacle of destruction. The
family had been gone for months, and so no pity mingled with the
excitement. Not till the following day did the awful nature of the event
break in its full horror upon the town. Among the ruins, in a closet
which the flames had spared, they found hunched up in one corner, the
body of a man, in whose seared throat a wound appeared which had not
been made by lightning or fire. Spencer! Spencer himself, returned they
knew not how, to die of this self-inflicted wound, in the dark corner of
his grand but neglected dwelling.

And this was what made the horror of the place till the tragedy of the
opposite hollow added crime to crime, and the spot became outlawed to
all sensitive citizens. Folly and madness and the vengeance of high
heaven upon unhallowed walls, spoke to her from that towering mass,
bathed though it was just now in liquid light under the impartial moon.

But as she continued to survey it, the clouds came trooping up once
more, and the vision was wiped out and with it all memories save those
of a nearer trouble--a more pressing necessity.

Withdrawing from the window, she crept again to Reuther's room and
peered carefully in. Innocence was asleep at last. Not a movement
disturbed the closed lids on the wax-like cheek. Even the breath came so
softly that it hardly lifted the youthful breast. Repose the most
perfect and in the form of all others the sweetest to a tender mother,
lay before her and touched her already yearning heart to tears. Lighting
a candle and shielding it with her hand, she gazed long and earnestly at
Reuther's sweet face. Yes, she was right. Sorrow was slowly sapping the
fountain of her darling's youth. If Reuther was to be saved, hope must
come soon. With a sob and a prayer, the mother left the room, and
locking herself into her own, sat down at last to face the new
perplexity, the monstrous enigma which had come into her life.

It had followed in natural sequence from a proposal made by the judge
that some attention should be given his long-neglected rooms. He had
said on rising from the breakfast table--(the words are more or less

"I am really sorry to trouble you, Mrs. Scoville; but if you have time
this morning, will you clean up my study before I leave? The carriage is
ordered for half-past nine."

The task was one she had long desired to perform, and would have urged
upon him daily had she dared, but the limitations he set for its
accomplishment struck her aghast.

"Do you mean that you wish to remain there while I work? You will be
choked, Judge."

"No more than I have been for the last two days. You may enter any
time." And going in, he left the door open behind him.

"He will lock it when he goes out," she commented to herself. "I had
better hasten."

Giving Reuther the rest of the work to do, she presently appeared before
him with pail and broom and a pile of fresh linen. Nothing more
commonplace could be imagined, but to her, if not to him, there underlay
this especial act of ordinary housewifery a possible enlightenment on a
subject which had held the whole community in a state of curiosity for
years. She was going to enter the room which had been barred from public
sight by poor Bela's dying body. She was going to see--or had he only
meant that she was to have her way with the library--the room where she
had already been and much of which she remembered. The doubt gave a
tremulous eagerness to her step and caused her eye to wander immediately
to that forbidden corner soon as she had stepped over the threshold.

The bedroom door was open;--proof that she was expected to enter there.
Meanwhile, she felt the eye of the judge upon her and endeavoured to
preserve a perfect composure and to sink the curious and inquiring woman
in the diligent housekeeper.

But she could not, quite. Two facts of which she immediately became
cognisant, prevented this. First, the great room before her presented a
bare floor, whereas on her first visit it had been very decently, if not
cheerfully, covered by a huge carpet rug. Secondly, the judge's chair,
which had once looked immovable, had been dragged forward into such a
position that he could keep his own eye on the bedroom door. Manifestly
she was not to be allowed to pursue her duties unwatched. Certainly she
had to take more than one look at the every-day implements she carried to
retain that balance of judgment which should prevent her from becoming
the dupe of her own expectations.

"I do not expect you to clean up here as thoroughly as you have your own
rooms up stairs," he remarked, as she passed him. "You haven't the time,
or I the patience for too many strokes of the broom. And Mrs. Scoville,"
he called out as she slipped through the doorway, "leave the door open
and keep away as much as possible from the side of the room where I have
nailed up the curtain. I had rather not have that touched."

She turned with a smile and nodded. She felt that she had been set to
work with a string tied round her feet. Not touch the curtain! Why, that
was the one thing in the room she wanted to touch; for in it she not
only saw the carpet which had been taken up from the floor of the study,
but a possible screen behind which anything might lurk--even his
redoubtable secret.

Or had it another and much simpler explanation? Might it not have been
hung there merely as a shield to the window. The room must have a window
and there was none to be seen elsewhere. It would be like him to shut
out light and air. She would ask.

"There is no window," she observed, looking back at the judge.

"No," was his short reply.

Slowly she set down her pail. One thing was settled. It was Bela's cot
she saw before her--a cot without any sheets. These had been left behind
in the dead negro's room, and the judge had been sleeping just as she
had feared, wrapped in a rug and with uncovered pillow. This pillow was
his own; it had not been brought down with the bed. She hastily slipped
a cover on it, and without calling any further attention to her act,
began to make up the bed.

Conscious that the papers he made a feint of reading were but a cover
for his watchfulness, she moved about in a matter-of-fact way and did
not spare him the clouds of dust which presently rose before her broom.
She could have managed it more deftly,--would have done so at another
time, but it was her express intention just now to make him move back
out of her way, if only to give her an opportunity to disturb by a
backward stroke of her broom the folds of the carpet-rug and learn if
she could what lay hidden behind it.

But the judge was impervious to discomfort. He coughed and shook his
head, but did not budge an inch. Before she had begun to put things in
order, the clock struck the half-hour.

"Oh!" she protested, with a pleading glance his way, "I'm not half

"There's another day to follow," he dryly remarked, rising and taking a
key from his pocket.

The act expressed his wishes; and she was proceeding to carry out her
things when a quick sliding noise from the wall she was passing, drew
her attention and caused her to spring forward in an involuntary effort
to catch a picture which had slipped its cord and was falling to the

A shout from the judge of "Stand aside, let me come!" reached her too
late. She had grasped and lifted the picture and seen--

But first, let me explain. This picture was not like the others hanging
about. It was a veiled one. From some motive of precaution or
characteristic desire for concealment on the part of the judge, it had
been closely wrapped about in heavy brown paper before being hung, and
in the encounter which ensued between the falling picture and the spear
of an image standing on a table underneath, this paper had received a
slit through which Deborah had been given a glimpse of the canvas

The shock of what she saw would have unnerved a less courageous woman.




In recalling this startling moment, Deborah wondered as much at her own
aplomb as at that of Judge Ostrander. Not only had she succeeded in
suppressing all recognition of what had thus been discovered to her, but
had carried her powers of self-repression so far as to offer, and with
good grace too, to assist him in rehanging the picture. This perfection
of acting had its full reward. With equal composure he excused her from
the task, and, adding some expression of regret at his well-known
carelessness in not looking better after his effects, bowed her from the
room with only a slight increase of his usual courteous reserve.

But later, when thought came and with it a certain recollections, what
significance the incident acquired in her mind, and what a long line of
terrors it brought in its train!

It was no casual act, this defacing of a son's well-loved features. It
had a meaning--a dark and desperate meaning. Nor was the study-wall the
natural home of this picture. An unfaded square which she had noted on
the wall-paper of the inner room showed where its original place had
been. There in full view of the broken-hearted father when he woke and
in darksome watchfulness while he slept, it had played its heavy part in
his long torment--a galling reminder of--what?

It was to answer this question--to face this new view of Oliver and the
bearing it had on the relations she had hoped to establish between him
and Reuther, that she had waited for the house to be silent and her
child asleep. If the defacing marks she had seen meant that the cause of
separation between father and son lay in some past fault of Oliver
himself, serious enough for such a symbol to be necessary to reconcile
the judge to their divided lives, she should know it and know it soon.
The night should not pass without that review of the past by which alone
she could now judge Oliver Ostrander.

She had spoken of him as noble; she had forced herself to believe him
so, and in profession and in many of his actions he had been so, but had
she ever been wholly pleased with him? To go back to their first
meeting, what impression had he made upon her then? Had it been
altogether favourable and such as would be natural in one of his repute?
Hardly; but then the shock of her presentation to one who had possibly
seen her under other and shameful conditions had been great, and her
judgment could scarcely have full play while her whole attention was
absorbed in watching for some hint of recognition on his part.

But when this apprehension had vanished; when quite assured that he had
failed to see in the widowed Mrs. Averill the wife of the man who had
died a felon's death in Shelby, had her spirits risen and her eyes
cleared to his great merits as she had heard them extolled by people of
worth and intellectual standing? Alas, no. There had been something in
his look--a lack of spontaneity which had not fitted in with her

And in the months which followed, when as Reuther's suitor she saw him
often and intimately--how had she regarded him then? More leniently of
course. In her gratification at prospects so far beyond any she had a
right to expect for her child, she had taken less note of this
successful man's defects. Peculiarities of conversation and manner which
had seemed to bespeak a soul far from confident in its hopes, resolved
themselves into the uneasy moods of a man who had a home he never
visited, a father he never saw.

But had she been really justified in this easy view of things? If the
break between his father and himself was the result of nothing deeper
than a difference of temperament, tastes or even opinions, why should he
have shrunk with such morbid distaste from all allusions to that father?
Was it natural? She may have looked upon it as being so in the heyday of
her hopes and when she had a secret herself to hide, but could she so
degrade her judgment now?

And what of his conduct towards Reuther? Had that been all her mother
heart could ask of a man of his seemingly high instincts? She had
assured his father in her first memorable interview with him that it had
been perfectly honourable and above all reproach. And so it had been as
far as mere words went. But words are not all; it is the tender look,
the manly bearing, the tone which springs from the heart which tells in
great crises; and these had all been lacking. Generous as he attempted
to show himself, there was nothing in his bearing to match that of
Reuther as she took her quiet leave of him and entered upon a fate so
much bitterer for her than for him.

This lack of grace in him had not passed unnoted by her even at the
time, but being herself so greatly in fault she had ascribed it to the
recoil of a proud man from the dread of social humiliation. But it took
another aspect under the strong light just thrown upon his early life by
her discovery in the room below. Nothing but some act, unforgivable and
unforgettable would account for that black mark drawn between a father's
eyes and his son's face. No bar sinister could tell a stronger tale. But
this was no bar sinister; rather the deliberate stigmatising of one yet
loved, but banned for a reason which was little short of--Here her
conclusions stopped; she would not allow her imagination to carry her
any farther.

Unhappy mother, just as she saw something like a prospect of releasing
her long-dead husband from the odium of an unjust sentence, to be shaken
by this new doubt as to the story and character of the man for whose
union with her beloved child she was so anxiously struggling! Should it
not make her pause? Should she not show wisdom in giving a different
meaning from any she had hitherto done, to that stern and inexorable
dictum of the father, that no marriage between the two could or should
ever be considered?

It was a question for which no ready answer seemed possible in her
present mood. Better to await the time when some move had to be made or
some definite decision reached. Now she must rest,--rest and not think.

Have any of us ever made the like acknowledgment and then tried to
sleep? In half an hour Mrs. Scoville was again upon her feet, this time
with a determination which ignored the hour and welcomed night as though
it were broad noon day.

There was a room on this upper floor into which neither she nor Reuther
had ever stepped. She had once looked in but that was all.
To-night--because she could not sleep; because she must not think--she
was resolved to enter it. Oliver's room! left as he had left it years
before! What might it not tell of a past concerning which she longed to
be reassured?

The father had laid no restrictions upon her, in giving her this floor
for her use. Rights which he ignored she could afford to appropriate.
Dressing sufficiently for warmth, she lit a candle, put out the light in
her own room and started down the hall.

If she paused on reaching the threshold of this long-closed room, it was
but natural. The clock on Reuther's mantel had sent its three clear
strokes through the house as her hand fell on the knob, and to her
fearing heart and now well-awakened imagination these strokes had
sounded in her ear like a "DON'T! DON'T!" The silence, so gruesome, now
that this shrill echo had ceased, was poor preparation for her task. Yet
would she have welcomed any sound--the least which could have been
heard? No, that were a worse alternative than silence; and, relieved of
that momentary obsession consequent upon an undertaking of doubtful
outcome, she pushed the door fully open and entered.

A smother of dust--an odour of decay--a lack of all order in the room's
arrangements and furnishings--even a general disarray, hallowed, if not
affected, by time--for all this she was prepared. But not for the wild
confusion--the inconceivable litter and all the other signs she saw
about her of a boy's mad packing and reckless departure. Here her
imagination, so lively at times, had failed her; and, as her eye became
accustomed to the semi-obscurity, and she noted the heaps of mouldering
clothing lying amid overturned chairs and trampled draperies, she felt
her heart grow cold with a nameless dread she could only hope to
counteract by quick and impulsive action.

But what action? Was it for her to touch, to rearrange, to render clean
and orderly this place of unknown memories? She shrank with
inconceivable distaste from the very idea of such meddling; and, though
she saw and noted all, she did not put out so much as a finger towards
any object there till--There was an inner door, and this some impulse
drove her to open. A small closet stood revealed, empty but for one
article. When she saw this article she gave a great gasp; then she
uttered a low PSHAW! and with a shrug of the shoulders drew back and
flung to the door. But she opened it again. She had to. One cannot live
in hideous doubt, without an effort to allay it. She must look at that
small, black article again; look at it with candle in hand; see for
herself that her fears were without foundation; that a shadow had made
the outline on the wall which--

She found herself laughing. There was nothing else to do. SHE with
thoughts like these; SHE, Reuther's mother! Verily, the early hours of
morning were unsuited for any such work as this. She would go back to
her own room and bed--But she only went as far as the bureau where she
had left the candlestick, which having seized, she returned to the
closet and slowly, reluctantly reopened the door. Before her on the wall
hung a cap,--and it was no shadow which gave it that look like her
husband's; the broad peak was there. She had not been mistaken; it was
the duplicate of the one she had picked up in the attic of the Claymore
Inn when that inn was simply a tavern.

Well, and what if it was!--Such was her thought a moment later. She
would take down the cap, set it before her and look at it till her brain
grew clear of its follies.

But after she had it in her hand she found herself looking anywhere but
at the cap. She stared at the floor, the walls about, the desk she had
mechanically approached. She even noticed the books lying about on the
shelves before her and took down one or two, to glance at their
title-pages in a blind curiosity she could not account for the next
minute. Then she found herself looking into a drawer half drawn out and
filled with all sorts of heterogeneous articles: sealing-wax, a roll of
pins, a pen-holder, a knife--A KNIFE! Why should she recoil again at
that? Nothing could be more ordinary than to find a knife in the
desk-drawer of a young man! The fact was not worth a thought; yet before
she knew it, her fingers were creeping towards this knife, had picked it
up from among the other scattered articles, had closed upon it, let it
drop again, only to seize hold of it yet more determinedly and carry it
straight to the light.

Who spoke? Had any one spoken? Was there any sound in the air at all?
She heard none, yet the sense of sound was in her ear, as though it had
been and passed. When the glance she threw about her came back to her
outstretched hand, she knew that the cry, if cry it were, had been
within, and that the echoes of the room had remained undisturbed. The
knife was lying open on her palm, and from one of the blades the end had
been nipped, just enough of it to match--

Was she mad! She thought so for a moment; then she laid down the knife
close against the cap and contemplated them both for more minutes than
she ever reckoned.

And the stillness, which had been profound, became deeper yet. Not even
Reuther's clock sounded its small note.

The candle fluttering low in its socket roused her at last from her
abstraction. Catching up the two articles which had so enthralled her,
she restored the one to the closet, the other to the drawer, and, with
swift but silent step, regained her own room where she buried her head
in her pillow, weeping and praying until the morning light, breaking in
upon her grief, awoke her to the obligations of her position and the
necessity of silence concerning all the experiences of this night.



Silence. Yes, silence was the one and only refuge remaining to her. Yet,
after a few days, the constant self-restraint which it entailed, ate
like a canker into her peace, and undermined a strength which she had
always considered inexhaustible. Reuther began to notice her pallor, and
the judge to look grave. She was forced to complain of a cold (and in
this she was truthful enough) to account for her alternations of
feverish impulse and deadly lassitude.

The trouble she had suppressed was having its quiet revenge. Should she
continue to lie inert and breathless under the threatening hand of Fate,
or risk precipitating the doom she sought to evade, by proceeding with
inquiries upon the result of which she could no longer calculate?

She recalled the many mistakes made by those who had based their
conclusions upon circumstantial evidence (her husband's conviction in
fact) and made up her mind to brave everything by having this matter out
with Mr. Black. Then the pendulum swung back, and she found that she
could not do this because, deep down in her heart, there burrowed a
monstrous doubt (how born or how cherished she would not question),
which Mr. Black, with an avidity she could not combat, would at once
detect and pounce upon. Better silence and a slow death than that.

But was there no medium course? Could she not learn from some other
source where Oliver had been on the night of that old-time murder? Miss
Weeks was a near neighbour and saw everything. Miss Weeks never
forgot;--to Miss Weeks she would go.

With instructions to Reuther calculated to keep that diligent child
absorbed and busy in her absence, she started out upon her quest. She
had reached the first gate, passed it and was on the point of opening
the second one, when she saw on the walk before her a small slip of
brown paper. Lifting it, she perceived upon it an almost illegible
scrawl which she made out to read thus:--

     For Mrs. Scoville:

     Do not go wandering all over the town for clews. Look closer home.

And below:

     You remember the old saying about jumping from the frying pan into
     the fire. Let your daughter be warned. It is better to be singed
     than consumed.

Warned! Reuther? Better be singed than consumed? What madness was this?
How singed and how consumed? Then because Deborah's mind was quick, it
all flashed upon her, bowing her in spirit to the ground. Reuther had
been singed by the knowledge of her father's ignominy, she would be
consumed if inquiry were carried further and this ignominy transferred
to the proper culprit. CONSUMED! There was but one person whose disgrace
could consume Reuther. Oliver alone could be meant. The doubts she had
tried to suppress from her own mind were shared by others,--OTHERS!

The discovery overpowered her and she caught herself crying aloud in
utter self-abandonment:

"I will not go to Miss Weeks. I will take Reuther and fly to some
wilderness so remote and obscure that we can never be found."

Yet in five minutes she was crossing the road, her face composed, her
manner genial, her tongue ready for any encounter. The truth must be
hers at all hazards. If it could be found here, then here would she seek
it. Her long struggle with fate had brought to the fore every latent
power she possessed.

One stroke on the tiny brass knocker, old-fashioned and quaint like
everything else in this doll-house, brought Miss Weeks' small and
animated figure to the door. She had seen Mrs. Scoville coming, and was
ready with her greeting. A dog from the big house across the way would
have been welcomed there. The eager little seamstress had never
forgotten her hour in the library with the half-unconscious judge.

"Mrs. Scoville!" she exclaimed, fluttering and leading the way into the
best room; "how very kind you are to give me this chance for making my
apologies. You know we have met before."

"Have we?" Mrs. Scoville did not remember, but she smiled her best smile
and was gratified to note the look of admiration with which Miss Weeks
surveyed her more than tasty dress before she raised her eyes to meet
the smile to whose indefinable charm so many had succumbed. "It is a
long time since I lived here," Deborah proceeded as soon as she saw that
she had this woman, too, in her net. "The friends I had then, I scarcely
hope to have now; my trouble was of the kind which isolates one
completely. I am glad to have you acknowledge an old acquaintance. It
makes me feel less lonely in my new life."

"Mrs. Scoville, I am only too happy." It was bravely said, for the
little woman was in a state of marked embarrassment. Could it be that
her visitor had not recognised her as the person who had accosted her on
that memorable morning she first entered Judge Ostrander's forbidden

"I have been told--" thus Deborah easily proceeded, "that for a small
house yours contains the most wonderful assortment of interesting
objects. Where did you ever get them?"

"My father was a collector, on a very small scale of course, and my
mother had a passion for hoarding which prevented anything from going
out of this house after it had once come into it,--and a great many
strange things have come into it. There have even been bets made as to
the finding or not finding of a given object under this roof. Pardon me,
perhaps I bore you."

"Not at all. It's very interesting. But what about the bets?"

"Oh, just this. One day two men were chaffing each other in one of the
hotel lobbies, and the conversation turning upon what this house held,
one of them wagered that he knew of something I could not fish out of my
attic, and when the other asked what, he said an aeroplane--Why he
didn't say a locomotive, I don't know; but he said an aeroplane, and the
other, taking him up, they came here together and put me the question
straight. Mrs. Scoville, you may not believe it, but my good friend won
that bet. Years ago when people were just beginning to talk about
air-sailing machines, my brother who was visiting me, amused his leisure
hours in putting together something he called a 'flyer.' And what is
more, he went up in it, too, but he came down so rapidly that he kept
quite still about it, and it fell to me to lug the broken thing in. So
when these gentlemen asked to see an aeroplane, I took them into a
lean-to where I store my least desirable things, and there pointed out a
mass of wings and bits of tangled wire, saying as dramatically as I
could: 'There she is!' And they first stared, then laughed; and when one
complained: 'That's a ruin, not an aeroplane,' I answered with all the
demureness possible; 'and what is any aeroplane but a ruin in prospect?
This has reached the ruin stage; that's all.' So the bet was paid and my
reputation sustained. Don't you find it a little amusing?"

"I do, indeed," smiled Deborah. "Now, if I wanted to make the test, I
should take another course from these men. I should not pick out
something strange, or big, or unlikely. I should choose some every-day
object, some little matter--" She paused as if to think.

"What little matter?" asked the other complacently.

"My husband once had a cap," mused Mrs. Scoville thoughtfully. "It had
an astonishingly broad peak in front. Have you a cap like that?"

Miss Weeks' eyes opened. She stared in some consternation at Mrs.
Scoville, who hastened to say:

"You wonder that I can mention my husband. Perhaps you will not be so
surprised when I tell you that in my eyes he is a martyr, and quite
guiltless of the crime for which he was punished."

"You think that?" There was real surprise in the manner of the
questioner. Mrs. Scoville's brow cleared. She was pleased at this proof
that her affairs had not yet reached the point of general gossip.

"Miss Weeks, I am a mother. I have a young and lovely daughter. Can I
look in her innocent eyes and believe her father to have so forgotten
his responsibilities as to overshadow her life with crime? No, I will
not believe it. Circumstances were in favour of his conviction, but he
never lifted the stick which struck down Algernon Etheridge."

Miss Weeks, who had sat quite still during the utterance of these
remarks, fidgetted about at their close, with what appeared to the
speaker, a sudden and quite welcome relief.

"Oh!" she murmured; and said no more. It was not a topic she found easy
of discussion.

"Let us go back to the cap," suggested Deborah, with another of her
fascinating smiles. "Are you going to show me one such as I have

"Let me see. A man's cap with an extra broad peak! Mrs. Scoville, I fear
that you have caught me. There are caps hanging up in various closets,
but I don't remember any with a peak beyond the ordinary."

"Yet they are worn? You have seen such?"

A red spot sprang out on the faded cheek of the woman as she answered

"Oh, yes. Young Mr. Oliver Ostrander used to wear one. I wish I had
asked him for it," she pursued, naively. "I should not have had to
acknowledge defeat at your very first inquiry."

"Oh! you needn't care about that," laughed Deborah, in rather a hard
tone for her. She had made her point, but was rather more frightened
than pleased at her success. "There must be a thousand articles you
naturally would lack. I could name--"

"Don't, don't!" the little woman put in breathlessly. "I have many odd
things but of course not everything. For instance--" But here she caught
sight of the other's abstracted eye, and dropped the subject. The
sadness which now spread over the very interesting countenance of her
visitor, offered her an excuse for the introduction of a far more
momentous topic; one she had burned to introduce but had not known how.

"Mrs. Scoville, I hear that Judge Ostrander has got your daughter a
piano. That is really a wonderful thing for him to do. Not that he is so
close with his money, but that he has always been so set against all
gaiety and companionship. I suppose you did not know the shock it would
be to him when you asked Bela to let you into the gates."

"No! I didn't know. But it is all right now. The judge seems to welcome
the change. Miss Weeks, did you know Algernon Etheridge well enough to
tell me if he was as good and irreproachable a man as they all say?"

"He was a good man, but he had a dreadfully obstinate streak in his
disposition and very set ideas. I have heard that he and the judge used
to argue over a point for hours. And he was most always wrong. For
instance, he was wrong about Oliver."


"Judge Ostrander's son, you know. Mr. Etheridge wanted him to study for
a professorship; but the boy was determined to go into journalism, and
you see what a success he has made of it. As a professor he would
probably have been a failure."

"Was this difference of opinion on the calling he should pursue, the
cause of Oliver's leaving home in the way he did?" continued Deborah,
conscious of walking on very thin ice.

But Miss Weeks rather welcomed than resented this curiosity. Indeed she
was never tired of enlarging upon the Ostranders. It was, therefore,
with a very encouraging alacrity she responded:

"I have never thought so. The judge would not quarrel with Oliver on so
small a point as that. My idea is, though I never talk of it much, that
they had a great quarrel over Mr. Etheridge. Oliver never liked the old
student; I've watched them and I've seen. He hated his coming to the
house so much; he hated the way his father singled him out and deferred
to him and made him the confidant of all his troubles. When they went on
their walks, Oliver always hung back, and more than once I have seen him
make a grimace of distaste when his father urged him forward. He was
only a boy, I know, but his dislikes meant something, and if it ever
happened that he spoke out his whole mind, you may be sure that some
very bitter words passed."

Was this meant as an innuendo? Could it be that she shared the very
serious doubts of Deborah's anonymous correspondent?

Impossible to tell. Such nervous, fussy little bodies often possess
minds of unexpected subtlety. Deborah gave up all hope of understanding
her, and, accepting her statements at their face value, effusively

"You must have a very superior mind to draw such conclusions from the
little you have seen. I have heard many explanations given for the
breach you name, but never any so reasonable."

A flash from the spinster's wary eye, then a burst of courage and the
quick retort:

"And what explanation does Oliver himself give? You ought to know, Mrs.

The attack was as sudden as it was unexpected. Deborah flushed and
trimmed her sails for this new tack, and insinuating gently, "Then you
have heard--" waited for the enlightenment these words were likely to

It came quickly enough.

"That he expected to marry your daughter? Oh, yes, Mrs. Scoville; it's
the common talk here now. I hope you don't mind my mentioning it."

Deborah's head went up. She faced the other fairly, with the look born
of mother passion, and mother passion only.

"Reuther is blameless in this matter," she protested. "She was brought
up in ignorance of what I felt sure would prove a handicap and misery to
her. She loves Oliver as she will never love any other man, but when she
was told her real name and understood fully what that name carries with
it, she declined to saddle him with her shame. That's her story, Miss
Weeks; one that hardly fits her appearance which is very delicate. And,
let me add, having once accepted her father's name, she refuses to be
known by any other. I have brought her to Shelby where to our own
surprise and Reuther's great happiness, we have been taken in by Judge
Ostrander, an act of kindness for which we are very grateful." Miss
Weeks got up, took down one of her rarest treasures from an old etagere
standing in one corner and laid it in Mrs. Scoville's hand.

"For your daughter," she declared. "Noble girl! I hope she will be

The mother was touched. But not quite satisfied yet of the giver's real
feelings towards Oliver, she was not willing to conclude the interview
until she understood her small hostess better. She, therefore, looked
admiringly at the vase (it was really choice); and, after thanking its
donor warmly, proceeded to remark:

"There is but one thing that will ever make Reuther happy, and that she
cannot have unless a miracle occurs."

"Oliver?" suggested the other, with a curious, wan little smile.

Deborah nodded.

"And what miracle--"

"Oh, I do not wonder you pause. This is not the day of miracles. But if
my belief in my husband could be shared; if by some fortuitous chance I
should be enabled to clear his name, might not love and loyalty be left
to do the rest? Wouldn't the judge's objections, in that case, be
removed? What do you think, Miss Weeks?"

The warmth, the abandon, the confidence she expressed in this final
question were indescribable. Miss Weeks' conventional mannerisms melted
before it. She could no more withstand the witchery of this woman's tone
and manner than if she had been a man subdued by the charm of sex. But
nothing, not even her newly awakened sympathy for this agreeable woman,
could make her untruthful. She might believe in the miracle of a
reversal of judgment in the case of a falsely condemned criminal, but
not of an Ostrander accepting humiliation, even at the hands of Love.
She felt that in justice to this new friendship she should say so.

"Do you ask me?" she began. "Then I feel that I must admit to you that
the Ostrander pride is proverbial. Oliver may think he would be happy if
he married your daughter under these changed conditions; but I should be
fearful of the reaction which would certainly follow when he found that
old shames are not so easily outlived. There is temper in the family,
though you would never think it to hear the judge speak; and if your
daughter is delicate--"

"Is it of her you are thinking?" interrupted Deborah, with a new tone in
her voice.

"Not altogether; you see I knew Oliver first."

"And are fond of him?"

"Fond is a big word. But I cannot help having some feeling for the boy I
have seen grow up from a babe in arms to a healthy, brilliant manhood."

"And having this feeling--" "There! we will say no more about it." The
little woman's attitude and voice were almost prayerful. "You have
judgment enough for two. Besides the miracle has not happened," she
interjected, with a smile which seemed to say it never would be.

Deborah sighed. Whether or not it was quite an honest expression of her
feeling we will not inquire. She was there for a definite purpose and
her way to it was, as yet, far from plain. All that she had really
learned was this: that it was she, and not Miss Weeks who was playing a
part, and that whatever her inquiries, she need have no fear of rousing
suspicion against Oliver in a mind already dominated by a belief in John
Scoville's guilt. The negative with which she followed up this sigh was
consequently one of sorrowful acceptance. She made haste, however, to
qualify it with the remark:

"But I have not given up all hope. My cause is too promising. True, I
may not succeed in marrying Reuther into the Ostrander family, even if
it should be my good lot to clear her father's name; but my efforts
would have one good result, as precious--perhaps more precious than the
one I name. She would no longer have to regard that father as guilty of
a criminal act. If such relief can be hers she should have it. But how
am I to proceed? I know as well as any one how impossible the task must
prove, unless I can light upon fresh evidence. And where am I to get
that? Only from some new witness."

Miss Weeks' polite smile took on an expression of indulgence. This
roused Deborah's pride, and, hesitating no longer, she anxiously

"I have sometimes thought that Oliver Ostrander might be that witness.
He certainly was in the ravine the night Algernon Etheridge was struck

Had she been an experienced actress of years she could not have thrown
into this question a greater lack of all innuendo. Miss Weeks, already
under her fascination, heard the tone but never thought to notice the
quick rise and fall of her visitor's uneasy bosom, and so unwarned,
responded with all due frankness:

"I know he was. But how will that help you? He had no testimony to give
in relation to this crime, or he would have given it."

"That is true." The admission fell mechanically from Deborah's lips; she
was not conscious, even, of making it. She was struggling with the shock
of the simple statement, confirming her own fears that Oliver had
actually been in the ravine at the hour of Etheridge's murder. "Not even
a boy would hide knowledge of that kind," she stumblingly continued.
Then, as her emotion choked her into silence, she sat with piteous eyes
searching Miss Weeks' face, till she had recovered her voice, when she
added this vital question:

"How did you know that Oliver was in the ravine that night? I only
guessed it."

"Well, it was in this way. I do not often keep my eye on my neighbours
(oh, no, Miss Weeks!), but that night I chanced to be looking over the
way just at the minute Mr. Etheridge came out, and something I saw in
his manner and in that of the judge who had followed him to the door,
and in that of Oliver who, cap on head, was leaning towards them from a
window over the porch, made me think that a controversy was going on
between the two old people of which Oliver was the subject. This
naturally interested me, and I watched them long enough to see Oliver
suddenly raise his fist and shake it at old Etheridge; then, in great
rage, slam down the window and disappear inside. The next minute, and
before the two below had done talking; I caught another glimpse of him
as he dashed around the corner of the house on his way to the ravine."

"And Mr. Etheridge?"

"Oh, he left soon after. I watched him as he went by, his long cloak
flapping in the wind. Little did I think he would never pass my window

So interested were they both, the one in telling to new and sympathetic
ears the small experiences of her life, the other in listening for the
chance phrase or the unconscious admission which would fix the suspicion
already struggling into strong life within her breast, that neither for
the moment realised the strangeness of the situation or that it was in
connection with a crime for which the husband of one of them had
suffered, they were raking up this past, and gossiping over its petty
details. Possibly recollection returned to them both, when Mrs. Scoville
sighed and said:

"It couldn't have been very long after you saw him that Mr. Etheridge
was struck?"

"Only some twenty minutes. It takes just that long for a man to walk
from this corner to the bridge."

"And you never heard where Oliver went?"

"It was never talked about at the time. Later, when some hint got about
of his having been in the ravine that night, he said he had gone up the
ravine not down it. And we all believed him, madam."

"Of course, of course. What a discriminating mind you have, Miss Weeks,
and what a wonderful memory! To think that after all these years you can
recall that Oliver had a cap on his head when he looked out of the
window at his father and Mr. Etheridge. If you were asked, I have no
doubt you could tell its very colour. Was it the peaked one?--the like
of which you haven't in your marvelous collection?"

"Yes, I could swear to it." And Miss Weeks gave a little laugh, which
sounded incongruous enough to Deborah in whose heart at that moment, a
leaf was turned upon the past, which left the future hopelessly blank.

"Must you go?" Deborah had risen mechanically. "Don't, I beg, till you
have relieved my mind about Judge Ostrander. I don't suppose that there
is really anything behind that door of his which it would alarm any one
to see?"

Then, Deborah understood Miss Weeks.

But she was ready for her.

"I've never seen anything of the sort," said she, "and I make up his bed
in that very room every morning."

"Oh!" And Miss Weeks drew a deep breath. "No article of immense value
such as that rare old bit of real Satsuma in the cabinet over there?"

"No," answered Deborah, with all the patience she could muster. "Judge
Ostrander seems very simple in his tastes. I doubt if he would know
Satsuma if he saw it."

Miss Weeks sighed. "Yes, he has never expressed the least wish to look
over my shelves. So the double fence means nothing?"

"A whim," ejaculated Deborah, making quietly for the door. "The judge
likes to walk at night when quite through with his work; and he doesn't
like his ways to be noted. But he prefers the lawn now. I hear his step
out there every night."

"Well, it's something to know that he leads a more normal life than
formerly!" sighed the little lady as she prepared to usher her guest
out. "Come again, Mrs. Scoville; and, if I may, I will drop in and see
you some day."

Deborah accorded her permission and made her final adieux. She felt as
if a hand which had been stealing up her chest had suddenly gripped her
throat, choking her. She had found the man who had cast that fatal
shadow down the ravine, twelve years before.



Deborah re-entered the judge's house a stricken woman. Evading Reuther,
she ran up stairs, taking off her things mechanically on the way. She
must have an hour alone. She must learn her first lesson in self-control
and justifiable duplicity before she came under her daughter's eyes. She

Here she reached her room door and was about to enter, when at a sudden
thought she paused and let her eyes wander down the hall, till they
settled on another door, the one she had closed behind her the night
before, with the deep resolve never to open it again except under

Had the compulsion arisen? Evidently, for a few minutes later she was
standing in one of the dim corners of Oliver's musty room, reopening a
book which she had taken down from the shelves on her former visit. She
remembered it from its torn back and the fact that it was an Algebra.
Turning to the fly leaf, she looked again at the names and schoolboy
phrases she had seen scribbled all over its surface, for the one which
she remembered as, I HATE ALGEBRA.

It had not been a very clearly written ALGEBRA, and she would never have
given this interpretation to the scrawl, had she been in a better mood.
Now another thought had come to her, and she wanted to see the word
again. Was she glad or sorry to have yielded to this impulse, when by a
closer inspection she perceived that the word was not ALGEBRA at all,
over the page, and here and there on other pages, sometimes in
characters so rubbed and faint as to be almost unreadable and again so
pressed into the paper by a vicious pencil-point as to have broken their
way through to the leaf underneath.

The work of an ill-conditioned schoolboy! but--this hate dated back many
years. Paler than ever, and with hands trembling almost to the point of
incapacity, she put the book back, and flew to her own room, the prey of
thoughts bitter almost to madness.

It was the second time in her life that she had been called upon to go
through this precise torture. She remembered the hour only too well,
when first it was made known to her that one in closest relation to
herself was suspected of a hideous crime. And now, with her mind cleared
towards him and readjusted to new developments, this crushing experience
of seeing equal indications of guilt in another almost as dear and
almost as closely knit into her thoughts and future expectations as John
had ever been. Can one endure a repetition of such horror? She had never
gauged her strength, but it did not seem possible. Besides of the two
blows, this seemed the heaviest and the most revolting. Then, only her
own happiness and honour were involved; now it was Reuther's; and the
fortitude which sustained her through the ignominy of her own trouble,
failed her at the prospect of Reuther's. And again, the two cases were
not equal. Her husband had had traits which, in a manner, had prepared
her for the ready suspicion of people. But Oliver was a man of
reputation and kindly heart; and yet, in the course of time THIS had
come, and the question once agitating her as to whether Reuther was a
fit mate for him had now evolved itself into this: WAS HE A FIT MATE FOR

She had rather have died, nay, have had Reuther die than to find herself
forced to weigh and decide so momentous a question.

For, however she might feel about it, not a single illusion remained as
to whose hand had made use of John Scoville's stick to strike down
Algernon Etheridge. How could she have when she came to piece the whole
story together, and weigh the facts she had accumulated against Oliver
with those which had proved so fatal to her husband.

First: the uncontrolled temper of the lad, hints of which she was daily

Secondly: his absolute, if unreasonable, hatred of the man thus brutally
assailed. She knew what such hatred was and how it eats into an
undeveloped mind. She had gone through its agonies herself when she was
a young girl, and knew its every stage. With jealousy and personal
distaste for a start, it was easy to trace the revolt of this boyish
heart from the intrusive, ever present mentor who not only shared his
father's affections but made use of them to influence that father
against the career he had chosen, in favour of one he not only disliked
but for which he lacked all aptitude.

She saw it all from the moment his pencil dug into the paper these
tell-tale words: I HATE OLD E to that awful and final one when the
detested student fell in the woods and his reign over the judgment, as
well as over the heart, of Judge Ostrander was at an end.

In hate, bitter, boiling, long-repressed hate, was found the motive for
an act so out of harmony with the condition and upbringing of a lad like
Oliver. She need look for no other.

But motive goes for little if not supported by evidence. Was it
possible, with this new theory for a basis, to reconstruct the story of
this crime without encountering the contradiction of some well-known

She would see.

First, this matter of the bludgeon left, as her husband declared,
leaning against the old oak in the bottom of the ravine. All knew the
tree and just where it stood. If Oliver, in his eagerness to head off
Etheridge at the bridge, had rushed straight down into the gully from
Ostrander Lane, he would almost strike this tree in his descent. The
diagram sketched on page 185 will make this plain. What more natural,
then, than for him to catch up the stick he saw there, even if his mind
had not been deliberately set on violence. A weapon is a weapon; and an
angry man feels easier with something of the kind in hand.

Armed, then, in this unexpected way, but evidently not yet decided upon
crime (or why his nervous whittling of the stick) he turned towards the
bridge, following the meandering of the stream which in time led him
across the bare spot where she had seen the shadow. That it was his
shadow no one could doubt who knew all the circumstances, and that she
should have leant just long enough from the ruins to mark this shadow
and take it for her husband's--and not long enough to see the man
himself and so detect her error, was one of those anomalies of crime
which make for judicial errors. John skurrying away through the thicket
towards Claymore, Oliver threading his way down the ravine, and she
hurrying away from the ruin above with her lost Reuther in hand! Such
was the situation at this critical moment. Afterwards when she came back
for the child's bucket, some power had withheld her from looking again
into the ravine or she might have been witness to the meeting at the
bridge, and so been saved the misery and shame of believing as long as
she did that the man who intercepted Algernon Etheridge at that place
was her unhappy husband.

The knife with the broken point, which she had come upon in her search
among the lad's discarded effects, proved only too conclusively that it
was his hand which had whittled the end of the bludgeon; for the bit of
steel left in the wood and the bit lost from the knife were to her exact
eye of the same size and an undoubted fit.

[Illustration: map]

Oliver's remorse, the judge's discovery of his guilt (a discovery which
may have been soon but probably was late--so late that the penalty of
the doing had already been paid by the innocent), can only be guessed
from the terrible sequel: a son dismissed, a desolated home in which the
father lived as a recluse.

How the mystery cleared, as she looked at it! The house barred from
guests--the double fence where, hidden from all eyes, the wretched
father might walk his dreary round when night forbade him rest or memory
became a whip of scorpions to lash him into fury or revolt--the stairs
never passed--(how could he look upon rooms where his wife had dreamed
the golden dreams of motherhood and the boy passed his days of innocent
youth)--aye, and his own closed-up room guarded by Bela from intrusion
as long as breath remained to animate his sinking body! What was its
secret? Why, Oliver's portrait! Had this been seen, marked as it was for
all men's reprobation, nothing could have stemmed inquiry; and inquiry
was to be dreaded as Judge Ostrander's own act had shown. Not till he
had made his clumsy attempt to cover this memorial of love and guilt and
rehanging it, thus hidden, where it would attract less attention, had
she been admitted to his room. Alas! alas! that he had not destroyed it
then and there. That, clinging to habits old as his grief and the
remorse which had undoubtedly devoured him for the part he had played in
this case of perverted justice, he had trusted to a sheet of paper to
cover what nothing on earth could cover, once Justice were aroused or
the wrath of God awakened.

Deborah shuddered. Aye, the mystery had cleared, but only to enshroud
her spirits anew and make her long with all her bursting heart and
shuddering soul that death had been her portion before ever she had
essayed to lift the veil held down so tightly by these two remorseful

But was her fault irremediable? The only unanswerable connection between
this old crime and Oliver lay in the evidence she had herself collected.
As she had every intention of suppressing this evidence, and as she had
small dread of any one else digging out the facts to which she only
possessed a clew, might she not hope that any suspicions raised by her
inquiries would fall like a house of cards when she withdrew her hand
from the toppling structure?

She would make her first effort and see. Mr. Black had heard her
complaint; he should be the first to learn that the encouragement she
had received was so small that she had decided to accept her present
good luck without further query, and not hark back to a past which most
people had buried.



"You began it, as women begin most things, without thought and a due
weighing of consequences. And now you propose to drop it in the same
freakish manner. Isn't that it?"

Deborah Scoville lifted her eyes in manifest distress and fixed them
deprecatingly upon her interrogator. She did not like his tone which was
dry and suspiciously sarcastic, and she did not like his attitude which
was formal and totally devoid of all sympathy. Instinctively she pushed
her veil still further from her features as she deprecatingly replied:

"You are but echoing your sex in criticising mine as impulsive. And you
are quite within your rights in doing this. Women are impulsive; they
are even freakish. But it is given to one now and then to recognise this
fact and acknowledge it. I hope I am of this number; I hope that I have
the judgment to see when I have committed a mistake and to stop short
before I make myself ridiculous."

The lawyer smiled,--a tight-lipped, acrid sort of smile which
nevertheless expressed as much admiration as he ever allowed himself to

"Judgment, eh?" he echoed. "You stop because your judgment tells you
that you were on the point of making a fool of yourself? No other
reason, eh?"

"Is not that the best which can be given a hard-headed, clear-eyed
lawyer like yourself? Would you have me go on, with no real evidence to
back my claims; rouse up this town to reconsider his case when I have
nothing to talk about but my husband's oath and a shadow I cannot

"Then Miss Weeks' neighbourliness failed in point? She was not as
interesting as you had a right to expect from my recommendation?"

"Miss Weeks is a very chatty and agreeable woman, but she cannot tell
what she does not know."

Mr. Black smiled. The woman delighted him. The admiration which he had
hitherto felt for her person and for the character which could so
develop through misery and reproach as to make her in twelve short
years, the exponent of all that was most attractive and bewitching in
woman, seemed likely to extend to her mind. Sagacious, eh? and cautious,
eh? He was hardly prepared for such perfection, and let the transient
lighting up of his features speak for him till he was ready to say:

"You find the judge very agreeable, now that you know him better?"

"Yes, Mr. Black. But what has that got to do with the point at issue?"

And SHE smiled, but not just in his manner nor with quite as little

"Much," he growled. "It might make it easier for you to reconcile
yourself to the existing order of things."

"I am reconciled to them simply from necessity," was her gentle
response. "Nothing is more precious to me than Reuther's happiness. I
should but endanger it further by raising false hopes. That is why I
have come to cry halt."

"Madam, I commend your decision. It is that of a wise and considerate
woman. Your child's happiness is, of course, of paramount importance to
you. But why should you characterise your hopes as false, just when
there seems to be some justification for them."

Her eyes widened, and she regarded him with a simulation of surprise
which interested without imposing upon him.

"I do not understand you," said she. "Have YOU come upon some clew? Have
YOU heard something which I have not?"

The smile with which he seasoned his reply was of a very different
nature from that which he had previously bestowed upon her. It prepared
her, possibly, for the shock of his words:

"I hardly think so," said he. "If I do not mistake, we have been the
recipients of the same communications."

She started to her feet, but sat again instantly. "Pray explain
yourself," she urged. "Who has been writing to you? And what have they
written?" she added, presuming a little upon her fascinations as a woman
to win an honest response.

"Must I speak first?"

If it was a tilt, it was between even forces.

"It would be gentlemanly in you to do so."

"But I am not of a gentlemanly temper."

"I deal with no other," said she; but with what a glance and in what a

A man may hold out long--and if a lawyer and a bachelor more than long,
but there is a point at which he succumbs. Mr. Black had reached that
point. Smoothing his brow and allowing a more kindly expression to creep
into his regard, he took two or three crushed and folded papers from a
drawer beside him and, holding them, none too plainly in sight, remarked
very quietly, but with legal firmness:

"Do not let us play about the bush any longer. You have announced your
intention of making no further attempt to discover the man who in your
eyes merited the doom accorded to John Scoville. Your only reason for
this--if you are the woman I think you--lies in your fear of giving
further opportunity to the misguided rancour of an irresponsible writer
of anonymous epistles. Am I not right, madam?"

Beaten, beaten by a direct assault, because she possessed the
weaknesses, as well as the pluck, of a woman. She could control the
language of her lips, but not their quivering; she could meet his eye
with steady assurance but she could not keep the pallor from her cheeks
or subdue the evidences of her heart's turmoil. Her pitiful glance
acknowledged her defeat, which she already saw mirrored in his eyes.

Taking it for an answer, he said gently enough:

"That we may understand each other at once, I will mention the person
who has been made the subject of these attacks. He--"

"Don't speak the name," she prayed, leaning forward and laying her
gloved hand upon his sleeve. "It is not necessary. The whole thing is an

"Of course," he echoed, with some of his natural brusqueness, "and the
rankest folly. But to some follies we have to pay attention, and I fear
that we shall have to pay attention to this one if only for your
daughter Reuther's sake. You cannot wish her to become the butt of these
scandalous attempts?"

"No, no." The words escaped her before she realised that in their
utterance she had given up irretrievably her secret.

"You consider them scandalous?"

"Most scandalous," she emphatically returned, with a vivacity and
seeming candour such as he had seldom seen equalled even on the

His admiration was quite evident. It did not prevent him, however, from
asking quite abruptly:

"In what shape and by what means did this communication reach you?"

"I found it lying on the walk between the gates."

"The same by which Judge Ostrander leaves the house?"

"Yes," came in faint reply.

"I see that you share my fears. If one such scrap can be thrown over the
fence, why shouldn't another be? Men who indulge themselves in writing
anonymous accusations seldom limit themselves to one effusion. I will
stake my word that the judge has found more than one on his lawn."

She could not have responded if she would; her mouth was dry, her tongue
half paralysed. What was coming? The glint in the lawyer's eye
forewarned her that something scarcely in consonance with her hopes and
wishes might be expected.

"The judge has seen and read these barefaced insinuations against his
son and has not turned this whole town topsy-turvy! What are we to think
of that? A lion does not stop to meditate; HE SPRINGS. And Archibald
Ostrander has the nature of a lion. There is nothing of the fox or even
of the tiger in HIM. Mrs. Scoville, this is a very serious matter. I do
not wonder that you are a trifle overwhelmed by the results of your
ill-considered investigations."

"Does the town know? Has the thing become a scandal--a byword? Miss
Weeks gave no proof of ever having heard one word of this dreadful
not-to-be-foreseen business."

"That is good news. You relieve me. Perhaps it is not a general topic as
yet." Then shortly and with lawyer-like directness, "Show me the letter
which has disturbed all your plans."

"I haven't it here."

"You didn't bring it?"

"No, Mr. Black. Why should I? I had no premonition that I should ever be
induced to show it to any one, least of all to you."

"Look over these. Do they look at all familiar?"

She glanced down at the crumpled sheets and half-sheets he had spread
out before her. They were similar in appearance to the one she had
picked up on the judge's grounds but the language was more forcible, as
witness these:

     When a man is trusted to defend another on trial for his life, he's
     supposed to know his business. How came John Scoville to hang,
     without a thought being given to the man who hated A. Etheridge
     like poison? I could name a certain chap who more than once in the
     old days boasted that he'd like to kill the fellow. And it wasn't
     Scoville or any one of his low-down stamp either.

     A high and mighty name shouldn't shield a man who sent a poor,
     unfriended wretch to his death in order to save his own bacon.

"Horrible!" murmured Deborah, drawing back in terror of her own emotion.
"It's the work of some implacable enemy taking advantage of the
situation I have created. Mr. Black, this man must be found and made to
see that no one will believe, not even Scoville's widow--"

"There! you needn't go any further with that," admonished the lawyer. "I
will manage him. But first we must make sure to rightly locate this
enemy of the Ostranders. You do detect some resemblance between this
writing and the specimen you have at home?"

"They are very much alike."

"You believe one person wrote them?"

"I do."

"Have you any idea who this person is?"

"No; why should I?"

"No suspicion?"

"Not the least in the world."

"I ask because of this," he explained, picking out another letter and
smilingly holding it out towards her.

She read it with flushed cheeks.

     Listen to the lady. You can't listen to any one nicer. What she
     wants she can get. There's a witness you never saw or heard of.

A witness they had never heard of! What witness? Scarcely could she lift
her eyes from the paper. Yet there was a possibility, of course, that
this statement was a lie.

"Stuff, isn't it?" muttered the lawyer. "Never mind, we'll soon have
hold of the writer." His face had taken on a much more serious aspect,
and she could no longer complain of his indifference or even of his

"You will give me another opportunity of talking with you on this
matter," pursued he. "If you do not come here, you may expect to see me
at Judge Ostrander's. I do not quite like the position into which you
have been thrown by these absurd insinuations from some unknown person
who may be thinking to do you a service, but who you must feel is very
far from being your friend. It may even lead to your losing the home
which has been so fortunately opened for you. If this occurs, you may
count on my friendship, Mrs. Scoville. I may have failed you once, but I
will not fail you twice."

Surprised, almost touched, she held out her hand, with a cordial THANK
YOU, in which emotion struggled with her desire to preserve an
appearance of complete confidence in Judge Ostrander, and incidentally
in his son. Then, being on her feet by this time, she turned to go,
anxious to escape further embarrassment from a perspicacity she no
longer possessed the courage to meet.

The lawyer appeared to acquiesce in the movement of departure. But when
he saw her about to vanish through the door, some impulse of
compunction, as real as it was surprising, led him to call her back and
seat her once more in the chair she had so lately left.

"I cannot let you go," said he, "until you understand that these
insinuations from a self-called witness would not be worth our attention
if there were not a few facts to give colour to his wild claims. Oliver
Ostrander WAS in that ravine connecting with Dark Hollow, very near the
time of the onslaught on Mr. Etheridge; and he certainly hated the man
and wanted him out of the way. The whole town knows that, with one
exception. You know that exception?"

"I think so," she acceded, taking a fresh grip upon her emotions.

"That this was anything more than a coincidence has never been
questioned. He was not even summoned as a witness. With the judge's high
reputation in mind I do not think a single person could have been found
in those days to suggest any possible connection between this boy and a
crime so obviously premeditated. But people's minds change with time and
events, and Oliver Ostrander's name uttered in this connection to-day
would not occasion the same shock to the community as it would have done
then. You understand me, Mrs. Scoville?"

"You allude to the unexplained separation between himself and father,
and not to any failure on his part to sustain the reputation of his

"Oh, he has made a good position for himself, and earned universal
consideration. But that doesn't weigh against the prejudices of people,
roused by such eccentricities as have distinguished the conduct of these
two men."

"Alas!" she murmured, frightened to the soul for the first time, both by
his manner and his words.

"You know and I know," he went on with a grimness possibly suggested by
his subject, "that no mere whim lies back of such a preposterous
seclusion as that of Judge Ostrander behind his double fence. Sons do
not cut loose from fathers or fathers from sons without good cause. You
can see, then, that the peculiarities of their mutual history form but a
poor foundation for any light refutation of this scandal, should it
reach the public mind. Judge Ostrander knows this, and you know that he
knows this; hence your distress. Have I not read your mind, madam?"

"No one can read my mind any more than they can read Judge Ostrander's,"
she avowed in a last desperate attempt to preserve her secret. "You may
think you have done so, but what assurance can you have of the fact?"

"You are strong in their defence," said he, "and you will need to be if
the matter ever comes up. The shadows from Dark Hollow reach far, and
engulf all they fall upon."

"Mr. Black"--she had re-risen the better to face him--"you want
something from me--a promise, or a condition."

"No," said he, "this is my affair only as it affects you. I simply
wished to warn you of what you might have to face; and what Judge
Ostrander will have to face (here I drop the lawyer and speak only as a
man) if he is not ready to give a more consistent explanation of the
curious facts I have mentioned."

"I cannot warn him, Mr. Black."

"You? Of course not. Nobody can warn him; possibly no one should warn
him. But I have warned YOU; and now, as a last word, let us hope that no
warning is necessary and that we shall soon see the last of these
calumniating letters and everything readjusted once more on a firm and
natural basis. Judge Ostrander's action in reopening his house in the
manner and for the purpose he has, has predisposed many in his favour.
It may, before we know it, make the past almost forgotten."

"Meanwhile you will make an attempt to discover the author of these
anonymous attacks?"

"To save YOU from annoyance."

Obliged to make acknowledgment of the courtesy if not kindness prompting
these words, Mrs. Scoville expressed her gratitude and took farewell in
a way which did not seem to be at all displeasing to the crusty lawyer;
but when she found herself once more in the streets, her anxiety and
suspense took on a new phase. What was at the bottom of Mr. Black's
contradictory assertions? Sympathy with her, as he would have her
believe, or a secret feeling of animosity towards the man he openly
professed to admire?



"Reuther, sit up here close by mother and let me talk to you for a
little while."

"Yes, mother; oh, yes, mother." Deborah felt the beloved head pressed
close to her shoulder and two soft arms fall about her neck.

"Are you very unhappy? Is my little one pining too much for the old

A closer pressure of the head, a more vehement clasp of the encircling
arms, but no words.

"You have seemed brighter lately. I have heard you sing now and then as
if the joy of youth was not quite absent from your heart. Is that true,
or were you merely trying to cheer your mother?"

"I am afraid I was trying to cheer the judge," came in low whisper to
her ear. "When I hear his step in the study--that monotonous tramp,
tramp, which we both dread, I feel such an ache here, such a desire to
comfort him, that I try the one little means I have to divert him from
his thoughts. He must be so lonely without--"

"Reuther, you forget how many years have passed since he had a
companion. A man becomes used to loneliness. A judge with heavy cases on
his mind must think and think very closely, you know."

"Oh, mamma, it's not of his cases our judge is thinking when he walks
like that. I know him too well, love him too well, not to feel the
trouble in his step. I may be wrong, but all the sympathy and
understanding I may not give to Oliver I devote to his father, and when
he walks like that he seems to drag my heart after him. Mamma, mamma, do
not blame me. I have just as much affection for you, and I suffer just
as keenly when I see you unhappy. And, mamma, are you sure that you are
quite happy to-day? You look as if something had happened to trouble
you--something more than usual, I mean."

They were sitting in the dark, with just the light of the stars shining
through the upper panes of the one unshaded window. Deborah, therefore,
had little to fear from her daughter's eye, only from the sensitiveness
of her touch and the quickness of her ear. Alas, in this delicately
organised girl these were both attuned to the nicest discrimination, and
before the mother could speak, Reuther had started up, crying:

"Oh, how your heart beats! Something has happened, darling mother;
something which--"

"Hush, Reuther; it is only this: When I came to Shelby it was with a
hope that I might some day smooth the way to your happiness. But it was
only a wild dream, Reuther; and the hour has come for me to tell you so.
What joys are left us must come in other ways; love unblessed must be
put aside resolutely and forever."

She felt the shudder pass through the slender form which had thrown
itself again at her side; but when the young girl spoke it was with
unexpected bravery and calm.

"I have long ago done that, mamma. I've had no hopes from the first. The
look with which Oliver accepted my refusal to go on with the ceremony
was one of gratitude, mother. I can never forget that. Relief struggled
with grief. Would you have me cherish any further illusions after that?"

Mrs. Scoville was silent. So, after all, Reuther had not been so blind
on that day as she had always feared.

"Oliver has faults--Oh, let me talk about him just for once, darling
mother," the poor, stricken child babbled on. "His temper is violent, or
so he has often told me, coming and going like a gust of--No, mamma,
don't make me stop. If he has faults he has good traits too. He was
always gentle with me and if that far-away look you did not like would
come at times and take him, as it were, out of our world, such a sweet
awakening would follow when he realised that I was waiting for his
spirit to come back, that I never minded the mystery, in my joy at the
comfort which my love gave him."

"My child, my child!"

"Mother, I can soothe the father, but I can no longer soothe Oliver.
That is my saddest thought. It makes me wish, sometimes, that he would
find another loving heart on which he could lean without any
self-reproach. I should soon learn to bear it. It would so assure his
future and rid me of the fear that he may fail to hold the place he has
won by such hard work and persistence."

A moment's silence, then a last appeal on the part of the mother.

"Reuther, have I ever been harsh to you?"

"No, no."

"Then you will not think me unkind or even untender if I say that every
loving thought you give now to Oliver is hurtful both to yourself and to
me. Don't indulge in them, my darling. Put your heart into work or into
music, and your mother will bless you. Won't it help you to know this,
Reuther? Your mother, who has had her griefs, will bless you."

"Mother, mother!"

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, at a later hour, Deborah struggled with a great temptation.

The cap which hung in Oliver's closet--the knife which lay in the drawer
of Oliver's desk--were to her mind positive proofs of his actual
connection with the crime she now wished to see buried for all time in
her husband's grave. The threat of that unknown indicter of mysterious
letters, I KNOW A WITNESS, had sunk deep into her mind. A witness of
what? Of anything which the discovery of these articles might
substantiate? If so, what peril remained in their continued preservation
when an effort on her part might so easily destroy them.

Sleep, long a stranger to her pillow, forsook her entirely as she faced
this question and realised the gain in peace which might be hers if cap
and knife were gone. Why then did she allow them to remain, the one in
the closet, the other in the drawer? Because she could not help herself.
Instinct was against her meddling with these possible proofs of crime.

But this triumph of conscience cost her dear. The next morning found her
pale--almost as pale as Reuther. Was that why the judge surveyed her so
intently as she poured out the coffee, and seemed more than once on the
point of addressing her particularly, as she went through the usual
routine of tidying up his room?

She asked herself this question more than once, and found it answered
every time she hurried by the mirror. Certainly she showed a remarkable

Knowing its cause herself, she did not invite his inquiries; and another
day passed. With the following morning she felt strong enough to open
the conversation which had now become necessary for her peace of mind.

She waited till the moment when, her work all done, she was about to
leave his presence. Pausing till she caught his eye, which seemed a
little loth, she thought, to look her way, she observed, with perhaps
unnecessary distinctness:

"I hope that everything is to your mind, Judge Ostrander. I should be
sorry not to make you as comfortable as is possible under the


Roused a little suddenly, perhaps, from thoughts quite disconnected with
those of material comfort, he nodded with the abstraction of one who
recognises that some sort of acknowledgment is expected from him; then,
seeing her still waiting, added politely:

"I am very well looked after, if that is what you mean, Mrs. Scoville.
Bela could not do any better--if he ever did as well."

"I am glad," she replied, thinking with what humour this would have
struck her once. "I--I ask because, having nothing on my mind but
housekeeping, I desire to remedy anything which is not in accordance
with your exact wishes."

His attention was caught and by the very phrase she desired.

"Nothing on your mind but housekeeping?" he repeated. "I thought you had
something else of a very particular nature with which to occupy

"I had; but I have been advised against pursuing it. The folly was too

"Who advised you?"

The words came short and sharp just as they must have come in those old
days when he confronted his antagonists at the bar.

"Mr. Black. He was my husband's counsel, you remember. He says that I
should only have my trouble for my pains, and I have come to agree with
him. Reuther must content herself with the happiness of living under
this roof; and I, with the hope of contributing to your comfort."

Had she impressed him? Had she played her part with success? Dare she
lift her eye and meet the gaze she felt concentrated upon her? No. He
must speak first. She must have some clew to the effect she had produced
before she risked his penetration by a direct look.

She had to wait longer than her beating heart desired. He had his own
agitation to master, and possibly his own doubts. This was not the
fiery, determined woman he had encountered amid the ruins of Spencer's
Folly. WHAT HAD MADE THE CHANGE? Black's discouraging advice? Hardly.
Why should she take from that hard-faced lawyer what she had not been
willing to take from himself? There must have been some other
influencing cause.

His look, his attitude, his voice, betrayed his hesitations, as he
finally remarked:

"Black is a man of excellent counsel, but he is hard as a stone and not
of the sort whose monitions I should expect to have weight with one like
you. What did he put in the balance,--or what have others put in the
balance, to send your passionate intentions flying up to the beam? I
should be glad to hear."

Should she tell him? She had a momentary impulse that way. Then the
irrevocableness of such a move frightened her; and, pale with dismay at
what she felt to be a narrow escape from a grave error of judgment, she
answered with just enough truth, for her to hope that the modicum of
falsehood accompanying it would escape his attention:

"What has changed my intentions? My experience here, Judge Ostrander.
With every day I pass under this roof, I realise more and more the
mistake I made in supposing that any change in circumstances would make
a union between our two children proper or feasible. Headstrong as I am
by nature, I have still some sense of the fitness of things, and it is
that sense awakened by a better knowledge of what the Ostrander name
stands for, which has outweighed my hopes and mad intentions. I am sorry
that I ever troubled you with them."

The words were ambiguous; startlingly so, she felt; but, in hope that
they would strike him otherwise, she found courage at last to raise her
eyes in search of what lay in his. Nothing, or so she thought at first,
beyond the glint of a natural interest; then her mind changed, and she
felt that it would take one much better acquainted with his moods than
herself to read to its depths a gaze so sombre and inscrutable.

His answer, coming after a moment of decided suspense, only deepened
this impression. It was to this effect:

"Madam, we have said our say on this subject. If you have come to see
the matter as I see it, I can but congratulate you upon your good sense,
and express the hope that it will continue to prevail. Reuther is worthy
of the best--" he stopped abruptly. "Reuther is a girl after my own
heart," he gently supplemented, with a glance towards his papers lying
in a bundle at his elbow, "and she shall not suffer because of this
disappointment to her girlish hopes. Tell her so with my love."

It was a plain dismissal. Mrs. Scoville took it as such, and quietly
left the room. As she did so she was approached by Reuther who handed
her a letter which had just been delivered. It was from Mr. Black and
read thus:

     We have found the rogue and have succeeded in inducing him to leave
     town. He's a man in the bill-sticking business and he owns to a
     grievance against the person we know.

Deborah's sleep that night was without dreams.



About this time, the restless pacing of the judge in his study at nights
became more frequent and lasted longer. In vain Reuther played her most
cheerful airs and sang her sweetest songs, the monotonous tramp kept up
with a regularity nothing could break.

"He's worried by the big case now being tried before him," Deborah would
say, when Reuther's eyes grew wide and misty in her sympathetic trouble.
And there was no improbability in the plea, for it was a case of much
moment, and of great local interest. A man was on trial for his life and
the circumstances of the case were such that the feeling called forth
was unusually bitter; so much so, indeed, that every word uttered by the
counsel and every decision made by the judge were discussed from one end
of the county to the other, and in Shelby, if nowhere else, took
precedence of all other topics, though it was a Presidential year and
party sympathies ran high.

The more thoughtful spirits were inclined to believe in the innocence of
the prisoner; but the lower elements of the town, moved by class
prejudice, were bitterly antagonistic to his cause and loud for his

Did the judge realise his position and the effect made upon the populace
by his very evident leaning towards this dissipated but well-connected
young man accused of a crime so brutal, that he must either have been
the sport of most malicious circumstances, or a degenerate of the worst
type. The time of Judge Ostrander's office was nearly up, and his future
continuance on the bench might very easily depend upon his attitude at
the present hearing. Yet HE, without apparent recognition of this fact,
showed without any hesitancy or possibly without self-consciousness, the
sympathy he felt for the man at the bar, and ruled accordingly almost
without variation.

No wonder he paced the floor as the proceedings drew towards its close
and the inevitable hour approached when a verdict must be rendered. Mrs.
Scoville, reading his heart by the light of her recent discoveries,
understood as nobody else, the workings of his conscience and the
passion of sympathy which this unhappy father must have for misguided
youth. She began to fear for his health and count the days till this
ordeal was over.

In other regards, quiet had come to them all and less tempestuous fears.
Could the judge but weather the possible conviction of this man and
restrain himself from a disclosure of his own suffering, more cheerful
days might be in store for them, for no further missives were to be seen
on the lawn, nor had anything occurred for days to recall to Deborah's
mind the move she had made towards re-establishing her husband's

A week passed, and the community was all agog, in anticipation of the
judge's charge in the case just mentioned. It was to be given at noon,
and Mrs. Scoville, conscious that he had not slept an hour the night
before (having crept down more than once to listen if his step had
ceased), approached him as he prepared to leave the house for the court
room, and anxiously asked if he were quite well.

"Oh, yes, I'm well," he responded sharply, looking about for Reuther.

The young girl was standing a little behind him, with his gloves in her
hand--a custom she had fallen into in her desire to have his last look
and fond good morning.

"Come here, child," said he, in a way to make her heart beat; and, as he
took the gloves from her hand, he stooped and kissed her on the
forehead--something he had never done before. "Let me see you smile,"
said he. "It's a memory I like to take with me into the court room."

But when in her pure delight at his caress and the fatherly feeling
which gave a tremor to his simple request, she lifted her face with that
angelic look of hers which was far sweeter and far more moving than any
smile, he turned away abruptly as though he had been more hurt than
comforted, and strode out of the house without another word.

Deborah's hand went to her heart, in the dark corner whither she had
withdrawn herself, and when she turned again towards the spot where
Reuther had stood, it was in some fear lest she had betrayed her
understanding of this deeply tried father's passionate pain. But Reuther
was no longer there. She had fled quickly away with the memory of what
was to make this day a less dreary one for her.

Morning passed and the noon came, bringing Deborah an increased
uneasiness. When lunch was over and Reuther sat down to her piano, the
feeling had grown into an obsession, which soon resolved itself into a
definite fear.

"What if an attack, such as I once saw, should come upon him while he
sits upon the bench! Why have I not thought of this before? O God! these
evil days! When will they be over!"

She found herself so restless that she decided upon going out. Donning
her quietest gown and veil, she looked in on Reuther and expressed her
intention; then slipped out of the front door, hardly knowing whither
her feet would carry her.

They did not carry her far,--not at this moment at least. On the walk
outside she met Miss Weeks hurrying towards her from the corner,
stumbling in her excitement and so weakened in body or spirit that she
caught at the unresponsive fence for the support which its smooth
surface refused to give her.

At sight of Deborah's figure, she paused and threw up her hands.

"Oh, Mrs. Scoville, such a dreadful thing!" she cried. "Look here!" And,
opening one of her hands, she showed a few torn scraps of paper whose
familiarity made Deborah's blood run cold.

"On the bridge," gasped the little lady, leaning against the fence for
support. "Pasted on the railing of the bridge. I should never have seen
it, nor looked at it, if it hadn't been that I--"

"Don't tell me here," urged Deborah. "Let's go over to your house. See,
there are people coming."

The little lady yielded to the other's constraining hand and together
they crossed the street. Once in the house, Deborah allowed her full
apprehension to show itself.

"What were the words? What was on the paper? Anything about--"

The little woman's look of horror stopped her.

"It's a lie, an awful, abominable lie. But think of such a lie being
pasted up on that dreadful bridge for any one to see. After twelve
years, Mrs. Scoville! After--" But here indignation changed suddenly
into suspicion, and eyeing her visitor with sudden disfavour she cried:
"This is your work, madam. Your inquiries and your talk of John
Scoville's innocence has set wagging all the villainous tongues in town.
And I remember something else. How you came smirking into this very room
one day, with your talk about caps and Oliver Ostrander's doings on the
day when Algernon Etheridge was murdered. You were in search of
information, I see; information against the best, the brightest--Well,
why don't you speak? I'll give you the chance if you want it. Don't
stand looking at me like that. I'm not used to it, Mrs. Scoville. I'm a
peaceable woman and I'm not used to it."

"Miss Weeks--" Ah, the oil of that golden speech on troubled waters!
What was its charm? What message did it carry from Deborah's warm, true
heart that its influence should be so miraculous? "Miss Weeks, you have
forgotten my interest in Oliver Ostrander. He was my daughter's lover.
He was my own ideal of a gifted, kind-hearted, if somewhat mysterious,
young man. No calumny uttered against him can awaken in you half the
sorrow and indignation it does in me. Let me see those lines or what
there is left of them so that I may share your feelings. They must be

"They are more than dreadful. I don't know how I had strength to pull
these pieces off. I couldn't have done it if they had been quite dry.
But what do you want to see them for? I'd have left them there if I had
been willing to have them seen. They are for the kitchen fire. Wait a
moment and then we will talk."

But Deborah had no mind to let these pieces escape her eye. Sick as she
felt at heart, she exerted herself to win the little woman's confidence;
and when Deborah exerted herself, even under such adverse conditions as
these, she seldom failed to succeed.

Nor did she fail now. At the end of fifteen minutes she had the torn
bits of paper arranged in their proper position and was reading these

The scene of Oliv     der's crime.

Nothing could be more explicit nothing more damaging. As the glances of
the two women met, it would be difficult to tell on which face Distress
hung out the whiter flag.

"The beginning of the end!" was Deborah's thought. "If after Mr. Black's
efforts, a charge like this is found posted up in the public ways, the
ruin of the Ostranders is determined upon, and nothing we can do can
stop it."

In five minutes more she had said good-bye to Miss Weeks and was on her
way to the courthouse.

This building occupied one end of a large paved square in the busiest
part of the town. As Deborah approached it, she was still further
alarmed by finding this square full of people, standing in groups or
walking impatiently up and down with their eyes fixed on the courthouse
doors. The case which had agitated the whole country for days was now in
the hands of the jury and a verdict was momentarily expected.

So much for appearances outside. Within, there was the uneasy hum, the
anxious look, the subdued movement which marks an universal suspense.
Announcement had been made that the jury had reached their verdict, and
counsel were resuming their places and the judge his seat.

Those who had eyes only for the latter--and these were many--noticed a
change in him. He looked older by years than when he delivered his
charge. Not the prisoner himself gave greater evidence of the effect
which this hour of waiting had had upon a heart whose covered griefs
were, consciously or unconsciously, revealing themselves to the public
eye. He did not wish this man sentenced. This was shown by his
charge--the most one-sided one he had given in all his career. Yet the
man awaiting verdict had small claim to his consideration--none, in
fact, save that he was young and well connected; facts in his favour
with which the people who packed the courthouse that day had little
sympathy, as their cold looks proved.

To Deborah, who had succeeded in getting a seat in a remote and
inconspicuous corner, these looks conveyed a spirit of so much threat
that she gazed about her in wonder that so few saw where the real
tragedy in this room lay.

But the jury is now seated, and the clatter of moving feet which but a
moment before filled the great room, sinks as if under a charm, and
silence, that awesome precursor of doom, lay in all its weight upon
every ear and heart, as the clerk advancing with the cry, "Order in the
court," put his momentous question:

"Gentlemen of the jury, are you ready with your verdict?"

A hush!--then, the clear voice of the foreman:

"We are."

"How do you find? Guilty or not guilty?"

Another hesitation. Did the foreman feel the threat lurking in the air
about him? If so, he failed to show it in his tones as he uttered the
words which released the prisoner:


A growl from the crowd, almost like that of a beast stirring its lair,
then a quick cessation of all hubbub as every one turned to the judge to
whose one-sided charge they attributed this release.

Again he was a changed man. With the delivery of this verdict he had
regained his natural poise, and never had he looked more authoritative
or more pre-eminently the dominating spirit of the court than in the few
following moments in which he expressed the thanks of the court to the
jury and dismissed the prisoner. And yet, though each person there, from
the disappointed prosecutor to the least aggressive spectator, appeared
to feel the influence of a presence and voice difficult to duplicate on
the bench of this country, Deborah experienced in her quiet corner no
alleviation of the fear which had brought her into this forbidding spot
and held her breathless through all these formalities.

For the end was not yet. Through all the turmoil of noisy departure and
the drifting out into the square of a vast, dissatisfied throng, she had
caught the flash of a bit of paper (how introduced into this moving mass
of people no one ever knew) passing from hand to hand, towards the
solitary figure of the judge who had not as yet left his seat.

She knew--no one better--what this meant, and instinct bade her cry out
and bid those thoughtless hands to cease their work and let this letter
drop. But her discretion still held, and, subduing the mad impulse, she
watched with dilating eyes and heaving breast the slow passage of this
fatal note through the now rapidly thinning crowd, its delay as it
reached the open space between the last row of seats and the judge's
bench and its final delivery by some officious hand, who thrust it upon
his notice just as he was rising to leave.

The picture he made in that instant of hesitation never left her mind.
To the end of her days she will carry a vision of his tall form,
imposing in his judicial robes and with the majesty of his office still
upon him, fingering this envelope in sight of such persons as still
lingered in his part of the room. Nemesis was lowering its black wings
over his devoted head, and, with feelings which left her dazed and
transfixed in silent terror, Deborah saw his finger tear its way through
the envelope and his eyes fall frowningly on the paper he drew out.

Then the People's counsel and the counsel for the Defence and such
clerks and hangers-on as still lingered in the upper end of the room
experienced a decided sensation.

The judge, who a moment before had towered above them all in melancholy
but impressive dignity, shrunk with one gasp into feebleness and sank
back stricken, if not unconscious, into his chair.

Was it a stroke, or just one of his attacks of which all had heard? Was
he aware of his own condition and the disturbance it caused or was he,
on the contrary, dead to his own misery and oblivious of the rush which
was made from all sides to his assistance? Even Deborah could not tell,
and was forced to sit quiet in her corner, waiting for the parting of
the group which hid the judge from her sight.

It happened suddenly and showed her the same figure she had seen once
before--a man with faculties suspended, but not impaired, facing them
all with open gaze but absolutely dead for the moment to his own
condition and to the world about.

But, horrible as this was, what she saw going on behind him was
infinitely worse. A man had caught up the bit of paper Judge Ostrander
had let fall from his hand and was opening his lips to read it to the
curious people surrounding him.

She tried to stop him. She forced a cry to her lips which should have
rung through the room, but which died away on the air unheard. The
terror which had paralysed her limbs had choked her voice.

But her ears remained true. Low as he spoke, no trumpet-call could have
made its meaning clearer to Deborah Scoville than did these words:

"We know why you favour criminals. Twelve years is a long time, but not
long enough to make wise men forget."



Had she not caught the words themselves she would have recognised their
import from the blighting effect they produced upon the persons grouped
within hearing.

Schooled as most of them were to face with minds secure and tempers
quite unruffled the countless surprises of a court room, they paled at
the insinuation conveyed in these two sentences, and with scarcely the
interchange of glance or word, drew aside in a silence which no man
seemed inclined to break.

As for the people still huddled in the doorway, they rushed away
helter-skelter into the street, there to proclaim the judge's condition
and its probable cause;--an event which to many quite eclipsed in
interest the more ordinary one which had just released to freedom a man
seemingly doomed.

Few persons were now left in the great room, and Deborah, embarrassed to
find that she was the only woman present, was on the point of escaping
from her corner when she perceived a movement take place in the rigid
form from which she had not yet withdrawn her eyes, and, regarding Judge
Ostrander more attentively, she caught the gleam of his suspicious eye
as it glanced this way and that to see if his lapse of consciousness had
been noticed by those about him.

Would the man still in possession of the paper whose contents had
brought about this attack understand these evidences of apprehension?
Yes; and what is more, he seems to take such means as offers to hide
from the judge all knowledge of the fact that any other eyes than his
own have read these invidious words. With unexpected address, he waits
for the judge to turn his head aside when with a quick and dextrous
movement he so launches the paper from his hand that it falls softly and
without flurry within an inch of the judicial seat. Then he goes back to
his papers.

This suggestion, at once so marked and so delicate, did not fail of its
effect upon those about. Wherever the judge looked he saw abstracted
faces and busy hands, and, taking heart at not finding himself watched,
he started to rise. Then memory came,--blasting, overwhelming memory of
the letter he had been reading; and, rousing with a start, he looked
down at his hand, then at the floor before him, and, seeing the letter
lying there, picked it up with a secret, side-long glance to right and
left, which sank deep into the heart of the still watchful Deborah.

If those about him saw, they made no motion. Not an eye looked round and
not a head turned as he straightened himself and proceeded to leave the
room. Only Deborah noted how his steps faltered and how little he was to
be trusted to find his way unguided to the door. It lay to the right and
he was going left. Now he stumbles--Isn't there any one to--Yes, she is
not the sole one on watch. The same man who had read aloud the note and
then dropped it within his reach, had stepped after him, and kindly, if
artfully, turned him towards the proper place of exit. As the two
disappear, Deborah wakes from her trance, and, finding herself alone
among the seats, hurries to quit her corner and leave the building.

The glare--the noise of the square, as she dashes down into it seems for
the moment unendurable. The pushing, panting mass of men and women of
which she has now become a part, closes about her, and for the moment
she can see nothing but faces,--faces with working mouths and blazing
eyes,--a medley of antagonistic expression, all directed against
herself;--or so she felt in the heat of her self-consciousness. But
after the first recoil she knew that no such universal recognition could
be hers; that she was merely a new and inconsiderable atom caught in a
wave of feeling which engulfed all it met; that this mob was not raised
from the stones to overwhelm her but HIM, and that if she flew, it
should be to his aid, and not to save herself. But how was she to reach
him? He would not come out by the main entrance; that she knew. Where
look for him, then? Suddenly she remembered; and using some of her
strength of which she had good measure, and more of that address to
which I have already alluded, she began to worm herself along through
this astounding collection of people much too large already for the
ordinary force of police to handle, to that corner of the building where
a small door opened upon a rear street. She remembered it from those old
days when she had once entered this courthouse as a witness.

But alas, others knew it also, and thick as the crowd was in front, it
was even thicker here, and far more tumultuous. Word had gone about that
the father of Oliver Ostrander had been given his lesson at last, and
the curiosity of the populace had risen to fever-heat in their anxiety
to see how the proud Ostrander would bear himself in his precipitate
downfall. They had crowded there to see and they would see. Were he to
shirk the ordeal! Were he to wait for the square to be cleared--But they
knew him too well to fear this. He will come--nay, he is coming now--and
coming alone! No other figure looms so grandly in a doorway, nor is
there any other face in Shelby whose pallor could strike so coldly to
the heart, or rouse such conflicting emotions.

He was evidently not prepared to see his path quite so heavily marked
out for him by the gaping throng; but after one look, he assumed some
show of his old commanding presence and advanced bravely down the steps,
awing some and silencing all, until he had reached his carriage step and
the protection of the officers on guard.

Then a hoot rose from some far-off quarter of the square, and he turned
short about and the people saw his face. Despair had seized it, and if
any one there desired vengeance, he had it. The knell of active life had
been rung for this man. He would never remount the courthouse steps, or
face again a respectful jury.

As for Deborah, she had shrunk out of sight at his approach, but as soon
as he had ridden off, she looked eagerly for a taxicab to carry her in
his wake. She could not let him ride that mile alone. She was still
fearful for him, though the mass of people about her was rapidly
dissolving away, and the streets growing clear.

But an apprehension still greater, because more personal, seized her
when she found herself behind him on the long road. Several minutes had
been lost in obtaining a taxicab and she feared that she would be unable
to overtake him before he reached his own gates. This would be to
subject Reuther to a shock which the poor child had little strength to
meet. She could not escape the truth long. Soon, very soon she would
have to be told that the man who stood so high in her esteem was now
regarded as a common criminal. But she must be prepared for the awful
news. She must be within reach of her mother's arms when the blow fell
destroying her past as well as her future.

Were minutes really so long--the house really so far away? Deborah gazes
eagerly forward. There is very little traffic in the streets to-day and
the road ahead looks clear--too clear, she cannot even see the dust
raised by the judge's rapidly disappearing carriage. Can he have arrived
home already? No, or the carriage would be coming back, and not a
vehicle is in view.

Her anxiety increases. She has reached the road debouching towards the
bridge--has crossed it--is drawing near--nearer--when, what is this?
Men--women--coming from the right, coming from the left, running out of
houses, flocking from every side street, filling up the road! A lesser
mob than that from which she had just escaped, but still, a mob, and all
making for one point--the judge's house! And he? She can see his
carriage now. Held up for a moment by the crowd, it has broken through,
and is rolling quickly towards Ostrander Lane. But the mob is following,
and she is yet far behind.

Shouting to the chauffeur to hasten, the insistent honk! honk! of the
cab adds its raucous note to the turmoil. They have dashed through one
group;--they are dashing through another;--naught can withstand an
on-rushing automobile. She catches glimpses of raised arms threatening
retaliation; of eager, stolid, uncertain and furious faces--and her
breath held back during that one instant of wild passage rushes
pantingly forth again. Ostrander Lane is within sight. If only they can
reach it!--if only they can cross it! But they cannot without sowing
death in their track. No scattered groups here, the mob fills the
corner. It is packed close as a wall. Brought up against it, the motor
necessarily comes to a stand-still.

Balked? No, not yet. Opening the door, Deborah leaps to the ground and
in one instant finds herself but a mote in this seethe of humanity. In
vain her efforts, she cannot move arm or limb. The gate is but a few
paces off, but all hope of reaching it is futile. She can only hold
herself still and listen as all around are listening. But to what? To
nothing. It is expectation which holds them all silent. She will have to
wait until the crowd sways apart, allowing her to--Ah, there, some heads
are moving now! She catches one glimpse ahead of her, and sees--What
does she see? The noble but shrunk figure of the judge drawn up before
his gate. His lips are moving, but no sound issues from them; and while
those about are waiting for his words, they peer, with an insolence
barely dashed by awe, at his white head and his high fence and now at
the gate swerving gently inward under the hand of some one whose figure
is invisible.

But no words coming, a change passes like a stroke of lightning over the
surging mass. Some one shouts out COWARD! another, TRAITOR! and the
lifted head falls, the moving lips cease from their efforts and in place
of the great personality which filled their eyes a moment before, they
see a man entrapped, waking to the horror of a sudden death in life for
which no visions of the day, no dreams of the night, had been able to
prepare him.

It was a sight to waken pity not derision. But these people had gathered
here in a bitter mood and their rancour had but scented the prey. Calls
of "Oliver!" and such threats as "You saved him at a poor man's expense,
but we'll have him yet, we'll have him yet!" began to rise about him;
followed by endless repetitions of the name from near and far: "Oliver!

Oliver! His own lips seemed to re-echo the word. Then like a lion baited
beyond his patience the judge lifted his head and faced them all with a
fiery intensity which for the moment made him a terrible figure to

"Let no one utter that name to me here!" shot from his lips in tones of
unspeakable menace and power. "Spare me that name, or the curse of my
ruined life be upon you. I can bear no more to-day."

Thrilled by his aspect, cowering under his denunciation, emphasised as
it was by a terrifying gesture, the people, pressing closest about him,
drew back and left the passage open to the gate. He took it with a
bound, and would have entered but that from the outskirts of the crowd
where his voice had not reached, the cry arose again of "Oliver! Oliver!
The sons of the rich go free, but ours have to hang!"

At which he turned his head about, gave them one stare and fell back
against the door. It yielded and a woman's arms received him. The gentle
Reuther in that hour of dire extremity, showed herself stronger than her
mother who had fallen in a faint amid the crowd.



To one who swoons but seldom, the moment of returning consciousness is
often fraught with great pain and sometimes with unimaginable horror. It
was such to Deborah; the pain and horror holding her till her eyes,
accustomed to realities again, saw in the angel face which floated
before her vision amid a swarm of demon masks, the sweet and solicitous
countenance of Reuther.

As she took this in, she took in other facts also: that there were no
demons, no strangers even about her: That she and her child were
comparatively alone in their own little parlour, and that Reuther's
sweet face wore a look of lofty courage which reminded her of something
she could not at the moment grasp, but which was so beautiful. At that
instant her full memory came, and, uttering a low cry, she started up,
and struggling to her feet, confronted her child, this time with a look
full of agonised inquiry.

Reuther seemed to understand her; for, taking her mother's hand in hers,
she softly said:

"I knew you were not seriously ill, only frightened by the crowd and
their senseless shoutings. Don't think of it any more, dear mother. The
people are dispersing now, and you will soon be quite restored and ready
to smile with us at an attack so groundless it is little short of

Astounded at such tranquillity where she had expected anguish if not
stark unreason, doubting her eyes, her ears--for this was no longer her
delicate, suffering Reuther to be shielded from all unhappy knowledge,
but a woman as strong if not as wise to the situation as herself--she
scrutinised the child closely, then turned her gaze slowly about the
room, and started in painful surprise, as she perceived standing in the
space behind her the tall figure of Judge Ostrander.

He! and she must face him! the man whom she by her blind and untimely
efforts to regain happiness for Reuther, had brought to this woful pass!
The ordeal was too bitter for her broken spirit and, shrinking aside,
she covered her face with her hands like one who stands detected in a
guilty act.

"Pardon," she entreated, forgetting Reuther's presence in her
consciousness of the misery she had brought upon her benefactor. "I
never meant--I never dreamed--"

"Oh, no apologies!" Was this the judge speaking? The tone was an
admonitory, not a suffering one. It was not even that of a man
humiliated or distressed. "You have had an unfortunate experience, but
that is over now and so must your distress be." Then, as in her
astonishment she dropped her hands and looked up, he added very quietly,
"Your daughter has been much disturbed about you, but not at all about
Oliver or his good name. She knows my son too well, and so do you and I,
to be long affected by the virulent outcries of a mob seeking for an
object upon which to expend their spleen."

Swaying yet in body and mind, quite unable in the turmoil of her spirits
to reconcile this strong and steady man with the crushed and despairing
figure she had so lately beheld shrinking under the insults of the
crowd, Deborah was glad to sit silent under this open rebuke and listen
to Reuther's ingenuous declarations, though she knew that they brought
no conviction and distilled no real comfort either to his mind or hers.

"Yes, mother darling," the young girl was saying. "These people have not
seen Oliver in years, but we have, and nothing they can say, nothing
that any one can say but himself could ever shake my belief in him as a
man incapable of a really wicked act. He might be capable of striking a
sudden blow--most men are under great provocation--but to conceal such a
fact,--to live for years enjoying the respect of all who knew him, with
the knowledge festering in his heart of another having suffered for his
crime--that, THAT would be impossible to Oliver Ostrander."

Some words ring in the heart long after their echo has left the ear.
IMPOSSIBLE! Deborah stole a look at the judge. But he was gazing at
Reuther, where he well might gaze, if his sinking heart craved support
or his abashed mind sought to lose itself in the enthusiasm of this pure
soul, with its loving, uncalculating instincts.

"Am I not right, mother?"

Ah! must she answer that?

"Tell the judge who is as confident of Oliver as I am myself that you
are confident, too. That you could no more believe him capable of this
abominable act than you could believe it of my father."

"I will--tell--the judge," stammered the unhappy mother. "Judge," she
briefly declared, as she rose with the help of her daughter's arm, "my
mind agrees with yours in this matter. What you think, I think." And
that was all she could say.

As she fell again into her seat, the judge turned to Reuther:

"Leave your mother for a little while," he urged with that rare
gentleness he always showed her. "Let her rest here a few minutes
longer, alone with me."

"Yes, Reuther," murmured Deborah, seeing no way of avoiding this
inevitable interview. "I am feeling better every minute. I will come

The young girl's eye faltered from one to the other, then settled, with
a strange and imploring look upon her mother. Had her clear intelligence
pierced at last to the core of that mother's misery? Had she seen what
Deborah would have spared her at the cost of her own life? It would seem
so, for when the mother, with great effort, began some conciliatory
speech, the young girl smiled with a certain sad patience, and, turning
towards Judge Ostrander, said as she softly withdrew:

"You have been very kind to allow me to mention a name and discuss a
subject you have expressly forbidden. I want to show my gratitude, Judge
Ostrander, by never referring to it again without your permission. That
you know my mind,"--here her head rose with a sort of lofty pride which
lent a dazzling quality to her usually quiet beauty,--"and that I know
yours, is quite enough for me."

"A noble girl! a mate for the best!" fell from the judge's lips after a
silence disturbed only by the faint, far-off murmur of a slowly
dispersing throng.

Deborah made no answer. She could not yet trust her courage or her

The judge, who was standing near, concentrated his look upon her
features. Still she made no effort to meet his eye. He did not speak,
and the silence grew appalling. To break it, he stepped away and took a
glance out of the window. There was nothing to be seen there; the fence
hid all, but he continued to look, the shadows from his soul settling
deeper and deeper upon his countenance as each heavy moment dragged by.
When he finally turned, it was with a powerful effort which communicated
itself to her and forced her long-bowed head to rise and her troubled
mind to disclose itself.

"You wish to express your displeasure, and hesitate on account of
Reuther," she faltered. "You need not. We are quite prepared to leave
your house if our presence reminds you too much of the calamity I have
brought upon you by my inconsiderate revival of a past you had every
reason to believe buried."

His reply was uttered with great courtesy.

"Madam," said he, "I have never had a thought from the first moment of
your coming, of any change in the arrangements we then entered into; nor
is the demonstration we have just witnessed a calamity of sufficient
importance to again divide this household. To connect my high-minded son
with a crime for which he had no motive and from which he could reap no
benefit is, if you will pardon my plain speaking at a moment so
critical, even greater folly than to exculpate, after all these years,
the man whom a conscientious jury found guilty. Only a mob could so
indulge itself; individuals will not dare."

She thought of the letter which had been passed up to him in court, and
surveyed him with an astonishment she made no effort to conceal. Never
had she felt at a greater disadvantage with him. Never had she
understood him less. Was this attempt at unconcern, so pitiably
transparent to her, made in an endeavour to probe her mind or to deceive
his own? In her anxiety to determine, she hesitatingly remarked:

"Not the man who writes those anonymous letters?"

"Letters?" Involuntarily his hand flew to one of his inner pockets.

"Yes, you have found them, have you not, lying about the grounds?"

"No." He looked startled. "Explain yourself," said he. "What letters?
Not such as--" Again his hand went to his pocket, but shrunk hastily
back as she pulled out a crumpled bit of paper and began to smooth it
out for his perusal.

"What have you there?" he cried.

"Such a letter as I speak of, Judge Ostrander. I picked it up from the
walk a day or so ago. Perhaps you have come upon the like?"

"No; why should I?"

He had started back, but his eye falling involuntarily upon the words
she had spread out before him, he rapidly read them, and aghast at their
import, glanced from the paper to her face and back again, crying:

"He means Oliver! We have an enemy, Mrs. Scoville, an enemy! Do you
know"--here he leaned forward, and plunged his eye, now burning with
many passions, into hers--"who this enemy is?"

"Yes." Softly as the word came, it seemed to infuriate him. Seizing her
by the arm, he was about to launch against her the whole weight of his
aroused nature, when she said simply: "He is a common bill-poster. I
took pains to find this out. I was as interested as you could be to
discover the author of such an outrage."

"A bill-poster?"

"Yes, Judge Ostrander."

"What is his name?"

"I do not know. I only know that he is resolved upon making you trouble.
It was he who incited this riot. He did it by circulating anonymous
missives and by--forgive me for telling you this--affixing scrawls of
the same ambiguous character on fences and on walls, and even on--on--"
(Here terror tied her tongue, for his hand had closed about her arm in a
forceful grip, and the fire in the eye holding hers was a consuming one)
"the rails--of--of BRIDGES."


The cry was involuntary, but not so the steady settling of the lips
which followed it and the determined poise of his body as he waited for
her next word.

"Miss Weeks, the little lady opposite, saw the latter and tore it off.
But the mischief had already spread. Oh, strike me! Send me from your

He gave no token of hearing her.

"Why is this man my enemy?" he asked. "I do not know any such person as
you describe."

"Nor I," she answered more quietly.

"A bill-poster! Well, he has done his worst. I shall think no more about
him." And the burning eye grew mild and the working lip calm again, with
a determination too devoid of sarcasm to be false.

It was a change for which Deborah was in no wise prepared. She showed
her amazement as ingenuously as a child, and he, observing it, remarked
in a different tone from any he had used yet:

"You do not look well. You are still suffering from the distress and
confusion into which this wretched swoon has thrown you. Or can it be
that you are not yet convinced of our wisdom in ignoring this diabolic
attack upon one whose reputation is as dear to us as our own? If that is
so, and I see that it is, let me remind you of a fact which cannot be
new to you if it is to others of happier memories, that no accusation of
this kind, however plausible--and this is not plausible--can hold its
own for a day without evidence to back it. And there is no evidence
against my son in this ancient matter of my friend Etheridge's violent
death, save the one coincidence known to many, that he chanced to be
somewhere in the ravine at that accursed hour. A petty point upon which
to hang this late and elaborate insult of suspicion!" And his voice rang
out in a laugh, but not as it would have rung, or as Deborah thought it
would have rung, had his mind been as free as his words.

When it had quite ceased, Deborah threw off the last remnant of physical
as well as moral weakness, and deliberately rose to her feet. She
believed she understood him now; and she respected the effort he was
making, and would have seconded it gladly had she dared.

But she did not dare. If he were really as ignorant as he appeared of
the extent of the peril threatening Oliver's good name; if he had
cheated himself during these long years into supposing that the secret
which had undermined his own happiness was an unshared one, and that his
own conduct since that hour he had characterised as accursed, had given
no point to the charges they had just heard hurled against his son, then
he ought to be undeceived and that right speedily. Evidence did exist
connecting Oliver with this crime; evidence as sure, nay, yet surer,
than that raised against her husband; and no man's laughter, no, not
even his father's--least of all his father's--could cover up the fact or
avail against the revelations which must follow, now that the scent was
on. Honouring as she did the man before her, understanding both his
misery and the courage he displayed in this superhuman effort to hide
his own convictions, she gathered up all her resources, and with a
resolution no less brave than his, said firmly:

"You are too much respected in this town, Judge Ostrander, for any
collection of people, however thoughtless or vile, to so follow the lead
of a low-down miscreant as to greet you to your face with these damaging
assertions, unless they THOUGHT they had evidence, and good evidence,
too, with which to back these assertions."

It was the hurling of an arrow poisoned at the point; the launching of a
bomb into the very citadel of his security. Had he burst into
outbreak--gripped her again or fiercely shown her the door, she would
not have been astonished. Indeed, she was prepared for some such result,
but it did not come. On the contrary, his answer was almost mild, though
tinged for the first time with a touch of that biting sarcasm for which
he had once been famous.

"If they had not THOUGHT!" he repeated. "If you had said if they had not
KNOWN, then I might indeed have smelt danger. People THINK strange
things. Perhaps YOU think them, too."

"I?" The moment was critical. She saw now that he was sounding her,--had
been sounding her from the first. Should she let everything go and let
him know her mind, or should she continue to conceal it? In either
course lay danger, if not to herself and Reuther, then to himself and
Oliver. She decided for the truth. Subterfuge had had its day. The
menace of the future called for the strongest weapons which lie at the
hand of man. She, therefore, answered:

"Yes; I have been thinking, and this is the result: You must either
explain publicly and quite satisfactorily to the people of this town,
the mystery of your long separation from Oliver and the life you have
since led in this trebly barred house, or accept the opprobrium of such
accusations as we have listened to to-day. There is no middle course,
Judge Ostrander. I who have loved Oliver almost like a son;--who have a
daughter who not only loves him but regards him as a perfect model of
noble manhood, tell you so, though it breaks my heart to do it. I cannot
see you both fall headlong to destruction for lack of understanding the
nearness or the depth of the precipice you are approaching."


The ejaculation came after a moment of intense silence--a silence during
which she seemed to discern the sturdiness of years drop slowly away
from him.

"So that is the explanation which people give to my desire for
retirement and a life of contemplation. Well," he slowly added, with the
halting utterance of one to whom each word is an effort, "I can see some
justification for their conclusions now. I have been too self-centred,
and too short-sighted to recognise my own folly. I might have known that
anything out of the common course rouses a curiosity which supplies its
own explanation at any cost to propriety or respect. I have courted my
own doom. I am the victim of my own mistake. But," he continued, with a
flash of his old fire which made him a dignified figure again, "I'm not
going to cringe because I have lost ground in the first skirmish. I come
of fighting blood. Oliver's reputation shall not suffer long, whatever I
may have done in my parental confidence to endanger it. I have not spent
ten years at the bar, and fifteen on the bench for nothing. Let the
people look to it! I will stand by my own."

He had as completely forgotten her as if she had never existed. John
Scoville, his widow, even the child bowed under troubles not unlike his
own, had faded alike from his consciousness. But the generous Deborah
felt no resentment at the determination which would only press her and
hers deeper into contumely. She had seen the father in the man for the
first time, and her whole heart went out in passionate sympathy which
blinded her to everything but her present duty. Alas, that it should be
so hard a one! Alas, that instead of encouraging him, she must point out
the one weakness of his cause which he did not or would not see, that
is, his own conviction of his absent son's guilt as typified by the line
he had deliberately smeared across Oliver's pictured countenance. The
task seemed so difficult, the first steps so blind, that she did not
know how to begin and stood staring at him with interest and dread
struggling for mastery in her heavily labouring breast.

Did he perceive this or was it the silence which drew his attention to
her condition and the evils still threatening him? Whichever it was, the
light vanished from his face as he surveyed her and it was with a return
of his old manner, that he finally observed:

"You are keeping something from me--some fancied discovery--some clew,
as they call it, to what you may consider my dear boy's guilt."

With a deep breath she woke from her trance of indecision and letting
forth the full passion of her nature, she cried out in her anguish:

"I have but one answer for that, Judge Ostrander. Look into your own
heart! Question your own conscience. I have seen what reveals it. I--"

She stopped appalled. Rage, such as she had never even divined spoke
from every feature. He was no longer the wretched but calmly reasoning
man, but a creature hardly human, and when he spoke, it was in a frenzy
which swept everything before it.

"You have SEEN!" he shouted. "You have broken your promise! You have
touched what you were forbidden to touch! You have--"

"Not so," she broke in softly but very firmly. "I have touched nothing
that I was told not to, nor have I broken any promise. I simply saw more
than I was expected to, I suppose, of the picture which fell the day you
first allowed me to enter your study."

"Is that true?"

"It is true."

They were whispering now.

Drawing a deep breath, he gathered up his faculties. "Upon such
accidents," he muttered, "hang the fate and honour of men. And you have
gossiped about this picture," he again vociferated with sudden and
unrestrained violence, "told Reuther--told others--"

"No." The denial was peremptory,--not to be disbelieved. "What I have
learned, I have kept religiously to myself. Alas!" she half moaned, half
cried, "that I should feel the necessity!"

"Madam!"--he was searching her eyes, searching her very soul, as men
seldom search the mind of another. "You believe in the truth of these
calumnies that have just been shouted in our ears. You believe what they
say of Oliver. You with every prejudice in his favour; with every desire
to recognise his worth! You, who have shown yourself ready to drop your
husband's cause though you consider it an honest one, when you saw what
havoc it would entail to my boy's repute. YOU believe--and on what
evidence?" he broke in. "Because of the picture?"


"And the coincidence of his presence in the ravine?"


"But these are puerile reasons." He was speaking peremptorily now and
with all the weight of a master mind. "And you are not the woman to be
satisfied with anything puerile. There is something back of all this;
something you have not imparted. What is that something? Tell--tell--"

"Oliver was a mere boy in those days and a very passionate one. He hated
Etheridge--the obtrusive mentor who came between him and yourself."




"Yes, there is proof."

"Of his hate?"

"Yes, judge."

He did not ask where. Possibly he knew. And because he did not ask, she
did not tell him, holding on to her secret in a vague hope that so much
at least might never see light.

"I knew the boy shrank sometimes from Algernon's company," the judge
admitted, after another glance at her face; "but that means nothing in a
boy full of his own affairs. What else have you against him? Speak up! I
can bear it all."

"He handled the stick that--that-"



"Never! Now you have gone mad, madam."

"I would be willing to end my days in an asylum if that would disprove
this fact."

"But, madam, what proof--what reason can you have for an assertion so

"You remember the shadow I saw which was not that of John Scoville? The
person who made that shadow was whittling a stick; that was a trick of
Oliver's. I have heard that he even whittled furniture."

"Good God!" The judge's panoply was pierced at last.

"They tried to prove, as you will remember, that it was John who thus
disfigured the bludgeon he always carried with pride. But the argument
was a sorry one and in itself would have broken down the prosecution had
he been a man of better repute. Now, those few chips taken from the
handle of this weapon will carry a different significance. For in my
folly I asked to see this stick which still exists at Police
Headquarters, and there in the wood I detected and pointed out a trifle
of steel which never came from the unbroken blades of the knife taken
from John's pocket."

Fallen was the proud head now and fallen the great man's aspect. If he
spoke it was to utter a low "Oliver! Oliver!"

The pathos of it--the heart-rending wonder in the tone brought the tears
to Deborah's eyes and made her last words very difficult.

"But the one great thing which gives to these facts their really
dangerous point is the mystery you have made of your life and of this
so-called hermitage. If you can clear up that, you can afford to ignore
the rest."

"The misfortunes of my house!" was his sole response. "The misfortunes
of my house!"



Suddenly he faced Deborah again. The crisis of feeling had passed, and
he looked almost cold.

"You have had advisers," said he. "Who are they?"

"I have talked with Mr. Black."

The judge's brows met.

"Well, you were wise," said he. Then shortly, "What is his attitude?"

Feeling that her position was fast becoming intolerable she falteringly
replied, "Friendly to you and Oliver but, even without all the reasons
which move me, sharing my convictions."

"He has told you so?"

"Not directly; but there was no misjudging his opinion of the necessity
you were under to explain, the mysteries of your life. AND IT WAS

Like words thrown into a void, these slow, lingering, half-uttered
phrases seemed to awaken an echo which rung not only in his inmost
being, but in hers. Not till in both natures silence had settled again
(the silence of despair, not peace), did he speak. When he did, it was
simply to breathe her name.


Startled, for it had always before been Madam, she looked up to find him
standing very near her and with his hand held out.

"I am going through deep waters," said he. "Am I to have your support?"

"O, Judge Ostrander, how can you doubt it?" she cried, dropping her hand
into his, and her eyes swimming with tears. "But what can I do? If I
remain here I will be questioned. If I fly--but, possibly, that is what
you want;--for me to go--to disappear--to take Reuther and sink out of
all men's sight forever. If this is your wish, I am ready to do it.
Gladly will we be gone--now--at once--this very night if you say so."

His disclaimer was peremptory.

"No; not that. I ask no such sacrifice. Neither would it avail. There is
but one thing which can reinstate Oliver and myself in the confidence
and regard of these people. Cannot you guess it, madam? I mean your own
restored conviction that the sentence passed upon John Scoville was a
just one. Once satisfied of this, your temperament is such that you
would be our advocate whether you wished it or no. Your very silence
would be eloquent."

"Convince me; I am willing to have you, Judge Ostrander. But how can you
do so? A shadow stands between my wishes and the belief you mention. The
shadow cast by Oliver as he made his way towards the bridge, with my
husband's bludgeon in his hand."

"Did you see him strike the blow? Were there any opportune shadows to
betray what happened between the instant of--let us say Oliver's
approach and the fall of my friend? Much can happen in a minute, and
this matter is one of minutes. Granted that the shadow you saw was that
of Oliver, and the stick he carried was the one under which Algernon
succumbed, what is to hinder the following from, having occurred. The
stick which Oliver may have caught up in an absent frame of mind becomes
burdensome; he has broken his knife against a knot in the handle and he
is provoked. Flinging the bludgeon down, he hurries up the embankment
and so on into town. John Scoville, lurking in the bushes, sees his
stick fall and regains it at or near the time Algernon Etheridge steps
into sight at the end of the bridge beyond Dark Hollow. Etheridge
carries a watch greatly desired by the man who finds himself thus armed.
The place is quiet; the impulse to possess himself of this watch is
sudden and irresistible, and the stick falls on Etheridge's head. Is
there anything impossible or even improbable about all this? Scoville
had a heart open to crime, Oliver not. This I knew when I sat upon the
bench at his trial; and now you shall know it too. Come! I have
something to show you."

He turned towards the door and mechanically she followed. Her thoughts
were all in a whirl. She did not know what to make of him or of herself.
The rooted dread of weeks was stirring in its soil. This suggestion of
the transference of the stick from hand to hand was not impossible. Only
Scoville had sworn to her, and that, too, upon their child's head, that
he had not struck this blow. And she had believed him after finding the
cap; AND SHE BELIEVED HIM NOW. Yes, against her will, she believed him
now. Why? and again, why?

They had crossed the hall and he was taking the turn to his room.

"Enter," said he, lifting the curtain.

Involuntarily she recoiled. Not from him, but from the revelation she
felt to be awaiting her in this place of unguessed mystery. Looking back
into the space behind her, she caught a fleeting glimpse of Reuther
hovering on a distant threshold. Leaving the judge, without even a
murmured word of apology, she ran to the child, embraced her, and
promised to join her soon; and then, satisfied with the comfort thus
gained, she returned quickly to where the judge still awaited her, with
his hand on the curtain.

"Forgive me," said she; and meeting with no reply, stood trembling while
he unlocked the door and ushered her in.

A new leaf in the history of this old crime was about to be turned.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once within the room, he became his courteous self once more. "Be
seated," he begged, indicating a chair in the half gloom. As she took
it, the room sprang into sudden light. He had pulled the string which
regulated the curtains over the glazed panes in the ceiling. Then as
quickly all was gloom again; he had let the string escape from his hand.

"Half light is better," he muttered in vague apology.

It was a weird beginning to an interview whose object was as yet
incomprehensible to her. One minute a blinding glimpse of the room whose
details were so varied that many of them still remained unknown to
her,--the next, everything swept again into shadow through which the
tall form of the genius of the place loomed with melancholy suggestion!

She was relieved when he spoke.

"Mrs. Scoville (not Deborah now) have you any confidence in Oliver's

She did not reply at once. Too much depended upon a simple yes or no.
Her first instinctive cry would have been YES, but if Oliver had been
guilty and yet held back his dreadful secret all these years, how could
she believe his word, when his whole life had been a lie?

"Has there ever been anything in his conversation as you knew it in
Detroit to make you hesitate to reply?" the judge persisted, as she
continued speechless.

"No; nothing. I had every confidence in his assertions. I should have
yet, if it were not for this horror."

"Forget it for a moment. Recall his effect upon you as a man, a
prospective son-in-law,--for you meant him to marry Reuther."

"I trusted him. I would trust him in many ways yet."

"Would you trust him enough to believe that he would tell you the truth
if you asked him point-blank whether his hands were clean of crime?"

"Yes." The word came in a whisper; but there was no wavering in it. She
had felt the conviction dart like an arrow through her mind that Oliver
might slay a man in his hate,--might even conceal his guilt for
years--but that he could not lie about it when brought face to face with
an accuser like herself.

"Then I will let you read something he wrote at my request these many
years ago: An experience--the tale of one awful night, the horrors of
which, locked within his mind and mine, have never been revealed to a
third person. That you should share our secret now, is not only
necessary but fitting. It becomes the widow of John Scoville to know
what sort of a man she persists in regarding innocent. Wait here for

With a quick step he wound his way among the various encumbering pieces
of furniture, to the door opening into his bedroom. A breathless moment
ensued, during which she heard his key turn in the lock, followed by the
repeating sound of his footsteps, as he wended his way inside to a point
she could only guess at from her knowledge of the room, to be a dresser
in one of the corners. Here he lingered so long that, without any
conscious volition of her own,--almost in spite of her volition which
would have kept her where she was,--she found herself on her feet, then
moving step by step, more cautiously than he, in and out of huddling
chairs and cluttering tables till she came to a stand-still before the
reflection (in some mirror, no doubt) of the judge's tall form, bending
not over the dresser, as she had supposed, but before a cupboard in the
wall--a cupboard she had never seen, in a wall she had never seen, but
now recognised for the one hitherto concealed by the great carpet rug.
He had a roll of paper in his hand, which he bundled together as he
dropped the curtain back into place and then stopped to smooth it out
over the floor with the precision of long habit. All this she saw in the
mirror as though she had been at his back in the other room; but when
she beheld him turn, then panic seized her and she started breathlessly
for the spot where he had left her, glad that there was so little light,
and praying that he might be deaf to her steps, which, gently as they
fell, sounded portentously loud in her own ears.

She had reached her chair, but she had not had time to re-seat herself
when she beheld him approaching with the bundle of loose sheets clutched
in his hand.

"I want you to sit here and read," said he, laying the manuscript down
on a small table near the wall under a gas-jet which he immediately
lighted. "I am going back to my own desk. If you want to speak, you may;
I shall not be working." And she heard his footsteps retreating again in
and out among the furniture till he reached his own chair and sat before
his own table.

This ended all sound in the room excepting the beating of her own heart,
which had become tumultuous.

How could she sit there and read words, with the blood pounding in her
veins and her eyes half blind with terror and excitement? It was only
the necessity of the case which made it possible. She knew that she
would never be released from that spot until she had read what had been
placed before her. Thank God! the manuscript was legible. Oliver's
handwriting possessed the clearness of print. She had begun to read
before she knew it, and having begun, she never paused till she reached
the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was fifteen. It was my birthday and I had my own ideas of how I wanted
to spend it. My hobby was modelling. My father had no sympathy with this
hobby. To him it was a waste of time better spent in study or such
sports as would fit me for study. But he had never absolutely forbidden
me to exercise my talent this way, and when on the day I mention I had a
few hours of freedom, I decided to begin a piece of work of which I had
long dreamed. This was the remodelling in clay of an exquisite statue
which had greatly aroused my admiration.

This statue stood in a forbidden place. It was one of the art treasures
of the great house on the bluff commonly called Spencer's Folly. I had
seen this marble once, when dining there with father, and was so
impressed by its beauty, that it haunted me night and day, standing out
white and wonderful in my imagination, against backgrounds of endless
variation. To copy its lovely lines, to caress with a creative hand
those curves of beauty instinct, as I then felt, with soul, became my
one overmastering desire,--a desire which soon deepened into purpose.
The boy of fifteen would attempt the impossible. I procured my clay and
then awaited my opportunity. It came, as I have said, on my birthday.

There was no one living in the house at this time. Mr. Spencer had gone
West for the winter. The servants had been dismissed, and the place
closed. Only that morning I had heard one of his boon companions say,
"Oh, Jack's done for. He's found a pretty widow in the Sierras, and
there's no knowing now when we'll drink his health again in Spencer's
Folly:" a statement which wakened but one picture in my mind and that
was a long stretch of empty rooms teeming with art treasures amid which
one gem rose supreme--the gem which through his reckless carelessness, I
now proposed to make my own, if loving fingers and the responsive clay
would allow it.

What to every other person in town would have seemed an insuperable
obstacle to this undertaking, was no obstacle to me. _I_ KNEW HOW TO GET
IN. One day in my restless wanderings about a place which had something
of the nature of a shrine to me, I had noticed that one of the windows
(a swinging one) overlooking the ravine, moved as the wind took it.
Either the lock had given way or it had not been properly fastened. If I
could only bring myself to disregard the narrowness of the ledge
separating the house from the precipice beneath, I felt that I could
reach this window and sever the vines sufficiently for my body to press
in; and this I did that night, finding, just as I had expected, that
once a little force was brought to bear upon the sash, it yielded
easily, offering a free passage to the delights within.

In all this I experienced little fear, but once inside, I began to
realise the hazard of my adventure, as hanging at full length from the
casement, I meditated on the drop I must take into what to my dazed eyes
looked like an absolute void. This taxed my courage; but after a moment
of sheer fright, I let myself go--I had to--and immediately found myself
standing upright in a space so narrow I could touch the walls on either
side. It was a closet I had entered, opening, as I soon discovered, into
the huge dining-hall where I had once sat beside my father at the one
formal meal of my life.

I remembered that room; it had made a great impression upon me, and some
light finding its way through the panes of uncurtained glass which
topped each of the three windows overlooking the ravine, I soon was able
to find the door leading into the drawing-room.

I had brought a small lantern in the bag slung to my shoulders, but I
had not hitherto dared to use it on account of the transparency of the
panes I have mentioned; but once in the perfectly dark recesses of the
room beyond, I drew it out, and without the least fear of detection
boldly turned it upon the small alcove where stood the object of my

It was another instance of the reckless confidence of youth. I was on
the verge of one of the most appalling adventures which could befall a
man, and yet no premonition disturbed the ecstasy with which I knelt
before the glimmering marble and unrolled my bundle of wet clay.

I was not a complete fool. I only meant to attempt a miniature copy, but
my presumption led me to expect it to be like--yes, like--oh, I never
doubted it!

But when, after a few minutes of rapturous contemplation of the
proportions which have been the despair of all lesser adepts than the
great sculptor who conceived them, I began my work, oh, then I began to
realise a little the nature of the task I had undertaken and to ask
myself whether if I stayed all night I could finish it to my mind. It
was during one of these moments of hesitation that I heard the first
growl of distant thunder. But it made little impression upon me, and I
returned to my work with renewed glow,--renewed hope. I felt so secure
in my shell of darkness, with only the one small beam lighting up my
model and my own fingers busy with the yielding clay.

But the thunder growled again and my head rose, this time in real alarm.
Not because of that far-off struggle of the elements with which I had
nothing to do and hardly sensed, but because of a nearer sound, an
indistinguishable yet strangely perturbing sound, suggesting a step--no,
it was a voice, or if not a voice, some equally sure token of an
approaching presence on the porch in front. Some one going by on the
road two hundred feet away must have caught the gleam of my lantern
through some unperceived crack in the parlour shutters. In another
minute I should hear a shout at the window, or, perhaps, the pounding of
a heavy hand on the front door. I hated the interruption, but otherwise
I was but little disturbed. Whoever it was, he could not by any chance
find his way in. Nevertheless, I discreetly closed the shutter of my
lantern and began groping my way back to my own place of exit. I had
reached the dining-room door, when the blood suddenly stopped in my
veins. Another sound had reached my ear; an unmistakable one this
time--the rattling of a key in its lock. A man--two men were entering by
the great front door. They came in on a swoop of wind which seemed to
carry everything before it. I heard a loud laugh, coarsened by drink,
and the tipsy exclamation of a voice I knew:

"There! shut the door, can't you, before it's blown from its hinges?
You'll find everything jolly here. Wine, lights, solitude in which to
finish our game and a roaring good opportunity to sleep afterwards. No
servants, no porters, not a soul to disturb us. This is my house and
it's a corker. I might be away for a year and"--here there was the
crackling of a match--"I've only to use my night-key to find everything
a man wants right to my hand."

The answer I failed to catch. I was simply paralysed by terror. Should
their way lay through the drawing-room! My clay, my tools were all lying
there, and my unfinished model. Mr. Spencer was not an unkind man, but
he was very drunk, and I had heard that whisky makes a brute of the most
good-natured. He would trample on my work; perhaps he would destroy my
tools and then hunt the house till he found me. I did not know what to
expect; meantime, lights began to flame up; the room where I stood was
no longer a safe refuge, and creeping like a cat, I began to move
towards the closet door. Suddenly I made a dart for it; the two men,
trampling heavily on the marble floor of the hall were coming my way. I
could hear their rude talk--rude to me, though one of them called
himself a gentleman. As the door of the room opened to admit them, I
succeeded in shutting that of the closet into which I had flung
myself,--or almost so. I did not dare to latch it, for they were already
in the room and might hear me.

"This is the spot for us," came in Spencer's most jovial tones. "Big
table, whisky handy, cards right here in my pocket. Wait, till I strike
a light!"

But the lightning anticipated him. As he spoke, the walls which
surrounded me, the walls which surrounded them, leapt into glaring view
and I heard the second voice cry out:

"I don't like that! Let's wait till the storm is over. I can't play with
such candles as those flaring about us."

"Damn it! you won't know what candles you are playing by when once you
see the pile I've got ready for you. I'm in for a big bout. You have ten
dollars and I have a thousand. I'll play you for that ten. If, in the
meantime, you get my thousand, why, it'll be because you're the better

"I don't like it, I say. There, SEE!"

A flood of white light had engulfed the house. My closet, with its
whitewashed walls flared about me like the mouth of a furnace.

"See, yourself!" came the careless retort, and with the words a gas-jet
shot up, then two, then all that the room contained. "How's that? What's
a flash more or less now!"

I heard no answer, only the slap of the cards as they were flung onto
the table; then the clatter of a key as it was turned in some distant
lock and the quick question:

"Rum, or whisky. Irish or Scotch?"

"Whisky and Irish."

"Good! but you'll drink it alone."

The bottles were brought forward and they sat down one on each side of
the dusty mahogany table. The man facing me was Spencer, the other sat
with his back my way, but I could now and then catch a glimpse of his
profile as he started at some flash or lifted his head in terror of the

"We'll play till the hands point to three," announced Spencer, taking
out his watch and laying it down where both could see it. "Do you agree
to that?--Unless I win and your funds go a-begging before the hour."

"I agree." The tone was harsh; it was almost smothered. The man was
staring at the watch; there was a strange set look to his figure; a
pausing as of thought--of sinister thought, I should now say; then I
never stopped to characterise it; it was followed too quickly by a loud
laugh and a sudden grab at the cards.

"You'll win! I feel it in my bones," came in encouraging tones from the
rich man. "If you do"--here the storm lulled and his voice sank to an
encouraging whisper--"you can buy the old tavern up the road. It's going
for a song; and then we'll be neighbours and can play--play--"

Thunder!--a terrific peal. It shook the house; it shook my boyish heart,
but it no longer had power to move the two gamesters. The fever of play
had reached its height, and I heard nothing more from their lips, but
such phrases as belong to the game. Why didn't I take advantage of their
absorption to fly? The sill above my head was within easy reach, the
sash was open and no sound that I could make would reach them in this
hurly-burly of storm. Why then, with all this invitation to escape, did
I remain crouched in my dark retreat with eyes fixed on the narrow crack
before me which, under some impulse of movement in the walls about, had
widened sufficiently for me to see all that I have related? I do not
know, unless I was hypnotised by the glare of expression on those men's

I remember that it was my first glimpse of the human countenance under
the sway of wicked and absorbing passions. Hitherto my dreams had all
been of beauty--of lovely shapes or noble figures cast in heroic mould.
Henceforth, these ideal groups must visit my imagination mixed with the
bulging eyes of greed and the contortions of hate masking their
hideousness under false smiles or hiding them behind the motions of
riotous jollity. I was horrified, I was sickened, and I was frightened
to the very soul, but the fascination of the spectacle held me; I
watched the men and I watched the play and soon I forgot the tempest
also, or remembered it only when my small retreat flared into sudden
whiteness, or some gust, heavier than the rest, toppled the bricks from
the chimneys above us and sent them crashing down upon the rain-soaked

The stranger was winning. I saw the heap of bills beside him grow and
grow while that of his opponent dwindled. I saw the latter smile--smile
softly at each toss of his losings across the board; but there was no
mirth in his smile, nor was there any common satisfaction in the way the
other's hand closed over his gains.

"He will have it all," I thought. "The Claymore Tavern will soon change
owners;" and I was holding my breath over the final stake when suddenly
the house gave a lurch, resettled, then lurched again. The tempest had
become a hurricane, and with its first swoop a change took place in the
stranger's luck.

The bills which had all gone one way began slowly to recross the board,
first singly, then in handfuls. They fell within Spencer's grasp, and
the smile with which he hailed their return was not the smile with which
he had seen them go, but a steady grin such as I had beheld on the faces
of sculptured demons. It frightened me, this smile. I could see nothing
else; but, when at another crashing peal I ducked my head, I found on
lifting it that my eyes sought instinctively the rigid back of the
stranger instead of the open face of Spencer. The passion of the winner
was nothing to that of the loser; and from this moment on, I saw but the
one figure, and thrilled to the one hope--that an opportunity would soon
come for me to see the face of the man whose back told such a tale of
fury and suspense.

But it remained fixed on Spencer, and the cards. The roof might fall--he
was past heeding. A bill or two only lay now at his elbow, and I could
perceive the further stiffening of his already rigid muscles as he dealt
out the cards. Suddenly hard upon a rattling peal which seemed to unite
heaven and earth, I heard shouted out:

"Half-past two! The game stops at three."

"Damn your greedy eyes!" came back in a growl. Then all was still,
fearfully still, both in the atmosphere outside and in that within,
during which I caught sight of the stranger's hand moving slowly around
to his back and returning as slowly forward, all under cover of the
table-top and a stack of half-empty bottles.

I was inexperienced. I knew nothing of the habits or the ways of such
men as these, but the alarm of innocence in the face of untold,
unsuspected but intuitively felt evil, seized me at this stealthy
movement, and I tried to rise,--tried to shriek,--but could not; for
events rushed upon us quicker than I could speak or move.

"I can buy the Claymore Tavern, can I? Well, I'm going to," rang out
into the air as the speaker leaped to his feet. "Take that, you cheat!
And that! And that!" And the shots rang out--one, two, three!

Spencer was dead in his Folly. I had seen him rise, throw up his hands
and then fall in a heap among the cards and glasses.

Silence! Not even Heaven spoke.

Then the man who stood there alone turned slightly and I saw his face. I
have seen it many times since; I have seen it at Claymore Tavern.
Distorted up to this moment by a thousand emotions,--all evil ones,--it
was calm now with the realisation of his act, and I could make no
mistake as to his identity. Later I will mention his name.

Glancing first at his victim, then at the pistol still smoking in his
hand, he put the weapon back in his pocket, and began gathering up the
money for which he had just damned his soul. To get it all, he had to
move an arm of the body sprawling along the board. But he did not appear
to mind. When every bill was in his pockets, he reached out his hand for
the watch. Then I saw him smile. He smiled as he shut the case, he
smiled as he plunged it in after the bills. There was gloating in this
smile. He seemed to have got what he wanted more than when he fingered
the bills. I was stiff with horror. I was not conscious of noting these
details, but I saw them every one. Small things make an impression when
the mind is numb under the effect of a great blow.

Next moment I woke to a realisation of myself and all the danger of my
own position. He was scanning very carefully the room about him. His
eyes were travelling slowly--very slowly but certainly, in my direction.
I saw them pause--concentrate their glances and fix them straight and
full upon mine. Not that he saw me. The crack through which we were
peering each in our several ways was too narrow for that. But the crack
itself--that was what he saw and the promise it gave of some room
beyond. I was a creature frozen. But when he suddenly turned away
instead of plunging towards me with his still smoking pistol, I had the
instinct to make a leap for the window over my head and clutch madly at
its narrow sill in a wild attempt at escape.

But the effort ended precipitately. Terror had got me by the hair, and
terror made me look back. The crack had widened still further, and what
I now saw through it glued me to the wall and held me there transfixed,
with dangling feet and starting eyeballs.

He was coming towards me--a straining, panting figure--half carrying,
half dragging, the dead man who flopped aside from his arms.

God! what was I to do now! How meet those cold, indifferent eyes filled
only with thoughts of his own safety and see them flare again with
murderous impulse and that impulse directed towards myself! I couldn't
meet them; I couldn't stay; but how fly when not a muscle responded. I
had to stay--hanging from the sill and praying--praying--till my senses
blurred and I knew nothing till on a sudden they cleared again, and I
woke to the blessed realisation that the door had been pushed against my
slender figure, hiding it completely from his sight, and that this door
was now closed again and this time tightly, and I was safe--safe!

The relief sent the perspiration in a reek from every pore; but the icy
revulsion came quickly. As I drew up my knees to get a better purchase
on the sill, heaven's torch was suddenly lit up, the closet became a pit
of dazzling whiteness amid which I saw the blot of that dead body, with
head propped against the wall and eyes--

Remember, I was but fifteen. The legs were hunched up and almost touched
mine. I could feel them--though there was no contact--pushing
me--forcing me from my frail support. Would it lighten again? Would I
have to see--No! any risk first. The window--I no longer thought of it.
It was too remote, too difficult. The door--the door--there was my
way--the only way which would rid me instantly of any proximity to this
hideous object. I flung myself at it--found the knob--turned it and
yelled aloud--My foot had brushed against him. I knew the difference and
it sent me palpitating over the threshold; but no further. Love of life
had returned with my escape from that awful prison-house, and I halted
in the semidarkness into which I had plunged, thanking Heaven for the
thunder peal which had drowned my loud cry.

For I was not yet safe. He was still there. He had turned out all lights
but one, but this was sufficient to show me his tall figure straining up
to put out this last jet.

Another instant and darkness enveloped the whole place. He had not seen
me and was going. I could hear the sound of his feet as he went
stumbling in his zigzag course towards the door. Then every sound both
on his part and on mine was lost in a swoop of down-falling rain and I
remember nothing more till out of the blankness before me, he started
again into view, within the open doorway where in the glare of what he
called heaven's candles he stood, poising himself to meet the gale which
seemed ready to catch him up and whirl him with other inconsequent
things into the void of nothingness. Then darkness settled again and I
was left alone with Murder;--all the innocence of my youth gone, and my
soul a very charnel house.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had to re-enter that closet; I had to take the only means of escape
proffered. But I went through it as we go through the horrors of
nightmare. My muscles obeyed my volition, but my sensibilities were no
longer active. How I managed to draw myself up to that slippery sill all
reeking now with rain, or save myself from falling to my death in the
whirling blast that carried everything about me into the ravine below, I
do not know.

I simply did it and escaped all--lightning-flash and falling limb, and
the lasso of swirling winds--to find myself at last lying my full length
along the bridge amid a shock of elements such as nature seldom sports
with. Here I clung, for I was breathless, waiting with head buried in my
arm for the rain to abate before I attempted a further escape from the
place which held such horror for me!

But no abatement came, and feeling the bridge shaking under me almost to
cracking, I began to crawl, inch by inch, along its gaping boards till I
reached its middle.

There God stopped me.

For, with a clangour as of rending worlds, a bolt, hot from the zenith,
sped down upon the bluff behind me, throwing me down again upon my face
and engulfing sense and understanding for one wild moment. Then I sprang
upright and with a yell of terror sped across the rocking boards beneath
me to the road, no longer battling with my desire to look back; no
longer asking myself when and how that dead man would be found; no
longer even asking my own duty in the case; for Spencer's Folly was on
fire and the crime I had just seen perpetrated there would soon be a
crime stricken from the sight of men forever.

In the flare of its tremendous burning I found my way up through the
forest road to my home and into my father's presence. He like everybody
else was up that night, and already alarmed at my continued absence.

"Spencer's Folly is on fire," I cried, as he cast dismayed eyes at my
pallid and dripping figure. "If you go to the door, you can see it!"

But I told him nothing more.

Perhaps other boys of my age can understand my silence.

I not only did not tell my father, but I told nobody, even after the
discovery of Spencer's charred body in the closet so miraculously
preserved. With every day that passed, it became harder to part with
this baleful secret. I felt it corroding my thoughts and destroying my
spirits, and yet I kept still. Only my taste for modelling was gone. I
have never touched clay since.

Claymore Tavern did change owners. When I heard that a man by the name
of Scoville had bought it, I went over to see Scoville. He was the man.
Then I began to ask myself what I ought to do with my knowledge, and the
more I asked myself this question, and the more I brooded over the
matter, the less did I feel like taking, not the public, but my father,
into my confidence.

I had never doubted his love for me, but I had always stood in great awe
of his reproof, and I did not know where I was to find courage to tell
him all the details of this adventure.

There is one thing I did do, however. I made certain inquiries here and
there, and soon satisfied myself as to how Scoville had been able to
come into town, commit this horrid deed and escape without any one but
myself being the wiser. Spencer and he had come from the west en route
to New York without any intention of stopping off in Shelby. But once
involved in play, they got so interested that when within a few miles of
the town, Spencer proposed that they should leave the train and finish
the game in his own house. Whether circumstances aided them, or Spencer
took some extraordinary precautions against being recognised, will never
be known. But certain it is that he escaped all observation at the
station and even upon the road. When Scoville returned alone, the storm
had reached such a height that the roads were deserted, and he, being an
entire stranger here at that time, naturally attracted no attention, and
so was able to slip away on the next train with just the drawback of
buying a new ticket. I, a boy of fifteen, trespassing where I did not
belong, was the only living witness of what had happened on this night
of dreadful storm, in the house which was now a ruin.

I realised the unpleasantness of the position in which this put me, but
not its responsibility. Scoville, ignorant that any other breast than
his own held the secret of that hour of fierce temptation and murder,
naturally scented no danger and rejoiced without stint in his new
acquisition. What evil might I not draw down upon myself by disturbing
him in it at this late day. If I were going to do anything, I should
have done it at first--so I reasoned, and let the matter slide. I became
interested in school and study, and the years passed and I had almost
forgotten the occurrence, when suddenly the full remembrance came back
upon me with a rush. A man--my father's friend--was found murdered in
sight of this spot of old-time horror, and Scoville was accused of the

I was older now and saw my fault in all its enormity. I was guilty of
that crime--or so I felt in the first heat of my sorrow and despair. I
may even have said so--in dreams or in some of my self-absorbed
broodings. Though I certainly had not lifted the stick against Mr.
Etheridge, I had left the hand free which did, and this was a sufficient
occasion for remorse--or so I truly felt.

I was so affected by the thought that even my father, with his own
weight of troubles, noticed my care-worn face and asked me for an
explanation. But I held him off until the verdict was reached, and then
I told him. I had not liked his looks for some time; they seemed to
convey some doubt of the justice of this man's sentence, and I felt that
if he had such doubts, they might be eased by this certainty of
Scoville's murderous tendencies and unquestionable greed.

And they were; but as Scoville was already doomed, we decided that it
was unnecessary to make public his past offences. However, with an eye
upon future contingencies, my father exacted from me in writing this
full account of my adventure, which with all the solemnity of an oath I
here declare to be the true story of what befell me in the house called
Spencer's Folly, on the night of awful storm, September Eleventh, 1895.


Witnesses to above signature,



Shelby........November 7, 1898.



This was the document and these the words which Deborah, widow of the
man thus doubly denounced, had been given to read by the father of the
writer, in the darkened room which had been and still was to her, an
abode of brooding thought and unfathomable mystery.

No wonder that during its reading more than one exclamation of terror
and dismay escaped her, as the once rehabilitated form of the dead and
gone started into dreadful life again before her eyes. There were so
many reasons for believing this record to be an absolute relation of the

Incoherent phrases which had fallen from those long-closed lips took on
new meaning with this unveiling of an unknown past. Repugnances for
which she could not account in those old days, she now saw explained. He
would never, even in passing, give a look at the ruin on the bluff, so
attractive to every eye but his own. As for entering its gates--she had
never dared so much as to ask him to do so. He had never expressed his
antipathy for the place, but he had made her feel it. She doubted now if
he would have climbed to it from the ravine even to save his child from
falling over its verge. Indeed, she saw the reason now why he could not
explain the reason for the apathy he showed in his hunt for Reuther on
that fatal day, and his so marked avoidance of the height where she was

Then the watch! Deborah knew well that watch. She had often asked him by
what stroke of luck he had got so fine a timepiece. But he had never
told her. Later, it had been stolen from him; and as he had a mania for
watches, that was why, perhaps--

God! was her mind veering back to her old idea as to his responsibility
for the crime committed in Dark Hollow? Yes; she could not help it.
Denial from a monster like this--a man who with such memories and such
spoil, could return home to wife and child, with some gay and confused
story of a great stroke in speculation which had brought him in the
price of the tavern it had long been his ambition to own--what was
denial from such lips worth, though emphasised by the most sacred of
oaths, and uttered under the shadow of death. The judge was right.
Oliver--whose ingenuous story had restored his image to her mind, with
some of its old graces--had been the victim of circumstances and not
John Scoville. Henceforth, she would see him as such, and when she had
recovered a little from the effect of this sudden insight into the
revolting past, she would--

Her thoughts had reached this stage and her hand, in obedience to the
new mood, was lightly ruffling up the pages before her, when she felt a
light touch on her shoulder and turned with a start.

The judge was at her back. How long he had stood there she did not know,
nor did he say. The muttered exclamations which had escaped her, the
irrepressible cry of despair she had given when she first recognised the
identity of the "stranger" may have reached him where he sat at the
other end of the room, and drawn him insensibly forward till he could
overlook her shoulder as she read, and taste with her the horror of
these revelations which yet were working so beneficent a result for him
and his. It may have been so, and it may have been that he had not made
his move till he saw her attitude change and her head droop
disconsolately at the reading of the last line. She did not ask, as I
have said, nor did he tell her; but when upon feeling his hand upon her
shoulder she turned, he was there; and while his lips failed to speak,
his eyes were eloquent and their question single and imperative.

"What do you think of him now?" they seemed to ask, and rising to her
feet, she met him with a smile, ghastly perhaps with the lividness of
the shadows through which she had been groping, but encouraging withal
and soothing beyond measure to his anxious and harassed soul.

"Oliver is innocent," she declared, turning once more to lay her hand
upon the sheets containing his naive confession. "The dastard who could
shoot his host for plunder is capable of a second crime holding out a
similar inducement. Nothing now will ever make me connect Oliver with
the crime at the bridge. As you said, he was simply near enough the
Hollow to toss into it the stick he had been whittling on his way from
the oak tree. I am his advocate from this minute."

Her eyes were still resting mechanically upon that last page lying
spread out before her, and she did not observe in its full glory the
first gleam of triumphant joy which, in all probability, Judge
Ostrander's countenance had shown in years. Nor did he see, in the glad
confusion of the moment, the quick shudder with which she lifted her
trembling hand away from those papers and looked up, squarely at last,
into his transfigured visage.

"Oh, judge!" she murmured, bursting into a torrent of tears. "How you
must have suffered to feel so great a relief!" Then she was still, very
still, and waited for him to speak.

"I suffered," he presently proceeded to state, "because of the knowledge
which had come to me of the scandal with which circumstances threatened
us. Oliver had confided to me (after the trial, mind, not before) the
unfortunate fact of his having been in possession of the stick during
those few odd minutes preceding the murder. He had also told me how he
had boasted once, and in a big crowd, too, of his intention to do
Etheridge. He had meant nothing by the phrase, beyond what any body
means who mingles boasting with temper, but it was a nasty point of
corroborative evidence; and heart-breaking as it was for me to part with
him, I felt that his future career would be furthered by a fresh start
in another town. You see," he continued, a faint blush dyeing his old
cheek ... old in sorrow not in years ... "I am revealing mysteries of my
past life which I have hitherto kept strictly within my own breast. I
cannot do this without shame, because while in the many serious
conversations we have had on this subject, I have always insisted upon
John Scoville's guilt. I have never allowed myself to admit the least
fact which would in any way compromise Oliver. A cowardly attitude for a
judge you will say, and you are right; but for a father--Mrs. Scoville,
I love my boy. I--What's that?"

The front door-bell was ringing.

In a flash Deborah was out of the room. It was as if she had flown with
unnecessary eagerness to answer a bidding which, after all, Reuther
could easily have attended to. It struck him aghast for the instant,
then he began slowly to gather up the papers before him and carry them
back into the other room. Had he, instead, made straight for the doorway
leading to the front of the house, he would have come upon the figure of
Deborah standing alone and with her face pressed in anguish and
unspeakable despair against the lintel. Something had struck her heart
and darkened her soul since that exalted moment in which she cried:

"Henceforth I will be Oliver's advocate."

When the judge at last came forth, it was at Reuther's bidding.

A gentleman wished to see him in the parlour.

This was so unprecedented,--even of late when the ladies did receive
some callers, that he stopped short after his first instinctive step, to
ask her if the gentleman had given his name.

She said no; but added that he was not alone; that he had a very strange
and not very nice-looking person with him whom mother insisted should
remain in the hall. "Mother requests you to see the gentleman, Judge
Ostrander. She said you would wish to, if you once saw the person
accompanying him."

With a dark glance, not directed against her, however, the judge bade
her run away to the kitchen and as far from all these troubles as she
could, then, locking his door behind him, as he always did, he strode
towards the front.

He found Deborah standing guard over an ill-conditioned fellow whose
slouching figure slouched still more under his eye, but gave no other
acknowledgment of his presence. Passing him without a second look, Judge
Ostrander entered the parlour where he found no less a person than Mr.
Black awaiting him.

There was no bad blood between these two whatever their past relations
or present suspicions, and they were soon shaking hands with every
appearance of mutual cordiality.

The judge was especially courteous.

"I am glad," said he, "of any occasion which brings you again under my
roof, though from the appearance of your companion I judge the present
one to be of no very agreeable character."

"He's honest enough," muttered Black, with a glance towards Deborah, for
the understanding of which the judge held no key. Then, changing the
subject, "You had a very unfortunate experience this afternoon. Allow me
to express my regret at an outbreak so totally unwarranted."

A grumble came from the hall without. Evidently his charge, if we may so
designate the fellow he had brought there, had his own ideas on this

"Quiet out there!" shouted Mr. Black. "Mrs. Scoville, you need not
trouble yourself to stand over Mr. Flannagan any longer. I'll look after

She bowed and was turning away when the judge intervened.

"Is there any objection," he asked, "to Mrs. Scoville's remaining
present at this interview?"

"None whatever," answered the lawyer.

"Then, Mrs. Scoville, may I request you to come in?"

If she hesitated, it was but natural. Exhaustion is the obvious result
of so many excitements, and that she was utterly exhausted was very
apparent. Mr. Black cast her a commiserating smile, but the judge only
noticed that she entered the room at his bidding and sat down by the
window. He was keying himself up to sustain a fresh excitement. He was
as exhausted as she, possibly more so. He had a greater number of
wearing years to his credit.

"Judge, I'm your friend;" thus Mr. Black began. "Thinking you must wish
to know who started the riotous procedure which disgraced our town
to-day, I have brought the ringleader here to answer for himself--that
is, if you wish to question him."

Judge Ostrander wheeled about, gave the man a searching look, and
failing to recognise him as any one he had ever seen before, beckoned
him in.

"I suppose," said he, when the lounging and insolent figure was fairly
before their eyes, "that this is not the first time you have been asked
to explain your enmity to my long absent son."

"Naw; I've had my talk wherever and whenever I took the notion. Oliver
Ostrander hit me once. I was jest a little chap then and meanin' no harm
to any one. I kept a-pesterin' of 'im and he hit me. He'd a better have
hit a feller who hadn't my memory. I've never forgiven that hit, and I
never will. That's why I'm hittin' him now. It's just my turn; that's

"Your turn! YOUR turn! And what do you think has given YOU an
opportunity to turn on HIM?"

"I'm not in the talkin' mood just now," the fellow drawled, frankly
insolent, not only in his tone but in his bearing to all present. "Nor
can you make it worth my while, you gents. I'll not take money. I'm an
honest hard-workin' man who can earn his own livin', and you can't pay
me to keep still, or to go away from Shelby a day sooner than I want to.
I was goin' away, but I gave it up when they told me that things were
beginnin' to look black against Ol Ostrander;--that a woman had come
into town who was a-stirrin' up things generally about that old murder
for which a feller had already been 'lectrocuted, and knowin' somethin'
myself about that murder and Ol Ostrander, I--well, I stayed."

The quiet threat, the suggested possibility, the attack which wraps
itself in vague uncertainty, are ever the most effective. As his raucous
voice, dry with sinister purpose which no man could shake, died out in
an offensive drawl, Mr. Black edged a step nearer the judge, before he
sprang and caught the young fellow by the coat-collar and gave him a
very vigorous shake.

"See here!" he threatened. "Behave yourself and treat the judge like a
gentleman or--"

"Or what?" the bulldog mouth sneered. "See here yourself," he now
shouted, as the lawyer's hands unloosed and he stood panting; "I'm not
afeard o' you, sir, nor of the jedge, nor of the lady nuther. I KNOWS
somethin', I do; and when I gets ready to tell it, we'll just see whose
coat-collar they'll be handlin'. I came 'cause I wanted to see the
inside o' the house Ol Ostrander's father doesn't think him good enough
to live in. It's grand; but this part here isn't the whole of it.
There's a door somewhere which nobody never opens unless it's the jedge
there. I'd like to see what's behind that 'ere door. If it's somethin'
to make a good story out of, I might be got to keep quiet about this
other thing. I don't know, but I MIGHT."

The swagger with which he said this, the confidence in himself which he
showed and the reliance he so openly put in the something he knew but
could not be induced to tell, acted so strongly upon Mr. Black's nerves,
that he leaped towards him again, evidently with the intention of
dragging him from the house.

But the judge was not ready for this. The judge had gained a new lease
of life in the last half-hour and he felt no fear of this sullen
bill-poster for all his sly innuendoes. He, therefore, hindered the
lawyer from his purpose, by a quick gesture of so much dignity and
resolve that even the lout himself was impressed and dropped some of his
sullen bravado.

"I have something to say to this fellow," he announced, looking anywhere
but at the drooping figure in the window which ought, above all things
in the world, to have engaged his attention. "Perhaps he does not know
his folly. Perhaps he thinks because I was thrown aback to-day by those
public charges against my son and a string of insults for which no
father could be prepared, that I am seriously disturbed over the
position into which such unthinking men as himself have pushed Mr.
Oliver Ostrander. I might be if there were truth in these charges or any
serious reason for connecting my upright and honourable son with the low
crime of a highwayman. BUT THERE IS NOT. I aver it and so will this lady
here whom you have doubtless recognised for the one who has stirred this
matter up. You can bring no evidence to show guilt on my son's
part,"--these words he directed straight at the discomfited poster of

Mr. Black's eyes sparkled with admiration. He could not have used this
method with the lad, but he recognised the insight of the man who could.
Bribes were a sign of weakness, so were suggested force and
counter-attack; but scorn--a calm ignoring of the power of any one to
seriously shake Oliver Ostrander's established position--that might
rouse wrath and bring avowal; certainly it had shaken the man; he looked
much less aggressive and self-confident than before.

However, though impressed, he was not yet ready to give in. Shuffling
about with his feet but not yet shrinking from an encounter few men of
his stamp would have cared to subject themselves to, he answered with a
remark delivered with a little more civility than any of his previous

"What you call evidence may not be the same as I calls evidence. If
you're satisfied at thinkin' my word's no good, that's your business. I
know how I should feel if I was Ol Ostrander's father and knew what I

"Let him go," spoke up a wavering voice. It was Deborah's.

But the judge was deaf to the warning. Deborah's voice had but reminded
him of Deborah's presence. Its tone had escaped him. He was too
engrossed in the purpose he had in mind to notice shades of inflection.

But Mr. Black had, and quick as thought he echoed her request:

"He is forgetting himself. Let him go, Judge Ostrander."

But that astute magistrate, wise in all other causes but his own, was no
more ready now than before to do this.

"In a moment," he conceded. "Let me first make sure that this man
understands me. I have said that there exists no evidence against my
son. I did not mean that there may not be supposed evidence. That is
more than probable. No suspicion could have been felt and none of these
outrageous charges made, without that. He was unfortunate enough not
only to have been in the ravine that night but to have picked up
Scoville's stick and carried it towards the bridge, whittling it as he
went. But his connection with the crime ends there. He dropped this
stick before he came to where the wood path joins Factory Road; and
another hand than his raised it against Etheridge. This I aver; and this
the lady here will aver. You have probably already recognised her. If
not, allow me to tell you that she is the lady whose efforts have
brought back this case to the public mind: Mrs. Scoville, the wife of
John Scoville and the one of all others who has the greatest interest in
proving her husband's innocence. If she says, that after the most
careful inquiry and a conscientious reconsideration of this case, she
has found herself forced to come to the conclusion that justice has
already been satisfied in this matter, you will believe her, won't you?"

"I don't know," drawled the man, a low and cunning expression lighting
up his ugly countenance. "She wants to marry her daughter to your son.
Any live dog is better than a dead one; I guess her opinion don't go for

Recoiling before a cynicism that pierced with unerring skill the one
joint in his armour he knew to be vulnerable, the judge took a minute in
which to control his rage and then addressing the half-averted figure in
the window said:

"Mrs. Scoville, will you assure this man that you have no expectations
of marrying your daughter to Oliver Ostrander?"

With a slow movement more suggestive of despair than any she had been
seen to make since the hour of her indecision had first struck, she
shifted in her seat and finally faced them, with the assertion:

"Reuther Scoville will never marry Oliver Ostrander. Whatever my wishes
or willingness in the matter, she herself is so determined. Not because
she does not believe in his integrity, for she does; but because she
will not unite herself to one whose prospects in life are more to her
than her own happiness."

The fellow stared, then laughed:

"She's a goodun," he sneered. "And you believe that bosh?"

Mr. Black could no longer contain himself.

"I believe you to be the biggest rascal in town," he shouted. "Get out,
or I won't answer for myself. Ladies are not to be treated in this

Did he remember his own rough handling of the sex on the witness stand?

"_I_ didn't ask to see the ladies," protested Flannagan, turning with a
slinking gait towards the door.

If they only had let him go! If the judge in his new self-confidence had
not been so anxious to deepen the effect and make any future repetition
of the situation impossible!

"You understand the lady," he interposed, with the quiet dignity which
was so imposing on the bench. "She has no sympathy with your ideas and
no faith in your conclusions. She believes absolutely in my son's

"Do you, ma'am?" The man had turned and was surveying her with the
dogged impudence of his class. "I'd like to hear you say it, if you
don't mind, ma'am. Perhaps, then, I'll believe it."

"I--" she began, trembling so, that she failed to reach her feet,
although she made one spasmodic effort to do so. "I believe--Oh, I feel
ill! It's been too much--I--" her head fell forward and she turned
herself quite away from them all.

"You see she ain't so eager, jedge, as you thought," laughed the
bill-poster, with a clumsy bow he evidently meant to be sarcastic.

"Oh, what have I done!" moaned Deborah, starting up as though she would
fling herself after the retreating figure, now half way down the hall.

She saw in the look of the judge as he forcibly stopped her, and heard
in the lawyer's whisper as he bounded past them both to see the fellow
out: "Useless; nothing will bridle him now"; and finding no support for
her despairing spirit either on earth or, as she thought, in heaven, she
collapsed where she sat and fell unnoticed to the floor, where she lay
prone at the feet of the equally unconscious figure of the judge, fixed
in another attack of his peculiar complaint.

And thus the lawyer found them when he returned from closing the gate
behind Flannagan.



"I CANNOT say anything, I cannot do anything till I have had a few words
with Mrs. Scoville. How soon do you think I can speak to her?"

"Not very soon. Her daughter says she is quite worn out. Would it not be
better to give her a rest for to-night, judge?"

The judge, now quite recovered, but strangely shrunk and wan, showed no
surprise, at this request, odd as it was, on the lips of this honest but
somewhat crabbed lawyer, but answered out of the fulness of his own
heart and from the depths of his preoccupation:

"My necessity is greater than hers. The change I saw in her is
inexplicable. One moment she was all fire and determination, satisfied
of Oliver's innocence and eager to proclaim it. The next--but you were
with us. You witnessed her hesitation--felt its force and what its
effect was upon the damnable scamp who has our honour--the honour of the
Ostranders under his tongue. Something must have produced this change.
What? good friend, what?"

"I don't know any more than you do, judge. But I think you are mistaken
about the previous nature of her feelings. I noticed that she was not at
peace with herself when she came into the room."

"What's that?" The tone was short, and for the first time irritable.

"The change, if there was a change, was not so sudden as you think. She
looked troubled, and as I thought, irresolute when she came into the

"You don't know her; you don't know what passed between us. She was all
right then, but--Go to her, Black. She must have recovered by this time.
Ask her to come here for a minute. I won't detain her. I will wait for
her warning knock right here."

Alanson Black was a harsh man, but he had a soft streak in him--a streak
which had been much developed of late. Where he loved, he could be
extraordinarily kind, and he loved, had loved for years, in his own way
which was not a very demonstrative one, this man whom he was now
striving to serve. But a counter affection was making difficulties for
him just at this minute. Against all probability, many would have said
possibility, Deborah Scoville had roused in this hard nature, a feeling
which he was not yet ready to name even to himself, but which
nevertheless stood very decidedly in his way when the judge made this
demand which meant further distress to her.

But the judge had declared his necessity to be greater than hers, and
after Mr. Black had subjected him to one of his most searching looks he
decided that this was so, and quietly departed upon his errand. The
judge left alone, sat, a brooding figure in his great chair, with no
light in heart or mind to combat the shadows of approaching night
settling heavier and heavier upon the room and upon himself with every
slow passing and intolerable minute.

At last, when the final ray had departed and darkness reigned supreme,
there came a low knock on the door. Then a troubled cry:

"Oh, judge, are you here?"

"I am here."

"Alone and so dark?"

"I am always alone, and it is always dark. Is there any one with you?"

"No, sir. Shall I make a light?"

"No light. Is the door quite shut?"

"No, judge."

"Shut it."

There came the sound of a hand fumbling over the panels, then a quick

"It is shut," she said.

"Don't come any nearer; it is not necessary." A pause, then the quick
question ringing hollow from the darkness, "Why have your doubts
returned? Why are you no longer the woman you were when not an hour ago
and in this very spot you cried, 'I will be Oliver's advocate!'" Then,
as no answer came,--as minutes passed, and still no answer came, he
spoke again and added: "I know that you are ill and exhausted--broken
between duty and sympathy; but you must answer me, Mrs. Scoville. My
affairs won't wait. I must know the truth and all the truth before this
day is over."

"You shall." Her voice sounded hollow too and oh, how weary! "You
allowed the document you showed me to remain a little too long before my
eyes. That last page--need I say it?"

"Say it."

"Shows--shows changes, Judge Ostrander. Some words have been erased and
new ones written in. They are not many, but--"

"I understand. I do not blame you, Deborah." The words came after a
pause and very softly, almost as softly as her own BUT which had sounded
its low knell of doom through the darkness. "Too many stumbling-blocks
in your way, Deborah, too much to combat. The most trusting heart must
give way under such a strain. That page WAS tampered with. I tampered
with it myself. I am not expert at forgery. I had better have left it,
as he wrote it." Then after another silence, he added, with a certain
vehemence: "We will struggle no longer, either you or I. The boy must
come home. Prepare Reuther, or, if you think best, provide a place for
her where she will be safe from the storm which bids fair to wreck us
here. No, don't speak; just ask Mr. Black to return, will you?"


"I understand. Mr. Black, Deborah."

Slowly she moved away and began to grope for the door. As her hand fell
on the knob she thought she heard a sob in those impenetrable depths
behind her; but when she listened again, all was still; still as if
merciful death and not weary life gave its significance to the
surrounding gloom.

Shuddering, she turned the knob and paused again for rebuff or command.
Neither came; and, realising that having spoken once the judge would not
speak again, she slipped softly away, and the door swung to after her.

When Mr. Black re-entered the study, it was to find the room lighted and
the judge bent over the table, writing.

"You are going to send for Oliver?" he queried.

The judge hesitated, then motioning Black to sit, said abruptly:

"What is Andrews' attitude in this matter?"

Andrews was Shelby's District Attorney.

Black's answer was like the man.

"I saw him for one minute an hour ago. I think, at present, he is
inclined to be both deaf and dumb, but if he's driven to action, he will
act. And, judge, this man Flannagan isn't going to stop where he is."

"Black, be merciful to my misery. What does this man know? Have you any

"No, judge, I haven't. He's as tight as a drum,--and as noisy. It is
possible--just possible that he's as empty. A few days will tell."

"I cannot wait for a few days. I hardly feel as if I could wait a few
hours. Oliver must come, even if--if the consequences are likely to be
fatal. An Ostrander once accused cannot skulk. Oliver has been accused
and--Send that!" he quickly cried, pulling forward the telegram he had
been writing.

Mr. Black took up the telegram and read:

     Come at once. Imperative. No delay and no excuse.


"Mrs. Scoville will supply the address," continued the poor father. "You
will see that it goes, and that its sending is kept secret. The answer,
if any is sent, had better be directed to your office. What do you say,

"I am your friend, right straight through, judge. Your friend."

"And my boy's adviser?"

"You wish that?"

"Very much."

"Then, there's my hand on it, unless he wishes a change when we see

"He will not wish any change."

"I don't know. I'm a surly fellow, judge. I have known you all these
years, yet I've never expressed--never said what I even find it hard to
say now, that--that my esteem is something more than esteem; that--that
I'll do anything for you, judge."

"I--we won't talk of that, Black. Tell Mrs. Scoville to keep me
informed--and bring me any message that may come. The boy, even if he
leaves the first thing in the morning, cannot get here before to-morrow

"Not possibly."

"He will telegraph. I shall hear from him. O God! the hours I must wait;
my boy! my boy!"

It was nature's irrepressible cry. Black pressed his hand and went out
with the telegram.





Three hours later, an agitated confab took place at the gate, or rather
between the two front gates. Mr. Black had rung for admittance, and Mrs.
Scoville had answered the call. In the constrained interview which
followed, these words were said:

"One moment, Mrs. Scoville. How can I tell the judge! Young Ostrander is
gone--flew the city, and I can get no clew to his whereabouts. Some
warning of what is happening here may have reached him, or he may be
simply following impulses consequent upon his personal disappointments;
but the fact is just this--he asked for two weeks' leave to go West upon
business,--and he's been gone three. Meanwhile, no word has come, nor
can his best friends tell the place of his destination. I have been
burning the telegraph wires ever since the first despatch, and this is
the result."

"Poor Judge Ostrander!" Then, in lower and still more pathetic tones,
"Poor Reuther!"

"Where is Reuther?"

"At Miss Weeks'. I had to command her to leave me alone with the judge.
It's the first time I ever spoke unkindly to her."

"Shall I tell the judge the result of his telegram, or will you?"

"Have you the messages with you?"

He bundled them into her hand.

"I will hand them in to him. We can do nothing less and nothing more.
Then if he wants you, I will telephone."

"Mrs. Scoville?"

She felt his hand laid softly on her shoulder.

"Yes, Mr. Black."

"There is some one else in this matter to consider besides Judge

"Reuther? Oh, don't I know it! She's not out of my mind a moment."

"Reuther is young, and has a gallant soul. I mean you, Mrs. Scoville,
you! You are not to succumb to this trial. You have a future--a bright
future--or should have. Do not endanger it by giving up all your
strength now. It's precious, that strength, or would be--"

He broke off; she began to move away. Overhead in the narrow space of
sky visible to them from where they stood, the stars burned brightly.
Some instinct made them look up; as they did so, their hands met. Then a
gruff sound broke the silence. It was Alanson Black's voice uttering a
grim farewell.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He must be found! Oliver must be found!" How the words rung in her
ears. She had handed in the messages to the waiting father; she had
uttered a word or two of explanation, and then, at his request, had left
him. But his last cry followed her: "He must be found!"

When she told it to Mr. Black the next morning, he looked serious.

"Pride or hope?" he asked.

"Desperation," she responded, with a guilty look about her. "Possibly,
some hope is in it, too. Perhaps, he thinks that any charge of this
nature must fall before Oliver's manly appearance. Whatever he thinks,
there is but one thing to do: find Oliver."

"Mrs. Scoville, the police have started upon that attempt. I got the tip
this morning."

"We must forestall them. To satisfy the judge, Oliver must come of his
own accord to face these charges."

"It's a brave stock. If Oliver gets his father's telegram he will come."

"But how are we to reach him! We are absolutely in the dark."

"If I could go to Detroit, I might strike some clew; but I cannot leave
the judge. Mr. Black, he told me this morning when I carried in his
breakfast that he should see no one and go nowhere till I brought him
word that Oliver was in the house. The hermit life has begun again. What
shall we do? Advise me in this emergency, for I feel as helpless as a
child,--as a lost child."

They were standing far apart in the little front parlour, and he gave no
evidence of wishing to lessen the space between them, but he gave her a
look as she said this, which, as she thought it over afterwards, held in
its kindly flame something which had never shone upon her before,
whether as maid, wife or widow. But, while she noticed it, she did not
dwell upon it now, only upon the words which followed it.

"You say you cannot go to Detroit. Shall I go?"

"Mr. Black!"

"Court is adjourned. I know of nothing more important than Judge
Ostrander's peace of mind--- unless it is yours. I will go if you say

"Will it avail? Let me think. I knew him well, and yet not well enough
to know where he would be most likely to go under impulse."

"There is some one who knows him better than you do."

"His father?"


"Reuther? Oh, she mustn't be told--"

"Yes, she must. She's our one adviser. Go for her--or send me."

"It won't be necessary. There's her ring at the gate. But oh, Mr. Black,
think again before you trouble this fragile child of mine with doubts
and questions which make her mother tremble."

"Has she shown the greater weakness yet?"

"No, but--"

"She has sources of strength which you lack. She believes absolutely in
Oliver's integrity. It will carry her through."

"Please let her in, Mr. Black. I will wait here while you tell her."

Mr. Black hurried from the room. When his form became visible on the
walk without, Deborah watched him from where she stood far back in the
room. Why? Was this swelling of her impetuous heart in the midst of such
suspense an instinct of thankfulness? A staff had been put in her hand,
rough to the touch, but firm under pressure, and she needed such a
staff. Yes, it was thankfulness.

But she forgot gratitude and every lesser emotion in watching Reuther's
expression as the two came up the path. The child was radiant, and the
mother, thus prepared, was not surprised when the young girl, running
into her arms, burst out with the glad cry:

"Oliver is no longer in Detroit, but he's wanted here, and Mr. Black and
I are going to find him. I think I know where to look. Get me ready,
mother dear; we are going to-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You are going to-night?" This was said after the first moment of
ebullition had past. "Where, Reuther? You have not been corresponding
with Oliver. How should you know where to look for him?"

Then Reuther told her story.

"Mr. Ostrander and I were talking very seriously one day. It was before
we became definitely engaged, and he seemed to feel very dispirited and
uncertain of the future. There was a treatise he wanted to write, and
for this he could get no opportunity in Detroit. 'I need time,' he said,
'and complete seclusion.' And then he made this remark: 'If ever life
becomes too much for me, I shall go to one of two places and give myself
up to this task.' 'And what are the places?' I asked. 'One is
Washington,' he answered, 'where I can have the run of a great library
and the influence of the most inspiring surroundings in the world; the
other is a little lodge in a mountain top above Lake Placid--Tempest
Lodge, they call it; perhaps, in contrast to the peacefulness it
dominates.' And he described this last place with so much enthusiasm and
weighed so carefully the advantages of the one spot against the other
for the absorbing piece of work that he contemplated, that I am sure
that if we do not find him in Washington, we certainly shall in the

"Let us hope that it will be in Washington," replied the lawyer, with a
keen remembrance of the rigours of an Adirondack fall--rigours of which
Reuther in her enthusiasm, if not in her ignorance, appeared to take
little count. "And now," he went on, "this is how I hope to proceed. We
will go first to Washington, and, if unsuccessful there, to Tempest
Lodge. We will take Miss Weeks with us, for I am sure that I could not,
without some such assistance, do justice to this young lady's comfort.
If you have a picture of Mr. Ostrander as he looks now, I hope you will
take it, Miss Scoville. With that and the clew to his intentions, which
you have given me, I have no doubt that we shall find him within the

"But," objected Deborah, "if you know where to look for him, why take
the child? Why go yourself? Why not telegraph to these places?"

His answer was a look, quick, sharp and enigmatical enough to require
explanation. He could not give it to her then, but later, when Reuther
had left them, he said:

"Men who fly their engagements and secrete themselves, with or without a
pretext, are not so easily reached. We shall have to surprise Oliver
Ostrander, in order to place his father's message in his hands."

"You may be right. But Reuther? Can she stand the excitement--the
physical strain?"

"You have the harder task of the two, Mrs. Scoville. Leave the little
one to me. She shall not suffer."

Deborah's response was eloquent. It was only a look, but it made his
harsh features glow and his hard eye soften. Alanson Black had waited
long, but his day of romance had come--and possibly hers also.

But his thoughts, if not his hopes, received a check when, with every
plan made and Miss Weeks, as well as Reuther, in trembling anticipation
of the journey, he encountered the triumphant figure of Flannagan coming
out of Police Headquarters.

His jaunty air, his complaisant nod, admitted of but one explanation. He
had told his story to the chief authorities and been listened to. Proof
that he had something of actual moment to tell them; something which the
District Attorney's office might feel bound to take up.

Alanson Black felt the shock of this discovery, but was glad of the
warning it gave him. Plans which had seemed both simple and natural
before, he now saw must be altered to suit the emergency. He could no
longer hope to leave town with his little party without attracting
unwelcome attention. They might even be followed. For whatever Flannagan
may have told the police, there was one thing he had been unable to
impart, and that was where to look for Oliver. Only Reuther held that
clew, and if they once suspected this fact, she would certainly become
the victim of their closest surveillance. Little Reuther, therefore,
must not accompany him on his quest, but hold herself quite apart from
it; or, better still, be made to act as a diversion to draw off the
scent from the chief actor, which was himself. The idea was good, and
one to be immediately carried out.

Continuing on to his office, he called up Miss Weeks.

"Are you there?" he asked.

Yes, she was there.


Yes, Reuther was home packing.

"Nobody around?"


"No one listening on the line?"


She was sure not.

"Very well. Listen closely and act quickly. You are not to go to--I will
not mention the name; and you are not to wait for me. You are to start
at the hour named, but you will buy tickets for Atlantic City, where you
must get what accommodations you can. Our little friend needs to be
taken out of town,--not on business you understand, but to escape the
unpleasantness here and to get such change as will distract her mind.
Her mother cannot leave her duties, so you have undertaken to accompany
the child. The rest leave to me. Have you understood all this?"

"Yes, perfectly; but--"

"Not another word, Miss Weeks. The change will do our little friend
good. Trust my judgment, and ask her to do the same. Above all, do not
be late for the train. Telephone at once for a cab, and forget
everything but the pleasant trip before you.--Oh, one minute! There's an
article you had better send me. I hope you can guess what it is."

"I think I can."

"You know the city I am going to. Mark the package, General Delivery,
and let me have it soon. That's all."

He hung up the receiver.

At midnight he started for Washington. He gave a political reason in
excuse for this trip. He did not expect to be believed; but the spy, if
such had been sent, had taken the earlier train on which the two ladies
had left for Atlantic City. He knew every man who got on board of the
same train as himself; and none of them were in league with Police




       *       *       *       *       *

At the New Willard. Awaiting two articles--Oliver's picture and a few
lines in the judge's writing requesting his son's immediate return.
Meanwhile, I have made no secret of my reason for being here. All my
inquiries at the desk have shown it to be particularly connected with a
certain bill now before Congress, in which Shelby is vitally interested.

Perhaps I can further the interests of this bill in off minutes. I am
willing to.

     The picture is here, as well as the name of the hotel where the two
     women are staying. I have spent five minutes studying the face I
     must be able to recognise at first glance in any crowd. It's not a
     bad face; I can see his mother's looks in him. But it is not the
     face I used to know. Trouble develops a man.

There's a fellow here who rouses my suspicions. No one knows him;--I
don't myself. But he's strangely interested in me. If he's from
Shelby--in other words, if he's from the detective bureau there, I've
led him a chase to-day which must have greatly bewildered him. I'm not
slow, and I'm not above mixing things. From the Cairo where our present
congressman lives, I went to the Treasury, then to the White House, and
then to the Smithsonian--with a few newspaper offices thrown in, and
some hotels where I took pains that my interviews should not be too
brief. When quite satisfied that by these various and somewhat confusing
peregrinations I had thrown off any possible shadower, I fetched up at
the Library where I lunched. Then, as I thought the time had come for me
to enjoy myself, I took a walk about the great building, ending up with
the reading-room. Here I asked for a book on a certain abstruse subject.
Of course, it was not in my line, but I looked wise and spoke the name
glibly. When I sat down to consult it, the man who brought it threw me a
short glance which I chose to think peculiar. "You don't have many
readers for this volume?" I ventured. He smiled and answered, "Just sent
it back to the shelves. It's had a steady reader for ten days. Before
that, nobody." "Is this your steady reader?" I asked, showing him the
photograph I drew from my pocket. He stared, but said nothing. He did
not have to. In a state of strange satisfaction I opened the book. It
was Greek, if not worse, to me, but I meant to read a few paragraphs for
the sake of appearances, and was turning over the pages in search of a
promising chapter, when--Talk of remarkable happenings!--there in the
middle of the book was a card,--his card!--left as a marker, no doubt,
and on this card, an address hastily scribbled in lead pencil. It only
remained for me to find that the hotel designated in this address was a
Washington one, for me to recognise in this simple but strangely
opportune occurrence, a coincidence--or, as YOU would say,--an act of
Providence as startling as those we read of in books.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first man I accosted in regard to the location of this hotel said
there was none of that name in Washington. The next, that he thought
there was, but that he could not tell me where to look for it. The
third, that I was within ten blocks of its doors. Did I walk? No, I took
a taxi. I thought of your impatience and became impatient too. But when
I got there, I stopped hurrying. I waited a full half-hour in the lobby
to be sure that I had not been followed before I approached the desk and
asked to see Mr. Ostrander. No such person was in the hotel or had been.
Then I brought out my photograph. The face was recognised, but not as
that of a guest. This seemed a puzzle. But after thinking it over for
awhile, I came to this conclusion: that the address I saw written on the
card was not his own, but that of some friend he had casually met.

This put me in a quandary. The house was full of young men; how pick out
the friend? Besides, this friend was undoubtedly a transient and gone
long ago. My hopes seemed likely to end in smoke--my great coincidence
to prove valueless. I was so convinced of this, that I started to go;
then I remembered you, and remained. I even took a room, registering
myself for the second time that day,--which formality over, I sat down
in the office to write letters.

Oliver Ostrander is in Washington. That's something.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot sleep. Indeed, I may say that this is the first time in my life
when I failed to lose my cares the moment my head struck the pillow.

The cause I will now relate.

I had finished and mailed my letter to you and was just in the act of
sealing another, when I heard a loud salutation uttered behind me, and
turning, was witness to the meeting of two young men who had run upon
each other in the open doorway. The one going out was a stranger to me
and I hardly noticed him, but the one coming in was Oliver Ostrander (or
his photograph greatly belied him), and in my joy at an encounter so
greatly desired but so entirely unhoped for, I was on the point of
rising to intercept him, when some instinct of precaution led me to
glance about me first for the individual who had shown such a persistent
interest in me from the moment of my arrival. There he sat, not a dozen
chairs away, ostensibly reading, but with a quick eye ready for me the
instant I gave him the slightest chance:--a detective, as certainly as I
was Black, the lawyer.

What was I to do? The boy was leaving town--was even then on his way to
the station as his whole appearance and such words as he let fall amply
denoted. If I let him go, would another such chance of delivering his
father's message be given me? Should I not lose him altogether; while if
I approached him or betrayed in any way my interest in him, the
detective would recognise his prey and, if he did not arrest him on the
spot, would never allow him to return to Shelby unattended. This would
be to defeat the object of my journey, and recalling the judge's
expression at parting, I dared not hesitate. My eyes returned with
seeming unconcern to the letter I was holding and the detective's to his
paper. When we both looked up again the two young men had quit the
building and the business which had brought me to Washington was at an

But I am far from being discouraged. A fresh start with the prospect of
Reuther's companionship, inspires me with more hope for my next venture.



A night of stars, seen through swaying tree-tops whose leaves crisping
to their fall, murmured gently of vanished hopes and approaching death.

Below, a long, low building with a lighted window here and there,
surrounded by a heavy growth of trees which are but the earnest of the
illimitable stretch of the Adirondack woods which painted darkness on
the encircling horizon.

In the air, one other sound beside the restless murmur I have
mentioned,--the lap, lap of the lake whose waters bathed the bank which
supported this building.

Such the scene without.

Within, Reuther seated in the glow of a hospitable fire of great logs,
talking earnestly to Mr. Black. As they were placed, he could see her
much better than she could see him, his back being to the blaze and she,
in its direct glare.

He could, therefore, study her features, without offence, and this he
did, steadily and with deep interest, all the while she was talking. He
was looking for signs of physical weakness or fatigue; but he found
none. The pallor of her features was a natural pallor, and in their
expression, new forces were becoming apparent, which give him
encouragement, rather than anxiety, for the adventure whose most trying
events lay still before them.

Crouching low on the hearth could be seen the diminutive figure of Miss
Weeks. She had no time to waste even in a solitude as remote as this,
and was crocheting busily by the firelight. Her earnestness gave
character to her features which sometimes lacked significance. Reuther
loved to glance at her from time to time, as she continued her
conversation with Mr. Black.

This is what she was saying:

"I cannot point to any one man of the many who have been about us ever
since we started north. But that we have been watched and our route
followed, I feel quite convinced. So does Miss Weeks. But, as you saw,
no one besides ourselves left the cars at this station, and I am
beginning to hope that we shall remain unmolested till we can take the
trip to Tempest Lodge. How far is it, Mr. Black?"

"Twenty-five miles and over a very rough mountain road. Did I not
confidently expect to find Oliver there, I should not let you undertake
this ride. But the inquiries I have just made lead me to hope for the
best results. I was told that yesterday a young man bound for Tempest
Lodge, stopped to buy a large basket of supplies at the village below
us. I could not learn his name and I saw no one who could describe him;
but the fact that any one not born in these parts should choose to
isolate himself so late in the year as this, in a place considered
inaccessible after the snow flies, has roused much comment."

"That looks as if--as if--"

"As if it were Oliver. So it does; and if you feel that you can ride so
far, I will see that horses are saddled for us at an early hour
to-morrow morning."

"I can ride, but will Oliver be pleased to see us at Tempest Lodge. Mr.
Black, I had an experience in Utica which makes it very hard for me to
contemplate obtruding myself upon him without some show of permission on
his part. We met--that is, I saw him and he saw me; but he gave me no
opportunity--that is, he did not do what he might have done, had he
felt--had he thought it best to exchange a word with me."

"Where was this? You were not long in Utica?"

"Only one night. But that was long enough for me to take a walk down one
of the principal thoroughfares and it was during this walk I saw him. He
was on the same side of the street as myself and rapidly coming my way,
but on his eye meeting mine--I could not mistake that unconscious flash
of recognition--he wheeled suddenly aside into a cross-street where I
dared not follow him. Of course, he did not know what hung on even a
momentary interview. That it was not for myself I--" The firelight
caught something new to shine upon--a tear on lashes which yet refused
to lower themselves.

Mr. Black fidgeted, then put out his hand and laid it softly on hers.

"Never mind," he grumbled; "men are--" he didn't say what; but it wasn't
anything very complimentary. "You have this comfort," said he: "the man
at the Lodge is undoubtedly Oliver. Had he gone West, he wouldn't have
been seen in Utica three days ago."

"I have never had any doubt about that. I expect to see him to-morrow,
but I shall find it hard to utter my errand quick enough. There will be
a minute when he may misunderstand me. I dread that minute."

"Perhaps, you can avoid it. Perhaps after you have positively identified
him I can do the rest. We will arrange it so, if we can."

Her eyes flashed gratitude, then took on a new expression. She had
chanced to glance again at Miss Weeks, and Miss Weeks was not looking
quite natural. She was still crocheting, or trying to, but her attitude
was constrained and her gaze fixed; and that gaze was not on her work,
but directed towards a small object at her side, which Reuther
recognised from its open lid to be the little lady's work-box.

"Something is the matter with Miss Weeks," she confided in a low whisper
to Mr. Black. "Don't turn; she's going to speak."

But Miss Weeks did not speak. She just got up, and, with a careless
motion, stood stretching herself for a moment, then sauntered up to the
table and began showing her work to Reuther.

"I've made a mistake," she pettishly complained. "See if you can find
out what's wrong." And, giving the work into Reuther's hand, she stood
watching, but with a face so pale that Mr. Black was not astonished when
she suddenly muttered in a very low tone:

"Don't move or show surprise. The shade of the window is up, and
somebody is looking in from outside. I saw his face reflected in the
mirror of my work-box. It isn't any one I know, but he was looking very
fixedly this way and may be looking yet. Now I am going to snatch my
work. I don't think you're helping me one bit."

She suited the action to the word; shook her head at Reuther and went
back to her old position on the hearth.

"I was afraid of it," murmured Reuther. "If we take the ride to-morrow,
it will not be alone. If, on the other hand, we delay our trip, we may
be forestalled in the errand upon which so much depends. We are not the
only ones who have heard of the strange young man at Tempest Lodge."

The answer came with quick decision. "There is but one thing for us to
do. I will tell you what it is a little later. Go and sit on the hearth
with Miss Weeks, and mind that you laugh and chat as if your minds were
quite undisturbed. I am going to have a talk with our host."



"What's that?"

"That's the cry of a loon."

"How awful! Do they often cry like that?"

"Not often in the nighttime."

Reuther shuddered.

Mr. Black regarded her anxiously. Had he done wrong to let her join him
in this strange ride?

"Shall we go back and wait for broad daylight?" he asked.

"No, no. I could not bear the suspense of wondering whether all was
going well and the opportunity being given you of seeing and speaking to
him. We have taken such precautions--chosen so late (or should I say so
early) a start--that I'm sure we have outwitted the man who is so
watchful of us. But if we go back, we cannot slip away from him again;
and Oliver will have to submit to an humiliation it is our duty to spare
him. And the good judge, too. I don't care if the loons do cry; the
night is beautiful."

And it was, had their hearts been in tune to enjoy it. A gibbous moon
had risen, and, inefficient as it was to light up the recesses of the
forest, it illumined the tree-tops and brought out the difference
between earth and sky. The road, known to the horses, if not to
themselves, extended like a black ribbon under their eyes, but the
patches of light which fell across it at intervals took from it the
uninterrupted gloom it must have otherwise had. Mr. Sloan, who was at
once their guide and host, promised that dawn would be upon them before
they reached the huge gully which was the one dangerous feature of the
road. But as yet there were no signs of dawn; and to Reuther, as well as
to Mr. Black, this ride through the heart of a wilderness in a darkness
which might have been that of midnight by any other measure than that of
the clock, had the effect of a dream in which one is only sufficiently
in touch with past commonplaces to say, "This is a dream and not
reality. I shall soon wake." A night to remember to the end of one's
days; an experience which did not seem real at the time and was never
looked back upon as real--and yet, one with which neither of them would
have been willing to part.

Their guide had prophesied truly. Heralded by that long cry of the loon,
the dawn began to reveal itself in clearness of perspective and a
certain indefinable stir in the still, shrouded spaces of the woods.
Details began to appear where heretofore all had been mass. Pearl tints
proclaimed the east, and presently these were replaced by a flush of
delicate colour deepening into rose, and the every-day world of the
mighty forest was upon them with its night mystery gone.

But not the romance of their errand, or the anxiety which both felt as
to its ultimate fulfilment. This it had been easier to face when they
themselves as well as all about them, were but moving shadows in each
other's eyes. Full sight brought full realisation. However they might
seek to cloak the fact, they could no longer disguise from themselves
that the object of their journey might not be acceptable to the man in
hiding at Tempest Lodge. Reuther's faith in him was strong, but even her
courage faltered as she thought of the disgrace awaiting him whatever
the circumstances or however he might look upon his father's imperative
command to return.

But she did not draw rein, and the three continued to ride up and on.
Suddenly, however, one of them showed disturbance. Mr. Sloan was seen to
turn his head sharply, and in another moment his two companions heard
him say:

"We are followed. Ride on and leave me to take a look."

Instinctively they also glanced back before obeying. They were just
rounding the top of an abrupt hill, and expected to have an
uninterrupted view of the road behind. But the masses of foliage were as
yet too thick for them to see much but the autumnal red and yellow
spread out below them.

"I hear them; I do not see them," remarked their guide. "Two horses are

"How far are we now from the Lodge?"

"A half-hour's ride. We are just at the opening of the gully."

"You will join us soon?"

"As quickly as I make out who are on the horses behind us."

Reuther and the lawyer rode on. Her cheeks had gained a slight flush,
but otherwise she looked unmoved. He was less at ease than she; for he
had less to sustain him.

The gully, when they came to it, proved to be a formidable one. It was
not only deep but precipitous, descending with the sheerness of a wall
directly down from the road into a basin of enormous size, where trees
stood here and there in solitary majesty, amid an area of rock
forbidding to the eye and suggestive of sudden and impassable chasms. It
was like circumambulating the sinuous verge of a canyon; and for the two
miles they rode along its edge they saw no let-up in the steepness on
one side or of the almost equally abrupt rise of towering rock on the
other. It was Reuther's first experience of so precipitous a climb, and
under other circumstances she might have been timid; but in her present
heroic mood, it was all a part of her great adventure, and as such

The lawyer eyed her with growing admiration. He had not miscalculated
her pluck.

As they were making a turn to gain the summit, they heard Mr. Sloan's
voice behind them. Drawing in their horses, they greeted him eagerly
when he appeared.

"Were you right? Are we followed?"

"That's as may be. I didn't hear or see anything more. I waited, but
nothing happened, so I came on."

His words were surly and his looks sour; they, therefore, forebore to
question him further, especially as their keenest interest lay ahead,
rather than behind them. They were nearing Tempest Lodge. As it broke
upon their view, perched like an eagle's eyrie on the crest of a rising
peak, they drew rein, and, after a short consultation, Mr. Sloan wended
his way up alone. He was a well-known man throughout the whole region,
and would be likely to gain admittance if any one could. But all wished
the hour had been less early.

However, somebody was up in the picturesque place. A small trail of
smoke could be seen hovering above its single chimney, and promptly upon
Mr. Sloan's approach, a rear door swung back and an old man showed
himself, but with no hospitable intent. On the contrary, he motioned the
intruder back, and shouting out some very decided words, resolutely
banged the door shut.

Mr. Sloan turned slowly about.

"Bad luck," he commented, upon joining his companions. "That was Deaf
Dan. He's got a warm nest here, and he's determined to keep it. 'No
visitors wanted,' was what he shouted, and he didn't even hold out his
hand when I offered him the letter."

"Give me the letter," said Reuther. "He won't leave a lady standing out
in the cold."

Mr. Sloan handed over the judge's message, and helped her down, and she
in turn began to approach the place. As she did so, she eyed it with the
curiosity of a hungry heart. It was a compact structure of closely
cemented stone, built to resist gales and harbour a would-be recluse,
even in an Adirondack winter. One end showed stacks of wood through its
heavily glazed windows, and between the small stable and the west door
there ran a covered way which insured communication, even when the snow
lay high about the windows.

The place had a history which she learned later. At present all her
thoughts were on its possible occupant and the very serious question of
whether she would or would not gain admittance to him.

Mr. Sloan had been repulsed from the west door; she would try the east.
Oliver (if Oliver it were) was probably asleep; but she would knock, and
knock, and knock; and if Deaf Dan did not open, his master soon would.

But when she found herself in face of this simple barrier, her emotion
was so strong that she recoiled in spite of herself, and turned her face
about as if to seek strength from the magnificence of the outlook.

But though the scene was one of splendour inconceivable, she did not see
it. Her visions were all inner ones. But these were not without their
strengthening power, as was soon shown. For presently she turned back
and was lifting her hand to the door, when it suddenly flew open and a
man appeared before her.

It was Oliver. Oliver unkempt and with signs upon him of a night's work
of study or writing; but Oliver!--her lover once, but now just a
stranger into whose hand she must put this letter.

She tried to stammer out her errand; but the sudden pallor, the starting
eyes--the whole shocked, almost terrified appearance of the man she was
facing, stopped her. She forgot the surprise, the incredulity of mind
with which he would naturally hail her presence at his door in a place
so remote and of such inaccessibility. She only saw that his hands had
gone up and out at sight of her, and to her sensitive soul, this looked
like a rebuff which, while expected, choked back her words and turned
her faintly flushing cheek scarlet.

"It is not I," burst from her lips in incoherent disclaimer of his
possible thought. "I'm just a messenger. Your father--"

"It IS you!" Quickly his hands passed across his eyes. "How--" Then his
glance, following hers, fell on the letter which she now remembered to
hold out.

"It's the copy of a telegram," she tremblingly explained, as he
continued to gaze at it without reaching to take it. "You could not be
found in Detroit and as it was important that you should receive this
word from your father, I undertook to deliver it. I remembered your
fondness for this place and how you once said that this is where you
would like to write your book, and so I came on a venture--but not
alone--Mr. Black is with me and--"

"Mr. Black! Who? What?" He was still staring at his father's letter; and
still had made no offer to take it.

"Read this first," said she.

Then he woke to the situation. He took the letter, and drawing her
inside, shut the door while he read it. She, trembling very much, did
not dare to lift her eyes to watch its effect, but she was conscious
that his back and not his face was turned her way, and that the moment
was the stillest one of her whole life.

Then there came a rattling noise as he crushed the letter in his hand.

"Tell me what this means," said he, but he did not turn his head as he
made this request.

"Your father must do that," was her gentle reply. "I was only to deliver
the letter. I came--we came--thus early, because we thought--we feared
we should get no opportunity later to find you here alone. There seem to
be people on the road--whom--whom you might feel obliged to entertain
and as your father cannot wait--"

He had wheeled about. His face confronted hers. It wore a look she did
not understand and which made him seem a stranger to her. Involuntarily
she took a step back.

"I must be going now," said she, and fell--her physical weakness
triumphing at last over her will power.



"Oliver? Where is Oliver?"

These were Reuther's first words, as, coming to herself, she perceived
Mr. Black bending helplessly over her.

The answer was brief, almost indifferent. Alanson Black was cursing
himself for allowing her to come to this house alone.

"He was here a moment ago. When he saw you begin to give signs of life,
he slid out. How do you feel, my--my dear? What will your mother say?"

"But Oliver?" She was on her feet now; she had been lying on some sort
of couch. "He must--Oh, I remember now. Mr. Black, we must go. I have
given him his father's letter."

"We are not going till you have something to eat. Not a word. I'll--"
Why did his eye wander to the nearest window, and his words trail away
into silence?

Reuther turned about to see. Oliver was in front, conversing earnestly
with Mr. Sloan. As they looked, he dashed back into the rear of the
house, and they heard his voice rise once or twice in some ineffectual
commands to his deaf servant, then there came a clatter and a rush from
the direction of the stable, and they saw him flash by on a gaunt but
fiery horse, and take with long bounds the road up which they had just
laboured. He had stopped to equip himself in some measure for this ride,
but not the horse, which was without saddle or any sort of bridle but a
halter strung about his neck.

This was flight; or so it appeared to Mr. Sloan, as he watched the young
man disappear over the brow of the hill. What Mr. Black thought was not
so apparent. He had no wish to discourage Reuther whose feeling was one
of relief as her first word showed.

"Oliver is gone. We shall not have to hurry now and perhaps if I had a
few minutes in which to rest---"

She was on the verge of fainting again.

And then Alanson Black showed of what stuff he was made. In ten minutes
he had bustled about the half-deserted building, and with the aid of the
dazed and uncomprehending deaf-mute, managed to prepare a cup of hot tea
and a plate of steaming eggs for the weary girl.

After such an effort, Reuther felt obliged to eat, and she did; seeing
which, the lawyer left her for a moment and went out to interview their

"Where's the young lady?"

This from Mr. Sloan.

"Eating something. Come in and have a bite; and let the horses eat, too.
She must have a rest. The young fellow went off pretty quick, eh?"

"Ya-as." The drawl was one of doubt. "But quickness don't count. Fast or
slow, he's on his way to capture--if that's what you want to know."

"What? We are followed then?"

"There are men on the road; two, as I told you before. He can't get by
them--IF that's what he wants to do."

"But I thought they fell back. We didn't hear them after you joined us."

"No; they didn't come on. They didn't have to. This is the only road
down the mountain, and it's one you've got to follow or go tumbling over
the precipice. All they've got to do is to wait for him; and that's what
I tried to tell him, but he just shook his arm at me and rode on. He
might better have waited--for company."

Mr. Black cast a glance behind him, saw that the door of the house was
almost closed and ventured to put another question.

"What did he ask you when he came out here?"

"Why we had chosen such an early hour to bring him his father's

"And what did you say?"

"Wa'al, I said that there was another fellow down my way awful eager to
see him, too; and that you were mortal anxious to get to him first. That
was about it, wasn't it, sir?"

"Yes. And how did he take that?"

"He turned white, and asked me just what I meant. Then I said that some
one wanted him pretty bad, for, early as it was, this stranger was up as
soon as you, and had followed us into the mountains and might show up
any time on the road. At which he gave me a stare, then plunged back
into the house to get his hat and trot out his horse. I never saw
quicker work. But it's no use; he can't escape those men. They know it,
or they wouldn't have stopped where they did, waiting for him."

Mr. Black recalled the aspect of the gully, and decided that Mr. Sloan
was right. There could be but one end to this adventure. Oliver would be
caught in a manifest effort to escape, and the judge's cup of sorrow and
humiliation would be full. He felt the shame of it himself; also the
folly of his own methods and of the part he had allowed Reuther to play.
Beckoning to his host to follow him, he turned towards the house.

"Don't mention your fears to the young lady," said he. "At least, not
till we are well past the gully."

"I shan't mention anything. Don't you be afeared of that."

And with a simultaneous effort difficult for both, they assumed a more
cheerful air, and briskly entered the house.

It was not until they were well upon the road back that Reuther ventured
to speak of Oliver. She was riding as far from the edge of the precipice
as possible. In descent it looked very formidable to her unaccustomed

"This is a dangerous road for a man to ride bareback," she remarked.
"I'm terrified when I think of it, Mr. Black. Why did he go off quite so
suddenly? Is there a train he is anxious to reach? Mr. Sloan, is there a

"Yes, Miss, there is a train."

"Which he can get by riding fast?"

"I've known it done!"

"Then he is excusable." Yet her anxious glance stole ever and again to
the dizzy verge towards which she now unconsciously urged her own horse
till Mr. Black drew her aside.

"There is nothing to fear in that direction," said he. "Oliver's horse
is to be trusted, if not himself. Cheer up, little one, we'll soon be on
more level ground and then for a quick ride and a speedy end to this

He was rewarded by a confiding look, after which they all fell silent.

A half-hour's further descent, then a quick turn and Mr. Sloan, who had
ridden on before them, came galloping hastily back.

"Wait a minute," he admonished them, putting up his hand to emphasise
the appeal.

"Oh, what now?" cried Reuther, but with a rising head instead of a
sinking one.

"We will see," said Mr. Black, hastening to meet their guide. "What
now?" he asked. "Have they come together? Have the detectives got him?"

"No, not HIM; only his horse. The animal has just trotted

"Good God! the child's instinct was true. He has been thrown--"

"No." Mr. Sloan's mouth was close to the lawyer's ear. "There is another
explanation. If the fellow is game, and anxious enough to reach the
train to risk his neck for it, there's a path he could have taken which
would get him there without his coming round this turn. I never thought
it a possible thing till I saw his horse trotting on ahead of us without
a rider." Then as Reuther came ambling up, "Young lady, don't let me
scare you, but it looks now as if the young man had taken a short cut to
the station, which, so far as I know, has never been taken but by one
man before. If you will draw up closer--here! give me hold of your
bridle. Now look back along the edge of the precipice for about half a
mile, and you will see shooting up from the gully a solitary tree whose
topmost branch reaches within a few feet of the road above."

She looked. They were at the lower end of the gully which curved up and
away from this point like an enormous horseshoe. They could see the face
of the precipice for miles.

"Yes," she suddenly replied, as her glance fell on the one red splash
showing against the dull grey of the cliff.

"A leap from the road, if well-timed, would land a man among some very
stalwart branches. It's a risk and it takes nerve; but it succeeded
once, and I dare say has succeeded again."

"But--but--if he didn't reach--didn't catch--"

"Young lady, he's a man in a thousand. If you want the proof, look over

He was pointing again, but in a very different direction now. As her
anxious eye sought the place he indicated, her face flushed crimson with
evanescent joy. Just where the open ground of the gully melted again
into the forest, the figure of a man could be seen moving very quickly.
In another moment it had disappeared amid the foliage.

"Straight for the station," announced Mr. Sloan; and, taking out his
watch, added quickly; "the train is not due for fifteen minutes. He'll
catch it."

"The train south?"

"Yes, and the train north. They pass here."

Mr. Black turned a startled eye upon the guide. But Reuther's face was
still alight. She felt very happy. Their journey had not been for
naught. He would have six hours' start of his pursuers; he would be that
much sooner in Shelby; he would hear the accusation against him and
refute it before she saw him again.

But Mr. Black's thoughts were less pleasing than hers. He had never had
more than a passing hope of Oliver's innocence, and now he had none at
all. The young man had fled, not in response to his father's telegram,
but under the impulse of his own fears. They would not find him in
Shelby when they returned. They might never find him anywhere again. A
pretty story to carry back to the judge.

As he dwelt upon this thought, his reflections grew more and more
gloomy, and he had little to say till he reached the turn where the two
men still awaited them.

In the encounter which followed no attempt was made by either party to
disguise the nature of the business which had brought them thus
together. The man whom Mr. Black took to be a Shelby detective nodded as
they met and remarked, with a quick glance at Reuther:

"So you've come without him! I'm sorry for that. I was in hopes that I
might be spared the long ride up the mountain."

Mr. Black limited his answer to one of his sour smiles.

"Whose horse is this?" came in peremptory demand from the other man,
with a nod towards the animal which could now be seen idly grazing by
the wayside. "And how came it on the road alone?"

"We can only give you these facts," rejoined the lawyer. "It came from
Tempest Lodge. It started out ahead of us with the gentleman we had gone
to visit on its back. We did not pass the gentleman on the road, and if
he has not passed you, he must have left the road somewhere on foot. He
did not go back to the Lodge."

"Mr. Black--"

"I am telling you the absolute truth. Make what you will of it. His
father desires him home; and sent a message. This message this young
lady undertook to deliver, and she did deliver it, with the consequences
I have mentioned. If you doubt me, take your ride. It is not an easy
one, and the only man remaining at the Lodge is deaf as a post."

"Mr. Black has told the whole story," averred the guide.

They looked at Reuther.

"I have nothing to add," said she. "I have been terrified lest the
gentleman you wish to see was thrown from the horse's back over the
precipice. But perhaps he found some way of getting down on foot. He is
a very strong and daring man."

"The tree!" ejaculated the detective's companion. He was from a
neighbouring locality and remembered this one natural ladder up the side
of the gully.

"Yes, the tree," acknowledged Mr. Sloan. "That, or a fall. Let us hope
it was not a fall."

As he ceased, a long screech from an approaching locomotive woke up the
echoes of the forest. It was answered by another from the opposite
direction. Both trains were on time. The relief felt by Reuther could
not be concealed. The detective noticed it.

"I'm wasting time here," said he. "Excuse me, Mr. Black, if I push on
ahead of you. If we don't meet at the station, we shall meet in Shelby."

Mr. Black's mouth twisted grimly. He had no doubt of the latter fact.

Next minute, they were all cantering in the one direction; the detective
very much in the advance.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Let me go with you to the station," entreated Reuther, as Mr. Black
held up his arms to lift her from her horse at the door of the hotel.

But his refusal was peremptory. "You need Miss Weeks, and Miss Weeks
needs you," said he. "I'll be back in just five minutes." And without
waiting for a second pleading look, he lifted her gently off and carried
her in.

When he returned, as he did in the time specified, he had but one word
for her.

"Gone," said he.

"Thank God!" she murmured and turned to Miss Weeks with a smile.

Not having a smile to add to hers, the lawyer withdrew.

Oliver was gone--but gone north.



When Mr. Black came into Shelby, he came alone. He was anxious to get
back; anxious to face his enemies if he had any; anxious to see Deborah
and explain. Miss Weeks and Reuther followed on more slowly; this was
better for them and better for him, and better, too, for Deborah, who
must hear his story without the distraction of her daughter's presence.

It was dark when he stepped on to the platform, and darker still when he
rang the bell of Judge Ostrander's house. But it was not late, and his
agitation had but few minutes in which to grow, before the gate swung
wide and he felt her hand in his.

She was expecting him. He had telegraphed the hour at which he should
arrive, and also when to look for Reuther. Consequently there was no
necessity for preliminaries, and he could ask at once for the judge and
whether he was strong enough to bear disappointment.

Deborah's answer was certainly disconcerting.

"I've not seen him. He admits nobody. When I enter the library, he
retreats to his bedroom. I have not even been allowed to hand him his
letters. I put them on his tray when I carry in his meals."

"He has received letters then?"

"Unimportant ones, yes."

"None from Oliver?"

"Oh, no."

A pause.


Another pause. The echo of that name so uttered was too sweet in her ear
for her to cut it short by too hasty a reply. When she did speak, it was
humbly, or should I say, wistfully.

"Yes, Mr. Black."

"I am afraid he never will hear from Oliver. The boy gave us the slip in
the most remarkable manner. I will tell you when we get inside."

She led him up the walk. She moved slowly, and he felt the influence of
her discouragement. But once in the lighted parlour, she turned upon him
the face he knew best--the mother face.

"Did Reuther see him?" she asked.

Then he told her the whole story.

When she had heard him through, she looked about the room they were in,
with a lingering, abstracted gaze he hardly understood till he saw it
fall with an indescribable aspect of sorrow upon a picture which had
lately been found and rehung upon the wall. It was a portrait of
Oliver's mother.

"I am disappointed," she murmured in bitter reflection to herself. "I
did not expect Oliver to clear himself, but I did expect him to face his
accusers if only for his father's sake. What am I to say now to the

"Nothing to-night. In the morning we will talk the whole subject over. I
must first explain myself to Andrews, and, if possible, learn his
intentions; then I shall know better what to advise."

"Did the officer you met on your return from Tempest Lodge follow you to

"I have not seen him."

"That is bad. He followed Oliver."

"It was to be expected."

"Oliver is in Canada?"


"Which means--"

"Delay, then extradition. It's that fellow Flannagan who has brought
this upon us. The wretch knows something which forbids us to hope."

"Alas, yes." And a silence followed, during which such entire stillness
rested upon the house that a similar thought rose in both minds. Could
it be that under this same roof, and only separated from them by a
partition, there brooded another human being helplessly awaiting a
message which would never come, and listening, but how vainly, for the
step and voice for which he hungered, though they were the prelude to
further shame and the signal for coming punishment.

So strong was this thought in both their minds, that the shadow deepened
upon both faces, as though a presence had passed between them; and when
Mr. Black rose, as he very soon did, it was with an evident dread of
leaving her alone with this thought.

They were lingering yet in the hall, the goodnight faltering on their
lips, when suddenly their eyes flashed together in mutual question, and
Deborah bent her ear towards the street.

An automobile was slowing up--stopping--stopping before the gates!
Deborah turned and looked at Mr. Black. Was it the police? No, for the
automobile was starting up again--it was going. Whoever had come had
come to stay. With eyes still on those of Mr. Black, whose face showed a
sudden change, she threw her hand behind her and felt wildly about for
the door-knob. She had just grasped it--when the bell rang. Never had it
sounded so shrill and penetrating. Never had it rung quite such a
summons through this desolate house. Recoiling, she made a motion of

"Go," she whispered. "Open! I cannot."

Quickly he obeyed. She heard him pass out and down the walk, and through
the first gate. Then there came a silence, followed by the opening of
the second gate. Then, a sound like smothered greetings, followed by
quickly advancing steps and a voice she knew:

"How is my father? Is he well? I cannot enter till I know."

It was Oliver!--come from some distant station, or from some other line
which he had believed unwatched. Tumultuous as her thoughts were, she
dared not indulge in them for a moment, or give way to gratitude or any
other emotion. There were words to be said--words which must be uttered
on the instant and with as much imperiousness as his own.

Throwing the door wide, she called down the steps:

"Yes, he is well. Come in, Mr. Ostrander, and you, too, Mr. Black.
Instructions have been given me by the judge, which I must deliver at
once. He expects you, Oliver," she went on, as the two men stepped in.
"But not knowing when, he bade me say to you immediately upon your
entrance (and I am happy to be able to do this in Mr. Black's presence),
that much as he would like to be on hand to greet you, he cannot see you
to-night. You may wish to go to him--but you must restrain this wish.
Nor are you to talk, though he does not forbid you to listen. If you do
not know what has happened here, Mr. Black will tell you, but for
to-night at least, and up to a certain hour to-morrow, you are to keep
your own counsel. When certain persons whose names he has given me can
be gotten together in this house, he will join you, giving you your
first meeting in the presence of others. Afterwards he will see you
alone. If these plans distress you,--if you find the delay hard, I am to
say that it is even harder for him than it can be for you. But
circumstances compel him to act thus, and he expects you to understand
and be patient. Mr. Black, assure Mr. Ostrander that I am not likely to
overstate the judge's commands, or to add to or detract from them in the
least particular--that I am simply the judge's mouthpiece."

"You may believe that, Mr. Ostrander." Young Ostrander bowed.

"I have no doubt of the fact," he assured her, with an unsuccessful
effort to keep his trouble out of his voice. "But as my father allows me
some explanation, I shall be very glad to hear what has happened here to
occasion my imperative recall."

"Do you not read the papers, Mr. Ostrander?"

"I have not looked at one since I started upon my return."

Mr. Black glanced at Deborah, who was slipping away. Then he made a move
towards the parlour.

"If you will come in and sit down, Mr. Ostrander, I'll tell you what you
have every right to know."

But when they found themselves alone together, Oliver's manner altered.

"One moment," said he, before Mr. Black could speak. "I should like to
ask you first of all, if Miss Scoville is better. When I left you both
so suddenly at Tempest Lodge, she was not well. I--"

"She is quite recovered, Mr. Ostrander."

"And is here?"

"Not yet. I came back quickly--like yourself."

Involuntarily their glances met in a question which perhaps neither
desired to have answered. Then Oliver remarked quite simply:

"My haste seemed warranted by my father's message. Five minutes,--one
minute even is of great importance when you have but fifteen in which to
catch a train."

"And by such a route!"

"You know my route." A short laugh escaped him. "I feared the
delay--possibly the interference--But why discuss these unimportant
matters! I succeeded in my efforts. I am here, at my father's command,
unattended and, as I believe, without the knowledge of any one but
yourself and Mrs. Scoville. But your reason for these hasty
summons--that is what I am ready now to hear." And he sat down, but in
such a way as to throw his face very much into the shadow.

This was a welcome circumstance to the lawyer. His task promised to be
hard enough at the best. Black night had not offered too dark a screen
between him and the man thus suddenly called upon to face suspicions the
very shadow of which is enough to destroy a life. The hardy lawyer
shrunk from uttering the words which would make the gulf imaginatively
opening between them a real, if not impassable, one. Something about the
young man appealed to him--something apart from his relationship to the
judge--something inherent in himself. Perhaps it was the misery he
betrayed. Perhaps it was the memory of Reuther's faith in him and how
that faith must suffer when she saw him next. Instantaneous reflections;
but epoch-making in a mind like his. Alanson Black had never hesitated
before in the face of any duty, and it robbed him of confidence. But he
gave no proof of this in voice or manner, as pacing the floor in
alternate approach and retreat, he finally addressed the motionless
figure he could no longer ignore.

"You want to know what has happened here? If you mean lately, I shall
have to explain that anything which has lately occurred to distress your
father or make your presence here desirable, has its birth in events
which date back to days when this was your home and the bond between
yourself and father the usual and natural one."

Silence in that shadowy corner! But this the speaker had expected, and
must have exacted even if Oliver had shown the least intention of

"A man was killed here in those old days--pardon me if I am too
abrupt--and another man was executed for this crime. You were a boy--but
you must remember."

Again he paused; but no more in expectation of or desire for an answer
than before. One must breathe between the blows he inflicts, even if one
is a lawyer.

"That was twelve years ago. Not so long a time as has elapsed since you
met a waif of the streets and chastised him for some petty annoyance.
But both events, the great and the little, have been well remembered
here in Shelby; and when Mrs. Scoville came amongst us a month or so
ago, with her late but substantial proofs of her husband's innocence in
the matter of Etheridge's death, there came to her aid a man, who not
only remembered the beating he had received as a child, but certain
facts which led him to denounce by name, the party destined to bear at
this late day the onus of the crime heretofore ascribed to Scoville.
That name he wrote on bridges and walls; and one day, when your father
left the courthouse, a mob followed him, shouting loud words which I
will not repeat, but which you must understand were such as must be met
and answered when the man so assailed is Judge Ostrander. Have I said
enough? If so, raise your hand and I will desist for to-night."

But no movement took place in the shadow cast by Oliver's figure on the
wall before which Mr. Black had paused, and presently, a voice was heard
from where he sat, saying:

"You are too merciful. I do not want generalities but the naked truth.
What did the men shout?"

"You have asked for a fact, and that I feel free to give you. They
shouted, 'Where is Oliver, your guilty son, Oliver? You saved him at a
poor man's expense, but we'll have him yet.' You asked me for the words,
Mr. Ostrander."

"Yes." The pause was long, but the "Yes" came at last. Then another
silence, and then this peremptory demand: "But we cannot stop here, Mr.
Black. If I am to meet my father's wishes to-morrow, I must know the
ground upon which I stand. What evidence lies back of these shouts? If
you are my friend,--and you have shown yourself to be such,--you will
tell me the whole story. I shall say nothing more."

Mr. Black was not walking now; he was standing stock-still and in the
shadow also. And with this space and the double shadow between them,
Alanson Black told Oliver Ostrander why the people had shouted: "We will
have him yet."

When he had quite finished, he came into the light. He did not look in
the direction he had avoided from the first, but his voice had a
different note as he remarked:

"I am your father's friend, and I have promised to be yours. You may
expect me here in the morning, as I am one of the few persons your
father has asked to be present at your first interview. If after this
interview you wish anything more from me, you have only to signify it. I
am blunt, but not unfeeling, Mr. Ostrander."

A slight lift of the hand, visible now in the shadow, answered him; and
with a silent bow he left the room.

In the passageway he met Deborah.

"Leave him to himself," said he. "Later, perhaps, you can do something
for him."

But she found this quite impossible. Oliver would neither eat nor sleep.
When the early morning light came, he was sitting there still. Was his
father keeping vigil also? We shall never know.



Ten o'clock! and one of the five listed to be present had arrived--the
rector of the church which the Ostranders had formerly attended.

He was ushered into the parlour by Deborah, where he found himself
received not by the judge in whose name he had been invited, but by Mr.
Black, the lawyer, who tendered him a simple good morning and pointed
out a chair.

There was another person in the room,--a young man who stood in one of
the windows, gazing abstractedly out at the line of gloomy fence rising
between him and the street. He had not turned at the rector's approach,
and the latter had failed to recognise him.

And so with each new arrival. He neither turned nor moved at any one's
entrance, but left it to Mr. Black to do the honours and make the best
of a situation, difficult, if not inexplicable to all of them. Nor could
it be seen that any of these men--city officials, prominent citizens and
old friends, recognised his figure or suspected his identity. Beyond a
passing glance his way, they betrayed neither curiosity nor interest,
being probably sufficiently occupied in accounting for their own
presence in the home of their once revered and now greatly maligned
compeer. Judge Ostrander, attacked through his son, was about to say or
do something which each and every one of them secretly thought had
better be left unsaid or undone. Yet none showed any disposition to
leave the place; and when, after a short, uneasy pause during which all
attempts at conversation failed, they heard a slow and weighty step
approaching through the hall, the suspense was such that no one but Mr.
Black noticed the quick whirl with which Oliver turned himself about,
nor the look of mortal anguish with which he awaited the opening of the
door and his father's entrance among them. No one noticed, I say, until,
simultaneously with the appearance of Judge Ostrander on the threshold,
a loud cry swept through the room of "Don't! don't!" and the man they
had barely noticed, flashed by them all, and fell at the judge's feet
with a smothered repetition of his appeal: "Don't, father, don't!"

Then, each man knew why he had been summoned there, and knowing, gazed
earnestly at these two faces. Twelve years of unappeased longing, of
smothered love, rising above doubts, persisting in spite of doubts, were
concentrated into that one instant of mutual recognition. The eye of the
father was upon that of the son and that of the son upon that of the
father and for them, at least in this first instant of reunion, the
years were forgotten and sin, sorrow and on-coming doom effaced from
their mutual consciousness.

Then the tide of life flowed back into the present, and the judge,
motioning to his son to rise, observed very distinctly:

"DON'T is an ambiguous word, my son, and on your lips, at this juncture,
may mislead those whom I have called here to hear the truth from us and
the truth only. You have heard what happened here a few days ago. How a
long-guarded, long-suppressed suspicion--so guarded and so suppressed
that I had no intimation of its existence even, found vent at a moment
of public indignation, and I heard you, you, Oliver Ostrander, accused
to my face of having in some boyish fit of rage struck down the man for
whose death another has long since paid the penalty. This you have
already been told."

"Yes." The word cut sharply through the silence; but the fire with which
the young man rose and faced them all showed him at his best. "But
surely, no person present believes it. No one can who knows you and the
principles in which I have been raised. This fellow whom I beat as a boy
has waited long to start this damnable report. Surely he will get no
hearing from unprejudiced and intelligent men."

"The police have listened to him. Mr. Andrews, who is one of the
gentlemen present, has heard his story and you see that he stands here
silent, my son. And that is not all. Mrs. Scoville, who has loved you
like a mother, longs to believe in your innocence, and cannot."

A low cry from the hall.

It died away unheeded.

"And Mr. Black, her husband's counsel," continued the father, in the
firm, low tones of one who for many long days and nights had schooled
himself for the duty of this hour, "shares her feeling. He has tried not
to; but he does. They have found evidences--you know them; proofs which
might not have amounted to much had it not been for the one mischievous
fact which has undermined public confidence and given point to these
attacks. I refer to the life we have led and the barriers we have
ourselves raised against our mutual intercourse. These have undone us.
To the question, 'Why these barriers?' I can find no answer but the one
which ends this struggle. Succumbing myself, I ask you to do so also.
Out of the past comes a voice--the voice of Algernon Etheridge,
demanding vengeance for his untimely end. It will not be gainsaid. Not
satisfied with the toll we have both paid in these years of suffering
and repression,--unmindful of the hermit's life I have led and of the
heart disappointments you have borne, its cry for punishment remains
insistent. Gentlemen--Hush! Oliver, it is for me to cry DON'T now--John
Scoville was a guilty man--a murderer and a thief--but he did not wield
the stick which killed Algernon Etheridge. Another hand raised that. No,
do not look at the boy. He is innocent! Look here! look here!'" And with
one awful gesture, he stood still,--while horror rose like a wave and
engulfed the room--choking back breath and speech from every living soul
there, and making a silence more awful than any sound--or so they all
felt, till his voice rose again and they heard--"You have trusted to
appearances; you must trust now to my word. I am the guilty man, not
Scoville, and not Oliver, though Oliver may have been in the ravine that
night and even handled the bludgeon I found at my feet in the recesses
of Dark Hollow."

Then consternation spoke, and muttered cries were heard of "Madness! It
is not we who are needed here but a physician!" and dominating all, the
ringing shout:

"You cannot save me so, father. I hated Etheridge and I slew him.
Gentlemen," he prayed in his agony, coming close into their midst, "do
not be misled for a moment by a father's devotion."

His lifted head, his flashing eye, drew every look. Honour confronted
them in a countenance from which all reserve had melted away. No guilt
showed there; he stood among them, a heroic figure.

Slowly, and with a dread which no man might measure, the glances which
had just devoured his young but virile countenance passed to that of the
father. They did not leave it again. "Son?" With what tenderness he
spoke, but with what a ring of desolation. "I understand your effort and
appreciate it; but it is a useless one. You cannot deceive these friends
of ours--men who have known my life. If you were in the ravine that
night, so was I. If you handled John Scoville's stick, so did I, AND
AFTER YOU! Let us not struggle for the execration of mankind; let it
fall where it rightfully belongs. It can bring no sting keener than that
to which my breast has long been subject. Or--" and here his tones sank,
in a last recognition of all he was losing forever, "if there is
suffering in a once proud man flinging from him the last rag of respect
with which he sought to cover the hideous nakedness of an unsuspected
crime, it is lost in the joy of doing justice to the son who would take
advantage of circumstances to assume his father's guilt."

But Oliver, with a fire which nothing could damp, spoke up again:

"Gentlemen, will you see my father so degrade himself? He has dwelt so
continually upon the knowledge which separated us a dozen years ago that
he no longer can discriminate between the guilty and the innocent. Would
he have sat in court; would he have uttered sentences; would he have
kept his seat upon the bench for all these years, if he had borne within
his breast this secret of personal guilt? No. It is not in human nature
to play such a part. I was guilty--and I fled. Let the act speak for
itself. The respect due my father must not be taken from him."

Confession and counter-confession! What were they to think! Alanson
Black, aghast at this dread dilemma, ran over in his mind all that had
led him to accept Oliver's guilt as proven, and then, in immediate
opposition to it, the details of that old trial and the judge's
consequent life; and, voicing the helpless confusion of the others,
observed with forced firmness:

"We have heard much of Oliver's wanderings in the ravine on that fatal
night, but nothing of yours, Judge Ostrander. It is not enough for you
to say that you were there; you must prove it."

"The proof is in my succumbing to the shock of hearing Oliver's name
associated with this crime. Had he been guilty--had our separation come
through his crime and not through my own, I should have been prepared
for such a contingency, and not overwhelmed by it."

"And were you not prepared?"

"No, before God!"

The gesture accompanying this oath was a grand one, convincing in its
fervour, its majesty and power.

But facts are stubborn things, and while most of those present were
still thrilling under the effect of this oath, the dry voice of District
Attorney Andrews was heard for the first time, in these words:

"Why, then, did you, on the night of Bela's death, stop on your way
across the bridge to look back upon Dark Hollow and cry in the bitterest
tones which escape human lips, 'Oliver! Oliver! Oliver!' You were heard
to speak this name, Judge Ostrander," he hastily put in, as the
miserable father raised his hand in ineffectual protest. "A man was
lurking in the darkness behind you, who both saw and heard you. He may
not be the most prepossessing of witnesses, but we cannot discredit his

"Mr. Andrews, you have no children. To the man who has, I make my last
appeal. Mr. Renfrew, you know the human heart both as a father and a
pastor. Do you find anything unnatural in a guilty soul bemoaning its
loss rather than its sin, in the spot which recalled both to his
overburdened spirit?"


The word came sharply, and it sounded decisive; but the ones which
followed from Mr. Andrews were no less so.

"That is not enough. We want evidence, actual evidence that you are not
playing the part your son ascribes to you."

The judge's eyes glared, then suddenly and incomprehensively softened
till the quick fear that his mind as well as his memory had gone astray,
vanished in a feeling none of them could have characterised, but which
gave to them all an expression of awe.

"I have such evidence," announced the judge. "Come."

Turning, he stepped into the hall. Oliver, with bended head and a
discouraged mien, quickly followed. Alanson Black and the others,
casting startled and inquiring looks at each other, brought up the rear.
Deborah Scoville was nowhere to be seen.

At the door of his own room, the judge paused, and with his hand on the
curtain, remarked with unexpected composure: "You have all wondered, and
others with you why for the last ten years I have kept the gates of my
house shut against every comer. I am going to show you."

And with no further word or look, scarcely even giving attention to
Oliver's anguished presence, he led them into the study and from there
on to that inner door known and talked of through the town as the door
of mystery. This he slowly opened with the key he took from his pocket;
then, pausing with the knob in his hand, he said:

"In the years which are past, but two persons beside myself have crossed
this threshold, and these only under my eye. Its secret was for my own
breast. Judge what my remorse has been; judge the power of my own secret
self-condemnation, by what you see here."

And, entering, he reached up, and pulled aside the carpet he had strung
up over one end of the room, disclosing amid a number of loosened
boards, the barred cell of a condemned convict.

       *       *       *       *       *

"This was my bed, gentlemen, till a stranger coming into my home, made
such an acknowledgment of my sin impossible!"



Later, when the boards he had loosened in anticipation of this hour were
all removed, they came upon a packet of closely written words hidden in
the framework of the bed.

It read as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

Whosoever lays hands on this MS. will already be acquainted with my
crime. If he would also know its cause and the full story of my
hypocrisy, let him read these lines written, as it were, with my heart's

I loved Algernon Etheridge; I shall never have a dearer friend. His odd
ways, his lank, possibly ungainly figure crowned by a head of scholarly
refinement, his amiability when pleased, his irascibility when crossed,
formed a character attractive to me from its very contradictions; and
after my wife's death and before my son Oliver reached a companionable
age, it was in my intercourse with this man I found my most solid

Yet we often quarrelled. His dogmatism frequently ran counter to my
views, and, being myself a man of quick and violent temper, hard words
sometimes passed between us, to be forgotten the next minute in a
hand-shake, or some other token of mutual esteem. These dissensions--if
such they could be called--never took place except in the privacy of his
study or mine. We thought too much of each other to display our
differences of opinion abroad or even in the presence of Oliver; and
however heated our arguments or whatever our topic we invariably parted
friends, till one fateful night.

O God! that years of repentance, self-hatred and secret immolation can
never undo the deed of an infuriated moment. Eternity may console, but
it can never make me innocent of the blood of my heart's brother.

We had had our usual wordy disagreement over some petty subject in which
he was no nearer wrong nor I any nearer right than we had been many
times before; but for some reason I found it harder to pardon him.
Perhaps some purely physical cause lay back of this; perhaps the nervous
irritation incident upon a decision then pending in regard to Oliver's
future, heightened my feelings and made me less reasonable than usual.
The cause does not matter, the result does. For the first time in our
long acquaintance, I let Algernon Etheridge leave me, without any
attempt at conciliation.

If only I had halted there! If, at sight of my empty study, I had not
conceived the mad notion of waylaying him at the bridge for the
hand-shake I missed, I might have been a happy man now, and Oliver--But
why dwell upon these might-have-beens! What happened was this:

Disturbed in mind, and finding myself alone in the house, Oliver having
evidently gone out while we two were disputing, I decided to follow out
the impulse I have mentioned. Leaving by the rear, I went down the lane
to the path which serves as a short cut to the bridge. That I did this
unseen by anybody is not so strange when you consider the hour, and how
the only person then living in the lane was, in all probability, in her
kitchen. It would have been better for me, little as I might have
recognised it at the time, had she been where she could have witnessed
both my going and coming and faced me with the fact.

John Scoville, in his statement, says that after giving up his search
for his little girl, he wandered up the ravine before taking the path
back which led him through Dark Hollow. This was false, as well as the
story he told of leaving his stick by the chestnut tree in the gully at
foot of Ostrander Lane. For I was on the spot, and I know the route by
which he reached Dark Hollow and also through whose agency the stick
came to be there.

Read, and learn with what tricks the devil beguiles us men.

I was descending this path, heavily shadowed, as you know, by a skirting
of closely growing trees and bushes, when just where it dips into the
Hollow, I heard the sound of a hasty foot come crashing up through the
underbrush from the ravine and cross the path ahead of me. A turn in the
path prevented me from seeing the man himself, but as you will perceive
and as I perceived later when circumstances recalled it to my mind, I
had no need to see him to know who it was or with what intent he took
this method of escape from the ravine into the fields leading to the
highway. Scoville's stick spoke for him, the stick which I presently
tripped over and mechanically picked up, without a thought of the
desperate use to which I was destined to put it.

Etheridge was coming. I could hear his whistle on Factory Road. There
was no mistaking it. It was an unusually shrill one and had always been
a cause of irritation to me, but at this moment it was more; it roused
every antagonistic impulse within me. He whistling like a galliard,
after a parting which had dissatisfied me to such an extent that I had
come all this distance to ask his pardon and see his old smile again!
Afterwards, long afterwards, I was able to give another interpretation
to his show of apparent self-satisfaction, but then I saw nothing but
the contrast it offered to my own tender regrets, and my blood began to
boil and my temper rise to such a point that recrimination took the
place of apology when in another moment we came together in the open
space between the end of the bridge and Dark Hollow.

He was in no better mood than myself to encounter insult, and what had
been a simple difference between us flamed into a quarrel which reached
its culmination when he mentioned Oliver's name with a taunt, which the
boy, for all his obstinate clinging to his journalistic idea, did not

Knowing my own temper, I drew back into the Hollow.

He followed me.

I tried to speak.

He took the word out of my mouth. This may have been with the intent of
quelling my anger, but the tone was rasping, and noting this and not his
words, my hand tightened insensibly about the stick which the devil (or
John Scoville) had put in my hand. Did he see this, or was he prompted
by some old memory of boyish quarrels that he should give utterance to
that quick, sharp laugh of scorn! I shall never know, but ere the sound
had ceased, the stick was whirling over my head--there came a crash and
he fell. My friend! My friend!

Next moment the earth seemed too narrow, the heavens too contracted for
my misery. That he was dead--that my blow had killed him, I never
doubted for an instant. I knew it, as we know the face of Doom when once
it has risen upon us. Never, never again would this lump of clay, which
a few minutes before had filled the Hollow with shrillest whistling,
breathe or think or speak. He was dead, DEAD, DEAD!--And I? What was I?

The name which no man hears unmoved, no amount of repetition makes easy
to the tongue or welcome to the ear!... the name which I had heard
launched in full forensic eloquence so many times in accusation against
the wretches I had hardly regarded as being in the same human class as
myself, rang in my ear as though intoned from the very mouth of hell. I
could not escape it. I should never be able to escape it again. Though I
was standing in a familiar scene--a scene I had known and frequented
from childhood, I felt myself as isolated from my past and as completely
set apart from my fellows as the shipwrecked mariner tossed to
precarious foot-hold on his wave-dashed rock. I forgot that other
criminals existed. In that one awful moment I was in my own eyes the
only blot upon the universe--the sole inhabitant of the new world into
which I had plunged--the world of crime--the world upon which I had sat
in judgment before I knew--

What broke the spell? A noise? No, I heard no noise. The sense of some
presence near, if not intrusive? God knows; all I can say is that,
drawn, by some other will than my own, I found my glance travelling up
the opposing bluff till at its top, framed between the ragged wall and
towering chimney of Spencer's Folly, I saw the presence I had dreaded,
the witness who was to undo me.

It was a woman--a woman with a little child in hand. I did not see her
face, for she was just on the point of turning away from the dizzy
verge, but nothing could have been plainer than the silhouette which
these two made against the flush of that early evening sky. I see it yet
in troubled dreams and desperate musings. I shall see it always; for
hard upon its view, fear entered my soul, horrible, belittling fear,
torturing me not with a sense of guilt but of its consequences. I had
slain a man to my hurt, I a judge, just off the Bench; and soon ...
possibly before I should see Oliver again ... I should be branded from
end to end of the town with that name which had made such havoc in my
mind when I first saw Algernon Etheridge lying stark before me.

I longed to cry out--to voice my despair in the spot where my sin had
found me out; but my throat had closed, and the blood in my veins ceased
flowing. As long as I could catch a glimpse of this woman's fluttering
skirt as she retreated through the ruins, I stood there, self-convicted,
above the man I had slain, staring up at that blotch of shining sky
which was as the gate of hell to me. Not till their two figures had
disappeared and it was quite clear again did the instinct of
self-preservation return, and with it the thought of flight.

But where could I fly? No spot in the wide world was secret enough to
conceal me now. I was a marked man. Better to stand my ground, and take
the consequences, than to act the coward's part and slink away like
those other men of blood I had so often sat in judgment upon.

Had I but followed this impulse! Had I but gone among my fellows, shown
them the mark of Cain upon my forehead, and prayed, not for indulgence,
but punishment, what days of gnawing misery I should have been spared!

But the horror of what lay at my feet drove me from the Hollow and drove
me the wrong way. As my steps fell mechanically into the trail down
which I had come in innocence and kindly purpose only a few minutes
before, a startling thought shot through my benumbed mind. The woman had
shown no haste in her turning! There had been a naturalness in her
movement, a dignity and a grace which spoke of ease, not shock. What if
she had not seen! What if my deed was as yet unknown! Might I not have
time for--for what? I did not stop to think; I just pressed on, saying
to myself, "Let Providence decide. If I meet any one before I reach my
own door, my doom is settled. If I do not--"

And I did not. As I turned into the lane from the ravine I heard a sound
far down the slope, but it was too distant to create apprehension, and I
went calmly on, forcing myself into my usual leisurely gait, if only to
gain some control over my own emotions before coming under Oliver's eye.

That sound I have never understood. It could not have been Scoville
since in the short time which had passed, he could not have fled from
the point where I heard him last into the ravine below Ostrander Lane.
But if not he, who was it? Or if it was he, and some other hand threw
his stick across my path, whose was this hand and why have we never
heard anything about it? It is a question which sometimes floats through
my mind, but I did not give it a thought then. I was within sight of
home and Oliver's possible presence; and all other dread was as nothing
in comparison to what I felt at the prospect of meeting my boy's eye. My
boy's eye! my greatest dread then, and my greatest dread still! In my
terror of it I walked as to my doom.

The house which I had left empty, I found empty; Oliver had not yet
returned. The absolute stillness of the rooms seemed appalling.
Instinctively, I looked up at the clock. It had stopped. Not at the
minute--I do not say it was at the minute--but near, very near the time
when from an innocent man I became a guilty one. Appalled at the
discovery, I fled to the front. Opening the door, I looked out. Not a
creature in sight, and not a sound to be heard. The road was as lonely
and seemingly as forsaken as the house. Had time stopped here too? Were
the world and its interests at a pause in horror of my deed? For a
moment I believed it; then more natural sensations intervened and,
rejoicing at this lack of disturbance where disturbance meant discovery,
I stepped inside again and went and sat down in my own room.

My own room! Was it mine any longer? Its walls looked strange; the petty
objects of my daily handling, unfamiliar. The change in myself infected
everything I saw. I might have been in another man's house for all
connection these things seemed to have with me or my life. Like one set
apart on an unapproachable shore, I stretched hands in vain towards all
that I had known and all that had been of value to me.

But as the minutes passed, as the hands of the clock I had hastily
rewound moved slowly round the dial, I began to lose this feeling. Hope
which I thought quite dead slowly revived. Nothing had happened, and
perhaps nothing would. Men had been killed before, and the slayer passed
unrecognised. Why might it not be so in my case? If the woman continued
to remain silent; if for any reason she had not witnessed the blow or
the striker, who else was there to connect me with an assault committed
a quarter of a mile away? No one knew of the quarrel; and if they did,
who could be so daring as to associate one of my name with an action so
brutal? A judge slay his friend! It would take evidence of a very marked
character to make even my political enemies believe that.

As the twilight deepened I rose from my seat and lit the gas. I must not
be found skulking in the dark. Then I began to count the ticks measuring
off the hour. If thirty minutes more passed without a rush from without,
I might hope. If twenty?--if ten?--then it was five! then it was--Ah, at
last! The gate had clanged to. They were coming. I could hear
steps--voices--a loud ring at the bell. Laying down the pen I had taken,
up mechanically, I moved slowly towards the front. Should I light the
hall gas as I went by? It was a natural action, and, being natural,
would show unconcern. But I feared the betrayal which my ashy face and
trembling hands might make. Agitation after the news was to be expected,
but not before! So I left the hall dark when I opened the door.

And thus decided my future.

For in the faces of the small crowd which blocked the doorway, I
detected nothing but commiseration; and when a voice spoke and I heard
Oliver's accents surcharged with nothing more grievous than pity, I
realised that my secret was as yet unshared, and seeing that no man
suspected me, I forebore to declare my guilt to any one.

This sudden restoration from soundless depths into the pure air of
respect and sympathy confused me; and beyond the words KILLED! STRUCK
DOWN BY THE BRIDGE! I heard little, till slowly, dully like the call of
a bell issuing from a smothering mist, I caught the sound of a name and
then the words, "He did it just for the watch;" which hardly conveyed
meaning to me, so full was I of Oliver's look and Oliver's tone and the
way his arm supported me as he chided them for their abruptness and
endeavoured to lead me away.

But the name! It stuck in my ear and gradually it dawned upon my
consciousness that another man had been arrested for my crime and that
the safety, the reverence and the commiseration that were so dear to me
had been bought at a price no man of honour might pay.

But I was no longer a man of honour. I was a wretched criminal swaying
above a gulf of infamy in which I had seen others swallowed but had
never dreamed of being engulfed myself. I never thought of letting
myself go--not at this crisis--not while my heart was warm with its
resurgence into the old life.

And so I let pass this second opportunity for confession. Afterwards, it
was too late--or seemed too late to my demoralised judgment.

My first real awakening to the extraordinary horrors of my position was
when I realised that circumstances were likely to force me into
presiding over the trial of the man Scoville. This I felt to be beyond
even my rapidly hardening conscience. I made great efforts to evade it,
but they all failed. Then I feigned sickness, only to realise that my
place would be taken by Judge Grosvenor, a notoriously prejudiced man.
If he sat, it would go hard with the prisoner, and I wanted the prisoner
acquitted. I had no grudge against John Scoville. I was grateful to him.
By his own confession he was a thief, but he was no murderer, and his
bad repute had stood me in good stead. Attention had been so drawn to
him by the circumstances in which the devil had entangled him, that it
had never even glanced my way and now never would. Of course, I wanted
to save him, and if the only help I could now give him was to sit as
judge upon his case, then would I sit as judge whatever mental torture
it involved.

Sending for Mr. Black, I asked him point-blank whether in face of the
circumstance that the victim of this murder was my best friend, he would
not prefer to plead his case before Judge Grosvenor. He answered no:
that he had more confidence in my equity even under these circumstances
than in that of my able, but headstrong, colleague; and prayed me to get
well. He did not say that he expected me on this very account to show
even more favour towards his client than I might otherwise have done,
but I am sure that he meant it; and, taking his attitude as an omen, I
obeyed his injunction and was soon well enough to take my seat upon the

No one will expect me to enlarge upon the sufferings of that time. By
some I was thought stoical; by others, a prey to such grief that only my
duty as judge kept me to my task. Neither opinion was true. What men saw
facing them from the Bench was an automaton wound up to do so much work
each day. The real Ostrander was not there, but stood, an unseen
presence at the bar, undergoing trial side by side with John Scoville,
for a crime to make angels weep and humanity hide its head: hypocrisy!

But the days went by and the inexorable hour drew nigh for the accused
man's release or condemnation. Circumstances were against him--so was
his bearing which I alone understood. If, as all felt, it was that of a
guilty man, it was so because he had been guilty in intent if not in
fact. He had meant to attack Etheridge. He had run down the ravine for
that purpose, knowing my old friend's whistle and envying him his watch.
Or why his foolish story of having left his stick behind him at the
chestnut? But the sound of my approaching steps higher up on the path
had stopped him in mid-career and sent him rushing up the slope ahead of
me. When he came back after a short circuit of the fields beyond, it was
to find his crime forestalled and by the very weapon he had thrown into
the Hollow as he went skurrying by. It was the shock of this discovery,
heightened by the use he made of it to secure the booty thus thrown in
his way without crime, which gave him the hang-dog look we all noted.
That there were other reasons--that the place recalled another scene of
brutality in which intention had been followed by act, I did not then
know. It was sufficient to me then that my safety was secured by his own
guilty consciousness and the prevarications into which it led him.
Instead of owning up to the encounter he had so barely escaped, he
confined himself to the simple declaration of having heard voices
somewhere near the bridge, which to all who know the ravine appeared
impossible under the conditions named.

Yet, for all these incongruities and the failure of his counsel to
produce any definite impression by the prisoner's persistent denial of
having whittled the stick or even of having carried it into Dark Hollow,
I expected a verdict in his favour. Indeed, I was so confident of it
that I suffered less during the absence of the jury than at any other
time, and when they returned, with that air of solemn decision which
proclaims unanimity of mind and a ready verdict, I was so prepared for
his acquittal that for the first time since the opening of the trial, I
felt myself a being of flesh and blood, with human sentiments and hopes.
And it was:


When I woke to a full realisation of what this entailed (for I must have
lost consciousness for a minute, though no one seemed to notice), the
one fact staring me in the face--staring as a live thing stares--was
that it would devolve upon me to pronounce his sentence; upon me,
Archibald Ostrander, an automaton no longer, but a man realising to the
full his part in this miscarriage of justice.

Somehow, strange as it may appear, I had thought little of this
possibility previous to this moment. I found myself upon the brink of
this new gulf before the dizziness of my escape from the other had fully
passed. Do you wonder that I recoiled, sought to gain time, put off
delivering the sentence from day to day? I had sinned,--sinned
irredeemably--but there are depths of infamy beyond which a man cannot
go. I had reached that point. Chaos confronted me, and in contemplation
of it, I fell ill.

What saved me? A new discovery, and the loving sympathy of my son
Oliver. One night--a momentous one to me--he came to my room and,
closing the door behind him, stood with his back to it, contemplating me
in a way that startled me.

What had happened? What lay behind this new and penetrating look, this
anxious and yet persistent manner? I dared not think. I dared not yield
to the terror which must follow thought. Terror blanches the cheek and
my cheek must never blanch under anybody's scrutiny. Never, never, so
long as I lived.

"Father,"--the tone quieted me, for I knew from its gentleness that he
was hesitating to speak more on his own account than on mine--"you are
not looking well; this thing worries you. I hate to see you like this.
Is it just the loss of your old friend, or--or--"

He faltered, not knowing how to proceed. There was nothing strange in
this. There could not have been much encouragement in my expression. I
was holding on to myself with much too convulsive a grasp.

"Sometimes I think," he recommenced, "that you don't feel quite sure of
this man Scoville's guilt. Is that so? Tell me, father."

I did not know what to make of him. There was no shrinking from me; no
conscious or unconscious accusation in voice or look, but there was a
desire to know, and a certain latent resolve behind it all that marked
the line between obedient boyhood and thinking, determining man. With
all my dread--a dread so great I felt the first grasp of age upon my
heart-strings at that moment--I recognised no other course than to meet
this inquiry of his with the truth--that is, with just so much of the
truth as was needed. No more, not one jot more. I, therefore, answered,
and with a show of self-possession at which I now wonder:

"You are not far from right, Oliver. I have had moments of doubt. The
evidence, as you must have noticed, is purely circumstantial."

"But a jury has convicted him."


"On the evidence you mention?"


"What evidence would satisfy YOU? What would YOU consider a conclusive
proof of guilt?"

I told him in the set phrases of my profession.

"Then," he declared as I finished, "you may rest easy as to this man's
right to receive a sentence of death."

I could not trust my ears.

"I know from personal observation," he proceeded, approaching me with a
firm step, "that he is not only capable of the crime for which he has
been convicted, but that he has actually committed one under similar
circumstances, and possibly for the same end."

And he told me the story of that night of storm and bloodshed,--a story
which will be found lying near this, in my alcove of shame and

It had an overwhelming effect upon me. I had been very near death.
Suicide must have ended the struggle in which I was engaged, had not
this knowledge of actual and unpunished crime come to ease my
conscience. John Scoville was worthy of death, and, being so, should
receive the full reward of his deed. I need hesitate no longer.

That night I slept.

But there came a night when I did not. After the penalty had been paid
and to most men's eyes that episode was over, I turned the first page of
that volume of slow retribution which is the doom of the man who sins
from impulse, and has the recoil of his own nature to face relentlessly
to the end of his days.

Scoville was in his grave.

I was alive.

Scoville had shot a man for his money.

I had struck a man down in my wrath.

Scoville's widow and little child must face a cold and unsympathetic
world, with small means and disgrace rising, like a wall, between them
and social sympathy, if not between them and the actual means of living.

Oliver's future faced him untouched. No shadow lay across his path to
hinder his happiness or to mar his chances.

The results were unequal. I began to see them so, and feel the gnawing
of that deathless worm whose ravages lay waste the breast, while hand
and brain fulfil their routine of work, as though all were well and the
foundations of life unshaken.

I suffered as only cowards suffer. I held on to honour; I held on to
home; I held on to Oliver, but with misery for my companion and a
self-contempt which nothing could abate. Each time I mounted the Bench,
I felt a tug at my arm as of a visible, restraining presence. Each time
I returned to my home and met the clear eye of Oliver beaming upon me
with its ever growing promise of future comradeship, I experienced a
rebellion against my own happiness which opened my eyes to my own nature
and its inevitable demand. I must give up Oliver; or yield my honours,
make a full confession and accept whatever consequences it might bring.
I am a proud man, and the latter alternative was beyond me. With each
passing day, the certainty of this became more absolute and more fixed.
In every man's nature there lurk possibilities of action which he only
recognises under stress, also impossibilities which stretch like an iron
barrier between him and the excellence he craves. I had come up against
such an impossibility. I could forego pleasure, travel, social
intercourse, and even the companionship of the one being in whom all my
hopes centred, but I could not, of my own volition, pass from the
judge's bench to the felon's cell. There I struck the immovable,--the

I decided in one awful night of renunciation that I would send Oliver
out of my life.

The next day I told him abruptly ... hurting him to spare myself ...
that I had decided after long and mature thought to yield to his desire
for journalism, and that I would start him in his career and maintain
him in it for three years if he would subscribe to the following

They were the hardest a loving father ever imposed upon a dutiful and
loving son.

First: he was to leave home immediately ... within a few hours, in fact.

Secondly: he was to regard all relations between us as finished; we were
to be strangers henceforth in every particular save that of the money
obligation already mentioned.

Thirdly: he was never to acknowledge this compact, or to cast any slur
upon the father whose reasons for this apparently unnatural conduct were
quite disconnected with any fault of his or any desire to punish or

Fourthly: he was to pray for his father every night of his life before
he slept.

Was this last a confession? Had I meant it to be such? If so, it missed
its point. It awed but did not enlighten him. I had to contend with his
compunctions, as well as with his grief and dismay. It was an hour of
struggle on his part and of implacable resolution on mine. Nothing but
such hardness on my part would have served me. Had I faltered once he
would have won me over, and the tale of my sleepless nights been
repeated. I did not falter; and when the midnight stroke rang through
the house that night, it separated by its peal, a sin-beclouded but
human past from a future arid with solitude and bereft of the one
possession to retain which my sin had been hidden.

I was a father without a son--as lonely and as desolate as though the
separation between us were that of the grave I had merited and so weakly

And thus I lived for a year.

But I was not yet satisfied.

The toll I had paid to Grief did not seem to me a sufficient punishment
for a crime which entailed imprisonment if not death. How could I insure
for myself the extreme punishment which my peace demanded, without
bringing down upon me the full consequences I refused to accept.

You have seen to-day how I ultimately answered this question. A
convict's bed! a convict's isolation.

Bela served me in this; Bela who knew my secret and knowing continued to
love me. He gathered up these rods singly and in distant places and set
them up across the alcove in my room. He had been a convict once

Being now in my rightful place, I could sleep again.

But after some weeks of this, fresh fears arose. An accident was
possible. For all Bela's precautions, some one might gain access to this
room. This would mean the discovery of my secret. Some new method must
be devised for securing me absolutely against intrusion. Entrance into
my simple, almost unguarded cottage must be made impossible. A close
fence should replace the pickets now surrounding it--a fence with a gate
having its own lock.

And this fence was built.

This should have been enough. But guilt has terrors unknown to
innocence. One day I caught a small boy peering through an infinitesimal
crack in the fence, and, remembering the window grilled with iron with
which Bela had replaced the cheerful casement in my den of punishment, I
realised how easily an opening might be made between the boards for the
convenience of a curious eye anxious to penetrate the mystery of my

And so it came about that the inner fence was put up.

This settled my position in the town. No more visits. All social life
was over.

It was meet. I was satisfied at last. I could now give my whole mind to
my one remaining duty. I lived only while on the Bench.

     March Fifth, 1898.

     There is a dream which comes to me often: a vision which I often

     It is that of two broken and irregular walls standing apart against
     a background of roseate sky. Between these walls the figures of a
     woman and child, turning about to go.

     The bridge I never see, nor the face of the man who died for my
     sin; but this I see always: the gaunt ruins of Spencer's Folly and
     the figure of a woman leading away a little child.

     That woman lives. I know now who she is. Her testimony was uttered
     before me in court, and was not one to rouse my apprehensions. My
     crime was unwitnessed by her, and for years she has been a stranger
     to this town. But I have a superstitious horror of seeing her
     again, while believing that the day will come when I shall do so.
     When this occurs,--when I look up and find her in my path, I shall
     know that my sin has found me out and that the end is near.


     O shade of Algernon Etheridge, unforgetting and unforgiving! The
     woman has appeared! She stood in this room to-day. Verily, years
     are nothing with God.

     Added later.

     I thought I knew what awaited me if my hour ever came. But who can
     understand the ways of Providence or where the finger of
     retributive Justice will point. It is Oliver's name and not mine
     which has become the sport of calumny. Oliver's! Could the irony of
     life go further! OLIVER'S!

     There is nothing against him, and such folly must soon die out; but
     to see doubt in Mrs. Scoville's eyes is horrible in itself and to
     eliminate it I may have to show her Oliver's account of that
     long-forgotten night of crime in Spencer's Folly. It is naively
     written and reveals a clean, if reticent, nature; but that its
     effect may be unquestionable I will insert a few lines to cover any
     possible misinterpretation of his manner or conduct. There is an
     open space, and our handwritings were always strangely alike. Only
     our e's differed, and I will be careful with the e's.

     HER confidence must be restored at all hazards.

My last foolish attempt has undone me. Nothing remains now but that
sacrifice of self which should have been made twelve years ago.



"I do not wish to seem selfish, Oliver, but sit a little nearer the
window where I can see you whenever I open my eyes. Twelve years is a
long time to make up, and I have such a little while in which to do it."

Oliver moved. The moisture sprang to his eyes as he did so. He had
caught a glimpse of the face on the pillow and the changes made in a
week were very apparent. Always erect, his father had towered above them
then even in his self-abasement, but he looked now as though twenty
years, instead of a few days, had passed over his stately head and bowed
his incomparable figure. And not that alone. His expression was
different. Had Oliver not seen him in his old likeness for that one
terrible half-hour, he would not know these features, so sunken, yet so
eloquent with the peace of one for whom all struggle is over, and the
haven of his long rest near.

The heart, which had held unflinchingly to its task through every stress
of self-torture, succumbed under the relief of confession, and as he
himself had said, there was but little time left him to fill his eyes
and heart with the sight of this strong man who had replaced his boy

He had hungered so for his presence even in those days of final
shrinking and dismay. And now, the doubts, the dread, the inexpressible
humiliation are all in the past and there remains only this,--to feast
his eyes where his heart has so long feasted, and to thank God for the
blessedness of a speedy going, which has taken the sword from the hand
of Justice and saved Oliver the anguished sight of a father's public

Had he been able at this moment to look beyond the fences which his fear
had reared, he would have seen at either gate a silent figure guarding
the walk, and recalled, perhaps, the horror of other days when at the
contemplation of such a prospect, his spirit recoiled upon itself in
unimaginable horror and revolt. And yet, who knows! Life's passions fade
when the heart is at peace. And Archibald Ostrander's heart was at
peace. Why, his next words will show.

"Oliver"--his voice was low but very distinct, "never have a secret;
never hide within your bosom a thought you fear the world to know. If
you've done wrong--if you have disobeyed the law either of God or
man--seek not to hide what can never be hidden so long as God reigns or
men make laws. I have suffered, as few men have suffered and kept their
reason intact. Now that my wickedness is known, the whole page of my
life defaced, content has come again. I am no longer a deceiver, my very
worst is known."

"Oliver?"--This some minutes later. "Are we alone?"

"Quite alone, father. Mrs. Scoville is busy and Reuther--Reuther is in
the room above. I can hear her light step overhead."

The judge was silent. He was gazing wistfully at the wall where hung the
portrait of his young wife. He was no longer in his own room, but in the
cheery front parlour. This Deborah had insisted upon. There was,
therefore, nothing to distract him from the contemplation I have

"There are things I want to say to you. Not many; you already know my
story. But I do not know yours, and I cannot die till I do. What took
you into the ravine that evening, Oliver, and why, having picked up the
stick, did you fling it from you and fly back to the highway? For the
reason I ascribed to Scoville? Tell me, that no cloud may remain between
us. Let me know your heart as well as you now know mine."

The reply brought the blood back into his fading cheek.

"Father, I have already explained all this to Mr. Andrews, and now I
will explain it to you. I never liked Mr. Etheridge as well as you did,
and I brooded incessantly in those days over the influence which he
seemed to exert over you in regard to my future career. But I never
dreamed of doing him a harm, and never supposed that I could so much as
attempt any argument with him on my own behalf till that very night of
infernal complications and coincidences. The cause of this change was as
follows: I had gone up stairs, you remember, leaving you alone with him
as I knew you desired. How I came to be in the room above I don't
remember, but I was there and leaning out of the window directly over
the porch when you and Mr. Etheridge came out and stood in some final
debate on the steps below. He was talking and you were listening, and
never shall I forget the effect his words and tones had upon me. I had
supposed him devoted to you, and here he was addressing you tartly and
in an ungracious manner which bespoke a man very different from the one
I had been taught to look upon as superior. The awe of years yielded
before this display, and finding him just human like the rest of us, the
courage which I had always lacked in approaching him took instant
possession of me, and I determined with a boy's unreasoning impulse to
subject him to a personal appeal not to add his influence to the
distaste you at present felt for the career upon which I had set my
heart. Nothing could have been more foolish and nothing more natural,
perhaps, than the act which followed. I ran down into the ravine with
the wild intention, so strangely duplicated in yourself a few minutes
later, of meeting and pleading my cause with him at the bridge, but
unlike you, I took the middle of the ravine for my road and not the
secluded path at the side. It was this which determined our fate,
father, for here I ran up against the chestnut tree, saw the stick and,
catching it up without further thought than of the facility it offered
for whittling, started with it down the ravine. Scoville was not in
sight. The moment was the one when he had quit looking for Reuther and
wandered away up the ravine. I have thought since that perhaps the
glimpse he had got of his little one peering from the scene of his crime
may have stirred even his guilty conscience and sent him off on this
purposeless ramble; but, however this was, I did not see him or anybody
else as I took my way leisurely down towards the bridge, whittling at
the stick and thinking of what I should say to Mr. Etheridge when I met
him. And now for Fate's final and most fatal touch! Nothing which came
into my mind struck me quite favourably. The encounter which seemed such
a very simple matter when I first contemplated it, began to assume quite
a different aspect as the moment for it approached. By the time I had
come abreast of the Hollow, I was tired of the whole business, and
hearing his whistle and knowing by it that he was very near, I plunged
up the slope to avoid him, and hurried straight away into town. That is
my story, father. If I heard your steps approaching as I plunged across
the path into which I had thrown the stick in my anger at having broken
the point of my knife-blade upon it, I thought nothing of them then.
Afterwards I believed them to be Scoville's, which may account to you
for my silence about this whole matter both before and during the trial.
I was afraid of the witness-stand and of what might be elicited from me
if I once got into the hands of the lawyers. My abominable reticence in
regard to his former crime would be brought up against me, and I was yet
too young, too shy and uninformed to face such an ordeal of my own
volition. Unhappily, I was not forced into it, and--But we will not talk
of that, father."

"Son,"--a long silence had intervened,--"there is one thing more.
When--how--did you first learn my real reason for sending you from home?
I saw that my position was understood by you when our eyes first met in
this room. But twelve years had passed since you left this house in
ignorance of all but my unnatural attitude towards you. When, Oliver,

"That I cannot answer, father; it was just a conviction which dawned
gradually upon me. Now, it seems as if I had known it always; but that
isn't so. A boy doesn't reason; and it took reasoning for me to--to

"Yes, I understand. And that was your secret! Oh, Oliver, I shall never
ask for your forgiveness. I am not worthy it. I only ask that you will
not let pride or any other evil passion stand in the way of the
happiness I see in the future for you. I cannot take from you the shame
of my crime and long deception, but spare me this final sorrow! There is
nothing to part you from Reuther now. Alike unhappy in your parentage,
you can start on equal terms, and love will do the rest. Say that you
will marry her, Oliver, and let me see her smile before I die."

"Marry her? Oh, father, will such an angel marry me?"

"No, but such a woman might."

Oliver came near, and stooped over his father's bed.

"Father, if love and attention to my profession can make a success of
the life you prize, they shall have their opportunity."

The father smiled. If it fell to others to remember him as he appeared
in his mysterious prime, to Oliver it was given to recall him as he
looked then with the light on his face and the last tear he was ever to
shed glittering in his fading eye.

"God is good," came from the bed; then the solemnity of death settled
over the room.

The soft footfalls overhead ceased. The long hush had brought the two
women to the door where they stood sobbing. Oliver was on his knees
beside the bed, his head buried in his arms. On the face so near him
there rested a ray from the westering sun; but the glitter was gone from
the eye and the unrest from the heart. No more weary vigils in a room
dedicated to remorse and self-punishment. No more weary circling of the
house in the dark lane whose fences barred out the hurrying figure
within from every eye but that of Heaven. Peace for him; and for Reuther
and Oliver, hope!


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