The Mill Mystery HTML version

22. The Cypher
Ah, my false heart, what hast thou done?
This is a story of fact; it is also a story of mental struggle. I shall not, therefore, be
considered too diffuse if I say that this unlooked for ending to my unhappy
adventure threw me into a strange turmoil of feeling, from which I had no rest
until the next day came. That they should promise to restore the will, to obtain
which they had resorted to measures almost criminal in their severity, awoke in
me the greatest astonishment. What could it mean? I waited to see the will
before replying.
It came, as Guy Pollard had promised, at noon of the following day. It was in a
new envelope, and was sealed just as it had been before it left my possession.
Had I not known into what unscrupulous hands it had fallen, I should have
doubted if it had ever been opened. As it was, I was not only confident that it had
been read from end to end, but fearful that it had been tampered with, and
perhaps altered. To get it out of my hands, and if possible, my mind also, I
carried it at once to Mr. Nicholls, who, I had ascertained that morning, had
returned to town the day before.
He received me with affability, but looked a little surprised when he learned my
"I was just going to call on the family," said he; "I drew up Mr. Pollard's will
myself, and---"
"You drew up Mr. Pollard's will?" I hastily interrupted. "You know, then, its
contents, and can tell me---"
"Pardon me," he as hastily put in, "the family have the first right to a knowledge of
what Mr. Pollard has done for them."
I felt myself at a loss. To explain my rights and the great desire which I
experienced to ascertain whether the tenor of the paper he now held coincided
with that which he had submitted to Mr. Pollard for his signature, necessitated a
full relation of facts which I was not yet certain ought to be made public. For if the
will had not been meddled with, and Mr. Pollard's wishes stood in no danger of
being slighted or ignored, what else but a most unhappy scandal could accrue
from the revelation which I should be forced to make? Then, my own part in the
miserable affair. If not productive of actual evil, it was still something to blush for,
and I had not yet reached that stage of repentance or humility which made it
easy to show the world a weakness for which I had no pity nor sympathy myself.
Yet to guard the interests with which I had been entrusted, it was absolutely
necessary that the question which so much disturbed me should be answered.
For, if any change had been made in this important paper by which the
disposition of Mr. Pollard's property should be turned aside from the channel in
which he had ordered it, I felt that no consideration for the public welfare or my
own good fame should hinder me from challenging its validity.
My embarrassment evidently showed itself, for the acute lawyer, after a
momentary scrutiny of my face, remarked: