Cornelia stopped in her walk, with one foot advanced, her head thrown up, her finger on her chin. She looked like a glorious young sibyl, reading a divine prophecy upon the clouds. After a moment, she waved her autumn banner over her head, with a gesture of triumph, and, turning on her heel, began to walk back toward home.
The grandest discoveries are so simple! Cornelia laughed to think how blind she had been—how stupid! What a sense of power and independence was hers now! To turn homeward had been instinctive. So strong was the sense of an end gained—a point settled—that, whatever may have been the actual errand on which she had started, she felt that her work, for that day, at least, was done.
She had been planning, and speculating, and worrying, to discover a safe and sure method of separating Bressant and her sister. Peering into the past for materials, and searching on one side or another for sources of information, she had overlooked all that was best and nearest at hand. What need for her to scrape together a reluctant tale of what had been? for was not the future her own? Why rely for assistance upon this or that suspicious and unsatisfactory witness? What more trustworthy one could she find than herself? Suppose Bressant never to have done any thing that could make him unworthy of Sophie, was that a bar against his doing something in the future?
Yes; she had power over him, and would use it. She herself would be the means and the cause for attaining the end at which she aimed. She would be the accomplice of his indiscretion, and thus obtain over him a double advantage. No matter how intrinsically trifling the indiscretion might be, it would be just such a one as would be sure to weigh heavily in the balance of Sophie’s pure judgment. So plain would this be to Bressant himself, that Cornelia would be able to rule him (as she argued) merely with the threat of accusation. And, since his desertion of Sophie would appear to her causeless, the indignation she would feel thereat would save her from repining. Cornelia would have him all to herself!
Well! and what would she do with him when she had him? She did not stop to consider. Nor, going on thus from step to step, did she have a sense of the hideousness of the wrong she contemplated.
It was something of a surprise to Bressant, after his interview with Cornelia, that she still continued to avoid him. But, after what she had said to him, to set his mind at rest regarding the spirit and manner of their intercourse, she felt an intuition that it would be as well he should believe that she herself was not over-anxious to be on any terms with him whatever.