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18. Reflections
Deborah re-entered the judge's house a stricken woman. Evading Reuther, she
ran up stairs, taking off her things mechanically on the way. She must have an
hour alone. She must learn her first lesson in self-control and justifiable duplicity
before she came under her daughter's eyes. She must--
Here she reached her room door and was about to enter, when at a sudden
thought she paused and let her eyes wander down the hall, till they settled on
another door, the one she had closed behind her the night before, with the deep
resolve never to open it again except under compulsion.
Had the compulsion arisen? Evidently, for a few minutes later she was standing
in one of the dim corners of Oliver's musty room, reopening a book which she
had taken down from the shelves on her former visit. She remembered it from its
torn back and the fact that it was an Algebra. Turning to the fly leaf, she looked
again at the names and schoolboy phrases she had seen scribbled all over its
surface, for the one which she remembered as, I HATE ALGEBRA.
It had not been a very clearly written ALGEBRA, and she would never have given
this interpretation to the scrawl, had she been in a better mood. Now another
thought had come to her, and she wanted to see the word again. Was she glad
or sorry to have yielded to this impulse, when by a closer inspection she
perceived that the word was not ALGEBRA at all, but ALGERNON, I HATE A
ETHERIDGE.--I HATE A. E.--I HATE ALGERNON E. all over the page, and here
and there on other pages, sometimes in characters so rubbed and faint as to be
almost unreadable and again so pressed into the paper by a vicious pencil-point
as to have broken their way through to the leaf underneath.
The work of an ill-conditioned schoolboy! but--this hate dated back many years.
Paler than ever, and with hands trembling almost to the point of incapacity, she
put the book back, and flew to her own room, the prey of thoughts bitter almost to
It was the second time in her life that she had been called upon to go through this
precise torture. She remembered the hour only too well, when first it was made
known to her that one in closest relation to herself was suspected of a hideous
crime. And now, with her mind cleared towards him and readjusted to new
developments, this crushing experience of seeing equal indications of guilt in
another almost as dear and almost as closely knit into her thoughts and future
expectations as John had ever been. Can one endure a repetition of such
horror? She had never gauged her strength, but it did not seem possible.
Besides of the two blows, this seemed the heaviest and the most revolting. Then,
only her own happiness and honour were involved; now it was Reuther's; and the
fortitude which sustained her through the ignominy of her own trouble, failed her
at the prospect of Reuther's. And again, the two cases were not equal. Her
husband had had traits which, in a manner, had prepared her for the ready
suspicion of people. But Oliver was a man of reputation and kindly heart; and yet,
in the course of time THIS had come, and the question once agitating her as to