“How came she there? She must be a bold piece, upon my word!” she said, angrily, while Pamelia replied:
“The little boy got upstairs, and walked right into Miss Anna’s room. She was taken with him at once, and asked who he was. I told her and she sent for the lady. That’s how it happened.”
Mrs. Richards hurried up to Anna’s chamber, where Willie still was perched by Anna’s pillow, while Adah, with her bonnet in her lap, sat a little apart, traces of tears and agitation upon her cheeks, but a look of happiness in the brown eyes fixed so wistfully on Anna’s fair, sweet face.
“Please, mother,” said Anna, motioning her away, “leave us alone a while. Shut the door, and see that no one comes near.”
Mrs. Richards obeyed, and Anna, waiting until she was out of hearing, resumed the conversation just where it had been interrupted.
“And so you are the one who wrote that advertisement which I read. Let me see—the very night my brother came home from Europe. I remember he laughed because I was so interested, and he accidentally tore off the name to light his cigar, so I forgot it entirely. What shall I call you, please?”
Adah was tempted to answer her at once, “Adah Hastings”—it seemed so wrong to impose in any way on that frank, sweet woman; but she remembered Mrs. Worthington’s injunction, and for her sake she refrained, keeping silent a moment, and then breaking out impetuously: “Please, Miss Richards, don’t ask my real name, for I’d rather not give it now. I will tell you of the past, though I did not ever mean to do that; but something about you makes me know I can trust you.” And then, amid a shower of tears, in which Anna’s, too, were mingled, Adah told her sad story.
“But why do you wish to conceal?” she asked, after Adah had finished. “Is there any reason?”
“At first there was none in particular, save a fancy I had, but there came one afterward—the request of one who had been, kind to me as a dear mother. Is it wrong not to tell the whole?”
“I think not. You have dealt honestly with me so far, but what shall I call you? You must have a name.”
“Oh, may I stay?” Adah asked eagerly, forgetting her late terror of ’Lina.
“Of course you may. Did you think I would turn you away?” was Anna’s reply; and laying her head upon the white counterpane of the bed, Adah cried passionately; not a wild, bitter cry, but a delicious kind of cry which did her good, even though her whole frame quivered and her low, choking sobs fell distinctly on Anna’s ear.
“Poor child!” the latter said, laying her soft hand on the bowed head. “You have suffered much, but with me you shall find rest. I want you for a companion, rather than a maid. I, too, have had my heart troubles; not like yours, but heavy enough to make me wish I could die.”
It was seldom that Anna alluded to herself in this way, and to do so to a stranger was utterly foreign to the Richards’ nature. But Anna could not help it. There was something about Adah which interested her greatly. She could not wholly shield her from her mother’s and sisters’ pride, but she would do what she could.