“After all,” said the old gentleman to himself, “it’s not the young fellow’s fault. If his father was a heartless scoundrel, it doesn’t follow that he knows it. Well, the man is dead—it can’t be helped now, that’s certain. But what a cunningly-contrived plot it is! Shuts my mouth by confiding to me the incognito and sending me the son to educate; destroys the last hope of setting an old wrong right; takes advantage, for base ends, of the deepest feelings of human hearts: not to speak of preventing the young man himself from being party to a noble and generous action. Did ever man carry such a load down to the grave!
“Suppose Margaret—no! it isn’t likely she would know any thing about it. He wasn’t the man to make confidants of women. She gave the message to the son, not knowing what it meant, probably. Why, he wouldn’t have dared to tell her! And then inviting Cornelia—no, no! I’ve had some acquaintance with Margaret, and, with all her nonsense, I believe she’s honest. Besides, what interest could she have to be otherwise? To be sure, she didn’t give me the true reason for the incognito; but that’s nothing; she’s just the woman to tell a useless fib, and reserve the truth for important occasions only—or what she thinks such.”
The professor remained a while longer at the window, abstractedly staring at the drops which hastened after one another from the wet eaves. Suddenly he turned around, and walked up to the table, flapping his slipper-heels, and settling his spectacles, as he went.
“Did any one ever speak to you of your mother, sir?” demanded he in the ear of the reading Bressant. “Confound the fellow!” passed at the same time through his mind; “does he think I’m a chair or a table?”