The old gentleman, in dressing-gown and slippers, came thumping hastily down-stairs, in response to Bressant’s summons. The strange solemnity in the latter’s tone, no less than the ominousness of the hour, probably gave him premonition of some disaster. He reached the threshold of the room, and paused a moment there, settling his spectacles with trembling fingers, and looking from one silent face to another. The room was lighted only by the declining moon, which shone coldly through the windows. The bed, and that which was on it, were in shadow. In an instant or two, however, the professor’s eyes made the discovery to which none of those who stood about had had the nerve to help him. And then the old man proved himself to be the most stout-hearted of them all. He only said “Sophie” in a voice so profoundly indrawn as scarcely to be audible; then walked unfalteringly across the room, bent over the bed, and proceeded to examine whether there were yet life in his daughter or not. Even the moonlight seemed to wait and listen.
“Bring a candle,” said be, presently, breaking the awful silence.
Cornelia brought it, and the warmer light inspired a sickly flicker of hope into the expectant faces. The little ormolu-clock on the mantel-piece whirred, and struck half-past one. As the ring of the last stroke faded away, Professor Valeyon raised himself, and turned his face toward the others. So strongly did his soul inform his harsh and deeply-lined features, that it seemed, for a moment, as if there were a majestic angel where he stood.
“Be of good cheer,” quoth the old man—for no smaller words than those which Christ had spoken seemed adequate to clothe his thought; “she is not dead; we shall hear her speak again.”
Bressant threw up his arms, as if about to shout aloud; but only gave utterance to a gasping breath, and, stepping backward, leaned heavily against the wall, near the door. Cornelia, standing in the centre of the room, broke into quivering, lingering sobs, opening and clinching her hands, which hung at her side. Bill Reynolds, however, being overcome with joy, at once gave intelligible manifestation of it.
“Good enough!” cried he, slapping his leg, and looking from one to another with a giggle of relief. “Bully for her! Bless you, I knew Sophie Valeyon warn’t dead. Speak again! I believe you. She’ll tell us what’s the matter, I guess.”
Professor Valeyon rapidly and collectedly gave his directions as to what steps were to be taken, and in a few minutes every thing was being done that skill could do. Snow was brought in to encourage back the life it had dismayed, and camphor and coffee awaited their turn to take part in the resuscitation. Slow and reluctant it was, like dragging a dead weight up from an unknown depth. More than another hour had passed away before Sophie’s eyelids quivered, and a slight tremor moved her lips. By-and-by she opened her eyes, slowly and uncertainly, let them close again, and once more opened them; and, after several inaudible efforts, there came, like an echo from an immeasurable distance, one word, twice repeated: