The judge was at her back. How long he had stood there she did not know, nor did he say. The muttered exclamations which had escaped her, the irrepressible cry of despair she had given when she first recognised the identity of the “stranger” may have reached him where he sat at the other end of the room, and drawn him insensibly forward till he could overlook her shoulder as she read, and taste with her the horror of these revelations which yet were working so beneficent a result for him and his. It may have been so, and it may have been that he had not made his move till he saw her attitude change and her head droop disconsolately at the reading of the last line. She did not ask, as I have said, nor did he tell her; but when upon feeling his hand upon her shoulder she turned, he was there; and while his lips failed to speak, his eyes were eloquent and their question single and imperative.
“What do you think of him now?” they seemed to ask, and rising to her feet, she met him with a smile, ghastly perhaps with the lividness of the shadows through which she had been groping, but encouraging withal and soothing beyond measure to his anxious and harassed soul.
“Oliver is innocent,” she declared, turning once more to lay her hand upon the sheets containing his naive confession. “The dastard who could shoot his host for plunder is capable of a second crime holding out a similar inducement. Nothing now will ever make me connect Oliver with the crime at the bridge. As you said, he was simply near enough the Hollow to toss into it the stick he had been whittling on his way from the oak tree. I am his advocate from this minute.”
Her eyes were still resting mechanically upon that last page lying spread out before her, and she did not observe in its full glory the first gleam of triumphant joy which, in all probability, Judge Ostrander’s countenance had shown in years. Nor did he see, in the glad confusion of the moment, the quick shudder with which she lifted her trembling hand away from those papers and looked up, squarely at last, into his transfigured visage.
“Oh, judge!” she murmured, bursting into a torrent of tears. “How you must have suffered to feel so great a relief!” Then she was still, very still, and waited for him to speak.
“I suffered,” he presently proceeded to state, “because of the knowledge which had come to me of the scandal with which circumstances threatened us. Oliver had confided to me (after the trial, mind, not before) the unfortunate fact of his having been in possession of the stick during those few odd minutes preceding the murder. He had also told me how he had boasted once, and in a big crowd, too, of his intention to do Etheridge. He had meant nothing by the phrase, beyond what any body means who mingles boasting with temper, but it was a nasty point of corroborative evidence; and heart-breaking as it was for me to part with him, I felt that his future