The Rose Door

Chapter 8

Four days later, a happy woman in a love-filled home sat studying her own name upon an unopened envelope. The writing was unfamiliar, so she inspected postmark and date for knowledge of the author, instead of reading the letter at once as a man would have done – so they say. After breaking the covering, she turned to the signature, but that was equally unknown. Then she began at the beginning:

"Dear Mrs. Miller:–
" Maybe you won't remember me, but I have never forgotten your kind eyes and Mary's lovely playthings. Miss Duncan once took me to visit you. I am the girl to whom Mary showed her dolls. I am writing you because I must tell you something. It will give you sorrow, but I have to tell you.

" Something so beautiful has just happened to me, that I am all the more sorry to make you sad. It is a letter that has made me so glad; while this letter will give you pain.

"My letter was not written to me, but to my doctor, though it was all about one who loved me and whom I loved.

"I will have to tell you quite a long story to show you why I ought to write to you before I go away forever–for to-morrow I am going to a place I shall never leave.

" Two years after Miss Duncan took me to see you and Mary's wonderful dolls, I met a Prince in Golden Gate Park. I did not know then that he was a Prince, but I know now. When it grew dark I was afraid and I cried, because I had no place to go. Then he took my hand and led me to a Palace. it was only one room, but now I know that it was a palace.

"Every day he took me on a trip to Fairyland. He called it tennis, theatre, lying on the beach sands, and many other happinesses. Hand in hand–always hand in hand – we sang and played all the days through, for two years. Then one day, the Prince turned into a spirit, and I couldn't see him any more, or hear his voice, or feel him with my hands. He didn't get sick, or die, or say good-bye! Just one day, I couldn't find him. He had given me beautiful clothes, and we dined to sweet music, but after I had called and called to him, I grew hungry, for there was nothing in the Palace to eat. Then piece by piece, I gave all the pretty things in the Palace for food. After awhile the food was all eaten and I got hungry again and then hungrier and hungrier.

"At last I knew that he could not hear me, so I went away. I wanted to die. My heart ached so much that at last it couldn't feel at all.

"I wandered about till one day I came to a place where I thought I would rest for awhile and then go on. But I never left it. No one can leave it. In this place it was as dark as the Palace had been light. It was filled with men who cared only to be naked and indecent. I tried to hide in a corner, but they pulled me out and laughed at me. They said I would get used to it, but I never did. Drink and drug helped a good deal, for they blurred my eyes and I was glad of that.

"Dear Mrs. Miller even you could not live this kind of life without drink and drug.

" Agnes Miller shivered and then blood-red, there danced across the page:" I am the girl to whom Mary showed her dolls."

"For three days I have left drink and drug alone, so that my head might be clear enough to write to you–you can't know how hard it has been to go without them.

"Because I couldn't get used to the men, an awful thing happened to me. My doctor calls it 'hallucination.' I will describe it to you. If anyone calls my attention to a man on the street or any other place, instantly his clothes fall to his feet and I see him naked and indecent. Once I stopped to listen to a Salvation Army girl talking to a crowd of men. She told them that they were made in the image of God. In a flash I saw every one of them standing naked and indecent before her. I turned and ran down the street, till a policeman stopped me and asked if I was drunk or crazy. It doesn't make any difference if it is a judge or a preacher; I can never see them any other way.

"But, oh, Mrs. Miller! the Prince went away to save me from a dreadful disease that came upon him. But I had already caught it, though I did not know it. Even my doctor was not sure till he got a letter – the dear, dear, letter I told you of from a far-off country telling of the death of my Prince. If only I could have gone with him! To live while he lived; to die when he died. If only he had told me.

"But now the second beautiful thing has come into my life. I am to go where I can rest, rest, rest! Where I can dream all over again the two joyous years in the Palace. To-morrow night they will take me to a leprosarium! Do not be afraid dear Mrs. Miller, for a friend has promised to copy this letter on to paper I have not touched.

" Again a shivering seized Mrs. Miller; again a scarlet line shot across the page –" I am the girl to whom Mary showed her dolls."

"And now–I don't know how to tell you–but I want to save your other son and Mary. Robert has been my friend for two years and has visited me often. Don't feel too bad because he came, for every man comes to my kind –"

Under Mrs. Miller's staring eyes, a thousand-legged worm straggled on to the paper. All its legs curled into wriggling letters, and the letters crawled apart, into writhing words; the words heaved and fell to the line:" And directly, or through those we love, in unavailing travail we shall learn the truth!" And the closing punctuation was a face – the face of Alice Duncan.

"You need not tell Robert, and he can be just as happy as ever till it does come, and maybe it will never come. But you can keep watch.

"Good-bye, dear Mrs. Miller, good-bye, forever!"

Mrs. Miller's chin tipped forward onto her chest.