The Mill Mystery HTML version

20. The Old Mill
Whither wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no farther.
I did not sleep well that night, but this did not prevent me from beginning work
early in the morning. The sermon I had been interrupted in the afternoon before,
had to be completed that day; and I was hard at work upon it when there came a
knock at my study- door. I arose with any thing but alacrity and opened it. Dwight
Pollard stood before me.
It was a surprise that called up a flush to my cheeks; but daylight was shining
upon this interview, and I knew none of those sensations which had unnerved me
the night before. I was simply on my guard, and saw him seat himself in my own
chair, without any other feeling than that of curiosity as to the nature of his
errand. He likewise was extremely self-possessed, and looked at me calmly for
some instants before speaking.
"Last night," he began, "you refused a request which my mother made of you."
I bowed.
"It was a mistake," he continued. "The paper which my father gave you cannot be
one which he in his right senses would wish seen by the public. You should have
trusted my mother, who knew my father much better than you did."
"It was not a matter of trust," I protest. "A document had been given me by I a
dying man, with an injunction to put it into certain hands. I had no choice but to
fulfil his wishes in this regard. Your mother herself would have despised me if I
had yielded to her importunities and left it behind me."
"My mother," he commenced.
"Your mother is your mother," I put in. "Let us have respect for her widowhood,
and leave her out of this conversation."
He looked at me closely, and I understood his glance.
"I cannot return you your father's will," I declared, firmly.
He held my glance with his.
"Have you it still?" he asked.
"I cannot return it to you," I repeated.
He arose and approached me courteously. "You are doing what you consider to
be your duty," said he. "In other words than my mother used, I simply add, on our
heads must be the consequences." And his grave look, at once half-sad and half-
determined, impressed me for the first time with a certain sort of sympathy for
this unhappy family. "And this leads me to the purpose of my call," he proceeded,
deferentially. "I am here at my mothers wish, and I bring you her apologies.
Though you have done and are doing wrong by your persistence in carrying out
my poor father's wishes to the detriment of his memory, my mother regrets that
she spoke to you in the manner she did, and hopes you will not allow it to stand
in the way of your conducting the funeral services."
"Mr. Pollard," I replied, "your father was my friend, and to no other man could I
delegate the privilege of uttering prayers over his remains. But I would not be
frank to you nor true to myself if I did not add that it will take more than an