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The Mill Mystery

25. The Final Blow
It
was
a
deadly
blow!
A
blow
like
that
Which
swooping
unawares
from
out
the
night,
Dashes
a
man
from
some
high
starlit
peak
Into a void of cold and hurrying waves.
The distrust which I felt for Mrs. Pollard was so great that I was still uncertain as
to whether she had given me the right address. I therefore proceeded to carry out
my original design and went at once to the telegraph-office. The message I sent
was peremptory and in the course of half an hour this answer was returned.
Person described, found. Condition critical. Come at once.
There was a train that left in fifteen minutes. Though I had just come from
Boston, I did not hesitate to return at once. By six o'clock of that day I stood
before the house to which I had been directed. My first sight of it struck me like
death. God, what was I about to encounter! What sort of a spot was this, and
what was the doom that had befallen the child committed to my care. Numb with
horror, I rang the door-bell with difficulty, and when I was admitted by a man in
the guise of an officer, I felt something like an instantaneous relief, though I saw
by his countenance that he had any thing but good news to give me.
"Are you the gentleman who telegraphed from S----?" he asked.
I bowed, not feeling able to speak.
"Relative or friend?" he went on.
"Friend," I managed to reply.
"Do you guess what has happened?" he inquired.
"I dare not," I answered, with a fearful look about me on walls that more than
confirmed my suspicions.
"Miss Merriam is dead," he answered.
I drew a deep breath. It was almost a relief.
"Come in," he said, and opened the door of a room at our right. When we were
seated and I had by careful observation made sure we were alone, I motioned for
him to go on. He immediately complied. "When we received your telegram, we
sent a man here at once. He had some difficulty in entering and still more in
finding the young lady, who was hidden in the most remote part of the house. But
by perseverance and some force he at last obtained entrance to her room where
he found--pardon my abruptness, it will be a mercy to you for me to cut the story
short--that he had been ordered here too late; the young lady had taken poison
and was on the point of death."
The horror in my face reflected itself faintly in his.
"I do not know how she came to this house," he proceeded; "but she must have
been a person of great purity and courage; for though she died almost
immediately upon his entrance, she had time to say that she had preferred death
to the fate that threatened her, and that no one would mourn her for she had no
friends in this country, and her father would never hear how she died."
I sprang wildly to my feet.
"Did she mention no names?" I asked.
 
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