“O my boy—my dear, dear boy!”
Meanwhile Bressant, having been relieved, by the timely arrival of the letter, from any present necessity of visiting his aunt, was devoting himself pretty diligently to the cultivation of that line in his forehead running perpendicularly up from between the eyebrows. It bade fair to become a permanent feature in his face.
One afternoon in the cool heart of October, Cornelia and Sophie found themselves on the hill which rose up in front of the house, above the road, bound on a hunt for autumn leaves. They were alone. Bressant’s time for coming was still an hour distant. A few nights before there had been a frost, which had inspired a rainbow soul into the woods; and the glory of the golden and crimson leaves made it imperatively necessary that they should be gathered and allowed to illuminate the dusky interior of the Parsonage.
Since Cornelia’s return home, the sisters had not been so much together as formerly. Sophie had observed it, and secretly blamed herself: she allowed Bressant to monopolize her—left Cornelia out in the cold—was selfish and thoughtless just because she was happy—and so forth: taking herself severely to task, and resolving to amend her behavior forthwith. But there seemed to be some difficulty in the way of consummating her best intentions.
Cornelia was no longer so easily to be come at; she did not volunteer herself now in the liberal, joyous way she used to do; did not, in fact, appear half so ready to do her share in the work of reconstruction. It began to force itself upon Sophie that the edifice of their former relations was not lightly to be rebuilt; and the growth of this conviction occasioned her to mar her ordinarily serene and justly harmonized existence with sundry little fits of crying and other mournful indulgences.
As for Cornelia, if she noticed the estrangement at all, she did not allow it to occasion her any anxiety. Jealousy and discontent are more self-absorbing passions than love, and they closed her eyes to whatever they did not involve. Yet the effect of the estrangement was more hurtful upon her than upon Sophie; for never had her pure-minded sister’s influence been so needful to her as now, when the very nature of the malady forbade its being so relieved.
But this afternoon it had so happened that they found themselves together, on the hill. Each had filled a basket with the most brilliant, or harmonious, or vividly contrasted colors they could find. They had emerged from the wood into the clear autumn sunshine which rested upon the hill-side, and sat down upon a gray knee of rock, encased with crisp gray and black lichens. Below lay the Parsonage, with its weather-blackened, shingled roof, and the garden, full of shrubbery, intersected by winding paths, the fountain in the centre.