It was six months after his entrance into his silent abode that a letter came for him.
"By rights, Culross," said the warden, "I should not give this letter to you. It isn't the sort we approve of. But you're in for a good spell, and if there is anything that can make life seem more tolerable, I don't know but you're entitled to it. At least, I'm not the man to deny it to you."
"MY DEAR FRIEND, -- I hope you do not think that all these months, when you have been suffering so terribly, I have been think- ing of other things! But I am sure you know the truth. You know that I could not send you word or come to see you, or I would have done it. When I first heard of what you had done, I saw it all as it hap- pened, -- that dreadful scene, I mean, in the saloon. I am sure I have imagined every- thing just as it was. I begged papa to help you, but he was very angry. You see, papa was so peculiar. He thought more of the appearances of things, perhaps, than of facts. It infuriated him to think of me as being concerned about you or with you. I did not know he could be so angry, and his anger did not die, but for days it cast such a shadow over me that I used to wish I was dead. Only I would not disobey him, and now I am glad of that. We were in France three months, and then, coming home, papa died. It was on the voyage. I wish he had asked me to forgive him, for then I think I could have remembered him with more tenderness. But he did nothing of the kind. He did not seem to think he had done wrong in any way, though I feel that some way we might have saved you. I am back here in Chicago in the old home. But I shall not stay in this house. It is so large and lonesome, and I always see you and father facing each other angrily there in the parlor when I enter it. So I am going to get me some cosey rooms in another part of the city, and take my aunt, who is a sweet old lady, to live with me; and I am going to devote my time -- all of it -- and all of my brains to getting you out of that terrible place. What is the use of telling me that you are a murderer? Do I not know you could not be brought to hurt anything? I suppose you must have killed that poor man, but then it was not you, it was that dreadful drink -- it was Me! That is what continually haunts me. If I had been a braver girl, and spoken the words that were in my heart, you would not have gone into that place. You would be innocent to-day. It was I who was responsible for it all. I let father kill your heart right there before me, and never said a word. Yet I knew how it was with you, and -- this is what I ought to have said then, and what I must say now -- and all the time I felt just as you did. I thought I should die when I saw you go away, and knew you would never come back again. Only I was so selfish, I was so wicked, I would say nothing.
"I have no right to be comfortable and hopeful, and to have friends, with you shut up from liberty and happiness. I will not have those comfortable rooms, after all. I will live as you do. I will live alone in a bare room. For it is I who am guilty! And then I will feel that I also am being punished.
"Do you hate me? Perhaps my telling you now all these things, and that I felt toward you just as you did toward me, will not make you happy. For it may be that you despise me.
"Anyway, I have told you the truth now. I will go as soon as I hear from you to a lawyer, and try to find out how you may be liberated. I am sure it can be done when the facts are known.
"Poor boy! How I do hope you have known in your heart that I was not for- getting you. Indeed, day or night, I have thought of nothing else. Now I am free to help you. And be sure, whatever happens, that I am working for you.
That was all. Just a girlish, constrained letter, hardly hinting at the hot tears that had been shed for many weary nights, coyly telling of the impatient young love and all the maidenly shame.