“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.