Professor Valeyon touched Dolly with the whip, and turned inward his white-bearded lips.
“All I can tell you about it,” said he, “is this: when your mother married your father, all her property was settled upon her; so that it was only the event of her death, intestate, that could have given your father the right to will it away at all.”
At this information, Bressant folded his arms, and, looking steadfastly before him, said not a word. A silence followed between the two, which lasted over half a mile. Dolly seemed to be in a meditative humor, likewise; she whisked her tail with an absorbed air, and once in a while shook her ears, or wagged her head, as though accepting or rejecting some hypothesis or proposition. Most likely, her problems found their solution in the manger that afternoon; but those of the professor and his companion received neither so early nor so satisfactory a settlement.
When they had entered upon the willow-stretch, where the trees had already scattered upon the ground their first tribute of narrow golden leaves, the younger man came to the end of his meditations, straightened himself in his seat, and spoke:
“Let it be as you said about the country parish; if you can get it for me, I’ll be ready for it.”
Professor Valeyon’s face, which had been somewhat overcast, cleared beautifully; he appealed to Dolly’s sympathies with a flick of the whip, to which she responded with a knowing shake of the head, and a refreshing increase of speed.
“That’s well, my dear boy,” said he. “I respect you.”
“I’m not the only one concerned,” continued Bressant, who still sat in the same position, with folded arms; “it involves about as much for Mrs. Vanderplanck as for me. I shall have to consider that point, and attend to it first of all.”
“To tell you the truth,” returned Professor Valeyon, with an emphatic deliberation of manner, “I don’t think you can give her any information that she’s not possessed of already. She knows as much as you do, that’s certain. You’ll do well to begin business nearer home than at Mrs. Vanderplanck’s.”
Bressant lifted one hand to his beard, which he twisted about unmercifully. “It’s only since Cornelia came back that you have thought that,” he said, at length, with sudden keenness.
The old gentleman nodded, and met steadily the rapid glance which the other gave him.
“At all events,” the latter resumed presently, “she don’t know that I know, and she don’t know what I intend. It’s not a pleasant business, altogether—understand? You know how I’ve been brought up. It isn’t so easy for me to fall into the right sentiments as it might be for other men. And—I feel it to be a private matter; I ought to go about it alone, and in my own way. Now”—here he turned around, and changed his tone, watching the professor’s countenance as he spoke, “are you willing to leave it entirely in my hands?—promise not to question me, nor to speak to me, nor to anybody else, until it’s all settled?”