The Mill Mystery
Being in the confessional, I have not forborne to tell the worst of myself; I will not,
therefore, hesitate to tell the best. When on that very afternoon I entered Mrs.
Pollard's grounds, it was with a resolve to make her speak out, that had no
element of weakness in it. Not her severest frown, nor that diabolical look from
Guy's eye, which had hitherto made me quail, should serve to turn me aside from
my purpose, or thwart those interests of right and justice which I felt were so
deeply at stake. If my own attempt, backed by the disclosures which had come to
me through the prayer-book I had received from Mr. Pollard, should fail, then the
law should take hold of the matter and wrench the truth from this seemingly
respectable family, even at the risk of my own happiness and the consideration
which I had always enjoyed in this town.
The house, when I approached it, struck me with an odd sense of change. I did
not stop at the time to inquire why this was, but I have since concluded, in
thinking over the subject, that the parlor curtains must have been drawn up,
something which I do not remember ever having seen there before or since. The
front door also was ajar, and when I rang the bell it was so speedily answered
that I had hardly time to summon up the expression of determination which I felt
would alone gain me admittance to the house. But my presence instead of
seeming unwelcome, seemed to be almost expected by the servant who opened
to me. He bowed, smiled, and that, too, in almost a holiday fashion; and when I
would have asked for Mrs. Pollard, interrupted me by a request to lay off my
overcoat in a side room, which he courteously pointed out to me.
There was something in this and in the whole aspect of the place which
astonished me greatly. If this sombre dwelling with its rich but dismally dark halls
and mysterious recesses could be said to ever wear an air of cheer, the attempt
certainly had been made to effect this to-day. From the hand of the bronze figure
that capped the newel-post hung wreaths of smilax and a basket full of the most
exquisite flowers; while from a half-open door at my right came a streak of
positive light, and the sound of several voices animated with some sentiment that
was strangely out of accord with the solemn scene to which this very room had
so lately been a witness. Can they be having a reception? I asked myself; and
almost ashamed of the surmise, ever in the house of one so little respected, I,
nevertheless, turned to the civil servant before me and remarked:
"There is something going on here of which I was ignorant. Is Mrs. Pollard
entertaining guests to-day?"
"Did you not know, sir?" he inquired. "I thought you had been invited, perhaps;
Miss Pollard is going to be married this afternoon."