She halted, wild-eyed and unsteady on her feet, her hand trembling at her lips. A step in the passage below, ascending the stairs slowly and heavily. Oh! did it come in mercy? She tried to draw a meaning from the sound—then dared not trust her inference. The steps had gained the landing now—were advancing along the entry toward her door. Did they bear a load of sorrow only, or of hate and condemnation likewise?
They paused at her threshold—then there was a knock, thrice repeated—not loud, nor rapid, nor regular, nor precise—rather as one heart might knock for admittance to another. Cornelia tried to say “Come in,” or to open the door, but could neither speak nor move. Iron bands seemed to be clasped around all her faculties of motion. Would he go away and leave her?
The door opened, turning slowly and hesitatingly on its hinges, until it disclosed her father’s venerable figure. His limbs seemed weak; his shoulders drooped; but Cornelia looked only at his face. His eyes were deep and compassionate. He held out his arms, which shook slightly but continually: “Come, my daughter,” said he.
She was his daughter still! She cried out, and, walking hurriedly to him, laid herself close against him, and he hugged her closer yet—poor, miserable, erring creature though she was.
So the three were reunited—and not superficially, but more intimately and indissolubly than ever before. They would not be apart, but remained together in Bressant’s room—Sophie on the bed, with an expression of divine contentment on her face, Cornelia and the professor sitting near.
“Papa,” said Sophie, as the afternoon came on, “I want to make my will.”
Cornelia caught her breath sharply, and, turning away her face, covered her eyes with her hand. Professor Valeyon’s gray eyebrows gathered for a moment—then he steadied himself, and said, “Well, my dear.”
It was not a very intricate matter. The various little bequests were soon made and noted down as she requested. After all was disposed of, there was a little pause.
“Neelie, dear,” then said Sophie, turning her eyes full upon her, “I bequeath my love to you.”
Cornelia perceived the hidden significance in the words, and blushed so deep and warm that the tears were dried upon her cheeks. Sophie went on, before she could make any reply:
“And I have something left for you, too, papa, though I know no one needs it less than you. But you may be called on for a great deal, so I bequeath you my charity. I haven’t had it so very long myself.”
The professor bowed his head, and, the will being complete, he took off his spectacles, and wiped them with his handkerchief.
“I was telling Neelie this morning, papa,” resumed Sophie, after a while, “that I had been—that I’d had a dream that I was with Bressant; and I feel sure—though I suppose you’ll think it nothing but a sick fancy of mine—that he will be here to-morrow noon.”