Dark Hollow eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 269 pages of information about Dark Hollow.

Slowly, and with a dread which no man might measure, the glances which had just devoured his young but virile countenance passed to that of the father.  They did not leave it again.  “Son?” With what tenderness he spoke, but with what a ring of desolation.  “I understand your effort and appreciate it; but it is a useless one.  You cannot deceive these friends of ours—­men who have known my life.  If you were in the ravine that night, so was I. If you handled John Scoville’s stick, so did I, and after you!  Let us not struggle for the execration of mankind; let it fall where it rightfully belongs.  It can bring no sting keener than that to which my breast has long been subject.  Or—­” and here his tones sank, in a last recognition of all he was losing forever, “if there is suffering in a once proud man flinging from him the last rag of respect with which he sought to cover the hideous nakedness of an unsuspected crime, it is lost in the joy of doing justice to the son who would take advantage of circumstances to assume his father’s guilt.”

But Oliver, with a fire which nothing could damp, spoke up again: 

“Gentlemen, will you see my father so degrade himself?  He has dwelt so continually upon the knowledge which separated us a dozen years ago that he no longer can discriminate between the guilty and the innocent.  Would he have sat in court; would he have uttered sentences; would he have kept his seat upon the bench for all these years, if he had borne within his breast this secret of personal guilt?  No.  It is not in human nature to play such a part.  I was guilty—­and I fled.  Let the act speak for itself.  The respect due my father must not be taken from him.”

Confession and counter-confession!  What were they to think!  Alanson Black, aghast at this dread dilemma, ran over in his mind all that had led him to accept Oliver’s guilt as proven, and then, in immediate opposition to it, the details of that old trial and the judge’s consequent life; and, voicing the helpless confusion of the others, observed with forced firmness: 

“We have heard much of Oliver’s wanderings in the ravine on that fatal night, but nothing of yours, Judge Ostrander.  It is not enough for you to say that you were there; you must prove it.”

“The proof is in my succumbing to the shock of hearing Oliver’s name associated with this crime.  Had he been guilty—­had our separation come through his crime and not through my own, I should have been prepared for such a contingency, and not overwhelmed by it.”

“And were you not prepared?”

“No, before God!”

The gesture accompanying this oath was a grand one, convincing in its fervour, its majesty and power.

But facts are stubborn things, and while most of those present were still thrilling under the effect of this oath, the dry voice of District Attorney Andrews was heard for the first time, in these words: 

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Project Gutenberg
Dark Hollow from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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