Did he perceive this or was it the silence which drew his attention to her condition and the evils still threatening him? Whichever it was, the light vanished from his face as he surveyed her and it was with a return of his old manner, that he finally observed:
“You are keeping something from me—some fancied discovery—some clew, as they call it, to what you may consider my dear boy’s guilt.”
With a deep breath she woke from her trance of indecision and letting forth the full passion of her nature, she cried out in her anguish:
“I have but one answer for that, Judge Ostran-der. Look into your own heart! Question your own conscience. I have seen what reveals it. I—”
She stopped appalled. Rage, such as she had never even divined spoke from every feature. He was no longer the wretched but calmly reasoning man, but a creature hardly human, and when he spoke, it was in a frenzy which swept everything before it.
“You have seen!” he shouted. “You have broken your promise! You have touched what you were forbidden to touch! You have—”
“Not so,” she broke in softly but very firmly. “I have touched nothing that I was told not to, nor have I broken any promise. I simply saw more than I was expected to, I suppose, of the picture which fell the day you first allowed me to enter your study.”
“Is that true?”
“It is true.”
They were whispering now.
Drawing a deep breath, he gathered up his faculties. “Upon such accidents,” he muttered, “hang the fate and honour of men. And you have gossiped about this picture,” he again vociferated with sudden and unrestrained violence, “told Reuther—told others—”
“No.” The denial was peremptory,—not to be disbelieved. “What I have learned, I have kept religiously to myself. Alas!” she half moaned, half cried, “that I should feel the necessity!”
“Madam!”—he was searching her eyes, searching her very soul, as men seldom search the mind of another. “You believe in the truth of these calumnies that have just been shouted in our ears. You believe what they say of Oliver. You with every prejudice in his favour; with every desire to recognise his worth! You, who have shown yourself ready to drop your husband’s cause though you consider it an honest one, when you saw what havoc it would entail to my boy’s repute. You believe—and on what evidence?” he broke in. “Because of the picture?”