“But I shall go back to poverty and disgrace, and perhaps to hatred!”
“The evil you have done will be a clog upon you; but its very weight will assure you that your face is turned toward heaven. Life will never be to you what you dreamed of making it six months ago. You will find it hard and practical, weary and monotonous; but once in a while, perhaps, you will catch a breath of air from heaven itself, and will be refreshed, or a ray of its light will glimmer on your path, and show you where to tread. The end may be a long way off, but you cannot say you have no chance of reaching it.”
“Oh, if I only might!” sighed he; “but I’ve been nothing but a curse, so far, to every one I’ve known!”
“Not so, either,” returned his companion, with a smile so celestial that Bressant knew at last it could be no other than the spirit of Sophie herself that had been speaking to him. “You have shaken Professor Valeyon’s confidence in his wisdom and judgment, and the value of his experience; you have made him realize that the more God has to do with education the better; you have broken down Cornelia’s self-complacency, and shown her that a beautiful body cannot be safe or happy without a soul to take care of it. Abbie has learned from you that love, and generosity, and self-sacrifice, may all be worthless if they be founded only upon individual grounds, to the exclusion of humanity; and Sophie has been taught, by the love she has felt for you, to be humble and charitable, and to see how easily self-interest and pride may be made to look like zeal for others, and benevolence.”
And then Bressant seemed to be conscious that Sophie was bidding him farewell, but he could not see her nor touch her; he was shaken with grief, and yet was filled with a strange kind of happiness, and a feeling of resolute power. Gradually the influence of her presence faded away, and he seemed alone.
Some one shook him by the shoulder. He looked up and saw the conductor; in the background a lady and gentleman waiting to sit down. The car was full of people.
“Come, sir,” said the conductor, “you’re a pretty big man, but you didn’t pay for more than one seat, I reckon. You’ve been sleeping-here for more than a hundred miles; if you want to sleep any more I expect you’d better get out and go to an hotel.”
Bressant removed his feet from the extra seat, and, the conductor having reversed it, the lady and gentleman took their places. As for the boy with the green bag and the blue-spotted handkerchief, he was nowhere to be seen; he must have left the train at a previous station.
The train had stopped, and Bressant, glancing out of the window, saw that they were at some large railway-junction.
“How far are we from New York?” he asked of the conductor, with his hand to his ear to catch the reply.
“Be there in two hours,” shouted back that gentleman, in reply.
“When does the next train go through here in the opposite direction?”