Cornelia glanced quickly at her sister, but was reassured by the grave composure of her aspect. Nevertheless, she was deeply engrossed in her new dress as she made reply.
“Oh! no. Well, not so very; I can hardly tell, though, I’ve spoken to him so little. He’s rather quick at catching your meaning, sometimes, I think.”
“Do you think he’s a man who would get married?”
“Oh! I don’t believe he’ll ever be married,” said Cornelia, and blushed, she scarce knew why. “No woman would marry him.”
“Is he so disagreeable?”
Cornelia moved her shoulders in a little shudder. “Oh, not that exactly; but he’s so cold and bright and hard. And he isn’t always that way, either. There are times when he’s so strange—so different! I don’t believe he understands himself then. There seems to be a wild fire in him, that once in a while blazes up, and scorches and frightens him as well as other people.”
Sophie was perhaps more interested in this extravaganza of Cornelia’s than if she had known the incident upon which it was mainly founded; but, on the other hand, it is possible that less exaggerated language would not have given her so correct an idea of Bressant’s character. Cornelia—there being nothing else to especially occupy her thoughts—had allowed them to run a good deal upon Bressant, and upon what happened by the fountain in the garden: perhaps she had mingled the real things and events with the fantasies of her dreams, and thus built up an impression and theory in regard to the young man considerably more picturesque than was warranted by the premises at her command. All this would have been done involuntarily; and possibly Sophie’s question elicited the first conscious perception and statement of what Cornelia’s opinion had grown to be. But unconscious judgments are often more accurate than deliberate ones because there is more of intuition about them.
Be that as it may, from the moment Sophie imbibed the idea that there was something strange, fierce, and ungovernable in Bressant’s nature, she felt her sympathy and interest moved and aroused. It was the instinctive attraction of one strong spirit toward another, the more, because that other was so differently embodied, endowed, and circumstanced. She was a bed-ridden invalid, but she thrilled, like Achilles, at the first gleam and clangor of arms. The only thing that Sophie feared, and from which she shrank, was Sin. All else attracted her in proportion as it was powerful, stirring, or awe-inspiring. Delicate, sensitive, and apparently meek and timid as was her nature, her heart was firm as a Roman general’s, and her soul as large and sympathetic as an Apostle’s. Did the occasion offer, this pale minister’s daughter was capable of great and immortal deeds.
“Which way do you like him best, Neelie?” demanded she at length, removing the dilated gaze of her gray eyes from the round knot on the top of the bed-post; “when he’s cold and bright, or when he’s wild and fiery.”