Deborah shuddered. Aye, the mystery had cleared, but only to enshroud her spirits anew and make her long with all her bursting heart and shuddering soul that death had been her portion before ever she had essayed to lift the veil held down so tightly by these two remorseful men.
But was her fault irremediable? The only unanswerable connection between this old crime and Oliver lay in the evidence she had herself collected. As she had every intention of suppressing this evidence, and as she had small dread of any one else digging out the facts to which she only possessed a clew, might she not hope that any suspicions raised by her inquiries would fall like a house of cards when she withdrew her hand from the toppling structure?
She would make her first effort and see. Mr. Black had heard her complaint; he should be the first to learn that the encouragement she had received was so small that she had decided to accept her present good luck without further query, and not hark back to a past which most people had buried.
“You began it, as women begin most things, without thought and a due weighing of consequences. And now you propose to drop it in the same freakish manner. Isn’t that it?”
Deborah Scoville lifted her eyes in manifest distress and fixed them deprecatingly upon her interrogator. She did not like his tone which was dry and suspiciously sarcastic, and she did not like his attitude which was formal and totally devoid of all sympathy. Instinctively she pushed her veil still further from her features as she deprecatingly replied:
“You are but echoing your sex in criticising mine as impulsive. And you are quite within your rights in doing this. Women are impulsive; they are even freakish. But it is given to one now and then to recognise this fact and acknowledge it. I hope I am of this number; I hope that I have the judgment to see when I have committed a mistake and to stop short before I make myself ridiculous.”
The lawyer smiled,—a tight-lipped, acrid sort of smile which nevertheless expressed as much admiration as he ever allowed himself to show.
“Judgment, eh?” he echoed. “You stop because your judgment tells you that you were on the point of making a fool of yourself? No other reason, eh?”
“Is not that the best which can be given a hard-headed, clear-eyed lawyer like yourself? Would you have me go on, with no real evidence to back my claims; rouse up this town to reconsider his case when I have nothing to talk about but my husband’s oath and a shadow I cannot verify?”
“Then Miss Weeks’ neighbourliness failed in point? She was not as interesting as you had a right to expect from my recommendation?”
“Miss Weeks is a very chatty and agreeable woman, but she cannot tell what she does not know.”