“Pardon me,” she begged and very humbly, “but I cannot yet. You will see why later.—Let me reveal my secret first. I am coming to it, Judge Ostrander; I cannot keep it back much longer.”
He was too much of a gentleman to insist upon his wishes, but she saw by the gloom of his eye and a certain nervous twitching of his hands that it was not from mere impassiveness that his features had acquired their rigidity. Smitten with compunction, she altered her tone into one more deprecatory:
“My story will be best told,” she now said, “if I keep all personal element out of it. You must imagine Reuther, dressed in her wedding finery, waiting for her bridegroom to take her to church. We were sitting, she and I, in our little parlour, watching the clock,—for it was very near the hour. At times, her face turned towards me for a brief moment, and I felt all the pang of motherhood again, for her loveliness was not of this earth but of a land where there is no sin, no—There! the memory was a little too much for me, sir; but I’ll not transgress again; the future holds too many possibilities of suffering for me to dwell upon the past. She was lovely and her loveliness sprang from a pure hope. We will let that suffice, and what I dreaded was not what happened, inexcusable as such blindness and presumption may appear in a woman who has had her troubles and seen the desperate side of life.
“A carriage had driven up; and we heard his step; but it was not the step of a bridegroom, Judge Ostrander, nor was the gentleman he left behind him at the kerb, the friend who was to stand up with him. To Reuther, innocent of all deception, this occasioned only surprise, but to me it meant the end of Reuther’s marriage and of my own hopes. I shrank from the ordeal and stood with my back half turned when, dashed by his own emotions, he bounded into our presence.
“One look my way and his question was answered before he put it. Judge Ostrander, the name under which I had lived in Detroit was not my real one. I had let him court and all but marry my daughter, without warning him in any way of what this deception on my part covered. But others—one other, I have reason now to believe—had detected my identity under the altered circumstances of my new life, and surprised him with the news at this late hour. We are—Judge Ostrander, you know who we are. This is not the first time you and I have seen each other face to face.” And lifting up a hand, trembling with emotion, she put aside her veil.
WITH HER VEIL LIFTED
“You recognise me?”
“Too well.” The tone was deep with meaning but there was no accusation in it; nor was there any note of relief. It was more as if some hope deeply, and perhaps unconsciously, cherished had suffered a sudden and complete extinction.
The change this made in him was too perceptible for her not to observe it. The shadow lying deep in her eyes now darkened her whole face. She had tried to prepare him for this moment; tried to prepare herself. But who can prepare the soul for the return of old troubles or make other than startling the resurrection of a ghost laid, as men thought, forever.