THE efforts which were made to save Miss Loring, only had the effect to render the sacrifice more acutely painful. Evil instead of good followed Mrs. Denison's appeals to Mr. Dexter. They served but to arouse the demon jealousy in his heart. Upon Hendrickson's movements he set the wariest surveillance. Twice, since that never-to-be-forgotten evening he met the young man in company when Jessie was present. With an eye that never failed for an instant in watchfulness, he noted his countenance and movements; and he kept on his betrothed as keen an observation. Several times he left her alone, in order to give Hendrickson an opportunity to get into her company. But there was too studied avoidance of contact. Had they met casually and exchanged a few pleasant words, suspicion would have been allayed. As it was, jealousy gave its own interpretation to their conduct.
On the last of these occasions referred to, from a position where he deemed himself beyond the danger of casual observation, Hendrickson searched with his eyes for the object of his undying regard. He saw her, sitting alone, not far distant. Her manner was that of one lost in thought--the expression of her countenance dreamy, and overcast with a shade of sadness. How long he had been gazing upon her face, the young man could not have told, so absorbed was he in the feelings her presence had awakened, when turning almost involuntarily his eyes caught the gleam of another pair of eyes that were fixed intently upon him. So suddenly had he turned, that the individual observing him was left without opportunity to change in any degree the expression of his eyes or countenance. It was almost malignant. That individual was Leon Dexter.
In spite of himself, Hendrickson showed confusion, and was unable to return the steady gaze that rested upon him. His eyes fell. When he looked up again, which was in a moment, Dexter had left his position, and was crossing the room towards Miss Loring.
"It is the fiend Jealousy!" said Hendrickson, as he withdrew into another room. "Well--let it poison all the springs of his happiness, as he has poisoned mine! I care not how keen may be his sufferings."
He spoke with exceeding bitterness.
A few weeks later, and the dreaded consummation came. In honor of the splendid alliance formed by her niece, Mrs. Loring gave a most brilliant wedding party, and the lovely bride stood forth in all her beauty and grace--the admired and the envied. A few thought her rather pale--some said her eyes were too dreamy--and a gossip or two declared that the rich young husband had only gained her person, while her heart was in the keeping of another. "She has not married the man, but his wealth and position!" was the unguarded remark of one of these thoughtless individuals; and by a singular fatality, the sentence reached the ears of Mr. Dexter. Alas! It was but throwing another fagot on the already kindling fires of unhallowed jealousy. The countenance of the young husband became clouded; and it was only by an effort that he could arouse himself, and assume a gay exterior. The prize after which he had sprung with such eager haste, distancing all competitors, was now his own. Binding vows had been uttered, and the minister had said--"What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Yet, even in his hour of triumph, came the troubled conviction that, though he had gained the beautiful person of his bride, he could not say surely that her more beautiful soul was all his own.
And so there was a death's head at his feast; and the costly wine was dashed with bitterness.
Of what was passing in the mind of Dexter his bride had no knowledge; nor did her keen instincts warn her that the demon of jealousy was already in his heart. Suffering, and the colder spirit of endurance that followed, had rendered her, in a certain sense, obtuse in this direction.
A full-grown, strong woman, had Jessie become suddenly. The gentle, tenderly-loving, earnest, simple-hearted girl, could never have sustained the part it was hers to play. Unless a new and more vigorous life had been born in her, she must have fallen. But now she stood erect, shading her heart from her own eyes, and gathering from principle strength for duty. Very pure--very true she was. Yet, in her new relation, purity and truth were shrined in a cold exterior. It were not possible to be otherwise. She did not love her husband in any thing like the degree she was capable of loving. It was not in him to find the deep places of her heart. But true to him she could be, and true to him it was her purpose to remain.
Taking all the antecedents of this case, we will not wonder, when told that quite from the beginning of so inharmonious a union, Dexter found himself disappointed in his bride. He was naturally ardent and demonstrative; while, of necessity, she was calm, cold, dignified--or simply passive. She was never unamiable or capricious; and rarely opposed him in anything reasonable or unreasonable. But she was reserved almost to constraint at times--a vestal at the altar, rather than a loving wife. He was very proud of her, as well he might be; for she grew peerless in beauty. But her beauty was from the development of taste, thought, and intellect. It was not born of the affections. Yes, Leon Dexter was sadly disappointed. He wanted something more than all this.
Lifted from an almost obscure position, as the dependent niece of Mrs. Loring, the young wife of Mr. Dexter found herself in a larger circle, and in the society of men and women of more generally cultivated tastes. She soon became a centre of attraction; for taste attracts taste, mind seeks mind. And where beauty is added, the possessor has invincible charms. It did not escape the eyes of Dexter that, in the society of other men, his young wife was gayer and more vivacious (sic) that when with him. This annoyed him so much, that he began to act capriciously, as it seemed to Jessie. Sometimes he would require her to leave a pleasant company long before the usual hour, and sometimes he would refuse to go with her to parties or places of amusement, yet give no reasons that were satisfactory. On these occasions, a moody spirit would come over him. If she questioned, he answered with evasion, or covert 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 movement onwards.
Alas for Leon Dexter! He had caged his beautiful bird; but her song had lost, already, its ravishing sweetness.
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