“Too bad! Too bad! The old adage is true always—’Faint heart never won fair lady’—and if you are not a little braver at heart, my young friend, you will lose this fair lady, whose hand may be had for the asking. So, I pray you, be warned in time. Go to her this very evening. You will probably find her alone. Dexter will hardly call twice in the same day; so you will be free from his intrusion. Let her see by tone, look, manner, word, that she has charmed your fancy. Show yourself an admirer. Then act as the signs indicate.”
“I will,” replied Hendrickson, speaking with enthusiasm.
“Go and heaven speed you! I have no fear as to the issue. But, Paul, let me warn you to repress your too sensitive feelings. Your conduct, heretofore, has not been such as to give Miss Loring any opportunity to judge of your real sentiments towards her. Your manner has been distant or constrained. She does not, therefore, understand you; and if her heart is really interested, she will be under constraint when she meets you to-night. Don’t mind this. Be open, frank, at ease yourself. Keep your thoughts clear, and let not a pulse beat quicker than now.”
“That last injunction goes too far, my good friend; for my heart gives a bound the moment my eyes rest upon her. So you see that mine is a desperate case.”
“The more need of skill and coolness. A blunder may prove fatal.”
Mr. Hendrickson rose, saying,
“Time passes. A good work were well done quickly. I will not linger when minutes are so precious.”
“God speed you!” whispered Mrs. Denison, as they parted, a few minutes later at the door.
It was an hour from the time Mr. Hendrickson left the house of Mrs. Denison before he found himself in one of Mrs. Loring’s parlors. He had been home, where a caller detained him.
Full ten minutes elapsed after his entrance, ere Jessie’s light tread was heard on the stairs. She came down slowly, and as she entered the room, Hendrickson was struck with the singular expression of her face. At the first glance he scarcely recognized her.
“Are you not well, Miss Loring?” he asked, stepping forward to meet her.
His manner was warm, and his tones full of sympathy.
She smiled faintly as she answered—
“Not very well. I have a blinding headache.”
Still holding the hand she had extended to him in meeting, Mr. Hendrickson led her to a sofa, and sat down by her side. He would have retained the hand, but she gently withdrew it, though not in a way that involved repulsion.
“I am sorry for your indisposition,” he said, in a tone of interest so unusual for him, that Miss Loring lifted her eyes, which had fallen to the carpet, and looked at him half shyly—half interrogatingly.
“If you had sent me word that you were not well, Miss Loring”—