“I shall be pleased to see you again, Mr. Hendrickson.” There was more than a parting compliment in her tones as she said these words. “I have never thought you stupid.” What pleasure he derived from repeating these sentences over and over again! Early in the evening he called upon his friend Mrs. Denison.
“I have come to talk with you again about Miss Loring,” said he. “I can’t get her out of my thoughts. Her presence haunts me like a destiny.”
Mrs. Denison smiled as she answered a little playfully:
“A genuine case of love; the infection taken at first sight. Isn’t it so, Paul?”
“That I love this girl, in spite of myself, is, I fear, a solemn fact,” said the young man, with an expression of face that did not indicate a very agreeable self-consciousness.
“Fear? In spite of yourself? A solemn fact? What a contradiction you are, Paul!” said Mrs. Denison.
“A man in love is an enigma. I have often heard it remarked, and I now perceive the saying to be true. I am an enigma. Yes, I love this girl in spite of myself; and the fact is a solemn one. Why? Because I have too good reason for believing that she does not love me in return. And yet, even while I say this, tones and words of hers, heard only to-day, come sighing to my ears, giving to every heart-beat a quicker impulse.”
“Ah! Then you have seen Miss Loring to-day?”
“Yes,” answered Hendrickson, in a quick, and suddenly excited manner. “I called upon her this morning, and while I sat in the parlor awaiting her appearance, who should intrude himself but that fellow Dexter. I felt like annihilating him. The look I gave him he will remember.”
“That was bad taste, Paul,” said Mrs. Denison.
“I know it. But his appearance was so untimely; and then, I had not forgotten last evening. The fellow has a world of assurance; and he carries it off with such an air—such a self-possession and easy grace! You cannot disturb the dead level of his self-esteem. To have him intruding at such a time, was more than I could bear. It completely unsettled me. Of course, when Miss Loring appeared, I was constrained, cold, embarrassed, distant—everything that was repulsive; while Dexter was as bland as a June morning—full of graceful compliments—attractive—winning. When I attempted some frozen speech, I could see a change in Miss Loring’s manner, as if she had suddenly approached an iceberg; but, as often, Dexter would melt the ice away by one of his sunny smiles, and her face would grow radiant again.”
“You exaggerate,” said Mrs. Denison.
“The case admits of no exaggeration. I was too keenly alive to my own position; and saw only what was.”
“The medium was distorted. Excited feelings are the eyes’ magnifying glasses.”
“It may be so.” There was a modification in Hendrickson’s manner. “I was excited. How could I help being so?”