Both women dreaded and yet longed for the reply.
“It would be something to think about,” said Mary, wistfully.
“And yet,” said Miss Cornelia, thrusting away her embroidery frame, “do you know, Mary, sometimes I am afraid, just plain afraid! It seems almost like tempting fate. The sea took the best of my life away.”
Mary nodded understandingly.
“But it isn’t that way, honey. What comes from the sea this time will be making it up to you.”
Miss Cornelia looked at her doubtfully but said no more.
At last the expected letter arrived and Miss Cornelia carried it home with a wildly beating heart. She laid it before Mary, her throat too full for words.
Mary drew her silver rimmed spectacles down to her nose and squinted at the address. The romance touched her too.
“Mrs. Cornelia Baker. I ‘spose she thinks you’re a widdy.”
Miss Cornelia flushed a little. “And am I not, Mary?”
“‘Deed, yes, honey, you are. Let’s open it and find out.”
There spilled out upon the table from the enclosed letter a slip of paper. They both looked down at it and then at each other. It bore the name of a man and the name of a ship. Mary put her arms around Miss Cornelia and a few tears of joy were shed on ample shoulder.
Presently they read the kindly letter together, and Miss Cornelia went away to write a reply of gratitude that a little astonished the earnest-eyed woman who helped motherless boys and boyless mothers to find one another.
The first letter from the good ship Michigan was a never-to-be-forgotten event in the life of the little white house set in the gay little garden. Miss Cornelia read and reread it, and then read it aloud to Mary whose eyes glowed as she listened.
November 3, 1918
Dear Mother:When I got your letter, I wondered if here at last was someone who really belonged to me. Do you want us to really and truly belong? It isn’t just make-believe, is it? I don’t think from your letter that it is.
I will tell you about myself as you asked me to do. There isn’t really much to tell.
My parents both died in a fire in New York eighteen years ago when I was only a few months old. I was found and put into an orphan asylum where I grew up. From the time I was a little fellow, I have always had a hankering for the sea. There was a teacher in the orphans’ home that was good to me and helped me out, and after a good many ups and downs I got into the navy. It isn’t just what you would call an easy life but it is an interesting one. We learn a lot and we see a lot but it gets awfully lonesome sometimes. There’s a pretty good share of us haven’t any home at all. A fellow let me read a letter from his mother once and I cried like a baby over it.
I’m five feet, ten and a half, mother. How tall are you? I’ve just kind of got an idea that you’re little and sort of dainty and move quick, and your laugh--I can almost hear you laugh. That’s funny, isn’t it?
I'll send you my picture as soon as I can find one, and will send me yours? I want to know just how you look and not do too much guessing. And I’d like to know just a little bit about your life. I have a kind of an idea that you are a widow.
You will write again soon, won’t you?
Your loving son,
This letter also was addressed to Mrs. Cornelia Baker.
When she had finished reading it to Old Mary, she sat looking thoughtfully at the envelope.
“I must tell him the truth, Mary. There must be no deceit between me and--my son!” She dwelt lovingly on the word, with a dreamy smile in her eyes, then she tucked the letter into the bosom of her dress and went out to cut great bowls of bright cosmos and chrysanthemum to set about the house.
Her next letter included her picture and many questions about the boy’s work and plans and the happy assurance that they really and truly belonged to each other.
The part about herself she did not find so easy to write, but she launched into it fearlessly.