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The Mill Mystery

15. A Gossip
This
something
settled
matter
in
his
heart,
Whereon
his
brains
still
beating,
puts
him
thus
From
fashion
of
himself.
--HAMLET.
I had not taken this tone with both my correspondents without a secret hope of
being able to do something myself towards the establishment of Mr. Pollard's
innocence. How, I could not very plainly perceive that day or the next, but as time
elapsed and my brain cleared and my judgment returned, I at last saw the way to
an effort which might not be without consequences of a satisfactory nature. What
that effort was you may perhaps conjecture from the fact that the first walk that I
took was in the direction of the cottage where Mr. Barrows had formerly lived.
The rooms which he had occupied were for rent, and my ostensible errand was
to hire them. The real motive of my visit, however, was to learn something more
of the deceased clergyman's life and ways than I then knew; if happily out of
some hitherto unnoticed event in his late history I might receive a hint which
should ultimately lead me to the solution of the mystery which was involving my
happiness.
I was not as unsuccessful in this attempt as one might anticipate. The lady of the
house was a gossip, and the subject of Mr. Barrows' death was an inexhaustible
topic of interest to her. I had but to mention his name, and straightway a tide of
words flowed from her lips, which, if mostly words, contained here and there
intimations of certain facts which I felt it was well enough for me to know, even if
they did not amount to any thing like an explanation of the tragedy. Among these
was one which only my fear of showing myself too much interested in her theme
prevented me from probing to the bottom. This was, that for a month at least
before his death Mr. Barrows had seemed to her like a changed man. A month--
that was about the interval which had elapsed between his first visit to the mill
and his last; and the evidence that he showed an alteration of demeanor in that
time might have its value and might hot. I resolved to cultivate Mrs. Simpson's
acquaintance, and sometime put her a question or two that would satisfy me
upon this point.
This determination was all the easier to make in that I found the rooms I had
come to see sufficiently to my liking to warrant me in taking them. Not that I
should have hesitated to do this had they been as unattractive as they were
pleasant. It was not their agreeableness that won me, but the fact that Mr.
Barrows personal belongings had not yet been moved, and that for a short time
at least I should find myself in possession of his library, and face to face with the
same articles of taste and study which had surrounded him in his lifetime, and
helped to mould, if not to make, the man. I should thus obtain a knowledge of his
character, and some day, who knows, might flash upon his secret. For that he
possessed one, and was by no means the plain and simple character I had been
led to believe was apparent to me from the first glimpse I had of these rooms;
there being in every little object that marked his taste a certain individuality and
 
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