The Mill Mystery
28. Two Or One
--MER. OF VENICE.
I had finished it; the last line had been read, and I sat in a maze of astonishment
and awe. What my thoughts were, what my judgment upon this astounding act of
self-destruction for conscience sake, it will not interest you to know. In a matter
so complicated with questions of right and wrong, each man must feel for
himself, and out of his own nature adjudge praise, or express censure; I,
Constance Sterling, shall do neither; I can only wonder and be still.
One point, however, in this lengthy confession I will allude to, as it involves a fact.
Mr. Barrows says that he goes to his death, the same death from which he fled
when he yielded to the threats of Guy Pollard and gave up the will. He expected,
therefore, to find the vat dry, and looked forward to hours, if not days, of long-
drawn suffering in a spot devoid of warmth, light, water, and food. His injunction
to Ada in that last letter of his--not to make any move to find him for ten days--
favors this idea, and proves what his expectations were.
But, by the mercy of God, the vat had been half filled with water in the interim
which had elapsed between his first and last visit to the mill, and the prison thus
becoming a cistern, he must have come to his end in a few moments after his
fatal plunge. It was the one relief which a contemplation of this tragedy brought to
my overwrought mind.
But with the next day came a reaction; and with a heart full of rejoicing, I
prepared to communicate to Dwight Pollard the fact of his release from the
dominion of Rhoda Colwell. For whether this record of the past showed him to be
a man worthy of full honor or not, it certainly sufficed to exonerate him from all
suspicion of being the direct cause of David Barrow's death, and I knew her well
enough, or thought I did, to feel certain that no revenge, unless the greatest,
would ever satisfy her, and that in losing her hold upon his life and love, she
would make no attempt that would merely darken his name before the world. It
was therefore with a fearless heart I penned the following lines.
Your suspicions were unfounded. I have Mr. Barrows' own words to the effect
that he meditated death by imprisonment in the vat. I go to acquaint Dwight
Pollard with the fact that any accusation on your part must fail before the minute
and circumstantial confession which Mr. Barrows has left behind him.
Signing this letter, I despatched it at once to its destination; then taking the
important manuscript in my hand, I set out for the Pollard mansion.
It was a day full of sunshine and promise. As I sped through the streets and
approached that end of the town which hitherto it had taken all my courage to
face, I was astonished at the lightness of my own heart and the beneficent
aspect which every object about me seemed to have acquired. Even the place I