“Hate you! Neelie! What makes you speak so, dear? I have no misgivings.”
“Oh! I don’t know—I don’t know! it must be because I’m wicked!”
“You wicked, my darling sister! Come,” said Sophie, with an earnest smile, “think only of how much we love each other; let the misgivings go.”
“Yes, we do love each other now, don’t we? Whatever happens we’ll always remember that. Good-by, Sophie!” said Cornelia, with a strong hug and a long kiss.
“Good-by, dear Neelie!”
Cornelia ran down-stairs; her papa had just gone out to the wagon; she went into Bressant’s room, and walked quickly up to the bedside.
“Here’s your watch,” said she. “I’ve kept it all safe, and wound it up and every thing.” She had also slept with it under her pillow, and worn it all day in her bosom, but that she did not mention. She laid it down on the table as she spoke.
“Have you a watch?” asked Bressant.
“I had one, but it did not go very long. It was very small and pretty though;” this is the short and pathetic history of most ladies’ watches.
“I’d like you to take something of mine with you that you can see and hear and touch: will you keep this watch?” asked he, fixing his eyes upon her. There was no time to deliberate; there was nothing she would like so much; she snatched it up without a word and stuck it into her belt.
“Good-by!” said she, holding out her hand. Bressant took it, not without difficulty.
“I wish you were going to stay,” said he, gloomily, “I should be more happy to have you here, than ashamed to need your help.”
Cornelia’s eyes fell, and there was a tremulousness on her lips that might mean either smiles or tears. “You’ll be glad to see me when I come back, then, and you are well?”
“You’ll be like a beautiful morning when you come,” returned he, with a touch of that picturesqueness that sounded so quaintly coming from him. All this time he had retained her hand, and now, looking her in the eyes, he drew it with painful effort toward his lips. Cornelia’s heart beat so she could scarcely stand, and her mind was in a confusion, but she did not withdraw her hand. Perhaps because he was so pale and helpless; perhaps the old argument—“it’s his way—he don’t know it isn’t customary;” perhaps—for this also must have a place—perhaps from a fear lest he should make no attempt to regain it. She felt his bearded lips press against it. At the touch, a sudden weakness, a self-pitying sensation, came over her, and the tears started to her eyes.
“No one ever did that before to me,” she said, almost plaintively, for he had spoken no justifying words, and she was balancing between a remorseful timidity and a timid exultation.
“It’s the first kiss I ever gave,” said he, and his own voice vibrated. “Are you angry? it shall be the last if you are.”
“Oh, I’m not angry,” faltered poor Cornelia; and then she felt, or seemed to feel, a force drawing her down—scarcely perceptible, yet strong as death. She bent her lovely glowing face, with its tearful eyes and fragrant breath, close down to Bressant’s.