“The true reason is, no doubt, wide of your conclusions,” answered Mrs. Denison. “Genuine love, when it first springs to life in a maiden’s heart, has in it a high degree of reverence. The object rises into something of superiority, and she draws near to it with repressed emotions, resting in its shadow, subdued, reserved, almost shy, but happy. She is not as we saw Miss Loring just now, but more like the maiden you describe as treating you not long ago with a strange reserve, which you imagined coldness.”
“Woman is an enigma,” exclaimed Hendrickson, his thoughts thrown into confusion.
“And you must study, if you would comprehend her,” said Mrs. Denison. “Of one thing let me again assure you, my young friend, if you expect to get a wife worth having, you have got to show yourself in earnest. Other men, not half so worthy as you may be, have eyes quite as easily attracted by feminine loveliness, and they will press forward and rob you of the prize unless you put in a claim. A woman desires to be loved. Love is what her heart feeds upon, and the man who appears to love her best, even if in all things he is not her ideal of manhood, will be most apt to win her for his bride. You can win Miss Loring if you will.”
“It may be so,” replied the young man, almost gloomily. “But, for all you say, I must confess myself at fault. I look for a kind of spontaneity in love. It seems to me, that hearts, created to become one, should instinctively respond to each other. For this reason, the idea of wooing, and contending, and all that, is painfully repugnant.”
“It may be,” said Mrs. (sic) Dunham, “that your pride is as much at fault in the case, as your manhood. You cannot bend to solicit love.”
“I cannot—I will not!” The gesture that accompanied this was as passionate as the surroundings would admit.
“It was pride that banished Lucifer from Heaven,” said Mrs. Denison, “and I am afraid it will keep you out of the heaven of a true marriage here. Beware, my young friend! you are treading on dangerous ground. And there is, moreover, a consideration beyond your own case. The woman who can be happy in marriage with you, cannot be happy with another man. Let us, just to make the thing clear, suppose that Jessie Loring is the woman whose inner life is most in harmony with yours. If your lives blend in a true marriage, then will she find true happiness; but, if, through your failure to woo and win, she be drawn aside into a marriage with one whose life is inharmonious, to what a sad, weary, hopeless existence may she not be doomed. Paul! Paul! There are two aspects in which this question is to be viewed. I pray to Heaven that you may see it right.”
Further conversation was prevented by the near approach of others.
“Let me see you, and early, Paul,” said Mrs. Denison. It was some hours later, and the company were separating. “I must talk with you again about Miss Loring.”