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11. I Will Think About It
Judge Ostrander was a man of keen perception, quick to grasp an idea, quick to
form an opinion. But his mind acted slowly to- night. Deborah Scoville wondered
at the blankness of his gaze and the slow way in which he seemed to take in this
astounding fact.
At last he found voice and with it gave some evidence of his usual acumen.
"Madam, a shadow is an uncertain foundation on which to build such an edifice
as you plan. How do you know that the fact you mention was coincident with the
crime? Mr. Etheridge's body was not found till after dark. A dozen men might
have come down that path with or without sticks before he reached the bridge
and fell a victim to the assault which laid him low."
"I thought the time was pretty clearly settled by the hour he left your house. The
sun had not set when he turned your corner on his way home. So several people
said who saw him. Besides--"
"Yes; there is a BESIDES. I'm sure of it."
"I saw the tall figure of a man, whom I afterwards made sure was Mr. Etheridge,
coming down Factory Road on his way to the bridge when I turned about to get
"All of which you suppressed at the trial."
"I was not questioned on this point, sir."
"Madam,"--he was standing very near to her now, hemming her as it were into
that decaying corner--"I should have a very much higher opinion of your candour
if you told me the whole story."
"I have, sir."
His hands rose, one to the right hand wall, the other to the left, and remained
there with their palms resting heavily against the rotting plaster. She was more
than ever hemmed in; but, though she felt a trifle frightened at his aspect which
certainly was not usual, she faced him without shrinking and in very evident
"You went immediately home with the child after that glimpse you got of Mr.
"Yes; I had no reason in the world to suppose that anything was going to happen
in the ravine below us. Of course, I went straight on; there were things to be done
at home, and--you don't believe me, sir."
His hands fell; an indefinable change had come over his aspect; he bowed and
seemed about to utter an ironic apology. She felt puzzled and unconsciously she
began to think. What was lacking in her statement? Something. Could she
remember what? Something which he had expected; something which as
presiding judge over John's trial he had been made aware of and now recalled to
render her story futile. It couldn't be that one little thing--But yes, it might be.
Nothing is little where a great crime is concerned. She smiled a dubious smile,
then she said: