“There are impediments yet in the way,” said Mrs. Denison.
“I know what you think. The Divine law is superior to all human enactments.”
“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, quickly.
“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 duty.”
“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 subject?”
“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 apart?”