“You are strong in their defence,” said he, “and you will need to be if the matter ever comes up. The shadows from Dark Hollow reach far, and engulf all they fall upon.”
“Mr. Black”—she had re-risen the better to face him—“you want something from me—a promise, or a condition.”
“No,” said he, “this is my affair only as it affects you. I simply wished to warn you of what you might have to face; and what Judge Ostrander will have to face (here I drop the lawyer and speak only as a man) if he is not ready to give a more consistent explanation of the curious facts I have mentioned.”
“I cannot warn him, Mr. Black.”
“You? Of course not. Nobody can warn him; possibly no one should warn him. But I have warned you; and now, as a last word, let us hope that no warning is necessary and that we shall soon see the last of these calumniating letters and everything readjusted once more on a firm and natural basis. Judge Ostrander’s action in reopening his house in the manner and for the purpose he has, has predisposed many in his favour. It may, before we know it, make the past almost forgotten.”
“Meanwhile you will make an attempt to discover the author of these anonymous attacks?”
“To save you from annoyance.”
Obliged to make acknowledgment of the courtesy if not kindness prompting these words, Mrs. Scoville expressed her gratitude and took farewell in a way which did not seem to be at all displeasing to the crusty lawyer; but when she found herself once more in the streets, her anxiety and suspense took on a new phase. What was at the bottom of Mr. Black’s contradictory assertions? Sympathy with her, as he would have her believe, or a secret feeling of animosity towards the man he openly professed to admire?
What had made the change?
“Reuther, sit up here close by mother and let me talk to you for a little while.”
“Yes, mother; oh, yes, mother.” Deborah felt the beloved head pressed close to her shoulder and two soft arms fall about her neck.
“Are you very unhappy? Is my little one pining too much for the old days?”
A closer pressure of the head, a more vehement clasp of the encircling arms, but no words.
“You have seemed brighter lately. I have heard you sing now and then as if the joy of youth was not quite absent from your heart. Is that true, or were you merely trying to cheer your mother?”
“I am afraid I was trying to cheer the judge,” came in low whisper to her ear. “When I hear his step in the study—that monotonous tramp, tramp, which we both dread, I feel such an ache here, such a desire to comfort him, that I try the one little means I have to divert him from his thoughts. He must be so lonely without—”
“Reuther, you forget how many years have passed since he had a companion. A man becomes used to loneliness. A judge with heavy cases on his mind must think and think very closely, you know.”