“Ah! I’m sorry,” responded the other. “What is the cause?”
“A matter of the heart, I believe,” said Mrs. Denison.
“Indeed is he very much depressed?”
“He is changed,” was the simple reply.
“Who was the lady?”
Jessie did not hear the answer.
“You don’t tell me so!” In a tone of surprise, and the lady glanced around the room.
“And he took it very much to heart?” she went on.
“Yes. I think it will change the complexion of his whole life,” said Mrs. Denison. “He is a man of deep feeling—somewhat peculiar; over diffident; and not given to showing himself off to the best advantage. But he is every inch a man—all gold and no tinsel! I have known him from boyhood, and speak of his quality from certain knowledge.”
“He will get over it,” remarked the lady. “Men are not apt to go crazy after pretty girls. The market is full of such attractions.”
“It takes more than a painted butterfly to dazzle him, my friend,” said Mrs. Denison. “His eyes are too keen, and go below the surface at a glance. The woman he loves may regard the fact as a high testimonial.”
“But you don’t suppose he is going to break his heart over this matter.”
“No—oh, no! That is an extreme disaster.”
“He will forget her in time; and there are good fish in the sea yet.”
“Time is the great restorer,” said Mrs. Denison; “and time will show, I trust, that good will come from this severe trial which my young friend is now enduring. These better natures are oftenest exposed to furnace heat, for only they have gold enough to stand the ordeal of fire.”
“He is wrong to shut himself out from society.”
“So I tell him. But he says ’wait—wait, I am not strong enough yet.’”
“He must, indeed, take the matter deeply to heart.”
Here the voice fell to such a low measure, that Jessie lost all distinction of words. But the few sentences which had reached her ears disturbed her spirit profoundly—too profoundly to make even a ripple on the surface. No one saw a change on her countenance, and her voice, answering a moment after to the voice of a friend, betrayed no unusual sign of feeling.
And this was all she had heard of him for months.
Once, a little while before her marriage, she met him. It was a few weeks after these brief unsatisfactory sentences had troubled the waters of her spirit. She had been out with her aunt for the purpose of selecting her wedding attire; and after a visit to the dressmaker’s, was returning alone, her aunt wishing to make a few calls at places where Jessie did not care to go. She was crossing one of the public squares when the thought of Hendrickson came suddenly into her mind. Her eyes were cast down at the moment. Looking up, involuntarily, she paused, for within a few paces was the young man himself, approaching from the opposite direction. He paused also, and they stood with eyes riveted upon each other’s faces—both, for a time, too much embarrassed to speak. Their hands had mutually clasped, and Hendrickson was holding that of Jessie tightly compressed within his own.