He locked the door of the room behind him, crept down the stairs and out of the front-door. He walked shamblingly, when he reached the street, keeping close to the fences as he went on, now and then touching the pickets with his hands like a feeble old man.
He had always been prompt; it was one of the things of which he had been proud: in all his life he had never failed to keep a business engagement precisely upon the appointed time, and the Court-house bell clanged eight when Sam Warden opened the door for his old employer to-night.
The two young people looked up gravely from the script-laden table before them as Martin Pike came into the strong lamplight out of the dimness of the hall, where only a taper burned. He shambled a few limp steps into the room and came to a halt. Big as he was, his clothes hung upon him loosely, like coverlets upon a collapsed bed; and he seemed but a distorted image of himself, as if (save for the dull and reddened eyes) he had been made of yellowish wax and had been left too long in the sun. Abject, hopeless, his attitude a confession of ruin and shame, he stood before his judges in such wretchedness that, in comparison, the figure of Happy Fear, facing the court-room through his darkest hour, was one to be envied.
“Well,” he said, brokenly, “what are you going to do?”
Joe Louden looked at him with great intentness for several moments. Then he rose and came forward. “Sit down, Judge,” he said. “It’s all right. Don’t worry.”
THE JURY COMES IN
Mrs. Flitcroft, at breakfast on the following morning, continued a disquisition which had ceased, the previous night, only because of a provoking human incapacity to exist without sleep. Her theme was one which had exclusively occupied her since the passing of Eskew, and, her rheumatism having improved so that she could leave her chair, she had become a sort of walking serial; Norbert and his grandfather being well assured that, whenever they left the house, the same story was to be continued upon their reappearance. The Tocsin had been her great comfort: she was but one helpless woman against two strong men; therefore she sorely needed assistance in her attack upon them, and the invaluable newspaper gave it in generous measure.
“Yes, young man,” she said, as she lifted her first spoonful of oatmeal, “you better read the Tocsin!”
“I am reading it,” responded Norbert, who was almost concealed by the paper.
“And your grandfather better read it!” she continued, severely.
“I already have,” said the Colonel, promptly. “Have you?”
“No, but you can be sure I will!” The good lady gave the effect of tossing her head. “And you better take what it says to heart, you and some others. It’s a wonder to me that you and Buckalew and old Peter don’t go and hold that Happy Fear’s hand durin’ the trial! And as for Joe Louden, his step-mother’s own sister, Jane, says to me only yesterday afternoon, `Why, law! Mrs. Flitcroft,’ she says, `it’s a wonder to me,’ she says, `that your husband and those two other old fools don’t lay down in the gutter and let that Joe Louden walk over ’em.’ "