“You are too merciful. I do not want generalities but the naked truth. What did the men shout?”
“You have asked for a fact, and that I feel free to give you. They shouted, ’Where is Oliver, your guilty son, Oliver? You saved him at a poor man’s expense, but we’ll have him yet.’ You asked me for the words, Mr. Ostrander.”
“Yes.” The pause was long, but the “Yes” came at last. Then another silence, and then this peremptory demand: “But we cannot stop here, Mr. Black. If I am to meet my father’s wishes to-morrow, I must know the ground upon which I stand. What evidence lies back of these shouts? If you are my friend,—and you have shown yourself to be such,—you will tell me the whole story. I shall say nothing more.”
Mr. Black was not walking now; he was standing stock-still and in the shadow also. And with this space and the double shadow between them, Alanson Black told Oliver Ostrander why the people had shouted: “We will have him yet.”
When he had quite finished, he came into the light. He did not look in the direction he had avoided from the first, but his voice had a different note as he remarked:
“I am your father’s friend, and I have promised to be yours. You may expect me here in the morning, as I am one of the few persons your father has asked to be present at your first interview. If after this interview you wish anything more from me, you have only to signify it. I am blunt, but not unfeeling, Mr. Ostrander.”
A slight lift of the hand, visible now in the shadow, answered him; and with a silent bow he left the room.
In the passage-way he met Deborah.
“Leave him to himself,” said he. “Later, perhaps, you can do something for him.”
But she found this quite impossible. Oliver would neither eat nor sleep. When the early morning light came, he was sitting there still. Was his father keeping vigil also? We shall never know.
THE CURTAIN LIFTED
Ten o’clock! and one of the five listed to be present had arrived--the rector of the church which the Ostranders had formerly attended.
He was ushered into the parlour by Deborah, where he found himself received not by the judge in whose name he had been invited, but by Mr. Black, the lawyer, who tendered him a simple good morning and pointed out a chair.
There was another person in the room,—a young man who stood in one of the windows, gazing abstractedly out at the line of gloomy fence rising between him and the street. He had not turned at the rector’s approach, and the latter had failed to recognise him.