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,
“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.