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7. With Her Veil Lifted
"You recognise me?"
"Too well." The tone was deep with meaning but there was no accusation in it;
nor was there any note of relief. It was more as if some hope deeply, and
perhaps unconsciously, cherished had suffered a sudden and complete
The change this made in him was too perceptible for her not to observe it. The
shadow lying deep in her eyes now darkened her whole face. She had tried to
prepare him for this moment; tried to prepare herself. But who can prepare the
soul for the return of old troubles or make other than startling the resurrection of
a ghost laid, as men thought, forever.
"You see that it was no fault of my own I was trying to hide," she finally remarked
in her rich and sympathetic voice.
"Put back your veil."
It was all he said.
Trembling she complied, murmuring as she fumbled with its folds:
"Disgrace to an Ostrander! I know that I was mad to risk it for a moment. Forgive
me for the attempt, and listen to my errand. Oliver was willing to marry my child,
even after he knew the shame it would entail. But Reuther would not accept the
sacrifice. When she learned, as she was obliged to now, that her father had not
only been sentenced to death for the worst crime in the calendar, but had
suffered the full penalty, leaving only a legacy of eternal disgrace to his wife and
innocent child, she showed a spirit becoming a better parentage. In his presence,
and in spite of his dissuasions (for he acted with all the nobility one might expect)
she took off her veil with her own hands and laid it aside with a look expressive of
eternal renunciation. She loves him, sir; and there is no selfishness in her heart
and never has been. For all her frail appearance and the mildness of her temper,
she is like flint where principle is involved or the welfare of those she loves is at
stake. My daughter may die from shock or shame, but she will never cloud your
son's prospects with the obloquy which has settled over her own. Judge
Ostrander, I am not worthy of such a child, but such she is. If John--"
"We will not speak his name," broke in Judge Ostrander, assuming a peremptory
bearing quite unlike his former one of dignified reserve. "I should like to hear,
instead, your explanation of how my son became inveigled into an engagement
of which you, if no one else, knew the preposterous nature."
"Judge Ostrander, you do right to blame me. I should never have given my
consent, never. But I thought our past so completely hidden--our identity so
entirely lost under the accepted name of Averill."
"You thought!" He towered over her in his anger. He looked and acted as in the
old days, when witnesses cowered under his eye and voice. "Say that you
KNEW, madam; that you planned this unholy trap for my son. You had a pretty
daughter, and you saw to it that she came under his notice; nay, more, ignoring