So interested were they both, the one in telling to new and sympathetic ears the small experiences of her life, the other in listening for the chance phrase or the unconscious admission which would fix the suspicion already struggling into strong life within her breast, that neither for the moment realised the strangeness of the situation or that it was in connection with a crime for which the husband of one of them had suffered, they were raking up this past, and gossiping over its petty details. Possibly recollection returned to them both, when Mrs. Scoville sighed and said:
“It couldn’t have been very long after you saw him that Mr. Etheridge was struck?”
“Only some twenty minutes. It takes just that long for a man to walk from this corner to the bridge.”
“And you never heard where Oliver went?”
“It was never talked about at the time. Later, when some hint got about of his having been in the ravine that night, he said he had gone up the ravine not down it. And we all believed him, madam.”
“Of course, of course. What a discriminating mind you have, Miss Weeks, and what a wonderful memory! To think that after all these years you can recall that Oliver had a cap on his head when he looked out of the window at his father and Mr. Etheridge. If you were asked, I have no doubt you could tell its very colour. Was it the peaked one?—the like of which you haven’t in your marvelous collection?”
“Yes, I could swear to it.” And Miss Weeks gave a little laugh, which sounded incongruous enough to Deborah in whose heart at that moment, a leaf was turned upon the past, which left the future hopelessly blank.
“Must you go?” Deborah had risen mechanically. “Don’t, I beg, till you have relieved my mind about Judge Ostrander. I don’t suppose that there is really anything behind that door of his which it would alarm any one to see?”
Then, Deborah understood Miss Weeks.
But she was ready for her.
“I’ve never seen anything of the sort,” said she, “and I make up his bed in that very room every morning.”
“Oh!” And Miss Weeks drew a deep breath. “No article of immense value such as that rare old bit of real Satsuma in the cabinet over there?”
“No,” answered Deborah, with all the patience she could muster. “Judge Ostrander seems very simple in his tastes. I doubt if he would know Satsuma if he saw it.”
Miss Weeks sighed. “Yes, he has never expressed the least wish to look over my shelves. So the double fence means nothing?”
“A whim,” ejaculated Deborah, making quietly for the door. “The judge likes to walk at night when quite through with his work; and he doesn’t like his ways to be noted. But he prefers the lawn now. I hear his step out there every night.”
“Well, it’s something to know that he leads a more normal life than formerly!” sighed the little lady as she prepared to usher her guest out. “Come again, Mrs. Scoville; and, if I may, I will drop in and see you some day.”