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19. Alanson Black
"You began it, as women begin most things, without thought and a due weighing
of consequences. And now you propose to drop it in the same freakish manner.
Isn't that it?"
Deborah Scoville lifted her eyes in manifest distress and fixed them deprecatingly
upon her interrogator. She did not like his tone which was dry and suspiciously
sarcastic, and she did not like his attitude which was formal and totally devoid of
all sympathy. Instinctively she pushed her veil still further from her features as
she deprecatingly replied:
"You are but echoing your sex in criticising mine as impulsive. And you are quite
within your rights in doing this. Women are impulsive; they are even freakish. But
it is given to one now and then to recognise this fact and acknowledge it. I hope I
am of this number; I hope that I have the judgment to see when I have committed
a mistake and to stop short before I make myself ridiculous."
The lawyer smiled,--a tight-lipped, acrid sort of smile which nevertheless
expressed as much admiration as he ever allowed himself to show.
"Judgment, eh?" he echoed. "You stop because your judgment tells you that you
were on the point of making a fool of yourself? No other reason, eh?"
"Is not that the best which can be given a hard-headed, clear-eyed lawyer like
yourself? Would you have me go on, with no real evidence to back my claims;
rouse up this town to reconsider his case when I have nothing to talk about but
my husband's oath and a shadow I cannot verify?"
"Then Miss Weeks' neighbourliness failed in point? She was not as interesting as
you had a right to expect from my recommendation?"
"Miss Weeks is a very chatty and agreeable woman, but she cannot tell what she
does not know."
Mr. Black smiled. The woman delighted him. The admiration which he had
hitherto felt for her person and for the character which could so develop through
misery and reproach as to make her in twelve short years, the exponent of all
that was most attractive and bewitching in woman, seemed likely to extend to her
mind. Sagacious, eh? and cautious, eh? He was hardly prepared for such
perfection, and let the transient lighting up of his features speak for him till he
was ready to say:
"You find the judge very agreeable, now that you know him better?"
"Yes, Mr. Black. But what has that got to do with the point at issue?"
And SHE smiled, but not just in his manner nor with quite as little effect.
"Much," he growled. "It might make it easier for you to reconcile yourself to the
existing order of things."
"I am reconciled to them simply from necessity," was her gentle response.
"Nothing is more precious to me than Reuther's happiness. I should but
endanger it further by raising false hopes. That is why I have come to cry halt."
"Madam, I commend your decision. It is that of a wise and considerate woman.
Your child's happiness is, of course, of paramount importance to you. But why