25. What Do You Think Of Him Now?
This was the document and these the words which Deborah, widow of the man
thus doubly denounced, had been given to read by the father of the writer, in the
darkened room which had been and still was to her, an abode of brooding
thought and unfathomable mystery.
No wonder that during its reading more than one exclamation of terror and
dismay escaped her, as the once rehabilitated form of the dead and gone started
into dreadful life again before her eyes. There were so many reasons for
believing this record to be an absolute relation of the truth.
Incoherent phrases which had fallen from those long-closed lips took on new
meaning with this unveiling of an unknown past. Repugnances for which she
could not account in those old days, she now saw explained. He would never,
even in passing, give a look at the ruin on the bluff, so attractive to every eye but
his own. As for entering its gates--she had never dared so much as to ask him to
do so. He had never expressed his antipathy for the place, but he had made her
feel it. She doubted now if he would have climbed to it from the ravine even to
save his child from falling over its verge. Indeed, she saw the reason now why he
could not explain the reason for the apathy he showed in his hunt for Reuther on
that fatal day, and his so marked avoidance of the height where she was found.
Then the watch! Deborah knew well that watch. She had often asked him by
what stroke of luck he had got so fine a timepiece. But he had never told her.
Later, it had been stolen from him; and as he had a mania for watches, that was
God! was her mind veering back to her old idea as to his responsibility for the
crime committed in Dark Hollow? Yes; she could not help it. Denial from a
monster like this--a man who with such memories and such spoil, could return
home to wife and child, with some gay and confused story of a great stroke in
speculation which had brought him in the price of the tavern it had long been his
ambition to own--what was denial from such lips worth, though emphasised by
the most sacred of oaths, and uttered under the shadow of death. The judge was
right. Oliver--whose ingenuous story had restored his image to her mind, with
some of its old graces--had been the victim of circumstances and not John
Scoville. Henceforth, she would see him as such, and when she had recovered a
little from the effect of this sudden insight into the revolting past, she would--
Her thoughts had reached this stage and her hand, in obedience to the new
mood, was lightly ruffling up the pages before her, when she felt a light touch on
her shoulder and turned with a start.
The judge was at her back. How long he had stood there she did not know, nor
did he say. The muttered exclamations which had escaped her, the irrepressible
cry of despair she had given when she first recognised the identity of the
"stranger" may have reached him where he sat at the other end of the room, and
drawn him insensibly forward till he could overlook her shoulder as she read, and
taste with her the horror of these revelations which yet were working so
beneficent a result for him and his. It may have been so, and it may have been