The Mill Mystery
26. A Feline Touch
The tumult in my mind and heart were great, but my task was not yet completed,
and till it was I could neither stop to analyze my emotions nor measure the
depths of darkness into which I had been plunged by an occurrence as
threatening to my peace as it was pitiful to my heart. Mrs. Pollard was to be
again, interviewed, and to that formidable duty every thing bowed, even my need
of rest and the demand which my whole body made for refreshment.
It was eight o'clock when I stood for the second time that day at her door; and,
contrary to my expectations, I found as little difficulty in entering as I had before.
Indeed, the servant was even more affable and obliging than he had been in the
afternoon, and persisted in showing me into a small room off the parlor, now
empty of guests, and going at once for Mrs. Pollard.
"She will see you, sir, I am sure," was his last remark as he went out of the door,
"for, though she is so very tired, she told me if you called to ask you to wait."
I looked around on the somewhat desolate scene that presented itself, and
doubtingly shook my head. This seeming submission on the part of a woman so
indomitable as she, meant something. Either she was thoroughly frightened or
else she meditated some treachery. In either case I needed all my self-
command. Happily, the scene I had just quitted was yet vividly impressed upon
my mind, and while it remained so, I felt as strong and unassailable as I had
once felt weak and at the mercy of my fears.
I did not have to wait long. Almost immediately upon the servant's call, Mrs.
Pollard entered the room and stood before me. Her first glance told me all. She
"Well?" she said, in a hard whisper, and with a covert look around as if she
feared the very walls might hear us. "You have found the girl and you have come
to ask for money. It is a reasonable request, and if you do not ask too much you
shall have it. I think it will heal all wounds."
My indignation flared up through all my horror and dismay.
"Money?" I cried, "money? what good will money do the dead; you have killed
"Killed her?" No wonder she grew pale, no wonder she half gasped. "Killed her?"
"Yes," I returned, not giving her time to think, much less speak. "Lured by you to
a den of evil, she chose to die rather than live on in disgrace. The woman who
lent you her clothes has been found, and--I see I have reached you at last," I
broke in. "I thought God's justice would work."
"I--I--" She had to moisten her lips before she could speak. "I don't understand
what you mean. You say I lured her, that is a lie. I never took her to this den of
evil as you call it."