They looked around for him, but he was not in the room, nor in the house. Questioning among themselves, none could tell whether it were an hour or a minute since he had departed. When life began to take fresh hold on her he had so loved and wronged, his heart had failed him, and, without a word, he had gone out and away. But not to escape; for on no heart was the weight of sorrow and suffering so heavy as on his.
MOTHER AND SON.
The grand ball at Abbie’s was still in progress, though showing signs of approaching dissolution, when Bressant entered the house quietly at a side-door, and crept up to his room. He wished not to be seen or heard by anybody; but it happened that Abbie saw him, and the sight partly alarmed and partly relieved her. She could now account for the mysterious disappearance of Cornelia some hours before. But why had Bressant returned so secretly? and why were his movements all so surreptitious? Something must be out of order, either at the Parsonage or elsewhere. She reflected and conjectured, and of course became momentarily more and more uneasy. Nor did a short visit to his door relieve her apprehensions: a confused and non-descript sound had proceeded from within, as if the young man were packing up. Whither could he be going, she asked herself, on the very eve of his marriage?
It is never difficult to find cause for anxiety; but it seemed to Abbie that the misgivings she entertained were reasonable and logical. Bressant had made up his mind to desert Sophie, because the fortune which he had all his life considered his own turned out to belong to another, on whose generosity he was too proud or too suspicious to depend. He was going off, either to struggle through poverty to a fortune of his own making, or, giving himself up to his misfortune, to remain all his life in want and misery; or, perhaps—Abbie did not openly admit this alternative, but still, knowing what she thought she did of his nature and the circumstances, the suspicion had existence—perhaps, in conjunction with a certain evil-disposed person in New York, he contemplated fraudulently absconding.
Now, Abbie imagined that the key whereby alone all these difficulties could be unlocked, lay in her own hands. It was a key of which, so long as her own interest alone had been concerned, she had refused to avail herself; but, when the welfare of those she loved was called into question, she made up her mind (in spite of pride—her strongest passion next to love) to make use of it without hesitation.
When the last guests had taken their departure, Abbie went to her room, and looked at herself in the glass, by the light of a kerosene-lamp. She was dressed plainly, though becomingly enough, in black silk; a lace cap rested on her gray hair; her face was worn and wrinkled, but had a fine expression about it, that would have recalled former beauty to the memory of any one who had known her in early life. She was deeply excited, without being at all nervous, the excitement being so profoundly rooted as to be really a part of herself.