“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 loves.
He had withdrawn himself from all business connections, and sold his property.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 his name.
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. Dexter.