“You give me credit for more virtue than I claim to possess,” was answered, a little sarcastically. “Love desires to hold, not lose its object.”
“Enough, my young friend,” said Mrs. Denison, in her calm, earnest way. “We will not bandy words—that would be fruitless. I grieve that you should have misunderstood me in even the least thing, or let the slightest suggestion of a sinister motive find a lodgment in your mind. I have had no purpose but a good one to serve, and shall be conscience-clear in the matter. A more delicate task than this was never undertaken. That I have not succeeded according to my wishes, is no matter of surprise.”
“Good evening, madam!”
Dexter bowed with a cold formality.
“Good evening!” was mildly returned.
And so the young man went away.
“I fear that only harm will come of this,” said Mrs. Denison, as she retired from the door. “I meant it for the best, and pray that no evil may follow the indiscretion, if such it be!”
Mrs. Denison’s fears were prophetic. Evil, not good, came of her well meant efforts to prevent the coming sacrifice. Instead of awakening generous impulses in the mind of Leon Dexter, only anger and jealousy were aroused; and as they gained strength, love withdrew itself, for love could not breathe the same atmosphere. The belief that Hendrickson was the man to whom Mrs. Denison referred, was fully confirmed by this fact. Dexter had resolved to see Miss Loring that very evening, and was only a short distance from her home, and in sight of the door, when he saw a man ascend the steps and ring. He stopped and waited. A servant came to the door and the caller entered. For a time, the question was revolved as to whether he should follow, or not.
“It is Hendrickson. I’ll wager my life on it!”—he muttered, grinding his teeth together. “There is a cursed plot on foot, and this insinuating, saintly Mrs. Denison, is one of the plotters! My very blood is seething at the thought. Shall I go in now, and confront him at his devilish work?”
“It were better not,” he said, after a brief struggle with his feelings. “I am too excited, and cannot answer for myself. A false step now might ruin all. First, let me cage my singing bird, and then”—
He strode onwards and passed the house of Mrs. Loring with rapid steps. There was a light in the parlor, and he heard the sound of voices. Ten minutes after, he returned—the light was there still; but though he went by slowly, with noiseless footsteps—listening—not a murmur reached his ears.
“He is there, a subtle tempter, whispering his honeyed allurements!” It was the fiend Jealousy speaking in his heart. “Madness!” he ejaculated, and he strode up the marble steps. Grasping the bell, he resolved to enter. But something held back his hand, and another voice said—“Wait! Wait! A single error now were fatal.”