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Title: Bad Hugh
Author: Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BAD HUGH

by

MARY J. HOLMES

Author of "Lena Rivers", "Tempest and Sunshine", "Meadow Brook",
"The English Orphans", etc., etc.

GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

1900



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                                PAGE

      I. Spring Bank                                      5

     II. What Rover Found                                15

    III. Hugh's Soliloquy                                26

     IV. Terrace Hill                                    29

      V. Anna and John                                   37

     VI. Alice Johnson                                   42

    VII. Riverside Cottage                               50

   VIII. Mr. Liston and the Doctor                       57

     IX. Matters in Kentucky                             60

      X. Lina's Purchase and Hugh's                      71

     XI. Sam and Adah                                    77

    XII. What Followed                                   81

   XIII. How Hugh Paid His Debts                         84

    XIV. Mrs. Johnson's Letter                           88

     XV. Saratoga                                        96

    XVI. The Columbian                                  101

   XVII. Hugh                                           108

  XVIII. Meeting of Alice and Hugh                      111

    XIX. Alice and Muggins                              116

     XX. Poor Hugh                                      118

    XXI. Alice and Adah                                 126

   XXII. Waking to Consciousness                        133

  XXIII. Lina's Letter.                                 138

   XXIV. Foreshadowings                                 145

    XXV. Talking with Hugh                              149

   XXVI. The Day of the Sale                            153

  XXVII. The Sale                                       161

 XXVIII. The Ride                                       165

   XXIX. Hugh and Alice                                 169

    XXX. Adah's Journey                                 177

   XXXI. The Convict                                    184

  XXXII. Adah at Terrace Hill                           189

 XXXIII. Anna and Adah                                  196

  XXXIV. Rose Markham                                   204

   XXXV. The Result                                     212

  XXXVI. Excitement                                     223

 XXXVII. Matters at Spring Bank                         227

XXXVIII. The Day of the Wedding                         232

  XXXIX. The Convict's Story                            238

     XL. Poor 'Lina                                     248

    XLI. Tidings                                        255

   XLII. Irving Stanley                                 259

  XLIII. Letters from Hugh and Irving Stanley           268

   XLIV. The Deserter                                   272

    XLV. The Second Battle of Bull Run                  286

   XLVI. How Sam Came There                             291

  XLVII. Finding Hugh                                   300

 XLVIII. Going Home                                     304

   XLIX. Conclusion                                     314



BAD HUGH



CHAPTER I

SPRING BANK


A large, old-fashioned, weird-looking wooden building, with strangely
shaped bay windows and stranger gables projecting here and there from
the slanting roof, where the green moss clung in patches to the moldy
shingles, or formed a groundwork for the nests the swallows built year
after year beneath the decaying eaves. Long, winding piazzas, turning
sharp, sudden angles, and low, square porches, where the summer sunshine
held many a fantastic dance, and where the winter storm piled up its
drifts of snow, whistling merrily as it worked, and shaking the loosened
casement as it went whirling by. Huge trees of oak and maple, whose
topmost limbs had borne and cast the leaf for nearly a century of years,
tall evergreens, among whose boughs the autumn wind ploughed mournfully,
making sad music for those who cared to listen, and adding to the
loneliness which, during many years, had invested the old place. A wide
spreading grassy lawn, with the carriage road winding through it, over
the running brook, and onward 'neath graceful forest trees, until it
reached the main highway, a distance of nearly half a mile. A spacious
garden in the rear, with bordered walks and fanciful mounds, with
climbing roses and creeping vines showing that somewhere there was a
taste, a ruling hand, which, while neglecting the somber building and
suffering it to decay, lavished due care upon the grounds, and not on
these alone, but also on the well-kept barns, and the whitewashed
dwellings in front, where numerous, happy, well-fed negroes lived and
lounged, for ours is a Kentucky scene, and Spring Bank a Kentucky home.

As we have described it so it was on a drear December night, when a
fearful storm, for that latitude, was raging, and the snow lay heaped
against the fences, or sweeping-down from the bending trees, drifted
against the doors, and beat against the windows, whence a cheerful light
was gleaming, telling of life and possible happiness within. There were
no flowing curtains before the windows, no drapery sweeping to the
floor, nothing save blinds without and simple shades within, neither of
which were doing service now, for the master of the house would have it
so in spite of his sister's remonstrances.

Some one might lose their way on that terrible night, he said, and the
blaze of the fire on the hearth, which could be seen from afar, would be
to them a beacon light to guide them on their way. Nobody would look in
upon them, as Adaline, or 'Lina as she chose to be called, and as all
did call her except himself, seemed to think there might, and even if
they did, why need she care? To be sure she was not quite as fixey as
she was on pleasant days when there was a possibility of visitors, and
her cheeks were not quite so red, but she was looking well enough, and
she'd undone all those little tags or braids which disfigured her so
shockingly in the morning, but which, when brushed and carefully
arranged, did give her hair that waving appearance she so much desired.
As for himself, he never meant to do anything of which he was ashamed,
so he did not care how many were watching him through the window, and
stamping his heavy boots upon the rug, for he had just come in from the
storm Hugh Worthington piled fresh fuel upon the fire, and, shaking back
the mass of short brown curls which had fallen upon his forehead, strode
across the room and arranged the shades to his own liking, paying no
heed when his more fastidious sister, with a frown upon her dark,
handsome face, muttered something about the "Stanley taste."

"There, Kelpie, lie there," he continued, returning to the hearth, and,
addressing a small, white, shaggy dog, which, with a human look in its
round, pink eyes, obeyed the voice it knew and loved, and crouched down
in the corner at a safe distance from the young lady, whom it seemed
instinctively to know as an enemy.

"Do, pray, Hugh, let the dirty things stay where they are," 'Lina
exclaimed, as she saw her brother walk toward the dining-room, and
guessed his errand. "Nobody wants a pack of dogs under their feet. I
wonder you don't bring in your pet horse, saddle and all."

"I did want to when I heard how piteously he cried after me as I left
the stable to-night," said Hugh, at the same time opening a door leading
out upon a back piazza, and, uttering a peculiar whistle, which brought
around him at once the pack of dogs which so annoyed his sister.

"I'd be a savage altogether if I were you!" was the sister's angry
remark, to which Hugh paid no heed.

It was his house, his fire, and if he chose to have his dogs there, he
should, for all of Ad, but when the pale, gentle-looking woman, knitting
so quietly in her accustomed chair, looked up and said imploringly:

"Please turn them into the kitchen, they'll surely be comfortable
there," he yielded at once, for that pale, gentle woman, was his mother,
and, to her wishes, Hugh was generally obedient.

The room was cleared of all its canine occupants, save Kelpie, who Hugh
insisted should remain, the mother resumed her knitting, and Adaline her
book, while Hugh sat down before the blazing fire, and, with his hands
crossed above his head, went on into a reverie, the nature of which his
mother, who was watching him, could not guess; and when at last she
asked of what he was thinking so intently, he made her no reply. He
could hardly have told himself, so varied were the thoughts crowding
upon his brain that wintry night. Now they were of the eccentric old
man, who had been to him a father, and from whom he had received Spring
Bank, together with the many peculiar ideas which made him the strange,
odd creature he was, a puzzle and a mystery to his own sex, and a kind
of terror to the female portion of the neighborhood, who looked upon him
as a woman-hater, and avoided or coveted his not altogether disagreeable
society, just as their fancy dictated. For years the old man and the boy
had lived together alone in that great, lonely house, enjoying vastly
the freedom from all restraint, the liberty of turning the parlors into
kennels if they chose, and converting the upper rooms into a hay-loft,
if they would. No white woman was ever seen upon the premises, unless
she came as a beggar, when some new gown, or surplice, or organ, or
chandelier, was needed for the pretty little church, lifting its modest
spire so unobtrusively among the forest trees, not very far from Spring
Bank. John Stanley didn't believe in churches; nor gowns, nor organs,
nor women, but he was proverbially liberal, and so the fair ones of
Glen's Creek neighborhood ventured into his den, finding it much
pleasanter to do so after the handsome, dark-haired boy came to live
with him; for about that frank, outspoken boy there was then something
very attractive to the little girls, while their mothers pitied him,
wondering why he had been permitted to come there, and watching for the
change in him, which was sure to ensue.

Not all at once did Hugh conform to the customs of his uncle's
household, and at first there often came over him a longing for
something different, a yearning for the refinements of his early home
among the Northern hills, and a wish to infuse into Chloe, the colored
housekeeper, some of his mother's neatness. But a few attempts at reform
had taught him how futile was the effort, Aunt Chloe always meeting him
with the argument:

"'Taint no use, Mr. Hugh. A nigger's a nigger; and I spec' ef you're to
talk to me till you was hoarse 'bout your Yankee ways of scrubbin', and
sweepin', and moppin' with a broom, I shouldn't be an atomer
white-folksey than I is now. Besides Mas'r John, wouldn't bar no finery;
he's only happy when the truck is mighty nigh a foot thick, and his
things is lyin' round loose and handy."

To a certain extent this was true, for John Stanley would have felt
sadly out of place in any spot where, as Chloe said, "his things were
not lying round loose and handy," and as habit is everything, so Hugh
soon grew accustomed to his surroundings, and became as careless of his
external appearance as his uncle could desire. Only once had there come
to him an awakening--a faint conception of the happiness there might
arise from constant association with the pure and refined, such as his
uncle had labored to make him believe did not exist. He was thinking of
that incident now, and as he thought the veins upon his broad, white
forehead stood out round and full, while the hands clasped above the
head worked nervously together, and it was not strange that he did not
heed his mother when she spoke, for Hugh was far away from Spring Bank,
and the wild storm beating against its walls was to him like the sound
of the waves dashing against the vessel's side, just as they did years
ago on that night he remembered so well, shuddering as he heard again
the murderous hiss of the devouring flames, covering the fatal boat with
one sheet of fire, and driving into the water as a safer friend the
shrieking, frightened wretches who but an hour before had been so full
of life and hope, dancing gayly above the red-tongued demon stealthily
creeping upward from the hold below, where it had taken life. What a
fearful scene that was, and the veins grew larger on Hugh's brow while
his broad chest heaved with something like a stifled sob as he recalled
the little childish form to which he had clung so madly until the cruel
timber struck from him all consciousness, and he let that form go
down--down 'neath the treacherous waters of Lake Erie never to come up
again alive, for so his uncle told when, weeks after the occurrence, he
awoke from the delirious fever which ensued and listened to the
sickening detail.

"Lost, my boy, lost with many others," was what his uncle had said.

He heard the words as plainly now as when they first were spoken,
remembering how his uncle's voice had faltered, and how the thought had
flashed upon his mind that John Stanley's heart was not as hard toward
womenkind as people had supposed. "Lost"--there was a world of meaning
in that word to Hugh more than any one had ever guessed, and, though it
was but a child he lost, yet in the quiet night, when all else around
Spring Bank was locked in sleep, he often lay thinking of that child and
of what he might perhaps have been had she been spared to him. He was
thinking of her now, and as he thought visions of a sweet, pale face,
shadowed with curls of golden hair, came up before his mind, and he saw
again the look of bewildered surprise and pain which shone in the soft,
blue eyes and illumined every feature when in an unguarded moment he
gave vent to the half infidel principles he had learned from his uncle.
Her creed was different from his, and she explained it to him so
earnestly, so tearfully, that he had said to her at last he did but jest
to hear what she would say, and, though she seemed satisfied, he felt
there was a shadow between them--a shadow which was not swept away, even
after he promised to read the little Bible she gave him and see for
himself whether he or she were right. He had that Bible now hidden away
where no curious eye could find it, and carefully folded between its
leaves was a curl of golden hair. It was faded now, and its luster was
almost gone, but as often as he looked upon it, it brought to mind the
bright head it once adorned, and the fearful hour when he became its
owner. That tress and the Bible which inclosed it had made Hugh
Worthington a better man. He did not often read the Bible, it is true,
and his acquaintances were frequently startled with opinions which had
so pained the little girl on board the _St. Helena_, but this was merely
on the surface, for far below the rough exterior there was a world of
goodness, a mine of gems, kept bright by memories of the angel child
which flitted for so brief a span across his pathway and then was lost
forever. He had tried so hard to save her--had clasped her so fondly to
his bosom when with extended arms she came to him for aid. He could save
her, he said--he could swim to the shore with perfect ease and so
without a moment's hesitation she had leaped with him into the surging
waves, and that was about the last he could remember, save that he
clutched frantically at the long, golden hair streaming above the water,
retaining in his firm grasp the lock which no one at Spring Bank had
ever seen, for this one romance of Hugh's seemingly unromantic life was
a secret with himself. No one save his uncle had witnessed his emotions
when told that she was dead; no one else had seen his bitter tears or
heard the vehement exclamation: "You've tried to teach me there was no
hereafter, no heaven for such as she, but I know better now, and I am
glad there is, for she is safe forever."

These were not mere idle words, and the belief then expressed became
with Hugh Worthington a firm, fixed principle, which his skeptical uncle
tried in vain to eradicate. "There was a heaven, and she was there,"
comprised nearly the whole of Hugh's religious creed, if we except a
vague, misty hope, that he, too, would some day find her, how or by what
means he never seriously inquired; only this he knew, it would be
through her influence, which even now followed him everywhere, producing
its good effects. It had checked him many and many a time when his
fierce temper was in the ascendant, forcing back the harsh words he
would otherwise have spoken, and making him as gentle as a child; and
when the temptations to which young men of his age are exposed were
spread out alluringly before him, a single thought of her was sufficient
to lead him from the forbidden ground.

Only once had he fallen, and that two years before, when, as if some
demon had possessed him, he shook off all remembrances of the past, and
yielding to the baleful fascinations of one who seemed to sway him at
will, plunged into a tide of dissipation, and lent himself at last to an
act which had since embittered every waking hour. As if all the events
of his life were crowding upon his memory this night, he thought of two
years ago, and the scene which transpired in the suburbs of New York,
whither immediately after his uncle's death he had gone upon a matter of
important business. In the gleaming fire before him there was now
another face than hers, an older, a different, though not less beautiful
face, and Hugh shuddered as he thought how it must have changed ere
this--thought of the anguish which stole into the dark, brown eyes when
first the young girl learned how cruelly she had been betrayed. Why
hadn't he saved her? What had she done to him that he should treat her
so, and where was she now? Possibly she was dead. He almost hoped she
was, for if she were, the two were then together, his golden-haired and
brown, for thus he designated the two.

Larger and fuller grew the veins upon his forehead, as memory kept thus
faithfully at work, and so absorbed was Hugh in his reverie that until
twice repeated he did not hear his mother's anxious inquiry:

"What is that noise? It sounds like some one in distress."

Hugh started at last, and, after listening for a moment he, too, caught
the sound which had so alarmed his mother, and made 'Lina stop her
reading. A moaning cry, as if for help, mingled with an infant's wail,
now here, now there it seemed to be, just as the fierce north wind
shifted its course and drove first at the uncurtained window of the
sitting-room, and then at the ponderous doors of the gloomy hall.

"It is some one in the storm, though I can't imagine why any one should
be abroad to-night," Hugh said, going to the window and peering out into
the darkness.

"Lyd's child, most likely. Negro young ones are always squalling, and I
heard her tell Aunt Chloe at supper time that Tommie had the colic,"
'Lina remarked opening again the book she was reading, and with a slight
shiver drawing nearer to the fire.

"Where are you going, my son?" asked Mrs. Worthington, as Hugh arose to
leave the room.

"Going to Lyd's cabin, for if Tommie is sick enough to make his screams
heard above the storm, she may need some help," was Hugh's reply, and a
moment after he was ploughing his way through the drifts which lay
between the house and the negro quarters.

"How kind and thoughtful he is," the mother said, softly, more to
herself than to her daughter, who nevertheless quickly rejoined:

"Yes, kind to niggers, and horses, and dogs, I'll admit, but let me, or
any other white woman come before him as an object of pity, and the
tables are turned at once. I wonder what does make him hate women so."

"I don't believe he does," Mrs. Worthington replied. "His uncle, you
know, was very unfortunate in his marriage, and had a way of judging
all our sex by his wife. Living with him as long as Hugh did, it's
natural he should imbibe a few of his ideas."

"A few," 'Lina repeated, "better say all, for John Stanley and Hugh
Worthington are as near alike as an old and young man well could be.
What an old codger he was though, and how like a savage he lived here. I
never shall forget how the house looked the day we came, or how
satisfied Hugh seemed when he met us at the gate, and said, 'everything
was in spendid order,'" and closing her book, the young lady laughed
merrily as she recalled the time when she first crossed her brother's
threshold, stepping, as she affirmed, over half a dozen dogs, and as
many squirming kittens, catching her foot in some fishing tackle,
finding tobacco in the china closet, and segars in the knife box, where
they had been put to get them out of the way.

"But Hugh really did his best for us," mildly interposed the mother.
"Don't you remember what the servants said about his cleaning one floor
himself because he knew they were tired!"

"Did it more to save the lazy negroes' steps than from any regard for
our comfort," retorted 'Lina. "At all events he's been mighty careful
since how he gratified my wishes. Sometimes I believe he perfectly hates
me, and wishes I'd never been born," and tears, which arose from anger,
rather than any wounded sisterly feeling, glittered in 'Lina's black
eyes.

"Hugh does not hate any one," said Mrs. Worthington, "much less his
sister, though you must admit that you try him terribly."

"How, I'd like to know?" 'Lina asked, and her mother replied:

"He thinks you proud, and vain, and artificial, and you know he abhors
deceit above all else. Why, he'd cut off his right hand sooner than tell
a lie."

"Pshaw!" was 'Lina's contemptuous response, then after a moment she
continued: "I wonder how we came to be so different. He must be like his
father, and I like mine--that is, supposing I know who he is. Wouldn't
it be funny if, just to be hateful, he had sent you back the wrong
child?"

"What made you think of that?" Mrs. Worthington asked, quickly, and
'Lina replied:

"Oh, nothing, only the last time Hugh had one of his tantrums, and got
so outrageously angry at me, because I made Mr. Bostwick think my hair
was naturally curly, he said he'd give all he owned if it were so, but
I reckon he'll never have his wish. There's too much of old Sam about me
to admit of a doubt," and half spitefully, half playfully she touched
the spot in the center of her forehead known as her birthmark.

When not excited it could scarcely be discerned at all, but the moment
she was aroused, the delicate network of veins stood out round and full,
forming what seemed to be a tiny hand without the thumb. It showed a
little now in the firelight, and Mrs. Worthington shuddered as she
glanced at what brought so vividly before her the remembrance of other
and wretched days. Adaline observed the shudder and hastened to change
the conversation from herself to Hugh, saying by way of making some
amends for her unkind remarks: "It really is kind in him to give me a
home when I have no particular claim upon him, and I ought to respect
him for that. I am glad, too, that Mr. Stanley made it a condition in
his will that if Hugh ever married, he should forfeit the Spring Bank
property, as that provides against the possibility of an upstart wife
coming here some day and turning us, or at least me, into the street.
Say, mother, are you not glad that Hugh can never marry even if he
wishes to do so, which is not very probable."

"I am not so sure of that," returned Mrs. Worthington, smoothing, with
her small, fat hands the bright worsted cloud she was knitting, a
feminine employment for which she had a weakness. "I am not so sure of
that. Suppose Hugh should fancy a person whose fortune was much larger
than the one left him by Uncle John, do you think he would let it pass
just for the sake of holding Spring Bank?"

"Perhaps not," 'Lina replied; "but there's no possible danger of any
one's fancying Hugh."

"And why not?" quickly interrupted the mother. "He has the kindest heart
in the world, and is certainly fine-looking if he would only dress
decently."

"I'm much obliged for your compliment, mother," Hugh said, laughingly,
as he stepped suddenly into the room and laid his hand caressingly on
his mother's head, thus showing that even he was not insensible to
flattery. "Have you heard that sound again?" he continued. "It wasn't
Tommie, for I found him asleep, and I've been all around the house, but
could discover nothing. The storm is beginning to abate, I think, and
the moon is trying to break through the clouds," and, going again to the
window, Hugh looked out into the yard, where the shrubbery and trees
were just discernible in the grayish light of the December moon. "That's
a big drift by the lower gate," he continued; "and queer shaped, too.
Come see, mother. Isn't that a shawl, or an apron, or something blowing
in the wind?"

Mrs. Worthington arose, and, joining her son, looked in the direction
indicated, where a garment of some kind was certainly fluttering in the
gale.

"It's something from the wash, I guess," she said. "I thought all the
time Hannah had better not hang out the clothes, as some of them were
sure to be lost."

This explanation was quite satisfactory to Mrs. Worthington, but that
strange drift by the gate troubled Hugh, and the signal above it seemed
to him like a signal of distress. Why should the snow drift there more
than elsewhere? He never knew it do so before. He had half a mind to
turn out the dogs, and see what that would do.

"Rover," he called, suddenly, as he advanced to the rear room, where,
among his older pets, was a huge Newfoundland, of great sagacity.
"Rover, Rover, I want you."

In an instant the whole pack were upon him, jumping and fawning, and
licking the hands which had never dealt them aught save kindness. It was
only Rover, however, who was this time wanted, and leading him to the
door, Hugh pointed toward the gate, and bade him see what was there.
Snuffing slightly at the storm, which was not over yet, Rover started
down the walk, while Hugh stood waiting in the door. At first Rover's
steps were slow and uncertain, but as he advanced they increased in
rapidity, until, with a sudden bound and cry, such as dogs are wont to
give when they have caught their destined prey, he sprang upon the
mysterious ridge, and commenced digging it down with his paws.

"Easy, Rover--be careful," Hugh called from the door, and instantly the
half-savage growl which the wind had brought to his ear was changed into
a piteous cry, as if the faithful creature were answering back that
other help than his was needed there.

Rover had found something in that pile of snow.



CHAPTER II

WHAT ROVER FOUND


Unmindful of the sleet beating upon his uncovered head Hugh hastened to
the spot, where the noble brute was licking a face, a baby face, which
he had ferreted out from beneath the shawl trapped so carefully around
it to shield it from the cold, for instead of one there were two in that
rift of snow--a mother and her child! That stiffened form lying there so
still, hugging that sleeping child so closely to its bosom, was no
delusion, and his mother's voice calling to know what he was doing
brought Hugh back at Last to a consciousness that he must act, and that
immediately.

"Mother," he screamed, "send a servant here, quick! or let Ad come
herself. There's a woman dead, I fear. I can carry her, but the child,
Ad must come for her."

"The what?" gasped Mrs. Worthington, who, terrified beyond measure at
the mention of a-dead woman, was doubly so at hearing of a child. "A
child," she repeated, "whose child?"

Hugh, made no reply save an order that the lounge should be brought near
the fire and a pillow from his mother's bed. "From mine, then," he
added, as he saw the anxious look in his mother's face, and guessed that
she shrank from having her own snowy pillow come in contact with the
wet, limp figure he was depositing upon the lounge. It was a slight,
girlish form, and the long brown hair, loosened from its confinement,
fell in rich profusion over the pillow which 'Lina brought half
reluctantly, eying askance the insensible object before her, and
daintily holding back her dress lest it should come in contact with the
child her mother had deposited upon the floor, where it lay crying
lustily.

The idea of a strange woman being thrust upon them in this way was
highly displeasing to Miss 'Lina, who haughtily drew back from the
little one when it stretched its arms out toward her, while its pretty
lip quivered and the tears dropped over its rounded cheek.

Meantime Hugh, with all a woman's tenderness, had done for the now
reviving stranger what he could, and as his mother began to collect her
scattered senses and evince some interest in the matter, he withdrew to
call the negroes, judging it prudent to remain away a while, as his
presence might be an intrusion. From the first he had felt sure that the
individual thrown upon his charity was not a low, vulgar person, as his
sister seemed to think. He had not yet seen her face distinctly, for it
lay in the shadow, but the long, flowing hair, the delicate hands, the
pure white neck, of which he had caught a glimpse as his mother
unfastened the stiffened dress, all these had made an impression, and
involuntarily repeating to himself, "Poor girl, poor girl," he strode a
second time across the drifts which lay in his back yard, and was soon
pounding at old Chloe's cabin door, bidding her and Hannah dress at once
and come immediately to the house.

An indignant growl at being thus aroused from her first sleep was
Chloe's only response, but Hugh knew that his orders were being obeyed.

The change of atmosphere and restoratives applied had done their work,
and Mrs. Worthington saw that the long eyelashes began to tremble, while
a faint color stole into the hitherto colorless cheeks, and at last the
large, brown eyes unclosed and looked into hers with an expression so
mournful, so beseeching, that a thrill of yearning tenderness for the
desolate young creature shot through her heart, and bending down she
said, "Are you better now?"

"Yes, thank you. Where is Willie?" was the low response, the tone
thrilling Mrs. Worthington again with emotion.

Even 'Lina started, it was so musical, and coming near she answered: "If
it's the baby you mean, he is here, playing with Rover."

There was a look of gratitude in the brown eyes, which closed again
wearily. With her eyes thus closed, 'Lina had a fair opportunity to scan
the beautiful face, with its delicately-chiseled features, and the
wealth of lustrous brown hair, sweeping back from the open forehead, on
which there was perceptible a faint line, which 'Lina stooped down to
examine.

"Mother, mother," she whispered, drawing back, "look, is not that a mark
just like mine?"

Thus appealed to, Mrs. Worthington, too, bent down, but, upon a closer
scrutiny, the mark seemed only a small, blue vein.

"She's pretty," she said. "I wonder why I feel so drawn toward her?"

'Lina was about to reply, when again the brown eyes looked up, and the
stranger asked hesitatingly:

"Where am I? And is he here! Is this his house?"

"Whose house?" Mrs. Worthington asked.

The girl did not answer at once, and when she did her mind seemed
wandering.

"I waited so long," she said, "but he never came again, only the letter
which broke my heart. Willie was a baby then, and I almost hated him for
a while, but he wasn't to blame. I wasn't to blame. I'm glad God gave me
Willie now, even if he did take his father from me."

Mrs. Worthington and her daughter exchanged glances, and the latter
abruptly asked:

"Where is Willie's father?"

"I don't know," came in a wailing sob from the depths of the pillow.

"Where did you come from?" was the next question. The young girl looked
up in some alarm, and answered meekly:

"From New York. I thought I'd never get here, but everybody was so kind
to me and Willie, and the driver said if 'twan't so late, and he so many
passengers, he'd drive across the fields. He pointed out the way and I
came on alone."

The color had faded from Mrs. Worthington's face, and very timidly she
asked again:

"Whom are you looking for? Whom did you hope to find?"

"Mr. Worthington. Does he live here?" was the frank reply; whereupon
'Lina drew herself up haughtily, exclaiming:

"I knew it. I've thought so ever since Hugh came home from New York."

'Lina was about to commence a tirade of abuse, when the mother
interposed, and with an air of greater authority than she generally
assumed toward her imperious daughter, bade her keep silence while she
questioned the stranger, gazing wonderingly from one to the other, as if
uncertain what they meant.

Mrs. Worthington had no such feelings for the girl as 'Lina entertained.

"It will be easier to talk with you," she said, leaning forward, "if I
know what to call you."

"Adah," was the response, and the brown eyes, swimming with tears,
sought the face of the questioner with a wistful eagerness, as if it
read there the unmistakable signs of a friend.

"Adah, you say. Well, then, Adah, why have you come to my son on such a
night as this, and what is he to you?"

"Are you his mother?" and Adah started up. "I did not know he had one.
Oh, I'm so glad. And you'll be kind to me, who never had a mother?"

A person who never had a mother was an anomaly to Mrs. Worthington,
whose powers of comprehension were not the clearest imaginable.

"Never had a mother!" she repeated. "How can that be?"

A smile flitted for a moment across Adah's face, and then she answered:

"I never knew a mother's care, I mean."

"But your father? What do you know of him?" said Mrs. Worthington, and
instantly a shadow stole into the sweet young face, as Adah replied:

"Only this, I was left at a boarding school."

"And Hugh? Where did you meet him? And what is he to you?"

"The only friend I've got. May I see him, please?"

"First tell what he is to you and to this child," 'Lina rejoined. Adah
answered calmly:

"Your brother might not like to be implicated. I must see him first--see
him alone."

"One thing more," and 'Lina held back her mother, who was starting in
quest of Hugh, "are you a wife?"

"Don't, 'Lina," Mrs. Worthington whispered, as she saw the look of agony
pass over Adah's face. "Don't worry her so; deal kindly by the fallen."

"I am not fallen!" came passionately from the quivering lips. "I am as
true a woman as either of you--look!" and she pointed to the golden band
encircling the third finger.

'Lina was satisfied, and needed no further explanations. To her, it was
plain as daylight. In an unguarded moment, Hugh had set his uncle's will
at naught, and married some poor girl, whose pretty face had pleased his
fancy. How glad 'Lina was to have this hold upon her brother, and how
eagerly she went in quest of him, keeping back old Chloe and Hannah
until she had witnessed his humiliation.

Somewhat impatient of the long delay, Hugh sat in the dingy kitchen,
when 'Lina appeared, and with an air of injured dignity, bade him follow
her.

"What's up now that Ad looks so solemn like?" was Hugh's mental comment
as he took his way to the room where, in a half-reclining position sat
Adah, her large, bright eyes fixed eagerly upon the door through which
he entered, and a bright flush upon her cheek called up by the
suspicions to which she had been subjected.

Perhaps they might be true. Nobody knew but Hugh, and she waited for him
so anxiously, starting when she heard a manly step and knew that he was
coming. For an instant she scanned his face curiously to assure herself
that it was he, then with an imploring cry as if for him to save her
from some dreaded evil, she stretched her little hands toward him and
sobbed: "Mr. Worthington, was it true? Was it as his letter said?" and
shedding back from her white face the wealth of flowing hair, Adah
waited for the answer, which did not come at once. In utter amazement
Hugh gazed upon the stranger, and then exclaimed:

"Adah, Adah Hastings, why are you here?"

In the tone of his voice surprise and pity were mingled with
disapprobation, the latter of which Adah detected at once, and as if it
had crushed out the last lingering hope, she covered her face with her
hands and sobbed piteously.

"Don't you turn against me, or I'll surely die, and I've come so far to
find you."

By this time Hugh was himself again. His rapid, quick-seeing mind had
come to a decision, and turning to his mother and sister, he said:

"Leave us alone for a time."

Rather reluctantly Mrs. Worthington and her daughter left the room.
Deliberately turning the key in the lock, Hugh advanced to her side,
groaning as his eye fell upon the child, which had fallen asleep again.

"I hoped this might have been spared her," he thought, as, kneeling by
the couch, he said, kindly: "Adah, I am more pained to see you here than
I can express. Why did you come, and where is--"

The name was lost to 'Lina, and muttering to herself: "It does not sound
much like a man and wife," she rather unwillingly quitted her position,
and Hugh was really alone with Adah.

Never was Hugh in so awkward a position before, or so uncertain how to
act. The sight of that sobbing, trembling wretched creature, whose heart
he had helped to crush, had perfectly unmanned him, making him almost as
much a woman as herself.

"Oh, what made you? Why didn't you save me?" she said, looking up to him
with an expression of reproach.

He had no excuse. He knew how innocent she was, and he held her in his
arms as he would once have held the Golden Haired, had she come to him
with a tale of woe.

"Let me see that letter again," he said.

She gave it to him; and he read once more the cruel lines, in which
there was still much of love for the poor thing, to whom they were
addressed.

"You will surely find friends who will care for you, until the time when
I may come to really make you mine."

Hugh repeated these words twice, aloud, his heart throbbing with the
noble resolve, that the confidence she had placed in him by coming
there, should not be abused, for he would be true to the trust, and care
for the poor, little, half-crazed Adah, moaning so piteously beside him,
and as he read the last line, saying eagerly:

"He speaks of coming back. Do you think he ever will? or could I find
him if I should try? I thought of starting once, but it was so far; and
there was Willie. Oh, if he could see Willie! Mr. Worthington, do you
believe he loves me one bit?"

Hugh said at last, that the letter contained many assurances of
affection.

"It seems family pride has something to do with it. I wonder where his
people live, or who they are? Did he never tell you?"

"No," and Adah shook her head mournfully.

"Would you go to them?" Hugh asked quickly; and Adah answered:

"Sometimes I've thought I would. I'd brave his proud mother--I'd lay
Willie in her lap. I'd tell her whose he was, and then I'd go away and
die." Then, after a pause, she continued: "Once, Mr. Worthington, I went
down to the river, and said I'd end my wretched life, but God held me
back. He cooled my scorching head--He eased the pain, and on the very
spot where I meant to jump, I kneeled down and said: 'Our Father.' No
other words would come, only these: 'Lead us not into temptation.'
Wasn't it kind in God to save me?"

There was a radiant expression in the sweet face as Adah said this, but
it quickly passed away and was succeeded by one of deep concern when
Hugh abruptly said:

"Do you believe in God?"

"Oh, Mr. Worthington. Don't you? You do, you must, you will," and Adah
shrank away from him as from a monster.

The action reminded him of the Golden Haired, when on the deck of the
_St. Helena_ he had asked her a similar question, and anxious further to
probe the opinion of the girl beside him, he continued:

"If, as you think, there is a God who knew and saw when you were about
to drown yourself, why didn't He prevent the cruel wrong to you? Why did
He suffer it?"

"What He does we know not now, but we shall know hereafter," Adah said,
reverently, adding: "If George had feared God, he would not have left me
so; but he didn't, and perhaps he says there is no God--but you don't,
Mr. Worthington. Your face don't look like it. Tell me you believe," and
in her eagerness Adah grasped his arm beseechingly.

"Yes, Adah, I believe," Hugh answered, half jestingly, "but it's such as
you that make me believe, and as persons of your creed think everything
is ordered for good, so possibly you were permitted to suffer that you
might come here and benefit me. I think I must keep you, Adah, at least,
until he is found."

"No, no," and the tears flowed at once, "I cannot be a burden to you. I
have no claim."

After a moment she grew calm again, and continued:

"You whispered, you know, that if I was ever in trouble, come to you,
and that's why I remembered you so well, maybe. I wrote down your name,
and where you lived, though why I did not know, and I forgot where I put
it, but as if God really were helping me I found it in my old portfolio,
and something bade me come, for you would know if it was true, and your
words had a meaning of which I did not dream when I was so happy. George
left me money, and sent more, but it's most gone now. I can take care of
myself."

"What can you do?" Hugh asked, and Adah replied:

"I don't know, but God will find me something. I never worked much, but
I can learn, and I can already sew neatly, too; besides that, a few days
before I decided to come here, I advertised in the _Herald_ for some
place as governess or ladies' waiting maid. Perhaps I'll hear from
that."

"It's hardly possible. Such advertisements are thick as blackberries,"
Hugh said, and then in a few brief words, he marked out Adah's future
course.

George Hastings might or might not return to claim her, and whether he
did or didn't, she must live meantime, and where so well as at Spring
Bank, or who, next to Mr. Hastings, was more strongly bound to care for
her than himself?"

"To be sure, he did not like women much," he said; "their artificial
fooleries disgusted him. There wasn't one woman in ten thousand that was
what she seemed to be. But even men are not all alike," he continued,
with something like a sneer, for when Hugh got upon his favorite hobby,
"women and their weaknesses," he generally grew bitter and sarcastic.
"Now, there's the one of whom you are continually thinking. I dare say
you have contrasted him with me and thought how much more elegant he was
in his appearance. Isn't it so?" and Hugh glanced at Adah, who, in a
grieved tone, replied:

"No, Mr. Worthington, I have not compared you with him--I have only
thought how good you were."

Hugh knew Adah was sincere, and said:

"I told you I did not like women much, and I don't but I'm going to take
care of you until that scoundrel turns up; then, if you say so, I'll
surrender you to his care, or better yet, I'll shoot him and keep you to
myself. Not as a sweetheart, or anything of that kind," he hastened to
add, as he saw the flush on Adah's cheek. "Hugh Worthington has nothing
to do with that species of the animal kingdom, but as my Sister Adah!"
and as Hugh repeated that name, there arose in his great heart an
indefinable wish that the gentle girl beside him had been his sister
instead of the high-tempered Adaline, who never tried to conciliate or
understand him, and whom, try as he might, Hugh could not love as
brothers should love sisters.

He knew how impatiently she was waiting now to know the result of that
interview, and just how much opposition he should meet when he announced
his intention of keeping Adah. Hugh was master of Spring Bank, but
though its rightful owner, Hugh was far from being rich, and many were
the shifts and self-denials he was obliged to make to meet the increased
expense entailed upon him by his mother and sister. John Stanley had
been accounted very wealthy, and Hugh, who had often seen him counting
out his gold, was not a little surprised when, after his death, no ready
money could be found, or any account of the same--nothing but the Spring
Bank property, consisting of sundry acres of nearly worn-out land, the
old, dilapidated house, and a dozen or more negroes. This to a certain
extent was the secret of his patched boots, his threadbare coat and
coarse pants, with which 'Lina so often taunted him, saying he wore
them just to be stingy and mortify her, she knew he did, when in fact
necessity rather than choice was the cause of his shabby appearance. He
had never told her so, however, never said that the unfashionable coat
so offensive to her fastidious vision was worn that she might be the
better clothed and fed. But Hugh was capable of great self-sacrifices.
He could manage somehow, and Adah should stay. He would say that she was
a friend whom he had known in New York, that her husband had deserted
her, and in her distress she had come to him for aid.

All this he explained to Adah, who assented tacitly, thinking within
herself that she should not long remain at Spring Bank, a dependent upon
one on whom she had no claim. She was too weak now, however, to oppose
him, and merely nodding to his suggestions laid her head upon the arm of
the lounge with a low cry that she was sick and warm. Stepping to the
door Hugh turned the key, and summoning the group waiting anxiously in
the adjoining room, bade them come at once, as Mrs. Hastings appeared to
be fainting. Great emphasis he laid upon the Mrs. and catching it up at
once 'Lina repeated, "Mrs. Hastings! So am I just as much."

"Ad," and the eyes which shone so softly on poor Adah flashed with
gleams of fire as Hugh said to his sister, "not another word against
that girl if you wish to remain here longer. She has been unfortunate."

"I guessed as much," sneeringly interrupted 'Lina.

"Silence!" and Hugh's foot came down as it sometimes did when chiding a
refractory negro. "She is as true, yes, truer, than you. He who should
have protected her has basely deserted her. There is a reason which I do
not care to explain, why I should care for her and I shall do it. See
that a fire is kindled in the west chamber, and go up yourself when it
is made and see that all is comfortable. Do you understand?" and he
gazed sternly at 'Lina, who was too much astonished to answer, even if
she had been so disposed.

Quick as thought, 'Lina darted up a back stairway, and when, half an
hour later, Hugh, hearing mysterious sounds above, and suspecting
something wrong, went up to reconnoiter, he found Hannah industriously
pulling the tacks from the carpet, preparatory to taking it up. In
thunder tones, he demanded what she was doing, and with a start, which
made her drop tacks, hammer, saucer and all, Hannah replied:

"Lor', Mas'r Hugh, how you skeered me! Miss 'Lina done order me to take
up de carpet, 'case it's ole miss's, and she won't have no low-lived
truck tramplin' over it. That's what Miss 'Lina say," and Hannah tossed
her head quite conceitedly.

"Miss 'Lina be hanged," was Hugh's savage response; "and you, woman, do
you hear?--drive those nails back faster than you took them out."

"Yes, mas'r," and Hannah hastened down. Whispering to her mistress,
Hannah told what Hugh had said, and instantly there came over Mrs.
Worthington's face a look of concern, as if she, too, objected to having
the stranger occupy a room wherein an ex-governor had slept, but Hugh's
wish was law to her, and she answered that all was ready. A moment
after, Hugh appeared, and taking Adah in his arms, carried her to the
upper chamber, where the fire was burning brightly, casting cheerful
shadows upon the wall, and making Adah smile gratefully, as she looked
up in his face, and murmured:

"God bless you, Mr. Worthington! Adah will pray for you to-night, when
she is alone. It's all that she can do."

They laid her upon the bed, Hugh himself arranging her pillows, which no
one else appeared inclined to touch.

Family opinion was against her, innocent and beautiful as she looked
lying there--so helpless, so still, with her long-fringed lashes shading
her colorless cheek, and her little hands folded upon her bosom, as if
already she were breathing the promised prayer for Hugh. Only in Mrs.
Worthington's heart was there a chord of sympathy. She couldn't help
feeling for the desolate stranger; and when, at her own request, Hannah
placed Willie in her lap, ere laying him by his mother, she gave him an
involuntary hug, and touched her lips to his fat, round cheek.

"He looks as you did, Hugh, when you were a baby like him," she said,
while Chloe rejoined:

"De very spawn of Mas'r Hugh, now. I 'tected it de fust minit. Can't
cheat dis chile," and, with a chuckle, which she meant to be very
expressive, the fat old woman waddled from the room.

Hugh and his mother were alone, and turning to her son, Mrs. Worthington
said, gently:

"This is sad business, Hugh; worse than you imagine. Do you know how
folks will talk?"

"Let them talk," Hugh growled. "It cannot be much worse than it is now.
Nobody cares for Hugh Worthington; and why should they, when his own
mother and sister are against him, in actions if not in words?--one
sighing when his name is mentioned, as if he really were the most
provoking son that ever was born, and the other openly berating him as a
monster, a clown, a savage, a scarecrow, and all that. I tell you,
mother, there is but little to encourage me in the kind of life I'm
leading. Neither you nor Ad have tried to make anything of me."

Choking with tears, Mrs. Worthington said:

"You wrong me, Hugh; I do try to make something of you. You are a dear
child to me, dearer than the other, but I'm a weak woman, and 'Lina
sways me at will."

A kind word unmanned Hugh at once, and kneeling by his mother, he put
his arms around her, and asked again her care for Adah.

"Hugh," and Mrs. Worthington looked him steadily in the face, "is Adah
your wife, or Willie your child?"

"Great guns, mother!" and Hugh started to his feet as quick as if a bomb
had exploded at his side. "No! Are you sorry, mother, to find me better
than you imagined it possible for a bad boy like me to be?"

"No, Hugh, not sorry. I was only thinking that I've sometimes fancied
that, as a married man, you might be happier, even if you did lose
Spring Bank; and when this woman came so strangely, and you seemed so
interested, I didn't know, I rather thought--"

"I know," and Hugh interrupted her. "You thought, maybe, I raised Ned
when I was in New York; and, as a proof of said resurrection, Mrs. Ned
and Ned, Junior, had come with their baggage."

If the hair was golden instead of brown, and the eyes a different shade,
he shouldn't "make so tremendous a fuss," he thought; and, with a sigh
to the memory of the lost Golden Hair, he turned abruptly to his mother,
and as if she had all the while been cognizant of his thoughts, said:

"But that's nothing to do with the case in question. Will you be kind to
Adah Hastings, for my sake? And when Ad rides her highest horse, as she
is sure to do, will you smooth her down? Tell her Adah has as good a
right here as she, if I choose to keep her."

"I never meddle with your affairs," and there was a tone of whining
complaint in Mrs. Worthington's voice; "I never pry and you never tell,
so I don't know how much you are worth, but I can judge somewhat, and I
don't think you are able."

Mrs. Worthington was much more easily won over to Hugh's opinion than
'Lina. They'd be a county talk, she said; nobody would come near them;
hadn't Hugh enough on his hands already without taking more?

"If my considerate sister really thinks so, hadn't she better try and
help herself a little?" retorted Hugh in a blaze of anger.

'Lina began to cry, and Hugh, repenting of his harsh speech as soon as
it was uttered, but far too proud to take it back, strode up and down
the room, chafing like a young lion.

"Come children, it's after midnight, let us adjourn until to-morrow,"
Mrs. Worthington said, by way of ending the painful interview, at the
same time handing a candle to Hugh, who took it silently and withdrew,
banging the door behind him with a force which made 'Lina start and
burst into a fresh flood of tears.

"I'm a brute, a savage, and want to kick myself," was Hugh's not very
self-complimentary soliloquy, as he went up the stairs. "What did I want
to twit Ad for? Confound my badness!" and having by this time reached
his own door, Hugh sat down to think.



CHAPTER III

HUGH'S SOLILOQUY


"One, two three--yes, as good as four women and a child," he began, "to
say nothing of the negroes, and that is not the worst of it; the hardest
of all is the having people call me stingy, and the knowing that this
opinion of me is encouraged and kept alive by the remarks and
insinuations of my own sister," and in the red gleam of the firelight
the bearded chin quivered for a moment as Hugh thought how unjust 'Lina
was to him, and how hard was the lot imposed upon him.

Then shifting the position of his feet, which had hitherto rested upon
the hearth, to a more comfortable and suggestive one upon the mantel,
Hugh tried to find a spot in which he could economize.

"I needn't have a fire in my room nights," he said, as a coal fell into
the pan and thus reminded him of its existence, "and I won't, either.
It's nonsense for a great hot-blooded clown, like me to be babied with a
fire. I've no tags to braid, no false switches to comb out and hide, no
paint to wash off, only a few buttons to undo, a shake or so, and I'm
all right. So there's one thing, the fire--quite an item, too, at the
rate coal is selling. Then there's coffee. I can do without that, I
suppose, though it will be perfect torment to smell it, and Hannah makes
such splendid coffee, too; but will is everything. Fire, coffee--I'm
getting on famously. What else?"

"Tobacco," something whispered, but Hugh answered promptly: "No, sir, I
shan't! I'll sell my shirts, the new ones Aunt Eunice made, before I'll
give up my best friend. It's all the comfort I have when I get a fit of
the blues. Oh, you needn't try to come it!" and Hugh shook his head
defiantly at his unseen interlocutor, urging that 'twas a filthy
practice at best, and productive of no good.

Horses was suggested again. "You have other horses than Bet," and Hugh
was conscious of a pang which wrung from him a groan, for his horses
were his idols. The best-trained in the country, they occupied a large
share of his affections, making up to him for the friendship he rarely
sought in others, and parting with them would be like severing a right
hand. It was too terrible to think about, and Hugh dismissed it as an
alternative which might have to be considered another time. Then hope
made her voice heard above the little blue imps tormenting him so sadly.

He should get along somehow. Something would turn up. Ad might marry and
go away. What made her so different from his mother? He had loved her,
and he thought of her now as she used to look when in her dainty white
frocks, with the strings of coral he had bought with nuts picked on the
New England hills.

He used to kiss those chubby arms--kiss the rosy cheeks, and the soft
brown hair. But that hair had changed sadly since the days when its
owner had first lisped his name, and called him "Ugh," for the bands and
braids coiled around 'Lina's haughty head were black as midnight. Not
less changed than 'Lina's tresses was 'Lina herself, and Hugh, strong
man that he was, had often felt like crying for the little baby sister,
so lost and dead to him in her young womanhood. What had changed Ad so?

There was many a tender spot in Hugh Worthington's heart, and shadow
after shadow flitted across his face as he thought how cheerless was his
life, and how little there was in his surroundings to make him happy.
There was nothing he would not do for people if approached in the right
way, but nobody cared for him, unless it were his mother and Aunt
Eunice. They seemed to like him, and he reckoned they did, but for the
rest, who was there that ever thought of doing him a kindness? Poor
Hugh! It was a dreary picture he drew as he sat alone that night,
brooding over his troubles, and listening to the moan of the wintry
wind--the only sound he heard, except the rattling of the shutters and
the creaking of the timbers, as the old house rocked in the December
gale.

Suddenly there crept into his mind Adah's words, "I shall pray for you
to-night." He never prayed, and the Bible given by Golden Hair had not
been opened this many a day. Since his dark sin toward Adah he had felt
unworthy to touch it, but now that he was doing what he could to atone,
he surely might look at it, and unlocking the trunk where it was hidden,
he took it from its concealment and opened it reverently, half wondering
what he should read first, and if it would have any reference to his
present position.

"Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these ye did it unto Me."

That was what Hugh read in the dim twilight, that the passage on which
the lock of hair lay, and the Bible dropped from his hands as he
whispered:

"Golden Hair, are you here? Did you point that out to me? Does it mean
Adah? Is the God you loved on earth pleased that I should care for her?"

To these queries, there came no answer, save the mournful wailing of the
night wind roaring down the chimney and past the sleet-covered window,
but Hugh was a happier man for reading that, and had there before
existed a doubt as to his duty toward Adah, this would have swept it
away.



CHAPTER IV

TERRACE HILL


The storm which visited Kentucky so wrathfully, and was far milder among
the New England hills, and in the vicinity of Snowdon, whither our story
now tends, was scarcely noticed, save as an ordinary winter's storm. As
yet it had been comparatively warmer in New England than in Kentucky;
and Miss Anna Richards, confirmed invalid though she was, had decided
that inasmuch as Terrace Hill mansion now boasted a furnace in the
cellar, it would hardly be necessary to take her usual trip to the
South, so comfortable was she at home, in her accustomed chair, with her
pretty crimson shawl wrapped gracefully around her. Besides that, they
were expecting her Brother John from Paris, where he had been for the
last eighteen months, pursuing his medical profession, and she must be
there to welcome him.

Anna was proud of her young, handsome brother, as were the entire
family, for on him and his success in life all their future hopes were
pending. Aside from being proud, Anna was also very fond of John,
because as all were expected to yield to her wishes, she had never been
crossed by him, and because he was nearer to her own age, and had
evidently preferred her to either of his more stately sisters, Miss
Asenath and Miss Eudora, whose birthdays were very far distant from his.

John had never been very happy at home--never liked Snowdon much, and
hence the efforts they were putting forth to make it attractive to him
after his long absence. He could not help but like home now, the ladies
said to each other, as, a few days before his arrival, they rode from
the village, where they had been shopping, up the winding terraced hill,
admiring the huge stone building embosomed in evergreens, and standing
out so distinctly against the wintry sky. And indeed Terrace Hill
mansion was a very handsome place, exciting the envy and admiration of
the villagers, who, while commenting upon its beauty and its well-kept
grounds, could yet remember a time when it had looked better even than
it did now--when the house was oftener full of city company, of
sportsmen who came up to hunt, and fish, and drink, as it was sometimes
hinted by the servants, of whom there was then a greater number than at
present--when high-born ladies rode up and down in carriages, or dashed
on horseback through the park and off into the leafy woods--when sounds
of festivity were heard in the halls from year's end to year's end, and
the lights in the parlors were rarely extinguished, or the fires on the
hearth put out. All this was during the lifetime of its former owner.
With his death there had come a change to the inhabitants of Terrace
Hill. In short it was whispered rather loudly now that the ladies of
Terrace Hill were restricted in their means, that it was harder to
collect a bill from them than it used to be, that there was less display
of dress and style, fewer fires, and lights, and servants, and
withdrawal from society, and an apparent desire to be left to
themselves.

This was what the village people whispered, and none knew the truth of
the whisperings better than the ladies in question. They knew they were
growing poorer with each succeeding year, but it was not the less
mortifying to be familiarly accosted by Mrs. Deacon Briggs, or invited
to a sociable by Mrs. Roe.

How Miss Asenath and Miss Eudora writhed under the infliction, and how
hard they tried to appear composed and ladylike just as they would deem
it incumbent upon them to appear, had they been on their way to the
gallows. How glad, too, they were when their aristocratic doors closed
upon the little, talkative Mrs. Roe, and what a good time they had
wondering how Mrs. Johnson, who really was as refined and cultivated as
themselves, could associate with such folks to the extent she did. She
was always present at the Snowdon sewing circles, they heard, and
frequently at its tea-drinkings, while never was there a sickbed but she
was sure to find it, particularly if the sick one were poor and
destitute. This was very commendable and praiseworthy, they admitted,
but they did not see how she could endure it. Once Miss Asenath had
ventured to ask her, and she had answered that all her best, most useful
lessons, were learned in just such places--that she was better for these
visits, and found her purest enjoyments in them. To Miss Asenath and
Miss Eudora, this was inexplicable, but Anna, disciplined by years of
ill health, had a slight perception of higher, purer motives than any
which actuated the family at Terrace Hill. On the occasion of little
Mrs. Roe's call it was Anna who apologized for her presumption, saying
that Mrs. Roe really had the kindest of hearts; besides, it was quite
natural for the villagers not to stand quite so much in awe of them now
that their fortune was declining, and as they could not make
circumstances conform to them, they must conform to circumstances.
Neither Asenath nor Eudora, nor the lady mother liked this kind of
conformation, but Anna was generally right, and they did not annihilate
Mrs. Roe with a contemptuous frown as they had fully intended doing.
Mrs. Johnson and her daughter Alice had been present, they heard, the
latter actually joining in some of the plays, and the new clergyman, Mr.
Howard, had suffered himself to be caught by Miss Alice, who disfigured
her luxuriant curls with a bandage, and played at blindman's buff. This
proved conclusively to the elder ladies of Terrace Hill that ministers
were no better than other people, and they congratulated themselves
afresh upon their escape from having one of the brotherhood in thir
family.

In this escape Anna was particularly interested, as it had helped to
make her the delicate creature she was, for since the morning when she
had knelt at her proud father's feet, and begged him to revoke his cruel
decision, and say she might be the bride of a poor missionary, Anna had
greatly changed, and the father, ere he died, had questioned the
propriety of separating the hearts which clung so together. But the
young missionary had married another, and neither the parents nor the
sisters ever forgot the look of anguish which stole into Anna's face,
when she heard the fatal news. She had thought herself prepared, but the
news was just as crushing when it came, accompanied, though it was with
a few last lines from him. Anna kept this letter yet, wondering if the
missionary remembered her yet, and if they would ever meet again. This
was the secret of the missionary papers scattered so profusely through
the rooms at Terrace Hill. Anna was interested in everything pertaining
to the work, though, it must be confessed, that her mind wandered
oftenest to the banks of the Bosphorus, the City of Mosques and
Minarets, where he was laboring. Neither the mother, nor Asenath, nor
Eudora ever spoke to her of him, and so his name was never heard at
Terrace Hill, unless John mentioned it, as he sometimes did, drawing
comical pictures of what Anna would have been by this time had she
married the missionary.

Anna only laughed at her wild brother's comments, telling him once to
beware, lest he, too, follow her example, and was guilty of loving some
one far beneath him. John Richards had spurned the idea. The wife who
bore his name should be every way worthy of a Richards. This was John's
theory, nursed and encouraged by mother and sisters, the former charging
him to be sure and keep his heart from all save the right one. Had he
done so?

A peep at the family as on the day of his expected arrival from Paris
they sat waiting for him will enlighten us somewhat. Taken as a whole,
it was a very pleasant family group, which sat there waiting for the
foreign lion, waiting for the whistle of the engine which was to herald
his approach.

"I wonder if he has changed," said the mother, glancing at the opposite
mirror and arranging the puffs of glossy false hair which shaded her
aristocratic forehead.

"Of course he has changed somewhat," returned Miss Asenath, rubbing
together her white, bony hands, on one of which a costly diamond was
flashing. "Nearly two years of Paris society must have imparted to him
that _air distingué_ so desirable in a young man who has traveled."

"He'll hardly fail of making a good match now," Miss Eudora remarked,
caressing the pet spaniel which had climbed into her lap. "I think we
must manage to visit Saratoga or some of those places next summer. Mr.
Gardner found his wife at Newport, and they say she's worth half a
million."

"But horridly ugly," and Anna looked up from the reverie in which she
had been indulging. "Lottie says she has tow hair and a face like a
fish. John would never be happy with such a wife."

"Possibly you think he had better have married that sewing girl about
whom he wrote us just before going to Europe," Miss Eudora said
spitefully, pinching the long silken ears of her pet until the animal
yelled with pain.

There was a faint sigh from the direction of Anna's chair, and all knew
she was thinking of the missionary. The mother continued:

"I trust he is over that fancy, and ready to thank me for the strong
letter I wrote him."

"Yes, but the girl," and Anna leaned her white cheek in her whiter hand.
"None of us know the harm his leaving her may have done. Don't you
remember he wrote how much she loved him--how gentle and confiding her
nature was, and how to leave her then might prove her ruin?"

"Our little Anna is growing very eloquent upon the subject of sewing
girls," Miss Asenath said, rather scornfully, and Anna rejoined:

"I am not sure she was a sewing girl. He spoke of her as a schoolgirl."


"But it is most likely he did that to mislead us," said the mother. "The
only boarding school he knows anything about is the one where Lottie
was. If he were not her uncle by marriage I should not object to Lottie
as a daughter," was the next remark, whereupon there ensued a
conversation touching the merits and demerits of a certain Lottie
Gardner, whose father had taken for a second wife Miss Laura Richards.

This Laura had died within a year of her marriage, but Lottie had
claimed relationship to the family just the same, grandmaing Mrs.
Richards and aunty-ing the sisters. John, however, was never called
uncle, except in fun. He was too near her age, the young lady frequently
declaring that she had half a mind to throw aside all family ties and
lay siege to the handsome young man, who really was very popular with
the fair sex. During this discussion of Lottie, Anna had sat listlessly
looking up and down the columns of an old _Herald_, which Dick, Eudora's
pet dog, had ferreted out from the table and deposited at her feet. She
evidently was not thinking of Lottie, nor yet of the advertisements,
until one struck her notice as being very singular. Holding it a little
more to the light she said: "Possibly this is the very person I
want--only the child might be an objection. Just listen," and Anna read
as follows:

  "WANTED--By an unfortunate young married woman, with a child a few
  months old, a situation in a private family either as governess,
  seamstress, or lady's maid. Country preferred. Address--"

Anna was about to say whom when a violent ringing of the bell announced
an arrival, and the next moment a tall young man, exceedingly
Frenchified in his appearance, entered the room, and was soon in the
arms of his mother.

John, hastening to where Anna sat, wound his arms around her light
figure, and kissed her white lips and looked into her face with an
expression, which told that, however indifferent he might be to others,
he was not so to Anna.

"You have not changed for the worse," he said. "You are scarcely thinner
than when I went away."

"And you are vastly improved," was Anna's answer.

His mother continued: "I thought, perhaps, you were offended at my plain
letter concerning that girl, and resented it by not coming, but of
course you are glad now, and see that mother was right. What could you
have done with a wife in Paris?"

"I should not have gone," John answered, moodily, a shadow stealing over
his face.

It was not good taste for Mrs. Richards thus early to introduce a topic
on which John was really so sore, and for a moment an awkward silence
ensued, broken at last by the mother again, who, feeling that all was
not right, and anxious to know if there was yet aught to fear from a
poor, unknown daughter-in-law, asked, hesitatingly:

"Have you seen her since your return?"

"She's dead," was the laconic reply, and then, as if anxious to change
the conversation, the young doctor turned to Anna and said: "Guess who
was my fellow traveler from Liverpool?"

Anna never could guess anything, and after a little her brother said:

"The Rev. Charles Millbrook, missionary to Turkey, returning for his
health."

For an instant Anna trembled as if she saw opening before her the grave
which for fourteen years had held her buried heart. Charlie was
breathing again the air of the same hemisphere with herself. She might,
perhaps, see him once more, and Hattie, was she with him, or was there
another grave made with the Moslem dead by little Anna's aide? She would
not ask, for she felt the cold, critical eyes bent upon her from across
the hearth, and a few commonplace inquiries was all she ventured upon.
Had Mr. Millbrook greatly changed since he went away? Did he look very
sick? And how had her brother liked him?

"I scarcely spoke to him," was John's reply. "I confess to a most
lamentable ignorance touching the Rev. Mr. Millbrook and his family. He
wore crape on his hat, I remember, but there was a lady with him to whom
he was quite attentive, and who, I think, was called by his name."

"Tall, with black eyes, like Lottie's?" Anna meekly asked, and John
replied: "Something after the Lottie order, though more like yourself."

"It's strange I never saw a notice of his expected return," was Anna's
next remark. "Perhaps it was in the last _Missionary Herald_. You have
not found it yet, have you, mother?"

The ringing of the supper bell prevented Mrs. Richards from answering.
How gracefully he did the honors, and how proud all were of him, as he
repeated little incidents of Parisian life, speaking of the emperor and
Eugenie as if they had been everyday sights to him. In figure and form
the fair empress reminded him of Anna, he said, except that Anna was the
prettier of the two--a compliment which Anna acknowledged with a blush
and a trembling of her long eyelashes. It was a very pleasant family
reunion, for John did his best to be agreeable.

"Oh, John, please be careful. There's an advertisement I want to save,"
Anna exclaimed, as she saw her brother tearing a strip from the _Herald_
with which to light his cigar, but as she spoke, the flame curled around
the narrow strip, and Dr. Richards had lighted his cigar with the name
and address appended to the advertisement which had so interested Anna.

How disturbed she was when she found that nought was left save the
simple wants of the young girl.

"Let's see," and taking the mutilated sheet, Dr. Richards read the
"Wanted, by a young unfortunate married woman."

"That unfortunate may mean a great deal more than you imagine," he said.

"Yes, but she distinctly says married. Don't you see, and I had really
some idea of writing to her."

"I'm sorry I was so careless, but there are a thousand unfortunate women
who would gladly be your maid, little sister. I'll send you out a score,
if you say so," and John laughed.

"Has anything of importance occurred in this slow old town?" he
inquired, after Anna had become reconciled to her loss. "Are the people
as odd as usual?"

"Yes, more so," Miss Eudora thought, "and more presuming," whereupon she
rehearsed the annoyances to which they had been subjected from their
changed circumstances, dwelling at length upon Mrs. Roe's tea drinking,
and the insult offered by inviting them, when she knew there would be no
one present with whom they associated.

"You forget Mrs. Johnson," interposed Anna. "We would be glad to know
her better than we do, she is so refined and cultivated in all her
tastes, while Alice is the sweetest girl I ever knew. By the way,
brother, they have come here since you left, consequently you have a
rare pleasure in store, the forming their acquaintance."

"Whose, the old or the young lady's?" John asked.

"Both," was Anna's reply. "The mother is very youthful in her
appearance. Why, she scarcely looks older than I, and I, you know, am
thirty-two."

As if fearful lest her own age should come next under consideration,
Miss Eudora hastened to say:

"Yes, Mrs. Johnson does look very young, and Alice seems like a child.
Such beautiful hair as she has. It used to be a bright yellow, or
golden, but now it has a darker, richer shade, while her eyes are the
softest, handsomest blue."

Alice Johnson was evidently a favorite, and this stamped her somebody,
so John began to ask who the Johnsons were.

Mrs. Richards seemed disposed to answer, which she did as follows:

"Mrs. Johnson used to live in Boston, and her husband was grandson of
old Governor Johnson."

"Ah, yes," and John began to laugh. "I see now what gives Miss Alice's
hair that peculiar shade, and her eyes that heavenly blue; but go on,
mother, and give her figure as soon as may be."

"What do you mean?" asked Anna. "I should suppose you'd care more for
her face than her form."

John smiled mischievously, while his mother continued:

"I fancy that Mrs. Johnson's family met with a reverse of fortune before
her marriage. I do not see her as often as I would like to, for I am
greatly pleased with her, although she has some habits of which I cannot
approve. Why, I hear that Alice had a party the other day
consisting-wholly of ragged urchins."

"They were her Sabbath school scholars," interposed Anna.

"I vote that Anna goes on with Alice's history. She gives it best," said
John, and so Anna continued:

"There is but little more to tell. Mrs. Johnson and her daughter are
both nice ladies, and I am sure you will like them--everybody does; and
rumor has already given Alice to our young clergyman, Mr. Howard."

"And she is worth fifty thousand dollars, too," rejoined Asenath.

"I have her figure at last," said John, winking slyly at Anna.

And, indeed, the fifty thousand dollars did seem to make an impression
on the young man, who grew interested at once, making numerous
inquiries, asking where he would be most likely to see her.

"At church," was Anna's reply. "She is always there, and their pew joins
ours."

Dr. Richards was exceedingly vain, and his vanity manifested itself from
the tie of his neckerchief down to the polish of his boots. Once, had
Hugh Worthington known him intimately, he would have admitted that there
was at least one man whose toilet occupied quite as much time as
Adaline's. In Paris the vain doctor had indulged in the luxury of a
valet, carefully keeping it a secret from his mother and sisters, who
were often compelled to deny themselves that the money he asked for so
often might be forthcoming. But that piece of extravagance was over now;
he dared not bring his valet home, though he sadly wished him there as
he meditated upon the appearance he would make in church next Sabbath.
He was glad there was something new and interesting in Snowdon in the
shape of a pretty girl, for he did not care to return at once to New
York, where he had intended practicing his profession. There were too
many sad memories clustering about that city to make it altogether
desirable, but Dr. Richards was not yet a hardened wretch, and thoughts
of another than Alice Johnson, with her glorious hair and still more
glorious figure, crowded upon his mind as on that first evening of his
return, he sat answering questions and asking others of his own.

It was late ere the family group broke up, and the storm, beating so
furiously upon Spring Bank, was just making its voice heard around
Terrace Hill mansion, when the doctor took the lamp the servant brought,
and bidding his mother and sisters good-night, ascended the stairs
whither Anna had gone before him. She was not, however, in bed, and
called softly to him:

"John, Brother John, come in a moment, please."



CHAPTER V

ANNA AND JOHN


He found her in a tasteful gown, its heavy tassels almost sweeping the
floor, while her long, glossy hair, loosened from its confinement of
ribbon and comb, covered her neck and shoulders as she sat before the
fire always kindled in her room.

"How picturesque you look," he said, gayly.

"John," and Anna's voice was soft and pleasing, "was Charlie greatly
changed? Tell me, please."

"I was so young in the days when he came wooing that I hardly remember
how he used to look. I should not have known him, but my impression is
that he looks about as well as men of forty usually look."

"Not forty, John, only thirty-eight," Anna interposed.

"Well, thirty-eight, then. You remember his age remarkably well," John
said, laughingly, adding: "Did you once love him very much?"

"Yes," and Anna's voice faltered a little.

"Why didn't you marry him, then?"

John spoke excitedly, and the flush deepened on his cheek when Anna
answered meekly:

"Why didn't you marry that poor girl?"

"Why didn't I?" and John started to his feet; then he continued: "Anna,
I tell you there's a heap of wrong for somebody to answer for, but it is
not you, and it is not me--it's--it's mother!" and John whispered the
word, as if fearful lest the proud, overbearing woman should hear.

"You are mistaken," Anna replied, "for as far as Charlie was concerned
father had more to do with it than mother. I've never seen him since. He
did marry another, but I've never quite believed that he forgot me."

Anna was talking now more to herself than to John, and Charlie, could he
have seen her, would have said she was not far from the narrow way which
leadeth unto life. To John her white face, irradiated with gleams of the
soft firelight, was as the face of an angel, and for a time he kept
silence before her, then suddenly exclaimed:

"Anna, you are good, and so was she, so good, so pure, so artless, and
that made it hard to leave her, to give her up. Anna, do you know what
my mother wrote me? Listen, while I tell, then see if she is not to
blame. She cruelly reminded me that by my father's will all of us, save
you, were wholly dependent upon her, and said the moment I threw myself
away upon a low, vulgar, penniless girl, that moment she'd cast me off,
and I might earn my bread and hers as best I could. She said, too, my
sisters, Anna and all, sanctioned what she wrote, and your opinion had
more weight than all the rest."

"Oh, John, mother could not have so misconstrued my words. Surely my
note explained--I sent one in mother's letter."

"It never reached me," John said, while Anna sighed at this proof of her
mother's treachery.

Always conciliatory, however, she soon remarked:

"You are sole male heir to the Richards name. Mother's heart and pride
are bound up in you. A poor, unknown girl would only add to our
expenses, and not help you in the least. What was her name? I've never
heard."

John hesitated, then answered: "I called her Lily, she was so fair and
pure."

Anna was never in the least suspicious, but took all things for granted,
so now she thought within herself, "Lilian, most likely." Then she said:
"You were not engaged to her, were you?"

John started forward, and gazed into his sister's face with an
expression as if he wished she would question him more closely, but Anna
never dreamed of a secret, and seeing him hesitate, she said:

"You need not tell me unless you like. I only thought, maybe, you and
Lily were not engaged."

"We were. Anna, I'm a wretch--a miserable wretch, and have scarcely
known an hour's peace since I left her."

"Was there a scene?" Anna asked; and John replied:

"Worse than that. Worse for her. She did not know I was going till I was
gone. I wrote to her from Paris, for I could not meet her face and tell
her how mean I was. I've thought of her so much, and when I landed in
New York I went at once to find her, or at least to inquire, hoping
she'd forgotten me. The beldame who kept the place was not the same with
whom I had left Lily, but she know about her, and told me she died with
cholera last September. She and--oh, Lily, Lily--" and hiding his face
in Anna's lap, John Richards, whom we have only seen as a traveled
dandy, sobbed like a little child.

"John," she said at last, when the sobbing had ceased, "You say this
Lily was good. Do you mean she was a Christian, like Charlie?"

"Yes, if there ever was one. Why, she used to make a villain like me
kneel with her every night, and say the Lord's Prayer."

For an instant, a puzzling thought crossed Anna's brain as to the
circumstances which could have brought her brother every night to Lily's
side, but it passed away immediately as she rejoined:

"Then she is safe in heaven, and there are no tears there. We'll try to
meet her some day. You could not help her dying. She might have died had
she been your wife, so I'd try to think it happened for the best, and
you'll soon get to believing it did. That's my experience. You are young
yet, and life has much in store for you. You'll find some one to fill
Lily's place; some one whom we shall all think worthy of you, and
_we'll_ be so happy together."

She did not speak of Alice Johnson, but she thought of her. John, too,
thought of Alice Johnson, wondering how she would look to him who might
have married the daughter of a count. He had not told Anna of this, and
he was about preparing to leave her, when, changing the conversation,
she said:

"Did we ever write to you--no, we didn't--about that mysterious
stranger, that man who stopped for a day or two at the hotel, nearly two
years ago, and made so many inquiries about us and our place, pretending
he wanted to buy it in exchange for city property, and that some one had
told him it was for sale?"

"What man? Who was he?" John asked; and Anna replied:

"He called himself Bronson."

"Describe him," John said, settling back so that his face was partly
concealed in the shadow.

"Rather tall, firmly-knit figure, with what I imagine people mean when
they say a bullet-head, that is, a round, hard head, with keen gray
eyes, sandy mustache, and a scar or something on his right temple. Are
you cold?" and she turned quickly to her brother, who had shuddered
involuntarily at her description, for well he knew now who that man was.

But why had he come there? This John did not know, and as it was
necessary to appear natural, he answered to Anna's inquiry, that he
thought he had taken cold, as the cars were badly warmed.

"But, go on; tell me more of this Bronson. He heard our house was for
sale. How, pray?"

"From some one in New York; and the landlord suggested it might have
been you."

"It's false. I never told him so," and John spoke savagely.

"Then you did know him? What was he? We were half afraid of him, he
behaved so strangely," Anna said, looking wonderingly at her brother,
whose face alternately flushed and then grew pale.

Simple little Anna, how John blessed her in his heart for possessing so
little insight into the genuine springs of his character, for when he
answered:

"Of course I don't know him--I mean that I never told any one that
Terrace Hill was for sale."

She believed what he said, and very innocently continued:

"Had there been a trifle more of fun in my nature, I should, have teased
Eudora, by telling her he came here to see her or Asenath. He was very
curious for a sight of all of us."

"Did he come here--into the house?" John asked; and Anna replied:

"Why, yes. He was rather coarse-looking, to be sure, with marks of
dissipation, but very gentlemanly and even pleasing in his address."

Anna went on: "He was exceedingly polite--apologized for troubling me,
and then stated his business. I told him he must have been misinformed,
as we never dreamed of selling. He took his leave, looking back all the
way through the park, and evidently examining minutely the house and
grounds. Mother was so fidgety after it, declaring him a burglar, and
keeping a watch for several nights after his departure."

"Undoubtedly he was," said John. "A burglar, I dare say, and you were
fortunate, all of you, in not being stolen from your beds as you lay
sleeping."

"Oh, we keep our doors locked," was Anna's demure reply.

"Midnight, as I live!" he exclaimed, and was glad of an excuse for
retiring, as he wished now to be alone.

Anna had not asked him half what she had meant to ask concerning
Charlie, but she would not keep him longer, and with a kiss upon his
handsome brow she sent him away, herself holding the door a little ajar
and listening to see what effect the new carpet would have upon him. It
did not have any at first, so much was he absorbed in that man with the
scar upon his temple. Why had he come there, and why had it not been
told him before? His people were so stupid in their letters, never
telling what was sure to interest him most. But what good could it have
done had he known of the mysterious visit? None whatever--at least
nothing particular had resulted from it, he was sure.

"It must have been just after one of his sprees, when he is always more
than half befogged," he said to himself. "Possibly he was passing this
way and the insane idea seized him to stop and pretend to buy Terrace
Hill. The rascal!" and having thus satisfactorily settled it in his
mind, the doctor did look at Anna's carpet, admiring its pattern, and
having a kind of pleasant consciousness that everything was in keeping,
from the handsome drapery which shaded the windows to the marble hearth
on which a fire was blazing.

In Adah Hastings' dream that night there were visions of a little room
far up in a fourth story, where her fair head was pillowed again upon
the manly arm of one who listened while she chided him gently for his
long delay, and then told him of their Willie boy so much like him, as
the young mother thought.

In Dr. Richards' dreams, when at last he slept, there were visions of a
lonely grave in a secluded part of Greenwood, and he heard again the
startling words:

"Dead, both she and the child."

He did not know there was a child, and he staggered in his sleep, just
as he staggered down the creaking stairs, repeating to himself:

"Lily's child--Lily's child. May Lily's God forgive me."



CHAPTER VI

ALICE JOHNSON


The Sabbath dawned at last. The doctor had not yet made his appearance
in the village, and Saturday had been spent by him in rehearsing to his
sisters and the servants the wonderful things he had seen abroad, and in
lounging listlessly by a window which overlooked the town, and also
commanded a view of the tasteful cottage by the riverside, where they
told him Mrs. Johnson lived. One upper window he watched with peculiar
interest, from the fact that, early in the day, a head had protruded
from it a moment, as if to inhale the wintry air, and then been quickly
withdrawn.

"Does Miss Johnson wear curls?" he asked, rather indifferently, with his
eye still on the cottage by the river.

"Yes; a great profusion of them," was Mrs. Richards' reply, and then the
doctor knew he had caught a glimpse of Alice Johnson, for the head he
had seen was covered with curls, he was sure.

But little good did a view at that distance afford him. He must see her
nearer ere he decided as to her merits to be a belle. He did not believe
her face would at all compare with the one which continually haunted his
dreams, and over which the coffin lid was shut weary months ago, but
fifty thousand dollars had invested Miss Alice with that peculiar charm
which will sometimes make an ugly face beautiful. The doctor was
beginning to feel the need of funds, and now that Lily was dead, the
thought had more than once crossed his mind that to set himself at once
to the task of finding a wealthy wife was a duty he owed himself and his
family. Had poor, deserted Lily lived; had he found her in New York, he
could not tell what he might have done, for the memory of her sweet,
gentle love was the one restraining influence which kept him from much
sin. He never could forget her; never love another as he had once loved
her, but she was dead, and it was better, so he reasoned, for now was he
free to do his mother's will, and take a wife worthy of a Richards.

Anna was not with the party which at the usual hour entered the family
carriage with Bibles and prayer books in hand. She seldom went out
except on warm, pleasant days; but she stood in the deep bay window
watching the carriage as it wound down the hill, thinking first how
pleasant and homelike the Sabbath bells must sound to Charlie this day,
and secondly, how handsome and stylish her young brother looked with his
Parisian cloak and cap, which he wore so gracefully. Others than Anna
thought so, too; and at the church door there was quite a little stir,
as he gallantly handed out first his mother and then his sisters, and
followed them into the church.

Dr. Richards had never enjoyed a reputation for being very devotional,
and the interval between his entrance and the commencement of the
service was passed by him in a rather scornful survey of the time-worn
house. With a sneer in his heart, he mentally compared the old-fashioned
pulpit, with its steep flight of steps and faded trimmings, with the
lofty cathedral he had been in the habit of attending in Paris, and a
feeling of disgust and contempt was creeping over him, when a soft
rustling of silk, and a consciousness of a delicate perfume, which he at
once recognized as aristocratic, warned him that somebody was coming;
somebody entirely different from the score of females who had
distributed themselves within range of his vision, their countrified
bonnets, as he termed them, trimmed outside and in without the least
regard to taste, or combination of color. But the little lady, moving so
quietly up the aisle--she was different. She was worthy of respect, and
the Paris beau felt an inclination to rise at once and acknowledge her
superior presence.

Wholly unconscious of the interest she was exciting, the lady deposited
her muff upon the cushions, and then kneeling reverently upon the
well-worn stool, covered her face with the hands which had so won the
doctor's admiration. What a little creature she was, scarcely larger
than a child twelve summers old, and how gloriously beautiful were the
curls of indescribable hue, falling in such profusion from beneath the
jaunty hat. All this Dr. Richards noted, marveling that she knelt so
long, and wondering what she could be saying.

Alice's devotion ended at last, and the view so coveted was obtained;
for in adjusting her dress Alice turned toward him, or rather toward his
mother, and the doctor drew a sudden breath as he met the brilliant
flashing of those laughing sunny blue eyes, and caught the radiant
expression of that face, slightly dimpled with a smile. Beautiful,
wondrously beautiful was Alice Johnson, and yet the features were not
wholly regular, for the piquant nose had a slight turn up, and the
forehead was not very high; but for all this, the glossy hair, the
dancing blue eyes, the apple-blossom complexion, and the rosebud mouth
made ample amends; and Dr. Richards saw no fault in that witching face,
flashing its blue eyes for an instant upon him, and then modestly
turning to the service just commencing. So absorbed was Dr. Richards as
not to notice that the strain of music filling the old church did not
come from the screeching melodeon he had so anathematized, but from an
organ as mellow and sweet in its tone as any he had heard across the
sea. He did not notice anything; and when his sister, surprised at his
sitting posture, whispered to him of her surprise, he started quickly,
and next time the congregation arose he was the first upon his feet,
mingling his voice with that of Alice Johnson and even excelling her in
the loudness of his reading!

As if divining his wishes in the matter, his mother turned to the
eagerly expectant doctor, whom she introduced as "My son, Dr. Richards."

Alice had heard much of Dr. Richards from the young girls of Snowdon.
She had heard his voice in the Psalter, his responses in the Litany, and
accepted it as a sign of marked improvement. He could not be as
irreverent and thoughtless as he had been represented by those who did
not like him; he must have changed during his absence, and she frankly
offered him her hand, and with a smile which he felt even to his finder
tips, welcomed him home, making some trivial remark touching the
contrast between their quiet town and the cities he had left.

"But you will help make it pleasanter for us this winter, I am sure,"
she continued, and the sweet blue eyes sought his for an answer as to
whether he would desert Snowdon immediately.

What a weak, vacillating creature is man before a pretty woman like
Alice Johnson. Twenty-four hours ago, and the doctor would have scoffed
at the idea that he should tarry longer than a week or two at the
farthest in that dull by-place, where the people were only half
civilized; but now the tables were turned as by magic. Snowdon was as
pretty a rural village as New England could boast, and he meant to enjoy
it for a while. It would be a relief after the busy life he had led, and
was just the change he needed! So, in answer to Alice's remark, he said
he should probably remain at home some time, that he always found it
rather pleasant at Snowdon, though as a boy he had, he supposed, often
chafed at its dullness; but he saw differently now. Besides, it could
not now be dull, with the acquisition it had received since he was there
before; and he bowed gracefully toward the young lady, who acknowledged
the compliment with a faint blush, and then turned toward the group of
"noisy, ill-bred children," as Dr. Richards thought, who came thronging
about her.

"My Sabbath school scholars," Alice said, as if in answer to these
mental queries, "Ah, here comes my youngest--my pet," and Alice stooped
to caress a little rosy-cheeked boy, with bright brown eyes and patches
on both coat sleeves.

The doctor saw the patches, but not the handsome face, and with a
gesture of impatience, turned to go, just as his ear caught another
kiss, and he knew the patched boy received what he would have given much
to have.

"Hanged if I don't half wish I was one of those ragged urchins," he
said, after handing his mother and sisters to their carriage, and
seating himself at their side. "But does not Miss Johnson display
strange taste? Surely some other one less refined might be found to look
after those brats, if they must be looked after, which I greatly doubt.
Better leave them, as you find them; can't elevate them if you try. It's
trouble thrown away."

Just before turning from the main road into the park which led to
Terrace Hill, they met a stylish little covered sleigh. The colored
driver politely touched big hat to the ladies, who leaned out a moment
to look after him.

"That's Mrs. Johnson's turnout," said Eudora. "In the winter Martin
always takes Alice to church and then returns for her."

"And folks say," interposed Asenath, "that if the walking is bad or the
weather cold, both Alice and her mother go two miles out of their way to
carry home some old woman or little child, who lives at a distance. I've
seen Alice myself with half a dozen or more of these children, and she
looked as proud and happy as a queen. Queer taste, isn't it?"

John thought it was, though he himself said: "It is like what Lily would
have done, had she possessed the power and means."

"Well, brother, what of Miss Alice? Was she at church?" Anna asked
softly. "I need not ask though, for of course she was. I should almost
as soon think of hearing that Mr. Howard himself was absent as Alice."

"That reminds me," said John, "of what you said concerning Mr. Howard
and Alice. There can't be any truth in it. She surely does not fancy
him."

"Not as a lover," Anna replied. "She respects him greatly, however,
because he is a clergyman."

"Is she then a very strong church woman?" John asked.

"Yes, but not a bit of a blue," Anna replied. "If all Christians were
like Alice, religion would be divested of much of its supposed gloom.
She shows it everywhere, and so does not have to wear it on set
occasions to prove that she possesses it. How were you pleased with Miss
Johnson?"

"How was I pleased with her? I felt like kissing the hem of her blue
silk, of course! But I tell you, Anna, those ragged, dirty urchins who
came trooping into that damask-cushioned pew, marred the picture
terribly. What possible pleasure can she take in teaching them?"

Anna had an idea of the pleasure it might be to feel that one was doing
good, but she could not explain lucidly, so she did not attempt it. She
only said Miss Alice was very benevolent and received her reward in the
love bestowed upon her so freely by those whom she befriended.

"And to win her good graces, must one pretend to be interested in those
ragamuffins?" John asked, a little spitefully.

"Why, no, not unless they were. Alice could not wish you to be
deceitful," was Anna's reply, after which a long silence ensued, and
Anna dropped away to sleep, while her brother sat watching the fire
blazing in the grate, and trying to decide as to his future course.

Should he return to New York, accept the offer of an old friend of his
father's, an experienced practitioner, and thus earn his own bread
honorably; or, should he remain a while at Snowdon and cultivate Alice
Johnson? He had never yet failed when he chose to exert himself, and
though he might, for a time, be compelled to adopt a different code of
morality from that which he at present acknowledged, he would do it for
once. He could be interested in those ragged children; he could
encourage Sunday schools; he could attend church as regularly as Alice
herself; and, better yet, he could doctor the poor for nothing, as that
was sure to tell, and he would do it, too, if necessary. This was the
finale which he reached at last by a series of arguments pro and con,
and when it was reached, he was anxious to commence the task at once. He
presumed he could love Alice Johnson; she was so pretty; but even if he
didn't, he would only be doing what thousands had done before him. He
should be very proud of her, and would certainly try to make her happy.
One long, almost sobbing sigh to the memory of poor Lily, who had loved
so much and been so cruelly betrayed, one faint struggle with
conscience, which said that Alice Johnson was too pure a gem for him to
trifle with, and then, the past, with its sad memories, was buried.

"Not going to church twice in one day!" Mrs. Richards exclaimed as the
doctor threw aside the book he had been reading, and started for his
cloak.

"Why, yes," he answered. "I liked that parson so much better than I
expected, that I think I'll go again," and hurrying out, he was soon on
his way to St. Paul's.

"Gone on foot, too, when it's so cold!" and the mother, who had risen
and stood watching him from the window, spoke anxiously.

The service was commencing, but the doctor was in no hurry to take his
seat. He would as soon be seen as not, and, vain fop that he was, he
rather enjoyed the stirring of heads he felt would ensue when he moved
up the aisle. At last he would wait no longer, and with a most
deferential manner, as if asking pardon for disturbing the congregation,
he walked to his pew door, and depositing his hat and cloak, sat down
just where he meant to sit, next the little figure, at which he did not
glance, knowing, of course, that it was Alice.

How then was he astonished and confounded when at the reading of the
Psalter, another voice than hers greeted his ear!--a strange, sharp
voice, whose tones were not as indicative of refinement as Alice's had
been, and whose pronunciation, distinctly heard, savored somewhat of the
so-called down East. He looked at her now, moving off a foot or more,
and found her a little, odd, old woman, shriveled and withered, with
velvet hat, not of the latest style, its well-kept strings of black
vastly different from the glossy blue he had so much admired at an
earlier period of the day. Was ever man more disappointed? Who was she,
the old witch, for so he mentally termed the inoffensive woman devoutly
conning her prayer book, unconscious of the wrath her presence was
exciting in the bosom of the young man beside her! How he wished he had
stayed at home, and were it not that he sat so far distant from the
door, he would certainly have left in disgust. What a drawling tone was
Mr. Howard's.

Such were the doctor's thoughts. But hark! Whose voice was that? The
congregation seemed to hold their breath as the glorious singer warbled
forth the bird-like strain, "Thou that takest away the sins of the
world." She sang those words as if she felt them every one, and Dr.
Richards' heart thrilled with an indefinable emotion us he listened.
"Thou that sittest on the right hand of God the Father;" how rich and
full her voice as she sang that alone; and when the final Amen was
reached, and the grand old chant was ended, Dr. Richards sat like one
entranced, straining his ear to catch the last faint echo of the
sweetest music he had ever heard.

Could Alice sing like that, and who was this nightingale? How he wished
he knew; and when next the people arose, obedient to the organ's call,
he was of their number, and turning full about, looked up into the
gallery, starting as he looked, and half uttering an exclamation of
surprise. There was no mistaking the Russian sable fur, the wide blue
ribbons thrown so gracefully back, the wealth of sunny hair, or the
lustrous eyes, which swept for an instant over the congregation below,
taking in him with the rest, and then were dropped upon the keys, where
the snowy, ungloved hands were straying. The organist was Alice Johnson!
There were no more regrets now that he had come to church, no more
longings to be away, no more maledictions against Mr. Howard's drawling
manner, no more invectives against the poor old woman, listening like
himself with rapt attention, and wondering if the music of heaven could
be sweeter than that her bonny Alice made. The doctor, too, felt better
for such music, and he never remembered having been more attentive to a
sermon in his life than to the one, which followed the evening service.

When it was ended, and the people dismissed, she came tripping down the
stairs, flooding the dingy vestibule with a world of sunshine.

"Here, Aunt Densie, here I am. Martin is waiting for us," the doctor
heard her say to the old lady, who was elbowing her way through the
crowd, and who at last came to a standstill, apparently looking for
something she could not find. "What is it, auntie?" Alice said again.
"Lost something, have you? I'll be with you in a minute."

Two hours ago, and Dr. Richards would not have cared if fifty old women
had lost their entire wardrobe. As an attache of some kind to Alice
Johnson, Densie was an object of importance, and stepping forward, just
as Alice had made her way to the distressed old lady's side, he very
politely offered to assist in the search.

"Ah, Dr. Richards, thank you," Alice said, as the black kid was found,
and passed to its anxious owner.

The doctor never dreamed of an introduction, for his practiced eye saw
at once that however Alice might auntie her, the woman was still a
servant. How then was he surprised when Alice said:

"Miss Densmore, this is Dr. Richards, from Terrace Hill," adding, in an
aside to him: "My old nurse, who took care of both mother and myself
when we were children."

They were standing in the door now, and the covered sleigh was drawn up
just in front.

"Auntie first," she said, as they reached the carriage steps, and so the
doctor was fain to help auntie in, whispering gallantly in an aside:

"Age before beauty always!"

"Thank you," and Alice's ringing laugh cut the winter air as she
followed Densie Densmore, the doctor carefully wrapping her cloak about
her, and asking if her fur was pulled up sufficiently around her neck.

"It's very cold," he said, glancing up at the glittering stars, scarcely
brighter than the blue eyes flashing on him. "At least I found it so on
my walk to church," and with a slight shiver the scheming doctor was
bowing himself away, when Alice exclaimed:

"Did you walk this wintry night? Pray, gratify me then by accepting a
seat in our sleigh. There's plenty of room without crowding auntie."

Happy Dr. Richards! How he exerted himself to be agreeable, talking
about the singing, asking if she often honored the people as she had
to-night.

"I take Miss Fisher's place when she is absent," Alice replied,
whereupon, the doctor said he must have her up at Terrace Hill some day,
to try Anna's long-neglected instrument. "It was once a most superb
affair, but I believe it is sadly out of tune. Anna is very fond of you,
Miss Johnson, and your visits would benefit her greatly. I assure you
there's a duty of charity to be discharged at Terrace Hill as well as
elsewhere. Anna suffers from too close confinement indoors, but, with a
little skill, I think we can manage to get her out once more. Shall we
try?"

Selfish Dr. Richards! It was all the same to him whether Anna went out
once a day or once a year, but Alice did not suspect him and she
answered frankly that she should have visited Terrace Hill more
frequently, had she supposed his mothers and sisters cared particularly
for society, but she had always fancied they preferred being alone.



CHAPTER VII

RIVERSIDE COTTAGE


Mrs. Johnson did not like Dr. Richards, and yet he became an almost
daily visitor at Riverside Cottage, where one face at least grew
brighter when he came, and one pair of eyes beamed on him a welcome. His
new code of morality worked admirably. Mr. Howard himself was not more
regular at church, or Alice more devout, than Dr. Richards. The
children, whom he had denominated "ragged brats," were no longer spurned
with contempt, but fed with peanuts and molasses candy. He was popular
with the children, but the parents, clear-sighted, treated him most
shabbily at his back, accusing him of caring only for Miss Alice's good
opinion.

This was what the poor said, and what many others thought. Even Anna,
who took everything for what it seemed, roused herself and more than
once remonstrated with her brother upon the course he was pursuing, if
he were not in earnest, as something he once said to her made her half
suspect.

She had become very intimate with Alice latterly, and as her health
improved with the coming of spring, almost every fine day found her at
Riverside Cottage, where once she and Mrs. Johnson stumbled upon a
confidential chat, having for its subject John and Alice, Anna said
nothing against her brother. She merely spoke of him as kind and
affectionate, but the quick-seeing mother detected more than the words
implied, and after that the elegant doctor was less welcome to her
fireside than, he had been before.

As the winter passed away and spring advanced, he showed no intentions
of leaving Snowdon, but on the contrary opened an office in the village,
greatly to the surprise of the inhabitants, who remembered his former
contempt for any one who could settle down in that dull town, and
greatly to the dismay of old Dr. Rogers, who for years had blistered and
bled the good people without a fear of rivalry.

"Does Dr. Richards intend locating permanently in Snowdon?" Mrs. Johnson
asked of her daughter as they sat alone one pleasant spring evening.

"His sign would indicate as much," was Alice's reply.

"Mother," she said gently, "you look pale and worried. You have looked
so for some time past. What is it, mother? Are you very sick, or are you
troubled about me?"

"Is there any reason why I should be troubled about my darling?" asked
the mother.

Alice never had any secrets from her mother, and she answered frankly:
"I don't know, unless--unless--mother, why don't you like Dr. Richards?"

The ice was fairly broken now, and very briefly but candidly Mrs.
Johnson told why she did not like him. He was handsome, refined,
educated, and agreeable, she admitted, but still there was something
lacking. The mask he was wearing had not deceived her, and she would
have liked him far better without it. This she said to Alice, adding
gently: "He may be all he seems, but I doubt it. I distrust him greatly.
I think he fancies you and loves your money."

"Oh, mother," and in Alice's voice there was a sound of tears, "you do
him injustice, and he has been so kind to us, while Snowdon is so much
pleasanter since he came."

"Are you engaged to him?" was Mrs. Johnson's next question.

"No," and Alice looked up wonderingly. "I do not believe I like him
well enough for that."

Alice Johnson was wholly ingenuous and would not for the world have
concealed a thing from her mother, and very frankly she continued:

"I like Dr. Richards better than any gentleman I have ever met. I should
have told you, mother."

"God bless my darling, and keep her as innocent as now," Mrs. Johnson
murmured. "I am glad there is no engagement. Will you promise there
shall not be for one year at least?"

"Yes, I will, I do," Alice said at last.

A second "God bless my darling," came from the mother's lips, and
drawing her treasure nearer to her, she continued: "You have made me
very happy, and by and by you'll be so glad. You may leave me now, for I
am tired and sick."

It was long ere Alice forgot the expression of her mother's face or the
sound of her voice, so full of love and tenderness, as she bade her
good-night on that last evening they ever spent together alone. The
indisposition of which Mrs. Johnson had been complaining for several
days, proved to be no light matter, and when next morning Dr. Rogers was
summoned to her bedside, he decided it to be a fever which was then
prevailing to some extent in the neighboring towns.

That afternoon it was told at Terrace Hill that Mrs. Johnson was very
sick, and half an hour later the Richards carriage, containing the
doctor and his Sister Anna, wound down the hill, and passing through the
park, turned in the direction of the cottage, where they found Mrs.
Johnson even worse than they had anticipated. The sight of distress
aroused Anna at once, and forgetting her own feebleness she kindly
offered to stay until night if she could be of any service. Mrs. Johnson
was fond of Anna, and she expressed her pleasure so eagerly that Anna
decided to remain, and went with Alice to remove her wrappings.

"Oh, I forgot!" she exclaimed, as a sudden thought seemed to strike her.
"I don't know as I can stay after all, though I might write it here, I
suppose as well as at home; and as John is going to New York to-night he
will take it along."

"What is it?" Alice asked; and Anna replied:

"You'll think me very foolish, no doubt, but I want to know if you too
think so. I'm so dependent on other's opinions," and, in a low tone,
Anna told of the advertisement seen early last winter, how queerly it
was expressed, and how careless John had been in tearing off the name
and address, with which to light his cigar. "It seems to me," she
continued, "that 'unfortunate married woman' is the very one I want."

"Yes; but how will you find her? I understand that the address was
burned," Alice rejoined quickly, feeling herself that Anna was hardly
sane in her calculations.

"Oh, I've used that in the wording," Anna answered. "I do not know as it
will ever reach her, it's been so long, but if it does, she'll be sure
to know I mean her, or somebody like her."

"I dislike writing very much," she said, as she saw the array of
materials, "and I write so illegibly too. Please do it for me, that's a
dear, good girl," and she gave the pen to Alice, who wrote the first
word, "Wanted," and then waited for Anna to dictate.

  "WANTED--By an invalid lady, whose home is in the country, a young
  woman, who will be both useful and agreeable, either as a companion
  or waiting maid. No objection will be raised if the woman is
  married, and unfortunate, or has a child a few months old. Address,

  "A.E.R., Snowdon, Hampden Co., Mass."

Alice thought it the queerest advertisement she had ever seen, but Anna
was privileged to do queer things, and folding the paper, she went out
into the hall, where the doctor sat waiting for her.

John's mustached lip curled a little scornfully as he read it.

"Why, puss, that girl or woman is in Georgia by this time, and as the
result of this, Terrace Hill will be thronged with unfortunate women and
children, desiring situations. Better let me burn this, as I did the
other, and not be foolish. She will never see it," and John made a
gesture as if he would put it in the stove, but Anna caught his hand,
saying imploringly: "Please humor me this once. She may see it, and I'm
so interested."

Anna was always humored, and the doctor placed in his memorandum book
the note, then turning to Alice he addressed her in so low a tone that
Anna readily took the hint and left them together. Dr. Richards was not
intending to be gone long, he said, though the time would seem a little
eternity, so much was his heart now bound up in Snowdon.

Afraid lest he might say something more of the same nature, Alice
hastened to ask if he had seen her mother, and what he thought of her.

"I stepped in for a moment while you were in the library," he replied.
"She seemed to have a high fever, and I fancied it increased while I
stood by her. I am sorry to leave while she is so sick, but remember
that if anything happens you will be dearer to me than ever," and the
doctor pressed the little hand which he took in his to say good-by, for
now he must really go.

As the day and night wore on Mrs. Johnson grew worse so rapidly, that at
her request a telegram was forwarded to Mr. Liston, who had charge of
her moneyed affairs, and who came at once, for the kind old man was
deeply interested in the widow and her lovely daughter. As Mrs. Johnson,
could bear it, they talked alone together until he perfectly understood
what her wishes were with regard to Alice, and how to deal with Dr.
Richards, whom he had not yet seen. Then promising to return again in
case the worst should happen, he took his leave, while Mrs. Johnson, now
that a weight was lifted from her mind, seemed to rally, and the
physician pronounced her better. But with that strange foreknowledge, as
it were, which sometimes comes to people whose days are nearly numbered,
she felt that she would die, and that in mercy this interval of rest and
freedom from pain was granted her, in which she might talk with Alice
concerning the arrangements for the future.

"Alice, darling," she said, when they were alone, "come sit by me here
on the bed and listen to what I say."

Alice obeyed, and taking her mother's hot hands in hers she waited for
what was to come.

"You have learned to trust God in prosperity, and He will be a
thousandfold nearer to you in adversity. You'll miss me, I know, and be
very lonely without me, but you are young, and life has many charms for
you, besides God will never forget or forsake His covenant children."

Gradually as she talked the wild sobbing ceased, and when the white face
lifted itself from its hiding place there was a look upon it as if the
needed strength had been sought and to some extent imparted.

"My will was made some time ago," Mrs. Johnson continued, "and I need
not tell you that with a few exceptions, such as legacies to Densie
Densmore, and some charitable institutions, you are my sole heir. Mr.
Liston is to be your guardian, and will look after your interests until
you are of age, or longer if you choose. You know that as both your
father and myself were the only children you have no near relatives on
either side--none to whom you can look for protection.

"You will remember having heard me speak occasionally of some friends
now living in Kentucky, a Mrs. Worthington, whose husband was a distant
relative of ours. Ralph Worthington and your father were schoolboys
together, and afterward college companions. Only once did anything come
between them, and that was a young girl, a very young girl, whom both
desired, and whom only one could have."

Alice was interested now, and forgetting in a measure her grief, she
asked quickly: "Did my father love some one else than you?"

"I never knew he did," and a tear rolled down the faded cheek of the
sick woman. "Ralph Worthington was true as steel, and when he found
another preferred to himself, he generously yielded the contest."

"Oh, I shall like Mr. Worthington," Alice exclaimed, a desire rising in
her heart to see the man who had loved and lost her mother.

"He was, at his own request, groomsman at our wedding, and the
bridesmaid became his wife in little less than a year."

"Did he love her?" Alice asked, in some astonishment, and her mother
replied evasively:

"He was kind and affectionate, while she loved him with all a woman's
devotion. I was but sixteen when I became a bride, and several years
elapsed ere God blessed me with a child. Your father was consumptive,
and the chances were that I should early be left a widow. This it was
which led to the agreement made by the two friends that if either died
the living one should care for the widow and fatherless. To see the two
you would not have guessed that the athletic Ralph would be the first to
go, yet so it was. He died ere you were born."

"Then he is dead? Oh, I'm so sorry," Alice exclaimed.

"Yes, he's dead; and, as far as possible, your father fulfilled his
promise to the widow and her child--a little boy, five years old, of
whom Mrs. Worthington herself was appointed guardian. I never knew what
spirit of evil possessed Eliza, but in less than a year after her
husband's death, she made a second and most unfortunate marriage. Mr.
Murdoch proved a greater scoundrel than we supposed, and when their
little girl was nearly two years old, we heard of a divorce. Mr.
Johnson's health was failing fast, and we were about to make the tour of
Europe. Just before we sailed we visited poor Eliza, whom we found
heartbroken, for the brutal wretch had managed to steal her daughter,
and carried it no one knew whither. I never shall forgot the distress of
the brother. Clasping my dress, he sobbed: 'Oh, lady, please bring back
my baby sister, or Hugh will surely die.' I've often thought of him
since, and wondered what he had grown to be. We comforted Eliza as best
we could, and left money to be used for her in case she needed it. Then
we embarked with you and Densie for Europe. You know how long we stayed
there, how for a while, your father seemed to regain his strength, how
he at last grew worse and hastened home to die. In the sorrow and
excitement which followed, it is not strange that Eliza was for a time
forgotten, and when I remembered and inquired for her again, I heard
that Hugh had been adopted by some relation in Kentucky, that the stolen
child had been mysteriously returned, and was living with its mother in
Elmwood.

"At first Eliza appeared a little cool, but this soon wore off. She did
not talk much of Hugh. Neither did she say much of Adaline, who was then
away at school. Still my visit was a sadly satisfactory one, as we
recalled old times when we were girls together, weeping over our great
loss when our husbands were laid to rest. Then we spoke of their
friendship, and lastly of the contract.

"'It sounds preposterous, in me, I know,' Mrs. Worthington said, when we
parted, 'you are so rich, and I so poor, but if ever your Alice should
want a mother's care, I will gladly give it to her.'

"This was nearly eight years ago. In my anxiety about you, I failed to
write her for a long, long time, while she was long in answering, and
then the correspondence ceased till just before her removal to Kentucky,
when she apprised me of the change. You have now the history of Mrs.
Worthington, the only person who comes to mind as one to whose care I
can intrust you."

"But, mother, I may not be wanted there," and Alice's lip quivered
painfully.

"You will not go empty-handed, nor be a burden to them. They are poor,
and money will not come amiss. I said that Mr. Liston would attend to
all pecuniary matters, paying your allowance quarterly; and I am sure
you will not object when I tell you that I think it right to leave
Adaline the sum of one thousand dollars. It will not materially lessen
your inheritance, and it will do her a world of good. Mr. Liston will
arrange it for you. You will remain here until you hear from Mrs.
Worthington, and then abide by her arrangements. Will you go, my
daughter--go cheerfully and do as I desire?"

"Yes, mother, I'll go," came gaspingly from Alice's lips. "I'll go; but,
mother, oh, mother," and Alice's cry ended as it always did, "you will
not, you must not die!"

But neither tears, nor prayers could avail to keep the mother longer.
Her work on earth was done, and after this conversation with her
daughter, she grew worse so rapidly that hope died out of Alice's heart,
and she knew that soon she would be motherless. There were days and
nights of pain and delirium in which the sick woman recognized none of
those around her save Alice, whom she continually blessed as her
darling, praying that God, too, would bless and keep His covenant child.
At last there came a change, and one lovely Sabbath morning, ere the
bell from St. Paul's tower sent forth its summons to the house of God,
there rang from its belfry a solemn toll, and the villagers listening to
it, said, as they counted forty-four, that Mrs. Johnson was dead.



CHAPTER VIII

MR. LISTON AND THE DOCTOR


Among Snowdon's poor that day, as well as among the wealthier class,
there was many an aching heart, and many a prayer was breathed for the
stricken Alice, not less beloved than the mother had been. At Terrace
Hill mansion too, much sorrow was expressed. On the whole it was very
unfortunate that Mrs. Johnson should have died so unexpectedly, and they
did wish John was there to comfort the young girl who, they heard,
refused to see any one except the clergyman and Mr. Liston.

"Suppose we telegraph for John," Eudora said, and in less than two hours
thereafter, Dr. Richards in New York read that Alice was an orphan.

There was a pang as he thought of her distress, a wish that he were with
her, and then in his selfish heart the thought arose, "What if she does
not prove as wealthy as I have supposed? Will that make any
difference?"

"I must do something," he soliloquized, "or how can I ever pay those
debts in New York, of which mother knows nothing? I wish that widow--"

He did not finish his wishes, for a turn in the path brought him
suddenly face to face with Mr. Liston, whom he had seen at a distance,
and whom he recognized at once.

"I'll quiz the old codger," he thought. "He don't, of course, know me,
and will never suspect my object."

Mistaken, doctor! The old codger was fully prepared. He did know Dr.
Richards by sight, and was rather glad than otherwise when the elegant
dandy, taking a seat upon the gnarled roots of the tree under which he
was sitting, made some trivial remark about the weather, which was very
propitious for the crowd who were sure to attend Mrs. Johnson's funeral.

Yes, Mr. Liston presumed there would be a crowd. It was very natural
there should be, particularly as the deceased was greatly beloved and
was also reputed wealthy, "It beats all what a difference it makes, even
after death, whether one is supposed to be rich or poor," and the codger
worked away industriously at the pine stick he was whittling.

"But in this case the supposition of riches must be correct, though I
know people are oftener overvalued than otherwise," and with his
gold-headed cane the doctor thrust at a dandelion growing near.

"Nothing truer than that," returned the whittler, brushing the litter
from his lap. "Now I've no doubt that prig of a doctor, who they say is
shining up to Alice, will be disappointed when he finds just how much
she's worth. Let me see. What is his name? Lives up there," and with his
jackknife Mr. Liston pointed toward Terrace Hill.

"The Richards family live there, sir. You mean their son, I presume."

"Ted, the chap that has traveled and come home so changed. They do say
he's actually taken to visiting all the rheumatic old women in town,
applying sticking-plasters to their backs and administering squills to
their children, all free gratis."

Poor doctor! How he fidgeted, moving so often that his tormentor
demurely asked him if he were sitting on a thistle or what!

"Does Miss Johnson remain here?" the doctor asked at last, and Mr.
Liston replied by telling what he knew of the arrangements.

At the mention of Worthington the doctor looked up quickly. Whom had he
known by that name, or where had he heard it before? "Mrs. Worthington,
Mrs. Worthington," he repeated, unpleasant memories of something, he
knew not what, rising to his mind. "Is he living in this vicinity?"

"In Elmwood. It's a widow and her daughter," Mr. Liston answered, wisely
resolving to say nothing of a young man, lest the doctor should feel
anxious.

"A widow and her daughter! I must be mistaken in thinking I ever knew
any one by that name, though it seems strangely familiar," said the
doctor, and as by this time he had heard all he wished to hear, he
arose, and bidding Mr. Liston good-morning walked away in no enviable
frame of mind.

Looking at his watch the doctor found that it lacked several hours yet
ere the express from Boston was due. But this did not discourage him. He
would stay in the fields or anywhere, and turning backward he followed
the course of the river winding under the hill until he reached the
friendly woods which shielded him from observation. How he hated himself
hiding there among the trees, and how he longed for the downward train,
which came at last, and when the village bell tolled out its summons to
the house of mourning, he sat in a corner of the car returning to New
York even faster than he had come.

Gradually the Riverside cottage filled with people assembling to pay the
last tribute of respect to the deceased, who during her short stay among
them had endeared herself to many hearts.

Slowly, sadly, they bore her to the grave. Reverently they laid her down
to rest, and from the carriage window Alice's white face looked
wistfully out as "earth to earth, ashes to ashes," broke the solemn
stillness. Oh, how she longed to lay there, too, beside her mother! How
the sunshine, flecking the bright June grass with gleams of gold, seemed
to mock her misery as the gravelly earth rattled heavily down upon the
coffin lid, and she knew they were covering up her mother. "If I, too,
could die!" she murmured, sinking back in the carriage corner and
covering her face with her veil. But not so easily could life be shaken
off by her, the young and strong. She must live yet longer. She had a
work to do--a work whose import she knew not; and the mother's death,
for which she then could see no reason, though she knew well that one
existed, was the entrance to that work. She must live and she must
listen while Mr. Liston talked to her that night on business, arranging
about the letter, which was forwarded immediately to Kentucky, and
advising her what to do until an answer was received, when he would come
up again and do whatever was necessary.



CHAPTER IX

MATTERS IN KENTUCKY


Backward now with our reader we turn, and take up the broken thread of
our story at the point where we left Adah Hastings.

It was a bitter morning in which to face the fierce north wind, and plow
one's way to the Derby cornfield, where, in a small, dilapidated
building, Aunt Eunice Reynolds, widowed sister of John Stanley, had
lived for many years, first as a pensioner upon her brother's bounty,
and next as Hugh's incumbent. At the time of her brother's death Aunt
Eunice had intended removing to Spring Bank, but when Hugh's mother
wrote, asking for a home, she at once abandoned the plan, and for two
seasons more lived alone, watching from her lonely door the tasseled
corn ripening in the August sun. Of all places in the world Hugh liked
the cottage best, particularly in summer. Few would object to it then
with its garden of gayly colored flowers, its barricades of tasseled
corn and the bubbling music of the brook, gushing from the willow spring
a few rods from the door. But in the winter people from the highway, as
they caught from across the field the gleam of Aunt Eunice's light,
pitied the lonely woman sitting there so solitary beside her wintry
fire. But Aunt Eunice asked no pity. If Hugh came once a week to spend
the night, and once a day to see her, it was all that she desired, for
Hugh was her darling, her idol, the object which kept her old heart warm
and young with human love. For him she would endure any want or
encounter any difficulty, and so it is not strange that in his dilemma
regarding Adah Hastings, he intuitively turned to her, as the one of all
others who would lend a helping hand. He had not been to see her in two
whole days, and when the gray December morning broke, and he looked out
upon the deep, untrodden snow, and then glanced across the fields to
where a wreath of smoke, even at that early hour, was rising slowly from
her chimney, he frowned impatiently, as he thought how bad the path
must be between Spring Bank and the cornfield, whither he intended
going, as he would be the first to tell what had occurred. 'Lina's
fierce opposition to and his mother's apparent shrinking from Adah had
convinced him how hopeless was the idea that she could stay at Spring
Bank with any degree of comfort to herself or quiet to him. Aunt
Eunice's house was the only refuge for Adah, and there she would be
comparatively safe from censorious remarks.

"Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these ye did it unto Me," kept
ringing in Hugh's ears, as he hastily dressed himself, striking his
benumbed fingers together, and trying hard to keep his teeth from
chattering, for Hugh was beginning his work of economy, and when at
daylight Claib came as usual to build his master's fire, he had sent him
back, saying he did not need one, and bidding him go, instead, to Mrs.
Hastings' chamber.

"Make a hot one there," he said. "Pile the coals on high, so as to heat
up quick."

As Hugh passed through the hall on his way downstairs, he could not
refrain from pausing a moment at the door of Adah's room. The fire was
burning, he knew, for he heard the kindling coals sputtering in the
flames, and that was all he heard. He would look in an instant, he said,
to see if all were well, and carefully turning the knob he entered the
chamber where the desolate Adah lay sleeping, her glossy brown hair
falling like a veil about her sweet pale face, on which the tear stains
still were visible.

As she lay with the firelight falling full upon her forehead, Hugh, too,
caught sight of the mark which had attracted 'Lina's curiosity, and
starting forward, bent down for a nearer view.

"Strange that she should have that mark. Oh Heaven!" and Hugh staggered
against the bedpost as a sudden thought flashed upon him. "Was that
polished villain who had led him into sin anything to Adaline, anything
to his mother? Poor girl, I am sorry if you, too, have been
contaminated, however slight the contamination may be," he said, softly,
glancing again at Adah, about whose lips a faint smile was playing, and
who, as he looked, murmured faintly:

"Kiss me, George, just as you used to do."

"Rascally villain!" Hugh muttered, clinching his fist involuntarily.
"You don't deserve that such as she should dream of you. I'd kiss her
myself if I was used to the business, but I should only make a bungle,
as I do with everything, and might kiss you, little shaver," and Hugh
bent over Willie.

There was something in Hugh which won his confidence at once, and
stretching-out his dimpled arms, he expressed his willingness to be
taken up. Hugh could not resist Willie's appeal, and lifting him gently
in his arms, he bore him off in triumph, the little fellow patting his
cheek, and rubbing his own against it.

"I don't know what I'll do with you, my little man," he said, as he
reached the lower hall; then suddenly turning in the direction of his
mother's room, he walked deliberately to the bedside, and ere the
half-awakened 'Lina was aware of his intention, deposited his burden
between her and his mother.

"Here, Ad, here's something that will raise you quicker than yeast," he
said, beating a hasty retreat, while the indignant young lady verified
his words by leaping half-way across the floor, her angry tones mingling
with Willie's crowing laugh, as the child took the whole for fun, meant
expressly for his benefit.

Hugh knew that Willie was safe with his mother, and hurried out to the
kitchen, where only a few of his negroes were yet stirring.

"Ho, Claib!" he called, "saddle Rocket quick and bring him to the door.
I'm going to the cornfield."

"Lor' bless you, mas'r, it's done snow higher than Rocket's head. He
never'll stand it nohow."

"Do as I bid you," was Hugh's reply, and indolent Claib went shivering
to the stable where Hugh's best horses were kept.

A whinnying sound of welcome greeted him as he entered, but was soon
succeeded by a spirited snort as he attempted to lead out a most
beautiful dapple gray, Hugh's favorite steed, his pet of pets, and the
horse most admired and coveted in all the country.

"None of yer ars," Claib said, coaxingly, as the animal threw up its
graceful neck defiantly. "You've got to git along, 'case Mas'r Hugh say
so. You knows Mas'r Hugh."

"What is it?" Hugh asked, coming out upon the stoop, and comprehending
the trouble at a glance. "Rocket, Rocket," he cried, "easy, my boy," and
in an instant Rocket's defiant attitude changed to one of perfect
obedience.

"There, my beauty," he said, as the animal continued to prance around
him, now snuffing at the snow, which he evidently did not fancy, and
then pawing at it with his forefeet. "There, my beauty, you've showed
off enough. Come, now, I've work for you to do."

Docile as a lamb when Hugh commanded, he stood quietly while Claib
equipped him for his morning's task.

"Tell mother I shan't be back to breakfast," Hugh said, as he sprang
into the saddle, and giving loose rein to Rocket went galloping through
the snow.

Under ordinary circumstances that early ride would have been vastly
exhilarating to Hugh, who enjoyed the bracing air, but there was too
much now upon his mind to admit of his enjoying anything. Thoughts of
Adah, and the increased expense her presence would necessarily bring,
flitted across his mind, while Barney's bill, put over once, and due
again ere long, sat like a nightmare on him, for he saw no way in which
to meet it. No way save one, and Rocket surely must have felt the
throbbing of Hugh's heart as that one way flashed upon him, for he gave
a kind of coaxing whine, and dashed on over the billowy drifts faster
than before.

"No, Rocket, no," and Hugh patted his glossy neck. He'd never part with
Rocket, never. He'd sell Spring Bank first with all its incumbrances.

It was now three days since Hugh had gladdened Aunt Eunice's cottage
with the sunshine of his presence, and when she awoke that morning, and
saw how high the snow was piled around her door, she said to herself,
"The boy'll be here directly to know if I'm alive," and this accounted
for the round deal table drawn so cozily before the blazing fire, and
looking so inviting with its two plates and cups, one a fancy china
affair, sacredly kept for Hugh, whose coffee always tasted better when
sipped from its gilded side, the lightest of egg bread was steaming on
the hearth, the tenderest of steak was broiling on the griddle, while
the odor of the coffee boiling on the coals came tantalizingly to Hugh's
olfactories as Aunt Eunice opened the door, saying pleasantly:

"I told 'em so. I felt it in my bones, and the breakfast is all but
ready. Put Rocket up directly, and come in to the fire."

Fastening Rocket in his accustomed place in the outer shed, Hugh stamped
the snow from his heavy boots, and then went in to Aunt Eunice's
cheerful kitchen-parlor, as she called it, where the tempting breakfast
stood upon the table.

"No coffee! What new freak is that?" and Aunt Eunice gazed at him in
astonishment as he declined the cup she had prepared with so much care,
dropping in the whitest lumps of sugar, and stirring in the thickest
cream.

It cost Hugh a terrible struggle to refuse that cup of coffee, but if he
would retrench, he must begin at once, and determining to meet it
unflinchingly he replied that "he had concluded to drink water for a
while, and see what that would do; much was said nowadays about coffee
being injurious, and he presumed it was."

"There's something on your mind," she said, observing his abstraction.
"Have you had another dunning letter, or what?"

Aunt Eunice had made a commencement, and in his usual impulsive way Hugh
began by asking if "she ever knew him tell a lie?"

No, Aunt Eunice never did. Nobody ever did, bad as some folks thought
him.

"Do they think me very bad?" and Hugh spoke so mournfully that Aunt
Eunice tried to apologize.

"She didn't mean anything, only folks sometimes said he was cross and
rough, and--and--"

"Stingy," he suggested, supplying the word she hated to say.

Yes, that was what Ellen Tiffton said, because he refused to go to the
Ladies' Fair, where he was sure to have his pockets picked. But, law,
she wasn't worth minding, if she was Colonel Tiffton's girl, and going
to have a big party one week from the next Monday. Had Hugh heard of it?

Hugh believed Ad said something about it yesterday, but he paid no
attention, for, of course, he should not go even if he were invited, as
he had nothing fit to wear.

"But why did you ask if I ever knew you tell a lie?" Aunt Eunice said,
and then in a low tone, as if afraid the walls might hear, Hugh told the
whole story of Adah.

"'Twas a mighty mean trick, I know," he said, as he saw Aunt Eunice's
look of horror when he confessed the part he had had in wronging the
poor girl, "but, Aunt Eunice, that villain coaxed me into drinking wine,
which you know I never use, and I think now he must have drugged it, for
I remember a strange feeling in my head, a feeling not like drunkenness,
for I knew perfectly well what was transpiring around me, and only felt
a don't-care-a-tive-ness which kept me silent when I should have spoken.
She has come to me at last. She believes God sent her, and if He did
He'll help me take care of her. I shall not turn her off."

"But, Hugh," and Aunt Eunice spoke earnestly, "you cannot afford the
expense. Think twice before you commit yourself."

"I have thought twice, the last time just as I did the first. Adah shall
stay, and I want you to take her. You need some one these winter nights.
There's the room you call mine. Give her that. Will you, Aunt Eunice?"
and Hugh wound his arm around Aunt Eunice's ample waist, while he
pleaded for Adah Hastings.

Aunt Eunice was soon won over, as Hugh knew she would be, and it was
settled that she should come that very day, if possible.

"Look, the sky is clearing," and he pointed to the sunshine streaming
through the window.

"We'll have her room fixed before I go," and with his own hands Hugh
split and prepared the wood which was to kindle Adah's fire, then with
Aunt Eunice's help sundry changes were made in the arrangement of the
rather meager furniture, which never seemed so meager to Hugh as when he
looked at it with Adah's eyes and wondered how she'd like it.

"Oh, I wish I were rich," he sighed mentally, and taking out his
well-worn purse he carefully counted its contents.

Aunt Eunice, who had stepped out for a moment, reappeared, bringing a
counterpane and towel, one of which was spread upon the bed, while the
other covered the old pine stand, marred and stained with ink and
tallow, the result of Hugh's own carelessness.

"What a heap of difference that table cloth and pocket handkerchief do
make," was Hugh's man-like remark, his face brightening with the
improved appearance of things, and his big heart grew warm with the
thought that he might keep his twenty-five dollars and Adah be
comfortable still.

"Ad may pick Adah's eyes out before I get home," was his laughing remark
as he vaulted into his saddle and dashed off across the fields, where,
beneath the warm Kentucky sun, the snow was already beginning to soften.

Breakfast had been rather late at Spring Bank that morning, for the
strangers had required some care, and Miss 'Lina was sipping her coffee
rather ill-naturedly when a note was handed her, and instantly her mood
was changed.

"Splendid, mother!" she exclaimed, glancing at the tiny, three-cornered
thing; "an invitation to Ellen Tiffton's party. I was half afraid she
would leave me out after Hugh's refusal to attend the Ladies' Fair, or
buy a ticket for her lottery. It was only ten dollars either, and Mr.
Harney spent all of forty, I'm sure, in the course of the evening. I
think Harney is splendid."

"Hugh had no ten dollars to spare," Mrs. Worthington said,
apologetically, "though, of course, he might have been more civil than
to tell Ellen it was a regular swindle, and the getters-up ought to be
indicted. I almost wonder at her inviting him, as she said she'd never
speak to him again."

"Invited him! Who said she had? It's only one card for me," and with a
most satisfied expression 'Lina presented the rote to her mother, whose
pale face flushed at the insult thus offered her son--an insult which
even 'Lina felt, but would not acknowledge, lest it should interfere
with her going.

"You won't go, of course," Mrs. Worthington said, quietly. "You'll
resent her slighting Hugh."

"Indeed I shan't," the young lady retorted. "I hardly think it fair in
Ellen, but I shall accept, of course, and I must go to town to-day to
see about having my pink silk fixed. I think I'll have some black lace
festooned around the skirt. How I wish I could have a new one. Do you
suppose Hugh has any money?"

"None for new dresses or lace flounces, either," Mrs. Worthington
replied, "I fancy he begins to look old and worn with this perpetual
call for money from us. We must economize."

"Never mind, when I get Bob Harney I'll pay off old scores," 'Lina said,
laughingly, as she arose from the table, and went to look over her
wardrobe.

Meanwhile Hugh had returned, meeting in the kitchen with Lulu.

"Well, Lu, what is it? What's happened?" Hugh asked, as he saw she was
full of some important matter.

In an instant the impetuous Lulu told him of the party to which he was
not invited, together with the reason why, and the word she had sent
back.

"I'll give 'em a piece of my mind!" she said, as she saw Hugh change
color. "She may have old Harney. His man John told Claib how his a
master said he meant to get me and Rocket, too, some day; me for her
waiting maid, I reckon. You won't sell me, Master High, will you?" and
Lulu's soft black eyes looked pleadingly up to Hugh.

"Never!" and Hugh's riding whip came down upon the table with a force
which made Lulu start.

Satisfied that she was safe from Ellen Tiffton's whims, Lulu darted
away, singing as she went, while Hugh entered the sitting-room, where
'Lina sat, surrounded by her party finery, and prepared to do the
amiable to the utmost.

"That really is a handsome little boy upstairs," she said, as if she
supposed it were her mother who came in; then with an affected start she
added, "Oh, it's you! I thought 'twas mother. Don't you think, Ellen has
not invited you. Mean, isn't it?"

"Ellen can do as she likes," Hugh replied, adding, as he guessed the
meaning of all that finery, "you surely are not going?"

"Why not?" and 'Lina's black eyes flashed full upon him.

"I thought perhaps you would decline for my sake," he replied.

An angry retort trembled on 'Lina's lip, but she had an object to
attain, so she restrained herself and answered that "she had thought of
it, but such a course would do no good, and she wanted to go so much,
the Tifftons were so exclusive and aristocratic."

Hugh whistled a little contemptuously, but 'Lina kept her temper, and
continued, coaxingly:

"Everybody is to be there, and after what has been said about--about--your
being rather--close, you'd like to have your sister look decent, I know;
and really, Hugh, I can't unless you give me a little money. Do, Hugh,
be good for once."

"Ad, I can't," and Hugh spoke sorrowfully, for a kind word from 'Lina
always touched his weaker side. "I would if I could, but honestly I've
only twenty-five dollars in the world, and I've thought of a new coat. I
don't like to look so shabby. It hurts me worse than it does you," and
Hugh's voice trembled as he spoke.

Any but a heart of stone would have yielded at once, but 'Lina was too
supremely selfish. Hugh had twenty-five dollars. He might give her half,
or even ten. She'd be satisfied with ten. He could soon make that up.
The negro hire came due ere long. He must have forgotten that.

No, he had not; but with the negro hire came debts, thoughts of which
gave him the old worn look his mother had observed. Only ten dollars! It
did seem hard to refuse, and if 'Lina went Hugh wished her to look well,
for underneath his apparent harshness lurked a kind of pride in his
dark sister, whose beauty was of the bold, dashing style.

"Take them," he said at last, counting out the ten with a half-regretful
sigh. "Make them go as far as you can, and, Ad, remember, don't get into
debt."

"I won't," and with a civil "Thank you," 'Lina rolled up her bills,
while Hugh sought his mother, and sitting down beside her said,
abruptly:

"Mother, are you sure that man is dead?--Ad's father I mean?"

There was a nervous start, a sudden paling of Mrs. Worthington's cheek,
and then she answered, sadly:

"I suppose so, of course. I received a paper containing a marked
announcement of his death, giving accurately his name and age. There
could be no mistake. Why do you ask that question?"

"Nothing, only I've been thinking of him this morning. There's a mark on
Adah's temple similar to Ad's, only not so plain, and I did not know but
she might possibly be related. Have you noticed it?"

"'Lina pointed it out last night, but to me it seemed a spreading vein,
nothing more. Hugh!" and Mrs. Worthington grasped his arm with a
vehemence unusual to her accustomed quiet manner, "you seem to know
Adah's later history. Do you know her earlier? Who is she? Where did she
come from?"

"I'm going to her now; will you come, too?" she said, and accordingly
both together ascended to the chamber where Adah sat before the fire
with Willie on her lap, her glossy hair, which Lulu's skillful fingers
had arranged, combed smoothly down upon her forehead, so as to hide the
mysterious mark, if mark there were, on that fair skin.

Something in the expression of her face as she turned toward Mrs.
Worthington made that lady start, while her heart throbbed with an
indefinable emotion. Who was Adah Hastings, and why was she so drawn
toward her?

Addressing to her some indifferent remark, she gradually led the
conversation backward to the subject of her early home, asking again
what she could remember, but Adah was scarcely more satisfactory than on
the previous night. Memories she had of a gentle lady, who must have
been her mother, of a lad who called her sister, and kissed her
sometimes, of a cottage with grass and flowers, and bees buzzing beneath
the trees.

"Are you faint?" Hugh asked, quickly, as his mother turned white as
ashes, and leaned against the mantel.

She did not seem to hear him, but continued questioning Adah.

"Did you say bees? Were there many?"

"Oh, yes, so many, I remember, because they stung me once," and Adah
gazed dreamily into the fire, as if listening again to the musical hum
heard in that New England home, wherever it might have been.

"Go on, what more can you recall?" Mrs. Worthington said, and Adah
replied:

"Nothing but the waterfall in the river. I remember that near our door."

During this conversation, Hugh had been standing by the table, where lay
a few articles which he supposed belonged to Adah. One of these was a
small double locket, attached to a slender chain.

"The rascal's, I presume," he said to himself, and taking it in his
hand, he touched the spring, starting quickly as the features of a
young-girl met his view. How radiantly beautiful the original of that
picture must have been, and Hugh gazed long and earnestly upon the sweet
young face, and its soft, silken curls, some shading the open brow, and
others falling low upon the uncovered neck. Adah, lifting up her head,
saw what he was doing, and said:

"Don't you think her beautiful?"

"Who is she?" Hugh asked, coming to her side, and passing her the
locket.

"I don't know," Adah replied. "She came to me one day when Willie was
only two weeks old and my heart was so heavy with pain. She had heard I
did plain sewing and wanted some for herself. She seemed to me like an
angel, and I've sometimes thought she was, for she never came again. In
stooping over me the chain must have been unclasped. I tried to find her
when I got well, but my efforts were all in vain, and so I've kept it
ever since. It was not stealing, was it?"

"Of course not," Hugh said, while Adah, opening the other side, showed
him a lock of dark brown hair, tied with a tiny ribbon, in which was
written, "_In memoriam_, Aug. 18."

As Hugh read the date his heart gave one great throb, for that was the
summer, that the month when he lost the Golden Haired. Something, too,
reminded him of the warm moonlight night, when the little snowy fingers,
over which the fierce waters were soon to beat, had strayed through his
heavy locks, which the girl had said were too long to be becoming,
playfully severing them at random, and saying "she means to keep the
fleece to fill a cushion with."

"I wonder whose it is?" Adah said; "I've thought it might have been her
mother's."

"Her lover's more likely," suggested Hugh, glancing once more at the
picture, which certainly had in it a resemblance to the Golden Haired,
save that the curls were darker, and the eyes a deeper blue.

"Will mas'r have de carriage? He say something 'bout it," Cæsar said,
just then thrusting his woolly head in at the door, and thus reminding
Hugh that Adah had yet to hear of Aunt Eunice and his plan of taking her
thither.

With a burst of tears, Adah listened to him, and then insisted upon
going away, as she had done the previous night. She had no claim on him,
and she could not be a burden.

"You, madam, think it best, I'm sure," she said, appealing to Mrs.
Worthington, whose heart yearned strangely toward the unprotected
stranger, and who answered, promptly:

"I do not, I am willing you should remain until your friends are found."

Adah offered no further remonstrance, but turning to Hugh, said,
hesitatingly:

"I may hear from my advertisement. Do you take the _Herald_?"

"Yes, though I can't say I think much of it," Hugh replied, and Adah
continued:

"Then if you ever find anything for me, you'll tell me, and I can go
away. I said, 'Direct to Adah Hastings.' Somebody will be sure to see
it. Maybe George, and then he'll know of Willie," and the white face
brightened with eager anticipation as Adah thought of George reading
that advertisement, a part of which had lighted Dr. Richards' cigar.

With a muttered invective against the "villain," Hugh left the room to
see that the carriage was ready, while his mother, following him into
the hall, offered to go herself with Adah if he liked. Glad to be
relieved, as he had business that afternoon in Versailles, and was
anxious to set off as soon as possible, Hugh accepted at once, and half
an hour later, the Spring Bank carriage drove slowly from the door,
'Lina calling after her mother to send Cæsar back immediately.



CHAPTER X

'LINA'S PURCHASE AND HUGH'S


There were piles of handsome dress goods upon the counter at Harney's
that afternoon, and Harney was anxious to sell. It was not always that
he favored a customer with his own personal services, and 'Lina felt
proportionably flattered when he came forward and asked what he could
show her. Of course, a dress for the party--he had sold at least a dozen
that day, but fortunately he still had the most elegant pattern of all,
and he knew it would exactly suit her complexion and style.

Deluded 'Lina! Richard Harney, the wealthy bachelor merchant, did not
mean one word he said. He had tried to sell that dress a dozen times,
and been as often refused, no one caring just then to pay fifty dollars
for a dress which could only be worn on great occasions. But 'Lina was
easily flattered, while the silk was beautiful. But ten dollars was all
she had, and turning away from the tempting silk she answered faintly,
that "it was superb, but she could not afford it, besides, she had not
the money to-day."

"Not the slightest consequence," was Harney's quick rejoinder. "Not the
slightest consequence. Your brother's credit is good--none better in the
country, and I'm sure he'll be proud to see you in it. I should, were I
your brother."

'Lina blushed, while the wish to possess the silk grew every moment
stronger.

"If it were only fifty dollars, it would not seem so bad," she thought.
Hugh could manage it some way, and Mr. Harney was so good natured; he
could wait a year, she knew. But the making would cost ten dollars more,
for that was the price Miss Allis charged, to say nothing of the
trimmings. "No, I can't," she said, quite decidedly, at last, asking for
the lace with which she at first intended renovating her old pink silk,
"She must see Miss Allis first to know how much she wanted," and
promising to return, she tripped over to Frankfort's fashionable
dressmaker, whom she found surrounded with dresses for the party.

As some time would elapse ere Miss Allis could attend to her, she went
back to Harney's just for one more look at the lovely fabric. It was, if
possible, more beautiful than before, and Harney was more polite, while
the result of the whole was that, when 'Lina at four o'clock that
afternoon entered her carriage to go home, the despised pink silk, still
unpaid on Haney's books, was thrown down anywhere, while in her hands
she carefully held the bundle Harney brought himself, complimenting her
upon the sensation she was sure to create, and inviting her to dance the
first set with him. Then with a smiling bow he closed the door upon her,
and returning to his books wrote down Hugh Worthington his debtor to
fifty dollars more.

"That makes three hundred and fifty," he said to himself. "I know he
can't raise that amount of ready money, and as he is too infernal proud
to be sued, I'm sure of Rocket or Lulu, it matters but little which,"
and with a look upon his face which made it positively hideous, the
scheming Harney closed his books, and sat down to calculate the best
means of managing the rather unmanageable Hugh!

It was dark when 'Lina reached home, but the silk looked well by
firelight, better even than in the light of day, and 'Lina would have
been quite happy but for her mother's reproaches and an occasional
twinge as she wondered what Hugh would say. He had not yet returned, and
numerous were Mrs. Worthington's surmises as to what was keeping him so
late. A glance backward for an hour or so will let us into the secret.

It was the day when a number of negroes were to be sold in the
courthouse. There was no trouble in disposing of them all, save one, a
white-haired old man, whom they called Uncle Sam.

With tottering steps the old man took his place, while his dim eyes
wandered wistfully over the faces around him congregated, as if seeking
for their owner. But none was found who cared for Uncle Sam.

"Won't nobody bid for Sam? I fetched a thousan' dollars onct," and the
feeble voice trembled as it asked this question.

"What will become of him if he is not sold?" Hugh asked of a bystander,
who replied, "Go back to the old place to be kicked and cuffed by the
minions of the new proprietor, Harney. You know Harney, of Frankfort?"

Yes, Hugh did know Harney as one who was constantly adding to his
already large possessions houses and lands and negroes without limit,
caring little that they came to him laden with the widow's curse and the
orphan's tears. This was Harney, and Hugh always felt exasperated
whenever he thought of him. Advancing a step or two he came nearer to
the negro, who took comfort at once from the expression of his face, and
stretching out his shaking hand he said, beseechingly:

"You, mas'r, you buy old Sam, 'case it 'ill be lonesome and cold in de
cabin at home when they all is gone. Please, mas'r."

"What can you do?" was Hugh's query, to which the truthful negro
answered:

"Nothin' much, 'cept to set in the chimbly corner eatin' corn bread and
bacon--or, yes," and an expression of reverence and awe stole over the
wrinkled face, as in a low tone he added, "I can pray for young mas'r,
and I will, only buy me, please."

Hugh had not much faith in praying negroes, but something in old Sam
struck him as sincere. His prayers might do good, and be needed
somebody's, sadly. But what should he offer, when fifteen dollars was
all he had in the world, and was it his duty to encumber himself with a
piece of useless property? Visions of the Golden Haired and Adah both
arose up before him. They would say it was right. They would tell him to
buy old Sam, and that settled the point with him.

"Five dollars," he called out, and Sam's "God bless you," was sounding
in his ears, when a voice from another part of the building doubled the
bid, and with a moan Uncle Sam turned imploringly toward Hugh.

"A leetle more, mas'r, an' you fotches 'em; a leetle more," he
whispered, coaxingly, and Hugh faltered out "Twelve."

"Thirteen," came again from the corner, and Hugh caught sight of the
bidder, a sour-grained fellow, whose wife had ten young children, and so
could find use for Sam.

"Thirteen and a half," cried Hugh.

"Fourteen," responded his opponent.

"Leetle more, mas'r, berry leetle," whispered Uncle Sam.

"Fourteen and a quarter," said Hugh, the perspiration starting out about
his lips, as he thought how fast his pile was diminishing, and that he
could not go beyond it.

"Fourteen and a half," from the corner.

"Leetle more, mas'r," from Uncle Sam.

"Fourteen, seventy-five," from Hugh.

"Fifteen," from the man in the corner, and Hugh groaned aloud.

"That's every dime I've got."

Quick as thought an acquaintance beside him slipped a bill into his
hand, whispering as he did so:

"It's a V. I'll double it if necessary. I'm sorry for the darky."

It was very exciting now, each bidder raising a quarter each time, while
Sam's "a leetle more, mas'r," and the vociferous cheers of the crowd,
whenever Hugh's voice was heard, showed him to be the popular party.

"Nineteen, seventy-five," from the corner, and Hugh felt his courage
giving way as he faintly called out:

"Twenty."

Only an instant did the auctioneer wait, and then his decision, "Gone!"
made Hugh the owner of Uncle Sam, who, crouching down before him,
blessed him with tears and prayers.

"I knows you're good," he said; "I knows it by yer face; and mebby, when
the rheumatics gits out of my ole legs I kin work for mas'r a heap. Does
you live fur from here?"

"Look here, Sam," and Hugh laughed heartily at the negro's forlorn
appearance, as, regaining his feet, he assumed a most deprecating
attitude, asking pardon for tumbling down, and charging it all to his
shaky knees. "Look here, there's no other way, except for you to ride,
and me to walk. Rocket won't carry double," and ere Sam could
remonstrate, Hugh had dismounted and placed him in the saddle.

Rocket did not fancy the exchange, as was manifest by an indignant
snort, and an attempt to shake Sam off, but a word from Hugh quieted
him, and the latter offered the reins to Sam, who was never a skillful
horseman, and felt a mortal terror of the high-mettled steed beneath
him. With a most frightened expression upon his face, he grasped the
saddle pommel with both hands, and bending nearly double, gasped out:

"Sam ain't much use't to gemman's horses. Kind of bold me on, mas'r,
till I gits de hang of de critter. He hists me around mightily."

So, leading Rocket with one hand, and steadying Sam with the other, Hugh
got on but slowly, and 'Lina had looked for him many times ere she spied
him from the window as he came up the lawn.

"Who is he, and what did you get him for?" Mrs. Worthington asked, as
Hugh led Sam into the dining-room.

Briefly Hugh explained to her why he had bought the negro.

"It was foolish, I suppose, but I'm not sorry yet," he added, glancing
toward the corner where the poor old man was sitting, warming his
shriveled hands by the cheerful fire, and muttering to himself blessings
on "young mas'r."

But for the remembrance of her dress, 'Lina would have stormed, but as
it was, she held her peace, and even asked Sam some trivial question
concerning his former owners. Supper had been delayed for Hugh, and as
he took his seat at the table, he inquired after Adah.

"Pretty well when I left," said his mother, adding that Lulu had been
there since, and reported her as looking pale and worn, while Aunt
Eunice seemed worried with Willie, who was inclined to be fretful.

"They need some one," Hugh said, refusing the coffee his mother passed
him on the plea that he did not feel like drinking it to-night. "They
need one of the servants. Can't you spare Lulu?"

Mrs. Worthington did not know, but 'Lina, to whom Lulu was a kind of
waiting maid, took the matter up alone, and said:

"Indeed they couldn't. There was no one at Spring Bank more useful, and
it was preposterous for Hugh to think of giving their best servant to
Adah Hastings. Let her take care of her baby herself. She guessed it
wouldn't hurt her. Anyway, they couldn't afford to keep a servant for
her."

With a long-drawn sigh, Hugh finished his supper, and was about lighting
his cigar when he felt some one touching him, and turning around he saw
that Sam had grasped his coat. The negro had heard the conversation, and
drawn correct conclusions. His new master was not rich. He could not
afford to buy him, and having bought him could not afford to keep him.
There was a sigh in the old man's heart, as he thought how useless he
was, but when he heard about the baby, his spirits arose at once. In all
the world there was nothing so precious to Sam as a child, a little
white child, with waxen hands to pat his old black face, and his work
was found.

"Mas'r," he whispered, "Sam kin take keer that baby. He knows how, and
the little children in Georgy, whar I comed from, used to be mighty fond
of Sam. I'll tend to the young lady, too. Is she yourn, mas'r?"

'Lina laughed aloud, while Hugh replied:

"She's mine while I take care of her."

Then, turning to his sister, he asked if she procured what she wanted.

With a threatening frown at Lulu, who had seen and gone into ecstasies
over the rose silk, 'Lina answered that she was fortunate enough to get
just what she wanted, adding quickly:

"It's to be a much gayer affair than I supposed. They are invited from
Louisville, and even from Cincinnati, so Mr. Harney says."

"Harney, did you trade there?" Hugh asked.

"Why, yes. It's the largest and best store in town. Why shouldn't I?"
'Lina replied, while Sam, catching at the name, put in:

"Hartley's the man what foreclosed the mortgage. You orto hear ole mas'r
cuss him oncet. Sharp chap, dat Harney; mighty hard on de blacks, folks
say," and glad to have escaped from his clutches, Sam turned again to
his dozing reverie, which was broken at last by Hugh's calling Claib,
and bidding him show Sam where he was to sleep.

How long Hugh did sit up that night, and 'Lina, who wanted so much to
see once more just how her rose silk looked by lamplight, thought he
never would take her broad hints and leave. He dreaded to go--dreaded to
exchange that warm, pleasant room for the cold, cheerless chamber above,
where he knew no fire would greet him, for he had told Claib not to make
one, and that was why he lingered as long below. But the ordeal must be
met, and just as the clock was striking eleven, he bade his mother and
sister good-night, whistling as he bounded up the stairs, by way of
keeping up his spirits. How dreary and dark it looked in his room, as
with a feeling akin to homesickness Hugh set his candle down and glanced
at the empty hearth.

"After all, what does it matter?" he said. "I only have to hurry and get
in bed the sooner," and tossing one boot here and another there, he was
about to finish undressing when suddenly he remembered the little Bible,
and the passage read last night. Would there be one for him to-night? He
meant to look and see, and all cold and shivery as he was, Hugh lifted
the lid of the trunk which held his treasure, and taking it out, opened
to the place where the silken curl was lying. There was a great throb at
his heart when he saw that the last coil of the tress lay just over the
words, "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a
cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he
shall in no wise lose his reward."

"It does seem as if this was meant to encourage me," Hugh said, reading
the passage twice. "I don't much believe, though, I bought old Sam in
the name of a disciple, though I do think his telling me he prayed had a
little to do with it. It's rather pleasant to think there's two to pray
for me now, Adah and Sam. I wonder if it makes any difference with God
that one prayer is white and the other black? Golden Hair said it didn't
when we talked about the negroes," and shutting the Bible, Hugh was
about to put it up when something whispered of his resolution to
commence reading it through.

"It's too confounded cold. I'll freeze to death, I tell you," he said,
as if arguing the point with some unseen presence. "Get into bed and
read it then, hey? It's growing late and my candle is most burned out.
The first chapter of Genesis is short, is it? Won't take one over three
minutes? Stick like a chestnut burr, don't you," and as if the matter
were decided, Hugh sprang into bed, shivering as if about to take a cold
plunge bath. How then was he disappointed to find the sheets as nice and
warm as Aunt Chloe's warming pan of red-hot coals could make them.

And so he fell away to sleep, dreaming that Golden Hair had come back,
and that he held her in his arms, just as he held the Bible he had
unconsciously taken from the pillow beneath his head.



CHAPTER XI

SAM AND ADAH


It was Saturday night again, and Adah, with heavy eyes and throbbing
head, sat bending over the dazzling silk, which 'Lina had coaxed her to
make.

'Lina could be very gracious when she chose, and as she saw a way by
which Adah might be useful to her, she chose to be so now, and treated
the unsuspecting girl so kindly, that Adah promised to undertake the
task, which proved a harder one than she had anticipated. Anxious to
gratify 'Lina, and keep what she was doing a secret from Hugh, who came
to the cottage often, she was obliged to work early and late, bending
over the dress by the dim candlelight until her head seemed bursting
with pain, and rings of fire danced before her eyes. She never would
have succeeded but for Uncle Sam, who proved a most efficient member of
the household, fitting in every niche and corner, until Aunt Eunice,
with all her New England aversion to negroes, wondered how she had ever
lived without him. Particularly did he attach himself to Willie,
relieving Adah from all care, and thus enabling her to devote every
spare moment to the party dress.

"You'se workin' yourself to death," he said to her, as late on Saturday
night she sat bending to the tallow candle, her hair brushed back from
her forehead and a purplish glow upon her cheek.

"I know I'm working too hard," she said. "I'm very tired, but Monday is
the party. Oh, I am so hot and feverish," and, as if even the slender
chain of gold about her neck were a burden, she undid the clasp, and
laid upon the stand the locket which had so interested Hugh.

Naturally inquisitive Sam took it in his hand, and touching the spring
held it to the light, uttering an exclamation of surprise.

"Dat's de bery one, and no mistake," he said, his old withered face
lighting up with eager joy.

"Who is she, Sam?" Adah asked, forgetting her work in her new interest.

"Miss Ellis. I done forgot de other name. Ellis they call her way down
thar whar Sam was sold, when dat man with the big splot on his forerd
like that is on your'n steal me away and sell me in Virginny. Miss, ever
hearn tell o' dat? We thinks he's takin' a bee line for Canada, when
fust we knows we's in ole Virginny, and de villain not freein' us at
all. He sell us. Me he most give away, 'case I was so old, and the mas'r
who buy some like Mas'r Hugh, he pity, he sorry for ole shaky nigger.
Sam tell him on his knees how he comed from Kaintuck, but Mas'r Sullivan
say he bought 'em far, and that the right mas'r sell 'em sneakin' like
to save rasin' a furse, and he show a bill of sale. They believe him
spite of dis chile, and so Sam 'long to anodder mas'r."

"Yes; but the lady, Miss Ellis. Where did you find her?" Adah asked, and
Sam replied:

"I'se comin' to her d'rectly. Mas'r Fitzhugh live on big plantation--big
house, too, with plenty company; and one day she comed, with great
trunk, a visitin' you know. She'd been to school with Miss Mabel, Mas'r
Fitzhugh's daughter."

"Are you sure it's the same?" Adah asked.

"Yes, miss, Sam sure, he 'members them curls--got a heap of 'em; and
that neck--oh, wear that neck berry low, so low, so white, it make even
ole Sam feel kinder, kinder, yes, Sam feel very much that way."

Adah could not repress a smile, but she was too much interested to
interrupt him, and he went on:

"They all think heap of Miss Ellis, and I hear de blacks tellin' how she
berry rich, and comed from way off thar wher white niggers
live--Masser-something."

"Massachusetts?" suggested Adah.

"Yes; that's the very mas'r, I 'member dat."

"Was Ellis her first or last name?" Adah asked, and Sam replied:

"It was neider, 'twas her Christian name. I'se got mizzable memory, and
I disremembers her last name. The folks call her Ellis, and the blacks
Miss Ellis."

"A queer name for a first one," Adah thought, while Sam continued:

"She jest like bright angel, in her white gownds and dem long curls, and
Sam like her so much. She promise to write to Mas'r Browne and tell him
whar I is. I didn't cry loud then--heart too full. I cry whimperin'
like, and she cry, too. Then she tell me about God, and Sam listen, oh,
listen so much, for that's what he want to hear so long. Miss Nancy, in
Kuntuck, be one of them that reads her pra'rs o' Sundays, and ole mas'r
one that hollers 'em. Sam liked that way best, seemed like gettin' along
and make de Lord hear, but it don't show Sam the way, and when the
ministers come in, he listen, but they that reads and them that hollers
only talk about High and Low--Jack and the Game, or something, Sam
disremembers so bad; got mizzable memory. He only knows he not find the
way, 'till Miss Ellis tells him of Jesus, once a man and always God.
It's very queer, but Sam believe it, and then she sing, 'Come unto me.'
You ever hear it?"

Adah nodded, and Sam went on.

"But you never hear Miss Ellis sing it. Oh, so fine, the very rafters
hold their breff, and Sam find the way at last."

"Where is Miss Ellis now?" Adah asked, and Sam replied:

"Gone to Masser--what you say once. She gived me five dollars and then
ask what else. I look at her and say, 'Sam wants a spear or two of yer
shinin' hair,' and Miss Mabel takes shears and cut a little curl. I'se
got 'em now. I never spend the money," and from an old leathern wallet
Sam drew a bill and a soft silken curl, which he laid across Adah's
hand.

"Yes, that is like her hair," Adah said, gazing fondly upon the tiny
lock which was Sam's greatest earthly treasure; then, returning it to
him, she asked: "And where is that Sullivan?" a chill creeping over her
as she remembered how about four years ago the man she called her
guardian was absent for some time, and came back to her with colored
hair and whiskers.

"Oh, he gone long before, nobody know whar. Sam b'lieves, though, he
hear they tryin' to cotch him, but disremembers, got such mizzable
memory."

"You say he had a mark like mine?" Adah continued.

"Yes, berry much, but more so. Show plainer when he cussin' mad, just as
yours show more when you tired. Whar you git dat?" and Sam bent down to
inspect more closely Adah's birthmark.

"I don't know. I was born with it," and Adah half groaned aloud at the
sad memories which Sam's story had awakened within her.

She could scarcely doubt that Sullivan, the negro-stealer, and Monroe,
her guardian, were the same, but where was he now, and why had he
treated her so treacherously, when he had always seemed so kind?

"Miss Adah prays," the old man answered. "Won't she say 'Our Father'
with Sam?"

Surely Hugh's sleep was sweeter that night for the prayer breathed by
the lowly negro, and even the wild tumult in Adah's heart was hushed by
Sam's simple, childlike faith that God would bring all right at last.

Early on Monday afternoon 'Lina, taking advantage of Hugh's absence,
came over for her dress, finding much fault, and requiring some of the
work to be done twice ere it suited her. Without a murmur Adah obeyed,
but when the last stitch was taken and the party dress was gone, her
overtaxed frame gave way, and Sam himself helped her to her bed, where
she lay moaning, with the blinding pain in her head, which increased so
fast that she scarcely saw the tempting little supper which Aunt Eunice
brought, asking her to eat. Of one thing, however, she was conscious,
and that of the dark form bending over her pillow and whispering
soothingly the passage which had once brought Heaven to him, "Come unto
me, come unto me, and I will give you rest."

The night had closed in dark and stormy, and the wintry rain beat
fiercely against the windows; but for this Sam did not hesitate a moment
when at midnight Aunt Eunice, alarmed at Adah's rapidly increasing
fever, asked if he could find his way to Spring Bank.

"In course," he could, and in a few moments the old, shriveled form was
out in the darkness, groping its way over fences, and through the
pitfalls, stumbling often, and losing his hat past recovery, so that the
snowy hair was dripping wet when at last Spring Bank was reached and he
stood upon the porch.

In much alarm Hugh dressed himself and hastened to the cottage. But Adah
did not know him and only talked of dresses and parties, and George,
whom she begged to come back and restore her good name.



CHAPTER XII

WHAT FOLLOWED


There was a bright light in the sitting-room, and through the
half-closed shutters Hugh caught glimpses of a blazing fire. 'Lina had
evidently come home, and half wishing she had stayed a little longer,
Hugh entered the room.

Poor 'Lina! The party had proved a most unsatisfactory affair. She had
not made the sensation she expected to make. Harney had scarcely noticed
her at all, having neither eyes nor ears for any one save Ellen Tiffton,
who surely must have told that Hugh was not invited, for, in no other
way could 'Lina account for the remark she overheard touching her want
of heart in failing to resent a brother's insult. In the most unenviable
of moods, 'Lina left at a comparatively early hour. She bade Cæsar drive
carefully, as it was very dark, and the rain was almost blinding, so
rapidly it fell.

"Ye-es, mis-s, Cæs--he--done been to party fore now. Git 'long dar,
Sorrel," hiccoughed the negro, who, in Colonel Tiffton's kitchen had
indulged rather too freely to insure the safety of his mistress.

Still the horses knew the road, and kept it until they left the main
highway and turned into the fields. Even then they would probably have
made their way in safety, had not their drunken driver persisted in
turning them into a road which led directly through the deepest part of
the creek, swollen now by the melted snow and the vast amount of rain
which had fallen since the sunsetting. Not knowing they were wrong,
'Lina did not dream of danger until she heard Cæsar's cry of "Who'a dar,
Sorrel. Git up, Henry. Dat's nothin' but de creek," while a violent
lurch of the carriage sent her to the opposite side from where she had
been sitting.

A few mad plunges, another wrench, which pitched 'Lina headlong against
the window, and the steep, shelving bank was reached, but in endeavoring
to climb it the carriage was upset, and 'Lina found herself in pitchy
darkness. Perfectly sobered now, Cæsar extricated her as soon as
possible. The carriage was broken and there was no alternative save for
'Lina to walk the remaining distance home. It was not far, for the scene
of the disaster was within sight of Spring Bank, but to 'Lina,
bedraggled with mud and wet to the skin, it seemed an interminable
distance, and her strength was giving out just as she reached the
friendly piazza, and called on her mother for help, sobbing hysterically
as she repeated her story, but dwelling most upon her ruined dress.

"What will Hugh say? It was not paid for, either. Oh, dear, oh, dear, I
most wish I was dead!" she moaned, as her mother removed one by one the
saturated garments.

The sight of Hugh called forth her grief afresh, and forgetful of her
dishabille, she staggered toward him, and impulsively winding her arms
around his neck, sobbed out:

"Oh, Hugh, Hugh! I've had such a doleful time. I've been in the creek,
the carriage is broken, the horses are lamed, Cæsar is drunk,
and--and--oh, Hugh, I've spoiled my dress!"

Laughing merrily Hugh held her off at a little distance, likening her to
a mermaid fresh from the sea, and succeeding at last in quieting her
down until she could give a more concise account of the catastrophe.

"Never mind the dress," he said, good-humoredly, as she kept recurring
to that. "It isn't as if it were new. An old thing is never so
valuable."

Alas, that 'Lina did not then confess the truth. Had she done so he
would have forgiven her freely, but she let the golden opportunity pass,
and so paved the way for much bitterness of feeling in the future.

During the gloomy weeks which followed, Hugh's heart and hands were
full, inclination tempting him to stay by the moaning Adah, who knew the
moment he was gone, and stern duty, bidding him keep with delirious
'Lina, who, strange to say, was always more quiet when he was near,
taking readily from him the medicine refused when offered by her mother.
Day after day, week after week, Hugh watched alternately at the
bedsides, and those who came to offer help felt their hearts glow with
admiration for the worn, haggard man, whose character they had so
mistaken, never dreaming what depths of patient, all-enduring tenderness
were hidden beneath his rough exterior. Even Ellen Tiffton was softened,
and forgetting the Ladies' Fair, rode daily over to Spring Bank,
ostensibly to inquire after 'Lina, but really to speak a kindly word to
Hugh, to whom she felt she had done a wrong. How long those fevers ran,
and Hugh began to fear that 'Lina's never would abate, sorrowing much
for the harsh words which passed between them, wishing they had been
unsaid, for he would rather that none but pleasant memories should be
left to him of this, his only sister. But 'Lina did not die, and as her
disease had from the first assumed a far more violent form than Adah's,
so it was the first to yield, and February found her convalescent. With
Adah it was different. But there came a change at last, a morning when
she awoke from a death-like stupor which had clouded her faculties so
long, as the attending physician said to Hugh that his services would be
needed but a little longer. Physicians' bills, together with that of
Harney's yet unpaid, for Harney, villain though he was, would not
present it when Hugh was full of trouble; but the hour was coming when
it must be settled, and Hugh at last received a note, couched in
courteous terms, but urging immediate payment.

"I'll see him to-day. I'll know the worst at once," he said, and
mounting Rocket, who never looked more beautiful than he did that
afternoon, he dashed down the Frankfort turnpike, and was soon closeted
with Harney.



CHAPTER XIII

HOW HUGH PAID HIS DEBTS


The perspiration was standing in great drops about Hugh's quivering
lips, and his face was white as ashes, as, near the close of that
interview, he hoarsely asked:

"Do I understand you, sir, that Rocket will cancel this debt and leave
you my debtor for one hundred dollars?"

"Yes, that was my offer, and a most generous one, too, considering how
little horses are bringing," and Harney smiled villainously as he
thought within himself: "Easier to manage than I supposed. I believe my
soul I offered too much. I should have made it an even thing."

Hugh knew how long this plan had been premeditated, and his blood boiled
madly when he heard it suggested, as if that moment had given it birth.
Still he restrained himself, and asked the question we have recorded,
adding, after Harney's reply:

"And suppose I do not care to part with Rocket?"

Harney winced a little, but answered carelessly:

"Money, of course, is just as good. You know how long I've waited. Few
would have done as well."

Yes, Hugh knew that, but Rocket was as dear to him as his right eye, and
he would almost as soon have plucked out the one as sold the other.

"I have not the money," he said, frankly, "and I cannot part with
Rocket. Is there nothing else? I'll give a mortgage on Spring Bank."

Harney did not care for a mortgage, but there was something else, and
the rascally face brightened, as, stepping back, while he made the
proposition, he faintly suggested "Lulu." He would give a thousand
dollars for her, and Hugh could keep his horse. For a moment the two
young men regarded each other intently, Hugh's eyes flashing gleams of
fire, and his whole face expressive of the contempt he felt for the
wretch who cowed at last beneath the look, and turned away muttering
that "he saw nothing so very heinous in wishing to purchase a nigger
wench."

Then, changing his tone to one of defiance, he added:

"Since you are not inclined to part with either of your pets, you'll
oblige me with the money, and before to-morrow night. You understand me,
I presume?"

"I do," and bowing haughtily, Hugh passed through the open door.

In a kind of desperation he mounted Rocket, and dashed out of town at a
speed which made more than one look after him, wondering what cause
there was for his headlong haste. A few miles from the city he slacked
his speed, and dismounting by a running brook, sat down to think. The
price offered for Lulu would set him free from every pressing debt, and
leave a large surplus, but not for a moment did he hesitate.

"I'd lead her out and shoot her through the heart, before I'd do that
thing," he said.

Then turning to the noble animal cropping the grass beside him, he wound
his arms around his neck, and tried to imagine how it would seem to know
the stall at home was empty, and his beautiful Rocket gone.

"If I could pawn him," he thought, just as the sound of wheels was
heard, and he saw old Colonel Tiffton driving down the turnpike.

Between the colonel and his daughter Ellen there had been a conversation
that very day touching the young man Hugh, in whom Ellen now felt a
growing interest. Seated in their handsome parlor, with her little hands
folded listlessly one above the other, Ellen was listening, while her
father told her mother.

"He didn't see how that chap was ever to pay his debts. One doctor twice
a day for three months was enough to ruin anybody, let alone having
two," and the sometimes far-seeing old colonel shook his head
doubtfully.

"Father," and Ellen stole softly to his side, "if Mr. Worthington wants
money so badly, you'll lend it to him, won't you?"

Again a doubtful shake as the prudent colonel replied: "And lose every
red I lend, hey? That's the way a woman would do, I s'pose, but I am too
old for that. Now, if he could give good security, I wouldn't mind, but
what's he got, pray, that we want?"

Ellen's gray eyes scanned his face curiously a moment, and then Ellen's
rather pretty lips whispered in his ear: "He's got Rocket, pa."

"Yes, yes, so he has; but no power on earth could make him part with
that nag. I've always liked that boy, always liked old John, but the
plague knows what he did with his money."

"You'll help Hugh?" and Ellen returned to the attack.

"Well," said the old man, "we'll see about this Hugh matter," and the
colonel left the house, and entered the buggy which had been waiting to
take him to Frankfort.

"That's funny that I should run a-foul of him," he thought, stopping
suddenly as he caught sight of Hugh, and calling out cheerily: "How
d'ye, young man? That's a fine nag of yours. My Nell is nigh about crazy
for me to buy him. What'll you take?"

"What'll you give?" was Hugh's Yankee-like response, while the colonel,
struck by Hugh's peculiar manner, settled himself back in his buggy and
announced himself ready to trade.

Hugh knew he could trust the colonel, and after a moment's hesitation
told of his embarrassments, and asked the loan of five hundred dollars,
offering Rocket as security, with the privilege of redeeming him in a
year.

"You ask a steep sum," he said, "but I take it you are in a tight spot
and don't know what else to do. That girl in the snow bank--I'll be
hanged if that was ever made quite clear to me."

"It is to me, and that is sufficient," Hugh answered, while the old
colonel replied:

"Good grit, Hugh. I like you for that. In short, I like you for
everything, and that's why I was sorry about that New York lady. You
see, it may stand in the way of your getting a wife by and by, that's
all."

"I shall never marry," Hugh answered, thinking of the Golden Haired.

"No?" the colonel replied. "Well, there ain't many good enough for you,
that's a fact, and so I tell 'em when they get to--get to--"

Hugh looked up inquiringly, his face flashing as he guessed at what they
got.

"Bless me, there's ain't many girls good for anybody. I never saw but
one, except my Nell, that was worth a picayune, and that was Alice
Johnson."

"Who? Who did you say?" And Hugh grew white as marble.

The colonel replied: "I said Alice Johnson, twentieth cousin of
mine--blast that fly!--lives in Massachusetts; splendid girl--hang it
all can't I hit him?--there, I've killed him." And the colonel put up
his whip, never dreaming of the effect that name had produced on Hugh,
whose heart gave one great throb of hope, and then grew heavy and sad as
he thought how impossible it was that the Alice Johnson the colonel
knew could be the Golden Haired.

"There are fifty by that name, no doubt," he said, "and if there were
not, she is dead."

Hugh dared not question the colonel further, and was only too glad when
the latter said: "If I understand you, I can have Rocket for five
hundred dollars, provided I let you redeem him within a year. Now that's
equivalent to my lending you five hundred dollars out and out. I see,
but seeing it's you, I reckon I'll have to do it. As luck will have it,
I was going down to Frankfort this very day to put some money in the
bank, and if you say so, we'll clinch the bargain at once," and the
colonel began to count the amount.

Alice Johnson was forgotten in that moment when Hugh felt as if his very
life was dying out. Then chiding himself as weak, he lifted up his head
and said: "Rocket is yours."

The words were like a sob; and the generous old man hesitated. But Hugh
was in earnest. His debts must be paid, and that five hundred dollars
would do it.

"I'll bring him around to-morrow. Will that be time enough?" he asked,
as he rolled up the bills.

"Yes, oh, yes," the colonel replied, while Hugh continued: "And,
colonel, you'll--you'll be kind to Rocket. He's never been struck a blow
since he was broken to the saddle. He wouldn't know what it meant."

"Oh, yes, I see--Rarey's method. Now I never could make that work. Have
to lick 'em sometimes, but I'll remember Rocket. Good-day," and
gathering up his reins Colonel Tiffton rode slowly away.

Hugh rode back to Frankfort and dismounted at Harney's door.

In silence Harney received the money, gave his receipt, and then watched
Hugh as he rode again from town, muttering: "I shall remember that he
knocked me down, and some time I'll repay it."

It was dark when Hugh reached home, his flashing eyes indicating the
storm which burst forth the moment he entered the room where 'Lina was
sitting. In tones which made even her tremble he accused her of her
treachery, pouring forth such a torrent of wrath that his mother urged
him to stop, for her sake if no other. She could always quiet Hugh, and
he calmed down at once, hurling but one more missile at his sister, and
that in the shape of Rocket, who, he said, was sold for her
extravagance.

'Lina was proud of Rocket, and the knowledge that he was sold touched
her far more than all Hugh's angry words. But her tear a were of no
avail; the deed was done, and on the morrow Hugh, with an unflinching
hand, led his idol from the stable and rode rapidly across the fields,
leading another horse which was to bring him home.

The next morning Lulu came running up the stairs, exclaiming:

"He's done come home, Rocket has. He's at the kitchen door."

It was even as Lulu, said, for the homesick brute, suspecting something
wrong, had broken from his fastenings, and bursting the stable door had
come back to Spring Bank, his halter dangling about his neck, and
himself looking very defiant, as if he were not again to be coaxed away.
At sight of Hugh he uttered a sound of joy, and bounding forward planted
both feet within the door ere Hugh had time to reach it.

"Thar's the old colonel now," whispered Claib, just as the colonel
himself appeared to claim his runaway.

"I'll take him home myself," he said to the old colonel, emerging from
his hiding place behind the leach, and bidding Claib follow with another
horse Hugh went a second time to Colonel Tiffton's farm.



CHAPTER XIV

MRS. JOHNSON'S LETTER


The spring had passed away, and the warm June sun was shining over
Spring Bank, whose mistress and servants were very lonely now, for Hugh
was absent, and with him the light of the house had departed. Business
of his late uncle's had taken him to New Orleans, where he might
possibly remain all the summer. 'Lina was glad, for since the fatal
dress affair there had been but little harmony between herself and her
brother. The tenderness awakened by her long illness seemed to have been
forgotten, and Hugh's manner toward her was cold and irritating to the
last degree, so that the young lady rejoiced to be freed from his
presence.

"I do hope he'll stay all summer," she said one morning, when speaking
of him to her mother. "I think it's a heap nicer without him, though
dull enough at the best. I wish we could go somewhere, some watering
place I mean. There's the Tifftons, just returned from New York, and I
don't much believe they can afford it more than we, for I heard their
place was mortgaged, or something. Oh, bother, to be so poor," and the
young lady gave a little angry jerk at the tags she was unbraiding.

"Whar's ole miss's?" asked Claib, who had just returned from Versailles.
"Thar's a letter for you," and depositing it upon the bureau, he left
the room.

"Whose writing is that?" 'Lina said, catching it up and examining the
postmark. "Shall I open it?" she called, and ere her mother could reply,
she had broken the seal, and held in her hand the draft which made her
the heiress of one thousand dollars.

Had the fabled godmother of Cinderella appeared to her suddenly, she
would scarcely have been more bewildered.

"Mother," she screamed again, reading aloud the "'Pay to the order of
Adaline Worthington,' etc. Who is Alice Johnson? What does she say? 'My
dear Eliza, feeling that I have not long to live--' What--dead, hey?
Well, I'm sorry for that, but, I must say, she did a very sensible thing
at the last, sending me a thousand dollars. We'll go somewhere now,
won't we?" and clutching fast the draft, the heartless girl yielded the
letter to her mother, who, burying her face in her hands, sobbed
bitterly as the past came back to her, when the Alice, now at rest and
herself were girls together.

'Lina took up the letter her mother had dropped and read it through.
"Wants you to take her daughter, Alice. Is the woman crazy? And her
nurse, Densie, Densie Densmore. Where have I heard that name before?
Say, mother, let's talk the matter over. Shall you let Alice come? Ten
dollars a week, they'll pay. Let me see. Five hundred and twenty dollars
a year. Whew! We are rich as Jews. Our ship is really coming in," and
'Lina rang the bell and ordered Lulu to bring "a lemonade with ice cut
fine and a heap of sugar in it."

By this time Mrs. Worthington was able to talk of a matter which had
apparently so delighted 'Lina. Her first remark, however, was not very
pleasant to the young lady:

"I would willingly give Alice a home, but it's not for me to say. Hugh
alone can decide it."

"You know he'll refuse," was 'Lina'a angry reply. "He hates young
ladies. So you may as well save your postage to New Orleans, and write
at once to Miss Johnson that she cannot come on account of a boorish
clown."

"'Lina," feebly interposed Mrs. Worthington, "'Lina, we must write to
Hugh."

"Mother, you shall not," and 'Lina spoke determinedly. "I'll send an
answer to this letter myself, this very day. I will not suffer the
chance to be thrown away. Hugh may swear a little at first, but he'll
get over it."

"Hugh never swears," and Mrs. Worthington spoke up at once.

"He don't hey? Maybe you've forgotten when he came home from Frankfort,
that time he heard about my dress!"

"I know he swore then; but he never has since, I'm sure, and I think he
is better, gentler, more refined than he used to be, since--since--Adah
came."

A contemptuous "Pshaw!" came from 'Lina's lips. "Say," she continued,
"wouldn't you rather Adah were your child than me? Then you'd be granny,
you know." And a laugh came from 'Lina's lips.

Mrs. Worthington did not reply; and 'Lina proceeded to speak of Alice
Johnson, asking for her family. Were they aristocratic? Were they the
F.F.V.'s of Boston? and so forth.

"Now let us talk a little about the thousand dollars. What shall I do
with it?" 'Lina said, for already the money was beginning to burn in her
hands.

"Redeem Rocket with half of it," Mrs. Worthington said, "and that will
reconcile Hugh to Alice Johnson."

"Do you think I've taken leave of my senses?" 'Lina asked, with
unaffected surprise. "Buy Rocket for five hundred dollars! Indeed, I
shall do no such thing. If Hugh had not sworn so awfully, I might; but I
remember what he said too well to part with half of my inheritance for
him. I'm going to Saratoga, and you are going, too. We'll have heaps of
dresses, and--oh, mother, won't it be grand! We'll take Lu for a waiting
maid. That will be sure to make a sensation at the North. I can imagine
just how old Deacon Tripp of Elwood, would open his eyes when he heard
'Mrs. Square Worthington and darter' had come back with a 'nigger.' It
would furnish him with material for half a dozen monthly concerts, and
I'm not sure but he'd try to run her off, if he had a chance. But Lu
likes Hugh too well ever to be coaxed away; so we're safe on that
score. 'Mrs. Worthington, daughter, and colored servant, Spring Bank,
Kentucky.' I can almost see that on the clerk's books at the United
States. Then I can manage to let it be known that I'm an heiress, as I
am. We needn't tell that it's only a thousand dollars, most of which I
have on my back, and maybe I'll come home Adaline somebody else. There
are always splendid matches at Saratoga. We'll go North the middle of
July, just three weeks from now."

'Lina had talked so fast that Mrs. Worthington had been unable to put in
a word; but it did not matter. 'Lina was invulnerable to all she could
say, and it was in vain that she pleaded for Rocket, or reminded the
ungrateful girl of the many long, weary nights, when Hugh had sat by her
bedside, holding her feverish hands and bathing her aching head. This
was very kind and brotherly, 'Lina admitted; but she steeled her heart
against the still, small voice, which whispered to her: "Redeem Rocket,
and let Hugh find him here when he gets home."

'Lina wrote to Alice Johnson herself that morning, went to Frankfort
that afternoon, to Versailles and Lexington the next day, and on the
morning of the third day after the receipt of Mrs. Johnson's letter,
Spring Bank presented the appearance of one vast show-room, so full it
was of silks and muslins and tissues and flowers and ribbons and laces,
while amid it all, in a maze of perplexity as to what was required of
her, or where first to commence, Adah Hastings sat, a flush on her fair
cheeks, and a tear half dimming the luster of her eyes as thoughts of
Willie crying for mamma at home, and refusing to be comforted even by
old Sam came to her.

When 'Lina first made known her request to Adah, to act as her
dressmaker, Aunt Eunice had objected, on the ground of Adah's illness
having been induced by overwork, but 'Lina insisted so strenuously,
promising not to task her too much, and offering with an air of extreme
generosity to pay three shillings a day, that Adah had consented, for
pretty baby Willie wanted many little things which Hugh would never
dream of, and for which she could not ask him. Three shillings a day for
twelve days or more seemed like a fortune to Adah, and so she tore
herself away from Willie's clinging arms and went willingly to labor for
the capricious 'Lina, ten times more impatient and capricious since she
"had come into possession of property."

Womanlike, the sight of 'Lina's dresses awoke in Adah a thrill of
delight, and she entered heartily into the matter without a single
feeling of envy.

"I's goin', too. Did you know that?" Lulu said to her as she sat bending
over a cloud of lace and soft blue silk.

"Do you want to go?" Adah asked, and Lulu replied:

"Not much. Miss 'Lina will be so lofty. Jes' you listen and hear her
call me oncet. 'Ho Loo-loo, come quick,' jes' as if she done nothin' all
her life but order a nigger 'round. I knows better. I knows how she done
made her own bed, combed her own ha'r, and like enough washed her own
rags afore she comed here. Yes, 'Loo-loo is coming,'" and the saucy
wench darted off to 'Lina screaming loudly for her.

"Miss Worthington," Adah said, timidly, as 'Lina came near, "Lulu tells
me she is going North with you. Why not take me instead of her?"

"You!" and 'Lina's black eyes flashed scornfully. "What in the world
could I do with you and that child, and what would people think? Why,
I'd rather have Lulu forty times. A negro gives an _éclat_ to one's
position which a white servant cannot. By the way, here is Miss
Tiffton's square-necked bertha. She's just got home from New York, and
says they are all the fashion. You are to cut me a pattern. There's a
paper, the Louisville _Journal_, I guess, but nobody reads it, now Hugh
is gone," and with a few more general directions, 'Lina hurried away
leaving Adah so hot, so disappointed, that the hot tears fell upon the
paper she took in her hand, the paper containing Anna Richards'
advertisement, intended solely for the poor girl sitting so lonely and
sad at Spring Bank that summer morning.

In spite of the doctor's predictions and consignment of that girl to
Georgia, or some warmer place, it had reached her at last. She did not
see it at first, so fast her tears fell, but just as her scissors were
raised to cut the pattern her eyes fell on the spot headed, "A Curious
Advertisement," and suspending her operations for a moment, she read it
through, a feeling rising in her heart that it was surely an answer to
her own advertisement, sent forth months ago, with tearful prayers that
it might be successful.

At the table she heard 'Lina say that Claib was going to town that
afternoon, and thinking within herself. "If a letter were only ready, he
could take it with him," she asked permission to write a few lines. It
would not take her long, she said, and she could work the later to make
it up.

'Lina did not refuse, and in a few moments Adah penned a note to A.E.R.

"It's an answer to an advertisement for a governess or waiting maid,"
she said, as 'Lina glanced carelessly at the superscription.

"It will do no harm, or good either, I imagine," was 'Lina'a reply, and
placing the letter in her pocket, she was about returning to her mother,
when she spied Ellen Tiffton dismounting at the gate.

Ellen was delighted to see 'Lina, and 'Lina was delighted to see Ellen,
leading her at once into the work-room, where Adah sat by the window,
busy on the bertha, and looking up quietly when Ellen entered, as if
half expecting an introduction. But 'Lina did not deign to notice her,
save in an aside to Ellen, to whom she whispered softly:

"That girl, Adah, you know."

Reared in a country where the menials all were black, Ellen knew no such
marked distinction among the whites, and walked directly up to Adah,
whose face seemed to puzzle her. It was the first time they had met, and
Adah turned crimson beneath the close scrutiny to which she was
subjected. Noticing her embarrassment, and wishing to relieve it, Ellen
addressed to her some trivial remark concerning her work, complimenting
her skill, asking some questions about Willie, whom she had seen, and
then leaving her for a girlish conversation with 'Lina, to whom she
related many particulars of her visit to New York. Particularly was she
pleased with a certain Dr. Richards, who was described as the most
elegant young man at the hotel.

"There was something queer about him too," she said, in a lower tone,
and drawing nearer to 'Lina. "He seemed so absent-like, as if there were
something on his mind--some heart trouble, you know; but that only made
him more interesting; and such an adventure as I had, too. Send her out
of the room, please," and nodding toward Adah, Ellen spoke beneath her
breath.

'Lina comprehended her meaning, and turning to Adah said rather
haughtily:

"It's cool on the west end of the piazza. You may go and sit there a
while."

With a heightened color at being thus addressed before a stranger, Adah
withdrew, and Ellen continued:

"It's so strange. I found in the hall, near my door, a tiny ambrotype of
a young girl, who must have been very beautiful--such splendid hair,
soft brown eyes, and cheeks like carnation pinks. I wondered much whose
it was, for I knew the owner must be sorry to lose it. Father suggested
that we put a written notice in the business office, and that very
afternoon Dr. Richards knocked at our door, saying the ambrotype was
his. 'I would not lose it for the world,' he said, 'as the original is
dead,' and he looked so sad that I pitied him so much; but I have the
strangest part yet to tell. You are sure she cannot hear?" and walking
to the open window, Ellen glanced down the long piazza to where Adah's
dress was visible.

"I looked at the face so much that I never can forget it, particularly
the way the hair was worn, combed almost as low upon the forehead as you
wears yours, and just as that Mrs. Hastings wears hers. I noticed it the
moment I came in; and, 'Lina, Mrs. Hastings is the original of that
ambrotype, I'm sure, only the picture was younger, fresher-looking, than
she. But they are the same, I'm positive, and that's why I started so
when I first saw this Adah. Funny, isn't it?"

'Lina knew just how positive Ellen was with regard to any opinion she
espoused, and presumed in her own mind that in this point, as in many
others, she was mistaken. Still she answered that it was queer, though
she could not understand what Adah could possibly be to Dr. Richards.

"Call her in for something and I'll manage to question her. I'm so
curious and so sure," Ellen said, while 'Lina called: "Adah, Miss
Tiffton wishes to see how my new blue muslin fits. Come help me try it
on."

Obedient to the call Adah came, and was growing very red in the face
with trying to hook 'Lina's dress, when Ellen casually remarked:

"You lived in New York, I think?"

"Yes, ma'am," was the reply, and Ellen continued:

"Maybe I saw some of your acquaintances. I was there a long time."

Oh, how eagerly Adah turned toward her now, the glad thought flashing
upon her that possibly she meant George. Maybe he'd come home.

"Whom did you see?" she asked, her eyes fixed wistfully on Ellen, who
replied:

"Oh, a great many. There was Mr. Reed, and Mr. Benedict, and Mr. Ward,
and--well, I saw the most of Dr. Richards, perhaps. Do you know either
of them?"

"No, I never heard of them before," was the reply, so frankly spoken
that Ellen was confounded, for she felt sure that Dr. Richards was a
name entirely new to Adah.

"I thought you were mistaken," 'Lina said, when the dress was taken off
and Adah gone. "A man such as you describe the doctor would not care for
a poor girl like Adah. Is his home at New York, and are you sure he'll
be at Saratoga?"

"He said so; and I think he told me his mother and sisters were in some
such place as Snow-down, or Snow-something."

"Snowdon," suggested 'Lina. "That's where Alice Johnson lives. I must
tell you of her."

"Alice Johnson," Ellen repeated; "why, that's the girl father says so
much about. Of course I fell in the scale, for there was nothing like
Alice, Alice--so beautiful, so religious."

"Religious!" and 'Lina laughed scornfully. "Adah pretends to be
religious, too, and so does Sam, while Alice will make three. Pleasant
prospects ahead. I wonder if she's the blue kind--thinks dancing wicked,
and all that."

Ellen could not tell. She thought it queer that Mrs. Johnson should send
her to a stranger, as it were, when they would have been so glad to
receive her. "Pa won't like it a bit, and she'd be so much more
comfortable with us," and Ellen glanced contemptuously around at the
neat but plainly-furnished room.

It was not the first time Ellen had offended by a similar remark, and
'Lina flared up at once. Mrs. Johnson knew her mother well, and knew to
whom she was committing her daughter.

"Did she know Hugh, too?" hot-tempered Ellen asked, sneeringly,
whereupon there ensued a contest of words touching Hugh, in which
Rocket, the Ladies' Fair, and divers other matters figured
conspicuously, and when, ten minutes later, Ellen left the house, she
carried with her the square-necked bertha, together with sundry other
little articles of dress, which she had lent for patterns, and the two
were, on the whole, as angry as a sandy-haired and black-eyed girl could
be.

"What a stupid I was to say such hateful things of Hugh, when I really
do like him," was Ellen's comment as she galloped away, while 'Lina
muttered: "I stood up for Hugh once, anyhow. To think of her twitting me
about our house, when everybody says the colonel is likely to fail any
day," and 'Lina ran off upstairs to indulge in a fit of crying over what
she called Nell Tiffton's meanness.

One week later and there came a letter from Alice herself, saying that
at present she was stopping in Boston with her guardian, Mr. Liston, who
had rented the cottage in Snowdon, but that she would meet Mrs.
Worthington and daughter at Saratoga. Of course she did not now feel
like mingling in gay society and should consequently go to the
Columbian, where she could be comparatively quiet; but this need not in
the least interfere with their arrangements, as the United States was
very near, and they could see each other often.

The same day also brought a letter from Hugh, making many kind inquiries
after them all, saying his business was turning out better than he
expected, and inclosing forty dollars, fifteen of which, he said, was
for Adah, and the rest for Ad, as a peace offering for the harsh things
he had said to her. Forty dollars was just the price of a superb pearl
bracelet in Lexington, and if Hugh had only sent it all to her instead
of a part to Adah! The letter was torn in shreds, and 'Lina went to
Lexington next day in quest of the bracelet, which was pronounced
beautiful by the unsuspecting Adah, who never dreamed that her money had
helped to pay for it. Truly 'Lina was heaping up against herself a dark
catalogue of sin to be avenged some day, but the time was not yet.

Thus far everything went swimmingly. The dresses fitted admirably, and
nothing could exceed the care with which they had been packed. Her
mother no longer bothered her about Hugh. Lulu was quite well posted
with regard to her duty.

Thus it was in the best of humors, that 'Lina tripped from Spring Bank
door one pleasant July morning, and was driven with her mother and Lulu
to Lexington, where they intended taking the evening train for
Cincinnati.



CHAPTER XV

SARATOGA


"Mrs. Worthington, daughter, and colored servant, Spring Bank,
Kentucky."

"Dr. John Richards and mother, New York City."

"Irving Stanley, Esq., Baltimore."

These were the last entries the flaxen-haired clerk at Union Hall had
made, feeling sure, as he made them, that each one had been first to
the United States, and failing to find accommodations there, had come
down to Union Hall.

The Union was so crowded that for the newcomers no rooms were found
except the small, uncomfortable ones far up in the fourth story of the
Ainsworth block, and thither, in not the most amiable mood, 'Lina
followed her trunks, and was followed in turn by her mother and Lulu,
the crowd whom they passed deciphering the name upon the trunks and
whispering to each other: "From Spring Bank, Kentucky. Haughty-looking
girl, wasn't she?"

From his little twelve by ten apartment, where the summer sun was
pouring in a perfect blaze of heat, Dr. Richards saw them pass, and
after wondering who they were, and hoping they would be comfortable in
their pen, gave them no further thought, but sat jamming his penknife
into the old worm-eaten table, and thinking savage thoughts against that
capricious lady, Fortune, who had compelled him to come to Saratoga,
where rich wives were supposed to be had for the asking. In Dr.
Richard's vest pocket there lay at this very moment a delicate little
note, the meaning of which was that Alice Johnson declined the honor of
becoming his wife. Now he was ready for the first chance that offered,
provided that chance possessed a certain style, and was tolerably
good-looking.

This, then, was Dr. Richards' errand to Saratoga, and one cause of his
disgust at being banished from the United States, where heiresses were
usually to be found in such abundance.

From his pleasanter, airier apartment, on the other side of the narrow
hall, Irving Stanley looked out through his golden glasses, pitying the
poor ladies condemned to that slow roast.

How hot, and dusty, and cross 'Lina was, and what a look of dismay she
cast around the room, with its two bedsteads, its bureau, its table, its
washstand, and its dozen pegs for her two dozen dresses, to say nothing
of her mother's.

How tired and faint poor Mrs. Worthington was, sinking down upon the
high-post bed! How she wished she had stayed at home, like a sensible
woman, instead of coming here to be made so uncomfortable in this hot
room. But it could not now be helped, 'Lina said; they must do the best
they could; and with a forlorn glance at the luxuriant patch of weeds,
the most prominent view from the window, 'Lina opened one of her trunks,
and spreading a part of its contents upon the bed, began to dress for
dinner. The dinner bell had long since ceased ringing, and the tread of
feet ceased in the halls below ere she descended to the deserted parlor,
followed by her mother, nervous and frightened at the prospect of this,
her first appearance at Saratoga.

"Pray, rouse yourself," 'Lina whispered, "and not let them guess you
were never at a watering place before," and 'Lina thoughtfully smoothed
her mother's cap by way of reassuring her.

But even 'Lina herself quailed when she reached the door and caught a
glimpse of the busy life within, the terrible ordeal she must pass.

"Oh, for a pair of pantaloons to walk beside one, even if Hugh were in
them," she thought, as her own and her mother's lonely condition arose
before her.

"Courage, mother," she whispered again, and then advanced into the room,
growing bolder at every step, for with one rapid glance she had swept
the hall, and felt that amid that bevy of beauty and fashion there were
few more showy than 'Lina Worthington in her rustling dress of green,
with Ellen Tiffton's bracelet on one arm and the one bought with Adah's
money on the other.

Not having been an heiress long enough to know just what was expected of
her, and fancying it quite in character to domineer over every colored
person just as she did over Lulu, 'Lina issued her commands with a
dignity worthy of the firm of Mrs. Worthington & Daughter. Bowing
deferentially, the polite attendant quickly drew back her chair, while
she spread out her flowing skirts to an extent which threatened to
envelop her mother, sinking meekly into her seat, not confused and
flurried. But alas for 'Lina. The servant did not calculate the distance
aright, and my lady, who had meant to do the thing so gracefully, who
had intended showing the people that she had been to Saratoga before,
suddenly found herself prostrate upon the floor, the chair some way
behind her, and the plate, which, in her descent, she had grasped
unconsciously, flying off diagonally past her mother's head, and
fortunately past the head of her mother's left-hand neighbor.

Poor 'Lina! How she wished she might never get up again.

At first, 'Lina thought nothing could keep her tears back, they gathered
so fast in her eyes, and her voice trembled so that she could not answer
the servant's question:

"Soup, madam, soup?"

But he of the white hand did it for her.

"Of course she'll take soup," then in an aside, he said to her gently:
"Never mind, you are not the first lady who has been served in that way.
It's quite a common occurrence."

There was something reassuring in his voice, and turning toward him for
the first time, 'Lina caught the gleam of the golden glasses, and knew
that her _vis-à-vis_ upstairs was also her right-hand neighbor. Who was
he, and whom did he so strikingly resemble? Suddenly it came to her.
Saving the glasses, he was very much like Hugh. No handsomer, not a
whit, but more accustomed to society, easier in his manners and more
gallant to ladies. Could it be Irving Stanley? she asked herself,
remembering now to have heard that he did resemble Hugh, and also that
he wore glasses. Yes, she was sure, and the red which the doctor had
pronounced "well put on," deepened on her cheeks, until her whole face
was crimson with mortification, that such should have been her first
introduction to the aristocratic Irving.

Kind and gentle as a woman, Irving Stanley was sometimes laughed at by
his own sex, as too gentle, too feminine in disposition; but those who
knew him best loved him most, and loved him, too, just because he was
not so stern, so harsh, so overbearing as lords of creation are wont to
be.

Such was Irving Stanley, and 'Lina might well be thankful that her lot
was cast so near him. He did not talk to her at the table further than a
few commonplace remarks, but when, after dinner was over, and his Havana
smoked, he found her sitting with her mother out in the grove, apart
from everybody, and knew instantly that they were there alone, he went
to them at once, and ere many minutes had elapsed discovered to his
surprise that they were his so-called cousins from Kentucky. Nothing
could exceed 'Lina's delight. He was there unfettered by mother or
sister or sweetheart, and of course would attach himself exclusively to
her. 'Lina was very happy, and more than once her loud laugh rang out so
loud that Irving, with all his charity, had a faint suspicion that
around his Kentucky cousin, brilliant though she was, there might linger
a species of coarseness, not altogether agreeable to one of his
refinement. Still he sat chatting with her until the knowing dowagers,
who year after year watch such things at Saratoga, whispered behind
their fans of a flirtation between the elegant Mr. Stanley and that
dark, haughty-looking girl from Kentucky.

"I never saw him so familiar with a stranger upon so short an
acquaintance," said fat Mrs. Buford.

"Is that Irving Stanley, whom Lottie Gardner talks so much about?" And
Mrs. Richards leveled her glass again, for Irving Stanley was not
unknown to her by reputation. "She must be somebody, John, or he would
not notice her," and she spoke in an aside, adding in a louder tone: "I
wonder who she is? There's their servant. I mean to question her," and
as Lulu came near, she said: "Girl, who do you belong to?"

"'Longs to them," answered Lulu, jerking her head toward 'Lina and Mrs.
Worthington.

"Where do you live?" was the next query, and Lulu replied:

"Spring Bank, Kentucky. Missus live in big house, 'most as big as this;"
then anxious to have the ordeal passed, and fearful that she might not
acquit herself satisfactorily to 'Lina, who, without seeming to notice
her, had drawn near enough to hear, she added: "Miss 'Lina is an airey,
a very large airey, and has a heap of--of--" Lulu hardly knew what, but
finally in desperation added: "a heap of a'rs," and then fled away ere
another question could be asked her.

"What did she say she was?" Mrs. Richards asked, and the doctor replied:

"She said an airey. She meant an heiress."

Money, or the reputation of possessing money, is an all-powerful charm,
and in few places does it show its power more plainly than at Saratoga,
where it was soon known that the lady from Spring Bank, with pearls in
her hair, and pearl bracelets on her arms, was heiress to immense wealth
in Kentucky, how immense nobody knew, and various were the estimates put
upon it. Among Mrs. Bufort's clique it was twenty thousand, farther away
in another hall it was fifty, while Mrs. Richards, ere the supper hour
arrived, had heard that it was at least a hundred thousand dollars. How
or where she heard it she hardly knew, but she indorsed the statement as
current, and at the tea table that night was exceedingly gracious to
'Lina and her mother, offering to divide a little private dish which she
had ordered for herself, and into which poor Mrs. Worthington
inadvertently dipped, never dreaming that it was not common property.

"It was not of the slightest consequence, Mrs. Richards was delighted to
share it with her," and that was the way the conversation commenced.

'Lina knew now that the proud man whose lip had curled so scornfully at
dinner was Ellen's Dr. Richards, and Dr. Richards knew that the girl who
sat on the floor was 'Lina Worthington, from Spring Bank, where Alice
Johnson was going.



CHAPTER XVI

THE COLUMBIAN


It was very quiet at the Columbian, and the few gentlemen seated upon
the piazza seemed to be of a different stamp from those at the more
fashionable houses, as there were none of them smoking, nor did they
stare impertinently at the gayly-dressed lady coming-up the steps, and
inquiring of the clerk if Miss Alice Johnson were there.

Yes, she was, and her room was No. ----. Should he send the lady's card?
Miss Johnson had mostly kept her room.

'Lina had brought no card, but she gave her name, and passed on into the
parlor, which afforded a striking contrast to the beehive downtown. In a
corner two or three were sitting; another group occupied a window; while
at the piano were two more, an old and a young lady; the latter of whom
was seated upon the stool, and with her foot upon the soft pedal, was
alternately striking a few sweet, musical chords, and talking to her
companion, who seemed to be a little deaf.

"This is Miss Johnson," and the waiter bowed toward the musician, who,
quick as thought, seized upon the truth, and springing to Mrs.
Worthington's side, exclaimed:

"It's Mrs. Worthington, I know, my mother's early friend. Why did you
sit here so long without speaking to me? I am Alice Johnson," and
overcome with the emotions awakened by the sight of her mother's early
friend, Alice hid her face with childlike confidence in Mrs.
Worthington's bosom, and sobbed for a moment bitterly.

Then growing calm, she lifted up her head and smiling through her tears
said:

"Forgive me for this introduction. It is not often I give way, for I
know and am sure it was best and right that mother should die. I am not
rebellious now, but the sight of you brought it back so vividly. You'll
be my mother, won't you?" and kissing the fat white hands involuntarily
smoothing her bright hair, the impulsive girl nestled closer to Mrs.
Worthington, looking up into her face with a confiding affection which
won a place for her at once in Mrs. Worthington's heart.

"My darling," she said, winding her arm around her waist, "as far as I
can I will be to you a mother, and 'Lina shall be your sister. This is
'Lina, dear," and she turned to 'Lina, who, piqued at having been so
long unnoticed, was frowning gloomily.

But 'Lina never met a glance purer or more free from guile than that
which Alice gave her, and it disarmed her at once of all jealousy,
making her return the orphan's kisses with as much apparent cordiality
as they had been given. During this scene the woman of the snowy hair
and jet black eyes had stood silently by, regarding 'Lina with that same
curious expression which had so annoyed the young lady, and from which
she now intuitively shrank.

"My nurse, Densie Densmore," Alice said at last, adding in an aside:
"She is somewhat deaf and may not hear distinctly, unless you speak
quite loud. Poor old Densie," she continued, as the latter bowed to her
new acquaintances, and then seated herself at a respectful distance.
"She has been in our family for a long time." Then changing the
conversation, Alice made many inquiries concerning Kentucky, startling
them with the announcement that she had that day received a letter from
Colonel Tiffton, who she believed was a friend of theirs, urging her to
spend a few weeks with him. "They heard from you what were mother's
plans for my future, and also that I was to meet you here. They must be
very thoughtful people, for they seem to know that I cannot be very
happy here."

For a moment 'Lina and her mother looked aghast, and neither knew what
to say. 'Lina, as usual, was the first to rally and calculate results.

They were very intimate at Colonel Tiffton's. She and Ellen were fast
friends. It was very pleasant there, more so than at Spring Bank; and
all the objection she could see to Alice's going was the fear lest she
should become so much attached to Mosside, the colonel's residence, as
to be homesick at Spring Bank.

"If she's going, I hope she'll go before Dr. Richards sees her, though
perhaps he knows her already--his mother lives in Snowdon," 'Lina
thought, and rather abruptly she asked if Alice knew Dr. Richards, who
was staying at the Union.

Alice blushed crimson as she replied:

"Yes, I know him very well and his family, too. Are either of his
sisters with him?"

"His mother is here," 'Lina replied, "and I like her so much. She is
very familiar and friendly; don't you think so?"

Alice would not tell a lie, and she answered frankly:

"She does not bear that name in Snowdon. They consider her very haughty
there. I think you must be a favorite."

"Are they very aristocratic and wealthy?" 'Lina asked, and Alice
answered:

"Aristocratic, not wealthy. They were very kind to me, and the doctor's
sister, Anna, is one of the sweetest ladies I ever knew. She may
possibly be here during the summer. She is an invalid, and has been for
years."

Suddenly Ellen Tiffton's story of the ambrotype flashed into 'Lina's
mind. Alice might know something of it, and after a little she asked if
the doctor had not at one time been engaged.

Alice did not know. It was very possible. Why did Miss Worthington ask
the question?

'Lina did not stop to consider the propriety or impropriety of making so
free with a stranger, and unhesitatingly repeated what Ellen Tiffton had
told her of the ambrotype. This, of course, compelled her to speak of
Adah, who, she said, came to them under very suspicious circumstances,
and was cared for by her eccentric brother, Hugh.

In spite of the look of entreaty visible on Mrs. Worthington's face,
'Lina said:

"To be candid with you, Miss Johnson, I'm afraid you won't like Hugh. He
has many good traits, but I am sorry to say we have never succeeded in
cultivating him one particle, so that he is very rough and boorish in
his manner, and will undoubtedly strike you unfavorably. I may as well
tell you this, as you will probably hear it from Ellen Tiffton, and must
know it when you see him. He is not popular with the ladies; he hates
them all, he says. Mother, Loo-loo, come," and breaking off from her
very sisterly remarks concerning Hugh, 'Lina sprang up in terror as a
large beetle, attracted by the light, fastened itself upon her hair.

Mrs. Worthington was the first to the rescue, while Lulu, who had
listened with flashing eye when Hugh was the subject of remark, came
laggardly, whispering slyly to Alice:

"That's a lie she done tell you about Mas'r Hugh. He ain't rough, nor
bad, and we blacks would die for him any day."

Alice was confounded at this flat contradiction between mistress and
servant, while a faint glimmer of the truth began to dawn upon her. The
"horn-bug" being disposed of, 'Lina became quiet, and might, perhaps,
have taken up Hugh again, but for a timely interruption in the shape of
Irving Stanley, who had walked up to the Columbian, and seeing 'Lina and
her mother through the window, sauntered leisurely into the parlor.

"Ah, Mr. Stanley," and 'Lina half arose from her chair, thus intimating
that he was to join them. "Miss Johnson, Mr. Stanley," and 'Lina watched
them closely.

"You have positively been smitten by Miss Johnson's pretty face," said
'Lina, laughing a little spitefully, as they parted at the piazza,
Irving to go after his accustomed glasses of water, and 'Lina to seek
out Dr. Richards in the parlor. "Yes, I know you are smitten, and
inasmuch as we are cousins, I shall expect to see you at Spring Bank
some day not far in the future."

"It is quite probable you will," was Irving's reply, as he walked away,
his head and heart full of Alice Johnson.

Meantime "Mrs. Worthington, daughter and servant," had entered the still
crowded parlors, where Mrs. Richards sat fanning herself industriously,
and watching her John with motherly interest as he sauntered from one
group of ladies to another, wondering what made Saratoga so dull, and
where Miss Worthington had gone. It is not to be supposed that Dr.
Richards cared a fig for Miss Worthington as Miss Worthington. It was
simply her immense figure he admired, and as, during the evening he had
heard on good authority that said figure was made up mostly of cotton
growing on some Southern field, the exact locality of which his
informant did not know, he had decided that, of course, Miss 'Lina's
fortune was over-estimated. Such things always were, but still she must
be wealthy. He had no doubt of that, and he might as well devote himself
to her as to wait for some one else. Accordingly the moment he spied her
in the crowd he joined her, asking if they should not take a little turn
up and down the piazza."

"Wait till I ask mamma's permission to stay up a little longer. She
always insists upon my keeping such early hours," was 'Lina's very
filial and childlike reply, as she walked up to mamma, not to ask
permission, but to whisper rather peremptorily, "Dr. Richards wishes me
to walk with him, and as you are tired, you may as well go to bed!"

Meantime the doctor and 'Lina were walking up and down the long piazza,
chatting gayly, and attracting much attention from 'Lina's loud manner
of talking and laughing.

"By the way, I've called on Miss Johnson, at the Columbian," she said.
"Beautiful, isn't she?"

"Ra-ather pretty, some would think," and the doctor had an uncomfortable
consciousness of the refusal in his vest pocket.

If Alice had told. But no, he knew her better than that. He could trust
her on that score, and so the dastardly coward affected to sneer at what
he called her primness, charging 'Lina to be careful what she did, if
she did not want a lecture, and asking if there were any ragged children
in Kentucky, as she would not be happy unless she was running a Sunday
school!

"She can teach the negroes! Capital!" and 'Lina laughed so loudly that
Mrs. Richards joined them, laughing, too, at what she did not know,
only--Miss Worthington had such spirits; it did one good; and she wished
Anna was there to be enlivened.

"Write to her, John, won't you?"

John mentally thought it doubtful. Anna and 'Lina would never
assimilate, and he would rather not have his pet sister's opinion to
combat until his own was fully made up.

"Anna--oh, yes!" 'Lina exclaimed. "Miss Johnson spoke of her as the
sweetest lady she ever saw. I wish she would come. I'm so anxious to see
her. An invalid, I believe?"

Yes, dear Anna was a sad invalid, and cared but little to go from home,
though if she could find a waiting maid, such as she had been in quest
of for the last six months she might perhaps be persuaded.

"A waiting maid," 'Lina repeated to herself, remembering the forgotten
letter in her dress pocket, wondering if it could be Anna Richards,
whose advertisement Adah had answered, and if it were, congratulating
herself upon her thoughtlessness in forgetting it, as she would not for
the world have Adah Hastings, with her exact knowledge of Spring Bank,
in Mrs. Richards' family. It passed her mind that the very dress had
been given to Adah, who might find the letter yet. She only reflected
that the letter never was sent, and felt glad accordingly. Very adroitly
she set herself at work to ascertain if Anna Richards and "A.E.R." were
one and the same individual.

If Anna wished for a waiting maid, she could certainly find one, she
should suppose. She might advertise.

"She has," and the doctor began to laugh. "The most ridiculous thing. I
hardly remember the wording, but it has been copied and recopied, for
its wording, annoying Anna greatly, and bringing to our doors so many
unfortunate women in search of places, that my poor little sister
trembles now every time the bell rings, thinking it some fresh answer to
her advertisement."

"I've seen it," and 'Lina very unconsciously laid her hand on his arm.
"It was copied and commented upon by Prentice, and my sewing woman
actually thought of answering it, thinking the place would suit her. I
told her it was preposterous that 'A.E.R.' should want her with a
child."

"The very one to suit Anna," and the doctor laughed again. "That was one
of the requirements, or something. How was it, mother? I think we must
manage to get your sewing woman. What is her name?"

'Lina had trodden nearer dangerous ground than she meant to do, and she
veered off at once, replying to the doctor:

"Oh, she would not suit at all. She's too--I hardly know what, unless I
say, lifeless, or insipid. And then, I could not spare my seamstress.
She cuts nearly all my dresses."

"She must be a treasure. I have noticed how admirably they fitted," and
old Mrs. Richards glanced again at the blue silk, half wishing that Anna
had just such a waiting maid, they could all find her so useful. "If
John succeeds, maybe Miss Worthington will bring her North," was her
mental conclusion, and then, as it was growing rather late, she very
thoughtfully excused herself, saying, "It was time old people retired;
young ones, of course, could act at their own discretion. She would not
hurry them," and hoping to see more of Miss Worthington to-morrow, she
bowed good-night, and left the doctor alone with 'Lina.

"In the name of the people, what are you sitting up for?" was 'Lina's
first remark when she went upstairs, followed by a glowing account of
what Dr. Richards had said, and the delightful time she'd had. "Only
play our cards well, and I'm sure to go home the doctor's _fiancée_.
Won't Ellen Tiffton stare when I tell her, mother?" and 'Lina spoke in a
low tone. "The doctor thinks I'm very rich. So do all the people here.
Lulu has told that I'm an heiress; now don't you upset it all with your
squeamishness about the truth. Nobody will ask you how much I'm worth,
so you won't be compelled to a lie direct. Just keep your tongue between
your teeth, and leave the rest to me. Will you?"

There was, as usual, a feeble remonstrance, and then the weak woman
yielded so far as promising to keep silent was concerned.

Meantime the doctor sat in his own room nearby, thinking of 'Lina
Worthington, and wishing she were a little more refined.

"Where does she get that coarseness?" he thought. "Not from her mother,
certainly. She seems very gentle and ladylike. It must be from the
Worthingtons," and the doctor wondered where he had heard that name
before, and why it affected him rather unpleasantly, bringing with it
memories of Lily. "Poor Lily," he sighed mentally. "Your love would have
made me a better man if I had not cast it from me. Dear Lily, the mother
of my child," and a tear half trembled in his eyelashes, as he tried to
fancy that child; tried to hear the patter of the little feet running to
welcome him home, as they might have done had he been true to Lily;
tried to hear the baby voice calling him "papa;" to feel the baby hands
upon his face--his bearded face where the great tears were standing now.
"I did love Lily," he murmured; "and had I known of the child I never
could have left her. Oh, Lily, my lost Lily, come back to me, come!" and
his arms were stretched out into empty space, as if he fain would
encircle again the girlish form he had so often held in his embrace.

It was very late ere Dr. Richards slept that night, and the morning
found him pale, haggard and nearly desperate. Thoughts of Lily were
gone, and in their place was a fixed determination to follow on in the
course he had marked out, to find him a rich wife, to cast remorse to
the winds, and be as happy as he could.

How anxious the doctor was to have Alice go; how fearful lest she should
not; and how relieved when asked by 'Lina one night to go with her the
next morning and see Miss Johnson off. There were Mrs. Worthington and
'Lina, Dr. Richards and Irving Stanley, and a dozen more admirers, who,
dazzled with Alice's beauty, were dancing attendance upon her to the
latest moment, but none looked so sorry as Irving Stanley, or said
good-by so unwillingly, and 'Lina, as she saw the wistful gaze he sent
after the receding train, playfully asked him if he did not feel some
like the half of a pair of scissors.

The remark jarred painfully on Irving's finer feelings, while the
doctor, affecting to laugh and ejaculate "pretty good," wished so much
that his black-eyed lady were different in some things.



CHAPTER XVII

HUGH


An unexpected turn in Hugh's affairs made it no longer necessary for him
to remain in the sultry climate of New Orleans, and just one week from
his mother's departure from Spring Bank he reached it, expressing
unbounded surprise when he heard from Aunt Eunice where his mother had
gone, and how she had gone.

"Fool and his money soon parted," Hugh said. "I can fancy just the dash
Ad is making. But who sent the money?"

"A Mrs. Johnson, an old friend of your mother's," Aunt Eunice replied,
while Hugh looked up quickly, wondering why the Johnsons should be so
continually thrust upon him, when the only Johnson for whom he cared was
dead years ago.

"And the young lady--what about her?" he asked, while Aunt Eunice told
him the little she knew, which was that Mrs. Johnson wished her daughter
to come to Spring Bank, but she did not know what they had concluded
upon.

"That she should not come, of course," Hugh said. "They had no right to
give her a home without my consent, and I've plenty of young ladies at
Spring Bank now. Oh, it was such a relief when I was gone to know that
in all New Orleans there was not a single hoop annoyed on my account. I
had a glorious time doing as I pleased."

"And yet you've improved, seems to me," Aunt Eunice said.

"Oh, I'll turn out a polished dandy by and by, who knows?" Hugh
answered, laughingly; then helping his aunt to mount the horse which had
brought her to Spring Bank, he returned to the house, which seemed
rather lonely, notwithstanding that he had so often wished he could once
more be alone, just as he was before his mother came.

On the whole, however, he enjoyed his freedom from restraint, and very
rapidly fell back into his old loose way of living, bringing his dogs
even into the parlor, and making it a repository for both his hunting
and fishing apparatus.

"It's splendid to do as I'm mind to," he said, one hot August morning,
nearly three weeks after his mother's departure.

"Hello, Mug, what do you want?" he asked, as a very bright-looking
little mulatto girl appeared in the door.

"Claib done buyed you this yer," and the child handed him the letter
from his mother.

The first of it was full of affection for her boy, and Hugh felt his
heart growing very tender as he read, but when he reached the point
where poor, timid Mrs. Worthington tried to explain about Alice, making
a wretched bungle, and showing plainly how much she was swayed by 'Lina,
it began to harden at once.

"What the plague!" he exclaimed as he read on. "Suppose I remember
having heard her speak of her old school friend, Alice Morton? I don't
remember any such thing. Her daughter's name's Alice--Alice Johnson,"
and Hugh for an instant turned white, so powerfully that name always
affected him.

"She is going to Colonel Tiffton's first, though they've all got the
typhoid fever, I hear, and that's no place for her. That fever is
terrible on Northerners--terrible on anybody. I'm afraid of it myself,
and I wish this horrid throbbing I've felt for a few days would leave my
head. It has a fever feel that I don't like," and the young man pressed
his hand against his temples, trying to beat back the pain which so much
annoyed him.

Just then Collonel Tiffton was announced, his face wearing an anxious
look, and his voice trembling as he told how sick his Nell was, how sick
they all were, and then spoke of Alice Johnson.

"She's the same girl I told you about the day I bought Rocket; some
little kin to me, and that makes it queer why her mother should leave
her to you. I knew she would not be happy at Saratoga, and so we wrote
for her to visit us. She is on the road now, will be here day after
to-morrow, and something must be done. She can't come to us without
great inconvenience to ourselves and serious danger to her. Hugh, my
boy, there's no other way--she must come to Spring Bank," and the old
colonel laid his hand on that of Hugh, who looked at him aghast, but
made no immediate reply.

"A pretty state of things, and a pretty place to bring a lady," he
muttered, glancing ruefully around the room and enumerating the
different articles he knew were out of place. "Fish worms, fishhooks,
fishlines, bootjack, boot-blacking, and rifle, to say nothing of the
dogs--and me!"

The last was said in a tone as if the "me" were the most objectionable
part of the whole, as, indeed, Hugh thought it was.

"I wonder how I do look to persons wholly unprejudiced!" Hugh said, and
turning to Muggins he asked what she thought of him.

"I thinks you berry nice. I likes you berry much," the child replied,
and Hugh continued:

"Yes; but how do I look, I mean? What do I look like, a dandy or a
scarecrow?"

Muggins regarded him for a moment curiously, and then replied:

"I'se dunno what kind of thing that dandy is, but I 'members dat yer
scarecrow what Claib make out of mas'r's trouse's and coat, an' put up
in de cherry tree. I thinks da look like Mas'r Hugh--yes, very much
like!"

Hugh laughed long and loud, pinching Mug's dusky cheek, and bidding her
run away.

"Pretty good," he exclaimed, when he was left alone, "That's Mug's
opinion. Look like a scarecrow. I mean to see for myself," and going
into the sitting-room, where the largest mirror was hung, he scanned
curiously the figure which met his view, even taking a smaller glass,
and holding it so as to get a sight of his back. "Tall,
broad-shouldered, straight, well-built. My form is well enough," he
said. "It's the clothes that bother. I mean to get some new ones. Then,
as to my face," and Hugh turned himself around, "I never thought of it
before; but my features are certainly regular, teeth can't be beaten,
good brown skin, such as a man should have, eyes to match, and a heap of
curly hair. I'll be hanged if I don't think I'm rather good-looking!"
and with his spirits proportionately raised, Hugh whistled merrily as he
went in quest of Aunt Chloe, to whom he imparted the startling
information that on the next day but one, a young lady was coming to
Spring Bank, and that, in the meantime, the house must be cleaned from
garret to cellar, and everything put in order for the expected guest.

With growing years, Aunt Chloe had become rather cross and less inclined
to work than formerly, frequently sighing for the days when "Mas'r John
didn't want no clarin' up, but kep' things lyin' handy." With her hands
on her fat hips she stood, coolly regarding Hugh, who was evidently too
much in earnest to be opposed. Alice was coming, and the house must be
put in order.

The cleaning and arranging was finished at last, and everything within
the house was as neat and orderly as Aunt Eunice and Adah could make
it, even Aunt Chloe acknowledging that "things was tiptop," but said,
"it was no use settin' 'em to rights when Mas'r Hugh done onsot 'em so
quick;" but Hugh promised to do better. He would turn over a new leaf,
so by way of commencement, on the morning of Alice's expected arrival he
deliberately rolled up his towel and placed it under his pillow instead
of his nightshirt, which he hung conspicuously over the washstand. His
boots were put behind the fire-board, his every day hat jammed into the
bandbox where 'Lina kept her winter bonnet, and then, satisfied that so
far as his room was concerned, everything was in order, he descended the
stairs and went into the garden to gather fresh flowers with which still
further to adorn Alice's room. Hugh was fond of flowers, and two most
beautiful bouquets were soon arranged and placed in the vases brought
from the parlor mantel, while Muggins, who trotted beside him, watching
his movements and sometimes making suggestions, was told to see that
they were freshly watered, and not allowed to stand where the sun could
shine on them, as they might fade before Miss Johnson came.

During the excitement of preparing for Alice, the pain in his head had
in a measure been forgotten, but it had come back this morning with
redoubled force, and the veins upon his forehead looked almost like
bursting with their pressure of feverish blood. Hugh had never been sick
in his life, and he did not think it possible for him to be so now, so
he tried hard to forget the giddy, half blinding pain warning him of
danger, and after forcing himself to sip a little coffee in which he
would indulge this morning, he ordered Claib to bring out the covered
buggy, as he was going up to Lexington.



CHAPTER XVIII

MEETING OF ALICE AND HUGH


Could 'Lina have seen Hugh that morning as he emerged from a fashionable
tailor's shop, she would scarcely have recognized him. The hour passed
rapidly away, and its close found Hugh waiting at the terminus of the
Lexington and Cincinnati Railroad. He did not have to wait there long
ere a wreath of smoke in the distance heralded the approach of the
train, and in a moment the broad platform was swarming with passengers,
conspicuous among whom were an old lady and a young, both entire
strangers, as was evinced by their anxiety to know where to go.

"There are ours," the young lady said, pointing to a huge pile of
trunks, distinctly marked "A.J.," as she held out her checks in her
ungloved hand.

Hugh noticed the hand, saw that it was very small and white and fat, but
the face he could not see, and he looked in vain for the magnificent
hair about which even his mother had waxed eloquent, and which was now
put plainly back, so that not a vestige of it was visible. Still Hugh
felt sure that this was Alice Johnson, so sure that when he had
ascertained the hotel where she would wait for the Frankfort train, he
followed on, and entering the back parlor, the door of which was partly
closed, sat down as if he, too, were a traveler, waiting for the train.

Meantime, in the room adjoining, Alice, for it was she, divested herself
of her dusty wrappings, and taking out her combs and brushes, began to
arrange her hair, talking the while to Densie, reclining on the sofa.

It would seem that Alice's own luxuriant tresses suggested her first
remark, for she said to Densie: "That Miss Worthington has beautiful
hair, so black, so glossy, and so wavy, too. I wonder she never curls
it. It looks as if she might."

Densie did not know. It had struck her as singular taste, unless it were
done to conceal a scar, or something of that kind.

"I did not like that girl," she said, "and still she interested me more
than any person I ever met. I never went near her without experiencing a
strange sensation, neither could I keep from watching her continually,
although I knew as well as you that it annoyed her, Alice," and Densie
lowered her voice almost to a whisper, "I cannot account for it, but I
had queer fancies about that girl. Try now and bring her distinctly to
your mind. Did you ever see any one whom she resembled; any other eyes
like hers?" and Densie's own fierce, wild orbs flashed inquiringly upon
Alice, who could not remember a face like 'Lina Worthington's.

"I did not like her eyes much," she said; "they were too intensely
black, too much like coals of fire, when they flashed angrily on that
poor Lulu, who evidently was not well posted in the duties of a waiting
maid, auntie," and Alice's voice was lowered, too. "If mother had not so
decided, I should shrink from being an inmate of Mrs. Washington's
family. I like her very much, but 'Lina--I am afraid I shall not get on
with her:"

"I know you won't. I honor your judgment," was Hugh's mental comment,
while Alice went on:

"And what she told me of her brother was not calculated to impress me
favorably."

Nervously Hugh's hands grasped each other, and he could distinctly hear
the beating of his heart as he leaned forward so as not to lose a single
word.

"She seemed trying to prepare me for him by telling how rough he was;
how little he cared for etiquette; and how constantly he mortified her
with his uncouth manners."

Alice did not hear the sigh of pain or see the mournful look which stole
over Hugh's face. She did not even suspect his presence, and she went on
to speak of Spring Bank, wondering if Hugh would be there before his
mother returned, half hoping he would not, as she rather dreaded meeting
him, although she meant to like him if she could.

Alice's long, bright hair, was arranged at last, and the soft curls fell
about her face, giving to it the same look it had worn in childhood--the
look which was graven on Hugh's heart, as with a pencil of fire; the
look he never had forgotten through all the years which had come and
gone since first it shone on him; the look he had never hoped to see
again, so sure was he that it had long been quenched by the waters of
Lake Erie. Alice's face was turned fully toward him. Through the open
window at her back the August sunlight streamed, falling on her chestnut
hair, and tinging it with the yellow gleam which Hugh remembered so
well. For an instant the long lashes shaded the fair round cheek, and
then were uplifted, disclosing the eyes of lustrous blue, which, seen
but once, could never be mistaken, and Hugh was not mistaken. One look
of piercing scrutiny at the face unconsciously confronting him, one
mighty throb, which seemed to bear away his very life, one rapid passage
of his hand before his eyes to sweep away the mist, if mist there were,
and then Hugh knew the grave had given up its dead, mourned for so long
as only he could mourn. She was not lost. Some friendly hand had saved
her; some arm had borne her to the shore.

Golden Hair had come back to him, but, alas, prejudiced against him. She
hoped he might be gone. She would be happier if he never crossed her
path. "And I never, never will," Hugh thought, as with one farewell
glance at her dazzling beauty, he staggered noiselessly from the room,
and sought a small outer court, whose locality he knew, and where he
could be alone to think.

"Oh, Adaline," he murmured, "what made you so cruel to me? I would not
have served you so."

There was a roll of wheels before the door, and Hugh knew by the sound
that it was the carriage for the cars. She was going. They would never
meet again, Hugh said, and she would never know that the youth who saved
her life was the same for whose coming they would wait and watch in vain
at Spring Bank--the Hugh for whom his mother would weep a while; and for
whose dark fate even Ad might feel a little sorry. She was not wholly
depraved--she had some sisterly feeling, and his loss would waken it to
life. They would appreciate him after he was gone, and the poor heart
which had known so little love throbbed joyfully, as Hugh thought of
being loved at last even by the selfish 'Lina.

Meantime Alice and Densie proceeded on their way to the Big Spring
station, where Colonel Tiffton was waiting for them, according to his
promise. There was a shadow in the colonel's good-humored face, and a
shadow in his heart. His idol, Nellie, was very, very sick, while added
to this was the terrible certainty that he and he alone must pay that
$10,000 note on which he had foolishly put his name, because Harney had
preferred it. He was talking with Harney when the cars came up, and the
villain, while expressing regret that the colonel should be compelled to
pay so much for what he never received, had said, with a relentless
smile: "But it's not my fault, you know. I can't afford to lose it."

From that moment the colonel felt he was a ruined man, but he would not
allow himself to appear at all discomposed.

"Wait a while," he said; "do nothing till my Nell lives or dies," and
with a sigh as he thought how much dearer to him was his youngest
daughter than all the farms in Woodford, he went forward to meet Alice,
just appearing upon the platform.

The colonel explained to Alice why she must go to Spring Bank, adding,
by way of consolation, that she would not be quite as lonely now Hugh
was at home.

"Hugh at home!" and Alice shrank back in dismay, feeling for a moment
that she could not go there.

But there was no alternative, and after a few tears, which, she could
not repress, she said, timidly:

"What is this Hugh? What kind of a man, I mean?"

She could not expect the colonel to say anything bad of him, but she was
not prepared for his frank response.

"The likeliest chap in Kentucky. Nothing dandified about him, to be
sure. Wears his trouser legs in his boots as often as any way, and don't
stand about the very latest cut of his coat, but he's got a heart bigger
than an ox--yes, big as ten oxen! I'd trust him with my life, and know
it was just as safe as his own. You'll like Hugh--Nell does."

The colonel never dreamed of the comfort his words gave Alice, or how
they changed her feelings with regard to one whom she had so dreaded to
meet.

"There 'tis; we're almost there," the colonel said at last, as they
turned off from the highway, and leaning forward Alice caught sight of
the roofs and dilapidated chimneys of Spring Bank. "'Taint quite as
fixey as Yankee houses, that's a fact, but we that own niggers never do
have things so smarted up," the colonel said, guessing how the contrast
must affect Alice, who felt so desolate and homesick as she drew up in
front of what, for a time at least, was to be her home.

"Where is Hugh?" Alice asked.

Aunt Eunice would not say he had gone to Lexington for the sake,
perhaps, of seeing her, so she replied:

"He went to town this morning, but he'll be back pretty soon. He has
done his best to make it pleasant for you, and I do believe he doted on
your coming after he got a little used to thinking about it. You'll like
Hugh when you get accustomed to him. There, try to go to sleep," and
kind Aunt Eunice bustled from the room just as poor Densie, who had been
entirely overlooked, entered it, together with Aunt Chloe. The old
negress was evidently playing the hostess to Densie, for she was talking
quite loud, and all about "Mas'r Hugh." "Pity he wasn't thar, 'twould
seem so different; 'tain't de same house without him. You'll like Mas'r
Hugh," and she, too, glided from the room.

Was this the password at Spring Bank, "You'll like Mas'r Hugh?" It would
seem so, for when at last Hannah brought up the waffles and tea, which
Aunt Eunice had prepared, she set down her tray, and after a few
inquiries concerning Alice's head, which was now aching sadly, she, too,
launched forth into a panegyric on Mas'r Hugh, ending, as the rest had
done, "You'll like Mas'r Hugh."



CHAPTER XIX

ALICE AND MUGGINS


Had an angel appeared suddenly to the blacks at Spring Bank they would
not have been more surprised or delighted than they were with Alice when
she came down to breakfast, looking so beautiful in her muslin wrapper,
with a simple white blossom and geranium leaf twined among her flowing
curls, and an expression of content upon her childish face, which said
that she had resolved to make the best of the place to which Providence
had so clearly led her for some wise purpose of his own. She had arisen
early and explored the premises in quest of the spots of sunshine which
she knew were there as well as elsewhere, and she had found them, too,
in the grand old elms and maples which shaded the wooden building, in
the clean, grassy lawn and the running brook, in the well-kept garden of
flowers, and in the few choice volumes arranged in the old bookcase at
one end of the hall. Who reads those books, her favorites, every one of
them? Not 'Lina, most assuredly, for Alice's reminiscences of her were
not of the literary kind; nor yet Mrs. Worthington, kind, gentle
creature as she seemed to be. Who then but Hugh could have pored over
those pages? And Alice felt a thrill of joy as she felt there was at
least one bond of sympathy between them. There was no Bible upon the
shelves, no religious book of any kind, if we except a work of infidel
Tom Paine, at sight of which Alice recoiled as from a viper. Could Hugh
believe in Tom Paine? She hoped not, and with a sigh she was turning
from the corner, when the patter of little naked feet was heard upon the
stairs, and a bright mulatto child, apparently seven or eight years old,
appeared, her face expressive of the admiration with which she regarded
Alice, who asked her name.

Curtseying very low, the child replied:

"I dunno, missus; I 'spec's I done lost 'em, 'case heap of a while ago,
'fore you're born, I reckon, they call me Leshie, but Mas'r Hugh done
nickname me Muggins, and every folks do that now. You know Mas'r Hugh?
He done rared when he read you's comin'; do this way with his boot, 'By
George, Ad will sell the old hut yet without 'sultin' me,'" and the
little darky's fist came down upon the window sill in apt imitation of
her master.

A crimson flush overspread Alice's face as she wondered if it were
possible that the arrangements concerning her coming there had been made
without reference to Hugh's wishes.

"It may be, he was away," she sighed; then feeling an intense desire to
know more, and being only a woman and mortal, she said to Muggins
walking around her in circles, with her fat arms folded upon her bosom.
"Your master did not know I was coming till he returned from New Orleans
and found his mother's letter?"

"Who tole you dat ar?" and Muggins' face was perfectly comical in its
bewilderment at what she deemed Alice's foreknowledge. "But dat's so,
dat is. I hear Aunt Chloe say so, and how't was right mean in Miss
'Lina. I hate Miss 'Lina! Phew-ew!" and Muggins' face screwed itself
into a look of such perfect disgust that Alice could not forbear
laughing outright.

"You should not hate any one, my child," she said, while Muggins
rejoined:

"I can't help it--none of us can; she's so--mean--and so--so--you
mustn't never tell, 'case Aunt Chloe get my rags if you do--but she's so
low-flung, Claib say. She hain't any bizzens orderin' us around nuther,
and I will hate her!"

"But, Muggins, the Bible teaches us to love those who treat us badly,
who are mean, as you say."

"Who's he?" and Muggins looked up quickly. "I never hearn tell of him
afore, or, yes I has. Thar's an old wared-out book in Mas'r Hugh's
chest, what he reads in every night, and oncet when I axes him what was
it, he say, 'It's a Bible, Mug.' Dat's what he calls me for short; Mug!"

"Well," Alice said, "be a good girl, Muggins. God will love you if you
do. Do you ever pray?"

"More times I do, and more times when I'se sleepy I don't," was Muggins'
reply.

Here was a spot where Alice might do good; this half-heathen, but
sprightly, African child needed her, and she began already to get an
inkling of her mission to Kentucky. She was pleased with Muggins, and
suffered the little dusky hands to caress her curls as long as they
pleased, while she questioned her of the bookcase and its contents,
whose was it, 'Lina's or Hugh's?

"Mas'r Hugh's, in course. Miss 'Lina can't read!" was Muggins' reply,
which Alice fully understood.

'Lina was no reader, while Hugh was, it might be, and she continued to
speak of him. Did he read much, ever evenings to his mother, or did
'Lina play often to them?"

"More'n we wants, a heap!" and Muggins spoke scornfully. "We can't bar
them rang-tang-em-er-digs she thumps out. Now, we likes Mas'r Hugh's the
best--got good voice, sing Dixie, oh, splendid! Mas'r Hugh loves
flowers, too. Tend all them in the garden."

"Did he?" and Alice spoke with great animation, for she had supposed
that 'Lina's, or at least Mrs. Worthington's hands had been there.

But it was Hugh, all Hugh, and in spite of what Muggins had said
concerning his aversion to her coming there, she felt a great desire to
see him. She could understand in part why he should be angry at not
having been consulted, but he was over that, she was sure from what Aunt
Eunice said, and if he were not, it behooved her to try her best to
remove any wrong impression he might have formed of her. "He shall like
me," she thought; "not as he must like that golden-haired maiden whose
existence this sprite of a negro has discovered, but as a friend, or
sister," and a softer light shone in Alice's blue eyes, as she foresaw
in fancy Hugh gradually coming to like her, to be glad that she was
there, and to miss her when she was gone.



CHAPTER XX

POOR HUGH


Could Hugh have known the feelings with which Alice Johnson already
regarded him, and the opinion she had expressed to Muggins, it would
perhaps have stilled the fierce throbbings of his heart, which sent the
hot blood so swiftly through his veins, and made him from the first
delirious. They had found him in the quiet court, just after the
sunsetting, and his uncovered head was already wet with the falling dew,
and with the profuse perspiration induced by his long, heavy sleep. They
could not arouse him to a distinct consciousness as to where he was or
what had happened. He only talked of Ad and the Golden Haired, asking
that they would take him anywhere, where neither could ever see him
again. He was well known at the hotel, and measures were immediately
taken for apprising his family of the sudden illness, and for removing
him to Spring Bank as soon as possible.

Breakfast was not yet over at Spring Bank, and Aunt Eunice was just
wondering what could have become of Hugh, when from her position near
the window she discovered a horseman riding across the lawn at a rate
which betokened some important errand. Alice spied him, too, and the
same thought flashed over both herself and Aunt Eunice. "Something had
befallen Hugh."

Alice was the first upon the piazza, where she stood waiting till the
rider came up, his horse covered with foam, and himself flurried and
excited.

"Are you Miss Worthington?" he asked, doffing his soft hat, and feeling
a thrill of wonder at sight of her marvelous beauty.

"Miss Worthington is not at home," she said, going down the steps and
advancing closer to him, "but I can take your message. Is anything the
matter with Mr. Worthington?"

Aunt Eunice had now joined her, and listened breathlessly while the
young man told of Hugh's illness, which threatened to be the prevailing
fever.

"They were bringing him home," he said--"were now on the way, and he had
ridden in advance to prepare them for his coming."

Aunt Eunice seemed literally stunned and wholly incapable of action,
while the negroes howled dismally for Mas'r Hugh, who, Chloe said, was
sure to die.

"She'd felt it all along. She knew dem dogs hadn't howled for nothing,
nor them deathwatches ticked in the wall. Mas'r Hugh was gwine to die,
and all the blacks would be sold--down the river, most likely, if Harney
didn't get 'em," and crouching by the kitchen fire old Chloe bewailed
the calamity she knew was about to befall them.

Alice alone was calm and capable of action. A room must be prepared, and
somebody must direct, but to find the somebody was a most difficult
matter. Chloe couldn't, Hannah couldn't, Aunt Eunice couldn't, and
consequently it all devolved upon herself.

They carried Hugh to the room designated by Densie, and into which he
went very unwillingly.

It was not his den, he said, drawing back with a bewildered look; his
was hot, and close, and dingy, while this was nice and cool--a room such
as women had--there must be a mistake, and he begged of them to take him
away.

"No, no, my poor boy. This is right; Miss Johnson said you must come
here just because it is cool and nice. You'll get well so much faster,"
and Aunt Eunice's tears dropped on Hugh's flushed face.

"Miss Johnson!" and the wild eyes looked up eagerly at her. "Who is she?
Oh, yes, I know, I know," and a moan came from his lips as he whispered:
"Does she know I've come? Does it make her hate me worse to see me in
such a plight? Ho, Aunt Eunice, put your ear down close while I tell you
something. Ad said--you know Ad--she said I was--I was--I can't tell you
what she said for this buzzing in my head. Am I very sick, Aunt Eunice?"
and about the chin there was a quivering motion, which betokened a ray
of consciousness, as the brown eyes scanned the kind, motherly face
bending over him.

"Yes, Hugh, you are very sick," and Aunt Eunice's tears dropped upon the
face of her boy, so fearfully changed since yesterday.

He wiped them away himself, and looked inquiringly at her.

"Am I so sick that it makes you cry? Is it the fever I've got?"

"Yes, Hugh, the fever," and Aunt Eunice bowed her face upon his burning
hands.

For a moment he lay unconscious, then raising himself up, he fixed his
eyes piercingly upon her, and whispered, hoarsely:

"Aunt Eunice, I shall die! I have never been sick in my life; and the
fever goes hard with such. I shall surely die. It's been days in coming
on, and I thought to fight it off; I don't want to die. I'm not
prepared."

He was growing terribly excited now, and Aunt Eunice hailed the coming
of the doctor with delight. Hugh knew him, offering his pulse and
putting out his tongue of his own accord. The doctor counted the rapid
pulse, numbering even then 130 per minute, noted the rolling eyeballs
and the dilation of the pupils, felt the fierce throbbing of the swollen
veins upon the temple, and then gravely shook his head. Half conscious,
half delirious, Hugh watched him nervously, until the great fear at his
heart found utterance in words.

"Must I die?"

"We hope not. We'll do what we can to save you. Don't think of dying, my
boy," was the physician's reply, as he turned to Aunt Eunice, and gave
out the medicine, which must be most carefully administered.

Too much agitated to know just what he said, Aunt Eunice listened, as
one who heard not, noticing which, the doctor said:

"You are not the right one to take these directions. Is there nobody
here less nervous than yourself? Who was that young lady standing by the
door when I came in? The one in white, I mean, with such a quantity of
curls?"

"Miss Johnson--our visitor. She can't do anything," Aunt Eunice replied,
trying to compose herself enough to know what she was doing.

But the doctor thought differently. Something of a physiognomist, he had
been struck with the expression of Alice's face, and felt sure that she
would be more efficient aid than Aunt Eunice herself. "I'll speak to
her," he said, stepping to the hall. But Alice was gone. She had stood
by the sickroom door long enough to hear Hugh's impassioned words
concerning his probable death--long enough to hear him ask that she
might pray for him; and then she stole away to where no ear, save that
of God, could hear the earnest prayer that Hugh Worthington might
live--or that dying, there might be given him a space in which to grasp
the faith, without which the grave is dark indeed.

Meantime, the Hugh for whom the prayer was made had fallen into a heavy
sleep, and Aunt Eunice noiselessly left the room, meeting in the hall
with Alice, who asked permission to go in and sit by him at least until
he awoke. Aunt Eunice consented, and with noiseless footsteps Alice
advanced into the darkened room, and after standing still for a moment
to assure herself that Hugh was really sleeping, stole softly to his
bedside and bent down to look at him, starting quickly at the strong
resemblance to somebody seen before. Who was it? Where was it? she asked
herself, her brain a labyrinth of bewilderment as she tried in vain to
recall the time or place where a face like this reposing upon the pillow
before her had met her view. Suddenly she remembered Irving Stanley, and
that between him and Hugh there was a relationship, and then she knew it
was the likeness to Irving Stanley, which she so plainly traced. Alice
hardly cared to acknowledge it, but as she looked at Hugh she felt that
his was really the handsomer, the more attractive face of the two. It
certainly was, as he lay there asleep, his long eyelashes resting upon
his flushed cheek, his dark hair curling in soft rings about his high,
white brow, his rich, brown beard glistening with perspiration, and his
lips slightly apart, showing a row of even teeth.

There were others than Alice praying for Hugh that summer afternoon,
for Muggins had gone from the brook to the cornfield, startling Adah
with the story of Hugh's sickness, and then launching out into a glowing
description of the new miss, "with her white gown and curls as long as
Rocket's tail."

"She talked with God, too," she said, "like what you does, Miss Adah.
She axes Him to make Mas'r Hugh well, and He will, won't He?"

"I trust so," Adah answered, her own heart going silently up to the
Giver of life and health, asking, if it were possible, that her noble
friend might be spared.

Old Sam, too, with streaming eyes, stole out to his bethel by the
spring, and prayed for the dear "Massah Hugh" lying so still at Spring
Bank, and insensible to all the prayers going up in his behalf.

How terrible that deathlike stupor was, and the physician, when later in
the afternoon he came again, shook his head sadly.

"I'd rather see him rave till it took ten men to hold him," he said,
feeling the wiry pulse, which was now beyond his count.

"Is there nothing that will arouse him?" Alice asked, "no name of one he
loves more than another?"

The doctor answered "no; love for womankind, save as he feels it for his
mother or his sister, is unknown to Hugh Worthington."

Alice said softly, lest she should be heard:

"Hugh, shall I call Golden Haired?"

"Yes, yes, oh, yes," and the heavy lids unclosed at once, while the
eyes, in which there was no ray of consciousness, looked wistfully into
the lustrous blue orbs above him.

"Are you the Golden Haired?" and he laid his hand caressingly over the
shining tresses just within his reach.

Alice was about to reply, when an exclamation from those near the
window, and the heavy tramp of horse's feet, arrested her attention, and
drew her also to the window, just as a most beautiful gray, saddled but
riderless, came dashing over the gate, and tearing across the yard,
until he stood panting at the door. Rocket had come home for the first
time since his master had led him away!

Hearing of Hugh's illness, the old colonel had ridden over to inquire
how he was, and fearing lest it might be difficult to get Rocket away if
once he stood in the familiar yard, he had dismounted in the woods, and
fastening him to a tree, walked the remaining distance. But Rocket was
not thus to be cheated. Ever since turning into the well-remembered lane
he had seemed like a new creature, pricking up his ears, and, dancing
and curvetting daintily along, as he had been wont to do on public
occasions when Hugh was his rider instead of the fat colonel. In this
state of feeling it was quite natural that he should resent being tied
to a tree, and as if divining why it was done, he broke his halter the
moment the colonel was out of sight, and went galloping through the
woods like lightning, never for an instant slackening his speed until he
stood at Spring Bank door, calling, as well as he could call, for Hugh,
who heard and recognized that call.

Throwing his arms wildly over his head, he raised himself in bed, and
exclaimed joyfully:

"That's he! that's Rocket! I knew he'd come. I've only been waiting for
him to start on that long journey. Ho! Aunt Eunice! Pack my clothes. I'm
going away, where I shan't mortify Ad any more. Hurry up. Rocket is
growing impatient. Don't you hear him pawing the turf? I'm coming, my
boy, I'm coming!" and he attempted to leap upon the floor, but the
doctor's strong arm held him down, while Alice, whose voice alone he
heeded, strove to quiet him.

"I wouldn't go away to-day," she said soothingly. "Some other time will
do as well, and Rocket can wait."

"Will you stay with me?" Hugh asked.

"Yes, I'll stay," was Alice's reply.

"I'm glad he's roused up," the doctor said, "though I don't like the way
his fever increases," and Alice knew by the expression of his face that
there was but little hope, determining not to leave him during the
night.

Densie or Aunt Eunice might sleep on the lounge, she said, but the care,
the responsibility shall be hers. To this the doctor willingly acceded,
thinking that Hugh was safer with her than any one else. Exchanging the
white wrapper she had worn through the day for one more suitable, Alice,
after an hour's rest in her own room, returned to Hugh, who had missed
her sadly, and who knew the moment she came back to him, even though his
eyes were closed, and he seemed to be half asleep.

"Mas'r Hugh won't die," and Muuggins' faith came to the rescue, throwing
a ray of hope into the darkness. "Miss Alice axed God to spar' him, and
so did I; now He will, won't He, miss?" and she turned to Adah, who,
with Sam, had just come up to Spring Bank, and hearing voices in the
kitchen had entered there first. "Say, Miss Adah, won't God cure Mas'r
Hugh--'ca'se I axed Him oncet?"

"You must pray more than once, child; pray many, many times," was Adah's
reply; whereupon Mug looked aghast, for the idea of praying a second
time had never entered her brain.

Still, if she must, why, she must, and she stole quietly from the
kitchen. But it was now too dark to go down in the woods by the running
brook, and remembering Alice had said that God was everywhere, she first
cast around her a timid glance, as if fearful she should see Him, and
then kneeling in the grass, wet with the heavy night dew, the little
negro girl prayed again for Master Hugh, starting as she prayed at the
sound which met her ear, and which came from the spot where Rocket still
was standing by the block, waiting for his master.

Claib had offered him food and offered him drink, but both had been
refused, and opening the stable door so that he could go in whenever he
chose, Claib had left him there alone, solitary watcher of the night,
waiting for poor Hugh.

Returning to the house, Mug stole upstairs to the door of the sickroom,
where Alice was now alone with Hugh.

He was awake, and for an instant seemed to know her, for he attempted to
speak, but the rational words died on his lips, and he only moaned, as
if in distress.

"What is it?" Alice said, bending over him.

"Are you the Golden Haired?" he asked again, as her curls swept his
face.

"Who is Golden Hair?" Alice asked, and instantly the great tears
gathered in Hugh's dark eyes as he replied:

"Don't say who is she, but who was she. I've never told a living being
before. Golden Hair was a bright angel who crossed my path one day, and
then disappeared forever, leaving behind the sweetest memory a mortal
man ever possessed. She's dead, Chestnut Locks," and he twined one of
Alice's curls around his finger. "It's weak for men to cry, but I have
cried many a night for her, when the clouds were crying, too, and I
heard against my window the rain which I knew was falling upon her
little grave."

He was growing rather excited, and thinking he had talked too much,
Alice was trying to quiet him, when the door opened softly and Adah
herself came in. Bowing politely to Alice she advanced to Hugh's
bedside, and bending over him spoke his name. He knew her, and turning
to Alice said: "This is Adah; you will like each other; you are much
alike."

For an instant the two young girls gazed at each other as if trying to
account for the familiar look each saw in the other's face. Adah was the
first to remember, and when at last Hugh was asleep she unclasped from
her neck the slender chain she had worn so long, and passing the locket
to Alice, asked if she ever saw it before.

"Yes, oh, yes, it's I, it's mine, though not a very natural one. I never
knew where I lost it. Where did you find it?" and opening the other side
Alice looked to see if the lock of hair was safe.

Adah explained how it came into her possession, asking if Alice
remembered the circumstances.

"Yes, and I thought of you so often, never dreaming that we should meet
here as we have. You were so sick then, and I pitied you so much. Your
husband was gone, you said. Was it long ere he came back?"

"He never came back," and the great brown eyes filled with tears.

"Never came? Do you think him dead?"

"No, no! oh, no! He's--Oh, Miss Johnson, I'll tell you some time. Nobody
here knows but Hugh how I was deceived, but I'll tell you. I can trust
you," and Adah involuntarily laid her head in Alice's lap, sobbing
bitterly.

In the hall without there was a shuffling step which Adah knew was
Sam's, and remembering the conversation once held with him concerning
that golden locket, whose original Sam was positive he had seen, Alice
waited curious for his entrance. With hobbling steps the old man came
in, scarcely noticing either of them, so intent was he upon the figure
lying so still and helpless before him.

"Massah Hugh, my poor, dear Massah Hugh," he cried, bending over his
young master. "I wish 'twas Sam had all de pain an' all de aches you
feels. I'd b'ar it willingly, massah, I would. Dear massah, kin you hear
Sam talkin' to you?"

Sam had turned away from Hugh, and with his usual politeness was about
making his obeisance to Alice, when the words, "Your servant, miss,"
were changed into a howl of joy, and falling upon his knees, he clutched
at Alice's dress, exclaiming:

"Now de Lord be praised, I'se found her again. I'se found Miss Ellis, I
has, an' I feels like singin' 'Glory Hallelujah.' Does ye know me, lady?
Does you 'member shaky ole darky, way down in Virginny? You teached him
de way, an' he's tried to walk dar ever sence. Say, does you know ole
Sam?" and the dim eyes looked eagerly into Alice's face.

She did remember him, and for a moment seemed speechless with surprise,
then, stooping beside him, she took his shriveled hand and pressed it
between her own, asking how he came there, and if Hugh had always been
his master.

"You 'splain, Miss Adah. You speaks de dictionary better than Sam," the
old man said, and thus appealed to, Adah told what she knew of Sam's
coming into Hugh's possession.

"He buy me just for kindness, nothing else, for Sam ain't wo'th a dime,
but Massah Hugh so good. I prays for him every night, and I asks God to
bring you and him together. Miss Ellis will like Massah Hugh much, so
much, and Massah Hugh like Miss Ellis. Oh, I'se happy chile to-night. I
prays wid a big heart, 'case I sees Miss Ellis again," and in his great
joy Sam kissed the hem of Alice's dress, crouching at her feet and
regarding her with a look almost idolatrous.

They watched together that night, attending Hugh so carefully that when
the morning broke and the physician came, he pronounced the symptoms so
much better that there was much hope, he said, if the faithful nursing
were continued.



CHAPTER XXI

ALICE AND ADAH


At Alice's request, Adah and Sam stayed altogether at Spring Bank, but
Alice was the ruling power--Alice, the one whom Chloe and Claib
consulted; one concerning the farm, and the other concerning the
kitchen--Alice, to whom Aunt Eunice looked for counsel, and Densie for
comfort--Alice, who remembered all the doctor's directions, taking the
entire charge of Hugh's medicines herself--and Alice, who wrote to Mrs.
Worthington, apprising her of Hugh's serious illness. They hoped he was
not dangerous, she said, but he was very sick, and Mrs. Worthington
would do well to come at once. She did not mention 'Lina, but the idea
never crossed her mind that a sister could stay away from choice when a
brother was so ill; and it was with unfeigned surprise that she one
morning saw Mrs. Worthington and Lulu alighting at the gate, but no
'Lina with them.

"She was so happy at Saratoga," Mrs. Worthington said, when a little
over the first flurry of her arrival. "So happy, too, with Mrs. Richards
that she could not tear herself away, unless her mother should find Hugh
positively dangerous, in which case she should, of course, come at
once."

This was the mother's charitable explanation, made with a bitter sigh as
she recalled 'Lina's heartless anger when the letter was received, as if
Hugh were to blame, as, indeed, 'Lina seemed to think he was.

Meantime Alice, in her own room, was reading 'Lina's note, containing a
most glowing description of the delightful time she was having at
Saratoga, and how hard it would be to leave.

"I know dear Hugh is in good hands," she wrote, "and it is so pleasant
here that I really do want to stay a little longer. Pray write to me
just how Hugh is, and if I must come home. What a delightful lady that
Mrs. Richards is--not one bit stiff as I can see. I don't know what
people mean to call her proud. She has promised, if mamma will leave me
here, to be my chaperon, and it's possible we may visit New York
together, so as to be there when the prince arrives. Won't that be
grand? She talks so much of you that sometimes I'm really jealous.
Perhaps I may go to Terrace Hill before I return, but rather hope not,
it makes me fidgety to think of meeting the Misses Richards, though, of
course, I know I shall like them, particularly Anna. Oh, I most forgot!
Irving is here yet, and has a sister, Mrs. Ellsworth, with him now. She
is very elegant, and very much admired. Tell Adah I heard Mrs. Ellsworth
say she wished she could find some young person as governess for her
little girl, and kind of companion for her. I did not speak of Adah, but
I thought of her, knowing she desired some such situation. She might
write to Mrs. Ellsworth here, but I'd rather she should not refer to me
as having known her. You see Mrs. Ellsworth would directly inquire about
her antecedents, and to a stranger it would not sound well that she came
to us one stormy night with that child, whose father we know nothing
about, and if I told the truth, as I always try to do, I should have to
tell this. So it will be better for Adah not to know us, even if she
should come to Mrs. Ellsworth. You will understand me, I am sure, and
believe that I am actuated by the kindest of motives. She can direct to
Mrs. Julia Ellsworth, Union Hall, Saratoga Springs. By the way, tell
mother not to forget that dress. She'll know what you mean.

"Mr. Stanley seemed quite blue after you went away. I should not be
surprised to hear of his being at Spring Bank some day. Isn't it funny
that you had to go right there? Perhaps it's as well for you that Hugh
is sick. You will got a better impression. _Au revoir_."

Not a word was there in this letter of the doctor, but Alice understood
it all the same. He was the attraction which kept the selfish girl from
her brother's side. "May she be happy with him, if, indeed, he has a
right to win her," was Alice's mental comment, shuddering as she
recalled the time when she was pleased with the handsome doctor, and
silently thanking God, who had saved her from much sorrow. Hearing Mrs.
Worthington in the hall, and remembering what 'Lina said concerning the
dress, she stepped to the door and delivered the message, wondering that
Mrs. Worthington should seem so confounded, and stammer so, as she
turned to Adah, just coming up the stairs, and said:

"Have you ever done anything with that old muslin 'Lina gave you?"

"Never till to-day," Adah replied; "when it occurred to me that if this
hot weather lasted, I might find it comfortable, provided I could fix
it, so I sent Mug for it, and she is ripping the waist."

Mrs. Worthington was not a good dissembler, and her next question was:

"Did you find anything in the pocket?"

"Yes, my letter, written weeks ago. Your daughter must have forgotten
it. I intrusted it to her care the day Miss Tiffton called."

Adah was just thinking of speaking freely to Alice Johnson concerning
her future course, when Mrs. Worthington met her in the upper hall.

"I'll go to her now," she said, as Mrs. Worthington left her, and
knocking timidly at Alice's door, she asked permission to enter.

"Oh, certainly, I have something to tell you," Alice said, motioning her
to a chair, and sitting down beside her. "Miss Worthington sent me a
note in which she speaks of you."

"Of me?" and Adah colored slightly. "I did not know she ever thought of
me. Why did she not come with her mother?"

"She is enjoying herself so much is the reason she gives, though I fancy
there is another more powerful one. Perhaps the note will enlighten
you," and Alice passed it to Adah, not so much to show her how heartless
'Lina was, as to see if in what she had said of the Richards family
there was not something which Adah would recognize.

That look in Willie's face had almost grown to a certainty with Alice,
who saw Anna, or Asenath, or Eudora, and sometimes John himself in every
move of the little fellow. Silently Adah read the note, her paled cheeks
turning scarlet at what 'Lina had said of herself and Mrs. Ellsworth.
The Richards family were nothing to her. She only seized upon and
treasured up the words "with a child about whose father we know
nothing." Slowly the tears gathered in her eyes and finally fell in
torrents as Alice asked:

"What made her cry?"

"Oh, Miss Johnson," and Adah hid her face in Alice's lap, "I'm thinking
of George--of Willie's father. Will he never come back, or the world
know that I thought I was a lawful wife? Yes, and I sometimes believe so
now, or I should surely go wild, Miss Johnson," and Adah lifted up her
head, disclosing a face which Alice scarcely recognized, for the strange
expression there. "Miss Johnson, if I knew that George deliberately
planned my ruin under the guise of a mock marriage, and then when it
suited him deserted me as a toy of which he was tired, I should hate
him!--hate him!"

"I frighten you, Miss Johnson," she said, as she saw how Alice shrank
away from the dark eyes in which there was a fierce, resentful gleam,
unlike sweet Adah Hastings. "I used to frighten myself when I saw in my
eyes the demon which whispered suicide."

"Oh, Adah," said Alice, "you could not have dreamed that!"

"I did," and Adah spoke sadly now. "It was kind in God to save me, and
I've tried to love Him better since; but there's something savage in my
nature, something I must have inherited from one of my parents, and
sometimes my heart, which at first was full of love for George, goes out
against him for his base treachery."

"And yet you love him still?" Alice said, as she smoothed the beautiful
brown hair.

"I suppose I do. A kind word from him would bring me back, but will it
ever be spoken? Shall we ever meet again?"

"Where did he go?" Alice asked.

"He went to Europe, so he said."

There was a voluntary shudder as Alice recalled the time when Dr.
Richards came home from Europe, and she had been flattered with his
attentions.

"I may be unjust to him," she thought, then to Adah she said: "As you
have told me your story in part, will you tell me the whole?"

There was no vindictiveness now in Adah's face, nothing save a calm,
gentle expression such as it was used to wear, and the soft brown eyes
drooped mournfully beneath the heavy lashes as she told the story of her
wrongs.

"And Hugh?" Alice said. "Why did you come to him? Had you known him
before?"

"Hugh was the other witness, bribed by my guardian to lend himself a
party to the deception! I never saw him till that night; neither, I
think, did George. My guardian planned the whole."

"Hugh Worthington is not the man I took him for," and Alice spoke
bitterly.

"You mistake him," she cried eagerly. "My guardian, Mr. Monroe, was
pleased with the young Kentuckian, and led him easily. He coaxed him to
drink a glass of wine, which Hugh says must have been drugged, for it
took away his power to act as he would otherwise have done, and when in
this condition he consented to whatever Mr. Monroe proposed, keeping
silent while the horrid farce went on. But he has repented so bitterly,
and been so kind to me and Willie."

"And your guardian," interrupted Alice, "is it not strange that he
should have acted so cruel a part?"

"Yes, that's the strangest part of all, and he was so kind to me. I
cannot understand it, or where he is, though I've sometimes imagined he
must be dead; or in prison," and Adah thought of what Sam had said
concerning Sullivan, the negro-stealer.

"What do you mean; why should he be in prison?" Alice asked, and Adah
replied by telling her what Sam had said, and the reason she had for
thinking Sullivan and her guardian, Monroe, one and the same.

"I too am marked," and with a quick, nervous motion, she touched the
spot where the blue lines were faintly visible. "I know not how I came
by it, but it annoys me terribly. Mr. Monroe knew how I felt about it,
and the day before that marriage he said to me: 'It will disappear with
your children. They will not be marked,' and Willie isn't."

Just then Willie's voice was heard in the hall, and Alice admitted him
into the room. She kissed his rosy cheek, and said to Adah: "Do you know
I think he looks like Hugh."

"Yes," and Adah spoke sadly. "I know he does, and I am sorry for Hugh's
sake, as it must annoy him. Neither can I account for it, for I am
certainly nothing to Hugh. But there's another look in Willie's face,
his father's. Oh, Miss Johnson, George was handsome."

"Can you describe him, or will it be too painful?" Alice asked, and Adah
told how George Hastings looked, while Alice's handy worked nervously
together, for Adah was describing Dr. Richards.

"And you've never seen him since, nor guessed where his proud mother
lived?"

"Never, and when only the wrong is remembered, I think I never care to
see or hear from him again. But the noble, self-denying Hugh! I would
almost die for him; I ask God every day to bring him some good fortune
at last. He will, I know He will, and Hugh shall yet--"

She stopped short, struck with an idea which had never before entered
her mind. Hugh and Alice! Oh, if that could be.

"Why do you look at me?" Alice asked, as Adah sat drinking in the
dazzling beauty which she wished might one day shine for Hugh.

"I am thinking how beautiful you are, and wondering if you ever loved
any one; did you?"

"Not like you," Alice answered frankly. "When a little girl of thirteen
I owed my life to a youth with many characteristics like Hugh
Worthington. I liked him, and wanted so much to find him, but could not.
Then I grew to womanhood, and another crossed my path, well skilled in
finding every avenue to a maiden's heart. I did not love him. I am glad
that I did not, for he was unworthy of my love; but I fancied him a
while, and my heart did ache a little when mother on her deathbed talked
to me against him. It was my money he wanted most, and when he thought I
had none, he left me, saying as I heard, that I 'was a nice-ish kind of
girl, rather good-looking, but too blue for him.'"

"And the other, the boy like Hugh, have you met him again?" Adah asked,
feeling a little disappointed, when Alice replied:

"Once, I am very sure."

Alice heard the faint sigh, and hope died out for Hugh. Poor Hugh! Alice
was thinking of him, too, and said at last: "Was Rocket sold to Colonel
Tiffton for debt?"

"Yes, for 'Lina's debts, contracted at Harney's. I've heard of his
boasting that Hugh should yet be compelled to see him galloping down the
pike upon his idol."

"He never shall!" and Alice spoke under her breath, asking further
questions concerning the sale of Colonel Tiffton's house, and now much
Mosside was worth.

Adah did not know. She was only posted with regard to Rocket, who was
pawned for five hundred dollars. "Once I insanely hoped that I might
help redeem him--that God would find a work for me to do--and my heart
was so happy for a moment."

"What did you think of doing?" Alice asked, glancing at the delicate
young girl, who looked so unaccustomed to toil of any kind.

"I thought to be a governess or waiting maid," and Adah's lip began to
quiver. Then she told how her letter had been carelessly forgotten.

"Do you remember the address?" and Alice waited curiously for the
answer.

"Yes, 'A.E.R. Snowdon.' You came from Snowdon Miss Johnson, and I've
wanted so much to ask if you knew 'A.E.R.,' but have never dared talk
freely with you till to-day."

Alice was confounded. Surely the leadings of Providence were too plainly
evident to be unnoticed. There was a reason why Adah Hastings must go to
Anna Richards, and Alice hastened to reply: "'A.E.R.' is no less a
person than Anna Richards whose mother and brother are now at Saratoga."

"Oh, I can't go there. They are too proud. They would hate me for
Willie, and ask me for his father."

Very gently Alice talked to her of Snowdon and Anna Richards, whom Adah
was sure to like.

"I'm so glad for your sake that it has come around at last," she said.
"Will you write to her to-day, or shall I for you? Perhaps I had
better!"

"Oh, no, I would rather go unannounced--rather Miss Anna should like me
for my self, if I go," and Adah's voice trembled, for she shrank
nervously from the thought of meeting the Richards family.

If 'Lina liked the old lady, she certainly could not, and the very
thought of these elder sisters, in all their primness, dismayed and
disheartened her.

While this was passing through her mind, she sat twining Willie's silken
curls around her finger, and apparently listening to what Alice was now
saying of Dr. Richards; but Alice might as well have talked to the winds
for any impression she made. Adah was looking far into the future,
wondering what it had in store for her, as if in Anna Richards she would
indeed find the sympathizing friend which Alice said she would.
Gradually, as she thought of Anna, her heart went out strangely toward
her.

"I will go to Miss Richards," she said at last; "but I cannot go till
Hugh is better, till he knows and approves. I must take his blessing
with me. Do you think it will be long before he regains his reason?"

Alice could not tell.

"Do you correspond with Miss Richards?" Adah suddenly asked.

"No. I will send a note of introduction by you, though."

"Please don't," and Adah spoke pleadingly. "I should have to give it if
you did, and I'd rather go by myself. I know it would be better to have
your influence, but it is a fancy of mine not to say that I ever knew
you or any one at Spring Bank."

Now it was settled that Adah should go, she felt a restless, impatient
desire to be gone, questioning the doctor closely with regard to Hugh,
who, it seemed to her, would never awaken from the state of
unconsciousness into which he had fallen, and from which he only rallied
for an instant, just long enough to recognize his mother, but never
Alice or herself, both of whom watched over him day and night.



CHAPTER XXII

WAKING TO CONSCIOUSNESS


The sultry August glided by, and in the warm, still days of late
September Hugh awoke from the sleep which had so long hung over him.
Raising himself upon his elbow, he glanced around the room. There were
the table, the stand, the mirror, the curtains, the vases, and the
flowers, but what--did he see aright, or did his eyes deceive him? and
the perspiration stood thickly about his mouth, as in the bouquet, that
morning arranged, he recognized the gay flowers of autumn, not such as
he had gathered for Alice, delicate summer flowers, but rich and
gorgeous with a later bloom.

"I must have been sick," he whispered, and pressing his hand to his
still throbbing head, he tried to reveal and form into some definite
shape the events which had seemed, and which seemed to him still, like
so many phantoms of the brain.

Was it a dream--his mother's tears upon his face, his mother's voice
calling him her Hughey boy, his mother's sobs beside him? Was it, could
it be all a dream that she, the Golden Haired, had been with him
constantly? No that was not a dream. She did not hate him, else she had
not prayed, and words of thanksgiving were going up to Golden Hair's
God, when a footstep in the hall announced the approach of some one.
Alice, perhaps, and Hugh lay very still, with half-shut eyes, until
Muggins, instead of Alice, appeared.

He was asleep, she said, as, standing on tiptoe, she scanned his face.
He was asleep, and in her own dialect Muggins talked to herself about
him as he lay there so still.

"Nice Mas'r Hugh--pretty Mas'r Hugh!" and Mug's little black hand was
laid caressingly on the face she admired so much. "I mean to ask God
about him, just like I see Miss Alice do," she continued, and stealing
to the opposite side of the room, Muggins kneeled down, and with her
face turned toward Hugh, she said: "If God is hearin' me, will He please
do all dat Miss Alice ax him 'bout curin' Mas'r Hugh."

This was too much for Hugh. The sight of that ignorant negro child,
kneeling by the window unmanned him entirely, and hiding his head
beneath the sheets, he sobbed aloud. With a nervous start, Mug arose
from her knees, and stood for an instant gazing in terror at the
trembling of the bedclothes.

"I'll bet he's in a fit. I mean to screech for Miss Alice," and Muggins
was about darting away, when Hugh's long arm caught and held her fast.
"Oh, de gracious, Mas'r Hugh," she cried, "you skeers me so. Does you
know me, Mas'r Hugh?" and she took a step toward him.

"Yes, I know you, and I want to talk a little. Where am I, Mug? What
room, I mean?"

"Why, Miss Alice's, in course. She 'sisted, and 'sisted, till 'em brung
you in here, 'case she say it cool and nice. Oh, Miss Alice so fine."

"In Miss Johnson's room," and Hugh looked perfectly bewildered. In the
room he had taken so much pains to have in order; it could not be; and
he passed his hand up and down the comfortable mattress, striking it
once with his fist, to see if it would sink in, and then, in a perplexed
whisper, he asked: "This is her room, you say; but, Mug, where are the
two feather beds?"

In a most aggrieved tone, Mug explained how Miss Adah and Aunt Eunice
had spoiled their handiwork, but could not talk long of anything without
bringing in Miss Alice.

"Where does Miss Alice pray for me?" he asked, and Muggins replied:

"Oh here, when she bese alone, and downstairs, and everywhere. You wants
to hear her?"

Yes, Hugh did.

"Mug," he said. "I am going to be crazy as a loon. I have not been
rational a bit, and you must not say I have. You must not say anything.
Do you understand?"

Mug didn't at first, but after a little it came to her that "Mas'r Hugh
was goin' to play 'possum. That Miss Alice and all dem would think him
ravin' and only she would know the truth." It would be rare sport for
Mug, and after giving her promise, she waited anxiously for some one to
come. At last another footstep sounded in the hall.

"That's her'n," Muggins whispered. "Is you crazy, Mas'r Hugh?"

"Hush-sh!" came warningly from Hugh, who, the next moment had turned his
head away from the fading light, and with eyes closed, pretended to be
asleep.

Softly, on tiptoe as it were, Alice approached the bedside, bending so
low to see if he were sleeping that he felt her fragrant breath, and a
most delicious thrill ran through his frame, when a little, soft, warm
hand was laid upon his brow, where the veins were throbbing wildly--so
wildly that the unsuspecting maiden wet the linen napkin used for such a
purpose, and bathed the feverish skin, pushing back, with a
half-caressing motion, the rings of damp, brown hair, and still the
wicked Hugh never moved, nor winked, nor gave the slightest token of the
ecstatic bliss he was enjoying.

"What a consummate hypocrite I am, to lie here and let her do what
money could not tempt her to do, if she knew that I was conscious, but
hanged if I don't like it," was Hugh's mental comment, while Alice's
was: "Poor Hugh, the doctor said he would probably be better when he
waked from this sleep, better or worse. Oh, what if he should die, and
leave no sign of repentance," and by the rustling movement, Hugh knew
that Alice Johnson was kneeling at his side, and with his hot hands in
hers was praying for him, that he might not die.

"Spare him for his mother, he is her only boy," he heard her say, and on
the pillow, where his face was lying, the great tear drops fell, as he
thought how unworthy he was that she should pray for him.

He knew the pillow was wet, and shuddered when Alice attempted to fix
his head, turning it more to the light. She saw the tear stains, and
murmured to herself: "I did not think it was so warm." Then, sitting
down beside him, she fanned him gently, occasionally feeling for his
pulse to see if it were as rapid as ever. Once, as she touched his
wrist, his fingers closed involuntarily around her little hand and held
it a prisoner. He could not help it; the temptation was too strong to be
resisted, and then he reflected that a crazy man was not responsible for
his actions! As rational Hugh, he could never hope to touch that little
soft hand trembling in his like a frightened bird, so he would as crazy
Hugh improve his opportunity; and he did, holding fast the hand, and
when she attempted to draw it away, pressing it tighter and muttering:

"No, no; mother, no."

"He thinks I am you," Alice whispered, as Mrs. Worthington came in, and
Hugh's heart gave one great throb of filial love when his mother stooped
over him, and 'mid a shower of tears kissed his forehead and lips,
murmuring:

"Darling boy, he'll never know how much his poor mother loved him, or
how her heart will break with missing him if he dies."

It was with the utmost difficulty that Hugh could restrain himself then,
from assuring his mother that the crisis was passed and he was out of
danger.

"I've gone too far now, the hypocrite that I am," he thought. "Alice
Johnson never would forgive me. I can't retract now, not yet; I'm in a
pretty fix."

As the twilight gathered in the room he lay, listening while his mother
and Alice talked together, some times of him, sometimes of Colonel
Tiffton, whose embarrassments were now generally known, and again of
'Lina, who, he heard, had chosen to remain at Saratoga, where she was
enjoying herself so much with dear Mrs. Richards.

It was Alice who sat up that night, and Hugh, as he lay watching her
with half-closed eyes, as in her loose plain wrapper, with her luxuriant
curls, coiled in a large square knot at the back of her head, she moved
noiselessly around the room, felt a pang of remorse at his own
duplicity, one moment resolving to give up the part he was playing and
bid her leave him alone, and seek the rest she needed. But the
temptation to keep her there was strong. He would be very quiet, he said
to himself, and he kept his word, remaining so still and apparently
sleeping so soundly, that Alice lay down upon the lounge on the opposite
side of the room, where she had lain many a night, but never as now,
with Hugh's eyes upon her, watching her so eagerly as she fell away to
sleep, her soft, regular, childlike breathing awaking a thrill in Hugh's
heart, and sending the blood in little, tingling throbs through every
vein.

The drops and powders on the table remained undisturbed that night, for
the patient was too quiet, and the watcher was so tired, that the latter
never woke until the daylight was breaking, and Adah came to relieve
her. With a frightened start she arose, astonished to find it was
morning.

"I wonder if he had suffered from my neglect?" she said, stealing up to
Hugh, who had schooled himself to meet her gaze with wide, open eyes,
which certainly had in them no delirium, and which puzzled Alice
somewhat, making her blush and turn away.

The old doctor, too, was puzzled, when, later in the morning, he came
in, feeling his patient's pulse, examining his tongue, and pronouncing
him decidedly out of danger. The fever had left him, he said--the crisis
was past--Hugh was a heap better, and for his part he could not
understand why the mind should not also come clear, or what it was which
made his hitherto talkative subject so silent. He never had such a
case--he didn't believe his books had one on record; and the befogged
old man hurried home to see if, in all his musty volumes, unopened for
many a year, there was a parallel case to Hugh Worthington's.



CHAPTER XXIII

'LINA'S LETTER


Wicked Hugh! How he did enjoy it, for days seeing the family come in and
out, talking as freely of him as if he were a log of wood, and how
perfectly happy he was when, one morning Alice came in and sat by him,
placing her tiny gold thimble upon her delicate finger, and bending over
her bit of dainty embroidery, humming occasionally a sweet, mournful
air, which showed that her thoughts were wandering back to the cottage
by the river, where her mother lived and died. While she was sitting
there Mrs. Worthington joined her, and a moment after a letter was
brought in from 'Lina, containing on the corner, "In haste."

Mrs. Worthington's eyesight had always been poor, and latterly it was
greatly impaired, making glasses indispensable. Unfortunately, she had
that very morning broken one of the eyes, and consequently could not use
them at all.

"What is that?" she asked, pointing out the words, "In haste," to Alice,
who explained what it was, while Mrs. Worthington, fearing lest
something had befallen her daughter, could scarcely tear open the
envelope. Then, when it was open, she could not read it, for 'Lina's
writing was never very plain, and passing it to Alice, she said,
entreatingly:

"Please read it for me. There is no secret, I presume."

Glancing at Hugh, who had purposely turned his face to the wall, Alice
commenced as follows:

  "FIFTH AVENUE HOTEL, NEW YORK,
  OCTOBER, 1860."

  "DEAR MOTHER: What a little eternity it is since I heard from you,
  and how am I to know that you are not all dead and buried. Were it
  not that no news is good news, I should sometimes fancy that Hugh
  was worse, and feel terribly for not having gone home when you did.

  "Now, then, to business, and firstly, as Parson Brown, of Elm wood,
  used to say, I want Hugh to send me some money, or all is lost. Tell
  him he must either beg, borrow, pawn or steal, for the rhino I must
  have. Let me explain.

  "Here I am at Fifth Avenue Hotel, as good as any lady, if my purse
  is almost empty. Plague on it, why didn't that Mrs. Johnson send
  me two thousand instead of one? It would not hurt her, and them I
  should get through nicely."

"Oh, I ought not to read this--I cannot," and Alice threw the letter
from her, and hurried from the room.

"The way of the transgressor is hard," groaned Hugh, and the groan
caught the ear of his mother.

"What is it, Hugh?" she asked, coming quickly to his side. "Are you
worse? Do you want anything?"

"No, I'm better, I reckon--the cobwebs are gone. I am myself again. What
have you here?" and Hugh grasped the closely written sheet.

In her delight at having her son restored to his reason so suddenly, so
unexpectedly, as the poor, deluded woman believed, Mrs. Worthington
forgot for a moment the pain, and clasped her arms about him, sobbing
like a child.

"Oh, my boy, I am so glad, so glad!" and her tears dropped fast, as like
a weary child, which wanted to be soothed, she laid her head upon his
bosom, crying quietly.

And Hugh, stronger now than she, held the poor, tired head there, and
kissed the white forehead, where there were more wrinkles now than when
he last observed it. His mother was growing old with care rather than
with years, and Hugh shuddered, as, for the first time in his life, he
thought how dreadful it would be to have no mother. Folding his weak
arms about her, mother and son wept together in that moment of perfect
understanding and union with each other. Hugh was the first to rally. It
seemed so pleasant to lean on him, to know that he cared so much for
her, that Mrs. Worthington would gladly have rested on his bosom longer,
but Hugh was anxious to know the worst, and brought her back to
something of the old, sad life, by asking if the letter were from 'Lina.

"Yes; I can't make it out, for one of my glasses is broken, and you know
she writes so blind."

"It never troubles me," and taking the letter from her unresisting hand,
Hugh asked that another pillow should be placed beneath his head, while
he read it aloud.

  "You see that thousand is almost gone, and as board is two and a
  half dollars per day, I can't stay long and shop in Broadway with
  old Mrs. Richards, as I am expected to do in my capacity of
  heiress. I tell you, Spring Bank, Kentucky--crazy old rat trap as
  it is, has done wonders for me in the way of getting me noticed. If
  I had any soul, big enough to find with a microscope, I believe I
  should hate the North for cringing so to anything from Dixie. Let
  the veriest vagabond in all the South, so ignorant that he can
  scarcely spell baker correctly, to say nothing of biscuit, let him,
  I say, come to any one of the New York hotels, and with something
  of a swell write himself from Charleston, or any other Southern
  city, and bless me, what deference is paid to my lord!

  "You see I am a pure Southern woman here; nobody but Mrs. Richards
  knows that I was born, mercy knows where. But for you, she never
  need have known it either, but you must tell that we had not always
  lived in Kentucky.

  "But to do Mrs. Richards justice, she never alludes to my birth.
  She takes it for granted that I moved, like Douglas, when I was
  very young, and you ought to hear her introduce me to some of her
  aristocratic friends. 'Mrs. So and So, Miss Worthington, from
  Spring Bank, Kentucky,' then in an aside, which I am not supposed
  to hear, she adds, 'A great heiress, of a very respectable family.
  You may have heard of them.' Somehow, this always makes me
  uncomfortable, as it brings up certain cogitations touching that
  scamp you were silly enough to marry, thereby giving me to the
  world, which my delectable brother no doubt thinks would have been
  better off without me. How is Hugh? And how is that Hastings woman?
  Are you both as much in love with her as ever? Well, so be it. I do
  not know as she ever harmed me, and she did fit my dresses
  beautifully. Even Mrs. Richards, who is a judge of such things,
  says they display so much taste, attributing it, of course, to my
  own directions. I am so glad now that I forgot to send her letter,
  as I would not for the world have Adah in the Richards' family. It
  would ruin my prospects for becoming Mrs. Dr. Richards sure, and
  allow me to say they are not inconsiderable."

"What does she mean? What letter? Who is Dr. Richards?" Hugh asked, his
face a purplish red, and contrasting strikingly with the one of ashen
hue still resting on his shoulder.

Mrs. Worthington explained as well as she could, and Hugh went on:

  "Old Mrs. Richards would, of course, question Adah, and as Adah has
  some foolish scruples about the truth, she would be very apt to let
  the cat out of the bag.

  "We left Saratoga a week ago--old lady Richards wanted to go to
  Terrace Hill a while and show me to Anna, who, it seems, is a kind
  of family oracle. After counting the little gold eagles in my
  purse, I said perhaps I'd go for a few days, though I dreaded it
  terribly, for the doctor had not yet bound himself fast, and I did
  not know what the result of those three old maid sisters, sitting
  on me, would be. Old lady was quite happy in prospect of going
  home, when one day a letter came from Anna. I happened to have a
  headache, and was lying on madam's bed, when the dinner bell
  happened to ring. I just peeped into the letter, feeling like
  stealing sheep, but being amply rewarded by the insight I obtained
  into the family secrets.

  "They are poorer than I supposed, but that does not matter,
  position is what I want, and that they can give me. Anna, it seems,
  has an income of her own, and, generous soul that she is, gives it
  out to her mother. She sent fifty dollars in the letter, and in
  referring to it, said, 'Much as I might enjoy it, dear mother, I
  cannot afford to come where you are, I can pay your bills for some
  time longer, if you really think the water a benefit, but my
  presence would just double the expense. Then, if brother does
  marry, I wish to surprise him with a handsome set of pearls for his
  bride, and I am economizing to do so.'" (Note by 'Lina)--"Isn't she
  a clever old soul? Don't she deserve a better sister-in-law than I
  shall make, and won't I find the way to her purse often?"

Hugh groaned aloud, and the letter dropped from his hand.

"Mother," he gasped, "it must not be. 'Lina shall not thrust herself
upon them. This Anna shall not be so cruelly deceived. I don't care a
picayune for the doctor or the old lady. They are much like 'Lina, I
reckon, but this Anna awakens my sympathy. I mean to warn her."

Hugh read on, feeling as if he, too, were guilty, thus to know what
sweet Anna Richards had intended only for her mother's eye.

  "'From some words you have dropped, I fancy you are not quite
  satisfied with brother's choice--that Miss Worthington does not
  suit you in all respects, and you wish me to see her. Dear mother,
  John marries for himself, not for us. I have got so I can drive
  myself out in the little pony phaeton which Miss Johnson was so
  kind as to leave for my benefit. Darling Alice, how much I miss
  her. She always did me good in more ways than one. She found the
  germ of faith which I did not know I possessed. She encouraged me
  to go on. She told me of Him who will not break the bruised reed.
  She left me, as I trust, a better woman than she found me. Precious
  Alice! how I loved her. Oh, if she could have fancied John, as at
  one time I hoped she would.'

  (Second note by 'Lina.) "How that made me gnash my teeth, for I had
  suspected that I was only playing second fiddle for Alice Johnson,
  'darling, precious Alice,' as Anna calls her."

"Oh, I am so glad Alice didn't read this letter," Mrs. Worthington
cried, while something which sounded much like a bit of an oath dropped
from Hugh's white lips, and then he continued:

  "'When will you come? Asenath has sent the curtains in the north
  chamber to the laundress, but will go no farther until we hear for
  certain that Miss Worthington is to be our guest. Write
  immediately.

  "'Yours affectionately,

  "'ANNA.

  "'Remember me to John and Miss W----.

  "'P.S.--I still continue to be annoyed with women answering that
  advertisement. Sometimes I'm half sorry I put it in the paper,
  though if the right one ever comes, I shall think there was a
  Providence in it.'

  "Mother, I am resolved now to win Dr. Richards at all hazards. Only
  let me keep up the appearance of wealth, and the thing is easily
  accomplished; but I can't go to Terrace Hill yet, cannot meet this
  Anna, for, kindly as she spoke of me, I dread her decision more
  than all the rest, inasmuch as I know it would have more weight
  with the doctor.

  "But to come back to the madam, showing her point-lace cap at
  dinner, and telling Mrs. ex-Governor Somebody how Miss Worthington
  had a severe headache. I was fast asleep when she returned. Had not
  read Anna's letter, nor anything! You should have seen her face
  when I told her I had changed my mind, that I could not go to
  Terrace Hill, that mamma (that's you!) did not think it would be
  proper, inasmuch as I had no claim upon them. You see, I made her
  believe I had written to you on the subject, receiving a reply that
  you disapproved of my going, and Brother Hugh, too, I quote him a
  heap, making madam laugh till she cried with repeating his odd
  speeches, she does so want to see that eccentric Hugh, she says."

Another groan from Mrs. Worthington, another something like an oath from
that eccentric Hugh, and he went on:

  "I said, brother was afraid it was improper under the circumstances
  for me to go, afraid lest people should talk; that I preferred
  going at once to New York. So it was finally decided, to the
  doctor's relief, I fancied, that we come here, and here we
  are--hotel just like a beehive, and my room is in the fifth story.

  "John had come on the day before to secure rooms, so madam and I
  were alone, occupying two whole seats, madam and myself on one,
  madam's feet, two satchels, two silk umbrellas, one fan, one
  bouquet, and a book in the other. Several tired-looking folks
  glanced wistfully in that direction, but madam frowned so
  majestically that they passed on into another car, leaving us to
  our extra seat. At Rhinebeck, however, she found her match in a
  very fine-looking man, apparently forty or thereabouts, with a weed
  on his hat and a certain air, which savored strongly of psalms and
  hymns and extempore praying. In short, I guessed at once that he
  was a Presbyterian minister, old school at that. Now, madam, you
  know, is true blue--apostolically descended, and cannot tolerate
  anything like a dissenter. But I do not give her credit for having
  sufficient sagacity to detect the heretic in this handsome,
  pleasant-faced stranger, who stood looking this way and that for a
  seat. Madam, I saw, grew very red in the face, and finally threw
  down her veil, but not till the minister saw it, and half started
  forward as if about to speak. The movement showed him one extra
  seat, and very politely he laid his hand upon it, saying:

  "'Pardon me, ladies, this, I believe, is unoccupied, and I can find
  no other.'

  "Madam's feet came down with a jerk, ditto madam's portion of the
  traps, although the stranger insisted that they did not trouble
  him, while again his mild but expressive eyes scanned the brown
  veil as if he would know whose face was under it. When we reached
  New York, he bowed to us again, as if to offer us assistance, but
  the doctor himself appeared, so that his services were unnecessary.

  "'Did you see him?' madam whispered to John, who answered:

  "'See who?'

  "'Millbrook! He sat right there!'

  "'What, the parson? Where is he going?'

  "'I don't know. I'm so glad Anna was not here.'

  "All this was in an aside, but I heard it, and here are the
  conclusions. Parson Millbrook has been and wants to be again a
  lover of Anna Richards, but madam has shut up her bowels of
  compassion against him for some reason to this deponent unknown.
  Poor Anna, I am sorry for her, and as her sister, may perhaps help
  her; but shall I ever be her sister? Ay, there's the rub, and now,
  honor bright, I reach the point at last.

  "I am determined to bring the doctor to terms, and so rid you and
  Hugh of myself. To do this I must at some rate keep up the
  appearance of wealth. Perhaps Hugh never knew that Nell Tiffton
  lent me that elegant pearl bracelet, bought by her father at Ball &
  Black's. Night before last the doctor took me to hear Charlotte
  Cushman as _Meg Merrilies_. I wore all the jewelery for which I
  could find a place, Nell's bracelet with the rest. The doctor and
  madam have both admired it very much, never dreaming that it was
  borrowed. In the jam coming out it must have unclasped and dropped
  off, for it's not to be found high nor low, and you can fancy the
  muss I am in. Down at Ball & Black's there fortunately is another
  exactly like Nell's, and this I must buy at any rate. I can perhaps
  pay my board bills four or five weeks longer, but Hugh must send me
  fifty dollars with which to replace the bracelet. It must be done.

  "Don't for mercy's sake, let Alice Johnson get a sight of this
  letter. I wonder if Dr. Richards did fancy her. Send the money,
  send the money.

  "Your distracted

  "'LINA.

  "P.S.--One day later. Rejoice, oh, rejoice! and give ear. The
  doctor has actually asked the question, and I blushingly referred
  him to mamma, but he seemed to think this unnecessary, took alarm
  at once, and pressed the matter until I said yea. Aren't you glad?
  But one thing is sure--Hugh must sell a nigger to get me a handsome
  outfit. There's Mug, always under foot, doing no one any good.
  She'll bring six hundred any day, she's so bright and healthy. Lulu
  he must give out and out for a waiting maid. Madam expects it. And
  now one word more; if Adah Hastings has not got over her idea of
  going to Terrace Hill, she must get over it. Coax, advise, plead
  with, threaten, or even throttle her, if necessary--anything to
  keep her back.

  "Yours, in ecstatic distress,

  "'LINA"



CHAPTER XXIV

FORESHADOWINGS


So absorbed were Hugh and his mother in that letter as not to hear the
howl of fear echoing through the hall, as Mug fled in terror from the
dreaded new owner to whom Master Hugh was to sell her. Neither did they
hear the catlike tread with which Lulu glided past the door, taking the
same direction Mug had gone, namely, to Alice Johnson's room.

Lulu had been sitting by the open window at the end of the hall, and had
heard every word of this letter, while Mug had reached the threshold in
time to hear all that was said about selling her. Instinctively both
turned for protection to Alice, but Mug was the first to reach her.
Throwing herself upon her knees, she sobbed frantically.

"You buys me, Miss Alice. You give Mar's Hugh six hundred dollars for
me, so't he can get Miss 'Lina's weddin' finery. I'll be good, I will.
I'll learn do Lord's Prar, an' de Possums Creed, ebery word on't; will
you, Miss Alice, say?"

Alice tried to wrest her muslin dress from the child's grasp, asking
what she meant.

"I know, I'll tell," and Lulu, scarcely less excited, but far more
capable of restraining herself, advanced into the room, and ere the
bewildered Alice could well understand what it all meant, or make more
than a feeble attempt to stop her, she had repeated rapidly the entire
contents of 'Lina's letter.

Too much amazed at first to speak, Alice sat motionless, then she said
to Lulu.

"I am sorry that you told me this. It was wrong in you to listen, and
you must not repeat it to any one else. Will you promise?"

Lulu gave the required promise, then with terror in every lineament of
her face she said:

"But, Miss Alice, must I be Miss 'Lina's waiting maid? Will Master Hugh
permit it?"

Alice did not know Hugh as well as we do, and in her heart there was a
fear lest for the sake of peace he might be overruled, so she replied
evasively. It was no easy task to sooth Muggins, and only Alice's direct
avowal, that if possible she would herself become her purchaser, checked
her cries at all, but the moment this was said her sobbing ceased, and
Alice was able to question Lulu as to whether Hugh had read the letter.

"He must be rational," she said, "but it is so sudden," and a painful
uneasiness crept over her as she recalled the look which several times
had puzzled her so much.

"You can go now," Alice said, sitting down to reflect as to her next
best course.

Adah must go to Terrace Hill at once, and Alice's must be the purse
which defrayed all the expense of fitting her up. If ever Alice felt
thankful to God for having made her rich in this world's goods, it was
that morning. Only the previous night she had heard from Colonel Tiffton
that the day was fixed for the sale of his house and that Nell had
nearly cried herself into a second fever at the thoughts of leaving
Mosside. "Then there's Rocket," the colonel had said, "Hugh cannot buy
him back, and he's so bound up in him too, poor Hugh, poor all of us,"
and the colonel had wrung Alice's hand, hurrying off ere she had time to
suggest what all along had been in her mind.

"It does not matter," she thought. "A surprise will be quite as
pleasant, and then Mr. Liston may object to it as a silly girl's fancy."

This was the previous night, and now this morning another demand had
come in the shape of Muggins weeping in her lap, of Lulu begging to be
saved from 'Lina Worthington, and from 'Lina herself asking Hugh for the
money Alice knew he had not got.

"But I have," she whispered, "and I will send it too."

Just then Adah came up the stairs, and Alice called her in, asking if
she still wished to go to Terrace Hill.

"Yes, more than ever," Adah replied. "Hugh is rational, I hear, so I can
talk to him about it before long. You must be present, as I'm sure he
will oppose it."

Meantime in the sickroom there was an anxious consultation between
mother and son touching the fifty dollars which must be raised for
Nellie Tiffton's sake.

"Were it not that I feel bound by honor to pay that debt, 'Lina might
die before I'd send her a cent," said Hugh, his eyes blazing with anger
as he recalled the contents of 'Lina's letter.

But how should they raise the fifty? Alice's bills had been paid
regularly thus far, paid so delicately too, so as a matter of right,
that Mrs. Worthington, who knew how sadly it was needed in their present
distress, had accepted it unhesitatingly, but Hugh's face flushed with a
glow of shame when he heard from his mother's lips that Alice was really
paying them her board.

"It makes me hate myself," he said, groaning aloud, "that I should
suffer a girl like her to pay for the bread she eats. Oh, poverty,
poverty! It is a bitter drug to swallow." Then like a brave man who saw
the evil and was willing to face it, Hugh came back to the original
point, "Where should they get the money?"

"He might borrow it of Alice, as 'Lina suggested," Mrs. Worthington
said, timidly, while Hugh almost leaped upon the floor.

"Never, mother, never! Miss Johnson shall not be made to pay our debts.
There's Uncle John's gold watch, left as a kind of heirloom, and very
dear on that account. I've carried it long, but now it must go. There's
a pawnbroker's office opened in Frankfort--take it there this very
afternoon, and get for it what you can. I never shall redeem it. There's
no hope. It was in my vest pocket when I was taken sick."

"No, Hugh, not that. I know how much you prize it, and it's all the
valuable thing you have. I'll take in washing first," Mrs. Worthington
said.

But Hugh was in earnest, and his mother brought the watch from the nail
over the mantel, where, all through his sickness it had ticked away the
weary hours, just as it ticked the night its first owner died, with only
Hugh sitting near, and listening as it told the fleeting moments.

"If I could only ask Alice what it was worth," she thought--and why
couldn't she? Yes, she would ask Alice, and with the old hope strong at
her heart, she went to Alice, whom she found alone.

"Did you wish to tell me anything? Hugh is better, I hear," Alice said,
observing Mrs. Worthington's agitation, and then the whole came out.

"'Lina must have fifty dollars. The necessity was imperative, and they
had not fifty to send unless Hugh sold his uncle's watch, but she did
not know what it was worth--could Alice tell her?"

"Worth more than you will get," Alice said, and then, as delicately as
possible she offered the money from her own purse, advancing so many
reasons why they should take it, that poor Mrs. Worthington began to
feel that in accepting it, she would do Alice a favor.

"She was willing," she stammered, "but there was Hugh--what could they
do with him?"

"I'll manage that," Alice said, laughingly. "I'll engage that he eats
neither of us up. Suppose you write to 'Lina now, saying that Hugh is
better, and inclosing the money. I have some New York money still," and
she counted out, not fifty, but seventy-five dollars, thinking within
herself, "she may need it more than I do."

Easily swayed, Mrs. Worthington took the pen which Alice offered, but
quickly put it from her, saying, with a little rational indignation, as
she remembered 'Lina's heartlessness:

"I won't write her a word. She don't deserve it. Inclose the amount, and
direct it, please."

Placing the money in an envelope, Alice directed it as she was bidden,
without one word of Hugh, and without the slightest congratulation
concerning the engagement; nothing but the money, which was to replace
Ellen Tiffton's bracelet.

Claib was deputed as messenger to take it to the office, together with a
hastily-written note to Mr. Liston, and then Alice sat down to consider
the best means of breaking it to Hugh. Would he prove as gentle as when
delirium was upon him; or would he be greatly changed? And what would he
think of her? Alice would not have confessed it, but this really was the
most important query of all.

Alice was not well pleased with her looks that morning. She was too
pale, too languid, and the black dress she wore only increased the
difficulty by adding to the marble hue of her complexion. Even her hair
did not curl as well as usual, though Mug, who had dried her tears and
come back to Alice's room, admired her so much, likening her to the
apple blossoms which grew in the lower orchard.

"Is you gwine to Mas'r Hugh?" she asked, as Alice passed out into the
hall. "I'se jest been dar. He's peart as a new dollar--knows everybody.
How long sense, you 'spec'?" and Mug looked very wise, as she thus
skirted around what she was forbidden to divulge on pain of Hugh's
displeasure.

But Alice had no suspicions, and bidding Mug go down, she entered Hugh's
presence with a feeling that it was to all intents and purposes their
first meeting with each other.



CHAPTER XXV

TALKING WITH HUGH


"This is Miss Johnson," Mrs. Worthington said, as Alice drew near, her
pallor giving place to a bright flush.

"I fancy I am to a certain degree indebted to Miss Johnson for my life,"
Hugh said. "I was not wholly unconscious of your presence," he
continued, still holding her hand. "There were moments when I had a
vague idea of somebody different from those I have always known bending
over me, and I fancied, too, that this somebody was sent to save me from
some great evil. I am glad you were here, Miss Johnson; I shall not
forget your kindness."

He dropped her hand then, while Alice attempted to stammer out some
reply.

"Adah, too, had been kind," she said, "quite as kind as herself."

"Yes, Hugh knew that Adah was a dear, good girl. He was glad they liked
each other."

Alice thought of Terrace Hill, but this was hardly the time to worry
Hugh with that, so she sat silent a while, until Mrs. Worthington,
growing very fidgety and very anxious to have the money matter adjusted,
said abruptly:

"You must not be angry, Hugh. I asked Alice what that watch was worth,
and somehow the story of the lost bracelet came out, and--and--she--Alice
would not let me sell the watch. Don't look so black, Hugh, don't--oh,
Miss Johnson, you must pacify him," and in terror poor Mrs. Worthington
fled from the room, leaving Alice and Hugh alone.

"My mother told you of our difficulties! Has she no discretion, no
sense?" and Hugh's face grew dark with the wrath he dared not manifest
with Alice's eyes upon him.

"Mr. Worthington," she said, "you have thanked me for caring for you
when you were sick. You have expressed a wish to return in some way
what you were pleased to call a kindness. There is a way, a favor you
can grant me, a favor we women prize so highly; will you grant it? Will
you let me do as I please? that's the favor."

She looked a very queen born to be obeyed as she talked thus to Hugh.
She did not make him feel small or mean, only submissive, while her
kindness touched a tender chord, which could not vibrate unseen. Hugh
was very weak, very nervous, too, and turning his head away so that she
could not see his face, he let the hot tears drop upon his pillow;
slowly at first they came, but gradually as everything--his embarrassed
condition, Rocket's loss, 'Lina's selfishness, and Alice's generosity,
came rushing over him--they fell in perfect torrents, and Alice felt a
keen pang of pity, as sob after sob smote upon her ear, and she knew the
shame it must be to him thus to give away before her.

"I did not mean to distress you so. I am sorry if I have done a wrong,"
she said to him softly, a sound of tears in her own voice.

He turned his white, suffering face toward her, and answered with
quivering lip:

"It is not so much that. It is everything combined. I am weak, I'm sick,
I'm discouraged," and Hugh could not restrain the tears. Soon rallying,
however, he continued:

"You think me a snivelling coward, no doubt, but believe me, Miss
Johnson, it is not my nature thus to give way. Tears and Hugh
Worthington are usually strangers to each other. I am a man, and I will
prove it to you, when I get well, but now I am not myself, and I grant
the favor you ask, simply because I can't help it. You meant it in
kindness. I take it as such. I thank you, but it must not be repeated.
You have come to be my friend, my sister, you say. God bless you for
that. I need a sister's love so much, and Adah has given it to me. You
like Adah?" and he fixed his eyes inquiringly on Alice, who answered:

"Yes, very much."

Now that the money matter was settled Hugh did not care to talk longer
of that or of himself, and eagerly seized upon Adah as a topic
interesting to both, and which would be likely to keep Alice with him
for a while at least, so, after a moment's silence, during which Alice
was revolving the expediency of leaving him lest he should become too
weary, he continued:

"Miss Johnson, you don't know how much I love Adah Hastings; not as men
generally love," he hastily added, as he caught an expression of
surprise on Alice's face, "not as that villain professed to love her,
but, as it seems to me, a brother might love an only sister. I mean no
disrespect to 'Lina," and his chin quivered a little, "but I have
dreamed of a different, brotherly love from what I feel toward her, and
my heart has beaten so fast when I built castles of what might have been
had we both been different, I, more forbearing, more even tempered, more
like the world in general, and she, more--more"--he knew not what, for
he would not speak against her, so he finally added, "had she known,
just how to take me--just how to make allowances for my rough, uncouth
ways, which, of course, annoy her."

Poor Hugh! he was trying now to smooth over what 'Lina had told Alice of
himself--trying to apologize for them both, and he did it so skillfully,
that Alice felt an increased respect for the man whose real character
she had so misunderstood. She, knew, however, that it could not be
pleasant for him to speak of 'Lina, and so she led him back to Adah by
saying:

"I had thought to talk with you of a plan which Mrs. Hastings has in
view, but think, perhaps, I had better wait till you are stronger."

"I am strong enough now--stronger than you think. Tell me of the plan,"
and Hugh urged the request until Alice told him of Terrace Hill and
Adah's wish to go there.

"I have heard something of this plan before," he said at last. "Ad spoke
of it in her letter. Miss Johnson, you know Dr. Richards, I believe. Do
you like him? Is he a man to be trusted?"

"Yes, I know Dr. Richards. He is said to be fine looking. I suspect
there is a liking between him and your sister. Suppose for your benefit
I describe him," and without waiting for permission, Alice portrayed the
doctor, feature by feature, watching Hugh narrowly the while, to see if
aught she said harmonized with any likeness he might have in his mind.

But Hugh was not thinking of that night which ruined Adah, and Alice's
description awakened no suspicion. She saw it did not, and thought once
to tell him frankly all she feared, but was deterred from doing so by a
feeling that possibly she might be wrong in her conjectures. Adah's
presence at Terrace Hill would set that matter right, and she asked if
Hugh did not think it best for her to go.

Hugh could only talk in a straightforward manner, and after a moment he
answered:

"Yes, best on some accounts. Her going may do good and prevent a wrong.
Yes, Adah may go."

He continued: "she surely cannot go alone. Would Sam do? I hear her now.
Call her while I talk with her."

Adah came at once, and heard from Hugh that he was willing she should
go, provided Spring Bank were still considered her home, the spot to
which she could always turn for shelter as to a brother's house.

"You seem so like a sister," he said, smoothing her soft brown hair,
"that I shall be sorry to lose you, and shall miss you so much, but Miss
Johnson thinks it right for you to go. Will you take Sam as an escort?"

"Oh, no, no; I don't want anybody," Adah cried, "Keep Sam with you, and
if in time I should earn enough to buy him, to free him. Oh, will you
sell him to me,--not to keep," she added, quickly, as she saw the
quizzical expression of Hugh's face,--"not to keep. I would not own a
slave--but to free, to tell him he's his own master. Will you, Hugh?"

He answered with a smile:

"I thought once as you do, that I would not own my brother, but we get
hardened to these things. I've never sold one yet."

"But you will. You'll sell me Sam," and Adah, in her eagerness, grasped
his hand.

"I'll give him to you," Hugh said. "Call him, Miss Johnson."

Alice obeyed, and Sam came hobbling in, listening in amazement to Hugh's
question.

"Would you like to be free, my boy?"

There was a sudden flush on the old man's cheek, and then he answered,
meekly:

"Thanky', Mas'r Hugh. It comed a'most too late. Years ago, when Sam was
young and peart, de berry smell of freedom make de sap bump through de
veins like trip-hammer. Den, world all before, now world all behind.
Nothing but t'other side of Jordan before. 'Bleeged to you, berry much,
but when mas'r bought ole Sam for pity, ole Sam feel in his bones that
some time he pay Mas'r Hugh; he don't know how, but it be's comin'. Sam
knows it. I'm best off here."

"But suppose I died, when I was so sick, what then?" Hugh asked, and Sam
replied:

"I thinks that all over on dem days mas'r so rarin'. I prays many times
that God would spar' young mas'r, and He hears ole Sam. He gives us back
our mas'r."

There were tears in Hugh's eyes, but he again urged upon him his
freedom, offering to give him either to Adah or Alice, just which he
preferred.

"I likes 'em both," Sam said, "but I likes Mas'r Hugh de best, 'case,
scuse me, mas'r, he ain't in de way, I feared, and Sam hope to help him
find it. Sam long's to Mas'r Hugh till dat day comes he sees ahead, when
he pays off de debt."

With another blessing on Mas'r Hugh Sam left the room.

"What can he mean about a coming day when he can pay his debt?" Hugh
asked, but Alice could not enlighten him.

Adah, however, after hesitating a moment, replied:

"During your illness you have lost the newspaper gossip to the effect
that if Lincoln is elected to the presidential chair, civil war is sure
to be the result. Now, what Sam means is this, that in case of a
rebellion or insurrection, which he fully expects, he will in some way
save your life, he don't know how, but he is sure."

To Alice the word rebellion or insurrection had a dreadful sound, and
her cheek paled with fear, but the feeling quickly passed away, as, like
many other deluded ones she thought how impossible it was that our fair
republic should be compelled to lay her dishonored head low in the dust.

It was settled finally that Adah should go as soon as the necessary
additions could be made to her own and Willie's wardrobe, and then Alice
adroitly led the conversation to Colonel Tiffton and his embarrassments.
What did Hugh think Mosside worth, and who would probably be most
anxious to secure it? There were livid spots on Hugh's face now, and a
strange gleam in his dark eyes as he answered between his teeth,
"Harney," groaning aloud as he remembered Rocket, and saw him in fancy
the property of his enemy.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE DAY OF THE SALE


It was strange Hugh did not improve faster, the old doctor thought.
There was something weighing on his mind, he said, something which kept
him awake, and the kind man set himself to divine the cause. Thinking at
last he had done so, he said to him one day, the last before the sale:

"My boy, you don't get on for worrying about something. I don't pretend
to second sight, but I b'lieve I've got on the right track. It's my
pesky bill. I know it's big, for I've been here every day this going on
three months, but I'll cut it down to the last cent, see if I don't; and
if it's an object, I'll wait ten years, so chirk up a bit," and wringing
his hand, the well-meaning doctor hurried off, leaving Hugh alone with
his sad thoughts.

It was not so much the bill which troubled him--it was Rocket, and the
feeling sure that he should never own him again. Heretofore there had at
intervals been a faint hope in his heart that by some means he might
redeem him, but that was over now. The sale of Colonel Tiffton's effects
occurred upon the morrow, and money stood waiting for Rocket, while
Harney, with a fiendish, revengeful disposition, which was determined to
gain its point at last, had been heard to say that "rather than lose the
horse or let it pass back to its former owner, he believed he would give
a thousand dollars."

That settled it, Hugh had no thousand dollars; he had not even ten, and
with a moan of pain, he tried to shut out Rocket from his mind. And this
it was which kept him so nervous and restless, dreading yet longing for
the eventful day, and feeling glad when at last he could say--

"To-morrow is the sale."

The next morning was cold and chilly, making Hugh shiver as he waited
for the footstep which he had learned to know so well. She had not come
to see him the previous night, and he waited for her anxiously now,
feeling sure that on this day of all others she would stay with him.
How, then, was he disappointed when at last she came to him, cloaked and
hooded as for a ride.

"Are you going out to-day again?" he asked, his tone that of a pleading
child.

"It does not seem right to leave you alone, I know," she said, "but poor
Ellen needs me sadly, and I promised to be there."

"At Mosside, with all those rough men, oh, Alice, don't go!" and Hugh
grasped the little hand.

"It may appear unladylike, I know, but I think it right to stay by
Ellen. By the way," and Alice spoke rapidly now, "the doctor says
you'll never get well so long as you keep so closely in the house. You
are able to ride, and I promised to coax you out to-morrow, if the day
is fine. I shall not take a refusal," she continued, as he shook his
head. "I am getting quite vain of my horsemanship. I shall feel quite
proud of your escort, even if I have to tease for it; so, remember, you
are mine for a part of to-morrow."

She drew her hand from his, and with another of her radiant smiles,
swept from the room, leaving him in a maze of blissful bewilderment.
Never till this morning had a hope entered Hugh's heart that Alice
Johnson might be won. Except her, there was not a girl in all the world
who had ever awakened the slightest emotion within his heart, and Alice
had seemed so far removed from him that to dream of her was worse than
useless. She would never esteem him save as a friend, and until this
morning Hugh had fancied he could be satisfied with that, but there was
something in the way her little fingers twined themselves around his,
something in her manner, which prompted the wild hope that in an
unguarded moment she had betrayed herself, had permitted him a glimpse
of what was in her mind, only a glimpse, but enough to make the poor
deluded man giddy with happiness. She, the Golden Haired, could be won,
and should be won.

"My wife, my Alice, my Golden Hair," he kept repeating to himself,
until, in his weak state, the perspiration dropped from every pore, and
his mother, when she came to him, asked in much alarm what was the
matter.

He could not tell her of his newly-born joy, so he answered evasively:

"Rocket is sold to-day. Is not that matter enough?"

"Poor Hugh, I wish so much that I was rich!" the mother sighed, as she
wiped the sweat drops from his brow, arranged his pillows more
comfortably, and then, sitting down beside him, said, hesitatingly--"I
have another letter from 'Lina. Can you hear it now, or will you read it
for yourself?"

It was strange how the mention of 'Lina embittered at once Hugh's cup of
bliss, making him answer pettishly:

"She has waited long enough, I think. Give it to me, please," and taking
the letter that morning received, he read first that 'Lina was much
obliged for the seventy-five dollars, and thought they must be growing
generous, as she only asked for fifty.

"What seventy-five dollars? What does she mean?" Hugh exclaimed, but
his mother could not tell, unless it were that Alice, unknown to them,
had sent more than 'Lina asked for.

This seemed probable, and as it was the only solution of the mystery, he
accepted it as the real one, and returned to the letter, learning that
the bracelet was purchased, that it could not be told from the lost one,
that she was sporting it on Broadway every day, that she did not go to
the prince's ball just for the doctor's meanness in not procuring a
ticket when he had one offered to him for eighty dollars!

       *       *       *       *       *

"I don't really suppose he could afford it," she wrote, "but it made me
mad just the same, and I pouted all day. I saw the ladies, though, after
they were dressed, and that did me some good, particularly as the Queen
of the South, Madam Le Vert, asked my opinion of her chaste, beautiful
toilet, just as if she had faith in my judgment.

"Well, after the fortunate ones were gone, I went to my room to pout,
and directly Mother Richards sent Johnny up to coax me, whereupon there
ensued a bit of a quarrel, I twitting him about that ambrotype of a
young girl, which Nell Tiffton found at the St. Nicholas, and which the
doctor claimed, seeming greatly agitated, and saying it was very dear to
him, because the original was dead. Well, I told him of it, and said if
he loved that girl better than me, he was welcome to have her. 'Lina
Worthington had too may eligible offers to play second fiddle to any
one.

"''Lina,' he said, 'I will not deceive you, though I meant to do so. I
did love another before ever I heard of you, a fair young girl, as pure,
as innocent as the angels. She is an angel now, for she is dead. Do not
ask further of her. Let it suffice that I loved her, that I lost her. I
shall never tell you more of her sad story. Let her never be named to me
again. It was long ago. I have met you since, have asked and wish you to
be my wife,'--and so we made it up, and I promised not to speak of my
rival. Pleasant predicament, I am in, but I'll worm it out of him yet.
I'll haunt him with her dead body."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, mother," and Hugh gasped for breath. "Is Ad--can she be anything to
us? Is my blood in her veins?"

"Yes, Hugh, she's your half-sister. Forgive me that I made her so," and
the poor mother wept over the heartless girl. "But go on," she
whispered. "See where 'Lina is now," and Hugh read on, learning that old
Mother Richards had returned home, that Anna had written a sweet,
sisterly note, welcoming her as John's bride to their love, that she had
answered her in the same gracious strain, heightening the effect by
dropping a few drops of water here and there, to answer for tears wrung
out by Anna's sympathy, that Mrs. Ellsworth and her brother, Irving
Stanley, came to the hotel, that Irving had a ticket to the ball offered
him, but declined, just because he did not believe in balls, that having
a little 'axe to grind,' she had done her best to cultivate Mrs.
Ellsworth, presuming a great deal on their courtship, and making herself
so agreeable to her child, a most ugly piece of deformity, that cousin
Carrie, who had hired a furnished house for the winter, had invited her
to spend the season with her, and she was now snugly ensconced in most
delightful quarters on Twenty-second Street, between Fifth and Sixth
Avenues.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sometimes," she wrote, "I half suspect Mrs. Ellsworth did not think I
would jump at her invitation so quick, but I don't care. The doctor, for
some reason or other, has deferred our marriage until spring, and dear
knows I am not coming back to horrid Spring Bank any sooner than I can
help.

"By the way, I'm somewhat haunted with the dread that, after all, Adah
may take it into her willful head to go to Terrace Hill, and I would not
have her for the world. How does Alice get on with Hugh? I conclude he
must be well by this time. Does he wear his pants inside his cowhides
yet, or have Alice's blue eyes had a refining effect upon his
pantaloons? Tell him not to set his heart upon her, for, to my certain
knowledge, Irving Stanley, Esq., has an interest in that quarter, while
she is not indifferent.

"He has his young sister Augusta here now. She has come on to do her
shopping in New York, and is stopping with Mrs. Ellsworth. A fine little
creature, quite stylish, but very puritanical. Through Augusta I have
got acquainted with Lottie Gardner, a kind of stepniece to the doctor,
and excessively aristocratic. You ought to have seen how coolly her big,
proud, black eyes inspected one. I rather like her, though. She and
Augusta Stanley were together at Madam ----'s school in the city.

"Didn't Adah say she went there once? Again I charge you, don't let her
go to Terrace Hill on any account.

"And one other thing. I shall buy my bridal trousseau under Mrs.
Ellsworth's supervision. She has exquisite taste, and Hugh must send
the money. As I told him before, he can sell Mug. Harney will buy her.
He likes pretty darkies."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, horror! can Ad be a woman, with womanly feelings?" Hugh exclaimed,
feeling as if he hated his sister.

But after a moment he was able to listen while his mother asked if it
would not be better to persuade Adah not to go to Terrace Hill.

"It may interfere with 'Lina's plans," she said, "and now it's gone so
far, it seems a pity to have it broken up. It's--it's very pleasant with
'Lina gone," and with a choking sob, Mrs. Worthington laid her face upon
the pillow, ashamed and sorry that the real sentiments of her heart were
thus laid bare.

It was terrible for a mother to feel that her home would be happier for
the absence of a child, and that child an only daughter, but she did
feel so, and it made her half willing that Dr. Richards should be
deceived. But Hugh shrank from the dishonorable proceeding.

Mrs. Worthington always yielded to Hugh, and she did so now, mentally
resolving, however, to say a few words to Adah, relative to her not
divulging anything which could possibly harm 'Lina, such as telling how
poor they were, or anything like that. This done, Mrs. Worthington felt
easier, and as Hugh looked tired and worried, she left him for a time,
having first called Muggins to gather up the fragments of 'Lina's letter
which Hugh had thrown upon the carpet.

"Yes, burn every trace of it," Hugh said, watching the child as she
picked up piece by piece, and threw them into the grate.

"I means to save dat ar. I'll play I has a letter for Miss Alice," Mug
thought, as she came upon a bit larger than the others, and unwittingly
she hid in her bosom that portion of the letter referring to herself and
Harney! This done, she too left the room, and Hugh was at last alone.

He had little hope now that he would ever win Alice, so jealously sure
was he that Irving was preferred before him, and he whispered sadly to
himself:

"I can live on just the same, I suppose. Life will be no more dreary
than it was before I knew her. No, nor half so dreary, for 'it is better
to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.' That is what Adah
said once when I asked what she would give never to have met that
villain."

As it frequently happens that when an individual is talked or thought
about, that individual appears, so Adah now came in, asking how Hugh
was, and if she should not sit a while with him.

Hugh's face brightened at once, for next to Alice he liked best to have
Adah with him. With 'Lina's letter still fresh in his mind it was very
natural for him to think of what was said of Augusta Stanley, and after
Adah had sat a moment, he asked if she remembered such a person at Madam
Dupont's school, or Lottie Gardner either.

"Yes, I remember them both," and Adah looked up quickly. "Lottie was
proud and haughty, though quite popular with most of the girls, I
believe; but Augusta--oh, I liked her so much. Do you know her?"

"No; but Ad, it seems, has ingratiated herself into the good graces of
Mrs. Ellsworth, this Augusta's sister. There's a brother, too'--"

"Yes, I remember. He came one day with Augusta, and all the girls were
so delighted. I hardly noticed him myself, for my head was full of
George. It was there I met him first, you know."

There was a shadow now on Adah's face, and she sat silent for some time,
thinking of the past, while Hugh watched the changes of her beautiful
face, wondering what was the mystery which seemed to have shrouded the
whole of her young life.

"You have done me a great deal of good," he said; "and sometimes I think
it's wrong in me to let you go away, when, if I kept you, you might
teach me how to be a good man--a Christian man, I mean."

"Oh, if you only would be one," and the light which shone in Adah's eyes
seemed born of Heaven. "I am going, it is true, but there is One who
will stay with you--One who loves you so much."

He thought she meant Alice, and he grasped her hand, and exclaimed:

"Loves me, Adah, does she? Say it again! Does Alice Johnson love me, me?
Hugh? Did she tell you so? Adah," and Hugh spoke vehemently, "I have
admitted to you what an hour ago I fancied nothing could wring from me,
but I trust to your discretion not to betray it; certainly not to her,
not to Alice, for, of course, there is no hope. You do not think there
is? You know her better than I," and he looked wistfully at Adah, who
felt constrained to answer:

"There might have been, I'm sure, if she had seen no one else."

"Then she has--she does love another?" and Hugh's face was white as
ashes.

"I do not know that she loves him; she did not say so," Adah replied,
thinking it better for Hugh that he should know the whole. "There was a
boy or youth, who saved her life at the peril of his own, and she
remembered him so long, praying for him daily that God would bring him
to her again, so she could thank him for his kindness."

Poor Hugh. He saw clearly now how it all was. He had suffered his uncle,
who affected a dislike for "Hugh," to call him "Irving." He had also,
for no reason at all, suffered Alice to think he was a Stanley, and this
was the result.

"I can live on just as I did before," was again the mental cry of his
wrung heart.

How changed were all things now, for the certainty that Alice never
would be his had cast a pall over everything, and even the autumnal
sunshine streaming through the window seemed hateful to him.
Involuntarily his mind wandered to the sale and to Rocket, perhaps at
that very moment upon the block.

"If I could have kept him, it would have been some consolation," he
sighed, just as the sound of hoofs dashing up to the door met his ear.

It was Claib, and just as Hugh was wondering at his headlong haste, he
burst into the room, exclaiming:

"Oh, Mas'r Hugh, 'tain't no use now. He'd done sold, Rocket is. I hearn
him knocked down, and then I comed to tell you, an' he looked so
handsome, too,--caperin' like a kitten. They done made me show him off,
for he wouldn't come for nobody else, but the minit he fotched a sight
of dis chile, he flung 'em right and left. I fairly cried to see how he
went on."

There was no color now in Hugh's face, and his voice trembled as he
asked:

"Who bought him?"

"Harney, in course, bought him for five-fifty. I tells you they runs him
up, somebody did, and once, when he stood at four hundred and fifty, and
I thought the auction was going to say 'Gone,' I bids myself."

"You!" and Hugh stared blankly at him.

"I know it wan't manners, but it came out 'fore I thought, and Harney,
he hits me a cuff, and tells me to hush my jaw. He got paid, though, for
jes' then a voice I hadn't hearn afore, a wee voice like a girl's, calls
out five hundred, and ole Harney turn black as tar. 'Who's that?' he
said, pushin' inter the crowd, and like a mad dog yelled out five-fifty,
and then he set to cussin' who 'twas biddin' ag'in him. I hearn them
'round me say, 'That fetches it. Rocket's a goner,' when I flung the
halter in Harney's ugly face, and came off home to tell you. Poor Mas'r,
you is gwine to faint," and the well-meaning, but rather impudent Claib,
sprang forward in time to catch and hold his young master, who otherwise
might have fallen to the floor.

Hugh had borne much that day. The sudden hope that Alice might be won,
followed so soon by the certainty that she could not, had shaken his
nerves and tried his strength cruelly, while the story Claib had told
unmanned him entirely, and this it was which made him grow so cold and
faint, reeling in his chair, and leaning gladly for support against the
sturdy Claib, who led him to the bed, and then went in quest of Adah.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE SALE


There was a crowd of people out that day to attend the sale of Colonel
Tiffton's household effects. Even fair ladies, too, came in their
carriages, holding high their aristocratic skirts as they threaded their
way through the rooms where piles of carpeting and furniture of various
kinds lay awaiting the shrill voice and hammer of the auctioneer, a
portly little man, who felt more for the family than his appearance
would indicate.

There had been a long talk that morning between himself and a young
lady, a stranger to him, whose wondrous beauty had thrilled his heart
just as it did every heart beating beneath a male's attire. The lady had
seemed a little worried, as she talked, casting anxious glances up the
Lexington turnpike, and asking several times when the Lexington cars
were due.

"It shan't make no difference. I'll take your word," the auctioneer had
said in reply to some doubts expressed by her. "I'd trust your face for
a million," and with a profound bow by way of emphasizing his
compliment, the well-meaning Skinner went out to the group assembled
near Rocket while the lady returned to the upper chamber where Mrs.
Tiffton and Ellen were assembled.

Once Harney's voice, pitched in its blandest tone, was heard talking to
the ladies, and then Ellen stopped her ears, exclaiming passionately:

"I hate that man, I hate him. I almost wish that I could kill him."

"Hush, Ellen; remember! 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the
Lord,'" Alice whispered to the excited girl who answered hastily:

"Don't preach to me now. I'm too wretched. Wait till you lose everything
by one man's villainy, then see if you won't curse him."

There was an increased confusion in the yard below, and Alice knew the
sale was about to commence. The white-haired colonel kept watch while
one after another of his household goods were sold. Inferior articles
they were at first, and the crowd were not much disposed to bid, but all
were dear to the old man, who groaned each time an article was knocked
off, and so passed effectually from his possession.

The crowd grew weary at last--they must have brisker sport than that, if
they would keep warm in that chilly November wind, and cries for the
"horses" were heard.

"Your crack ones, too. I'm tired of this," growled Harney, and Ellen's
riding pony was led out. The colonel saw the playful animal, and
tottered to Ellen's chamber, saying:

"They're going to sell Beauty, Nell. Poor Nellie, don't cry," and the
old man laid his hand on his weeping daughter's head.

"Colonel Tiffton, this way please," and Alice spoke in a whisper. "I
want Beauty. Couldn't you bid for me, bid all you would be willing to
give if you were bidding for Ellen?"

The colonel looked at her in a kind of dazed, bewildered way, as if not
fully comprehending her, till she repeated her request; then
mechanically he went back to his post on the balcony, and just as
Harney's last bid was about to receive the final "gone," he raised it
twenty dollars, and ere Harney had time to recover his astonishment,
Beauty was disposed of, and the colonel's servant Ham led her in triumph
back to the stable.

With a fierce scowl of defiance Harney called for Rocket. Suspecting
something wrong the animal refused to come out, and planting his fore
feet firmly upon the floor of the stable, kept them all at bay. With a
fierce oath, the brutal Harney gave him a stinging blow, which made the
tender flesh quiver with pain, but the fiery gleam in the noble animal's
eye warned him not to repeat it. Suddenly among the excited group of
dusky faces he spied that of Claib, and bade him lead out the horse.

"I can't. Oh, mas'r, for the dear--" Claib began, but Harney's riding
whip silenced him at once, and he went submissively in to Rocket, who
became as gentle beneath his touch as a lamb.

Did the sagacious creature think then of Hugh, and fancy Claib had come
to lead him home? We cannot tell. We only know how proudly he arched his
graceful neck, as with dancing, mincing steps, he gamboled around Claib,
rubbing his nose against the honest black face, where the tears were
standing, and trying to lick the hands which had fed him so often at
Spring Bank.

Loud were the cries of admiration which hailed his appearance.

The bids were very rapid, for Rocket was popular, but Harney bided his
time, standing-silently by, with a look on his face of cool contempt for
those who presumed to think they could be the fortunate ones. He was
prepared to give more than any one else. Nobody would go above his
figure, he had set it so high--higher even than Rocket was really worth.
Five hundred and fifty, if necessary. No one would rise above that,
Harney was sure, and quietly waited until the bids were far between, and
the auctioneer still dwelling upon the last, seemed waiting expectantly
for something.

"I believe my soul the fellow knows I mean to have that horse," thought
Harney, and with an air which said, "that settles it," he called out in
loud, clear tones, "Four hundred," thus adding fifty at one bid.

There was a slight movement then in the upper balcony, an opening of the
glass door, and a suppressed whisper ran through the crowd, as Alice
came out and stood by the colonel's aide.

The bidding went on briskly now, each bidder raising a few dollars, till
four hundred and fifty was reached, and then there came a pause, broken
only by the voice of the excited Claib, who, as he confessed to Hugh,
had ventured to speak for himself, and was rewarded for his temerity by
a blow from Harney. With that blow still tingling about his ears and
confusing his senses, Claib could not well tell whence or from whom came
that silvery, half-tremulous voice, which passed so like an electric
shock through the eager crowd, and rousing Harney to a perfect fury.

"Five hundred."

There was no mistaking the words, and with a muttered curse at the fair
bidder shrinking behind the colonel, and blushing, as if in shame,
Harney yelled out his big price, all he had meant to give. He was mad
with rage, for he knew well for whom that fair Northern girl was
interested. He had heard much of Alice Johnson--had seen her
occasionally in the Spring Bank carriage as she stopped in Frankfort;
and once she had stopped before his store, asking, with such a pretty
grace, that the piece of goods she wished to look at might be brought to
her for inspection, that he had determined to take it himself, but
remembered his dignity as half millionaire, and sent his head clerk
instead.

Beneath Harney's coarse nature there was a strange susceptibility to
female beauty, and neither the lustrous blue of Alice's large eyes, nor
yet the singular sweetness of her voice, as she thanked the clerk for
his trouble, had been forgotten. He had heard that she was rich--how
rich he did not know--but fancied she might possibly be worth a few
paltry thousands, not more, and so, of course, she was not prepared to
compete with him, who counted his gold by hundreds of thousands. Five
hundred was all she would give for Rocket. How, then was he surprised
and chagrined when, with a coolness equal to his own, she kept steadily
on, scarcely allowing the auctioneer to repeat his bid before she
increased it, and once, womanlike, raising on her own.

"Fie, Harney! Shame to go against a girl! Better give it up, for don't
you see she's resolved to have him? She's worth half Massachusetts, too,
they say."

These and like expressions met Harney on every side, until at last, as
he paused to answer some of them, growing heated in the altercation, and
for the instant forgetting Rocket, the auctioneer brought the hammer
down with a click which made Harney leap from the ground, for by that
sound he knew that Rocket was sold to Alice Johnson for six hundred
dollars!

Meantime Alice had sought the friendly shelter of Ellen's room, where
the tension of nerve endured so long gave way, and sinking upon the sofa
she fainted, just as down the Lexington turnpike came the man looked for
so long in the earlier part of the day. She could not err, in Mr.
Liston's estimation, and Alice grew calm again, and in a hurried
consultation explained to him more definitely than her letter had done,
what her wishes were--Colonel Tiffton must not be homeless in his old
age. There were ten thousand dollars lying in the ---- Bank in
Massachusetts, so she would have Mosside purchased in her name for
Colonel Tiffton, not as a gift, for he would not accept it, but as a
loan, to be paid at his convenience. This was Alice's plan, and Mr.
Liston acted upon it at once. Taking his place in the motley assemblage,
he bid quietly, steadily, until at last Mosside, with its appurtenances,
belonged ostensibly to him, and the half-glad, half-disappointed people
wondered greatly who Mr. Jacob Liston could be, or from what quarter of
the globe he had suddenly dropped into their midst.

Colonel Tiffton knew that nearly everything had been purchased by him,
and felt glad that a stranger rather than a neighbor was to occupy what
had been so dear to him, and that his servants would not be separated.
With Ellen it was different. A neighbor might allow them to remain there
a time, she said, while a stranger would not, and she was weeping
bitterly, when, as the sound of voices and the tread of feet gradually
died away from the yard below, Alice came to her side, and bending over
her, said softly, "Could you bear some good news now--bear to know who
is to inhabit Mosside?"

"Good news?" and Ellen looked up wonderingly.

"Yes, good news, I think you will call it," and then as deliberately as
possible Alice told what had been done, and that the colonel was still
to occupy his old home, "As my tenant, if you like," she said to him,
when he began to demur.

When at last it was clear to the old man, he laid his hand upon the head
of the young girl and whispered huskily, "I cannot thank you as I would,
or tell you what's in my heart, God bless you, Alice Johnson."

Alice longed to say a word to him of the God to whom he had thus paid
tribute, but she felt the time was hardly then, and after a few more
assurances to Ellen started for Spring Bank, where Mrs. Worthington and
Adah were waiting for her.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE RIDE


They had kept it all from Hugh, telling him only that a stranger had
purchased Mosside. He had not asked for Rocket, or even mentioned him,
though his pet was really uppermost in his mind, and when he awoke next
morning from his feverish sleep and remembered Alice's proposal to ride,
he said to himself, "I cannot go, much as I might enjoy it. No other
horse would carry me as gently as Rocket. Oh! Rocket!"

It was a bright, balmy morning, and Hugh, as he walked slowly to the
window and inhaled the fragrant air, felt that it would do him good,
"But I shan't go," he said, and when, after breakfast was over, Alice
came, reminding him of the ride, he began an excuse, but his resolution
quickly gave way before her sprightly arguments, and he finally
assented, saying, however: "You must not expect a gay cavalier, for I am
still too weak, and I have no horse fit to ride with you, at least."

"Yes, I know," and Alice ran gayly to her room and donned her riding
dress, wondering what Hugh would say and how Rocket would act.

He was out in the back yard now, pawing and curvetting, and rubbing his
nose against all who came near him, while Claib was holding him by his
new bridle and talking to him of Mas'r Hugh.

Even an ugly woman is improved by a riding costume, and Alice, beautiful
though she was, looked still more beautiful in her closely-fitting
habit.

"There, I'm ready," she said, running down to Hugh.

At sight of her his face flushed, while a half sigh escaped him as he
thought how proud he would once have been to ride with her; but that was
in the days of Rocket, when rider and horse were called the best in the
county.

"Where's Jim?" Hugh asked, glancing around in quest of the huge animal
he expected to mount, and which he had frequently likened to a stone
wall.

"Claib has your horse. He's coming," and with great apparent unconcern
Alice worked industriously at one of her fairy gantlets.

Suddenly Adah flew to Hugh's side, and said, eagerly:

"Hugh, please whistle once, just as you used to do for Rocket--just
once, and let Miss Johnson hear you."

Hugh felt as if she were mocking him, but he yielded, while like a gleam
of lightning the shadow of a suspicion flitted across his mind. It was a
loud, shrill whistle, penetrating even to the woods, and the instant the
old familiar sound fell on Rocket's ear he went tearing around the
house, answering that call with the neigh he had been wont to give when
summoned by his master. Utterly speechless, Hugh stood gazing at him as
he came up, his neck arched proudly, and his silken mane flowing as
gracefully as on the day when he was led away to Colonel Tiffton's
stall.

"Won't somebody tell me what it means?" Hugh gasped, stretching out his
hands toward Rocket, who even attempted to lick them.

At this point Alice stepped forward, and taking Rocket's bridle, laid it
across Hugh's lap, saying, softly:

"It means that Rocket is yours, purchased by a friend, saved from
Harney, for you. Mount him, and see if he rides as easily as ever. I am
impatient to be off."

But had Hugh's life depended upon it, he could not have mounted Rocket
then. He knew the friend was Alice, and the magnitude of the act
overpowered him.

"Oh, Miss Johnson," he cried, "what made you do it? It must not be. I
cannot suffer it."

"Not to please me?" and Alice's face wore its most winning look. "It's
been my fixed determination ever since I heard of Rocket, and knew how
much you loved him. I was never so happy doing an act in my life, and
now you must not spoil it all by refusing."

"As a loan, then, not as a gift," Hugh whispered. "It shall not be a
gift."

"It need not," Alice rejoined, as a sudden plan for carrying out another
project crossed her mind. "You shall pay for Rocket if you like, and
I'll tell you how on our ride. Shall we go?"

Once out upon the highway, where there were no mud holes to shun, no
gates to open and shut, Hugh broached the subject of Rocket again, when
Alice told him unhesitatingly how he could, if he would, pay for him and
leave her greatly his debtor. The scrap of paper, which Muggins had
saved from the letter thrown by Hugh upon the carpet, had been placed by
the queer little child in an old envelope, which she called her letter
to Miss Alice. Handing it to her that morning with the utmost gravity,
she had asked her to read "Mug's letter," and Alice had read the brief
lines written by 'Lina: "Hugh must send the money, as I told him before.
He can sell Mug; Harney likes pretty darkies." There was a cold, sick
feeling at Alice's heart, a shrinking with horror from 'Lina
Worthington, and then she came to a decision. Mug should be hers, and
so, as skillfully as she could she brought it around, that having taken
a great fancy both to Lulu and Muggins, she wished to buy them both,
giving whatever Hugh honestly thought they were worth. Rocket, if he
pleased, should be taken as part or whole payment for Mug, and so cease
to be a gift.

"I have no mercenary motives in the matter," she said, "With me they
will be free, and this, I am sure, will be an inducement for you to
consent to my proposal."

A slave master can love his bond servant, and Hugh loved the little Mug
so much that the idea of parting with her as he surely must at some
future time if he assented to Alice's plan, made him hesitate. But he
decided at last, influenced not so much by need of money as by knowing
how much real good the exchange of ownership would be to the two young
girls. In return for Rocket, Alice should have Muggins, while for Lulu
she might give what she liked.

"Heaven knows," he added, "it is not my nature to hold any one in
bondage, and I shall gladly hail the day which sees the negro free. But
our slaves are our property. Take them from us and we are ruined wholly.
Miss Johnson, do you honestly believe that one in forty of those
Northern abolitionists would deliberately give up ten--twenty--fifty
thousand dollars, just because the thing valued at that was man and not
beast? No, indeed. Southern people, born and brought up in the midst of
slavery, can't see it as the North does, and there's where the mischief
lies."

He had wandered from Lulu and Muggins to the subject which then, far
more than the North believed, was agitating the Southern mind. Then they
talked of 'Lina, Hugh telling Alice of her intention to pass the winter
with Mrs. Ellsworth, and speaking also of Irving Stanley.

"By the way, Ad writes that Irving was interested in you, and you in
him," Hugh said, rather abruptly, stealing a glance at Alice, who
answered frankly:

"I can hardly say that I know much of him, though once, long ago--"

She paused here, and Hugh waited anxiously for what she would say next.
But Alice, changing her mind, only added:

"I esteem Mr. Stanley very highly. He is a gentleman, a scholar and a
Christian."

"You like him better for that, I suppose--better for being a Christian,
I mean," Hugh replied, a little bitterly.

"Oh, yes, so much better," and reining her horse closer to Hugh, Alice
rode very slowly, while in earnest tones she urged on Hugh the one great
thing he needed. "You are not offended?" she asked, as he continued
silent.

"No, oh, no. I never had any religious teaching, only once; an angel
flitted across my path, leaving a track of glorious sunshine, but the
clouds have been there since, and the sunshine is most all gone."

Alice knew he referred to the maiden of whose existence Mug had told
her, and she longed to ask him of her. Who was she, and where was she
now? Alas, that she should have been so deceived, or that Hugh, when she
finally did ask, "Who was the angel that crossed his path?" should
answer evasively.

Just before turning into the Spring Bank fields, a horseman came dashing
down the pike, checking his steed a moment as he drew near, and then,
with a savage frown, spurring on his foam-covered horse, muttering
between his teeth a curse on Hugh Worthington.

"That was Harney?" Alice said, stopping a moment outside the gate to
look after him as he went tearing down the pike.

"Yes, that was Harney," Hugh replied. "There's a political meeting of
some kind in Versailles to-day, and I suppose he is going there to raise
his voice with those who are denouncing the Republicans so bitterly, and
threatening vengeance if they succeed."

"The South will hardly be foolish enough to secede. Why, the North would
crush them at once," returned Alice, still looking after Harney, as if
she knew she were gazing after one destined to figure conspicuously in
the fast approaching rebellion, his very name a terror and dread to the
loyal, peace-loving citizens of Kentucky.



CHAPTER XXIX

HUGH AND ALICE


Three weeks had passed away since that memorable ride. Mr. Liston, after
paying to the proper recipients the money due for Mosside, had returned
to Boston, leaving the neighborhood to gossip of Alice's generosity,
and to wonder how much she was worth. It was a secret yet that Lulu and
Muggins were hers, but the story of Rocket was known, and numerous were
the surmises as to what would be the result of her daily, familiar
intercourse with Hugh. Already was the effect of her presence visible in
his improved appearance, his gentleness of manner, his care to observe
all the little points of etiquette never practiced by him before, and
his attention to his own personal appearance. His trousers were no
longer worn inside his boots, or his soft hat jammed into every
conceivable shape, while Ellen Tiffton, who came often to Spring Bank,
and was supposed to be good authority, pronounced him almost as stylish
looking as any man in Woodford.

To Hugh, Alice was everything, and he did not know himself how much he
loved her, save when he thought of Irving Stanley, and then the keen,
sharp pang of jealous pain which wrung his heart told him how strong was
the love he bore her. And Alice, in her infatuation concerning the
mysterious Golden Hair, did much to feed the flame. He was to her like a
beloved brother; indeed, she had one day playfully entered into a
compact with him that she should be his sister, and never dreaming of
the mischief she was doing, she treated him with all the familiarity of
a pure, loving sister. It was Alice who rode with him almost daily. It
was Alice who sang his favorite songs. It was Alice who brought his
armchair in the evening when his day's work was over; Alice who worked
his slippers; Alice who brushed his coat when he was going to town;
Alice who sometimes tied his cravat, standing on tiptoe, with her fair
face so fearfully near to his that all his powers of self-denial were
needed to keep from touching his lips to the smooth brow gleaming so
white and fair before his eyes.

Sometimes the wild thought crossed his mind that possibly he might win
her for himself, but it was repudiated as soon as formed, and so,
between hope and a kind of blissful despair, blissful so long as Alice
stayed with him as she was now, Hugh lived on, until at last the evening
came when Adah was to leave Spring Bank on the morrow. She had intended
going immediately after the sale at Mosside, but Willie had been ailing
ever since, and that had detained her. Everything which Alice could do
for her had been done. Old Sam, at thoughts of parting with his little
charge, had cried his dim eyes dimmer yet. Mrs. Worthington, too, had
wept herself nearly sick, for now that the parting drew near she began
to feel how dear to her was the young girl who had come to them so
strangely.

"More like a daughter you seem to me," she had said to Adah, in speaking
of her going; "and once I had a wild--" here she stopped, leaving the
sentence unfinished, for she did not care to tell Adah of the shock it
had given her when Hugh first pointed out to her the faint mark on
Adah's forehead.

It was fainter now even than then, for with increasing color and health
it seemed to disappear, and Mrs. Worthington could scarcely see it, when
with a caressing movement of her hand she put the silken hair back from
Adah's brow and kissed the bluish veins.

"There is none there. It was all a fancy," she murmured to herself, and
then thinking of 'Lina, she said to Adah what she had all along meant to
say, that if the Richards' family should question her of 'Lina, she was
to divulge nothing to her disparagement, whether she were rich or poor,
high or low. "You must not, of course, tell any untruths. I do not ask
that, but I--oh, I sometimes wish they need not know that you came from
here, as that would save all trouble, and 'Lina is so--so--"

Mrs. Worthington did not finish the sentence, for Adah instantly
silenced her by answering frankly:

"I do not intend they shall know, not at present certainly."

Adah retired early, as did both Mrs. Worthington and Densie, for all
were unusually tired; only Hugh, as he supposed, was up, and he sat by
the parlor fire where they had passed the evening. He was very sorry
Adah was going, but it was not so much of her he was thinking as of
Alice. Had she dreamed of his real feelings, she never would have done
what she did, but she was wholly unconscious of it, and so, when, late
that night, she returned to the parlor in quest of something she had
left, and found him sitting there alone, she paused a moment on the
threshold, wondering if she had better join him or go away. His back was
toward her, and he did not hear her light step, so intently was he
gazing into the burning grate, and trying to frame the words he should
say if ever he dared tell Alice Johnson of his love.

There was much girlish playfulness in Alice's nature, and sliding across
the carpet, she clasped both her hands before his eyes, and exclaimed:

"A penny for your thoughts."

Hugh started as suddenly as if some apparition had appeared before him,
and blushing guiltily, clasped and held upon his face the little soft,
warm hands which did not tremble, but lay still beneath his own. It was
Providence which sent her there, he thought; Providence indicating that
he might speak, and he would.

"I am glad you have come. I wish to talk with you," he said, drawing her
down into a chair beside him, and placing his arm lightly across its
back. "What sent you here, Alice? I supposed you had retired," he
continued, bending upon her a look which made her slightly
uncomfortable.

But she soon recovered, and answered laughingly:

"I, too, supposed you had retired. I came for my scissors, and finding
you here alone, thought I would startle you, but you have not told me
yet of what you were thinking."

"Of the present, past and future," he replied; then, letting his hand
drop from the back of the chair upon her shoulder, he continued: "May I
talk freely with you? May I tell you of myself, what I was, what I am,
what I hope to be?"

Her cheeks burned dreadfully, and her voice was not quite steady, as,
rising from her seat, she said:

"I like a stool better than this chair. I'll bring it and sit at your
feet. There, now I am ready," and seating herself at a safe distance
from him, Alice waited for him to commence.

She grew tired of waiting, and turning her lustrous eyes upon him, said
gently:

"You seem unhappy about something. Is it because Adah leaves to-morrow?
I am sorry, too; sorry for me, sorry for you; but, Hugh, I will do what
I can to fill her place. I will be the sister you need so much. Don't
look so wretched; it makes me feel badly to see you."

Alice's sympathy was getting the better of her again, and she moved her
stool a little nearer to Hugh, while she involuntarily laid her hand
upon his knee. That decided him; and while his heart throbbed almost to
bursting, he began by saying:

"I am in rather a gloomy mood to-night, I'll admit. I do feel Adah's
leaving us very much; but that is not all. I have wished to talk with
you a long time--wished to tell you how I feel. May I, Alice?--may I
open to you my whole heart, and show you what is there?"

For a moment Alice felt a thrill of fear--a dread of what the opening
of his heart to her might disclose. Then she remembered Golden Hair,
whose name she had never heard him breathe, save as it passed his
delirious lips. It was of her he would talk; he would tell her of that
hidden love whose existence she felt sure was not known at Spring Bank.
Alice would rather not have had this confidence, for the deep love-life
of such as Hugh Worthington seemed to her a sacred thing; but he looked
so white, so careworn, so much as if it would be a relief, that Alice
answered at last:

"Yes, Hugh, you may tell, and I will listen."

He began by telling Alice first of his early boyhood, uncheered by a
single word of sympathy save as it came from dear Aunt Eunice, who alone
understood the wayward boy whom people thought so bad.

"Even she did not quite understand me," he said; "she did not dream of
that hidden recess in my heart which yearned so terribly for a human
love--for something or somebody to check the evil passions so rapidly
gaining the ascendant. Neither did she know how often, in the silent
night, the boy they thought so flinty, so averse to womankind, wept for
the love he had no hope of gaining.

"Then mother and Ad came to Spring Bank, and that opened to me a new
era. In my odd way, I loved my mother so much--so much; but Ad--say,
Alice, is it wicked in me if I can't love Ad?"

"She is your sister," was Alice's reply; and Hugh rejoined:

"Yes--my sister. I'm sorry for it, even, if it's wicked to be sorry. She
gave me back only scorn and bitter words, until my heart closed up
against her, and I harshly judged all others by her--all but one!" and
Hugh's voice grew very low and tender in its tone, while Alice felt that
now he was nearing the Golden Hair.

"Away off in New England, among the Yankee hills, there was a pure,
white blossom growing; a blossom so pure, so fair, that few, very few,
were worthy even so much as to look upon it, as day by day it unfolded
some new beauty. There was nothing to support this flower but a single
frail parent stalk, which snapped asunder one day, and Blossom was left
alone. It was a strange idea, transplanting it to another soil; for the
atmosphere of Spring Bank was not suited to such as she. But she came,
and, as by magic, the whole atmosphere was changed--changed at least to
one--the bad, wayward Hugh, who dared to love this fair young girl with
a love stronger than his life. For her he would do anything, and
beneath her influence he did improve rapidly. He was conscious of it
himself--conscious of a greater degree of self-respect--a desire to be
what she would like to have him.

"She was very, very beautiful; more so than anything Hugh had ever
looked upon. Her face was like an angel's face, and her hair--much like
yours, Alice;" and he laid his hand on the bright head, now bent down,
so that he could not see that face so like an angel's.

The little hand, too, had slid from his knee, and, fastlocked within the
other, was buried in Alice's lap, as she listened with throbbing heart
to the story Hugh was telling.

"In all the world there was nothing so dear to Hugh as this young girl.
He thought of her by day and dreamed of her by night, seeing always in
the darkness her face, with its eyes of blue bending over him--hearing
the music of her voice, like the falling of distant water, and even
feeling the soft touch of her hands as he fancied them laid upon his
brow. She was good, too, as beautiful; and it was this very goodness
which won on Hugh so fast, making him pray often that he might be worthy
of her--for, Alice, he came at last to dream that he could win her; she
was so kind to him--she spoke to him so softly, and, by a thousand
little acts, endearing herself to him more and more.

"Heaven forgive her if she misled him all this while; but she did not.
It were worse than death to think she did--to know I've told you this in
vain--have offered you my heart only to have it thrust back upon me as
something you do not want. Speak, Alice! in mercy, speak! Can it be that
I'm mistaken?"

Alice saw how she had unwittingly led him on, and her white lips
quivered with pain. Lifting up her head at last, she exclaimed:

"You don't mean me, Hugh! Oh, you don't mean me?"

"Yes, darling," and he clasped in his own the hand raised imploringly
toward him. "Yes, darling, I mean you. Will you be my wife?"

Alice had never before heard a voice so earnest, so full of meaning, as
the one now pleading with her to be what she could not be. She must do
something, and sliding from her stool she sank upon her knees--her
proper attitude--upon her knees before Hugh, whom she had wronged so
terribly, and burying her face in Hugh's own hands, she sobbed:

"Oh, Hugh, Hugh! you don't know what you ask. I love you dearly, but
only as my brother--believe me, Hugh, only as a brother. I wanted one so
much--one of my own, I mean; but God denied that wish, and gave me you
instead. I'm sorry I ever came here, but I cannot go away. I've learned
to love my Kentucky home. Let me stay just the same. Let me really be
what I thought I was, your sister. You will not send me away?"

She looked up at him now, but quickly turned away, for the expression of
his white, haggard face was more than she could bear, and she knew there
was a pang, keener even than any she had felt, a pang which must be
terrible, to crush a strong man as Hugh was crushed.

"Forgive me, Hugh," she said, as he did not speak, but sat gazing at her
in a kind of stunned bewilderment. "You would not have me for your wife,
if I did not love you?"

"Never, Alice, never!" he answered. "But it is not any easier to bear. I
don't know why I asked you, why I dared hope that you could think of me.
I might have known you could not. Nobody does. I cannot win their love.
I don't know how."

Alice neither looked up nor moved, only sobbed piteously, and this more
than aught else helped Hugh to choke down his own sorrow for the sake of
comforting her. The sight of her distress moved him greatly, for he knew
it was grief that she had so cruelly misled him.

"Alice, darling," he said again, this time as a mother would soothe her
child. "Alice, darling, it hurts me more to see you thus than your
refusal did. I am not wholly selfish in my love. I'd rather you should
be happy than to be happy myself. I would not for the world take to my
bosom an unwilling wife. I should be jealous even of my own caresses,
jealous lest the very act disgusted her more and more. You did not mean
to deceive me. It was I that deceived myself. I forgive you fully, and
ask you to forget that to-night has ever been. It cut me sorely at
first, Alice, to hear you tell me so, but I shall get over it; the wound
will heal."

"Oh, Hugh, don't; you break my heart. I'd rather you should scorn, or
even hate me, for the sorrow I have brought. Such unselfish kindness
will kill me," Alice sobbed, for never had she been so touched as by
this insight into the real character of the man she had refused.

He would not hold her long in his arms, though it were bliss to do so,
and putting her gently in the chair, he leaned his own poor sick head
upon the mantel, while Alice watched him with streaming eyes and an
aching heart, which even then half longed to give itself into his
keeping. At last it was her turn to speak, hers the task to comfort. The
prayer she had inwardly breathed for guidance to act aright had not been
unheard, and with a strange calmness she arose, and laying her hand on
Hugh's arm, bade him be seated, while she told him what she had to say.
He obeyed her, sinking into the offered chair, and then standing before
him, she began:

"You do not wish me to go away, you say. I have no desire to go, except
it should be better for you. Even though I may not be your wife, I can,
perhaps, minister to your happiness; and, Hugh, we will forget to-night,
forget what has occurred, and be to each other what we were before,
brother and sister. There must be no particular perceptible change of
manner, lest others should suspect what has passed between us. Do you
agree to this?"

He bowed his head, and Alice drew a step nearer to him, hesitating a
moment ere she continued:

"You speak of a rival. I do not know that you have one. Sure it is I am
bound to no one by any pledge, or promise, or tie, unless it be a tie of
gratitude."

Hugh glanced up quickly now, and the words, "You are mistaken; it was
not Irving Stanley," trembled on his lips, but his strong will fought
them back, and Alice went on.

"I will be frank with you, and say that I have seen one who pleased me,
both for the noble qualities he possessed, and because I had thought so
much of meeting him, of expressing to him my thanks for a great favor
done when I was only a child. There's a look in your face like his; you
remind me of him often; and, Hugh--" the little hand pressed more
closely on Hugh's shoulder, while Alice's breath came heavily, "And,
Hugh, it may be, that in time I can conscientiously give you a different
answer from what I did to-night. I may love as your wife should love
you; and--and, Hugh, if I do, I'll tell you so at the proper time."

There was a gleam of sunshine now to illumine the thick darkness, and,
in the first moments of his joy Hugh wound his arm around the slight
form, and tried to bring it nearer to him. But Alice stepped back and
answered:

"No, Hugh, that would be wrong. It may be I shall never come to love
you save as I love you now, but I'll try--I will try," and unmindful of
her charge to him, Alice parted the damp curls clustering around his
forehead, and looked into his face with an expression which made his
heart bound and throb with the sudden hope that even now she loved him
better than she supposed.

It was growing very late, and the clock in the adjoining room struck one
ere Alice bade Hugh good-night, saying to him:

"No one must know of this. We'll be just the same to each other as we
have been."

"Yes, just the same, if that can be," Hugh answered, and so they parted.



CHAPTER XXX

ADAH'S JOURNEY


The night express from Rochester to Albany was crowded. Every car was
full, or seemed to be, and the clamorous bell rang out its first summons
for all to get on board, just as a pale, frightened-looking woman,
bearing in her slender arms a sleeping boy, whose little face showed
signs of suffering, stepped upon the platform of the rear carriage, and
looked wistfully in at the long, dark line of passengers filling every
seat. Wearily, anxiously, she had passed through every car, beginning at
the first, her tired eyes scanning each occupant, as if mutely begging
some one to have pity on her ere exhausted nature failed entirely, and
she sank fainting to the floor. None had heeded that silent appeal,
though many had marked the pallor of her girlish face, and the extreme
beauty of the baby features nestling in her bosom. She could not hold
out much longer, and when she reached the last car and saw that, too,
was full, the delicate chin quivered perceptibly, and a tear glistened
in the long eyelashes, sweeping the colorless cheek.

Slowly she passed up the aisle until she came to where there was indeed
a vacant seat, only a gentleman's shawl was piled upon it, and he, the
gentleman, looking so unconcernedly from the window, and apparently
oblivious of her close proximity to him, would not surely object to her
sitting there. How the tired woman did wish he would turn toward her,
would give some token that she was welcome, would remove his heavy
plaid, and say to her courteously, "Sit here, madam." But no, his eyes
were only intent on the darkness without; he had no care for her, Adah,
though he knew she was there.

The oil lamp was burning dimly, and the girl's white face was lost in
the shadow, when the young man first glanced at her, so he had no
suspicion of the truth, though a most indefinable sensation crept over
him as he heard the timid footfall, and the rustling of female garments
as Adah Hastings drew near with her boy in her arms. He knew she stopped
before him; he knew, too, why she stopped, and for a brief instant his
better nature bade him be a man and offer her what he knew she wanted.
But only for an instant, and then his selfishness prevailed. "He would
not seem to see her, he would not be bothered by a woman with a brat. If
there was anything he hated it was a woman traveling with a young one, a
squalling young one. They would never catch his wife, when he had one,
doing a thing so unladylike. A car was no place for children. He hated
the whole of them."

Adah passed on, her weary sigh falling distinctly on his ear, but
falling to awaken a feeling of remorse for his unmanly conduct.

"I'm glad she's gone. I can't be bothered," was his mental comment as he
settled himself more comfortably, feeling a glow of satisfaction when
the train began to move, and he knew no more women with their babies
would be likely to trouble him.

With that first heavy strain of the machinery Adah lost her balance, and
would have fallen headlong but for the friendly hand put forth to save
the fall.

"Take my seat, miss. It is not very convenient, but it is better than
none. I can find another."

It was the friendliest voice imaginable which said these words to Adah,
and the kind tone in which they were uttered wrung the hot tears at once
from her eyes. She did not look up at him. She only knew that some one,
a gentleman, had arisen and was bending over her; that a hand, large,
white and warm, was laid upon her shoulder, putting her gently into the
narrow seat next the saloon; that the same hand took from her and hung
above her head the little satchel which was so much in her way, and that
the manly voice, so sympathetic in its tone, asked if she would be too
warm so near the fire.

She did not know there was a fire. She only knew that she had found a
friend, and with the delicious feeling of safety which the knowledge
brought, the tension of her nerves gave way, and burying her head on
Willie's face she wept for a moment silently. Then, lifting it up, she
tried to thank her benefactor, looking now at him for the first time,
and feeling half overawed to find him so tall, so stylish, so
exceedingly refined and aristocratic in every look and action.

Irving Stanley was a passenger on that train, bound for Albany. Like Dr.
Richards, he had hoped to enjoy a whole seat, even though it were not a
very comfortable one, but when he saw how pale and tired Adah was, he
arose at once to offer his seat. He heard her sweet, low voice as she
tried to thank him. He saw, too, the little, soft, white hands, holding
so fast to Willie. Was he her brother or her son? She was young to be
his mother. Perhaps she was his sister; but, no, there was no mistaking
the mother-love shining out from the brown eyes turned so quickly upon
the boy when he moaned, as if in pain, and seemed about to waken.

"He's been sick most all the way," she said. "There's something the
matter with his ear, I think, as he complains of that. Do children ever
die with the earache?"

Irving Stanley hardly thought they did. At all events, he never heard of
such a case, and then, after suggesting a remedy, should the pain
return, he left his new acquaintance.

"A part of your seat, sir, if you please," and Irving's voice was rather
authoritative than otherwise, as he claimed the half of what the doctor
was monopolizing.

It was of no use for Dr. Richards to pretend he was asleep, for Irving
spoke so like a man who knew what he was doing, that the doctor was
compelled to yield, and turning about, recognized his Saratoga
acquaintance. The recognition was mutual, and after a few natural
remarks, Irving explained how he had given his seat to a lady, who
seemed ready to drop with fatigue and anxiety concerning her little
child, who was suffering from the earache.

"By the way, doctor," he added, "you ought to know the remedy for such
ailments. Suppose you prescribe in case it returns. I do pity that young
woman."

Dr. Richards stared at him in astonishment.

"I know but little about babies or their aches," he answered at last,
just as a scream of pain reached his ear, accompanied by a suppressed
effort on the mother's part to soothe her suffering child.

The pain must have been intolerable, for the little fellow, in his
agony, writhed from Adah's lap and sank upon the floor, his waxen hand
pressed convulsively to his ear, and his whole form quivering with
anguish as he cried, "Oh, ma! ma! ma! ma!"

The hardest heart could scarce withstand that scene, and many now
gathered near, offering advice and help, while even Dr. Richards turned
toward the group gathering by the door, experiencing a most
unaccountable sensation as that baby cry smote on his ear. Foremost
among those who offered aid was Irving Stanley. His was the voice which
breathed comfort to the weeping Adah, his the hand extended to take up
little Willie, his the arms which held and soothed the struggling boy,
his the mind which thought of everything available that could possibly
bring ease.

"Who'll give me a cigar? I do not use them myself. Ask him," he said,
pointing to the doctor, who mechanically took a fine Havana from the
case and half-grudgingly handed it to the lady, who hurried back with it
to Irving Stanley.

To break it up and place it in Willie's ear was the work of a moment,
and ere long the fierce outcries ceased as Willie grew easier and lay
quietly in Irving Stanley's arms.

"I'll take him now," and Adah put out her hands; but Willie refused to
go, and clung closer to Mr. Stanley, who said, laughingly: "You see that
I am preferred. He is too heavy for you to hold. Please trust him to me,
while you get the rest you need."

And Adah yielded to that voice as if it were one which had a right to
say what she must do, and leaning back against the window, rested her
tired head upon her hand, while Irving carried Willie to his seat beside
the doctor! There was a slight sneer on the doctor's face as he saw the
little boy.

"You don't like children, I reckon," Irving said, as the doctor drew
back from the little feet which unconsciously touched his lap.

"No, I hate them," was the answer, spoken half-savagely, for at that
moment a tiny hand was deliberately laid on his, as Willie showed a
disposition to be friendly. "I hate them," and the little hand was
pushed rudely off.

Wonderingly the soft, large eyes of the child looked up to his.
Something in their expression riveted the doctor's gaze as by a spell.
There were tears in the baby's eyes, and the pretty lip began to quiver
at the harsh indignity. The doctor's finer feelings, if he had any, were
touched, and muttering to himself, "I'm a brute," he slouched his riding
cap still lower down upon his forehead, and turning away to the window,
relapsed into a gloomy reverie.

As they drew near to Albany, another piercing shriek from Willie arose
even above the noise of the train. The paroxysms of pain had returned
with such severity that the poor infant's face became a livid purple,
while Adah's tears dropped upon it like rain. Again the sympathetic
women gathered around, again Dr. Richards, aroused from his uneasy
sleep, muttered invectives against children in general and this one in
particular, while again Irving Stanley hastened to the rescue, his the
ruling mind which overmastered the others, planning what should be done,
and seeing that his plans were executed.

"You cannot go on this morning. Your little boy must have rest and
medical advice," he said to Adah, when at last the train stopped in
Albany. "I have a few moments to spare. I will see that you are
comfortable. You are going to Snowdon, I think you said. There is an
acquaintance of mine on board who is also bound for Snowdon. I might--"

Irving Stanley paused here, for certain doubts arose in his mind,
touching the doctor's willingness to be troubled with strangers.

"Oh, I'd rather go on alone," Adah exclaimed, as she guessed what he had
intended saying.

"It's quite as well, I reckon," was Mr. Stanley's reply, and taking
Willie in his arms, he conducted Adah to the nearest hotel.

"If you please, you will not engage a very expensive room for me. I
can't afford it," Adah said, timidly, as she followed her conductor into
the parlor of the Delavan.

She was poor, then. Irving would hardly have guessed it from her
appearance, but this frank avowal which many would not have made, only
increased his respect for her, while he wished so much that she might
have one of the handsome sitting-rooms, of whose locality he knew so
well.

It was a cozy, pleasant little chamber into which she was finally
ushered, too nice, Adah feared, half trembling for the bill when she
should ask for it, and never dreaming that just one-half the price had
been paid by Irving, whose kind heart prompted him to the generous act.


There were but a few moments now ere he must leave, and standing by her
side, with her little hand in his, he said:

"The meeting with you has been to me a pleasant incident, and I shall
not soon forget it. I trust we may meet again. There is my card. I am
acquainted North, South, East and West. Perhaps I know your husband. You
have one?" he added quickly, as he saw the hot blood stain her face and
neck to a most unnatural color.

He had not the remotest suspicion that she had never been a wife; he
only thought from her agitation that she possibly was a widow, and
unconsciously to himself the idea was fraught with a vague feeling of
gladness, for, to most men, it is pleasanter knowing they have been
polite to a pretty girl, or even a pretty widow, than to a wife, whose
lord might object, and Irving was not an exception. Was she a widow, and
had he unwittingly touched the half-healed wound? He wished he knew, and
he stood waiting for her answer to his question, "You have a husband?"

At a glance Adah had read the name upon the card, knowing now who had
befriended her. It was Irving Stanley, Augusta's brother, second cousin
to Hugh, and 'Lina was with his sister in New York. He was going there,
he might speak of her, and if she told her name, her miserable story
would be known to more than it was already. It was a false pride which
kept Adah silent when she knew that Irving Stanley was waiting for her
to speak, wondering at her agitated manner. He was looking at her eyes,
her large brown eyes, which dared not meet his, and as he looked a
terrible suspicion crept over him. Involuntarily he felt for her third
finger. It was ringless, and he dropped it suddenly, but with a feeling
that he might be unjust, that all were not of his church and creed, he
took it again, and said his parting words. Then, turning to Willie, he
smoothed the silken curls, praised the beauty of the sleeping child, and
left the room.

Adah knew that he was gone, that she should not see him again, and that,
at the very last, there had arisen some misunderstanding, she hardly
knew what, for the shock of finding who he was had prevented her from
fully comprehending the fact that he had asked her for her husband. She
never dreamed of the suspicion which, for an instant, had a lodgment in
his breast, or she would almost have died where she stood, gazing at the
door through which he had disappeared.

"I ought to have told him my name, but I could not," she sighed, as the
sound of his rapid footsteps died upon the stairs.

They ceased at last, and with a feeling of utter desolation, as if she
were now indeed alone, Adah sank upon her knees, and covering her face
with her hands, wept bitterly. Anon, however, holier, calmer feelings
swept over her. She was not alone. They who love God can never be alone,
however black the darkness be around them. And Adah did love Him,
thanking Him at last for raising her up this friend in her sore need,
for putting it into Irving Stanley's heart to care for her, a stranger,
as he had done. And as she prayed, the wish arose that George had been,
more like him. He would not then have deserted her, she sobbed, while
again her lips breathed a prayer for Irving Stanley, thoughts of whom
even then made her once broken heart beat as she had never expected it
to beat again.

So absorbed was Adah that she did not hear the returning footsteps as
Irving came across the hall. He had remembered some directions he would
give her, and at the risk of being left, had come back a moment. She did
not hear the turning of the knob, the opening of the door, or know that
he for whom she prayed was standing so near to her that he heard
distinctly what she said, kneeling there by the chair where he had sat,
her fair head bent down and her face concealed from view.

"God in heaven bless and keep the noble Irving Stanley."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the office below, Dr. Richards, who had purposely stopped for the day
in Albany, smoked his expensive cigars, ordered oysters and wine sent to
his room--the very one adjoining Adah's--made two or three calls, wrote
an explanatory note to 'Lina--feeling half tempted to leave out the
"Dear," with which he felt constrained to preface it--thought again of
Lily--poor Lily, as he always called her--thought once of the strange
woman and the little boy, in whom Irving Stanley had been so interested,
wondered where they were going, and who it was the boy looked a little
like--thought somehow of Anna in connection with that boy; and then,
late in the afternoon, sauntered down to the Boston depot, and took his
seat in the car, which, at about ten o'clock that night would deposit
him at Snowdon. There were no "squalling brats" to disturb him, for
Adah, unconscious of his proximity, was in the rear car--pale, weary,
and nervous with the dread which her near approach to Terrace Hill
inspired. What, if after all, Anna, should not want her? And this was a
possible contingency, notwithstanding Alice had been no sanguine.

Darkly the December night closed in, and still the train kept on, until
at last Danville was reached, and she must alight, as the express did
not stop again until it reached Worcester. With a chill sense of
loneliness, and a vague, confused wish for the one cheering voice which
had greeted her ear since leaving Spring Bank, Adah stood upon the
snow-covered platform, holding Willie in her arms, and pointing out her
trunk to the civil baggage man, who, in answer to her inquiries as to
the best means of reaching Terrace Hill, replied: "You can't go there
to-night; it is too late. You'll have to stay in the tavern kept right
over the depot, though if you'd kept on the train there might have been
a chance, for I see the young Dr. Richards aboard; and as he didn't get
out, I guess he's coaxed or hired the conductor to leave him at
Snowdon."

The baggage man was right in his conjecture, for the doctor had
persuaded the polite conductor, whom he knew personally, to stop the
train at Snowdon; and while Adah, shivering with cold, found her way up
the narrow stairs into the rather comfortless quarters where she must
spend the night, the doctor was kicking the snow from his feet and
talking to Jim, the coachman from Terrace Hill.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE CONVICT


It was a sad morning at Spring Bank, that morning of Adah's leaving, and
many a tear was shed as the last good-by was spoken. Mrs. Worthington,
Alice and Hugh accompanied Adah to Frankfort, and Alice had never seemed
in better spirits than on that winter's morning. She would be gay; it
was a duty she owed Hugh, and Adah, too. So she talked and laughed as if
there was no load upon her heart, and no cloud on Adah's spirits.
Outwardly Mrs. Worthington suffered most, wondering why she should cling
so to Adah, and why this parting was so painful. All the farewell words
had been spoken, for Adah would not leave them to the chance of a last
moment. She seemed almost too pretty to send on that long journey alone,
and Hugh felt that he might be doing wrong in suffering her to depart
without an escort. But Adah only laughed at his fears. Willie was her
protector, she said, and then, as the train came up she turned to Mrs.
Worthington, who, haunted with the dread lest something should happen to
prevent 'Lina's marriage, said softly:

"You'll be careful about 'Lina?"

Yes, Adah would be careful, and to Alice she whispered:

"I'll write after I get there, but you must not answer it at least not
till I say you may. Good-by."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Come, mother, we are waiting for you," Hugh said.

At the sound of Hugh's voice she started and replied:

"Oh, yes, I remember--we are to visit the penitentiary. Dear me," and in
a kind of absent way, Mrs. Worthington took Hugh's arm, and the party
proceeded on their way to the huge building known as the Frankfort
Penitentiary. Hugh was well acquainted with the keeper, who admitted
them cheerfully, and ushered them at once into the spacious yard.

Pleased with Alice's enthusiastic interest in everything he said, the
keeper was quite communicative, pointing out the cells of any noted
felons, repeating little incidents of daring attempts to escape, and
making the visit far more entertaining than the party had expected.

"This," he said, opening a narrow door, "this belongs to the negro
stealer, Sullivan. You know him, Mrs. Worthington. He ran off the old
darky you now own, old Sam, I mean."

"I'd like to see Mr. Sullivan," Alice said. "I saw old Sam when he was
in Virginia."

"We'll find him on the ropewalk. We put our hardest customers there. Not
that he gives us trouble, for he does not, and I rather like the chap,
but we have a spite against these Yankee negro stealers," was the
keeper's reply, as he led the way to the long low room, where groups of
men walked up and down--up and down--holding the long line of hemp,
which, as far as they were concerned, would never come to an end until
the day of their release.

"That's he," the keeper whispered to Alice, who had fallen behind Hugh
and his mother. "That's he, just turning this way--the one to the
right."

Alice nodded in token that she understood, and then stood watching while
he came up. Mrs. Worthington and Hugh were watching too, not him
particularly, for they did not even know which was Sullivan, but stood
waiting for the whole long line advancing slowly toward them, their eyes
cast down with conscious shame, as if they shrank from being seen. One
of them, however, was wholly unabashed. He thought it probable the
keeper would point him out; he knew they used to do so when he first
came there, but he did not care; he rather liked the notoriety, and when
he saw that Alice seemed waiting for him, he fixed his keen eyes on her,
starting at the sight of so much beauty, end never even glancing at the
other visitors, at Mrs. Worthington and Hugh, who, a little apart from
each other, saw him at the same moment, both turning cold and faint, the
one with surprise, and the other with a horrid, terrible fear.

It needed but a glance to assure Hugh that he stood in the presence of
the man who with strangely winning powers had tempted him to sin--the
villain who had planned poor Adah's marriage--Monroe, her guardian,
whose sudden disappearance had been so mysterious. Hugh never knew how
he controlled himself from leaping into that walk and compelling the
bold wretch to tell if he knew aught of the base deserter, Willie
Hastings' father. He did, indeed, take one forward step while his fist
clinched involuntarily, but the next moment fell powerless at his side
as a low wail of pain reached his ear and he turned in time to save his
fainting mother from falling to the floor.

She, too, had seen the ropemaker, glancing at him twice ere sure she saw
aright, and then, as if a corpse buried years ago had arisen to her
view, the blood curdled about her heart which after one mighty throe lay
heavy and still as lead. He was not dead; that paragraph in the paper
telling her so was false; he did not die, such as he could not die; he
was alive--alive--a convict within those prison walls; a living,
breathing man with that same look she remembered so well, shuddering as
she remembered it, 'Lina's father and her own husband!

"It was the heat, or the smell, or the parting with Adah, or something,"
she said, when she came back to consciousness, eagerly scanning Hugh's
face to see if he knew too, and then glancing timidly around as if in
quest of the phantom which had so affected her.

"Let's go home, I'm sorry I came to Frankfort," she whispered, while her
teeth chattered and her eyes wore a look of terror for which Hugh could
not account.

He never thought of associating her illness with the man who had so
affected himself. It was overexertion, he said. His mother could not
bear much, and with all the tenderness of an affectionate son he wrapped
her shawl about her and led her gantry from the spot which held for her
so great a terror. It was not physical fear; she had never been afraid
of bodily harm, even when fully in his power. It was rather the olden
horror stealing back upon her, the pain which comes from the slow
grinding out of one's entire will and spirit. She had forgotten the
feeling, it was so long since it had been experienced, but one sight of
him brought it back, and all the way from Frankfort to Spring Bank she
lay upon Hugh's shoulder quiet, but sick and faint, with a shrinking
from what the future might possibly have in store for her.

In this state of mind she reached Spring Bank, where by some strange
coincidence, if coincidence it can be called, old Densie Densmore was
the first to greet her, asking, with much concern, what was the matter.
It was a rare thing for Densie to be at all demonstrative, but in the
suffering expression of Mrs. Worthington's face she recognized something
familiar, and attached herself at once to the weak, nervous woman, who
sought her bed, and burying her face in the pillow cried herself to
sleep, while Densie, like some white-haired ghost, sat watching her
silently.

"The poor thing has had trouble," she whispered, "trouble in her day,
and it has left deep furrows in her forehead, but it cannot have been
like mine. She surely, was never betrayed, or deserted, or had her only
child stolen from her. The wretch! I cursed him once, when my heart was
harder than it is now. I have forgiven him since, for well as I could, I
loved him."

There was a moaning sound in the winter wind howling about Spring Bank
that night, but it suited Densie's mood, and helped to quiet her
spirits, as, until a late hour, she sat by Mrs. Worthington, who aroused
up at intervals, saying, in answer to Densie's inquiries, she was not
sick, she was only tired--that sleep would do her good.

And while they were thus together a convict sought his darkened cell and
laid him down to rest upon the narrow couch which had been his bed so
long. Drearily to him the morning broke, and with the struggling in of
the daylight he found upon his floor the handkerchief dropped
inadvertently by Mrs. Worthington, and unseen till now. He knew it was
not unusual for strangers to visit the cells, and so he readily guessed
how it came there, holding it a little more to the light to see the name
written so plainly upon it.

"Eliza Worthington." That was what the convict read, a blur before his
eyes, and a strange sensation at his heart. "Eliza Worthington."

How came she there, and when? Suddenly he remembered the event of
yesterday, the woman who fainted, the tall man who carried her out, the
beautiful girl who had looked at him so pityingly, and then, while every
nerve quivered with intense excitement, he whispered:

"That was my wife! I did not see her face, but she saw me, fainting at
the sight."

Hard, and villainous, and sinful as that man had been, there was a
tender chord beneath the villain exterior, and it quivered painfully as
he said "fainted at the sight." This was the keenest pang of the whole,
for as Densie Densmore had moaned the previous night, "I loved him
once," so he now, rocking to and fro on his narrow bed, with that
handkerchief pressed to his throbbing heart, murmured hoarsely:

"I loved Eliza once, though she would not believe it."

Then the image of the young man and the girl came up before him, making
him start again, for he guessed that man was Hugh, his stepson, while
the girl--oh, could that beautiful creature--be--his--daughter!

"Not Adaline, assuredly," he whispered, "nor Adah, my poor darling Adah.
Oh, where is she this morning? I did love Adah," and the convict
moistened Eliza Worthington's handkerchief with the tears he shed for
sweet Adah Hastings.

Outwardly, that day the so-called Sullivan was the same, as he paced up
and down the walk, but never since first he began the weary march, had
his brain been the seat of thoughts so tumultuous as those stirring
within him, the day succeeding Mrs. Worthington's visit. Where were his
victims now? Were they all alive? And would he meet them yet? Would
Eliza Worthington ever come there again, or Hugh, and would he see them
if they did? Perhaps not, but some time, a few months hence, he would
find them, would find Hugh at least, and ask if he knew aught of
Adah--Adah, more terribly wronged than even the wife had been.

And while he thus resolved, poor Mrs. Worthington at home moved
nervously around the house, casting uneasy glances backward, forward,
and sideways, as if she were expecting some goblin shape to rise
suddenly before her and claim her for its own. They were wretched,
uneasy days which followed that visit to Frankfort--days of racking
headache to Mrs. Worthington, and days of anxious thought to Hugh, who
thus was led in a measure to forget the pain he would otherwise have
felt at the memory of Alice's refusal.



CHAPTER XXXII

ADAH AT TERRACE HILL


The next morning was cold and frosty, as winter mornings in New England
are wont to be, and Adah, accustomed to the more genial climate of
Kentucky, shivered involuntarily as from her uncurtained window she
looked out upon the bare woods and the frozen fields covered with the
snow of yesterday.

Across the track, near to a dilapidated board fence, a family carriage
was standing, the driver unnecessarily, as it seemed to Adah--holding
the heads of the horses, who neither sheered nor jumped, nor gave other
tokens that they feared the hissing engine. She had not seen that
carriage when it drove up before the door, nor yet the young man who had
alighted from it; but as she stood there, a loud laugh reached her ear,
making her start suddenly, it was so like his--like George's.

"It could not be George," she said; that were impossible, and yet she
crept softly out into the hall, and leaning over the banister, listened
eagerly to the sounds from the room below, where a crowd of men were
assembled.

The laugh was not repeated, and with a dim feeling of disappointment she
went back to the window where on Willie's neck she wept the tears which
always flowed when she thought of George's desertion. There was a knock
at the door, and the baggageman appeared.

"If you please, ma'am," he began, "the Terrace Hill carriage is here. I
told the driver how't you wanted to go there. Shall I give him your
trunk?"

Adah answered in the affirmative, and then hastened to wrap up Willie,
glancing again at the carriage, which, now that it was associated with
the gentle Anna, looked far better to her than it had at first. She was
ready in a moment and descended to the room where Jim, the driver, stood
waiting for her.

"A lady," was his mental comment, and with as much politeness as if she
had been Madam Richards herself, he opened the carriage door and held
Willie while she entered, asking if she were comfortable, and peering a
little curiously in Willie's face, which puzzled him somewhat. "A near
connection, I guess, and mighty pretty too. Them old maids will raise
hob with the boy,--nice little shaver," thought the kind-hearted Jim.

Once, as Adah caught his good-humored eye, she ventured to say to him:

"Has Miss Anna procured a waiting maid yet?"

There was a comical gleam in Jim's eye now, for Adah was not the first
applicant he had taken up to Terrace Hill. He never suspected that this
was Adah's business, and he answered frankly:

"No, that's about played out. Madam turned the last one out doors."

"Turned her out doors?" and Adah's face was as white as the snow rifts
they were passing.

The driver felt that he had gossiped too much, and relapsed into
silence, while Adah, in a paroxysm of terror, sat with clasped hands and
closed eyes. Leaning forward, at last she said, huskily:

"Driver, driver, do you think she'll turn me off, too?"

"Turn you off!" and in his surprise at the sudden suspicion which for
the first time darted across his mind, Jim brought his horses to a full
stop, while he held a parley with the pale, frightened creature, asking
so eagerly if Mrs. Richards would turn her off. "Why should she? You
ain't going there for that, be you?"

"Not to be turned out of doors, no," Adah answered; "but I--I--I want
that place so much. I read Miss Anna's advertisement; but please turn
back, or let me get out and walk. I can't go there now. Is Miss Anna
like the rest?"

"Miss Anna's an angel," he answered. "If you get her ear, you're all
right; the plague is to get it with them two she-cats ready to tear your
eyes out. If I'se you, I'd ask to see her. I wouldn't tell my arrent
either, till I did. She's sick upstairs; but I'll see if Pamely can't
manage it. That's my woman--Pamely; been mine for four years, and we've
had two pair of twins, all dead; so I feel tender toward the little
ones," and Jim glanced kindly at Willie, who had succeeded in making
Adah notice the house standing out so prominently against the winter
sky, and looking to the poor woman-girl more like a prison than a home.

It might be pleasant there in the summer, Adah thought; but now, with
snow on the roof, snow on the walk, snow on the trees, snow everywhere,
it presented a cheerless aspect. Only one part of it seemed
inviting--the two crimson-curtained windows opening upon a veranda, from
which a flight of steps led down into what must be a flower garden.

"Miss Anna's room," the driver said, pointing toward it; and Adah looked
wistfully out, vainly hoping for a glimpse of the sweet face she had in
her mind as Anna's.

But only Asenath's grim, angular visage was seen, as it looked from
Anna's window, wondering whom Jim could be bringing home.

"It's a handsome trunk--covered, too. Can it be Lottie?" and mentally
hoping it was not, she busied herself again with bathing poor Anna's
head, which was aching sadly to-day, owing to the excitement of her
brother's visit and the harsh words which passed between him and his
sisters, he telling them, jokingly at first, that he was tired of
getting married, and half resolved to give it up; while they, in return,
had abused him for fickleness, taunted him with their poverty, and
sharply reproached him for his unwillingness to lighten their burden, by
taking a rich wife when he could get one.

All this John had repeated to Anna in the dim twilight of the morning,
as he stood by her bedside to bid her good-by; and she, as usual, had
soothed him into quiet, speaking kindly of his bride-elect, and saying
she should like her.

He had not told her all of Lily's story, as he meant to do. There was no
necessity for that, for the matter was fixed. 'Lina should be his wife,
and he need not trouble Anna further; so he had bidden her adieu, and
was gone again, the carriage which bore him away bringing back Adah and
her boy.

Jim opened the wide door for her, and showing her first into the parlor,
but finding that dark and cold, he ushered her next into a little
reception-room, where the Misses Richards received their morning calls.

Willie seemed perfectly at home, seating himself upon a little stool,
covered with some of Miss Eudora's choicest worsted embroidery, a piece
of work of which she was very proud, never allowing anything to touch
it lest the roses should be jammed, or the raised leaves defaced. But
Willie cared neither for leaves, nor roses, nor yet for Miss Eudora, and
drawing the stool to his mother's side, he sat kicking his little heels
into a worn place of the carpet, which no child had kicked since the
doctor's days of babyhood. The tender threads were fast giving way to
the vigorous strokes, when two doors opposite each other opened
simultaneously, and both Mrs. Richards and Eudora appeared.

"Are you--ah, yes--you are the lady who Jim said wished to see me," Mrs.
Richards began, bowing politely to Adah, who had not yet dared to look
up, and who when at last she did raise her eyes, withdrew them at once,
more abashed, more frightened, more bewildered than ever, for the face
she saw fully warranted her ideas of a woman who could turn a waiting
maid from her door just because she was a waiting maid.

Something seemed choking Adah and preventing her utterance, for she did
not speak until Mrs. Richards said again, this time with a little less
suavity and a little more hauteur of manner, "Have I had the honor of
meeting you before?"--then with a low gasp, a mental petition for help,
Adah rose up and lifting to Mrs. Richards' cold, haughty face, her soft,
brown eyes, where tears were almost visible, answered faintly: "We have
not met before. Excuse me, madam, but my business is with Miss Anna, can
I see her please?"

There was something supplicating in the tone with which Adah made this
request, and it struck Mrs. Richards unpleasantly. She answered
haughtily, though still politely, "My daughter is sick. She does not see
visitors. It will be impossible to admit you to her chamber, but I will
take your name and your errand."

Adah felt as if she should sink beneath the cold, cruel scrutiny to
which she knew she was subjected by the woman on her right and the woman
on her left. Too much confused to remember anything distinctly, Adah
forgot Jim's injunction; forgot that Pamelia was to arrange it somehow;
forgot everything, except that Mrs. Richards was waiting for her to
speak. An ominous cough from Eudora decided her, and then it came out,
her reason for being there. She had seen Miss Anna's advertisement, she
wanted a place, and she had come so far to get it; had left a happy home
that she might not be dependent but earn, her bread for herself and her
little boy, for Willie. Would they take her message to Anna? Would they
let her stay?

"You say you left a happy home," and the thin, sneering lips of Eudora
were pressed so tightly together that the words could scarcely find
egress. "May I ask, if it was so happy, why you left it?"

There was a flush on Adah's cheek as she replied, "Because it was a home
granted at first from charity. It was not mine. The people were poor,
and I would not longer be a burden to them."

"And your husband--where is he?"

This was the hardest question of all, and Adah's distress was visible as
she replied, "I will be frank with you. Willie's father left me, and I
don't know where he is."

An incredulous, provoking smile flitted over Eudora's face as she
returned, "We hardly care to have a deserted wife in our family--it
might be unpleasant."

"Yes," and the old lady took up the argument, "Anna is well enough
without a maid. I don't know why she put that foolish advertisement in
the paper, in answer, I believe, to one equally foolish which she saw
about 'an unfortunate woman with a child.'"

"I am that woman. I wrote that advertisement when my heart was heavier
than it is now, and God took care of it. He pointed it out to Miss Anna.
He caused her to answer it. He sent me here, and you will let me see
her. Think if it were your own daughter, pleading thus with some one."

"That is impossible. Neither my daughter, nor my daughter-in-law, if I
had one, could ever come to a servant's position," Mrs. Richards
replied, not harshly, for there was something in Adah's manner and in
Adah's eyes which rode down her resentful pride; and she might have
yielded, but for Eudora, whose hands had so ached to shake the little
child, now innocently picking at a bud.

How she did long to box his ears, and while her mother talked, she had
taken a step forward more than once, but stopped as often, held in check
by the little face and soft blue eyes, turned so trustingly upon her,
the pretty lips once actually putting themselves toward her, as if
expecting a kiss. Frosty old maid as she was, Eudora could not harm that
child sitting on her embroidery as coolly as if he had a right; but she
could prevent her mother from granting the stranger's request; so when
she saw signs of yielding, she said, decidedly, "She cannot see Anna,
mother. You know how foolish she is, and there's no telling what fancy
she might take."

"Eudora," said Mrs. Richards in a low tone, "it might be well for Anna
to have a maid, and this one is certainly different from the others who
have applied."

"But the child. We can't be bothered with a child. Evidently he is not
governed at all, and brother's wife coming by and by."

This last caught Adah's ear and changed the whole current of her
thoughts and wishes. Greatly to Mrs. Richards' surprise, she said
abruptly, "If I cannot see Miss Anna, I need not trouble you longer.
When does the next train go west?"

Adah's voice never faltered, though her heart seemed bursting from her
throat, for she had not the most remote idea as to where the next train
going west would take her. She had reached a point when she no longer
thought or reasoned; she would leave Terrace Hill; that was all she
knew, except that in her mind there was a vague fancy or hope that she
might meet Irving Stanley again. Not George, she did not even think of
him, as she stood before Dr. Richards' mother, who looked at her in
surprise, marveling that she had given up so quietly what she had
apparently so much desired.

Very civilly she told her when the next train went west, and then added
kindly, "You cannot walk. You must stay here till car-time, when Jim
will carry you back."

At this unexpected kindness Adah's calmness gave way, and sitting down
by the table, she laid her face upon it and sobbed almost convulsively.

"Mamma tie, mam-ma tie," and he pulled Mrs. Richards' skirts vigorously
indicating that she must do something for mamma.

Just then the doorbell rang. It was the doctor, come to visit Anna, and
both Mrs. Richards and Eudora left the room at once.

"Oh, why did I come here, and where shall I go?" Adah moaned, as a sense
of her lonely condition came over her.

"Will my Father in heaven direct me? will He tell me what to do?" she
murmured brokenly, praying softly to herself that a way might be opened
for her, a path which she could tread.

She could not tell how it was, but a quiet peace stole over her, a
feeling which had no thought or care for the future, and it had been
many nights since she had slept as sweetly or soundly as she did for
one half hour with her head upon the table in that little room at
Terrace Hill, Dr. Richards' home and Anna's. She did not see the
good-humored face which looked in at her a moment, nor hear the
whispering in the hall; neither did she know when Willie, nothing loath,
was coaxed from the room and carried up the stairs into the upper hall,
where he was purposely left to himself, while Pamelia, the mother of
Jim's two pairs of twins, went to Anna's room, where she was to sit for
an hour or so, while the ladies had their lunch. Anna's head was better;
the paroxysms of pain were leas frequent than in the morning, and she
lay upon her pillow, her eyes closed wearily, and her thoughts with
Charlie Millbrook. Why had he never written?--why never come to see her?

So intently was she thinking of Charlie that she did not hear the patter
of little feet in the hall without. Tired of staying by himself, and
spying the open door, Willie hastened toward it, pausing a moment on the
threshold as if to reconnoiter. Something in Anna's attitude, as she lay
with her long hair falling over the pillow, must have reminded him of
Alice, for, with a cry of delight, he ran forward, and patting the white
cheek with his soft baby hand, lisped out the word "Arn-tee, arn-tee,"
making Anna start suddenly and gaze at him in wondering surprise.

"Who is he?" she said, drawing him to her at once and pressing a kiss
upon his rosy face.

Pamelia told her what she knew of the stranger waiting in the
reception-room, adding in conclusion: "I believe they said you did not
want her, and Jim is to take her to the depot when it's time. She's very
young and pretty, and looks so sorry, Jim told me."

"Said I did not want her! How did they know?" and something of the
Richards' spirit flashed from Anna's eyes. "The child is so beautiful,
and he called me 'Auntie,' too! He must have an auntie somewhere. Little
dear! how she must love him! Lift him up, Pamelia."

"I must see his mother," Anna said. "She must be above the ordinary
waiting maids. Perhaps I should like her. At all events I will hear what
she has to say. Show her up, Pamelia; but first smooth my hair a little
and arrange my pillows."

Pamelia complied with her request; then leaving Willie with Anna, she
repaired to the reception-room, and arousing the sleeping Adah, said to
her hurriedly:

"Please, miss, come quick; Miss Anna wants to see you. The little boy is
up there with her."



CHAPTER XXXIII

ANNA AND ADAH


For a moment Anna was inclined to think that Pamelia had made a mistake.
That beautiful face, that refined, ladylike manner, did not suit well a
waiting maid, and Anna's doubts were increasing, when little Willie set
her right by patting her cheek again, while he called out: "Mamma,
arntee."

The look of interest which Anna cast upon him emboldened Adah to say:

"Excuse him, Miss Richards; he must have mistaken you for a dear friend
at home, whom he calls 'Auntie,' I'll take him down; he troubles you."

"No, no," and Anna passed her arm around him. "I love children so much.
I ought to have been a wife and mother, my brother says, instead of a
useless old maid."

Anna smiled faintly as she said this, while thoughts of Charlie
Millbrook flashed across her mind. Adah was too much a stranger to
disclaim against Anna's calling herself old, so she paid no attention to
the remark, but plunged at once into the matter which had brought her
there. Presuming they would rather be alone, Pamelia had purposely left
the room, meeting in the lower hall with Mrs. Richards and her daughter,
who, in much affright, were searching for the recent occupants of the
reception-room. Pamelia quieted them by saying: "The lady was in Miss
Anna's room."

"How came she there? She must be a bold piece, upon my word!" she said,
angrily, while Pamelia replied:

"The little boy got upstairs, and walked right into Miss Anna's room.
She was taken with him at once, and asked who he was. I told her and she
sent for the lady. That's how it happened."

Mrs. Richards hurried up to Anna's chamber, where Willie still was
perched by Anna's pillow, while Adah, with her bonnet in her lap, sat a
little apart, traces of tears and agitation upon her cheeks, but a look
of happiness in the brown eyes fixed so wistfully on Anna's fair, sweet
face.

"Please, mother," said Anna, motioning her away, "leave us alone a
while. Shut the door, and see that no one comes near."

Mrs. Richards obeyed, and Anna, waiting until she was out of hearing,
resumed the conversation just where it had been interrupted.

"And so you are the one who wrote that advertisement which I read. Let
me see--the very night my brother came home from Europe. I remember he
laughed because I was so interested, and he accidentally tore off the
name to light his cigar, so I forgot it entirely. What shall I call you,
please?"

Adah was tempted to answer her at once, "Adah Hastings"--it seemed so
wrong to impose in any way on that frank, sweet woman; but she
remembered Mrs. Worthington's injunction, and for her sake she
refrained, keeping silent a moment, and then breaking out impetuously:
"Please, Miss Richards, don't ask my real name, for I'd rather not give
it now. I will tell you of the past, though I did not ever mean to do
that; but something about you makes me know I can trust you." And then,
amid a shower of tears, in which Anna's, too, were mingled, Adah told
her sad story.

"But why do you wish to conceal?" she asked, after Adah had finished.
"Is there any reason?"

"At first there was none in particular, save a fancy I had, but there
came one afterward--the request of one who had been, kind to me as a
dear mother. Is it wrong not to tell the whole?"

"I think not. You have dealt honestly with me so far, but what shall I
call you? You must have a name."

"Oh, may I stay?" Adah asked eagerly, forgetting her late terror of
'Lina.

"Of course you may. Did you think I would turn you away?" was Anna's
reply; and laying her head upon the white counterpane of the bed, Adah
cried passionately; not a wild, bitter cry, but a delicious kind of cry
which did her good, even though her whole frame quivered and her low,
choking sobs fell distinctly on Anna's ear.

"Poor child!" the latter said, laying her soft hand on the bowed head.
"You have suffered much, but with me you shall find rest. I want you for
a companion, rather than a maid. I, too, have had my heart troubles;
not like yours, but heavy enough to make me wish I could die."

It was seldom that Anna alluded to herself in this way, and to do so to
a stranger was utterly foreign to the Richards' nature. But Anna could
not help it. There was something about Adah which interested her
greatly. She could not wholly shield her from her mother's and sisters'
pride, but she would do what she could.

"Oh, pride, pride," she whispered to herself, "of how much pain hast
thou been the cause."

Pride had sent her Charlie over the sea without her; pride had separated
her brother from the Lily she was sure he loved, as he could never love
the maiden to whom he was betrothed; and pride, it seemed, had been at
the root of all this young girl's sorrow. Blessed Anna Richards--the
world has few like her--so gentle, so kind, so lovely, and as no one
could long be with her and not feel her influence, so Adah, by the touch
of the fingers still caressing her, was soothed into peaceful quiet.

When she had grown quite calm, Anna continued: "You have not told me yet
what name to give you, or shall I choose one for you?"

"Oh, if you only would!" and Adah looked up quickly.

Anna began to enjoy this mystery, wondering what name she should choose.
Adah should be Rose Markham, and she repeated it aloud, asking Adah how
it sounded.

"If it did not seem so much like deceiving," Adah said. "You'll tell
your family it is not my real name, won't you?"

Anna readily agreed to Adah's proposal, and then, remembering that all
this time she had been sitting in her cloak and fur, she bade her lay
them aside. "Or, stay," she added, "touch that bell, if you please, and
ring Pamelia up. There's a little room adjoining this. I mean to give
you that. You will be so near me, and so retired, too, when you like.
John--that's my brother--occupied it when a boy. I think it will answer
nicely for you."

Obedient to the ring, Pamelia came, manifesting no surprise when told by
Anna to unlock the door and see if the little room was in order for
"Mrs. Markham."

Pamelia cast a rapid glance at Adah, who winced as she heard the new
name, and felt glad when Anna added: "Pamelia, I can trust you not to
gossip out of the house. This young woman's name is not Markham, but I
choose to have her called so."

Another glance at Adah, more curious than the first, and then Pamelia
did as she was bidden, opening the door and saying, as she did so: "I
know the room is in order. There's a fire, too; Miss Anna has forgot
that Dr. John slept here last night."

"I do remember now," Anna replied. "Mrs. Markham can go in at once.
Pamelia, send lunch to her room, and tell your husband to bring up her
trunk."

Again Pamelia bowed and departed to do her young mistress' bidding,
while Adah entered the pleasant room where Dr. Richards had slept the
previous night.

On the marble hearth the remains of a cheerful fire were blazing, while
on the mantel over the hearth was a portrait of a boy, apparently ten or
twelve years of age, and a young girl, who seemed a few years older. The
girl was Anna. But the boy, the handsome, smooth-cheeked boy, in his
fancy jacket, with that expression of vanity plainly visible about his
mouth. Who was he? Had Adah any knowledge of him? Had they met before?
Never that she knew of. Dr. Richards was a stranger to her, for she
guessed this was the doctor, 'Lina's betrothed, scrutinizing him
closely, and wondering if the man retained the look of the boy. And as
she gazed, the features seemed to grow familiar. Surely she had met a
face like this, but where she could not guess, and turning from him she
inspected the rest of the room, wondering if Alice Johnson were ever in
this room.

With thoughts of Alice came memories of Spring Bank, and the wish that
they knew all this. How thankful they would be, and how thankful she was
for this resting place in the protection of sweet Anna Richards. It was
better than she had even dared to hope for, and sinking down by the
snowy-covered bed, she murmured inaudibly the prayer of thanksgiving she
felt compelled to make to Him who had led her to Terrace Hill. It was
thus that Pamelia found her when she came up again, and it did much to
establish the profound respect she ever manifested toward the new
waiting maid, Rose Markham.

"Your lunch will be here directly," she said to Adah, who little dreamed
of the parley which had taken place between Asenath and Dixson, the
cook, concerning this same lunch.

Asenath was too proud to discuss the matter with a servant, but when she
saw the slices of cold chicken which Dixson was deliberately cutting up,
and the little pot of jelly which Pamelia placed upon the salver, she
forgot her dignity, and angrily demanded what they were doing.

"Miss Anna ordered lunch, and I'm a-gettin' it," was Dixson's reply.

"Yes, but such a lunch for a waiting woman; and going to send it up. I'd
like to know if she's too big a lady to come into the kitchen," and
Asenath's sharp shoulders jerked savagely.

"I must say, I think you very foolish indeed, to take a person about
whom you know nothing," she said to Anna, as soon as she saw her, but
stopped short as Willie ran out from the adjoining room and stood
looking at her.

As well as she was capable of doing, Asenath had loved her brother John
when a baby; and when he became a prattling active child, like the one
standing before her, she had almost worshiped him, thinking there was
never a face so pretty or manner so engaging as his. There had come no
baby after him, and she remembered him so well, starting now with
surprise as she saw reflected in Willie's face the look she never had
forgotten.

"Who is he, Anna? Not her child, the waiting woman's, surely."

"Hush--sh," came warningly from Anna, as she glanced toward the open
door, and that brought Asenath back from her dream of the past.

It was the waiting woman's child. There was no look like John now. She
had been mistaken, and rather rudely pushing him away, she said: "I
think you might have consulted us, at least. What are we to do with a
child in this house? Here, here, young man," and Asenath started forward
just in time to frighten Willie and make him drop and break the goblet
he was trying to reach from the stand, "to dink," as he said.

Asenath's purple silk was deluged with the water, and her temper was
considerably ruffled as she exclaimed: "You see the mischief he has
done, and it was cut glass, too. I hope you'll deduct it from her
wages!"

"Asenath," and Anna's voice betrayed her astonishment that her sister
should speak so in Adah's presence.

She had hurried out at Asenath's alarm, but the latter did not at first
observe her, and when she did, she was actually startled into an apology
for her speech.

"I'm sorry Willie was so careless. I'll pay for the goblet cheerfully,"
Adah said, not to Asenath, but to Anna, who answered kindly: "No matter;
it was already cracked across the bottom--don't mind."

But Adah did mind; and once alone in her room, her tears fell in
torrents. She had heard the whole about Willie's mischief, heard of the
buds torn to pieces, and of the hole kicked in the carpet. She would
like to see that hole, and after Willie was asleep, she stole down to
the reception-room to see the damage for herself. She found the hole, or
what was intended for it, smiling as she examined the few loose threads;
and then she hunted for the stool, finding it under the curtain where
Eudora had placed it, and finding, too, that letter dropped by Jim. The
others were gone, appropriated by Mrs. Richards, who always watched for
the western mail and looked it over herself.

  MISS ANNIE RICHARDS,
  SNOWDOWN,
  MASS.

That was the direction, and the envelope was faced with black. Adah
noticed this, together with the heavy seal of wax stamped with an
initial; and she was taking the lost epistle to its rightful owner when
Mrs. Richards met her, asking what she had.

"I found this beneath the curtain," Adah replied. "It's for Miss Anna;
I'll take it to her, shall I?"

"Yes, yes--yes, yes; for Anna," and madam snatched eagerly at that
letter from Charlie Millbrook.

Soon recovering herself, she said naturally: "I'll take it myself. Say,
girl, what is your name, now that you are to work here? You won't mind
righting up the parlors, I presume--sweeping and dusting them, before
you go upstairs again?"

It was new business for Adah, sweeping parlors as a servant, but she did
it without a murmur; and then, when her task was completed, stopped for
a moment by a window, and looked out upon the town, wondering where
Alice Johnson's home had been. The house where she once lived would seem
like an old friend, she thought, just as Pamelia came in and joined her.
At the same moment Adah's eye caught the cottage by the river, and her
heart beat rapidly, for that seemed to answer Alice's description of her
Snowdon home.

"Whose pretty place is that?" she asked, pointing it out to Pamelia, who
replied:

"It was a Mrs. Johnson's, but she's dead, and Miss Alice has gone a
long ways off. I wish you could see Miss Alice, the most beautiful and
the best lady in the world. She and Miss Anna were great friends. She
used to be up here every day, and the village folks talked some that she
came to see the doctor. But my," and Pamelia's face was very expressive
of contempt, "she wouldn't have him, by a great sight. He's going to be
married, though, to a Kentucky belle, with a hundred or more negroes,
they say, and mighty big feelin'. But she needn't bring none of her a'rs
nor her darkies here!"

"When does she come?" Adah asked, and Pamelia answered:

"In the spring; so you needn't begin to dread her. Why, your face is
white as paper," and rather familiarly Pamelia pinched Adah's marble
cheek.

Adah did not mean to be proud, but still she could not help shrinking
from the familiarity, drawing back so quickly that Pamelia saw the
implied rebuke. She did not ask pardon, but she became at once more
respectful.

A moment after Anna's bell was heard, but Adah paid no heed, till
Pamelia said:

"That was Miss Anna's bell, and it means for you to come."

Adah colored, and hastily left the room, while Pamelia muttered to
herself:

"Ain't no more a maid than Miss Anna herself. But why has she come here?
That's the mystery. She's been unfortunate."

This was the solution in Pamelia's mind; but the thought went no further
than to her better half.

Adah's feelings at being called just as Lulu and Muggins were at home,
had been in a measure shared by Anna, who hesitated several minutes ere
touching the bell.

"If she is to be my maid, it will be better for us both not to act under
restraint," she thought, and so rang out the summons which brought Adah
to her room.

It was an awkward business, requiring a menial's service of that
ladylike creature, and Anna would have been exceedingly perplexed had
not Adah's good sense come to the rescue, prompting her to do things
unasked in such a way that Anna was at once relieved from embarrassment,
and felt that in Rose Markham she had found a treasure. She did not join
the family in the evening, but kept her room instead, talking with Adah
and caressing and playing with little Willie, who persisted in calling
her "Arntee," in spite of all Adah could say.

"Never mind," Anna answered, laughingly; "I rather like to hear him. No
one has ever called me by that name, and maybe never will, though my
brother is engaged to be married in the spring. I have a picture of his
betrothed there on my bureau. Would you like to see it?"

Adah nodded, and was soon gazing on the dark, haughty face she knew so
well, and which, even from the casing, seemed to smile disdainfully
upon, her, just as the original had often done.

"What do you think of her?" Anna asked.

Adah must say something, and she replied:

"I dare say people think her pretty."

"Yes; but what do you think? I asked your opinion," persisted Anna; and
thus beset Adah replied at last:

"I think her too showily dressed for a picture. She displays too much
jewelry."

Anna began to defend her future sister.

"There's rather too much of ornament, I'll admit, but she's a great
beauty, and attracts much attention. Why, one of her pictures hangs in
Brady's Gallery."

"At Brady's!" and Adah spoke quickly. "I should not suppose your brother
would like to have it there where so many can look at it."

Anna tried to shield the heartless 'Lina, never dreaming how much more
than herself Adah knew of 'Lina Worthington.

It seemed to Adah like a miserable deceit, sitting there and listening
while Anna talked of 'Lina, and she was glad when at last she showed
signs of weariness, and expressed a desire to retire for the night.

"Would you mind reading to me from the Bible?" Anna asked.

"Oh, no, I'd like it so much," and Adah read her favorite chapter.

And Anna listening to the sweet, silvery tones reading: "Let not your
heart be troubled," felt her own sorrow grow less.

"If you please," Adah said timidly, bending over the sweet face resting
on the pillow, "if you please, may I say the 'Lord's Prayer' here with
you?"

Anna answered by grasping Adah's hand, and whispering to her:

"Yes, say it, do."

Then Adah knelt beside her, and Anna's fair hand rested as if in
blessing on her head as they said together, "Our Father."

Adah's sleep was sweet that night in her little room at Terrace
Hill--sweet, not because she knew whose home it was, nor yet because
only the previous night he had tossed wearily upon the self-same pillow
where she was resting so quietly, but because of a heart at peace with
God, a feeling that she had at last found a haven of shelter for herself
and her child, a home with Anna Richards, whose low breathings could be
distinctly heard, and who once as the night wore on moaned so loudly in
her sleep that it awakened Adah, and brought her to the bedside. But
Anna was only dreaming and Adah heard her murmur the name of Charlie.

"I will not awaken her," she said, and gliding back to her own room, she
wondered who was Anna's Charlie, associating him somehow with the letter
she had given, into the care of Mrs. Richards.



CHAPTER XXXIV

ROSE MARKHAM


To Mrs. Richards and her elder daughters Rose Markham was an object of
suspicious curiosity, while the villagers merely thought of Rose Markham
as one far above her position, saying not very complimentary things of
madam and her older daughters when it was known that Rose had been
banished from the family pew to the side seat near the door, where
honest Jim said his prayers, with Pamelia at his side.

For only one Sabbath had Adah graced the Richards' pew, and then it was
all Jim's work. He had driven his wife and Adah first to church, as the
day was stormy, and ere returning for the ladies, had escorted Adah up
the aisle and turned her into the family pew, where she sat unconscious
of the admiring looks cast upon her by those already assembled, or of
the indignant astonishment of Miss Asenath and Eudora when they found
that for one half day at least they must he disgraced by sitting with
their servant. Very haughtily the scandalized ladies swept up the aisle,
stopping suddenly at the pew door as if waiting for Adah to leave; but
she only drew back further into the corner, while Willie held up to
Asenath the picture he had found in her velvet-bound prayer book.

Alas! for the quiet hour Adah had hoped to spend, hallowed by thoughts
that the dear ones at Spring Bank were mingling in the same service.
She could not even join in the responses at first for the bitterness at
her heart, the knowing how much she was despised by the proud ladies
beside her.

Very close she kept Willie at her side, allowing him occasionally as he
grew tired to stand upon the cushion, a proceeding highly offensive to
the Misses Richards and highly gratifying to the row of tittering
schoolgirls in the seat behind him. Willie always attracted attention,
and numerous were the compliments paid to his infantile beauty by the
younger portion of the congregation, while the older ones, they who
remembered the doctor when a boy, declared that Willie Markham was
exactly like him, when standing in the seat he kept the children in
continual excitement by his restless movements and pretty baby ways.

The fire burned brightly in Anna's room when Adah returned from church,
and Anna herself was waiting for her, welcoming her back with a smile
which went far toward removing the pain still heavy at her heart. Anna
saw something was the matter, but it was her sisters who enlightened her
as together they ate their Sunday dinner in the little breakfast room
where Anna joined them.

"Such impudence," Eudora said. "She had not heard one word of Mr.
Howard's sermon, for keeping her book and dress and fur away from that
little torment."

Then followed the story in detail, how "Markham had sat in their seat,
parading herself up there just for show, while Willie had kissed the
picture of little Samuel in Asenath'a book and left thereon the print of
his lips. If Anna would have a maid, they did wish she would get one not
quite so affected as Markham, one who did not try to attract attention
by assuming the airs of a lady," and with this the secret was out.

Adah was too pretty, too stylish, to suit the prim Eudora, who felt
keenly how she must suffer by comparison with her sister's waiting maid.
Even unsuspicious Anna saw the point, and smiling archly asked "what she
could do to make Rose less attractive."

In some things Anna could not have her way, and when her mother and
sisters insisted that they would not keep a separate table for Markham,
as they called Adah, she yielded, secretly bidding Pamelia see that
everything was comfortable and nice for Mrs. Markham and her little boy.
There was hardly need for this injunction, for in the kitchen Adah was
regarded as far superior to those who would have trampled her down, and
her presence among the servants was not without its influence, softening
Jim's rough, loud ways, and making both Dixson and Pamelia more careful
of their words and manners when she was with them. Much, too, they grew
to love and pet the little Willie, who, accustomed to the free range of
Spring Bank, asserted the same right at Terrace Hill, going where he
pleased, putting himself so often in Mrs. Richards' way, that she began
at last to notice him, and if no one was near, to caress the handsome
boy. Asenath and Eudora held out longer, but even they were not proof
against Willie's winning ways.

It was many weeks ere Adah wrote to Alice Johnson, and when at last she
did, she said of Terrace Hill:

"I am happier here than I at first supposed it possible. The older
ladies were so proud, so cold, so domineering, that it made me very
wretched, in spite of sweet Anna's kindness. But there has come a
perceptible change, and they now treat me civilly, if nothing more,
while I do believe they are fond of Willie, and would miss him if he
were gone."

Adah was right in this conjecture; for had it now been optional with the
Misses Richards whether Willie should go or stay, they would have kept
him there from choice, so cheery and pleasant he made the house. Adah
was still too pretty, too stylish, to suit their ideas of a servant; but
when, as time passed on, they found she did not presume at all on her
good looks, but meekly kept her place as Anna's maid or companion, they
dropped the haughty manner they had at first assumed, and treated her
with civility, if not with kindness.

With Anna it was different. Won by Adah's gentleness and purity, she
came at last to love her almost as much as if she had been a younger
sister. Adah was not a servant to her, but a companion, a friend, with
whom she daily held familiar converse, learning from her much that was
good, and prizing her more and more as the winter weeks went swiftly by.

Since the morning when Adah confided to her a part of her history, she
had never alluded to it or intimated a desire to hear more; but she
thought much about it, revolving in her mind various expedients for
finding and bringing back to his allegiance the recreant lover.

"If I were not bound to secrecy," she thought one day, as she sat
waiting for Adah's return from the post office, "if I were not bound to
secrecy, I would tell Brother John, and perhaps he might think of
something. Men's wits are sometimes better than women's. When she comes
back from the office I mean to see what she'll say."

Adah did not join Anna at once, but went instead to her own room, where
she could read and cry alone over the nice long letter from Alice
Johnson, telling how much they missed her, how old Sam pined for Willie,
how Mrs. Worthington and Hugh mourned for Adah, and how she, Alice,
prayed for the dear friend, never so dear as now that she was gone. Many
and minute were Alice's inquiries as to whether Adah had yet seen Dr.
Richards, when was he expected home, and so forth.

Adah placed her letter in her pocket, and then went to sit with Anna,
whose face lighted up at once, for Adah's society was like sunshine to
her monotonous life.

"Rose," she said, after an interval of silence had elapsed, "I have been
thinking about you all day, and wishing I might do you good. You have
never told me the city where you met Willie's father, and I fancied it
might be Boston, until I remembered that your advertisement was in the
_Herald_. Was it Boston?"

It was a direct question, and Adah answered frankly.

"It was in New York," while Anna quickly rejoined.

"Oh, I'm so glad! for now you'll let me tell Brother John. He has lived
there so much he must know everybody, or at all events he may find that
man and bring him back. You will have to give his name, of course."

Adah's face was white as ashes, as she replied:

"No, no--oh, no. He could not find him. Nobody can but God. I am willing
to wait His time. Don't tell your brother, Miss Anna--don't."

She spoke so earnestly, and seemed so distressed, that Anna answered at
once:

"I will not without your permission, though I'd like to so much. He is
coming home by-and-by. His wedding day is fixed for April ----, and he
will visit us before that time, to see about our preparations for
receiving 'Lina. We somehow expected a letter to-day. Did you get one?"

"Yes, one for your mother--from the doctor, I think," Adah replied,
without telling how faint the sight of the handwriting had made her, it
was so like George's--not exactly like his, either, but enough so to
make her heart beat painfully as she recalled the only letter she ever
received from him, the fatal note which broke her heart.

"It is so very long since I had a letter all to myself, that I wonder
how it would seem," Anna rejoined. "I have not had one since--since--"

"The day I came there was one for you," said Adah, while Anna looked
wonderingly at her, saying, "You are mistaken, I'm sure. I've no
remembrance of it. A letter from whom?"

Adah did not know from whom or where. She only knew there was one, and
by way of refreshing Anna's memory, she said:

"Jim put it with the others on the table, and it fell behind the
curtain, where I found it in the afternoon. I was bringing it to you
myself, but your mother took it from me and said she would carry it up
while I swept the parlor. Surely you remember now."

No, Anna did not, and she looked so puzzled that Adah, anxious to set
the matter right, continued:

"I remember it particularly, because it was spelled A-n-n-i-e instead of
Anna."

Adah was not prepared for the sudden start, the look almost of terror in
Anna's eyes, or for the color which stained the usually colorless face.
In all the world there was but one person who ever called her Annie, or
wrote it so, and that person was Charlie. Had he written at last, and if
so, why had she never known it? Could it be her proud mother had
withheld what would have been life to her slowly dying daughter? It was
terrible to suspect such a thing, and Anna struggled to cast the thought
aside, saying to Adah. "Was there anything else peculiar about it?"

"Nothing, except that 'twas inclosed in a mourning envelope, sealed with
wax, and the letter on the seal was--was--"

"Oh, pray think quick. You have not forgotten. You must not forget," and
Anna's soft blue eyes grew dark with intense excitement as Adah tried to
recall the initial on that seal.

"She had not noticed particularly, she did not suppose it was important.
She was not certain, but she believed--yes, she was nearly sure--the
letter was 'M.'"

"Oh, you do not know how much good you have done me," Anna cried, and
laying her throbbing head on Adah's neck, she wept a torrent of tears,
wrung out by the knowing that Charlie had not forgotten her quite. He
had written, and that of itself was joy, even though he loved another.

"The initial was 'M.'--you are sure, you are sure," she kept whispering,
while Adah soothed the poor head, wondering at Anna's agitation, and in
a measure guessing the truth, the old story, love, whose course had not
run smoothly.

"And mother took it," Anna said at last, growing more composed.

"Yes, she said she would bring it to you," was Adah's reply.

For several minutes Anna sat looking out upon the snowy landscape, her
usually smooth brow wrinkled with thought, and her eyes gleaming with a
strange, new light. There was a shadow on her fair face, a grieved,
injured expression, as if her mother's treachery had hurt her cruelly.
She knew the letter was withheld, and her first impulse was to demand it
at once. But Anna dreaded a scene, and dreaded her mother, too, and
after a moment's reflection that her Charlie would write again, and
Adah, who now went regularly to the office, would get it and bring it to
her, she said:

"Does mother always look over the letters?"

"Not at first," was Adah's reply, "but now she meets me at the door, and
takes them from my hand."

Anna was puzzled. Turning again to Adah, she said:

"I wish you to go always to the office, and if there comes another
letter for me, bring it up at once. It's mine."

Anna had no desire now to talk with Adah of the recreant lover, or ask
that John should hear the story. Her mind was too much disturbed, and
for more than half an hour she sat, looking intently into the fire,
seeing there visions of what might be in case Charlie loved her still,
and wished her to be his wife. The mere knowing that he had written made
her so happy that she could not even be angry with her mother, though a
shadow flitted over her face, when her reverie was broken by the
entrance of Madam Richards, who had come to see what she thought of
fitting up the west chambers for John's wife, instead of the north ones.

"I have a letter from him," she said. "They are to be married the ----
day of April, which leaves us only five weeks more, as they will start
at once for Terrace Hill. Do, Anna, look interested," she continued,
rather pettishly, as Anna did not seem very attentive. "I am so
bothered. I want to see you alone," and she cast a furtive glance at
Adah, who left the room, while madam plunged at once into the matter
agitating her so much.

She had fully intended going to Kentucky with her son, but 'Lina had
objected, and the doctor had written, saying she must not go.

"I have not the money myself," he wrote, "and I'll have to get trusted
for my wedding suit, so you must appeal to Anna's good nature for the
wherewithal with which to fix the rooms. She may stay with you longer
than you anticipate. It is too expensive living here, as she would
expect to live. Nothing but Fifth Avenue Hotel would suit her, and I
cannot ask her for funds at once. I'd rather come to it gradually."

And this it was which so disturbed Mrs. Richards' peace of mind. She
could not go to Kentucky, and she might as well have saved the money she
had expended in getting her black silk velvet dress fixed for the
occasion, while, worst of all, she must have John's wife there for
months, perhaps, whether she liked it or not, and she must also fit up
the rooms with paper and paint and carpets, notwithstanding that she'd
nothing to do it with, unless Anna generously gave the necessary sum
from her own yearly income. Anna assented to that, and said she would
try to spare the money. Rose could make the carpets, and that would save
a little.

"I wish, too, mother," she added, "that you would let her arrange the
rooms altogether. She has exquisite taste, besides the faculty of making
the most of things. Our house never looked so well as it has since she
came. Somehow Eudora and Asenath have such a stiff set way of putting
the furniture."

So it was Anna who selected the tasteful carpet for 'Lina's boudoir, and
the bedchamber beyond it, but it was Adah who made it, Adah who, with
Willie playing on the floor, bent so patiently over the heavy fabric,
sometimes wiping away the bitter tears as she thought of the days
preceding her own bridal, and of her happiness, even though no fingers
were busy for her in the home where they were too proud to receive her.
Where was that home? Was it North or South, East or West, and what was
it like? She had no idea, though, sometimes fancy had whispered that it
might have been like Terrace Hill, that George's haughty mother, who had
threatened to turn her from the door, was a second Mrs. Richards, and
then an involuntary prayer of thanksgiving escaped her lips for the
trial she had escaped.

Frequently doubts crossed her mind as to the future, when it might be
known that she came from Spring Bank, and knew the expected bride. Would
she not be blamed as a party in the deception? Ought she not to tell
Anna frankly that she knew her brother's betrothed? She did not know,
and the harassing anxiety wore upon her faster than all the work she had
to do.

Anna seemed very happy. Excitement was what she needed, and never since
her girlish days had she been so bright and active as she was now,
assisting Adah in her labors, and watching the progress of affairs. The
new carpets looked beautiful when upon the floor, and gave to the rooms
a new and cozy aspect. The muslin curtains, done up by the laundress so
carefully, lest they should drop to pieces, looked almost as good as
new, and no one would have suspected that the pretty cornice had been
made from odds and ends found by Adah in an ancient box up in the
lumber-room. The white satin bows which looped the curtains back, were
tied by Adah's hands.

And during all this while came there to Adah's heart no suspicion for
whom and whose she was thus laboring? No strange interest in the
bridegroom, the handsome doctor, so doted upon by mother and sisters?
None whatever. She scarcely remembered him, or if she did, it was as one
toward whom she was utterly indifferent. He would not notice her. He
might not notice Willie, though yes, she rather thought he would like
her boy; everybody did, and the young mother bent down to kiss her
child, and so hide the blush called up by a remembrance of Irving
Stanley's kindness on that sad journey to Terrace Hill.

Rapidly the few days went by, bringing at last the very morning when he
was expected. Brightly, warmly the April sun looked in upon Adah,
wondering at the load upon her spirits. She did not associate it with
the doctor, nor with anything in particular. She did not know for
certain that she should even see him. She might and she might not, but
if she did perchance stumble upon him, she would a little rather he
should see that she was not like ordinary waiting-maids. She would make
a good impression!

And so she wore the pretty dark French calico which Anna had given to
her, fastened the neat linen collar with a chaste little pin, buttoned
her snow-white cuffs, thrust a clean handkerchief into the dainty pocket
on the outside of her skirt, and then descended to the drawing-room to
see that the fires were burning briskly, for spite of the cheerful
sunshine pouring in, the morning was cold and frosty. They had delayed
their breakfast until the doctor should come, and in the dining-room the
table was laid with unusual care. Everything was in its place, and still
Adah fluttered around it like a restless bird, lingering by what she
knew was the doctor's chair, taking up his knife, examining his napkin
ring, and wondering what he would think of the cheap bone rings used at
Spring Bank.

In the midst of her cogitations, the door bell rang, and she heard the
tramp of horses' feet as Jim drove around to the stable. The doctor had
come and she must go, but where was Willie?

"Willie, Willie," she called, but Willie paid no heed, and as Eudora had
said, was directly under foot when she unlocked the door, his the first
form distinctly seen, his the first face which met the doctor's view,
and his fearless baby laugh the first sound, which welcomed the doctor
home!



CHAPTER XXXV

THE RESULT


It was not a disagreeable picture--that chubby, rose-cheeked little boy.
Willie had run to the door because he heard the bell. He had not
expected to see a stranger, and at sight of the tall figure he drew back
timidly and half hid himself behind Mrs. Richards, whom he knew to be
the warmest ally he had in the hall.

As the doctor had said to Irving Stanley, he disliked children, but he
could not help noticing Willie, and after the first greetings were over
he asked, "Who have we here? Whose child is this?"

Eudora and Asenath tried to frown, but the expression of their faces
softened perceptibly as they glanced at Willie, who had followed them
into the parlor, and who, with one little foot thrown forward, and his
fat hands pressed together, stood upon the hearth rug, gazing at the
doctor with that strange look which had so often puzzled, bewildered and
fascinated the entire Richards' family.

"Anna wrote you that the maid she so much wanted had come to her at
last--a very ladylike person, who has evidently seen better days, and
this is her child, Willie Markham. He is such a queer little fellow
that we allow him more liberties than we ought."

It was Mrs. Richards who volunteered this explanation, while her son
stood looking down at Willie, wondering what it was about the child
which seemed familiar. Anna had casually mentioned Rose Markham in her
letter, had said how much she liked her, and had spoken of her boy, but
the doctor was too much absorbed in his own affairs to care for Rose
Markham; so he had not thought of her since, notwithstanding that 'Lina
had tried many times to make him speak of Anna's maid, so as to
calculate her own safety. The sight of Willie, however, set the doctor
to thinking, and finally carried him back to the crowded car, the
shrieking child, and the young woman to whom Irving Stanley had been so
kind.

"I hope I shall not be obliged to see her," he thought, and then he
answered his mother's speech concerning Willie. "So you've taken to
petting a servant's child, for want of something better. Just wait until
my boy comes here."

Eudora tried to blush, Asenath looked unconscious, while Mrs. Richards
replied: "If I ever have a grandson one half as pretty or as bright as
Willie, I shall be satisfied."

The doctor did not know how rapidly a lively, affectionate child will
win one's love, and he thought his proud mother grown almost demented;
but still, in spite of himself, he more than once raised his hand to lay
it on Willie's head, pausing occasionally in his conversation to watch
the gambols of the playful child sporting on the carpet.

"Willie, Willie," called Adah from a distant room, where she was looking
for him. "Willie, Willie," and as the silvery tone fell on the doctor's
ears he started suddenly.

"Who is that?" he asked, his heart throbs growing fainter as his mother
replied: "That is Mrs. Markham. Singularly sweet voice for a person in
humble life, don't you think so?"

The doctor's reply was cut short by the entrance of Anna, and in his joy
at meeting his favorite sister and the excitement at the breakfast which
followed immediately, the doctor forgot Rose Markham, who had succeeded
in capturing Willie and borne him to her own room. After breakfast was
over he went with Anna to inspect the rooms which Adah had fitted for
his bride. They were very pleasant, and fastidious as he was he could
find fault with nothing. The carpet, the curtains, the new light
furniture, the armchair by the window where 'Lina was expected to sit,
the fanciful workbasket standing near, and his chair not far away, all
were in perfect taste, and passing his arm caressingly about Anna's
waist he said: "It's very nice, and I thank my little sister so much; of
course, I am wholly indebted to you."

"Not of course. I furnished means, it is true, but another than myself
planned and executed the effect," and sitting down in 'Lina's chair,
Anna told her brother of Rose Markham, so beautiful, so refined, and so
perfectly ladylike. "You must see her, and judge for yourself. Can't I
think of some excuse for sending for her?" she said.

It was some evil genius truly which prompted the doctor's reply.

"Never mind. I'm not partial to smart waiting maids. I'd rather talk
with you."

And so the golden moment was lost, and Adah was not sent for, while in
his bridal rooms the doctor sat, trying to be interested in all that
Anna was saying, trying to believe he should be happy when 'Lina was his
wife, and trying, oh, so hard, to shut out the vision of another, who
should have been there in his own home, instead of lying in some
lonesome grave, as he believed she was, with her baby on her bosom. Poor
Lily!

It was a great mistake he made when he cast Lily off, but it could not
now be helped. No tears, no regrets, could bring back the dear little
form laid away beneath the grassy sod, and so he would not waste his
time in idle mourning. He would do the best he could with 'Lina. He did
believe she loved him. He was almost sure of it, and as a means of
redressing Lily's wrongs he would be kind to her.

And where all this while was Adah? Had she no curiosity, no desire to
see the man about whom she had heard so much? Doubtless she had, and
would have sought an occasion for gratifying it, had not the rather too
talkative Pamelia accidentally overheard the doctor's remark concerning
"smart waiting maids," and repeated it to her, with sundry little
embellishments in tone and manner. Piqued more than she cared to
acknowledge, Adah decided not to trouble him if she could help it, and
so kept out of his way, by staying mostly in her own room, where she was
busy with sewing for Anna.

Once, as the afternoon was drawing to a close, she felt the hot blood
stain her face and prickle the very roots of her hair, as a step,
heavier than a woman's, came along the soft, carpeted hall, and seemed
to pause opposite her door, which stood partially ajar. She was sitting
with her back that way, and so the doctor only saw the outline of her
graceful form bending over her work, confessing to himself how graceful,
how pliant, how girlish it was. He noted, too, the braids of silken hair
drooping behind the well-shaped ears, just as Lily used to wear hers.
Dear Lily! Her hair was much like Rose Markham's, not quite so dark,
perhaps, or so luxuriant, for seldom had he seen locks so abundant and
glossy as those adorning Rose Markham's head.

Slowly the twilight shadows were creeping over Terrace Hill and into the
little room, where, with doors securely shut, Adah was preparing for her
accustomed walk to the office. But what was it which fell like a
thunderbolt on her ear, riveting her to the spot, where she stood, rigid
and immovable as a block of granite cut from the solid rock? Between the
closet and Anna's room there was only a thin partition, and when the
door was open every sound was distinctly heard. The doctor had just come
in, and it was his voice, heard for the first time, which sent the blood
throbbing so madly through Adah's veins and made the sparks of fire
dance before her eyes. She was not deceived--the tones were too
distinct, too full, too well remembered to be mistaken, and stretching
out her hands in the dim darkness, she moaned faintly: "George! 'tis
George!" and she sank upon the floor. She could hear him now saying to
Anna, as her moan fell on his ear, "What was that Anna? Are we not
alone? I wish to speak my farewell words in private."

"Yes, all alone," Anna replied, "unless--" and stepping to Adah's door
she called twice for Rose Markham.

But Adah, though she tried to do so, could neither move nor speak, and
Anna failed to see the figure crouching in the darkness, poor, crushed,
wretched Adah, who could not dispute her when returning to her brother
she said, "There is no one there; Rose has gone to the post office. I
heard her as she went out. We are all alone. Was it anything particular
you wished to tell me?"

Again the familiar tones thrilled on Adah's ears as Dr. Richards
replied: "Nothing very particular. I only wished to say a few words,
'Lina. I want you to like her, to make up, if possible, for the love I
ought to give her."

"Ought to give her! Oh, brother, are you taking 'Lina without love?
Better never make the vow than break it after it is made."

Anna spoke earnestly, and the doctor, who always tried to retain her
good opinion, replied evasively: "I suppose I do love her as well as
half the world love their wives before marriage, but she is different
from any ladies I have known; so different from what poor Lily was.
Anna, let me talk with you again of Lily. I never told you all--but what
is that?" he continued, as he indistinctly heard the choking, gasping,
stifled sob which Adah gave at the sound of the dear pet name. Anna
answered: "It's only the rising wind. It sounds so always when it's in
the east. We surely are alone. What of Lily? Do you wish you were going
after her instead of 'Lina?"

Oh, why did the doctor hesitate a moment? Why did he suffer his dread of
losing Anna's respect to triumph over every other feeling? He had meant
to tell her all, how he did love the gentle girl, the little more than
child, who confided herself to him--how he loved even her memory now far
more than he loved 'Lina, but something kept the full confession back,
and he answered:

"I don't know. We must have money, and 'Lina is rich, while Lily was
very poor, and the only friend or relation she knew was one with whom I
would not dare have you come in contact, so wicked and reckless he was."

This was what the doctor said, and into the brown eyes, now bloodshot
and dim with anguish, there came the hard, fierce look, before which
Alice Johnson once had shuddered, when Adah Hastings said:

"I should hate him! Yes, I should hate him!"

And in that dark hour of agony Adah felt that she did hate him. She knew
now that what she before would not believe was true. He had not made her
a lawful wife, else he had never dared to take another.

She did not hear him now, for with that prayer, all consciousness
forsook her, and she lay on her face insensible, while at the very last
he did confess to Anna that Lily was his wife. He did not say unlawfully
so. He could not tell her that. He said:

"I married her privately. I would bring her back if I could, but I
cannot, and I shall marry 'Lina."

"But," and Anna grasped his hand nervously. "I thought you told me once,
that you won her love, and then, when mother's harsh letters came, left
her without a word. Was that story false?"

The doctor was wading out in deep water, and in desperation he added
lie to lie, saying:

"Yes, that was false. I tell you I married her, and she died. Was I to
blame for that?"

"No, no. I'd far rather it were so. I respect you more than if you had
left her. I am glad, not that she died, but that you are not so bad as I
feared. Sweet Lily," and Anna's tears flowed fast.

There was a knock at the door, and Jim appeared, inquiring if the doctor
would have the carriage brought around. It was nearly time to go, and
with the whispered words to Anna, "I have told you what no one else must
ever know," the doctor descended with his sister to the parlor, where
his mother was waiting for him. The opening and shutting of the door
caused a draught of air, which, falling on the fainting Adah, restored
her to consciousness, and struggling to her feet, she tried to think
what it was that had happened.

"Oh, George! George!" she gasped. "You are worse than I believed. You
have made me an outcast, and Willie--"

George was a greater villain than she had imagined a man could be, and
again her white lips essayed to curse him, but the rash act was stayed
by the low words whispered in her ear, "Forgive as we would be
forgiven."

"If it were not for Willie, I might, but, oh! my boy, my boy disgraced,"
was the rebellious spirit's answer, when again the voice whispered, "And
who art thou to contend against thy God? Know you not that I am the
Father of the fatherless?"

There were tears now in Adah's eyes, the first which she had shed.

"I'll try," she murmured, "try to forgive the wrong, but the strength
must all be Thine," and then, though there came no sound or motion, her
heart went out in agonizing prayer, that she might forgive even as she
hoped to be forgiven.

"God tell me what to do with Willie?" she sobbed, starting suddenly as
the answer to her prayer seemed to come at once. "Oh, can I do that?"
she moaned; "can I leave him here?"

At first her whole soul recoiled from it, but when she remembered Anna,
and how much she loved the child, her feelings began to change. Anna
would love him more when she knew he was poor Lily's and her own
brother's. She would be kind to him for his father's sake, and for the
sake of the girl she had professed to like. Mrs. Richards, too, would
not cast him off. She thought too much of the Richards' blood, and there
was surely enough in Willie's veins to wipe out all taint of hers.
Willie should be bequeathed to Anna. It would break her heart to leave
him, were it not already broken, but it was better so. It would be
better in the end. He would forget her in time, forget the girlish woman
he had called mamma, unless sweet Anna told him of her, as perhaps she
might. Dear Anna, how Adah longed to fold her arms about her once and
call her sister, but she must not. It might not be well received, for
Anna had some pride, as her waiting maid had learned.

"A waiting maid!" Adah repeated the name, smiling bitterly as she
thought. "A waiting maid in his own home! Who would have dreamed that I
should ever come to this, when he painted the future so grandly?"

Then there came over her the wild, yearning desire to see his face once
more, to know if he had changed, and why couldn't she? They supposed her
gone to the office, and she would go there now, taking the depot on the
way.

       *       *       *       *       *

Apart in the ladies' room at Snowdon depot, a veiled figure sat--Dr.
Richards' deserted wife--waiting for him, waiting to look on his face
once more ere she fled she knew not whither. He came at last, Jim's
voice speaking to his horses heralding his approach.

The group of rough-looking men gathered about the office did not suit
his mood, and so he came on to the ladies' apartment, just as Adah knew
he would. Pausing for a moment on the threshold, he looked hastily in,
his glance falling upon the veiled figure sitting there so lonely and
motionless. She did not care for him, she would not object to his
presence, so he came nearer to the stove, poising his patent leathers
upon the hearth, thrusting both hands into his pockets, and even humming
to himself snatches of a song, which Lily used to sing up the three
flights of stairs in that New York boarding house.

Poor Adah! How white and cold she grew, listening to that air, and
gazing upon the face she had loved so well. It was changed since the
night when with his kiss warm on her lips he left her forever, changed,
and for the worse. There was a harder, a more reckless, determined
expression there, a look which better than words could have done, told
that self alone was the god he worshiped.

Once, as he walked up and down the room, passing so near to her that she
might have touched him with her hand, she felt an almost irresistible
desire to thrust her thick brown veil aside, and confronting him to his
face, claim from him what she had a right to claim, his name and a
position as his wife--only for Willie's sake, however; for herself she
did not wish it.

It was a relief when at last the roll of the cars was heard, and
buttoning his coat still closer around him, he turned toward the door,
half looking back to see if the veiled figure too had risen. It had, and
was standing close beside him, its outside garments sweeping his as the
crowd increased, pressing her nearer to him, but Adah passed back into
the ladies' room, and opening the rear door was out in the street again
almost before the train had left the station. George was gone--lost to
her forever! and with a piteous moan for her ruined life, Adah kept on
her way till the post office was reached.

There were four letters in the box--one for Mrs. Richards, from an
absent brother; one for Eudora, from Lottie Gardner; one for Asenath,
from an old friend, and at the bottom, last of all, one for Annie
Richards, faced with black, and bearing the initial "M." upon the seal
of wax.

Adah saw all this, but it conveyed no meaning to her mind except a vague
remembrance that at some time or other, very, very long years it seemed,
Anna had bidden her keep from her mother any letter directed to herself
in a mourning envelope. Adah retained just sense enough to do this, and
separating the letter from the others, thrust it into her pocket, and
then took her way back to Terrace Hill.

Willie was asleep; and as Pamelia, who brought him up, had thoughtfully
undressed and placed him in bed, there was nothing for Adah to do but
think. She should go away, of course; she could not stay there longer;
but how should she tell them why she went, and who would be her medium
for communication?

"Anna, of course," she whispered; and lighting her little lamp, she sat
down to write the letter which would tell Anna Richards who was the
waiting maid to whom she had been so kind.

"Dear Anna," she wrote. "Forgive me for calling you so this once, for
indeed I cannot help it. You have been so kind to me that if my heart
could ache, it would ache terribly at leaving you and knowing it was
forever. I am going away from you, Anna; and when, in the morning, you
wait for me to come as usual, I shall not be here, I could not stay and
meet your brother when he returns. Oh, Anna, Anna, how shall I begin to
tell you what I know will grieve and shock your pure nature so
dreadfully?

"Anna!--I love to call you Anna now, for you seem, near to me; and
believe me, while I write this to you, I am conscious of no feeling of
inferiority to any one bearing your proud name. I am, or should have
been, your equal, your sister; and Willie!--oh, my boy, when I think of
him, the feeling comes and I almost seem to be going mad!

"Cannot you guess?--don't you know now who I am? God forgive your
brother, as I asked him to do, kneeling there by the very chair where he
sat an hour since, talking to you of Lily. I heard him, and the sound of
his voice took power and strength away. I could not move to let you know
I was there, for I was, and I lay upon the floor till consciousness
forsook me; and then, when I awoke again, you both were gone.

"I went to the depot, I saw him in his face to make assurance sure, and
Anna, I--oh, I don't know what I am. The world would not call me a wife,
though I believed I was; but they cannot deal thus cruelly by Willie, or
wash from his veins his father's blood, for I--I, who write this, I who
have been a servant in the house where I should have been the mistress,
am Lily--wronged, deserted Lily--and Willie is your brother's child! His
father's look is in his face. I see it there so plainly now, and know
why that boy portrait of your brother has puzzled me so much. But when I
came here I had no suspicion, for he won me, not as a Richards--George
Hastings, that was the name by which I knew him, and I was Adah Gordon.
If you do not believe me, ask him when he comes back if ever in his
wanderings he met with Adah Gordon, or her guardian, Mr. Monroe. Ask if
he was ever present at a marriage where this same Adah gave her heart to
one for whom she would then have lost her life, erring in that she loved
the gift more than the giver; but God punished idolatry, and He has
punished me, so sorely, oh so sorely; that sometimes my fainting soul
cries out, ''Tis more than I can bear,'"

Then followed more particulars so that there should be no doubt, and
then the half-crazed Adah took up the theme nearest to her heart, her
boy, her beautiful Willie. She could not take him with her. She knew not
where she was going, and Willie must not suffer. Would Anna take the
child?

"I do not ask that the new bride should ever call him hers," she wrote;
"I'd rather she would not. I ask that you should give him a mother's
care, and if his father will sometimes speak kindly to him for the sake
of the older time when he did love the mother, tell him--Willie's
father, I mean--tell him, oh I know not what to bid you tell him, except
that I forgive him, though at first it was so hard, and the words
refused to come; I trusted him so much, loved him so much, and until I
had it from his own lips, believed I was his wife. But that cured me;
that killed the love, if any still existed, and now, if I could, I would
not be his, unless it were for Willie's sake.

"And now farewell. God deal with you, dear Anna, as you deal with my
boy."

Calmly, steadily, Adah folded up the missive, and laying it with the
mourning envelope, busied herself next in making the necessary
preparations for her flight. Anna had been liberal with her in point of
wages, paying her every week, and paying more than at first agreed upon;
and as she had scarcely spent a penny during her three months' sojourn
at Terrace Hill, she had, including what Alice had given to her, nearly
forty dollars. She was trying so hard to make it a hundred, and so send
it to Hugh some day; but she needed it most herself, and she placed it
carefully in her little purse, sighing over the golden coin which Anna
had paid her last, little dreaming for what purpose it would be used.
She would not change her dress until Anna had retired, as that might
excite suspicion; so with the same rigid apathy of manner she sat down
by Willie's side and waited till Anna was heard moving in her room. The
lamp was burning dimly on the bureau, and so Anna failed to see the
frightful expression of Adah's face, as she performed her accustomed
duties, brushing Anna's hair, and letting her hands linger caressingly
amid the locks she might never touch again.

It did strike Anna that something was the matter; for when Adah spoke to
her, the voice was husky and unnatural. Still, she paid no attention
until the chapter was read as usual and "Our Father" said; then, as Adah
lingered a moment, still kneeling by the bed, she laid her soft hand on
the young head, and asked, kindly, "if it ached."

"No, not my head, not my head," and Adah continued impetuously; "Anna,
tell me, have I pleased you?--do you like me? would you, could you love
me if I were your equal--love me as I do you?"

Anna noticed that the "Miss" was dropped from her name, that her maid
was treating her more familiarly than she had ever done before; and for
an instant a flush showed on her cheek, for pride was Anna's besetting
sin, the one from which she daily prayed to be delivered. There was an
inward struggle, a momentary conflict, such as every Christian warrior
has felt at times, and then the flush was gone from the white cheek, and
her hand still lay on Adah's head, as she replied: "I do not understand
why you question me thus, but I will answer just the same. I do like you
very much, and you have always seemed to me much like an equal. I could
hardly do without you now."

"And Willie? If I should die, or anything happen to me, would you care
for Willie?"

There was something very earnest in Adah's tone as she pleaded for her
boy, and had Anna been at all suspicious, she must have guessed there
was something wrong. As it was, she merely thought Adah tired and
nervous. She had been thinking, perhaps, of the deserted, and she
smoothed her hair pityingly as she replied: "Of course I'd care for
Willie. He has won a large place in my heart."

"Bless you for that. It has made me very happy," Adah whispered, arising
to her feet and adding: "You may think me bold, but I must kiss you
once--only once--for it will be pleasant to remember that I kissed Anna
Richards."

There was nothing cringing or even pleading in the tone. Adah seemed to
ask it as her right, and ere Anna could answer she had pressed one
burning kiss upon the smooth, white forehead which a menial's lips had
never touched before, and was gone from the room.

"Was she crazy, or what was it that ailed her?" Anna asked herself,
wondering more and more, the more she thought of the strange conduct,
and lying awake long after the usual hour for sleep.

But wakeful as she was, there was one who kept the vigils with her,
knowing exactly when she fell away at last into a slumber all the
deeper for the restlessness which had preceded it. Anna slept very
soundly as Adah knew she would, and when toward morning a light footstep
glided across her threshold she did not hear it. The bolt was drawn, the
key was turned, and just as the clock struck three, Adah stood outside
the yard, leaning on the gate and gazing back at the huge building
looming up so dark and grand beneath the starry sky. One more prayer for
Willie and the mother-auntie to whose care she had left him, one more
straining glance at the window of the little room where he lay sleeping,
and she resolutely turned away, nor stopped again until the Danville
depot was reached the station where in less than five minutes after her
arrival the night express stood for an instant, and then went thundering
on, bearing with it another passenger, bound for--she knew not, cared
not whither.



CHAPTER XXXVI

EXCITEMENT


They were not early risers at Terrace Hill, and the morning following
Adah's flight Anna slept later than usual; nor was it until Willie's
baby cry, calling for mamma, was heard, that she awoke, and thinking
Adah had gone down for something, she bade Willie come to her. Putting
out her arms she lifted him carefully into her own bed, and in doing so
brushed from her pillow the letters left for her. But it did not matter
then, and for a full half hour she lay waiting for Adah's return.
Growing impatient at last, she stepped upon the floor, her bare feet
touching something cold, something which made her look down and find
that she was stepping on a letter--not one, but two--and in wondering
surprise she turned them to the light, half fainting with excitement,
when on the back of the first one examined she saw the old familiar
handwriting, and knew that Charlie had written again!

Anna had hardly been human had she waited an instant ere she tore open
the envelope and learned how many times and with how little success
Charlie Millbrook had written to her since his return from India. He had
not forgotten her. The love of his early manhood had increased with his
maturer years, and he could not be satisfied until he heard from her
that he was remembered and still beloved.

This was Charlie's letter, this what Anna read, feeling far too happy to
be angry at her mother, and delicious tears of joy flowed over her
beautiful face, as, pressing the paper to her lips, she murmured:

"Dear Charlie! darling Charlie! I knew he was not false, and I thank the
kind Father for bringing him at last to me."

Hiding it in her bosom, Anna took the other letter then, and throwing
her shawl around her, for she was beginning to shiver with cold, sat
down by the window and read it through--read it once, read it twice,
read it thrice, and then--sure never were the inmates of Terrace Hill
thrown into so much astonishment and alarm as they were that April
morning, when, in her cambric night robe, her long hair falling unbound
about her shoulders, and her bare feet, gleaming white and cold upon the
floor, Miss Anna went screaming from room to room, and asking her
wonder-stricken mother and sisters if they had any idea who it was that
had been an inmate of their house for so many weeks.

"Come with me, then," she almost screamed, and dragging her mother to
her room, where Willie sat up in bed, looking curiously about him and
uncertain whether to cry or to laugh, she exclaimed, "Look at him,
mother, and you, too, Asenath and Eudora!" turning to her sisters, who
had followed. "Tell me who is he like? He is John's child. And Rose was
Lily, the young girl whom you forbade him to marry! Listen, mother, you
shall listen to what your pride has done!" and grasping the bewildered
Mrs. Richards by the arm, Anna held her fast while she read aloud the
letter left by Adah.

Mrs. Richards fainted. She soon recovered, however, and listened eagerly
while Anna repeated all her brother had ever told her of Lily.

Poor Willie! He was there in the bed, looking curiously at the four
women, none of whom seemed quite willing to own him save Anna. Her heart
took him in at once. He had been given to her. She would be faithful to
the trust, and folding him in her arms, she cried softly over him,
kissing his little face and calling him her darling.

"Anna, how can you fondle such as he?" Eudora asked, rather sharply.

"He is our brother's child. Mother, you will not turn from your
grandson," and Anna held the boy toward her mother, who did not refuse
to take him.

Asenath always went with her mother, and at once showed signs of
relenting by laying her hand on Willie's head and calling him "poor
boy." Eudora held out longer, but Anna knew she would yield in time,
and satisfied with Willie's reception so far, went on to speak of Adah.
Where was she, did they suppose, and what were the best means of finding
her.

At this Mrs. Richards demurred, as did Asenath with her.

"Adah was gone, and they had better let her go quietly. She was nothing
to them, nothing whatever, and if they took Willie in, doing their best
with him as one of the Richards' line, it was all that could be required
of them. Had Adah been John's wife, it would of course be different, but
she was not, and his marriage with 'Lina must not now be prevented."

This was Mrs. Richards' reasoning, but Anna's was different.

"John had distinctly said, 'I married Lily and she died.' Adah was
mistaken about the marriage being unlawful. It was a falsehood he told
her. She was his wife, and he must not be permitted to commit bigamy.
She would tell John in private. They need not try to dissuade her, for
she should go."

This was what Anna said, and all in vain were her mother's entreaties to
let matters take their course. Anna only replied by going deliberately
on with the preparations for her sudden journey. She was going to find
Rose, and blessing her for this kindness to one whom they had liked so
much, Dixson and Pamelia helped to get her ready, both promising the
best care to Willie in her absence, both asking where she was going
first and both receiving the same answer, "To Albany."

Mrs. Richards was too much stunned clearly to comprehend what had
happened or what would be the result; and in a kind of apathetic maze
she bade Anna good-by, and then went back to where Willie sat upon the
sofa, examining and occasionally tearing the costly book of foreign
prints which had been given him to keep him still and make him cease his
piteous wail for "mamma." It seemed like a dream to the three ladies
sitting at home that night and talking about Anna, wondering that a
person of her weak nerves and feeble health should suddenly become so
active, so energetic, so decided, and of her own accord start off on a
long journey alone and unprotected.

And Anna wondered at herself when the excitement of leaving was past and
the train was bearing her swiftly along on her mission of duty. She had
written a few lines to Charlie Millbrook, telling him of her unaltered
love and bidding him come to her in three weeks' time, when she would be
ready to see him.

It was very dark and rainy, and the passengers jostled each other
rudely as they passed from the cars in Albany and hurried to the boat.
It was new business to Anna, traveling alone and in the night, and a
feeling akin to fear was creeping over her as she wondered where she
should find the eastern train.

"Follow the crowd," seemed yelled out for her benefit, though it was
really intended for a timid, deaf old lady, who had anxiously asked what
to do of one whose laconic reply was: "Follow the crowd." And Anna did
follow the crowd which led her safely to the waiting cars. Snugly
ensconced in a seat all to herself, she vainly imagined there was no
more trouble until Cleveland or Buffalo at least was reached. How, then,
was she disappointed when, alighting for a moment at Rochester, she
found herself in a worse babel, if possible, than had existed at Albany.
Where were all these folks going, and which was the train? "I ought not
to have alighted at all," she thought; "I might have known I never could
find my way back." Never, sure, was poor, little woman so confused and
bewildered as Anna, and it is not strange that she stood directly upon
the track, unmindful of the increasing din and roar as the train from
Niagara Falls came thundering into the depot. It was in vain that the
cabman nearest to her helloed to warn her of the impending danger. She
never dreamed that they meant her, or suspected her great peril, until
from out of the group waiting to take that very train, a tall figure
sprang, and grasping her light form around the waist, bore her to a
place of safety--not because he guessed that it was Annie, but because
it was a human being whom he would save from a fearful death.

"Excuse me, madam," he began, but whatever she might have said was lost
in the low, thrilling scream of joy with which Anna recognized him.

"Charlie, Charlie! oh, Charlie!" she cried, burying her face in his
bosom and sobbing like a child.

There was no time to waste in explanations; scarcely time, indeed, for
Charlie to ask where she was going, and if the necessity to go on were
imperative.

"You won't leave me," Anna whispered.

"Leave you, darling? No," and pressing the little fingers twining so
lovingly about his own, Charlie replied: "Whither thou goest I will go.
I shall not leave you again."

He needed no words to tell him of the letters never received; he knew
the truth, and satisfied to have her at last he drew her closely to him,
and laying her tired head upon his bosom, gazed fondly at the face he
had not seen in many, many years. Curious, tittering maidens, of whom
there are usually one or two in every car, looked at that couple near
the door and whispered to their companions:

"Bride and groom. Just see how he hugs her. Some widower, I know,
married to a young wife."

But neither Charlie nor Anna cared for the speculations to which they
were giving rise. They had found each other, and the happiness enjoyed
during the two hours which elapsed ere Buffalo was reached more than
made amends for all the lonely years of wretchedness they had spent
apart from each other. Charlie had told Anna briefly of his life in
India--had spoken feelingly, affectionately of his gentle Hattie, who
had died, blessing him with her last breath for the kindness he had ever
shown to her; of baby Annie's grave, by the side of which he buried the
young mother; of his loneliness after that, his failing health, his
yearning for a sight of home, his embarkation for America, his hope
through all that she might still be won; his letters and her mother's
reply, which awakened his suspicions, and his last letter which she
received.

Sweetly she chided him, amid her tears, for not coming to her at once,
telling how she had waited and watched with an anxious heart, ever since
she heard of his return; and then she told him next where she was going,
and why, sparing her brother as much as possible, and dwelling long upon
poor Lily's gentleness and beauty.

So it was settled that Charlie should go with her, and his presence made
her far less impatient than she would otherwise have been, when, owing
to some accident, they were delayed so long that the Cleveland train was
gone, and there was no alternative but to wait in Buffalo. At Cincinnati
there was another detention, and it was not until the very day appointed
for the wedding that, with Charlie still beside her, Anna entered the
carriage hired at Lexington, and started for Spring Bank, whither for a
little we will precede her, taking up the narrative prior to this day,
and about the time when 'Lina first returned from New York, laden with
arrogance and airs.



CHAPTER XXXVII

MATTERS AT SPRING BANK


It had been a bright, pleasant day in March, when 'Lina was expected
home, and in honor of her arrival the house at Spring Bank wore its most
cheery aspect; not that any one was particularly pleased because she was
coming, unless it were the mother; but it was still an event of some
importance, and so the negroes cleaned and scrubbed and scoured,
wondering if "Miss 'Lina done fotch 'em anything," while Alice arranged
and re-arranged the plainly-furnished rooms, feeling beforehand how the
contrast between them and the elegancies to which 'Lina had recently
been accustomed would affect her.

Hugh had thought of the same thing, and much as it hurt him to do it, he
sold one of his pet colts, and giving the proceeds to Alice, bade her
use it as she saw fit.

Spring Bank had never looked one-half so well before, and the negroes
were positive there was nowhere to be found so handsome a room as the
large airy parlor, with its new Brussels carpet and curtains of worsted
brocatelle.

Even Hugh was somewhat of the same opinion, but then he only looked at
the room with Alice standing in its center, or stooping in some corner
to drive again a refractory nail, so it is not strange that he should
judge it favorably. Ad would be pleased, he knew, and he gave orders
that the carriage and harness should be thoroughly cleaned, and the
horses well groomed, for he would make a good impression upon his
sister.

Alas, she was not worth the trouble, the proud, selfish creature, who,
all the way from Lexington to the Big Spring station had been hoping
Hugh would not take it into his head to meet her, or if he did, that he
would not have on his homespun suit of gray, with his pants tucked in
his boots, and so disgrace her in the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Ford, her
traveling companions, who would see him from the window. Yes, there he
was, standing expectantly upon the platform, and she turned her head the
other way pretending not to see him until the train moved on and Hugh
compelled her notice by grasping her hand and calling her "Sister
'Lina."

She had acquired a certain city air by her sojourn in New York, and in
her fashionably made traveling dress and hat was far more stylish
looking than when Hugh last parted from her. But nothing abashed he held
her hand a moment while he inquired about her journey, and then
playfully added:

"Upon my word, Ad, you have improved a heap, in looks I mean. Of course
I don't know about the temper. Spunky as ever, eh?" and he tried to
pinch her glowing cheek.

"Pray don't be foolish," was 'Lina's impatient reply, as she drew away
from him, and turned, with her blandest smile, to a sprig of a lawyer
from Frankfort, who chanced to be there too.

Chilled by her manner, Hugh ordered the carriage, and told her they were
ready. Once inside the carriage, and alone with him, 'Lina's tongue was
loosened, and she poured out numberless questions, the first of which
was, what they heard from Adah, and if it were true, as her mother had
written, that she was at Terrace Hill as Rose Markham, and that no one
there knew of her acquaintance with Spring Bank?

Yes, he supposed it was, and he did not like it either. "Ad," and he
turned his honest face full toward her, "does that doctor still believe
you rich?"

"How do I know?" 'Lina replied, frowning gloomily. "I'm not to blame if
he does. I never told him I was."

"But your actions implied as much, which amounts to the same thing. It's
all wrong, Ad, all wrong. Even if he loves you, and it is to be hoped he
does, he will respect you less when he knows how you deceived him."

"Hadn't you better interfere and set the matter right?" asked 'Lina, now
really aroused.

"I did think of doing so once," Hugh rejoined, but ere he could say
more, 'Lina grasped his arm fiercely, her face dark with passion as she
exclaimed:

"Hugh, if you meddle, you'll rue the day. It's my own affair, and I know
what I'm doing."

"I do not intend to meddle, though I encouraged Adah in her wild plan of
going to Terrace Hill, because I thought they would learn from her just
how rich we are. But Adah has foolishly taken another name, and says
nothing of Spring Bank. I don't like it, neither does Miss Johnson.
Indeed, I sometimes think she is more anxious than I am."

"Miss Johnson," and 'Lina spoke disdainfully, "I'd thank her to mind her
own business. Hugh, you are getting a ministerial kind of look, and you
have not sworn at me once since we met. I guess Alice has converted you.
Well, I only hope you'll not backslide."

'Lina laughed hatefully, and evidently expected an outburst of passion,
but though Hugh turned very white, he made her no reply, and they
proceeded on in silence, until they came in sight of Spring Bank, when
'Lina broke out afresh.

Such a tumble-down shanty as that. It was not fit for decent people to
live in, and mercy knew she was glad her sojourn there was to be short.

"You are not alone in that feeling," came dryly from Hugh.

'Lina said he was a very affectionate brother; that she was glad there
were those who appreciated her, even if he did not, and then the
carriage stopped at Spring Bank. Mrs. Worthington was hearty in her
welcome, for her mother heart went out warmly toward her daughter. Oh,
what airs 'Lina did put on, offering the tips of her fingers to good
Aunt Eunice, trying to patronize Alice herself, and only noticing Densie
Densmore with a haughty stare.

Old Densie had for the last few days been much in 'Lina's mind. She had
disliked her at Saratoga, and somehow it made her feel uncomfortable
every time she thought of finding her at Spring Bank. Densie had never
forgotten 'Lina, and many a time had she recalled the peculiar
expression of her black eyes, shuddering as she remembered how much they
were like another pair of eyes whose gleams of passion had once thrilled
her with terror.

"Upon my word," 'Lina began, as she entered the pleasant parlor, "this
is better than I expected. Somebody has been very kind for my sake. Miss
Johnson, I'm sure it's you I have to thank," and with a little flash of
gratitude she turned to Alice, who replied in a low tone:

"Thank your brother. He made a sacrifice for the sake of surprising
you."

Whether it was with a desire to appear amiable in Alice's eyes, or
because she really was touched with Hugh's generosity, 'Lina
involuntarily threw her arm around his neck, and gave to him a kiss
which he remembered for many, many years. At the nicely prepared dinner
served soon after her arrival, a cloud lowered on 'Lina's brow, induced
by the fact that Densie Densmore was permitted a seat at the table, a
proceeding sadly at variance with 'Lina's lately acquired ideas of
aristocracy.

Accordingly that very day she sought an opportunity to speak with her
mother when she knew that Densie was in an adjoining room.

"Mother," she began, "why do you suffer that woman to come to the table?
Is it a whim of Alice's, or what?"

"Oh, you allude to Mrs. Densmore. I couldn't at first imagine whom you
meant," Mrs. Worthington replied, going on to say how foolish it was for
'Lina to assume such airs, that Densie was as good as anybody, or at all
events was a quiet, well-behaved woman, worthy of respect, and that Hugh
would as soon stay away himself as banish her from the table because she
had once been a servant.

"Yes, but consider Dr. Richards when he comes. What must he think of us?
At the North they recognize white niggers as well as black. I tell you I
won't have it, and unless you speak to her, I shall."

'Lina ate her supper exultingly, free from Densie's presence, caring
little for the lonely old woman whose lip quivered and whose tears
started every time that she remembered the slighting words accidentally
overheard.

Swiftly the days went by, bringing callers to see 'Lina; Ellen Tiffton,
who received back her jewelry, never guessing that the bracelet she
clasped upon her arm was not the same lent so many months ago. Ellen was
to be bridesmaid, inasmuch as Alice preferred to be more at liberty, and
see that matters went on properly. This brought Ellen often to Spring
Bank, and as 'Lina was much with her, Alice was left more time to think.
Adah's continued silence with regard to Dr. Richards had troubled her at
first, but now she felt relieved. 'Lina had stated distinctly that ere
coming to Kentucky, he was going to Terrace Hill, and Adah's last letter
had said the same. She would see him then, and if--if he were
George--alas! for the unsuspecting girl who fluttered gayly in the midst
of her bridal finery, and wished the time would come when she could
"escape from that hole, and go back to dear, delightful Fifth Avenue
Hotel."

The time which hung so heavily upon her hands was flying rapidly, and at
last only one week intervened ere the eventful day. Hugh had gone down
to Frankfort on some errand for 'Lina, and as he passed the
penitentiary, he thought, as he always did now, of the convict Sullivan.
Was he there still, and if so, why could he not see him face to face,
and question him of the past?

Three hours later and Hugh Worthington was confronting the famous negro
stealer, who gave him back glance for glance, and stood as unflinchingly
before him as if there were upon his conscience no Adah Hastings, who,
by his connivance, had been so terribly wronged. At the mention of her
name, however, his bold assurance left him. There was a quivering of
the muscles about his mouth, and his whole manner was indicative of
strong emotion as he asked if Hugh knew aught of her since that fatal
night, and then listened while Hugh told what he knew and where she had
gone.

"To Terrace Hill--into the Richards family; this was no chance
arrangement?" and the convict spoke huskily, asking next for the doctor;
and still Hugh did not suspect the magnitude of the plot, and answered
by telling how Dr. Richards was coming soon to make 'Lina his wife.

Hugh was not looking at his companion then, or he would have been
appalled by the livid, fearful expression which for an instant flashed
on his face. Accustomed to conceal his feelings, the convict did so now;
and asked calmly when the wedding would take place. Hugh named the day
and hour, and then asked if Sullivan knew aught of Adah's husband.

"Yes, everything," and the convict said vehemently, "Young man, I cannot
tell you now--there is not time, but wait a little and you shall know
the whole. You are interested in Adah. The wedding, you say, is Thursday
night. My time expires on Tuesday. Don't think me impudent if I ask a
list of the invited guests. Will you give it to me?"

Surely there was some deep mystery here, and he made no reply till
Sullivan again asked for the list. The original paper on which Hugh had
first written the few names of those to be invited chanced to be in his
vest pocket, and mechanically taking it out he passed it to the convict,
who expressed his thanks, and added: "Don't say that you have seen me,
or that I shall be present at that wedding. I shall only come for good,
but I shall surely be there."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE DAY OF THE WEDDING


Dr. Richards had arrived at Spring Bank. Hugh was the first to meet him.
For a moment he scrutinized the stranger's face earnestly, and then
asked if they had never met before.

"Not to my knowledge," the doctor replied in perfect good faith, for he
had no suspicion that the man eying him so closely was the one witness
of his marriage with Adah, the stranger whom he scarcely noticed, and
whose name he had forgotten.

Once fully in the light, where Hugh could discern the features plainer,
he began to be less sure of having met his guest before, for that
immense mustache and those well-trimmed whiskers had changed the
doctor's physiognomy materially.

'Lina was glad to see the doctor. She had even cried at his delay, and
though no one knew it, had sat up nearly the whole preceding night,
waiting and listening by her open window for any sound to herald his
approach.

As the result of this long vigil, her head ached dreadfully the next
day, and even the doctor noticed her burning cheeks and watery eyes, and
feeling her rapid pulse asked if she were ill.

She was not, she said; she had only been troubled because he did not
come, and then for once in her life she did a womanly act. She laid her
head in the doctor's lap and cried, just as she had done the previous
night. He understood the cause of her tears at last, and touched with a
greater degree of tenderness for her than he had ever before
experienced, he smoothed her glossy black hair, and asked:

"Would you be very sorry to lose me?"

Selfish and hard as she was, 'Lina loved the doctor, and with a shudder
as she thought of the deception imposed on him, and a half regret that
she had so deceived him, she replied:

"I am not worthy of you. I do love you very much, and it would kill me
to lose you now. Promise that when you find, as you will, how bad I am,
you will not hate me!"

It was an attempt at confession, but the doctor did not so construe it.
Poor 'Lina. It is not often we have seen her thus--gentle, softened,
womanly; so we will make the most of it, and remember it in the future.

The bright sunlight of the next morning was very exhilarating, and
though the doctor, who had risen early, was disappointed in Spring Bank,
he was not at all suspicious, and greeted his bride-elect kindly,
noticing, while he did so, how her cheeks alternately paled, and then
grew red, while she seemed to be chilly and cold. 'Lina had passed a
wretched night, tossing from side to side, bathing her throbbing head
and rubbing her aching limbs. The severe cold taken in the wet yard was
making itself visible, and she came to the breakfast table jaded,
wretched and sick, a striking contrast to Alice Johnson, who seemed to
the doctor more beautiful than ever. She was unusually gay this morning,
for while talking to Dr. Richards, whom she had met in the parlor, she
had, among other things concerning Snowdon, said to him, casually, as it
seemed:

"Anna has a waiting maid at last. You saw her, of course?"

Somehow the doctor fancied Alice wished him to say yes, and as he had
seen Adah's back, he replied at once:

"Oh, yes, I saw her. Fine looking for a servant. Her little boy is
splendid."

Alice was satisfied. The shadow lifted from her spirits. Dr. Richards
was not George Hastings. He was not the villain she had feared, and
'Lina might have him now. Poor 'Lina. Alice felt almost as if she had
done her a wrong by suspecting the doctor, and was very kind to her that
day. Poor 'Lina, we say it again, for hard, and wicked, and treacherous,
and unfilial, as she had ever been, she had need for pity on this her
wedding day. Retribution, terrible and crushing, was at hand, hurrying
on in the carriage bringing Anna Richards to Spring Bank, and on the
fleet-footed steed bearing the convict swiftly up the Frankfort pike.

'Lina could not tell what ailed her. Her _hauteur_ of manner was all
gone, and Mug, who had come into the room to see "the finery," was not
chidden or told to let them alone, while Densie, who, at Alice's
suggestion, brought her a glass of wine, was kindly thanked, and even
asked to stay if she liked while the dressing went on. But Densie did
not care to, and she left the room just as the mud-bespattered vehicle
containing Anna Richards drove up, Mr. Millbrook having purposely
stopped in Versailles, thinking it better that Anna should go on alone.

It was Ellen of course, 'Lina said, and so the dressing continued, and
she was all unsuspicious of the scene enacting below, in the room where
Anna met her brother alone. She had not given Hugh her name. She simply
asked for Dr. Richards, and conducting her into the parlor, hung with
bridal decorations, Hugh went for the doctor, amusing himself on the
back piazza with the sprightly Mug, who when asked if she were not sorry
Miss 'Lina was going off, had naïvely answered:

"No-o--sir, 'case she done jaw so much, and pull my har. I tell you,
she's a peeler. Is you glad she's gwine?"

The doctor was not quite certain, but answered: "Yes, very glad," just
as Hugh announced "a lady who wished to see him."

Mechanically the doctor took his way to the parlor, while Hugh resumed
his seat by the window, where for the last hour he had watched for the
coming of one who had said, "I will be there."

Half an hour later, had he looked into the parlor, he would have seen a
frightened, white-faced man crouching at Anna Richards' side and
whispering to her as if all life, all strength, all power to act for
himself were gone:

"What must I do? Tell me what to do."

This was a puzzle to Anna, and she replied by asking him another
question. "Do you love 'Lina Worthington?"

"I--I--no, I guess I don't; but she's rich, and--"

With a motion of disgust Anna cut him short, saying: "Don't make me
despise you more than I do. Until your lips confessed it, I had faith
that Lily was mistaken, that your marriage was honorable, at least, even
if you tired of it afterward. You are worse than I suppose and now you
speak of money. What shall you do? Get up and not sit whining at my feet
like a puppy. Find Lily, of course, and if she will stoop to listen a
second time to your suit, make her your wife, working to support her
until your hands are blistered, if need be."

Anna hardly knew herself in this phase of her character, and her brother
certainly did not.

"Don't be hard on me, Anna," he said, looking at her in a kind of
dogged, uncertain way. "I'll do what you say, only don't be hard. It's
come so sudden, that my head is like a whirlpool. Lily, Willie, Willie.
The child I saw, you mean--yes, the child--I--saw--did it say
he--was--my--boy?"

The words were thick and far apart. The head drooped lower and lower,
the color all left the lips, and in spite of Anna's vigorous shakes, or
still more vigorous hartshorn, overtaxed nature gave way, and the doctor
fainted at last. It was Anna's turn now to wonder what she should do,
and she was about summoning aid from some quarter when the door opened
suddenly, and Hugh ushered in a stranger--the convict, who had kept his
word, and came to tell what he knew of this complicated mystery, about
which every invited guest was talking, and which was keeping Ellen
Tiffton at home in a fever of excitement to know what it all meant.

  "There will be no bridal at Spring Bank to-night, and if the invited
  guests have any respect for the family, they will remain quietly at
  home, restraining their curiosity until another day.

  "ONE WHO HAS AUTHORITY"

Such were the contents of the ten different notes left at ten different
houses in the neighborhood of Spring Bank that April day, by a strange
horseman, who carried them all himself and saw that they were delivered.

The rider kept on his way, reining his panting steed at last before the
door of Spring Bank, and casting about him anxious glances as he sprang
up the steps. There was nobody in sight but Hugh, who was expecting him,
and who, in reply to his inquiries for the doctor, told where he was,
and that a stranger was with him. There was a low, hurried conversation
between the two, a partial revelation of the business which had brought
Sullivan to the house where were congregated so many of his victims; and
at its close Hugh's face was deadly white, for he knew now that he had
met Dr. Richards before, and that 'Lina could not be his wife.

"The villain!" he muttered, involuntarily clinching his fist as if to
smite the dastard as he followed Sullivan into the parlor, starting back
when he saw the prostrate form upon the floor, and heard the lady say:
"My brother, sir, has fainted."

She was Anna, then; and Hugh guessed rightly why she was there.

"Madam," he began, but ere another word was uttered, there fell upon his
ear a shriek which seemed to cleave the very air and made even the
fainting man move in his unconsciousness.

It was Mrs. Worthington, who, with hands outstretched as if to keep him
off, stood upon the threshold, gazing in mute terror at the horror of
her life, whispering incoherently: "What is it, Hugh? How came he here?
Save me, save me from him!"

A look, half of sorrow, half of contempt, flitted across the stranger's
face as he answered for Hugh kindly, gently: "Is the very sight of me so
terrible to you, Eliza? I am only here to set matters right. Here for
our daughter's sake. Eliza, where is our child?"

He had drawn nearer to her as he said this last, but she intuitively
turned to Hugh, who started suddenly, growing white and faint as a
suspicion of the truth flashed upon him.

"Mother?" he began, interrogatively, winding his arm about her, for she
was the weaker of the two.

She knew what he would ask, and with her eye still upon the man who
fascinated her gaze, she answered, sadly: "Forgive me, Hugh. He was--my
husband; he is--'Lina's father, not yours, Hugh--oh! Heaven be praised,
not yours!" and she clung closely to her boy, as if glad one child, at
least, was not tainted with the Murdock blood.

The convict smiled bitterly, and said to Hugh himself:

"Your mother is right. She was once my wife, but the law set her free
from the galling chain. Will some one call Densie Densmore in? I may
need her testimony."

No one volunteered to go for Densie Densmore, and he was about repeating
his request, when Alice came tripping down the stairs, and pausing at
the parlor door, looked in.

"Anna!" she exclaimed, but uttered no other sound for the terror of
something terrible, which kept her silent.

She stood looking from one to the other, until the convict said:

"Young lady, will you call in Densie Densmore? And stay, let the bride
know. She is wanted, too. I may as well confront all my victims at
once."

Alice never knew what she said to Densie, or 'Lina either. She was only
conscious of following them both down the stairs and into that dreadful
room. No one had said that she was wanted, but she could not keep away.
She must go, and she did, keeping close to Densie, who took but one
step, then with a delirious laugh, she darted upon the stranger like a
tigress, and seizing his arm, said, between a shriek and hiss:

"David Murdock, why are you here, a wolf in the sheepfold? Tell me,
where is my stolen daughter?"

For an instant the convict regarded the raving woman, and then, as if in
answer to her question, with a half nod, his glance rested on 'Lina,
who, too much terrified to speak, had crept near to her affianced
husband, now returning to consciousness. Hugh alone saw the nod, and it
brought him at once to 'Lina, where, with his arm upon her chair, he
stood as if he would protect her. Noble Hugh! 'Lina never knew one-half
how good and generous he was until just as she was losing him.

"Densie," the convict said, trying in vain to shake off the hand which
held him so firmly: "Densie, be calm, and wait, as you see the others
doing. They all, save one, are interested in me."

"But my daughter, my stolen daughter. I'll have her, or your life!" was
Densie's fierce reply.

"Auntie," and Alice glided to Densie's side.

She alone could control that strange being, roused now as she had not
been roused in years. At the sound of her voice, and the touch of her
fingers on her hand, Densie released her hold and suffered herself to
be led to a chair, while Alice knelt beside her.

There was a moment's hesitancy, and his face flushed and paled
alternately ere the convict could summon courage to begin.

"Take this seat, sir, you need it," Hugh said, bringing him a chair and
then resuming his watch over 'Lina, who involuntarily leaned her
throbbing head upon his arm, and with the others listened to that
strange tale of sin.



CHAPTER XXXIX

THE CONVICT'S STORY


"It is not an easy task to confess how bad one has been," the stranger
said, "and once no power could have tempted me to do it; but several
years of prison life have taught me some wholesome lessons, and I am not
the same man I was when, Densie Densmore"--and his glance turned toward
her--"when I met you, and won your love. Against you first I sinned. You
are my oldest victim, and it's meet I should begin with you."

"Yes, with me--me first, and tell me quick of my stolen baby," she
faintly moaned.

Her ferocity of manner all was gone, and the poor, white-haired creature
sat quietly where Alice had put her, while the story proceeded:

"You know, Densie, but these do not, how I won your love with promises
of marriage, and then deserted you just when you needed me most. I had
found new prey by that time--was on the eve of marriage with one who was
too good for me. I left you and married Mrs. Eliza Worthington. I--"

The story was interrupted at this point by a cry from 'Lina, who moaned:

"No, no, oh no! He is not my father; is he, Hugh? Tell me no. John, Dr.
Richards, pray look at me and say it's all a dream, a dreadful dream!
Oh, Hugh!" and to the brother, scorned so often, poor 'Lina turned for
sympathy, while the stranger continued:

"It would be useless for me to say now that I loved her, Eliza, but I
did, and when I heard soon after my marriage that I was a father, I
said: 'Densie will never rest now until she finds me, and she must not
come between me and Eliza," so I feigned an excuse and left my new wife
for a few weeks. Eliza, you remember I said I had business in New York,
and so I had. I went to Densie Densmore. I professed sorrow for the
past. I made her believe me, and then laid a most diabolical plan. Money
will do anything, and I had more than people supposed. I had a mother,
too, at that time, a woman old and infirm, and good, even if I was her
son. To her I went with a tale, half false, half true. There was a
little child, I said, a little girl, whose mother was not my wife. I
would have made her so, I said, but she died at the child's birth. Would
my mother take that baby for my sake? She did not refuse, so I named a
day when I would bring it. 'Twas that day, Densie, when I took you to
the museum, and on pretense of a little business I must transact at a
house in Park Row, I left you for an hour, but never went back again."

"No, never back again--never. I waited so long, waited till I almost
thought I heard my baby cry, and then went home; but baby was gone.
Alice, do you hear me?--baby was gone;" and the poor, mumbling creature,
rocking to and fro, buried her bony fingers in Alice's fair hair.

"Poor Densie! poor auntie!" was all Alice said, as she regarded with
horror the man, who went on:

"Yes, baby was gone--gone to my mother's, in a part of the city where
there was no probability of its being found and I was gone, too. You are
shocked, fair maiden, and well you may be," the convict said.

"In course of time there was a daughter born to me and to Eliza; a sweet
little, brown-haired, brown-eyed girl, whom we named Adaline."

Instinctively every one in that room glanced at the black eyes and hair
of 'Lina, marveling at the change.

"I loved this little girl, as it was natural I should, more than I loved
the other, whose mother was a servant. Besides that, she was not so
deeply branded as the other; see--" and pushing back the thick locks
from his forehead, he disclosed his birthmark, while 'Lina suddenly put
her hand where she knew there was another like it.

"At last there came a separation. Eliza would not live with me longer
and I went away, but pined so for my child that I contrived to steal
her, and carried her to my mother, where was the other one. 'Twas there
you tracked me, Densie. You came one day, enacting a fearful scene, and
frightening my children until they fled in terror and hid away from your
sight."

"I remember, I remember now. That's where I heard the name," 'Lina said,
while the convict continued:

"I said you were a mad woman. I made mother believe it; but she never
recovered from the shock, and six weeks after your visit, I was alone
with my two girls, Densie and Adaline. I could not attend to them both,
and so I sent one to Eliza and kept the other myself, hiring a
housekeeper, and to prevent being dogged by Densie again, I passed as
Mr. Monroe Gordon, guardian to the little child whom I loved so much."

"That was Adah," fell in the whisper from the doctor's lips, but caught
the ear of no one.

All were too intent upon the story, which proceeded:

"She grew, and grew in beauty, my fair, lovely child, and I was
wondrously proud of her, giving her every advantage in my power. I sent
her to the best of schools, and even looked forward to the day when she
should take the position she was so well fitted to fill. After she was
grown to girlhood we boarded, she as the ward, I as the guardian still,
and then one unlucky day I stumbled upon you, Dr. John, but not until
you had first stumbled upon my daughter, and been charmed with her
beauty, passing yourself as some one else--as George Hastings, I
believe--lest your fashionable associates should know how the
aristocratic Dr. Richards was in love with a poor, unknown orphan,
boarding up two flights of stairs."

"Who is he talking about, Hugh? Does he mean me? My head throbs so, I
don't quite understand," 'Lina said, piteously, while Hugh held the poor
aching head against his bosom, crushing the orange blossoms, and
whispering softly:

"He means Adah."

"Yes, Adah," the convict rejoined. "John Richards fancied Adah Gordon,
as she was called, but loved his pride and position more. I'll do you
justice, though, young man, I believe at one time you really and truly
loved my child, and but for your mother's letters might have married her
honorably. But you were afraid of that mother. Your pride was stronger
than your love; and as I was determined that you should have my
daughter, I proposed a mock marriage."

"Monster! You, her father, planned that fiendish act!" and Alice's blue
eyes flashed indignantly upon him, while Hugh, forgetting that the idea
was not new to him, walked up before the "monster," as if to lay him at
his feet.

"Listen, while I explain, and you will see the monster had an object,"
returned the stranger, speaking to Alice, instead of Hugh. "There were
several reasons why I wished Adah to marry Dr. Richards, and as one of
them concerns this scar upon my forehead, I will tell you here its
history. You, madam," addressing himself to Anna, "have probably heard
how your greatgrandfather died."

"It happened almost a century of years ago, when there was not the
difference of position between the proud Richards line and the humble
Murdocks that there is now. Your greatgrandfather and mine were friends,
boon companions, but one fatal night, when more wine than usual had been
drunk, there arose a fearful quarrel between the two, and with a knife
snatched from a sideboard standing near, Murdock gave his comrade a blow
which resulted in his death. Sobered at once, and nearly beside himself
with terror, he rushed frantically to the chamber of his sleeping wife,
and laying his blood-wet hands upon her brow, screamed for her to rise,
which she did immediately, nearly fainting, it is said, when by the
light of the lamp her husband bore, she saw the bloody print upon her
forehead. Three months afterward my grandfather was born, and over his
left temple was the hated mark which has clung to us ever since, and
which a noted clairvoyant predicted would never disappear until the
feudal parties came together, and a Murdock wedding with a Richards. The
offspring of such union would be without taint or blemish, he said, and
I am told, sir, your boy is fair as alabaster."

Dr. Richards, to whom this appeal was made, only stared blankly at him,
like one who hears in a dream, but 'Lina, catching at everything
pertaining to the doctor, said, quickly:

"His boy! Where is his boy? Oh, what does it all mean?"

"Poor girl!" and the convict spoke sorrowfully. "I did not think she
would take it so hard, but the worst is not yet told, and I must hasten.
I ingratiated myself at once into John Richards' good graces and when I
knew it would answer, I suggested a mock marriage. First, however, I
would know something definite of his family as they were then, and so,
as a Mr. Morris, who wished to purchase a country seat, I went to
Snowdon, and after some inquiries in the village, forced my way to
Terrace Hill. The lady listening to me was the only one I saw, and I
felt sure she at least would be kind to Adah. On my return to New York,
I urged the marriage more pertinaciously than at first, saying, by way
of excusing myself, that as I was only Adah's guardian, I could not, of
course, feel toward her as a near relative would feel--that as I had
already expended large sums of money on her, I was getting tired of it,
and would be glad to be released, hinting, by way of smoothing the
fiendish proposition, my belief that, from constant association, he
would come to love her so much that at last he would really and truly
make her his wife. He did hesitate--he did seem shocked, and if I
remember rightly, called me a brute, an unnatural guardian, and all
that; but little by little I gained ground, until at last he consented,
and I hurried the matter at once, lest he should repent.

"I had an acquaintance, I said, who lived a few miles from the city--a
man who, for money, would do anything, and who, as a feigned justice of
the peace, would go through with the ceremony, and ever after keep his
own counsel. I wonder the doctor did not make some inquiries concerning
this so-called justice, but I think I am right in saying that he is not
remarkably clear-headed, and this weakness saved me much trouble, and
after a long time I arranged the matter with my friend, who was a lawful
justice, staying with his brother, at that time absent in Europe. This
being done, I decided upon Hugh Worthington for a witness, as being the
person, of all the world, who should be present at Adah's bridal. He had
recently come to New York. I had accidentally made his acquaintance,
acquiring so strong an influence over him that I could almost mold him
to my will. I did not tell him what I wanted until I had tempted him
with drugged wine, and he did not realize what he was doing. He knew
enough, however, to sign his name and to salute the bride, who really
was a bride, as lawful a one as any who ever turned from the altar where
she had registered her vows."

"Oh, joy, joy!" and Alice sprang at once to her feet, and hastening to
the doctor's side, said to him, authoritatively:

"You hear, you understand, Adah is your wife, your very own, and you
must go back to her at once. She's in your own home as Rose Markham. She
went from here, Adah Hastings, whose husband's name was George. You do
understand me?" and Alice grew very earnest as the doctor failed to
rouse up, as she thought he ought to do.

Appealing next to Anna, she continued:

"Pray, make him comprehend that his wife is at Terrace Hill."

Very gently Anna answered:

"She was there, but she has gone. He knows it; I came to tell him, but
she fled immediately after recognizing my brother, and left a letter
revealing the whole."

It had come to 'Lina by this time that Dr. Richards could never be her
husband, and with a bitter cry, she covered her face with her hands, and
went shivering to the corner where Mrs. Worthington sat, as if a
mother's sympathy were needed now, and coveted as it had never been
before.

"Oh, mother," she sobbed, laying her head in Mrs. Worthington's lap, "I
wish I had never been born."

Sadly her wail of disappointment rang through the room, and then the
convict went on with his interrupted narrative.

"When the marriage was over, Mr. Hastings took his wife to another part
of the city, hiding her from his fashionable associates, staying with
her most of the time, and appearing to love her so much that I thought
it would not be long before I should venture to tell him the truth. I
went South on a little business which a companion and myself had planned
together--the very laudable business of stealing negroes from one State
and selling them in another. Some of you know that I was caught in my
traffic, and that the negro stealer Sullivan, was safely lodged in
prison, from which he was released but two days since. Fearing there
might be some mistake, I wrote from my prison home to Adah herself, but
suppose it did not reach New York till after she had left it. My poor,
dear little girl, thoughts of her have helped to make me a better man
than I ever was before. I am not perfect now, but I certainly am not as
hard, as wicked, or bad as when I first wore the felon's dress."

A casual observer would have said that Densie Densmore had heard less of
that strange story than any one else, but her hearing faculties had been
sharpened, and not a word was missed by her--not a link lost in the
entire narrative, and when the narrator expressed his love for his
daughter, she darted upon him again, shrieking wildly:

"And that child whom you loved was the baby you stole, and I shall see
her again--shall hear that blessed name of mother from her own sweet
lips."

A little apart from the others, his eyes fixed earnestly upon the
convict, stood Hugh. His mind, too, had gathered in every fact, but he
had reached a widely different conclusion from what poor Densie had.

"Answer her," he said, gravely, as the convict did not reply. "Tell her
if Adah be her child, or--'Lina--which?"

Had a clap of thunder cleft the air around her, 'Lina could not have
started up sooner than she did. The convict took his eyes away from her,
pitying her so much, while Densie's bony hand was raised as if to thrust
her off, and Densie's voice exclaimed: "Not this, not this. She despises
me, a white nigger. I will not be her mother. The other one--Densie, I
named her--she is mine--"

The convict shook his head. "No, Densie, not Adah, I kept her, my lawful
child, and sent the other back. It was a bold move, and I wonder it was
not questioned, but Adaline's eyes were not so black then as they are
now, and though six months older than the other, she was small for her
age, and cannot now be so tall as Adah. The mark, too, must have
strengthened the deception, as I knew it would, and eighteen months
sometimes changes a child materially; so Eliza took it for granted that
the girl she received as Adaline, and whose real name was Densie, was
her own; but Adah Hastings is her daughter and Hugh's half-sister, while
this young woman is--the child of myself and Densie Densmore!"

Alice, Anna, and the doctor looked aghast, while Mrs. Worthington
murmured audibly: "Adah, Adah, darling Adah, she always seemed near to
me; and Willie, precious Willie--oh, I want them here now!"

One mother had claimed her own, but alas, the fond cry of welcome to
sweet Adah Hastings was a death knell to 'Lina, for it seemed to shut
her out of that gentle woman's heart. There was no place for her, and in
her terrible desolation she stood alone, her eyes wandering wistfully
from one to another, but turning very quickly when they fell on the
white-haired Densie, her mother. She would not have it so; she could not
own the woman she had affected to despise, that servant for her mother,
that villain for her father, and worse--oh, infinitely worse than
all--she had no right to be born! A child of sin and shame, disgraced,
disowned, forsaken. It was a terrible blow, and the proud girl staggered
beneath it.

"Will no one speak to me?" she said, at last; "no one break this
dreadful silence? Has everybody forsaken me? Do you all loathe and hate
the offspring of such parents? Won't somebody pity and care for me?"

"Yes, 'Lina," and Hugh--the one from whom she had the least right to
expect pity--Hugh came to her side; and winding his arm around her,
said, with a choking voice: "I will not forsake you, 'Lina; I will care
for you the same as ever, and so long as I have a home you shall have
one, too."

"Oh, Hugh, I don't deserve this from you!" was 'Lina's faint response,
as she laid her head upon his bosom, whispering: "Take me away--from
them all--upstairs--on the bed I am so sick, and my head is bursting
open!"

Hugh was strong as a young giant, and lifting gently the yielding form,
he bore it from the room--the bridal room, which she would never enter
again, until he brought her back--and laid her softly down beneath the
windows, dropping tears upon her white, still face, and whispering:

"Poor 'Lina!"

As Hugh passed out with his burden in his arms, the bewildered company
seemed to rally; but the convict was the first to act. Turning to Mrs.
Worthington he said:

"Eliza, I am here to-night for my children's sake; and now that I have
done what I came to do, I shall leave you, only asking that you continue
to be a mother to the poor girl who is really the only sufferer. The
rest have cause for joy; you in particular," turning to the doctor, who
suddenly seemed to break the spell which had bound him, and springing to
his feet, exclaimed:

"Yes, Lily shall he found, Lily shall be found; but I must see my boy
first. Anna, can't we go now, to-night?"

That was impossible, Alice said; and as hers was the only clear head in
the household, she set herself at once to plan for everybody. To the
convict and the doctor she paid no heed; but the tired Anna was
conducted at once to her own room, and made to take the rest she so much
needed. Densie too was cared for kindly, soothingly; for the poor old
woman was nearly crushed with all she had heard; and Alice, as she left
her upon the bed, heard her muttering deliriously to herself:

"She wouldn't let her own mother eat with her. She compared me to a
white nigger; and can I receive her now? No, no; and she don't wish it.
Yet I pitied her when her heart snapped to pieces there in the middle of
the room; poor girl, poor girl!"

When Alice returned again to the parlor, the convict had gone. There had
been a short consultation between himself and the doctor, an engagement
to meet in Cincinnati to arrange their plan of search; and then he had
turned again to his once wife, still sitting in her corner, motionless,
white, and paralyzed with nervous terror.

"You need not fear me, Eliza," he said, kindly, "I shall probably never
trouble you again; and though you have no cause to believe my word, I
tell you solemnly that I will never rest until I have found our
daughter, and sent her back to you. Be kind to Densie Densmore; she was
more sinned against than sinning. Good-by, Eliza, good-by."

He did not offer her his hand; he knew she would not touch it; but with
one farewell look of contrition and regret, he left her, and mounting
the horse which had brought him there, he dashed away from Spring Bank,
just as Colonel Tiffton reined up to the gate.

Nell would give him no peace until he went over to see what it all meant
and if there really was to be no wedding. It was Alice who met him in
the hall, explaining to him as much as she thought necessary, and asking
him, on his return, to wait a little by the field gate, and turn back
any other guest who might be on the road.

The colonel promised compliance with her request, and thus were kept
away two carriage loads of people whose curiosity had prompted them to
disregard the contents of the note brought to them so mysteriously.

Spring Bank was not honored with wedding guests that night; and when the
clock struck eight, the appointed hour for the bridal, only the
bridegroom sat in the dreary parlor, his head bent down upon the sofa
arm, and his chest heaving with the sobs he could not repress as he
thought of all poor Lily had suffered since he left her so cruelly. Hugh
had told him what he did not understand before. He had come into the
room for his mother, whom 'Lina was pleading to see; and after leading
her to the chamber of the half-delirious girl, he had returned to the
doctor, and related to him all he knew of Adah, dwelling long upon her
gentleness and beauty, which had won from him a brother's love, even
though he knew not she was his Sister.

"I was a wretch, a villain!" the doctor groaned. Then looking wistfully
at Hugh, he said: "Do you think she loves me still? Listen to what she
says in her farewell to Anna," and with faltering voice, he read: "That
killed the love and now, if I could, I would not be his except for
Willie's sake.' Do you think she meant it?"

"I have no doubt of it, sir. How could her love outlive everything?
Curses and blows might not have killed it, but when you thought to ruin
her good name, to deny your child, she would be less than woman could
she forgive. Why, I hate and despise you myself for the wrong you have
done my sister," and Hugh's tall form seemed to take on an increased
height as he stood, gazing down on one who could not meet his eye, but
cowered and hid his face.

It was the first time Hugh had called Adah "my sister," and it seemed to
fill every nook and corner of his great heart with unutterable love for
the absent girl. "Sister, sister," he kept repeating to himself, and as
he did so, his resentful indignation grew toward the man who had so
cruelly deceived her, until at last he abruptly left the room, lest his
hot temper should get the mastery, and he knock down his dastardly
brother-in-law, as he greatly wished to do.

It was a sad house at Spring Bank that night, and only the negroes were
capable of any enjoyment. Terrified at first at what by dint of
listening they saw and heard, they assembled in the kitchen, and
together rehearsed the strange story, wondering if none of the tempting
supper prepared with so much care would be touched by the whites. If
not, they, of course, had the next best right, and when about midnight
Mrs. Worthington passed hurriedly through the dining-room, the table
gave evidence that somebody had partaken of the marriage feast, and not
very sparingly either. But she did not care, her thoughts were divided
between the distant Adah, her daughter--her own--the little brown-eyed
child she had been so proud of years ago, and the moaning, wretched girl
upstairs, 'Lina, tossing distractedly from side to side; now holding her
throbbing head, and now thrusting out her hot, dry hands, as if to keep
off some fancied form, whose hair, she said, was white as snow, and who
claimed to be her mother.

The shock had been a terrible one to 'Lina--terrible in more senses than
one. She did love Dr. Richards; and the losing him was enough of itself
to drive her mad; but worse even than this, and far more humiliating to
her pride, was the discovery of her parentage, the knowing that a
convict was her father, a common servant her mother, and that no
marriage tie had hallowed her birth.

"Oh, I can't bear it!" she cried. "I can't. I wish I might die! Will
nobody kill me? Hugh, you will, I know!"

But Hugh was away for the family physician, for he would not trust a
gossiping servant to do the errand. Once before that doctor had stood by
'Lina's bedside, and felt her feverish pulse, but his face then was not
as anxious as now. He did not speak of danger, but Hugh, who watched him
narrowly, read it in his face, and following him down the stairs, asked
to be told the truth.

"She is going to be very sick. She may get well, but I have little to
hope from symptoms like hers."

That was the doctor's reply, and with a sigh Hugh went back to the sick
girl, who had given him little else than sarcasm and scorn.



CHAPTER XL

POOR 'LINA


Drearily the morning dawned, but there were no bridal slumbers to be
broken, no bridal farewells said. There were indeed good-byes to be
spoken, for Anna was impatient to be gone. But for Adah, who must be
found, and Willie, who must be cared for, and Charlie, who was waiting
for her, she would have tarried longer, and helped to nurse the girl
whom she pitied so much. But even Alice said she had better go, and so
at an early hour she was ready to leave the house she had entered under
so unpleasant circumstances.

"I would like to see 'Lina," she said to Alice, who carried the request
to the sick room.

But 'Lina refused. "I can't," she said; "she hates, she despises me, and
she has reason. Tell her I was not worthy to be her sister; tell her
anything you like; but the doctor--oh, Alice, do you think he'll come,
just for a minute, before he goes?"

It was not a pleasant thing for the doctor to meet 'Lina now face to
face, for of course she wished to reproach him for his treachery. But
she did not--she thought only of herself; and when at last, urged on by
Anna and Alice, he entered into her presence, she only offered him her
hand at first, without a single word. He was shocked to find her so
sick, for a few hours had worked a marvelous change in her, and he
shrank from the bright eyes fixed so eagerly on his face.

"Oh Dr. Richards," she began at last, "if I loved you less it would not
be so hard to tell you what I must. I did love you, bad as I am, but I
meant to deceive you. It was for me that Adah kept silence at Terrace
Hill. Adah, I almost hate her for having crossed my path."

There was a fearfully vindictive gleam in the bright eyes now, and the
doctor shudderingly looked away, while 'Lina, with a soft tone,
continued: "You believed me rich, and whether you loved me afterward or
not, you sought me first for my money. I kept up the delusion, for in no
other way could I have won you. Dr. Richards, if I die, as perhaps I
may, I shall have one less sin for which to atone, if I confess to you
that instead of the heiress you imagined me to be, I had scarcely money
enough to pay my board at that hotel. Hugh, who himself is poor,
furnished what means I had, and most of my jewelry was borrowed. Do you
hear that? Do you know what you have escaped?"

She almost shrieked at the last.

"Go," she continued, "find your Adah. It's nothing but Adah now. I see
her name in everything. Hugh thinks of nothing else, and why should he?
She's his sister, and I--oh! I'm nobody but a beggarly servant's brat. I
wish I was dead! I wish I was dead! and I will be pretty soon."

This was their parting, and the doctor left her room a soberer, sadder
man than he had entered it. Half an hour later, and he, with Anna, was
fast nearing Versailles, where they were joined by Mr. Millbrook, and
together the three started on their homeward route.

Rapidly the tidings flew, told in a thousand different ways, and the
neighborhood was all on fire with the strange gossip. But little cared
they at Spring Bank for the storm outside, so fierce a one was beating
at their doors, that even the fall of Sumter failed to elicit more than
a casual remark from Hugh, who read without the slightest emotion the
President's call for seventy-five thousand men. Tenderer than a brother
was Hugh to the sick girl upstairs, staying by her so patiently that
none save Alice ever guessed how he longed to be free and join in the
search for Adah. To her it had been revealed by a few words accidentally
overheard. "Oh, Adah, sister, I know that I could find you, but my duty
is here."

This was what he said, and Alice felt her heart throb with increased
respect for the unselfish man, who gave no other token of his impatience
to be gone, but stayed home hour after hour in that close, feverish
room, ministering to all of 'Lina's fancies, and treating her as if no
word of disagreement had ever passed between them. Night after night,
day after day, 'Lina grew worse, until at last, there was no hope, and
the council of physicians summoned to her side said that she would die.
Then Densie softened again, but did not go near the dying one. She could
not be sent away a second time, so she stayed in her own room, which
witnessed many a scene of agonizing prayer, for the poor girl passing so
surely to another world.

"God save her at the last. God let her into heaven," was the burden of
shattered Densie's prayer, while Alice's was much like it, and Hugh,
too, more than once bowed his head upon the burning hands he held, and
asked that space might be given her for repentance, shuddering as he
recalled the time when, like her, he lay at death's door, unprepared to
enter in. Was he prepared now? Had he made a proper use of life and
health restored? Alas! that the answer conscience forced upon him should
have wrung out so sharp a groan. "But I will be," he said, and laying
his own face by 'Lina's, he promised that if God would bring her reason
back, so they could tell her of the untried world her feet were nearing,
he would henceforth be a better man, and try to serve the God who heard
and answered that earnest prayer.

It was many days ere the fever abated, but there came a morning in early
May when the eyes were not so fearfully bright as they had been, while
the wild ravings were hushed, and 'Lina lay quietly upon her pillow.

"Do you know me?" Alice asked, bending gently over her, while Hugh, from
the other side of the bed, leaned eagerly forward for the reply.

"Yes, Alice, but where am I? This is not New York--not my room. Have
I--am I sick, very sick?" and 'Lina's eyes took a terrified expression
as she read the truth in Alice's face. "I am not going to die, am I?"
she continued, casting upon Alice a look which would have wrung out the
truth, even if Alice had been disposed to withhold it, which she was
not.

"You are very sick," she answered, "and though we hope for the best, the
doctor does not encourage us much. Are you willing to die, 'Lina?"

Neither Hugh nor Alice ever forgot the tone of 'Lina's voice as she
replied:

"Willing? No!" or the expression of her face, as she turned it to the
wall, and motioned them to leave her.

For two days after that she neither spoke nor gave other token of
interest in anything passing around her, but at the expiration of that
time, as Alice sat by her, she suddenly exclaimed:

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
I wish He had said that some other way, for if that means we cannot be
forgiven until we forgive everybody, there's no hope for me, for I
cannot, I will not forgive Densie Densmore for being my mother, neither
will I forgive Adah Hastings for having crossed my path. If she had
never seen the doctor I should have been his wife, and never have known
who or what I was. I hate them both, Densie and Adah, so you need not
pray for me. I heard you last night, and even Hugh has taken it up, but
it's no use. I can't forgive."

'Lina was very much excited--so much indeed, that Alice could not talk
with her then; and for days this was the burden of her remarks. She
could not forgive Densie and Adah, and until she did, there was no use
for her or any one else to pray. But the prayers she could not say for
herself were said for her by others, while Alice omitted no proper
occasion for talking with her personally on the subject she felt to be
all-important. Nor were these efforts without their effect; the bitter
tone when speaking of Densie ceased at last, and Alice was one day
surprised at 'Lina's asking to see her, together with Mrs. Worthington.
Timidly, Densie approached the bed from which she had once been so
angrily dismissed. But there was nothing to fear now from the white,
wasted girl, whose large eyes fastened themselves a moment on the
wrinkled face; then with a shudder, closed tightly, while the lip
quivered with a grieved, suffering expression. She did not say to poor
old Densie that she acknowledged her as a mother, or that she felt for
her the slightest thrill of love. She was through with deception; and
when, at last, she spoke to the anxiously waiting woman, it was only to
say:

"I wanted to tell you that I have forgiven you; but I cannot call you
mother. You must not expect it. I know no mother but this one," and the
white hand reached itself toward Mrs. Worthington, who took it
unhesitatingly and held it between her own, while 'Lina continued: "I've
given you little cause to love me, and I know how glad you must be that
another, and not I, is your real daughter. I did not know what made me
so bad, but I understand it now. I saw myself so plainly in that man's
eyes; it was his nature in me which made me so hateful to Hugh. Oh,
Hugh! the memory of what I've been to him is the hardest part of all,"
and covering her face with the sheet, 'Lina wept bitterly; while Hugh,
who was standing behind her, laid his warm hand on her head, smoothing
her hair caressingly, as he said:

"Never mind that, 'Lina; I, too, was bad to you. If 'Lina can forgive
me, I surely can forgive 'Lina."

There was the sound of convulsive sobbing; and then, uncovering her
face, 'Lina raised herself up, and laying her hand on Hugh's bosom,
answered through her tears:

"I wish I had always felt as I do now. Hugh, you don't know how bad I've
been. Why, I used to be ashamed to call you brother, if any fine people
were near."

There was a sparkle of indignation in Alice's blue eyes.

"You have no cause to be ashamed of Hugh," she said, quickly, the tone
of her voice coming like a revelation to 'Lina, who scanned her face
eagerly, and then, turning, looked curiously up to Hugh.

"I'm glad, I'm glad," she whispered, "for I know now you are worthy even
of her."

"You are mistaken, 'Lina," Hugh said, huskily, while 'Lina continued;
"And, Hugh, I must tell you more, how bad I've been. You remember the
money you sent to Adah last summer in mother's letter. I kept the whole.
I burned the letter, and mother never saw it. I bought jewelry with
Adah's money. I did so many things, I--I--it goes from me now. I can't
remember all. Oh, must I confess the whole, everything, before I can
say, 'Forgive us our trespasses?'"

"No, 'Lina. Unless you can repair some wrong, you are not bound to tell
every little thing. Confession is due to God alone," Alice whispered to
the agitated girl, who looked bewildered, as she answered back: "But
God knows all now, and you do not; besides, I can't feel sorry toward
Him as I do toward others. I try and try, but the feeling is not
there--the sorry feeling, I mean, as sorry as I want to feel."

"God, who knows our feebleness, accepts our purposes to do better, and
gives us strength to carry them out," Alice whispered, again bending
over 'Lina, on whose pallid, distressed face a ray of hope for a moment
shone.

"I have good purposes," she murmured; "but I can't, I can't. I don't
know as they are real; maybe, if I get well, they would not last, and
it's all so dark, so desolate--nothing to make life desirable--no home,
no name, no friends--and death is so terrible. Oh, Hugh, Hugh! don't let
me go. You are strong; you can hold me back, even from Death himself;
and I can be good to you; I can feel on that point, and I tell you truly
that, standing as I am with the world behind and death before, I see
nothing to make life desirable, but you, Hugh, my noble, my abused
brother. To make you love me, as I hope I might, is worth living for.
You would stand by me, Hugh--you, if no one else, and I wish I could
tell you how fast the great throbs of love keep coming to my heart. Dear
Hugh, Hugh, Brother Hugh, don't let me die--hold me fast."

With an icy shiver, she clung closer to Hugh, as if he could indeed do
battle with the king of terror stealing slowly into that room.

"Somebody say 'Our Father,'" she whispered, "I can't remember how it
goes."

"Do you forgive and love everybody?" Alice asked, sighing as she saw the
bitter expression flash for an instant over the pinched features, while
the white lips answered: "Not Adah, no, not Adah."

Alice could not pray after that, not aloud at least, and a deep silence
fell upon the group assembled around the deathbed. 'Lina slept at last,
slept quietly on Hugh's strong arm, and gradually the hard expression on
the face relaxed, giving way to one of quiet peace, and Densie, watching
her anxiously, whispered beneath her breath: "See, the Murdock is all
gone, and her face is like a baby's face. Maybe she would call me mother
now."

Poor Densie! Eagerly she waited for the close of that long sleep, her
eye the first to note that it was ended, and 'Lina awake again. Still
the silence remained unbroken, while 'Lina seemed lost to all else save
the thoughts burning at her breast--thoughts which brought a quiver to
her lips, and forced out upon her brow great drops of sweat, which
Densie wiped away, unnoticed, it may be, or at least unrebuked. The
noonday sun of May was shining broadly into the room, but to 'Lina it
was night, and she said to Alice, now kneeling at her side: "It's
growing dark; they'll light the street lamps pretty soon, and the band
will play in the yard, but I shall not hear them. New York and Saratoga
are a great ways off, and so is Terrace Hill. Tell him I meant to
deceive him, but I did love him. Tell Adah I do forgive her, and I would
like to see her, for she is my half-sister. The bitter is all gone. I am
in charity with everybody, everybody. May I say 'Our Father' now? It
goes and comes, goes and comes, forgive our trespasses, my trespasses;
how is it, Hugh? Say it with me once, and you, too, mother."

She did not look toward Densie, but her hand fell off that way, and
Densie, with a low cry began with Hugh the soothing prayer in which
'Lina joined feebly, throwing in ejaculatory sentences of her own.

"I forgive Densie Densmore; I forgive Adah, Adah, everybody. Forgive my
trespasses then as I forgive those that trespass against me. Bless Hugh,
dear Hugh, noble Hugh. Forgive us our trespasses, forgive us our
trespasses, our trespasses, forgive my trespasses, me, forgive,
forgive."

It was the last word which ever passed 'Lina's lips, "Forgive, forgive,"
and Hugh, with his ear close to the lips, heard the faint murmur even
after the hands had fallen from his neck where in the last struggle they
had been clasped, and after the look which comes but once to all had
settled on her face. That was the last of 'Lina, with that cry for
pardon she passed away, and though it was but a deathbed repentance,
and she, the departed, had much need for pardon, Alice and the
half-acknowledged mother clung to it as to a ray of hope, knowing how
tender and full of compassion was the blessed Savior, even to those who
turn not to Him until the river of death is bearing them away. Very
gently Hugh laid the dead girl back upon the pillow, and leaving one
kiss on her white forehead, hurried away to his own room, where, unseen
to mortal eye, he could ask for knowledge to give himself aright to the
God who had come so near to them.

There were no noisy outbursts among the negroes when told their young
mistress was dead, for 'Lina had not been greatly loved. The sight of
Alice's swollen eyes and tear-stained face affected Mug, it is true, but
even she could not cry until she had coaxed old Uncle Sam to repeat to
her, for the twentieth time, the story of Bethlehem's little children
slain, by order of the cruel Herod. This story, told in old Sam's
peculiar way, had the desired effect, and the tears which refused to
start even at the sight of 'Lina dead, flowed freely for the little ones
over whom Rachel wept, refusing to be comforted.

"I can cry dreffully now, Miss Alice, I'se sorry, Miss 'Lina is dead,
very sorry. She never can come back any more, can she?" Mug sobbed,
running up to Alice, and hiding her face in her dress.

And this was about as real as any grief expressed by the blacks for
'Lina. Poor 'Lina, she had taken no pains to win affection while she was
living, and she could not expect to be missed much when she was gone.
Hugh mourned for her the most, more even than his mother or Densie
Densmore--the latter of whom seemed crazier than ever, shutting herself
entirely in her room, and refusing to be present at the funeral. 'Lina
had been ashamed of her, she said, and she would not disgrace her by
claiming relationship now that she was dead, so with eyes whose
blackness was dimmed by tears, she watched from her window the
procession moving from the yard, across the fields, and out to the
hillside, where the Spring Bank dead were buried, and where on the last
day of blooming, beautiful May, they laid 'Lina to rest, forgetting all
her faults, and speaking only kindly words of her as they went slowly
back to the house, from which she had gone forever.



CHAPTER XLI

TIDINGS


A few days after 'Lina's burial, there came three letters to Spring
Bank, one to Mrs. Worthington from Murdock, as he now chose to be
called, saying that though he had looked, and was still looking
everywhere for the missing Adah, he could only trace her, and that but
vaguely, to the Greenbush depot, where he lost sight of her entirely, no
one after that having seen a person bearing the least resemblance to
her. After a consultation with the doctor, he had advertised for her,
and he inclosed a copy of the advertisement, as it appeared in the
different papers of Boston, Albany, and New York.

"If A---- H---- will let her whereabouts be known to her friends, she
will hear of something to her advantage."

This was the purport of Murdock's letter, if we except a kind of inquiry
after 'Lina, of whose death he had not heard.

The second, for Alice, was from Anna Richards, who was also ignorant as
yet of 'Lina's decease. After inquiring kindly for the unfortunate girl,
she wrote:

"I have great hopes of my erring brother, now that I know how his whole
heart goes toward his beautiful boy, our darling Willie. I wish poor,
dear Lily could have seen him when, on his arrival at Terrace Hill, he
not only bent over, but knelt by the crib of his sleeping child, waking
him at once, and hugging him to his bosom, while his tears dropped like
rain. I am sure she would have chosen to be his wife, for her own sake
as well as Willie's.

"You know how proud my mother and sisters are, and it would surprise
you, as it does me, to see them pet, and spoil, and fondle Willie, who
rules the entire household, mother even allowing him to bring
wheelbarrow, drum, and trumpet into the parlor, declaring that she likes
the noise, as it stirs up her blood. Willie has made a vast change in
our once quiet home, and I fear I shall meet with much opposition when I
take him away, as I expect to do next month, for Lily gave him to me,
and brother John has said that I may have him until the mother is found,
while Charlie is perfectly willing; and thus, you see, my cup of joy is
full.

"Brother is away now, hunting for Adah, and I am wicked enough not to
miss him, so busy am I in the few preparations needed by the wife of a
poor missionary."

Then, in a postscript. Anna added: "I forgot to tell you that Charlie
and I are to be married some time in July, that the Presbyterian Society
of Snowdon has given him a call to be their pastor, that he has
accepted, and what is best of all, has actually rented your old home for
us to live in. I don't know how it will seem to stop on Sundays at the
meeting house instead of keeping on to our dear, old St. Luke's. I love
the service dearly, but I love my Charlie more, notwithstanding that he
calls me his little heretic, and accuses me of proselytizing intentions
towards himself. I have never confessed it before, but, seriously, I
have strong hopes of seeing him yet in surplice and gown; but till that
time comes, I shall be a real good Presbyterian, or orthodox, as they
are called here in Massachusetts.

"Perhaps you may have heard that mother was once much opposed to
Charlie. I must say, however, that she has done well at the last, for
when I told her I had found him, and that we were to be married, she
said she was glad on the whole, as it relieved her of a load, and she
hoped I would be happy."

Anna did not explain to Alice that the load of which her mother was
relieved was mostly Charlie's hidden letters, given up with a full
confession of the pains taken to conceal them, and a frank
acknowledgment of wrong to Anna, who, as her letter indicated, was far
too happy to be angry for a single moment. With a smile, Alice finished
the childlike letter, so much like Anna. Then feeling that Hugh would be
glad to hear from Willie, she went in quest of him, finding him at the
end of the long piazza, where he sat gazing vacantly at the open letter
in his hand--Irving Stanley's letter, which he passed at once to Alice
in exchange for Anna's given to him.

Glancing at the name at the bottom of the page, Alice blushed painfully,
feeling rather than seeing that Hugh was watching her, and guessing of
what he was thinking. Irving did not know of 'Lina's death. From Dr.
Richards, whom he had accidentally met on Broadway, he had heard of her
sudden illness, and apparently accepted that as the reason why the
marriage was not consummated. Intuitively, however, he felt that there
must be something behind, but he was far too well-bred to ask any idle
questions, and in his letter he merely inquired after 'Lina, as after
any sick friend, playfully hoping that for the sake of the doctor, who
looked very blue, she would soon recover and make him the happiest man
alive. Then followed some allusions to the relationship existing between
himself and Hugh, with regrets that more had not been made of it, and
then he said that having decided to accompany his sister and Mrs.
Ellsworth on her tour to Europe, whither she would go the latter part of
July, and having nothing in particular to occupy him in the interim, he
would, with Hugh's permission, spend a few days at Spring Bank. He did
not say he was coming to see Alice Johnson, but Hugh understood it just
the same, feeling confident that his sole object in visiting Kentucky
was to take Alice back with him, and carry her off to Europe.

Some such idea flitted across Alice's mind as she read that letter, and
for a single instant her eyes sparkled with delight at the thought of
wandering over Europe in company with Mrs. Ellsworth and Irving Stanley;
but when she looked at Hugh, the bright vision faded, and with it all
desire to go with Irving Stanley, even should he ask her. Hugh needed
her more than Irving Stanley. He was, if possible, more worthy of her.
His noble, unselfish devotion to 'Lina had finished the work begun on
that memorable night, when she said to him: "I may learn to love you,"
and from the moment when to 'Lina's passionate cry, "Will no one pity
me?" he had answered, "Yes, 'Lina, I will care for you," her heart had
been all his own, and more than once as she watched with him by 'Lina's
bedside, she had been tempted to wind her arm around his neck and
whisper in his ear:

"Hugh, I love you now, I will be your wife."

But propriety had held her back and made her far more reserved toward
him than she had ever been before. Terribly jealous where she was
concerned, Hugh was quick to notice the change, and the gloomy shadow on
his face was not caused wholly by 'Lina's sad death, as many had
supposed. Hugh was very unhappy. Instead of learning to love him, as he
had sometimes hoped she might, Alice had come to dislike him, shunning
his society, and always making some pretense to get away if, by chance,
they were left alone; and now, as the closing act in the sad drama,
Irving Stanley was coming to carry her off forever.

Hugh's heart was very sore as he sat there waiting for Alice to finish
that letter, and speak to him about it. What a long, long time it took
her to read it through--longer than it needed, he was sure, for the
handwriting was very plain and the letter very brief.

Alice knew he was waiting for her, and after hesitating a while, she
went up to him, and laying her hand on his shoulder, as she had not done
in weeks, she said:

"You will be glad to see your cousin?"

"Yes; I suppose so. Shall you?"

He turned partly around, so he could look at her; and this it was which
brought the blood so quickly to her face, making her stammer as she
replied:

"Of course I shall be glad. I like him very much; but--"

Here she stopped, for she did not know how to tell Hugh that she was not
glad in the way which he supposed.

"But what?" he asked, "What were you going to say?" and in his eyes
there was a look which drove Alice's courage away, and made her answer:

"It's queer the doctor did not tell him anything except that 'Lina was
sick."

"There are a great many queer people in this world," Hugh replied,
rather testily, while Alice mildly rejoined.

"The letter has been delayed, and he will be here day after to-morrow.
Did you notice?"

"Yes; and as I am impatient to go for Adah, the sooner he comes the
better, for the sooner it will leave me at liberty. Would it be very
impolite for me to go at once, and leave you to entertain him?"

"Of course it would," said Alice. "Adah's claim is a strong one, I'll
admit; but the doctor and Mr. Murdock are doing their best; and I ask,
as a favor, that you remain at home to meet Mr. Stanley."

Now Hugh knew that nothing could have tempted him to leave Spring Bank
so long as Irving Stanley was there; but as he was just in a mood to be
unreasonable, he replied that, "if Alice wished it, he should remain at
home until Mr. Stanley's visit was ended."

Alice felt exceedingly uncomfortable, for never had Hugh been so
provokingly distant and cool, and she was really glad when at last a
carriage appeared across the fields, and she knew the "city cousin," as
Hugh called him, was coming.



CHAPTER XLII

IRVING STANLEY


He had come, and up in the chamber where 'Lina died, was making the
toilet necessary after his hot dusty ride. Hugh, heartily ashamed of his
conduct for the last two days, had received him most cordially, meeting
him at the gate, and holding him by the hand, as they walked together to
the house, where Mrs. Worthington stood waiting for him, her lips
quivering, and tears dimming her eyes, as she said to him: "Yes, 'Lina
is dead."

Irving had heard as much at the depot, and heard, too, a strange story,
the truth of which he greatly doubted. Mrs. Worthington had been 'Lina's
mother, he believed, and his sympathy went out toward her at once,
making him forget that Alice was not there to meet him, as he half
expected she would be, although they were really comparative strangers.

It was not until a rather late hour that Alice joined him, sitting upon
the cool piazza, with Hugh as his companion. In summer Alice always wore
white, and now, as she came tripping down the long piazza, her muslin
dress floating about her like a snowy mist, her fair hair falling softly
about her face and on her neck, a few geranium leaves twined among the
glossy curls, and her lustrous eyes sparkling with excitement, both
Irving Stanley and Hugh held their breath and watched her as she came,
the one jealously and half angry that she was so beautiful, the other
admiringly and with a feeling of wonder at the beauty he had never seen
surpassed.

Alice was perfectly self-possessed, and greeted Mr. Stanley as she would
have greeted any friend--and she was glad to see him--spoke of Saratoga,
and then inquired for Mrs. Ellsworth about whom poor 'Lina had talked so
much.

Mrs. Ellsworth was well, Irving said, though very busy with her
preparations for going to Europe, adding "it was not so much pleasure
which was taking her there as by the hope that by some of the Paris
physicians her little deformed Jennie might be benefited. She had
secured a gem of a governess for her daughter, a young lady whom he had
not yet seen, but over whose beauty and accomplishments his staid sister
Carrie had really waxed eloquent."

Hugh cared nothing for that governess, and after a little, thinking he
was not wanted, stole quietly away, and being moodily inclined, rambled
off to 'Lina's grave, half wishing, as he stood there in the moonlight,
that he, too, was lying beside it.

"Were I sure of heaven, it would be a blessed thing to die," he thought,
"for this world has little in it to make me happy. Oh, Alice, Golden
Hair, I could almost wish we had never met, though, as I told her once,
I would rather have loved and lost her than never have loved her at
all."

Poor Hugh! He was mistaken with regard to Alice. She was not listening
to love words. She was telling Irving Stanley as much of 'Lina's sad
story as she thought necessary, and Irving, though really interested,
was, we must confess, too intent on watching the changing expressions of
her beautiful face to comprehend it clearly in all its complicated
parts.

He understood that 'Lina was not, and that a certain Adah Hastings was,
Mrs. Worthington's child; understood, too, that Adah was the wife of Dr.
Richards--that she had at some time, not quite clear to him, been at
Terrace Hill, but he somehow received the impression that she eventually
fled from Spring Bank after recognizing the doctor, and never once
thought of associating her with the young woman to whom, many months
previously, he had been so kind in the crowded car, and whose sad, brown
eyes had haunted him at intervals ever since.

Irving Stanley was not what could well be called fickle. He admired
ladies indiscriminately, respected them all, liked some very much, and
next to Alice was more attracted by and pleased with Adah's face than
any he had ever seen save that of "the Brownie," which seemed to him
much like it. He had thought of Adah often, but had as often associated
her with some tall, bewhiskered man, who loved her and her little boy as
she deserved to be loved. With this idea constantly before him, Adah had
gradually faded from his mind, leaving there only the image of one who
had made the strongest impression upon him of any whom he yet had met.
Alice Johnson, she was the star he followed now, hers the presence which
would make that projected tour through Europe all sunshine. Irving had
decided to be married; his mother said he ought; Augusta said he ought;
Mrs. Ellsworth said he ought; and so, as Hugh suspected, he had come to
Kentucky for the sole purpose of asking Alice to be his wife. At sight,
however, of Hugh, so much improved, so gentlemanly, and so fine looking,
his heart began to misgive him, and Hugh would have been surprised could
he have known that Irving Stanley was as jealous of him as he was of
Irving Stanley. Yet, such was the fact, and it was a hard matter to tell
which was the more miserable of the two, Irving or Hugh, when at last
the latter returned from 'Lina's grave, and seated himself upon the
moon-lighted piazza, a little apart from the lovers, as he believed
Irving and Alice to be.

By mutual consent the conversation turned upon the war, and Alice could
scarcely forbear laying her hand in Hugh's in token of approbation as
she watched the glow of enthusiasm kindling in his cheek, and the fire
of patriotism flashing from his dark, handsome eyes.

"I wonder, with your strong desire to punish the South, that you are not
in the field," Irving said, a little dryly, for though not a sympathizer
with the rebellion, he was a Baltimorean, and not yet quite as much
aroused as Hugh, who replied at once:

"And so I should have been, but for circumstances I could not control. I
shall soon start in quest of my sister, and when she is found I shall
volunteer at once, fighting like a blood-hound, until some ball strikes
me down."

This he said savagely, and partly for Alice's benefit; never, however,
glancing at her, and so he failed to see the sudden pallor on her cheek,
as she heard, in fancy, the whizzing of the ball which was to lay that
stalwart form in the dust.

"No, sir," Hugh continued fiercely, "it's not for lack of will that I am
not with them to-day; and, I assure you, nothing could take me to Europe
at such a time as this, unless I went to be rid of the trouble," and
springing from his chair, Hugh strode up and down the piazza, chafing
like a caged lion, while Irving Stanley's face flushed faintly at the
insinuation he could not help understand, and Alice looked surprised
that Hugh should so far have forgotten his position as host.

The same thought came to Hugh at last, and turning suddenly in his walk,
he confronted Irving Stanley, and offering him his hand, said:

"Forgive me, sir, for my rudeness. When I get upon the war, I grow too
much excited. I knew you were from Baltimore, and I was fearful you
might uphold that infernal mob which murdered the brave Massachusetts
boys. I could lay that city in ashes."

Irving took the offered hand, and answered, good humoredly:

"That would punish the innocent as well as the guilty, so I am not with
you there, though, like you, I recoil in horror from the perpetration of
that fiendish attack upon peaceable troops. I was there myself, and did
what I could to quiet the tumult, receiving more than one brickbat for
my interference. One word more, Cousin Hugh, I am not going to Europe to
be rid of the trouble, or for pleasure either, but as my sister's
escort. I do not yet see that my country needs me; when I do I shall
come home and join the Union army. We may meet yet on some battlefield,
and if we do you will see I am no coward or traitor either."

Alice's face was white now as marble, and her breath came hurriedly. The
war, before so far off, seemed very near--a terrible reality, when those
two young men talked of standing side by side on some field of carnage.
Hugh noticed her now, and attributing her emotions wholly to her fears
for Irving Stanley, wrung the hand of the latter and then walked away,
half wishing that the leafy woods beyond the distant fields were so many
human beings and he was one of them, marching on to duty.

In this quiet way two days went by, Irving Stanley, quiet, pleasant,
gentlemanly, and winning all hearts by his extreme suavity of manner;
Hugh, silent, fitful, moody; Alice, artificially gay, and even merry,
trying so hard to make up Hugh's deficiencies, that she led poor Irving
astray, and made him honestly believe she might be won. It was on the
morning of the third day that he resolved to end the uncertainty, and
know just how she regarded him. Hugh had gone to Frankfort, he supposed;
Mrs. Worthington was suffering from a nervous headache, while Densie, as
usual, sat in her own room, mostly silent, but occasionally whispering
to herself, "White nigger, white nigger--that's me!" Apparently it was
the best opportunity he could have, and joining Alice in the large, cool
parlor, he seated himself beside her, and with the thought that nothing
was gained by waiting, plunged at once into his subject.

"Alice," he began, "I must leave here to-morrow, and the business on
which I came is not yet transacted. Can't you guess what it is? Has not
my manner told you why I came to Kentucky?"

Alice was far too truthful to affect ignorance, and though it cost her a
most painful effort to do so, she answered, frankly: "I think I can
guess."

"And you will not tell me no?" Irving said, involuntarily winding his
arm around her, and drawing her drooping head nearer to him.

Just then a shadow fell upon them, but neither noticed it, or dreamed of
the tall form passing the window and pausing long enough to see Irving
Stanley's arm around Alice's neck, to hear Irving Stanley as he
continued: "Darling Alice, you will be my wife?"

The rest was lost to Hugh, who had not yet started for Frankfort, as
Irving supposed. With every faculty paralyzed save that of locomotion,
he hurried away to where Rocket stood waiting for him, and mounting his
pet, went dashing across the fields, conscious of nothing save that
Golden Hair was lost forever. In his rapid walk down the piazza he had
not observed Old Sam, seated in the door, nor heard the mumbled words,
"Poor Massa Hugh! I'se berry sorry for him, berry! I kinder thought,
'fore t'other chap comed, Miss Ellis was hankerin' after him a little.
Poor Massa Hugh!"

Old Sam, like Hugh, had heard Irving Stanley's impassioned words, for
the window nearby was opened wide; he had seen, too, the deadly pallor
on Hugh's face, and how for an instant he staggered, as from a blow,
covering his eyes with his hands and whispering as he passed the negro,
"Oh, Alice, Golden Hair!"

All this Sam had witnessed, and in his sympathy for "Massa Hugh" he
failed to hear the rest of Irving's wooing, or Alice's low-spoken
answer. She could not be Irving Stanley's wife. She made him understand
that, and then added, sadly: "I am sorry I cannot love you as I ought,
for I well know the meed of gratitude I owe to one who saved my life,
and I have wanted so much to thank you, only you did not seem to
remember me at all."

In blank amazement Mr. Stanley asked her what she meant, while Alice,
equally amazed, replied: "Surely, you have not forgotten me? Can I be
mistaken? I am the little girl whom Irving Stanley rescued from
drowning, when the _St. Helena_ took fire, several years ago."

"I was never on a burning boat, never saw the _St. Helena_," was Mr.
Stanley's reply; and then for a moment the two regarded each other
intently, but Irving was the first to speak.

"It was Hugh," he said. "It must have been Hugh, for I remember now that
when he was a lad, or youth, his uncle sometimes called him Irving,
which is, I think, his middle name."

"Yes, Yes, H.I. Worthington. I've seen it written thus, but never
thought to ask what 'I.' was for. It was Hugh, and I mistook that old
man for his father. I understand it now," and Alice spoke hurriedly, her
fair face coloring with excitement as the truth flashed upon her that
she was Golden Hair.

Then the bright color faded away, and alarmed at the pallor which
succeeded it, Irving Stanley passed his arm supportingly around her,
asking if she were faint. Old Sam, moving away from the door, saw her as
she sat thus, but did not hear her reply: "It takes me so by surprise.
Poor Hugh, how he must have suffered."

She said this last more to herself than to Irving Stanley, who,
nevertheless, saw in it a meaning; and looking her earnestly in the
face, said to her: "Alice, you cannot be my wife, because your heart is
given to Hugh Worthington. Is it not so?"

Alice would not deceive him, and she answered, frankly: "It is," while
Irving replied: "I approve your choice, although it makes me very
wretched. You will be happy with him. Heaven bless you both."

He dared not trust himself to say another word, but hurrying from her
presence, sought the shelter of the woods, where alone he could school
himself to bear this terrible disappointment.

Hugh did not return until evening, and the first object he saw
distinctly as he galloped to the house, was Alice, sitting near to
Irving upon the pleasant piazza, just as it was natural that she should
sit. He did not observe that his mother was there with them; he did not
think of anything as he rode past them with nod and smile, save that
life henceforth was but a dreary, hopeless blank to him.

Leaving Rocket in Claib's care, he sauntered to the back piazza, where
Sam was sitting, and taking a seat beside him startled him by saying
that he should start on the morrow in quest of his missing sister.

"Yes, massah," was Sam's quiet reply, for he understood the reason of
this sudden journey.

Old Sam pitied Hugh, and after a moment's silence his pity expressed
itself in words. Laying his dark hand on Hugh's bowed head, he said:

"Poor Massah Hugh. Sam kin feel for you ef he is black. Niggers kin love
like the white folks does."

"What do you mean? What do you know?" Hugh asked, a little haughtily,
while Sam fearlessly replied:

"'Scuse me, massah, but I hears dem dis mornin'--hears de city chap
sparkin' Miss Ellis, and seen his arm spang round her, too, with her
sweet face, white as wool, lyin' in his buzzum."

"You saw this after I was gone?" Hugh asked, eagerly, and Sam replied:

"Yes, massah, strue as preachin', and I'se sorry for massah. I prays
that he may somewhar find anodder Miss Ellis, only not quite so nice,
'cause he can't."

Hugh smiled bitterly, as he rejoined:

"Pray rather that I may find Adah, that is the object now for which I
live; and, Sam, keep what you have seen to yourself. Be faithful to Miss
Johnson and kind to mother. There's no telling when I shall return. I
may join the Federal Army, but not a word of this to any one."

"Oh, massah," Sam began, but Hugh left him ere he finished, and
compelled himself to join the group on the front side of the building,
startling them as he had Sam by announcing his determination to start on
the morrow for New York.

Alice's exclamation of surprise was lost as Irving rejoined:

"Then we may travel together, as I, too, leave in the morning."

Hugh gave him a rapid, searching glance, and then his eye fell on Alice,
whose white face he jealously fancied was caused by the prospect of
parting so soon with her affianced husband. He could not guess whether
she were going to Europe or not. A few weeks seemed so short a time in
which to prepare, that he half believed she might induce Mr. Stanley to
defer the trip till autumn. But he would not ask. She would surely tell
him at the last, he thought. She ought, at least, to trust him as a
brother, and say to him:

"Hugh, I am engaged to Mr. Stanley, and when you return, if you are long
gone, I shall probably not be here."

But she said to him no such thing, and only the whiteness of her face
and the occasional quivering of her long eyelashes, showed that she felt
at all, as at an early hour next morning she presided at the breakfast
prepared for the travelers. There was no tremor in her voice, no
hesitancy in her manner, and a stranger could not have told which of the
young men before her held her heart in his possession, or which had kept
her wakeful the entire night, revolving the propriety of telling him ere
he left that the Golden Hair he loved so much was willing to be his.

"Perhaps he will speak to me. I'll wait," was the final decision, as,
rising from her sleepless pillow, she sat down in the gray dawn of the
morning and penned a hasty note, which she thrust into his hand at
parting, little dreaming how long a time would intervene ere they would
meet again.

He had not said to her or to his mother that he might join the army,
gathering so fast from every Northern city and hamlet; only Sam knew
this, and so the mother longing for her daughter was pleased rather than
surprised at his abrupt departure, bidding him Godspeed, and lading him
with messages of love for Adah and the little boy. Alice, too, tried to
smile as she said good-by, but it died upon her lips and a tear trembled
on her cheek, when Hugh dropped the little hand he never expected to
hold again just as he held it then.

Feeling intuitively that Irving and Alice would rather say their parting
words alone, Hugh drew his mother with him as he advanced into the midst
of the sobbing, howling negroes assembled to see him off. But Alice had
nothing to say which she would not have said in his presence. Irving
Stanley understood better than Hugh, and he merely raised her cold hand
to his lips, saying as he did so:

"Just this once; I shall never kiss it again."

He was in the carriage when Hugh came up, and Alice stood leaning
against one of the tall pillars, a deep flush now upon her cheek, and
tears filling her soft blue eyes. In another moment the carriage was
rolling from the yard, neither Irving nor Hugh venturing to look back,
and both as by mutual consent avoiding the mention of Alice, whose name
was not spoken once during their journey together to Cincinnati, where
they parted company, Irving continuing his homeward route, while Hugh
stopped in the city to arrange a matter of business with his banker
there. It was not until Irving was gone and he alone in his room that he
opened the little note given him by Alice, the note which would tell him
of her approaching marriage, he believed. How then was he surprised when
he read:

  "DEAR HUGH: I have at last discovered the mistake under which, for
  so many years, I have been laboring. It was not Irving Stanley who
  saved me from the water, but your own noble self, and you have
  generously kept silent all this time, permitting me to expend upon
  another the gratitude due to you.

  "Dear Hugh, I wish I had known earlier, or that you did not leave
  us so soon. It seems so cold, thanking you on paper, but I have no
  other opportunity, and must do it here.

  "Heaven bless you, Hugh. My mother prayed often for the preserver
  of her child, and need I tell you that I, too, shall never forget
  to pray for you? The Lord keep you in all your ways, and lead you
  safely to your sister.

  "ALICE"

Many times Hugh read this note, then pressing it to his lips thrust it
into his bosom, but failed to see what Alice had hoped he might see,
that the love he once asked for was his, and his alone. He was too sure
that another was preferred before him to reason clearly, and the only
emotions he experienced from reading her note were feelings of pleasure
that she had been set right at last, and that Irving had not withheld
from her the truth.

"That ends the drama," he said. "I don't quite believe she is going with
him to Europe, but she will be his when he returns; and henceforth my
duty must be to forget, if possible, that ever I knew I loved her. Oh,
Golden Hair, why did I ever meet, or meeting you, why was I suffered to
love her so devotedly, if I must lose her at the last!"

There were great drops of sweat about Hugh's lips and on his forehead,
as, burying his face in his hands, he laid both upon the table, and
battled manfully with his love for Alice Johnson, a love which refused
at once to surrender its object, even though there seemed no longer a
shadow of hope in which to take refuge.

"God, help me in my sorrow," was the prayer which fell from the
quivering lips, but did not break the silence of that little room, where
none, save God, witnessed the conflict, the last Hugh ever fought for
Alice Johnson.

He could give her up at length; could think, without a shudder, of the
time when another than himself would call her his wife; and when, late
that afternoon, he took the evening train for Cleveland, not one in the
crowded car would have guessed how sore was the heart of the young man
who plunged so energetically into the spirited war argument in progress
between a Northern and Southern politician. It was a splendid escape
valve for his pent-up feelings, and Hugh carried everything before him,
taking by turns both sides of the question, and effectually silencing
the two combatants, who said to each other in parting: "We shall hear
from that Kentuckian again, though whether in Rebeldom or Yankeeland we
cannot tell."



CHAPTER XLIII

LETTERS FROM HUGH AND IRVING STANLEY


Claib had brought two letters from the office, one for Mrs. Worthington
from Hugh, and one for Alice from Irving Stanley. This last had been
long delayed, and as she broke the seal a little nervously, reading that
his trip to Europe had been deferred on account of the illness of his
sister's governess, but that he was going on board the ship that day,
July tenth, and that his sister was there with him and the governess, "A
modest, sweet-faced body," he wrote, "who looks very girl-like from the
fact that her soft, brown hair is worn short in her neck."

Alice had a tolerably clear insight into Irving Stanley's character, and
immediately her mind conjured up visions of what might be the result of
a sea voyage and months of intimate companionship with that sweet-faced
governess, "who wore her soft, brown hair short in her neck."

"I hope it may be so," she thought; and folding up her letter, she was
about going out to the rustic seat beneath a tall maple where Mug sat,
whispering over the primer she was trying so hard to read, when a cry
from Mrs. Worthington arrested her attention and brought her at once to
the side of the half-fainting woman.

"What is it?" Alice asked, in much alarm, and Mrs. Worthington replied:
"Oh, Hugh, Hugh, my boy! he's enlisted, joined the army! I shall never
see him again!"

Could Hugh have seen Alice then he would not for a moment have doubted
the nature of her feelings toward himself. She did not cry out, nor
faint, but her face turned white as the dress she wore, while her hands
pressed so tightly together, that her long, taper nails left the impress
in her flesh.

"God keep him from danger and death," she murmured; then, winding her
arms around the stricken mother, she wiped her tears away; and to her
moaning cry that she was left alone, replied: "Let me be your child till
he returns, or, if he never does--"

She could get no further, for the very idea was overwhelming, and
sinking down beside Hugh's mother, she laid her head on her lap, and
wept bitterly. Alas, that scenes like this should be so common in our
once happy land, but so it is. Mothers start with terror and grow faint
over the boy just enlisted for the war; then follow him with prayers
and yearning love to the distant battlefield; then wait and watch for
tidings from him; and then too often read with streaming eyes and hearts
swelling with agony, the fatal message which says their boy is dead.

It was a sad day at Spring Bank when first the news of Hugh's enlistment
came, sadder even than when 'Lina died, for Hugh seemed as really dead
as if they all had heard the hissing shell or whizzing ball which was to
bear his young life away. It was nearly two months since he left home,
and he could find no trace of Adah, though searching faithfully for her,
in conjunction with Murdock and Dr. Richards, both of whom had joined
him in New York.

"If Murdock cannot find her," he wrote, "I am convinced no one can, and
I leave the matter now to him, feeling that another duty calls me, the
duty of fighting for my country."

It was just after the disastrous battle of Bull Run, when people were
wild with excitement, and Hugh was thus borne with the tide, until at
last he found himself enrolled as a private in a regiment of cavalry
gathering in one of the Northern States. There had been an instant's
hesitation, a clinging of the heart to the dear old home at Spring Bank,
where his mother and Alice were; a thought of Irving Stanley, and then,
with an eagerness which made his whole frame tremble, he had seized the
pen and written down his name, amid deafening cheers for the brave
Kentuckian. This done, there was no turning back; nor did he desire it.
It seemed as if he were made for war, so eagerly he longed to join the
fray. Only one thing was wanting, and that was Rocket. He had tried the
"Yankee horses," as he called them, but found them far inferior to his
pet. Rocket he must have, and in his letter to his mother he made
arrangements for her to send him northward by a Versailles merchant,
who, he knew, was coming to New York.

Hugh and Rocket, they would make a splendid match, and so Alice thought,
as, on the day when Rocket was led away, she stood with her arms around
his graceful neck, whispering to him the words of love she would fain
have sent his master. She had recovered from the first shock of Hugh's
enlistment. She could think of him now calmly as a soldier; could pray
that God would keep him, and even feel a throb of pride that one who had
lived so many years in Kentucky, then poising almost equally in the
scale, should come out so bravely for the right, though by that act he
called down curses on his head from those at home who favored rebellion,
and who, if they fought at all, would cast in their lot with the
seceding States. She had written to Hugh a kind, sisterly letter,
telling him how proud she was of him, and how her sympathy and prayers
would follow him everywhere. "And if," she had added, in concluding,
"you are sick, or wounded, I will come to you as a sister might do. I
will find you wherever you are."

She had sent this letter to him three weeks before, and now she stood
caressing the beautiful Rocket, who sometimes proudly arched his long
neck, and then looked wistfully at the sad group gathered around him, as
if he knew that was no ordinary parting. Colonel Tiffton, who had heard
what was going on, had ridden over to expostulate with Mrs. Worthington
against sending Rocket North. "Better keep him at home," he said, "and
tell Hugh to come back, and let those who had raised the muss settle
their own difficulty."

The old colonel, who was a native of Virginia, did not know exactly
where he stood. "He was very patriotic," he said, "very, but hanged if
he knew which side to take--both were wrong. He didn't go Nell's
doctrine, for Nell was a rabid Secesh; neither did he swallow Abe
Lincoln, and he'd advise Alice to keep a little more quiet, for there
was no knowing what the hotheads might do. He'd heard of Harney's
threatening vengeance on all Unionists, and now that Hugh was gone he
might pounce on Spring Bank any night."

"Let him!" and Alice's blue eyes flashed brightly, while her girlish
figure seemed to expand and grow higher as she continued: "he will find
no cowards here. I never touched a revolver in my life. I am quite as
much afraid of one that is not loaded as of one that is, but I'll
conquer the weakness. I'll begin to-day. I'll learn to handle firearms.
I'll practice shooting at a mark, and if Hugh is killed I'll--oh, Hugh!
Hugh--"

She could not tell what she would do, for the woman conquered all other
feelings, and laying her face on Rocket's silken mane, she sobbed aloud.

"There's pluck, by George!" muttered the old colonel. "I most wish Nell
was that way of thinking."

It was time now for Rocket to go, and 'mid the deafening howls of the
negroes and the tears of Mrs. Worthington and Alice he was led away, the
latter watching him until he was lost to sight beyond the distant hill,
then, falling on her knees, she prayed, as many a one has done, that
God would be with our brave soldiers, giving them the victory, and
keeping one of them, at least, from falling.

Sadly, gloomily the autumn days came on, and the land was rife with war
and rumors of war. In the vicinity of Spring Bank were many patriots,
but there were hot Secessionists there also, and bitter contentions
ensued. Old friends were estranged, families were divided, neighbors
watched each other jealously, while all seemed waiting anxiously for the
result. Toward Spring Bank the aspersions of the Confederate adherents
were particularly directed. That Hugh should go North and join the
Federal army was taken as an insult, while Mrs. Worthington and Alice
were closely watched, and all their sayings eagerly repeated. But Alice
did not care. Fully convinced of the right, and that she had yet a work
to do, she carried out her plan so boldly announced to Colonel Tiffton,
and all through the autumn months the frequent clash of firearms was
heard in the Spring Bank woods, where Alice, with Mug at her side, like
her constant shadow, "shot at her marks," hitting once Colonel Tiffton's
dog, and coming pretty near hitting the old colonel himself as he rode
leisurely through the woods.

After that Alice confided her experiments to the open fields, where she
could see whatever was in danger, and Harney, galloping up and down the
pike, stirring up dissension and scattering his opinions broadcast
through the country, saw her more than once at her occupation, smiling
grimly as he muttered to himself: "It's possible I may try a hand with
you at shooting some day, my fair Yankee miss."

Blacker, and darker, and thicker the war clouds gathered on our horizon,
but our story has little to do with that first year of carnage, when
human blood was poured as freely as water, from the Cumberland to the
Potomac. Over all that we pass, and open the scene again in the summer
of '62, when people were gradually waking to the fact that Richmond was
not so easily taken, or the South so easily conquered.



CHAPTER XLIV

THE DESERTER


There had been a desertion from a regiment on the Potomac. An officer
of inferior rank, but whose position had been such as to make him the
possessor of much valuable information, and whose perfect loyalty had
been for some time suspected, was missing from his command one morning,
and under such circumstances as to leave little doubt that his intention
was to reach the enemy's lines if possible. Long and loud were the
invectives against the traitor, and none were deeper in their
denunciations than Captain Hugh Worthington, as, seated on his fiery war
horse, Rocket, he heard from Irving Stanley the story of Dr. Richards'
disgrace.

"He should be pursued, brought back, and shot!" he said, emphatically,
feeling that he would like much to be one of the pursuers, already on
the track of the treacherous doctor, who skillfully eluded them all, and
just at the close of a warm summer day, when afar, in his New England
home, his Sister Anna was reading, with an aching heart, the story of
his disgrace, he sat in the shadow of the Virginia woods, weary,
footsore and faint with the pain caused from his ankle, sprained by a
recent fall.

He had hunted for Adah until entirely discouraged, and partly as a
panacea for the remorse preying so constantly upon him, and partly in
compliance with Anna's entreaties, he had at last joined the Federal
army, and been sworn in with the full expectation of some lucrative
office. But his unlucky star was in the ascendant. Stories derogatory to
his character were set afloat, and the final result of the whole was
that he found himself enrolled in a company where he knew he was
disliked, and under a captain whom he thoroughly detested, for the fraud
practiced upon himself. In this condition he was sent to the Potomac,
and while on duty as a picket, grew to be on the most friendly terms
with more than one of the enemy, planning at last to desert, and
effecting his escape one stormy night, when the watch were off their
guard. Owing to some mistake, the aid promised by his Rebel friends had
not been extended, and as best he could he was making his way to
Richmond, when, worn out with hunger, watchfulness and fatigue, he sank
down to die, as he believed, at the entrance of some beautiful woods
which skirted the borders of a well-kept farm in Virginia. Before him,
at the distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, a large, handsome house
was visible, and by the wreath of smoke curling from the rear chimney,
he knew it was inhabited, and thought once to go there, and beg for the
food he craved so terribly. But fear kept him back--the people might be
Unionists, and might detain him a prisoner until the officers upon his
track came up. Dr. Richards was cowardly, and so with a groan, he laid
his head upon the grass, and half wished that he had died ere he came to
be the miserable wretch he was. The pain in his ankle was by this time
intolerable, and the limb was swelling so fast that to walk on the
morrow was impossible, and if he found a shelter at all, it must be
found that night.

Midway between himself and the house was a comfortable-looking barn,
whither he resolved to go. But the journey was a tedious one, and
brought to his flushed forehead great drops of sweat, wrung out by the
agony it caused him to step upon his foot. At last, when he could bear
his weight upon it no longer, he sank upon the ground, and crawling
slowly upon his hands and knees, reached the barn just as it was growing
dark, and the shadows creeping into the corners made him half shrink
with terror lest they were the bayonets of those whose coming he was
constantly expecting. He could not climb to the scaffolding, and so he
sought a friendly pile of hay, and crouching down behind it, ere long
fell asleep for the first time in three long days and nights.

The early June sun was just shining through the cracks between the
boards when he awoke, sore, stiff, feverish, burning with thirst, and
utterly unable to use the poor, swollen foot, which lay so helplessly
upon the hay.

"Oh, for Anna now," he moaned; "if she were only here; or Lily, dear
Lily, she would pity and forgive, could she see me now."

But hark, what sound is it which falls upon his ear, making him quake
with fear, and, in spite of his aching ankle, creep farther behind the
hay? It is a footstep--a light, tripping step, and it comes that way,
nearer, nearer, until a shadow falls between the open chinks and the
bright sunshine without. Then it moves on, around the corner, pausing
for a moment, while the hidden coward holds his breath, and listens
anxiously, hoping nothing is coming there. But there is, and it enters
the same door through which he came the previous night--a girlish
figure, with a basket on her arm--a basket in which she puts the eggs
she knows just where to find. Not behind the hay, where a poor wretch
was almost dead with terror. There was no nest there, and so she failed
to see the ghastly face, pinched with hunger and pain, the glassy eyes,
the uncombed hair, and soiled tattered garments of him who once was
known as one of fashion's most fastidious dandies.

She had secured her eggs for the morning meal, and the doctor hoped she
was about to leave, when there was a rustling of the hay, and he almost
uttered a scream of fear. But the sound died on his lips, as he heard
the voice of prayer--heard that young girl as she prayed, and the words
she uttered stopped, for an instant, the pulsations of his heart, and
partly took his senses away. First for her baby boy she prayed, asking
that God would be to him father and mother both, and keep him from
temptation. Then for her country, her distracted, bleeding country, and
the doctor, listening to her, knew it was no Rebel tongue calling so
earnestly on God to save the Union, praying so touchingly for the poor,
suffering soldiers, and coming at last even to him, the miserable
outcast, whose bloodshot eyes grew blind, and whose brain grew giddy and
wild, as he heard again Lily's voice, pleading for George, wherever he
might be. She did not say: "God send him back to me, who loves him
still." She only asked forgiveness for the father of her boy, but this
was proof to the listener that she did not hate him, and forgetful of
his pain he raised himself upon his elbow, and looking over the pile of
hay, saw her where she knelt. Lily, Adah, his wife, her fair face
covered by her hands, and her soft, brown hair cut short and curling in
her neck.

Twice he essayed to speak, but his tongue refused to move, and he sank
back exhausted, just as Adah arose from her knees and turned to leave
the barn. He could not let her go. He should die before she came again;
he was half dying now, and it would be so sweet to breathe out his life
upon her bosom, with perhaps her forgiving kiss upon his lips.

"Adah!" he tried to say; but the quivering lips made no sound, and Adah
passed out, leaving him there alone. "Adah, Lily, Anna," he gasped,
hardly knowing himself whose name he called in his despair.

She heard that sound, and started suddenly, for she thought it was her
old, familiar name which no one knew there at Sunny Mead. For a moment
she paused; but it came not again, and so she turned the corner, and her
shadow fell a second time on the haggard face pressed against that
crevice in the wall, the opening large enough to thrust the long fingers
through, in the wild hope of detaining her as she passed.

"Adah!"

It was a gasping, bitter cry; but it reached her, and looking back, she
saw the pale hand beckoning, the fingers motioning feebly, as if begging
her to return. There was a moment's hesitation, and then conquering her
timidity, Adah went back, shuddering as she passed the still beckoning
hand, and caught a glimpse of the wild eyes peering at her through the
crevice.

"Adah!"

She heard it distinctly now, and with it came thoughts of Hugh. It must
be he; and her feet scarcely touched the ground in her eagerness to find
him. Over the threshold, across the floor, and behind the hay she
bounded; but stood aghast at the spectacle before her. He had struggled
to his knees; and with his sprained limb coiled under him, his ashen
lips apart, and his arms stretched out, he was waiting for her. But Adah
did not spring into those trembling arms, as once she would have done.
She would never willingly rest in their embrace again; and utter,
overwhelming surprise was the only emotion on her face as she recognized
him, not so much by his looks as by the name he gave her.

"George, oh, George, how came you here?" she asked, drawing backward
from the arm reached out to touch her.

He felt that he was repulsed, and, with a wail which smote painfully on
Adah's heart, he fell forward on his face, sobbing: "Oh, Adah, Lily,
pity me, pity me, if you can't forgive! I have slept for three nights in
the woods, without once tasting food! My ankle is sprained, my strength
is gone, and I wish that I were dead!"

She had drawn nearer to him, while he spoke, near enough to recognize
her country's uniform, all soiled and tattered though it was. He was a
soldier, then--Liberty's loyal son--and that fact awoke a throb of pity.

"George," she said, kneeling down beside him, and laying her hand upon
his ragged coat, "tell me how came you here, and where is your company?"

He would not deceive her, though tempted to do so, and he answered her
truthfully: "Lily, I am a deserter. I am trying to join the enemy!"

He did not see the indignant flash of her eyes, or the look of scorn
upon her face, but he felt the reproach her silence implied, and dared
not look up.

"George," she began at last, sternly, very sternly, "but for Him who
bade us forgive seventy times seven, I should feel inclined to leave you
here to die; but when I remember how much He is tried with one, I feel
that I am to be no one's judge. Tell me, then, why you have deserted;
and tell me, too--oh, George, in mercy--tell me if you know aught of
Willie?"

The mother had forgotten all the wrongs heaped upon the wife, and Adah
drew nearer to him now, so near, indeed, that his arm encircled her at
last, and held her close; but the ragged, dirty, fallen creature did not
dare to kiss her, and could only press her convulsively to his breast,
as he attempted an answer to her question.

"You must be quick," she said, suddenly remembering herself; "it is
growing late, Mrs. Ellsworth will be waiting for her breakfast; and
since the stampede of her servants, two old negroes and myself are all
there are left to care for the house. Stay," she added, as a new thought
seemed to strike her; "I must go, or they will look for me; but after
breakfast I will return, and do for you what I can. Lie down again upon
the hay."

She spoke kindly to him, but he felt it was as she would have spoken to
any one in distress, and not as once she had addressed him. But he knew
that he deserved it, and he suffered her to leave him, watching her with
streaming eyes as she hurried along the path, and counting the minutes,
which seemed to him like hours, ere he saw her returning. She was very
white when she came back, and he noticed that she frequently glanced
toward the house, as if haunted by some terror. Constantly expecting
detection, he grasped her arm, as she bent to bathe his swollen foot,
and whispered huskily: "Adah, there's something on your mind--some evil
you fear. Tell me, is any one after me!"

Adah nodded; while, like a frightened child, the tall man clung to her
neck, saying, piteously: "Don't give me up! Don't tell; they would hang
me, perhaps!"

"They ought to do so," trembled on Adah's lips, but she suppressed the
words, and went on bandaging up the ankle, and handling it as carefully
as if it had not belonged to a deserter.

He did not feel pain now in his anxiety, as he asked: "Who is it, Adah?
who's after me?" but he started when she replied, with downcast eyes and
a flush upon her cheek: "Major Irving Stanley. You were in his
regiment, the ----th New York Volunteers."

Dr. Richards drew a relieved breath. "I'd rather it were he than Captain
Worthington, who hates me so cordially. Adah, you must hide me; I have
so much to tell. I know your parents, your brother, your husband; and I
am he. It was not a mock marriage. It has been proved real. It was a
genuine justice who married us, and you are my lawful wife. Oh, pray,
please don't hurt me so." He uttered a scream of pain as Adah's hands
pressed heavily now upon the hard, purple flesh.

She scarcely knew what she was doing as she listened to his words and
heard that she was indeed his wife. Two years before, such news would
have overwhelmed her with delight, but now for a single instant a fierce
and almost resentful pang shot through her heart as she thought of being
bound for life to one for whom she had no love, and whose very caresses
made her loathe him more and more. But when she thought of Willie, and
how the stain upon his birth was washed away, the hard look left her
eyes, and her hot tears dropped upon the ankle she was bandaging.

"You are glad?" he asked, looking at her curiously, for her manner
puzzled him.

"Yes, very glad for Willie," she replied, keeping her face bent down so
he could not see its expression.

Then when her task was done, she seemed to nerve herself for some
powerful task, and sitting down upon the hay, out of reach of his arms,
she said:

"Tell me now all that has happened since I left Terrace Hill; but first
of Willie. You say Anna has him?"

"Yes, Anna--Mrs. Millbrook," he replied, and was about to say more, when
Adah interrupted him with:

"It may spare you some pain if I tell you first what I know of the
tragedy at Spring Bank. I know that 'Lina is dead, and that the fact of
my existence prevented the marriage. So much I heard Mr. Stanley tell
his sister. I had just come to her then. She was prouder toward me than
she is now, and with a look silenced him from talking in my presence, so
that was all I ever knew, as I dared not question her lest I should be
suspected. Go on, you spoke of my parents, my brother. Who are they?"

Her manner perplexed him greatly, but he controlled himself, while he
repeated rapidly the story known already to our readers, the story
which made Adah reel where she sat, and turn so white that he attempted
to reach her, and so keep her from falling. But just the touch of his
hand had power to arouse her, and drawing back she laid her face in the
hay, and moaned:

"That gentle woman, my mother; that noble Hugh, my brother! it's more
than I ever hoped. Oh, Heavenly Father, accept my thanks for this great
happiness. A mother and a brother found."

"And husband, too," chimed in the doctor, eagerly, "thank Him for me,
Adah. You are glad to find me?"

There was pleading in his tone--earnest pleading, for the terrible
conviction was fastening itself upon him, that not as they once parted
had he and Adah met. For full five minutes Adah lay upon the hay, her
whole soul going out in a prayer of thankfulness for her great joy, and
for strength to bear the bitterness mingling with her joy. Her face was
very white when she lifted it up at last, but her manner was composed,
and she questioned the doctor calmly of Spring Bank, of Alice, of Hugh,
of Anna, but could not trust herself to say much to him of Willie, lest
her calmness should give way, and a feeling spring up in her heart of
something like affection for Willie's father. Alas, for the miserable
man. He had found his wife, his Adah, but there was between them a gulf
which his own act had built, and which he never more might pass. He
began to suspect it, and ere she had finished the story of her
wanderings, which at his request she told, he knew there was no
pulsation of her heart which beat for him. He asked her where she had
been since she fled from Terrace Hill, and how she came to be in Mrs.
Ellsworth's family.

There was a moment's hesitancy, as if she were deciding how much to tell
him of the past, and then resolving to keep nothing back which he might
know, she told him how, with a stunned heart and giddy brain, she had
gone to Albany, and mingling with the crowd had mechanically followed
them down to a boat just starting for New York. That, by some means, she
never knew how, she found herself in the saloon, and seated next to a
feeble, deformed little girl, who lay upon the sofa, and whose sweet,
childish voice said to her pityingly:

"Does your head ache, lady, or what makes you so white?"

She had responded to that appeal, talking kindly to the little girl,
between whom and herself the friendliest of relations were established
and whose name she learned was Jenny Ellsworth. The mother she did not
then see, as, during the journey down the river she was suffering from a
nervous headache, and kept her room. From the child and child's nurse,
however, she heard that Mrs. Ellsworth was going ere long to Europe, and
was anxious to secure some young and competent person to act in the
capacity of Jenny's governess. Instantly Adah's decision was made. Once
in New York she would by letter apply for the situation, for nothing
then could so well suit her state of mind as a tour to Europe, where she
would be far away from all she had ever known. Very adroitly she
ascertained Mrs. Ellsworth's address, wrote to her a note the day
following her arrival in New York, and the day following that, found her
in Mrs. Ellsworth's parlor at the Brevoort House, where for a few days
she was stopping. She had been greatly troubled to know what name to
give, but finally resolved to take her own, the one by which she was
known ere George Hastings crossed her path. Adah Maria Gordon was, as
she supposed, her real name, so in her note to Mrs. Ellsworth she signed
herself "Maria Gordon," omitting the Adah, which might lead to her being
recognized. From her little girl Mrs. Ellsworth had heard much of the
sweet young lady, who was so kind to her on the boat, and was thus
already prepossessed in her favor.

Adah did not tell Dr. Richards, and perhaps she did not herself know how
surprised and delighted Mrs. Ellsworth was with the fair, girlish
creature, announced to her as Miss Gordon, and who won her heart before
five minutes were gone, making her think it of no consequence to inquire
concerning her at Madam ----'s school, where she said she had been a
pupil.

"My sister must have been there at the same time," Mrs. Ellsworth had
said. "Perhaps you remember her, Augusta Stanley?"

Yes, Miss Gordon remembered her well, but added modestly:

"She may have forgotten me, as I was only a day scholar, and--not--not
quite her circle. I was poor."

Charmed with her frankness, Mrs. Ellsworth decided in her own mind to
take her, but, for form's sake, she would write to her sister Augusta,
recently married, and living in Milwaukee.

"Your first name is Maria," she said, taking out her pencil to write it
down.

Adah could not tell a lie, and she replied unhesitatingly:

"No, ma'am; my name is Adah Maria, but I prefer being called Maria."

Mrs. Ellsworth nodded, wrote down "Adah Maria Gordon," but in the letter
sent that day to Augusta, merely spoke of her governess in prospect as a
Miss Gordon, who had been at the same school with Augusta, asking if she
remembered her.

Yes, Augusta remembered Miss Gordon, well, a brown-eyed, sweet-faced,
conscientious little creature whom she liked so much, and whose services
her sister had better secure.

Mrs. Ellsworth hesitated no longer, and ten days after the receipt of
this letter, Adah was duly installed as governess to the delighted
little Jennie, who learned to love her gentle teacher with a love almost
amounting to idolatry.

"You were in Europe then, and that is the reason why we could not find
you," Dr. Richards said, adding, after a moment: "And Irving Stanley
went with you--was your companion all the while?"

"Yes, all the while," and Adah's cold fingers worked nervously at the
wisp of hay she was twisting in her hand. "I had seen him before--he was
in the cars when Willie and I were on our way to Terrace Hill. Willie
had the earache, and he was so kind to us both."

Adah looked fixedly now at the craven doctor, who could not meet her
glance, for well he remembered the dastardly part he had played in that
scene, where his own child was screaming with pain, and he sat selfishly
idle.

"She don't know I was there, though," he thought, and that gave him some
comfort.

But Adah did know, and she meant he should know she did. Keeping her
calm brown eyes still fixed upon him, she continued:

"I heard Mr. Stanley talking of you once to his sister, and among other
things he spoke of your dislike for children, and referred to an
occasion in the cars, when a little boy, for whom his heart ached, was
suffering acutely, and for whom you evinced no interest, except to call
him a brat, and wonder why his mother did not stay at home. I never knew
till then that you were so near to me."

"It's true, it's true," the doctor cried, tears rolling down his soiled
face; "but I never guessed it was you. Lily, I supposed it some ordinary
woman."

"So did Irving Stanley," was Adah's quiet, cutting answer; "but his
heart was open to sympathy, even for an ordinary woman."

The doctor could only moan, with his face still hidden in his hands,
until a sudden thought like a revelation flashed upon him, and
forgetting his wounded foot, he sprang like a tiger to the spot where
Adah sat, and winding his arm firmly around her, whispered hoarsely:

"Adah, Lily, tell me you love this Irving Stanley. My wife loves another
than her husband."

Adah did not struggle to release herself from his close grasp. It was
punishment she ought to bear, she thought, but her whole soul loathed
that close embrace, and the loathing expressed itself in the tone of her
voice, as she replied:

"Until within an hour I did not suppose you were my husband. You said
you were not in that letter; I have it yet; the one in which you told me
it was a mock marriage, as, by your own confession, it seems you meant
it should be."

"Oh, darling, you kill me, yet I deserve it all; but, Adah, I have
suffered enough to atone for the dreadful past; and I tried so hard to
find you. Forgive me, Lily, forgive," and falling again on his knees,
the wretched man poured forth a torrent of entreaties for her
forgiveness, her love, without which he should die.

Holding fast her cold hands, he pleaded with all his eloquence, until,
maddened by her silence, he even taunted her with loving another, while
her own husband was living.

Then Adah started, and pushing him away, sprang to her feet, while the
hot blood stained her face and neck, and a resentful fire gleamed from
her brown eyes.

"It is not well for you to reproach me with faithlessness," she said,
"you, who have dealt so treacherously by me; you, who deliberately
planned my ruin, and would have effected it but for the deeper-laid
scheme of one you say is my father. No thanks to you that I am a lawful
wife. You did not make me so of your own free will. You did to me the
greatest wrong a man can do a woman, then cruelly deserted me, and now
you would chide me for respecting another more than I do you."

"Not respecting him, Adah, no, not for respecting him. You should do
that. He's worthier than I; but, oh, Adah, Lily, wife, mother of my boy,
do you love Irving Stanley?"

He was sobbing bitterly, and the words came between the sobs, while he
tried to clutch her dress. Staggering backward against the wooden beam,
Adah leaned there for support, while she replied:

"You would not understand if I should tell you the terrible struggle it
was for me to be thrown each day in the society of one as noble, as good
as Irving Stanley, and not come at last to feel for him as a poor
governess ought never to feel for the handsome, gifted brother of her
employer. Oh, George, I prayed against it so much, prayed to be kept
from the sin, if it were a sin, to have Irving Stanley mingled with
every thought. But the more I prayed, the more the temptation seemed
thrust upon me. The kinder, gentler, more attentive, grew his manners
toward me. He never treated me as a mere governess. It was more like an
equal at first, and then like a younger sister, so that few strangers
took me for a subordinate, so kind were both Mrs. Ellsworth and her
brother."

"And he," the doctor gasped, looking wistfully in her face, "does he--do
you think he loves you?"

Adah colored crimson, but answered frankly:

"He never told me so; never said to me a word which a husband should not
hear; but--sometimes I've fancied, I've feared, I've left him abruptly
lest he should speak, for that I know would bring the crisis I so
dreaded. I must tell him the whole then, and by my dread of doing this,
I knew he was more than a friend to me. I was fearful at first that he
might recognise me, but I was much thinner than when I saw him in the
cars, while my hair, purposely worn short, and curling in my neck,
changed my looks materially, so that he only wondered whom I was so much
like, but never suspected the truth."

There was silence, a moment, and then the doctor asked: "How is all this
to end?"

The question brought into Adah's eyes a fearful look of anguish, but she
did not answer, and the doctor spoke again.

"Have I found Lily only to lose her?"

Still there was no reply, and the doctor continued: "You are my wife,
Adah. No power can undo that, save death, and you are my child's mother.
For Willie's sake, oh, Adah, for Willie's sake, forgive."

When he appealed to her as his wife, Adah seemed turning into stone; but
the mention of Willie touched the mother within that girlish woman, and
the iceberg melted at once.

"For Willie, my boy," she gasped, "I could do almost anything; I could
die so willingly but--but--oh, George, that ever we should come to this.
You a deserter, a traitor to your country--lamed, disabled, wholly in
my power, and begging of me, your outcast wife, for the love which
surely is dead--dead. No, George, I do forgive, but never, never more
can I be to you a wife."

There was a rising resentment now in the doctor's manner, as he answered
reproachfully: "Then surrender me at once to the lover hunting for me.
Let him take me back where I can be shot and that will leave you free."

Adah raised her hand deprecatingly, and when he had finished, rejoined:
"You mistake Major Stanley, if you think he would marry me, knowing what
I should tell him. It's not for him that I refuse. It's for myself. I
could not bear it. I--"

"Stay, Adah, Lily, don't say you should hate me;" and the doctor's voice
was so full of anguish that Adah involuntarily advanced toward him,
standing quite near, while he begged of her to say if the past could not
be forgotten. His family were ready, were anxious to receive her. Sweet
Anna Millbrook already loved her as a sister, while he, her husband,
words could not tell his love for her. He would do whatever she
required; go back to the Federal army if she said so; seek for the
pardon he was sure to gain; fight for his country like a hero, periling
life and limb, if she would only give him the shadow of a hope.

"I must have time to think. I cannot decide alone," Adah answered, while
the doctor clutched her dress, half shrieking with terror:

"You surely will not consult him, Major Stanley?"

"No," and Adah spoke reverently, "there's a mightier friend than he. One
who has never failed me in my need. He will tell me what to do."

The doctor knew now what she meant, and with a moan he laid his head
again upon the hay, wishing, oh, so much, that the lessons taught him
when in that little attic chamber, years ago, he knelt by Adah's side,
and said with her, "Our Father," had not been all forgotten. When he
lifted up his face again, Adah was gone, but he knew she would return,
and waited patiently while just outside the door, with her fair face
buried in the sweet Virginia grass, and the warm summer sunshine falling
softly upon her, poor half-crazed Adah fought and won the fiercest
battle she had ever known, coming off conqueror over self, and feeling
sure that God had heard her earnest cry for help, and told her what to
do. There was no wavering now; her step was firm; her voice steady, as
she went back to the doctor's side, and bending over him, said:

"I will nurse you, my husband, till you are well; then you must go back
whence you came, confess your fault, rejoin your regiment, and by your
faithfulness wipe out the stain of desertion. Then, when the war is
over, or you are honorably discharged, I will--be your wife. I may not
love you at first as once I did, but I shall try, and He, who counsels
me to tell you this, will help me, I am sure."

It was almost pitiful now to see the doctor, as, spaniel-like, he
crouched at Adah's feet, kissing her hands and blessing her 'mid his
tears. "He would be worthy of her, and they should yet be so happy."

Adah suffered him to caress her for a moment, and then told him she must
go, for Mrs. Ellsworth would wonder at her long absence, and possibly
institute a search. Pressing one more kiss upon her hand the doctor
crept back to his hiding place, while Adah went slowly to the house
where she knew Irving Stanley was anxiously waiting for her. She dared
not meet him alone now, for latterly each time they had so met, she knew
she had kept at bay the declaration trembling on his lips, and which now
must never be listened to. So she stayed away from the pleasant parlor
where all the morning he sat chatting with his sister, who guessed how
much he loved the beautiful and accomplished girl, whom, by way of his
sister Augusta he now knew as the Brownie he had once seen at Madam ----'s
school, in New York.

Right-minded and high-principled, Mrs. Ellsworth had conquered any pride
she might at first have felt--any reluctance to her brother's marrying
her governess, and now like him was anxious to have it settled. But Adah
gave him no chance that day, and late in the afternoon he rode back to
his regiment, wondering at the change in Miss Gordon, and why her face
was so deadly white, and her voice so husky, as she bade him good-by.

Poor Adah! Hers was now a path of suffering, such as she had never known
before. But she did her duty to the doctor faithfully, nursing him with
the utmost care; but never expressing to him the affection she did not
feel. It was impossible to keep his presence there a secret from the two
old negroes, and knowing she could trust them, she told them of the
wounded Union soldier, enlisting their sympathies for him, and thus
procuring for him the care of older and more experienced people than
herself.

He was able at length to return, and one pleasant summer night, just
three weeks after his arrival at Sunnymead, Adah walked with him to the
woods, and kneeling with him by a running stream, whose waters farther
away would yet be crimson with the blood of our slaughtered brothers,
she commended him to God. Through the leafy branches the moonbeams were
shining, and they showed to Adah the expression of the doctor's wasted
face as he said to her at parting: "I have kissed you many times, my
darling, but you have never returned it. Please do so once, dear Lily,
for the sake of the olden time. It will make me a better soldier."

She kissed him once for the sake of the olden time, and when he
whispered, "Again for Willie's sake," she kissed him twice, and then she
bade him leave her, herself buttoning about him the soldier coat which
her own hands had cleaned and mended and made respectable. She was glad
afterward that she had done so; glad, too, that she had kissed him and
waited by the tree, where, looking backward, he could see the flutter of
her white dress until a turn in the forest path hid her from his view.



CHAPTER XLV

THE SECOND BATTLE OF BULL RUN


The second disastrous battle at Bull Run was over, and the shadow of a
summer night wrapped the field of carnage in darkness. Thickly upon the
battlefield lay the dead and dying, the sharp, bitter cries of the
latter rising on the night wind, and adding tenfold to the horror of the
scene. In the woods, not very far away, more than one brave soldier was
weltering in his lifeblood, just where, in his rapid flight, he had
fallen, the grass his pillow, and the leafy branches of the forest trees
his only covering.

Side by side, and near to a running brook, two wounded men were lying,
or rather one was supporting the other and trying to stanch the purple
gore, pouring darkly from a fearful bullet wound in the region of the
heart. The stronger of the two, he who wore a major's uniform, had come
accidentally upon the other, writhing in agony, and muttering at
intervals snatches of the prayer with which he once had been familiar,
and which seemed to bring Lily back to him again, just as she was when
in the attic chamber she made him kneel by her, and say "Our Father." He
tried to say it now, and the whispered words caught the ear of Irving
Stanley, arresting his steps at once.

"Poor fellow! it's gone hard with you," he said, kneeling by the
sufferer, whom he recognized as the deserter, Dr. Richards, who had
returned to his allegiance, had craved forgiveness for his sins, and
been restored to the ranks, discharging his duties faithfully, and
fighting that day with a zeal and energy which did much in reinstating
him in the good opinion of those who witnessed his daring bravery.

But the doctor's work was done, and never from his lips would Lily know
how well his promise had been kept. Giddy with pain and weak from the
loss of blood, he had groped his way through the woods, fighting back
the horrid certainty that to-morrow's sun would not rise for him, and
sinking at length exhausted upon the grass, whose freshness was now
defaced by the blood which poured so freely from his wound.

It was thus that Irving Stanley found him, starting at first as from a
hissing shell, and involuntarily clasping his hand over the place where
lay a little note, received a few days before, a reply to the earnest
declaration of love he had at last written to his sister's governess,
Maria Gordon. There was but one alternative, and Adah met it resolutely,
though every fiber of her heart throbbed with keen agony as she told to
Irving Stanley the story of her life. She was a wife, a mother, the
sister of Hugh Worthington, they said, the Adah for whom Dr. Richards
had sought so long in vain, and for whom Murdock, the wicked father, was
seeking still for aught she knew to the contrary. Even the story of the
doctor's secretion in the barn at Sunnymead was confessed. Nothing was
withheld except the fact that even as he professed to love her, so she
in turn loved him, or had done so before she knew it was a sin. Surprise
had, for a few moments, stifled every other emotion, and Irving Stanley
had sat like one suddenly bereft of motion, when he read who Maria
Gordon was. Then came the bitter thought that he had lost her, mingled
with a deep feeling of resentment toward the man who had so cruelly
wronged the gentle girl, and who alone stood between him and happiness.
For Irving Stanley could overlook all the rest. His great warm heart,
so full of kindly sympathy and generous charity for all mankind could
take to its embrace the fair, sweet woman he had learned to love so
much, and be a father to her little boy, as if it had been his own. But
this might not be. There was a mighty obstacle in the way, and feeling
that it mattered little now whether he ever came from the field alive,
Irving Stanley, with a whispered prayer for strength to bear and do
right, had hidden the letter in his bosom, and then, when the hour of
conflict came, plunged into the thickest of the fight with a
fearlessness born of keen and recent disappointment, which made life
less valuable than it had been before.

It is not strange, then, that he should start and stagger backward when
he came so suddenly upon the doctor, or that the first impulse of weak
human nature was to leave the fallen man, but the second, the Christian
impulse, bade him stay, and forgetting his own slight but painful wound,
he bent over Adah's husband, and did what he could to alleviate the
anguish he saw was so hard to bear. At the sound of his voice, a spasm
of pain passed over the doctor's pallid face, and the flash of a sudden
fire gleamed for a moment in his eye, as he, too, remembered Adah, and
thought of what might be when the grass was growing over his untimely
grave.

The doctor knew that he was dying, and yet his first question was:

"Do you think I can live? Did any one ever recover with such a wound as
this?"

Eagerly the dim eyes sought the face above them, the kind, good face of
one who would not deceive him. Irving shook his head as he felt the
pulse, and answered frankly:

"I believe you will die."

There was a bitter moan, as all his misspent life came up before him,
followed closely by the dark future, where there shone no ray of hope,
and then with the desperate thought, "It's too late now for regrets.
I'll meet it like a man," he said:

"It may as well be I as any one, though it's hard even for me to die;
harder than you imagine;" then, growing excited as he talked, he raised
himself upon his elbow, and continued: "Major Stanley, tell me truly, do
you love the woman you know as Maria Gordon?"

"I did love her once, before I knew I must not--but now--I--yes, Dr.
Richards, my heart tells me that never was she so dear to me as now when
her husband lies dying at my side."

Irving Stanley hardly knew what he was saying, but the doctor--the
husband, understood, and almost shrieked out the words:

"You know then that she is Adah, a wife, a mother, and that I am her
lawful husband?"

"I know the whole," was the reply, as with his hand Irving dipped water
from the brook and laved the feverish brow of the dying man, who went on
to speak of Adah as she was when he first knew her, and of the few happy
months spent with her in those humble lodgings.

"You don't know my darling," he whispered. "She's an angel, and I might
have been so happy with her. Oh, if I could only live, but that can't be
now, and it is well. Come close to me, Major Stanley, and listen while I
tell you that Adah promised if I would do my duty to my country
faithfully, she would live with me again, and all the while she
promised, her heart was breaking, for she did not love me. It had all
died out for me. It had been given to another; can you guess to whom?"

Irving made no reply, except to chafe the hands which clasped his so
tightly, and the doctor continued:

"I am surely dying--I shall never see her more, or my boy, my beautiful
boy. I was a brute in the cars; you remember the time. That was Adah,
and those little feet resting on my lap were Willie's, baby Willie's,
Adah's baby."

The doctor's mind was wandering now, and he kept on disconnectedly:

"She's been to Europe with him. She's changed from the shy girl into a
queenly woman. Even the Richards line might be proud of her bearing, and
when I'm gone, tell her I said you might have Willie, and--and--it grows
very dark; the noise of the battle drowns my voice, but come nearer to
me, nearer--tell her--tell Adah, you may have her. She needn't mourn,
nor wait; but carry me back to Snowdon. There's no soldier's grave there
yet. I never thought mine would be the first. Anna will cry, and mother
and Asenath and Eudora; but Adah, oh Lily, darling. She's coming to me
now. Don't you hear that rustle in the grass?" and the doctor listened
intently to a sound which also caught Irving's ear, a sound of a horse's
neigh in the distance, followed by the tramp of feet.

"Hush-sh," he whispered. "It may be the enemy," but his words were not
regarded, or understood.

The doctor was in Lily's presence, and in fancy it was her hand, not
Irving's which wiped the death-sweat from his brow, and he murmured
words of love and fond endearment, as to a living, breathing form.
Fainter and fainter grew the pulse, weaker and weaker the trembling
voice, until at last Irving could only comprehend that some one was
bidden to pray--to say "Our Father."

Reverently, as for a departing brother, he prayed over the dying man,
asking that all the past might be forgiven, and that the erring might
rest at last in peace.

"Say Amen for me, I'm too weak," the doctor whispered; then, as reason
asserted her sway again, he continued: "I see it now; Lily's gone, and I
am dying here in the woods, in the dark, in the night, on the ground;
cared for by you who will be Lily's husband. You may, you may tell her I
said so; tell her kiss my boy; love him, Major Stanley; love him as your
own, even though others shall call you father. Tell her--I tried--to
pray--"

He never spoke again; and when next the thick, black, clotted blood
oozed up from the gaping wound, it brought with it all there was of
life; and there in those Virginia woods, in the darkness of the night,
Irving Stanley sat alone with the dead. And yet not alone, for away to
his right, and where the neigh of a horse had been heard, another
wounded soldier lay--his soft, brown locks moist with dew, and his
captain's uniform wet with the blood which dripped from the terrible
gash in the fleshy part of the neck, where a murderous ball had been.
One arm, the right one, was broken, and lay disabled upon the grass;
while the hand of the other clutched occasionally at the damp grass, and
then lifting itself, stroked caressingly the powerful limbs of the
faithful creature standing guard over the prostrate form of his master.

Hugh and Rocket! They had been in many battles, and neither shot nor
shell had harmed them until to-day, when Hugh had received the charge
which sent him reeling from his horse, breaking his arm in the field,
and scarcely conscious that two of his comrades were leading him from
the field. How or by what means he afterward reached the woods, he did
not know, but reach them he had, and unable to travel farther, he had
fallen to the ground, where he lay, until Rocket came galloping near,
riderless, frightened, and looking for his master. With a cry of joy
the noble brute answered that master's faint whistle, bounding at once
to his side, and by many mute but meaning signs, signifying his desire
that Hugh should mount as heretofore.

But Hugh was too weak for that, and after several ineffectual efforts to
rise, fell back half fainting on the turf; while Rocket took his stand
directly over him, a powerful and efficient guard until help from some
quarter should arrive. Patiently, faithfully he stood, waiting as
quietly as if he knew that aid was coming, not far away, in the form of
an old man, whose hair was white as snow, and whose steps were feeble
with age, but who had the advantage of knowing every inch of that
ground, for he had trodden it many a time, with a homesick heart which
pined for "old Kentuck," whence he had been stolen.

Uncle Sam! He it was whose uncertain steps made Rocket prick up his ears
and listen, neighing at last a neigh of welcome, by which he, too, was
recognized.

"De dear Father be praised if that be'nt Rocket hisself. I've found him,
I've found my Massah Hugh. I tole Miss Ellis I should, 'case I knows all
de way. Dear Massuh Hugh, I'se Sam, I is," and with a convulsive sob the
old negro knelt beside the white-faced man, who but for this timely aid
could hardly have survived that fearful night.



CHAPTER XLVI

HOW SAM CAME THERE


It is more than a year now since last we looked upon the inmates of
Spring Bank, and during that time Kentucky had been the scene of
violence, murder, and bloodshed. The roar of artillery had been heard
upon its hills. Soldiers wearing the Federal uniform had marched up and
down its beaten paths, encamping for a brief season in its capital, and
then departing to other points where their services were needed more.

Morgan, with his fierce band of guerillas, had carried terror, dismay,
and sometimes death, to many a peaceful home; while Harney, too,
disdaining open, honorable warfare, had joined himself, it was said, to
a horde of savage marauders, gathered, some from Texas, some from
Mississippi, and a few from Tennessee; but none, to her credit be it
said, none from Kentucky, save their chief, the Rebel Harney, who
despised and dreaded almost equally by Unionist and Confederates, kept
the country between Louisville and Lexington in a constant state of
excitement.

At Spring Bank, well known as the home of stanch Unionists, nothing as
yet had been harmed, thanks to Alice's courage and vigilance, and the
skill with which she had not only taught herself to handle firearms, but
also taught the negroes, who, instead of running away, as the Wendell
Phillips men of the North seem to believe all negroes will do, only give
them the chance, remained firmly at their post, and nightly took turns
in guarding the house against any attack from the guerillas.

Toward Spring Bank Harney had a peculiar spite, and his threats of
violence had more than once reached the ears of Alice, who wisely kept
them from the nervous, timid Mrs. Worthington. At her instigation, Aunt
Eunice had left her home in the cornfield, and come to Spring Bank, so
that the little garrison numbered four white women, including crazy
Densie, and twelve negro servants.

As the storm grew blacker, it had seemed necessary for Colonel Tiffton
openly to avow his sentiments, and not "sneak between two fires, for
fear of being burned," as Harney wolfishly told him one day, taunting
him with being a "villainous Yankee," and hinting darkly of the
punishment preparing for all such.

The colonel was not cowardly, but as was natural he did lean to the
Confederacy. "Peaceful separation, if possible," was his creed; and
fully believing the South destined to triumph, he took that side at
last, greatly to the delight of his high-spirited Nell, who had been a
Rebel from the first. The inmates of Spring Bank, however, were not
forgotten by the colonel, and regularly each morning he rode over to see
if all were safe, sometimes sending there at night one or two of his own
field hands as body guard to Alice, whose courage and intrepidity in
defending her side of the question he greatly admired.

One night, near the middle of summer, Jake, a burly negro, came earlier
than usual, and seeking Alice, thrust into her hand a note from Colonel
Tiffton. It read as follows:

  "DEAR ALICE: I have a suspicion that the villainous scamps, headed
  by Harney, mean to steal horses from Spring Bank to-night, hoping
  by that means to engage you in a bit of a fight. In short, Harney
  was heard to say, 'I'll have every horse from Spring Bank before
  to-morrow morning; and if that Yankee miss appears to dispute my
  claim, as I trust she will, I'll have her, too;' and then the bully
  laid a wager that 'Major Alice,' as he called you, would be his
  prisoner in less than forty-eight hours.

  "I hope it is not true, but if he does come, please keep quietly in
  the house, and let him take every mother's son of a horse. I shall
  be around watching, but hanged if it will do to identify myself
  with you as I wish to do. They'd shoot me like a dog."

To say that Alice felt no fear would be false. There was a paling of the
cheek and a sinking of the heart as she thought of what the fast-falling
night might bring. But her trust was not in her own strength, and
dismissing Jake from her presence, she bent her face upon the piano lid
and prayed most earnestly to be delivered from the approaching peril, to
know just what to do, and how to act; then summoning the entire
household to the large sitting-room, she explained to them what she had
heard, and asked what they must do.

"Shall we lock ourselves inside the house and let them have the horses,
or shall we try to keep them?"

It took a few minutes for the negroes to recover from their fright, and
when they had done so Claib was the first to speak.

"Please, Miss Ellis, Massa Hugh's last words to me was: 'Mind, boy, you
takes good keer of de hosses.' Massa Hugh sot store by dem. He not stay
quiet in de chimbly corner and let Sudden 'Federacy stole 'em."

"Dem's my theology, Miss Ellis," chimed in Uncle Sam, rising and
standing in the midst of the dark group assembled near the door. "I'se
for savin' de horses."

"An' I'se for shootin' Harney," interrupted the little Mug, her eyes
flashing, and her nostrils dilating as she continued: "I knows it's
wicked, but I hates him, an' I never tole you how I seen him in de woods
one day, an' he axes me 'bout my Miss and Mars'r Hugh--did they writ
often, an' was they kinder sparkin'? I told him none of his bizness, and
cut and run, but he bawl after me and say how't he steal Miss Ellis some
night and make her be his wife. I flung a rock at him, big rock, too,
and cut again. Ugh!"

Mug's face, expressive as it was, only reflected the feelings of the
others and Alice's decision was taken. They would protect Hugh's horses.
But how? That was a perplexing question until Mug suggested that they be
brought into the kitchen, which adjoined the house, and was much larger
than Southern kitchens usually are. It was a novel idea, but seemed the
only feasible one, and was acted upon at once. The kitchen, however,
would not accommodate the dozen noble animals, Claib's special pride,
and so the carpet was taken from the dining-room floor, and before the
clock struck ten every horse was stabled in the house, where they stood
as quietly as if they, too, felt the awe, the expectancy of something
terrible brooding over the household.

It was Alice who managed everything, giving directions where each one of
her subordinates was to stay, and what they were to do in case of an
attack. Every door and window was barricaded, every possible precaution
taken, and then, with an unflinching nerve, Alice stole up the stairs,
and unfastening a trapdoor which led out upon the roof, stood there
behind a huge chimney top, scanning wistfully the darkness of the woods,
waiting, watching for a foe, whose very name was in itself sufficient to
blanch a woman's cheek with fear.

"Oh, what would Hugh say, if he could see me now?" she murmured, a tear
starting to her eye as she thought of the dear soldier afar in the
tented field, and wondered if he had forgotten his love for her, as she
sometimes feared, or why, in his many letters, he never breathed a word
of aught save brotherly affection.

She was his mother's amanuensis, and as she could not follow her
epistles, and see how, ere breaking the seal, Hugh's lips were always
pressed to the place where her fingers had traced his name, she did not
guess how precious they were to him, or how her words of counsel and
sympathy kept him often from temptations, and were molding him so fast
into the truly consistent Christian man she so much wished him to be. He
had in one letter, expressed his surprise that she did not go to Europe,
while she had replied to him: "I never thought of going;" and this was
all the allusion either had made to Irving Stanley since the day that
Hugh left Spring Bank. Gradually, however, the conviction had crept over
Hugh that in his jealousy he acted hastily, that Irving Stanley had sued
for Alice's hand in vain, but he would not seek an explanation yet; he
would do his duty as a soldier, and when that duty was done, he might,
perhaps, be more worthy of Alice's love. He would have had no doubt of
it now could he have seen her that summer night, and known her thoughts
as she stood patiently at her post, now starting with a sudden flutter
of fear, as what she had at first taken for the distant trees seemed to
assume a tangible form; and again laughing at her own weakness, as the
bristling bayonets subsided into sleeping shadows beneath the forest
boughs.

"Miss Ellis, did you hear dat ar?" came in a whisper from the opening of
the roof, and with a suppressed scream Alice recognized Muggins, who had
followed her young mistress, and for the last half hour had been poising
herself, first on one foot and then upon the other, as she stood upon
the topmost narrow stairs, with her woolly head protruding just above
the roof, and her cat-like ears listening for some sound.

"How came you here?" Alice asked, and Mug replied:

"I thinks dis the best place to fire at Mas'r Harney. Mug's gwine to
take aim, fire, bang, so," and the queer child illustrated by holding up
a revolver which she had used more than once under Alice's supervision,
and with which she had armed herself.

Alice could not forbear a smile, but it froze on her lips, as clutching
her dress Mug whispered:

"Dar they comes," pointing at the same time toward the woods where a
band of men was distinctly visible, marching directly upon Spring Bank.

"Will I bang 'em now?" Mug asked, but Alice stopped her with a sign, and
leaning against the chimney, stood watching the advancing foe, who, led
by Harney, made straight for the stables, their suppressed voices
reaching her where she stood, as did their oaths and imprecations when
they found their booty gone.

There was a moment's consultation and then Harney, dismounting, came
into the yard and seemed to be inspecting the dark, silent building,
which gave no sign of life.

"We'll try the cabins first. We'll make the negroes tell where the
horses are," Alice heard him say, but the cabins were as empty as the
stalls, and in some perplexity Harney gave orders for them to see, "if
the old rookery were vacant too."

"Mr. Harney, may I ask why you are here?"

The clear, silvery tones rang out on the still night and startled that
guerilla band almost as much as would a shell dropped suddenly in their
midst. Looking in the direction whence the voice had come they saw the
girlish figure clearly defined upon the housetop, and one, a burly,
brutal Texan, raised his gun, but Harney struck it down, and
involuntarily lifting his cap, replied:

"We are here for horses, Miss Johnson. We know Mr. Worthington keeps the
best in the country, and as we need some, we have come to take
possession, peaceably if possible, forcibly if need be. Can you tell us
where they are?"

"I can," and Alice's voice did not tremble a particle. "They are safely
housed in the kitchen and dining-room and the doors are barred."

"The fair Alice will please unbar them," was Harney's sneering reply, to
which came back the answer: "The horses are not yours; they are Captain
Worthington's, and we will defend them, if need be, with our lives!"

"Gritty, by George! I didn't know as Yankee gals, had such splendid
pluck," muttered one of the men, while Harney continued: "You say 'we.'
May I ask the number of your forces?"

Ere Alice could speak old Sam's voice was heard parleying with the
marauders.

"That's a nigger, shoot him!" growled one, but the white head was
withdrawn from view just in time to escape the ball aimed at it.

There was a rush, now for the kitchen door, a horrid sound of fearful
oaths, mingled with the cries of the negroes, the furious yells of
Rover, whom Lulu had let loose, and the neighing of the frightened
steeds. But amid it all Alice retained her self-possession. She had
descended from her post on the housetop, and persuading Mrs.
Worthington, Aunt Eunice, and Densie to remain quietly in her own room,
joined the negroes below, cheering them by her presence, and by her
apparent fearlessness keeping up their sinking courage.

"We's better gin dem de hosses, Miss Ellis," Claib said, entreatingly,
as blow after blow fell upon the yielding door--"'cause dey's boun' to
hab 'em."

"I'll try argument first with their leader," Alice replied, and ere
Claib suspected her intention she was undoing the fastenings of a side
door, bidding him bolt it after her as soon as she was safely through
it."

"Is Miss Ellis crazy?" shrieked Sam. "Dem men has no 'spect for female
wimmen," and he was forcibly detaining her, when the sharp ring of a
revolver was heard, accompanied by a demoniacal shriek as a tall body
leaped high in the air and then fell, weltering in its blood.

A moment more and a little dusky figure came flying down the stairs, and
hiding itself behind the astonished Alice, sobbed hysterically: "I'se
done it, I has! I'se shooted old Harney!" and Mug, overcome with
excitement, rolled upon the floor like an India rubber ball.

It was true, as Mug had said. Secreted by the huge chimney she had
watched the proceedings below, keeping her eye fixed on him she knew to
be Harney; and, at last, when a favorable opportunity occurred, had sent
the ball which carried death to him and dismay to his adherents, who
crowded around their fallen leader, forgetful now of the prey for which
they had come, and anxious only for flight. Possibly, too, their desire
to be off was augmented by the fact that from the woods came the sound
of voices and the tramp of horses' feet--Colonel Tiffton, who, with a
few of his neighbors, was coming to the rescue of Spring Bank. But their
services were not needed to drive away the foe, for ere they reached the
gate, the yard was free from the invaders, who, bearing their wounded
leader, Harney, in their midst, disappeared behind the hill, one of
them, the brutal Texan, who had raised his gun at Alice, lingering
behind the rest, and looking back to see the result of his infernal
deed. Secretly, when no one knew it, he had kindled a fire at the rear
of the wooden building, which being old and dry caught readily, and
burned like tinder.

Alice was the first to discover it, and "Fire! fire!" was echoed
frantically from one to the other, while all did their best to subdue
it. But their efforts were in vain; nothing could stay its progress, and
when the next morning's sun arose it shone on the blackened, smoking
ruins of Spring Bank, and on the tearful group standing near to what had
been their happy home. The furniture mostly had been saved, and was
scattered about the yard just where it had been deposited. There had
been some parley between the negroes as to which should be left to burn,
the old secretary at the end of the upper hall, or a bureau which stood
in an adjoining and otherwise empty room.

"Massah done keep his papers here. We'll take dis," Claib had said, and
so, assisted by other negroes and Mug, he had carried the old worm-eaten
thing down the stairs, and bearing it across the yard, had dropped it
rather suddenly, for it was wondrously heavy, and the sweat stood in
great drops on the faces of the blacks, as they deposited the load and
turned away so quickly as not to see the rotten bottom splintering to
pieces, or the yellow coin dropping upon the grass.

Making the circuit of the yard in company with Colonel Tiffton, Alice's
eye was caught by the flashing of something beneath the bookcase, and
stooping down she uttered a cry of surprise as she picked up and held to
view a golden guinea. Another, and another, and another--they were thick
as berries on the hills, and in utter amazement she turned to the
equally astonished colonel for an explanation. It cams to him after a
little. That bookcase, with its false bottom and secret drawers, had
been the hiding place of the miserly John Stanley's gold. In his will,
he had spoken of that particularly, bidding Hugh be careful of it, as it
had come to him from his grandfather, and this was the result. What had
been a mystery to the colonel was explained. He knew what John Stanley
had done with all his money, and that Hugh Worthington's poverty was now
a thing of the past.

"I'm glad of it--the boy deserves this streak of luck, if ever a fellow
did," he said, as he made his rapid explanations to Alice, who listened
like one bewildered, while all the time she was gathering up the golden
coin, which kept dropping from the sides and chinks of the bookcase.

There was quite a little fortune, and Alice suggested that it should be
kept a secret for the present from all save Mrs. Worthington, a plan to
which the colonel assented, helping Alice to recover and secrete her
treasure, and then going with her to Mrs. Worthington, who sat weeping
silently over the ruins of her home.

"Poor Hugh, we are beggars now," she moaned, refusing at first to listen
to Alice's attempts at consolation.

They told her at last what they had found, proving their words by
occular demonstration, and proposing to her that the story should go no
further until Hugh had been consulted.

"You'll go home with me, of course," the colonel said, "and then we'll
see what must be done."

This seemed the only feasible arrangement, and the family carriage was
brought around to take the ladies to Mosside--the negroes, whose cabins
had not been burned, staying at Spring-Bank to watch the fire, and see
that it spread no farther. But Alice could not remain in quietness at
Mosside, and early the next morning she rode down to Spring Bank, where
the negroes greeted her with loud cries of welcome, asking her
numberless questions as to what they were to do, and who would go after
"Massah Hugh."

It seemed to be the prevailing opinion that he must come home, and Alice
thought so, too.

"What do you think, Uncle Sam?" she asked, turning to the old man, who
replied:

"I thinks a heap of things, and if Miss Ellis comes dis way where so
many can't be listen in', I tella her my mind."

Alice followed him to a respectable distance from the others, and
sitting down upon a chair standing there, waited for Sam to begin.

Twirling his old straw hat awkwardly for a moment, he stammered out:

"What for did Massah Hugh jine de army?"

"Because he thought it his duty," was Alice's reply, and Sam continued:

"Yes, but dar is anodder reason. 'Scuse me, miss, but I can't keep still
an' see it all agwine wrong. 'Seuse me 'gin, miss, but is you ever gwine
to hev that chap what comed here oncet a sparkin'--Massah Irving, I
means?"

Alice's blue eyes turned inquiringly upon him, as she replied: "Never,
Uncle Sam. I never intended to marry him. Why do you ask?"

"'Cause, miss, when a young gal lets her head lay spang on a fellow's
buzzum, and he a kissin' her, it looks mighty like somethin'. Yes, berry
like;" and in his own way Sam confessed what he had seen more than a
year ago, and told, too, how Hugh had overheard the words of love
breathed by Irving Stanley, imitating, as far as possible, his master's
manner as he turned away, and walked hurriedly down the piazza.

Then he confessed what, in the evening, he had repeated to Hugh, telling
Alice how "poor massah groan, wid face in his hands, and how next day he
went off, never to come back again."

In mute silence, Alice listened to a story which explained much that had
been strange to her before, and as she listened, her resolve was made.

"Sam," she said, when he had finished, "I wish I had known this before.
It might have saved your master much anxiety. I am going North--going to
Snowdon first, and then to Washington, in hopes of finding him."

In a moment Sam was on his knees, begging to go with her.

"Don't leave me, Miss Ellis. Take me 'long. Please take me to Massah
Hugh. I'se quite peart now, and kin look after Miss Ellis a heap."

Alice could not promise till she had talked with Mrs. Worthington, whose
anxiety to go North was even greater than her own. They would be nearer
to Hugh, and by going to Washington would probably see him, she said,
while it seemed that she should by some means be brought near to her
daughter, of whom no tidings had been received as yet. So it was
arranged that Mrs. Worthington, Alice and Densie, together with Lulu and
Sam, should start at once for Snowdon, where Alice would leave a part of
her charge, herself and Mrs. Worthington going on to Washington in hopes
of meeting or hearing directly from Hugh. Aunt Eunice and Mug were to
remain with Colonel Tiffton, who promised to look after the Spring Bank
negroes.

Accordingly, one week after the fire, Alice found herself at the same
station in Lexington where once Hugh Worthington, to her unknown, had
waited for her coming. The morning papers were just out, and securing
one for herself, she entered the car and read the following
announcement:

  "DIED, at his country residence, from the effect of a shot received
  while dastardly attacking a house belonging to Unionists, Robert
  Harney, Esq., aged thirty-three."

With a shudder Alice pointed out the paragraph to Mrs. Worthington, and
laying her head upon her hand prayed silently that there might come a
speedy end to the horrors entailed by the cruel war.



CHAPTER XLVII

FINDING HUGH


Sweet Anna Millbrook's eyes were dim with tears, and her heart was sore
with pain when told that Alice Johnson, was waiting for her in the
parlor below. Only the day before had she heard of her brother's
disgrace, feeling as she heard it, how much rather she would that he
had died ere there were so many stains upon his name. But Alice would
comfort her, and she hastened to meet her. Sitting down beside her, she
talked with her long of all that had transpired since last they met;
talked, too, of Adah, and then of Willie, who was sent for, and at
Alice's request taken by her to the hotel, where Mrs. Worthington was
stopping. He had grown to be a most beautiful and engaging child, and
Mrs. Worthington justly felt a thrill of pride as she clasped him to her
bosom, weeping over him passionately. She could scarcely bear to lose
him from her sight, and when later in the day Anna came down for him,
she begged hard for him to stay. But Willie was rather shy of his new
grandmother, and preferred returning with Mrs. Millbrook, who promised
that he should come every day so long as Mrs. Worthington remained at
the hotel.

As soon as Mrs. Richards learned that Mrs. Worthington and Alice were in
town, she insisted upon their coming to Terrace Hill. There was room
enough, she said, and her friends were welcome there for as long a time
as they chose to stay. There were the pleasant chambers fitted up for
'Lina, they had never been occupied, and Mrs. Worthington could have
them as well as not; or better yet--could take Anna's old chamber, with
the little room adjoining, where Adah used to sleep. Mrs. Worthington
preferred the latter, and removed with Alice at Terrace Hill, while at
Anna's request Densie went to the Riverside Cottage, where she used to
live, and where she was much happier than she would have been with
strangers.

Not long could Mrs. Worthington stay contentedly at Snowdon, and after a
time Alice started with her and Lulu for Washington, taking Sam also,
partly because he begged so hard to go, and partly because she did not
care to trouble her friends with the old man, who seemed a perfect child
in his delight at the prospect of seeing "Massah Hugh." But to see him
was not so easy a matter. Indeed, he seemed farther off at Washington
than he had done at Spring Bank, and Alice sometimes questioned the
propriety of having left Kentucky at all. They were not very comfortable
at Washington, and as Mrs. Worthington pined for the pure country air,
Alice managed at last to procure board for herself, Mrs. Worthington,
Lulu and Sam, at the house of a friend whose acquaintance she had made
at the time of her visit to Virginia. It was some distance from
Washington, and so near to Bull Run that when at last the second
disastrous battle was fought in that vicinity, the roar of the artillery
was distinctly heard, and they who listened to the noise of that bloody
conflict knew just when the battle ceased, and thought with tearful
anguish of the poor, maimed, suffering wretches left to bleed and die
alone. They knew Hugh must have been in the battle, and Mrs.
Washington's anxiety amounted almost to insanity, while Alice, with
blanched cheek and compressed lip, could only pray silently that he
might be spared, and might yet come back to them. Only Sam thought of
acting.

"Now is the time," he said to Alice, as they stood talking together of
Hugh, and wondering if he were safe. "Something tell me Massah Hugh is
hurted somewhar, and I'se gwine to find him. I knows all de way, an'
every tree around dat place. I can hide from de 'Federacy. Dem Rebels
let ole white-har'd nigger look for young massah, and I'se gwine. P'raps
I not find him, but I does somebody some good. I helps somebody's Massah
Hugh."

It seemed a crazy project, letting that old man start off on so strange
an errand, but Sam was determined.

He had a "'sentiment," as he said, that Hugh was wounded, and he must go
to him.

In his presentiment Alice had no faith; but she did not oppose him, and
at parting she said to him, hesitatingly:

"Sam, if you do find your master wounded, and you think him dying, you
may tell him--tell him--that I said--I loved him; and had he ever come
back, I would have been his wife."

"I tells him, and that raises Massah Hugh from de very jaws of death,"
was Sam's reply, as he departed on his errand of mercy, which proved not
to be a fruitless one, for he did find his master, and falling on his
knees beside him, uttered the joyful words we have before repeated.

To the faint, half-dying Hugh, it seemed more like a dream than a
reality--that familiar voice from home, and that dusky form bending over
him so pityingly. He could not comprehend how Sam came there, or what he
was saying to him. Something he heard of burning houses, and ole miss
and Snowdon, and Washington; but nothing was real until he caught the
name of Alice, and thought Sam said she was there.

"Where, Sam--where?" he asked, trying to raise himself upon his elbow.
"Is Alice here, did you say?"

"No, massah; not 'zactly here--but on de road. If massah could ride, Sam
hold him on, like massah oncet held on ole Sam, and we'll get to her
directly. They's kind o' Secesh folks whar she is, but mighty good to
her. She knowed 'em 'fore, 'case way down here is whar Sam was sold dat
time Miss Ellis comed and show him de road to Can'an. Miss Ellis tell me
somethin' nice for Massah Hugh, ef he's dyin'--suffin make him so glad.
Is you dyin', massah?"

"I hardly think I am as bad as that. Can't you tell unless I am near to
death?" Hugh said; and Sam replied:

"No, massah; dem's my orders. 'Ef he's dyin', Sam, tell him I'--dat's
what she say. Maybe you is dyin', massah. Feel and see!"

"It's possible," and something like his old mischievous smile played
around Hugh's white lips as he asked how a chap felt when he was dying.

"I'se got mizzable mem'ry, and I don't justly 'member," was Sam's
answer; "but I reckons he feel berry queer and choky--berry."

"That's exactly my case, so you may venture to tell," Hugh said; and
getting his face close to that of the young man, Sam whispered: "She
say, 'Tell Massah Hugh--I--I--' You's sure you's dyin'?"

"I'm sure I feel as you said I must," Hugh, continued, and Sam went on:
"'Tell him I loves him; and ef he lives I'll be his wife.' Dem's her
very words, nigh as I can 'member--but what is massah goin' to do?" he
continued in some surprise, as Hugh attempted to rise.

"Do? I'm going to Alice," was Hugh's reply, as with a moan he sank back
again, too weak to rise alone.

"Then you be'nt dyin', after all," was Sam's rueful comment, as he
suggested: "Ef massah only clamber onto Rocket."

This was easier proposed than done, but after several trials Hugh
succeeded; and, with Sam steadying him, while he half lay on Rocket's
neck, Hugh proceeded slowly and safely through the woods, meeting at
last with some Unionists, who gave him what aid they could, and did not
leave him until they saw him safely deposited in an ambulance, which, in
spite of his entreaties, took him direct to Georgetown. It was a bitter
disappointment to Hugh, so bitter, indeed, that he scarcely felt the
pain when his broken arm was set; and when, at last, he was left alone
in his narrow hospital bed, he turned his face to the wall and cried,
just as many a poor, homesick soldier had done before him, and will do
again.

Twenty-four hours had passed, and in Hugh's room it was growing dark
again. All the day he had watched anxiously the door through which
visitors would enter, asking repeatedly if no one had called for him;
but just as the sun was going down he fell away to sleep, dreaming at
last that Golden Hair was there--that her soft, white hands were on his
brow, her sweet lips pressed to his, while her dear voice murmured
softly: "Darling Hugh!"

There was a cry of pain from a distant corner, and Hugh awoke to
consciousness--awoke to know it was no dream--the soft hands on his
brow, the kiss upon his lips--for Golden Hair was there; and by the
tears she dropped upon his face, and the mute caresses she gave him, he
knew that Sam had told him truly. For several minutes there was silence
between them, while the eyes looked into each other with a deeper
meaning than words could have expressed; then, smoothing back his damp
brown hair, and letting her fingers still rest upon his forehead, Alice
whispered to him: "Why did you distrust me, Hugh? But for that we need
not have been separated so long."

Winding his well arm around her neck, and drawing her nearer to him,
Hugh answered:

"It was best just as it is. Had I been sure of your love, I should have
found it harder to leave home. My country needed me. I am glad I have
done what I could to defend it. Glad that I joined the army, for Alice,
darling, Golden Hair, in my lonely tent reading that little Bible you
gave me so long ago, the Savior found me, and now, whether I live or
not, it is well, for if I die, I am sure you will be mine in heaven; and
if I live--"

Alice finished the sentence for him.

"If you live, God willing, I shall be your wife. Dear Hugh, I bless the
Good Father, first for bringing you to Himself, and then restoring you
to me, darling Hugh."



CHAPTER XLVIII

GOING HOME


The Village hearse was waiting at Snowdon depot, and close beside it
stood the carriage from Terrace Hill; the one sent there for Adah, the
other for her husband, whose lifeblood, so freely shed, had wiped away
all stains upon his memory, and enshrined him in the hearts of Snowdon's
people as a martyr. He was the first dead soldier returned to them, his
the first soldier's grave in their churchyard; and so a goodly throng
were there, with plaintive fife and muffled drum, to do him honor. His
major was coming with him, it was said--Major Stanley, who had himself
been found, in a half-fainting condition watching by the dead--Major
Stanley, who had seen that the body was embalmed, had written to the
wife, and had attended to everything, even to coming on himself by way
of showing his respect. Death is a great softener of errors; and the
village people, who could not remember a time when they had not disliked
John Richards, forgot his faults now that he was dead.

It seemed a long-time-waiting for the train, but it came at last, and
the crowd involuntarily made a movement forward, and then drew back as a
tall figure appeared upon the platform, his stylish uniform betokening
an officer of rank, and his manner showing plainly that he was master of
ceremonies.

"Major Stanley," ran in a whisper through the crowd, whose wonder
increased when another, and, if possible, a finer-looking man, emerged
into view, his right arm in a sling, and his face pale and worn, from
the effects of recent illness. He had not been expected, and many
curious glances were cast at him as, slowly descending the steps, he
gave his well hand to the lady following close behind, Mrs. Worthington;
they knew her, and recognized also the two young ladies, Alice and Adah,
as they sprang from the car. Poor Adah! how she shrank from the public
gaze, shuddering as on her way to the carriage she passed the long box
the men were handling so carefully.

Summoned by Irving Stanley, she had come on to Washington to meet, not a
living husband, but a husband dead, and while there had learned that
Mrs. Worthington, Hugh, and Alice were all in Georgetown, whither she
hastened at once, eager to meet the mother whom she had never yet met as
such. Immediately after the discovery of her parentage, she had written
to Kentucky, but the letter had not reached its destination,
consequently no one but Hugh knew how near she was; and he had only
learned it a few days before the battle, when he had, by accident, a few
moments' conversation with Dr. Richards, whom he had purposely avoided.
He was talking of Adah, and the practicability of sending for her, when
she arrived at the private boarding house to which he had been removed.


The particulars of that interview between the mother and her daughter we
cannot describe, as no one witnessed it save God; but Adah's face was
radiant with happiness, and her soft, brown eyes beaming with joy when
it was ended, and she went next to where Hugh was waiting for her.

"Oh, Hugh, my noble brother!" was all she could say, as she wound her
arms around his neck and pressed her fair cheek against his own,
forgetting, in those moments of perfect bliss, all the sorrow, all the
anguish of the past.

Nor was it until Hugh said to her: "The doctor was in that battle. Did
he escaped unharmed?" that a shadow dimmed the sunshine flooding her
pathway that autumn morning.

At the mention of him the muscles about her mouth grew rigid, and a look
of pain flitted across her face, showing that there was yet much of
bitterness mingled in her cup of joy. Composing herself as soon as
possible she told Hugh that she was a widow, but uttered no word of
complaint against the dead, and Hugh, knowing that she could not sorrow
as other women have sorrowed over the loved ones slain in battle, drew
her nearer to him, and after speaking a few words of poor 'Lina, told
her of the golden fortune which had so unexpectedly come to him, and
added: "And you shall share it with me. Your home shall be with me and
Golden Hair--Alice--who has promised to be my wife. We will live very
happily together yet, my sister."

Then he asked what Major Stanley's plan was concerning the body of her
husband, and upon learning that it was to bury the doctor at home, he
announced his determination to accompany them, as he knew he should be
able to do so.

Hugh had no suspicion of the truth, but Alice guessed it readily, and
could scarcely forbear throwing her arms around Adah's neck and
whispering to her how glad she was. She had said to her softly: "I am to
be your sister, Adah--are you willing to receive me?" and Adah had only
answered by a warm pressure of the hand she held in hers and by the
tears which shone in her brown eyes.

It was a great trial to Adah to face the crowd they found assembled at
the depot, but Irving, Hugh, and Alice all helped to screen her from
observation, and almost before she was aware of it she found herself
safe in the carriage which effectually hid her from view. Slowly the
procession moved through the village, the foot passengers keeping time
to the muffled drum, whose solemn beats had never till that morning been
heard in the quiet streets. The wide gate which led into the grounds of
Terrace Hill was opened wide, and the black hearse passed in, followed
by the other carriages, which wound around the hill and up to the huge
building where badges of mourning were hung out--mourning for the only
son, the youngest born, the once pride and pet of the stately woman who
watched the coming of that group with tear-dimmed eyes, holding upon her
lap the little boy whose father they were bringing in, dead, coffined
for the grave. Not for the world would that high-bred woman have been
guilty of an impropriety, and so she sat in her own room, while Charlie
Millbrook met the bearers in the hall and told them where to deposit
their burden.

In the same room where we first saw him on the night of his return from
Europe, they left him, and went their way, while to Dixson and Pamelia
was accorded the honor of first welcoming Adah, whom they treated with
as much deference as if she had never been with them in any capacity
save that of mistress. She had changed since they last saw her--was
wonderfully improved, they said to each other as they left her at the
door of the room, where Mrs. Richards, with her two older daughters, was
waiting to receive her. But if the servants were struck with the air of
dignity and cultivation which Adah acquired during her tour in Europe,
how much more did this same air impress the haughty ladies waiting for
her appearance, and feeling a little uncertain as to how they should
receive her. Any doubts, however, which they had upon this subject were
dispelled the moment she entered the room, and they saw at a glance that
it was not the timid, shrinking Rose Markham with whom they had to deal,
but a woman as wholly self-possessed as themselves, and one with whose
bearing even their critical eyes would find no fault. She would not
suffer them to patronize her; they must treat her fully as an equal or
as nothing, and with a new-born feeling of pride in her late son's
widow, Mrs. Richards arose, and putting Willie from her lap, advanced to
meet her, cordially extending her hand, but uttering no word of welcome.
Adah took the hand, but her eyes never sought the face of her lady
mother. They were riveted with a hungry, wistful, longing look on
Willie, the little boy, who, clinging to his grandmother's skirts,
peered curiously at her, holding back at first, when, unmindful of
Asenath and Eudora, who had not yet been greeted, she tried to take him
in her arms.

"Oh, Willie, darling, don't you know me? I am poor mamma," and Adah's
voice was choked with sobs at this unlooked-for reception from her
child.

He had been sent for from Anna's home to meet his mother, because it was
proper; but no one at Terrace Hill had said to him that the mamma for
whom sweet Anna taught him daily to pray was coming. She was not in his
mind, and as eighteen months had obliterated all memories of the gentle,
girlish creature he once knew as mother, he could not immediately
identify that mother with the lady before him.

It was a sad disappointment to Adah, and without knowing what she was
doing, she sank down upon the sofa, and involuntarily laying her head in
Mrs. Richards' lap, cried bitterly, her tears bringing answering ones
from the eyes of all three of the ladies, for they half believed her
grief, in part, was for the lifeless form in the room below.

"Poor child, you are tired and worn. It is hard to lose him just as
there was a prospect of perfect reconciliation with us all," Mrs.
Richards said, softly smoothing the brown tresses lying on her lap, and
thinking even then that curls were more becoming to her daughter-in-law
than braids had been, but wondering why, now she was in mourning, Adah
had persisted in wearing them.

"Pretty girl, pretty turls, is you tyin'?" and won by her distress,
Willie drew near, and laid his baby hand upon the curls he thought so
pretty.

"That's mamma, Willie," Asenath said; "the mamma Aunt Anna said would
come some time--Willie's mamma. Can't he kiss her?"

The child could not resist the face which, lifting itself up, looked
eagerly at him, and he put up his little hands for Adah to take him,
returning the kisses she showered upon him and clinging to her neck,
while he said:

"Is you mam-ma sure? I prays for mam-ma--God take care of her, and pa-pa
too. He's dead. They brought him back with a dum. Poor pa-pa, Willie
don't want him dead;" and the little lip began to quiver.

Never before since she knew she was a widow had Adah felt so vivid a
sensation of something akin to affection for the dead, as when her child
and his mourned so plaintively for papa; and the tears which now fell
like rain were not for Willie alone, but were given rather to the dead.

"Mrs. Richards has not yet greeted us," Asenath said; and turning to
her at once, Adah apologized for her seeming neglect, pressing both her
and Eudora's hands more cordially than she would have done a few moments
before.

"Where is Anna?" she asked; and Mrs. Richards replied:

"She's sick. She regretted much that she could not come up here to-day;"
while Willie, standing in Adah's lap, with his chubby arm around her
neck, chimed in.

"You don't know what we've dot. We've dot 'ittle baby, we has."

Adah knew now why Anna was absent, and why Charlie Millbrook looked so
happy when at last he came in to see her, delivering sundry messages
from his Anna, who, he said could scarcely wait to see her dear sister.
There was something genuine in Charlie's greeting, something which made
Adah feel as if she were indeed at home, and she wondered much how even
the Richards race could ever have objected to him, as she watched his
movements and heard him talking with his stately mother.

"Yes, Major Stanley came," he said, in reply to her questions, and Adah
was glad it was put to him, for the blushes dyed her cheek at once, and
she bent over Willie to hide them, while Charlie continued: "Captain
Worthington came, too, Adah's brother, you know. He was in the same
battle with the doctor, was wounded rather seriously and has been
discharged, I believe."

"Oh," and Mrs. Richards seemed quite interested now, asking where the
young men were, and appearing disappointed when told that, after waiting
a few moments in hopes of seeing the ladies, they had returned to the
hotel, where Mrs. Worthington and Alice were stopping.

"I fully expected the ladies here; pray, send for them at once," she
said, but Adah interposed:

"Her mother would not willingly be separated from Hugh, and as he of
course would remain at the hotel, it would be useless to think of
persuading Mrs. Worthington to come to Terrace Hill."

"But Miss Johnson surely will come," persisted Mrs. Richards.

Adah could not explain then that Alice was less likely to leave Hugh
than her mother, but she said: "Miss Johnson, I think, will not leave
mother alone," and so the matter was settled.

It was a terribly long day to Adah, for Mrs. Richards and her daughter
kept their darkened room, seeing no one who called, and appearing
shocked when Adah stole out from their presence, and taking Willie with
her, sought the servants' sitting-room, where the atmosphere was not so
laden with restraint. Once the elder lady rang for Pamelia, asking where
Mrs. Richards was, and looking a little distressed when told she was in
the garden playing with Willie.

"Why, do you want her?" was Pamelia's blunt inquiry, to which her
mistress responded with an aggrieved sigh:

"No-o, only I thought perhaps she was with her dead husband; but, poor
thing, it is not her nature, I presume, to take it much to heart."

Pamelia didn't believe she did "take it much to heart." Indeed, she
didn't see how she could, but she said nothing, and Adah was left to
play with Willie until Alice was announced as being in the
reception-room. She had driven around, she said, to call on Mrs.
Richards, and after that take Adah with her to the cottage, where Anna,
she knew, was anxious to receive her. At first Mrs. Richards demurred,
fearing it would be improper, but saying: "my late son's wife is, of
course, her own mistress, and can do as she likes."

Very adroitly Alice waived all objections, and bore Adah off in triumph.

"I knew you must be lonely up there," she said, as they drove slowly
along, "and there can be no harm in visiting one's sick sister."

Anna surely did not think there was, as her warm, welcoming kisses fully
testified.

"I wanted so much to see you to-day," she said, "that I have worked
myself into quite a fever; but knowing mother as I do, I feared she
might not sanction your coming;" then proudly turning down the blanket,
she disclosed the red-faced baby, who, just one week ago, had come to
the Riverside Cottage.

"Isn't he a beauty?" she asked, pressing her lips upon the wrinkled
forehead. "A boy, too, and looks so much like Charlie, but--" and her
soft, blue eyes seemed more beautiful than ever with the maternal
love-shining for them, "I shall not call him Charlie, nor yet John,
though mother's heart is set on the latter name. I can't. I loved my
brother dearly, and never so much as now that he is dead, but my baby
boy must not bear his name, and so I have chosen Hugh, Hugh Richards. I
know it will please you both," and she glanced archly at Alice, who
blushingly kissed the little boy who was to bear the name dearest to her
of all others.

Hugh--they talked of him a while, and then Anna spoke of Irving Stanley,
expressing her fears that she could not see him to thank him for his
kindness and forbearance to her erring brother.

"He must be noble and good," she said, then turning to Adah, she
continued: "You were with him a year. You must know him well. Do you
like him?"

"Yes," and Adah's face was all ablaze, as the simple answer dropped from
her lips.

For a moment Anna regarded her intently, then her eyes were withdrawn
and her white hand beat the counterpane softly, but nothing more was
said of Irving Stanley then.

The next day near the sunsetting, they buried the dead soldier, Mrs.
Richards and Adah standing side by side as the body was lowered to its
last resting place, the older leaning upon the younger for support, and
feeling as she went back to her lonely home and heard the merry laugh of
little Willie in the hall that she was glad her son had married the
young girl, who, now that John was gone forever from her sight began to
be very dear to her as his wife, the Lily whom he had loved so much. In
the dusky twilight of that night when alone with Adah she told her as
much, speaking sadly of the past, which she regretted, and wishing she
had never objected to receiving the girl about whom John wrote so
lovingly.

"Had I done differently he might have been living now, and you might
have been spared much pain, but you'll forgive me. I'm an old woman, I
am breaking fast, and soon shall follow my boy, but while I live I wish
for peace, and you must love me, Lily, because I was his mother. Let me
call you Lily, as he did," and the hand of her who had conceded so much
rested entreatingly upon the bowed head of the young girl beside her.
There was no acting there, Adah knew, and clasping the trembling hand
she involuntarily whispered:

"I will love you, mother, I will."

"And stay with me, too?" Mrs. Richards continued, her voice choked with
the sobs she could not repress, when she heard herself called mother by
the girl she had so wronged. "You will stay with him, Lily. Anna is
gone, my other daughters are old. We are lonely in this great house. We
need somebody young to cheer our solitude, and you will stay, as
mistress, if you choose, or as a petted, youngest daughter."

This was an unlooked for trial to Adah. She had not dreamed of living
there at Terrace Hill, when Hugh and her own mother could make her so
happy in their home. But Adah had never consulted her own happiness, and
as she listened to the pleading tones of the woman who surely had some
heart, some noble qualities, she felt that 'twas her duty to remain
there for a time at least, and so she replied at last:

"I expected to live with my own mother, but for the present my home
shall be here with you."

"God bless you, darling," and the proud woman's lips touched the fair
cheek, while the proud woman's hand smoothed again the soft short curls,
pushing them back from the white brow, as she murmured: "You are very
beautiful, my child, just as John said you were."

It was hard for Adah to tell Mrs. Worthington that she could not make
one of the circle who would gather around the home fireside Hugh was to
purchase somewhere, but she did at last, standing firmly by her decision
and saying in reply to her mother's entreaties: "It is my duty. They
need me more than you, who have both Hugh and Alice."

Adah was right, so Hugh said, and Alice, too, while Irving Stanley said
nothing. He must have found much that was attractive about the little
town of Snowdon, for he lingered there long after there was not the
least excuse for staying. He did not go often to Terrace Hill, and when
he did, he never asked for Adah, but so long as he could see her on the
Sabbath days when, with the Richards' family she walked quietly up the
aisle, her cheek flushing when she passed him, and so long as he
occasionally met her at Mrs. Worthington's rooms, or saw her riding in
the Richards' carriage, so long was he content to stay. But there came a
time when he must go, and then he asked for Adah, and in the presence of
her mother-in-law invited her to go with him to her husband's grave. She
went, taking Willie with her, and there, with that fresh mound between
them, Irving Stanley told her what he had hitherto withheld, told what
the dying soldier had said, and asked if it should be so.

"Not now, not yet," he continued, as Adah's eyes were bent upon that
grave, "but by and by, will you do your husband's bidding--be my wife?"

"I will," and taking Willie's hand Adah put it with hers into the broad,
warm palm which clasped them both, as Irving whispered: "Your child,
darling, shall be mine, and never need he know that I am not his
father."

It was arranged that Alice should tell Mrs. Richards, as Adah would have
no concealments. Accordingly, Alice asked a private interview with the
lady, to whom she told everything as she understood it. And Mrs.
Richards, though weeping bitterly, generously exonerated Adah from all
blame, commended her as having acted very wisely, and then added, with a
flush of pride:

"Many a woman would be glad to marry Irving Stanley, and it gives me
pleasure to know that to my son's widow the honor is accorded. He is
worthy to take John's place, and she, I believe, is worthy of him. I
love her already as my daughter, and shall look upon him as a son. You
say they are in the garden. Let them both come to me."

They came, and listened quietly, while Mrs. Richards sanctioned their
engagement, and then, with a little eulogy upon her departed son, said
to Adah: "You will wait a year, of course. It will not be proper
before."

Irving had hoped for only six months' probation, but Adah was satisfied
with the year, and they went from Mrs. Richards' presence with the
feeling that Providence was indeed smiling upon their pathway, and
flooding it with sunshine.

The next day Major Stanley left Snowdon, but not until there had come to
Hugh a letter, whose handwriting made Mrs. Worthington turn pale, it
brought back so vividly the terror of the olden times. It was from
Murdock, and it inclosed for Densie Densmore the sum of five hundred
dollars.

"Should she need more, I will try and supply it," he wrote, "for I have
wronged her cruelly." Then, after speaking of his fruitless search for
Adah, and his hearing at last that she was found and Dr. Richards dead,
he added: "As there is nothing left for me to do, and as I am sure to be
playing mischief if idle, I have joined the army, and am training a band
of contrabands to fight as soon as the government comes to its senses,
and is willing for the negroes to bear their part in the battle."

The letter ended with saying that he should never come out of the war
alive, simply because it would last until he was too old to live any
longer.

It was a relief for Mrs. Worthington to hear from him, and know that he
probably would not trouble her again, while Adah, whose memories of him
were pleasanter, expressed a strong desire to see him.

"We will find him by and by, when you are mine," Irving said playfully;
then, drawing her into an adjoining room where they could be alone, he
said his parting words, and then with Hugh went to meet the train which
took him away from Snowdon.



CHAPTER XLIX

CONCLUSION


The New England hills were tinged with that peculiar purplish haze so
common to the Indian summer time, and the warm sunlight of November fell
softly upon Snowdon, whose streets this morning were full of eager,
expectant people, all hurrying on to the old brick church, and
quickening their steps with every stroke of the merry bell, pealing so
joyfully from the tall, dark tower. The Richards' carriage was out, and
waiting before the door of the Riverside Cottage, for the appearance of
Anna, who was this morning to venture out for a short time, and leaving
her baby Hugh alone. Another, and far handsomer carriage, was standing
before the hotel, where Hugh and his mother were yet stopping, and
where, in a pleasant private room, Adah Richards helped Alice Johnson
make her neat, tasteful toilet, smoothing lovingly the rich folds of
grayish-colored silk, arranging the snowy cuffs and collar, and then
bringing the stylish hat of brown Neapolitan, with its pretty face
trimmings of blue, and declaring it a shame to cover up the curls of
golden hair falling so luxuriously about the face and neck of the
blushing bride. For it was Alice's wedding day, and in the room
adjoining, Hugh Worthington stood, waiting impatiently the opening of
the mysterious door which Adah had shut against him, and wondering if,
after all, it were not a dream that the time was coming fast when
neither bolts nor locks would have a right to keep him from his wife.

It seemed too great a joy to be true, and by way of reassuring himself
he had to look often at the crowds of people hurrying by, and down upon
old Sam, who, in full dress, with white cotton gloves drawn awkwardly
upon his cramped distorted fingers, stood by the carriage, bowing to all
who passed, himself the very personification of perfect bliss. Sam was
very happy, inasmuch as he took upon himself the credit of having made
the match, and was never tired of relating the wondrous story to all who
would listen to it.

"Massah Hugh de perfectest massah," he said, "and Miss Ellis a little
more so;" adding that though "Canaan was a mighty nice place, he 'sumed
he'd rather not go thar jist yet, but live a leetle longer to see them
'joy themselves. Thar they comes--dat's miss in gray. She knows how't
orange posies and silks and satins is proper for weddin' nights; but
she's gwine travelin', and dat's why she comed out in dat stun-color,
Sam'll be blamed if he fancies." And having thus explained Alice's
choice of dress, the old negro held the carriage door himself, while
Hugh, handing in his mother, sister and his bride, took his seat beside
them, and was driven to the church.

Twenty minutes passed, and then the streets were filled again; but now
the people were going home, talking as they went of the beauty of the
bride and of the splendid-looking bridegroom, who looked so fondly at
her as she murmured her responses, kissing her first himself when the
ceremony was over, and letting his arm rest for a moment around her
slender form. No one doubted its being a genuine love match, and all
rejoiced in the happiness of the newly-married pair, who, at the village
depot, were waiting for the train which would take them on their way to
Kentucky, for that was their destination.

In the distracted condition of the country, Hugh's presence was needed
there; for, taking advantage of his absence, and the thousand rumors
afloat touching the Proclamation, one of his negroes had already run
away in company with some half dozen of the colonel's, who, in a
terrible state of excitement, talked seriously of emigrating to Canada.
Hugh's timely arrival, however, quieted him somewhat, though he listened
in sorrow, and almost with tears, to Hugh's plan of selling the Spring
Bank farm and removing with his negroes to some New England town, where
Alice, he knew, would be happier than she had been in Kentucky. This was
one object which Hugh had in view in going to Kentucky then, but a
purchaser for Spring Bank was not so easily found in those dark days;
and so, doing with his land the best he could, he called about him his
negroes, and giving to each his freedom, proposed that they stay quietly
where they were until spring, when he hoped to find them all employment
on the farm he went to buy in New England.

Aunt Eunice, who understood managing blacks better than his timid mother
or his inexperienced wife, was to be his housekeeper in that new home of
his, where the colonel and his family would always be welcome; and
having thus provided for those for whom it was his duty to care, he bade
adieu to Kentucky, and returned to Snowdon in time to join the Christmas
party at Terrace Hill, where Irving Stanley was a guest, and where, in
spite of the war clouds darkening our land, and in spite of the sad,
haunting memories of the dead, there was much hilarity and
joy--reminding the villagers of the olden time when Terrace Hill was
filled with gay revelers. Anna Millbrook was there, more beautiful than
in her girlhood, and almost childishly fond of her missionary Charlie,
who she laughingly declared was perfectly incorrigible on the subject of
surplice and gown, adding that as the mountain would not go to Mahomet,
Mahomet must go to the mountain; and so she was fast becoming an
out-and-out Presbyterian of the very bluest stripe.

Sweet Anna! None who looked into her truthful, loving face, or knew the
beautiful consistency of her daily life, could doubt that whether
Presbyterian or Episcopal in sentiment, the heart was right and the feet
were treading the narrow path which leadeth unto life eternal.

It was a happy week spent at Terrace Hill; but one heart ached to its
very core when, at its close, Irving Stanley went back to where duty
called him, trusting that the God who had succored him thus far, would
shield him from future harm, and keep him safely till the coming autumn,
when, with the first falling of the leaf, he would gather to his embrace
his darling Adah, who, with every burden lifted from her spirits, had
grown in girlish beauty until others than himself marveled at her
strange loveliness.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the white walls of a handsome country seat just on the banks of the
Connecticut, the light of the April sunset falls, and the soft April
wind kisses the fair cheek and lifts the golden curls of the young
mistress of Spring Bank--for so, in memory of the olden time, have they
named their new home--Hugh and Alice, who, arm in arm, walk up and down
the terraced garden, talking softly of the way they have been led, and
gratefully ascribing all praise to Him who rules and overrules, but does
nought save good to those who love Him.

Down in the meadow land and at the rear of the building, dusky forms are
seen--the negroes, who have come to their Northern home, and among them
the runaway, who, ashamed of his desertion, has returned to his former
master, resenting the name of contraband, and dismissing the
ultra-abolitionists as humbugs, who deserved putting in the front of
every battle. Hugh knows it will be hard accustoming these blacks to
Northern usages and ways of doing things, but as he has their good in
view as well as his own, and as they will not leave him, he feels sure
that in time he will succeed, and cares but little for the opinion of
those who wonder what he "expects to do with that lazy lot of niggers."

On a rustic seat, near a rear door, white-haired old Sam is sitting,
listening intently, while dusky Mug reads to him from the book of books,
the one he prizes above all else, stopping occasionally to expound, in
his own way, some point which he fancies may not be clear to her,
likening every good man to "Massah Hugh," and every bad one to the
leader of the "Suddern 'Federacy," whose horse he declares he held once
in "ole Virginny," telling Mug, in an aside, "how, if 'twasn't wicked,
nor agin' de scripter, he should most wish he'd put beech nuts under
Massah Jeffres' saddle, and so broke his fetched neck, 'fore he raise
sich a muss, runnin' calico so high that Miss Ellis 'clar she couldn't
'ford it, and axin' fifteen cents for a paltry spool of cotton."

In the stable yard, Claib, his good-humored face all aglow with pride,
is exercising the fiery Rocket, who arches his neck as proudly as of
old, and dances mincingly around, while Lulu leans over the gate,
watching not so much him as the individual who holds him. And now that
it grows darker, and the ripple of the river sounds more like eventide,
lights gleam from the pleasant parlor, and thither Hugh and Alice
repair, still hand in hand, still looking love into each other's eyes,
but not forgetting others in their own great happiness.

Very pleasantly Alice smiles upon Mrs. Worthington and Aunt Eunice
sitting by the cheerful fire just kindled on the marble hearth; and
then, withdrawing her hand from Hugh's, trips up the stairs and knocking
at a door, goes in where Densie sits, watching the daylight fade from
the western sky, and whispering to herself of the baby she could not
find when she went back to her home in the far-off city. Without turning
her head, she puts to Alice the same question she puts to every one:

"Have you children, madam?" and when Alice answers no, she adds: "Be
thankful then, for they will never call you a white nigger, as 'Lina did
her mother. Poor 'Lina, she died, though saying 'Our Father.' Will you
say that with me?"

"Yes, Densie, it's almost time to say our evening prayer, I came for
you," Alice rejoins, and taking the crazed creature's hand, she leads
her gently down to the parlor below, where, ere long, the blacks are all
assembled, and kneeling side by side, they follow with stammering
tongues, but honest hearts, their beloved master as he says first the
prayer our Savior taught, and then with words of thankful praise asks
God to bless and keep him and his in the days to come, even as He has
blessed and kept them in the days gone by.





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