He would fain hasten them, but discretion forbade.
They faltered, turned, then, in an instant, all hesitation was lost in purpose and they again advanced this time to the threshold. Judge Ostrander had just time to brace himself to meet the unknown, when the door fell back and the woman of the morning appeared in the opening.
WITH HER VEIL DOWN
On the instant he recognised that no common interview lay before him. She was still the mysterious stranger, and she still wore her veil—a fact all the more impressive that it was no longer the accompaniment of a hat, but flung freely over her bare head. He frowned as he met her eyes through this disguising gauze. This attempt at an incognito for which there seemed to be no adequate reason, had a theatrical look wholly out of keeping with the situation. But he made no allusion to it, nor was the bow with which he acknowledged her presence and ushered her into the room, other than courteous. Nevertheless, she was the first to speak.
“This is very good of you, Judge Ostrander,” she remarked, in a voice both cultured and pleasant. “I could hardly have hoped for this honour. After what happened this morning at your house, I feared that my wish for an interview would not only be disregarded by you, but that you would utterly refuse me the privilege of seeing you. I own to feeling greatly relieved. Such consideration shown to a stranger, argues a spirit of unusual kindliness.”
A tirade. He simply bowed.
“Or perhaps I am mistaken in my supposition,” she suggested, advancing a step, but no more. “Perhaps I am no stranger to you? Perhaps you know my name?”
She paused, showing her disappointment quite openly. Then drawing up a chair, she leaned heavily on its back, saying in low, monotonous tones from which the former eager thrill had departed:
“I see that the intended marriage of your son has made very little impression upon you.”
Aghast for the moment, this was such a different topic from the one he expected, the judge regarded her in silence before remarking:
“I have known nothing of it. My son’s concerns are no longer mine. If you have broken into my course of life for no other purpose than to discuss the affairs of Oliver Ostrander, I must beg you to excuse me. I have nothing to say in his connection to you or to any one.”
“Is the breach between you so deep as that!”
This she said in a low tone and more as if to herself than to him. Then, with a renewal of courage indicated by the steadying of her form and a spirited uplift of her head, she observed with a touch of command in her voice:
“There are some things which must be discussed whatever our wishes or preconceived resolves. The separation between you and Mr. Oliver Ostrander cannot be so absolute (since whatever your cause of complaint you are still his father and he your son) that you will allow his whole life’s happiness to be destroyed for the lack of a few words between yourself and me.”