Dicky kissed me again and then he rose and went out of the room quickly, closing the door behind him. I waited until I heard his footsteps descending the stairs before turning the key in the lock. Then I went directly to a little old trunk which I had kept in my own room ever since my mother’s death, and, kneeling before it unlocked it with reverent fingers.
A MESSAGE FROM THE PAST
It was my mother’s own girlhood trunk, one in which she had kept her treasures and mementoes all her life. The chief delight of my childhood had been sitting by her side when she took out the different things from it and showed them to me.
Dear, thoughtful, little mother of mine! Almost the last thing she did before her strength failed her utterly was to repack the little trunk, wrapping and labeling each thing it contained, and putting into it only the things she knew I would not use, but wished to keep as memories of her and of my own childhood.
“I do not wish you to have to look over these things while your grief is still fresh for me,” she had said, with the divine thoughtfulness that mothers keep until the last breath they draw. “There is nothing in it that you will have to look at for years if you do not wish to do so—that is, except one package that I am going to tell you about now.”
She stopped to catch the breath which was so pitifully short in those torturing days before her death, and over her face swept the look of agony which always accompanied any mention by her of my father.
“In the top tray of this trunk,” she said, “you will find the inlaid lock box that was your grandmother’s and that you have always admired so much. I do not wish to lay any request or command upon you concerning it—you must be the only judge of your own affairs after I leave you—but I would advise you not to open that box unless you are in desperate straits, or until the time has come when you feel that you no longer harbor the resentment you now feel toward your father.”
The last words had come faintly through stiffened white lips, for her labor at packing and the emotional strain of talking to me concerning the future had brought on one of the dreaded heart attacks which were so terribly frequent in the last weeks of her life. We had never spoken of the matter afterward, for she did not leave her bed again until the end.
At one time she had motioned me to bring from her desk the old-fashioned key ring on which she kept her keys. She had held up two, a tiny key and a larger one, and whispered hoarsely: “These keys are the keys to the lock box and the little trunk—you know where the others belong.” Then she had closed her eyes, as if the effort of speaking had exhausted her, as indeed it had.
In the wild grief which followed my mother’s death there was no thought of my unknown father except the bitterness I had always felt toward him. I knew that the terrible sorrow he had caused my mother had helped to shorten her life, and my heart was hot with anger against him.