Payne pops the question ...
Reading over the letters among Mary, Payne, and Irving, I think it’s clear that Mary had no romantic feelings for Payne whatsoever. She liked him—he was a “friend”—but his principal value to her comprised two things: his friendship with Irving (in whom Mary was very interested); his ability to score theater tickets for her (and her friends) on practically a moment’s notice. Here’s a fairly typical example, Mary to Payne:
My dear Payne,—I shall be most happy to see you at the theatre this evening, though I hope to make such arrangements as to preclude your thinking it necessary to escort me …. I am extremely obliged to you for the trouble you take for me.
Ever yours, M.S.
If I were, say, an eighth-grade boy who received a note (or, today, a text) from the Object of My Affection, a message that said, basically, Thanx for the tix—no need for you to take me, I think even I—dense, dense, dense I—would recognize that I was being, well, used—though abused is probably a more accurate term.
But Payne was so besotted that it took him a while—and something far more explicit and direct—for him to recognize the obvious. And surrender.
On the evening of June 25, 1825, Payne and Mary went for a walk, and Payne, unable to endure the uncertainty any longer, declared his affections and desires. And Mary told him she liked him as a friend—the words no man in the history of the species has ever wanted to hear. And then Mary (was she really so clueless about the workings of a man’s heart?) asked Payne if he would mind, you know, working as her agent to discover if Washington Irving might be interested in her.
And Payne, no doubt crushed, agreed.