Thomas Dawson was busy in the kitchen trying to make the kettle boil, and to get the fire clear that he might do a piece of toast. He had already tidied up the grate and swept the floor, and as he stood by the table with the loaf in his hand, about to cut a slice, his eye wandered down through the dewy, sunny garden, where every tree and bush was beginning to show a little film of green over its brown branches.
But before he could notice anything in the garden, his attention was attracted by the sight of Daniel Magor, the postman, standing at the gate and fumbling with the latch. Thomas dropped the loaf and the knife, and went out to meet him, leaving the house-door wide open to the beautiful morning sunshine, which poured in in a wide stream right across the kitchen, lighting up with golden radiance the flowers in the window, the old-fashioned photographs on the wall, the china on the dressers, and the cat lying asleep on the scarlet cushion in the arm-chair by the fire.
When he saw Thomas coming the postman ceased fumbling with the latch and waited, holding two letters in his hand.
“Lovely weather, Mr. Dawson. You ain’t to work this morning!” he remarked in a tone of surprise.
Thomas shook his head slowly. “No, my wife is bad, she’ve been bad all night with a sick headache. She’s better this morning, but I stayed home to get her some breakfast, and tidy up a bit. When anybody’s sick they don’t feel they want to do much.”
“You’m right,” agreed the postman feelingly. “I gets sick headaches very bad myself, and when I wakes with one it seems to me I don’t care whether folk gets their letters or not. I am glad I didn’t feel like that this morning, Mr. Dawson, for it’s good to be alive on such a day, and I’ve got two letters for you.”
“Both of ’em for me!” said Thomas in surprise, and holding out his hand to take them. “I don’t think I’ve had two to once in my life before.”
The postman laughed. “If folks didn’t get more than you do we postmen would soon be out of a job, I reckon!” But Thomas was gazing at his letters with such a perplexed, preoccupied air, that he did not reply, and Daniel, with a long, inquiring look at him, said “Good-morning,” and went on his way.
“One is the seed-list,” muttered Thomas to himself, as he retraced his steps through the garden under the budding May-trees, “but it passes my understanding to know who can have sent the other. It—it can’t be from—from her,” he added, with sudden thought, speaking as though it pained him even to put such a thought into words.
The old cat, hearing his footsteps on the path, roused herself and went out to meet him, but for once he paid no heed to her, and passing into the house sat himself down in the chair by the window, while he still gazed with troubled eyes at the outside of the envelope, and the blurred post-mark which told him nothing. Moments passed before he could summon up courage to open it, for in his heart he felt almost certain who the writer was, and he dreaded to read what might be written; and when at last he did make up his mind, his hand trembled so as he tore open the envelope, that his misty eyes could scarcely make out what was written, or take in the meaning.