“Sophie, now—well, perhaps she don’t need it so much, yet; she’s younger than her sister, and has a good deal more internal resource: besides, she’s too delicate at present. But Neelie—Neelie ought to go at once—this very summer. She needs an enormous deal of action and excitement, bodily and mental both, to keep her in wholesome condition. Has that same restless, feverish devil in her that I used to have; never do to let it feed upon itself! must get her absorbed in outside things!
“But what am I to do?” resumed the professor, sitting up in his chair, and shaking out his shirt-sleeves—for the heat of his meditations had brought on a perspiration; “what can I do—eh? Sophie not in condition to travel—can’t leave her to take Cornelia—no one else to take her—and she can’t go alone, that’s certain! Humph!”
Professor Valeyon paused in his soliloquy, like a man who has turned into a closed court under the impression that it is a thoroughfare, and stared down with upwrinkled forehead at the sole of the kicked-off slipper, indulging the while in a mental calculation of how many days it would take for the hole near the toe to work down to the hole under the instep, and thus render problematical the possibility of keeping the shoe on at all. It might take three weeks, or, say at the utmost, a month; one month from the present time. It was at the present time about the 15th of June, the 14th or the 15th, say the 15th! Well, then, on the 15th of July the slipper would be worn out; in all human probability the weather would be even hotter then than it was now; and yet, in the face of that heat he would be obliged to go over to the village, get Jonas Hastings to fit him with a new pair, and then go through the long agony of breaking them in! At the thought, great drops formed on the old gentleman’s nose, and ran suddenly down into his white mustache.
But this digression of thought was but superficial, and the sense that something serious underlaid it remained always latent. The professor leaned back in his chair, and sighed again heavily. It was true that he was growing old, and now that he contemplated action, he felt that in the last nine years the inertia of age had gained upon him. Besides, he greatly loved his daughters, and though it is easy to say that the greatest love is the greatest unselfishness, yet do we find a weakness in our hearts which we cannot believe wholly wrong, strongly prompting us to yearn and cling—even unwisely—to those who have our best affection. “And what seems wise to-day may be proved folly to-morrow,” is our argument, “so let us cling to the good we have.”