Sophie’s life, as has been said, was preeminently an ideal one. Materialism disturbed and perplexed her, and she ignored it as much as possible. She was inspired and excited by the ideal she had conceived of Bressant, and of her sphere of action with regard to him. But, had the physical personality of the man been thrust upon her in the first place, she would have very likely recoiled, her finer intuitions would have been jarred, and their precision paralyzed. Standing aloof, however, living and acting only in the realm of her pure maiden creeds, every thing seemed clear and simple enough. Right should be done, and wrong be righted; there would be no material conditions or hinderances; results were attained immediately.
But life is not what the pure-hearted girl painted it in her ideal dreams. The unconsidered obstacles rise into frowning and insurmountable barriers. Those we would make our beneficiaries often fail to appreciate their position, and turn our good into a worse evil than their own. We may theorize about the human soul, but, to put our theories to the test, is to assume an awful responsibility.
Bressant occupied two adjoining rooms at Abbie’s boarding-house; one contained his bed and the other was fitted up as his study. They were on the second floor of the house, and attainable through two turns in the lower entry, a winding flight of narrow stairs, and an uncertain, darkly erratic route above.
The study was some twelve feet by eight; the floor ornamented by a carpet which, to judge from the size of the pattern, must have been designed to grace some fifty-foot drawing-room. The furniture consisted of a deal table with a folding leaf, a chair, a stove—which, perhaps because it was so small, had been permitted to remain all summer—and a broad-seated lounge with squeaky springs, but quite roomy and comfortable, which monopolized a large portion of the room. The walls were papered with a bewildering diamond pattern, in blue and white. Upon the outside window-sill stood a pot of geraniums, and another of heliotrope.
A good many books were stowed away in various parts of the study; piled one upon another in the corner by the stove, ranged side by side beneath the lounge, carefully disposed upon the inner window-sill, and occupying as much space as could be spared to them on the table. There were few ornaments to be seen; no landscapes or hunting-scenes—no pictures of pretty women—no fancy pieces for the mantel—no wine either, nor cigars, for Bressant neither smoked nor drank. A beautifully-finished and colored drawing of a patent derrick, in plan and side elevation, was pinned to the wall opposite the window. Above the mantel-piece hung an ingeniously-contrived card almanac, by which the day of week and month could be told for a hundred years to come. Two small globes, terrestrial and astronomical, stood upon the table; on the mantel-piece was an ordinary kerosene-lamp, with a conical shade of enamelled green paper, arabesqued in black, and ornamented with three transparencies, representing (when the lamp was lighted) bloody and fiery scenes in the late war; but in the daytime appearing to be nothing more terrible than plain pieces of white tissue-paper.