He! and she must face him! the man whom she by her blind and untimely efforts to regain happiness for Reuther, had brought to this woful pass! The ordeal was too bitter for her broken spirit and, shrinking aside, she covered her face with her hands like one who stands detected in a guilty act.
“Pardon,” she entreated, forgetting Reuther’s presence in her consciousness of the misery she had brought upon her benefactor. “I never meant—I never dreamed—”
“Oh, no apologies!” Was this the judge speaking? The tone was an admonitory, not a suffering one. It was not even that of a man humiliated or distressed. “You have had an unfortunate experience, but that is over now and so must your distress be.” Then, as in her astonishment she dropped her hands and looked up, he added very quietly, “Your daughter has been much disturbed about you, but not at all about Oliver or his good name. She knows my son too well, and so do you and I, to be long affected by the virulent outcries of a mob seeking for an object upon which to expend their spleen.”
Swaying yet in body and mind, quite unable in the turmoil of her spirits to reconcile this strong and steady man with the crushed and despairing figure she had so lately beheld shrinking under the insults of the crowd, Deborah was glad to sit silent under this open rebuke and listen to Reuther’s ingenuous declarations, though she knew that they brought no conviction and distilled no real comfort either to his mind or hers.
“Yes, mother darling,” the young girl was saying. “These people have not seen Oliver in years, but we have, and nothing they can say, nothing that any one can say but himself could ever shake my belief in him as a man incapable of a really wicked act. He might be capable of striking a sudden blow—most men are under great provocation—but to conceal such a fact,—to live for years enjoying the respect of all who knew him, with the knowledge festering in his heart of another having suffered for his crime— that, that would be impossible to Oliver Ostrander.”
Some words ring in the heart long after their echo has left the ear. Impossible! Deborah stole a look at the judge. But he was gazing at Reuther, where he well might gaze, if his sinking heart craved support or his abashed mind sought to lose itself in the enthusiasm of this pure soul, with its loving, uncalculating instincts.
“Am I not right, mother?”
Ah! must she answer that?
“Tell the judge who is as confident of Oliver as I am myself that you are confident, too. That you could no more believe him capable of this abominable act than you could believe it of my father.”
“I will—tell—the judge,” stammered the unhappy mother. “Judge,” she briefly declared, as she rose with the help of her daughter’s arm, “my mind agrees with yours in this matter. What you think, I think.” And that was all she could say.