“My mother?” repeated the young man, looking up, and appearing somewhat surprised at the idea of his ever having possessed the article. “Oh, yes! my father once told me she was dead. It was long ago. I’d almost forgotten it.”
“Told you she was dead, hey? Humph! just what I expected!” growled the old gentleman, who seemed, however, to become additionally wrathful at the intelligence. After a moment’s scowl straight at his would-be pupil, he shuffled up to his chair, and sat solidly down in it. Bressant (to whom the professor had probably appeared to the full as peculiar as he to the professor), seeing signs of an approach to business in his action and attitude, tossed his book on the table, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and fixed his eyes directly upon the old gentleman’s glasses.
“You seem to be in the habit of speaking your own mind freely, sir,” observed the latter; “and I shall do the same, on this occasion at least I’m going to accept you as a pupil, and shall do my best for you; but you must understand it’s by no means on your own account I do it. As far as I have seen them, I don’t like your principles, your beliefs, or your nature. You’re the last man I should pick out for a minister, or for any other responsible position. In every respect, except intelligence and an unlimited confidence in yourself, you seem to me unfit to be trusted. In training you for the ministry, I shall do it with the hope—not the expectation—of instilling into you some true and useful ideas and elevated thoughts. If I succeed, I shall have done the work of a whole churchful of missionaries. If I fail, I shan’t recommend you to be ordained. And never forget that you will be indebted for all this to some one you’ve never known, and who, I am at present happy to say, don’t know you. Whether or not you’ll ever become acquainted is known to God alone, and I’m very glad that the matter lies entirely in His hands. Now, sir, what have you to say?”
Bressant, who had been looking steadily and curiously at the professor during the whole of this long speech, now passed his hand from his forehead down over his face and beard—a common trick of his—smiled meditatively, and said:
“I’m glad you agree to take me. I don’t care for your recommendation if I have your instruction. Shall we begin to-morrow?”
There followed a discussion relative to hours, methods, and materials, which lasted very nearly until tea-time. Then, as there was still some rain falling, the professor extended to his pupil an invitation to supper, on his accepting which the old gentleman shuffled out into the entry, and called to Cornelia to come down and make the necessary preparations.
Bressant picks A tea-rose.