“I remember her now. She was quite the belle at Saratoga. But I was not so fortunate as to make her acquaintance. She sings wonderfully. Few professional artists are so gifted.”
“You have used the right word,” said Mr. Hendrickson. “Her musical powers are wonderful. I wish you knew her, she is a charming girl.”
“You must help me to that knowledge on our return to B—.”
“Nothing would give me more pleasure. I am sure you will like each other,” said Hendrickson, warmly.
From that point in the conversation Mrs. Dexter began to lose her self-possession, and free, outspoken manner. The subject was changed, but the airiness of tone and lightness of speech was gone. Just in time, Mrs. Florence came across the room, joined the circle, and saving her from a betrayal of feelings that she would not, on any account, have manifested.
Mrs. Florence was a woman of taste. She had been in New York a few days previously, whither she had gone to hear a celebrated European singer, whose fame had preceded her. Her allusion to this fact led to an introduction of the subject of music. Hendickson made some remarks that arrested her attention, when quite an animated conversation sprung up between them. Mrs. Dexter did not join in it; but sat a closely observant listener. The young man’s criticisms on the art of music surprised her. They were so new, so analytical, and so comprehensive. He had evidently studied the subject, not as an artist, but as a philosopher—but with so clear a comprehension of the art, that from the mere science, he was able to lead the mind upward into the fullest appreciation of the grander ideal.
Now and then as he talked, Mr. Dexter passed in a brief sentence; but to the keen, intelligent perception of his wife, what mere sounding words were his empty common-places! The contrast between him and Hendrickson was painful. It was in vain that she tried not to make this contrast. It thrust itself upon her, in spite of all resistance.
Mr. Florence had crossed the room with his wife, and joined the little circle. He did not take part in the conversation, and now said, rising as he spoke.
“Come, Dexter; let’s you and I have a game of billiards.”
He laid his band familiarly on the arm of Mr. Dexter, and that individual could not refuse to accept the invitation. They left the room together. This withdrawal of Mr. Dexter put both his wife and Mr. Hendrickson more at their ease. Both felt his absence as a relief. For a time the conversation was chiefly conducted by the latter and Mrs. Florence, only an occasional remark falling from the lips of Mrs. Dexter, and that almost extorted by question or reference. But gradually she was drawn in, and led on, until she was the talker and they the listeners.
When interested in conversation, a fine enthusiasm always gave to the manners of Mrs. Dexter a charming grace, and to her beautiful countenance a higher beauty. She was almost fascinating. Never had Hendrickson felt her power as he felt it now, while looking into her animated face, and listening to sentiment, description, criticism or anecdote, flowing from her lips in eloquent language, and evincing a degree of taste, discrimination, refinement and observation he could scarcely have imagined in one of her age.