Poor Hugh! he was trying now to smooth over what ’Lina had told Alice of himself—trying to apologize for them both, and he did it so skillfully, that Alice felt an increased respect for the man whose real character she had so misunderstood. She, knew, however, that it could not be pleasant for him to speak of ’Lina, and so she led him back to Adah by saying:
“I had thought to talk with you of a plan which Mrs. Hastings has in view, but think, perhaps, I had better wait till you are stronger.”
“I am strong enough now—stronger than you think. Tell me of the plan,” and Hugh urged the request until Alice told him of Terrace Hill and Adah’s wish to go there.
“I have heard something of this plan before,” he said at last. “Ad spoke of it in her letter. Miss Johnson, you know Dr. Richards, I believe. Do you like him? Is he a man to be trusted?”
“Yes, I know Dr. Richards. He is said to be fine looking. I suspect there is a liking between him and your sister. Suppose for your benefit I describe him,” and without waiting for permission, Alice portrayed the doctor, feature by feature, watching Hugh narrowly the while, to see if aught she said harmonized with any likeness he might have in his mind.
But Hugh was not thinking of that night which ruined Adah, and Alice’s description awakened no suspicion. She saw it did not, and thought once to tell him frankly all she feared, but was deterred from doing so by a feeling that possibly she might be wrong in her conjectures. Adah’s presence at Terrace Hill would set that matter right, and she asked if Hugh did not think it best for her to go.
Hugh could only talk in a straightforward manner, and after a moment he answered:
“Yes, best on some accounts. Her going may do good and prevent a wrong. Yes, Adah may go.”
He continued: “she surely cannot go alone. Would Sam do? I hear her now. Call her while I talk with her.”
Adah came at once, and heard from Hugh that he was willing she should go, provided Spring Bank were still considered her home, the spot to which she could always turn for shelter as to a brother’s house.
“You seem so like a sister,” he said, smoothing her soft brown hair, “that I shall be sorry to lose you, and shall miss you so much, but Miss Johnson thinks it right for you to go. Will you take Sam as an escort?”
“Oh, no, no; I don’t want anybody,” Adah cried, “Keep Sam with you, and if in time I should earn enough to buy him, to free him. Oh, will you sell him to me,—not to keep,” she added, quickly, as she saw the quizzical expression of Hugh’s face,—“not to keep. I would not own a slave—but to free, to tell him he’s his own master. Will you, Hugh?”
He answered with a smile:
“I thought once as you do, that I would not own my brother, but we get hardened to these things. I’ve never sold one yet.”
“But you will. You’ll sell me Sam,” and Adah, in her eagerness, grasped his hand.