On his way to Brownsville the next morning Dave found himself still somewhat dazed by his sudden happiness; the more he thought of it the more wonderful it seemed. During the day he went through his court duties like a man in a trance. Such joy as this was unbelievable; he felt as if he must tell the world about it. He well understood Alaire’s repugnance to divorce, but he was sure that he could overcome it, if indeed her own truer understanding of herself did not relieve him of that necessity; for at this moment his desires were of a heat sufficient to burn away all obstacles, no matter how solid. It seemed, therefore, that the future was all sunshine.
He had no opportunity of speaking with Judge Ellsworth until court adjourned. Then the judge took him by the arm, with that peculiarly flattering assumption of intimacy of which he was master, and led the way toward his office, inquiring meanwhile for news of Jonesville. Dave’s high spirits surprised him and finally impelled him to ask the cause. When Dave hinted unmistakably at the truth, Ellsworth exclaimed, with a sharp stare of curiosity:
“See here! You haven’t forgotten what I told you that night on the train?”
“What? Yes, I had forgotten.”
“You promised to tell me if you thought seriously about marriage.”
“Very well, then; I’m telling you now.”
“Do you mean that, Dave?”
“Of course I do. But don’t look at me as if I’d confessed to arson or burglary. Listen, Judge! If you have good taste in jewelry, I’ll let you help me select the ring.”
But Judge Ellsworth continued to stare, and then muttered uncertainly: “You’re such a joker—”
Dave assumed a show of irony. “Your congratulations overwhelm me. You look as if you were about to begin the reading of the will.”
“I want to hear about this right away.” Ellsworth smiled faintly. “Can you come to my office tonight, where we can be alone?”
Dave agreed to the appointment and went his way with a feeling of amusement. Old folks are usually curious, he reflected; and they are prone to presume upon the privileges that go with age. In this instance, however, it might be well to make a clean breast of the affair, since Ellsworth was Alaire’s attorney, and would doubtless be selected to secure her divorce.
The judge was waiting when Dave called after supper, but for some time he maintained a flow of conversation relating to other things than the one they had met to discuss. At last, however, he appeared to summon his determination; he cleared his throat and settled himself in his chair—premonitory signs unusual in a man of Ellsworth’s poise and self-assurance.
“I reckon you think I’m trying to mix up in something that doesn’t concern me,” he began; “and perhaps I am. Maybe you’ll make me wish I’d minded my own business—that’s what usually happens. I remember once, out of pure chivalry, trying to stop a fellow from beating his wife. Of course they both turned on me—as they always do. I went to the hospital for a week, and lost a profitable divorce case. However, we try to do our duty as we see it.”