Jimmy recognized two letters a week from one person to one person as a danger-signal. His curiosity promptly rose to fever-heat. He even went so far as to weigh the letters, and roughly to calculate the number of pages in each. Once or twice he felt something hard inside, and upon submitting the envelop to his nose, he distinguished the faint fragrance of pressed flowers. It was perhaps a blessing in disguise that the duty of sorting the outgoing mail did not fall to his lot. One added bit of information would have resulted in spontaneous combustion.
By and by letters came daily, their weight increasing until they culminated, about Christmas-time, in a special-delivery letter which bristled under the importance of its extra stamp.
The same morning the telegraph operator stopped in to ask if the Nelsons had been in for their mail. “I have a message for Miss Nelson, but I thought they started for California this morning.”
“It’s to-morrow morning they go,” said Jimmy. “I’ll send the message out. I’ve got a special letter for her, and they can both go out by the same boy.”
When the operator had gone, Jimmy promptly unfolded the yellow slip, which was innocent of envelop.
Do not read special-delivery letter. Will explain.
For some time he sat with the letter in one hand and the message in the other. Why had Sandy written that huge letter if he did not want her to read it? Why didn’t he want her to read it? Questions buzzed about him like bees.
Large ears are said to be indicative of an inquisitive nature. Jimmy’s stood out like the handles on a loving-cup. With all this explosive material bottled up in him, he felt like a torpedo-boat deprived of action.
After a while he got up and went into the drug-store next door. When he came back he made sure he was alone in the office. Then he propped up the lid of his desk with the top of his head, in a manner acquired at school, and hiding behind this improvised screen, he carefully took from his pocket a small bottle of gasolene. Pouring a little on his handkerchief, he applied it to the envelop of the special-delivery letter.
As if by magic, the words within showed through; and by frequent applications of the liquid the engrossed Jimmy deciphered the following:
—like the moan of the sea in my heart, and it will not be still. Heart, body, and soul will call to you, Ruth, so long as the breath is in my body. I have not the courage to be your friend. I swear, with all the strength I have left, never to see you nor write you again. God bless you, my—
A noise at the window brought Jimmy to the surface. It was Annette Fenton, and she seemed nervous and excited.
“Mercy, Jimmy! What’s the m-matter? You looked like you were caught eating doughnuts in study hour. What a funny smell! Say, Jimmy; don’t you want to do something for me?”