The image of Miss Arden flitted before him.
“Beautiful—loving—pure!” he said, “I might win you for my bride; but will not so wrong you as to offer a divided heart. All things forbid!”
Mr. Hendrickson did not leave his room that evening. At ten o’clock a servant knocked at his door. Mrs. Arden had sent her compliments, and desired to know if he were better than when he left her?
“Much better,” he answered; and the servant departed.
Midnight found him still in strife with himself. Now he walked the floor in visible agitation; and now sat motionless, with head bowed, and arms folded across his bosom. The impression of sleep was far from his overwrought brain. One thing he decided, and that was to leave Saratoga by the earliest morning train, and go with all possible haste to Newport. Suspense in regard to Mrs. Dexter he felt it would be impossible for him to bear.
“But what right have you to take all this interest in a woman who is another’s lawful wife?” he asked, in the effort to stem the tide of his feelings.
“I will not stop to debate questions of right,” so he answered within his own thoughts. “She is the wife of another, and I would die rather than stain her pure escutcheon with a thought of dishonor. I cease to love her when I imagine her capable of being false, in even the smallest act, to her marriage vows. But the right to love, Heaven gave me when my soul was created to make one with hers. I will keep myself pure that I may remain worthy of her.”
On the evening of the next day Hendrickson arrived at Newport. Almost the first man he encountered was Dexter.
“How is Mrs. Dexter?” he asked, forgetting in his anxiety and suspense the relation he bore to this man. His eager inquiry met a cold response accompanied by a scowl.
“I am not aware that you have any particular interest in Mrs. Dexter!”
And the angry husband turned from him abruptly.
“How unfortunate!” Hendrickson said to himself as he passed.
At the office he put the same inquiry.
“Very ill,” was the answer.
“Is she thought to be dangerous?”
“I believe so.”
Beyond this he gained no further intelligence from the clerk. A little while afterwards he saw Mrs. Florence in one of the parlors, and joined her immediately. From her he learned that Mrs. Dexter remained wholly unconscious, but that the physicians regarded her symptoms as favorable.
“Do they think her out of danger?” he asked, with more interest in his manner than he wished to betray.
He could scarcely withhold an exclamation.
“What do you think, madam?” he inquired.
“I cannot see deeper than a physician,” she answered. “But my observation does not in anything gainsay the opinion which has been expressed. I am encouraged to hope for recovery.”