Her sad, gray eyes, stern to herself, but tender and soft to him, as a cloud ready to melt in rain-drops, met his, which were alight with all the fire that an aroused and passionate spirit could kindle in them. She saw what she had never beheld before indeed, but the meaning of which no woman ever yet mistook. It was her work—the assurance of her disgrace—the offspring of her self-seeking and unwomanly behavior; and yet, as she looked, the blood rose gradually to her pale cheeks, and stained them with a deeper and yet deeper spot of red; her glance caught a spark from his, and her fragile and drooping figure seemed to dilate and grow stately, as if inspired by some burst of glorious music. Bressant, in the mid-whirl and heat of his emotion, fell back upon the pillow, whence he had partly raised himself, trembling from head to foot.
“Is it love?” he said, in a smothered tone that was scarcely more than a whisper. He was beaten down and overawed by the might and grandeur of the passion which, growing in his own breast, had become a giant that swayed and swept all things before it.
“Yes—love!” said Sophie, in a voice like the soft ring of a silver trumpet. Her heart was steadied and strengthened by what mastered him. “Love—it is above every thing else. It has brought me down so low—perhaps, through God’s mercy, it is the path by which I may rise again. You will guide me, dear?”
And, with a gesture of divine humility, she put her hand in his, and looked down, with the smile brightening mistily in her eyes.
At that moment—recalled, perhaps, by a chance similarity in position, gesture, or expression—came over him, like a sudden chill and darkness, the memory of his last interview with Cornelia.
PARTING AN ANCHOR.
Cornelia, upon her arrival in New York, had been met at the station by an emissary of Aunt Margaret, and conducted to a country-seat some distance up the river. Four or five young ladies were already assembled there, and as many young gentlemen came up on afternoon trains, and availed themselves of Aunt Margaret’s hospitality, until business called them to the city again the nest morning, except that on Saturdays they brought an extra change or two of raiment, to tide them over the blessed rest of Sunday.
“I’ve been so ill, my love—how sweet and fresh you do look! Give your auntie a kiss—there. Oh! you naughty girl, how jealous all the girls will be of those eyes of yours!—so ill—such dreadful sick-headaches—oh, yes! I’m a great sufferer, dear, a great sufferer—but no one, hardly, knows it. I tell you, you know, dear, because you are my own darling little Cornelia. Oh! those sweet eyes! So ill—so unable, you know, to be up and doing—to be as I should wish to be—as I once was—as