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Chapter 23

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 resided.

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 particular.

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.

T.S. Arthur

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