“When am I to know, then?” she asked, fearful of she knew not what.
“After we’re married, there shall be a clearing up of it all. You’ll be much amused! By-the-way, I found out one queer thing—what my real name is!”
“Your real name!”
“Yes—who I am; you know I said I wasn’t the same who was engaged to marry Sophie. Well, I’m not; he was a myth—there was no such person. I always thought ‘Bressant’ was an incognito, didn’t you? But it turns out to be the only name I have! I hope you like it; do you think ’Mrs. Bressant’ sounds well?”
“What does all this mean? What are you going to do with me? Are you making a sport of me?” cried Cornelia, clasping both hands over Bressant’s arm, in a passion of helplessness. Much as she loved life, she would, at that moment, have died rather than feel that she was ridiculed and deserted by him.
They had come to the brow of the hill on which the village stood, overlooking the valley, which moon and snow together lit up into a sort of phantom daylight. The moon hung aloft, directly above their heads, and the narrow circumference of their shadows, lying close at their feet, were mingled indistinguishably together. Cornelia, in the energy of her appeal, had stopped walking, and the two stood, for a moment, looking at one another. Seen from a few yards’ distance, they would have made a supremely beautiful and romantic picture.
The stately poise of Bressant’s gigantic figure—the slight inclination of his head and shoulders toward Cornelia—presented an ideal model for a tender and protecting lover. She, in form and bearing, the incarnation of earthly grace and symmetry, her lovely upturned face revealed in deep, soft shadows and sweet, melting lights, her rounded fingers interlaced across his arm, her bosom lifting and letting fall irregularly the cloak that lay across it—what completer embodiment could there be of happy, self-surrendering, trusting, young womanhood? And what were the fitly-spoken words—the apples of gold in this picture of silver?
“Cornelia,” said Bressant, throwing aside the levity, as well as the underlying passion, of his tone, and speaking with a slightly impatient coldness, “don’t you begin to be a fool as soon as I leave it off. You may call what joins us together love, if you like, but it’s not worth getting excited about. You take me because you were jealous of Sophie, and because you’ve compromised yourself. I take you because you’re beautiful to look at, and—because nobody else would have me! We shall have plenty of money, which will help us along. But what is there in our relations to make us either enthusiastic or miserable?—Come along!”
This was the consummation of Cornelia’s passionate hopes and torturing fears, of her dishonorable intriguing and reckless self-desecration. She became very calm all of a sudden, and, without making any rejoinder, she “came along” as he bade her, and they descended the hill.