“May be it does. I’ll look again,” and depositing his fish and jug safely under the wagon box, the old man adjusted his spectacles, and with the aid of the boy deciphered the dispatch.
“What does it mean?” he asked, but the boy volunteered no ideas, and the simple-hearted deacon asked next: “What shall I tell him?”
“Why, tell him whether she has been here or not since last September. Write on the envelope what you want sent, so I can take it back; and come, hurry up your cakes, I can’t wait all day,” and young America, having thus asserted its superiority over old, began to kick the melting snow, while Uncle Ephraim, greatly bewildered and perplexed, bent himself to the tremendous task of writing the four words:
“Not to my knowledge.” To this he appended: “Yours, with regret, Ephraim Barlow,” and handing it to the waiting boy, unhitched old Whitey, and stepping into his wagon, drove home as rapidly as the half-frozen March mud would allow.
“I wonder what he sent me that word for?” he kept repeating to himself. “We had a letter from Katy yesterday, and there can’t be nothing wrong. I won’t tell the folks yet a while anyway till I see what comes of it, Lucy is so fidgety.”
It was this resolution, whether wise or unwise, which kept from Morris and the deacon’s family a knowledge of the telegram, the answer to which was read by Wilford within half an hour after the deacon’s arrival home.
“She has not been to Silverton,” Wilford said. “The case then is very clear.”
Indeed, it had been growing clear to the suspicious man ever since Tom Tubbs’ unfortunate remark. There are no glasses as perfect as those which jealousy wears, no magnifying lens as powerful, and Wilford was “fully convinced.” Had he been asked of what he was convinced he could hardly have told unless it were that in some way he had been deceived, that Morris had spoken falsely when he said his love for Katy was not returned or even suspected, that Katy had acted the hypocrite, and that both had been guilty of a great indiscretion, at least, by being seen as they were in the New Haven train, and then keeping the occurrences of that night a secret from him. Wilford did not believe Katy had fallen, but she had surely stepped upon forbidden ground, and it was not in his nature to forgive the error—at least, not then, when he was so sore with past remembrances which had come so fast upon him. First, the baby’s death, just when he was learning to love it so much, then the Genevra affair about which Katy had acted so foolishly, then the talk with Dr. Grant, and then his last offense, so much worse than all the rest.
It was a sad catalogue of grievances, and Wilford made it sadder by brooding over and magnifying it until he reached a point from which he would not swerve.