“We’re just awaiting for one to come along and give us the track—and there she is now,” returned the conductor, as he took his departure.
The whistle screamed malevolently, and, with a jerk and a rattle, the car began to move off. Bressant rose suddenly from his seat, walked quickly along the aisle to the door, passed through to the platform, grasped the iron balustrade with one hand, and swung himself lightly to the ground. The whistle screamed again like a disappointed fiend.
“Guess that young man was up late last night,” remarked the conductor to the brakeman; “a powerful sound sleep he was in, anyhow.”
“Off on a spree to New York, most like,” responded the brakeman, tightening his dirty-brown tippet around his neck, “and thought better of it at the last minute.”
TILL THE ELEVENTH HOUR.
Her fruitless call for Bressant seemed quite to exhaust Sophie. For a long time afterward she hardly opened her mouth, except to swallow some hot black coffee. The professor sat, for the most part, with his finger on her pulse, his eyes looking more hollow and his forehead more deeply lined than ever before, but with no other signs of anxiety or suffering. Cornelia came in and out—a restless spirit. She awaited Sophie’s recovery with no less of dread than of hope. Her life hung, as it were, upon her sister’s. The moment in which Sophie recovered her faculties enough to think and speak would be the last that Cornelia could maintain her mask of honor and respectability, for Cornelia knew that Sophie was in possession of her secret; she had been up in her room, and the open window had told the story.
It was a time of awful suspense. Cornelia wished there had been somebody there to talk with; even Bill Reynolds would have been welcome now. He, however, had departed long ago, having bethought himself that his horse was catching its death o’ cold, standing out there with no rug on. She was entirely alone; she hardly dared to think, for fear something guilty should be generated in her mind; and, though every moment was pain, without stop or mitigation, every moment was inestimably precious, too; it was so much between her and revelation. She almost counted the seconds as they passed, yet rated them for dragging on so wearily. Every tick of the little ormolu clock marked away a large part of her life, and yet was wearisome to so much of it as remained. Sometimes she debated whether she could not anticipate the end by speaking out at once, of her own free-will; but no, short as her time was, she could not afford to lose the smallest fraction of it—no, she could not.