And so it came about that the inner fence was put up.
This settled my position in the town. No more visits. All social life was over.
It was meet. I was satisfied at last. I could now give my whole mind to my one remaining duty. I lived only while on the Bench.
March Fifth, 1898.
There is a dream which comes to me often: a vision which I often see.
It is that of two broken and irregular walls standing apart against a background of roseate sky. Between these walls the figures of a woman and child, turning about to go.
The bridge I never see, nor the face of the man who died for my sin; but this I see always: the gaunt ruins of Spencer’s Folly and the figure of a woman leading away a little child.
That woman lives. I know now who she is. Her testimony was uttered before me in court, and was not one to rouse my apprehensions. My crime was unwitnessed by her, and for years she has been a stranger to this town. But I have a superstitious horror of seeing her again, while believing that the day will come when I shall do so. When this occurs,—when I look up and find her in my path, I shall know that my sin has found me out and that the end is near.
O shade of Algernon Etheridge, unforgetting and unforgiving! The woman has appeared! She stood in this room to-day. Verily, years are nothing with God.
I thought I knew what awaited me if my hour ever came. But who can understand the ways of Providence or where the finger of retributive Justice will point. It is Oliver’s name and not mine which has become the sport of calumny. Oliver’s! Could the irony of life go further! Oliver’s!
There is nothing against him, and such folly must soon die out; but to see doubt in Mrs. Scoville’s eyes is horrible in itself and to eliminate it I may have to show her Oliver’s account of that long-forgotten night of crime in Spencer’s Folly. It is naively written and reveals a clean, if reticent, nature; but that its effect may be unquestionable I will insert a few lines to cover any possible misinterpretation of his manner or conduct. There is an open space, and our handwritings were always strangely alike. Only our e’s differed, and I will be careful with the e’s.
Her confidence must be restored at all hazards.
My last foolish attempt has undone me. Nothing remains now but that sacrifice of self which should have been made twelve years ago.
“I do not wish to seem selfish, Oliver, but sit a little nearer the window where I can see you whenever I open my eyes. Twelve years is a long time to make up, and I have such a little while in which to do it.”