For Mrs. Scoville:
Do not go wandering all over the town for clews. Look closer home.
You remember the old saying about jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Let your daughter be warned. It is better to be singed than consumed.
Warned! Reuther? Better be singed than consumed? What madness was this? How singed and how consumed? Then because Deborah’s mind was quick, it all flashed upon her, bowing her in spirit to the ground. Reuther had been singed by the knowledge of her father’s ignominy, she would be consumed if inquiry were carried further and this ignominy transferred to the proper culprit. Consumed! There was but one person whose disgrace could consume Reuther. Oliver alone could be meant. The doubts she had tried to suppress from her own mind were shared by others,—others!
The discovery overpowered her and she caught herself crying aloud in utter self-abandonment:
“I will not go to Miss Weeks. I will take Reuther and fly to some wilderness so remote and obscure that we can never be found.”
Yet in five minutes she was crossing the road, her face composed, her manner genial, her tongue ready for any encounter. The truth must be hers at all hazards. If it could be found here, then here would she seek it. Her long struggle with fate had brought to the fore every latent power she possessed.
One stroke on the tiny brass knocker, old-fashioned and quaint like everything else in this doll-house, brought Miss Weeks’ small and animated figure to the door. She had seen Mrs. Scoville coming, and was ready with her greeting. A dog from the big house across the way would have been welcomed there. The eager little seamstress had never forgotten her hour in the library with the half-unconscious judge.
“Mrs. Scoville!” she exclaimed, fluttering and leading the way into the best room; “how very kind you are to give me this chance for making my apologies. You know we have met before.”
“Have we?” Mrs. Scoville did not remember, but she smiled her best smile and was gratified to note the look of admiration with which Miss Weeks surveyed her more than tasty dress before she raised her eyes to meet the smile to whose indefinable charm so many had succumbed. “It is a long time since I lived here,” Deborah proceeded as soon as she saw that she had this woman, too, in her net. “The friends I had then, I scarcely hope to have now; my trouble was of the kind which isolates one completely. I am glad to have you acknowledge an old acquaintance. It makes me feel less lonely in my new life.”
“Mrs. Scoville, I am only too happy.” It was bravely said, for the little woman was in a state of marked embarrassment. Could it be that her visitor had not recognised her as the person who had accosted her on that memorable morning she first entered Judge Ostrander’s forbidden gates?