It is Esther’s letter—probably some cold missive such as she wrote during their courtship and engagement.
David Lockwin is beginning to love his wife as a dog worships its master. He looks to her for safety. He wants to think of her as she is now—a sincere mourner for a dead friend, husband and protector; a superior being, capable of pity for David Lockwin.
“Is it wise to read it?” he asks in a dread. “But why should I not be generous? Why should I not love her—as I do love her? God forgive me! I do love her! I love her though she smite me now—cold, cold Esther!”
The man is crying. He cannot hear the banqueters. He has at last escaped from their world. His hands shake and he unseals the letter, careful to the last that no part of the envelope be torn.
He will read the cold letter. Cold, cold Esther! He kisses the envelope again and again. The sheets are drawn from the inclosure. She never wrote at such length before. He scans the first page. His face grows cold with the old look of disappointment. He wishes he had not read. He turns to the next page. The text changes in tone. There succeeds a warmth that heats the heart aglow.
David Lockwin passes his hands across his eyes. He is dazed. He reads on:
“Come back to me, my darling, and see how happy we shall be! Let the politics go—that killed Davy and makes us all so unhappy. You were created for something nobler. Let us go to Europe once more. Let’s seek the places where we have met in the past.”
How much more of this can David Lockwin endure?
His temples rise and grow blood-red. The gas seems to give no light. He reads like a man of short sight. His eyes kiss the sacred sheet.
“I love you! I love you! I shall die without you! Come home to me, and save me! I love you! I love you! I love you! I love—!”
David Lockwin has fainted.
The glasses chink, and heavy feet tramp on soft carpets, making a muffled sound.
“’Scuse me!” says a thick-voiced banqueter in the hall. “I thought it was my hat! Hooray! ’Scuse me! I know it’s pretty late. Whoop! ’Scuse me!”
The waiters bicker hotly; the counting-room bell rings afar off. There is a smothered cry of “Front!”
“All trains for the East—” comes a monotonous announcement in the corridors.
“Sixty-six! Number sixty-six!” screeches the carriage-crier.
A drunken refrain floats on the air from Wabash avenue:
“We won’t go home till morn-i-n-g,
T-i-l-l daylight doth appear.”
LETTERS OF CONSOLATION
On the Africa David Lockwin loved but one person, and that was David Lockwin.
On this morning after the banquet David Lockwin hates but one person, and that is David Lockwin.