“No; not at all. In fact, you simply arouse all the housekeeping instincts within me. I will be down in a minute. Reuther, I leave you with the judge.”
She ran lightly up. The next instant they heard her sneeze, then they caught the sound of a window rattling up, followed by a streak of light falling slant-wise across the dismal stairs.
The judge drew a breath of relief and led Reuther towards a door at the end of the hall.
“This is the way to the dining-room and kitchen,” he explained.” I have been accustomed to having my meals served in my own room, but after this I shall join you at table. Here,” he continued, leading her up to the iron door, “is the entrance to my den. You may knock here if you want me, but there is a curtain beyond, which no one lifts but myself. You understand, my dear, and will excuse an old man’s eccentricities?”
She smiled, rejoicing only in the caressing voice, and in the yearning, almost fatherly, manner with which he surveyed her.
“I quite understand,” said she; “and so will mother.”
“Reuther,” he now observed with a strange intermixture of gentleness and authority, “there is one thing I wish to say to you at the very start. I may grow to love you—God knows that a little affection would be a welcome change in my life—but I want you to know and know now, that all the love in the world will not change my decision as to the impropriety of a match between you and my son Oliver. That settled, there is no reason why all should not be clear between us.”
“All is clear.”
Faint and far off the words sounded, though she was standing so near he could have laid his hand on her shoulder. Then she gave one sob as though in saying this she heard the last clod fall upon what would never see resurrection again in this life, and, lifting her head, looked him straight in the eye with a decision and a sweetness which bowed his spirit and caused his head in turn to fall upon his breast.
“What a father can do for a child, I will do for you,” he murmured, and led her back to her mother, who was now coming down stairs.
A week, and Deborah Scoville had evolved a home out of chaos. That is, within limits. There was one door on that upper story which she had simply opened and shut; nor had she entered the judge’s rooms, or even offered to do so. The ban which had been laid upon her daughter she felt applied equally to herself; that is for the present. Later, there must be a change. So particular a man as the judge would soon find himself too uncomfortable to endure the lack of those attentions which he had been used to in Bela’s day. He had not even asked for clean sheets, and sometimes she had found herself wondering, with a strange shrinking of her heart, if his bed was ever made, or whether he had not been driven at times to lie down in his clothes.