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The Mill Mystery

17. David Barrows
"I have lived long enough."
Before I proceeded to open this letter, I reasoned some time with myself. The will
by which I had come into possession of Ada's effects was, as I knew, informal
and possibly illegal. But it was the expression of her wishes, and there had been
no one to dispute them or question my right to the inheritance she had so
innocently bequeathed me. At the same time I felt a hesitation about opening this
letter, as I had about using her money; and it was not till I remembered the trust
she had reposed in me, and the promise I had given her to support Mr. Barrows'
good name before the world, that I summoned up sufficient determination to
break its seal. My duty once clear to me, however, I no longer hesitated. This is
the result:
September 23d.--Evening.
My Beloved Ada:--Could I by any means mitigate the blow which I am forced to
deal you, believe me it should be done. But no words can prepare you for the
terrible fact I am about to reveal, and I think from what I know of you, and of your
delicate but strong soul, that in a matter of life and death like this the most direct
language is what you would choose me to employ.
Know then, dearest of all women, that a duty I dare not fly from condemns me to
death; that the love we have cherished, the hopes in which we have indulged,
can have no fulfilment in this world, but must be yielded as a sacrifice to the
inexorable claim of conscience and that ideal of right which has been mine since
I took upon myself the lofty vocation of a Christian minister.
You, my people, my own self even, have thought me an honest man. God knows
I meant to be, even to the point of requiring nothing from others I was not willing
to give myself. But our best friends do not know us; we do not know ourselves.
When the hour of trial came, and a sudden call was made upon my faith and
honor, I failed to sustain myself, failed ignominiously, showing myself to be no
stronger than the weakest of my flock--ay, than the child that flies before a
shadow because it is black, and he does not or will not see that it is his father's
form that casts it.
Such lapses on the part of men professing to lead others demand heavy
penalties. I feared to lose my life, therefore my life must go. Nothing short of this
would reinstate me in my own eyes, or give to my repentance that stern and
absolute quality which the nature of my sin imperatively demands.
That I must involve you in my sorrow and destruction is the bitterest drop in my
cup. But dainty and flower-like as you are, you have a great nature, and would
not hold me back from an act necessary to the welfare and honor of my eternal
soul. I see you rather urging me on, giving me your last kiss, and smiling upon
me with your own inspiring smile. So sure am I of this, that I can bear not to see
you again; bear to walk for the last time by your house, leaving only my blessing
in the air. For it is a part of my doom that I may not see you; since, were I to find