Sandy stayed at the door with Annette, but Ruth came to the window and asked for her mail. When she smiled at the contrite Jimmy she scattered the few remaining ideas that lingered in his brain. With crimson face and averted eyes, he handed her the letter, forgetting that telegrams existed.
He saw her send a quick, puzzled glance from the letter to Sandy; he saw her turn away from the door and tear open the envelop; then, to his everlasting credit, he saw no more.
When he ventured forth from behind his desk the office was empty. He made a cautious survey of the premises; then, opening a back window, he seized a small bottle by the neck and hurled it savagely against the brick wall opposite.
THE IRONY OF CHANCE
The snow, which had begun as an insignificant flurry in the morning, developed into a storm by afternoon.
Four miles from town, in a dreary stretch of country, a dejected-looking object tramped along the railroad-track. His hat was pulled over his eyes and his hands were thrust in his pockets. Now and again he stopped, listened, and looked at his watch.
It was Sandy Kilday, and he was waiting for the freight-train with the fixed intention of committing suicide.
The complications arising from Jimmy Reed’s indiscretion had resulted disastrously. When Sandy found that Ruth had read his letter, his common sense took flight. Instead of a supplicant, he became an invader, and stormed the citadel with such hot-headed passion and fervor that Ruth fled in affright to the innermost chamber of her maidenhood, and there, barred and barricaded, withstood the siege.
His one desire in life now was to quit it. He felt as if he had read his death-warrant, and it was useless ever again to open his eyes on this gray, impossible world.
He did not know how far he had come. Everything about him was strange and unfriendly: the woods had turned to gaunt and gloomy skeletons that shivered and moaned in the wind; the sunny fields of ragweed were covered with a pall; and the river—his dancing, singing river—was a black and sullen stream that closed remorselessly over the dying snowflakes. His woods, his fields, his river,—they knew him not; he stared at them blankly and they stared back at him.
A rabbit, frightened at his approach, jumped out of the bushes and went bounding down the track ahead of him. The sight of the round little cottontail leaping from tie to tie brought a momentary diversion; but he did not want to be diverted.
With an effort he came back to his stern purpose. He forced himself to face the facts and the future. What did it matter if he was only twenty-one, with his life before him? What satisfaction was it to have won first honors at the university? There was but one thing in the world that made life worth living, and that was denied him. Perhaps after he was gone she would love him.