As she was attiring herself, Sophie, who was seated in her deep invalid-chair, looking at her, was seized by an uncontrollable longing to put on her wedding-dress, and satisfy her mind as to its being a good fit. There it lay, upon the sofa, and nothing could be easier than just to slip into it. Cornelia, absorbed in her own crowded thoughts, never dreamed of opposing the idea, and lent all necessary assistance to carry it out. It was not until Mr. Reynolds had sent up word that the sleigh waited at the door, and, gathering up her cloak and tippet, she had kissed Sophie, left her, and was hurrying down-stairs with rustling skirts, that she realized that she had given her parting salute to one dressed as a bride!
There could not have been a better night for sleighing. The temperature had risen considerably since the storm, and the snow, which had fallen to the depth of a foot, was already packed down hard upon the road, so that the runners seldom sank beneath the surface. Moreover, there was a full moon, just pushing its deep orange circumference above the horizon. It had chanced to come up just where a black skeleton forest stood out against the sky, encouraging the fancy that it had somehow got entangled in the branches, and had grown red in the face from struggling to get out. But, ere the young people reached the scene of the entertainment, the struggle was over; the perfect circle was calmly and radiantly uplifting itself above the world, far beyond the reach of the outstretched arms of the gnarled and black-limbed forest; yet did the dark earth benefit by its defeat, in the chaste illumination which descended upon its wintry countenance.
Mr. Reynolds was perfectly happy; it is pleasant to reflect how small an amount of bliss can overflow some souls. Cornelia was brief but kind in her answers to his turbid and confused pourings forth; not that she paid heed to any thing the poor fellow said—she was only occasionally aware of his presence. Her mind was revelling in dreams of heated and exalted imagination; she was filled with inspiration, as with the rich, palpitating blast of a mighty organ; but the tumultuous chorus of her thoughts produced upon her an effect of magnetism which found its expression in a gentle graciousness of words and manner.
She had made up her mind that the first person she should meet would be Bressant; and, so full did she feel of victorious power, it seemed as if, with scarcely a conscious effort, she could overbear and bring him to her feet. Yes, and dictate the terms upon which she would consent to receive his homage. What a pity that the key-notes of so few natures correspond, at the critical moment, with our own; and that Providence sees fit to forward, by even negative help, so small a proportion of our superbly-conceived plans!