“Dear sir—I am scarcely well enough acquainted with you to venture this note and request; but I happen to know of something so vital to your happiness, that I cannot feel conscience-clear and not ask an interview. I shall be at home this evening.
Early in the evening, Dexter was at the house of Mrs. Denison.
“You have frightened me my dear madam!” he said, almost abruptly, as he entered the parlor, where he found her awaiting him.
“I have presumed on a slight acquaintance, Mr. Dexter, to ask an interview on a very delicate subject,” Mrs. Denison replied. “May I speak freely, and without danger of offending, when no offence is designed?”
“I have not had the pleasure of knowing you intimately, Mrs. Denison,” replied the visitor, “but it has been no fault of mine. I have always held you in high regard; and always been gratified with our passing intercourse on the few occasions it has been my privilege to meet you. That you have felt enough concern for my welfare to ask this interview, gratifies me. Say on—and speak freely. I am eager to hear.”
“You are about to marry Jessie Loring,” said Mrs. Denison.
“I am.” And Dexter fixed his eyes with a look of earnest inquiry upon the lady’s face.
Mrs. Denison had come to the subject more abruptly than she at first intended, and she was already in doubt as to her next remark; but there could be no holding back now.
“Are you sure, Mr. Dexter, that you possess her undivided heart?”
“I marvel at your question, madam!” he answered, with a start, and in a tone of surprise.
“Calmly, my friend.” And Mrs. Denison, who was a woman of remarkably clear perceptions, laid her hand upon his arm. “I am not questioning idly, nor to serve any sinister or hidden purpose—but am influenced by higher motives. Nor am I acting at the instance of another. What passes between us this evening shall be sacred. I said that I knew of something vital to your happiness; therefore I asked this interview. And now ponder well my question, and be certain that you get the right answer.”
Dexter let his eyes fall. He sat for a long while silent, but evidently in earnest thought.
“Have you her full, free, glad assent to the approaching union?” asked Mrs. Denison, breaking in upon his silence. She saw a shade of impatience on his countenance as he looked up and checked the words that were on his lips, by saying:
“Marriage is no light thing, my young friend. It is a relation which, more than any other, makes or mars the future; and when entered into, should be regarded as the must solemn act of life. Here all error is fatal. The step once taken, it cannot be retraced. Whether the path be rough or even, it must be pursued to the end. If the union be harmonious—internally so, I mean—peace, joy, interior delight will go on, finding daily increase—if inharmonious, eternal discord will curse the married partners. Do not be angry with me then, for pressing the question—Have you her full, free, glad, assent to the approaching union? If not, pause—for your love-freighted bark may be drifting fast upon the breakers—and not yours only, but hers.