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: