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    Chapter 30

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    Chapter 30
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    LOST.

    Mr. Reynolds immediately paused, and regarded this group for some
    moments with an air of singular sagacity and archness.

    "I say, young fellow," ejaculated he, at length, with an evident effort
    to attain distinctness of utterance, "that sort of thing won't do, you
    know."

    Bressant looked up and recognized the rustic bacchanalian for the first
    time. He had always had a peculiar antipathy to this young gentleman;
    but at this moment it was intensified into a loathing. How could he ask
    assistance from such a degraded creature as this?

    The recognition had been mutual, and Mr. Reynolds, tacking unsteadily
    around, brought himself to bear in such a position as to catch a fair
    view of Sophie's face, with the spot of blood on her chin. The first
    glance so terrified him, that he utterly, forsook his footing, and came
    abruptly to the ground, never once taking his eyes from the face, all
    the way. But the shock of his fall, and the awful solemnity of what he
    saw, sobered him considerably. He turned to Bressant, and eyed him with
    anxious earnestness.

    "Why, you're the fellow she's engaged to, ain't you? What on earth's
    been the row? She ain't dead, is she? How did she get here? In her
    wedding-rig, too, by golly!"

    Bressant's frame vibrated with a savage impulse; but Mr. Reynolds, not
    being of a sensitive temperament, was not at all disconcerted.

    "Well, say, I guess she'd better be fetched home, first thing," said he,
    bestirring himself to arise from the chilly seat he had taken. "Lucky I
    happened along, too. Guess you was hoping I might, wasn't you? Well, you
    hoist her under the arms, and I'll hang on by the feet--ain't that it?
    and we'll have her into the sleigh in no time."

    "Don't touch her!" said the other, fiercely. "Let her alone, you drunken
    fool!"

    "Now, look here, Mr. Bressant," rejoined Bill Reynolds, resting his
    hands on his knees, and looking intently in Bressant's face, "I may not
    be rich and a swell, like you are; but I guess I'm an honest man, any
    way, as much as ever you be; and I ain't insulting nobody by helping
    take home a poor frozen girl. I don't care if she is engaged to you. You
    don't mean to keep her here till morning do you? and seeing she ain't
    married yet, I guess the right place for her to be in, is her father's
    house."

    Perhaps it was the moonlight, glinting on Bill's immovable eye-glasses,
    that gave extraordinary impressiveness to his words; or it may have been
    Bressant's reflection, that this young country bumpkin, sullied with
    drink, coarse and ignorant though he was, would have probably found his
    sense of equality in no way diminished, had he known more of the facts
    to which the present catastrophe was a sequel; at all events, he made no
    further objections. His manner changed to an almost submissive
    humbleness, and, without more words, he helped Bill to place the
    insensible woman in the sleigh.

    "That's the talk," remarked Mr. Reynolds, as he drew the sleigh-robe
    over her. "Now, then, Mr. Bressant, just you jump in and hold on to her,
    and I'll lead the horse along. We'll be there in half a shake."

    "No," replied Bressant, after a mental conflict as violent as it was
    brief; "I'll lead the horse myself." The only pleasure now left to this
    young man was to insult and torture himself to the utmost of his
    ingenuity. He had forfeited all right to protect or care for Sophie, and
    it was with a savage satisfaction that he resigned it to Bill Reynolds,
    as being the worthier and better man. It was the quixoticism of
    self-degradation, but was doubtless not without some wholesome
    influence.

    In three minutes more they were at the Parsonage-gate. They made a
    stretcher of the sleigh-robe, and carried Sophie in on it. The gate,
    flapping-to behind them, sounded like a fretful and querulous complaint.
    As they mounted the porch-steps, which creaked and crackled beneath
    their weight, the door was opened by Cornelia, in her travelling-dress.
    Her face expressed so vividly the unspeakable horror which she felt as
    her eyes rested on her sister's half-opened lids, that Bressant, seeing
    it, was stricken anew with the perception of his own misery. As Cornelia
    looked up from the pure and innocent features--which never had worn an
    awful and forbidding expression until now, when all power of expression
    was gone--her glance and Bressant's met; but, after a moment's
    encounter, both dropped their eyes, with an involuntary shudder. Their
    trial and sentence were condensed into so seemingly brief a space.

    But Bill Reynolds neither dealt in nor appreciated such refinements upon
    the good old ways of communicating sentiments.

    "Good-evening, Miss Valeyon," exclaimed he. "I guess we didn't expect to
    see one another again to-night. Pray don't imagine, miss, that I bear
    you any grudge. At times like this personal considerations don't
    count--not with me. I'll shake hands with you, Miss Valeyon, first
    chance I get, and we'll be just as much friends as ever we was before.
    That's the right way, I guess."

    The door of the guest-chamber stood open, and the sleigh-robe, with its
    burden, was laid upon the bed whereon Bressant had spent so many weary
    days. Then the voice of the professor, who had been awakened by the
    noise and the sound of feet, was heard from the top of the stairs,
    demanding to know what was the matter.

    "Come down," said Bressant, stepping to the guest-chamber door. "Be
    quick!"

    He spoke more slowly and deeply than was his wont. In spite--or perhaps
    in consequence--of his abasement, forlornness, and unworthiness, he
    showed a dignity and impressiveness which were novel in him. The
    boyishness, vivacity, and motion, had quite vanished. There were a depth
    and hollowness in his eyes which gave a singular power to his face.
    There must have been a vein of genuine strength and nobleness in the
    man, or he would have been too much crushed to show any thing but weak
    despair or brutal sullenness. Had Professor Valeyon's attention been
    directed to the point, he might have recognized his pupil as being now
    thoroughly grounded in the elements of emotional experience.

    The old gentleman, in dressing-gown and slippers, came thumping hastily
    down-stairs, in response to Bressant's summons. The strange solemnity in
    the latter's tone, no less than the ominousness of the hour, probably
    gave him premonition of some disaster. He reached the threshold of the
    room, and paused a moment there, settling his spectacles with trembling
    fingers, and looking from one silent face to another. The room was
    lighted only by the declining moon, which shone coldly through the
    windows. The bed, and that which was on it, were in shadow. In an
    instant or two, however, the professor's eyes made the discovery to
    which none of those who stood about had had the nerve to help him. And
    then the old man proved himself to be the most stout-hearted of them
    all. He only said "Sophie" in a voice so profoundly indrawn as scarcely
    to be audible; then walked unfalteringly across the room, bent over the
    bed, and proceeded to examine whether there were yet life in his
    daughter or not. Even the moonlight seemed to wait and listen.

    "Bring a candle," said be, presently, breaking the awful silence.

    Cornelia brought it, and the warmer light inspired a sickly flicker of
    hope into the expectant faces. The little ormolu-clock on the
    mantel-piece whirred, and struck half-past one. As the ring of the last
    stroke faded away, Professor Valeyon raised himself, and turned his face
    toward the others. So strongly did his soul inform his harsh and
    deeply-lined features, that it seemed, for a moment, as if there were a
    majestic angel where he stood.

    "Be of good cheer," quoth the old man--for no smaller words than those
    which Christ had spoken seemed adequate to clothe his thought; "she is
    not dead; we shall hear her speak again."

    Bressant threw up his arms, as if about to shout aloud; but only gave
    utterance to a gasping breath, and, stepping backward, leaned heavily
    against the wall, near the door. Cornelia, standing in the centre of the
    room, broke into quivering, lingering sobs, opening and clinching her
    hands, which hung at her side. Bill Reynolds, however, being overcome
    with joy, at once gave intelligible manifestation of it.

    "Good enough!" cried he, slapping his leg, and looking from one to
    another with a giggle of relief. "Bully for her! Bless you, _I_ knew
    Sophie Valeyon warn't dead. Speak again! I believe you. _She'll_ tell us
    what's the matter, I guess."

    Professor Valeyon rapidly and collectedly gave his directions as to what
    steps were to be taken, and in a few minutes every thing was being done
    that skill could do. Snow was brought in to encourage back the life it
    had dismayed, and camphor and coffee awaited their turn to take part in
    the resuscitation. Slow and reluctant it was, like dragging a dead
    weight up from an unknown depth. More than another hour had passed away
    before Sophie's eyelids quivered, and a slight tremor moved her lips.
    By-and-by she opened her eyes, slowly and uncertainly, let them close
    again, and once more opened them; and, after several inaudible efforts,
    there came, like an echo from an immeasurable distance, one word, twice
    repeated:

    "Bressant! Bressant!"

    They looked around for him, but he was not in the room, nor in the
    house. Questioning among themselves, none could tell whether it were an
    hour or a minute since he had departed. When life began to take fresh
    hold on her he had so loved and wronged, his heart had failed him, and,
    without a word, he had gone out and away. But not to escape; for on no
    heart was the weight of sorrow and suffering so heavy as on his.
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