“Oh,” she cried, holding out her hands, “such a good father! Some day he will appreciate that fact as well as others. Believe it, Mr. Sutherland, believe it.” And then, ashamed of her glowing interest, which was a little more pronounced than became her simple attitude of friend toward a man professedly in love with another woman, she faltered and cast the shyest of looks upward at the face she had never seen turned toward her with anything but kindness. “I have confidence in Frederick’s good heart,” she added, with something like dignity.
“Would God that I could share it!” was the only answer she received. Before she could recover from the shock of these words, Mr. Sutherland was gone.
Agnes was more or less disconcerted by this interview. There was a lingering in her step that night, as she trod the little white-embowered chamber sacred to her girlish dreams, which bespake an overcharged heart; a heart that, before she slept, found relief in these few words whispered by her into the night air, laden with the sweetness of honeysuckles:
“Can it be that he is right? Did I need such a warning,—I, who have hated this man, and who thought that it was my hatred which made it impossible for me to think of anything or anybody else since we parted from each other last night? O me, if it is so!”
And from the great, wide world without, tremulous with moonlight, the echo seemed to come back:
“Woe to thee, Agnes Halliday, if this be so!”
A SURPRISE FOR MR. SUTHERLAND
Meanwhile Mr. Sutherland and Frederick stood facing each other in the former’s library. Nothing had been said during their walk down the hill, and nothing seemed likely to proceed from Frederick now, though his father waited with great and growing agitation for some explanation that would relieve the immense strain on his heart. At last he himself spoke, dryly, as we all speak when the heart is fullest and we fear to reveal the depth of our emotions.
“What papers were those you gave into Agnes Halliday’s keeping? Anything which we could not have more safely, not to say discreetly, harboured in our own house?”
Frederick, taken aback, for he had not realised that his father had seen these papers, hesitated for a moment; then he boldly said:
“They were letters—old letters—which I felt to be better out of this house than in it. I could not destroy them, so I gave them into the guardianship of the most conscientious person I know. I hope you won’t demand to see those letters. Indeed, sir, I hope you won’t demand to see them. They were not written for your eye, and I would rather rest under your displeasure than have them in any way made public.”
Frederick showed such earnestness, rather than fear, that Mr. Sutherland was astonished.
“When were these letters written?” he asked. “Lately, or before— You say they are old; how old?”