The Hand But Not the Heart
by T.S. Arthur
THE HAND BUT NOT THE HEART; OR, THE LIFE-TRIALS OF JESSIE LORING.
"PAUL!" The young man started, and a delicate flush mantled his
handsome face, as he turned to the lady who had pronounced his name
in a tone slightly indicative of surprise.
"Ah! Mrs. Denison," was his simple response.
"You seem unusually absent-minded this evening," remarked the lady.
"You have been observing me?"
"I could not help it; for every time my eyes have wandered in this
direction, they encountered you, standing in the same position, and
looking quite as much like a statue as a living man."
"How long is it since I first attracted your attention?" inquired
the person thus addressed, assuming an indifference of manner which
it was plain he did not feel.
"If I were to say half an hour, it would not be far wide of the
"Oh, no! It can't be five minutes since I came to this part of the
room," said the young man, whose name was Paul Hendrickson. He seemed
a little annoyed.
"Not a second less than twenty minutes," replied the lady. "Your
thoughts must have been very busy thus to have removed nearly all
ideas of time."
"They were busy," was the simple reply. But the low tones
were full of meaning.
Mrs. Denison looked earnestly into her companion's face for several
moments before venturing to speak farther. She then said, in a manner
that showed her to be a privileged and warmly interested friend—
"Busy on what subject, Paul?"
The young man offered Mrs. Denison his arm, remarking as he did
"The other parlor is less crowded."
Threading their course amid the groups standing in gay
conversation, or moving about the rooms, Paul Hendrickson and his
almost maternal friend (sic) souhgt a more retired position near a
heavily curtained window.
"You are hardly yourself to-night, Paul. How is it that your evenly
balanced mind has suffered a disturbance. There must be something
wrong within. You know my theory—that all disturbing causes are in
"I am not much interested in mental theories to-night—am in no
philosophic mood. I feel too deeply for analysis."
"On what subject, Paul?"
A little while the young man sat with his eyes upon the floor; then
lifting them to the face of Mrs. Denison, he replied.
"You are not ignorant of the fact that Jessie Loring has interested
me more than any maiden I have yet seen?"
"I am not, for you have already confided to me your secret."
"The first time I met her, it seemed to me as if I had come into
the presence of one whose spirit claimed some hidden affinities with
my own. I have never felt so strangely in the presence of a woman as I
have felt and always feel in the presence of Miss Loring."
"She has a spirit of finer mould than most women," said Mrs.
Denison. "I do not know her very intimately; but I have seen enough
to give me a clue to her character. Her tastes are pure, her mind
evenly balanced, and her intellect well cultivated."
"But she is only a woman."
Mr. Hendrickson sighed as he spoke.
"Only a woman! I scarcely understand you," said Mrs.
Denison, gravely. "I am a woman."
"Yes, and a true woman! Forgive my words. They have only a
conventional meaning," replied the young man earnestly.
"You must explain that meaning, as referring to Jessie Loring."
"It is this, only. She can be deceived by appearances. Her eyes are
not penetrating enough to look through the tinsel and glitter with
which wealth conceals the worthlessness of the man."
"Ah! you are jealous. There is a rival."
"You, alone, can use those words, and not excite my anger," said
"Forgive me if they have fallen upon your ears unpleasantly."
"A rival, Mrs. Denison!" the young man spoke proudly. "That is
something I will never have. The woman's heart that can warm
under the smile of another man, is nothing to me."
"You are somewhat romantic, Paul, in your notions about matrimony.
You forget that women are 'only' women."
"But I do
not forget, Mrs. Denison, that as you have so
often said to me, there are true marriages in which the parties are
drawn towards each other by sexual affinities peculiar to themselves;
and that a union in such cases, is the true union by which they
become, in the language of inspiration, 'one flesh.' I can enter into
none other. When I first met Jessie Loring, a spirit whispered to
me—was it a lying spirit?—a spirit whispered to me—'the beautiful
complement of your life!' I believed on the instant. In that I may
have been romantic."
"Perhaps not!" said Mrs. Denison.
Hendrickson looked into her face steadily for some moments, and
"It was an illusion."
"Why do you say this, Paul? Why are you so disturbed? Speak your
heart more freely."
"Leon Dexter is rich. I am—poor!"
"You are richer than Leon Dexter in the eyes of a true
woman—richer a thousandfold, though he counted his wealth by
millions." There were flashes of light in the eyes of Mrs. Denison.
Hendrickson bent his glance to the floor and did not reply.
"If Miss Loring prefers Dexter to you, let her move on in her way
without a thought. She is not worthy to disturb, by even the shadow
of her passing form, the placid current of your life. But I am by no
means certain that he is preferred to you."
"He has been at her side all the evening," said the young man.
"That proves nothing. A forward, self-confident, agreeable young
gentleman has it in his power thus to monopolize almost any lady. The
really excellent, usually too modest, but superior young men, often
permit themselves to be elbowed into the shade by these shallow,
rippling, made up specimens of humanity, as you have probably done
"I don't know how that may be, Mrs. Denison; but this I know. I had
gained a place by her side, early in the evening. She seemed pleased,
I thought, at our meeting; but was reserved in conversation—too
reserved it struck me. I tried to lead her out, but she answered my
remarks briefly, and with what I thought an embarrassed manner. I
could not hold her eyes—they fell beneath mine whenever I looked into
her face. She was evidently ill at ease. Thus it was, when this
self-confident Leon Dexter came sweeping up to us with his grand air,
and carried her off to the piano. If I read her face and manner
aright, she blessed her stars at getting rid of me so opportunely."
"I doubt if you read them aright," said Mrs. Denison, as her young
friend paused. "You are too easily discouraged. If she is a prize,
she is worth striving for. Don't forget the old adage—'Faint heart
never won fair lady.'"
Paul shook his head.
"I am too proud to enter the lists in any such contest," he
answered. "Do you think I could beg for a lady's favorable regard?
No! I would hang myself first!"
"How is a lady to know that you have a preference for her, if you
do not manifest it in some way?" asked Mrs. Denison. "This is being a
little too proud, my friend. It is throwing rather too much upon the
lady, who must be wooed if she would be won."
"A lady has eyes," said Paul.
"And a lady's eyes can speak as well as her lips. If she likes the
man who approaches her, let her say so with her eyes. She will not be
"You are a man," replied Mrs. Denison, a little impatiently; "and,
from the beginning, man has not been able to comprehend woman! If you
wait for a woman worth having to tell you, even with her eyes, that
she likes you, and this before you have given a sign, you will wait
until the day of doom. A true woman holds herself at a higher price!"
There was silence between the parties for the space of nearly a
minute. Then Paul Hendrickson said—
"Few women can resist the attraction of gold. Creatures of
taste—lovers of the beautiful—fond of dress, equipage, elegance—I
do not wonder that we who have little beyond ourselves to offer them,
find simple manhood light in the balance."
And he sighed heavily.
"It is because true men are not true to themselves and the true
women Heaven wills to cross their paths in spring-time, that so many
of them fail to secure the best for life-companions!" answered Mrs.
Denison. "Worth is too retiring or too proud. Either diffidence or
self-esteem holds it back in shadow. I confess myself to be sorely
puzzled at times with the phenomenon. Why should the real man shrink
away, and let the meretricious fop and the man 'made of money' win
the beautiful and the best? Women are not such fools as to prefer
tinsel to gold—the outside making up to the inner manhood! Neither
are they so dim-sighted that they cannot perceive who is the man and
who the 'fellow.' My word for it, if Miss Loring's mind was known,
you have a higher place therein than Dexter."
Just then the two persons of whom they were speaking passed near to
them, Miss Loring on the arm of Dexter, her face radiant with smiles.
He was saying something to which she was listening, evidently pleased
with his remarks. The sight chafed the mind of Hendrickson, and he
"Like all the rest, Mrs. Denison! Gold is the magnet."
"You are in a strange humor to-night, Paul," answered his friend,
"and your humor makes you unjust. It is not fair to judge Miss Loring
in this superficial way. Because she is cheerful and social in a
company like this, are you to draw narrow conclusions touching her
"Why was she not as cheerful and as social with me, as she is now
with that fellow?" said the young man, a measure of indignation in
the tones of his voice. "Answer me that, if you please."
"The true reason is, no doubt, wide of your conclusions," answered
Mrs. Denison. "Genuine love, when it first springs to life in a
maiden's heart, has in it a high degree of reverence. The object
rises into something of superiority, and she draws near to it with
repressed emotions, resting in its shadow, subdued, reserved, almost
shy, but happy. She is not as we saw Miss Loring just now, but more
like the maiden you describe as treating you not long ago with a
strange reserve, which you imagined coldness."
"Woman is an enigma," exclaimed Hendrickson, his thoughts thrown
"And you must study, if you would comprehend her," said Mrs.
Denison. "Of one thing let me again assure you, my young friend, if
you expect to get a wife worth having, you have got to show yourself
in earnest. Other men, not half so worthy as you may be, have eyes
quite as easily attracted by feminine loveliness, and they will press
forward and rob you of the prize unless you put in a claim. A woman
desires to be loved. Love is what her heart feeds upon, and the man
who appears to love her best, even if in all things he is not her
ideal of manhood, will be most apt to win her for his bride. You can
win Miss Loring if you will."
"It may be so," replied the young man, almost gloomily. "But, for
all you say, I must confess myself at fault. I look for a kind of
spontaneity in love. It seems to me, that hearts, created to become
one, should instinctively respond to each other. For this reason, the
idea of wooing, and contending, and all that, is painfully repugnant."
"It may be," said Mrs. (sic) Dunham, "that your pride is as much at
fault in the case, as your manhood. You cannot bend to solicit love."
"I cannot—I will not!" The gesture that accompanied this was as
passionate as the surroundings would admit.
"It was pride that banished Lucifer from Heaven," said Mrs.
Denison, "and I am afraid it will keep you out of the heaven of a true
marriage here. Beware, my young friend! you are treading on dangerous
ground. And there is, moreover, a consideration beyond your own case.
The woman who can be happy in marriage with you, cannot be happy with
another man. Let us, just to make the thing clear, suppose that Jessie
Loring is the woman whose inner life is most in harmony with yours. If
your lives blend in a true marriage, then will she find true
happiness; but, if, through your failure to woo and win, she be drawn
aside into a marriage with one whose life is inharmonious, to what a
sad, weary, hopeless existence may she not be doomed. Paul! Paul!
There are two aspects in which this question is to be viewed. I pray
to Heaven that you may see it right."
Further conversation was prevented by the near approach of others.
"Let me see you, and early, Paul," said Mrs. Denison. It was some
hours later, and the company were separating. "I must talk with you
again about Miss Loring."
Hendrickson promised to call in a day or two. As he turned from
Mrs. Denison, his eyes encountered those of the young lady whose name
had just been uttered. She was standing beside Mr. Dexter, who was
officiously attentive to her up to the last moment. He was holding
her shawl ready to throw it over her shoulders as she stepped from
the door to the carriage that awaited her. For a moment or two the
eyes of both were fixed, and neither had the power to move them.
Then, each with a slight confusion of manner, turned from the other.
Hendrickson retired into the nearly deserted parlors, while Miss
Loring, attended by Dexter, entered the carriage, and was driven
IT was past the hour of two, when Jessie Loring stepped from the
carriage and entered her home. A domestic admitted her.
"Aunt is not waiting for me?" she said in a tone of inquiry.
"No; she has been in bed some hours."
"It is late for you to be sitting up, Mary, and I am sorry to have
been the cause of it. But, you know, I couldn't leave earlier."
She spoke kindly, and the servant answered in a cheerful voice.
"I'll sit up for you, Miss Jessie, at any time. And why shouldn't
I? Sure, no one in the house is kinder or more considerate of us than
you; and it's quite as little as a body can do to wait up for you
once in a while, and you enjoying yourself."
"Thank you, Mary. And now get to bed as quickly as possible, for
you must be tired and very sleepy. Good-night."
"Good night, and God bless you!" responded the servant, warmly.
"She was the queen there, I know?" she added, proudly, speaking to
herself as she moved away.
It was a night in mid-October. A clear, cool, moon-lit radiant
night. From her window, Jessie could look far away over the housetops
to a dark mass of forest trees, just beyond the city, and to the
gleaming river that lay sleeping at their feet. The sky was cloudless,
save at the west, where a tall, craggy mountain of vapor towered up to
the very zenith. After loosening and laying off some of her garments,
Miss Loring, instead (sic) off retiring, sat down by the window, and
leaning her head upon her hand looked out upon the entrancing scene.
She did not remark upon its beauty, nor think of its weird
attractions; nor did her eyes, after the first glance, convey any
distinct image of external objects to her mind. Yet was she affected
by them. The hour, and the aspect of nature wrought their own work
upon her feelings.
She sat down and leaned her head upon her hand, while the scenes in
which she had been for the past few hours an actor, passed before her
in review with almost the vividness of reality. Were her thoughts
pleasant ones? We fear not; for every now and then a faint sigh
troubled her breast, and parted her too firmly closed lips. The
evening's entertainment had not satisfied her in something. There was
a pressure on her feelings that weighed them down heavily.
"There is more in one sentence of his than in a a page of the
other's wordy utterances." Her lips moved in the earnestness of her
inward-spoken thoughts. "How annoyed I was to be dragged from his
side by Mr. Dexter just as I had begun to feel a little at my ease,
and just as my voice had gained something of its true expression. It
is strange how his presence disturbs me; and how my eyes fall beneath
his gaze! He seems very cold and very distant; and proud I should
think. Proud! Ah! has he not cause for pride? I have not looked upon
his peer to-night. How that man did persecute me with his attentions!
He monopolized me wholly! Perhaps I should be flattered by his
attentions—and, perhaps, I was. I know that I was envied. Ah, me!
what a pressure there is on my heart! From the moment I first looked
into the face of Paul Hendrickson, I have been an enigma to myself.
Some great change is wrought in me—some new capacities opened—some
deeper yearnings quickened into life. I am still Jessie Loring, though
not the Jessie Loring of yesterday. Have I completed a cycle of being?
Am I entering upon another and higher sphere of existence? How the
questions bewilder me! Clouds and darkness seem gathering around me,
and my heart springs upward, half in fear, and half in hope!"
An hour later, and Miss Loring still sat by the closed window, her
eyes upon the gleaming river and sombre woods beyond, yet seeing them
not. The tall mountain of vapor, which had arisen like a pyramid of
white marble, no longer retained its clear, bold outline, but,
yielding to aerial currents, had been rent from base to crown, and now
its scattered fragments lay in wild confusion along the whole sweep of
the western horizon. Down into these shapeless ruins the moon had
plunged, and her pure light was struggling to penetrate their rifts,
and pour its blessing upon the slumbering earth.
A rush of wind startled the maiden from her deep abstraction, and,
as it went moaning away among the eaves and angles of the surrounding
tenements, she arose, and putting off her garments, went sighing to
bed. Dreams visited her in sleep, and in every dream she was in the
presence of Paul Hendrickson. Very pleasant were they, for in the
sweet visions that came to her, Paul was by her side, his voice
filling her ears and echoing in her heart like tones of delicious
music. They walked through fragrant meadows, by the side of glittering
streams, and amid groves with singing birds on all the blossomy
branches. How tenderly he spoke to her!—how reverently he touched
with his manly lips her soft white hand, sending such electric thrills
of joy to her heart as waking maidens rarely know! But, suddenly,
after a long season of blessed intercourse, a stern voice shocked her
ears, and a heavy hand grasped roughly her arm. She turned in fear,
and Leon Dexter stood before her, a dark frown upon his countenance.
With a cry of terror she awoke.
Day had already come, but no bright sun shone down upon the earth,
for leaden clouds were in the sky, and nature was bathed in tears. It
was some time before the agitation that accompanied Miss Loring's
sudden awakening, had sufficiently subsided to leave her mind
composed enough to arise and join the family. When she did so, she
found her aunt, Mrs. Loring and her cousins Amanda and Dora, two not
over refined school girls, aged fourteen and sixteen, awaiting her
"You are late this morning, Jessie," said Mrs. Loring. Then, before
her niece had time to reply, she spoke to her eldest
daughter—"Amanda, ring the bell, and order breakfast at once."
"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, aunt Phoebe," replied Jessie.
"I did not get to bed until very late, and slept too soundly for the
"You must have been as deeply buried in the arms of Morpheus as one
of the seven sleepers, not to have heard that bell! I thought Kitty
would never stop the intolerable din. The girl seems to have a
passion for bell-ringing. Her last place was, I fancy, a
Mrs. Loring spoke with a slight shade of annoyance in her tones.
Her words and manner, it was plain from Jessie's countenance, were
felt as a rebuke. In a few moments the breakfast bell was heard, and
the family went down to the morning meal, which had been delayed full
half an hour beyond the usual time.
"Had you a pleasant time last evening?" inquired Mrs. Loring, after
they were seated at the table, and a taste of the fragrant coffee and
warm cakes had somewhat refreshed her body, and restored the
tranquillity of her feelings.
"Very," replied Jessie in an absent way.
"Who was there?"
"Oh! everybody. It was a very large company."
"Who in particular that I know?"
"Mrs. Compton and her daughter Agnes."
"Indeed! Was Agnes there?" said Mrs. Loring, in manifest surprise.
"Yes; and she looked beautiful."
"I didn't know that she had come out. Agnes must be very young—not
over seventeen. I am surprised at her mother! How did she behave
herself? Bold, forward and hoydenish enough, I suppose! I never liked
"I did not observe any impropriety of conduct," said Jessie. "She
certainly was neither bold nor forward."
"Did she sing?"
"Probably no one asked her." Mrs. Loring was in a cynical mood.
"Yes; I heard her asked more than once to sing."
"And she refused?"
"Affectation! She wanted urging. She has had peculiar advantages,
and is said to possess fine musical ability. I have heard that she is
a splendid performer. No doubt she was dying to show off at the
"I think not," said Jessie, "for I heard her say to Mrs. Compton,
in an under tone, 'I can't, indeed, dear mother! The very thought of
playing before these people, makes my heart tremble. I can play very
well at home, when my mind is calm; but I should blunder in the first
"Children should be left at home," said Mrs. Loring. "That is my
doctrine. This crowding of young girls into company, and crowding out
grown up people, is a great mistake; but, who else was there? What
Mrs. Loring curled her flexible lip.
The eyes of Jessie drooped as those of her aunt were directed in
close scrutiny to her face.
"He's a catch. Set your cap for him, Jessie, and you may ride in
your own carriage." There was a vulgar leer in Mrs. Loring's eye. The
color rose to Jessie's face, but she did not answer.
"Did he show you any attentions?" inquired the aunt.
"Yes. He was quite as attentive as I could desire."
"Indeed! And what does 'as you could desire,' mean?"
Jessie turned her face partly away to hide its crimson.
"Ah, well; I see how it is, dear. You needn't blush so. I only hope
you may get him. He was attentive, then, was he?"
"I have no reason to complain of his lack of attentions, said
Jessie, her voice cold and firm. "They would have been flattering to
most girls. But, I do not always give to compliments and 'company
manners,' the serious meanings that some attach to them."
"Jessie," Mrs. Loring spoke with sudden seriousness; "take my
advice, and encourage Leon Dexter. I am pleased to know that you were
so much an object of his attentions as your remarks lead me to infer.
I know that you will make him a good wife; one of whom he can never be
ashamed; and I know that a union with him will give you a proud
"Will you waive the subject, at present, dear aunt?" said Jessie,
with a pleading look, at the same time glancing covertly towards her
cousins, who were drinking in every word with girlish eagerness.
"Oh, by all means," answered Mrs. Loring, "if it is in the least
annoying. I was forgetting myself in the interest felt for your
"And so Mr. Dexter showed you marked attentions last evening?" said
Jessie's aunt, joining her in the sitting-room, after Amanda and Dora
had left for school.
"Did I say so, aunt?" inquired Jessie, looking into her relative's
"You said enough to make the inference clear, my child."
"Well, Aunt Phoebe, he was attentive—more so, by a great deal,
than I desired!"
"Than you desired!" There was unfeigned surprise in the voice of
Mrs. Loring. "What do you mean, Jessie?"
"The man's position is all well enough; but the man himself is not
altogether to my liking."
"You must have grown remarkably fastidious all at once. Why, girl!
there isn't a handsomer man to be found anywhere. He is a noble
looking fellow! Where are your eyes?"
"The man that a wife has to deal with, is the man of the spirit,
Aunt Phoebe—the real man. The handsome outside is nothing, if the
inner man is not beautiful!" Jessie spoke with a sudden glow of
"Stuff and nonsense, child!" said Mrs. Loring, impatiently. "Stuff
and nonsense!" she repeated, seeing that her niece looked steadily
into her face. "What do you know of the man of the spirit, as you
call it? And, moreover, what possesses you to infer that Mr. Dexter's
inner man is not as beautiful as the outer?"
"The soul looks forth from the eyes, and manifests its quality in
the tones of the voice," replied Jessie, a fine enthusiasm
illuminating her beautiful face. "No man can hide from us his real
character, unless we let self-love and self-interest draw an
"You are a strange girl, Jessie—a very strange girl!" Mrs. Loring
was fretted. "What can you mean? Here, a splendid fortune promises to
be poured into your lap, and you draw your garments aside, hesitating
and questioning as to whether the golden treasure is worth receiving!
I am half amazed at your conduct!"
"Are you weary of my presence here, Aunt Phoebe?" said Jessie, a
tremor in her low failing tones.
"Now give me patience with the foolish girl!" exclaimed Mrs.
Loring, assuming an angry aspect. "What has come over you, Jessie? Did
I say anything about being wearied with your presence? Because I
manifest an unusual degree of interest in your future welfare, am I to
be charged with a mean, selfish motive? I did not expect this of you."
"Dear aunt! forgive me!" said Jessie, giving way to tears. "My
feelings are unusually disturbed this morning. Late hours and the
excitement of company have made me nervous. As for Mr. Dexter, let us
pass him by for the present. He has not impressed me as favorably as
you seem to desire."
"Spare me, dear aunt! If you press the subject on me now, you will
only excite disgust where you hope to create a favorable impression.
I have had many opportunities of close observation, and failed not to
improve them. The result is"
"What?" queried her aunt.
"That the more narrowly I scan him the less I like him. He is
superficial, vain and selfish."
"How do you know?"
"I cannot make manifest to your eyes the signs that were clear to
mine. But so I have read him."
"And read him with the page upside down, my, word for it, Miss
Jessie answered only with a sigh, and when her aunt still pressed
her on the subject, she begged to be spared, as she felt nervous and
excited. So, leaving the sitting room, she retired to her own
apartment, to gather up, and unravel, if possible, the tangled thread
of thought and feeling.
"THERE is a gentleman in the parlor, Miss Jessie," said Mary, the
chambermaid, opening the door and presenting her plain, but pleasant
face. It was an hour after Miss Loring had left her aunt in the
"Who is it, Mary?"
The girl handed her a card.
On it was engraved, PAUL HENDRICKSON. The heart of Jessie Loring
gave a sudden leap, and the blood sprung reddening to her very
"Say that I will be with him in a few minutes."
The servant retired, and Jessie, who had arisen as she received the
card, sat down, so overcome by her feelings, that she felt all bodily
"Paul Hendrickson!" she said, whispering the name. "How little did
I expect a visit from him! After our first interview last evening, he
seemed studiously to avoid me."
Then she arose hastily, but in a tremor, and made some hurried
changes in her dress. She was about leaving her room, when Mary again
"Another gentleman has called," and she handed another card. Jessie
took it and read LEON DEXTER!
Could anything have been more inopportune! Jessie felt a double
"The fates are against me I believe!" she murmured, as, after a few
moments of vigorous expression of feeling, she left her room, and
descended to the parlor, entering with a light but firm tread. Dexter
stepped quickly forward, giving his hand in the most assured style,
and putting both her and himself entirely at ease. She smiled upon him
blandly, because she felt the contagion of his manner. Hendrickson was
more formal and distant, and showed some embarrassment. He was not at
ease himself, and failed to put Jessie at ease.
After all were seated, Dexter talked freely, while Hendrickson sat,
for the most part silent, but, as Jessie felt, closely observant.
Light and playful were the subjects introduced by Mr. Dexter, and his
remarks caused a perpetual ripple of smiles to sparkle over the
countenance of Miss Loring. But whenever Mr. Hendrickson spoke to
her, the smiles faded, and she turned upon him a face so changed in
expression that he felt a chill pervade his feelings. She did not
mean to look grave; she did not repress the smiles purposely; there
was neither coldness nor repulsion in her heart. But her sentiments
touching Mr. Hendrickson were so different from those entertained for
Mr. Dexter; and her estimation of his character so widely variant that
she could not possibly treat him with the smiling familiarity shown
towards the other. Yet all the while she was painfully conscious of
being misunderstood. If she had met Mr. Hendrickson alone, she felt
that it must have been different. A degree of embarrassment might have
existed, but she would not have been forced to put on two opposite
exteriors, as now, neither of which, correctly interpreted her state
of mind, or did justice to her character.
"I did not see much of you last evening, Mr. Hendrickson. What were
you doing with yourself?" she remarked, trying to be more familiar,
and giving him a look that set his pulses to a quicker measure.
Before he could answer, Dexter said, gaily, yet with covert sarcasm.
"Oh, Mr. Hendrickson prefers the society of elderly ladies. He
spent the evening in sober confabulation with Mrs. Denison. I have no
doubt she was edified. I prefer maid to matron, at any time.
Old women are my horror."
Too light and gay were the tones of Dexter to leave room for
offence. Hendrickson tried to rally himself, and retort with pleasant
speech. But his heart was too deeply interested,—and his mood too
serious for sport. His smile did not improve the aspect of his
countenance; and if he meant his words for witticisms, they were
perceived as sarcasms. Jessie was rather repelled than attracted—all
of which he saw.
Conscious that he was wholly misrepresenting himself in the young
lady's eyes, and feeling, moreover, that he was only spoiling
pleasant company, Hendrickson, after a brief call, left the field
clear to his rival. Jessie accompanied him to the door.
"I shall be pleased to see you again, Mr. Hendrickson," she said,
in a tone of voice that betrayed something of her interest in him.
He turned to look into her eyes. They sustained his penetrating
gaze only for a moment and then her long lashes lay upon her
"Not if I show myself as stupid as I have been this morning," said
the young man.
"I have never thought you stupid, Mr. Hendrickson."
"I am dull at times," he said, hesitating, and slightly confused.
"Good morning!" he added, abruptly, and turned off without another
look into the eyes that were upon him; and in which he would have
read more than his heart had dared to hope for.
"What a boor!" exclaimed Dexter as Miss Loring returned to the
"Oh, no, not a boor, sir. Far, very far from that," answered the
young lady promptly.
"Well, you don't call him a gentleman, do you?"
"I have seen nothing that would rob him of the title," said Miss
"A true gentleman will put on a gentlemanly exterior; for he is
courteous by instinct—and especially when ladies are present. A true
gentleman, moreover, is always at his ease. Self-possession is one of
the signs of a well bred man. Hendrickson is not well bred. Any one
who has been at all in society, can perceive this at a glance. Did you
notice how he played with his watch chain; crossed his legs in
sitting; took out his pencil case, and moved the slide noisily
backwards and forwards; ran his fingers through his hair; exhibited
his pocket-handkerchief half-a-dozen times in as many minutes, and
went through sundry other performances of which no well bred man is
guilty? I marvel, that a young lady of your refinement can offer a
word of apology for such things. I see in it only kindness of heart;
and this shall be your excuse."
So gaily were the closing sentences uttered; yet with so manifest a
regard softening the final words, that Miss Loring's rising anger
against the young man, went down and was extinguished in a pleasing
consciousness of being an object of marked favor by one whose
external attractions, at least, were of the highest order.
"But the subject is not agreeable to either of us, Miss Loring,"
said Dexter in a voice pitched to a lower tone, and with a softer
modulation. "I did not expect to find a visitor here at so early an
hour; and I fear that I have permitted myself to experience just a
shade of annoyance. If I have seemed ill-natured, pardon me. It is
not my nature to find fault, or to criticise. I rather prefer looking
upon the bright side. Like Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'I am a wide liker.'
There are times, you know, in which we are all tempted to act in a way
that gives to others a false impression of our real characters."
"No one is more conscious of that than I am," replied Miss Loring.
"Indeed, it seems often, as if I were made the sport of adverse
influences, and constrained to act and to appear wholly different
from what I desire to seem. There are some of life's phenomena, Mr.
Dexter, that puzzle at times my poor brain sorely."
"Don't puzzle over such things, Miss Loring," said Mr. Dexter; "I
never do. Leave mysteries to philosophers; there is quite enough of
enjoyment upon the surface of things without diving below, into the
dark caverns of doubt and vague speculation. I never liked the word
"To me it has ever been an attraction. I always seem standing at
some closed door, hearkening to vague sounds within and longing to
enter. The outer life presents itself to me as moving figures in a
show, and I am all impatient, at times, to discover the hidden
machinery that gives such wonderful motion.
"Morbid; all morbid!" answered Dexter, in a lively manner. "Dreams
in the place of realities, Miss Loring. Don't philosophize; don't
speculate; don't think—at least not seriously. Your thinkers are
always miserable. Take life as it is—full of beauty, full of
pleasure. The sources of enjoyment are all around us. Let us drink at
them and be thankful."
"You are a philosopher, I perceive," said Miss Loring, with a
smile, "and must have been a thinker, in some degree, to have formed a
"I am a cheerful philosopher."
"Are you always cheerful, Mr. Dexter?" inquired Miss Loring.
"Never feel the pressure of gloomy states? Have no transitions of
feeling—sudden, unaccountable; as if the shadow of a cloud had
fallen over your spirit?"
"You are singularly fortunate."
"Am I, Miss Loring?" and the young man's voice grew tender as he
leaned nearer to the maiden.
"I am blessed with a cheerful temper," he added, "and I cultivate
the inheritance. It is a good gift—blessing both the inheritor and
his companions. Neither men nor women are long gloomy in my
"I have often noticed your smiling face and pleasant words," said
Jessie, "and wondered if you moved always in a sunny atmosphere."
"You are answered now," he replied.
A little while there was silence. Jessie did not feel the repulsion
which had at first made Dexter's presence annoying; and as he drew
his chair closer, and leaned still nearer, there was on her part no
"Yes," she murmured softly, almost dreamily, "I am answered."
"Jessie." The young man's breath was on her cheek—his hand
touching her hand. She remained sitting very still—still as an
"Jessie." How very low, and loving, and musical was the voice that
thrilled along the chords of feeling! "Jessie; forgive me if I have
mistaken the signs." His hand tightened upon hers. She felt
spell-bound. She wished to start up and flee. But she could not.
There was a strange, overshadowing, half paralyzing power in the
man's presence. Without a purpose to do so, she returned the pressure
of his hand. It was enough.
"Thanks, dear one!" he murmured. "I was sure I had not mistaken the
signs. The heart has language all its own."
Still the maiden's form was motionless; and her hand lay passive in
the hand that now held it with a strong clasp. Yet, how wildly did
her heart beat! How tumultuous were all her feelings! How delicious
the thrill that pervaded her being!
"I love you, Jessie! Dear one! Angel! And by this token you are
mine!" said Dexter, his voice full of passion's fine enthusiasm. And
he raised her hand to his lips, kissing it half-wildly as he did so.
"The gods have made this hour propitious!" he added, as he drew her
head down against his bosom, and laid his ardent lips to hers. "Bless
you, darling! Bless you!" he went on. "My life is crowned this hour
with its chiefest delight! Mine! mine!"
Yet, not a word had parted the maiden's lips, thus spirited away,
as it were, out of herself, and strangely betrayed into consenting
silence. She had neither given her yea nor her nay—and dared as
little to speak the one as the other.
Almost bereft of (sic) physicial power, she sat with her face
hidden on the bosom of this impulsive lover, for many minutes. At
last, thought cleared itself a little, and, with a more distinct
self-consciousness, were restored individuality and strength. She
raised herself, moved back a little, and looked up into the face of
Mr. Dexter. The aspect of her own was not just what the young man had
expected to see. He did not look upon a countenance blushing in sweet
confusion; nor into eyes radiant with loving glances; but upon a pale
face, and eyes whose meanings were a mystery. Slowly, yet
persistently, did she withdraw her hand from his clasp, while slowly
her form arose, until it gained an erect position.
"You have taken me off my guard, Mr. Dexter," she said, a tremor
running through her voice.
"Say not a word, Jessie! say not a word! I am only too happy to
have taken your heart captive. You are none the less my own, whether
the means were force or stratagem."
"Speak not too confidently, sir. Have I"—
Mr. Dexter raised his hand quickly, and uttered a word of warning.
But were silent again. Then the young man said, his manner growing
deferential, and his voice falling to a low and subdued tone—
"Miss Loring, I here offer you heart and hand; and in making this
offer, do most solemnly affirm that you are precious to me as
life.—The highest boon I can crave from heaven is the gift of your
As he spoke, he extended his hand towards her. But her own did not
stir from her lap, where it lay as still as if paralyzed.
"This is no light matter, Mr. Dexter," she said; still with the
huskiness and tremor which had before veiled her voice. "I cannot
decide on a thing of such infinite moment, in hot blood and on the
spur of a sudden occasion. You must give me time for reflection."
"The heart knows no time. It neither reasons nor deliberates; but
speaks out upon the instant, as yours has already done, Miss Loring,"
replied Dexter, with reviving ardor.
"Time, Mr. Dexter, time! I must have time!" said Jessie, almost
But Dexter, who saw that time might turn the scale against him,
resolved to press his suit then to the final issue.
"I cannot accept delay," he answered, throwing the most winning
tenderness into his voice. "And why should you hesitate a moment?"
"My aunt"—murmured Jessie.
"Consult her with all maidenly formality. That is right—that is
prudent," he said, leaning again very near to her. "But, ere we
separate this morning, let me ask one question—I am not disagreeable
"Oh, no, no, Mr. Dexter!" was the quick, earnest reply.
"Nor is your heart given to another?"
"No lips but yours have ever uttered such words as have sounded in
my ears this day."
"And no lips, speaking in your ears, can ever utter such words with
half the heart-warmth that were in mine, dear Jessie! True love is
ever ardent, and cannot wait. I must have a sign from you before I
leave. You need not speak; but lay your hand in mine," and he reached
his hand towards her.
It was a moment of strong trial. Again her thoughts fell into
confusion. Again a wild delicious thrill swept like a strain of music
through all her being. She was within the sphere of an irresistible
attraction. Her hand fluttered with a sudden impulse, and then, moving
towards the hand of Dexter, was seized and covered with kisses.
"Thanks, dearest!" he murmured. "Thanks! By this token I know that
I am loved—by this token you are mine—mine forever! Happy, happy
day! It shall be the golden one in all the calendar of my life."
With the ardor of passion he drew her to his side again, and
clasping his arm around her, kissed her with all the fervor of an
entranced lover—kissed her over and over again, wildly.
All this was not mere acting on the part of Mr. Dexter. He did love
the sweet young girl as truly as men of his peculiar character are
capable of loving. He was deeply in earnest. There was a charm about
Jessie Loring which had captivated him in the beginning. She was
endowed with rich mental gifts, as well as personal beauty; and with
both, Dexter was charmed even to fascination. Superficial, vain of
his person, and self-satisfied from his position, he had not been
much troubled by doubts touching his ability to secure the hand of
Miss Loring, and by his very boldness and ardor, won his suit ere she
had sufficient warning of his purpose to throw a mail-clad garment
Dexter remained for only a short period after this ardent
declaration. He had penetration enough to see that Miss Loring was
profoundly disturbed, and that she desired to be alone. He saw with
concern that her countenance was losing its fine warmth, and that the
lustre of her eyes was failing. Her look was becoming more inverted
each moment. She was trying to read her heart, and understand the
writing inscribed thereon.
"I will see you this evening, Jessie," said Mr. Dexter, on rising
to depart. Their intercourse had already been touched with a shade of
Miss Loring forced a smile and simply inclined her head. He bent
forward and kissed her. Passively—almost coldly was the salute
received. Then they parted. A film of ice had already formed itself
ON leaving Mr. Dexter, Jessie Loring almost flew to her room, like
one escaping from peril. Closing and locking the door, she crossed
the apartment, and falling forward against the bed, sunk down upon
her knees and buried her face in a pillow. She did not pray. There
was no power in her to lift a petition upwards. But weak, in
bewilderment of spirit and abandonment of will she bent in deep
prostration of soul and body.
It was nearly an hour before she arose. Very calm had her mind
become in this long interval—very calm and very clear. With the
plummet line of intense thought, quickened by keen perception, she
had sounded the depths of her heart. She found places
there—capacities for loving—intense yearnings—which had remained
hidden until now. The current of her life had hitherto run smoothly
in the sunshine, its surface gleaming and in breezy ripples. But the
stream had glided from the open meadows and the sunshine, and the
shadow of a great rock had fallen upon it. The surface was still as
glass; and now looking downward, she almost shuddered as sight
descended away, away into bewildering depths. She held her breath as
she gazed like one suspended in mid-air.
"Too late! too late!" she murmured, as she lifted herself up. "Too
Her countenance was pale, even haggard. There was no color in her
lips—her eyes were leaden—her aspect like one who had been shocked
with the news of a great calamity.
Mrs. Loring, Jessie's aunt, had been informed by the servant of
whom she made inquiry, as to the identity of the gentleman who had
called that morning to see her niece—or at least as to the identity
of one of them. She did not make out by the servant's description the
personality of Mr. Hendrickson, but that of Mr. Dexter was clear
enough. She was also informed that the one whose name she could not
guess, made only a brief visit, and that Mr. Dexter remained long,
and was for most of the time in earnest conversation with Jessie. Her
hopes gave her conclusions a wide latitude. She doubted not that the
elegant, wealthy suitor was pressing a claim for the hand of her
"Will she be such a little fool as to throw this splendid chance
away?" she questioned with herself. "No—no;" was the answer. "Jessie
will not dare to do it! She is a strange girl in some things, and
wonderfully like her mother; but she will never refuse Leon Dexter, if
so lucky as to get an offer."
Mrs. Loring heard Mr. Dexter leave the house, and with expectation
on tip-toe, waited for Jessie to join her in the sitting-room. But
while she yet listened for the sound of footsteps on the stairs
below, her ears caught the light rustle of Jessie's garment as she
glided along the passages and away to her own chamber.
"Something has taken place!" said Mrs. Loring to herself. "There's
been a proposal, I'll bet my life on't! Why didn't the girl come and
tell me at once? Ain't I her nearest relative—and haven't I always
been like an own mother to her? But she's so peculiar—just as Alice
used to be. I don't believe I shall ever understand her."
And Mrs. Loring fretted a little in her moderate way, not being
capable of any very profound emotion. Ten, fifteen, twenty
minutes—half an hour she waited for Jessie to appear. But there was
no movement in the neighborhood of her chamber.
"Didn't Jessie go to her room, after the gentleman went away?"
asked Mrs. Loring, speaking to a servant, who was passing down the
"Is she there now?"
"I believe so ma'am. I haven't seen her anywhere about the house."
The servant passed on, and Mrs. Loring waited for full half an hour
longer. Then, unable to repress impatient curiosity, she went to
Jessie's room and knocked at the door. Twice she knocked before there
was a sound of life within. Then she heard footsteps—a bolt was
withdrawn, and the door opened.
"Jessie!" exclaimed Mrs. Loring, "how white you are! What has
"Come in dear aunt!" said Jessie, "I have been wanting to see you;
but had not yet made up my mind to seek you in the sitting-room. I am
glad you are here."
Mrs. Loring passed in and Jessie closed the door.
"Take this seat aunt," and she pointed to an easy-chair: "I will
sit here," drawing a lower one close to that which Mrs. Loring had
"Now, dear, what has happened?" Mrs. Loring's curiosity had been so
long upon the stretch, that she could ill endure delay.
"Will you listen to me patiently, Aunt Phoebe?"
There was a calmness of manner about Jessie that seemed to Mrs.
"Speak, dear—you will find me all attention."
"I am in a—strait. I must act; but cannot of my own reason,
determine what action is right," said Jessie, "you must think for me,
and help me to a just decision."
"Go on dear," urged Mrs. Loring.
Then as briefly and as clearly as possible, Jessie related all that
had passed in her excited interview with Mr. Dexter. On concluding,
she said with much earnestness of manner:
"And now, Aunt Phoebe, what I wish to know is this—will Mr. Dexter
be warranted in regarding either my words or my actions, as an
acceptance of his offer?"
"Certainly," was the unhesitating reply of Mrs. Loring.
There was a tone of anguish in the voice of Jessie; and her pale
lips grew paler.
"Why, what can ail you, child?" said Mrs. Loring.
"I had hoped for a different decision. Mr. Dexter took me at
unawares. In a certain sense, I was mesmerized by the stronger action
of his mind, quickened by an ardent temperament. Self-consciousness
was for a time lost, and I moved and acted by the power of his will.
There was no consentation in the right meaning of the word, Aunt
Phoebe, and I cannot think I am bound."
"Bound, fully, in word and act Jessie," was Mrs. Loring's firmly
spoken answer. "And so every one will regard you. Mr. Dexter, I am
sure, will not admit your interpretation for an instant. He, it is
plain, looks upon you as affianced. So do I!"
"Oh, aunt! aunt!" cried Jessie, clasping her hands, "say not so!
say not so! Knowing, as you do, all that occurred, even to the utmost
particulars of my strange position in the interview, how can you take
part against me?"
"Take part against you, (sic) clild! How strangely you talk! One
who did not know Mr. Dexter, might suppose him to be an Ogre, or
second Blue Beard. I think the events of this morning the most
fortunate of your life."
"While I fear they will prove most disastrous," said Jessie.
"Nonsense, child! you are excited and nervous. There is always
something novel and romantic to a young girl in an offer of marriage.
It (sic) it the great event of her life. I do not wonder that you are
disturbed—though I am surprised at the nature of this disturbance.
Time will subdue all this. You have a beautiful life before you,
darling! The cherished bride of Leon Dexter must tread a path of
A long sigh parted the lips of Miss Loring, and her face, to which
not even the faintest tinge of color had yet returned, bent itself
downward. She was silent.
"You leaned your face against him?" said Mrs. Loring.
"He drew my head down. I had no power of resistance, aunt. There
was a spell upon my senses."
"You did not reject his ardent kisses?"
"I could not."
"And when he extended his hand, and asked you to lay your own
within it, as a sign and a token of love, you gave him the sign and
the token. Your hands clasped in a covenant of the heart! So he
regarded the act. So do I; and so will all the world regard it.
Jessie, the die is cast. You cannot retreat without dishonor."
"Will you leave me, aunt?" said Jessie, after a long silence. Her
tones were sad. "I am very much excited. All this has unnerved me. I
would like to be alone again."
"Better come down into the sitting-room," replied Mrs. Loring.
"No, aunt. You must let me have my way."
"Willful, and like your mother," said Mrs. Loring, as she arose.
"Was my mother willful?" inquired Jessie, looking at her aunt.
"Was she happy?"
"No. I do not think she ever understood or rightly appreciated your
father. But, I should not have said this. She was a beautiful,
fascinating young creature, as I remember her, and your father was
crazy to get her. But I don't think they were very happy together.
Where the blame lay I never knew for certain, and I will make no
"They were uncongenial in their tastes, perhaps," said Jessie.
"Dear knows what the reason was! But she died young, poor thing!
and your father was in a sad way about it. I thought, of course, he
would marry again. But he did not—living a widower until his death."
"Is my mother's picture very much like her, Aunt Phoebe?"
"Very like her; but not so handsome."
"She was beautiful?"
"Oh, yes; and the reigning belle before her marriage."
Jessie questioned no farther. Her aunt's recollections of her
mother were all too external to satisfy the yearnings of her heart
towards that mother. Often had she sat gazing upon the picture which
represented to her eyes the form and face of a parent she had never
seen; and sought to comprehend some of the meanings in the blue orbs
that looked down upon her so calmly. But ever had she turned away
with vague, unquiet, restless feelings.
"If my mother had lived!" she would sometimes say to herself, "she
could comprehend me. Into her ears I could speak words that now sleep
on my lips in perpetual silence.
"Oh, if my mother were alive!" sobbed the unhappy girl, as the door
closed on the retiring form of wordly-minded Aunt Phoebe. "If my
mother were only alive!
"Affianced!" she said a little while after, as thought went back to
the interview between herself and Mrs. Loring which had just closed.
"Affianced! Yes, that was the word. 'He regards you as affianced, and
so do I!' How completely has this web invested me! Is there no way of
escape?" A slight shudder went through her frame. "Ah, well,
well!"—low and mournfully—"It may be that my woman's ideal has been
too exalted, and above the standard of real men. Mr. Dexter is
handsome; kind-hearted enough, no doubt; moderately well cultivated;
rich, elegant in manner, though a little too demonstrative; and, most
to be considered, loves me—or, at least, declares himself my lover.
That he is sincere I cannot doubt. His was not the role of a skillful
actor, but living expression. I ought to be flattered if not won by
the homage he pays me."
Then she sat down, and began looking into her heart again, her keen
vision penetrating to its farthest recesses. A long fluttering sigh
breathed at length through her lips, and starting up she said,
"I am weak and foolish! Life is a reality; not a cycle of dreamy
romance. All poetry lies in the dim distance—a thing of memory or
anticipation—the present is invariably prose. How these vague ideals
do haunt the mind! Love! Love! I had imagined something deeper, purer,
holier than anything stirring in my heart for Leon Dexter! Was I
deceived? Is the poet's song but jingling rhyme?—a play of words in
trancing measure? Let me bind back into quietude these wildly leaping
impulses, and clip the wings of these girlish fancies. They lead not
the soul to happiness in a world like ours."
Again her form drooped, and again she sat for a long period so lost
in the mazes of her own thoughts, that time and place receded alike
from her consciousness. Not until dinner-time did she join her aunt.
Her cousins had returned from school, and she met them as usual at
the table. Her exterior was carefully controlled, so that the only
change visible was a slight pallor and a graver aspect. Mrs. Loring
scrutinized her countenance closely. This she bore without a sign of
embarrassment. She partook but lightly of food. After the meal closed
she retired to her own room, once more to torture her brain in a
fruitless effort to solve this great problem of her life.
WHEN Paul Hendrickson left the house of Mrs. Loring, his mind was
in a state of painful excitement. The inopportune appearance of Dexter
had so annoyed him, that he had found it impossible to assume the
easy, cheerful air of a visitor. He was conscious, therefore, of
having shown himself in the eyes of Miss Loring to very poor
advantage. Her manner at parting had, however, reassured him. As they
stood for a moment in the vestibule he saw her in a new light. The
aspect of her countenance was changed, the eyes, that fell beneath his
earnest gaze, burned with a softened light, and he read there a volume
of tender interest at a single glance.
"I shall be pleased to see you again, Mr. Hendrickson." There was
more than a parting compliment in her tones as she said these words.
"I have never thought you stupid." What pleasure he derived from
repeating these sentences over and over again! Early in the evening
he called upon his friend Mrs. Denison.
"I have come to talk with you again about Miss Loring," said he. "I
can't get her out of my thoughts. Her presence haunts me like a
Mrs. Denison smiled as she answered a little playfully:
"A genuine case of love; the infection taken at first sight. Isn't
it so, Paul?"
"That I love this girl, in spite of myself, is, I fear, a solemn
fact," said the young man, with an expression of face that did not
indicate a very agreeable self-consciousness.
"Fear? In spite of yourself? A solemn fact? What a contradiction
you are, Paul!" said Mrs. Denison.
"A man in love is an enigma. I have often heard it remarked, and I
now perceive the saying to be true. I am an enigma. Yes, I love this
girl in spite of myself; and the fact is a solemn one. Why? Because I
have too good reason for believing that she does not love me in
return. And yet, even while I say this, tones and words of hers,
heard only to-day, come sighing to my ears, giving to every
heart-beat a quicker impulse."
"Ah! Then you have seen Miss Loring to-day?"
"Yes," answered Hendrickson, in a quick, and suddenly excited
manner. "I called upon her this morning, and while I sat in the
parlor awaiting her appearance, who should intrude himself but that
fellow Dexter. I felt like annihilating him. The look I gave him he
"That was bad taste, Paul," said Mrs. Denison.
"I know it. But his appearance was so untimely; and then, I had not
forgotten last evening. The fellow has a world of assurance; and he
carries it off with such an air—such a self-possession and easy
grace! You cannot disturb the dead level of his self-esteem. To have
him intruding at such a time, was more than I could bear. It
completely unsettled me. Of course, when Miss Loring appeared, I was
constrained, cold, embarrassed, distant—everything that was
repulsive; while Dexter was as bland as a June morning—full of
graceful compliments—attractive—winning. When I attempted some
frozen speech, I could see a change in Miss Loring's manner, as if
she had suddenly approached an iceberg; but, as often, Dexter would
melt the ice away by one of his sunny smiles, and her face would grow
"You exaggerate," said Mrs. Denison.
"The case admits of no exaggeration. I was too keenly alive to my
own position; and saw only what was."
"The medium was distorted. Excited feelings are the eyes'
"It may be so." There was a modification in Hendrickson's manner.
"I was excited. How could I help being so?"
"There existed no cause for it, Paul. Mr. Dexter had an equal right
with yourself to visit Miss Loring."
"And an equal right to choose his own time."
"I will not deny it."
"Therefore, there was no reason in the abstract, why his
complimentary call upon the lady should create in your mind
unpleasant feelings towards the man. You had no more right to
complain of his presence there, than he had to complain of yours."
"I confess it."
"There is one thing," pursued Mrs. Denison, "in which you
disappoint me, Paul. You seem to lack a manly confidence in yourself.
You are as good as Leon Dexter—aye, a better, truer man in every
sense of the word—a man to please a woman at all worth pleasing, far
better than he. And yet you permit him to elbow you aside, as it were,
and to thrust you into a false position, if not into obscurity. If
Miss Loring is the woman God has created for you, in the name of all
that is holy, do not let another man usurp your rights. Do not let one
like Dexter bear her off to gild a heartless home. Remember that
Jessie is young, inexperienced, and unskilled in the ways of the
world. She is not schooled in the lore of love; cannot understand all
its signs; and, above all, can no more look into your heart, than you
can look into hers. How is she to know that you love her, if you stand
coldly—I might say cynically—observant at a far distance. Paul!
Paul! Women are not won in this way, as many a man has found to his
sorrow, and as you will find in the present case, unless you act with
more self-confidence and decision. Go to Miss Loring then, and show
her, by signs not to be mistaken, that she has found favor in your
eyes. Give her a chance to show you what her real feelings are; and my
word for it, you will not find her as indifferent as you fear. If you
gain any encouragement, make farther advances; and let her comprehend
fully that you are an admirer. She will not play you false. Don't fear
for a moment. She is above guile."
Mrs. Denison ceased. Her words had inspired Hendrickson with new
"As I parted from her to-day," he remarked, "she said, 'I shall be
pleased to see you again.' I I felt that there was meaning in the
words beyond a graceful speech. 'Not if I show myself as stupid as I
have been this morning,' was my answer. Very quickly, and with some
earnestness, she returned: 'I have never thought you stupid, Mr.
"Well? And what then? Did you compliment her in return; or say
something to fill her ears with music and make her heart tremble? You
could have asked no better opportunity for giving the parting word
that lingers longest and is oftenest conned over. What did you say to
"I blundered out some meaningless things, and left her abruptly,"
said Hendrickson, with an impatient sweep of his hand. "I felt that
her eyes were upon me, but had not the courage to lift my own and
read their revelation."
"Too bad! Too bad! The old adage is true always—'Faint heart never
won fair lady'—and if you are not a little braver at heart, my young
friend, you will lose this fair lady, whose hand may be had for the
asking. So, I pray you, be warned in time. Go to her this very
evening. You will probably find her alone. Dexter will hardly call
twice in the same day; so you will be free from his intrusion. Let her
see by tone, look, manner, word, that she has charmed your fancy. Show
yourself an admirer. Then act as the signs indicate."
"I will," replied Hendrickson, speaking with enthusiasm.
"Go and heaven speed you! I have no fear as to the issue. But,
Paul, let me warn you to repress your too sensitive feelings. Your
conduct, heretofore, has not been such as to give Miss Loring any
opportunity to judge of your real sentiments towards her. Your manner
has been distant or constrained. She does not, therefore, understand
you; and if her heart is really interested, she will be under
constraint when she meets you to-night. Don't mind this. Be open,
frank, at ease yourself. Keep your thoughts clear, and let not a pulse
beat quicker than now."
"That last injunction goes too far, my good friend; for my heart
gives a bound the moment my eyes rest upon her. So you see that mine
is a desperate case."
"The more need of skill and coolness. A blunder may prove fatal."
Mr. Hendrickson rose, saying,
"Time passes. A good work were well done quickly. I will not linger
when minutes are so precious."
"God speed you!" whispered Mrs. Denison, as they parted, a few
minutes later at the door.
IT was an hour from the time Mr. Hendrickson left the house of Mrs.
Denison before he found himself in one of Mrs. Loring's parlors. He
had been home, where a caller detained him.
Full ten minutes elapsed after his entrance, ere Jessie's light
tread was heard on the stairs. She came down slowly, and as she
entered the room, Hendrickson was struck with the singular expression
of her face. At the first glance he scarcely recognized her.
"Are you not well, Miss Loring?" he asked, stepping forward to meet
His manner was warm, and his tones full of sympathy.
She smiled faintly as she answered—
"Not very well. I have a blinding headache."
Still holding the hand she had extended to him in meeting, Mr.
Hendrickson led her to a sofa, and sat down by her side. He would
have retained the hand, but she gently withdrew it, though not in a
way that involved repulsion.
"I am sorry for your indisposition," he said, in a tone of interest
so unusual for him, that Miss Loring lifted her eyes, which had
fallen to the carpet, and looked at him half shyly—half
"If you had sent me word that you were not well, Miss Loring"—
He paused, gazing very earnestly upon her face, into which
crimsoning blushes began to come.
"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Hendrickson. I did not wish to be
excused," she answered, and then, as if she had been led to utter
more than maidenly modesty approved, averted her face suddenly, and
seemed confused. There followed a moment or two of silence; when her
visitor said, leaning close to her, and speaking in a low,
penetrating, steady voice—
"Your reply, Miss Loring, is an admission of more than I had
expected—not more than I had hoped."
He saw her start, as if she had touched an electric wire. But her
face remained averted.
Warmer words were on his lips, hut he hesitated to give them
utterance. There was a pause. Motionless sat the young maiden, her
face still partly turned away. Suddenly, and with an almost wild
impulse, Hendrickson caught her hand, and raising it to his lips,
"I cannot hold back the words a moment longer, dear Miss Loring!
From the hour I first looked into your face, I felt that we were made
for each other; and now"—
But ere he could finish the sentence, Jessie had flung his hand
away and started to her feet.
He was on his feet also. For some moments they stood gazing at each
other. The countenance of Miss Loring was of an ashen hue; her lips,
almost as pallid as her cheeks, stood arching apart, and her eyes had
the stare of one frightened by some fearful apparition.
"Miss Loring! pardon my folly! Your language made me bold to utter
what had else slept in my heart eternally silent. Forget this hour!"
"Never! Never!" and she struck her hands together wildly. Her voice
had in it a wail of suffering that sent a thrill to the heart of Paul
Then recollecting herself, she struggled for the mastery over her
feelings. He saw the struggle, and awaited the result. A brief
interval sufficed to restore a degree of self-possession.
"I have nothing then to hope?" said the young man. His tones were
"Too late! Too late!" she answered, in a hoarse voice. "The cup is
dashed to pieces at my feet, and the precious wine spilled!"
"Oh, speak not thus! Recall the words!" exclaimed Hendrickson,
reaching out his hands towards her.
But she moved back a pace or (sic) too repeating the sentence—
"Too late! Too late!"
"It is never too late!" urged the now almost desperate lover,
advancing towards the maiden.
But retreating from him she answered in a warning voice—
"Touch me not! I am already pledged to another!"
"Impossible! Oh, light of my life!"
"Sir! tempt me not!" she said interrupting him, "I have said it was
too late! And now leave me. Go seek another to walk beside you in
life's pleasant ways. Our paths diverge here."
"I will not believe it, Miss Loring! This is only a terrible
dream!" exclaimed Hendrickson.
"A dream?" Jessie seemed clutching at the garments of some
departing hope. "A dream!" She glanced around in a bewildered manner.
"No—no—no." Almost despairingly the words came from her lips. "It
is no dream, Paul Hendrickson! but a stern reality. And now,"
speaking quickly and with energy, "in Heaven's name leave me!"
"Not yet—not yet," said the young man, reaching for his hands and
trying to take one of hers; but she put both of her hands behind her
and stepped back several paces.
"Spare me the pain of a harsh word, Mr. Hendrickson. I have
Her voice had acquired firmness.
"Oh, no! Smite me not with an unkind word," said Hendrickson. "I
would not have that added to the heavy burden I seem doomed to bear.
But ere I go, I would fain have more light, even if it should make
the surrounding darkness black as pall."
His impassioned manner was gone.
"I am calm," he added, "calm as you are now, Miss Loring. The
billows have fallen to the level plain under the pressure of this
sudden storm. You have told me it was too late. You have said,
'leave me!' I believe you, and I will go. But, may I ask one
"Speak, Mr. Hendrickson; but beware how you speak."
"Had I spoken as now this morning, would you have answered: 'Too
He was looking intently upon her face. She did not reply
immediately, but seemed pondering. Hendrickson repeated the question.
"I have said that it was
now too late." Miss Loring raised
her eyes and looked steadily upon him. "Go sir, and let this hour and
this interview pass from your memory. If you are wise, you will
forget it. Be just to me, sir. If I have betrayed the existence of
any feeling towards you warmer than respect, it has been under sudden
and strong temptation. As a man of honor, you must keep the secret
There was not a sign of girlish weakness about the calm speaker.
Her small head was erect; her slight body drawn to its full height;
her measured tones betrayed not a ripple of feeling.
"I am affianced, and know my duty," she added. "Know it, and will
perform it to the letter. And now, sir, spare me from this moment.
And when we meet again, as meet no doubt we shall, let it be as
The pressure of despair was on the heart of Paul Hendrickson. He
was not able to rally himself. He could not retain the calm exterior a
little while before assumed.
"We part, then," he said, speaking in a broken voice—"part—and,
ever after, a great gulf must lie between us! I go at your bidding,"
and he moved towards the door. "Farewell, Miss Loring." He extended
his hand; she took it, and they stood looking into each other's eyes.
"God bless you, and keep you spotless as the angels!" he added,
suddenly raising her hand to his lips, and kissing it with wild
fervor. In the next moment the bewildered girl was alone.
THE visit of Hendrickson was an hour too late, Dexter had already
been there, and pressed his suit to a formal issue. The bold suitor
had carried off the prize, while the timid one yet hesitated. Jessie
went back to her room, after her interview with Paul Hendrickson, in
spiritual stature no longer a half developed girl, but a full woman
grown. The girl's strength would no longer have sustained her. Only
the woman's soul, strong in principle and strong to endure, could
bear up now. And the woman's soul shuddered in the conflict of
passions that came like furies to destroy her—shuddered and bent,
and writhed like some strong forest-tree in the maddening whirl of a
tempest. But there was no faltering of purpose. She had passed her
word—had made a solemn life-compact, and, she resolved to die, but
not to waver.
The question as to whether she were right or wrong, it is not for
us here to decide. We but record the fact. Few women after such a
discovery would have ventured to move on a step farther. But Jessie
was not an ordinary woman. She possessed a high sense of personal
honor; and looked upon any pledge as a sacred obligation. Having
consented to become the wife of Leon Dexter, she saw but one right
course, and that was to perform, as best she could, her part of the
How envied she was! Many wondered that Dexter should have turned
aside for a portionless girl, when he might have led a jewelled bride
to the altar. But though superficial, he had taste and discrimination
enough to see that Jessie Loring was superior to all the maidens whom
it had been his fortune to meet. And so, without pausing to look
deeply into her heart, or take note of its peculiar aspirations and
impulses, he boldly pressed forward resolved to win. And he did win;
and in winning, thought, like many another foolish man, that to win
the loveliest, was to secure the highest happiness. Fatal error!
It is impossible for any woman to pass through an ordeal like the
one that was testing the quality of Jessie Loring, and not show signs
of the inward strife. It is in no way surprising, therefore, that, in
her exterior, a marked change soon became visible. There was a certain
dignity and reserve, verging, at times, on coldness, not seen prior to
her (sic) engagment—and a quiet suppression of familiarity, even with
her most intimate friends. The same marked change was visible in her
intercourse with Mr. Dexter. She did not meet him with that kind of
repulsion which is equivalent to pushing back with the hand. She
accepted his loving ardor of speech and act; but passively. There was
no responsive warmth.
At first Mr. Dexter was puzzled, and his ardent feelings chilled.
He loved, admired, almost worshipped the beautiful girl from whom
consent had been extorted, and her quiet, cold manner, troubled his
sorely. Glimpses of the real truth dawned into his mind. He let his
thoughts go back, and went over again, in retrospection, every
particular of their intercourse—dwelling minutely upon her words,
looks, manner and emotions at the time he first pressed his suit upon
her. The result was far from satisfactory. She had not met his
advances as he had hoped; but rather fled from him—and he had gained
her only by pursuit. Her ascent had not come warmly from her heart,
but burdened with a sigh. Mr. Dexter felt that though she was his, she
had not been fairly won. The conviction troubled him.
"I will release her," he said, in a sudden glow of generous
enthusiasm. But Mr. Dexter had not the nobility for such a step. He
was too selfish a man to relinquish the prize.
"I will woo and win her still." This was to him a more satisfactory
conclusion. But he had won all of her in his power to gain. Her heart
was to him a sealed book. He could not unclasp the volume, nor read a
Earnestly at times did Jessie strive to appear attractive in the
eyes of her betrothed—to meet his ardor with returning warmth. But
the effort was accompanied with so much pain, that suffering was
unable to withdraw wholly beneath a veil of smiles.
The wordy, restless pleasure evinced by Mrs. Loring, was
particularly annoying to Jessie; so much so that any allusion by her
aunt to the approaching marriage, was almost certain to cloud her
brow. And yet so gratified was this worldly-minded woman, at the good
fortune of her niece in securing so (sic) brillant an alliance, that
it seemed as if, for a time, she could talk of nothing else.
Mr. Dexter urged an early marriage, while Jessie named a period
nearly a year in advance; but, as she could give no valid reason for
delaying their happiness so long, the time was shortened to four
months. As the day approached, the pressure on the heart of Miss
Loring grew heavier.
"Oh, if I could die!" How many times in the silence of night and in
the loneliness of her chamber did her lips give forth this utterance.
But the striving spirit could not lay down its burden thus.
Not once, since the exciting interview we have described, had Paul
and Jessie met. At places of fashionable amusement she was a constant
attendant in company with Dexter, who was proud of her beauty. But
though her eyes searched everywhere in the crowded audiences, in no
instance did she recognize the face of Hendrickson. In festive
companies, where he had been a constant attendant, she missed his
presence. Often she heard him inquired after, yet only once did the
answer convey any intelligence. It was at an evening party. "Where is
Mr. Hendrickson? It is a long time since I have seen him," she heard a
lady say. Partly turning she recognized Mrs. Denison as the person
addressed. The answer was in so low a tone that her ear did not make
it out, though she listened with suspended breath.
"Ah! I'm sorry," responded the other. "What is the cause?"
"A matter of the heart, I believe," said Mrs. Denison.
"Indeed is he very much depressed?"
"He is changed," was the simple reply.
"Who was the lady?"
Jessie did not hear the answer.
"You don't tell me so!" In a tone of surprise, and the lady glanced
around the room.
"And he took it very much to heart?" she went on.
"Yes. I think it will change the complexion of his whole life,"
said Mrs. Denison. "He is a man of deep feeling—somewhat peculiar;
over diffident; and not given to showing himself off to the best
advantage. But he is every inch a man—all gold and no tinsel! I have
known him from boyhood, and speak of his quality from certain
"He will get over it," remarked the lady. "Men are not apt to go
crazy after pretty girls. The market is full of such attractions."
"It takes more than a painted butterfly to dazzle him, my friend,"
said Mrs. Denison. "His eyes are too keen, and go below the surface
at a glance. The woman he loves may regard the fact as a high
"But you don't suppose he is going to break his heart over this
"No—oh, no! That is an extreme disaster."
"He will forget her in time; and there are good fish in the sea
"Time is the great restorer," said Mrs. Denison; "and time will
show, I trust, that good will come from this severe trial which my
young friend is now enduring. These better natures are oftenest
exposed to furnace heat, for only they have gold enough to stand the
ordeal of fire."
"He is wrong to shut himself out from society."
"So I tell him. But he says 'wait—wait, I am not strong enough
"He must, indeed, take the matter deeply to heart."
Here the voice fell to such a low measure, that Jessie lost all
distinction of words. But the few sentences which had reached her
ears disturbed her spirit profoundly—too profoundly to make even a
ripple on the surface. No one saw a change on her countenance, and
her voice, answering a moment after to the voice of a friend,
betrayed no unusual sign of feeling.
And this was all she had heard of him for months.
Once, a little while before her marriage, she met him. It was a few
weeks after these brief unsatisfactory sentences had troubled the
waters of her spirit. She had been out with her aunt for the purpose
of selecting her wedding attire; and after a visit to the
dressmaker's, was returning alone, her aunt wishing to make a few
calls at places where Jessie did not care to go. She was crossing one
of the public squares when the thought of Hendrickson came suddenly
into her mind. Her eyes were cast down at the moment. Looking up,
involuntarily, she paused, for within a few paces was the young man
himself, approaching from the opposite direction. He paused also, and
they stood with eyes riveted upon each other's faces—both, for a
time, too much embarrassed to speak. Their hands had mutually clasped,
and Hendrickson was holding that of Jessie tightly compressed within
The first to regain self-possession was Miss Loring. With a quick
motion she withdrew her hand, and moved back a single step. The
mantling flush left her brow, and the startled eyes looked calmly
into the young man's face.
"Have you been away from the city, Mr. Hendrickson?" she inquired,
in a voice that gave but few signs of feeling.
"No." He could not trust himself to utter more than a single word.
"I have missed you from the old places," she said.
"Have you? It is something, even to be missed?" He could not
suppress the tremor in his voice.
Jessie almost sprang past him, and hurried away. The tempter was at
her side; and she felt it to be an hour of weakness. She must either
yield or fly—and she fled; fled with rapid unsteady feet, pausing
not until the door of her own chamber shut out all the world and left
her alone with Heaven. Weak, trembling, exhausted she bowed herself,
and in anguish of spirit prayed—
"Oh, my Father, sustain me! Give me light, strength, patience,
endurance. I am walking darkly, and the way is rough and steep. Let
me not fall. The floods roar about me—let me not sink beneath them.
My heart is failing under its heavy burden. Oh, bear me up! The sky
is black—show me some rift in the clouds, for I am fainting in this
rayless night. And oh, if I dare pray for him—if the desire
for his happiness springs from no wrong sentiment—let this petition
find favor—as he asked that I might be kept spotless as the angels,
so keep him; and after he has passed through the furnace, let not
even the smell of fire be upon him. Send him a higher blessing than
that which he has lost. Oh Lord, give strength to both—especially to
her whose voice is now ascending, for she is weakest, and will have
most to endure."
For a long time after the murmur of prayer had died on her lips,
Jessie remained prostrate. When she arose at last, it was with a
slow, weary movement, dreary eyes, and absent manner. The shock of
this meeting had been severe—disturbing her too profoundly for even
the soothing influence of prayer. She did not arise from her knees
comforted—scarcely strengthened. A kind of benumbing stupor
"What ails the girl!" said Mrs. Loring to herself as she vainly
strove at dinner-time to draw her forth into lively conversation.
"She gets into the strangest states—just like her poor mother! And
like her I'm afraid, sometimes, will make herself and every one else
around her miserable. I pity Leon Dexter, if this be so. He may find
that his caged bird will not sing. Already the notes are few and far
between; and little of the old sweetness remains."
A FEW days after the meeting between Mr. Hendrickson and Miss
Loring, as just mentioned, Mr. Dexter received the following
"DEAR SIR—I am scarcely well enough acquainted with you to venture
this note and request; but I happen to know of something so vital to
your happiness, that I cannot feel conscience-clear and not ask an
interview. I shall be at home this evening.
Early in the evening, Dexter was at the house of Mrs. Denison.
"You have frightened me my dear madam!" he said, almost abruptly,
as he entered the parlor, where he found her awaiting him.
"I have presumed on a slight acquaintance, Mr. Dexter, to ask an
interview on a very delicate subject," Mrs. Denison replied. "May I
speak freely, and without danger of offending, when no offence is
"I have not had the pleasure of knowing you intimately, Mrs.
Denison," replied the visitor, "but it has been no fault of mine. I
have always held you in high regard; and always been gratified with
our passing intercourse on the few occasions it has been my privilege
to meet you. That you have felt enough concern for my welfare to ask
this interview, gratifies me. Say on—and speak freely. I am eager to
"You are about to marry Jessie Loring," said Mrs. Denison.
"I am." And Dexter fixed his eyes with a look of earnest inquiry
upon the lady's face.
Mrs. Denison had come to the subject more abruptly than she at
first intended, and she was already in doubt as to her next remark;
but there could be no holding back now.
"Are you sure, Mr. Dexter, that you possess her undivided heart?"
"I marvel at your question, madam!" he answered, with a start, and
in a tone of surprise.
"Calmly, my friend." And Mrs. Denison, who was a woman of
remarkably clear perceptions, laid her hand upon his arm. "I am not
questioning idly, nor to serve any sinister or hidden purpose—but am
influenced by higher motives. Nor am I acting at the instance of
another. What passes between us this evening shall be sacred. I said
that I knew of something vital to your happiness; therefore I asked
this 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."
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
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
"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
"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
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 its
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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 observe.
"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
The cold indifferent manner of Jessie Loring passed away directly.
"If you have anything to communicate, as of course you have, say
on, Mr. Dexter."
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
"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
"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 her
"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.
not too late, Jessie Loring!" He spoke with
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
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
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
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
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
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 ill-nature.
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
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 remained.
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 wifely
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
"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,
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
"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
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 confidence.
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 friendship?"
"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
"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
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
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 door."
"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 the bed.
"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 before observed.
"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
"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
"And I will not bear such imputations," was firmly rejoined.
Mr. Dexter arose, and commenced the unsatisfactory movement of
pacing the floor. Mrs. Dexter remained sitting firmly erect, her eyes
following the form of her husband.
"We will drop the subject now and forever," said the former,
stopping, at length, in front of his wife.
Mrs. Dexter did not reply.
"I may have been too hasty."
"May have been!" There was contempt on the lip, and
indignation in the voice of Mrs. Dexter.
"Yes, may. We are certain of nothing in this world," said
her husband, coldly; "and now, as I said, we will drop the subject."
"It is easier to say than to unsay, Mr. Dexter. The sentiment is
very trite, but it involves a world of meaning sometimes, and"—she
paused, then added, with marked emphasis—"does now!"
Mr. Dexter made no response, and there the matter ended for the
time; each of the ill-assorted partners farther from happiness than
they had yet been since the day of their unfortunate union.
AN hour later: Scene, the public parlor.
The lady rose, a pleasant smile animating her face, and returned
the gentleman's courteous greeting.
"Mr. Hendrickson." Yes, that was the name on her lips.
"You arrived to-day," he said, and he took a place at the other end
of the tete-a-tete.
"From Saratoga, I believe?"
"Yes. How long have you been at Newport?"
"I arrived only this morning. You are looking very well, Mrs.
"Yes. Time lays his hands upon you lightly!"
The shadow of another's presence came between them.
"Mr. Dexter, my husband; Mr. Hendrickson, from B—," said Mrs.
Dexter, with the most perfect ease of manner, presenting the two
gentlemen. They had met before, as the reader knows, and had good
reason for remembering each other. They touched hands, Dexter
frowning, and Hendrickson slightly embarrassed. Mrs. Dexter entirely
herself, smiling, talkative, and with an exterior as unruffled as a
"How long will you remain?" she asked, speaking to Mr. Hendrickson.
"Ah! I am pleased to hear you say so. I left some very pleasant
friends at Saratoga, but yours is the only familiar face I have yet
"I saw Mr. and Mrs. Florence just now," said Mr. Dexter.
"Yes. There they are, at the lower end of the parlor. Do you see
Mrs. Dexter turned her eyes in the direction indicated by her
husband, and replied in an indifferent manner:
"Mrs. Florence is looking at you now. Won't you go over and see
"After a while," replied Mrs. Dexter. Then turning to Mr.
Hendrickson, she said:
"These summer resorts are the dullest places imaginable without
"So I should think. But you can scarcely know the absence of these.
I heard of you at Saratoga, as forming the centre of one of the most
agreeable and intelligent circles there."
"Ah!" Mrs. Dexter was betrayed into something like surprise.
"Yes. I saw Miss Arden in New York, as I came through. She had been
"Miss Arden? I don't remember her," said Mrs. Dexter.
"She resides in B—."
"Miss Arden? Miss Arden?" Mrs. Dexter seemed curious. "What is her
"Tall, with a very graceful figure. Complexion dark enough to make
her pass for a brunette. Large black eyes and raven hair."
"In company with her mother?" said Mrs. Dexter.
"I remember her now. She was quite the belle at Saratoga. But I was
not so fortunate as to make her acquaintance. She sings wonderfully.
Few professional artists are so gifted."
"You have used the right word," said Mr. Hendrickson. "Her musical
powers are wonderful. I wish you knew her, she is a charming girl."
"You must help me to that knowledge on our return to B—."
"Nothing would give me more pleasure. I am sure you will like each
other," said Hendrickson, warmly.
From that point in the conversation Mrs. Dexter began to lose her
self-possession, and free, outspoken manner. The subject was changed,
but the airiness of tone and lightness of speech was gone. Just in
time, Mrs. Florence came across the room, joined the circle, and
saving her from a betrayal of feelings that she would not, on any
account, have manifested.
Mrs. Florence was a woman of taste. She had been in New York a few
days previously, whither she had gone to hear a celebrated European
singer, whose fame had preceded her. Her allusion to this fact led to
an introduction of the subject of music. Hendickson made some remarks
that arrested her attention, when quite an animated conversation
sprung up between them. Mrs. Dexter did not join in it; but sat a
closely observant listener. The young man's criticisms on the art of
music surprised her. They were so new, so analytical, and so
comprehensive. He had evidently studied the subject, not as an artist,
but as a philosopher—but with so clear a comprehension of the art,
that from the mere science, he was able to lead the mind upward into
the fullest appreciation of the grander ideal.
Now and then as he talked, Mr. Dexter passed in a brief sentence;
but to the keen, intelligent perception of his wife, what mere
sounding words were his empty common-places! The contrast between him
and Hendrickson was painful. It was in vain that she tried not to make
this contrast. It thrust itself upon her, in spite of all resistance.
Mr. Florence had crossed the room with his wife, and joined the
little circle. He did not take part in the conversation, and now
said, rising as he spoke.
"Come, Dexter; let's you and I have a game of billiards."
He laid his band familiarly on the arm of Mr. Dexter, and that
individual could not refuse to accept the invitation. They left the
room together. This withdrawal of Mr. Dexter put both his wife and
Mr. Hendrickson more at their ease. Both felt his absence as a
relief. For a time the conversation was chiefly conducted by the
latter and Mrs. Florence, only an occasional remark falling from the
lips of Mrs. Dexter, and that almost extorted by question or
reference. But gradually she was drawn in, and led on, until she was
the talker and they the listeners.
When interested in conversation, a fine enthusiasm always gave to
the manners of Mrs. Dexter a charming grace, and to her beautiful
countenance a higher beauty. She was almost fascinating. Never had
Hendrickson felt her power as he felt it now, while looking into her
animated face, and listening to sentiment, description, criticism or
anecdote, flowing from her lips in eloquent language, and evincing a
degree of taste, discrimination, refinement and observation he could
scarcely have imagined in one of her age.
He was leaning towards her, and listening with rapt interest, his
countenance and eyes full of admiration, when a quick, impatient ahem caused him to look up. As he did so, he encountered the
severe face and piercing eyes of Mr. Dexter. The sudden change in the
expression of his countenance warned Mrs. Dexter of the presence of
her husband, who had approached quietly, and was standing a pace or
two behind his wife. But not the slightest consciousness of this
presence did her manner exhibit. She kept on talking as before, and
talking to Mr. Hendrickson.
"Will you go with me now, Mrs. Dexter?" said her husband, coming
forward, and making a motion as if about to offer his arm.
"Not yet if you please, Mr. Dexter," was smilingly answered. "I am
too much interested in this good company. Come, sit down here," and
she made room for him on the sofa.
But he stood still.
"Then amuse yourself a little longer," said his wife, in a gay
voice. "I will be ready to go with you after a while."
Mr. Dexter moved away, disappointed, and commenced pacing the floor
of the long parlor. At every turn his keen eyes took in the aspect of
the little group, and particularly the meaning of his wife's face, as
it turned to Mr. Hendrickson, either in the play of expression or warm
with the listener's interest. The sight half maddened him. Three
times, in the next half hour, he said to his wife, as he paused in his
restless promenade before her—
But she only threw him a smiling negative, and became still more
interesting to her friends. At last, and of her own will, she arose,
and bowing, with a face all smiles and eyes dancing in light, to Mr.
Hendrickson and Mrs. Florence, she stepped forward, and placing her
hand on the arm of her husband, went like a sunbeam from the room.
They had reached their own apartments, and Mrs. Dexter was moving
forward past her husband. The stern imperative utterance caused her
to pause and turn round.
"We leave for home in the morning!" said Mr. Dexter.
"We?" His wife looked at him fixedly as she made the simple
"Yes, we!" was answered, and in the voice of one who had
made up his mind, and did not mean to be thwarted in his purpose.
"Mr. Dexter!" his wife stood very erect before him; her eyes did
not quail beneath his angry glances; nor was there any sign of
weakness in her low, even tones. "Let me warn you now—and regard the
warning as for all time—against any attempt to coerce me into
obedience to your arbitrary exactions. Your conduct to-night was
simply disgraceful—humiliating to yourself, and mortifying and unjust
to your wife. Let us have no more of this. There is a high wall
between us, Mr. Dexter—high as heaven and deep as—." Her feelings
were getting the rein and she checked herself. "Your own hands have
built it," she resumed in a colder tone, "but your own hands, I fear,
have not the strength to pull it down. Love you I never did, and you
knew it from the beginning; love you I never can. That is a simple
impossibility. But true to you as steel to the magnet in all the
externals of my life, I have been and shall continue to be, even to
the end of this unhappy union. As a virtuous woman, I could be
nothing less. The outrage I have suffered this day from your hands,
is irreparable. I never imagined it would come to this. I did not
dream that it was in you to charge upon your wife the meditation of a
crime the deepest it is possible for a woman to commit. That you were
weakly jealous, I saw; and I came here in cheerful acquiescence to
your whim, in order to help you to get right. But this very act of
cheerful acquiescence was made the ground of a charge that shocked my
being to the inmost and changed me towards you irrevocably."
The stern angry aspect of Mr. Dexter was all gone. It seemed as if
emotion had suddenly exhausted itself.
"We had better go home to-morrow." He spoke in a subdued voice.
"Neither of us can find enjoyment here."
"I shall not be ready to morrow, nor the next day either," was the
out-spoken reply. "To go thus hurriedly, after your humiliating
exhibition of distrust, would only be to give free rein to the tongue
of scandal; and that I wish to avoid."
"It has free rein already," said Mr. Dexter. "At Saratoga I heard
your name lightly spoken and brought you away for that very reason.
You are not chary enough of yourself in these public places. I know
men better than you do."
"If a light word was spoken of me, sir, at Saratoga or anywhere
else, you alone are to blame. My conduct has warranted no such
freedom of speech. But I can easily imagine how men will think
lightly of a woman when her husband shows watchfulness and suspicion.
It half maddens me, sir, to have this disgrace put upon me. To-morrow
week I will go home if you then desire it—not a day earlier. And I
warn you against any more such exhibitions as we have had to-night. If
you cannot take pleasure in society that is congenial to my taste,
leave me to my enjoyment, but don't mar it with your cloudy presence.
And set this down as a truism—the wife that must be watched, is not
For utterances like these, Mr. Dexter was not prepared. They
stunned and weakened him. He felt that he had a spirit to deal with
that might easily be driven to desperation. A man, if resolute, he had
believed might control the actions of almost any woman—that woman
being his wife. And he had never doubted the result of marital
authority, should he at any time deem it necessary to lay upon Mrs.
Dexter an iron hand. The occasion, as he believed, had arrived; the
hand was put forth; the will was resolute; but his vice-like grip
closed upon the empty air! The spirit with which he had to deal was
of subtler essence and more vigorous life than he had imagined.
How suddenly were Mrs. Dexter's wifely, unselfish and self-denying
purposes in regard to her husband scattered upon the winds! She had
come to Newport, resolved to be all to him that it was possible for
her to be—even to the withdrawing of herself more from social
circles in which attractive men formed a part. The admonitions of
Mrs. De Lisle sunk deeply into her heart. She saw her relation to her
husband in a new aspect. He had larger claims upon her than she had
admitted heretofore. If she had been partly coerced into the compact,
he had been deceived by her promises at the altar into expecting more
than it was in her power to give. She owed him not only a wife's
allegiance, but a wife's tender consideration.
Alas! how suddenly had all these good purposes been withered up,
like tender flowers in the biting frost! And now there was strife
between them—bitterness, anger, scorn, alienation. The uneasiness
which her husband had manifested for some months previously, whenever
she was in free, animated conversation with gentlemen, annoyed her
slightly; but she had never regarded it as a very serious affection on
his part, and, conscious of her own purity, believed that he would ere
long see the evidence thereof, and cease to give himself useless
trouble. His conduct at Saratoga, followed by the conversations with
Mrs. De Lisle and Mrs. Anthony, aroused her to a truer sense of his
actual state of mind. His singular, stealthy scanning of her
countenance, immediately after their arrival at Newport, following, as
she rightly concluded, his unexpected meeting with Hendrickson,
considerably disturbed the balance of mind she had sought to gain, and
this dimmed her clear perceptions of duty. His direct reference to Mr.
Hendrickson, after her hurried meeting with him, filled her with
indignation, and simply prepared the way for this last defiant
position. She felt deeply outraged, and wholly estranged.
Icy reserve and distant formality now marked the intercourse of Mr.
and Mrs. Dexter. It was all in vain that he sought to win back that
semblance of affection which he had lost. Mrs. Dexter was too sincere
a woman—too earnest and true—for broad disguises. She could be
courteous, regardful, attentive to all the needs of her husband; but
she could not pretend to love, when daily her heart experienced new
occasions of dislike.
On the next morning, Mrs. Dexter, on going into one of the parlors,
met Mr. Hendrickson. From his manner, it was evident that he had been
waiting there in hopes to gain an interview. Mrs. Dexter felt
displeased. She was a lawful wife, and it struck her as an
implication on his part of possible dishonor on hers. He came forward
to meet her as she entered the room, with a pleased smile on his face,
but she gave his warm greeting but a cold return. An instant change in
his manner, showed the effect upon his feelings.
"I shall leave to-day," he said.
"So soon? I thought you purposed remaining for several days."
"So I did. But I have a letter this morning from the brother of
Miss Arden, of whom I spoke last evening. He leaves her at Albany
to-day, and asks me to join her to-morrow. They were on their way to
Niagara; but unexpected business—he is a lawyer—requires him to
return home; and I am to be the young lady's escort. So they have
arranged the matter, and I cannot decline, of course."
"Why should you?" Mrs. Dexter schooled her voice. Its natural
expression, at that time, might have betrayed a state of feeling that
it would have been treason to exhibit.
"True. Why should I? The lady is charming. I was going to say that
she has not her peer."
"Why not say it?" remarked Mrs. Dexter.
"Because," replied Mr. Hendrickson, as his eyes withdrew themselves
from the face of Mrs. Dexter, "I do not believe it. She has her
"She must be a lovely woman so to captivate your fancy," said Mrs.
"Did I say that she had captivated my fancy?" asked Hendrickson.
"If not in so many formally spoken words, yet in a language that we
ladies can read at a glance," replied Mrs. Dexter, affecting a gay
smile. "Well," she added, "as you are to be so largely the gainer by
this sudden withdrawal from Newport, we quiet people, who cannot but
miss your pleasant company, have nothing left but acquiescence. I
hope to make Miss Arden's acquaintance on our return to B—."
The voice of Mrs. Dexter had a faint huskiness and there were signs
of depression which she was not able to conceal. These the watchful
eyes of Mr. Hendrickson detected. But so far from taking any
advantage thereof, he made an effort to divert both her mind and his
own by the introduction of a more indifferent subject. They conversed
for half an hour longer, but no further reference was made to Miss
Arden. Then Mr. Hendrickson excused himself. Mrs. Dexter did not see
He left for Boston soon after, on his way to join Miss Arden at
From the parlor Mrs. Dexter returned to her own rooms, and did not
leave them during the day. She had felt feverish on rising, and was
conscious of a pressure on the brain, accompanied by a feeling of
lassitude that was unusual. This condition of the system increased,
as the day wore on. At dinner-time, her husband urged her to go with
him to the table; but she had a loathing for food, and declined. He
ordered a servant to take tea, with toast and some delicacies, to her
room; but when he came up again, he found them untasted.
"Was this a disease of mind or body?" Mr. Dexter asked himself the
question, and studied over the solution. Notwithstanding the
disturbed interview with his wife on the previous evening, he had
kept his eyes on her, and noticed her meeting with Hendrickson in the
parlor. Her warning, however, had proved effectual in preventing his
intrusion upon them. He saw Hendrickson leave her, and noticed that
she sat in deep abstraction for some time afterwards, and that when
she arose, and went up to her own apartments, her face wore an
expression that was unusual. Much to his surprise, he saw Hendrickson
leave soon after for Boston. On examining the register, he learned
that his destination was Albany.
A momentary relief was experienced at this departure; but soon
mystery was suggested, and a mutual understanding between his wife
and Hendrickson imagined. And so fuel was heaped on the fires of
jealousy, which blazed up again as fiercely as ever. The seclusion of
herself in her own room by Mrs. Dexter, following as it did
immediately on the departure of Hendrickson, confirmed him in the
impression that she was deeply interested in her old lover. How else
could he interpret her conduct? If she were really sick, conflict of
feeling, occasioned by his presence, was the cause. That to his mind
was clear. And he was not so far wrong; for, in part, here lay the
origin of her disturbed condition of mind and body. Still, his
conclusions went far beyond the truth.
Mrs. Dexter was lying on the bed when her husband came up from
dinner. She did not stir on his entrance. Her face was turned away,
and partly hidden by the fringe of a pillow.
"You must eat something," he said, speaking kindly. But she neither
moved nor replied.
"Jessie." No motion or response.
"Jessie!" Mr. Dexter stood a few feet from the bed, looking at her.
"She may be sleeping," he thought, and stepping forward, he bent
down and laid his fingers lightly on her cheek. It was unnaturally
hot. "Jessie"—he uttered her name again—"are you asleep?"
"No." She replied in a feeble murmur.
"Won't you have a cup of tea?"
"Are you sick?"
She did not answer. He laid his hand upon her cheek again.
"You have fever."
A low sigh was the only response.
"Does your head ache?"
Something was said in reply, but the ear of Mr. Dexter could not
make out the words.
"Jessie! Jessie! Why don't you answer me? Are you sick?"
Mr. Dexter spoke with rising impatience. Still and silent as an
effigy she remained. For a moment or two he strode about the room,
and then went out abruptly. He came back in half an hour.
There lay his wife as he had left her, and without the appearance
of having stirred. A shadow of deeper concern now fell upon his
spirits. Bending over the bed, and laying his hand upon her face
again, he perceived that it was not only flushed, but hotter than
before. He spoke, but her ears seemed shut to his voice.
"Jessie! Jessie!" He moved her gently, turning her face towards
him. Her eyes were closed, her lips shut firmly, and wearing an
expression of pain, her forehead slightly contracted.
"Shall I call a physician?" he asked.
But she did not reply. Sudden alarm awakened in the heart of Mr.
Dexter. Going to the bell, he rang it violently. To the servant who
came he said, hurriedly—
"Go and find Dr. G—, and tell him that I wish to see him
The servant departed, and Dexter went back to the bed. No change
had occurred in his wife. She still lay, to all appearance, in a
stupor. It was nearly a quarter of an hour before Dr. G—came; the
waiter had been at some trouble to find him.
"My wife seems quite ill," said Mr. Dexter, as he entered, "and, I
think requires medical attention."
Dr. G—went to the bedside and stood looking at the flushed face
of Mrs. Dexter for some moments. Then he laid his hand against her
cheek, and then took hold of her wrist. Mr. Dexter, whose eyes were
on him, thought he saw him start and change countenance at the first
stroke of the pulse that played against his fingers.
"How long has she been in this condition?" asked the doctor,
turning with a serious aspect to Mr. Dexter.
"She has not seemed well since morning" was replied. "I noticed
that she scarcely tasted food at breakfast, and she has kept her room
for most of the day, lying down for a greater part of the time. I left
her on the bed when I went to dinner. She did not complain of
indisposition, but seemed listless and out of spirits. I ordered tea
sent up, but, as you perceive, it has not been tasted. On my return,
I found her in the condition in which she now lies—(sic)appparently
in a heavy sleep."
The physician did not seem to get any light from this statement. He
turned his eyes again upon the face of Mr. Dexter, and stood in
thought for almost a minute. Then he examined her pulse again. It had
a strong, rapid, wiry beat. Stooping, he looked very closely at the
condition of her skin; then shook his head, and said something in an
"Do you think her seriously ill?" inquired Mr. Dexter.
"Has there been any unusual exposure; or any strong mental
disturbance?" asked the doctor, not seeming to have heard the
"There has been mental disturbance," said Mr. Dexter.
"Of a violent character?"
"She was strongly agitated last night, at something that happened."
"Was it of a nature to leave a permanent impression on her
"Yes." The answers were made with evident reluctance.
"Her condition is an unusual one," said the doctor, musing; and he
resumed his examination of the case.
"Dr. R—, from Boston, arrived to-day;" he looked up, and
presented a very grave face to the now seriously alarmed husband. "I
think he had better be consulted."
"Oh, by all means," said Mr. Dexter. "Shall I go in search of him?"
"Do you know (sic) kim?"
"I do not."
"I will go then. It may save time, and that is important."
The doctor went out hurriedly, and in less than five minutes
returned with Doctor R—. The two physicians conferred for some time,
speaking in under tones. Mr. Dexter heard the words "congestion of the
brain" and "brain fever," with increasing alarm.
"Well, doctors, how do you decide the case?" he inquired anxiously,
as their conference terminated.
"There is a strong tendency to congestion of the brain," was
replied by Doctor G—, "but, it is our opinion that we can check this
tendency. Your wife, Mr. Dexter, is seriously ill. An experienced
nurse must be had without delay. And every possible attention given,
so as to second at all points the treatment under which she will be
placed. A favorable result will doubtless crown our efforts. I
present the case as a serious one, because it is so in its
requirement of skill and unfailing attention."
The doctors did not err in their estimate of the case. The illness
of Mrs. Dexter proved to be very serious. It was a brain fever. Four
weeks elapsed before she was able to be removed from Newport to her
home, and then she was so feeble in body and mind as to present but
the shadowy semblance of her former self.
Very slowly did health flow back through her exhausted system. But
a cheerful mind did not come with returning vigor. Her, spirit had
bowed itself towards the earth; and power to rise again into the
bracing atmosphere and warm sunshine, was not restored for a long
AT Albany, Mr. Hendrickson found Miss Arden awaiting him. The
warmth of her reception showed that he was more in her eyes than a
pleasant friend. And in his regard she held the highest place—save
The meeting with Mrs. Dexter at Newport was unfortunate.
Hendrickson had looked right down into her heart; reading a page, the
writing on which she would have died rather than have revealed. Her
pure regard for him was her own deeply hidden secret. It was a lamp
burning in the sepulchre of buried hope. She could no more extinguish
the sacred fire than quench her own existence.
But thrown suddenly off her guard, she had betrayed this secret to
unlawful eyes. Hendrickson had read it. And she too had read his
heart. After the lapse of more than a year they had met; and without
wrong on either side had acknowledged a mutual inextinguishable love.
"You are not well, Mr. (sic) Henrickson." Many times, and with
undisguised concern, was this said by Miss Arden, during the journey
"Only a slight headache;" or, "I'm well enough, but feel dull;" or,
"The trip from Newport fatigued me," would be answered, and an effort
made to be more companionable. But the task was difficult, and the
position in which the young man found himself particularly
embarrassing. His thoughts were not with Miss Arden, but with Mrs.
Dexter. Before the unexpected meeting at Newport, he had believed
himself so far released from that entanglement of the heart, as to be
free to make honorable advances to Miss Arden. But he saw his error
now. With him marriage was something more than a good matrimonial
arrangement, in which parties secure external advantages. To love Miss
Arden better than any other living woman, he now saw to be
impossible—and unless he could so love her, he dared not marry her.
That was risking a great deal too much. His position became,
therefore, an embarrassing one. Her brother was an old friend. They
had been college companions. The sister he had known for some years,
but had never been particularly interested in her until within a few
months. Distancing his observation, her mind had matured; and the
graces of art, education and accomplishment, had thrown their winning
attractions around her. First, almost as a brother, he began to feel
proud of her beauty and intelligence; admiration followed, and, before
he was aware of the tendency of his feelings, they had taken on a
warmer than fraternal glow.
All things tended to encourage this incipient regard; and, as Miss
Arden herself favored it, and ever turned towards Hendrickson the
sunniest side of her character, he found himself drawn onwards almost
imperceptibly; and had even begun to think seriously of her as his
wife, when the meeting with Mrs. Dexter revealed the existence of
sentiments on both sides that gave the whole subject a new aspect.
A very difficult problem now presented itself to the mind of Mr.
Hendrickson, involving questions of duty, questions of honor, and
questions of feeling. It is not surprising that Miss Arden found a
change in her travelling companion, nor that her visit to Niagara
proved altogether unsatisfactory. No one could have been kindlier,
more attentive, or more studious to make her visit attractive. But
his careful avoidance of all compliments, and the absence of every
thing lover-like, gave her heart the alarm. It was in vain that she
put forth every chaste, womanly allurement; his eyes did not
brighten, nor his cheeks glow, nor his tones become warmer. He was
not to be driven from the citadel of his honor. A weaker, more
selfish, and more external man, would have yielded. But Hendrickson,
like the woman he had lost, was not made of "common clay," nor cast
in any of humanity's ruder moulds. He was of purer essence and higher
spiritual organization than the masses; and principle had now quite as
much to do with his actions as feeling. He could be a martyr, but not
Two days were spent at Niagara, and then Hendrickson and Miss Arden
returned, and went to Saratoga. It did not, of course, escape the
notice of Hendrickson, that his manner to his travelling companion
was effecting a steady change in her spirits; and he was not lacking
in perception as to the cause. It revealed to him the sincerity of
her regard; but added to the pain from which he was suffering,
increasing it almost to the point where endurance fails.
It was a relief to Hendrickson when he was able to place Miss Arden
under the care of her mother, who had remained at Saratoga. On the
evening after his arrival, he was sitting alone in one of the
drawing-rooms, when a lady crossed from the other side, and joined
another lady near him.
"Mrs. De Lisle," said the latter, as she arose.
"Good evening, Mrs. Anthony!" and the ladies sat down together.
"I have just received a sad letter from Newport," said Mrs. De
"Indeed! What has happened there?"
"Our sweet young friend is dangerously ill."
"Who? Mrs. Dexter?"
"Mrs. De Lisle! She was in perfect health, to all appearance, when
she left here."
"So I thought. But she has suddenly been stricken down with a brain
fever, and her physicians regard her condition as most critical."
"You distress me beyond measure!" said Mrs. Anthony.
"My friend writes that three physicians are in attendance; and that
they report her case as dangerous in the extreme. I did not intend
going there until next week, but, unless my husband strongly objects,
I will leave to-morrow. Good nursing is quite as essential as medical
"Go, by all means, if you can," replied Mrs. Anthony. "Dear child!
I shouldn't wonder if that jealous husband of hers had done something
to induce this attack. Brain fever don't come on without mental
excitement of some kind. I can't bear him; and I believe, if the
truth were known, it would be found that she hates the very sight of
him. He's a man made of money; and that's saying the best that can be
said. As to qualities of the mind and heart, she ranks, in everything,
his superior. What a sacrifice of all that such a woman holds dear
must have been made when she consented to become the wedded wife of
Hendrickson heard no more, for a third party coming up at the
moment, led to a change in the conversation. At the same instant Mrs.
Arden and her daughter entered the room, and he arose and stepped
forward to meet them.
"How pale you look, Mr. Hendrickson!" said Mrs. Arden, with
concern. "Are you not well?"
"I have not felt as bright as usual, for some days," he answered,
trying to force a smile, but without success. "Your daughter has, no
doubt, already informed you that I proved myself one of the dullest
of travelling companions."
"Oh, no," Miss Arden spoke up quickly. "Ma knows that I gave you
credit for being exceedingly agreeable. But, indeed, Mr. Hendrickson,
you look ill."
"I am slightly indisposed," he answered, "and with your leave will
retire to my room. I shall feel better after lying down."
"Go by all means," said Mrs. Arden.
Hendrickson bowed low, and, passing them, left the parlor almost
"Dangerously ill! A brain fever!" he said aloud, as he gained his
own apartment and shut the door behind him. He was deeply disturbed.
That their unexpected meeting had something to do with this sudden
sickness he now felt sure. Her strong, though quickly controlled
agitation he had seen; it was a revelation never to be forgotten; and
showed the existence of a state of feeling in regard to her husband
which must render her very existence a burden. That she was closely
watched, he had seen, as well as heard. And it did not appear to him
improbable, considering the spirit he had observed her display, that
coincident with his departure from Newport, some jealous accusations
had been made, half maddening her spirit, and stunning her brain with
"Angel in the keeping of a fiend!" he exclaimed, as imagination
drew improbable scenes of persecution. "How my heart aches for
you—yearns towards you—longs for the dear privilege of making all
your paths smooth and fragrant; all your hours golden-winged; all
your states peaceful! How precious you are to me! Precious as my own
soul—dear counterpart! loving complement! Vain, as your own strife
with yourself, has been my strife. The burden has been too heavy for
us; the ordeal too fiery. My brain grows wild at thought of this
The image of Miss Arden flitted before him.
"Beautiful—loving—pure!" he said, "I might win you for my bride;
but will not so wrong you as to offer a divided heart. All things
Mr. Hendrickson did not leave his room that evening. At ten o'clock
a servant knocked at his door. Mrs. Arden had sent her compliments,
and desired to know if he were better than when he left her?
"Much better," he answered; and the servant departed.
Midnight found him still in strife with himself. Now he walked the
floor in visible agitation; and now sat motionless, with head bowed,
and arms folded across his bosom. The impression of sleep was far
from his overwrought brain. One thing he decided, and that was to
leave Saratoga by the earliest morning train, and go with all
possible haste to Newport. Suspense in regard to Mrs. Dexter he felt
it would be impossible for him to bear.
"But what right have you to take all this interest in a woman who
is another's lawful wife?" he asked, in the effort to stem the tide of
"I will not stop to debate questions of right," so he answered
within his own thoughts. "She is the wife of another, and I
would die rather than stain her pure escutcheon with a thought of
dishonor. I cease to love her when I imagine her capable of being
false, in even the smallest act, to her marriage vows. But the right
to love, Heaven gave me when my soul was created to make one with
hers. I will keep myself pure that I may remain worthy of her."
On the evening of the next day Hendrickson arrived at Newport.
Almost the first man he encountered was Dexter.
"How is Mrs. Dexter?" he asked, forgetting in his anxiety and
suspense the relation he bore to this man. His eager inquiry met a
cold response accompanied by a scowl.
"I am not aware that you have any particular interest in Mrs.
And the angry husband turned from him abruptly.
"How unfortunate!" Hendrickson said to himself as he passed.
At the office he put the same inquiry.
"Very ill," was the answer.
"Is she thought to be dangerous?"
"I believe so."
Beyond this he gained no further intelligence from the clerk. A
little while afterwards he saw Mrs. Florence in one of the parlors,
and joined her immediately. From her he learned that Mrs. Dexter
remained wholly unconscious, but that the physicians regarded her
symptoms as favorable.
"Do they think her out of danger?" he asked, with more interest in
his manner than he wished to betray.
He could scarcely withhold an exclamation.
"What do you think, madam?" he inquired.
"I cannot see deeper than a physician," she answered. "But my
observation does not in anything gainsay the opinion which has been
expressed. I am encouraged to hope for recovery."
"Do you remain here any time?"
"I shall not leave until I see Mrs. Dexter on the safe side and in
good hands," was replied.
"Have you heard any reason assigned for this fearful attack?"
Mrs. Florence shook her head.
Not caring to manifest an interest in Mrs. Dexter that might
attract attention, or occasion comment, Hendrickson dropped the
subject. During the evening he threw himself in the way of the
physician, and gathered all he desired to know from him. The report
was so favorable that he determined to leave Newport by the midnight
boat for New York and return home, which he accordingly did.
THE season at Newport closed, and the summer birds of fashion
flitted away. But Mrs. Dexter still remained, and in a feeble
condition. It was as late as November before the physician in
attendance would consent to her removal. She was then taken home, but
so changed that even her nearest friends failed to recognize in her
wan, sad, dreary face, anything of its old expression.
No man could have been kinder—no man could have lavished warmer
attentions on another than were lavished on his wife by Mr. Dexter.
With love-like assiduity, he sought to awaken her feelings to some
interest in life; not tiring, though she remained as coldly passive
as marble. But she gave him back no sign. There was neither
self-will, perverseness, nor antagonism, in this; but paralysis
instead. Emotion had died.
It was Christmas before Mrs. Dexter left her room—and then she was
so weak as to need a supporting arm. Tonics only were administered by
her physician; but if they acted at all, it was so feebly that
scarcely any good result appeared. The cause of weakness lay far
beyond the reach of his medicines.
With the slow return of bodily strength and mental activity, was
developed in the mind of Mrs. Dexter a feeling of repugnance to her
husband that went on increasing. She did not struggle against this
feeling, because she knew, by instinct, that all resistance would be
vain. It was something over which she could not possibly have
control; the stern protest of nature against an alliance unblessed by
One day, during mid-winter, her best friend, Mrs. De Lisle, in
making one of her usual visits, found her sitting alone, and in
tears. It was the first sign of struggling emotion that she had yet
seen, and she gladly recognized the tokens of returning life.
"Showers for the heart," she said, almost smiling, as she kissed
the pale invalid. "May the green grass and the sweet smiling violets
Mrs. Dexter did not reply, but with unusual signs of feeling, hid
her face in the garments of her friend.
"How are you to-day?" asked Mrs. De Lisle, after she had given time
for emotion to subside.
"About as usual," was answered, and Mrs. Dexter looked with
regaining calmness into her face.
"I have not seen you so disturbed for weeks," said Mrs. De Lisle.
"I have not felt so wild a strife in my soul for months," was
answered. "Oh, that I could die! It was this prayer that unlocked the
long closed fountain of tears."
"With God are the issues of life," said Mrs. De Lisle. "We must
each of us wait His good time—patiently, hopefully, self-denyingly
"I know! I know!" replied Mrs. Dexter. "But I cannot look along the
way that lies before me without a shudder. The path is too
"You will surely receive strength."
"I would rather die!" A slight convulsion ran through her frame.
"Don't look into the future, dear young friend! Only to-day's
duties are required; and strength ever comes with the duty."
"Not even God can give strength for mine," said Mrs. Dexter, almost
"Hush! hush! the thought is impious!" Mrs. De Lisle spoke in
"Not impious, but true. God did not lay these heavy burdens on me.
My own hands placed them there. If I drag a pillar down upon myself,
will God make my bones iron so that they shall not be broken? No,
Mrs. De Lisle; there is only one hope for me, and that is in death;
and I pray for it daily."
"You state the case too strongly," said Mrs. De Lisle. "God
prevides as well as provides. His providence determining what is best
for us; and His previdence counteracts our ignorance, self-will, or
evil purposes, and saves us from the destruction we would blindly
meet. He never permits any act in His creatures, for which He does not
previde an agency that turns the evil that would follow into good.
Your case is parallel to thousands. As a free woman, you took this
most important step. God could not have prevented it without
destroying that freedom which (sic) constitues your individuality,
and makes you a recipient of life from Him. But He can sustain you in
the duties and trials you have assumed; and He will do it, if you
permit Him to substitute His divine strength for your human weakness.
In all trial, affliction, calamity, suffering, there is a germ of
angelic life. It is through much tribulation that the Kingdom of
Heaven is gained. Some spirits require intenser fires for purification
than others; and yours may be of this genus. God is the refiner and
the purifier; and He will not suffer any of the gold and silver to be
lost. Dear friend! do not shrink away from the ordeal."
"I am not strong enough yet." It was all the reply Mrs. Dexter
made. Her voice was mournful in the extreme.
"Wait for strength. As your day is, so shall it be."
Mrs. Dexter shook her head.
"What more can I say?" Mrs. De Lisle spoke almost sadly, for she
could not see that her earnestly spoken counsel had wrought any good
"Nothing! nothing! dear friend!" answered Mrs. Dexter, still very
A little while she was silent; and seemed in debate with herself.
At length she said—
"Dear Mrs. De Lisle! To you I have unveiled my heart more than to
any other human being. And I am constrained to draw the veil a little
farther aside. To speak will give relief; and as you are wiser, help
may come. At Saratoga, I confided to you something on that most
delicate of all subjects, my feelings towards my husband. I have yet
more to say! Shall I go farther in these painful, almost forbidden
"Say on," was the answer, "I shall listen with no vain curiosity."
"I am conscious," Mrs. Dexter began, "of a new feeling towards my
husband. I call it new, for, if only the fuller development of an old
impression, it has all the vividness of a new-born emotion. Before my
illness, I saw many things in him to which I could attach myself; and
I was successful, in a great measure, in depressing what was
repellant, and in magnifying the attractive. But now I seem to have
been gifted with a faculty of sight that enables me to look through
the surface as if it were only transparent glass; and I see qualities,
dispositions, affections, and tendencies, against which all my soul
revolts. I do not say that they are evil; but they are all of the
earth earthy. Nor do I claim to be purer and better than he is—only
so different, that I prefer death to union. It is in vain to struggle
against my feelings, and I have ceased to struggle."
"You are still weak in body and mind," answered Mrs. De Lisle. "All
the pulses of returning life are feeble. Do not attempt this struggle
"It must be now, or never," was returned. "The current is bearing
me away. A little while, and the most agonizing strife with wave and
tempest will prove of no avail."
"Look aloft, dear friend! Look aloft!" said Mrs. De Lisle. "Do not
listen to the maddening dash of waters below, nor gaze at the
shuddering bark; but upwards, upwards, through cloud-rifts, into
"I have tried to look upwards—I
have looked upwards—but
the sight of heaven only makes earth more terrible by contrast."
"Who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of
the Lamb?" asked Mrs. De Lisle, in a deep, earnest voice. A pause, and
then—"They who have come up through great tribulation! Think of
this, dear friend. Heaven may be beautiful in your eyes, but the way
to heaven is by earthly paths. You cannot get there, except by the
way of duty; and your duty is not to turn away from, but to your
husband, in the fulfillment of your marriage vows—to the letter. I
say nothing of the spirit, but the letter of this law you must keep.
Mr. Dexter is not an evil-minded man. He is a good citizen, and
desires to be a good husband. His life, to the world, is
irreproachable. The want of harmony in taste, feeling and character,
is no reason for disseverance. You cannot leave him, and be guiltless
in the eyes of God or man."
"I did not speak of leaving him," said Mrs. Dexter, looking up
strangely into the face of Mrs. De Lisle.
"But you have thought of it," was answered. A flush dyed the pale
face of Mrs. Dexter. "Oh, my friend, beware of evil counsellors! Mrs.
"Has never looked into my heart. It is shut and fastened with
clasps of iron when she is near," returned Mrs. Dexter.
"The presence of such a woman suggests rebellion," said Mrs. De
Lisle; "her thoughts are communicated by another way than speech. Is
it not so?"
"Perhaps it is. I feel the spirit of antagonism rising whenever I
am with her. I grow restive—impatient of these bonds—indignant
towards my husband; though the subject is never mentioned."
"Be on your guard against her, my young friend. Her principles are
not religiously sound. This I say to you, because duty requires me to
say it. Placed in your position, and with your feelings towards her
husband, if no personal and selfish consideration came in to restrain
her, she would not hesitate at separation—nay, I fear, not even at a
guilty compact with another."
"You shock me!" said Mrs. Dexter.
"I speak to you my real sentiments; and in warning. In your present
state of mind, be very reserved towards her. You are not strong
enough to meet her quick intelligence, nor able to guard yourself
against her subtle insinuations. When was she here last?"
A sudden thought prompted the question.
"She left just before you came in," answered Mrs. Dexter.
"And your mind has been disturbed, not tranquillized, by her
"I am disturbed, as you see."
"On what subject did she speak?" asked Mrs. De Lisle.
"You know her usual theme?"
"I do not wonder that you were disturbed. How could it be
"She gives utterance to many truths," said Mrs. Dexter.
"But even truth may be so spoken as to have all the evil effect of
error," was promptly answered.
"Can truth ever do harm? Is it not the mind's light? Truth shows us
the way in which we may walk safely," said Mrs. Dexter, with some
earnestness of manner.
"Light, by which the eye sees, will become a minister of
destruction, if the eye is inflamed. A mind diseased cannot bear
strong gleams of truth. They will blind and deceive, rather than
illustrate. The rays must be softened. Of the many truths to which
Mrs. Anthony gave utterance this morning, which most affected your
"She spoke," said Mrs. Dexter, after a little reflection, "of
natural affinities and repulsions, which take on sometimes the
extreme condition of idiosyncrasies. Of conjunctions of soul in true
marriages, and of disjunction and disgust where no true marriage
"Did she explain what she understood by a true marriage?" asked
Mrs. De Lisle.
"I do not remember any formal explanation. But her meaning was
"What, then, did she mean?"
A little while Mrs. Dexter thought, and then answered—
"She thinks that men and women are born partners, and that only
they who are fortunate enough to meet are ever happy in marriage—are,
in fact, really married."
"How is a woman to know that she is rightly mated?" asked Mrs. De
"By the law of affinities. The instincts of our nature are never at
"So the thief who steals your watch will say the instincts of his
nature all prompted to the act. If our lives were orderly as in the
beginning, Mrs. Dexter, we might safely follow the soul's unerring
instincts. But, unfortunately, this is not the case; and instinct
needs the law of revelation and the law of reason for its guide."
"You believe in true, interior marriages?" said Mrs. Dexter.
"Yes, marriages for eternity."
"And that they are made here?"
Mrs. De Lisle did not answer immediately.
"The preparation for eternal marriage is here," she said, speaking
Mrs. Dexter looked at her like one in doubt as to the meaning of
what she heard. She then said:
"In a true marriage, souls must conjoin by virtue of an original
affinity. In a word, the male and the female must be born for each
"There are a great many vague notions afloat on this subject," said
Mrs. De Lisle; "and a great deal of flippant talk. If there are men
and women born for each other, one thing is very certain, both need a
great deal of alteration before they can unite perfectly; and the
trial will, in most cases, not so fully prove this theory of quality
in sexual creation as you might suppose. 'Behold, I was shapen in
iniquity!' If this were not true of every one, there might be a
little more hope for happiness in marriage. Let us imagine the union
of two persons, born with that original containing affinity of which
you speak—and the existence of which I do not deny. We will suppose
that the man inherits from his ancestors certain evil and selfish
qualities; and that the woman inherits from her ancestors certain
evil and selfish qualities also. They marry young, and before either
is disciplined by right principle, or regenerated by Divine truth.
Now, this being the case, do you suppose that, in the beginning,
their pulses will beat in perfect harmony? That there will be no
jarring in the machinery of their lives?"
Mrs. De Lisle paused, but received no answer.
"In just the degree," she continued, "that each is selfish, and
fails to repress that selfishness, will the other suffer pain or feel
repulsion? And they will not come into the true accordance of their
lives until both are purified through a denial of self, and an
elevation of the spiritual above the natural. For it is in the
spiritual plane where true marriages take place; and only with those
who are regenerated. All that goes before is preparation."
Mrs. Dexter continued looking earnestly into the face of Mrs. De
"Does your thought follow me?" asked the latter.
"Yes," was all the answer.
"If true marriages are for eternity, each of the partners must be
born into spiritual life; and that birth is always with pain. The
husband, instead of being a mere natural and selfish man, must be a
lover of higher and purer things. He must be a seeker after Divine
intelligence, that he may be lifted with wisdom coming from the
infinite Source of wisdom. And the wife, elevating her affections
through self-denial and repression of the natural, must acquire a
love for the spiritual wisdom of her husband before her soul can make
one with his. Do you comprehend this?"
"Dimly. He must be wise in heavenly love; and she a lover of
"There must be something more," said Mrs. De Lisle.
"No two masculine souls are alike, and heavenly wisdom is infinite.
The finite mind receives only a portion of the Divine intelligence.
Each, therefore, is in the love of growing wise in a certain degree
or direction. The feminine soul, to make conjunction perfect, must be
a lover of wisdom in that degree, or direction."
"You bewilder me," said Mrs. Dexter.
"Let me rather enlighten. The great truth I wish to make clear to
you is that there can be no marriage in the higher sense without
spiritual regeneration. By nature we are evil—that is selfish; for
self love is the very essence of all evil—and until heavenly life is
born in us there can be no interior marriage conjunction. It is
possible, then—and I want you to look the proposition fairly in the
face—for two who are created for each other, to live very unhappily
together during the first years of their married life. Do you ask
why? Because both are selfish by nature; and self seeks its own
delight. I have sometimes thought," continued Mrs. De Lisle, "in
pondering this subject, that those who are born for each other are
not often permitted to struggle together in painful antagonism during
the stern ordeals through which so many have to pass ere self is
subdued, and the fires of Divine love kindled on the heart's altars."
"Meeting life's discipline apart, or in strife with an alien," said
"As you will. But the lesson, I trust, is clear. Only they who bear
the cross can wear the crown. The robes must be made white in the
blood of the Lamb. And now, dear friend! if you would be worthy of an
eternal marriage, take up your cross. If there is a noble, manly soul
to which you would be conjoined forever, set earnestly about the task
of preparation for that union. The wedding garment must be wrought;
the lamps trimmed and burning. Not in neglect of duty; not in weak
repinings, or helpless despondency is this work done; but in daily
duty. The soul of your husband is precious in the eyes of God as your
own. Never forget this. And it may be a part of your heaven-assigned
work—nay, is—to help him to rise into a higher life. May you grow
angel-minded in the good work!"
"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.
When Mrs. Dexter recovered, she was in her own room lying upon her
bed. No one was there but her husband. He looked grave to sadness.
She looked at him a single moment, then shut her eyes and turned her
face away. Mr. Dexter neither moved nor spoke. A more wretched man
was scarcely in existence. He believed all against his wife that his
words expressed; yet was he conscious of unpardonable
indiscretion—and he was deeply troubled as to the consequences of
his act. Mrs. Dexter was fully restored to consciousness, and
remembered distinctly, the blasting intimations of her husband. But,
she was wholly free from excitement, and was thinking calmly.
"Will you send for my aunt?" Mrs. Dexter turned her face from the
wall as she said this, speaking in a low but firm voice.
"Not now. Why do you wish to see her?" Mr. Dexter's tones were low
and firm also.
"I shall return to her," said Mrs. Dexter.
"What do you mean?" Feeling betrayed itself.
"As I am a degraded being in your eyes, you do not, of course, wish
me to remain under your roof. And, as you have degraded me by foul
and false accusations, against the bare imagination of which my soul
revolts, I can no longer share your home, nor eat the bread which
your hand provides for me. Where there is no love on one side and no
faith on the other, separation becomes inevitable."
"You talk madly," said Mr. Dexter.
"Not madly, but soberly," she answered. "There is an unpardonable
sin against a virtuous wife, and you have committed it. Forgiveness
is impossible. I wish to see my aunt. Will you send for her, Mr.
"It was a dark day for me, Jessie, when I first looked upon your
face," said Mr. Dexter.
"And darker still for me, sir. Yet, after my constrained marriage,
I tried, to the best of my ability, to be all you desired. That I
failed, was no fault of mine."
"Nor mine," was answered.
"Let us not make matters worse by crimination and recrimination,"
said Mrs. Dexter. "It will take nothing from our future peace to
remember that we parted in forbearance, instead of with passionate
"You are surely beside yourself, Jessie!" exclaimed Mr. Dexter.
She turned her face away, and made no response.
Dexter was frightened. "Could it be possible," he asked himself,
"that his wife really purposed a separation?" The fact loomed up
before his imagination with all of its appalling consequences.
A full half hour passed, without a word more from the lips of
either. Then Mr. Dexter quietly retired from the room. He had no
sooner done this, than Mrs. Dexter arose from the bed, and commenced
making changes in her dress. Her face was very white, and her
movements unsteady, like the movements of a person just arisen from
an exhausting sickness. There was some appearance of hurry and
agitation in her manner.
About an hour later, and just as twilight had given place to
darkness, Mrs. Loring who was sitting with her daughters, lifted her
eyes from the work in her hands, and leaned her head in a listening
attitude. The door bell had rung, and a servant was moving along the
passage. A moment of suspense, and then light steps were heard and
the rustling of a woman's garments.
"Jessie!" exclaimed Mrs. Loring, as Mrs. Dexter entered the
sitting-room." She was enveloped in a warm cloak, with a hood drawn
over her head. As she pushed the latter from her partly hidden face,
her aunt saw a wildness about her eyes, that suggested, in connection
with this unheralded visit of the feeble invalid, the idea of mental
derangement. Starting forward, and almost encircling her with her
arms, she said—
"My dear child! what is the meaning of this visit? Where is Mr.
Dexter? Did he come with you?"
"I am cold," she answered, with a shiver. "The air is piercing."
And she turned towards the grate, spreading her hands to the genial
"Did Mr. Dexter come with you?" Mrs. Loring repeated the question.
"No; I came alone," was the quietly spoken answer.
"You did not walk?"
"Why, Jessie! You imprudent child! Does Mr. Dexter know of this?"
There was no reply to this question.
"Aunt Phoebe," said Mrs. Dexter, turning from the fire, "can I see
"Certainly, dear," and placing an arm around her, Mrs. Loring went
with her niece from the room.
"You have frightened me, child," said the aunt, as soon as they
were alone. "What has happened? Why have you come at this untimely
hour, and with such an imprudent exposure of your health?"
"I have come home, Aunt Phoebe!" Mrs. Dexter stood and
looked steadily into the face of her aunt.
"Home, Jessie?" Mrs. Loring was bewildered.
"I have no other home in the wide world, Aunt Phoebe." The sadness
of Jessie's low, steady voice, went deep down into the worldly heart
of Mrs. Loring.
"Child! child! What
do you mean?" exclaimed the astonished
"Simply, that I have come back to you again—to die, I trust, and
that right early!"
"Where is Mr. Dexter? What has happened? Oh, Jessie! speak
plainly!" said Mrs. Loring, much agitated.
"I have left Mr. Dexter, Aunt Phoebe." She yet spoke in a calm
voice. "And shall not return to him. If you will let me have that
little chamber again, which I used to call my own, I will bless you
for the sanctuary, and hide myself in it from the world. I do not
think I shall burden you a long time, Aunt Phoebe. I am passing
through conflicts and enduring pains that are too severe for me.
Feeble nature is fast giving way. The time will not be long, dear
"Sit down, child! There! Sit down." And Mrs. Loring led her niece
to a chair. "This is a serious business, Jessie," she added, in a
troubled voice. "I am bewildered by your strange language. What does
it mean? Speak to me plainly. I am afraid you are dreaming."
"I wish it were a dream, aunt. But no—all is fearfully real. For
causes of which I cannot now speak, I have separated myself from Mr.
Dexter, and shall never live with him again. Our ways have parted,
"Jessie! Jessie! What madness! Are you beside yourself? Is this a
step to be taken without a word of consultation with friends?"
Mrs. Loring, as soon as her mind began clearly to comprehend what
her niece had done, grew strongly excited. Mrs. Dexter did not reply,
but let her eyes fall to the floor, and remained silent. She had no
defence to make at any human tribunal.
"Why have you done this, Jessie?" demanded her aunt.
"Forgive my reply, Aunt Phoebe; I can make no other now.
reason is with God and my own heart. He can look deeper than any
human eyes have power to see; and comprehend more than I can put in
words. My cause is with Him. If my burdens are too heavy, He will not
turn from me because I fall fainting by the way."
"Jessie, what is the meaning of this?" Mrs. Loring spoke in a
suddenly changed voice, and coming close to her niece, looked
earnestly into her face. "Here is a bad bruise on your right cheek,
and another on the temple just above. And the skin is inflamed around
the edges of these bruises, showing them to be recent. How came this,
"Bruises? Are you certain?"
"Why, yes, child! and bad ones, too."
Mrs. Dexter looked surprised. She raised her hand to her cheek and
temple, and pressing slightly, was conscious of pain.
"I believe I fainted in the parlor this afternoon," she said; "I
must have fallen to the floor."
"Fainted! From what cause?" asked Mrs. Loring.
Mrs. Dexter was silent.
"Was it from sudden illness?"
Mrs. Loring was not satisfied with this brief answer. Imagination
suggested some personal outrage.
"Was Mr. Dexter in the parlor when you fainted?" she asked.
"Why did he not save you from falling?"
"I am very cold, aunt; and my head turns. Let me lie down." Mrs.
Dexter made an effort to rise. As Mrs. Loring caught her arms, she
felt them shiver. Quickly leading her to the bed, she laid her in
among the warm blankets; but external warmth could not subdue the
nervous chill that shook her frame in every part.
"The doctor must be sent for," said Mrs. Loring—and she was about
leaving the bedside.
"No, no, aunt!" Mrs. Dexter caught her hand, and held her back. "I
want no physician—only quiet and seclusion. Have my own little room
prepared for me, and let me go there to-night."
Mrs. Loring sat down undecided, and in great perplexity of mind.
"Listen!" Some one had rung the door-bell violently.
"Aunt!" Mrs. Dexter started up and laid her hand on the arm of Mrs.
Loring. "If that is Mr. Dexter, remember that I positively refuse to
meet him. I am ill, as you can see; and I warn you that the agitation
of a forced interview may cost me my life."
"If it is Mr. Dexter, what shall I say? Hark! Yes! It is his step,
and his voice."
"Say that I cannot be seen, and that I have left him forever."
"Aunt Loring, remonstrance is vain! I have not taken this step
without a deep consciousness of being right; and no power on earth
can lead me to retrace it. Let him comprehend that, in its plain
significance; the sooner he does so the better will it be for both."
"Mr. Dexter wishes to see you," said a servant, coming to the door.
"Say that I will be down in a moment."
Mrs. Loring stood for some time, endeavoring to collect her
thoughts and calm her feelings. She then went down to the parlor.
"Is Jessie here?" inquired Mr. Dexter, in a hurried manner.
"She is," replied Mrs. Loring.
"I wish to see her."
"Sit down, Mr. Dexter. I want to speak with you about Jessie."
Mr. Dexter sat down, though with signs of impatience.
"What is the meaning of this? What has happened, Mr. Dexter?"
"Only a slight misunderstanding. Jessie is over sensitive. But I
must see her immediately; and alone, if you please, Mrs. Loring."
"I am sorry, Mr. Dexter, but Jessie will not see you."
"Not see me!"
"Go and say that I am here, and that I must see her, if only for a
"She knows you are here, Mr. Dexter; and her message is—'Say that
I cannot seen.'"
"Where is she?" Mr. Dexter moved towards the door; but Mrs. Loring,
who had taken it into her head that personal abuse—a blow,
perhaps—was the cause of Jessie's flight from the residence of her
husband—(she could understand and be properly indignant at such an
outrage), stepping before him said—
"Don't forget, sir, that this is my house! You cannot pass into any
of its apartments unless I give permission. And such permission is
now withheld. My niece is in no condition for exciting interviews.
There has been enough of that for one day, I should think."
"What do you mean? What has she said?" demanded Mr. Dexter, looking
almost fiercely at Mrs. Loring.
"Nothing!" was replied. "She refuses to answer my questions. But I
see that her mind is greatly agitated, while her person bears
evidence of cruel treatment."
"Mrs. Loring!" Dexter understood her meaning, and instantly grew
calm. "Evidences of cruel treatment!"
"Yes, sir! Her cheek and temple are discolored from a recent
bruise. How came this?"
"She fainted, and struck herself in falling."
"In your presence?"
"And you did not put forth a hand to save her!"
Mrs. Loring's foregone conclusions were running away with her.
"Excuse me madam," said Mr. Dexter, coldly, "you are going beyond
the record. I am not here at the confessional, but to see my wife.
Pray, do do not interpose needless obstacles."
There was enough of contempt in the tones of Mr. Dexter to wound
the pride and fire the self-love of Mrs. Loring; and enough of angry
excitement about him, to give her a new impression of his character.
"You cannot see Jessie to-night," she answered firmly. "She has
flown back to me in wild affright—the mere wreck of what she was,
poor child! when I gave her into your keeping—and the inviolable
sanctity of my house is around her. I much fear, Leon Dexter, that
you have proved recreant to your trust—that you have not loved,
protected, and cherished that delicate flower. The sweetness of her
life is gone?"
The woman of the world had (sic) actally warmed into sentiment.
"It is I who have suffered wrong," said Mr. Dexter. "Sit down, Mrs.
Loring, and hear me. If I cannot see my wife—if she willfully
persists in the step she has taken—then will I clear my skirts. You,
at least, if not the world, must know the truth. Sit down, madam, and
They moved back from the door, and crossing the parlor, sat down
together on a sofa.
"What is wrong?" asked Mrs. Loring, the manner and words of Mr.
Dexter filling her mind with vague fear.
"Much," was answered.
"Your niece, I have reason to believe, is not true to me," said
"Sir!" Astonishment and indignation blended in the tone of Mrs.
"I happened to come upon her unawares to-day, taking her in the
very act of encouraging the attentions of a man whose presence and
detected intimacy with her, at Newport, were the causes of her
"It is false!"
Both Dexter and Mrs. Loring started to their feet.
There stood Jessie, just within the door at the lower end of the
parlor, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes bright with indignation.
"It is false, sir!" she repeated, in strong, clear tones.
Mr. Dexter, after the first moment of bewildering surprise,
advanced towards his wife.
"It is false—false as the evil spirit who suggested a thought of
your wife's dishonor!"
Saying this, Mrs. Dexter turned and glided away. Her husband made a
motion to follow, but Mrs. Loring laid her hand upon his arm.
"Light breaks into my mind," she said. "It was because you charged
her with dishonorable intent that she fled from you? A man should be
well fortified with proofs before he ventures so far. I will
believe nothing against her, except on the clearest evidence. Can you
There was a homely force in this mode of presenting the subject
that had the effect to open the eyes of Dexter a little to the
unpleasant aspect of his position. What proof had he of his wife's
infidelity—and yet he had gone so far as to say that he had reason
to believe her not true to him, and that she had been detected in
questionable intimacy with some one at Newport!
"Can you adduce the evidence, Mr. Dexter?" repeated Mrs. Loring.
"I may have been hasty," he said, moving back into the room. "My
words may have signified too much. But she has been imprudent."
"It is not true, sir!"
The voice of Jessie startled them again. She stood almost on the
spot from which they had turned a moment before.
"It is not true, sir!" she repeated her words. "Not true, in any
degree! All is but the ghost of a jealous fancy! And now, sir, beware
how you attempt to connect my name with evil reports or surmises! I
may be stung into demanding of you the proof, and in another place
than this! Never, even in thought, have I dishonored you. That is a
lower deep into which my nature can never fall; and you should have
known me well enough to have had faith. Alas that it was not so!"
She passed from her husband's presence again, seeming almost to
vanish where she stood.
"What is to be done?" said Mr. Dexter, turning towards Mrs. Loring,
with a certain shame-facedness, that showed his own perception of the
aspect in which his hasty conduct had placed him.
"It is impossible to answer that question now," replied Mrs.
Loring. "These muddy waters must have time to run clear. As for
Jessie, it is plain that she needs seclusion, and freedom from all
causes of excitement. That you have wronged her deeply by your
suspicions, I have not the shadow of a doubt—how deeply, conceding
her innocence, you can say better than I."
"You will not encourage her in maintaining towards me her present
attitude, Mrs. Loring?"
"Not if I see any hope of reconciliation. But I must know more of
your lives during the past few months. I fear that you have wholly
misunderstood your wife, and so alienated her that oblivion of the
past is hopeless."
"Think of the exposure and disgrace," said Mr. Dexter.
"I do think of it; and the thought sickens me."
"You will surely advise her to return."
"I can promise nothing sir. Wait—wait—wait. I have no other
advice to offer. My poor child has passed through fearful trials—that
is plain; and she must have time for body and mind to recover
themselves. Oh, sir! how could you, knowing her feeble condition,
bear down upon her so heavily as you did this day. Your words must
have fallen like heavy blows; for it seems that they struck her down
senseless. A second attack of brain fever, should it unfortunately
follow this agitation, will certainly prove fatal."
Dexter was silent.
"We must keep our own counsel for the present," he said, at length.
"The public should know nothing of all this."
"In that we are agreed," answered Mrs. Loring. "My advice to you
is, to leave Jessie, for the time being at least, to her own will.
Serious prostration of all her faculties, I cannot but fear as a
consequence. To-morrow, she will in all probability need her
"How will you account for her condition, should his attendance be
Mrs. Loring shook her head.
"Events," she answered, "are too recent, and my mind too much
bewildered to say what course I may deem it the wisest policy to
pursue. I must await the occasion, and govern myself accordingly."
"Be very prudent, madam," said Mr. Dexter. "A single error may
"Her reputation is as dear to me as my own," replied Mrs. Loring,
"and you may be very sure, that I will guard it as a most precious
thing. The warning as to circumspection I pass to you."
Mr. Dexter made a movement to retire.
"I will see you in the morning," he said, "and in the meantime,
account for Jessie's absence, by saying that she paid you a visit,
going out imprudently, and found herself too much indisposed to
Mrs. Loring merely inclined her head. A little while Dexter stood
looking at her, embarrassment and trouble written on every feature.
Then bowing coldly, he retired.
WHEN Mrs. Loring went back to her chamber, after Mr. Dexter
withdrew from the house, she found Jessie in bed, lying as still as if
asleep. She looked up when her aunt came to the bedside—at first
with stealthy, half-timid glances—then with more of trust, that
changed into loving confidence. Mrs. Loring bent down and kissed her.
"Oh, Aunt Phoebe! that was very cruel in him."
"What was cruel, dear?"
The thoughts of Mrs. Loring went farther back than to the interview
in her parlor.
"He tried to ruin me even in your regard."
"But he failed, Jessie. I will not believe the lowest whisper of an
evil report against you."
"I am as pure in thought and as true in purpose, Aunt Phoebe, as
when I went out from you. I do not love Mr. Dexter—I never loved
him. Still that is no crime—only a necessity. He understood this in
the beginning, and took the risk of happiness—so did I. But he was
not satisfied with all that I could give. He wanted a heart, as well
as a hand—a living, loving spirit, as well as a body. These he could
not possess in me—for the heart loves not by compulsion. Then
jealousy was born in his soul, and suspicion followed. Both were
groundless. I felt a degrading sense of wrong; and at times, a spirit
of rebellion. But I never gave place to a wandering thought—never
gave occasion for wrong construction of my conduct. Ah, Aunt Phoebe!
that marriage was a sad mistake. A union unblessed by love, is the
commencement of a wretched life. It is the old story; and never loses
its tragic interest. It was folly in the beginning, and it is madness
Mrs. Loring would have questioned her niece closely as to the
meaning of Mr. Dexter's allusion to a certain individual as having
been too intimate with his wife, but these closing remarks fell like
rebuke upon her ears. She remembered how almost like a victim-lamb,
Jessie had been led up to the marriage altar; and how she had
overruled all objections, and appealing to her honor, had almost
constrained her into the fulfillment of a promise that should never
have been extorted. And so she remained silent.
"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.
Before Jessie had arisen, Mr. Dexter called. He looked worn and
troubled. It was plain that his night had been sleepless.
"How is she?" he asked of Mrs. Loring, almost fearfully, as if
dreading the answer. He did not pronounce the name of his wife.
"Better than I had hoped," was replied.
"Has she required the attention of a physician?"
Mr. Dexter seemed relieved.
"What is her state of mind?"
"She is more tranquil than I had expected to find her."
Mrs. Loring's manner was cold.
"Have you conversed with her this morning?"
"Will she see me?"
"I think not."
"Will you ask her?"
"Not now. She is too weak to bear a recurrence of agitating
Mr. Dexter bit his lips firmly as if striving with his feelings.
"When can I see her?"
"That question I am unable now to answer, Mr. Dexter. But my own
opinion is that it will be better for you to see her to-morrow than
to-day: better next week than to-morrow. You must give time for
calmness and reflection."
"She is my wife!" exclaimed Mr. Dexter, not able to control
himself. The manner in which this was said conveyed clearly his
thought to Mrs. Loring, and she replied with equal feeling—
"But not your slave to command!"
"Madam! I warn you not to enter into this league against me—not to
become a party in this wicked scheme! If you do, then you must bear
the consequences of such blind folly. I am not the man to submit
tamely. I will not submit."
"You are simply beating the air," replied Mrs. Loring. "There is no
league against you—no wicked scheme—nothing beyond your own excited
imagination; and I warn you, in turn, not to proceed one step further
in this direction."
"Madam! can I see my wife?" The attitude of Mr. Dexter was
"No, sir. Not now," was the firmly spoken answer.
He turned to go.
"Well? Say on."
"I do not wish you to call here again."
"Madam! my wife is harboring here."
"I will give my servant orders not to admit you!" said Mrs. Loring,
outraged by this remark.
For an instant Dexter looked as if he would destroy her, were it in
his power, by a single glance; then turning away he left the house,
muttering impotent threats.
And so the breach grew wider.
"I don't wonder that Jessie could not live with him," said Mrs.
Loring to herself. "Such a temper! Dear heart! Who can tell how much
she may have suffered?"
ONCE more Jessie found herself alone in the little chamber where
her gentle girlish life, had strengthened towards womanhood. Many
times had she visited this chamber since her marriage, going to it as
to some pilgrim-shrine, but never with the feelings that now crowded
upon her heart. She had returned as a dove, to the ark from the wild
waste of waters, wing-weary, faint, frightened—fluttering into this
holy place, conscious of safety. She was not to go out again. Blessed
thought! How it warmed the life-blood in her heart, and sent the
currents in more genial streams through every vein.
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
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
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
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 would suffocate me. There was a mutual
wrong in our marriage; but I was most to blame; for I knew that I did
not and never could love you as I believed a husband should be loved.
But you had extorted from me a promise of marriage, and I believed it
to be my duty to fulfill that promise. Young, inexperienced, blind to
the future, I took up the burdens you laid at my feet, and believed
myself strong enough to carry them all the days of my life. It was a
fatal error. How painfully I have struggled on—how prayerfully, how
patiently, how self-denyingly, you can never know. Yet, without avail.
I have fallen by the way, and there is not strength enough in me to
lift the burdens again. I know this, and One besides; and I am content
to rest the case with Him. The world will blame—the church
censure—the law condemn. Let it be so. All that is light to the
sufferings I have endured, and from which I have fled.
"I cannot see you, Mr. Dexter—I will not see you. Our ways
in this world have parted, and forever. The act was not mine, but
yours. You flung me off with a force that overcame all scruple—all
question of right—all effort to cling to you as my husband. I was
trying, in my feeble way—for not much power remained—to be a
dutiful wife, when you extinguished all hope of success by a charge
as false as the evil spirit who whispered in your too willing ears a
suspicion of infidelity against one who had never permitted a thought
of wrong towards her husband to enter even the outermost portal of her
mind. I had not seen the person to whom you allude since my accidental
meeting with him at Newport, so basely construed into design; and his
passing my window at the moment you returned home, was as unexpected
to me as to you.
"I had hoped that my previous solemn assurances were sufficient to
give you confidence in my integrity. But this was an error. You had
no faith in me; and assailed me with violence when my thoughts were
as true to honor as ever were yours. Did you imagine that I could lie
passive at your feet, so trampled down and degraded? No, sir! God gave
me a higher consciousness—a purer spirit—a nobler individuality! You
should have mated one of a different stamp from me!
"And yet I pity you, Leon Dexter! This web of trouble, which your
own hands have woven around your life, will fetter and gall you at
every step in your future journey. I have not left you in a spirit of
retaliation; but simply because the natural strain of repulsion was
stronger than all the attractive forces that held us together. I only
obeyed a law against which weak nature strove in vain. Were it in my
power, I would make all your future bright with the warmest sunshine.
But over your future I have no control—yet, sadly enough, are our
destinies linked, and the existence of each will be a thorn in the
"I have not much strength left. The contest has nearly extinguished
my life. This is the last struggle I shall have with you. My first
weak thought was to return your letter without a word in reply. But
that would have been a wrong to both; and so I have made you this
communication, and you must regard it as final. Farewell, unhappy
Leon Dexter! I would have saved you from this calamity, but you would
not let me! May He who has permitted you thus to drag down the temple
of domestic happiness, and bury yourself amid the ruins, give you, in
this direful calamity, a higher than human power of endurance. May the
fierce flames of this great ordeal, find gold in your character beyond
the reach of fire. Farewell, forever! and may God bless and keep you!
The prayer is from a heart yet free from guile, and the lips that
breathe it upward are as pure as when you laid upon them the marriage
kiss! God keep them as guileless and as pure! Amen!
Dexter accepted the decision of his wife as final. What else was
left for him? He would have been the dullest of men not to have seen
the spirit of this answer, shining everywhere through the letter.
Something more than feebly dawned the conviction in his mind, that he
had foully wronged his wife, and that the fearful calamity which had
overtaken him in the morning of his days, was of his own creating. He
did not again attempt to see her; made no further remonstrance;
offered no kind of annoyance. A profound respect for the suffering
woman who had abandoned him, took the place of indignation against
her. In silence he sat down amid his crushed hopes and broken idols,
and waited for light to guide him and strength to walk onward. Like
thousands of other men, he had discovered that a human soul was not a
plaything, nor a piece of machinery to wind up and set in motion at
will; and like thousands of other men, he had made this discovery too
WITHOUT a note of warning, the public were startled by the news
that Mrs. Dexter had left her husband. Wisely, sober second thought
laid upon the lips of Mr. Dexter the seal of silence. He gave no
reason for the step his wife had taken, and declined answering all
inquiries, even from his nearest friends. From a man of impulse, he
seemed changed at once into a man of deliberate purpose. His elegant
home was not given up, though he lived in it a kind of half hermit
life. Abroad, he was reserved; while everything about him gave signs
of a painful inward conflict.
Of course, the social air was full of rumors, probable and
improbable, but none of them exactly true. Mrs. Dexter was wholly
silent, except to her wisest and truest friend, Mrs. De Lisle—and
her discretion ever kept her guarded. Mrs. Loring simply alleged
"incompatibility of temper"—that vague allegation which covers with
its broad mantle so wide a range of domestic antagonisms. And so the
public had its appetite piqued, and the nine days' wonder became the
wonder of a season. Hints towards the truth were embellished by
gossips' ready imaginations, and stories of wrong, domestic (sic)
tyrrany, infidelity, and the like, were passed around, and related
with a degree of circumstantiality that gave them wide credence. Yet
in no instance was the name of Hendrickson connected with that of
Mrs. Dexter. So transient had been their intercourse, that no eye but
that of jealousy had noted their meeting as anything beyond the
meeting of indifferent acquaintances.
It was just one week from the day Paul Hendrickson caught an
unexpected glimpse of Mrs. Dexter's face at the window, and passed on
with her image freshened in his heart, that he called in at the
Ardens', after an unusually long absence, to spend an evening. Miss
Arden's countenance lighted with a sudden glow on his appearance, the
rich blood dyeing her cheeks, and giving her face a heightened charm;
and in the visitor's eyes there was something gentler and softer in
her beauty than he had before observed. He probably guessed the cause;
and the thought touched his feelings, and drew his heart something
nearer to her.
"That is a painful story about Mrs. Dexter," said Mrs. Arden,
almost as soon as the young man came in. The recently heard facts were
uppermost in her thoughts.
"What story? I have not heard anything." Hendrickson was on his
guard in a moment; though he betrayed unusual interest.
"It is dreadful to think of!" said Miss Arden. "What a wretched
creature she must be! I always thought her one of the best of women.
Though I must own that at Saratoga last summer, she showed rather
more fondness for the society of other men than she did for that of
"I am still in the dark," said Mr. Hendrickson, with suppressed
"Then you haven't heard of it? Why, it's the town talk."
"There's been a separation between Mrs. Dexter and her husband,"
remarked Mrs. Arden. "She left him several days ago, and is now with
her aunt, Mrs. Loring."
"A separation! On what ground?" Hendrickson's breathing oppressed
"Something wrong with Mrs. Dexter, I am told. She had too many
admirers—so the story goes; and, worse still—for admiration she
couldn't help—one lover."
It was Mrs. Arden who said this.
"Who was the lover?" asked Mr. Hendrickson. His voice was so quiet,
and his tones so indifferent, that none suspected the intense
interest with which he was listening.
"I have not heard his name," replied Mrs. Arden.
"Does he live in this city?"
"I believe not. Some new acquaintance, made at Newport, I think.
You remember that she was very ill there last summer?"
"Well, the cause of that illness is now said to have been a
discovery by Mr. Dexter of some indiscretion on her part, followed by
angry remonstrance on his."
"That is the story?"
"And what caused the separation which has just taken place?"
"A renewal of this intimacy," said Mrs. Arden.
"A very serious charge; and, I believe without foundation in
truth," replied Hendrickson. He spoke slowly, yet not with strong
emphasis. His auditors did not know that he was simply controlling his
voice to hide his agitation.
"Oh, there is no doubt as to its truth," said Mrs. Arden. "The
facts have been substantiated; so Mrs. Anthony told me to-day; and she
has been one of Mrs. Dexter's most intimate friends."
"What facts?" inquired Hendrickson.
"Facts, that if they do not prove crime against Mrs. Dexter, show
her to have been imprudent to the verge of crime."
"Can you particularize?" said the young man.
"Well, no I can't just do that. Mrs. Anthony ran on at such a rate
that I couldn't get the affair adjusted in my mind. But she asserts
positively that Mrs. Dexter has gone considerably beyond the boundary
of prudence; and she is no friend of Dexter's, I can assure you. As
far as I can learn, there have been frequent meetings between this
lover and Mrs. Dexter during the husband's absence. An earlier return
home, a few days ago, led to a surprise and an exposure. The result
"I must make bold to pronounce this whole story a fabrication,"
said Mr. Hendrickson, with rising warmth; "It is too improbable."
"Worse things than that have happened, and are happening every
day," remarked Mrs. Arden.
"Still I shall disbelieve the story," said Mr. Hendrickson, firmly.
"What else would justify him in sending her home to her aunt?"
asked Mrs. Arden.
"He sent her home, then? That is the report?" remarked Hendrickson.
"Some say one thing and some another."
"And a story loses nothing in the repetition."
"You are very skeptical," said Miss Arden.
"I wish all men and women were more skeptical than they are, in
touching the wrong doings of others," replied the young man. "The
world is not so bad as it seems. Now I am sure that if the truth of
this affair could really be known, we should find scarcely a single
fact in agreement with the report. I have heard that Mr. Dexter is
blindly jealous of his wife."
"Oh, as to that, Mrs. Anthony says that he made himself ridiculous
by his jealousy at Saratoga last summer. And I now remember that he
used to act strangely sometimes," said Mrs. Arden.
"A jealous man," returned Hendrickson, "is a very bad judge of his
wife's conduct; and more likely to see guilt than innocence in any
circumstance that will bear a double explanation. Let us then lean to
the side of charity, and suppose good until the proof of evil stares
us in the very face; as I shall do in this instance. I have always
believed Mrs. Dexter to be the purest of women; and I believe so
Both Mrs. Arden and her daughter seemed annoyed at this defence of
a woman against whom they had so readily accepted the common rumor.
But they said nothing farther. After that an unusual embarrassment
marked their intercourse. As early as he could, with politeness,
retire, Hendrickson went away. He did not err in his own elucidation
of the mystery; for he remembered well the vision of Mrs. Dexter's
face at the window—her instant sign of feeling—his own quick but
not meditated response—and the sudden appearance of her husband,
whose clouded countenance was full of angry suspicion.
"To this!—and so soon!" said Hendrickson to himself, as he left
the house of Mrs. Arden. "Oh, that I could stretch out my hand to save
her!—That I could shield her from the tempests!—That I could
shelter her from the burning heats! But I cannot. There is a great
gulf between us, and I may not pass to her, nor she to me. Oh, my
soul! is this separation to be for all time?"
There was rebellion in the heart of Paul Hendrickson when he
reached his home; and a wild desire to overleap all barriers of
"There will be a divorce in all probability," so he began talking
with himself. "Jessie will never return to him after this violent
separation; and he, after a time, will ask to have the marriage
annulled. He will not be able to bring proof of evil against
her—will, I am sure, not even attempt it; for no evidence exists.
But her steady refusal to live with him as his wife, will enable him,
it may be, to get a divorce. And then!"
There was a tone of exultation in his voice at the closing words.
"And whosoever marrieth her which is put away, committeth
Hendrickson started to his feet, his face as pale as ashes, and
glanced almost fearfully about the room. The voice seemed spoken in
the air—but it was not so. The warning had reached his sense of
hearing by an inner way.
Then he sat down, and pondered this new question, so suddenly
presented for solution, turning it towards every light—viewing it
now from the side of human feeling and human reason—and now with the
light of Divine Revelation shining upon it. But he was not satisfied.
The letter of the record was against him; but nature cried out for
some different reading. At length he made an effort to thrust the
"What folly is this?" he said, still talking with himself. "Wait!
wait! wait!—the time is not yet. Separation only exists. There is no
divorce. The great, impassable gulf is yet between us. I cannot go to
her. She cannot come to me. I must wait, hopefully, if not patiently,
the issue of events."
The thoughts of Hendrickson had once more been turning themselves
towards Miss Arden, and he had felt the glow of warmer feelings. He
had even begun to think again of marriage.
"Let that illusion go!" he said. "It must no longer tempt me to the
commission of an act that reason and conscience both pronounce wrong.
I do not love Mary Arden; therefore, I will not marry her. I settle
that matter now, and forever."
And the decision was final. He did not visit her again for many
months, and then only after her engagement to another.
THERE were plenty of intrusive friends to give Mr. Dexter advice as
to how he should act towards the unhappy woman who had fled from him
in her despair. He was rich, good-hearted—as the world
goes—honorable, domestic in his feelings and habits; everything, in
fact, that society requires in the composition of a good husband. The
blame, therefore, among the friends of Mr. Dexter, was all on the side
of his wife.
"You will, of course, if she persists in this unwarrantable
conduct, demand a legal separation," said one.
"That is just what she wants," suggested another. "You could not
grant her a higher favor."
"Wait—wait," was the advice of a third.
And so the changes were rung. Dexter listened, pondered, suffered;
but admitted no one into the council chamber of his heart. There were
some things known only to himself and the one he had driven from him,
which he did not care to reveal. The shock of separation had rent away
a few scales from his eyes, and his vision was clearer; but the
clearer vision did not lessen his misery—for self-upbraidings crowded
in with the illustrating light.
For a while, jealous suspicion kept him watchfully alive to the
movements of Paul Hendrickson. In order to gain the most undoubted
information in regard to him, he secured the services of an
intelligent policeman, who, well paid for his work, kept so sharp an
eye upon him, that he was able to report his whereabouts for almost
every hour of the day and evening.
Days, weeks, months even passed, and the policeman's report varied
scarcely a sentence. The range of Hendrickson's movements was from
his place of business to his lodgings. Once a week, perhaps, he went
out in the evening; but never were his steps directed to the
neighborhood in which the object of his waking and dreaming thoughts
In part, this knowledge of Hendrickson's mode of living relieved
the mind of Dexter; yet, when viewed in certain lights, it proved a
cause of deeper disturbance. His conclusions in the case were near
the truth. Hendrickson's withdrawal of himself from society—his
hermit-like life—his sober face and musing aspect—seemed only so
many evidences of his undying love for Mrs. Dexter. That an
impassable barrier existed (sic) betwen them—that, as things were,
even a friendly intercourse would be next to crime—Hendrickson felt;
and Dexter's clearer perceptions awarded him a just conclusion in this
So far as Mrs. Dexter was concerned, the heavy curtain that fell so
suddenly between her and the world was not drawn aside—not
uplifted—even for a moment. Her deep seclusion of herself was
nun-like. Gradually new objects of interest—new causes of
excitement—pressed the thought of her aside, and her name grew a
less and less familiar sound in fashionable and family circles. Some
thought of her as a wronged woman—some as a guilty woman—yet all
with a degree of sympathy.
A year Mr. Dexter waited for some sign from his wife. But if the
grave had closed over her, the isolation from him could not have been
more perfect. He then sold his house, removed to a hotel, and made
preparations for an absence in Europe of indefinite continuance. He
went, and was gone for over two years.—Returned, and almost
immediately on his arrival, took legal steps for procuring a divorce.
Mrs. Dexter received due notice of these proceedings, based simply on
her abandonment of her husband, and refusal to live with him as a
wife. But she remained entirely passive. The proceedings went on, and
in due time Mr. Dexter obtained what he sought, a divorce. Within a
month after the decree in his favor, he returned across the Atlantic.
The publication of this decree awakened a brief interest in Mrs.
Dexter—or rather in plain Jessie Loring, as she was now in legal
aspect. But the curious public were not able to acquire any
satisfactory information in regard to her. The world in which she
lived was a terra incognita to them.
The next exciting news which came in this connection, was the
announcement of Dexter's marriage with an English heiress. He did not
return with her to the United States; but remained in England, where
he established a foreign branch of the mercantile house in which he
was a partner, and took up his permanent residence beyond the sea.
Six years from the day Jessie Loring laid her bleeding heart on the
marriage altar had passed. For over three years of that time she had
not stepped beyond the threshold of her aunt's dwelling, and only at
rare intervals was she seen by visitors. She had not led an idle
life, however; else would her days long ere this have been numbered.
To her aunt and cousins she had, from the day of her return, devoted
herself, in all things wherein she could aid, counsel, minister, or
sustain; and that with so much of patient cheerfulness, and loving
self-devotion, that she had become endeared to them beyond any former
attachment. There was an odor of goodness about her life that made her
presence an incentive to right action.
Long before this period, Mrs. Loring had ceased all efforts to lead
Jessie out of her self-imposed seclusion.
"Not yet, dear aunt! Not yet," was the invariable answer.
The day on which she received formal notice that her husband had
applied for a divorce, she shut herself up in her room, and did not
leave it, nor hold communion with any one, until the next morning.
Then, with the exception of a wearied look, as if she had not slept
well, and a shade of sadness about her lips, no change was
discernible. When the decree, annulling the marriage between her and
Dexter, was placed in her hands, she seemed bewildered for a time, as
if she found it almost impossible to realize her new position.
"I congratulate you, Jessie Loring!" said her aunt, speaking from
her external view of the case. "You are free again. Free as the
"This does not place me where I was," Jessie replied.
"Why not? The law has cancelled your marriage!" said Mrs. Loring.
"You stand in your old relation to the world."
"But not to myself," Jessie answered with a deep sigh; and leaving
her aunt, she went away to her little chamber, there to sit in solemn
debate over this new aspect of affairs in her troubled life.
No—no. She did not stand in her old relation to herself. She was
not a maiden with lips free from the guile of a false marriage
promise; but a divorced wife. A thing questionably recognized, both
in human opinion and divine law. Deeply and solemnly did this
conviction weigh upon her thoughts. View the case in any of the
lights which shone into her mind, she could not discover an aspect
that gave her real comfort. It is true she was free from all legal
obligations to her former husband, and that was something gained. But
what of that husband's position under the literal reading of the
divine law? No doubt he contemplated marriage. But could he marry,
conscience clear? Had not her false vows cursed both their
lives?—imposed on each almost impossible necessities?
Such were the questions that thrust themselves upon her, and
clamored for solution.
She had not solved them when the intelligence came of Mr. Dexter's
marriage in England.
"I have news that will surprise you," said Mrs. Loring, coming into
the sitting-room where Jessie was at work on a piece of embroidery.
"What is it?" she asked, looking up almost with a start, for
something in her aunt's manner told her that she had a personal
interest in the news.
"Mr. Dexter is married!"
Instantly a pallor overspread Jessie's face.
"Married to an English lady," said Mrs. Loring.
Jessie looked at her aunt for a little while, but without a remark.
She then turned her eyes again upon her embroidery, lifting it close
to her face. But her hand trembled so that she could not take a
"I hope he's satisfied now," said Mrs. Loring. "He's married an
heiress—so the story goes; and is going to reside with her in
England. I'm glad of that any how. It might not be so pleasant for
you to meet them—sensitive thing that you are! But it wouldn't
trouble me. I could look them both in the face and not
blink. Much joy may he have with his English bride! Bless me, child,
how you do tremble!" she added, as she noticed the fingers of her
niece trying in vain to direct the needle she held upon the face of
the embroidery. "It's nothing more than you had to expect. And,
besides, what is Leon Dexter to you now? Only as another man?"
Jessie arose without speaking, and kissing her aunt in token of
love, passed quickly from the room.
"Dear! dear! what a strange child it is!" said Aunt Loring, as she
wiped off a tear which had fallen from Jessie's eyes upon her cheek.
"Just like her mother for all the world in some things"—the last
part of the sentence was in a qualifying tone—"though," she went on,
"her mother hadn't anything like her trials to endure. Oh, that
Dexter! if I only had my will of him!"
And Aunt Loring, in her rising indignation, actually clenched her
hand and shook it in the air.
"It has come to this at last," said Jessie as soon as she had
gained the sanctuary of her little chamber, where she could think
without interruption. "And I knew it must come; but oh, how I have
dreaded the event! Is he innocent in the sight of heaven? Ah, if I
could only have that question answered in the affirmative, a crushing
weight would be lifted from my soul. If he is not innocent, the stain
of his guilt rests upon my garments! He is not alone responsible. Who
can tell the consequences of a single false step in life?"
From a small hanging shelf she took a Bible, and opening to a
marked page, read over three or four verses with earnest attention.
"I can see no other meaning," she said with a painful sigh, closing
the book and restoring it to its place on the shelf. It was all in
vain that Jessie Loring sought for light and comfort in this
direction. They were not found. When she joined her aunt, some hours
afterwards, her face had not regained its former placidity.
"Well, dear," said Mrs. Loring, speaking in what sounded to the ear
of her niece a light tone, "have you got it all right with yourself?"
Jessie smiled faintly, and merely answered—
"It will take time. But I trust that all will come out truly
adjusted in the end."
She had never ventured to bring to her aunt's very external
judgment the real questions that troubled her. Mrs. Loring's prompt
way of sweeping aside these cobwebs of the brain, as she called the
finer scruples of conscience, could not satisfy her yearning desire
"Yes; time works wonders. He is the great restorer. But why not see
clearly at once; and not wait in suffering for time's slow movements?
I am a wiser philosopher than you are, Jessie; and try to gain from
the present all that it has to give."
"Some hearts require a severer discipline than others," said
Jessie. "And mine, I think, is one of them."
"All that is sickly sentiment, my dear child! as I have said to you
a hundred times. It is not shadow, but sunshine that your heart
wants—not discipline, but consolation—not doubt, but hope. You are
as untrue to yourself as the old anchorites. These self-inflicted
stripes are horrible to think of, for the pain is not salutary, but
only increases the morbid states of mind that ever demand new
"We are differently made, Aunt Phoebe," was the quiet answer.
"No, we are not, but we make ourselves different," replied Mrs.
Loring a little hastily.
"The world would be a very dead-level affair, if we were all made
alike," said Jessie, forcing a smile, and assuming a lighter air, in
order to lead her aunt's mind away from the thought of her as too
painfully disturbed by the announcement of Mr. Dexter's marriage. And
she was successful. The subject was changed to one of a less
embarrassing character. And this was all of the inner life of Jessie
Loring that showed itself on the surface.
AND what of Paul Hendrickson during these years of isolation, in
which no intelligence could be gained of Jessie, beyond vague rumors?
For a time, he secluded himself. Then he returned to a few of the old
social circles, not much changed to the common eye. His countenance
was a little graver; his voice a little lower; his manner a trifle
more subdued. But he was a cheerful, intelligent companion, and always
a welcome guest.
To no one, not even to his old friend, Mrs. Denison, did he speak
of Mrs. Dexter. What right had he to speak of her? She was still the
lawful wife of another man, though separated from him by her own act.
But not to think of her was as impossible as not to think at all—not
to gaze upon her image as impossible as to extinguish the inner
vision. She was always by his side, in spirit; her voice always in his
ears; her dear face always before him. "The cup is dashed to pieces at
my feet, and the precious wine spilled!" How many, many, many times,
each day, did he hear these words uttered, always in that sad,
half-desponding voice that first brought them to his ears; and they
kept hope in the future alive.
The separation which had taken place Hendrickson regarded as one
step in the right direction. When the application for a divorce was
made, he hailed it with a degree of inward satisfaction that a little
startled himself. "It is another step in the right direction," he
said, on the instant's impulse.
Reflection a little sobered him. "Even if the divorce is granted,
what will be her views of the matter?"
There came no satisfactory answer to this query.
A thick curtain still veiled the future. Many doubts troubled him.
Next, in the order of events, came the decision by which the
marriage contract between Dexter and his wife was annulled. On the
evening of the same day on which the court granted the petitioner's
prayer, Hendrickson called upon Mrs. Denison. She saw the moment he
came in that he was excited about something.
"Have you heard the news?" he inquired.
"What news?" Mrs. Denison looked at him curiously.
"Leon Dexter has obtained a divorce."
"Yes. And so that long agony is over! She is free again."
Hendrickson was not able to control the intense excitement he felt.
Mrs. Denison looked at him soberly and with glances of inquiry.
"You understand me, I suppose?"
"Perhaps I do, perhaps not," she answered.
"Mrs. Denison," said the young man, with increasing excitement, "I
need scarcely say to you that my heart has never swerved from its
first idolatry. To love Jessie Loring was an instinct of my
nature—therefore, to love her once was to love her forever. You know
how cruelly circumstances came with their impassable barriers. They
were only barriers, and destroyed nothing. As brightly as ever burned
the fires—as ardently as ever went forth love's strong impulses with
every heart-beat. And her heart remained true to mine as ever was
needle to the pole."
"That is a bold assertion, Paul," said Mrs. Denison, "and one that
it pains me to hear you make."
"It is true; but why does it give you pain?" he asked.
"Because it intimates the existence of an understanding between you
and Mrs. Dexter, and looks to the confirmation of rumors that I have
always considered as without a shadow of foundation."
"My name has never been mentioned in connection with hers."
"It is true."
"I never heard it."
"Nor I but once."
"What was said?"
"That you were the individual against whom Mr. Dexter's jealousy
was excited, and that your clandestine meetings with his wife led to
"I had believed," said Hendrickson, after a pause, and in a voice
that showed a depression of feeling, "that busy rumor had never
joined our names together. That it has done so, I deeply regret. No
voluntary action of mine led to this result; and it was my opinion
that Dexter had carefully avoided any mention of my name, even to his
most intimate friends."
"I only heard the story once, and then gave it my emphatic denial,"
said Mrs. Denison.
"And yet it was true, I believe, though in a qualified sense. We
did meet, not clandestinely, however, nor with design."
"But without a thought, much less a purpose of dishonor," said Mrs.
Denison, almost severely.
"Without even a thought of dishonor," replied Hendrickson. "Both
were incapable of that. She arrived at Newport when I was there. We
met, suddenly and unexpectedly, face to face, and when off our guard.
I read her heart, and she read mine, in lightning glimpses. The pages
were shut instantly, and not opened again. We met once or twice after
that, but as mere acquaintances, and I left on the day after she came,
because I saw that the discipline was too severe for her, and that I
was not only in an equivocal, but dangerous, if not dishonorable
position. Dexter had his eyes on me all the while, and if I crossed
his path suddenly he looked as if he would have destroyed me with a
glance. The fearful illness, which came so near extinguishing the life
of Mrs. Dexter, was, I have never doubted, in consequence of that
meeting and circumstances springing directly therefrom. A friend of
mine had a room adjoining theirs at Newport, and he once said to me,
without imagining my interest in the case, that on the day before Mrs.
Dexter's illness was known, he had heard her voice pitched to a higher
key than usual, and had caught a few words that too clearly indicated
a feeling of outrage for some perpetrated wrong. There was stern
defiance also, he said, in her tones. He was pained at the
circumstance, for he had met Mrs. Dexter frequently, he said, at
Newport, and was charmed with her fine intelligence and womanly
"Once after that we looked into each other's faces, and only once.
And then, as before, we read the secret known only to ourselves—but
without design. I was passing her residence—it was the first time I
had permitted myself even to go into the neighborhood where she
lived, since her return from Newport. Now something drew me that way,
and yielding to the impulse, I took the street on which her dwelling
stood, and ere a thought of honor checked my footsteps, was by her
door. A single glance at one of the parlor windows gave me the vision
of her pale face, so attenuated by sickness and suffering, that the
sight filled me with instant pity, and fired my soul with a deeper
love. What my countenance expressed I do not know. It must have
betrayed my feelings, for I was off my guard. Her face was as the page
of a book suddenly opened. I read it without losing the meaning of a
word. There was a painful sequel to this. The husband of Mrs. Dexter,
as if he had started from the ground, confronted me on the instant.
Which way he came—whether he had followed me, or advanced by an
opposite direction, I know not. But there he stood, and his flashing
eyes read both of our unveiled faces. The expression of his
countenance was almost fiendish.
"I passed on, without pause or start. Nothing more than the
answering glances he had seen was betrayed. But the consequences were
final. It was on that day that Mrs. Dexter left her husband, never
again to hold with him any communication. I have scarcely dared permit
myself to imagine what transpired on that occasion. The outrage on his
part must have been extreme, or the desperate alternative of
abandonment would never have been taken by such a woman.
"There, my good friend and aforetime counsellor," added
Hendrickson, "you have the unvarnished story. A stern necessity drew
around each of us bands of iron. Yet we have been true to
ourselves—and that means true to honor. But now the darker features
of the case are changed. She is no longer the wife of Leon Dexter. The
law has shattered every link of the accursed chain that held her in
such a loathsome bondage."
He paused, for the expression of Mrs. Denison's countenance was not
by any means satisfactory.
"Right, so far," said Mrs. Denison. "I cannot see that either was
guilty of wrong, or even, imprudence. But I am afraid, Paul, that you
are springing to conclusions with too bold a leap."
"Do not say that, Mrs. Denison."
He spoke quickly, and with a suddenly shadowed face.
"Your meaning is very plain," was answered. "It is this. A divorce
having been granted to the prayer of Mr. Dexter, his wife is now free
to marry again."
"Yes, that is my meaning," said Hendrickson, looking steadily into
the face of Mrs. Denison. She merely shook her head in a grave, quiet
Hendrickson drew a long breath, then compressed his lips—but still
looked into the face of his friend.
"There are impediments yet in the way," said Mrs. Denison.
"I know what you think. The Divine law is superior to all human
"Is it not so, Paul?"
"If I was certain as to the Divine law," said Hendrickson.
"The record is very explicit."
"Read in the simple letter, I grant that it is. But"—
"Paul! It grieves me to throw an icy chill over your ardent
feelings," said Mrs. Denison, interrupting him. "But you may rest
well assured of one thing: Jessie Loring, though no longer Mrs.
Dexter, will not consider herself free to marry again."
"Do you know her views on this subject?" asked the young man,
"I think I know the woman. In the spirit of a martyr she took up
her heavy cross, and bore it while she had strength to stand. The
martyr spirit is not dead in her. It will not die while life remains.
In the fierce ordeals through which she has passed, she has learned to
endure; and now weak nature must yield, if in any case opposed to
"Have you met her of late?" inquired the young man, curiously.
"No, but I talked with Mrs. De Lisle about her not long ago. Mrs.
De Lisle is her most intimate friend, and knows her better, perhaps,
than any other living person."
"And what does she say? Have you conversed with her on this
"No; but I have learned enough from her in regard to Jessie's views
of life and duty, as well as states of religious feeling, to be
justified in saying that she will not consider a court's decree of
sufficient authority in the case. Alas! my young friend, I cannot see
cause for gratulation so far as you are concerned. To her, the act of
divorce (sic) way give a feeling of relief. A dead weight is stricken
from her limbs. She can walk and breathe more freely; but she will not
consider herself wholy untrammelled. Nor would I. Paul, Paul! the gulf
that separates you is still impassable! But do not despair! Bear up
bravely, manfully still. Six years of conflict, discipline, and stern
obedience to duty have made you more worthy of a union with that pure
spirit than you were when you saw her borne from your eager,
outstretched arms. Her mind is ripening heavenward—let yours ripen in
that direction also. You cannot mate with her, my friend, in the
glorious hereafter, unless you are of equal purity. Oh, be patient,
Hendrickson had bowed his head, and was now sitting with his eyes
upon the floor. He did not answer after Mrs. Denison ceased speaking,
but still sat deeply musing.
"It is a hard saying!" He had raised his eyes to the face of his
maternal friend. "A hard saying, and hard to bear. Oh, there is
something so like the refinement of cruelty in these stern events
which hold us apart, that I feel at times like questioning the laws
that imposed such fearful restrictions. We are one in all the
essentials of marriage, Mrs. Denison. Why are we thus sternly held
"It is one of the necessities of our fallen nature," Mrs. Denison
replied, in her calm, yet earnest voice, "that spiritual virtues can
only have birth in pain. We rise into the higher regions of heavenly
purity only after the fires have tried us. Some natures, as you know,
demand a severer discipline than others. Yours, I think, is one of
them. Jessie's is another. But after the earthly dross of your souls
is consumed, the pure gold will flow together, I trust, at the bottom
of the same crucible. Wait, my friend; wait longer. The time is not
A sadder man than when he came, did Mr. Hendrickson leave the house
of Mrs. Denison on that day. She had failed to counsel him according
to his wishes; but her words, though they had not carried full
conviction to his clouded understanding, had shown him a goal still
far in advance, towards which all of true manhood in him felt the
impulse to struggle.
WHEN the news of Mr. Dexter's second marriage reached Mr.
Hendrickson, he said:
"Now she is absolved!" but his friend Mrs. Denison, replied:
"I doubt if she will so consider it. No act of Mr. Dexter's can
alter her relation to the Divine law. I am one of these who cannot
regard him as wholly innocent. And yet his case is an extreme one;
for his wife's separation was as final as if death had broken the
bond. But I will not judge him; he is the keeper of his own
conscience, and the All-Wise is merciful in construction."
"I believe Jessie Loring to be as free to give her hand as before
"With her will rest the decision," was Mrs. Denison's answer.
"Have you seen her?" inquired Hendrickson.
"Has she been seen outside of her aunt's dwelling?"
"If so I have never heard of it."
"Do you think, if I were to call at Mrs. Loring's, she would see
"I cannot answer the question."
"But what is your opinion?"
"If I were you," said Mrs. Denison, "I would not call at present."
"This act of her former husband is too recent. Let her have time to
get her mind clear as to her new relation. She may break through her
seclusion now, and go abroad into society again. If so you will meet
her without the constraint of a private interview."
"But she may still shut herself out from the world. Isolation may
have become a kind of second nature."
"We shall see," replied Mrs. Denison. "But for the present I think
it will be wiser to wait."
Weeks, even months, passed, and Paul Hendrickson waited in vain. He
was growing very impatient.
"I must see her! Suspense like this is intolerable!" he said,
coming in upon Mrs. Denison one evening.
"I warn you against it," replied Mrs. Denison.
"I cannot heed the warning."
"Her life is very placid, I am told by Mrs. De Lisle. Would you
throw its elements again into wild disturbance?"
"No; I would only give them their true activity. All is stagnation
now. I would make her life one thrill of conscious joy."
"I have conversed with Mrs. De Lisle on this subject," said Mrs.
"You have? And what does she say?"
"She understands the whole case. I concealed nothing—was I right?"
"Yes. But go on."
"She does not think that Jessie will marry during the lifetime of
Mr. Dexter," said Mrs. Denison.
Hendrickson became pale.
"I fear," he remarked, "that I did not read her heart aright. I
thought that we were conjoined in spirit. Oh, if I have been in error
here, the wreck is hopeless!"
He showed a sudden and extreme depression.
"I think you have not erred, Paul. But if Jessie regards the
conditions of divorce, given in Matthew, as binding, she is too pure
and true a woman ever to violate them. All depends upon that. She
could not be happy with you, if her conscience were burdened with the
conviction that your marriage was not legal in the Divine sense. Don't
you see how such an act would depress her? Don't you see that, in
gaining her, you would sacrifice the brightest jewel in her crown of
"Does Mrs. De Lisle know her views on this subject?" he asked.
A quick flush mantled Hendrickson's face.
"Well, what are they?" He questioned eagerly, and in a husky voice.
"She reads the law in Matthew and in Luke, literally."
"The cup is indeed broken, and the precious wine spilled!"
exclaimed the unhappy man, rising in strong agitation.
"Paul," said Mrs. Denison, after this agitation had in a measure
passed away; "all this I can well understand to be very hard for one
who has been so patient, so true, so long suffering. But think
calmly; and then ask yourself this question: Would you be willing to
marry Jessie Loring while she holds her present views?"
Hendrickson bent his head to think.
"She believes," said Mrs. Denison, "that such a marriage would be
adulterous. I put the matter before you in its plainest shape. Now,
my friend, are you prepared to take a woman for your wife who is
ready to come to you on such terms? I think not. No, not even if her
name be Jessie Loring."
"I thank you, my friend, for setting me completely right," said
Hendrickson. He spoke sadly, yet with the firmness of a true man. "I
have now but one favor to ask. Learn from her own lips, if possible,
her real sentiments on this subject."
"I will do so."
"Yes. To-morrow I will see Mrs. De Lisle, and confer with her on
the subject, and then at the earliest practical moment call with her
Two days afterwards, Mr. Hendrickson received a note from his
friend, asking him to call.
"You have seen her?"
The young man was paler than usual, but calm. His voice was not
eagerly expectant, but rather veiled with sadness, as if he had
weighed all the chances in his favor, and made up his mind for the
"I have," replied Mrs. Denison.
"She is much changed, I presume?"
"I would scarcely have known her," was answered.
"In what is she changed?"
"She has been growing less of the earth earthy, in all these years
of painful discipline. You see this in her changed exterior; your ear
perceives it in the tones of her voice; your mind answers to it in the
pure sentiments that breathe from her lips. Her very presence gives an
atmosphere of heavenly tranquillity."
It was some moments before Hendrickson made further remark. He then
"How long a time were you with her, Mrs. Denison?"
"We spent over an hour in her company."
"Was my name mentioned?"
"Nor the subject in which I feel so deep an interest?"
"Yes, we spoke of that!"
"And you were not in error as to her decision of the case?"
Hendrickson manifested no excitement.
"I was not."
He dropped his eyes again to the floor, and sat musing for some
"She does not consider herself free to marry again?"
He looked up with a calm face.
There was a sigh; a falling of the eyes; and a long, quiet silence.
"I was prepared for it, my friend," he said, speaking almost
mournfully. "Since our last interview, I have thought on this subject
a great deal, and looked at it from another point of vision. I hare
imagined myself in her place, and then pondered the Record. It seemed
more imperative. I could not go past it, and yet regard myself
innocent, or pure. It seemed a hard saying—but it was said. The
mountain was impassable. And so I came fortified for her decision."
"Would you have had it otherwise?" Mrs. Denison asked.
Hendrickson did not answer at once. The question evidently
"The heart is very weak," he said at length.
"But virtue is strong as another Samson," Mrs. Denison spoke
"Her decision does not produce a feeling of alienation. I am not
angry. She stands, it is true, higher up and further off, invested
with saintly garments. If she is purer, I must be worthier. I can
only draw near in spirit—and there can be no spiritual nearness
without a likeness of quality. If the stain of earth is not to be
found on her vesture, mine must be white as snow."
"It is by fire we are purified, my friend," answered Mrs. Denison,
speaking with unusual feeling.
Not many weeks after this interview with Mrs. Denison, she received
a communication from Hendrickson that filled her with painful
surprise. It ran thus:
"MY BEST FRIEND:—When this comes into your hands, I shall be away
from B—. It is possible that I may never return again. I do not take
this step hastily, but after deep reflection, and in the firm
conviction that I am right. If I remain, the probabilities are that I
shall meet Jessie Loring, who will come forth gradually from her
seclusion; and I am not strong enough, nor cold enough for that. Nor
do I think our meeting would make the stream of her life more placed.
It has run in wild waves long enough—the waters have been turbid long
enough—and mine is not the hand to swirl it with a single eddy.
No—no. My love, I trust, is of purer essence. I would bless, not
curse—brighten, not cloud the horizon of her life.
"And so I recede as she comes forth into the open day, and shall
hide myself from her sight. As she advances by self denials and holy
charities towards celestial purity, may I advance also, fast enough
at least not to lose sight of her in the far off distance.
"You will meet her often, from this time, dear, true, faithful
friend! And I pray you to keep my memory green in her heart. Not with
such bold reference as shall disturb its tranquil life. Oh, do not
give her pain! But with gentle insinuations; so that the thought of me
have no chance to die. I will keep unspotted from the world; yet will
I not withdraw myself, but manfully take my place and do battle for
"And now, best of friends, farewell! I go out into the great world,
to be absorbed from observation in the crowd. But my heart will
remain among the old places, and beat ever faithful to its early
He had withdrawn himself from all business connections, and sold
his property. With his small fortune, realized by active, intelligent
industry, and now represented by Certificates of Deposit in three of
the city banks, he vanished from among those who had known and
respected him for years, and left not a sign of the direction he had
taken. Even idle rumor, so usually unjust, did him no wrong. He had
been, in all his actions, too true a man for even suspicion to touch
As Hendrickson had rightly supposed, Jessie Loring came forth from
her seclusion of years. Not all at once, but by gradual intrusions
upon the social life around her. At first she went abroad on a
mission of charity. Then her friend Mrs. De Lisle, drew her to her
house, and there a new face that interested her awakened a new
impulse in her mind. And so the work went on, and ere long she was in
part restored to society. But how different from the one who had
withdrawn from it years before! Suffering and discipline had left
upon her their unmistakable signs. The old beauty of countenance had
departed. The elegant style—the abounding grace of manner—the
fascinating speech—all were gone. Only those to whom she had been
most familiar, recognized in the pale, serene countenance, retiring
grace and gentle speech of Jessie Loring, the once brilliant Mrs.
And quite as different was the effect she produced upon those who
came within the sphere of her chastened thoughts. Before, all admired
her; now, all who could draw close enough, found in her speech an
inspiration to good deeds. Some were wiser—all were better in right
purposes—who met her in familiar intercourse. And the more intimately
she was known, the more apparent became the higher beauty into which
she had arisen; a celestial beauty, that gave angelic lustre at times
to her countenance.
To no one did she mention the name of Hendrickson. If she missed
him from the circles which had again opened to receive her, none knew
that her eyes had ever looked for his presence. No one spoke to her
of him, and so she remained for a time in ignorance of his singular
disappearance. A caution from Mrs. De Lisle to Mrs. Loring, made that
not over-cautious individual prudent in this case.
One day Jessie was visiting Mrs. Denison, to whom she had become
warmly attached. She did not show her accustomed cheerfulness, and to
the inquiries of Mrs. Denison as to whether she was as well as usual,
replied, as it seemed to that lady, evasively. At length she said,
with a manner that betrayed a deep interest in the subject:
"I heard a strange story yesterday about an old acquaintance whom I
have missed—Mr. Hendrickson."
"What have you heard?" was inquired.
"That he left the city in a mysterious manner several months ago,
and has not been heard of since."
"It is true," said Mrs. Denison.
"Was there anything wrong in his conduct?" asked Jessie Loring, her
usually pale face showing the warmer hues of feeling.
"Nothing. Not even the breath of suspicion has touched his good
"What is the explanation?"
"Common rumor is singularly at fault in the case," replied Mrs.
Denison. "I have heard no reason assigned that to me had any
appearance of truth."
"Had he failed in business?" asked Miss Loring.
"No. He was in a good business, and accumulating property. But he
sold out, and converting all that he was worth into money, took it
with him, and left only his memory behind."
"Had he trouble with any one?"
Jessie looked concerned—almost sad.
"I would like to know the reason." She spoke partly to herself.
"I alone am in possession of the reason," said Mrs. Denison, after
a silence of more than a minute.
Thrown off her guard, Jessie spoke eagerly and with surprise.
"Yes. He wrote me a letter at the time, stating in the clearest
terms the causes which led to so strange a course of conduct.
"Did you approve of his reasons?" Miss Loring had regained much of
her usual calm exterior.
"I accepted them," was answered. "Under all the circumstances of
the case, his course was probably the wisest that could have been
"Are you at liberty to state the reasons?" asked Miss Loring.
Mrs. Denison thought for some time.
"Do you desire to hear them?" she then asked, looking steadily into
the face of her visitor.
"I do," was firmly answered.
"Then I will place his letter to me in your hands. But not now.
When you leave, it will be time enough. You must read it alone."
A sudden gleam shot across the face of Jessie. But it died like a
"I will return home now, Mrs. Denison," she said, with a manner
that showed a great deal of suppressed feeling. "You will excuse me,
"Cannot you remain longer? I shall regret your going," said her
"Not in my present state of mind. I can see from your manner that I
have an interest in the contents of that letter, and I am impatient
to know them."
It was all in vain that Jessie Loring sought to calm her feelings
as she returned homeward with the letter of Paul Hendrickson held
tightly in her hand. The suspense was too much for her. On entering
the house of her aunt, she went with unusual haste to her own room,
and without waiting to lay aside any of her attire, sat down and
opened the letter. There was scarcely a sign of life while she read,
so motionless did she sit, as if pulsation were stilled. After
reading it to the last word she commenced folding up the letter, but
her hands, that showed a slight tremor in the beginning, shook so
violently before she was done, that the half closed sheet rattled
like a leaf in the wind. Then tears gushed over the letter, falling
upon it like rain.
There was no effort on the part of Jessie to repress this wild rush
of feeling. Her heart had its own way for a time. In the deep hush
that followed, she bowed herself, and kneeled reverently, lifting a
sad face and tear-filled eyes upwards with her spirit towards Heaven.
She did not ask for strength or comfort—she did not even ask for
herself anything. Her soul's deep sympathies were all for another,
towards whom a long cherished love had suddenly blazed up, revealing
the hidden fires. But she prayed that at all times, in all places, and
under all circumstances, he might be kept pure.
"Give him," she pleaded, "patient endurance and undying hope. Oh,
make his fortitude like the rock, but his humanities yielding and all
pervading as the summer airs laden with sweetness. Sustain him by the
divine power of truth. Let Thy Word be a staff in his hand when
travel-worn, and a sword when the enemy seeks his life. In his own
strength he cannot walk in this way; in his own strength he cannot
battle with his foes—but in Thy strength he will be strong as a lion,
and as invincible as an army."
After rising from her knees, Miss Loring, over whose spirit a deep
quietude had fallen, re-opened Hendrickson's letter and read it
again; and not once only but many times, until every word and
sentence were written on her memory.
"The way may be rough, and our feet not well shod for the long
journey," she said, almost with a smile on her pure face, "the sky
may be sunless and moonless, and thick clouds may hide even the
stars—but there are soft green meadows beyond, and glorious
sunshine. If I am not to meet him here, I shall be gathered lovingly
into his arms there, and God will bless the union!"
When next Mrs. Denison saw this young martyr, there was even a
serener aspect in her countenance than before. She was in possession
of a secret that gave a new vitality to her existence. Until now, all
in regard to Hendrickson had been vague and uncertain. Their few brief
but disastrous meetings had only revealed an undying interest; but as
to the quality of his love, his sentiments in regard to her, and his
principles of life, she knew literally nothing. Now all was made
clear; and her soul grew strong within her as she looked forward into
"I will keep that letter," she said to Mrs. Denison, in so firm a
voice that her friend was surprised. "It is more really addressed to
me than it is to you; and it was but fair that it should come into my
possession. He is one of earth's nobler spirits."
"You say well, Miss Loring. He is one of earth's nobler spirits. I
know him. How he would stand the fire, I could not tell. But I had
faith in him; and my faith was but a prophecy. He has come out
purified. I was not at first satisfied with this last step; but on
close reflection, I am inclined to the belief that he was right. I do
not think either of you are strong enough yet to meet. You would be
drawn together by an attraction that might obscure your higher
perceptions, and lead you to break over all impediments. That, with
your views, would not be well. There would be a cloud in the sky of
your happiness; a spot on your marriage garments; a shadow on your
"There would—there would!" replied Miss Loring with sudden
feeling. Then, as the current grew placid again, she said:
"I can hardly make you comprehend the change which that letter has
wrought in me. All the thick clouds that mantled my sky, have lifted
themselves from the horizon, showing bright gleams of the far away
blue; and sunrays are streaming down by a hundred rifts. Oh, this
knowledge that I am so deeply, purely, faithfully loved, trammelled
as I am, and forbidden to marry, fills my soul with happiness
inexpressible. We shall be, when the hand of our wise and good Father
leads us together, and His smile falls unclouded upon our union, more
blessed a thousand fold than if, in the eagerness of natural impulses,
we had let our feelings have sway."
"If you are both strong enough, you will have the higher blessing,"
was the only answer made by Mrs. Denison.
From that period a change in Jessie Loring was visible to all eyes.
There came into her countenance a warmer hue of health; her bearing
was more erect, yet not self-confident; her eyes were brighter, and
occasionally the flash of old-time thought was in them. Everywhere
she went, she attracted; and all who came into familiar intercourse
with her, felt the sweetness of her lovely character. The secret of
this change was known to but few, and they kept it sacred. Not even
Mrs. Loring, the good-hearted aunt, who loved her with a mother's
maternal fondness, was admitted into her confidence, for she felt
that mere worldliness would bruise her heart by contact. But the
change, though its causes were not seen, was perceived as something
to love, by Aunt Phoebe, who felt for her niece a daily increasing
And so the weeks moved on; and so the years came and went. Little
change was seen in Jessie Loring; except, that the smile which had
been restored, gradually grew less, though it did not bear away the
heavenly sweetness from her countenance. In all true charities that
came within her sphere of action, whether the ministration were to
bodily necessities, or moral needs, she was an angel of mercy; and
few met her in life's daily walk, but had occasion to think of her as
one living very near the sources of Divine love.
TEN years had glided away, yet not in all that time had Jessie
Loring received a word of intelligence from Paul Hendrickson. He had
passed from sight like a ship when darkness falls upon the ocean—the
morning sees her not again, and the billows give no record of the way
she went. But still Jessie bore his image at her heart; still her love
was undimmed, and her confidence unshaken—and still she felt herself
bound by the old shackles, which no human hand could break from her
One day, about this time, as Mrs. Denison sat reading, a servant
came into her room and handing her a card, said:
"There is a gentleman waiting in the parlor to see you."
She looked at the card, and started with surprise. It bore the name
of PAUL HENDRICKSON.
"My dear friend!" she exclaimed, grasping both of his hands, as she
stood facing him a few moments afterwards.
"My best friend!" was the simple response, but in a voice tremulous
A little while they stood, gazing curiously yet with affectionate
interest, into each other's face.
"You are not much changed; and nothing for the worse," said Mrs.
"And you wear the countenance of yesterday," he replied, almost
fondly. "How many thousands of times since we parted, have I desired
to stand looking into your eyes as I do now! Dear friend! my heart
has kept your memory fresh as spring's first offerings."
"Where have you been, in all these years of absence?" Mrs. Denison
asked, as they sat down, still holding each other's hands tightly.
"Far away from here; but of that hereafter. You have already
guessed the meaning of my return to the old places."
"What! Have you not heard of Mr. Dexter's decease?"
"Paul! is that so?" Mrs. Denison was instantly excited.
"It is. I had the information from a correspondent in London, who
sent me a paper in which was a brief obituary. He died nearly three
months ago, of fever contracted in a hospital, where he had gone to
visit the captain of one of his vessels, just arrived from the coast
of Africa. The notice speaks of him as an American gentleman of
wealth and great respectability."
"And the name is Leon Dexter?" said Mrs. Denison.
"Yes. There is no question as to the identity. And now, my good
friend, what of Jessie Loring? I pray you keep me not longer in
So wholly absorbed were they, that the ringing of the street door
bell had not been heard, nor the movement of the servant along the
passage. Ere Mrs. Denison could reply, the parlor door was pushed
quietly open, and Miss Loring entered.
"She stands before you!" said Mrs. Denison, starting up and
advancing a step or two.
Mr. Hendrickson uttered the name slowly, but in a voice touched
with the profoundest emotion. He had arisen, but did not advance. She
stood suddenly still, and held her breath, while a paleness
overspread her features. But her long training had given her great
"Mr. Hendrickson," she said, advancing across the room.
He grasped her hand, but she did not return the ardent pressure,
though the touch went thrilling to her heart. But the paleness had
left her face.
At this moment Mrs. Denison came forward, and covering their
clasped hands with hers, said in a low, but very emphatic voice:
"There is no impediment! God has removed the last obstruction, and
your way is plain."
Instantly the whole frame of Miss Loring seemed jarred as by a
heavy stroke; and she would have fallen through weakness, if
Hendrickson had not thrown an arm around her. Bearing her to a sofa,
he laid her, very tenderly, in a reclining position, with her head
resting against Mrs. Denison. But he kept one of her hands tightly
within his own; and she made no effort to withdraw it.
"There is no obstruction now, dear friends," resumed Mrs. Denison.
"The long agony is over—the sad error corrected. The patience of
hope, the fidelity of love, the martyr-spirit that could bear
torture, yet not swerve from its integrity, are all to find their
exceeding great reward. I did not look for it so soon. Far in advance
of the present I saw the long road each had to travel, still
stretching its weary length. But suddenly the pilgrimage has ended.
The goal is won while yet the sun stands at full meridian—while yet
the feet are strong, and the heart brave for endurance or battle.
Heroes are ye, and this is my greeting!"
With eyes still closed, Jessie lay very still upon the bosom of
this dear friend. But oh, what a revelation of joy was in the sweet,
half-formed smile that arched her lips with beauty! Hendrickson
stood, still grasping her hand, and looking down into her pure,
tranquil face, with such a rapture pervading his soul, that he seemed
as if entering upon the felicities of heaven.
"This is even better than my hopes," he said, speaking at length,
but in a subdued voice.
Jessie opened her eyes, and now gazed at him calmly, but lovingly.
What a manly presence was his! How wonderfully he was
changed!—Thought, suffering, endurance, virtue, honor, had all been
at work upon his face, cutting away the earthly and the sensual,
until only the lines of that imperishable beauty which is of the
spirit, remained. Every well-remembered feature was there; but the
expression of his whole face was new.
A moment or two only did she look at him—but she read a volume in
love's history at a glance—then closed her eyes again, and, as she
did so, gave back to the hand that still held hers, an answering
The long, long trial of faith, love and high religious principle
was over, and they were now standing at the open door of blessing.
And so the reward came at last, as come it always does, to the
true, the faithful, the pure, and the loving—if not in this world,
assuredly in the next—and the great error of their lives stood
But what a lesson for the heart! Oh, is there a more fearful
consummation of error in the beginning of life than a wholly
discordant marriage! This mating of higher and lower natures—of
delicacy with coarseness—of sensuality with almost spiritual
refinement—of dove-like meekness with falcon cruelty—of the lamb
with the bear! It makes the very heart bleed to think of the undying
anguish that is all around us, springing from this most frightful
cause of misery!
In less than a month Paul Hendrickson again departed from B—, but
this time not alone, nor with his destination involved in mystery.
His second self went with him, and their faces were turned towards a
southern island, where the earth was as rich in blossom and verdure
as the bride's heart in undying love. Here his home had been for
years; and here his name was an honored word among the
people—synonymous with manly integrity, Christian virtue, and true
After the long, fierce battle, peace had come with its tranquil
blessings. After the storm, the sunshine had fallen in glorious
beauty. After the night of suffering, morning had broken in joy.
We stand and gaze, with rapt interest, upon the river when it leaps
wildly over the cataract, or sweeps foaming down perilous rapids, or
rushes through mountain gorges; but turn away from its quiet beauty
when it glides pleasantly along through green savannahs. Such is our
interest in life. And so we drop the curtain, and close our history