It was at Bar Harbor that he received the first letter from Katrine, in accordance with the compact that she should write her benefactor once a month. The letter had been forwarded from his Paris bankers, enclosed with business letters in a great envelope.
With a throbbing heart he opened it. She had touched it; it had been near her; one of those small, soft hands, with the dimples at the base of the fingers, had penned the strange, small writing:
DEAR UNKNOWN ONE,—There
is little to tell. I go every day to
Josef. He thinks it possible I may become a great singer.
I wonder about you, and feel something like Pip in “Great Expectations,” only I know how good and great you must be. Isn’t it fine to be like a fairy princess, who can do anything for people she chooses? And to have the heart to help—ah, that is the best of all!
In my mind, for we Irish imagine always, I have made you a stately lady, perhaps not very strong, who is much alone and has had a great sorrow, who helps the world because it is good to help. So every month I will send you letters of what I do and dream to do. If you are alone much, it may amuse you to read of my queer life here in Paris. If my letters bore you, you will not have to read them. I want only to show that I appreciate your help and your interest in me. To know Josef is the greatest thing, save one, that has come to my life. He gives me little slips of writing to pin up in my room to learn by heart. The last one read:
“What is it that
enables one to live through the dead calm which
succeeds a passionate desolation? Good work and hard work. The way
to live well is to work well.”
Ever gratefully yours,
Another letter came in the same mail, which Frank read with a distaste for the writer of it, for the affair that made such a letter possible. It was from another woman, but something in the fervent little soul beyond the seas called to him, to the best in him, and he tore the other note to pieces and wrote a line or two in answer which closed an affair before it was well begun.
For two months he had carried a letter which he had written to Katrine during the first week of his mother’s illness. He took it from his pocket and read it over now, wondering if it were wise to send it:
“I heard of your great sorrow sixty miles from a railroad in the Canadian woods. I started that night to see if I could help you. To speak truth, Katrine, I don’t know why I started to come to you, except that I could not stay away.
“In New York I met McDermott, who told me you had sailed to study with Josef. This did not change my plans in the least. But there came the question of that land on the other side of the river which detained me for several days, and then my mother’s dangerous illness.