But alas! memory could not die. Lethe was only a fable of the olden times. A place of safety is not always a place of freedom from pain. It could not be so in this instance. Yet, for a time, like the exhausted prisoner borne back from torture to his cell, the crushed members reposed in delicious insensibility. The hard pallet was a heaven of ease to the iron rack on which the quivering flesh had been torn, and the joints wrenched, until nature cried out in agony.
Dear little room! Though its walls were narrow, and its furniture simple even to meagreness, it was a palace in her regard to the luxurious chambers she had left. It was all her own. She need not veil her heart there. No semblances were required. No intrusion feared. It seemed to her, for a time, as if she had been so lifted out of the world, as to be no longer a part of it. The hum and shock of men were far below her. She had neither part nor lot in common humanity.
But this could not last. She had formed relations with that world not to be cast off lightly. She was a wife, violently separated from her husband; and setting at defiance the laws which had bound them together.
On the third day Mrs. Dexter received a communication from her husband. It was imperative, reading thus:
“MRS. DEXTER—I have twice sought to gain an interview, and twice been repelled with insult. I now write to ask when and where you will see me. We must meet, Jessie. This rash step, I fear, is going to involve consequences far more disastrous than you have imagined. It is no light thing for a woman to throw herself beyond the pale of her husband’s protection.—Something is owed to the world—something to reputation—something to your good name; and much to your husband. I may have been hasty, but I was sincere. There are some things that looked wrong; they look wrong still, and will always look wrong if your present attitude is maintained. I wish to see you, that we may, together, review these unhappy questions, and out of a tangled skein bring even threads, if possible. Let me hear from you immediately.
Twice Mrs. Dexter read this letter, hurriedly at first, but very slowly the second time; weighing each word and sentence carefully. She then laid it aside, and almost crouching down in her chair, fell into such deep thought that she seemed more like one sleeping than awake. She did not attempt an answer until the next day. Then she penned the following:
“To LEON DEXTER—In leaving your house and your protection, I was not governed by caprice or impulse. For some time I have seen that, sooner or later, it must come to this; that the cord uniting us was too severely strained, and must snap. I did not suppose the time so near at hand—that you would drag upon it now with such a sudden force. But the deed is done, and we are apart forever. I cannot live with you again—your presence