“If Magsie Clay should send you a bunch of letters, she will just do it to be a devil, and I want to ask you to burn them up before you read them. You know how you talked to me about divorce, Rachael! What you don’t know can’t hurt you. Don’t please Magsie Clay to the extent of doing exactly what she wants you to do. If anyone you love has been a fool, why, it is certainly hard to understand how they could, but you stand by what you said to me the other day, and forget it.
“I feel as if I was breaking into your own affairs. I hope you won’t care, and that I’m not all in the dark about this—” “Affectionately, Billy.”
This letter, creased from constant reading, Rachael showed to George Valentine a week later. The doctor, who had spent the week-end with his family at Clark’s Hills, was in his car and running past the gate of Home Dunes on his way back to town when Rachael stopped him. She looked her composed and dignified self in her striped blue linen and deep-brimmed hat, but the man’s trained look found the circles about her wonderful eyes, and he detected signs of utter weariness in her voice.
“Read this, George,” said she, resting against the door of his car, and opening the letter before him. “This came from Billy— Mrs. Pickering, you know—several days ago.”
George read the document through twice, then raised questioning eyes to hers, and made the mouth of a whistler.
“What do you think?” Rachael questioned in her turn.
“Lord! I don’t know what to think,” said George. “Do you suppose this can be true?”
Rachael sighed wearily, staring down the road under the warming leaves of the maples into a far vista of bare dunes in thinning September sunshine.
“It might be, I suppose. You can see that Billy believes it,” she said.
“Sure, she believes it,” George agreed. “At least, we can find out. But I don’t understand it!”
“Understand it?” she echoed in rich scorn. “Who understands anything of the whole miserable business? Do I? Does Warren, do you suppose?”
“No, of course nobody does,” George said hastily in distress. He regarded the paper almost balefully. “This is the deuce of a thing!” he said. “If she didn’t care for him any more than that, what’s all the fuss about? I don’t believe the threat about sending his letters, anyway!” he added hardily.
“Oh, that was true enough,” Rachael said lifelessly. “They came.”
George gave her an alarmed glance, but did not speak.
“A great package of them came,” Rachael added dully. “I didn’t open it. I had a fire that morning, and I simply set it on the fire.” Her voice sank, her eyes, brooding and sombre, were far away. “But I watched it burning, George,” she said in a low, absent tone, “and I saw his handwriting—how well I know it— Warren’s writing, on dozens and dozens of letters—there must have been a hundred! To think of it—to think of it!”