The poor candle was guttering and the wind howled outside. I looked around and saw the few clothes hanging from pegs, the rusty cracked stove, the table made of rough boards, the bunk filled with dry moss and seaweed, and then my eye caught one flaring note of color. It was a gaudily hued print representing a woman holding aloft a tricolor flag, and labelled La Republique Francaise! And the poor cheap picture was all of the inheritance of this man, marooned and outlawed for the sake of a woman and her dying kiss, which had been the only reward of all his devotion.
So I sat there, awed by the greatness of it all. There were no tears in my eyes; indeed, it seemed too big a thing for tears, a revelation and an outlook upon life so vast that it held me spell-bound. I had never realized that love could be such a thing as that, feeding upon a mere sad memory, able to take this rough viking of a man and toss him, a plaything of its stupendous force, upon these barren rocks. Surely it was arrant folly, utter insanity, but it showed that men’s lives are not regulated by clockwork, and that, however erring an ideal may be, the passions it may inspire can bring out the greatness of manhood or the ardent devotion of women.
It awed me to think that among the teeming millions of the earth there were thousands upon thousands bound to potential outbursts of a love that may slumber quietly until death or awake, great and inspiring in its might.
As the muttered prayers went on I watched the uneasy tossing of the child, until Susie Sweetapple came in, hurried and dripping.
“You’s got ter come home,” she said. “Yer father he’s bawlin’ as how he wants yer back. My, the poor mite of a young ‘un! The face o’ he looks dreadful bad! D’ye know it’s most midnight? Come erlong now, ma’am.”
I rose, feeling very trembly about the knees. There was nothing that I could do. I could not let poor Daddy worry any longer about me.
“Come for me, Yves,” I told the man, “if he seems worse, or if there is anything I can do.”
He came to me, and I saw that his eyes were full of tears as I put my hand out to him. He lifted it up to his lips with a sob.
So we two hurried back home. By this time the wind had abated a little, and the moon was shining through some great rifts in the clouds, the waters of the cove reflecting a shiny path. The road was no longer in darkness; I could see it dimly, rising to higher ground.
I will write again very soon,
From Mr. Walter B. Jelliffe to Miss Jane Van Zandt
My dear Jennie: