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What his thoughts were that night may be easily imagined. Cissy's
death had removed the only cause he had for concealing his real
identity. There was nothing more to prevent his revealing all to
Miss Boutelle and to offer to adopt the boy. But he reflected this
could not be done until after the funeral, for it was only due to
Cissy's memory that he should still keep up the role of Dick Lasham
as chief mourner. If it seems strange that Bob did not at this
crucial moment take Miss Boutelle into his confidence, I fear it
was because he dreaded the personal effect of the deceit he had
practiced upon her more than any ethical consideration; she had
softened considerably in her attitude towards him that night; he
was human, after all, and while he felt his conduct had been
unselfish in the main, he dared not confess to himself how much her
opinion had influenced him. He resolved that after the funeral he
would continue his journey, and write to her, en route, a full
explanation of his conduct, inclosing Daddy's letter as corroborative
evidence. But on searching his letter-case he found that he had
lost even that evidence, and he must trust solely at present to
her faith in his improbable story.

It seemed as if his greatest sacrifice was demanded at the funeral!
For it could not be disguised that the neighbors were strongly
prejudiced against him. Even the preacher improved the occasion to
warn the congregation against the dangers of putting off duty until
too late. And when Robert Falloner, pale, but self-restrained,
left the church with Miss Boutelle, equally pale and reserved, on
his arm, he could with difficulty restrain his fury at the passing
of a significant smile across the faces of a few curious bystanders.
"It was Amy Boutelle, that was the 'penitence' that fetched him, you
bet!" he overheard, a barely concealed whisper; and the reply, "And
it's a good thing she's made out of it too, for he's mighty rich!"

At the church door he took her cold hand into his. "I am leaving
to-morrow morning with Jimmy," he said, with a white face. "Good-
by."

"You are quite right; good-by," she replied as briefly, but with
the faintest color. He wondered if she had heard it too.

Whether she had heard it or not, she went home with Mrs. Ricketts
in some righteous indignation, which found--after the young lady's
habit--free expression. Whatever were Mr. Lasham's faults of
omission it was most un-Christian to allude to them there, and an
insult to the poor little dear's memory who had forgiven them.
Were she in his shoes she would shake the dust of the town off her
feet; and she hoped he would. She was a little softened on
arriving to find Jimmy in tears. He had lost Dick's photograph--or
Dick had forgotten to give it back at the hotel, for this was all
he had in his pocket. And he produced a letter--the missing letter
of Daddy, which by mistake Falloner had handed back instead of the
photograph. Miss Boutelle saw the superscription and Californian
postmark with a vague curiosity.

"Did you look inside, dear? Perhaps it slipped in."

Jimmy had not. Miss Boutelle did--and I grieve to say, ended by
reading the whole letter.

Bob Falloner had finished packing his things the next morning, and
was waiting for Mr. Ricketts and Jimmy. But when a tap came at the
door, he opened it to find Miss Boutelle standing there. "I have
sent Jimmy into the bedroom," she said with a faint smile, "to look
for the photograph which you gave him in mistake for this. I think
for the present he prefers his brother's picture to this letter,
which I have not explained to him or any one." She stopped, and
raising her eyes to his, said gently: "I think it would have only
been a part of your goodness to have trusted me, Mr. Falloner."

"Then you will forgive me?" he said eagerly.

She looked at him frankly, yet with a faint trace of coquetry that
the angels might have pardoned. "Do you want me to say to you what
Mrs. Ricketts says were the last words of poor Cissy?"

A year later, when the darkness and rain were creeping up Sawyer's
Ledge, and Houston and Daddy Folsom were sitting before their
brushwood fire in the old Lasham cabin, the latter delivered
himself oracularly.

"It's a mighty queer thing, that news about Bob! It's not that
he's married, for that might happen to any one; but this yer
account in the paper of his wedding being attended by his 'little
brother.' That gets me! To think all the while he was here he was
lettin' on to us that he hadn't kith or kin! Well, sir, that
accounts to me for one thing,--the sing'ler way he tumbled to that
letter of poor Dick Lasham's little brother and sent him that
draft! Don't ye see? It was a feller feelin'! Knew how it was
himself! I reckon ye all thought I was kinder soft reading that
letter o' Dick Lasham's little brother to him, but ye see what it
did."





Under the Redwoods by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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