Part 2 out of 4
interview. And now ponder well my question, and be certain that you
get the right answer."
Dexter let his eyes fall. He sat for a long while silent, but
evidently in earnest thought.
"Have you her full, free, glad assent to the approaching union?"
asked Mrs. Denison, breaking in upon his silence. She saw a shade of
impatience on his countenance as he looked up and checked the words
that were on his lips, by saying:
"Marriage is no light thing, my young friend. It is a relation
which, more than any other, makes or mars the future; and when
entered into, should be regarded as the must solemn act of life.
Here all error is fatal. The step once taken, it cannot be retraced.
Whether the path be rough or even, it must be pursued to the end. If
the union be harmonious--internally so, I mean--peace, joy, interior
delight will go on, finding daily increase--if inharmonious, eternal
discord will curse the married partners. Do not be angry with me
then, for pressing the question--Have you her full, free, glad,
assent to the approaching union? If not, pause--for your
love-freighted bark may be drifting fast upon the breakers--and not
yours only, but hers.
"I have reason to fear, Mr. Dexter," continued Mrs. Denison, seeing
that her visitor did not attempt to reply, but sat looking at her in
a kind of bewildered surprise, "that you pressed your suit too
eagerly, and gained a half unwilling consent. Now, if this be so,
you are in great danger of making shipwreck. An ordinary
woman--worldly, superficial, half-hearted, or no-hearted--even if
she did not really love you, would find ample compensation in your
fortune, and in the social advantages it must secure. But depend
upon it, sir, these will not fill the aching void that must be in
Jessie Loring's heart, if you have no power to fill it with your
image--for she is no ordinary woman. I have observed her carefully
since this engagement, and grieve to see that she is not happy. Have
you seen no change?"
Mrs. Denison waited for an answer.
"She is not so cheerful; I have noticed that," replied the young
"Have you ever questioned in your own mind as to the cause?"
"And what was the solution!"
"I remain ignorant of the cause."
"Mr. Dexter; _I_ am not ignorant of the cause!"
"Speak, then, in Heaven's name!"
The young man betrayed a deeper excitement than he wished to
manifest. He had been struggling with himself.
"Her heart is not yours!" said Mrs. Denison, with suppressed
feeling. "It is a hard saying, but I speak it in the hope of saving
both you and the maiden from a life of wretchedness."
"By what authority and under what instigation do you say this?" was
demanded almost angrily. "You are going a step too far, madam!"
The change in his manner was very sudden.
"I speak from myself only," replied Mrs. Denison, calmly.
"If her heart is not mine, whose is it?" Dexter showed strong
"I am not her confidant."
"Who is? Somebody must speak from her, if I am to credit your
"Calm yourself, my young friend," said Mrs. Denison; "there are
signs which a woman can read as plainly as if they were written
words; and I have felt too deep an interest in this matter not to
have marked every sign. Miss Loring is not happy, and the shadow
upon her spirit grows darker every day. Before this engagement, her
glad soul looked ever out in beauty from her eyes; now--but I need
not describe to you the change. You have noted its progress. It is
an extreme conclusion that her heart is not in the alliance she is
about to form."
A long silence followed.
"If you were certain that I am right--if, with her own lips, Jessie
Loring were to confirm what I have said--what then?"
"I would release her from this engagement; and she might go her
ways! The world is wide."
He spoke with some bitterness.
"The way is plain, then. From what I have said, you are fully
warranted in talking to her without reserve. Quote me if you please.
Say that I made bold to assert that you did not possess the key that
would unlock the sacred places of her heart; and you may add
further, that I say the _key is held by another_. This will bring
the right issue. If she truly loves you, there will be no mistaking
her response. If she accepts the release you offer, happy will you
be in making the most fortunate escape of your life."
"I will do it!" exclaimed Dexter, rising, "and this very night!"
"If done at all, it were well done quickly," said Mrs. Denison,
rising also. "And now, my young friend, let what will be the result,
think of me as one who, under the pressure of a high sense of
responsibility, has simply discharged a painful duty. I have no
personal or private ends to gain; all I desire is to save two hearts
from making shipwreck. If successful, I shall have my reward."
"One question, Mrs. Denison," said Dexter, as they were about
separating. "Its answer may give me light, and the strength to go
forward. I have marked your words and manner very closely; and this
is my conclusion: You not only believe that I do not possess the
love of Jessie Loring, but your thought points to another man whom
you believe does rule in her affections. Am I wrong?"
The suddenness of the question confused Mrs. Denison. Her eyes sunk
under his gaze, and for some moments her self possession was lost.
But, rallying herself, she answered:
"Not wholly wrong."
Dexter's countenance grew dark.
"His name!--give me his name!"
He spoke with agitation.
"That is going a step too far," said Mrs. Denison, with firmness.
"Is it Hendrickson?"
Dexter looked keenly into the lady's face.
"A step too far, sir," she repeated. "I cannot answer your inquiry."
"You _must_ answer it, madam!" He was imperative. "I demand the yes
or no. Is it or is it not Paul Hendrickson?"
"Your calmer reason, sir, will tell you to-morrow that I was right
in refusing to give any man's name in this connection," replied Mrs.
Denison. "I am pained to see you so much disturbed. My hope was,
that you would go to Miss Loring in the grave dignity of
manhood--But, while in this spirit of angry excitement, I pray you
keep far from her."
"Hendrickson is the man!" said Dexter, his brows still contracting
heavily. "But if he still hopes to rival me in Jessie's love, he
will find himself vastly in error. No, no, madam! If it is for him
you are interested, you had better give it up. I passed him in the
race long ago!"
A feeling of disgust arose in the mind of Mrs. Denison, mingled with
a stronger feeling of contempt. But she answered without a visible
sign of either.
"I am sorry that you have let the form of any person come in to give
right thought and honorable purpose a distorting bias. I did hope
that you would see Miss Loring under the influence of a better
state. And I pray you still to be calm, rational, generous, manly.
Go to her in a noble, unselfish spirit. If you love her truly you
desire her happiness; and to make her happy, would even release her
pledged hand, were such a sacrifice needed."
"You give me credit for more virtue than I claim to possess," was
answered, a little sarcastically. "Love desires to hold, not lose
"Enough, my young friend," said Mrs. Denison, in her calm, earnest
way. "We will not bandy words--that would be fruitless. I grieve
that you should have misunderstood me in even the least thing, or
let the slightest suggestion of a sinister motive find a lodgment in
your mind. I have had no purpose but a good one to serve, and shall
be conscience-clear in the matter. A more delicate task than this
was never undertaken. That I have not succeeded according to my
wishes, is no matter of surprise."
"Good evening, madam!"
Dexter bowed with a cold formality.
"Good evening!" was mildly returned.
And so the young man went away.
"I fear that only harm will come of this," said Mrs. Denison, as she
retired from the door. "I meant it for the best, and pray that no
evil may follow the indiscretion, if such it be!"
MRS. DENISON'S fears were prophetic. Evil, not good, came of her
well meant efforts to prevent the coming sacrifice. Instead of
awakening generous impulses in the mind of Leon Dexter, only anger
and jealousy were aroused; and as they gained strength, love
withdrew itself, for love could not breathe the same atmosphere. The
belief that Hendrickson was the man to whom Mrs. Denison referred,
was fully confirmed by this fact. Dexter had resolved to see Miss
Loring that very evening, and was only a short distance from her
home, and in sight of the door, when he saw a man ascend the steps
and ring. He stopped and waited. A servant came to the door and the
caller entered. For a time, the question was revolved as to whether
he should follow, or not.
"It is Hendrickson. I'll wager my life on it!"--he muttered,
grinding his teeth together. "There is a cursed plot on foot, and
this insinuating, saintly Mrs. Denison, is one of the plotters! My
very blood is seething at the thought. Shall I go in now, and
confront him at his devilish work?"
"It were better not," he said, after a brief struggle with his
feelings. "I am too excited, and cannot answer for myself. A false
step now might ruin all. First, let me cage my singing bird, and
He strode onwards and passed the house of Mrs. Loring with rapid
steps. There was a light in the parlor, and he heard the sound of
voices. Ten minutes after, he returned--the light was there still;
but though he went by slowly, with noiseless
footsteps--listening--not a murmur reached his ears.
"He is there, a subtle tempter, whispering his honeyed allurements!"
It was the fiend Jealousy speaking in his heart. "Madness!" he
ejaculated, and he strode up the marble steps. Grasping the bell, he
resolved to enter. But something held back his hand, and another
voice said--"Wait! Wait! A single error now were fatal."
Slowly he descended, his ear bent to the windows, listening--slowly,
still listening, he moved onwards again; his whole being convulsed
in a stronger conflict of passion than he had ever known--reason at
fault and perception blindfold.
A full half hour had elapsed, when Dexter reappeared. He was in a
calmer frame of mind. Reason was less at fault, and perception
clearer. His purpose was to go in now, confront Jessie and Mr.
Hendrickson, and act from that point onward as the nature of the
case might suggest. He glanced at the parlor windows. There was no
light there now. The visitor had departed. He felt relieved, yet
"Is Miss Loring at home?" he asked of the servant.
"Yes, sir." And he entered. The lights, which were burning low in
the parlors, were raised, and Dexter sat down and awaited the
appearance of Jessie.
How should he meet her? With the warmth of a lover, or the distance
of a mere acquaintance? Would it be wise to speak of his interview
with Mrs. Denison, or let that subject pass untouched by even the
remotest allusion? Mr. Dexter was still in debate, when he heard
some one descending the stairs. Steps were in the passage near the
door. He arose, and stood expectant.
"Miss Loring says, will you please excuse her this evening?"
"Excuse her!" Mr. Dexter could not veil his surprise. "Why does she
wish to be excused, Mary?"
"I don't know sir. She didn't say."
"Is she sick?"
"I don't think she is very well. Something isn't right with her,
"What isn't right with her?"
"I don't know, sir. But she was crying when I went into her room."
"Yes, sir; and she cries a great deal, all alone there by herself,
sir," added Mary, who had her own reasons for believing that Dexter
was not really the heart-choice of Jessie--and with the tact of her
sex, took it upon herself to throw a little cold water over his
ardor. It may be that she hoped to give it a thorough chill.
"What does she cry about, Mary?"
"Dear knows, sir! I often wonder to see it, and she so soon to be
married. It doesn't look just natural. There's something wrong."
"Wrong? How wrong, Mary?"
"That's just what I asked myself over and over again," replied the
"She had a visitor here to-night," said Dexter, after a moment or
two. He tried to speak indifferently; but the quick perception of
Mary detected the covert interest in his tones.
"Yes." A single cold (sic) monosylable was her reply.
"Who was he?"
"'Deed I don't know, sir."
"Was he a stranger?"
"I didn't see him, sir," answered Mary.
"You let him in?"
"No, sir. The cook went to the door."
Dexter bit his lips with disappointment.
"Will you say to Miss Loring that I wish to see her particularly
"Why don't you take up my request?" He spoke with covert impatience.
"I am sure she wishes to be excused to-night," persisted the girl.
"She's not at all herself; and it will be cruel to drag her down."
But Dexter waved his hand, and said, sharply:
"I wish to hear no more from you, Miss Pert! Go to Miss Loring, and
tell her that she will confer a favor by seeing me this evening. I
can receive no apology but sickness."
Jessie was sitting as Mary had left her, both hands covering her
face, when that kind-hearted creature returned.
"It's too much!" exclaimed the girl, as she entered. "He must see
you, he says. I told him you wasn't well, and wished to be excused.
But no, he must see you! Something's gone wrong with him. He's all
out of sorts, and spoke as if he'd take my head off. He really
Jessie drew a long deep sigh.
"If I must, I must," she said, rising and looking at her face in the
"_I_ wouldn't go one step, Miss Jessie, if I were you. I'd like to
see the man who dared order me down in this style. He's jealous;
that's the long and short of it. Punish him--he deserves it."
"Jealous, Mary?" Miss Loring turned to the girl with a startled
look. "Why do you say that?"
"Oh, he asked me if you hadn't a visitor to-night."
"I said yes. Only 'yes,' and no more."
"Why yes, and no more?" asked Miss Loring.
"D'ye think I was going to gratify him! What business had he to ask
whether you had a visitor or not? You ain't sold to him."
"Mary!" There was reproof in the look and voice of Miss Loring. "You
must not speak so of Mr. Dexter."
"Well, I won't if it displeases you. But I was downright mad with
"You said yes to his question. What then, Mary?"
"Oh, then he wanted to know who he was."
"Did you tell him?"
"Why? And what did you answer?"
"I wasn't going to gratify him; and I said that I didn't know."
"'Was he a stranger?' said he. 'I didn't see him,' said I. 'You let
him in?' said he. 'No, the cook went to the door,' said I. You
should have seen him then. He was baffled. Then looking almost
savage, he bid me tell you that you must see him to-night."
"_Must_ see him! Did he say _must_?"
There was rebellion in Jessie's voice.
"Well no, not just that word. But he looked and meant it, which is
all the same."
"Then he doesn't know who called to see me?"
"Not from all he got from me, miss. But you're not going down?"
"Yes, Mary; I will see him as he desires. Go and say that I will
join him in a few minutes."
The girl obeyed, and Jessie, after struggling a few moments with her
feelings, went down to the parlor, where Mr. Dexter awaited her.
"I am sorry to learn that you are not well this evening," said the
young man, as he advanced across the room, with his eyes fixed
intently on the face of his betrothed. She tried to smile, and
receive him with her usual kindness of manner. But this was
impossible. She had been profoundly disturbed, and that too recently
"What ails you? Has anything happened?"
Jessie had not yet trusted her lips with words. The tones of Dexter
evinced some fretfulness.
"I am not very well," she said, partly turning away her face that
she might avoid the searching scrutiny of his eyes.
Dexter took her hand and led her to a sofa. They sat down, side by
side, in silence--ice between them.
"Have you been indisposed all day?" inquired Dexter.
"I have not been very well for some time," was answered in a husky
voice, and in a manner that he thought evasive.
Again there was silence.
"I called to see Mrs. Denison this evening," said Dexter; and then
waited almost breathlessly for a response, looking at Jessie
stealthily to note the effect of his words.
There was scarcely a sign of interest in her voice.
"Yes. You have met her, I believe?"
"A few times."
"Have you seen her recently?"
Dexter gained nothing by this advance.
"What do you think of her?" he added, after a pause.
"She is a lady of fine social qualities and superior worth."
Again the young man was silent. He could not discover by Jessie's
manner that she had any special interest in Mrs. Denison. This was
some relief; for it removed the impression that there was an
understanding between them.
"I don't admire her a great deal," he said, with an air of
indifference. "She's a little too prying and curious; and I'm
afraid, likes to gossip."
"Ah! I thought her particularly free from that vice."
"I had that impression also. But my interview this evening gave me a
different estimate of her character."
"Did you come from Mrs. Denison's directly here?" asked Jessie in a
changed tone, as if some thought of more than common interest had
flitted through her mind. This change Dexter did not fail to
"I did," was his answer.
"Then I may infer," said Jessie, "that your pressing desire to see
me this evening has grown out of something you heard from the lips
of Mrs. Denison. Am I right in this conclusion?"
Dexter was not quite prepared for this. After a slight hesitation he
The cold indifferent manner of Jessie Loring passed away directly.
"If you have anything to communicate, as of course you have, say on,
As little prepared was he for this; and quite as little for the
almost stately air with which Jessie drew up her slight form,
returning his glances with so steady a gaze that his eyes fell.
The hour and the opportunity had come. But Leon Dexter had neither
the manliness nor the courage to speak.
"Did Mrs. Denison introduce my name?" asked Jessie, seeing that her
lover had failed to answer. There was not a quiver in her voice, nor
the slightest failing in her eyes.
"Yes; casually." Dexter spoke with evasion.
"What did she say?"
"Nothing but what was good," said Dexter, now trying to resume his
wonted pleasant exterior. "What else could she say? You look as if
there had been a case of slander."
"She said something in connection with my name," answered Jessie
firmly, "that disturbed you. Now as you have disclosed so much, I
must know all."
"I have made no disclosures." Dexter seemed annoyed.
"You said you were at Mrs. Denison's."
"And said it with a meaning. I noticed both tone and manner. You
came directly here, according to your own admission, and asked for
me. Not being well, I desired to be excused. But you would take no
excuse. Your manner to the servant was not only disturbed, but
imperative. To me it is constrained, and altogether different from
anything I have hitherto noticed. So much is disclosed. Now I wish
you to go on and tell the whole story. Then we shall understand each
other. What has Mrs. Denison said about me that has so ruffled your
There was no retreat for the perplexed young man. He must go forward
in some path--straight or tortuous--manly or evasive. There was too
much apparent risk in the former; and so he chose the latter. All at
once his exterior changed. The clouded brow put on a sunny aspect.
"Forgive me, dear Jessie!" he said with ardor, and a restored
tenderness of manner. "True love has ever a touch of jealousy; and
something that Mrs. Denison intimated aroused that darker passion.
But the shadowed hour has passed, and I am in the clear sunlight
He raised her hand to his lips, and kissed it with fervor.
"What did she intimate?" asked Miss Loring. Her manner was less
excited, and her tone less imperative.
"What I now see to be false," said Dexter. "I was disturbed because
I imagined intrigue, and a purpose to rob me of something I prize
more dearly than life--the love of my Jessie."
"Intrigue!" was answered; "you fill me with surprise. Mrs. Denison,
if I understand her, is incapable of anything so dishonorable."
"I don't know." Mr. Dexter spoke with the manner of one in doubt,
and as if questioning his own thoughts. "She has filled my mind with
dark suspicions. Why, Jessie!" and he assumed a more animated
exterior, "she went so far as to intimate a disingenuous spirit in
"In me!" Miss Loring's surprise was natural. "Disingenuousness!"
"That word is not the true one," said Dexter. "What she said meant
"That you were--but I will not pain your ears, darling! Forgive my
foolish indignation. Love with me is so vital a thing, that the
remotest suspicion of losing its object, brings smarting pain. You
are all the world to me, Jessie, and the intimation"--
"Of what, Leon?"
He had left the sentence unfinished. Dexter was holding one of her
hands. She did not attempt to withdraw it.
"That you were false to me!"
The words caused Miss Loring to spring to her feet. Bright spots
burned on her cheeks, and her eyes flashed.
"False to you! What did she mean by such words?" was demanded.
"It was the entering wedge of suspicion," said Dexter. "But the
trick has failed. My heart tells me that you are the soul of honor.
If I was disturbed, is that a cause of wonder? Would not such an
allegation against me have disturbed you? It would! But that your
heart is pure and true as an angel's, I best know of all the living.
Dear Jessie!" and he laid a kiss upon her burning cheek,
"I shall never cease to blame myself for the part I have played this
evening. Had I loved you less I had been calmer."
"False in what way?" asked Miss Loring, unsatisfied with so vague an
"False to your vows, of course. What else could she mean?"
"Did she say that?"
"No--of course not. But she conveyed the meaning as clearly as if
she had uttered the plainest language."
"What were her words?" asked Miss Loring.
"I cannot repeat them. She spoke with great caution, keeping remote,
as to words, from the matter first in her thought, yet filling my
mind with vague distrust, or firing it with jealousy at every
"Can you fix a single clear remark--something that I can repeat?"
"Not one. The whole interview impresses me like a dream. Only the
disturbance remains. But let it pass as a dream, darling--a
nightmare created by some spirit of evil. A single glance into your
dear face and loving eyes rebukes my folly and accuses me of wrong.
We are all the world to each other, and no shadow even shall come
again between our souls and happiness."
Jessie resumed her seat and questioned no farther. Was she satisfied
with the explanation? Of course not. But her lover was adroit, and
she became passive.
"You cannot wonder now," he said, "that I was so anxious to see you
this evening. I might have spared you this interview, and it would
have been better, perhaps, if I had done so. But excited lovers are
not always the most reasonable beings in the world. I could not have
slept to-night. Now I shall find the sweetest slumber that has yet
refreshed my spirit--and may your sleep, dearest, be gentle as the
sleep of flowers! I will leave you now, for I remember that you are
far from being well this evening. It will grieve me to think that my
untimely intrusion, and this disturbing hour, may increase the pain
you suffer or rob you of a moment's repose.--Good night, love!" and
he kissed her tenderly. "Good night, precious one!" he added. "May
angels be your companions through the dark watches, and bring you to
a glorious morning!"
He left her, and moved towards the door; yet lingered, for his mind
was not wholly at ease in regard to the state of Jessie's feelings.
She had not repelled him in any way--but his ardent words and acts
were too passively received. She was standing where he had parted
from her, with her eyes upon the floor.
She looked up.
"Good night, dear!"
"Good night, Mr. Dexter."
"Mr. Dexter!" The young man repeated the words between his teeth, as
he passed into the street a moment afterwards. "Mr. Dexter! and in
tones that were cold as an icicle!"
He strode away from the house of Mrs. Loring, but little comforted
by his interview with Jessie, and with the fiend Jealousy a
permanent guest in his heart.
LEON DEXTER was not wrong in his suspicions. It was Hendrickson who
visited Miss Loring on the evening of his interview with Mrs.
Denison. The young man had striven, with all the power he possessed,
to overcome his fruitless passion--but striven in vain.--The image
of Miss Loring had burned itself into his heart, and become
ineffaceable. The impression she had made upon him was different
from that made by any woman he had yet chanced to meet, and he felt
that, in some mysterious way, their destinies were bound up
together. That, in her heart, she preferred him to the man who was
about to sacrifice her at the marriage altar he no longer doubted.
"Is it right to permit this sacrifice?" The question had thrust
itself upon him for days and weeks.
"Leon Dexter cannot fill the desire of her heart." Thus he talked
with himself. "She does not love; and to such a woman marriage
unblessed by love must be a condition worse than death. No--no! It
shall not be! Steadily she is moving on, nerved by a false sense of
honor; and unless some one comes to the rescue, the fatal vow will
be made that seals the doom of her happiness and mine. It must
not--shall not be! Who so fitting as I to be her rescuer? She loves
me! Eyes, lips, countenance, tones, gestures, all have been my
witnesses. Only an hour too late! Too late? No--no! I will not
believe the words! She shall yet be mine!"
It was in this spirit, and under the pressure of such feelings, that
Paul Hendrickson visited Jessie Loring on the night Dexter saw him
enter the house. The interview was not a very long one, as the
reader knows. He sent up his card, and Miss Loring returned for
answer, that she would see him in a few moments. Full five minutes
elapsed before she left her room. It had taken her nearly all that
time to school her agitated feelings; for on seeing his name, her
heart had leaped with an irrepressible impulse. She looked down into
her heart, and questioned as to the meaning of this disturbance. The
response was clear. Paul Hendrickson was more to her than any living
"He should have spared me an interview, alone," she said to herself.
"Better for both of us not to meet."
This was her state of feeling, when after repressing, as far as
possible, every unruly emotion, she left her room and took her way
"Is not this imprudent?" The mental question arrested the footsteps
of Miss Loring, ere she had proceeded five paces from the door of
"Is not what imprudent?" was answered back in her thoughts.
"What folly is this!" she said, in self-rebuke, and passed onward.
"Miss Loring!" There was too much feeling in Hendrickson's manner.
But its repression, under the circumstances, was impossible.
"Mr. Hendrickson!" The voice of Miss Loring betrayed far more of
inward disturbance than she wished to appear.
Their hands met. They looked into each other's eyes--then stood for
some moments in mutual embarrassment.
"You are almost a stranger," said Jessie, conscious that any remark
was better, under the circumstances, than silence.
"Am I?" Hendrickson still held her hand, and still gazed into her
eyes. The ardor of his glances reminded her of duty and of danger.
Her hand disengaged itself from his--her eyes fell to the floor--a
deep crimson suffused her countenance. They seated themselves--she
on the sofa, and he on a chair drawn close beside, or rather nearly
in front of her. How heavily beat the maiden's heart! What a
pressure, almost to suffocation, was on her bosom! She felt an
impending sense of danger, but lacked the resolution to flee.
"Miss Loring," said Hendrickson, his unsteady voice betraying his
inward agitation, "when I last saw you"--
"Sir!" There was a sudden sternness in the young girl's voice, and a
glance of warning in her eye. But the visitor was not to be driven
from his purpose.
"It is _not_ too late, Jessie Loring!" He spoke with eagerness.
She made a motion as if about to rise, but he said in a tone that
"No, Miss Loring! You _must_ hear what I have to say to-night."
She grew very pale; but looked at him steadily.
So unexpected were his intimations--so imperative his manner, that
she was, in a degree, bereft for the time of will.
"You should have spared me this, Mr. Hendrickson," she answered,
sadly, and with a gentle rebuke in her tones.
"I would endure years of misery to save you from a moment's pain!"
was quickly replied. "And it is in the hope of being able to call
down Heaven's choicest blessings on your head, that I am here
to-night. Let me speak without reserve. Will you hear me?"
Miss Loring made no sigh; only her eyelids drooped slowly, until the
bright orbs beneath were hidden and the dark lashes lay softly on
her colorless cheeks.
"There is one thing, Miss Loring," he began, "known to yourself and
me alone. It is our secret. Nay! do not go! Let me say on now, and I
will ever after hold my peace. If this marriage contract, so
unwisely made, is not broken, two lives will be made wretched--yours
and mine. You do not love Mr. Dexter! You cannot love him! That were
as impossible as for light to be enamored of dark"--
"I will not hear you!" exclaimed Miss Loring, starting to her feet.
But Hendrickson caught her hand and restrained her by force.
"You must hear me!" he answered passionately.
"I dare not!"
"This once! I must speak now, and you must hear! God has given you
freedom of thought and freedom of will. Let both come into their
true activity. The holiest things of your life demand this, Miss
Loring. Sit down and be calm again, and let us talk calmly. I will
repress all excitement, and speak with reason. You shall hearken and
decide. There--I thank you"--
Jessie had resumed her seat.
"We have read each other's hearts, Miss Loring," Hendrickson went
on. His voice had regained its firmness, and he spoke in low, deep,
emphatic tones. "I, at least, have read yours, and you know mine.
Against your own convictions and your own feelings, you have been
coerced into an engagement of marriage with a man you do not, and
never can, love as a wife should love a husband. Consummate that
engagement, and years of wretchedness lie before you. I say nothing
of Mr. Dexter as regards honor, probity, and good feeling. I believe
him to be a man of high integrity. His character before the world is
blameless--his position one to be envied. But you do not love
him--you cannot love him. Nay it is idle to repel the assertion. I
have looked down too deeply into your heart. I know how its pulses
beat, Jessie Loring! There is only one living man who has the power
to unlock its treasures of affection. To all others it must remain
eternally sealed. I speak solemnly--not vainly. And your soul echoes
the truth of my words. It is not yet too late!"
"You should not have said this, Mr. Hendrickson!" Jessie resolutely
disengaged the hand he had taken, and was clasping with almost
vice-like pressure, and arose to her feet. He did not rise, but sat
looking up into her pale suffering face, with the light of hope,
which for a moment had flushed his own, fast decaying.
"You should not have said this, Mr. Hendrickson!" she repeated, in a
steadier voice. "It is too late, and only makes my task the
harder--my burden heavier. But God helping me, I will walk forward
in the right path, though my feet be lacerated at every step."
"Is it a right path, Miss Loring? I declare it to be the wrong
path!" said Hendrickson.
"Let God and my own conscience judge!" was firmly answered. "And
now, sir, leave me. Oh, leave me."
"And you are resolute?"
"I am! God being my helper, I will go forward in the path of duty.
When I faint and fall by the way through weakness, the trial will
"Friends, wealth, social attractions--all that the world can give
will be yours. But my way must be lonely--my heart desolate. I shall
"Go, sir!" Miss Loring's voice was imperative, and there was a flash
like indignation in her eyes. "Go sir!" she repeated. "This is
The last sentence stung Mr. Hendrickson, and he arose quickly. Miss
Loring, who saw the effect of her words, threw up, with a woman's
quick instinct, this further barrier between them--
"I marvel, sir, knowing, as you do, the sacred obligations under
which I rest, that you should have dared utter language such as my
ears have been compelled to hear this night! I take it as no
The young man attempted to speak; but with a sternness of manner
that sent a chill to his heart, she motioned him to be silent, and
"Let this, sir, be the last time you venture to repeat what I cannot
but regard as dis"--
Dishonorable was the word on her lips, but she suddenly checked
herself. She could not say that to him.
Waking or sleeping, alone or in society, for weeks, months and years
afterwards, the image of that young man's despairing face, as she
saw it then, was ever before her.
"Insult! Dishonor!" he said, as if speaking to himself. "I could die
for her--but not that!--not that!"
And without a parting glance or a parting word, Paul Hendrickson
turned from the woman who was destined to influence his whole life,
and left her alone in his bewilderment and wretchedness. It is
difficult to say on which heart the heaviest pressure fell, or which
life was most hopeless. It is alleged that only men die of broken
hearts--that women can bear the crushing heel of disappointment,
live on and endure, while men fall by the way, and perish in the
strife of passion. It may be so. We know not. In the present case
the harder lot was on Miss Loring. If she bore her pain with less of
exterior token, it is no argument in favor of the lighter suffering.
The patiently enduring oftenest bear the most.
THE efforts which were made to save Miss Loring, only had the effect
to render the sacrifice more acutely painful. Evil instead of good
followed Mrs. Denison's appeals to Mr. Dexter. They served but to
arouse the demon jealousy in his heart. Upon Hendrickson's movements
he set the wariest surveillance. Twice, since that
never-to-be-forgotten evening he met the young man in company when
Jessie was present. With an eye that never failed for an instant in
watchfulness, he noted his countenance and movements; and he kept on
his betrothed as keen an observation. Several times he left her
alone, in order to give Hendrickson an opportunity to get into her
company. But there was too studied avoidance of contact. Had they
met casually and exchanged a few pleasant words, suspicion would
have been allayed. As it was, jealousy gave its own interpretation
to their conduct.
On the last of these occasions referred to, from a position where he
deemed himself beyond the danger of casual observation, Hendrickson
searched with his eyes for the object of his undying regard. He saw
her, sitting alone, not far distant. Her manner was that of one lost
in thought--the expression of her countenance dreamy, and overcast
with a shade of sadness. How long he had been gazing upon her face,
the young man could not have told, so absorbed was he in the
feelings her presence had awakened, when turning almost
involuntarily his eyes caught the gleam of another pair of eyes that
were fixed intently upon him. So suddenly had he turned, that the
individual observing him was left without opportunity to change in
any degree the expression of his eyes or countenance. It was almost
malignant. That individual was Leon Dexter.
In spite of himself, Hendrickson showed confusion, and was unable to
return the steady gaze that rested upon him. His eyes fell. When he
looked up again, which was in a moment, Dexter had left his
position, and was crossing the room towards Miss Loring.
"It is the fiend Jealousy!" said Hendrickson, as he withdrew into
another room. "Well--let it poison all the springs of his happiness,
as he has poisoned mine! I care not how keen may be his sufferings."
He spoke with exceeding bitterness.
A few weeks later, and the dreaded consummation came. In honor of
the splendid alliance formed by her niece, Mrs. Loring gave a most
brilliant wedding party, and the lovely bride stood forth in all her
beauty and grace--the admired and the envied. A few thought her
rather pale--some said her eyes were too dreamy--and a gossip or two
declared that the rich young husband had only gained her person,
while her heart was in the keeping of another. "She has not married
the man, but his wealth and position!" was the unguarded remark of
one of these thoughtless individuals; and by a singular fatality,
the sentence reached the ears of Mr. Dexter. Alas! It was but
throwing another fagot on the already kindling fires of unhallowed
jealousy. The countenance of the young husband became clouded; and
it was only by an effort that he could arouse himself, and assume a
gay exterior. The prize after which he had sprung with such eager
haste, distancing all competitors, was now his own. Binding vows had
been uttered, and the minister had said--"What God hath joined
together, let not man put asunder." Yet, even in his hour of
triumph, came the troubled conviction that, though he had gained the
beautiful person of his bride, he could not say surely that her more
beautiful soul was all his own.
And so there was a death's head at his feast; and the costly wine
was dashed with bitterness.
Of what was passing in the mind of Dexter his bride had no
knowledge; nor did her keen instincts warn her that the demon of
jealousy was already in his heart. Suffering, and the colder spirit
of endurance that followed, had rendered her, in a certain sense,
obtuse in this direction.
A full-grown, strong woman, had Jessie become suddenly. The gentle,
tenderly-loving, earnest, simple-hearted girl, could never have
sustained the part it was hers to play. Unless a new and more
vigorous life had been born in her, she must have fallen. But now
she stood erect, shading her heart from her own eyes, and gathering
from principle strength for duty. Very pure--very true she was. Yet,
in her new relation, purity and truth were shrined in a cold
exterior. It were not possible to be otherwise. She did not love her
husband in any thing like the degree she was capable of loving. It
was not in him to find the deep places of her heart. But true to him
she could be, and true to him it was her purpose to remain.
Taking all the antecedents of this case, we will not wonder, when
told that quite from the beginning of so inharmonious a union,
Dexter found himself disappointed in his bride. He was naturally
ardent and demonstrative; while, of necessity, she was calm, cold,
dignified--or simply passive. She was never unamiable or capricious;
and rarely opposed him in anything reasonable or unreasonable. But
she was reserved almost to constraint at times--a vestal at the
altar, rather than a loving wife. He was very proud of her, as well
he might be; for she grew peerless in beauty. But her beauty was
from the development of taste, thought, and intellect. It was not
born of the affections. Yes, Leon Dexter was sadly disappointed. He
wanted something more than all this.
Lifted from an almost obscure position, as the dependent niece of
Mrs. Loring, the young wife of Mr. Dexter found herself in a larger
circle, and in the society of men and women of more generally
cultivated tastes. She soon became a centre of attraction; for
taste attracts taste, mind seeks mind. And where beauty is added,
the possessor has invincible charms. It did not escape the eyes of
Dexter that, in the society of other men, his young wife was gayer
and more vivacious (sic) that when with him. This annoyed him so
much, that he began to act capriciously, as it seemed to Jessie.
Sometimes he would require her to leave a pleasant company long
before the usual hour, and sometimes he would refuse to go with her
to parties or places of amusement, yet give no reasons that were
satisfactory. On these occasions, a moody spirit would come over
him. If she questioned, he answered with evasion, or covert
The closer union of an external marriage did not invest the husband
with any new attractions for his wife. The more intimately she knew
him, the deeper became her repugnance. He had no interior qualities
in harmony with her own. An intensely selfish man, it was impossible
for him to inspire a feeling of love in a mind so pure in its
impulses, and so acute in its perceptions. If Mrs. Dexter had been a
worldly-minded woman--a lover of--or one moved by the small
ambitions of fashionable life--her husband would have been all well
enough. She would have been adjoined to him in a way altogether
satisfactory to her tastes, and they would have circled their orbit
of life without an eccentric motion. But the deeper capacities and
higher needs of Mrs. Dexter, made this union quite another thing.
Her husband had no power to fill her soul--to quicken her
life-pulses--to stir the silent chords of her heart with the deep,
pure, ravishing melodies they were made to give forth. That she was
superior to him mentally, Mr. Dexter was not long in discovering.
Very rapidly did her mind, quickened by a never-dying pain, spring
forward towards its culmination. Of its rapid growth in power and
acuteness, he only had evidence when he listened to her in
conversation with men and women of large acquirements and polished
tastes. Alone with him, her mind seemed to grow duller every day;
and if he applied the spur, it was only to produce a start, not a
Alas for Leon Dexter! He had caged his beautiful bird; but her song
had lost, already, its ravishing sweetness.
THE first year of trial passed. If the young wife's heart-history
for that single year could be written, it would make a volume, every
pages of which the reader would find (sic) spoted with his tears. No
pen but that of the sufferer could write that history; and to her,
no second life, even in memory, were endurable. The record is sealed
up--and the story will not be told.
It is not within the range of all minds to comprehend what was
endured. Wealth, position, beauty, admiration, enlarged
intelligence, and highly cultivated tastes, were hers. She was the
wife of a man who almost worshipped her, and who ceased not to woo
her with all the arts he knew how to practise. Impatient he became,
at times, with her impassiveness, and fretted by her coldness.
Jealous of her he was always. But he strove to win that love which,
ere his half-coercion of her into marriage, he had been warned he
did not possess--but his strivings were in vain. He was a meaner
bird, and could not mate with the eagle.
To Mrs. Dexter, this life was a breathing death. Yet with a
wonderful power of endurance and self-control, she moved along her
destined way, and none of the people she met in society--nor even
her nearest friends--had any suspicion of her real state of mind. As
a wife, her sense of honor was keen. From that virtuous poise, her
mind had neither variableness nor shadow of turning. No children
came with silken wrappings to hide and make softer the bonds that
held her to her husband in a union that only death could dissolve;
the hard, icy, galling links of the chain were ever visible, and
their trammel ever felt. Cold and desolate the elegant home
In society, Mrs. Dexter continued to hold a brilliant position. She
was courted, admired, flattered, envied--the attractive centre to
every circle of which she formed a part. Rarely to good advantage
did her husband appear, for her mind had so far outrun his in
strength and cultivation, that the contrast was seriously against
him--and he felt it as another barrier between them.
One year of pride was enough for Mr. Dexter. A beautiful, brilliant,
fashionable wife was rather a questionable article to place on
exhibition; there was danger, he saw, in the experiment. And so he
deemed it only the dictate of prudence to guard her from temptation.
An incident determined him. They were at Newport, in the mid-season;
and their intention was to remain there two weeks. They had been to
Saratoga, where the beauty and brilliancy of Mrs. Dexter drew around
her some of the most intelligent and attractive men there. All at
once her husband suggested Newport.
"I thought we had fixed on next week," said Mrs. Dexter, in reply.
"I am not well," was the answer. "The sea air will do me good."
"We will go to-morrow, then," was the unhesitating response. Not
made with interest or feeling; but promptly, as the dictate of
Just half an hour previous to this brief interview, Mr. Dexter was
sitting in one of the parlors, and near him were two men, strangers,
in conversation. The utterance by one of them of his wife's name,
caused him to be on the instant all attention.
"She's charming!" was the response.
"One of the most fascinating women I have ever met! and my
observation, as you know, is not limited. She would produce a
sensation in Paris."
"Is she a young widow?"
"Who, or what is her husband?" was asked.
"A rich nobody, I'm told."
"Ah! He has taste."
"Taste in beautiful women, at least," was the rejoinder.
"Is he here?"
"I believe so. He would hardly trust so precious a jewel as that out
of his sight. They say he is half-maddened by jealousy."
"And with reason, probably. Weak men, with brilliant, fashionable
wives, have cause for jealousy. He's a fool to bring her right into
the very midst of temptation."
"Can't help (sic) simelf, I presume. It might not be prudent to
attempt the caging system."
A low, chuckling laugh followed. How the blood did go rushing and
seething through the veins of Leon Dexter!
"I intend to know more of her," was continued. "Where do they live?"
"Ah! I shall be there during the winter."
"She sees a great deal of company, I am told. Has weekly or monthly
'evenings' at which some of the most intellectual people in the city
may be found."
"Easy of access, I suppose?"
"No doubt of it."
Dexter heard no more. On the next day he started with his wife for
Newport. The journey was a silent one. They had ceased to converse
much when alone. And now there were reasons why Mr. Dexter felt
little inclination to intrude any common-places upon his wife.
They were passing into the hotel, on their arrival, when Mr. Dexter,
who happened to be looking at his wife, saw her start, flush, and
then turn pale. It was the work of an instant. His eyes followed the
direction of hers, but failed to recognize any individual among the
group of persons near them as the one who thus affected her by his
presence. He left her in one of the parlors, while he made
arrangements for rooms. In a few minutes he returned. She was
sitting as he had left her, seeming scarcely to have stirred during
his absence. Her eyes were on the floor, and when he said, "Come,
Jessie!" she started and looked up at him, in a confused way.
"Our apartments are ready; come."
He had to speak a second time before she seemed to comprehend his
meaning. She arose like one in deep thought, and moved along by her
husband's side, leaving the parlor, and going up to the rooms which
had been assigned to them. The change in her countenance and manner
was so great, that her husband could not help remarking upon it.
"Are you not well, Jessie?" he asked, as she sat down with a weary
"Not very well," she answered--yet with a certain evasion of tone
that repelled inquiry.
Mr. Dexter scanned her countenance sharply. She lifted her eyes at
the moment to his face, and started slightly at the unusual meaning
she saw therein. A flush betrayed her disturbed condition; and a
succeeding pallor gave signs of unusual pain.
"Will you see a physician!"
"No--no!" she answered, quickly; "it was a momentary sickness--but
is passing off now." She arose as she said this, and commenced
laying aside her travelling garments. Mr. Dexter sat down, and
taking a newspaper from his pocket, pretended to read; but his
jealous eyes looked over the sheet, and rested with keen scrutiny on
the face of his wife whenever it happened to be turned towards him.
That she scarcely thought of his presence, was plain from the fact
that she did not once look at him. Suddenly, as if some new thought
had crossed his mind, Mr. Dexter arose, and after making some slight
changes in his dress, left the apartment and went down stairs. He
was evidently in search of some one; for he passed slowly, and with
wary eyes, along the passages, porticos and parlors. The result was
not satisfactory. He met several acquaintances, and lingered with
each in conversation; but the watchful searching eyes were never a
moment at rest.
The instant Mr. Dexter left the room, there was a change in his
wife. The half indifferent, almost listless manner gave place to one
that expressed deep struggling emotions. Her bent form became erect,
and she stood for a little while listening with her eyes upon the
door, as if in doubt whether her husband would not return. After the
lapse of two or three minutes, she walked to the door, and placing
her fingers on the key, turned it, locking herself in. This done,
she retired slowly towards a lounge by the window, nearly every
trace of excitement gone, and sitting down, was soon so entirely
absorbed in thought as scarcely to show a sign of external life.
It was half an hour from the time Mr. Dexter left his wife, when he
returned. His hand upon the lock aroused her from the waking dream
into which she had fallen. As she arose, her manner began to change,
and, ere she had reached the door, the quicker flowing blood was
restoring the color to her cheeks. She had passed through a long and
severe struggle; and woman's virtue, aided by woman's pride and
will, had conquered.
Mrs. Dexter spoke to her husband cheerfully as he came in, and met
his steady, searching look without a sign of confusion. He was at
fault. Yet not deceived.
"Are you better?" he asked.
"Much better," she replied; and turning from him, went on with the
arrangement of her toilet, which had been suspended from the period
of her husband's absence, until his return. Mr. Dexter passed into
their private parlor, adjoining the bedroom, and remained there
until his wife had finished dressing.
"Shall we go down?" he inquired, as she came in looking so beautiful
in his eyes that the very sight of her surpassing loveliness gave
him pain. The Fiend was in his heart.
"Not now," she replied "I am still fatigued with the day's travel,
and had rather not see company at present."
She glanced from the window.
"What a sublimity there is in the ocean!" she said, with an unusual
degree of interest in her manner, when speaking to her husband. "I
can never become so familiar with its grandeur and vastness, as to
look upon its face without emotion. You remember Byron's magnificent
"'Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll.'"
And she repeated several of the stanzas from "Childe Harold," with
an effect that stirred her husband's feelings more profoundly than
they had ever been stirred by nature and poetry before.
"I have read and heard that splendid passage many times, but never
with the meaning and power which your voice has lent to the poet's
words," said Dexter, gazing with admiration upon his wife.
He sat down beside her, and took her hand in his. Her eyes wandered
to his face, and lingered there as if she were searching the
lineaments for a sign of something that her heart could take hold
upon and cling to. And it was even so; for she felt that she needed
strength and protection in an hour of surely coming trial. A feeble
sigh and a drooping of the eyelids attested her disappointment. And
yet as he leaned towards her she did not sit more erect, but rather
suffered her body to incline to him. He still retained her hand, and
she permitted him to toy with it, even slightly returning the
pressure he gave.
"You shall be my teacher in the love of nature." He spoke with a
glow of true feeling. "The lesson of this evening I shall never
forget. Old ocean will always wear a different aspect in my eyes."
"Nature," replied Mrs. Dexter, "is not a mere dead symbol.--It is
something more--an outbirth from loving principles--the body of a
creating soul. The sea, upon whose restless surface we are gazing,
is something more than a briny fluid, bearing ships upon its
bosom--something more than a mirror for the arching
heavens--something more than a symbol of immensity and eternity.
There is a truth in nature far deeper, more divine, and of higher
She paused, and for some moments her thoughts seemed floating away
into a world, the real things of which our coarser forms but feebly
"It must be so. I feel that it is so; yet what to you seems clear as
the sunbeams, hides itself from me in dusky shadows. But say on
Jessie. Your words are pleasant to my ears."
Mrs. Dexter seemed a little surprised at this language, for she
turned her eyes from the sea to his face, and looked at him with a
questioning gaze for some moments.
"This world is not the real world," she said, speaking earnestly and
gazing at him intently to see how far his thought reflected hers.
"Is not this real?" Dexter asked, raising the hand of his wife and
looking down upon it. "I call it a real hand."
"And I," said Mrs. Dexter, smiling, "call it only the appearance of
a hand; it is the real hand that vitalizes and gives it power. This
will decay--this appearance fade--but the real hand of my spirit
will live on, immortal in its power as the human soul of which it
makes a part."
"Into what strange labyrinths your mind is wandering Jessie!" said
Mr. Dexter, a slight shade of disapproval in his voice. "I am afraid
you are losing yourself."
"Rather say that I have been lost, and am finding myself in open
paths, with the blue sky instead of forest foliage above me."
"Your language is a myth, Jessie. I never heard of your being lost.
To me you have been ever present, walking in the sunlight, a divine
reality. Not the mere appearance of a woman; but a _real_ woman, and
my wife. Pray do not lose yourself now! Do not recede from an actual
flesh and blood existence into some world of dim philosophy whither
I cannot go. I am not ready for your translation."
Mr. Dexter was half playful, half serious. His reply disappointed
his wife. Her manner, warmer than usual, took on a portion of its
old reserve. But she went on speaking.
"The immortal soul, spiritual in its essence, yet organized in all
its minutest parts--cannot attain its full stature unless it
receives immortal food. The aliments of mere sensual life are for
the body, and the mind's lowest constituents of being; and they who
are content to feed on husks must sort with the common herd. I have
higher aspirations, my husband! I see within and above the animal
and sensuous a real world of truth and goodness, where, and where
only, the soul's immortal desires can be satisfied. With the key in
my hand shall I not enter? The common air is too thick for me. I
must perish or rise into purer atmospheres."
Mrs. Dexter paused, conscious that her husband did not appreciate
her meanings. He was listening intently, and striving apparently
after them; but to him only the things of sense were real; and he
was not able to comprehend how lasting pleasure was to flow from the
intellectual and spiritual. He did not answer, and she lapsed into
silence; all the fine enthusiasm that had filled her countenance so
full of a living beauty giving place to a cold, calm exterior. She
had hoped to quicken her husband's sluggish perceptions, and to
create in his mind an incipient love for the pure and beautiful
things after which her own mind was beginning to aspire.
In her intercourse with refined and intellectual persons, Mrs.
Dexter had made the acquaintance of a lady named Mrs. De Lisle. Her
residence was not far from Mrs. Dexter's and they met often for
pleasant and profitable conversation. In Mrs. De Lisle, Mrs. Dexter
found a woman of not only superior attainments, but one possessing
great purity of mind, and a high religious sense of duty. What
struck her in the very beginning was a new mode of weighing human
actions, and a quiet looking beneath the surface of things, and
estimating all she saw by the quality within instead of by the
appearance without. From the first, Mrs. Dexter was strongly
attracted by this lady; and it was a little remarkable that her
husband was as strongly repelled. He did not like her; and often
spoke of her sneeringly as using an unknown tongue. His wife
contended with him slightly at first in regard to Mrs. De Lisle; but
soon ceased to notice his captious remarks.
In Mrs. De Lisle, the struggling and suffering young creature had
found a true friend--not true in the sense of a weakly, sympathizing
friend, but more really true; one who could lift her soul up into
purer regions, and help it to acquire strength for duty.
There was another lady named Mrs. Anthony who had insinuated herself
into the good opinion of Mrs. Dexter, and partially, also, into her
It does not take a quick-sighted woman long to comprehend the true
marital standing of the friend in whom she feels an interest. Both
Mrs. De Lisle and Mrs. Anthony soon discovered that no love was in
the heart of Mrs. Dexter, and that consequently, no interior
marriage existed. They saw also that Mr. Dexter was inferior,
selfish, captious at times, and kept his wife always under
surveillance, as if afraid of her constancy. The different conduct
of the ladies, touching this relation of Mrs. Dexter to her husband,
was in marked contrast. While Mrs. De Lisle never approached the
subject in a way to invite communication, Mrs. Anthony, in the most
adroit and insinuating manner, almost compelled a certain degree of
confidence--or at least admission that there was not and never could
be, any interior conjunction between herself and husband.
Mrs. Anthony was a highly intellectual and cultivated woman, with
fascinating manners, a strong will, and singularly fine
conversational powers. She usually exercised a controlling influence
over all with whom she associated. Happy it was for Mrs. Dexter that
a friend like Mrs. De Lisle came to her in the right time, and
filled her mind with right principles for her own pure instincts to
rest upon as an immovable foundation.
An hour spent in company with Mrs. Anthony always left Mrs. Dexter
in a state of disquietude, and suffering from a sense of restriction
and wrong. A feeling of alienation from her husband ever accompanied
this state, and her spirit beat itself about, striking against the
bars of conventional usage, until the bruised wings quivered with
pain. But an hour spent with Mrs. De Lisle left her in a very
different state. True thoughts were stirred, and the soul lifted
upwards into regions of light and beauty. There was no grovelling
about the earth, no fanning of selfish fires into smoky flames, no
probing of half-closed wounds until the soul writhed in a new-born
anguish--but instead, hopeful words, lessons of duty, and the
introduction of an ennobling spiritual philosophy, that gave
strength and tranquillity for the present, and promised the soul's
highest fruition in the surely coming future.
Both Mrs. De Lisle and Mrs. Anthony were at Saratoga. The
announcement of Mrs. Dexter that she was going to leave for Newport
so suddenly surprised them both, as it had been understood that she
was to remain for some time longer.
"My husband wishes to visit Newport now," was the answer of Mrs.
Dexter to the surprised exclamation of Mrs. Anthony.
"Tell him that you wish to remain here," replied Mrs. Anthony.
"He is not well, and thinks the sea air will do him good."
"Not well! I met him an hour ago, and never saw him looking better
in my life. Do you believe him?"
"Why not?" asked Mrs. Dexter.
Her friend laughed lightly, and then murmured--
"Simpleton! He's only jealous, and wants to get you away from your
admirers. Don't go."
Mrs. Dexter laughed with affected indifference, but her color rose.
"You wrong him," she said.
"Not I," was answered. "The signs are too apparent. I am a close
observer, my dear Mrs. Dexter, and know the meaning of most things
that happen to fall within the range of my observation. Your husband
is jealous. The next move will be to shut you up in your chamber,
and set a guard before the house. Now if you will take my advice,
you'll say to this unreasonable lord and master of yours, 'Please to
wait, sir, until I am ready to leave Saratoga. It doesn't suit me to
do so just now. If you need the sea, run away to Newport and get a
dash of old ocean. I require Congress water a little longer.' That's
the way to talk, my little lady. But don't for Heaven's sake begin
to humor his capricious fancies. If you do, it's all over."
Mrs. De Lisle was present, but made no remark. Mrs. Dexter parried
her friend's admonition with playful words.
"Will you come to my room when disengaged?" said the former, as she
rose to leave the parlor where they had been sitting.
Mrs. De Lisle withdrew.
"You'll get a sermon on obedience to husbands," said Mrs. Anthony,
tossing her head and smiling a pretty, half sarcastic smile. "I've
one great objection to our friend."
"What is it?" inquired Mrs. Dexter.
"She's too proper."
"She's good," said Mrs. Dexter.
"I'll grant that; but then she's too good for me. I like a little
wickedness sometimes. It's spicy, and gives a flavor to character."
Mrs. Anthony laughed one of her musical laughs. But growing serious
in a moment, she said--
"Now, don't let her persuade you to humor that capricious husband of
yours. You are something more than an appendage to the man. God gave
you mind and heart, and created you an independent being. And a man
is nothing superior to this, that he should attempt to lord it over
his equal. I have many times watched this most cruel and exacting of
all tyrannies, and have yet to see the case where the yielding wife
could ever yield enough. Take counsel in time, my friend. Successful
resistance now, will cost but a trifling effort."
Mrs. Dexter neither accepted nor repelled the advice; but her
countenance showed that the remarks of Mrs. Anthony gave no very
pleasant hue to her thoughts.
"Excuse me," she said rising, "I must see Mrs. De Lisle."
Mrs. Anthony raised her finger, and gave Mrs. Dexter a warning look,
as she uttered the words--
"I won't," was answered.
Mrs. De Lisle received her with a serious countenance.
"You go to Newport in the morning?" she spoke, half-questioning and
half in doubt.
The countenance of Mrs. De Lisle brightened.
"I thought," she said, after a pause, "that I knew you."
She stopped, as if in doubt whether to go on.
Mrs. Dexter looked into her face a moment.
"You understand me?" Mrs. De Lisle added.
Mrs. Dexter betrayed unusual emotion.
"Forgive me," said her friend, "if I have ventured on too sacred
ground. You know how deeply I am interested in you."
Tears filled the eyes of Mrs. Dexter; her lips quivered; every
muscle of her face betrayed an inward struggle.
"Dear friend!" Mrs. De Lisle reached out her hands, and Mrs. Dexter
leaned forward against her, hiding her face upon her breast. And now
strong spasms thrilled her frame; and in weakness she wept--wept a
long, long time. Nature had her way. But emotion spent itself, and a
deep calm followed.
"Dear, patient, much-enduring, true-hearted friend!"
Mrs. De Lisle spoke almost in a whisper, her lips, close to the ear
of Mrs. Dexter. The words, or at least some of them, had the effect
to rouse the latter from her half lethargic condition. Lifting her
face from the bosom of her friend, she looked up and said--
Patient? Much enduring?
"Is it not so? God give you wisdom, hope, triumph! I have looked
into your heart many times, Mrs. Dexter. Not curiously, not as a
study, not to see how well you could hide from common eyes its
hidden anguish, but in deep and loving compassion, and with a strong
desire to help and counsel. Will you admit me to a more sacred
"Oh, yes! Gladly! Thankfully!" replied Mrs. Dexter. "How many, many
times have I desired to open my heart to you; but dared not. Now, if
you have its secret, gained by no purposed act of mine, I will
accept the aid and counsel."
"You do not love," said Mrs. De Lisle--not in strong, emphatic
utterance--not even calmly--but in a low, almost reluctant voice.
"I am capable of the deepest love," was answered.
"I know it."
"What then?" Mrs. Dexter spoke with some eagerness.
"You are a wife."
"I am," with coldness.
By your own consent?"
"It was extorted. But no matter. I accepted my present relation; and
I mean to abide the contract. Oh, my friend! you know not the pain I
feel in thus speaking, even to you. This is a subject over which I
drew the veil of what I thought to be eternal silence. You have
pushed it aside--not roughly, not with idle curiosity, but as a
loving friend and counsellor. And now if you can impart strength or
comfort, do so; for both are needed."
"The language of Mrs. Anthony pained me," said Mrs. De Lisle.
"Not more than it pained me," was the simple answer.
"And yet, Mrs. Dexter, though I observed you closely, I did not see
the indignant flush on your face, that I had hoped to see mantling
"It was a simple schooling of the exterior. I felt that she was
venturing on improper ground; but I did not care to let my real
sentiments appear. Mrs. Anthony lacks delicacy in some things."
"Her remarks I regarded as an outrage. But seriously, Mrs. Dexter,
is your husband so much inclined to jealousy?"
"I am afraid so."
"Do you think his purpose to leave Saratoga in the morning, springs
from this cause?"
"I am not aware of any circumstance that should give rise to sudden
apprehension in his mind. There is no one that I have remarked as
offering me particular attentions. I am here, and cannot help the
fact that gentlemen of superior taste, education, and high mental
accomplishments, seem pleased with my society. I like to meet such
persons--I enjoy the intercourse of mind with mind. It is the only
compensating life I have. In it I forget for a little while my
heart's desolation. In all that it is possible for me to be true to
my husband, I am true; and I pray always that God will give me
strength to endure even unto the end. His fears wrong me! There is
not one of the scores of attractive men who crowd around me in
public, who has the power, by look, or word, or action, to stir my
heart with even the lightest throb of tender feeling. I have locked
the door, and the key is hidden."
Mrs. De Lisle did not answer, for some time.
"Your high sense of honor, pure heart, and womanly perceptions, are
guiding you right, I see!" she then remarked; "the ordeal is
terrible, but you will pass through unscathed."
"I trust so!" was murmured in a sad voice; "I trust to keep my
garments unspotted. Without blame, or suspicion of wrong, I cannot
hope to move onward in my difficult way. Nor can I always hope to be
patient under captious treatment, and intimations of unfaithfulness.
The last will doubtless come; for when the fiend jealousy has
enthroned itself in a man's heart, the most common-place actions may
be construed into guilty concessions. All this will be deeply
humiliating; and I know myself well enough to apprehend occasional
indignant reactions, or cool defiances. I possess a high, proud
spirit, which, if fairly aroused, is certain to lead me into
stubborn resistance. So far I have managed to hold this spirit in
abeyance; but if matters progress as they have begun, the climax of
endurance will ere long be reached."
"Great circumspection on your part will be needed," said Mrs. De
Lisle. "Remember always, your obligations as a wife. In consenting
to enter into the most solemn human compact that is ever made, you
assumed a position that gave you power over the happiness of
another. If, as I gather from some things you have said, you went to
the altar under constraint, an unloving bride, so much the more
binding on you are the promises then made to seek your husband's
happiness--even at the sacrifice of your own. In that act you
wronged him--wronged him as no woman has a right to wrong any man,
and you can never do enough by way of reparation."
"I was wronged," said Mrs. Dexter, her glance brightening, and a
warmth, like indignation, in her voice; "for I was dragged to that
marriage-altar against my will, and almost under protest. Mr. Dexter
knew that my heart was not his."
"You were a free woman!" replied Mrs. De Lisle.
"I was not free," Mrs. Dexter answered.
"Not free? Who or what constrained you to such an act?"
"My honor. In a moment of weakness, and under the fascination of a
strong masculine will, I plighted faith with Mr. Dexter. He knew at
the time that I did not love him as a woman should love the man she
consents to marry. He knew that he was extorting an unwilling
consent. And just so far he took an unmanly advantage of a weak
young girl. But the contract once made, truth and honor required its
fulfillment. At least, so said my aunt, to whom alone I confided my
secret; and so said my stern convictions of duty."
"So far from that," replied Mrs. De Lisle, "truth and honor required
its non-fulfillment; for neither in truth nor in honor, could you
take the marriage vows."
The directness with which Mrs. De Lisle stated this position of the
case, startled her auditor.
"Is it not so?" was calmly asked. "You are too much in the habit of
looking below the surface of things, to regard the formula of
marriage as an unmeaning array of words. In their full
signification, you could not utter the sentences you were required
to speak--how then, as regarding truth and honor, could you
pronounce them in that act of your life which, of all others, should
have been most without guile? I would have torn all such extorted
promises into a thousand tatters, and scattered them to the winds!
The dishonor of breaking them were nothing to the wrong of
fulfillment. Witness your unhappy lives!"
"Would to heaven you had been the friend of my girlhood!"
It was all the reply Mrs. Dexter made, as she bowed her head, like
one pressed down by a heavy burden.
"You will now comprehend, more clearly than before," said Mrs. De
Lisle, "your present duty to your husband. He thought that he was
gaining a wife, and you, in wedding him promised to him to be a
wife--promised with a deep conviction in your soul that the words
were empty utterances. The case is a sad one, viewed in any aspect;
but pardon me for saying, that you were most to blame. He was an
ardent lover, whom you had fascinated; a man of superficial
character, and not competent, at the time, to weigh the consequences
of an act he was so eager to precipitate. To possess, he imagined
was to enjoy. But you were better versed in the heart's lore, and
knew he would wake up, ere many moons had passed, to the sad
discovery that what he had wooed as substance was only a cheating
shadow. And he is waking up. Every day he is becoming more and more
clearly convinced that you do not love him, and can never be to him
the wife he had fondly hoped to gain. Have you not laid upon
yourself a binding obligation? Is it a light thing so to mar the
whole life of man? Your duty is plain, Mrs. Dexter. Yield all to him
you can, and put on towards him always the sunniest aspects and
gentlest semblances of your character. If he is capricious, humor
him; if suspicious, act with all promptness in removing suspicion to
the extent of your power. Make soft the links of the chain that
binds you together, with downy coverings. Truth, honor, duty,
religion, all require this."
"Dear friend!" said Mrs. Dexter, grasping the hand of Mrs. De Lisle,
"you have lifted me out of a thick atmosphere, through which my eyes
saw everything in an uncertain light, up into a clear seeing region.
Yes, truth, honor, duty, religion, all speak to my convictions; and
with all the truth that in me lieth, will I obey their voice. But
love is impossible, and its semblance in me is so faint that my
husband cannot see the likeness. There lies the difficulty. He wants
a fond, tender, loving wife--a pet and a plaything. These he can
never find in me; for, Heaven help me! Mrs. De Lisle, his sphere
grows more and more repulsive every day, and I shudder sometimes at
the thought of unmitigated disgust!"
"Do your best, my friend," was the answer of of Mrs. De Lisle.
"Fill, to the utmost of your ability, all your wifely relations, and
seek to develop in your husband those higher qualities of thought
and feeling to which your spirit can attach itself. And above all,
do not listen to such erroneous counsels as Mrs. Anthony gave just
now. If followed they will surely produce a harvest of misery."
"Thanks, good counsellor! I will heed your words. They come in the
right time, and strengthen my better purposes," said Mrs. Dexter.
"To-morrow I shall leave with my husband for Newport, and he shall
see in me no signs of reluctance. Nor do I care, except to leave
your company. I will find as much to keep my thoughts busy at
Newport as here."
THE effort to interest her husband in things purely intellectual
failed, and a shade of disappointment settled on the feelings of
Mrs. Dexter. She soared, altogether, too far up into the mental
atmosphere for him. He thought her ideal and transcendental; and she
felt that only the sensual principles in his mind were living and
active. Conversation died between them, and both relapsed into that
abstracted silence--musing on one side and moody on the other--which
filled so large a portion of their time when together.
"Shall we go down to the parlors?" said Mr. Dexter, rousing himself.
"The afternoon is running away fast towards evening."
"I am more fatigued than usual," was answered, "and do not care to
make my appearance before tea-time. You go down; and I will occupy
myself with a book. When the tea-bell rings, I will wait for you to
come and escort me to the table."
Mr. Dexter did not urge his wife to leave their rooms, but went down
as she had suggested. The moment he left her, there occurred a great
change in her whole appearance. She was sitting on a lounge by the
window. Instead of rising to get a book, or seeking for any external
means of passing a solitary hour, she shrunk down in her seat,
letting her eyes droop gradually to the floor. At first, her
countenance was disturbed; but its aspect changed to one of deep
abstraction. And thus she sat for nearly an hour. The opening of her
room door startled her into a life of external (sic) conciousness.
Her husband entered. She glanced at his face, and saw that something
had occurred to ruffle his feelings. He looked at her strangely for
some moments, as if searching for expected meanings in her
"Are you not well?" Mrs. Dexter asked.
"Oh, yes, I'm well enough," he answered with unusual abruptness of
She said no more, and he commenced pacing the floor of their small
parlor backwards and forwards with restless footsteps.
Once, without moving her head or body, Mrs. Dexter stole a glance
towards her husband; she encountered his eyes turning stealthily
upon her, and scanning her face with an earnest scrutiny. A moment
their eyes lingered, mutually spell-bound, and then the glances were
mutually withdrawn. Mr. Dexter continued his nervous perambulations,
and his wife remained seated and silent.
The ringing of the bell announced tea. Mr. Dexter paused, and Mrs.
Dexter, rising without remark, took his arm, and they went down to
the dining-hall, neither of them speaking a word. On taking her
place at the table, Mrs. Dexter's eyes ran quickly up and down the
lines of faces opposite.
This was done with so slight a movement of the head, that her
husband, who was on the alert, did not detect the rapid observation.
For some three or four minutes the guests came filing in, and all
the while Mrs. Dexter kept glancing from face to face. She did not
move her head or seem interested in the people around her; but her
eyes told a very different story. Twice the waiter asked if she
would take tea or coffee, before she noticed him, and her answer,
"Coffee," apprised her watchful husband of the fact that she was
more than usually lost in thought.
"Not coffee?" Mr. Dexter bent to his wife's ear.
"No, black tea," she said, quickly, partly turning to the waiter. "I
was not thinking," she added, speaking to her husband. At the moment
Mrs. Dexter turned towards the waiter, she leaned forward, over the
table, and gave a rapid glance down at the row of faces on that
side; and in replying to her husband, she managed to do the same
thing for the other end of the table. No change in her countenance
attested the fact that her search for some desired or expected
personage had been successful. The half emptied cup of tea, and
merely broken piece of toast lying on her plate, showed plainly
enough that either indisposition or mental disturbance, had deprived
her of appetite.
From the tea table they went to one of the parlors. Only a few
gentlemen and ladies were there, most of the guests preferring a
stroll out of doors, or an evening drive.
"Shall we ride? It is early yet, and the full moon will rise as the
sun goes down."
"I have ridden enough to day," Mrs. Dexter answered. "Fatigue has
made me nervous. But don't let that prevent your taking a drive."
"I shall not enjoy it unless you are with me," said Mr. Dexter.
"Then I will go." Mrs. Dexter did not speak fretfully, nor in the
martyr tone we often hear, but in a voice of unexpected
cheerfulness. "Order the carriage," she added, as she rose; "I will
get my bonnet and shawl, and join you here by the time it is at the
"No--no, Jessie! Not if you are so fatigued. I had forgotten our
journey to-day," interposed Mr. Dexter.
"A ride in the bracing salt air will do me good, perhaps. I am, at
least, disposed to make the trial. So order the carriage, and I will
be with you in a moment."
Mrs. Dexter spoke with a suddenly outflashing animation, and then
left her husband to make preparations for accompanying him in the
drive. She had passed through the parlor door on to one of the long
porticoes of the building, and was moving rapidly, when, just before
reaching the end, where another door communicated with a stairway,
she suddenly stood still, face to face with a man who had stepped
from that door out upon the portico.
"Jess--Mrs. Dexter!" the man checked the unguarded utterance of her
familiar Christian name, and gave the other designation.
Only for an instant did Mrs. Dexter betray herself; but in that
instant her heart was read, as if a blaze of lightning had flashed
over one of its pages, long hidden away in darkness, and revealed
the writing thereon in letters of gleaming fire.
"You arrived to day?" Mr. Hendrickson also regained the even balance
of mind which had momentarily been lost, and regained it as quickly
as the lady. He spoke with the pleased air of an
"This afternoon," replied Mrs. Dexter in a quiet tone, and with a
smile in which no casual observer could have seen anything deeper
than pleasant recognition.
"How long will you remain?"
"It is not certain; perhaps until the season closes."
Mrs. Dexter made a motion to pass on. Mr. Hendrickson raised his hat
and bowed very respectfully; and thus the sudden interview ended.
Mr. Dexter had followed his wife to the door of the parlor, and
stood looking at her as she retired along the portico. This meeting
with Hendrickson was therefore in full view. A sudden paleness
overspread his countenance; and from his convulsed lips there fell a
On reaching her apartments, Mrs. Dexter was so weak that she was
forced to sit down upon the first chair she could obtain. A dead
pallor was in her face.
"Oh, give me strength--self control--motives to duty!"--in weakness
and fear her quivering heart cried upwards.
"Jessie!" How long she had been sitting thus Mrs. Dexter knew not.
She started. It was the voice of her husband.
"Not ready yet, I see!" His tones were rough--his manner excited.
"And the carriage has stood at the door for ten minutes."
"I am ready!" she answered, starting up, and lifting her bonnet from
"It is no matter now. The sun is setting, and I have ordered the
carriage back to the stable. You only consented to go on my account;
and I am impatient under mere acquiescence."
"You wrong me, Mr. Dexter," said his wife, with (sic) unusal
earnestness of manner. "I am ready to go with you at all times; and
I strive in all things to give you pleasure. Did I hesitate a moment
when you suddenly declared your wish to leave Saratoga for Newport?"
"No, of course you did not; for you were too glad of the opportunity
to get here." There was a strange gleam in the eyes of Mr. Dexter as
he said this; and his voice had in it an angry bitterness never
"What do you mean, sir?" demanded the outraged wife, turning upon
her husband abruptly, and showing an aspect so stern and fierce,
that the astonished man retreated a pace or two as if in fear. Never
before had he seen in that beautiful face the reflection of a spirit
so wildly disturbed by passion.
"Speak out, Leon Dexter! What do you mean?"
And her eyes rested on his with a glance as steady as an eagle's.
"I saw your meeting a little while ago."
Mr. Dexter rallied a little.
"What meeting?" There was no betraying sign in Mrs. Dexter's face,
nor the least faltering in her tones.
"Your meeting with _him_."
"With whom? Speak out plainly, sir! I am in no mood for trifling,
and in no condition for solving riddles."
"With Paul Hendrickson." Dexter pronounced the name slowly, and with
all the meaning emphasis he could throw into his voice.
"Well, sir, what of that?" Still neither eye nor voice faltered.
"Much! You see that I understand you!"
"I see that you do not understand me," was firmly answered. "And
now, sir, will you suffer me to demand an explanation of your
language just now. I want no evasion--no faltering--no holding back.
'Too glad of an opportunity to get here!' That was the sentence. Its
The small head of Mrs. Dexter was erect; her nostrils distended; her
lips closely laid upon each other; her eyes full fixed and almost
fiery in their intense light. Suddenly she was transformed in the
eyes of her husband from a yielding, gentle, though cold woman into
the very spirit of accusation and defiance. He was silent; for he
saw that he had gone too far.
"That must be explained, sir!" She was not to be turned aside. "I
have noted your capricious conduct; your singular glances at times;
your strange moodiness without apparent cause. A little light has
given a faint impression of their meaning. But I must have the full
blaze of your thoughts. Nothing else will satisfy me now."
She paused. Mr. Dexter had indeed gone a step too far, a fact of
which he was painfully aware. He had conjured up a spirit that it
might not be easy to lay.
"You are too excited. Calm yourself," he said.
Turning from her husband, Mrs. Dexter crossed the room, and seating
herself upon a sofa, said, in a quiet way--
"Sit down beside me, Mr. Dexter. I am calm. Sit down and speak; for
your recent language must be explained. Evasion will be fruitless--I
will not accept of it."
"I spoke hastily. Forget my words."
Mr. Dexter sat down beside his wife, and spoke in a gentle soothing
"It is all in vain, Mr. Dexter! All in vain! Yours were no idle
words; and I can never forget them. You have greatly misapprehended
your wife, I see; and the quicker you know this the better it will
be for both of us. The time has come for explanation--and it shall
be made! Why did I wish to come to Newport?"
"You knew that Paul Hendrickson was here," said Mr. Dexter; "that
was the reason!"
"It is false, sir!" was the quick and sharp rejoinder.
"Jessie! beware how you speak!" The angry blood mounted to the very
brow of the husband.
"It is false, sir!" she repeated, even more emphatically, if that
were possible. "Of his movements I am as ignorant as you are!"
"I cannot tamely bear such words," said Mr. Dexter, still much