ONE SECRET LESS
Suddenly he faced Deborah again. The crisis of feeling had passed, and he looked almost cold.
“You have had advisers,” said he. “Who are they?”
“I have talked with Mr. Black.”
The judge’s brows met.
“Well, you were wise,” said he. Then shortly, “What is his attitude?”
Feeling that her position was fast becoming intolerable she falteringly replied, “Friendly to you and Oliver but, even without all the reasons which move me, sharing my convictions.”
“He has told you so?”
“Not directly; but there was no misjudging his opinion of the necessity you were under to explain, the mysteries of your life. And it was yesterday we talked; not today.”
Like words thrown into a void, these slow, lingering, half-uttered phrases seemed to awaken an echo which rung not only in his inmost being, but in hers. Not till in both natures silence had settled again (the silence of despair, not peace), did he speak. When he did, it was simply to breathe her name.
Startled, for it had always before been Madam, she looked up to find him standing very near her and with his hand held out.
“I am going through deep waters,” said he. “Am I to have your support?”
“O, Judge Ostrander, how can you doubt it?” she cried, dropping her hand into his, and her eyes swimming with tears. “But what can I do? If I remain here I will be questioned. If I fly—but, possibly, that is what you want;—for me to go—to disappear—to take Reuther and sink out of all men’s sight forever. If this is your wish, I am ready to do it. Gladly will we be gone—now—at once—this very night if you say so.”
His disclaimer was peremptory.
“No; not that. I ask no such sacrifice. Neither would it avail. There is but one thing which can reinstate Oliver and myself in the confidence and regard of these people. Cannot you guess it, madam? I mean your own restored conviction that the sentence passed upon John Scoville was a just one. Once satisfied of this, your temperament is such that you would be our advocate whether you wished it or no. Your very silence would be eloquent.”
“Convince me; I am willing to have you, Judge Ostrander. But how can you do so? A shadow stands between my wishes and the belief you mention. The shadow cast by Oliver as he made his way towards the bridge, with my husband’s bludgeon in his hand.”
“Did you see him strike the blow? Were there any opportune shadows to betray what happened between the instant of—let us say Oliver’s approach and the fall of my friend? Much can happen in a minute, and this matter is one of minutes. Granted that the shadow you saw was that of Oliver, and the stick he carried was the one under which Algernon succumbed, what is to hinder the following from, having