A BIT OF INSPIRATION.
Bressant was in the habit of spending three hours every afternoon at the Parsonage. Part of this time was passed in the professor’s study, pursuing theological lore; for, whatever the young man’s ultimate expectations with regard to his career and fortune may have been, it was no part of his plan to allow his future father-in-law to suspect any tiling else than what he had already given him to understand.
After lessons were over he joined Sophie on the balcony, walked with her in the garden, or gave her his arm up the hill. Cornelia was seldom to be seen, at least within speaking distance. At the same time she did not keep entirely out of the way. Often, when wandering with her sister through the garden-paths, Bressant would catch a glimpse of her buoyant figure and rich-toned face upon the balcony; or, if himself established there, would presently behold her, in a garden hat and shortened skirt, raking the fallen leaves off the paths and flower-beds, and perhaps trundling them stoutly away in a wheelbarrow afterward. It thus happened that, although seldom exchanging a word with her, he was continually receiving fresh reminders of her, in one way or another; and he was, moreover, haunted by an idea that Cornelia was not unconscious that he was observing her.
Two or three days subsequent to Cornelia’s conversation with Sophie on the hill-top, Bressant, on his afternoon way to the Parsonage, met the former coming in the opposite direction. It was nearly at the end of the long level stretch, which was now resplendent with many-colored maples, which were interspersed at short intervals between the willows. He had been walking; swiftly with his eyes on the ground, when, chancing to raise them, lie saw Cornelia walking on toward him.
How beautifully she trod, erect, her round chin held in, stepping daintily yet firmly; it seemed as if the earth were an elastic sphere beneath her feet, she moving tirelessly onward. She had plucked a branch of gorgeous leaves from one of the maples, which she brandished about ever and anon, to keep the flies away. A straw hat, narrow-brimmed, slanted downward over hair and forehead. Her oval cheeks were more than usually luminous from exercise; her eyes were bright tawny brown, the lids shaped in curves, like the edges of a leaf. The vigorous roundness of her full and perfect figure was hinted here and there through the light drapery of her dress, as she walked forward. The October breeze seemed the sweeter for blowing past her.
“You must be rather late—I don’t often meet you!” said she, with a smile which put Bressant traitorously at his ease.
“Early, more than late,” responded he, stopping as he saw that she stopped.
“Are you?—well, then—I don’t often see you—would you mind walking with me just a little way?” and she touched him lightly on the shoulder with her maple-branch, as with the wand of an enchantress.