The cry, for instance, with which he had rushed from the empty ballroom into the woods on the opposite side of the road! Was it a natural cry or an easily explainable one? “Thank God! this terrible night is over!” Strange language to be uttered by this man at such a time and in such a place, if he did not already know what was to make this night of nights memorable through all this region. He did know, and this cry which had struck Sweetwater strangely at the time and still more strangely when he regarded it simply as a coincidence, now took on all the force of a revelation and the irresistible bubbling up in Frederick’s breast of that remorse which had just found its full expression on Agatha’s grave.
To some that remorse and all his other signs of suffering might be explained by his passion for the real criminal. But to Sweetwater it was only too evident that an egotist like Frederick Sutherland cannot suffer for another to such an extent as this, and that a personal explanation must be given for so personal a grief, even if that explanation involves the dreadful charge of murder.
It was when Sweetwater reached this point in his reasoning that Frederick disappeared beneath Mr. Halliday’s porch, and Mr. Sutherland came up behind him. After the short conversation in which Sweetwater saw his own doubts more than reflected in the uneasy consciousness of this stricken father, he went home and the struggle of his life began.
Sweetwater had promised Mr. Sutherland that he would keep counsel in regard to his present convictions concerning Frederick’s guilt; but this he knew he could not do if he remained in Sutherlandtown and fell under the pitiless examination of Mr. Courtney, the shrewd and able prosecuting attorney of the district. He was too young, too honest, and had made himself too conspicuous in this affair to succeed in an undertaking requiring so much dissimulation, if not actual falsehood. Indeed, he was not sure that in his present state of mind he could hear Frederick’s name mentioned without flushing, and slight as such a hint might be, it would be enough to direct attention to Frederick, which once done could but lead to discovery and permanent disgrace to all who bore the name of Sutherland.
What was he to do then? How avoid a consequence he found himself absolutely unable to face? It was a problem which this night must solve for him. But how? As I have said, he went down to his house to think.
Sweetwater was not a man of absolute rectitude. He was not so much high-minded as large-hearted. He had, besides, certain foibles. In the first place, he was vain, and vanity in a very plain man is all the more acute since it centres in his capabilities, rather than in his appearance. Had Sweetwater been handsome, or even passably attractive, he might have been satisfied with the approbation of demure