Here the tea-bell rang. Cornelia put her hand on the door-handle.
“Of course, nobody could help loving Sophie—such a dear, simple, good little thing! and why not he as well as any one else? and, of course, in that case, Sophie must think that she loved him back—thought it her duty, too, perhaps! Nobody was to blame.”
“But he was mine first!” she whispered to her heart, again and again, and she found a disastrous solace in each repetition. She flung open the door, and ran down-stairs with a light step, a smiling face, and a fierce, tight heart.
Bressant’s health was now sufficiently established to warrant his moving back to Abbie’s. Not that he was particularly anxious to go, but he had no pretext for staying, and his engagement to Sophie was a reason in etiquette why he should not. Accordingly, about a week after Cornelia’s arrival, such of his books and other property as had been sent to him from the boarding-house were packed in a box, which was hoisted in to the back of the wagon; he and Professor Valeyon mounted the seat, and, with Dolly between the shafts, they set out for the village.
“I suppose you remember a talk I had with you the first evening you came here?” said the old gentleman, as they turned the corner in the road. “Told you it would be work enough for a churchful of missionaries to make any thing out of you, in the way of a minister, and so on?”
“Very well; I remember the whole conversation,” said Bressant, pushing up his beard into his mouth and biting it.
“Thanks to God—I can’t take any credit to myself—you’ve been more changed than I ever expected to see you. You’ve found your heart and how to use it. That goes further toward fitting you for the ministry than all the divinity-books ever printed.”
Bressant’s hankering after the ministerial life was not so strong as it once had been; but he said nothing.
“You’ll need means of support when you’re married,” resumed the professor. “A few months’ hard study will qualify you to take charge of a parish. The next parish to this will be vacant before next spring. If I apply for it now, I may be able to give it you, with your wife, as a New-Year’s gift.”
“I thought of getting a place in New York. What could I do in a country parish?”
“Expensive, living in New York!” said the professor, with a glance of quiet scrutiny at his companion’s profile. “Marriage won’t be a good pecuniary investment for you, remember. Better begin safe. The village salary will be good enough.”
Bressant communed with himself in silence a few moments, before replying:
“As my father’s will stands, Mrs. Vanderplanck—I believe he owed some obligation or other to her—receives half the fortune, and I the other half. Are you certain that my marriage, and the disclosure it would bring about, will forfeit the whole of it?”