“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 obscuring veil.”
“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 Loring!”
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 sitting room.
“Who is it, Mary?”