The last sentence stung Mr. Hendrickson, and he arose quickly. Miss Loring, who saw the effect of her words, threw up, with a woman’s quick instinct, this further barrier between them—
“I marvel, sir, knowing, as you do, the sacred obligations under which I rest, that you should have dared utter language such as my ears have been compelled to hear this night! I take it as no compliment, sir.”
The young man attempted to speak; but with a sternness of manner that sent a chill to his heart, she motioned him to be silent, and went on—
“Let this, sir, be the last time you venture to repeat what I cannot but regard as dis”—
Dishonorable was the word on her lips, but she suddenly checked herself. She could not say that to him.
Waking or sleeping, alone or in society, for weeks, months and years afterwards, the image of that young man’s despairing face, as she saw it then, was ever before her.
“Insult! Dishonor!” he said, as if speaking to himself. “I could die for her—but not that!—not that!”
And without a parting glance or a parting word, Paul Hendrickson turned from the woman who was destined to influence his whole life, and left her alone in his bewilderment and wretchedness. It is difficult to say on which heart the heaviest pressure fell, or which life was most hopeless. It is alleged that only men die of broken hearts—that women can bear the crushing heel of disappointment, live on and endure, while men fall by the way, and perish in the strife of passion. It may be so. We know not. In the present case the harder lot was on Miss Loring. If she bore her pain with less of exterior token, it is no argument in favor of the lighter suffering. The patiently enduring oftenest bear the most.
THE efforts which were made to save Miss Loring, only had the effect to render the sacrifice more acutely painful. Evil instead of good followed Mrs. Denison’s appeals to Mr. Dexter. They served but to arouse the demon jealousy in his heart. Upon Hendrickson’s movements he set the wariest surveillance. Twice, since that never-to-be-forgotten evening he met the young man in company when Jessie was present. With an eye that never failed for an instant in watchfulness, he noted his countenance and movements; and he kept on his betrothed as keen an observation. Several times he left her alone, in order to give Hendrickson an opportunity to get into her company. But there was too studied avoidance of contact. Had they met casually and exchanged a few pleasant words, suspicion would have been allayed. As it was, jealousy gave its own interpretation to their conduct.