“How tranquil I have become,” said Mrs. Dexter, a little while afterwards. “The heavy pressure on heart and brain is removed.”
“You have not been thinking of yourself; and that has brought a change in your state of feeling. Cease to struggle in your bonds; but rise up and go forward with brave heart, and be true as steel to all your obligations. The way may look dark, the burdens heavy; but fear not. Move on, and Divine light will fall upon your path; stoop to the burden, and Divine strength will be given. So I counsel you, dear sister! And I pray you heed the counsel.”
ON the day after the interview with Mrs. De Lisle, Mrs. Dexter, whose mind had been lifted quite above its morbid state, was sitting alone at one of the parlor windows. She had been noting, with curious interest, the types of character in faces that met her eyes, and then disappeared to give place to others as singularly varied, when a new countenance, on which her eyes fell, lighted up suddenly. It was that of Hendrickson, whom she had not seen since their parting at Newport. He paused, lifted his hat, bowed and went on. It was no cold, formal recognition; but one full of earnest life, and warm with sudden feeling. Mrs. Dexter was conscious of a quick heart-throb that sent a glow to her pale cheeks.
Unfortunate coincidence! The next face, presenting itself almost in the same instant of time, was that of her husband. It was full two hours earlier than the period of his usual return home.
He had seen the expression of Hendrickson’s countenance; and also the responsive change in that of his wife. At once it occurred to him that an understanding had been established between him and Mrs. Dexter, and that this was the beginning of a series of interviews, to be carried on during his absence. Mr. Dexter was an impulsive man. Without giving himself time for reflection, he strode into the parlor, and said with a cutting sneer—
“You have your own entertainments, I see, in your husband’s absence. But”—and his manner grew stern, while his tones were threatening, “you must not forget that we are in America and not Paris; and that I am an American, and not a French husband. You are going a step too far, madam!”
Too much confounded for speech, Mrs. Dexter, into whose face the blood had rushed, dying it to a deep crimson, sat looking at her husband, an image, in his eyes, of guilt confessed.
“I warn you,” he added, “not to presume on me in this direction! And I further warn you, that if I ever catch that scoundrel in my house, or in your company, I will shoot him down like a dog!”
Mrs. Dexter was too feeble for a shock like this. The crimson left her face. While her husband yet glared angrily upon her, a deathly hue overspread her features, and she fainted, falling forward upon the floor. He sprung to catch her in his arms, but it was too late. She struck with a heavy concussion, against temple and cheek, bruising them severely.