The professor took his spectacles from his waistcoat pocket, placed them carefully upon his strongly-marked nose, and scrutinized in turn the direction, post-mark, and seal. With a sniff of surprise, he then tore open the envelop, and became immediately absorbed in the contents of the inclosure, indicating his progress by much pursing and biting of his lips, wrinkling of his forehead, and drawing together of his heavy eyebrows. Having at length reached the end of the last page, he turned it sharply about, and went through it once more, with half-articulate grunts of comment; and finally, folding the letter carefully up, and replacing it in the torn envelop, he caught the spectacles off his nose, and, with them in one hand and the paper in the other, fixed his eyes upon the vacant spot at the summit of the hill.
His daughter meanwhile had taken off her brown straw-hat, and was using it as a fan, keeping up a light tattoo with one foot upon the plank flooring. Her face was glowing with her four-mile walk in the hot sun, but she showed no signs of weariness. The position in which she stood was easy and graceful, but there was nothing statuesque or imposing about it; it was evident that at the very next instant she might shift into another equally as happy. Her eyes wandered from one object to another with the absence of concentration of one whose mind is not fixed upon any thing in particular. From the letter between the professor’s finger and thumb, they traveled upward to his thoughtful countenance; thence took a leap to the decrepit water-spout which depended weakly from the corner of the balcony-roof, and thence again ascended to a great, solid, white cloud, with turreted outline clear against the blue, which was slowly sliding across the sky from the westward, and threatened soon to cut off the afternoon sunshine.
The professor restlessly altered the position of his legs, thereby drawing his daughter’s attention once more to himself. Thinking she had waited as long as was requisite for the maintenance of her dignity as a non-inquisitive person, she transferred herself lightly to the arm of her father’s chair, grasping his beard in her plump, slender hand, and turned his face up toward hers.
“Well, papa! aren’t you going to tell what the news is? Is it nice?”
“Very nice!” said papa, taking her irreverent hand into his own, and keeping it there. “At least you will think so,” he added, looking half playful and half wistful.
Cornelia brought her lips into a pout, all ready to say, “what?” but did not say it, and gazed at her father with round, interrogating eyes.
“You’d be very glad to go away and leave me, of course,” continued the professor, assuming an air of studied unconcern.
“Papa!” exclaimed the young lady, with an emphatic intonation of affection, indignation, and bewilderment.
“What! not be glad to go to New York, and to all the fashionable watering-places, and be introduced to all the best society?” queried the old gentleman, in hypocritical astonishment.