Mrs. Denison looked earnestly into her companion’s face for several moments before venturing to speak farther. She then said, in a manner that showed her to be a privileged and warmly interested friend—
“Busy on what subject, Paul?”
The young man offered Mrs. Denison his arm, remarking as he did so—
“The other parlor is less crowded.”
Threading their course amid the groups standing in gay conversation, or moving about the rooms, Paul Hendrickson and his almost maternal friend (sic) souhgt a more retired position near a heavily curtained window.
“You are hardly yourself to-night, Paul. How is it that your evenly balanced mind has suffered a disturbance. There must be something wrong within. You know my theory—that all disturbing causes are in the heart.”
“I am not much interested in mental theories to-night—am in no philosophic mood. I feel too deeply for analysis.”
“On what subject, Paul?”
A little while the young man sat with his eyes upon the floor; then lifting them to the face of Mrs. Denison, he replied.
“You are not ignorant of the fact that Jessie Loring has interested me more than any maiden I have yet seen?”
“I am not, for you have already confided to me your secret.”
“The first time I met her, it seemed to me as if I had come into the presence of one whose spirit claimed some hidden affinities with my own. I have never felt so strangely in the presence of a woman as I have felt and always feel in the presence of Miss Loring.”
“She has a spirit of finer mould than most women,” said Mrs. Denison. “I do not know her very intimately; but I have seen enough to give me a clue to her character. Her tastes are pure, her mind evenly balanced, and her intellect well cultivated.”
“But she is only a woman.”
Mr. Hendrickson sighed as he spoke.
“Only a woman! I scarcely understand you,” said Mrs. Denison, gravely. “I am a woman.”
“Yes, and a true woman! Forgive my words. They have only a conventional meaning,” replied the young man earnestly.
“You must explain that meaning, as referring to Jessie Loring.”
“It is this, only. She can be deceived by appearances. Her eyes are not penetrating enough to look through the tinsel and glitter with which wealth conceals the worthlessness of the man.”
“Ah! you are jealous. There is a rival.”
“You, alone, can use those words, and not excite my anger,” said Hendrickson.
“Forgive me if they have fallen upon your ears unpleasantly.”
“A rival, Mrs. Denison!” the young man spoke proudly. “That is something I will never have. The woman’s heart that can warm under the smile of another man, is nothing to me.”
“You are somewhat romantic, Paul, in your notions about matrimony. You forget that women are ‘only’ women.”