Book III. Had Batsy Lived!
XXX. WHAT FOLLOWED THE STEIKING OF THE CLOCK
It was the last day of the inquest, and to many it bade fair to be the least
interesting. All the witnesses who had anything to say had long ago given in
their testimony, and when at or near noon Sweetwater slid into the
inconspicuous seat he had succeeded in obtaining near the coroner, it was to
find in two faces only any signs of the eagerness and expectancy which filled
his own breast to suffocation. But as these faces were those of Agnes
Halliday and Amabel Page, he soon recognised that his own judgment was
not at fault, and that notwithstanding outward appearances and the languid
interest shown in the now lagging proceedings, the moment presaged an
event full of unseen but vital consequence.
Frederick was not visible in the great hall; but that he was near at hand soon
became evident from the change Sweetwater now saw in Amabel. For while
she had hitherto sat under the universal gaze with only the faint smile of
conscious beauty on her inscrutable features, she roused as the hands of the
clock moved toward noon, and glanced at the great door of entrance with an
evil expectancy that startled even Sweetwater, so little had he really
understood the nature of the passions labouring in that venomous breast.
Next moment the door opened, and Frederick and his father came in. The air
of triumphant satisfaction with which Amabel sank back into her seat was as
marked in its character as her previous suspense. What did it mean?
Sweetwater, noting it, and the vivid contrast it offered to Frederick's air of
depression, felt that his return had been well timed.
Mr. Sutherland was looking very feeble. As he took the chair offered him, the
change in his appearance was apparent to all who knew him, and there were
few there who did not know him. And, startled by these evidences of suffering
which they could not understand and feared to interpret even to themselves,
more than one devoted friend stole uneasy glances at Frederick to see if he
too were under the cloud which seemed to envelop his father almost beyond
But Frederick was looking at Amabel, and his erect head and determined
aspect made him a conspicuous figure in the room. She who had called up
this expression, and alone comprehended it fully, smiled as she met his eye,
with that curious slow dipping of her dimples which had more than once