A year Mr. Dexter waited for some sign from his wife. But if the grave had closed over her, the isolation from him could not have been more perfect. He then sold his house, removed to a hotel, and made preparations for an absence in Europe of indefinite continuance. He went, and was gone for over two years.—Returned, and almost immediately on his arrival, took legal steps for procuring a divorce. Mrs. Dexter received due notice of these proceedings, based simply on her abandonment of her husband, and refusal to live with him as a wife. But she remained entirely passive. The proceedings went on, and in due time Mr. Dexter obtained what he sought, a divorce. Within a month after the decree in his favor, he returned across the Atlantic.
The publication of this decree awakened a brief interest in Mrs. Dexter—or rather in plain Jessie Loring, as she was now in legal aspect. But the curious public were not able to acquire any satisfactory information in regard to her. The world in which she lived was a terra incognita to them.
The next exciting news which came in this connection, was the announcement of Dexter’s marriage with an English heiress. He did not return with her to the United States; but remained in England, where he established a foreign branch of the mercantile house in which he was a partner, and took up his permanent residence beyond the sea.
Six years from the day Jessie Loring laid her bleeding heart on the marriage altar had passed. For over three years of that time she had not stepped beyond the threshold of her aunt’s dwelling, and only at rare intervals was she seen by visitors. She had not led an idle life, however; else would her days long ere this have been numbered. To her aunt and cousins she had, from the day of her return, devoted herself, in all things wherein she could aid, counsel, minister, or sustain; and that with so much of patient cheerfulness, and loving self-devotion, that she had become endeared to them beyond any former attachment. There was an odor of goodness about her life that made her presence an incentive to right action.
Long before this period, Mrs. Loring had ceased all efforts to lead Jessie out of her self-imposed seclusion.
“Not yet, dear aunt! Not yet,” was the invariable answer.
The day on which she received formal notice that her husband had applied for a divorce, she shut herself up in her room, and did not leave it, nor hold communion with any one, until the next morning. Then, with the exception of a wearied look, as if she had not slept well, and a shade of sadness about her lips, no change was discernible. When the decree, annulling the marriage between her and Dexter, was placed in her hands, she seemed bewildered for a time, as if she found it almost impossible to realize her new position.
“I congratulate you, Jessie Loring!” said her aunt, speaking from her external view of the case. “You are free again. Free as the wind!”