“You can have all this—and I have lost it. And there isn’t much ahead of me. I shan’t always be ornamental, and then Mr. Knox will let me drop out of his life, as he has let others drop out. And there’ll be loneliness and old age and—nothing else.
“Oh, Nannie, I want you to marry Dick. I want you to know that all the rest is dust and ashes. I feel tired and old; and when I think of your youth, and beauty, I want Dick to have it, not Mr. Knox, who will flatter and—forget.
“Tear this letter
up, Nannie. It hasn’t been easy to write.
want anybody but you to read it.”
But Nannie did not tear it up.
She tucked it in her bag and went to telephone to Dick.
And would he meet her on the corner under the street lamp that night when she came home from the office? She had something to tell him.
Dick met Nannie, and presently they pursued their rapturous way. A little later Tommy Jackson passed by. Something caught his eye.
A bit of white paper.
He stooped and picked it up. It was Mary’s letter to Nannie. Nannie had cried into her little handkerchief while she talked to Dick, and in getting the handkerchief out of the bag the letter had come with it and had dropped unnoticed to the ground.
It had been years since Tommy had seen any of Mary’s writing. A sentence caught his eye, and he read straight through. After all, there are things permitted an officer of the law which might be unseemly in the average citizen.
And when he had read, Tommy began to say things beneath his breath. And the chances are that had Kingdon Knox appeared at that moment things would have fared badly with him.
But it was Mary Barker who came. She had under her arm in a paper parcel the fat doll with the blond curls and the blue socks. She did not see Tommy until she was almost upon him.
Then she said: “What are you doing here, Tommy?”
“Why shouldn’t I be here?”
“This isn’t your beat.”
“It has been my beat since two weeks ago. I’ve seen you go by every night, Mary.”
She stood looking up at him. And he looked down at her; and so, of course, their gaze met, and something that she saw in Tommy’s eyes made Mary’s overflow.
“Mary, darling,” said Tommy tenderly.
“You said you wouldn’t forgive me.”
“That was fifteen years ago.”
“Tommy, I’m sorry.”
Tommy stood very straight as became an officer of the law with, the eyes of the world upon him.
“May,” he said, “I just read your letter to Nannie. She dropped it. If I’d known the things in that letter fifteen years ago I’d have stayed on my job until I got you. But I thought you didn’t care.”
“I thought so too,” said Mary.
“But the letter told me that you wanted a husband’s loving heart and a strong arm,” said Tommy, “and, please God, you are going to have them, Mary. And now you run along, girl, dear. I can’t be making love when I’m on duty. But I’ll come and kiss you at nine.”