“So I’m beginning to think. And there is something else, judge, which makes me suspect you may be quite correct about her not being an entire stranger here. She knows this house too well.”
The judge started. The strength of his self-control had relaxed a bit, and he showed in the look he cast about him what it had cost him to enter these doors.
“It is not the same, of course,” continued Mrs. Yardley, affected in a peculiar way by the glimpse she had caught of the other’s emotion unnatural and incomprehensible as it appeared to her. “The place has been greatly changed, but there is a certain portion of the old house left which only a person who knew it as it originally was would be apt to find; and yesterday, on going into one of these remote rooms I came upon her sitting in one of the windows looking out. How she got there or why she went, I cannot tell you. She didn’t choose to tell me, and I didn’t ask. But I’ve not felt real easy about her since.”
“Excuse me, Mrs. Yardley, it may be a matter of no moment, but do you mind telling me where this room is?”
“It’s on the top floor, sir; and it looks out over the ravine. Perhaps she was spying out the path to your house.”
The judge’s face hardened. He felt baffled and greatly disturbed; but he spoke kindly enough when he again addressed Mrs. Yardley:
“I am as ignorant as you of this woman’s personality and of her reasons for intruding into my presence this morning. But there is something so peculiar about this presumptuous attempt of hers at an interview, that I feel impelled to inquire into it more fully, even if I have to approach the only source of information capable of giving me what I want—that is, herself. Mrs. Yardley, will you procure me an immediate interview with this woman? I am sure that you can be relied upon to do this and to do it with caution. You have the countenance of a woman unusually discreet.”
The subtle flattery did its work. She was not blind to the fact that he had introduced it for that very purpose, but it was not in her nature to withstand any appeal from so exalted a source however made. Lifting her eyes fearlessly to his, she responded earnestly:
“I am proud to serve you. I will see what I can do. Will you wait here for just a few minutes?”
He bowed quietly enough; but he was very restless when once he found himself alone. Those few minutes of waiting seemed interminable to him. Would the woman come? Was she as anxious to see him now as she had been in the early morning? Much depended on her mood, but more on the nature of the errand which had taken her into his house. If that errand was a vital one, he would soon hear her steps; indeed, he was hearing her steps now—he was sure of it. Those of Mrs. Yardley were quicker, shorter, more businesslike. These, now advancing through the corridor, lingered as if held back by dread or a fateful indecision.