“Yes; I’ll come,” said he, with an elastic inclination of his shoulders, and a smile. He thought himself fortunate in so good an opportunity to put his invulnerability to the proof.
Abbie bowed without speaking, and moved toward the door. Having opened it, she turned round, with her hands upon the latch: “Professor Valeyon tells me you’re an orphan, sir?”
“My father died last month; I never knew my mother,” returned Bressant, pushing his brown beard between his teeth, and biting it impatiently. He wished people would get through asking him about his deceased relatives.
“Never knew your mother! it must have been—have you never felt the need of her?”
“Oh, no! I was better without one,” said he, quite provoked at his landlady’s pertinacity. He turned about, and threw himself into his chair. The woman shrank back beyond the threshold.
“Good-day, sir, and thank you,” she said. But Bressant could not be expected to hear the low, timid tone in which she spoke. Seeing that he made no response, she softly closed the door.
She went along the dark entry to her own room. On a little table in one corner stood an old-fashioned desk. She opened it, and, unlocking an inner drawer, took therefrom a small morocco case, lined with red velvet, and containing a daguerreotype much faded by age. She studied it long and earnestly, but seemingly without any very satisfactory result.
“But how can I expect it?” murmured she. “So long ago as this was taken! so sickly and unformed as he was then! But, oh! did they think I could be blind to that face, and form, and expression! and there is none other but he, now; the father is dead. Dead! Well, may God forgive him all the evil of his life! I’m sure I do. But what will this turn out to be, I wonder—a curse or a blessing? I must wait—it isn’t for me to speak; I must wait, and the end may be happy, after all.”
ONLY FOR TO-NIGHT!
On the evening of the 4th of July, Professor Valeyon and Cornelia got into the wagon, and drove off, behind Dolly, to the boarding-house. It was a warm, breathless night, and the stars looked brighter and more numerous than usual.
The boarding-house was one of the largest buildings in town—an accidental sort of structure, painted white, green-blinded, and protected, from the two roads at whose intersection it stood, by a white-washed board-fence, deficient in several places. The house expanded into no less than four large bay-windows, affording an outlook to three small rooms upon the ground-floor. The four or five other larger apartments were forced to pass a gloomy existence behind a loop-hole or two apiece, which could not have measured over three feet in any direction.
The two largest rooms lay corner to corner, at right angles to one another, and communicating by a passage-way through their point of contact. Who the original genius was who discovered the admirable facilities this else preposterous arrangement afforded for dances will remain forever unknown; but the experiment once tried became an institution as permanent as Abbie herself.