Walter sent the letter--posted it the next morning as he went to the office. It is many years since, and he has not heard of it yet. But there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed.
The writing of this letter was a great strain to him, but he felt much relieved when it was gone. How differently did he feel after that other lying, flattering utterance, with his half-sleeping conscience muttering and grumbling as it lay. He walked then full of pride and hope, in the mid-most of his dream of lore and ambition; now he was poor and sad, and bowed down, but the earth was a place that might be lived in notwithstanding! If only he could find some thoroughly honest work! He would rather have his weakness and dejection with his humility, than ten times the false pride with which he paced the street before. It was better to be thus than so!
But as he came home that night, he found himself far from well, and altogether incapable of work. He was indeed ill, for he could neither eat nor sleep, nor take interest in anything. His friend Sullivan was shocked to see him look so pale and wild, and insisted he must go home. Walter said it might be but a passing attack, and it would be a pity to alarm them; he would wait a day or two. At length he felt so ill that one morning he did not get up. There was no one in the house who cared to nurse him; his landlady did little or nothing for him beyond getting him the cup of tea he occasionally wanted; Sullivan was himself ill, and for some days neither saw nor heard of him; and Walter had such an experience of loneliness and desertion as he had never had before. But it was a purgatorial suffering. He began to learn how insufficient he was for himself; how little self-sustaining power there was in him. Not there was the fountain of life! Words that had been mere platitudes of theological commonplace began to show a golden root through their ancient mold. The time came back to him when father and mother bent anxiously over their child. He remembered how their love took from him all fear; how even the pain seemed to melt in their presence; all was right when they knew all about it! they would see that the suffering went at the proper time! All gentle ministrations to his comfort, the moving of his pillows, the things cooked by his mother's own hands, her watch to play with--all came back, as if the tide of life had set in the other direction, and he was fast drifting back into childhood. What sleep he had was filled with alternate dreams of suffering and home-deliverance. He recalled how different his aunt had been when he was ill: in this isolation her face looking in at his door would have been as that of an angel! And he knew that all the time his debts were increasing, and when would he begin to pay them off! His mind wandered; and when Sullivan came at length, he was talking wildly, imagining himself the prodigal son in the parable.
Sullivan wrote at once to Mr. Colman.