The professor looked at Sophie, startled and anxious; but her appearance was so composed, straight-forward, and full of faith, he could not think her wandering.
“Do you know where he has been, my dear? or where he is now?” asked he, gently.
“I cannot tell that. I knew and understood a great deal in my dream that I cannot remember now,” she answered. “I only know that he will be here to-morrow, and, papa, and you, Neelie, whether you believe as I do or not, I want you to get ready to receive him. Let it be in this dear old room—I lying here as I am now, and you sitting so beside me. We’ll wait for him to-morrow morning until twelve o’clock. If I should die before then, let my body stay here until noon, for I want him to see my face when he comes, so that he’ll always remember how happy I looked. But if, after that little clock on the mantel-piece strikes twelve, still he isn’t here, then you may do with me as you will. I shall not know nor mind.”
After this little speech, Sophie became very silent, being, in truth, too weak and worn out to speak or move, save at long, and ever longer, intervals. All that night, Professor Valeyon carried an aching and mistrustful heart; but Cornelia had a red spot in either cheek, never fading nor shifting. Sophie appeared to wander several times, murmuring something about darkness, and snow, and deadly weariness. A snow-storm had set in toward evening, and lasted until daybreak, a circumstance which seemed to cause Sophie considerable anxiety.
By ten o’clock all the preparations were made according to Sophie’s wish, and there was nothing to do but to wait. Cornelia sat brooding with folded arms, and the feverish spots on her cheeks. Occasionally she restlessly varied her position, seldom allowing her eyes to stray around the room, however, save that once in a while they sought Sophie’s colorless, ethereal face, as a thirsty soul the water. The professor stood much at the window, and once or twice he imagined he caught a glimpse, somewhere down the road, of a darkly-clad woman’s figure; but she never came nearer, and he decided it must be a hallucination of his fading eyes.
Eleven o’clock struck from the little ormolu timepiece. A few moments afterward Sophie stirred slightly as she lay, and the professor and Cornelia listened breathlessly for what she would say.
She lifted her heavy lids, and turned her eyes, a little dimmer now than heretofore, but steady and confident, first on her father, then on her sister.
“Till noon—remember!” said she.
Nothing more was heard, after that, but the hasty ticking of the little ormolu clock, as its hands traveled steadily around the circle.
THE HOUR AND THE MAN.
Bressant jumped on to the platform of the newly-arrived train. The cars were pretty full; but, coming at last to a vacant seat by the side of a clean-shaven gentleman with a straight, hard mouth, and a glossy-brown wig, curling smoothly inward all around the edge, he dropped into it without ceremony.