26. The Telegram
"I CANNOT say anything, I cannot do anything till I have had a few words with
Mrs. Scoville. How soon do you think I can speak to her?"
"Not very soon. Her daughter says she is quite worn out. Would it not be better to
give her a rest for to-night, judge?"
The judge, now quite recovered, but strangely shrunk and wan, showed no
surprise, at this request, odd as it was, on the lips of this honest but somewhat
crabbed lawyer, but answered out of the fulness of his own heart and from the
depths of his preoccupation:
"My necessity is greater than hers. The change I saw in her is inexplicable. One
moment she was all fire and determination, satisfied of Oliver's innocence and
eager to proclaim it. The next--but you were with us. You witnessed her
hesitation--felt its force and what its effect was upon the damnable scamp who
has our honour--the honour of the Ostranders under his tongue. Something must
have produced this change. What? good friend, what?"
"I don't know any more than you do, judge. But I think you are mistaken about the
previous nature of her feelings. I noticed that she was not at peace with herself
when she came into the room."
"What's that?" The tone was short, and for the first time irritable.
"The change, if there was a change, was not so sudden as you think. She looked
troubled, and as I thought, irresolute when she came into the room."
"You don't know her; you don't know what passed between us. She was all right
then, but--Go to her, Black. She must have recovered by this time. Ask her to
come here for a minute. I won't detain her. I will wait for her warning knock right
Alanson Black was a harsh man, but he had a soft streak in him--a streak which
had been much developed of late. Where he loved, he could be extraordinarily
kind, and he loved, had loved for years, in his own way which was not a very
demonstrative one, this man whom he was now striving to serve. But a counter
affection was making difficulties for him just at this minute. Against all probability,
many would have said possibility, Deborah Scoville had roused in this hard
nature, a feeling which he was not yet ready to name even to himself, but which
nevertheless stood very decidedly in his way when the judge made this demand
which meant further distress to her.
But the judge had declared his necessity to be greater than hers, and after Mr.
Black had subjected him to one of his most searching looks he decided that this
was so, and quietly departed upon his errand. The judge left alone, sat, a
brooding figure in his great chair, with no light in heart or mind to combat the
shadows of approaching night settling heavier and heavier upon the room and
upon himself with every slow passing and intolerable minute.
At last, when the final ray had departed and darkness reigned supreme, there
came a low knock on the door. Then a troubled cry:
"Oh, judge, are you here?"
"I am here."