“One moment, Mrs. Scoville. How can I tell the judge! Young Ostrander is gone—flew the city, and I can get no clew to his whereabouts. Some warning of what is happening here may have reached him, or he may be simply following impulses consequent upon his personal disappointments; but the fact is just this—he asked for two weeks’ leave to go West upon business,—and he’s been gone three. Meanwhile, no word has come, nor can his best friends tell the place of his destination. I have been burning the telegraph wires ever since the first despatch, and this is the result.”
“Poor Judge Ostrander!” Then, in lower and still more pathetic tones, “Poor Reuther!”
“Where is Reuther?”
“At Miss Weeks’. I had to command her to leave me alone with the judge. It’s the first time I ever spoke unkindly to her.”
“Shall I tell the judge the result of his telegram, or will you?”
“Have you the messages with you?”
He bundled them into her hand.
“I will hand them in to him. We can do nothing less and nothing more. Then if he wants you, I will telephone.”
She felt his hand laid softly on her shoulder.
“Yes, Mr. Black.”
“There is some one else in this matter to consider besides Judge Ostrander.”
“Reuther? Oh, don’t I know it! She’s not out of my mind a moment.”
“Reuther is young, and has a gallant soul. I mean you, Mrs. Scoville, you! You are not to succumb to this trial. You have a future—a bright future—or should have. Do not endanger it by giving up all your strength now. It’s precious, that strength, or would be—”
He broke off; she began to move away. Overhead in the narrow space of sky visible to them from where they stood, the stars burned brightly. Some instinct made them look up; as they did so, their hands met. Then a gruff sound broke the silence. It was Alanson Black’s voice uttering a grim farewell.
“He must be found! Oliver must be found!” How the words rung in her ears. She had handed in the messages to the waiting father; she had uttered a word or two of explanation, and then, at his request, had left him. But his last cry followed her: “He must be found!”
When she told it to Mr. Black the next morning, he looked serious.
“Pride or hope?” he asked.
“Desperation,” she responded, with a guilty look about her. “Possibly, some hope is in it, too. Perhaps, he thinks that any charge of this nature must fall before Oliver’s manly appearance. Whatever he thinks, there is but one thing to do: find Oliver.”
“Mrs. Scoville, the police have started upon that attempt. I got the tip this morning.”
“We must forestall them. To satisfy the judge, Oliver must come of his own accord to face these charges.”
“It’s a brave stock. If Oliver gets his father’s telegram he will come.”