But the professor was really a very wise man, in spite of his occasional blindness; and he refrained from showing Sophie the exaggeration and distortion which marked the view she took of her conduct. He saw it would involve lowering the high integrity of her ideal conceptions respecting delicacy and honor—hardly worth while, merely for the sake of explaining the distinction between a trifling piece of self-deception and mistaken vanity, and the severe and unrelenting sentence which Sophie had passed upon herself. Meanwhile, every word she had uttered had been an indirect, but none the less telling blow upon a sore place in his own conscience. It was long since Professor Valeyon had stood so low in his own self-esteem.
They sat awhile in silence, Sophie nestling up to her father as if seeking protection from the very love that had come to her; and he sighed, and sighed again, and coughed, and pulled his nose and his beard, and finally blew his nose. Then, depositing Sophie upon her feet, he got slowly up, stretched himself, and went for his pipe.
“Run off, my dear. Go up in your room, or out in the garden, or somewhere. I must be alone a little while, you know; must think it all over, and see how things stand. Besides, I must step in and see this fellow who’s going to rob me of my daughter, and tell him what I think of him. Come, off with you!”
“You’ll be happy about it—you’ll forgive us, won’t you, papa?” she said, turning at the door.
The old gentleman shuffled heavily up to her, and kissed her on the forehead.
“God bless you, and God’s will be done, my darling!” said he; but at that moment he could say no more.
An hour afterward, however, when the professor knocked the ashes out of his second pipe, and laid his hand upon the latch of Bressant’s door, the expression upon his strongly-cut features was neither gloomy nor severe. There was a look in his eyes of benignant sweetness, all the more impressive because it made one wonder how it could find a place beneath such stern eyebrows and so deeply lined a forehead. But, cutting off an offending right hand, although a bitter piece of work enough for the time being, may, in its after-effect, work as gracious a miracle in an older and more forbidding gentleman even than Professor Valeyon.
A FLANK MOVEMENT.
Bressant was lying comfortably upon his bed with his eyes closed; no one would have imagined there had been any outburst or convulsion of passion in his mental or emotional organism. He breathed easily; there was a pale tint of red in his cheeks, above his close, brown beard; his forehead was slightly moist, and his pulse, on which the surgeon laid his finger with professional instinct, beat quietly and regularly. In entering upon the world of love, all marks of wounds received upon the journey seemed to have passed away.