“Cornelia has been visiting or shopping,” he thought; “and if it were visiting, no one would part with her until the last moment; so then if she get home by dinner-time it is as much as I can expect. I may as well eat, and then wait in what patience I can, another hour or two—yes, it will be two hours. I will give her two hours—for she will be obliged to serve others before me. Well, well, patience is my penance.”
But in truth he expected the letter to be in advance of three o’clock. “Twenty words will answer me,” he thought; “yes, ten words; and she will find or make the time to write them;” and between this hope and the certainty of three o’clock, he worried the minutes away until three struck. Then there was a knock at his door and he went hastily to answer it. Balthazar stood there with the longed-for letter in his hand. He felt first of all that he must be quite alone with it. So he turned the key and then stood a moment to examine the outside. A letter from Cornelia! It was a joy to see his own name written by her hand. He kissed the superscription, and kissed the white seal, and sank into his chair with a sigh of delight to read it.
In a few moments a change beyond all expression came over his face— perplexity, anger, despair cruelly assailed him. It was evident that some irreparable thing had ruined all his hopes. He was for some moments dumb. He felt what he could not express, for a great calamity had opened a chamber of feeling, which required new words to explain it. This trance of grief was followed by passionate imprecations and reproaches, wearing themselves away to an utter amazement and incredulity. He had flung the letter to the floor, but he lifted it again and went over the cruel words, forcing himself to read them slowly and aloud. Every period was like a fresh sentence of death.
“‘Your letter has given me very great sorrow;’ let me die if that is not what she says; ’very great sorrow. You must have known for weeks, even months, that marriage between us was impossible;’ am I perfectly in my senses? ‘It always has been and always will be;’ why, ’tis heart treason of the worst kind! Can I bear it? Can I bear it? Can I bear it? Oh Cornelia! Cornelia! ‘We have been so happy.’ Oh it is piteous, sad. So young, so fair, so false! and she ‘Grieves at my going away,’ and bids me on ’no account call on her father’—and takes pains to tell me the ’no is absolute’—and I am not to ‘blame her.’ Oh this is the vilest treachery! She might as well have played the coquette in speech as writing. It is Rem Van Ariens who is at the bottom of it.