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 consciousness.
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 manner.
She said no more, and he commenced
pacing the floor of their small parlor backwards and
forwards with restless footsteps.
Once, without moving her head or body,
Mrs. Dexter stole a glance towards her husband; she
encountered his eyes turning stealthily upon her,
and scanning her face with an earnest scrutiny.
A moment their eyes lingered, mutually spell-bound,
and then the glances were mutually withdrawn.
Mr. Dexter continued his nervous perambulations, and
his wife remained seated and silent.
The ringing of the bell announced
tea. Mr. Dexter paused, and Mrs. Dexter, rising
without remark, took his arm, and they went down to
the dining-hall, neither of them speaking a word.
On taking her place at the table, Mrs. Dexter’s
eyes ran quickly up and down the lines of faces opposite.
This was done with so slight a movement
of the head, that her husband, who was on the alert,
did not detect the rapid observation. For some
three or four minutes the guests came filing in, and
all the while Mrs. Dexter kept glancing from face
to face. She did not move her head or seem interested
in the people around her; but her eyes told a very
different story. Twice the waiter asked if she
would take tea or coffee, before she noticed him, and
her answer, “Coffee,” apprised her watchful
husband of the fact that she was more than usually
lost in thought.
“Not coffee?” Mr. Dexter bent to his wife’s
“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
“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 acquaintance nothing
“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
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 bitter imprecation.
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
“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 unusual 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 him.”
“With whom? Speak out plainly,
sir! I am in no mood for trifling, and in no
condition for solving riddles.”
“With Paul Hendrickson.”
Dexter pronounced the name slowly, and with all the
meaning emphasis he could throw into his voice.
“Well, sir, what of that?”
Still neither eye nor voice faltered.
“Much! You see that I understand you!”
“I see that you do not understand
me,” was firmly answered. “And now,
sir, will you suffer me to demand an explanation of
your language just now. I want no evasion no
faltering no holding back. ‘Too
glad of an opportunity to get here!’ That was
the sentence. Its meaning, sir?”
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
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,”
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 manner.
“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
“It is false, sir!” was the quick and
“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 excited.
“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
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.