Seating herself in a cozy arm-chair close by the open window, Ida May opened the letter which was to be her death-warrant, and read as follows:
“Ida, I suppose the contents of this note will give you something of a shock; but it is best to know the truth now than later on. I shall come to the point at once, that you may not be kept in suspense.
“The truth is, Ida, that your confession has knocked all our little plans on the head. To write plainly, when I thoughtlessly married you, it was under the impression that you were the niece of the Mays — their future heiress. I have not told you much about myself in the past, but I am obliged to do so now.
“I am not at all a rich fellow. I am working along as best I can, living on what people call wits — and expectations, which make me a veritable slave to the whims of a capricious old aunt and uncle.
“They have decided that I must marry a girl who has money. I would not dare to present a portionless bride to them. In such a case, all my future prospects would be ruined. I must add that I have a still greater surprise for you. On leaving you, I purchased this morning’s paper, and the first item that met my eye was the absconding of the man who performed the ceremony for us last night. It appears that he was turned out of office some two days before, impeached, as it were, for embezzling money.
“All power was taken from him to act in the capacity of mayor. Thus the ceremony which we thought made us one is not binding. You are free as air. No one will be any the wiser, and you are none the worse for our little escapade — romance — call it what you will.
“A little affair in the life of a telegraph operator will not set the heart of the great world throbbing with excitement. I am sorry affairs have turned out this way; for, upon my word, I could have liked you. There is but one thing to do under the circumstances; that is, to part company. I advise you to go quietly back and marry the rich lover Mrs. Deering has selected for you. That will be better than drudging your life away in a telegraph office.
“This is all I have to say, and thus I take French leave of you. Forget me as quickly as you can, little girl. I am nearly dead broke, but I am generous enough to share what money I have with you. Enclosed you will find a twenty-dollar bill — quite enough to take you back to the village which you should never have left. Yours in great haste,
Once, twice, thrice — ay, a dozen times — the girl read the heartless letter through until every word was scorched into her brain in letters of fire, then it fluttered from her hands to the floor.
She sat quite still, like one petrified by a sudden awful horror; then creeping to the window, she raised the sash, and, looking up into God’s face through the glinting sunshine, asked the angels in Heaven to tell her if it was true that the husband she had but just wedded had deserted her.