Supper was ready: Cornelia surveyed the table for the last time, to make sure it was all right. It was an extension-table, but the spare leaves had been removed, and it was reduced to a circle. A mellow western light from that portion of the sky unswathed in clouds streamed through the window, and did duty as a lamp. The cloth was white, and tapered down in soft folds at the corners; a pleasant profusion of sparkling china and silver, and of savory eatables, filled the circumference of the board, leaving just space enough to operate in, and no more. In the centre of the table, and perceptible both to eyes and nose on entering the room, was a tall glass dish, lined with wet green leaves, and pyramided with red strawberries. A comfortable steam ascended from the nose of the tea-pot, and vanished upward in the gloom of the ceiling; the brown toast seemed crackling to be eaten; the smooth-cut slices of marbled beef lay overlapping one another in silent plenteousness; and the knives and forks glistened to begin. Cornelia opened the entry-door, and called across to her papa in the study that supper was ready. Then she took up her position behind her chair, with one hand resting on its back, and a silent determination that the visitor, whoever he was, should be impressed with her dignity, condescension, and good looks.
“This is my daughter Cornelia. Mr. Bressant is going to be a pupil of mine, my dear,” said the professor, as he and Bressant advanced into the room.
He gave his hand an introductory wave in Cornelia’s direction as he spoke, but probably did not speak loud enough to be distinctly beard by his guest. Nevertheless, seeing the motion and the lady, Bressant inclined forward his shoulders with an elastic readiness of bearing which was customary with him, in spite of his unusual stature, and then took his place at the table without bestowing any further attention upon her. It passed through Cornelia’s mind, as she lifted the tea-pot, that Mr. Bressant was outrageously conceited, and should be taken down at the first opportunity. She had made a very graceful courtesy, and it was not to be overlooked in that way with impunity.
“Milk and sugar, sir?” said she, interrogatively, raising her eyes to the young man’s face with a somewhat gratuitous formality of manner, and holding a piece of sugar suspended over the cup.
Bressant had certainly been looking in her direction as she spoke; he had the opposite place to her at table; but instead of replying, even with a motion of the head, he, after a moment, turned to Professor Valeyon, who was gently oscillating himself in the rocking-chair he always occupied at meals, and asked him whether he knew any thing about a place in town called “Abbie’s Boarding-house.”
Cornelia laid down the sugar and tongs, and looked very insulted and flushed. What sort of a creature was this her papa had brought to his supper-table? Papa, who had noticed the awkward turn, and was tickled by the humor thereof, could not forbear to give evidence of amusement, insomuch that his daughter, who was by no means of a lymphatic temperament, was almost ready to leave the table, or burst into tears with injured and astonished dignity.