The Mill Mystery
23. Too Late
--ROMEO AND JULIET.
The conclusion which I drew from these sentences after a close and repeated
perusal of them was to this effect:
That Mr. Pollard instead of possessing only two sons, as was generally
supposed, had in reality been the father of three. That the eldest, born in all
probability before Mr. Pollard's removal to this country (he was an Englishman by
birth), had, by some act of violence or fraud, incurred the penalty of the law, and
was even now serving out a term of imprisonment in his native land. That this
son had a daughter innocent and virtuous, whom he desired to commit to the
care of her grandfather; that he had even sent her over here for that purpose, but
that Mr. Pollard, taken down with the illness which afterwards ended in death,
had not only failed to be on hand to receive her, but that, surrounded and
watched by his wife and sons, who, in their selfish pride, were determined to
ignore all claims of kinship on the part of one they despised, he had not even had
the chance to take such measures for her safety and happiness as his love and
regard for her lonely and desolate position seemed to demand. That the will,
whose concealment in his desk he had managed to describe, had been made in
recompense for this neglect, and that by it she would receive that competence
and acknowledgment of her rights which the hatred of her unscrupulous relatives
would otherwise deny her.
And this was the will I had weakly given up, and it was upon the head of this
innocent child that the results of my weakness must fall.
When I first recognized this fact I felt stupefied. That I, David Barrows, should be
the cause of misery and loss to a guileless and pure soul! I could not realize it,
nor believe that consequences so serious and irremediable could follow upon an
act into which I had been betrayed by mere cowardice. But soon, too soon, the
matter became plain to me. I saw what I had done and was overwhelmed, for I
could no longer doubt that the real will had been destroyed and that the one
which had been returned to me was a substituted one, perhaps the very same
which I had seen among the papers of Mr. Pollard's desk.
The result of my remorse was an immediate determination on my part to search
out the young girl, left in this remarkable manner to my care, and by my efforts in
her behalf do what I could to remedy the great evil which, through my
instrumentality, had befallen her.
The purpose was no sooner taken than I prepared to carry it out. S---- could hold
no duty for me now paramount to this. I was a father and my child lingered
solitary and uncared-for in a strange place. I took the first train the next morning
for the "city of the east- wind."
The hour at which I arrived at number -- Charles Street, was one of deep
agitation to me, I had thought so continually upon my journey of the young waif I
was seeking. Would she be the embodiment of ingenuousness which her
grandfather had evidently believed her to be? Should I find her forgiving and