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.