Horace supplemented his last rebuke with:
“Nor will I! But I insist that you come to me the next time you are tempted to lie. Do you hear, Fledra?”
“Yes,” she answered.
Suddenly she began to sob wildly, and in another instant fled down the hall.
Not more than two weeks after Lon had demanded the twins from Horace, Everett Brimbecomb sat in his office, brooding over the shadow that had so suddenly darkened his life. The dream he had dreamed of a woman he could call Mother, of some man—his father—of whom he had striven to be worthy, had dissolved into a specter with a shriveled face and shaggy hair, into a woman whom he had left in the cemetery to die. Although he was secure in the thought that he would not be connected with the tragedy, he shuddered every time he thought of her and of the coming spring, when the body would be discovered. He did not repent the crime he had committed; but the fear that the secret of his birth would be brought to life tortured him night and day. He remembered that Scraggy had said his father wanted him; that she had come to Tarrytown to take him back. Did his father know who and where he was? If so, eventual discovery was inevitable.
Everett’s passion for Fledra only heightened his misery, and the girl’s face haunted him continually. In his imagination he compared her with Ann, and the younger girl stood out in radiant contrast. He had daily fostered his jealous hatred for Horace, and, because of her allegiance to her brother, he had come to loathe Ann, although he was more than ever determined to marry her. The home in which he had been reared repelled him, and he could now live only for the fame that would rise from his talent and work, and for the pleasures that come to those without heart or conscience. Almost the entire morning had been consumed by these thoughts, when two men were ushered in to him.
“I’m Lon Cronk,” said the taller of the two, “and this be Lem Crabbe, and we hear that ye’re a good lawyer.”
Everett rose frowningly.
“I am a lawyer,” said he; “but I choose my clients. I don’t take cases—”
“We’ll pay ye well,” interrupted Lon, “if it’s money ye want. Ye can have as much as that Mr. Shellin’ton—”
Everett dropped back again into his chair. The mention of Horace’s name silenced him. He motioned for the men to be seated, without taking his eyes from Lem. The scowman’s clothes were in shreds, and, as he lifted his right arm, Brimbecomb saw the chapped red flesh, strapped to the rusted iron hook. Although Lem had not spoken, the young lawyer noted the silent convulsions going on in the dark, full throat, the unceasing movements of the goiter.
“State your case to me, then,” said he tersely.
Lon Cronk settled back and began to speak.
“There’s a man here in this town by the name of Shellington. He’s a lawyer, too, and he’s got my kids, and I want ’em. That’s my case, Mister.”