The Mill Mystery, by Anna Katherine Green

xxii.

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 errand.

“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:

“You say Mr. Pollard gave you this will to hand to me. Do you know the cause of this rather extraordinary proceeding, or have you any suspicion why, in the event of his desiring me to have in charge a paper which ought to be safe enough in his own house, he choose his pastor for his messenger instead of one of his own sons?”

“Mr. Nicholls,” I returned, with inward satisfaction for the opportunity thus given me for reply, “the secrets which are confided to a clergyman are as sacred as those which are entrusted to a lawyer. I could not tell you my suspicions if I had any; I can only state the facts. One thing, however, I will add. That owing to circumstances which I cannot explain, but greatly regret, this paper has been out of my hands for a short time, and in speaking as I did, I wished merely to state that it would be a satisfaction to me to know that no harm has befallen it, and that this is the very will in spirit and detail which you drew up and saw signed by Mr. Pollard.”

“Oh,” exclaimed the lawyer, “if that is all, I can soon satisfy you.” And tearing open the envelope, he ran his eye over the document and quietly nodded.

“It is the same,” he declared. “There has been no meddling here.”

And feeling myself greatly relieved, I rose without further conversation and hastily took my leave.

But when I came to think of it all again in my own room, I found my equanimity was not yet fully restored. A doubt of some kind remained, and though, in consideration of the manifold duties that pressed upon me, I relentlessly put it aside, I could not help its lingering in my mind, darkening my pleasures, and throwing a cloud over my work and the operations of my mind. The sight which I now and then caught of the Pollards did not tend to allay my anxieties. There was satisfaction in their countenances, and in that of Guy, at least, a certain triumphant disdain which could only be partly explained by the victory which he had won over me through my fears. I awaited the proving of the will with anxiety. If there were no seeming reparation made in it, I should certainly doubt its being the expression of Mr. Pollard’s wishes.

What was my surprise, then, when the will having been proved, I obtained permission to read it and found that it not only contained mention of reparation, but that this reparation was to be made to Margaret his wife.

“For sums loaned by her to me and lost, I desire to make reparation by an added bequest —” so it read; and I found myself nonplussed and thrown entirely out in all my calculations and conjectures. The anxiety he had shown lest the will should fall into this very woman’s hands, did not tally with this expression of justice and generosity, nor did the large sums which he had left to his three children show any of that distrust which his countenance had betrayed towards the one who was present with him at the time of his death. Could it be that he had given me the wrong paper or was he, as Mrs. Pollard had intimated, not responsible for his actions and language at that time. I began to think the latter conjecture might be true, and was only hindered in the enjoyment of my old tranquility by the remembrance of the fearful ordeal I had been subjected to in the mill, and the consideration which it brought of the fears and suspicions which must have existed to make the perpetration of such an outrage possible.

But time, which dulls all things, soon began to affect my memory of that hideous nightmare, and with it my anxiety lest in my unfaithfulness to my trust, I had committed a wrong upon some unknown innocent. Life with its duties and love with its speedy prospect of marriage gradually pushed all unpleasant thoughts from my mind, and I was beginning to enjoy the full savor of my happy and honorable position again, when my serenity was again, and this time forever, destroyed by a certain revelation that was accidentally made to me.

The story of it was this. I had taken by mistake with me to a funeral the prayer-book with which Mr. Pollard had presented me. I was listening to the anthem which was being sung, and being in a nervous frame of mind, was restlessly fingering the leaves of the book which I held in my hand, when my eye, running over the page that happened to open before me, caught sight of some of the marks with which the text was plentifully bestowed. Mechanically I noticed the words under which they stood, and mechanically I began reading them, when, to my great astonishment and subsequent dismay, I perceived they made sense, in short had a connection which, when carried on from page to page of the book, revealed sentences which promised to extend themselves into a complete communication. This is the page I happened upon, with its lines and dots. Note the result which accrues from reading the marked words alone.

[Illustration:

THE EPIPHANY.

with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The same Collect, Epistle, and Gospel shall serve for every day after, unto the Epiphany.

The Epiphany,

Or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

THE COLLECT.

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE EPISTLE. Eph iii. I.

For this cause, I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you ward. How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the Gospel whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly]

It was but one of many, and you can imagine how difficult I found it to continue with the service and put the subject from my mind till the funeral was over and I could return to solitude and my third and final examination into the meaning of this mysterious gift.

You can also imagine my wonder when by following out the plan I have indicated, the subjoined sentences appeared, which, if somewhat incoherent at times — as could only be expected from the limited means at his command — certainly convey a decided meaning, especially after receiving the punctuation and capital letters, which, after long study and some after-knowledge of affairs, I have ventured upon giving them:

“My sin is ever before me.

“Correct, lest thou bring me to nothing.

“Do those things which are requisite and necessary for a pure and humble one, Grace by name, begotten by son, he born of first wife and not obedient to the law abroad, a prisoner.

“Revelation made known in few words whereby when ye read ye may understand the mystery which was made known unto the sons, fellow~heirs of Grace.

“Go and search diligently for the young child.

“The higher powers resist and are a terror to good works.

“Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise, minister of God.

“Wherefore ye must needs be subject for wrath, for they are attending continually upon this thing.

“Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute; honor to whom honor.

“Two possessed of devils, exceeding fierce of the household, hope Grace may evermore be cast away.

“They murmur against the good man of the house, and do not agree to mercifully defend against perils in the city an honest and good heart.

“My will leave(s) heritage to Grace.

“The devil is against me.

“Behold a woman grievously vexed with lost sheep of the house.

“Then came she, saying: ‘It is not mete to take the children’s bread and to cast it to the dogs. Be unto, us an offering named as becometh saints. For this ye know, that no unclean person hath any inheritance because of disobedience and fellowship with works of darkness. For it is a shame to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.’

“Beelzebub, the chief of devils, and sons cast out man; taketh from him all wherein he trusteth and divideth the spoils against me.

“To purge conscience, the new testament means redemption of the transgressions under first testament.

“Said a devil: ‘Father, ye do dishonor me. Say ye know him not, thy son, and suffer that a notable prisoner, his wife and child, were not called by thy name.’ ‘I will,’ said I. But I deny all here. My soul is sorrowful unto death, as I bear false witness against them.

“The hand that betrayeth me is with me.

“I appoint you to sift as wheat.

“This must be accomplished, for the things concerning me have an end.

“Words sent unto me out of prison, said: ‘Daughter weep(s). Beseech thee graciously to fetch home to thee my child in tribulation. For lo, the ungodly bend their bow and make ready their arrows within the quiver, that they may privily shoot at them which are true of heart. Show I thy marvellous loving-kindness unto an undefined soul forsaken on every side of mother and friendly neighbors. Make haste to deliver and save. I am clean forgotten, as a dead man out of mind. I am become as a broken vessel.’

“Whilst I held my tongue, my bones consumed away daily.

“I will inform thee and teach thee ill the way wherein thou shalt go.

“Blessed are folk chosen to inheritance; the children of them that dwell under the king.

“Poor Grac(e) come over the see (sea), unaware that I were sick.

“Deliver my darling from the lions, so will I give thee thanks.

“O let not them that are mine enemies triumph that hate me.

“They imagine deceitful words against them that are quiet in the land.

“Child is in thy land.

“Look after daughter among honorable women. House in City of the East Wind.

[Footnote: Number omitted for obvious reasons.]"— C-H-A-R-L-E-S-S~T-R-E-E-T.

“Child I have looked upon not.

“I promised with my lips and spake with my mouth, but God turned his mercy upon me, and upon health hath sent forth his voice, yea, and that a mighty voice.

“I sink, and the deep waters drown me.

“Mine adversaries hath broken my heart.

“Let the things that should have been for them be for the poor prisoner’s posterity.

“Break down the carved work and search out my will.

“Walk to table under southwest borders of room, take the wood that hath in it operations of the law, and cleave.

“For my days are gone like a shadow, and I am withered as grass.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/green/anna_katharine/mill_mystery/chapter22.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37