“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 woman.
“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 loathsome bondage.”
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, quiet way.
Hendrickson drew a long breath, then compressed his lips—but still looked into the face of his friend.