She nodded, thoroughly cowed at last both by his indignation and the revelation contained in this question of the judicial mind— “Why now, when the time was then?”
Happily, she had an answer.
“Judge Ostrander, I had a reason for that too; and, like my point, it is a good one. But do not ask me for it to-night. To-morrow I will tell you everything. But it will have to be in the place I have mentioned. Will you come to the bluff where the ruins are one-half hour before sunset? Please, be exact as to the time. You will see why, if you come.”
He leaned across the table—they were on opposite sides of it—and plunging his eyes into hers stood so, while the clock ticked out one slow minute more, then he drew back, and remarking with an aspect of gloom but with much less appearance of distrust:
“A very odd request, madam. I hope you have good reason for it;” adding, “I bury Bela to-morrow and the cemetery is in this direction. I will meet you where you say and at the hour you name.”
And, regarding him closely as he spoke, she saw that for all the correctness of his manner and the bow of respectful courtesy with which he instantly withdrew, that deep would be his anger and unquestionable the results to her if she failed to satisfy him at this meeting of the value of her point in reawakening justice and changing public opinion.
One of the lodgers at the Claymore Inn had great cause for complaint the next morning. A restless tramping over his head had kept him awake all night. That it was intermittent had made it all the more intolerable. Just when he thought it had stopped, it would start up again,—to and fro, to and fro, as regular as clockwork and much more disturbing.
But the complaint never reached Mrs. Averill. The landlady had been restless herself. Indeed, the night had been one of thought and feeling to more than one person in whom we are interested. The feeling we can understand; the thought—that is, Mrs. Averill’s thought—we should do well to follow.
The one great question which had agitated her was this: Should she trust the judge? Ever since the discovery which had changed Reuther’s prospects, she had instinctively looked to this one source for aid and sympathy. Her reasons she has already given. His bearing during the trial, the compunction he showed in uttering her husband’s sentence were sufficient proof to her that for all his natural revulsion against the crime which had robbed him of his dearest friend, he was the victim of an undercurrent of sympathy for the accused which could mean but one thing—a doubt of the prisoner’s actual guilt.
But her faith had been sorely shaken in the interview just related. He was not the friend she had hoped to find. He had insisted upon her husband’s guilt, when she had expected consideration and a thoughtful recapitulation of the evidence; and he had remained unmoved, or but very little moved, by the disappointment of his son—his only remaining link to life.