“Far away from here; but of that hereafter. You have already guessed the meaning of my return to the old places.”
“What! Have you not heard of Mr. Dexter’s decease?”
“Paul! is that so?” Mrs. Denison was instantly excited.
“It is. I had the information from a correspondent in London, who sent me a paper in which was a brief obituary. He died nearly three months ago, of fever contracted in a hospital, where he had gone to visit the captain of one of his vessels, just arrived from the coast of Africa. The notice speaks of him as an American gentleman of wealth and great respectability.”
“And the name is Leon Dexter?” said Mrs. Denison.
“Yes. There is no question as to the identity. And now, my good friend, what of Jessie Loring? I pray you keep me not longer in suspense.”
So wholly absorbed were they, that the ringing of the street door bell had not been heard, nor the movement of the servant along the passage. Ere Mrs. Denison could reply, the parlor door was pushed quietly open, and Miss Loring entered.
“She stands before you!” said Mrs. Denison, starting up and advancing a step or two.
Mr. Hendrickson uttered the name slowly, but in a voice touched with the profoundest emotion. He had arisen, but did not advance. She stood suddenly still, and held her breath, while a paleness overspread her features. But her long training had given her great self-control.
“Mr. Hendrickson,” she said, advancing across the room.
He grasped her hand, but she did not return the ardent pressure, though the touch went thrilling to her heart. But the paleness had left her face.
At this moment Mrs. Denison came forward, and covering their clasped hands with hers, said in a low, but very emphatic voice:
“There is no impediment! God has removed the last obstruction, and your way is plain.”
Instantly the whole frame of Miss Loring seemed jarred as by a heavy stroke; and she would have fallen through weakness, if Hendrickson had not thrown an arm around her. Bearing her to a sofa, he laid her, very tenderly, in a reclining position, with her head resting against Mrs. Denison. But he kept one of her hands tightly within his own; and she made no effort to withdraw it.
“There is no obstruction now, dear friends,” resumed Mrs. Denison. “The long agony is over—the sad error corrected. The patience of hope, the fidelity of love, the martyr-spirit that could bear torture, yet not swerve from its integrity, are all to find their exceeding great reward. I did not look for it so soon. Far in advance of the present I saw the long road each had to travel, still stretching its weary length. But suddenly the pilgrimage has ended. The goal is won while yet the sun stands at full meridian—while yet the feet are strong, and the heart brave for endurance or battle. Heroes are ye, and this is my greeting!”