By this time they had arrived at the boarding-house; and the old gentleman, having seen Abbie safely in to the door, drove homeward, frowning all the way, and at intervals shaking his head slowly. When he got home, he shut himself into his study, and there paced restlessly backward and forward, and stared out of the window across the valley. That open spot on the hill-top seemed to afford little or no enlightenment or satisfaction; and when he sat down to his solitary dinner, the frown had not yet cleared away.
The next day the rain was over, and a cart was sent up to the parsonage, containing Bressant’s books, and such other of his belongings as he would be likely to need during his illness; and, accompanying them, a note from Abbie, expressing her regret at his misfortune, and her hopes that he would return to his rooms at her house as soon as his health was sufficiently reestablished. The young man heard the note read, and congratulated himself, as he closed his eyes with a yawn, that he was not under his quondam landlady’s ministrations.
But even the best circumstances could do little to lighten the insufferable tediousness of his confinement. Probably, however, such changes and modifications as may have been in progress in his nature, attained quicker and easier development by reason of his physical prostration. The alteration in his bodily habits and conditions paved the way for an analogous moral and mental process. The powers of a man are never annihilated; if dormant in one direction, they will be active in another; and thus Bressant’s passions, naturally deep and violent, being denied legitimate outlet, had given vigor, endurance, and heat of purpose, to the prosecution of his intellectual exercises. But, as soon as these elements of his nature found their proper channels, they rushed onward with far more dash and fervor than if they had never been dammed or deflected.
The combined effect upon the young man of the companionship of a beautiful woman and his own broken bones, had been to make him feel and ponder on the nature of her power over him. The name of love was of course familiar to him, but he could hardly as yet, perhaps, grasp the full significance of the sentiment. Like other forms of knowledge, it must be approached by natural gradations. Here, if nowhere else, Bressant’s life of purely intellectual activity was a disadvantage. His stand-points and views were artificial, speculative, and material. Love cannot be reduced to a formula, and then relinquished; nor is it ever safe to use, as pattern for an untried work, the plan whereby something else was accomplished. Life has need of many methods.
Nearly a week of musing and speculation had passed over the young man’s head, when one day, as he was feeling unusually disconsolate, and wishing for unattainable things—Cornelia among others—he became aware, through some subtle channel of sensation, that somebody was standing in the door-way. He was lying in such a position that he could not see the door, so, after waiting a few moments, he exclaimed, with an invalid’s irritability: