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5. Across The Bridge
It was ten o'clock, not later, when the judge reentered his front door. He was
alone,--absolutely alone, as he had never been since that night of long ago,
when with the inner fence completed and the gates all locked, he turned to the
great negro at his side and quietly said:
"We are done with the world, Bela. Are you satisfied to share this solitude with
me?" And Bela had replied: "Night and day, your honour. And when you are not
here,--when you are at court, to bear it alone."
And now this faithful friend was dead, and it was he who must bear it alone,--
alone! How could he face it! He sought for no answer, nor did he allow himself to
dwell for one minute on the thought. There was something else he must do first,--
do this very night, if possible.
Taking down his hat from the rack he turned and went out again, this time
carefully locking the door behind him, also the first gate. But he stopped to listen
before lifting his hand to the second one.
A sound of steady breathing, accompanied by a few impatient movements, came
from the other side. A man was posted there within a foot of the gate. Noiselessly
the judge recoiled, and made his way around to the other set of gates. Here all
was quiet enough, and sliding quickly out, he cast a hasty glance up and down
the lane, and seeing nothing more alarming than the back of a second officer
lounging at the corner, pulled the gate quietly to, and locked it.
He was well down the road towards the ravine, before the officer turned.
The time has now come for giving you a clearer idea of this especial
neighbourhood. Judge Ostrander's house, situated as you all know at the
juncture of an unimportant road with the main highway, had in its rear three small
houses, two of them let and one still unrented. Farther on, but on the opposite
side of the way, stood a very old dwelling in which there lived and presumably
worked, a solitary woman, the sole and final survivor of a large family. Beyond
was the ravine, cutting across the road and terminating it. This ravine merits
some description.
It was a picturesque addition to the town through which it cut at the point of
greatest activity. With the various bridges connecting the residence portion with
the lower business streets we have nothing to do. But there was a nearer one of
which the demands of my story necessitate a clear presentation.
This bridge was called Long, and spanned the ravine and its shallow stream of
water not a quarter of a mile below the short road or lane we have just seen
Judge Ostrander enter. Between it and this lane, a narrow path ran amid the
trees and bushes bordering the ravine. This path was seldom used, but when it
was, it acted as a short cut to a certain part of the town mostly given over to
factories. Indeed the road of which this bridge formed a part was called Factory
on this account. Starting from the main highway a half mile or so below
Ostrander Lane, it ran diagonally back to the bridge, where it received a turn
which sent it south and east again towards the lower town. A high bluff rose at