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The Mill Mystery

7. Advances
For
they
are
actions
that
a
man
might
play;
But
I
have
that
within
which
passeth
show.
--HAMLET.
"Miss Sterling?"
I was sitting by the side of Mrs. Harrington in her own room. By a feverish
exertion of strength I had borne her thither from her mother's chamber, and was
now watching the returning hues of life color her pale cheek. At the sound of my
name, uttered behind me, I arose. I had expected a speedy visit from one of the
brothers, but I had been in hopes that it would be Dwight, and not Guy, who
would make it.
"I must speak to you at once; will you follow me?" asked that gentleman, bowing
respectfully as I turned.
I glanced at Mrs. Harrington, but he impatiently shook his head.
"Anice is at the door," he remarked. "She is accustomed to Mrs. Harrington, and
will see that she is properly looked after." And, leading the way, he ushered me
out, pausing only to cast one hurried glance back at his sister, as if to assure
himself she was not yet sufficiently recovered to note his action.
In the hall he offered me his arm.
"The gas has not yet been lighted," he explained, "and I wish you to go with me
to the parlor."
This sounded formidable, but I did not hesitate. I felt able to confront this man.
"I am at your service," I declared, with a comfortable sensation that my tone
conveyed something of the uncompromising spirit I felt.
The room to which he conducted me was on the first floor, and was darkness
itself when we entered. It was musty, too, and chill, as with the memory of a past
funeral and the premonition of a new one.
Even the light which he soon made did not seem to be at home in the spot, but
wavered and flickered with faint gasps, as if it longed to efface itself and leave
the grand and solitary apartment to its wonted atmosphere of cold reserve. By its
feeble flame I noted but two details: one was the portrait of Mrs. Pollard in her
youth, and the other was my own reflection in some distant mirror. The first filled
me with strange thoughts, the face was so wickedly powerful, if I may so speak;
handsome, but with that will beneath its beauty which, when allied to selfishness,
has produced the Lucretia Borgias and Catherine de Medicis of the world.
The reflection of which I speak, dimly seen as it was, had, on the contrary, a
calming effect upon my mind. Weary as I undoubtedly was, and pale if not
haggard with the emotions I had experienced, there was still something natural
and alive in my image that recalled happier scenes to my eyes, and gave me the
necessary strength to confront the possibilities of the present interview..
Mr. Pollard, who in his taciturn gloom seemed like the natural genius of the spot,
appeared to be struck by this same sensation also, for his eyes wandered more
than once to the mirror, before he summoned up courage, or, perhaps, I should
say, before he took the determination to look me in the face and open the
 
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