“This is the greatest honour my office has brought me,” he said with sincerity.
She laughed softly, smoothing her black kid glove above her plump wrist.
“I don’t know what they mean by saying you aren’t a lady’s man, Governor Burr,” she returned. “I am sure old Judge Blitherstone himself never turned a prettier compliment, and he lived to be upwards of ninety and did them better every day of his life. They used to say that when Mrs. Peachy Tucker dropped in to see him as he was breathing his last, and told him to look forward to the joys of heaven and the communion of saints, he replied, ’Madam, if you remain with me I shall merely pass from one heaven to another,’ and they were his last words.”
The governor smiled into her beautiful, girlish eyes. “Men have spoken worse ones,” he said, her kindliness warming him like a cordial.
“It was good of you to come,” he added.
“Not a bit of it,” protested Miss Chris with emphasis. “It’s all about that poor, foolish boy—he’s still a boy to me, and so are you for that matter. You know how wicked he has been and how miserable he has made us all, for you can’t stop loving people just because they are bad. Now you are a good man, Governor Burr, and that’s why I came to you. You’ll do right if it kills you, and whatever you do in this matter is going to be the right thing. You can’t help being good any more than he can help being bad, and I hope the Lord understands this as well as I do—I don’t know, I’m sure—sometimes it looks as if He didn’t; but we’d just as well trust Him, because there’s nothing else for us to do.
“Now the foolish boy wronged you more than he wronged us; but you’ll forgive him as we forgave him, when you know what he’s suffered. It’s better to be sinned against than to sin, God knows.”
Her eyes were moist and her lips trembled. The governor crossed to where she sat and took her hand.
“Dear Miss Chris,” he said, “women like you make men heroes.” And he added quickly, “The pardon is being made out. When it is ready I will sign it.”
She looked at him an instant in silence; then she rose heavily to her feet, leaning upon his arm. “You’re a great man, Nick Burr,” she said softly.
An hour later Nicholas Burr looked calmly down upon his signature that meant freedom for Bernard Battle. He had won the victory of his life, and he was feeling with a glow of self-appreciation that he had done a generous thing.
Miss Chris, in her hired carriage, rolled leisurely into Franklin Street, where pretty women in visiting gowns were going in and out of doorways. She leaned out and bowed smilingly several times, but she was not thinking of the gracefully dressed callers or of the houses into which they went. When Emma Carr threw her a kiss from Galt’s porch, she responded amiably; but she was as blind to the affectionate gesture as to the striking beauty of the girl in her winter furs.