The Mill Mystery
16. The Green Envelope
Sir, you shall understand what hath befall'n,
Which, as I think, you know not. Here is a letter.
Her departure was a relief to me. First, because I had heard so much, I wanted
an opportunity of digesting it; and, secondly, because of my interest in the
engraving she had shown me, and the impatience I felt to study it more closely. I
took it up the moment she closed the door.
It was the picture of a martyr, and had evidently been cut from some good-sized
book. It represented a man clothed in a long white garment, standing with his
back to the stake, and his hand held out to the flames, which were slowly
consuming it. As a work of art, it was ordinary; as the illustration of some mighty
fact, it was full of suggestion. I gazed at it for a long time, and then turned to the
bookcase. Was the book from which it had been taken there? I eagerly hoped so.
For, ignorant as I may seem to you, I did not know the picture or the incident it
represented; and I was anxious to know both. For Mr. Barrows was not the man
to disfigure a work of art by covering it with a coarse print like this unless he had
a motive; and how could even a suspicion of that motive be mine, without a full
knowledge of just what this picture implied?
But though I looked from end to end of the various shelves before me, I did not
succeed in finding the volume from which this engraving had been taken. Large
books were there in plenty, but none of the exact size of the print I held in my
hand. I own I was disappointed, and turned away from the bookcase at last with
a feeling of having been baffled on the verge of some very interesting discovery.
The theory advanced with so much assurance by Mrs. Simpson had not met with
much credence on my part. I believed her facts, but not the conclusions she drew
from them. Nothing she had related to me convinced me that Mr. Barrows was in
any way insane; nor could I imagine for a moment that he could be so without the
knowledge of Ada, if not of his associates and friends.
At the same time I was becoming more and more assured in my own mind that
his death was the result of his own act, and, had it not been for the difficulty of
imagining a reason for it, could have retired to rest that night with a feeling of real
security in the justness of a conclusion that so exonerated the man I loved. As it
was, that secret doubt still remained like a cloud over my hopes, a doubt which I
had promised myself should be entirely removed before I allowed my partiality for
Mr. Pollard to take upon itself the character of partisanship. I therefore continued
my explorations through the room.
Mr. Barrows' desk presented to me the greatest attraction of any thing there; one
that was entirely of the imagination, of course, since nothing could have induced
me to open it, notwithstanding every key stood in its lock, and one of the drawers
was pulled a little way out. Only the law had a right to violate his papers; and
hard as it was to deny myself a search into what was possibly the truest
exponent of his character, I resolutely did so, consoling myself with the thought