“’DEAR BESSIE: Charlie Munro is on board. He must have changed his passage to be with us. I know from something that he has just told me that this is so, and that he consoles himself already for your coldness. You remember what I told you when we talked about him. I shall try now. F.M.’
“Bessie would know what that meant. Oh, must I tell you what a weak, weak girl I was? When I found out at Lenox, as I thought, that Bessie did not care for you, I said to her that once I thought you had cared for me, but that papa had offended you by his manner—you weren’t of an old Knickerbocker family, you know—and had given you to understand that your visits were not acceptable.
“I am sure now that it was because I wanted to think so that I put that explanation upon your ceasing to visit me, and because papa always looked so decidedly queer whenever your name was mentioned.
“I had always had everything in life that I wanted, and I believed that in due time you would come back to me.
“Bessie knew well enough what that pilot-letter meant, for here is her answer.”
Pinned fast to the end of Fanny’s letter, so that by no chance should I read it first, were these words in my darling’s hand:
“Got your pilot-letter. Aunt is much better. We shall be traveling about so much that you need not write me the progress of your romance, but believe me I shall be most interested in its conclusion. BESSIE S.”
It was all explained now. My darling, so sensitive and spirited, had given her leave “to try.”
But was that all? Was she wearing away the slow months in passionate unbelief of me? I could not tell. But before I slept that night I had taken my resolve. I would sail for home by the next steamer. The case would suffer, perhaps, by the delay and the change of hands: D—— must come out to attend to it himself, then, but I would suffer no longer.
No use to write to Bessie. I had exhausted every means to reach her save that of the detectives. “I’ll go to the office, file my papers till the next man comes over, see Fanny Meyrick, and be off.”
But what to say to Fanny? Good, generous girl! She had indeed done what few women in the world would have had the courage to do—shown her whole heart to a man who loved another. It would be an embarrassing interview; and I was not sorry when I started out that morning that it was too early yet to call.
To the office first, then, I directed my steps. But here Fate lay perdu and in wait for me.
“A letter, Mr. Munro, from D—— & Co.,” said the brisk young clerk. They had treated me with great respect of late, for, indeed, our claim was steadily growing in weight, and was sure to come right before long. I opened and read:
“The missing paper is found on this side of the Atlantic—what you have been rummaging for all winter on the other. A trusty messenger sails at once, and will report himself to you.”