George Addison was from the first attentive. But he was shy in those days, and knew not how, in words, to frame the love that filled his heart and rose like a lump in his throat whenever he saw her pretty face and heard her soft voice. She was a fool, it is true, but she was like so many fools of her kind, full of a subtle craft which acts like the tempting bait on the hook that catches the unwary fish.
So she made him a present—it was of her own handiwork. Each Christmas tide she repeated the process; each year enriching the hook with a more tempting offer. It took her seven years to graduate in presents from a hat mark to a scarf-pin of little diamonds and a big rare pearl; but somehow there was a hitch and a halt within the heart of George Addison.
He never said the word. He just loved her, and waited. She grew desperate. She startled him by instituting a quarrel, which was not very much of a quarrel, for it takes two, I have always understood, to make one—in all senses of the word. He did not quite understand, and told her so. She wept in his presence, and forbade him the house. She made her father threaten his life, which was now almost a burden. He still did not understand; so he did—from her standpoint the worst thing possible—nothing. While she was impatiently waiting at home for a reconciliation and a proposal—which never came—he was dumbfounded with grief, and employed his time, tearfully of course, selecting all of her favorite poems—for she was fond of a certain kind of poetry. Then it was that the idea of “Poets and Poetry of the South” came upon him. The popularity of the book was assured in advance, because he selected only those poems that he thought would please Florence Barlowe—and her taste was average—so is the taste, I am told, of the general public.
About a year after their rupture his compilation volume appeared, and was an instantaneous success. The approach of Christmas made him painfully realize their estrangement. Finally he awakened to a full knowledge of the situation. A slow anger started up within him and gradually swept over him like a tidal wave.
It was Christmas eve.
He lighted his lamp—his quarters were still poor and very cheerless. He unlocked a drawer which contained his few treasures, and there they were—the seven gifts entire from the fair hand of pretty Florence Barlowe. There was also a little packet of letters, notes, and invitations from the same hand.
“She never really cared for me,” he said, as he tenderly drew them out from their place one by one. “I want a love-cure,” he added, “I must have one, for I must be done with this, and forever.”