PROFESSOR VALEYON MAKES A CALL.
The morning following Bressant’s arrival was clear and cool. Professor Valeyon looked out of the window of his bedroom, which was at the garden-end of the house, and opposite Cornelia’s, and saw the cold, white mists lying in the valley, and the rough hills, like islands, lifting their dark shoulders above it.
As he looked, the sun, having climbed a few inches above the eastern uplands, let a bright glance fall right upon the open spot at the summit of the professor’s favorite hill. A few minutes afterward he poured a golden flood into the valley, carrying consternation to the delaying vapors, insomuch that they straightway put themselves into commotion preparatory to departure. No spare time was allowed them; some were bundled off into the dark gullies and passes of the hills; others betook themselves hastily to that side of the valley which was yet in shadow, to sleep a few moments beyond the legitimate time; others still, finding escape impossible, rose heavenward like a mighty incense, and were by the sun converted into something wellnigh as glorious as himself.
“Good simile for a sermon, that! turning persecution into a means of glorification!” thought the professor, recurring to the days of his pastorship.
As may be inferred, the old gentleman was in the habit of getting up early; a praiseworthy practice, but one so universal with elderly people as to suggest a doubt of its being entirely a voluntary virtue. Be that as it may, the professor was up, and proceeded to set his blood in motion over a wash-bowl. His toilet was not so intricate and serious a matter as it might have been forty years or so previous, but was nevertheless a duty most scrupulously and conscientiously performed, from June to December, and round again. The last thing attended to before putting on his coat was always carefully to brush and dispose his hair. Until within two or three years, he had been able to keep up appearances by coaxing a gray rift across the top of the bald place; but it had grown month by month thinner and grayer, and more difficult to keep in position, until at last he had bravely told himself it was a vanity and a delusion, and had consigned it to obscurity and oblivion among the rusty side-locks which still sturdily surrounded the naked and inaccessible summit. Since that time he had occasionally allowed his thoughts to revert to it regretfully, though not bitterly nor rebelliously.
But, on this particular morning, he stood, brush in hand, before his looking-glass with an expression upon his elderly features at once undecided, wistful, and shame-faced; detached, after a short search, a few frosty spears from the assortment at the left side of his head; scrutinized them anxiously for a moment, and then, by the aid of a little water, and cautious brushing and pulling, succeeded in spatting them down into their long-abandoned place.