Two or three days later Dirk Stroeve called on me.
“I hear you’ve seen Blanche,” he said.
“How on earth did you find out?”
“I was told by someone who saw you sitting with them. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought it would only pain you.”
“What do I care if it does? You must know that I want to hear the smallest thing about her.”
I waited for him to ask me questions.
“What does she look like?” he said.
“Does she seem happy?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“How can I tell? We were in a cafe; we were playing chess; I had no opportunity to speak to her.”
“Oh, but couldn’t you tell by her face?”
I shook my head. I could only repeat that by no word, by no hinted gesture, had she given an indication of her feelings. He must know better than I how great were her powers of self-control. He clasped his hands emotionally.
“Oh, I’m so frightened. I know something is going to happen, something terrible, and I can do nothing to stop it.”
“What sort of thing?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he moaned, seizing his head with his hands. “I foresee some terrible catastrophe.”
Stroeve had always been excitable, but now he was beside himself; there was no reasoning with him. I thought it probable enough that Blanche Stroeve would not continue to find life with Strickland tolerable, but one of the falsest of proverbs is that you must lie on the bed that you have made. The experience of life shows that people are constantly doing things which must lead to disaster, and yet by some chance manage to evade the result of their folly. When Blanche quarrelled with Strickland she had only to leave him, and her husband was waiting humbly to forgive and forget. I was not prepared to feel any great sympathy for her.
“You see, you don’t love her,” said Stroeve.
“After all, there’s nothing to prove that she is unhappy. For all we know they may have settled down into a most domestic couple.”
Stroeve gave me a look with his woeful eyes.
“Of course it doesn’t much matter to you, but to me it’s so serious, so intensely serious.”
I was sorry if I had seemed impatient or flippant.
“Will you do something for me?” asked Stroeve.
“Will you write to Blanche for me?”
“Why can’t you write yourself?”
“I’ve written over and over again. I didn’t expect her to answer. I don’t think she reads the letters.”
“You make no account of feminine curiosity. Do you think she could resist?”
I looked at him quickly. He lowered his eyes. That answer of his seemed to me strangely humiliating. He was conscious that she regarded him with an indifference so profound that the sight of his handwriting would have not the slightest effect on her.
“Do you really believe that she’ll ever come back to you?” I asked.
“I want her to know that if the worst comes to the worst she can count on me. That’s what I want you to tell her.”
I took a sheet of paper.
“What is it exactly you wish me to say?”
This is what I wrote:
DEAR MRS. STROEVE, Dirk wishes me to tell you that if at any time you want him he will be grateful for the opportunity of being of service to you. He has no ill-feeling towards you on account of anything that has happened. His love for you is unaltered. You will always find him at the following address: