It was a little more than a week after Edna’s adventure in the Gardens, and about ten o’clock in the morning, that something happened—something which proved that Mrs. Cliff was entirely right when she talked about the feeling in her bones. Edna received a letter from Captain Horn, which was dated at Marseilles.
As she stood with the letter in her hand, every nerve tingling, every vein throbbing, and every muscle as rigid as if it had been cast in metal, she could scarcely comprehend that it had really come—that she really held it. After all this waiting and hoping and trusting, here was news from Captain Horn—news by his own hand, now, here, this minute!
Presently she regained possession of herself, and, still standing, she tore open the letter. It was a long one of several sheets, and she read it twice. The first time, standing where she had received it, she skimmed over page after page, running her eye from top to bottom until she had reached the end and the signature, but her quick glance found not what she looked for. Then the hand holding the letter dropped by her side. After all this waiting and hoping and trusting, to receive such a letter! It might have been written by a good friend, a true and generous friend, but that was all. It was like the other letters he had written. Why should they not have been written to Mrs. Cliff?
Now she sat down to read it over again. She first looked at the envelope. Yes, it was really directed to “Mrs. Philip Horn.” That was something, but it could not have been less. It had been brought by a messenger from Wraxton, Fuguet & Co., and had been delivered to Mrs. Cliff. That lady had told the messenger to take the letter to Edna’s salon, and she was now lying in her own chamber, in a state of actual ague. Of course, she would not intrude upon Edna at such a moment as this. She would wait until she was called. Whether her shivers were those of ecstasy, apprehension, or that nervous tremulousness which would come to any one who beholds an uprising from the grave, she did not know, but she surely felt as if there were a ghost in the air.
The second reading of the letter was careful and exact. The captain had written a long account of what had happened after he had left Valparaiso. His former letter, he wrote, had told her what had happened before that time. He condensed everything as much as possible, but the letter was a very long one. It told wonderful things—things which ought to have interested any one. But to Edna it was as dry as a meal of stale crusts. It supported her in her fidelity and allegiance as such a meal would have supported a half-famished man, but that was all. Her soul could not live on such nutriment as this.