He saw her stretch out her hand toward him, caught the feeble words, “Help—my poor little boy!” and then, to Hugh’s utter dismay, she sank to the ground in a heap!
THE MYSTERY DEEPENS
Fortunately, Hugh was a lad equal to any occasion. Of course, he had never had an experience like this before; but somehow he seemed to understand that the first, indeed, only thing to be done, was to get the woman and child in the sleigh some way or other, and then make for home at breakneck speed.
So out he jumped, and, after considerable difficulty, managed to lift the now unconscious woman into the sleigh. He had never realized until then how like lead an inert person might seem, although not heavy in reality, when possessed of life and animation.
He tore the coverings off the sack of potatoes, and tucked them eagerly about his charges; for he had also placed the little fellow, now sobbing bitterly, under the possible impression that “mommy” was dead, in the sleigh. As for the potatoes they could “go hang,” as he told himself under his breath; though, perhaps, they might not freeze in the brief time he meant to be on the road now.
In again Hugh jumped. Old Bill felt the whip come down this time in deadly earnest, and actually jumped in his amazement. Hugh kept him going at a mad pace. He was thrilled with the importance of getting home as speedily as possible. The woman had looked so deathly white that the boy was alarmed. And how he pitied the little chap who cuddled against his side, still surging over now and then with his grief, while Hugh drove along.
They struck town, and people turned to stare upon seeing Hugh whipping his horse so unmercifully. They could not understand it, and rubbed their eyes. Surely that was Hugh Morgan in the sleigh, but why should he be pounding his horse, and half standing erect? If it had been a fire chief going to a blaze he could hardly have excited more comment.
A boy who was walking briskly along the street with a package under his arm came to a full stop, and stared as though he thought he had taken leave of his seven senses. It was Thad Stevens, and no wonder he was amazed, having recognised his chum in the frantic driver.
Thad gave vent to a whistle to relieve his pent-up feelings. Then he started on a gallop after Hugh. He could not rest easy until he had learned just what might have happened to cause his usually collected chum to act in this strange fashion.
When he arrived at the Morgan home it was to find Hugh had landed the child on the little porch in front of the door. This latter was open, and his mother, together with the hired girl, stood there, trying to comprehend what Hugh was saying.
Thad came panting up, and was immediately seized upon by Hugh.
“Great luck! Just in time to give me a helping hand, Thad!” cried the other.