“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 worst.
“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 said:
“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 time.
“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 decision.”
“Would you have had it otherwise?” Mrs. Denison asked.
Hendrickson did not answer at once. The question evidently disturbed him.
“The heart is very weak,” he said at length.
“But virtue is strong as another Samson,” Mrs. Denison spoke quickly.
“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: