The Mill Mystery
If hearts are weak, souls should at least be strong.
I will be brief, for my short date of breath
Is not so long as is a tedious tale.
--ROMEO AND JULIET.
Let me hasten to the end.
When I told Mrs. Pollard that I would suppress that portion of the truth which
connected her name with this fatal affair, I did not of course mean that I would
resort to any falsehood or even prevarication. I merely relied upon the
improbability of my being questioned close enough to necessitate my being
obliged to reveal the astounding facts which made this matter a destructive one
for the Pollards. And I was right in my calculations. Neither socially, nor at the
formal inquiry before the coroner, was any question raised of relationship
between the dead girl and the family in S----; and this fact, taken with the discreet
explanations accorded by Dwight Pollard of his father's, and afterwards of his
own interest in her, as shown in the letter which he had sent to her address, is
the reason why this affair passed without scandal to the parties concerned.
But not without results for deep down in the heart of one person an influence was
at work, destined ere long to eventuate in the tragedy to which these lines are the
clue. Remorse deep as my nature and immovable as my sin, has gotten hold
upon me, and nothing short of death, and death in the very shape from which I
fled in such a cowardly manner, will ever satisfy my soul or allay that burning
sense of shame and regret which makes me fear the eye of man and quake at
the thought of eternal justice.
For in a final interview with Dwight Pollard I have become convinced that,
however unprincipled his brother might be, it was with no intention of carrying out
his threats that he plunged me into the vat on that fatal night; that, recognizing
the weakness in me, he had resorted to intimidation to ensure his ends; and that
all the consequences which followed might have been averted, if I had but
remained true to my trust.
Being a Christian minister, and bound by my creed and faith to resist the devil
and face the wrath of men, my dereliction in this regard acquires an importance
not to be measured by the ordinary standard of law or social usage. For, when I
failed to support my principles under trial, Christian faith was betrayed and the
avowed power of God put to mockery and shame. I go, therefore, to the death I
then shunned, deliberately, conscientiously, determinedly. For the sake of God,
for the sake of honor, for the sake of those higher principles which it should be
the glory of men to sustain at all risk and in every furnace of affliction, I lay down
youth, love, and life, confident that if in so doing I rob one sweet soul of its
happiness, I sow anew in other hearts the seed of that stern belief in God and the
requirements of our faith which my cowardly act must have gone so far to
May God accept the sacrifice in the spirit in which I perform it, and in His
gracious mercy make light, not the horrors of the pit into which I am about to