“Keep your hands off me,” whispered he, in a menacing tone; “if I must go into the house, I’ll walk in myself.”
“Nonsense! you’re crazy! ‘walk in?’” cried the professor.
Bressant said no more, but, with an effort that forced a groan, he rolled over on his face, and thence raised himself to a kneeling posture. He paused so a moment, and then, by another spasmodic movement, succeeded in gaining his feet. He had been twice kicked in his right leg, and the pain was wellnigh insupportable. He stood balancing himself unsteadily.
“Let me help you,” said Cornelia, coming to his side. But he took no notice of her, not even turning his eyes upon her. He staggered blindly along the road to the gate; it gave way before him with a reluctant rattle, and closed with an ill-tempered clap as he passed through. Swaying from side to side of the marble walk, he at last reached the porch. In trying to ascend the steps, he stumbled, and pitched forward in a heavy fall.
“There!—confound his obstinacy! he’s fainted,” muttered the professor, with an awful frown, while the tears ran down his cheeks. “Here, Michael, help me carry him in before he comes to.”
Bressant’s collar-bone was broken; there were two severe bruises on his leg, though it had escaped fracture; his body in several places was marked with dark contusions, and there was a cut in the back of his head, where he had fallen against a stone. The professor set the collar-bone—a harrowing piece of work, there being no anesthetics at hand—and attended to the other hurts, the patient all the while preserving a dogged and moody silence, and avoiding the eyes of whoever looked at him.
“Can’t understand it,” said the old gentleman to himself; “the fellow acts like a wild-beast as regards his appreciation of human sympathy, in spite of his refined intellect and cultivation. A wounded animal has the same instinct to crawl away, and suffer in private.”
When brought into the house, Bressant had been laid in the spare room adjoining the professor’s study. After he had done all he could for his comfort, the warm-hearted old gentleman, being overcome with fatigue, retired to rest; the patient lay sullenly quiet, wishing it were day, and, again, wishing day would never come: at length the composing draught which had been given him took effect, and he sank heavily into sleep.
It was broad daylight when he awoke, and stared feverishly around him. The room was a pleasant one, facing the north and east, and the morning sun came cheerfully in through the open windows, slanting down the walls, and brightening on the carpet. It was a great improvement upon his rather gloomy room at the boarding-house, and he could not but feel it so. A small ormolu clock ticked rapidly upon the mantel-piece, the swing of the gilded pendulum being visible beneath. Bressant watched it with idle interest. He felt so weak, in mind and body, that the clock seemed company just fitted for his comprehension.