At the first stop for letters he found one from his mother, which disturbed him more than any letter of hers had ever done before. She wrote:
DEAREST LADDY,—I am writing in much haste and some perturbation of mind for your advice. Last night, at the Desmonds’, Nick van Rensselaer came to me after dinner for a chat. I knew he had something upon his mind when he wasted his time talking to a woman.
And what do you think it was? The most astounding, impossible, quixotic, unlanguageable thing in the world! He wants to send Katrine Dulany abroad to study. He wants it to be done in my name, however, so that it will in nowise compromise her, and wishes to have all the credit of the kindness given to me. He says he does not want to be known in the matter at all; that the girl can regard the money as a loan, and return it to him if she becomes a great singer, of which resulting he seems to have no doubt.
You see the part I shall
be forced to take in the affair. I have
asked him for a few days to consider the proposition, and am
writing you for advice.
When are you coming? Every one is asking about you.
Lying on his back watching the crooked blue spots of the sky through the tree-tops of a Canadian forest, Francis read this letter over and over, and as he did so it seemed strange to him that he had not thought to help Katrine in this way himself. If she ever found out that he had done so she would probably never forgive him, but there were ways, he reasoned, to arrange it so that she could never find out.
His decision being made, he acted upon it immediately, and that night two letters, one addressed:
MONSIEUR PAUL ROGALLE,
de Rogalle, Dupont et Cie,
Faubourg Saint Honore,
were mailed by him at the neighboring posting-place of Pont du Coeur.
The morning after the writing of these letters Frank started farther north, and heard nothing of the outside world for more than a month. At North Point he found a bundle of letters, two from his mother, and another from Doctor Johnston, enclosing the note which Katrine had written him after her father’s death.
He opened the doctor’s first, and at sight of the enclosure his heart, in the homely old phrase, came to his throat.
It was a sad letter, thanking the doctor for all he had tried to do, speaking of her father’s suffering at some length, parsimonious of detail concerning her own life or future plans.