They brought him a letter while he stood there listening to that even-song, gazing at the old desert road. “Darling Dad,
“I do hope this will reach you before you move on to Palestine. You said in your last—at the end of September, so I hope you’ll just get it. There is one great piece of news, which I’m afraid will hurt and trouble you; Nollie is married to Jimmy Fort. They were married down here this afternoon, and have just gone up to Town. They have to find a house of course. She has been very restless, lonely, and unhappy ever since you went, and I’m sure it is really for the best: She is quite another creature, and simply devoted, headlong. It’s just like Nollie. She says she didn’t know what she wanted, up to the last minute. But now she seems as if she could never want anything else.
“Dad dear, Nollie could never have made good by herself. It isn’t her nature, and it’s much better like this, I feel sure, and so does George. Of course it isn’t ideal—and one wanted that for her; but she did break her wing, and he is so awfully good and devoted to her, though you didn’t believe it, and perhaps won’t, even now. The great thing is to feel her happy again, and know she’s safe. Nollie is capable of great devotion; only she must be anchored. She was drifting all about; and one doesn’t know what she might have done, in one of her moods. I do hope you won’t grieve about it. She’s dreadfully anxious about how you’ll feel. I know it will be wretched for you, so far off; but do try and believe it’s for the best.... She’s out of danger; and she was really in a horrible position. It’s so good for the baby, too, and only fair to him. I do think one must take things as they are, Dad dear. It was impossible to mend Nollie’s wing. If she were a fighter, and gloried in it, or if she were the sort who would ’take the veil’—but she isn’t either. So it is all right, Dad. She’s writing to you herself. I’m sure Leila didn’t want Jimmy Fort to be unhappy because he couldn’t love her; or she would never have gone away. George sends you his love; we are both very well. And Nollie is looking splendid still, after her harvest work. All, all my love, Dad dear. Is there anything we can get, and send you? Do take care of your blessed self, and don’t grieve about Nollie. “Gratian.”
A half-sheet of paper fluttered down; he picked it up from among the parched fibre of dead palm-leaves. “Daddy darling,
“I’ve done it. Forgive me-I’m so happy.
The desert shimmered, the palm-leaves rustled, and Pierson stood trying to master the emotion roused in him by those two letters. He felt no anger, not even vexation; he felt no sorrow, but a loneliness so utter and complete that he did not know how to bear it. It seemed as if some last link with life had’ snapped. ‘My girls are happy,’ he thought. ’If I am not—what does it matter? If my faith and my convictions mean nothing to them—why should they follow? I must and will not feel lonely. I ought to have the sense of God present, to feel His hand in mine. If I cannot, what use am I—what use to the poor fellows in there, what use in all the world?’