“What a funny old woman Aunt Margaret is!” said Cornelia to herself, after she had closed the door of her chamber. “Such a queer voice—goes away up high, and then away down low, all in the same sentence. And what a small head for such a tall woman! and she’s so thin! I do hope she won’t go on kissing me so much with her big mouth! how fast she does twist it about! and then her front teeth stick out so! and she keeps shoving that great black ear-trumpet at me, whenever she thinks I want to speak; and her eyes are as pale and watery as they can be, and they look all around you and never at you. Well, it’s very mean of me to criticise the old thing so; she’s as kind as she can be. I wonder whether she knows Mr. Bressant; her manner reminds me sometimes of him; in a horrid way, of course, but—poor fellow! what is he doing now, I’d like to know!” Here Cornelia’s meditations became very profound and private indeed; she, meanwhile, in her material capacity, making such alterations and improvements in her personal appearance as were necessary to prepare herself for the table.
Every few minutes—oftener than any circumstances could have warranted—she pulled a handsome gold watch out of her belt and consulted it. She did not, to be sure, seem solely anxious to know the hour; she bent down and examined the enameled face minutely; watched the second-hand make its tiny circuit; pressed the smooth crystal against her cheek; listened to the ceaseless beating of its little golden heart. That golden heart, it seemed to her, was a connecting link between Bressant’s and her own. He had set it going, and it should be her care that it never stopped; for at the hour in which it ran down—such was Cornelia’s superstitious idea—some lamentable misfortune would surely come to pass.
The dinner-bell sounded; she put her watch back into her belt, bestowing a loving little pat upon it, by way of temporary adieu. Then, feeling pretty hungry, she ran down the broad, soft-carpeted stairs, with their wide mahogany banisters—she would have sat upon the latter and slid down if she had dared—and entering the dining-room, which was furnished throughout with yellow oak, even to the polished floor, she took her place by her hostess’s