16. Don't! Don't!
In recalling this startling moment, Deborah wondered as much at her own aplomb
as at that of Judge Ostrander. Not only had she succeeded in suppressing all
recognition of what had thus been discovered to her, but had carried her powers
of self-repression so far as to offer, and with good grace too, to assist him in
rehanging the picture. This perfection of acting had its full reward. With equal
composure he excused her from the task, and, adding some expression of regret
at his well-known carelessness in not looking better after his effects, bowed her
from the room with only a slight increase of his usual courteous reserve.
But later, when thought came and with it a certain recollections, what significance
the incident acquired in her mind, and what a long line of terrors it brought in its
It was no casual act, this defacing of a son's well-loved features. It had a
meaning--a dark and desperate meaning. Nor was the study-wall the natural
home of this picture. An unfaded square which she had noted on the wall-paper
of the inner room showed where its original place had been. There in full view of
the broken-hearted father when he woke and in darksome watchfulness while he
slept, it had played its heavy part in his long torment-- a galling reminder of--
It was to answer this question--to face this new view of Oliver and the bearing it
had on the relations she had hoped to establish between him and Reuther, that
she had waited for the house to be silent and her child asleep. If the defacing
marks she had seen meant that the cause of separation between father and son
lay in some past fault of Oliver himself, serious enough for such a symbol to be
necessary to reconcile the judge to their divided lives, she should know it and
know it soon. The night should not pass without that review of the past by which
alone she could now judge Oliver Ostrander.
She had spoken of him as noble; she had forced herself to believe him so, and in
profession and in many of his actions he had been so, but had she ever been
wholly pleased with him? To go back to their first meeting, what impression had
he made upon her then? Had it been altogether favourable and such as would be
natural in one of his repute? Hardly; but then the shock of her presentation to one
who had possibly seen her under other and shameful conditions had been great,
and her judgment could scarcely have full play while her whole attention was
absorbed in watching for some hint of recognition on his part.
But when this apprehension had vanished; when quite assured that he had failed
to see in the widowed Mrs. Averill the wife of the man who had died a felon's
death in Shelby, had her spirits risen and her eyes cleared to his great merits as
she had heard them extolled by people of worth and intellectual standing? Alas,
no. There had been something in his look--a lack of spontaneity which had not
fitted in with her expectations.