The stern angry aspect of Mr. Dexter was all gone. It seemed as if emotion had suddenly exhausted itself.
“We had better go home to-morrow.” He spoke in a subdued voice. “Neither of us can find enjoyment here.”
“I shall not be ready to morrow, nor the next day either,” was the out-spoken reply. “To go thus hurriedly, after your humiliating exhibition of distrust, would only be to give free rein to the tongue of scandal; and that I wish to avoid.”
“It has free rein already,” said Mr. Dexter. “At Saratoga I heard your name lightly spoken and brought you away for that very reason. You are not chary enough of yourself in these public places. I know men better than you do.”
“If a light word was spoken of me, sir, at Saratoga or anywhere else, you alone are to blame. My conduct has warranted no such freedom of speech. But I can easily imagine how men will think lightly of a woman when her husband shows watchfulness and suspicion. It half maddens me, sir, to have this disgrace put upon me. To-morrow week I will go home if you then desire it—not a day earlier. And I warn you against any more such exhibitions as we have had to-night. If you cannot take pleasure in society that is congenial to my taste, leave me to my enjoyment, but don’t mar it with your cloudy presence. And set this down as a truism—the wife that must be watched, is not worth having.”
For utterances like these, Mr. Dexter was not prepared. They stunned and weakened him. He felt that he had a spirit to deal with that might easily be driven to desperation. A man, if resolute, he had believed might control the actions of almost any woman—that woman being his wife. And he had never doubted the result of marital authority, should he at any time deem it necessary to lay upon Mrs. Dexter an iron hand. The occasion, as he believed, had arrived; the hand was put forth; the will was resolute; but his vice-like grip closed upon the empty air! The spirit with which he had to deal was of subtler essence and more vigorous life than he had imagined.