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Dark Hollow

2. Was He Living?--Was He Dead?
Meantime, a fussy, talkative man was endeavouring to impress the rapidly
collecting crowd with the advisability of their entering all together and
approaching the judge in a body.
"We can say that we felt it to be our dooty to follow this woman in," he argued.
"We don't know who she is, or what her errand is. She may mean harm; I've
heard of such things, and are we goin' to see the judge in danger and do
nothin'?"
"Oh, the woman's all right," spoke up another voice. "She has a child with her.
Didn't you say she had a child with her, Miss Weeks?"
"Yes, and--"
"Tell us the whole story, Miss Weeks. Some of us haven't heard it. Then if it
seems our duty as his neighbours and well-wishers to go in, we'll just go in."
The little woman towards whom this appeal--or shall I say command- -was
directed, flushed a fine colour under so many eyes, but immediately began her
ingenuous tale. She had already related it a half dozen times into as many
sympathising ears, but she was not one to shirk publicity, for all her retiring
manners and meekness of disposition.
It was to this effect:
She was sitting in her front window sewing. (Everybody knew that this window
faced the end of the lane in which they were then standing.) The blinds were
drawn but not quite, being held in just the desired position by a string. Naturally,
she could see out without being very plainly seen herself; and quite naturally, too,
since she had watched the same proceeding for years, she had her eyes on this
gate when Bela, prompt to the minute as he always was, issued forth on his
morning walk to town for the day's supplies.
Always exact, always in a hurry--knowing as he did that the judge would not
leave for court till his return--he had never, in all the eight years she had been
sitting in that window making button- holes, shown any hesitation in his
methodical relocking of the gate and subsequent quick departure.
But this morning he had neither borne himself with his usual spirit nor moved with
his usual promptitude. Instead of stepping at once into the lane, he had lingered
in the gate-way peering to right and left and pushing the gravel aside with his foot
in a way so unlike himself that the moment he was out of sight, she could not
help running down the lane to see if her suspicions were correct.
And they were. Not only had he left the gate unlocked, but he had done so
purposely. The movement he had made with his foot had been done for the
purpose of pushing into place a small pebble, which, as all could see, lay where it
would best prevent the gate from closing.
What could such treachery mean, and what was her neighbourly duty under
circumstances so unparalleled? Should she go away, or stop and take one peep
just to see that there really was another and similar fence inside of this one? She
had about decided that it was only proper for her to enter and make sure that all
 
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