“And you think you would be better if you were out of her sight?”
“Is a starving man better when he is away from food?” asked Sandy, fiercely. “Heaven knows it’s not of meself I’m thinking. It’s breaking her tender heart to see me misery staring her in the face, and I’ll put it out of her sight.”
“Is it Ruth?” asked the judge.
Sandy assented with bowed head.
The judge got up and stood before the fire.
“Didn’t you know,” he began as kindly as he could put it, “that you were not in her—that is, that she was not of your—”
Sandy lifted blazing eyes, hot with the passion of youth.
“If she’d been in heaven and I’d been in hell, I’d have stretched out my arms to her still!”
Something in his eyes, in his voice, in his intensity, brought the judge to his side.
“How long has this thing been going on?” he asked seriously.
“Before you came here?”
“You followed her here?”
Whereupon the judge gave vent to the one profane word in his vocabulary.
Then Sandy, having confided so far, made a clean breast of it, breaking down at the end when he tried to describe Ruth’s goodness and the sorrow his misery had caused her.
When it was over the judge had hold of his hand and was bestowing large, indiscriminate pats upon his head and shoulders.
“It’s hard luck, Sandy; hard luck. But you must brace up, boy. Everybody wants something in the world he can’t get. We all go under, sooner or later, with some wish ungratified. Now I’ve always wanted—” he pressed his fingers on his lips for a moment, then went on—“the one thing I’ve wanted was a son. It seemed to me there was nothing else in the world would make up to me for that lack. I had money more than enough, and health and friends; but I wanted a boy. When you came I said to Sue: ‘Let’s keep him a while just to see how it would feel.’ It’s been worth while, Sandy; you have done me credit. It almost seemed as if the Lord didn’t mean me to be disappointed, after all. And to-day, when Mr. Moseley said you ought to have a year or two at the big university, I said: ’Why not? He’s just like my own. I’ll send him this year and next, and then he can come home and be a comfort to me all the rest of my days.’ That’s what I was sitting up to tell you, Sandy; but now—”
“And ye sha’n’t be disappointed!” cried Sandy. “I’ll go anywhere you say, do anything you wish. Only you wouldn’t be asking me to stay here?”
“Not now, Sandy; not for a while.”
“Never!—so long as she’s here. I’ll never bring me sorrow between her and the sun again-so help me, Heaven! And if the Lord gives me strength, I’ll never see her face again, so long as I live!”
“Go to bed, boy; go to bed. You are tired out. We will ship you off to the university next week.”