The Mill Mystery HTML version

14. Correspondence
My illness, though severe, was not of long continuance. In a week I was able to
be about my room; and in a fortnight I was allowed to read the letters that had
come to me. There were two, either of them calculated to awaken dangerous
emotions; and, taken together, making a draft on my powers which my newly
gained health found it hard to sustain. The one was signed Rhoda Colwell, and
the other Dwight Pollard. I read Rhoda Colwell's first.
It opened without preamble:
I sought revenge and I have found it. Not in the way I anticipated, perhaps, but
still in a way good enough to satisfy both myself and the spirit of justice. You will
never trust Dwight Pollard again. You will never come any nearer to him than you
have to-day. You have an upright soul, and whether you believe his declarations
or not, can be safely relied upon to hold yourself aloof from a man who could
lend his countenance to such a cowardly deed as I saw perpetrated in the old
cellar a month or so ago. Honor does not wed with dishonor, nor truth with
treachery. Constance Sterling may marry whom she may; it will never be Dwight
Convinced of this, I have decided to push my vengeance no further. Not that I
believe Mr. Barrows committed suicide, any more than I believe that Dwight and
Guy Pollard could be saved by any mere alibi, if I chose to speak. Men like them
can find ready tools to do their work, and if they had been an hundred miles away
instead of some six, I should still think that the will which plunged Mr. Barrows
into his dreadful grave was the same which once before had made him taste the
horrors of his threatened doom. But public disgrace and execration are not what I
seek for my recreant lover. The inner anguish which no eye can see is what I
have been forced to endure and what he shall be made to suffer. Guilty or not he
can never escape that now; and it is a future which I gloat upon and from which I
would not have him escape, no, not at the cost of his life, if that life were mine,
and I could shorten it at a stroke.
And yet since human nature is human nature, and good hearts as well as bad
yield sometimes to a fatal weakness, I would add that the facts which I suppress
are always facts, and that if I see in you or him any forgetfulness of the gulf that
separates you, I shall not think it too late to speak, though months have been
added to months, and years to years, and I am no longer any thing but old
Close upon these words I read these others:
MISS STERLING:--Pardon me that I presume to address you. Pardon the folly,
the weakness of a man who, having known you for less than a week, finds the
loss of your esteem the hardest of the many miseries he is called upon to bear.
I know that I can never recover this esteem--if, indeed, I ever possessed it. The
revelation of the secret which disgraced our family has been fatal; the secret
which our mother commanded us on her death-bed to preserve, foreseeing that,