Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 2

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    SIGNS OF A THUNDER-SHOWER.

    Before the delivery of the letter, a very pretty little ceremony took
    place. The professor had stretched forth his hand to receive it, when,
    by a sudden turn of the wrist and arm, the young lady whisked it out of
    his reach and behind her back, and in place of it brought down her
    fresh, sweet face with its fragrant mouth to within two inches of his
    own wrinkled and bristly visage. A moment after, the ceremony was
    completed, the letter delivered, and the postman, stepping over her
    father's fallen slipper, leaned against the balcony-railing, and waited
    for further developments.

    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.

    "Papa!" again exclaimed the young lady; but this time in a tone which
    the tumult of delight, anticipation, and a fear lest there should be a
    mistake somewhere, softened almost into a whisper. She had risen from
    the arm of the chair to her feet, and stood with her hands clasped
    together beneath her chin.

    The professor laughed a short and rather unnatural laugh. "I thought you
    wouldn't be obstinate about it, when you came to think it over," said
    he, dryly. He folded up his spectacles and put them back in his
    waistcoat pocket with, unusual elaboration of manner. "So you would
    really like to have a change, would you? Well, I trust you will not be
    disappointed in your expectations of society and watering-places. At all
    events, you may learn to appreciate home more!" Here the professor
    laughed again, as if he considered it a joke.

    Cornelia was too much entranced by the new idea to have any notion of
    what he was talking about; she was already hundreds of miles away,
    living in stately houses, driving in magnificent carriages, sweeping in
    gorgeous silks and laces through gilded and illuminated ballrooms, and
    listening to courtly compliments from handsome and immaculate gentlemen.
    But when, presently, her scattered faculties began to return to a more
    normal state, an unquenchable curiosity to know how the miracle was to
    be worked, seized upon her. She dropped on her knees beside her father's
    chair, took his hand in both of hers, and looked up in his face.

    "But how is it to be, papa, dear? I mean, whom am I to go with? and when
    am I to go?--dear me, I haven't a thing to wear! Shall I have time to
    get any thing ready? Isn't Sophie invited too? How strange it all seems!
    I can hardly realize it, somehow. From whom is the letter?"

    "Can you remember when you were about nine years old?" inquired the
    professor.

    "I don't know, I am sure," replied Cornelia, in some surprise at the
    irrelevancy of the question. "Nothing particular. Oh! I know! we were in
    New York!" said she, beginning to see some connection, and breaking into
    a smile.

    "Do you remember seeing a lady there," continued the professor, talking
    and looking straight at nothing, "who made a great deal of you and
    Sophie, and asked you to call her Aunt Margaret?"

    "Oh--I believe--I do--," said Cornelia, slowly; "I think I didn't like
    her much, because she was deaf or something, and talked in such a high
    voice. She wasn't really our aunt, was she? Did she write the letter?"

    "Yes, she did, my dear, and invites you and Sophie to spend the summer
    with her. You don't dislike her so much as to refuse, I suppose, do
    you?"

    "O papa!" exclaimed his daughter, deprecatingly; for the old gentleman
    had spoken rather in a tone of reproof. "I'm sure she's as kind and good
    as she can be; I was only telling what I especially remembered about
    her, you know. How did she come to think of us after so long?"

    "I used to know her quite well, long before you were born, my dear,"
    replied the professor, tapping with his fingers on the arm of the chair;
    "and at that time I should not have been surprised at her offering me
    any kindness. I _am_ surprised now," he added, with a good deal of
    feeling; "she's a better friend than I thought."

    Cornelia remained silent for several moments, because, not in the least
    comprehending what sort of ground her papa was walking on, she feared
    that the questions and remarks she was anxious to advance might jar with
    his mood. At length, a sufficient time having elapsed to warrant, in her
    opinion, the introduction of intelligible topics, she looked up and
    spoke again.

    "How soon, papa--how soon did you say--am I to go?"

    "First of July, Aunt Margaret says. Will that give you time enough to
    make yourself fine?"

    "Now, papa, you're making fun of me," exclaimed the young lady,
    delighted that he should be in the humor to do so, yet speaking in that
    semi-reproachful tone which ladies sometimes adopt when the other sex
    makes their costume the object of remark, "I can make myself as fine as
    I can be by that time, of course! But how is it about Sophie? Won't she
    be able to go too?"

    Papa shook his head, and combed his bristly white beard with his
    fingers. "Sophie has been very ill," said he; "it wouldn't be safe to
    have her go anywhere this summer. We can't take too much care of her.
    Typhoid pneumonia is a dangerous thing, and though she's on the way to
    recovery now, she might easily relapse. And then," added the old
    gentleman, in a more inward tone, "she would recover no more."

    Although he mumbled this sentence to himself, Cornelia caught his
    meaning, more, probably, from his manner than from any thing she heard;
    and being of an emotional and warmly-tender disposition, she began to
    cry. She loved her sister very much; and something must also be allowed
    to the fact that, having a great happiness in prospect for herself, she
    could afford to expend more sympathy on those less fortunate. As for the
    professor, he, for a second time that afternoon, gave evidence of
    possessing disgracefully little control over himself. He began another
    fruitless search after his handkerchief, and finally asked Cornelia,
    with some heat, whether she knew what had become of it.

    "Why, it's on your head, papa!" warbled she, brightly changing a laugh
    for her tears; and papa, putting up his hand in great confusion, and
    finding that it was indeed so, laughed also, and this time in a
    perfectly natural manner; but he blew his nose very resoundingly, for
    all that.

    The atmosphere being serene once more, the joy of the future became
    again strong in Cornelia's heart, and coupled with it, an earnest
    longing to disburden herself to some one, and who but her sister should
    be her confidant? So she rose from her knees, and picked up her brown
    straw hat, which, in the excitement, had fallen to the floor.

    "Is there any thing you'd like to do, papa dear?" asked she, laying her
    forefinger caressingly upon his bald head. "Because if there isn't, I, I
    should like--I think I'd better go to Sophie."

    Professor Valeyon nodded his head, being in truth desirous of taking
    solitary counsel with himself. The letter contained a good deal more
    than the invitation he had communicated to Cornelia, and he could not
    feel at ease until he had more thoroughly analyzed and digested it. So
    when his daughter had vanished through the door, with a smile and a kiss
    of the hand, he mounted his spectacles again, and spread the letter open
    on his knee.

    After reading a while in silence, he spoke; though his voice was audible
    only to his own mental ears.

    "There was a time," said he, "when I wouldn't have believed I could ever
    hear the news of that man's death, and take it so quietly! And now he
    sends me his son!--as it were bequeaths him to me. Can it be as a
    hostage for forgiveness, though so late? or is it merely because he knew
    I could not but feel a vital interest in the boy, and would instruct and
    treat him as my own? He was a shrewd judge of human nature--and yet, I
    must not judge him harshly now."

    Here Professor Valeyon happened again to catch sight of his slipper, and
    interrupted his soliloquy to extend his stockinged toe, fork it toward
    himself, and having, with some trouble, got it right side uppermost, to
    put it on. And then he referred once more to the letter.

    "I should like to know whether he was aware that Abbie was here, or that
    she was alive at all! Margaret says nothing about it in her letter. If
    he did, of course he must have written to her, or, if he was determined
    to die as for these last twenty years and more he has lived, he would
    never _knowingly_ have sent the boy where she was, on any consideration.
    Well, well, I can easily find out how that is, from either Abbie or the
    boy. By-the-way, I wonder whether this _incognito_ of his may have any
    thing to do with it? Hum! Margaret says it's only so that he may not be
    interrupted in his studies by acquaintances. Well, that's likely
    enough--that's likely enough!"

    "By-the-way, where's the young man to stay? At Abbie's, of course,
    if--Margaret says, at some good boarding-house. Well, Abbie's is the
    only one in town. It's a singular coincidence, certainly, if it _is_ a
    coincidence! Perhaps I'd better go down at once and see Abbie, and have
    the whole matter cleared up. I shall have time enough before supper, if
    I harness Dolly now."

    As Professor Valeyon arrived at this conclusion, he uplifted himself,
    with some slight signs of the rustiness of age, from his chair, took his
    brown-linen duster from the balcony railing across which it had been
    thrown, and put it on, with laborious puffings, and a slight increase of
    perspiration. Then, first turning round, to make sure that he had all
    his belongings with him, he entered the hall-door, and passed through
    into his study.

    The rooms in which we live seem to imbibe something of our
    characteristics, and the examination of a dwelling-place may not
    infrequently throw some light upon the inner nature of its occupant. The
    professor's study was of but moderate size, carpeted with a
    red-and-white check straw matting, considerably frayed and defaced in
    the region of the table, and faded where the light from the windows fell
    upon it. The four walls were hidden, to a height of about seven feet
    from the floor, with rows upon rows of books, of all sizes and varieties
    of binding, no small proportion being novels, and even those not
    invariably of a classical standard. The only picture was a stained
    engraving of the Transfiguration, over the mantel-piece, in a faded and
    fly-be-spotted gilt frame. In the centre of the room, occupying, indeed,
    a pretty large share of all the available space, stood an ample
    study-table, covered with green baize, darkened, for a considerable
    space around the inkstand, by innumerable spatterings of ink. It
    supported a confused medley of natural and unnatural accompaniments to
    reading and writing. A ponderous ebony inkstand, with solid cut-glass
    receptacles, one being intended for powder, though none was ever put in
    it, a mighty dictionary, which, being too heavy to be considered
    movable, occupied one corner of the table by itself: the earthen
    tobacco-jar, with a small piece chipped from the cover; pamphlets and
    books, standing or lying upon one another; heaps of rusty steel and
    blunted quill pens; a quire or two of blue and white letter-paper; a
    paper-knife, loose in the handle, but smooth of edge; a box of lucifer
    matches, and several burnt ends; an extra pipe or two; the professor's
    straw hat; a brass rack for holding letters and cards; and a great deal
    of pink blotting-paper scattered about everywhere.

    Opposite the table stood a chair, straight-backed and severe, in which
    Professor Valeyon always sat when at work. He had a theory that it was
    not well to be too much at bodily ease when intellectually occupied.
    Directly behind the chair, upon the shelf of a bookcase, stood a plaster
    cast of Shakespeare's face, the nose of which was most unaccountably
    darkened and polished. It is doubtful whether even the professor himself
    could have cleared up the mystery of this deepened color in the immortal
    bard's nose. But whoever, during those hours set apart by the old
    gentleman for solitary labor and meditation, had happened to peep in at
    the window, would, ten to one, have beheld him tilted thoughtfully back
    in his chair, abstractedly tweaking, with the forefinger and thumb of
    his right hand, the sacred feature in question. He had done it every
    day, for many years past, and never once found himself out, and,
    doubtless, the great poet was far too broad-minded ever to think of
    resenting the liberty, especially as it was only in his most thoughtful
    moments that the professor meddled with him.

    The room contained little else in the way of furniture, except a few
    extra chairs, and a malacca-joint cane, with an ivory head, which stood
    in a corner near the door. It produced an impression at once of
    cleanliness and disorder, therein bearing a strong analogy to the
    professor's own person and habits; and the disorder was of such a kind,
    that, although no rule or system in the arrangement of any thing was
    perceptible, Professor Valeyon would have been at once and almost
    instinctively aware of any alteration that might have been made, however
    slight.

    On entering the study, the old gentleman first shuffled up to the
    fireplace, flapping the heels of his slippers behind him as he went, and
    deposited his pipe on the mantel-piece. Next, he put on his straw hat,
    and, turning to the engraving of the Transfiguration, which had served
    him as a looking-glass almost ever since it had hung there, he put
    himself to rights, with his usual fierce scowlings, liftings of the
    chin, and jerkings at collar and stock. When every thing seemed in
    proper trim, he took his ivory-headed cane from its place in the corner,
    and made his way along the entry to the front door.

    "Bless me!" ejaculated the professor, as he emerged upon the porch,
    shading his eyes from the white dazzle of the road; "how hot it is, sure
    enough!" Scarcely had he spoken, however, when the sun, which had been
    coquetting for the last half-hour with the majestic white cloud which
    Cornelia had idly watched from the balcony, suddenly plunged his burning
    face right into its cool, soft bosom, and immediately a clear, gray
    shadow gently took possession of the landscape.

    "Humph!" grunted the professor again, turning a sharp, wise eye to the
    westward, "we shall have a thunder-shower before long. I must take the
    covered wagon. But how's this? I declare I've forgotten to change my
    slippers! I'm growing old--I'm growing old, that's certain!"

    As the old gentleman stood, shaking his head over this new symptom of
    approaching senility, he happened to turn his eyes in the direction of
    the village, and descried a figure approaching rapidly from the turn in
    the road, which at once arrested his attention.

    "Who can that be?" muttered he to himself, frowning to assist his
    vision. "None of the town boys, that's certain. Never saw such a figure
    but once before! If any thing, this is the better man of the two.
    By-the-way, what if it should be--! Humph! I believe it is, sure
    enough."

    By this time the stranger, a very tall and broadly built young man, with
    a close brown beard, and quick, comprehensive eyes, had arrived opposite
    the house, and stood with one hand on the gate.

    "Is this the parsonage?" demanded he, speaking with great rapidity of
    utterance, and turning his head half sideways as he spoke, without,
    however, removing his eyes from the professor's face.

    The old gentleman nodded his head, "It is known by that name, sir!" said
    he.

    With the almost impatient quickness which marked every thing he did--a
    quickness which did not seem in any way allied to slovenliness or
    inaccuracy, however--the young man pushed through the gate, which
    protested loudly against such rough usage, and walked hastily up to the
    porch-steps. He paused a moment ere ascending.

    "Are you Professor Valeyon?" he asked.

    Again the professor bowed his head in assent. "And are you--?" began
    he.

    The young man sprang up the steps, and grasping the other's
    half-extended hand, gave it a brief, hard shake.

    "I'm Bressant," said he.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Julian Hawthorne essay and need some advice, post your Julian Hawthorne essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?