“Auntie Madge, it’s a letter for you this time.”
I began to tremble, for some unaccountable reason. It was as though the shadow of the letter the child was bringing had already begun to fall on me. As she ran to me, and held out the letter, I saw that it was postmarked San Francisco! But the handwriting was not Dicky’s.
I opened it, and from it fell a single sheet of notepaper inscribed:
“She laughs best who laughs last. Grace Draper.”
I looked at the thing until it seemed to me that the characters were alive and writhed upon the paper. I shudderingly put the paper away from me, and leaned back in my chair and shut my eyes. Then Marion’s little arms were around my neck, her warm, moist kisses upon my cheek, her frightened voice in my ears.
“Oh! Auntie Madge,” she said. “What was in the naughty letter that hurt you so? Nasty old thing! I’m going to tear it up.”
“No, no, Marion,” I answered. “I must let your mother see it first. Call her, dear, won’t you, please?”
When Lillian came, I mutely showed her the note. She studied it carefully, frowning as she did so.
“Pleasant creature!” she commented at last. “But I shouldn’t put too much dependence on this, Madge. She may be with him, of course. But you ought to know that truth is a mere detail with Grace Draper. She would just as soon have sent this to you if she had not seen him for weeks, and knew no more of his address than you.”
“But this is postmarked San Francisco,” I said faintly.
Lillian laughed shortly. “My dear little innocent!” she said, “it would be the easiest thing in the world for her to send this envelope enclosed in one to some friend in San Francisco, who would re-direct it for her.”
“I never thought of that,” I said, flushing. “But, oh! Lillian, if he did not go away with her, what possible explanation is there of his leaving like this?”
“Yes, I know, dear,” she returned. “It’s a mystery, and one in the solving of which I seem perfectly helpless. I do wish someone would drop from the sky to help us.”
DAYS THAT CREEP SLOWLY BY
It was not from the sky, however, but from across the ocean that the help Lillian had longed for in solving the mystery of Dicky’s abandonment of me, finally came. It was less than a week after the receipt of Grace Draper’s message, that Lillian and I, sitting in her wonderful white and scarlet living room, one evening after little Marion had gone to bed, heard Betty ushering in callers.
“Betty must know them or she wouldn’t bring them in unannounced,” Lillian murmured, as she rose to her feet, and then the next moment there was framed in the doorway the tall figure of Dr. Pettit. And with him, wonder of wonders! the slight form, the beautiful, wistful, tired face of Katharine Sonnot, whose ambition to go to France as a nurse I had been able to further.