At this moment, however, they arrived at the fountain, and stood silently contemplating its weak, persistent struggles. The heavy rain had not raised its spirits a whit; but neither had it lessened its sense of duty to be performed. It labored just as hard if not harder than ever.
Presently Bressant walked round to the opposite side of the basin, shook himself and stamped his feet, like one overcoming a feeling of drowsiness, and then, stooping down, put his hand in the water and brought some up to his forehead. It passed through Cornelia’s mind that she had read in her “Natural Philosophy,” at school, that water was a good conductor of electricity, but she could not establish any clear connection between her remembrance of this fact and Bressant’s action. The results of thoughts often present themselves to us when the processes remain invisible.
“What an absurd little fountain!” observed he, coming round again to Cornelia, and looking down upon her with a smile that seemed to call for a responsive one from her. “What is the use of it?”
“Oh, we’re used to it, you know; and then that little sound it makes is pleasant to listen to.”
“Is it?” said Bressant, apparently struck by the idea. “I should like to hear it. ‘A pleasant sound!’ I never thought of a sound being pleasant.”
“Poor fellow!” thought Cornelia again, with a strong impulse of compassion and kindliness. “What a dreary life, not even to know that sounds were beautiful! I suppose all the voices he hears must be harsh and unnatural, and those are the only kinds of sounds he would attend to.” Looking at him from this new point of view, the feeling of mistrust and uncertainty of a few minutes before was forgotten. Standing near the margin of the basin was a rustic bench fantastically made of curved and knotted branches, the back and arms contrived in rude scroll-work, and the seat made of round transverse pieces, through whose interstices the rain-water had passed, leaving it comparatively dry. Cornelia sat down upon it and motioned Bressant to take his place by her side. As he did so, she could not help a slight thrill of dismay. He was so very big, and took up so much room!
Bressant sat looking straight before him, and said nothing. Stealing a side-glance at him, Cornelia was possessed by an absurd fancy that he was alarmed at his position. The idea of being able to scare such a giant excited the young lady’s risibilities so powerfully that she could not contain herself, but, to her great horror, broke suddenly forth into a warbling ecstasy of laughter. Bressant looked around, in great surprise. It was an occasion for presence of mind. Something must be done at once.
“Hush! hold perfectly still! It was so absurd to see you sitting there, and not knowing! There—now—still!” Spat!
A mosquito, which, after considerable reconnoitring, had settled upon Bressant’s broad hand, had sacrificed its life to rescue Cornelia from her dilemma.