I would gladly give my life if I could once hold you in my arms, my erring but beloved son. Will the day ever come when I can? Will you have strength enough to hear my story and preserve your peace and let me go down to the grave with the memory of one look, one smile, that is for me alone? Sometimes I foresee this hour and am happy for a few short minutes; and then some fresh story of your recklessness is wafted through the town and—
What stopped her at this point we shall never know. Some want of Philemon’s, perhaps. At all events she left off here and the letter was never resumed. It was the last secret outpouring of her heart. With this broken sentence Agatha’s letters terminated. .
. . . . . .
That afternoon, before the inquiry broke up, the jury brought in their verdict. It was:
“Death by means of a wound inflicted upon herself in a moment of terror and misapprehension.”
It was all his fellow-townsmen could do for Frederick.
FATHER AND SON
But Frederick’s day of trial was not yet over. There was a closed door to open and a father to see (as in his heart he still called Mr. Sutherland). Then there were friends to face, and foes, under conditions he better than anyone else, knew were in some regards made worse rather than better by the admissions and revelations of this eventful day—Agnes, for instance. How could he meet her pure gaze? But it was his father he must first confront, his father to whom he would have to repeat in private the tale which robbed the best of men of a past, and took from him a son, almost a wife, without leaving him one memory calculated to console him. Frederick was so absorbed in this anticipation that he scarcely noticed the two or three timid hands stretched out in encouragement toward him, and was moving slowly toward the door behind which his father had disappeared so many hours before, when he was recalled to the interests of the moment by a single word, uttered not very far from him. It was simply, “Well?” But it was uttered by Knapp and repeated by Mr. Courtney.
Frederick shuddered, and was hurrying on when he found himself stopped by a piteous figure that, with appealing eyes and timid gestures, stepped up before him. It was Amabel.
“Forgive!” she murmured, looking like a pleading saint. “I did not know—I never dreamed—you were so much of a man, Frederick: that you bore such a heart, cherished such griefs, were so worthy of love and a woman’s admiration. If I had—”