“My Dear Ruth,” he wrote. Then he stopped again, unable to find a beginning.
“I am writing because that will be easier for both of us,” he wrote— and then scratched it out, for it seemed to strike a personal note. He did not want to be personal, to allow any emotion to creep in.
“It is necessary to make some arrangements,” he began once more. That was better. Then, “I know you will not have gone away yet.” That meant away with Dulac, and she would so understand it. “I hope you will consent to stay in the apartment. Everything there, of course, is yours. It is not necessary for us to discuss money. I will attend to that carefully. In this state a husband must be absent from his wife for a year before she can be released from him. I ask you to be patient for that time.” That was all of it. There was nothing more to say. He read it, and it sounded bald, cold, but he could not better it.
At the end he wrote, “Yours sincerely,” scratched it out, and wrote, “Yours truly,” scratched that out, and contented himself by affixing merely his name. Then he copied the whole and dispatched it to his wife by messenger.
It arrived just after Ruth and Hilda returned.
“It’s from him,” said Ruth.
“Open it, silly, and see what he says.”
“I’m afraid. ...”
Hilda stamped her foot. “Give it to me, then,” she said.
Ruth held the note to her jealously. She opened it slowly, fearfully, and read the few words it contained.
“Oh...” she said, and held it out to Hilda. She had seen nothing but the bareness, the coldness of it.
“It’s perfect,” said Hilda. “It’s Bonbright. He didn’t slop over—he was trying not to slop over, but there’s love in every letter, and heartache in every word of it. ... And you couldn’t love him. Wish I had the chance.”
“You—you will have,” said Ruth, faintly.
“If I do,” said Hilda, shortly, “you bet I won’t waste it.”
Hilda knew her father. He could not keep his hands off any matter that interested him, and most matters did interest him. He had grown to have an idea that he could take hold of almost any sort of tangle or enterprise or concern and straighten it out. Probably it was because he was so exceedingly human. ... Therefore he was drawn irresistibly to his purchasing department and to Bonbright Foote.