“Good news?” and Ellen looked up wonderingly.
“Yes, good news, I think you will call it,” and then as deliberately as possible Alice told what had been done, and that the colonel was still to occupy his old home, “As my tenant, if you like,” she said to him, when he began to demur.
When at last it was clear to the old man, he laid his hand upon the head of the young girl and whispered huskily, “I cannot thank you as I would, or tell you what’s in my heart, God bless you, Alice Johnson.”
Alice longed to say a word to him of the God to whom he had thus paid tribute, but she felt the time was hardly then, and after a few more assurances to Ellen started for Spring Bank, where Mrs. Worthington and Adah were waiting for her.
They had kept it all from Hugh, telling him only that a stranger had purchased Mosside. He had not asked for Rocket, or even mentioned him, though his pet was really uppermost in his mind, and when he awoke next morning from his feverish sleep and remembered Alice’s proposal to ride, he said to himself, “I cannot go, much as I might enjoy it. No other horse would carry me as gently as Rocket. Oh! Rocket!”
It was a bright, balmy morning, and Hugh, as he walked slowly to the window and inhaled the fragrant air, felt that it would do him good, “But I shan’t go,” he said, and when, after breakfast was over, Alice came, reminding him of the ride, he began an excuse, but his resolution quickly gave way before her sprightly arguments, and he finally assented, saying, however: “You must not expect a gay cavalier, for I am still too weak, and I have no horse fit to ride with you, at least.”
“Yes, I know,” and Alice ran gayly to her room and donned her riding dress, wondering what Hugh would say and how Rocket would act.
He was out in the back yard now, pawing and curvetting, and rubbing his nose against all who came near him, while Claib was holding him by his new bridle and talking to him of Mas’r Hugh.
Even an ugly woman is improved by a riding costume, and Alice, beautiful though she was, looked still more beautiful in her closely-fitting habit.
“There, I’m ready,” she said, running down to Hugh.
At sight of her his face flushed, while a half sigh escaped him as he thought how proud he would once have been to ride with her; but that was in the days of Rocket, when rider and horse were called the best in the county.
“Where’s Jim?” Hugh asked, glancing around in quest of the huge animal he expected to mount, and which he had frequently likened to a stone wall.
“Claib has your horse. He’s coming,” and with great apparent unconcern Alice worked industriously at one of her fairy gantlets.
Suddenly Adah flew to Hugh’s side, and said, eagerly:
“Hugh, please whistle once, just as you used to do for Rocket—just once, and let Miss Johnson hear you.”