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 temples.
“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 strength depart.
“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 presented herself.
“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 embarrassment.
“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.