20. What Had Made The Change?
"Reuther, sit up here close by mother and let me talk to you for a little while."
"Yes, mother; oh, yes, mother." Deborah felt the beloved head pressed close to
her shoulder and two soft arms fall about her neck.
"Are you very unhappy? Is my little one pining too much for the old days?"
A closer pressure of the head, a more vehement clasp of the encircling arms, but
"You have seemed brighter lately. I have heard you sing now and then as if the
joy of youth was not quite absent from your heart. Is that true, or were you merely
trying to cheer your mother?"
"I am afraid I was trying to cheer the judge," came in low whisper to her ear.
"When I hear his step in the study--that monotonous tramp, tramp, which we both
dread, I feel such an ache here, such a desire to comfort him, that I try the one
little means I have to divert him from his thoughts. He must be so lonely without--
"Reuther, you forget how many years have passed since he had a companion. A
man becomes used to loneliness. A judge with heavy cases on his mind must
think and think very closely, you know."
"Oh, mamma, it's not of his cases our judge is thinking when he walks like that. I
know him too well, love him too well, not to feel the trouble in his step. I may be
wrong, but all the sympathy and understanding I may not give to Oliver I devote
to his father, and when he walks like that he seems to drag my heart after him.
Mamma, mamma, do not blame me. I have just as much affection for you, and I
suffer just as keenly when I see you unhappy. And, mamma, are you sure that
you are quite happy to-day? You look as if something had happened to trouble
you--something more than usual, I mean."
They were sitting in the dark, with just the light of the stars shining through the
upper panes of the one unshaded window. Deborah, therefore, had little to fear
from her daughter's eye, only from the sensitiveness of her touch and the
quickness of her ear. Alas, in this delicately organised girl these were both
attuned to the nicest discrimination, and before the mother could speak, Reuther
had started up, crying:
"Oh, how your heart beats! Something has happened, darling mother; something
"Hush, Reuther; it is only this: When I came to Shelby it was with a hope that I
might some day smooth the way to your happiness. But it was only a wild dream,
Reuther; and the hour has come for me to tell you so. What joys are left us must
come in other ways; love unblessed must be put aside resolutely and forever."
She felt the shudder pass through the slender form which had thrown itself again
at her side; but when the young girl spoke it was with unexpected bravery and
"I have long ago done that, mamma. I've had no hopes from the first. The look
with which Oliver accepted my refusal to go on with the ceremony was one of