Bressant rose to his feet, and made a gesture with his arms in the air, as if striving by a physical act to regain the mental force and equilibrium which Sophie had so unexpectedly overthrown. The mighty strength and untamed vehemence of the man’s nature were exhibited in the movement. Sophie saw, in the vision of a moment, on how wild and stormy a sea she had embarked, and for a moment, perhaps, she quailed at the sight. But again her great love brought back the flush of dauntless courage, and her trembling ceased. She became aware, at that critical moment, that she was the stronger of the two; and Bressant probably felt it also. He had put forth all his power in a passionate and convulsive effort to prevail over the soul of this delicate girl, and he had been worsted in the brief, silent struggle. He did not need to look in her clear eyes to know it.
His love must have been strong, indeed; for it stood the test of the defeat. He sat down again, and after an almost imperceptible hesitation, he held out his hand toward her. She put her own in it, with its pressure, soft and delicately strong.
“I can’t reason about these things—I can only feel,” said he. “You can look into my heart if you will. Don’t give me up: you can help me to see it all as you do. Isn’t it your duty, Sophie, if you love me?”
“Oh! I will pray for you, my darling,” she answered, almost sobbing in the tenderness of her great heart, and laying her head upon his broad shoulder. “I would not lose your love for all the world; but I feared you might be led to something—something that would prevent your loving either God or me. Promise me something, dear: if you are ever in trouble or danger, and I’m not with you, come to me! No harm can reach us when we’re together. You need me, and I you.”
“I promise,” replied Bressant.
In the short silence that followed, Sophie heard, though Bressant could not, a quick, excited, warbling voice calling her again and again by name. She released herself from her lover’s hold, and sprang up with a cry of delight.
Bressant, surprised and defrauded, was about to remonstrate; but ere the words came, he saw Cornelia appear upon the balcony, and he sank back and held his peace.
BRESSANT CONFIDES A SECRET TO THE FOUNTAIN.
Sophie went flitting up the garden-path toward the house, and in a moment more the sisters were in one another’s arms. Bressant, glad of the concealment afforded by the shrubbery, remained gazing moodily at the fountain, his head on his hand. The two girls entered the house, and sat down in the professor’s study, where the old gentleman (who had been the first to meet Cornelia) sat enclouding himself with smoke, but betraying no other symptom of his huge delight.
“But how came you to get here so soon, you dear darling?” said Sophie, looking with lighted eyes at her sister. “We thought it would be a week at least.”