The Crisis - Volume 08

Language: English
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Mr. Brinsmade and the Doctor were the first to leave the little room where Silas Whipple had lived and worked and died, Mr. Brinsmade bent upon one of those errands which claimed him at all times. He took Shadrach with him. Virginia sat on, a vague fear haunting her,—a fear for her father's safety. Where was Clarence? What had he seen? Was the place watched? These questions, at first intruding upon her sorrow, remained to torture her.

Softly she stirred from the chair where she had sat before the piano, and opened the door of the outer office. A clock in a steeple near by was striking twelve. The Colonel did not raise his head. Only Stephen saw her go; she felt his eyes following her, and as she slipped out lifted hers to meet them for a brief instant through the opening of the door. Then it closed behind her.

First of all she knew that the light in the outer office was burning dimly, and the discovery gave her a shock. Who had turned it down? Had Clarence? Was he here? Fearfully searching the room for him, her gaze was held by a figure in the recess of the window at the back of the room. A solid, bulky figure it was, and, though uncertainly outlined in the semi-darkness, she knew it. She took a step nearer, and a cry escaped her.

The man was Eliphalet Hopper. He got down from the sill with a motion at once sheepish and stealthy. Her breath caught, and instinctively she gave back toward the door, as if to open it again.

"Hold on!" he said. "I've got something I want to say to you, Miss

His tones seemed strangely natural. They were not brutal. But she shivered and paused, horrified at the thought of what she was about to do. Her father was in that room—and Stephen. She must keep them there, and get this man away. She must not show fright before him, and yet she could not trust her voice to speak just then. She must not let him know that she was afraid of him—this she kept repeating to herself. But how to act? Suddenly an idea flashed upon her.

Virginia never knew how she gathered the courage to pass him, even swiftly, and turn up the gas. He started back, blinking as the jet flared. For a moment she stood beside it, with her head high; confronting him and striving to steady herself for speech.

"Why have you come here?" she said. "Judge Whipple—died—to-night."

The dominating note in his answer was a whine, as if, in spite of himself, he were awed.

"I ain't here to see the Judge."

She was pale, and quite motionless. And she faltered now. She felt her lips moving, but knew not whether the words had come.

"What do you mean?"

He gained confidence. The look in his little eyes was the filmy look of those of an animal feasting.

"I came here to see you," he said, "—you." She was staring at him now, in horror. "And if you don't give me what I want, I cal'late to see some one else—in there," said Mr. Hopper.

He smiled, for she was swaying, her lids half closed. By a supreme effort she conquered her terror and looked at him. The look was in his eyes still, intensified now....