“You found? What do you mean by that? What could you have found?”
“His peaked cap lying in a corner of the garret. He had not worn it that day.”
The judge stared. She repeated her statement, and with more emphasis:
“He had not worn it that day; for when he came back to be hustled off again by the crowd, he was without hat of any kind, and he never returned again to his home—you know that, judge. I had seen the shadow of some other man approaching Dark Hollow. Whose, I am in this town now to find out.”
“I will think about it”
Judge Ostrander was a man of keen perception, quick to grasp an idea, quick to form an opinion. But his mind acted slowly to-night. Deborah Scoville wondered at the blankness of his gaze and the slow way in which he seemed to take in this astounding fact.
At last he found voice and with it gave some evidence of his usual acumen.
“Madam, a shadow is an uncertain foundation on which to build such an edifice as you plan. How do you know that the fact you mention was coincident with the crime? Mr. Etheridge’s body was not found till after dark. A dozen men might have come down that path with or without sticks before he reached the bridge and fell a victim to the assault which laid him low.”
“I thought the time was pretty clearly settled by the hour he left your house. The sun had not set when he turned your corner on his way home. So several people said who saw him. Besides—”
“Yes; there is a besides. I’m sure of it.”
“I saw the tall figure of a man, whom I afterwards made sure was Mr. Etheridge, coming down Factory Road on his way to the bridge when I turned about to get Reuther.”
“All of which you suppressed at the trial.”
“I was not questioned on this point, sir.”
“Madam,”—he was standing very near to her now, hemming her as it were into that decaying corner—“I should have a very much higher opinion of your candour if you told me the whole story.”
“I have, sir.”
His hands rose, one to the right hand wall, the other to the left, and remained there with their palms resting heavily against the rotting plaster. She was more than ever hemmed in; but, though she felt a trifle frightened at his aspect which certainly was not usual, she faced him without shrinking and in very evident surprise.
“You went immediately home with the child after that glimpse you got of Mr. Etheridge?”
“Yes; I had no reason in the world to suppose that anything was going to happen in the ravine below us. Of course, I went straight on; there were things to be done at home, and—you don’t believe me, sir.”