“I say, young fellow,” ejaculated he, at length, with an evident effort to attain distinctness of utterance, “that sort of thing won’t do, you know.”
Bressant looked up and recognized the rustic bacchanalian for the first time. He had always had a peculiar antipathy to this young gentleman; but at this moment it was intensified into a loathing. How could he ask assistance from such a degraded creature as this?
The recognition had been mutual, and Mr. Reynolds, tacking unsteadily around, brought himself to bear in such a position as to catch a fair view of Sophie’s face, with the spot of blood on her chin. The first glance so terrified him, that he utterly, forsook his footing, and came abruptly to the ground, never once taking his eyes from the face, all the way. But the shock of his fall, and the awful solemnity of what he saw, sobered him considerably. He turned to Bressant, and eyed him with anxious earnestness.
“Why, you’re the fellow she’s engaged to, ain’t you? What on earth’s been the row? She ain’t dead, is she? How did she get here? In her wedding-rig, too, by golly!”
Bressant’s frame vibrated with a savage impulse; but Mr. Reynolds, not being of a sensitive temperament, was not at all disconcerted.
“Well, say, I guess she’d better be fetched home, first thing,” said he, bestirring himself to arise from the chilly seat he had taken. “Lucky I happened along, too. Guess you was hoping I might, wasn’t you? Well, you hoist her under the arms, and I’ll hang on by the feet—ain’t that it? and we’ll have her into the sleigh in no time.”
“Don’t touch her!” said the other, fiercely. “Let her alone, you drunken fool!”
“Now, look here, Mr. Bressant,” rejoined Bill Reynolds, resting his hands on his knees, and looking intently in Bressant’s face, “I may not be rich and a swell, like you are; but I guess I’m an honest man, any way, as much as ever you be; and I ain’t insulting nobody by helping take home a poor frozen girl. I don’t care if she is engaged to you. You don’t mean to keep her here till morning do you? and seeing she ain’t married yet, I guess the right place for her to be in, is her father’s house.”
Perhaps it was the moonlight, glinting on Bill’s immovable eye-glasses, that gave extraordinary impressiveness to his words; or it may have been Bressant’s reflection, that this young country bumpkin, sullied with drink, coarse and ignorant though he was, would have probably found his sense of equality in no way diminished, had he known more of the facts to which the present catastrophe was a sequel; at all events, he made no further objections. His manner changed to an almost submissive humbleness, and, without more words, he helped Bill to place the insensible woman in the sleigh.
“That’s the talk,” remarked Mr. Reynolds, as he drew the sleigh-robe over her. “Now, then, Mr. Bressant, just you jump in and hold on to her, and I’ll lead the horse along. We’ll be there in half a shake.”