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.
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.