Mrs. Loring, Jessie’s aunt, had been informed by the servant of whom she made inquiry, as to the identity of the gentleman who had called that morning to see her niece—or at least as to the identity of one of them. She did not make out by the servant’s description the personality of Mr. Hendrickson, but that of Mr. Dexter was clear enough. She was also informed that the one whose name she could not guess, made only a brief visit, and that Mr. Dexter remained long, and was for most of the time in earnest conversation with Jessie. Her hopes gave her conclusions a wide latitude. She doubted not that the elegant, wealthy suitor was pressing a claim for the hand of her niece.
“Will she be such a little fool as to throw this splendid chance away?” she questioned with herself. “No—no;” was the answer. “Jessie will not dare to do it! She is a strange girl in some things, and wonderfully like her mother; but she will never refuse Leon Dexter, if so lucky as to get an offer.”
Mrs. Loring heard Mr. Dexter leave the house, and with expectation on tip-toe, waited for Jessie to join her in the sitting-room. But while she yet listened for the sound of footsteps on the stairs below, her ears caught the light rustle of Jessie’s garment as she glided along the passages and away to her own chamber.
“Something has taken place!” said Mrs. Loring to herself. “There’s been a proposal, I’ll bet my life on’t! Why didn’t the girl come and tell me at once? Ain’t I her nearest relative—and haven’t I always been like an own mother to her? But she’s so peculiar—just as Alice used to be. I don’t believe I shall ever understand her.”
And Mrs. Loring fretted a little in her moderate way, not being capable of any very profound emotion. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes—half an hour she waited for Jessie to appear. But there was no movement in the neighborhood of her chamber.
“Didn’t Jessie go to her room, after the gentleman went away?” asked Mrs. Loring, speaking to a servant, who was passing down the stairs.
“Is she there now?”
“I believe so ma’am. I haven’t seen her anywhere about the house.”
The servant passed on, and Mrs. Loring waited for full half an hour longer. Then, unable to repress impatient curiosity, she went to Jessie’s room and knocked at the door. Twice she knocked before there was a sound of life within. Then she heard footsteps—a bolt was withdrawn, and the door opened.
“Jessie!” exclaimed Mrs. Loring, “how white you are! What has happened?”
“Come in dear aunt!” said Jessie, “I have been wanting to see you; but had not yet made up my mind to seek you in the sitting-room. I am glad you are here.”
Mrs. Loring passed in and Jessie closed the door.
“Take this seat aunt,” and she pointed to an easy-chair: “I will sit here,” drawing a lower one close to that which Mrs. Loring had taken.