Calmly, steadily, Adah folded up the missive, and laying it with the mourning envelope, busied herself next in making the necessary preparations for her flight. Anna had been liberal with her in point of wages, paying her every week, and paying more than at first agreed upon; and as she had scarcely spent a penny during her three months’ sojourn at Terrace Hill, she had, including what Alice had given to her, nearly forty dollars. She was trying so hard to make it a hundred, and so send it to Hugh some day; but she needed it most herself, and she placed it carefully in her little purse, sighing over the golden coin which Anna had paid her last, little dreaming for what purpose it would be used. She would not change her dress until Anna had retired, as that might excite suspicion; so with the same rigid apathy of manner she sat down by Willie’s side and waited till Anna was heard moving in her room. The lamp was burning dimly on the bureau, and so Anna failed to see the frightful expression of Adah’s face, as she performed her accustomed duties, brushing Anna’s hair, and letting her hands linger caressingly amid the locks she might never touch again.
It did strike Anna that something was the matter; for when Adah spoke to her, the voice was husky and unnatural. Still, she paid no attention until the chapter was read as usual and “Our Father” said; then, as Adah lingered a moment, still kneeling by the bed, she laid her soft hand on the young head, and asked, kindly, “if it ached.”
“No, not my head, not my head,” and Adah continued impetuously; “Anna, tell me, have I pleased you?—do you like me? would you, could you love me if I were your equal—love me as I do you?”
Anna noticed that the “Miss” was dropped from her name, that her maid was treating her more familiarly than she had ever done before; and for an instant a flush showed on her cheek, for pride was Anna’s besetting sin, the one from which she daily prayed to be delivered. There was an inward struggle, a momentary conflict, such as every Christian warrior has felt at times, and then the flush was gone from the white cheek, and her hand still lay on Adah’s head, as she replied: “I do not understand why you question me thus, but I will answer just the same. I do like you very much, and you have always seemed to me much like an equal. I could hardly do without you now.”
“And Willie? If I should die, or anything happen to me, would you care for Willie?”
There was something very earnest in Adah’s tone as she pleaded for her boy, and had Anna been at all suspicious, she must have guessed there was something wrong. As it was, she merely thought Adah tired and nervous. She had been thinking, perhaps, of the deserted, and she smoothed her hair pityingly as she replied: “Of course I’d care for Willie. He has won a large place in my heart.”
“Bless you for that. It has made me very happy,” Adah whispered, arising to her feet and adding: “You may think me bold, but I must kiss you once—only once—for it will be pleasant to remember that I kissed Anna Richards.”