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 name.”
“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 taken.”