Part 4 out of 4
For an instant Dexter looked as if he would destroy her, were it in
his power, by a single glance; then turning away he left the house,
muttering impotent threats.
And so the breach grew wider.
"I don't wonder that Jessie could not live with him," said Mrs.
Loring to herself. "Such a temper! Dear heart! Who can tell how much
she may have suffered?"
ONCE more Jessie found herself alone in the little chamber where her
gentle girlish life, had strengthened towards womanhood. Many times
had she visited this chamber since her marriage, going to it as to
some pilgrim-shrine, but never with the feelings that now crowded
upon her heart. She had returned as a dove, to the ark from the wild
waste of waters, wing-weary, faint, frightened--fluttering into this
holy place, conscious of safety. She was not to go out again.
Blessed thought! How it warmed the life-blood in her heart, and sent
the currents in more genial streams through every vein.
But alas! memory could not die. Lethe was only a fable of the olden
times. A place of safety is not always a place of freedom from pain.
It could not be so in this instance. Yet, for a time, like the
exhausted prisoner borne back from torture to his cell, the crushed
members reposed in delicious insensibility. The hard pallet was a
heaven of ease to the iron rack on which the quivering flesh had
been torn, and the joints wrenched, until nature cried out in agony.
Dear little room! Though its walls were narrow, and its furniture
simple even to meagreness, it was a palace in her regard to the
luxurious chambers she had left. It was all her own. She need not
veil her heart there. No semblances were required. No intrusion
feared. It seemed to her, for a time, as if she had been so lifted
out of the world, as to be no longer a part of it. The hum and shock
of men were far below her. She had neither part nor lot in common
But this could not last. She had formed relations with that world
not to be cast off lightly. She was a wife, violently separated from
her husband; and setting at defiance the laws which had bound them
On the third day Mrs. Dexter received a communication from her
husband. It was imperative, reading thus:
"MRS. DEXTER--I have twice sought to gain an interview, and twice
been repelled with insult. I now write to ask when and where you
will see me. We must meet, Jessie. This rash step, I fear, is going
to involve consequences far more disastrous than you have imagined.
It is no light thing for a woman to throw herself beyond the pale of
her husband's protection.--Something is owed to the world--something
to reputation--something to your good name; and much to your
husband. I may have been hasty, but I was sincere. There are some
things that looked wrong; _they look wrong still_, and will _always
look wrong_ if your present attitude is maintained. I wish to see
you, that we may, together, review these unhappy questions, and out
of a tangled skein bring even threads, if possible. Let me hear from
Twice Mrs. Dexter read this letter, hurriedly at first, but very
slowly the second time; weighing each word and sentence carefully.
She then laid it aside, and almost crouching down in her chair, fell
into such deep thought that she seemed more like one sleeping than
awake. She did not attempt an answer until the next day. Then she
penned the following:
"To LEON DEXTER--In leaving your house and your protection, I was
not governed by caprice or impulse. For some time I have seen that,
sooner or later, it must come to this; that the cord uniting us was
too severely strained, and must snap. I did not suppose the time so
near at hand--that you would drag upon it now with such a sudden
force. But the deed is done, and we are apart forever. I cannot live
with you again--your presence would suffocate me. There was a mutual
wrong in our marriage; but I was most to blame; for I knew that I
did not and never could love you as I believed a husband should be
loved. But you had extorted from me a promise of marriage, and I
believed it to be my duty to fulfill that promise. Young,
inexperienced, blind to the future, I took up the burdens you laid
at my feet, and believed myself strong enough to carry them all the
days of my life. It was a fatal error. How painfully I have
struggled on--how prayerfully, how patiently, how self-denyingly,
you can never know. Yet, without avail. I have fallen by the way,
and there is not strength enough in me to lift the burdens again. I
know this, and One besides; and I am content to rest the case with
Him. The world will blame--the church censure--the law condemn. Let
it be so. All that is light to the sufferings I have endured, and
from which I have fled.
"I cannot see you, Mr. Dexter--_I will not see you_. Our ways in
this world have parted, and forever. The act was not mine, but
yours. You flung me off with a force that overcame all scruple--all
question of right--all effort to cling to you as my husband. I was
trying, in my feeble way--for not much power remained--to be a
dutiful wife, when you extinguished all hope of success by a charge
as false as the evil spirit who whispered in your too willing ears a
suspicion of infidelity against one who had never permitted a
thought of wrong towards her husband to enter even the outermost
portal of her mind. I had not seen the person to whom you allude
since my accidental meeting with him at Newport, so basely construed
into design; and his passing my window at the moment you returned
home, was as unexpected to me as to you.
"I had hoped that my previous solemn assurances were sufficient to
give you confidence in my integrity. But this was an error. You had
no faith in me; and assailed me with violence when my thoughts were
as true to honor as ever were yours. Did you imagine that I could
lie passive at your feet, so trampled down and degraded? No, sir!
God gave me a higher consciousness--a purer spirit--a nobler
individuality! You should have mated one of a different stamp from
"And yet I pity you, Leon Dexter! This web of trouble, which your
own hands have woven around your life, will fetter and gall you at
every step in your future journey. I have not left you in a spirit
of retaliation; but simply because the natural strain of repulsion
was stronger than all the attractive forces that held us together. I
only obeyed a law against which weak nature strove in vain. Were it
in my power, I would make all your future bright with the warmest
sunshine. But over your future I have no control--yet, sadly enough,
are our destinies linked, and the existence of each will be a thorn
in the other's heart.
"I have not much strength left. The contest has nearly extinguished
my life. This is the last struggle I shall have with you. My first
weak thought was to return your letter without a word in reply. But
that would have been a wrong to both; and so I have made you this
communication, and you must regard it as final. Farewell, unhappy
Leon Dexter! I would have saved you from this calamity, but you
would not let me! May He who has permitted you thus to drag down the
temple of domestic happiness, and bury yourself amid the ruins, give
you, in this direful calamity, a higher than human power of
endurance. May the fierce flames of this great ordeal, find gold in
your character beyond the reach of fire. Farewell, forever! and may
God bless and keep you! The prayer is from a heart yet free from
guile, and the lips that breathe it upward are as pure as when you
laid upon them the marriage kiss! God keep them as guileless and as
Dexter accepted the decision of his wife as final. What else was
left for him? He would have been the dullest of men not to have seen
the spirit of this answer, shining everywhere through the letter.
Something more than feebly dawned the conviction in his mind, that
he had foully wronged his wife, and that the fearful calamity which
had overtaken him in the morning of his days, was of his own
creating. He did not again attempt to see her; made no further
remonstrance; offered no kind of annoyance. A profound respect for
the suffering woman who had abandoned him, took the place of
indignation against her. In silence he sat down amid his crushed
hopes and broken idols, and waited for light to guide him and
strength to walk onward. Like thousands of other men, he had
discovered that a human soul was not a plaything, nor a piece of
machinery to wind up and set in motion at will; and like thousands
of other men, he had made this discovery too late.
WITHOUT a note of warning, the public were startled by the news that
Mrs. Dexter had left her husband. Wisely, sober second thought laid
upon the lips of Mr. Dexter the seal of silence. He gave no reason
for the step his wife had taken, and declined answering all
inquiries, even from his nearest friends. From a man of impulse, he
seemed changed at once into a man of deliberate purpose. His elegant
home was not given up, though he lived in it a kind of half hermit
life. Abroad, he was reserved; while everything about him gave signs
of a painful inward conflict.
Of course, the social air was full of rumors, probable and
improbable, but none of them exactly true. Mrs. Dexter was wholly
silent, except to her wisest and truest friend, Mrs. De Lisle--and
her discretion ever kept her guarded. Mrs. Loring simply alleged
"incompatibility of temper"--that vague allegation which covers with
its broad mantle so wide a range of domestic antagonisms. And so the
public had its appetite piqued, and the nine days' wonder became the
wonder of a season. Hints towards the truth were embellished by
gossips' ready imaginations, and stories of wrong, domestic (sic)
tyrrany, infidelity, and the like, were passed around, and related
with a degree of circumstantiality that gave them wide credence. Yet
in no instance was the name of Hendrickson connected with that of
Mrs. Dexter. So transient had been their intercourse, that no eye
but that of jealousy had noted their meeting as anything beyond the
meeting of indifferent acquaintances.
It was just one week from the day Paul Hendrickson caught an
unexpected glimpse of Mrs. Dexter's face at the window, and passed
on with her image freshened in his heart, that he called in at the
Ardens', after an unusually long absence, to spend an evening. Miss
Arden's countenance lighted with a sudden glow on his appearance,
the rich blood dyeing her cheeks, and giving her face a heightened
charm; and in the visitor's eyes there was something gentler and
softer in her beauty than he had before observed. He probably
guessed the cause; and the thought touched his feelings, and drew
his heart something nearer to her.
"That is a painful story about Mrs. Dexter," said Mrs. Arden, almost
as soon as the young man came in. The recently heard facts were
uppermost in her thoughts.
"What story? I have not heard anything." Hendrickson was on his
guard in a moment; though he betrayed unusual interest.
"It is dreadful to think of!" said Miss Arden. "What a wretched
creature she must be! I always thought her one of the best of women.
Though I must own that at Saratoga last summer, she showed rather
more fondness for the society of other men than she did for that of
"I am still in the dark," said Mr. Hendrickson, with suppressed
"Then you haven't heard of it? Why, it's the town talk."
"There's been a separation between Mrs. Dexter and her husband,"
remarked Mrs. Arden. "She left him several days ago, and is now with
her aunt, Mrs. Loring."
"A separation! On what ground?" Hendrickson's breathing oppressed
"Something wrong with Mrs. Dexter, I am told. She had too many
admirers--so the story goes; and, worse still--for admiration she
couldn't help--one lover."
It was Mrs. Arden who said this.
"Who was the lover?" asked Mr. Hendrickson. His voice was so quiet,
and his tones so indifferent, that none suspected the intense
interest with which he was listening.
"I have not heard his name," replied Mrs. Arden.
"Does he live in this city?"
"I believe not. Some new acquaintance, made at Newport, I think. You
remember that she was very ill there last summer?"
"Well, the cause of that illness is now said to have been a
discovery by Mr. Dexter of some indiscretion on her part, followed
by angry remonstrance on his."
"That is the story?"
"And what caused the separation which has just taken place?"
"A renewal of this intimacy," said Mrs. Arden.
"A very serious charge; and, I believe without foundation in truth,"
replied Hendrickson. He spoke slowly, yet not with strong emphasis.
His auditors did not know that he was simply controlling his voice
to hide his agitation.
"Oh, there is no doubt as to its truth," said Mrs. Arden. "The facts
have been substantiated; so Mrs. Anthony told me to-day; and she has
been one of Mrs. Dexter's most intimate friends."
"What facts?" inquired Hendrickson.
"Facts, that if they do not prove crime against Mrs. Dexter, show
her to have been imprudent to the verge of crime."
"Can you particularize?" said the young man.
"Well, no I can't just do that. Mrs. Anthony ran on at such a rate
that I couldn't get the affair adjusted in my mind. But she asserts
positively that Mrs. Dexter has gone considerably beyond the
boundary of prudence; and she is no friend of Dexter's, I can assure
you. As far as I can learn, there have been frequent meetings
between this lover and Mrs. Dexter during the husband's absence. An
earlier return home, a few days ago, led to a surprise and an
exposure. The result you know."
"I must make bold to pronounce this whole story a fabrication," said
Mr. Hendrickson, with rising warmth; "It is too improbable."
"Worse things than that have happened, and are happening every day,"
remarked Mrs. Arden.
"Still I shall disbelieve the story," said Mr. Hendrickson, firmly.
"What else would justify him in sending her home to her aunt?" asked
"He sent her home, then? That is the report?" remarked Hendrickson.
"Some say one thing and some another."
"And a story loses nothing in the repetition."
"You are very skeptical," said Miss Arden.
"I wish all men and women were more skeptical than they are, in
touching the wrong doings of others," replied the young man. "The
world is not so bad as it seems. Now I am sure that if the truth of
this affair could really be known, we should find scarcely a single
fact in agreement with the report. I have heard that Mr. Dexter is
blindly jealous of his wife."
"Oh, as to that, Mrs. Anthony says that he made himself ridiculous
by his jealousy at Saratoga last summer. And I now remember that he
used to act strangely sometimes," said Mrs. Arden.
"A jealous man," returned Hendrickson, "is a very bad judge of his
wife's conduct; and more likely to see guilt than innocence in any
circumstance that will bear a double explanation. Let us then lean
to the side of charity, and suppose good until the proof of evil
stares us in the very face; as I shall do in this instance. I have
always believed Mrs. Dexter to be the purest of women; and I believe
Both Mrs. Arden and her daughter seemed annoyed at this defence of a
woman against whom they had so readily accepted the common rumor.
But they said nothing farther. After that an unusual embarrassment
marked their intercourse. As early as he could, with politeness,
retire, Hendrickson went away. He did not err in his own elucidation
of the mystery; for he remembered well the vision of Mrs. Dexter's
face at the window--her instant sign of feeling--his own quick but
not meditated response--and the sudden appearance of her husband,
whose clouded countenance was full of angry suspicion.
"To this!--and so soon!" said Hendrickson to himself, as he left the
house of Mrs. Arden. "Oh, that I could stretch out my hand to save
her!--That I could shield her from the tempests!--That I could
shelter her from the burning heats! But I cannot. There is a great
gulf between us, and I may not pass to her, nor she to me. Oh, my
soul! is this separation to be for all time?"
There was rebellion in the heart of Paul Hendrickson when he reached
his home; and a wild desire to overleap all barriers of separation.
"There will be a divorce in all probability," so he began talking
with himself. "Jessie will never return to him after this violent
separation; and he, after a time, will ask to have the marriage
annulled. He will not be able to bring proof of evil against
her--will, I am sure, not even attempt it; for no evidence exists.
But her steady refusal to live with him as his wife, will enable
him, it may be, to get a divorce. And then!"
There was a tone of exultation in his voice at the closing words.
"And whosoever marrieth her which is put away, committeth adultery."
Hendrickson started to his feet, his face as pale as ashes, and
glanced almost fearfully about the room. The voice seemed spoken in
the air--but it was not so. The warning had reached his sense of
hearing by an inner way.
Then he sat down, and pondered this new question, so suddenly
presented for solution, turning it towards every light--viewing it
now from the side of human feeling and human reason--and now with
the light of Divine Revelation shining upon it. But he was not
satisfied. The letter of the record was against him; but nature
cried out for some different reading. At length he made an effort to
thrust the subject aside.
"What folly is this?" he said, still talking with himself. "Wait!
wait! wait!--the time is not yet. Separation only exists. There is
no divorce. The great, impassable gulf is yet between us. I cannot
go to her. She cannot come to me. I must wait, hopefully, if not
patiently, the issue of events."
The thoughts of Hendrickson had once more been turning themselves
towards Miss Arden, and he had felt the glow of warmer feelings. He
had even begun to think again of marriage.
"Let that illusion go!" he said. "It must no longer tempt me to the
commission of an act that reason and conscience both pronounce
wrong. I do not love Mary Arden; therefore, I will not marry her. I
settle that matter now, and forever."
And the decision was final. He did not visit her again for many
months, and then only after her engagement to another.
THERE were plenty of intrusive friends to give Mr. Dexter advice as
to how he should act towards the unhappy woman who had fled from him
in her despair. He was rich, good-hearted--as the world
goes--honorable, domestic in his feelings and habits; everything, in
fact, that society requires in the composition of a good husband.
The blame, therefore, among the friends of Mr. Dexter, was all on
the side of his wife.
"You will, of course, if she persists in this unwarrantable conduct,
demand a legal separation," said one.
"That is just what she wants," suggested another. "You could not
grant her a higher favor."
"Wait--wait," was the advice of a third.
And so the changes were rung. Dexter listened, pondered, suffered;
but admitted no one into the council chamber of his heart. There
were some things known only to himself and the one he had driven
from him, which he did not care to reveal. The shock of separation
had rent away a few scales from his eyes, and his vision was
clearer; but the clearer vision did not lessen his misery--for
self-upbraidings crowded in with the illustrating light.
For a while, jealous suspicion kept him watchfully alive to the
movements of Paul Hendrickson. In order to gain the most undoubted
information in regard to him, he secured the services of an
intelligent policeman, who, well paid for his work, kept so sharp an
eye upon him, that he was able to report his whereabouts for almost
every hour of the day and evening.
Days, weeks, months even passed, and the policeman's report varied
scarcely a sentence. The range of Hendrickson's movements was from
his place of business to his lodgings. Once a week, perhaps, he went
out in the evening; but never were his steps directed to the
neighborhood in which the object of his waking and dreaming thoughts
In part, this knowledge of Hendrickson's mode of living relieved the
mind of Dexter; yet, when viewed in certain lights, it proved a
cause of deeper disturbance. His conclusions in the case were near
the truth. Hendrickson's withdrawal of himself from society--his
hermit-like life--his sober face and musing aspect--seemed only so
many evidences of his undying love for Mrs. Dexter. That an
impassable barrier existed (sic) betwen them--that, as things were,
even a friendly intercourse would be next to crime--Hendrickson
felt; and Dexter's clearer perceptions awarded him a just conclusion
in this particular.
So far as Mrs. Dexter was concerned, the heavy curtain that fell so
suddenly between her and the world was not drawn aside--not
uplifted--even for a moment. Her deep seclusion of herself was
nun-like. Gradually new objects of interest--new causes of
excitement--pressed the thought of her aside, and her name grew a
less and less familiar sound in fashionable and family circles. Some
thought of her as a wronged woman--some as a guilty woman--yet all
with a degree of sympathy.
A year Mr. Dexter waited for some sign from his wife. But if the
grave had closed over her, the isolation from him could not have
been more perfect. He then sold his house, removed to a hotel, and
made preparations for an absence in Europe of indefinite
continuance. He went, and was gone for over two years.--Returned,
and almost immediately on his arrival, took legal steps for
procuring a divorce. Mrs. Dexter received due notice of these
proceedings, based simply on her abandonment of her husband, and
refusal to live with him as a wife. But she remained entirely
passive. The proceedings went on, and in due time Mr. Dexter
obtained what he sought, a divorce. Within a month after the decree
in his favor, he returned across the Atlantic.
The publication of this decree awakened a brief interest in Mrs.
Dexter--or rather in plain Jessie Loring, as she was now in legal
aspect. But the curious public were not able to acquire any
satisfactory information in regard to her. The world in which she
lived was a _terra incognita_ to them.
The next exciting news which came in this connection, was the
announcement of Dexter's marriage with an English heiress. He did
not return with her to the United States; but remained in England,
where he established a foreign branch of the mercantile house in
which he was a partner, and took up his permanent residence beyond
Six years from the day Jessie Loring laid her bleeding heart on the
marriage altar had passed. For over three years of that time she had
not stepped beyond the threshold of her aunt's dwelling, and only at
rare intervals was she seen by visitors. She had not led an idle
life, however; else would her days long ere this have been numbered.
To her aunt and cousins she had, from the day of her return, devoted
herself, in all things wherein she could aid, counsel, minister, or
sustain; and that with so much of patient cheerfulness, and loving
self-devotion, that she had become endeared to them beyond any
former attachment. There was an odor of goodness about her life that
made her presence an incentive to right action.
Long before this period, Mrs. Loring had ceased all efforts to lead
Jessie out of her self-imposed seclusion.
"Not yet, dear aunt! Not yet," was the invariable answer.
The day on which she received formal notice that her husband had
applied for a divorce, she shut herself up in her room, and did not
leave it, nor hold communion with any one, until the next morning.
Then, with the exception of a wearied look, as if she had not slept
well, and a shade of sadness about her lips, no change was
discernible. When the decree, annulling the marriage between her and
Dexter, was placed in her hands, she seemed bewildered for a time,
as if she found it almost impossible to realize her new position.
"I congratulate you, Jessie Loring!" said her aunt, speaking from
her external view of the case. "You are free again. Free as the
"This does not place me where I was," Jessie replied.
"Why not? The law has cancelled your marriage!" said Mrs. Loring.
"You stand in your old relation to the world."
"But not to myself," Jessie answered with a deep sigh; and leaving
her aunt, she went away to her little chamber, there to sit in
solemn debate over this new aspect of affairs in her troubled life.
No--no. She did not stand in her old relation to herself. She was
not a maiden with lips free from the guile of a false marriage
promise; but a divorced wife. A thing questionably recognized, both
in human opinion and divine law. Deeply and solemnly did this
conviction weigh upon her thoughts. View the case in any of the
lights which shone into her mind, she could not discover an aspect
that gave her real comfort. It is true she was free from all legal
obligations to her former husband, and that was something gained.
But what of that husband's position under the literal reading of the
divine law? No doubt he contemplated marriage. But could he marry,
conscience clear? Had not her false vows cursed both their
lives?--imposed on each almost impossible necessities?
Such were the questions that thrust themselves upon her, and
clamored for solution.
She had not solved them when the intelligence came of Mr. Dexter's
marriage in England.
"I have news that will surprise you," said Mrs. Loring, coming into
the sitting-room where Jessie was at work on a piece of embroidery.
"What is it?" she asked, looking up almost with a start, for
something in her aunt's manner told her that she had a personal
interest in the news.
"Mr. Dexter is married!"
Instantly a pallor overspread Jessie's face.
"Married to an English lady," said Mrs. Loring.
Jessie looked at her aunt for a little while, but without a remark.
She then turned her eyes again upon her embroidery, lifting it close
to her face. But her hand trembled so that she could not take a
"I hope he's satisfied now," said Mrs. Loring. "He's married an
heiress--so the story goes; and is going to reside with her in
England. I'm glad of that any how. It might not be so pleasant for
you to meet them--sensitive thing that you are! But it wouldn't
trouble _me_. _I_ could look them both in the face and not blink.
Much joy may he have with his English bride! Bless me, child, how
you do tremble!" she added, as she noticed the fingers of her niece
trying in vain to direct the needle she held upon the face of the
embroidery. "It's nothing more than you had to expect. And, besides,
what is Leon Dexter to you now? Only as another man?"
Jessie arose without speaking, and kissing her aunt in token of
love, passed quickly from the room.
"Dear! dear! what a strange child it is!" said Aunt Loring, as she
wiped off a tear which had fallen from Jessie's eyes upon her cheek.
"Just like her mother for all the world in some things"--the last
part of the sentence was in a qualifying tone--"though," she went
on, "her mother hadn't anything like her trials to endure. Oh, that
Dexter! if I only had my will of him!"
And Aunt Loring, in her rising indignation, actually clenched her
hand and shook it in the air.
"It has come to this at last," said Jessie as soon as she had gained
the sanctuary of her little chamber, where she could think without
interruption. "And I knew it must come; but oh, how I have dreaded
the event! Is he innocent in the sight of heaven? Ah, if I could
only have that question answered in the affirmative, a crushing
weight would be lifted from my soul. If he is not innocent, the
stain of his guilt rests upon my garments! He is not alone
responsible. Who can tell the consequences of a single false step in
From a small hanging shelf she took a Bible, and opening to a marked
page, read over three or four verses with earnest attention.
"I can see no other meaning," she said with a painful sigh, closing
the book and restoring it to its place on the shelf. It was all in
vain that Jessie Loring sought for light and comfort in this
direction. They were not found. When she joined her aunt, some hours
afterwards, her face had not regained its former placidity.
"Well, dear," said Mrs. Loring, speaking in what sounded to the ear
of her niece a light tone, "have you got it all right with
Jessie smiled faintly, and merely answered--
"It will take time. But I trust that all will come out truly
adjusted in the end."
She had never ventured to bring to her aunt's very external judgment
the real questions that troubled her. Mrs. Loring's prompt way of
sweeping aside these cobwebs of the brain, as she called the finer
scruples of conscience, could not satisfy her yearning desire for
"Yes; time works wonders. He is the great restorer. But why not see
clearly at once; and not wait in suffering for time's slow
movements? I am a wiser philosopher than you are, Jessie; and try to
gain from the present all that it has to give."
"Some hearts require a severer discipline than others," said Jessie.
"And mine, I think, is one of them."
"All that is sickly sentiment, my dear child! as I have said to you
a hundred times. It is not shadow, but sunshine that your heart
wants--not discipline, but consolation--not doubt, but hope. You are
as untrue to yourself as the old anchorites. These self-inflicted
stripes are horrible to think of, for the pain is not salutary, but
only increases the morbid states of mind that ever demand new
"We are differently made, Aunt Phoebe," was the quiet answer.
"No, we are not, but we make ourselves different," replied Mrs.
Loring a little hastily.
"The world would be a very dead-level affair, if we were all made
alike," said Jessie, forcing a smile, and assuming a lighter air, in
order to lead her aunt's mind away from the thought of her as too
painfully disturbed by the announcement of Mr. Dexter's marriage.
And she was successful. The subject was changed to one of a less
embarrassing character. And this was all of the inner life of Jessie
Loring that showed itself on the surface.
AND what of Paul Hendrickson during these years of isolation, in
which no intelligence could be gained of Jessie, beyond vague
rumors? For a time, he secluded himself. Then he returned to a few
of the old social circles, not much changed to the common eye. His
countenance was a little graver; his voice a little lower; his
manner a trifle more subdued. But he was a cheerful, intelligent
companion, and always a welcome guest.
To no one, not even to his old friend, Mrs. Denison, did he speak of
Mrs. Dexter. What right had he to speak of her? She was still the
lawful wife of another man, though separated from him by her own
act. But not to think of her was as impossible as not to think at
all--not to gaze upon her image as impossible as to extinguish the
inner vision. She was always by his side, in spirit; her voice
always in his ears; her dear face always before him. "The cup is
dashed to pieces at my feet, and the precious wine spilled!" How
many, many, many times, each day, did he hear these words uttered,
always in that sad, half-desponding voice that first brought them to
his ears; and they kept hope in the future alive.
The separation which had taken place Hendrickson regarded as one
step in the right direction. When the application for a divorce was
made, he hailed it with a degree of inward satisfaction that a
little startled himself. "It is another step in the right
direction," he said, on the instant's impulse.
Reflection a little sobered him. "Even if the divorce is granted,
what will be her views of the matter?"
There came no satisfactory answer to this query.
A thick curtain still veiled the future. Many doubts troubled him.
Next, in the order of events, came the decision by which the
marriage contract between Dexter and his wife was annulled. On the
evening of the same day on which the court granted the petitioner's
prayer, Hendrickson called upon Mrs. Denison. She saw the moment he
came in that he was excited about something.
"Have you heard the news?" he inquired.
"What news?" Mrs. Denison looked at him curiously.
"Leon Dexter has obtained a divorce."
"Yes. And so that long agony is over! She is free again."
Hendrickson was not able to control the intense excitement he felt.
Mrs. Denison looked at him soberly and with glances of inquiry.
"You understand me, I suppose?"
"Perhaps I do, perhaps not," she answered.
"Mrs. Denison," said the young man, with increasing excitement, "I
need scarcely say to you that my heart has never swerved from its
first idolatry. To love Jessie Loring was an instinct of my
nature--therefore, to love her once was to love her forever. You
know how cruelly circumstances came with their impassable barriers.
They were only barriers, and destroyed nothing. As brightly as ever
burned the fires--as ardently as ever went forth love's strong
impulses with every heart-beat. And her heart remained true to mine
as ever was needle to the pole."
"That is a bold assertion, Paul," said Mrs. Denison, "and one that
it pains me to hear you make."
"It is true; but why does it give you pain?" he asked.
"Because it intimates the existence of an understanding between you
and Mrs. Dexter, and looks to the confirmation of rumors that I have
always considered as without a shadow of foundation."
"My name has never been mentioned in connection with hers."
"It is true."
"I never heard it."
"Nor I but once."
"What was said?"
"That you were the individual against whom Mr. Dexter's jealousy was
excited, and that your clandestine meetings with his wife led to the
"I had believed," said Hendrickson, after a pause, and in a voice
that showed a depression of feeling, "that busy rumor had never
joined our names together. That it has done so, I deeply regret. No
voluntary action of mine led to this result; and it was my opinion
that Dexter had carefully avoided any mention of my name, even to
his most intimate friends."
"I only heard the story once, and then gave it my emphatic denial,"
said Mrs. Denison.
"And yet it was true, I believe, though in a qualified sense. We did
meet, not clandestinely, however, nor with design."
"But without a thought, much less a purpose of dishonor," said Mrs.
Denison, almost severely.
"Without even a thought of dishonor," replied Hendrickson. "Both
were incapable of that. She arrived at Newport when I was there. We
met, suddenly and unexpectedly, face to face, and when off our
guard. I read her heart, and she read mine, in lightning glimpses.
The pages were shut instantly, and not opened again. We met once or
twice after that, but as mere acquaintances, and I left on the day
after she came, because I saw that the discipline was too severe for
her, and that I was not only in an equivocal, but dangerous, if not
dishonorable position. Dexter had his eyes on me all the while, and
if I crossed his path suddenly he looked as if he would have
destroyed me with a glance. The fearful illness, which came so near
extinguishing the life of Mrs. Dexter, was, I have never doubted, in
consequence of that meeting and circumstances springing directly
therefrom. A friend of mine had a room adjoining theirs at Newport,
and he once said to me, without imagining my interest in the case,
that on the day before Mrs. Dexter's illness was known, he had heard
her voice pitched to a higher key than usual, and had caught a few
words that too clearly indicated a feeling of outrage for some
perpetrated wrong. There was stern defiance also, he said, in her
tones. He was pained at the circumstance, for he had met Mrs. Dexter
frequently, he said, at Newport, and was charmed with her fine
intelligence and womanly attractions.
"Once after that we looked into each other's faces, and only once.
And then, as before, we read the secret known only to ourselves--but
without design. I was passing her residence--it was the first time I
had permitted myself even to go into the neighborhood where she
lived, since her return from Newport. Now something drew me that
way, and yielding to the impulse, I took the street on which her
dwelling stood, and ere a thought of honor checked my footsteps, was
by her door. A single glance at one of the parlor windows gave me
the vision of her pale face, so attenuated by sickness and
suffering, that the sight filled me with instant pity, and fired my
soul with a deeper love. What my countenance expressed I do not
know. It must have betrayed my feelings, for I was off my guard. Her
face was as the page of a book suddenly opened. I read it without
losing the meaning of a word. There was a painful sequel to this.
The husband of Mrs. Dexter, as if he had started from the ground,
confronted me on the instant. Which way he came--whether he had
followed me, or advanced by an opposite direction, I know not. But
there he stood, and his flashing eyes read both of our unveiled
faces. The expression of his countenance was almost fiendish.
"I passed on, without pause or start. Nothing more than the
answering glances he had seen was betrayed. But the consequences
were final. It was on that day that Mrs. Dexter left her husband,
never again to hold with him any communication. I have scarcely
dared permit myself to imagine what transpired on that occasion. The
outrage on his part must have been extreme, or the desperate
alternative of abandonment would never have been taken by such a
"There, my good friend and aforetime counsellor," added Hendrickson,
"you have the unvarnished story. A stern necessity drew around each
of us bands of iron. Yet we have been true to ourselves--and that
means true to honor. But now the darker features of the case are
changed. She is no longer the wife of Leon Dexter. The law has
shattered every link of the accursed chain that held her in such a
He paused, for the expression of Mrs. Denison's countenance was not
by any means satisfactory.
"Right, so far," said Mrs. Denison. "I cannot see that either was
guilty of wrong, or even, imprudence. But I am afraid, Paul, that
you are springing to conclusions with too bold a leap."
"Do not say that, Mrs. Denison."
He spoke quickly, and with a suddenly shadowed face.
"Your meaning is very plain," was answered. "It is this. A divorce
having been granted to the prayer of Mr. Dexter, his wife is now
free to marry again."
"Yes, that is my meaning," said Hendrickson, looking steadily into
the face of Mrs. Denison. She merely shook her head in a grave,
Hendrickson drew a long breath, then compressed his lips--but still
looked into the face of his friend.
"There are impediments yet in the way," said Mrs. Denison.
"I know what you think. The Divine law is superior to all human
"Is it not so, Paul?"
"If I was certain as to the Divine law," said Hendrickson.
"The record is very explicit."
"Read in the simple letter, I grant that it is. But"--
"Paul! It grieves me to throw an icy chill over your ardent
feelings," said Mrs. Denison, interrupting him. "But you may rest
well assured of one thing: Jessie Loring, though no longer Mrs.
Dexter, will not consider herself free to marry again."
"Do you know her views on this subject?" asked the young man,
"I think I know the woman. In the spirit of a martyr she took up her
heavy cross, and bore it while she had strength to stand. The martyr
spirit is not dead in her. It will not die while life remains. In
the fierce ordeals through which she has passed, she has learned to
endure; and now weak nature must yield, if in any case opposed to
"Have you met her of late?" inquired the young man, curiously.
"No, but I talked with Mrs. De Lisle about her not long ago. Mrs. De
Lisle is her most intimate friend, and knows her better, perhaps,
than any other living person."
"And what does she say? Have you conversed with her on this
"No; but I have learned enough from her in regard to Jessie's views
of life and duty, as well as states of religious feeling, to be
justified in saying that she will not consider a court's decree of
sufficient authority in the case. Alas! my young friend, I cannot
see cause for gratulation so far as you are concerned. To her, the
act of divorce (sic) way give a feeling of relief. A dead weight is
stricken from her limbs. She can walk and breathe more freely; but
she will not consider herself wholy untrammelled. Nor would I. Paul,
Paul! the gulf that separates you is still impassable! But do not
despair! Bear up bravely, manfully still. Six years of conflict,
discipline, and stern obedience to duty have made you more worthy of
a union with that pure spirit than you were when you saw her borne
from your eager, outstretched arms. Her mind is ripening
heavenward--let yours ripen in that direction also. You cannot mate
with her, my friend, in the glorious hereafter, unless you are of
equal purity. Oh, be patient, yet hopeful!"
Hendrickson had bowed his head, and was now sitting with his eyes
upon the floor. He did not answer after Mrs. Denison ceased
speaking, but still sat deeply musing.
"It is a hard saying!" He had raised his eyes to the face of his
maternal friend. "A hard saying, and hard to bear. Oh, there is
something so like the refinement of cruelty in these stern events
which hold us apart, that I feel at times like questioning the laws
that imposed such fearful restrictions. We are one in all the
essentials of marriage, Mrs. Denison. Why are we thus sternly held
"It is one of the necessities of our fallen nature," Mrs. Denison
replied, in her calm, yet earnest voice, "that spiritual virtues can
only have birth in pain. We rise into the higher regions of heavenly
purity only after the fires have tried us. Some natures, as you
know, demand a severer discipline than others. Yours, I think, is
one of them. Jessie's is another. But after the earthly dross of
your souls is consumed, the pure gold will flow together, I trust,
at the bottom of the same crucible. Wait, my friend; wait longer.
The time is not yet."
A sadder man than when he came, did Mr. Hendrickson leave the house
of Mrs. Denison on that day. She had failed to counsel him according
to his wishes; but her words, though they had not carried full
conviction to his clouded understanding, had shown him a goal still
far in advance, towards which all of true manhood in him felt the
impulse to struggle.
WHEN the news of Mr. Dexter's second marriage reached Mr.
Hendrickson, he said:
"Now she is absolved!" but his friend Mrs. Denison, replied:
"I doubt if she will so consider it. No act of Mr. Dexter's can
alter her relation to the Divine law. I am one of these who cannot
regard him as wholly innocent. And yet his case is an extreme one;
for his wife's separation was as final as if death had broken the
bond. But I will not judge him; he is the keeper of his own
conscience, and the All-Wise is merciful in construction."
"I believe Jessie Loring to be as free to give her hand as before
"With her will rest the decision," was Mrs. Denison's answer.
"Have you seen her?" inquired Hendrickson.
"Has she been seen outside of her aunt's dwelling?"
"If so I have never heard of it."
"Do you think, if I were to call at Mrs. Loring's, she would see
"I cannot answer the question."
"But what is your opinion?"
"If I were you," said Mrs. Denison, "I would not call at present."
"This act of her former husband is too recent. Let her have time to
get her mind clear as to her new relation. She may break through her
seclusion now, and go abroad into society again. If so you will meet
her without the constraint of a private interview."
"But she may still shut herself out from the world. Isolation may
have become a kind of second nature."
"We shall see," replied Mrs. Denison. "But for the present I think it
will be wiser to wait."
Weeks, even months, passed, and Paul Hendrickson waited in vain. He
was growing very impatient.
"I must see her! Suspense like this is intolerable!" he said, coming
in upon Mrs. Denison one evening.
"I warn you against it," replied Mrs. Denison.
"I cannot heed the warning."
"Her life is very placid, I am told by Mrs. De Lisle. Would you
throw its elements again into wild disturbance?"
"No; I would only give them their true activity. All is stagnation
now. I would make her life one thrill of conscious joy."
"I have conversed with Mrs. De Lisle on this subject," said Mrs.
"You have? And what does she say?"
"She understands the whole case. I concealed nothing--was I right?"
"Yes. But go on."
"She does not think that Jessie will marry during the lifetime of
Mr. Dexter," said Mrs. Denison.
Hendrickson became pale.
"I fear," he remarked, "that I did not read her heart aright. I
thought that we were conjoined in spirit. Oh, if I have been in
error here, the wreck is hopeless!"
He showed a sudden and extreme depression.
"I think you have not erred, Paul. But if Jessie regards the
conditions of divorce, given in Matthew, as binding, she is too pure
and true a woman ever to violate them. All depends upon that. She
could not be happy with you, if her conscience were burdened with
the conviction that your marriage was not legal in the Divine sense.
Don't you see how such an act would depress her? Don't you see that,
in gaining her, you would sacrifice the brightest jewel in her crown
"Does Mrs. De Lisle know her views on this subject?" he asked.
A quick flush mantled Hendrickson's face.
"Well, what are they?" He questioned eagerly, and in a husky voice.
"She reads the law in Matthew and in Luke, literally."
"The cup is indeed broken, and the precious wine spilled!" exclaimed
the unhappy man, rising in strong agitation.
"Paul," said Mrs. Denison, after this agitation had in a measure
passed away; "all this I can well understand to be very hard for one
who has been so patient, so true, so long suffering. But think
calmly; and then ask yourself this question: Would you be willing to
marry Jessie Loring while she holds her present views?"
Hendrickson bent his head to think.
"She believes," said Mrs. Denison, "that such a marriage would be
adulterous. I put the matter before you in its plainest shape. Now,
my friend, are you prepared to take a woman for your wife who is
ready to come to you on such terms? I think not. No, not even if her
name be Jessie Loring."
"I thank you, my friend, for setting me completely right," said
Hendrickson. He spoke sadly, yet with the firmness of a true man. "I
have now but one favor to ask. Learn from her own lips, if possible,
her real sentiments on this subject."
"I will do so."
"Yes. To-morrow I will see Mrs. De Lisle, and confer with her on the
subject, and then at the earliest practical moment call with her
Two days afterwards, Mr. Hendrickson received a note from his
friend, asking him to call.
"You have seen her?"
The young man was paler than usual, but calm. His voice was not
eagerly expectant, but rather veiled with sadness, as if he had
weighed all the chances in his favor, and made up his mind for the
"I have," replied Mrs. Denison.
"She is much changed, I presume?"
"I would scarcely have known her," was answered.
"In what is she changed?"
"She has been growing less of the earth earthy, in all these years
of painful discipline. You see this in her changed exterior; your
ear perceives it in the tones of her voice; your mind answers to it
in the pure sentiments that breathe from her lips. Her very presence
gives an atmosphere of heavenly tranquillity."
It was some moments before Hendrickson made further remark. He then
"How long a time were you with her, Mrs. Denison?"
"We spent over an hour in her company."
"Was my name mentioned?"
"Nor the subject in which I feel so deep an interest?"
"Yes, we spoke of that!"
"And you were not in error as to her decision of the case?"
Hendrickson manifested no excitement.
"I was not."
He dropped his eyes again to the floor, and sat musing for some
"She does not consider herself free to marry again?"
He looked up with a calm face.
There was a sigh; a falling of the eyes; and a long, quiet silence.
"I was prepared for it, my friend," he said, speaking almost
mournfully. "Since our last interview, I have thought on this
subject a great deal, and looked at it from another point of vision.
I hare imagined myself in her place, and then pondered the Record.
It seemed more imperative. I could not go past it, and yet regard
myself innocent, or pure. It seemed a hard saying--but it was said.
The mountain was impassable. And so I came fortified for her
"Would you have had it otherwise?" Mrs. Denison asked.
Hendrickson did not answer at once. The question evidently disturbed
"The heart is very weak," he said at length.
"But virtue is strong as another Samson," Mrs. Denison spoke
"Her decision does not produce a feeling of alienation. I am not
angry. She stands, it is true, higher up and further off, invested
with saintly garments. If she is purer, I must be worthier. I can
only draw near in spirit--and there can be no spiritual nearness
without a likeness of quality. If the stain of earth is not to be
found on her vesture, mine must be white as snow."
"It is by fire we are purified, my friend," answered Mrs. Denison,
speaking with unusual feeling.
Not many weeks after this interview with Mrs. Denison, she received
a communication from Hendrickson that filled her with painful
surprise. It ran thus:
"MY BEST FRIEND:--When this comes into your hands, I shall be away
from B--. It is possible that I may never return again. I do not
take this step hastily, but after deep reflection, and in the firm
conviction that I am right. If I remain, the probabilities are that
I shall meet Jessie Loring, who will come forth gradually from her
seclusion; and I am not strong enough, nor cold enough for that. Nor
do I think our meeting would make the stream of her life more
placed. It has run in wild waves long enough--the waters have been
turbid long enough--and mine is not the hand to swirl it with a
single eddy. No--no. My love, I trust, is of purer essence. I would
bless, not curse--brighten, not cloud the horizon of her life.
"And so I recede as she comes forth into the open day, and shall
hide myself from her sight. As she advances by self denials and holy
charities towards celestial purity, may I advance also, fast enough
at least not to lose sight of her in the far off distance.
"You will meet her often, from this time, dear, true, faithful
friend! And I pray you to keep my memory green in her heart. Not
with such bold reference as shall disturb its tranquil life. Oh, do
not give her pain! But with gentle insinuations; so that the thought
of me have no chance to die. I will keep unspotted from the world;
yet will I not withdraw myself, but manfully take my place and do
battle for the right.
"And now, best of friends, farewell! I go out into the great world,
to be absorbed from observation in the crowd. But my heart will
remain among the old places, and beat ever faithful to its early
He had withdrawn himself from all business connections, and sold his
property. With his small fortune, realized by active, intelligent
industry, and now represented by Certificates of Deposit in three of
the city banks, he vanished from among those who had known and
respected him for years, and left not a sign of the direction he had
taken. Even idle rumor, so usually unjust, did him no wrong. He had
been, in all his actions, too true a man for even suspicion to touch
As Hendrickson had rightly supposed, Jessie Loring came forth from
her seclusion of years. Not all at once, but by gradual intrusions
upon the social life around her. At first she went abroad on a
mission of charity. Then her friend Mrs. De Lisle, drew her to her
house, and there a new face that interested her awakened a new
impulse in her mind. And so the work went on, and ere long she was
in part restored to society. But how different from the one who had
withdrawn from it years before! Suffering and discipline had left
upon her their unmistakable signs. The old beauty of countenance had
departed. The elegant style--the abounding grace of manner--the
fascinating speech--all were gone. Only those to whom she had been
most familiar, recognized in the pale, serene countenance, retiring
grace and gentle speech of Jessie Loring, the once brilliant Mrs.
And quite as different was the effect she produced upon those who
came within the sphere of her chastened thoughts. Before, all
admired her; now, all who could draw close enough, found in her
speech an inspiration to good deeds. Some were wiser--all were
better in right purposes--who met her in familiar intercourse. And
the more intimately she was known, the more apparent became the
higher beauty into which she had arisen; a celestial beauty, that
gave angelic lustre at times to her countenance.
To no one did she mention the name of Hendrickson. If she missed him
from the circles which had again opened to receive her, none knew
that her eyes had ever looked for his presence. No one spoke to her
of him, and so she remained for a time in ignorance of his singular
disappearance. A caution from Mrs. De Lisle to Mrs. Loring, made
that not over-cautious individual prudent in this case.
One day Jessie was visiting Mrs. Denison, to whom she had become
warmly attached. She did not show her accustomed cheerfulness, and
to the inquiries of Mrs. Denison as to whether she was as well as
usual, replied, as it seemed to that lady, evasively. At length she
said, with a manner that betrayed a deep interest in the subject:
"I heard a strange story yesterday about an old acquaintance whom I
have missed--Mr. Hendrickson."
"What have you heard?" was inquired.
"That he left the city in a mysterious manner several months ago,
and has not been heard of since."
"It is true," said Mrs. Denison.
"Was there anything wrong in his conduct?" asked Jessie Loring, her
usually pale face showing the warmer hues of feeling.
"Nothing. Not even the breath of suspicion has touched his good
"What is the explanation?"
"Common rumor is singularly at fault in the case," replied Mrs.
Denison. "I have heard no reason assigned that to me had any
appearance of truth."
"Had he failed in business?" asked Miss Loring.
"No. He was in a good business, and accumulating property. But he
sold out, and converting all that he was worth into money, took it
with him, and left only his memory behind."
"Had he trouble with any one?"
Jessie looked concerned--almost sad.
"I would like to know the reason." She spoke partly to herself.
"I alone am in possession of the reason," said Mrs. Denison, after a
silence of more than a minute.
Thrown off her guard, Jessie spoke eagerly and with surprise.
"Yes. He wrote me a letter at the time, stating in the clearest
terms the causes which led to so strange a course of conduct.
"Did you approve of his reasons?" Miss Loring had regained much of
her usual calm exterior.
"I accepted them," was answered. "Under all the circumstances of the
case, his course was probably the wisest that could have been
"Are you at liberty to state the reasons?" asked Miss Loring.
Mrs. Denison thought for some time.
"Do you desire to hear them?" she then asked, looking steadily into
the face of her visitor.
"I do," was firmly answered.
"Then I will place his letter to me in your hands. But not now. When
you leave, it will be time enough. You must read it alone."
A sudden gleam shot across the face of Jessie. But it died like a
"I will return home now, Mrs. Denison," she said, with a manner that
showed a great deal of suppressed feeling. "You will excuse me, of
"Cannot you remain longer? I shall regret your going," said her kind
"Not in my present state of mind. I can see from your manner that I
have an interest in the contents of that letter, and I am impatient
to know them."
It was all in vain that Jessie Loring sought to calm her feelings as
she returned homeward with the letter of Paul Hendrickson held
tightly in her hand. The suspense was too much for her. On entering
the house of her aunt, she went with unusual haste to her own room,
and without waiting to lay aside any of her attire, sat down and
opened the letter. There was scarcely a sign of life while she read,
so motionless did she sit, as if pulsation were stilled. After
reading it to the last word she commenced folding up the letter, but
her hands, that showed a slight tremor in the beginning, shook so
violently before she was done, that the half closed sheet rattled
like a leaf in the wind. Then tears gushed over the letter, falling
upon it like rain.
There was no effort on the part of Jessie to repress this wild rush
of feeling. Her heart had its own way for a time. In the deep hush
that followed, she bowed herself, and kneeled reverently, lifting a
sad face and tear-filled eyes upwards with her spirit towards
Heaven. She did not ask for strength or comfort--she did not even
ask for herself anything. Her soul's deep sympathies were all for
another, towards whom a long cherished love had suddenly blazed up,
revealing the hidden fires. But she prayed that at all times, in all
places, and under all circumstances, _he_ might be kept pure.
"Give him," she pleaded, "patient endurance and undying hope. Oh,
make his fortitude like the rock, but his humanities yielding and
all pervading as the summer airs laden with sweetness. Sustain him
by the divine power of truth. Let Thy Word be a staff in his hand
when travel-worn, and a sword when the enemy seeks his life. In his
own strength he cannot walk in this way; in his own strength he
cannot battle with his foes--but in Thy strength he will be strong
as a lion, and as invincible as an army."
After rising from her knees, Miss Loring, over whose spirit a deep
quietude had fallen, re-opened Hendrickson's letter and read it
again; and not once only but many times, until every word and
sentence were written on her memory.
"The way may be rough, and our feet not well shod for the long
journey," she said, almost with a smile on her pure face, "the sky
may be sunless and moonless, and thick clouds may hide even the
stars--but there are soft green meadows beyond, and glorious
sunshine. If I am not to meet him here, I shall be gathered lovingly
into his arms there, and God will bless the union!"
When next Mrs. Denison saw this young martyr, there was even a
serener aspect in her countenance than before. She was in possession
of a secret that gave a new vitality to her existence. Until now,
all in regard to Hendrickson had been vague and uncertain. Their few
brief but disastrous meetings had only revealed an undying interest;
but as to the quality of his love, his sentiments in regard to her,
and his principles of life, she knew literally nothing. Now all was
made clear; and her soul grew strong within her as she looked
forward into the distance.
"I will keep that letter," she said to Mrs. Denison, in so firm a
voice that her friend was surprised. "It is more really addressed to
me than it is to you; and it was but fair that it should come into
my possession. He is one of earth's nobler spirits."
"You say well, Miss Loring. He is one of earth's nobler spirits. I
know him. How he would stand the fire, I could not tell. But I had
faith in him; and my faith was but a prophecy. He has come out
purified. I was not at first satisfied with this last step; but on
close reflection, I am inclined to the belief that he was right. I
do not think either of you are strong enough yet to meet. You would
be drawn together by an attraction that might obscure your higher
perceptions, and lead you to break over all impediments. That, with
your views, would not be well. There would be a cloud in the sky of
your happiness; a spot on your marriage garments; a shadow on your
"There would--there would!" replied Miss Loring with sudden feeling.
Then, as the current grew placid again, she said:
"I can hardly make you comprehend the change which that letter has
wrought in me. All the thick clouds that mantled my sky, have lifted
themselves from the horizon, showing bright gleams of the far away
blue; and sunrays are streaming down by a hundred rifts. Oh, this
knowledge that I am so deeply, purely, faithfully loved, trammelled
as I am, and forbidden to marry, fills my soul with happiness
inexpressible. We shall be, when the hand of our wise and good
Father leads us together, and His smile falls unclouded upon our
union, more blessed a thousand fold than if, in the eagerness of
natural impulses, we had let our feelings have sway."
"If you are both strong enough, you will have the higher blessing,"
was the only answer made by Mrs. Denison.
From that period a change in Jessie Loring was visible to all eyes.
There came into her countenance a warmer hue of health; her bearing
was more erect, yet not self-confident; her eyes were brighter, and
occasionally the flash of old-time thought was in them. Everywhere
she went, she attracted; and all who came into familiar intercourse
with her, felt the sweetness of her lovely character. The secret of
this change was known to but few, and they kept it sacred. Not even
Mrs. Loring, the good-hearted aunt, who loved her with a mother's
maternal fondness, was admitted into her confidence, for she felt
that mere worldliness would bruise her heart by contact. But the
change, though its causes were not seen, was perceived as something
to love, by Aunt Phoebe, who felt for her niece a daily increasing
And so the weeks moved on; and so the years came and went. Little
change was seen in Jessie Loring; except, that the smile which had
been restored, gradually grew less, though it did not bear away the
heavenly sweetness from her countenance. In all true charities that
came within her sphere of action, whether the ministration were to
bodily necessities, or moral needs, she was an angel of mercy; and
few met her in life's daily walk, but had occasion to think of her
as one living very near the sources of Divine love.
TEN years had glided away, yet not in all that time had Jessie
Loring received a word of intelligence from Paul Hendrickson. He had
passed from sight like a ship when darkness falls upon the
ocean--the morning sees her not again, and the billows give no
record of the way she went. But still Jessie bore his image at her
heart; still her love was undimmed, and her confidence unshaken--and
still she felt herself bound by the old shackles, which no human
hand could break from her fettered limbs.
One day, about this time, as Mrs. Denison sat reading, a servant
came into her room and handing her a card, said:
"There is a gentleman waiting in the parlor to see you."
She looked at the card, and started with surprise. It bore the name
of PAUL HENDRICKSON.
"My dear friend!" she exclaimed, grasping both of his hands, as she
stood facing him a few moments afterwards.
"My best friend!" was the simple response, but in a voice tremulous
A little while they stood, gazing curiously yet with affectionate
interest, into each other's face.
"You are not much changed; and nothing for the worse," said Mrs.
"And you wear the countenance of yesterday," he replied, almost
fondly. "How many thousands of times since we parted, have I desired
to stand looking into your eyes as I do now! Dear friend! my heart
has kept your memory fresh as spring's first offerings."
"Where have you been, in all these years of absence?" Mrs. Denison
asked, as they sat down, still holding each other's hands tightly.
"Far away from here; but of that hereafter. You have already guessed
the meaning of my return to the old places."
"What! Have you not heard of Mr. Dexter's decease?"
"Paul! is that so?" Mrs. Denison was instantly excited.
"It is. I had the information from a correspondent in London, who
sent me a paper in which was a brief obituary. He died nearly three
months ago, of fever contracted in a hospital, where he had gone to
visit the captain of one of his vessels, just arrived from the coast
of Africa. The notice speaks of him as an American gentleman of
wealth and great respectability."
"And the name is Leon Dexter?" said Mrs. Denison.
"Yes. There is no question as to the identity. And now, my good
friend, what of Jessie Loring? I pray you keep me not longer in
So wholly absorbed were they, that the ringing of the street door
bell had not been heard, nor the movement of the servant along the
passage. Ere Mrs. Denison could reply, the parlor door was pushed
quietly open, and Miss Loring entered.
"She stands before you!" said Mrs. Denison, starting up and
advancing a step or two.
Mr. Hendrickson uttered the name slowly, but in a voice touched with
the profoundest emotion. He had arisen, but did not advance. She
stood suddenly still, and held her breath, while a paleness
overspread her features. But her long training had given her great
"Mr. Hendrickson," she said, advancing across the room.
He grasped her hand, but she did not return the ardent pressure,
though the touch went thrilling to her heart. But the paleness had
left her face.
At this moment Mrs. Denison came forward, and covering their clasped
hands with hers, said in a low, but very emphatic voice:
"There is no impediment! God has removed the last obstruction, and
your way is plain."
Instantly the whole frame of Miss Loring seemed jarred as by a heavy
stroke; and she would have fallen through weakness, if Hendrickson
had not thrown an arm around her. Bearing her to a sofa, he laid
her, very tenderly, in a reclining position, with her head resting
against Mrs. Denison. But he kept one of her hands tightly within
his own; and she made no effort to withdraw it.
"There is no obstruction now, dear friends," resumed Mrs. Denison.
"The long agony is over--the sad error corrected. The patience of
hope, the fidelity of love, the martyr-spirit that could bear
torture, yet not swerve from its integrity, are all to find their
exceeding great reward. I did not look for it so soon. Far in
advance of the present I saw the long road each had to travel, still
stretching its weary length. But suddenly the pilgrimage has ended.
The goal is won while yet the sun stands at full meridian--while yet
the feet are strong, and the heart brave for endurance or battle.
Heroes are ye, and this is my greeting!"
With eyes still closed, Jessie lay very still upon the bosom of this
dear friend. But oh, what a revelation of joy was in the sweet,
half-formed smile that arched her lips with beauty! Hendrickson
stood, still grasping her hand, and looking down into her pure,
tranquil face, with such a rapture pervading his soul, that he
seemed as if entering upon the felicities of heaven.
"This is even better than my hopes," he said, speaking at length,
but in a subdued voice.
Jessie opened her eyes, and now gazed at him calmly, but lovingly.
What a manly presence was his! How wonderfully he was
changed!--Thought, suffering, endurance, virtue, honor, had all been
at work upon his face, cutting away the earthly and the sensual,
until only the lines of that imperishable beauty which is of the
spirit, remained. Every well-remembered feature was there; but the
expression of his whole face was new.
A moment or two only did she look at him--but she read a volume in
love's history at a glance--then closed her eyes again, and, as she
did so, gave back to the hand that still held hers, an answering
The long, long trial of faith, love and high religious principle was
over, and they were now standing at the open door of blessing.
And so the reward came at last, as come it always does, to the true,
the faithful, the pure, and the loving--if not in this world,
assuredly in the next--and the great error of their lives stood
But what a lesson for the heart! Oh, is there a more fearful
consummation of error in the beginning of life than a wholly
discordant marriage! This mating of higher and lower natures--of
delicacy with coarseness--of sensuality with almost spiritual
refinement--of dove-like meekness with falcon cruelty--of the lamb
with the bear! It makes the very heart bleed to think of the undying
anguish that is all around us, springing from this most frightful
cause of misery!
In less than a month Paul Hendrickson again departed from B--, but
this time not alone, nor with his destination involved in mystery.
His second self went with him, and their faces were turned towards a
southern island, where the earth was as rich in blossom and verdure
as the bride's heart in undying love. Here his home had been for
years; and here his name was an honored word among the
people--synonymous with manly integrity, Christian virtue, and true
After the long, fierce battle, peace had come with its tranquil
blessings. After the storm, the sunshine had fallen in glorious
beauty. After the night of suffering, morning had broken in joy.
We stand and gaze, with rapt interest, upon the river when it leaps
wildly over the cataract, or sweeps foaming down perilous rapids, or
rushes through mountain gorges; but turn away from its quiet beauty
when it glides pleasantly along through green savannahs. Such is our
interest in life. And so we drop the curtain, and close our history