Deborah accorded her permission and made her final adieux. She felt as if a hand which had been stealing up her chest had suddenly gripped her throat, choking her. She had found the man who had cast that fatal shadow down the ravine, twelve years before.
Deborah re-entered the judge’s house a stricken woman. Evading Reuther, she ran up stairs, taking off her things mechanically on the way. She must have an hour alone. She must learn her first lesson in self-control and justifiable duplicity before she came under her daughter’s eyes. She must—
Here she reached her room door and was about to enter, when at a sudden thought she paused and let her eyes wander down the hall, till they settled on another door, the one she had closed behind her the night before, with the deep resolve never to open it again except under compulsion.
Had the compulsion arisen? Evidently, for a few minutes later she was standing in one of the dim corners of Oliver’s musty room, reopening a book which she had taken down from the shelves on her former visit. She remembered it from its torn back and the fact that it was an Algebra. Turning to the fly leaf, she looked again at the names and schoolboy phrases she had seen scribbled all over its surface, for the one which she remembered as, I hate algebra.
It had not been a very clearly written algebra, and she would never have given this interpretation to the scrawl, had she been in a better mood. Now another thought had come to her, and she wanted to see the word again. Was she glad or sorry to have yielded to this impulse, when by a closer inspection she perceived that the word was not algebra at all, but Algernon, I hate A Etheridge.—I hate A. E.—I hate Algernon E. all over the page, and here and there on other pages, sometimes in characters so rubbed and faint as to be almost unreadable and again so pressed into the paper by a vicious pencil-point as to have broken their way through to the leaf underneath.
The work of an ill-conditioned schoolboy! but—this hate dated back many years. Paler than ever, and with hands trembling almost to the point of incapacity, she put the book back, and flew to her own room, the prey of thoughts bitter almost to madness.
It was the second time in her life that she had been called upon to go through this precise torture. She remembered the hour only too well, when first it was made known to her that one in closest relation to herself was suspected of a hideous crime. And now, with her mind cleared towards him and readjusted to new developments, this crushing experience of seeing equal indications of guilt in another almost as dear and almost as closely knit into her thoughts and future expectations as John had ever been. Can one endure a repetition of such horror? She had never gauged