All things tended to encourage this incipient regard; and, as Miss Arden herself favored it, and ever turned towards Hendrickson the sunniest side of her character, he found himself drawn onwards almost imperceptibly; and had even begun to think seriously of her as his wife, when the meeting with Mrs. Dexter revealed the existence of sentiments on both sides that gave the whole subject a new aspect.
A very difficult problem now presented itself to the mind of Mr. Hendrickson, involving questions of duty, questions of honor, and questions of feeling. It is not surprising that Miss Arden found a change in her travelling companion, nor that her visit to Niagara proved altogether unsatisfactory. No one could have been kindlier, more attentive, or more studious to make her visit attractive. But his careful avoidance of all compliments, and the absence of every thing lover-like, gave her heart the alarm. It was in vain that she put forth every chaste, womanly allurement; his eyes did not brighten, nor his cheeks glow, nor his tones become warmer. He was not to be driven from the citadel of his honor. A weaker, more selfish, and more external man, would have yielded. But Hendrickson, like the woman he had lost, was not made of “common clay,” nor cast in any of humanity’s ruder moulds. He was of purer essence and higher spiritual organization than the masses; and principle had now quite as much to do with his actions as feeling. He could be a martyr, but not a villain.
Two days were spent at Niagara, and then Hendrickson and Miss Arden returned, and went to Saratoga. It did not, of course, escape the notice of Hendrickson, that his manner to his travelling companion was effecting a steady change in her spirits; and he was not lacking in perception as to the cause. It revealed to him the sincerity of her regard; but added to the pain from which he was suffering, increasing it almost to the point where endurance fails.
It was a relief to Hendrickson when he was able to place Miss Arden under the care of her mother, who had remained at Saratoga. On the evening after his arrival, he was sitting alone in one of the drawing-rooms, when a lady crossed from the other side, and joined another lady near him.
“Mrs. De Lisle,” said the latter, as she arose.
“Good evening, Mrs. Anthony!” and the ladies sat down together.
“I have just received a sad letter from Newport,” said Mrs. De Lisle.
“Indeed! What has happened there?”
“Our sweet young friend is dangerously ill.”
“Who? Mrs. Dexter?”
“Mrs. De Lisle! She was in perfect health, to all appearance, when she left here.”
“So I thought. But she has suddenly been stricken down with a brain fever, and her physicians regard her condition as most critical.”
“You distress me beyond measure!” said Mrs. Anthony.
“My friend writes that three physicians are in attendance; and that they report her case as dangerous in the extreme. I did not intend going there until next week, but, unless my husband strongly objects, I will leave to-morrow. Good nursing is quite as essential as medical skill.”