But she could not, quite. Two facts of which she immediately became cognisant, prevented this. First, the great room before her presented a bare floor, whereas on her first visit it had been very decently, if not cheerfully, covered by a huge carpet rug. Secondly, the judge’s chair, which had once looked immovable, had been dragged forward into such a position that he could keep his own eye on the bedroom door. Manifestly she was not to be allowed to pursue her duties unwatched. Certainly she had to take more than one look at the everyday implements she carried to retain that balance of judgment which should prevent her from becoming the dupe of her own expectations.
“I do not expect you to clean up here as thoroughly as you have your own rooms up stairs,” he remarked, as she passed him. “You haven’t the time, or I the patience for too many strokes of the broom. And Mrs. Scoville,” he called out as she slipped through the doorway, “leave the door open and keep away as much as possible from the side of the room where I have nailed up the curtain. I had rather not have that touched.”
She turned with a smile and nodded. She felt that she had been set to work with a string tied round her feet. Not touch the curtain! Why, that was the one thing in the room she wanted to touch; for in it she not only saw the carpet which had been taken up from the floor of the study, but a possible screen behind which anything might lurk—even his redoubtable secret.
Or had it another and much simpler explanation? Might it not have been hung there merely as a shield to the window. The room must have a window and there was none to be seen elsewhere. It would be like him to shut out light and air. She would ask.
“There is no window,” she observed, looking back at the judge.
“No,” was his short reply.
Slowly she set down her pail. One thing was settled. It was Bela’s cot she saw before her—a cot without any sheets. These had been left behind in the dead negro’s room, and the judge had been sleeping just as she had feared, wrapped in a rug and with uncovered pillow. This pillow was his own; it had not been brought down with the bed. She hastily slipped a cover on it, and without calling any further attention to her act, began to make up the bed.
Conscious that the papers he made a feint of reading were but a cover for his watchfulness, she moved about in a matter-of-fact way and did not spare him the clouds of dust which presently rose before her broom. She could have managed it more deftly,—would have done so at another time, but it was her express intention just now to make him move back out of her way, if only to give her an opportunity to disturb by a backward stroke of her broom the folds of the carpet-rug and learn if she could what lay hidden behind it.
But the judge was impervious to discomfort. He coughed and shook his head, but did not budge an inch. Before she had begun to put things in order, the clock struck the half-hour.