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Dark Hollow

23. The Misfortunes Of My House
To one who swoons but seldom, the moment of returning consciousness is often
fraught with great pain and sometimes with unimaginable horror. It was such to
Deborah; the pain and horror holding her till her eyes, accustomed to realities
again, saw in the angel face which floated before her vision amid a swarm of
demon masks, the sweet and solicitous countenance of Reuther.
As she took this in, she took in other facts also: that there were no demons, no
strangers even about her: That she and her child were comparatively alone in
their own little parlour, and that Reuther's sweet face wore a look of lofty courage
which reminded her of something she could not at the moment grasp, but which
was so beautiful. At that instant her full memory came, and, uttering a low cry,
she started up, and struggling to her feet, confronted her child, this time with a
look full of agonised inquiry.
Reuther seemed to understand her; for, taking her mother's hand in hers, she
softly said:
"I knew you were not seriously ill, only frightened by the crowd and their
senseless shoutings. Don't think of it any more, dear mother. The people are
dispersing now, and you will soon be quite restored and ready to smile with us at
an attack so groundless it is little short of absurd."
Astounded at such tranquillity where she had expected anguish if not stark
unreason, doubting her eyes, her ears--for this was no longer her delicate,
suffering Reuther to be shielded from all unhappy knowledge, but a woman as
strong if not as wise to the situation as herself--she scrutinised the child closely,
then turned her gaze slowly about the room, and started in painful surprise, as
she perceived standing in the space behind her the tall figure of Judge
He! and she must face him! the man whom she by her blind and untimely efforts
to regain happiness for Reuther, had brought to this woful pass! The ordeal was
too bitter for her broken spirit and, shrinking aside, she covered her face with her
hands like one who stands detected in a guilty act.
"Pardon," she entreated, forgetting Reuther's presence in her consciousness of
the misery she had brought upon her benefactor. "I never meant--I never
"Oh, no apologies!" Was this the judge speaking? The tone was an admonitory,
not a suffering one. It was not even that of a man humiliated or distressed. "You
have had an unfortunate experience, but that is over now and so must your
distress be." Then, as in her astonishment she dropped her hands and looked
up, he added very quietly, "Your daughter has been much disturbed about you,
but not at all about Oliver or his good name. She knows my son too well, and so
do you and I, to be long affected by the virulent outcries of a mob seeking for an
object upon which to expend their spleen."
Swaying yet in body and mind, quite unable in the turmoil of her spirits to
reconcile this strong and steady man with the crushed and despairing figure she
had so lately beheld shrinking under the insults of the crowd, Deborah was glad