“I knew it must come to this sooner or later,” Jessie went on; “I knew that a time must arrive when the only alternative for me would be death or separation. The separation has taken place sooner than I had dared to hope; and for the act, I do not hold myself responsible. He flung me off! To a spirit like mine, his language was a strong repulsion; and I swept away from him with a force it would have been vain to resist. We are apart now, and apart forever.”
“You are too much excited, Jessie,” said Mrs. Loring, laying her finger upon the lips of her niece, “and I must enjoin silence and rest. I have faith in you. I will be your friend, though all the world pass coldly on in scorn.”
Tears glistened in the eyes of Mrs. Dexter as she lifted them, with a thankful expression, to the face of her aunt, from whom she had not dared to hope for so tender a reception. She knew Mrs. Loring to be worldly-minded; she knew her to be a woman of not over delicate feelings; and as one easily affected by appearances. That she would blame, denounce, threaten, she had no doubt. A thought of approval, sympathy, aid or comfort in this fearful trial had not stirred in her imagination. This unlooked for kindness on the part of her aunt touched her deeply.
The fact was, Mr. Dexter had gone a step too far. The grossness of this outrage upon his wife, Mrs. Loring could appreciate, and it was just of the kind to arouse all her womanly indignation. A more refined act of cruelty she would not have understood; and might have adjudged her niece as capricious.
“Thank you, dear Aunt Phoebe, for this love and kindness!” Jessie could not help saying. “I need it; and, for all I have been as a wife, am worthy to receive it. As pure in thought and act as when I parted from you do I return; and now all I ask is to become again the occupant of that little chamber I once called my own; there to hide myself from all eyes—there to remain, forgotten by the gay circles in which I moved for a brief season.”
“Dear heart! will you not be quiet?” said Mrs. Loring; laying her fingers once more upon her lips.
Mrs. Dexter sighed as her lashes drooped upon her cheeks. Very still she lay after this, and as her aunt stood looking upon her white, shrunken face and hollow eyes, and noted the purple stain on her cheek and temple, tears of compassion filled her eyes, and tender pity softened all her feelings.
That night Jessie slept in her aunt’s room. Morning found her in a calmer state, and with less prostration of body than Mrs. Loring had feared would ensue. She did not rise until late, but met her cousins while yet in bed, with a quiet warmth of manner that placed both them and herself at ease with one another, They bad been frightened witnesses of the exciting scenes in the parlor, when Mrs. Dexter twice confronted her husband and met his intimations of wrong with indignant denial. Beyond this their mother had informed them that their cousin had left her home and might not again return to it. For the present she enjoined silence as to what had occurred; and reserve or evasion of questions should curious inquirers approach them at school or elsewhere.